The Bears have not retired the number of a single member of the 1985 Chicago Bears defense. Not Hall of Famer Mike Singletary. Not Hall of Famer Dan Hampton. Not Hall of Famer Richard Dent. Aside from the possibility of running out of numbers (unlikely) this is a travesty that should no longer be tolerated by the game’s most loyal fan base or most cloying media. But being that the 25th anniversary of the NFL’s greatest team has come and gone I will continue to assume that behind-the-scenes drama is precluding the McCaskey family from celebrating the achievements of these all-time greats and 50, 95 and 99 will continue to be worn by inferior performers.
Olin Kreutz never won a Super Bowl as a member of the Chicago Bears. He only made the Pro Bowl six times. He was only voted the best center in the league four times and was named to the 2000s all-decade team. He and Brian Urlacher were the beacons of light through an era of scattered sunshine. Kreutz, more than Urlacher, commanded the locker room and ran the huddle. Urlacher might have sold more jerseys but Kreutz sold the toughness. He was the aggressor. He is more Hawaiian than a Don Ho retrospective at the Pineapple Hut (made up place) but he was pure Chicago when he donned the navy and orange.
But the defining moment of Kreutz’ career came off the field. No not his breaking the face of Fred Miller at a shooting range (though that would define many a man). No, Olin Kreutz defined his career in Chicago by spurning Dave Wannstedt and the Miami Dolphins in 2002, rejecting $2 million more a year, and re-signing with the Bears. He was proud. He was loyal. And he turned down the archenemy of the Chicago Bears in a glorious and legendary gesture.
How his tenure ended in Chicago was unfortunate. The Bears realized Kreutz was no longer a very good player but offered him a contract anyway – well beyond his worth. He rejected it, went to New Orleans and barely made it through a few months before walking away. The greats never know how to walk away from the game and Kreutz was undoubtedly one of the greats.
No more time needs to elapse. The Bears should select a home game in the 2012 season and forbid #57 ever be worn again. Celebrate Olin Kreutz while many of his former teammates remain on the roster and all of his fans remain in the Soldier Field seats. Kreutz may not have been the player Singletary or Hampton or Dent were but his importance to an era of Chicago football and specifically to the Chicago Bears offense can not be understated.
How often does a center come along like Olin Kreutz? Once in a generation if we’re lucky. And we were lucky. We had him in our colors for all of his surefire Hall of Fame career. Why wait? I know I am one of many Bears fans that would appreciate the opportunity to say thank you.