Is it me or is it sacrilege to see the Chicago Bears dead last against the run with a #50 on the field?? Take that number off Anderson trying to play linebacker in Chicago!! Number 50 belongs to the heart and soul of the toughest defense in NFL history. When #50 comes to mind you think of some of the best play at Middle Linebacker in history also. That number should be retired and hanging on the wall of fame at Soldier Field.
When we go back to the early 1980’s, the majority of teams were moving to the 3-4 defense and away from the 4-3 that had been a staple for decades. A leader was being developed that revolutionized the play of Middle Linebacker. Before him, Jack Lambert was the first to play deep enough in his middle zone to cover receivers. However Singletary was actually assigned to guard receivers in Buddy Ryan’s 46 defense. When you watch the first series in Super Bowl XX, it was Singletary who wheeled around and knocked down the pass for Patriot wideout Stanley Morgan that kept them from scoring first. He was aiding CB Leslie Frazier on the play.
Yet make no bones about it, this was no third down pass defense specialist. He was the first MLB of the modern era who attacked backs yet had the athleticism to cover receivers crossing his area. Unlike Lambert, Samuari Mike left huge hits in all parts of the field. Collisions that made him a feared defender. Singletary was a great form tackler. Hits that led to his induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
The 1980’s brought 3rd down situation substitution to the NFL like the nickle defense. One where big thick MLBs were replaced by either a 3rd cornerback or a lanky skinnier linebacker who had pass first responsibility. Chicago Defensive Coordinator Buddy Ryan developed the 46 defense first as a nickle, then modified it to fit regular personnel that became the scourge of the league. Ironically he starred in a defense that was originally designed to replace his position.
In 1985 he was the signal caller to the most complex defense in NFL history. The 46 defense had nearly 70 blitzes and 20-30 fronts. While he was directing traffic on the #1 defense, he went on to become NFL Defensive Player of the Year as the 15-1 Bears won Super Bowl XX. This was Singletary at his zenith. Those of us old enough can remember the 4th and 1 attempt by the Rams with Eric Dickerson in the ’85 NFC Championshp. Not only did he stop him, he popped out several screws that held his facemask to his helmet the hit was so hard.
Out of a time capsule, here is what was thought of Mike Singletary’s 1985 season back then.
One of the fiercest hitters in NFL history who starred on one of the storied defenses in NFL history should have his number retired. The Chancellor of Football did get to meet Singletary during his rookie year in coaching in 2003. Was with the Rojas clan and we were guests of Brian Billick’s with sideline passes to enjoy the game as guests of the Ravens. I got the chance to talk some football with him for a few minutes and was glad to see him coaching. Right now he’s on Leslie Frazier’s coaching staff in Minnesota. Yup, that same Leslie Frazier he saved from giving up the first touchdown in Super Bowl XX. Yet today, we’re talking about an earlier incarnation of Mike, one of the best hitters in NFL history.
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