The anonymity of Phillip Daniels officially ended one night last
February, and, fittingly, the moment came at the expense of his
good friend and former Seahawks teammate Cortez Kennedy. Daniels
had just signed a five-year, $24 million contract to become the
Bears' featured pass rusher and was in Chicago house hunting.
Kennedy, an All-Pro defensive tackle, was visiting family in the
area. As they were finishing their meal at a swank downtown
steakhouse, an autograph seeker breezed right past Kennedy and
asked Daniels to sign. As Daniels beamed, Kennedy could only
shake his head. "After the guy left, Tez said, 'You the Big Man
now. That guy didn't even know who I was,'" recalls Daniels. "So
I said, 'Yeah, but in Seattle, they never knew who I was.' I
guess things have changed."
Gone are the days when the exploits of Daniels, a fifth-year
defensive end, would be routinely eclipsed by those of Seattle
linemates Kennedy, Sam Adams and Michael Sinclair. Despite
increasing his sack total each season--and leading the team last
year with nine--Daniels feels he was undervalued by the Seahawks,
as well as misused. (He was often replaced in third-down passing
situations.) "They didn't think I had the skills to pass rush,
but I know what kind of player I am," he says. "It was time to
make a name for myself."
He won't be the only newcomer with that mission on the defense,
which includes among its four new starters former Bills
cornerback Thomas Smith and rookie linebacker Brian Urlacher from
New Mexico. But while the 5'11", 190-pound Smith is valued for
his rugged consistency in the Big Receiver Central, and the
faithful have cast Urlacher as the Second Coming (if only of Dick
Butkus), the defensive fortunes rest squarely on the shoulders of
the team's new right end. "That's fine by me," Daniels says. "The
way we revamped this defense, people should expect a lot of us.
The coaches said as much. They told me they wanted a leader and a
guy who could give them sacks. Well, I'm that guy."
A competitive powerlifter in the off-season, the 6'5", 290-pound
Daniels can not only prevent opponents from double-teaming unsung
tackles Jim Flanigan and Mike Wells but can also keep running
backs busy holding blocks and slow their release into passing
routes. Add the speedy Urlacher's superior ability to cover tight
ends, and opposing quarterbacks could find themselves with few
options--and little time to consider them. "Phillip is the missing
link for our pass rush," says Wells. "He's an amazing athlete,
and so strong. He makes us so much better."
Which isn't saying all that much. Name a defensive category in
'99, and chances are the Bears stank it up: They finished no
higher than tied for 20th in total defense, passing defense,
rushing defense, points allowed or sacks. Defensive coordinator
Greg Blache says he simply asked too much of an undertalented
unit, but Wells sees it differently. "Last year, people may have
blamed the line, and then maybe we would get defensive and blame
the coverage," he says. "There's a different feeling this year.
We're all working together, enjoying each other, having fun--but
taking the work seriously."
The offensively challenged Bears will need such defensive
cohesion to make a playoff run. Plagued last year by a pathetic
running attack (their leading rusher, oft-injured third-year
running back Curtis Enis, gained 3.2 yards per carry), Chicago
threw 684 times, the fourth-highest total in NFL history. Yet the
new season brings no upgrade at running back, and though the
aerial circus made a budding star of receiver Marcus Robinson (84
catches for 1,400 yards and nine touchdowns), it also created a
quarterback controversy that spilled into training camp.
Second-year coach Dick Jauron has said repeatedly that the job
belongs to Cade McNown, despite the brash McNown's underwhelming
rookie year and the strong play of Jim Miller. "Cade has done a
tremendous amount of work to learn this offense," says a
diplomatic Jauron. "I think he's ready to have an outstanding
year, I really do. That said, he's got to win games."
The chances of winning will be enhanced if Daniels emerges as
Chicago's first premier defensive lineman since Richard Dent. The
bright, affable Daniels seems almost destined for such a role,
and hero-starved Bears fans have already taken to him en masse.
When he was debilitated by migraines during the first week of
camp (an annual preseason occurrence with him, for reasons
unknown), Daniels received loads of letters and E-mails outlining
remedies, all with the same intention: to keep the Big Man on the
Given how far Daniels has come--and, more important, where he has
arrived--the amateur M.D.'s needn't worry. "I'll do whatever it
takes this year," he says. "I'm ready to be a star for this
COLOR PHOTO: JONATHAN DANIEL RUSH ORDER The Bears filled a big need with Daniels (93), who's glad to be wanted in Chicago after feeling unappreciated in Seattle.
COLOR PHOTO: TODD ROSENBERG
SEPT. 3 at Minnesota
10 at Tampa Bay
17 N.Y. GIANTS
OCT. 1 at Green Bay
8 NEW ORLEANS
22 at Philadelphia
29 Open date
NOV. 5 INDIANAPOLIS
12 at Buffalo
19 TAMPA BAY
26 at N.Y. Jets
DEC. 3 GREEN BAY
10 NEW ENGLAND
17 at San Francisco
24 at Detroit
1999 Record 6-10 (5th in NFC Central)
NFL rank (rush/pass/total): offense 26/3/8; defense 23/29/29
2000 Schedule strength
NFL rank: 11 (tie)
Opponents' 1999 winning percentage: .520
Games against playoff teams: 8
PLAYER TO WATCH
Despite a number of run-ins with opponents and a mouth that never
stops, third-year center Olin Kreutz was voted by his peers to
the Pro Bowl last season as a second alternate. The team's fourth
starting center in five seasons, Kreutz is an exceptionally fast,
technically superior blocker. "I was with Mark Stepnoski [in
Houston and Tennessee], and Olin's just as good," says defensive
line coach Rex Norris. "Olin's just as good as anybody my guys go
against." He's also just as mean; in camp Kreutz tangled with
defensive tackle Jerome King during a one-on-one drill. Said
defensive tackle Jim Flanigan, "[Olin] got in about 10 punches
before that rookie knew what was going on." Like the rest of the
NFL, King knows now.
PROJECTED LINEUP WITH 1999 STATISTICS
Coach: Dick Jauron
Second season with Bears (6-10 in NFL)
Offensive Backs PVR*
QB Cade McNown 91 235 att. 127 comp. 54.0% 1,465 yds.
8 TDs 10 int. 66.7 rtg.
RB Curtis Enis 82 287 att. 916 yds. 3.2 avg. 45 rec.
340 yds. 7.6 avg. 5 TDs
RB James Allen 260 32 att. 119 yds. 3.7 avg. 9 rec.
91 yds. 10.1 avg. 0 TDs
RB Glyn Milburn 243 16 att. 102 yds. 6.4 avg. 20 rec.
151 yds. 7.6 avg. 1 TD
Receivers, Specialists, Offensive Linemen
WR Marcus Robinson 52 84 rec. 1,400 yds. 9 TDs
WR Bobby Engram 126 88 rec. 947 yds. 4 TDs
WR Marty Booker 188 19 rec. 219 yds. 3 TDs
TE John Allred 276 13 rec. 102 yds. 1 TD
K Paul Edinger (R) 234 40/41 XPs 21/26 FGs 103 pts.
PR Glyn Milburn 243 30 ret. 11.5 avg. 0 TDs
KR Glyn Milburn 243 61 ret. 23.4 avg. 0 TDs
LT Blake Brockermeyer 6'4" 312 lbs. 15 games 15 starts
LG Todd Perry 6'5" 308 lbs. 16 games 16 starts
C Olin Kreutz 6'2" 295 lbs. 16 games 16 starts
RG Chris Villarrial 6'4" 310 lbs. 15 games 15 starts
RT James Williams 6'7" 340 lbs. 16 games 16 starts
LE Bryan Robinson 42 tackles 5 sacks
LT Jim Flanigan 43 tackles 6 sacks
RT Mike Wells 68 tackles 1 sack
RE Phillip Daniels 48 tackles 9 sacks
OLB Brian Urlacher (R) 154 tackles 1 sack
MLB Barry Minter 119 tackles 3 sacks
OLB Warrick Holdman 67 tackles 2 sacks
CB Thomas Smith 47 tackles 1 int.
SS Tony Parrish 104 tackles 1 int.
FS Shawn Wooden 65 tackles 0 int.
CB Walt Harris 69 tackles 1 int.
P Brent Bartholomew 7 punts 44.0 avg.
 New acquisition (R) Rookie (statistics for final college
year) *PVR: Player Value Ranking (explanation on page 139)
THE BOOK an opposing team's scout sizes up the Bears
"The offense does a great job 20 to 20, but scoring in the red
zone is a big problem. Two reasons: The Bears don't have a big
tight end who can do damage in crowds, and they don't have a
running back who can make anybody miss. Curtis Enis was drafted
by Dave Wannstedt to be a power back, and now they have an
offensive coordinator, Gary Crowton, who wants more of a shifty
back.... I'll be interested to see how long they go with Cade
McNown. Jim Miller is better for that offense. I remember
scouting McNown at UCLA, and one of his coaches there told me,
'If you're looking for a quarterback to work in the pocket,
don't take Cade. His strength is on the run.' To make McNown
stay in the pocket--that's what Crowton wants him to do--is
almost playing into his weakness.... They spent a lot of money
on Phillip Daniels to rush the passer, and I've always liked
him--but as a rank-and-file guy. He doesn't create sacks.... The
strength of the team could be the secondary. Tony Parrish is a
playmaker, tough and fast. He should be in the Pro Bowl for
years to come."