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.
With the draft just four days away, we are finally cracking the top-5 in our countdown, and what better way to start than with a player who played in four different decades and did everything imaginable on a football field. We are talking of course about George Blanda.
Drafted in the 12th round of the 1949 NFL Draft out of the University of Kentucky, Blanda was a one-man freakshow for over a quarter century-long NFL career. He played quarterback, racking up 26,920 yards passing in his career. He kicked field goals, knocking 52.4% of them through the uprights. He also made 98.3% of his extra point attempts. He also punted the ball on occasion, averaging 36.8 yards per punt. His versatility and incredibly long career earned him four Pro Bowl selections, and he was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1981.
During his 10 years with the Bears, Blanda mixed time between quite a few positions, playing quarterback, kicker, punter, and linebacker over that span. Arguably his best season with the Bears came in 1953, as he played in 12 games for the Monsters of the Midway. He threw for 2164 yards in that season, tossing 14 touchdown passes. He did throw 23 interceptions (although that isn’t even close to his career high in that category, as he set an NFL record of 42 picks in 1962 that still stands to this day), but his prowess at passing was merely a glimpse of what was to come later in his career.
Blanda would end up going on to a successful career with both the Houston Oilers and the Oakland Raiders, but the fact that the Bears snagged such a versatile and ultimately Hall of Fame worthy player really helps his standing on this countdown. In a day and age when athletes in all sports are more highly specialized than ever, Blanda was a delightful change of pace, and we’ll never see a player of his ability again.