Brian Urlacher has the same right to question Gale Sayers' football acumen as Sayers has to make candid comments on the Chicago Bears' direction. In a nutshell, that's where I land in what has become a silly public spat between two of the franchise's all-time best players.
To review: Sayers recently identified a number of question marks about the Bears' 2010 team, all of which were defensible and in many ways refreshingly honest. This week, Urlacher slammed Sayers' criticism during an interview with the Chicago Tribune. Among other things, Urlacher said:
"Let me ask you a question: 'How many championships did Gale Sayers win? 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. 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."
Being a Bears alumnus shouldn't restrict Sayers from speaking his mind. If anything, it implies an obligation to engage in frank and reasonable discussion about the team's direction. Nothing Sayers said was inflammatory or, in my opinion, even wrong. Rather than repeat internal talking points or staying on message, Sayers spoke clinically and honestly. There is a difference between loyalty to a team and blind loyalty to an idea.
Urlacher might suggest that Sayers keep his opinions private, but I'm sure that by now Urlacher realizes the business of football is fair game for public consumption. (Had Sayers made comments that were personal or off-field in nature, that would be another story. He didn't.)
To his credit, Sayers told the Tribune that offering a glowing assessment of the 2010 Bears wouldn't be credible:
"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?"
Even if you think the Bears will have an excellent season, it's more than fair to point out the obstacles that stand in their way. In turn, Urlacher has the right to question Sayers' credentials. It's not like Sayers has ever been involved in building an NFL team. Even though I agree with his opinions in this instance, Sayers' words aren't necessarily football gospel. But the bottom line is that honesty -- not sycophancy -- is always the best policy.