One of the most storied franchises in NFL history is experiencing a “family feud” between one of its legendary players and a member of its new generation of stars.
Retired Bears tailback and Hall of Fame member Gale Sayers recently angered the team’s current star linebacker Brian Urlacher when he criticized the veteran defender and took a shot at starting quarterback Jay Cutler, The Chicago Tribune reported.
According to the Tribune, Sayers, who played from 1965 to 1971, questioned whether Urlacher can successfully return from injury, and also said that Cutler hasn’t played well.
“Cutler hasn’t done the job. Urlacher, I don’t know how good he’s going to be coming back . He’s 33 years old,” Sayers told reporters during a booster banquet in his hometown of Omaha, Neb. on May 4. The African-American sports icon also questioned the performance of the Bears’ Black head coach, Lovie Smith.
“If Lovie doesn’t do it this year, I think he’s gone,” Sayers said. “He had a good team the Super Bowl year. Nothing came together for him the last couple years.”
Urlacher responded by taking a few shots of his own at Sayers.
“Let me ask you a question: How many championships did Gale Sayers win?” Urlacher told the Tribune. “How many playoff games did he win when he played? None. None. None.”
“Does it bother me? There are enough people throwing daggers at us right now,” Urlacher said. “Why does one of our ex-players have to jump in? There are enough experts talking about us, so why does a Bear, an all-time great, have to jump in? I just don’t like that.”
Urlacher went on to criticize Sayers performance as a player. Sayers a standout tailback for the Bears, but saw his career end short to knee injuries. He was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1977 at age 34, and remains the youngest person ever to be inducted.
“Does know how to win football games? Does he? No,” Urlacher told the Tribune. “How are you going to criticize someone else when you haven’t done it yourself? He’s one of our own, so that’s why it’s so frustrating.”
Urlacher, however, might be contradicting himself, as he criticized Cutler last season while recovering from a season-ending injury.
“Look, I love Jay, and I understand he’s a great player who can take us a long way, and I still have faith in him,” Urlacher told a Yahoo! Sports reporter last season. “But I hate the way our identity has changed.”
“We used to establish the run and wear teams down and try not to make mistakes, and we’d rely on our defense to keep us in the game and make big plays to put us in position to win,” Urlacher said. “ Kyle Orton might not be the flashiest quarterback, but the guy is a winner, and that formula worked for us. I hate to say it, but that’s the truth.”
Sayers was contacted by the Tribune for a response to Urlacher’s comments.
“When I am asked a question, I have to answer it,” Sayers said. “I don’t want anybody to think I am afraid to talk about the Bears. Right now, the Bears are hurting.”
“And Urlacher, how old is he anyway? He should know that himself, that he is on the downside of his career,” Sayers said. “If somebody asks me, ‘How do you think the Bears are going to do this year?’ If I say, ‘Oh, they are going to win 14 ballgames,’ they know the Bears can’t win 14 ballgames. Why should I lie to the people? Football people understand that.”