Tuesday’s edition of Pro Football Talk on NBCSN unveiled the Bears’ Mt. Rushmore.
And it sparked our most spirited debate to date.
The official PFT quartet of stone heads (i.e., mine) consists of George Halas, Walter Payton, Dick Butkus and Gale Sayers.
The voters, along with Erik Kuselias and Ross Tucker, believe that Hall of Fame tight end and ’85 Bears head coach Mike Ditka should have had one of the spots.
PFT Planet went with Payton (96 percent of the ballots), Butkus (82 percent), Halas (60 percent) and Ditka (13 percent).
I stand by my selection of Sayers over Ditka, for the reasons articulated (repeatedly) in the relevant segment from Tuesday’s show.
To summarize, Sayers had arguably the greatest rookie performance in NFL history, generated 22 touchdowns in only 14 games. He scored six in one game, and accounted for 2,272 all-purpose yards. Though his career was cut short after seven seasons, he remains one of the iconic names from the years preceding and following the merger of the NFL and AFL.
Sayers also was at the center of one of the great off-field tragedies in NFL history, supporting Brian Piccolo through his battle with cancer. The story became a legendary sports film (Brian’s Song), helping cement Sayers as one of the Bears’ all-time greats.
And while Ditka resides among the best in franchise history, only four make it to Mt. Rushmore. Ditka coached a pre-free agency team that should have won more than one Super Bowl. Instead, the Bears lost three straight home playoff games after getting its lone title. As Hall of Famer Richard Dent has said, Ditka is the reason they one won, and also the reason they didn’t win three.
It makes Ditka special, but it doesn’t warrant a slot on the team’s Mt. Rushmore. Not with guys like Halas, Payton, Butkus, and Sayers as part of the franchise’s history.