BLOOMINGTON, Minn. – With the Hall of Fame Selection Committee electing the Class of 2018 Saturday, we asked four of the voters about former Bears star Brian Urlacher, who is one of 15 modern-era finalists.
Here’s what Vic Carucci (Buffalo representative), John Clayton (at-large voter), Geoff Hobson (Cincinnati representative) and Ira Miller (at-large voter) had to say about Urlacher.
How would you rate Urlacher’s chances of being elected to the Hall of Fame Saturday?
Carucci: “I think they’re solid because he’s worthy of the discussion. I believe he has Hall of Fame credentials. I don’t think it’s a mistake that he made it to that final 15 list. So if you’re in that room as a modern finalist, you have a legit chance. I go in without any major preconceived notions about anybody. I will admit there are some that are just quote slam dunks. I’m not putting Brian in that category. But I am putting him in the category where it would be shocking to me if a majority of the people in that room didn’t listen carefully to the presentation and the debate that usually follows the presentation.”
Miller: “I’d say his chances are fair-to-good. Ray Lewis is going to get in and I think there might be hesitancy to put in two guys at the same position, two first-time eligibles at the same position particularly. That would be the only drawback that I could see. He’s got a gold-plated candidacy. It’s not an issue of qualifications.”
Hobson: “I’m not sure [it will happen] Saturday, but he’ll be in eventually. He’s a borderline first-ballot guy, but he’s a sure-shot Hall of Famer.”
Clayton: “You pretty much figure that Ray Lewis is going to make it and then Urlacher is going to be near the top. But the question is, ‘Are there going to be votes taken away one way or another?’ It’ll be close. You know he’s going to get in; it’s just going to be a matter of whether it’s this year, next year or the next.”
What stood out to you about Urlacher as a player?
Carucci: “There were freakish qualities that he had. He was this guy that was playing linebacker but in so many ways he could have been a very athletic safety who was just big enough to play linebacker. Obviously I know his background where safety was his position in college and the jokes about growing up in New Mexico and that he might be an alien. I saw him do some remarkable things on the field and you reached a point in knowing the lineage of linebackers for the Bears and he carried that burden. He held up with it well. And I think that says a lot about his talent, but it also says a lot about the guy.”
Miller: “He was a leader, a great player and a key guy on really good defenses. No weaknesses jump out at you.”
Hobson: “He defined that team. He had a great presence. He was clearly the leader of it. He was a reason they were always contending for the playoffs.”
Clayton: “There was about a four- to six-year stretch or so where he was always in the mix for the league’s defensive MVP. You look what he did with that defense compared to what Derrick Brooks did in Tampa Bay’s defense. There’s a similarity. There’s a difference in positions because Brian was a middle linebacker (and Brooks was an outside linebacker), but it’s still kind of the same equation. Urlacher gets the forced fumbles and the interceptions, and that’s what Derrick Brooks did in the cover-two in Tampa. Urlacher did it from a different position, but he did the same things.”
Do you think a strong candidate at the same position in Ray Lewis will hurt Urlacher’s chances?
Carucci: “I know that comes up every year: Are there too many fill-in-the-blank position and should we put in more than one fill-in-the-blank position? I’ve always been bothered by that. I think it’s the wrong way to look at the process. You should be looking at the individual, weighing his career on his own merits, not on the position he played versus the fact that there’s another candidate in the room at the same position or how many at the position are in the Hall. To answer the question, if that is what is working against him, that would be a mistake. It should be: ‘Is Brian Urlacher a Hall of Famer?’ That’s the question we have to answer just as we have to answer it for Ray Lewis.”
Miller: “I think that’s a key factor. It’s probably not right that that happens, but I think there’s a certain reluctance because you have such a backlog of eligible players, so I think there’s a certain reluctance to put in multiple players at one position. It has happened and it could happen again because once you get past Ray Lewis, there’s nobody that I look at and say, ‘He’s definitely in.’ So you’ve got a pretty level playing field and the votes could break any number of ways.”
Clayton: “I think it could. The fact that Ray I think is going to pretty much breeze through, that might not hurt him that much, but it might.”
Who do you think are the slam-dunk candidates in this class?
Carucci: “I believe that Ray Lewis is a slam dunk. I don’t see Brian as a slam dunk. But that doesn’t mean I don’t see him as a Hall of Famer. I see him again as someone who will get a good conversation and I know Dan [Pompei] will do a tremendous job of presenting him. He’s already done a great job in advance of this being his advocate, sending information to the voters. He’s working very hard on [Urlacher’s] behalf. So Bears fans should take a lot of solace that they’ve got Dan in that room. He makes bright points, concise but effective points. He helps his guy. He doesn’t hurt his guy. I can tell you through the years that isn’t always true with presenters. Beyond Ray Lewis, I think it’s going to be fascinating. There would be no one else I would say won’t have a discussion. I think we are in for a very long, thorough, challenging meeting, which is great. I think it brings out the best in everybody in that room.”
Miller: “Ray Lewis. He’s the only one. Clearly.”
Hobson: “I’d say Ray Lewis and Randy Moss are the only two slam-dunks.”
Clayton: “Ray Lewis is the only one. I think everyone else is going to be a conversation. It’s a deeper class than most, particularly with the new guys that came in this year and so because of that it’s going to make it even tougher to get more than one [first-ballot candidate] in. But you never know.”