The Chicago Bears are one of the oldest teams in the NFL with a legacy dating back to 1920. Despite some titles, the Bears haven’t had as much success as expected with only one Super Bowl championship in 1985-86. They’ve had some NFC North divisional titles but their last few seasons have been very bad, topped off by a 3-13 record in 2016. The Bears have had great success with some fantastic players like Walter Payton and Mike Ditka but have made a lot of bad management decisions that have backfired. The trade for Jay Cutler is an example as the man’s skills are overwhelmed by too many mental errors and injuries. The Bears just seem saddled with some bad luck, but a lot of it is their own doing.
That includes the draft as the Bears have had some great opportunities but have blown them. Like many teams, they ignored Tom Brady, missing out on a future MVP. They also have made numerous choices that have blown up in their faces. The Bears have had so much potential but their draft picks have often hampered them. Here are the 15 worst draft picks the Bears have ever made that have weakened the Monsters of the Midway big time.
15 Stan Thomas
It’s not just Thomas himself that makes this a bad pick. It’s also the missed opportunity he represents. This pick remains a deep bone of contention between then head-coach Mike Ditka and owner Michael McCaskey. His tenure at the University of Texas had been nothing special but somehow McCaskey thought he was worth using a first round pick on at number 22 in the 1991 draft. Ditka hated the idea, wanting a real star but McCaskey insisted.
Thomas’ only notable moment was when TV cameras caught him and Ditka arguing over a bad play. Thomas had limited playing time and was out of the NFL in three years. What makes it worse is the guy Ditka supposedly wanted and was still on the board when McCaskey forced the Thomas choice: Brett Favre. That’s right, the great Packers QB could have been a Bear if not for McCaskey’s blunder.
14 Alonzo Spellman
He has a historic note as Spellman was the last first-round pick of the Ditka era. This Ohio State sack artist was supposed to replace Richard Dent, a strong and vital presence and Ditka supervised his pick at number 22 in the 1992 draft. However, while he started all but one game over five seasons, Spellman had some rough times with no more than 8 sacks in a season and his good games were offset by bad ones. He was released in 1997 after various erratic behavior that was attributed to him suffering from bipolar disorder.
Rather than medication, he turned to drugs and alcohol, ruining his time with the Cowboys and Lions. He would be more famous for various arrests on possession charges, causing a mess on an airplane and robbing a convenience store. It's a shame Ditka’s final pick had to end up being a bad one.
13 John Thierry
The Bears were looking to rebuild in 1994 under Dave Wannstedt. However, he soon had NFL experts baffled with some of his odd picks. A big one would have to be that with the 11th overall pick in the 1994 draft, Wannstedt passed on Aaron Glenn, Todd Steussie and Isaac Bruce to take a guy from 1-AA Alcorn State with the intention of turning him into a defensive end.
Wannstedt was soon known for being terrible at elevating talent and overlooked how Thierry’s great numbers in college was because he was against weaker competition. Thierry never started more than nine games in a season and never made more than four sacks. He was cut in 1998 and had better runs in Cleveland and Green Bay. Few things sum up the failure of Wannstedt as Bears coach than this waste of a pick.
12 Joe Moore
Before the Bears lucked onto getting Walter Payton, the running back spot seemed to be a curse for them. It was highlighted by Gale Sayers tearing out his knee, cutting his career short. Moore had been the all-time rusher at Missouri, holding the record at 1,312 yards and had been among the best rushers in the nation. The Bears took him 11th overall in the 1971 draft only to find Moore was fighting injuries from his senior year. In two seasons with Chicago, Moore only managed 281 yards with no touchdowns.
The pressure to replace Sayers combined with his injuries made his play worse and he was cut loose after two years with the Bears, following a 3-11 season. That did end up helping them in being able to draft Payton while poor Moore never got his real shot.
11 Bob Fenimore
We're going way back in time with this pick. The Blonde Blizzard had been a sensational star for Oklahoma State from 1943 to 1946. An All-American selection, Fenimore still holds the school record for interceptions, leading the nation in 1944 and contributed to the only undefeated team in school history. Thus, Fenimore was considered a must-grab for the 1947 NFL draft and surely ready to make the Bears champions. Instead, Fenimore was saddled by injuries over his senior year and even coming in at #1 wasn’t enough to overcome his physical limitations.
He played only ten games, a stunning comedown for such a great college star and many point to his draft as the start of a decade-long slump for the Bears.
10 Marc Colombo
Colombo’s career at Boston College was good but not that sensational. His blocking helped the Eagles gain good rushing yards with back to back thousand yard seasons but not too major among the others of his class. Still, the Bears had hopes when they selected him 29th in 2002 and he entered with little hype. Even so, for a first-round pick, he had some hopes pinned on him that were dashed when he suffered injuries late in his rookie season and then missed the entire 2003 season after ending up on the PUP list while in training camp.
He also missed most of 2004 and did manage to make the Bears’ 2005 opener only to get cut the very next week. Colombo went on for an okay run with the Cowboys but his Bears tenure was barely worth wasting a first-round pick on.
9 Gabe Carimi
Carimi was a standout in high school with his coach boasting he’d be a future superstar in the making. At Wisconsin, he shone with the Badgers at tackle, leading the team to several major wins and one of the best players in the Big 10. The Bears grabbed him at number 29, even wanting to take him earlier in the draft but had some miscommunication with the Ravens. Most thought he was going to be a top offensive tackle but in only his second game, he blew out his knee and was out for the rest of the season. He recovered but his time was limited and he found himself targeted in the Saints’ infamous “bounty program.”
Rumors abounded of Carimi having some whacky behavior behind the scenes that led to him being traded to Tampa Bay. He later played for the Falcons but never lived up to his potential and shows yet another dropping of the ball for the Bears.
8 Michael Haynes
The Bears had two big spots in the first round of the 2003 Draft thanks to some offseason deals. One was used on Rex Grossman, the QB who would be okay, as he got the Bears to a Super Bowl (where he threw a key pick-six in their loss). Haynes was picked earlier at number 14 after a good career as a defensive tackle at Penn State where he led the Big Ten in sacks every season.
It was hoped he would be a good worker but he only started four games with 5.5 sacks and several injuries. This was a class that included Troy Polamalu and Eric Steinbeck but instead the Bears were saddled with three years of bad play by Haynes before cutting him. At least they had Grossman for some boost to prevent this from being a total wash of a first round.
7 Chris Williams
An All-American at Vanderbilt, Williams was a great lineman who allowed only a single sack in his time. He was drafted 14th overall in 2008 but a back injury kept him out of most of training camp. After training, Williams was set to protect Jay Cutler in 2009 and Cutler’s high number of interceptions and sacks that season shows how poorly he handled that task. While he seemed to improve, a knee injury knocked him out in 2010 and he was moved to the left guard position.
The Bears offensive line was in a terrible period and failing to work well with Williams lost in the mix. He was released in 2012 to move onto the Rams and Bills but both cut him before any games after he failed physicals. The Bears had a lot of bad times with Cutler but his lack of a strong O-line didn’t help.
6 Rashaan Salaam
Too many times, NFL teams have assumed winning a Heisman Trophy automatically meant a stellar pro career was ahead, only to be let down. At Colorado, Salaam broke school records, rushing over 2,000 yards in a single season and led Colorado to a 11-1 record and a Fiesta Bowl victory over Notre Dame. With a Heisman Trophy win, Salaam was picked 21st in 1995 and seemed to have a good start. However, he faltered by a combination of injuries and a suspension over marijuana use curtailed his progress.
In his last two seasons, Salaam rushed for a combined 600 yards and his attitude dragged him down. He later played for the Browns and even the Memphis Maulers of the XFL. His post-NFL life had ups and downs and ending with his apparent suicide in 2016. It's a true shame his college glory couldn’t equal great times as a pro.
5 Bob Sapp
Some MMA fans may be doing a double take on this one. Yes, before Sapp became one of the breakouts of that sport, Sapp was a football player, winning the Morris Award for his work at the University of Washington. Sapp was selected by the Bears 69th overall in the 1997 draft but was still considered a prime guy thanks to his build and size. However, he ended up taking hits in training and practice and never played one single game for the team.
He was dealt to the Vikings where he was suspended for steroid use and played just one game in his entire NFL career. Working at a funeral home, Sapp basically fell into MMA and quickly rose up in Strikeforce and other organizations while working a few movie roles in as well. While they can claim they drafted a future MMA star, as a football player, Sapp was a major letdown for the Bears.
4 David Terrell
At Michigan, Terrell was a star, a three-year letterman who became the first player in school history to have multiple thousand-yard seasons. He set school records in receiving, touchdowns and was named the Orange Bowl MVP. Thus, he was a high grab for the 2001 Draft and the Bears grabbed him at number 8, figuring they had the great offensive player they needed. In his rookie year, he gained 415 yards in 16 games with only four touchdowns.
Injuries hampered him as well as issues off the field and his entire career with the Bears amounted to 1,600 yards in four seasons. Cut by the Bears, Terrell attempted comebacks with the Broncos and the Patriots but each cut him before he ever played a game. For all his greatness in college, Terrell couldn’t pay it off in the NFL much to the Bears’ regret.
3 Cedric Benson
An All-American at Texas, Benson put up some truly great numbers and was cited as a powerful running back, with 1900 yards in nine games. The Bears thought they might have a new Walter Payton on their hands and drafted him at fourth, their highest draft pick in 15 years. However, he missed all of training camp due to contract issues before signing a five-year deal worth $35 million. According to rumors, his teammates weren’t happy with this and even threatened to injure him in practice.
Benson was sidelined for a time before injuries pushed him down although he bounced back to help the Bears win the 2006 NFC Championship game. However, he missed the Super Bowl with an injury and his absence was missed. He had some good games the following years but also had plenty of bad ones and he was arrested for drunk driving, leading to him being released in 2008. Benson went to the Bengals and suddenly became a fantastic rusher, making the Bears groan over their bad luck.
The worst part about all this was that while Grossman was just an average quarterback, there just happened to be a future All-Pro on the board in Aaron Rodgers, but he went to Green Bay later in the round.
2 Curtis Enis
A good player for Penn State, Enis had put up some impressive numbers running and looked to be ready to be a top player. He was chosen by the Bears at number five in the 1998 draft but held out in training camp until he was given a plush contract. He tore out his knee in his very first start and had to sit out much of the rest of the season. For three years, Enis put up some bad numbers while also exhibiting some strange behavior off the field from parties to fights and that just hampered him more.
To put this in perspective, the Bears passed on Randy Moss because they were concerned about stories of his behavior. Enis retired in 2001 after realizing his knee was never the same from that rookie injury and showcasing a massive waste of a high pick for the Bears in a top draft class.
1 Cade McNown
An All-American who led UCLA to the Rose Bowl, McNown was part of a draft class that included Donovan McNabb and was on the cover of ESPN Magazine as the “most ready QB of the draft.” The Bears must have thought they hit the jackpot with him at number 12. From day one, it was doomed as McNown held out in training camp before getting a $22 million contract. He proceeded to accumulate a 3-12 record over two horrible seasons and had one of the worst attitudes around. He openly told fans who booed him to just stay home and snapped that a receiver had been too tired to properly catch a ball.
The guy was even banned from the Playboy Mansion for bad behavior; let that sink in. He was traded in 2001 to the Dolphins and the Bears ate his contract but considered it a small price to get rid of one of the worst wastes of talent the NFL has seen.
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