As the NFL Draft approaches, Grizzly Detail is counting down the Top 30 draft picks in Chicago Bears history. In order to qualify for this list, a player must have worn a Bears uniform for at least five seasons (sorry Rosevelt Colvin and Wilber Marshall), and players who were selected in lower rounds of the draft will have an advantage in this countdown.
In this edition, we get back into the time-machine to head back to the earlier era in Bears history, as Sid Luckman, arguably the greatest quarterback in Bears history, checks in at #9.
The second overall pick in the 1939 NFL Draft, Luckman was one of the first quarterbacks to ever truly revolutionize the position. He was arguably the greatest passer of his era, and George Halas used Luckman as the lynchpin of the T-formation scheme that gave the Bears some of the greatest successes in team history. In 12 seasons, Luckman played in 128 games, throwing for 14,686 yards, 137 touchdowns, and also averaged 38.6 yards per punt during his distinguished career.
It took a little while for Luckman’s skillset to really reveal itself with the Bears, but in the 1943 season, things finally picked up for him. He threw for 2194 yards that season and tossed a career high 28 touchdown passes, and after being named a first team All-Pro, he promptly volunteered to join the US Merchant Marines. He didn’t practice with the Bears during that stretch of years during World War II, but he was allowed to play in games, and his numbers didn’t suffer a bit. He still threw for 25 more touchdowns combined over the next two seasons during his service, and rejoined the Bears full-time in 1946.
Luckman ranks second all-time in yards per pass attempt, just behind Otto Graham in that category. Despite playing in a much less potent offensive era of football, Luckman is still in second place all-time on the Bears’ passing yards list, behind only Jay Cutler, and he is still ahead of Cutler in touchdowns, with his 137 scores leading Cutler’s 101.
The countdown definitely keeps in mind how highly a player was picked, so Luckman’s career standing as one of the greatest quarterbacks in team history is tempered a bit by the fact he was the second pick of the draft. Even with that caveat in mind, he was still very deserving of a top-10 selection based on his body of work. Like Mike Ditka did with the tight end position, Luckman redefined what it meant to be a quarterback in the NFL, emphasizing throwing the ball over running it, and he teamed up with Halas to create one of the greatest coach-quarterback relationships in league history.