61 Comments

Has the Great Peanut Tillman Played His Last Game as a Chicago Bear?

| November 11th, 2013

punch

It is the best play I’ve ever seen made by a Bears corner. 2003. Soldier Field. Minnesota Vikings. Game on the line. Daunte Culpepper sees Randy Moss. He looks across to the defense. He sees one man. Single coverage. No safety. No help. Snap. Moss takes off to the goalline and Culpepper throws the jump ball he’d thrown a hundred times. He’d completed about ninety of them. This wouldn’t be one.

It happened before playoff victories and a trip to the Super Bowl. It happened before Pro Bowls and accolades, before the “Peanut Punch” became a thing. Hell, it happened before Lovie Smith even arrived in Chicago. But that play, that moment, should be where the Charles “Peanut” Tillman conversation begins.

Where it ends is on a player who changed the way defensive football in the NFL is played by bringing the boxing ring to the gridiron. He threw a fist at the football and subsequently threw himself into the history books.

The Moss play was a Hall of Fame moment from a Hall of Fame player who most likely won’t end up in Canton because he never sought the limelight so many other premiere corners are desperate for and never accumulated the stats that make the national voting writers’ eyes pop out of their heads.

Forced fumble, one could argue, are more difficult to achieve than interceptions and every bit as important. You don’t luck into forced fumbles. Quarterback misreads or poor route running don’t lead to forced fumbles. You have to create them. You have to do something. Nobody has ever done it like Peanut.

Now the Bears have placed Charles Tillman on IR, designated to return. Simply put the Bears would need to make the postseason for there to be any chance Peanut plays again in 2013. If the triceps injury is serious and requires surgery, the corner’s season is almost certainly over.

Will this have been his final season in a Bears uniform? It would be a shame if so. Tillman takes a backseat only to Brian Urlacher as the most important Chicago Bear since the turn of the new century and it would be sad to see both of their careers in Chicago end with the same injured thud. But the business of the sport is the business of the sport. Tillman will be thirty-three years old at the start of next season. He is coming off a season with multiple injuries to multiple parts of the body. (How many games did he see to completion? Three? Maybe?) And players, especially in the NFL, don’t get healthier as they get older. They break down; the repercussion of being hit by a Buick thirty or forty times every Sunday for more than a decade.

Tillman is a Chicago Bears legend, arguably the best cornerback in franchise history. I hope he’ll be back in a Bears uniform, if only for sentimental reasons. But if he does not return his career will be celebrated long after he’s finished playing the sport. Because nobody will ever force a fumble in a Bears uniform again without Bears fans across the country thinking about the greatest to ever do it.

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  • Love that Vikings play against Randy Moss. That was my first Bears game I ever attended and was a great ending to that game. Hope the Bears can some how pull it together and make the post season and Peanut isn’t hurt bad enough to where he can comeback if not but for one more Peanut Punch!

    • SC Dave

      I’d consider him as a DB coach for sure once his playing days are over. Which may be a while. Charles has been counted out before.

      • Scharfinator

        People often counted him out due to what they saw as a decline in play.

        This looks like his years in the league are catching up to him.

  • SC Dave

    A decent throw and Moss has the TD.

    • BerwynBomber

      Agreed. Much as I’ve always been one of the first to praise Peanut, that was a badly thrown fade route by Culpepper. Plus, I don’t know if that sort of play was Moss at his absolute best. That was more a Chris Carter play. Moss was always about the deep ball.
      Still, heckuva play by a young Peanut. Knew we had a keeper by then. Oh, and funny to see Tice on the Vikes’ sideline.

  • Shady

    Ugh, I’m definitely not ready for these type of articles. So depressing to think this is the end of an era for Bears football. First Urlacher, now maybe Peanut, who’s next? Briggs? Peppers? fack

    • Cormonster

      Yeah, and there doesn’t seem to be any young studs besides Melton who have shown anything on D. Wooton has been playing good.

      • johnnywad

        Bostic is looking better every week and has all the physical tools. We’ll see, but I think he’s going to be really good

        • Cormonster

          I think he will be good too. Just needs some time to read plays better. I like his aggressiveness.

        • SC Dave

          I sure hope so. The Bears are *supposed* to have a Hall-of-Famer at MLB…
          George, Butkus, Singletary, Urlacher…

          • Cox, Minter, Harris

          • Big Mike

            Ugh, that was a sad time….

      • SC Dave

        Wooten’s play has been the ray of sunshine for sure.

  • Cormonster
    • SC Dave

      Oy vey, Corm! What an ego deflation – 14,000 candidates, and I didn’t even get a call.

      Lucky for me there are no bridges nearby off which to cast myself…

    • tobijohn

      Funny stuff as are the story blurbs to the left of the main article. I don’t know why I ever stopped reading The Onion…

    • Doc Nitty

      …and one prick from Boston. -Classic.

  • blah

    Tillman gave Moss a pair of alligator arms.

  • MB30SD

    btw, I will be in serious mourning if peanut doesn’t retire a bear. depressing thought.

  • BerwynBomber

    Actually, Peanuts’ #s — in terms of TOs and tackles — stack up decently for HoF consideration. The problem is his resume is so light on the All-Pro and Pro Bowl front. Granted, Pro Bowl recognition can often be a joke — Champ Bailey goes every year and arguably has not been a top-of-the-league corner in a half-dozen years — but the voters still weigh it. The All-Pro stuff, or lack thereof, is a little more damning. Ah well. If it is any consolation, Tillman would be first among our CBs were there a Bears HoF at Halas or Soldier.
    I wonder if he or the Bears would be interested in extending his career via a transition to SS. But who knows, maybe his body has reached the end of its football-playing days, a’la Urlacher.

  • Good news, guys. We’re winning the Super Bowl:

    http://mmqb.si.com/2013/11/11/chicago-bears-could-be-this-seasons-baltimore-ravens/?eref=sihp

    Though I wonder how Klemko’s opinion changes now that Tillman is out.

    • bearsFanatic

      That dude was on crack. I’m all Bears, but wow. Even when Peanut wasn’t done for the year, things didn’t look promising with that loss yesterday. No pressure on the QB doesn’t work, even with a guy of Peanut’s caliber. Now with him gone…yikes.

  • AlbertInTucson

    Damn, Blogfather!

    This week wasn’t enough of a downer already?

    I hadn’t even considered that Sunday might have been Tillman’s Chicago swan song.

    Ugh.

    We’ve locked horns lately but the case you make here is, sadly, pretty airtight.

    Best corner in Bears history…?

    Hell! Best I’VE ever seen and I’m an old fogey.

    Frankly, between the forced fumbles, the INTs and Pick-Sixes, I can’t think of a Bear corner who’s a close 2nd.

    Maybe one of my old favs, Joe Taylor, who toiled in obscurity on some bad teams.
    QBs just avoided throwing in his direction but I don’t make him a threat to Peanut for the #1 position for the Bears.

    And yeah, Randy Moss HATED to face Tillman.

    You know that dream almost everybody has where they show up late for the final
    exam in their underwear? In Moss’ version, Tillman’s running the other way with his #84 Viking Jersey in one hand and the football in the other.

  • AlbertInTucson

    So, Darelle Revis makes an interception of a long pass on 4 and a mile and Tirico and Gruden are so busy praising him that neither points out the obvious:He could have/should have knocked the ball down and given the Bucs the ball back in the Miami 15 but instead, he pads his stats and turns the play into the equivalent of a decent punt. Ignorant.

  • TheBigCheesy

    Tillman is a boss. Good riddance!

  • Trac

    Peanut still has the passion I think. I don’t get the sense he wants to retire but you never know, injuries at this point in a career can certainly be determining factors. I do get the sense that next year the Bears roster is going to be dramatically different.

  • bearsFanatic

    Good post. Peanut has been one awesome Bear. One of my favorite Peanut memories is last year’s red-zone stand against the Lions at Soldier. Peanut was lined up in man coverage and they went to Megatron three straight times and Peanut schooled him all three times. I loved every second of it. There’s not a DB in the league who could’ve pulled that off, nor a coach in the league who would’ve had the guts to keep him isolated in the red zone three straight times.

  • gpldan

    You can’t blow as many picks as Glitchy did and not have a giant drop off sometime. That time is now.

    Rest of this year and perhaps all of next look like rebuilding years to me. I like Bostic and think Greene can play with more coaching. Wright is a no, and Conte maybe.

    It’s funny that nobody thinks Pep can carry this D on his shoulders. We’d just assume look to Wooten. Ah well, we can look forward to Rodgers coming back in time for the Dec. Bears game and having Box Dinner re-bust his collarbone. Bear down!

    • Scharfinator

      If I thought we were a competitive playoff team at this point, I’d say we go pick up Ed Reed. As it is, I agree with you, I think a lot of this season is about getting new guys’ feet wet.

    • Big Mike

      Cutting Pep saves $9million of cap space. We have to eat $9million in dead salary, but so what.

      • gpldan

        I am down on cutting Pep.

        #cuttingofPEP now trending

  • Big Mike

    I believe we have seen the last of Tillman. Although not as clear to me as Peppers playing out his last year. I just think the cap hit for him next year will be to high.

  • Maddbearfan

    I’m still pissed about Sunday. I hope Trestman makes some better decisions than what he did Sunday. I like Peanut and will miss him a lot.

  • Jokey

    Hey Shady what did Thayer say about the 2-point conversion, and Garza?

    • Shady

      You can take a listen on the Mully & Hanley podcast from yesterday. The Thayer interview was in the last hour I believe. He basically said Garza had a combination block which required getting a one arm block on Fairley and another block on a linebacker. Just silly.

  • gpldan

    Al from AZ will probably put some real old timers like McAfee on this list, but yeah – so here’s my list

    Best Bear Corners of all time

    1. Tillman. I think no CB matched his ability to change his game with a changing NFL that started favoring the jump ball throw. His height and speed were huge factors, and his ability to strip separates him from guys with more speed like Champ Bailey. Both probably deserve Canton nominations, Bailey will be 1st ballot, Tillman perhaps not due to his ability to get beat more than the greats.

    2. Mike Richardson. Overlooked, but he was the shutdown corner of the 85 Bears not Frazier. Tall like Peanut, he could cover the Jerry Rice and Al Toon like tall guys, excellent speed, was an island player in that 46 alignment.

    3. Donnell Woolford. I rate him higher than Jennings because Jennings always had Tillman to take on the guys too big for him, and Woolford matched up always with the opposition #1. 7 picks in ’92.

    4. Nate Vasher. Ol’ Rock Jock. But prior to his injuries that crippled him, he was a complete corner. Could do ST, cover the run, blitz, and shut his man down.

    5. Allan Ellis. many think this guy had the best physical tools outside of Peanut. A good athlete all around, 6 picks in 77, 6 picks in 76, 2 picks in 75.

    6. Jennings. A specialized corner, best at gambling and making the blitz read. Not somebody you build a team around, and had weaknesses throughout his game but a perfect C2 guy if all the Bears ever played was zone 2-high.

    7. Vestee Jackson.Highly under-rated in man-on-man. Solid stats. Not flashy.

    8. Leslie Frazier. Career cut short by injury, but very effective on that team. Almost hard to judge his best years as few people could throw on those teams, their QB was usually wiped out or hurried. 7 picks in ’83.

    9. Walt Harris. Went on to have a better career with the Colts after the Bears thought he was done. For awhile, he was the shutdown man for the Bears – not a island guy – better in zone.

    10. Terry Schmidt. Quietly, this guy had a long-ish career in the late 70s and early 80s and racked up a few picks each year.
    10a. Virgil Livers. 2 picks per season for 5 seasons. Nothing flashy, but was also KR/PR for those teams.

    • Jokey

      GP going Deep! Nice post.

    • Big Mike

      Mike Richardson only had to cover for about 3 seconds. The pass rush was ridiculous. Not sure he belongs that high up. Don’t hate it, just saying.

    • bearsfantillend

      so who was in charge of cloning a couple of these guys to be ready for us next year

    • AlbertInTucson

      OK. First, “fogey” that I am, I never saw McAfee play tho’ he was well-regarded as a defender.

      I too, think Richardson is too high. I was never a big Terry Schmidt guy.

      I liked Jackson, having seen him in the PAC 10 at Washington bit I remember him as starting strong and fading quickly in my mind. I still remember him getting smoked for a 99 yarder to Webster Slaughter on a Monday night.

      My memory of Harris is similar.

      Woolford, Frazier, Ellis, Vasher (so sad toisee the injuries limit him), Jennings are all solid choices.

      From the 60s I’d add Bennie McRae and Dave “Weasel” Whitsell”, whose pick-six late in the season finale against the Lions in ’63 clinched the Western Conference Title.

      Whitsell went to New Orleans after the Bears let him go in the expansion draft and he had 19 picks in 3 seasons with the Saints including TEN in 1967.

      • gpldan

        I need to find either Ditka’s or Hampton’s quote on Richardson. I think if you watch film on the guy, he was WAY better than people gave him credit for. If anything, he may have been overlooked because he had so much help up front in QB pressure. But, for a few years, this guy could run with anybody.

        Walt Harris had a bad season, and 2 good ones, as a Bear. I think the memories of his bad play outweigh the good. The ultimate say-so on that I think is that the Bears walked away from the guy and he went on to be a Colt starter for several more years. I think back then we had some shit DB coaching. Perhaps not as bad as Lovie’s coaching of safeties, but almost as bad.

        And I didn’t call you a fogey so no need to quote it. I would have said you used to tailgate with Woodrow Wilson or something. 🙂

        • AlbertInTucson

          I quoted it because I often refer to myself as such. Implying that I might have seen McAfee play was just as good as Tailgating with Woody.

        • AlbertInTucson

          Sadly, “L.A. Mike” Richardson has not fared well after football dealing with drug problems and has done some time in prison.

  • gpldan

    Now, for no reason at all, here’s some smooth velvet

    http://tinyurl.com/mu6spot

  • gpldan

    I dunno if this story has made the rounds yet, but one the last series when they pulled Cutler – they handed him a boot for his “ankle injury” – and he didn’t put it on! DOOOOOOON’T CARE!

    He had no interest in even keeping up appearances or appearing to go with the cover story. So, now, of course everybody knows there is nothing wrong with his ankle, it’s a bullshit play to hold him out longer while the groin recovers.

    Here’s Hub – ripping all phases of the game – especially the run game which I agree was so poor it allowed for no options. Reviews of the game film show that Fairly and Suh simply owned inside and owned Long and Garza especially, although it was Slauson’s hold that really killed things.

    http://www.hubarkush.com/2013/11/12/hub-arkush-bears-lions-difficult-to-grade/at68qjo/

    • bearsfantillend

      i knew the “ankle injury” was crap, you don’t grab your groin because your ankle hurts. Cutler looked like a 2yr old that just discovered Captain Winky as much as he was tugging on his groin.

    • Trac

      Another possibility is that the coaching staff was just trying to get him out of the game in order to lesson the blow to Cutty by pulling him.

      • bearsfantillend

        ESPN had a clip yesterday, of Cutty, McCown, and Trestman talking. Cutty was asking “how do i look out there, am i ok?” so i don’t think there would have been a problem if Trestman would have went to him at anytime and said ‘Hey sorry man, you are hurt gotta take you out.’ Seeing that clip lessons my contention from posts yesterday of Cutty being selfish because he was concerned that he was not getting the job done. I will still contend that he should have been pulled early in the 2nd half, but thats on Trestman now. A player, while they might be upset, should understand getting pulled because of injury.

        BTW the clip i am referring to was in one of ESPNs Sounds of the Game.

    • MB30SD

      DOOOOOONNN’TTT CAAAAARRREEEE!

  • Sactowns#1
  • gpldan

    Jeff tweets –

    “Watched tape this AM & Trestman was right: Cutler didn’t struggle playing position until final 5 mins. He looked injured but played healthy.”

    If, by playing healthy, you mean he played like a “healthy” 38 year old Dan Marino, when all he could do was take snaps in the ‘gun and use his arm, he had zero mobility and the Lions knew that every bootleg or roll-out play was now off the table. Cutler didn’t drop those two TD passes, Jeffery did – but Cutler hurt his team by being unable to move. In one case, he stepped up and faced a wide open field. Healthy Cutler runs for a 1st down. This Jay had no option but to wing it – incomplete. That’s hurting the team.

    • Big Mike

      and the 2-3 balls he skipped, were plays that McCown makes.

    • Maddbearfan

      Here here…I second that emotion!!!!

  • Sactowns#1
  • Thompson Way

    This is the transition year from the Bears that we knew, to the Bears of tomorrow. Emery blew up the offense line and added some real ballers to the O side. Next year it will be the D that will be seeing some real changes. I said the same for Urlacher, as I am saying now for Tillman, that it would be nice if they stuck around to educate the kids coming into the league. Tillman is a class act and will remain one of my favorites.

  • bearsfantillend

    decent story on Sam “8 ball’ Hurd’s drug bust

    http://mmqb.si.com/2013/11/12/sam-hurd-cocaine-bust/8/

  • gpldan

    Where is Irish? Irish – did they get you? NOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!

    I can’t hold up the crazy here by myself man! Come back!

    Sigh.

    Ok, so in the Shining – when Danny goes into the room to see the twins, it’s room 237, and the key in the door says “Room N 237”. You can re-arrange the letters to say “Moon R”. Danny is wearing an Apollo 11 sweater. The moon is 237,000 miles from Earth at it’s nearest point of ellipse. Kubrick did 2001. Is Danny the Starchild?

    YOU SEE IRISH? I am just not as good at this as you are. COME BACK!

    • bearsfantillend

      my mind is officially blown

    • tobijohn

      He’s still an active participant in the DBB Pick’Em league. In fact, he just snuck past me into first place. He must be putting all his energy into that…

    • SC Dave

      That was pretty strong, GP. A noble effort.

  • Doc Nitty

    Amen, Jeff. We’ve been touting him for years. And it’s so much more than the forced fumbles. He’s held guys like Moss and Calvin Johnson to relatively pedestrian stats compared to their norm. And he’s forced to play zone. He’s not the fastest DB I’ve ever seen, but if you asked peanut to man up the best receiver on the other team every game, I think he would do a helluva job. The cover 2 has certainly hurt Peanut in the national press.

    It’s been nice seeing him get his accolades this season. He’s a stand up guy. He’s been a very durable consistently competitive Chicago Bear. If you put his forced fumbles together with his interceptions I’d like to see how that compares to the best players in history. I’d wager it’s near the top.

    Peanut belongs in the Hall of Fame. I’m afraid that it probably won’t ever happen though. I’ll be seriously disappointed if he’s played his last game. He’s been my favorite bear since Mike Brown.

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