Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

27 May 2013

MMQB: Urlacher's Retirement

This week, Peter talks Urlacher memories, Memorial Day, and does his annual roundup of quotes from commencement speeches.

Posted by: Rivers McCown on 27 May 2013

14 comments, Last at 03 Jun 2013, 12:25pm by Lance


by Sifter :: Mon, 05/27/2013 - 8:01pm

Yay, an Urlacher related extra point! Let the deep and meaningful comments commence!

by Vague (not verified) :: Tue, 05/28/2013 - 4:15pm

I know that Urlacher is an oddly polarizing figure. He is attractive to many folks with little more than casual interest in football. I also find that FO not linking his retirement is a bit odd.

I do think his Hall of Fame merits make an intriguing question (though I feel it nearly a lock he will get in eventually). I find his career to be quite curious having 5 sacks and 5 picks in a year he didnt make the pro bowl while making it in years his play was much worse. I know he had some weaknesses at the point of attack while playing three downs in an era where fewer and fewer LBs do this.

I am curious what FO readers think about him as I am biased.

by DisplacedPackerFan :: Tue, 05/28/2013 - 4:52pm

No doubt Hall of Famer in my mind. Some doubt on first ballot since Ray Lewis will get in and they might not want to put two MLB's in on the same ballot. I think he is in the top 10 for linebackers of all time, though just barely. I'm not talking just middle, all linebackers. He allowed the Bears to do things with the Tampa 2 scheme that a lesser backer would not have allowed.

by Jimmy :: Wed, 05/29/2013 - 2:47pm

The only issue with being 6'4" and 258lbs at MLB is that it left him susceptible to lower back problems during the middle to late part of his career. It stopped him bending as much as you would like to see but he was still bloody good, just a bit easier to block. Outside of this period he was as good at taking in linemen as any other linebacker in a one gap front.

by D :: Tue, 05/28/2013 - 6:50pm

I'll never forget Urlacher's response after the Arizona game about why he was so dominant in the second half, "Well to begin with they weren't blocking me."

by Jimmy :: Wed, 05/29/2013 - 2:54pm

Ron Rivera spoke about this, he said that the Bears went to an eight man front the entire second half because they knew the Cards would just try to run the ball. So the Bears covered everyone up and allowed Urlacher to spy Edgerrin James. So this is a reasonable snapshot of what Urlacher's career would have looked like if he had stayed in a two gap front. He was dominant in that scheme as a young player and equally dominant later when back in it (albeit as a wrinkle, and it wasn't a proper two gap front like it had been under Jauron/Blanche).

by justanothersteve :: Mon, 05/27/2013 - 10:00pm

I found this comment comparing Harvin to Anquan Boldin interesting "... and Boldin a physical possession guy with deceiving downfield ability." Deceiving downfield ability - no longer just for white guys.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Tue, 05/28/2013 - 10:43am

It's a white guy trait for smaller receivers. It's more general purpose for bigger receivers. Unless Harold Carmichael suddenly became a white guy.

by Lance :: Wed, 05/29/2013 - 11:31am

As long as "first ballot" doesn't enter the discussion, I'm happy to talk about Urlacher and the Hall of Fame.

by dbostedo :: Wed, 05/29/2013 - 10:35pm

Are you saying that :

a) you don't think Urlacher deserves to go in on the first ballot but is still a hall of famer and don't want to hear any "first ballot" talk?


b) you hate the fact that anyone cares whether or not someone is "first ballot" and think the discussion should focus only on whether or not someone is a hall of famer, period?

I hope it's "b".

by Dean :: Thu, 05/30/2013 - 8:50am

I'm a proud member of that "B" camp. Which probably isn't much of an endorsement!

You don't get a separate wing. Your jacket is the same color. You're either a Hall of Famer or you're not. There's no magical bonus points for getting in right away.

by Lance :: Mon, 06/03/2013 - 12:23pm

Actually, it's:

c) The notion of "first ballot" is a baseball HoF thing, and unrelated to football.

Anyone familiar with the football HoF knows how the election process works. You get a minimum of 4 in, and a maximum of 7 in. This includes people like coaches, owners, etc. This also includes 2 "senior committee" members-- those "whose active career has been completed by at least 25 years."

Given the expansion of the NFL, the end result of these limitations is that there is a significant backlog of players who are HoF-worthy, but at just waiting to get voted in. And since it's the case that every year HoF-worthy people retire, it's hard to imagine catching up on the back-log anytime soon.

This differs from baseball, where many more players can get in in any given year. No one ever talks about a back-log with the baseball HoF. Here is the list of the last vote:

Jack Morris - 382 votes (66.7 percent)
Jeff Bagwell - 321 (56)
Lee Smith - 290 (50.6)
Tim Raines - 279 (48.7)
Edgar Martinez - 209 (36.5)
Alan Trammell - 211 (36.8)
Fred McGriff - 137 (23.9)
Larry Walker - 131 (22.9)
Mark McGwire - 112 (19.5)
Don Mattingly - 102 (17.8)
Dale Murphy - 83 (14.5)
Rafael Palmeiro - 72 (12.6)
Bernie Williams - 55 (9.6)

So, maybe some players on this list are HoFers-- I don't know baseball well. But it's not like there's 8 guys, and they can only let in 4. Only one guy got in this year. There is no backlog.

Compare this to football. Here are people who were on the list but didn't make it last time:

Jerome Bettis (RB), Tim Brown (WR), Edward DeBartolo Jr. (owner), Kevin Greene (LB), Charles Haley (DE), Art Modell (owner), Andre Reed (WR), Will Shields (G), Michael Strahan (DE), Aeneas Williams (CB)

There's debate to go around, but the reality is that some portion of those guys deserve to go in. And then, think about everyone else who is going to be coming up on the ballot: Warner, Owens, Moss, Seau, Lewis, Favre, Harrison, etc., etc., not to mention all the people who have fallen out of the conversation but still should be in (Atwater, Howley, Guy, Pearson, etc., etc.).

So, back to the point: if Urlacher comes up on a list that's stacked with players and owners, there's a good chance that because of the Hall's limits, he might have to wait a year. Or two. Chris Carter, by any reasonable measure, was a "first ballot" guy. There are plenty of others who would have been had the NFL not had these limits on its HoF.

So that's all. Put Urlacher in the HoF. But this isn't baseball

by Mick (not verified) :: Mon, 06/03/2013 - 12:31am

Seriously? Urlacher is a first ballot for sure guy. Over the last 13 years, how many other guys would you have rather had leading your D? Demarcus Ware? Ray Lewis? Ed Reed? Troy Polamalu? That's a short list, and two played for the same team. Urlacher was a *monster*, and we shouldn't forget it.

by Lance :: Mon, 06/03/2013 - 12:25pm

See above. He should be, but if he's on a list that has Favre, Seau, Lewis, Warner, and, like, Art Modell, he probably won't make it. Not because he's not deserving, but because the NFL's backlog/limits make it harder to say such things definitively