Roosevelt Taylor died Friday at age 82 and the Chicago Bears family lost a member and great player of the 1960s, the leading interceptor on the 1963 team which had one of the franchise's greatest secondaries of all time.
Even 57 years later that secondary stands the test of time, despite heavy pressure from the 1980s teams of Mike Ditka and some of Lovie Smith's secondaries, Dick Jauron's 2001 division winners and even the 2018 Bears of Matt Nagy and Vic Fangio.
The 1963 secondary had Taylor at right safety, who had an NFL best nine interceptions that year, left safety Richie Petitbon with eight interceptions, cornerbacks Dave Whitsell and Bennie McRae, who had six picks apiece, and also Bears great J.C. Caroline as an extra defensive back. He also had an interception that season. The 1963 secondary didn't cherry pick because the 1963 pass rush was good, but not athletically gifted like the 1985 team or even today's rush with Khalil Mack. They had tough grinders and really hard-nosed hitters at linebacker who weren't exceptionally fast. All of those secondary members had long Bears careers and played extensively at high levels in the league. Taylor finished his career in the Super Bowl for Washington and coach George Allen, his defensive coordinator for the Bears.
They were a little better than the 1985 secondary It was because of Buddy Ryan's scheme using Todd Bell at strong safety alongside Bears all-time interception leader Gary Fencik, who had just turned 30 then. It was the same cornerbacks of Les Frazier and Mike Richardson as in the Super Bowl. It's still irritating to think how Frazier's budding career ended after only four real seasons because the Bears decided to run a trick punt return play in a Super Bowl they led by 30 points and he got his knee torn up. He never really came back from it. Bell was both All-Pro and in the Pro Bowl that year and they had much better depth than the 1985 secondary with Dave Duerson, Shaun Gayle, Terry Schmidt and Jeff Fisher as backups.
The 1985 secondary had a few more interceptions than the 1984 team had but not Bell, the dominant box safety who helped against the run and pass. Duerson was good and made the Pro Bowl but was just not the scary force Bell was. Remember Bell's hit on Joe Washington in the playoffs at Washington. So much for Joe Washington. Of course Bell wasn't there when they won the Super Bowl because he foolishly held out and missed the season, then went with Buddy Ryan to the Eagles later. The 1985 team had Richardson and Frazier, Fencik and Duerson and Gayle. They also had Ken Taylor and Reggie Phillips as depth. Phillips' claim to fame was scoring a TD on an interception return in the Super Bowl.
They were better than the secondary that qualified for the Super Bowl in 2006. That's because Mike Brown suffered a season-ending injury in 2006 but was still available most of 2005. The 2005 team was better at picking off footballs. In 2005, they had five interceptions from Peanut Tillman and eight from Nate Vasher, or as Lovie Smith always called him, "The Interceptor." They had Chris Harris and Mike Green in that secondary as well.
Vic Fangio's last Bears secondary had the advantage of Khalil Mack rushing passers and used it well. Kyle Fuller and Eddie Jackson had spectacular seasons, making All-Pro, and Prince Amukamara matched a career high with three interceptions. Adrian Amos and Bryce Callahan played well enough in coverage to get big free agent deals the next year. They all helped the Bears finish first in the league in passer rating against and also in forcing turnovers. The secondary made 21 of the team's 27 interceptions.
That safety tandem of Mike Brown and Tony Parrish was loved by Bears fans, and this was the season when Brown won successive overtime games with pick-6s on tipped balls. They didn't have the benefit of a dominant pass rush but benefited from their guest interceptor, Keith Traylor. In his final Bears season, veteran Walt Harris was aided at cornerback by R.W. McQuarters.
Danieal Manning became the safety when Mike Brown went out after six starts with a foot injury. It was Manning's rookie season. He went on to become a decent safety but never made more than two interceptions in a season. And he blew the coverage on a Super Bowl touchdown pass to help the Colts get back into the game after falling behind 7-0. As a group the defensive backs made 17 interceptions. Charles Tillman and Nate Vasher were the chief reasons this secondary had the makings of one of the best, if not for the fateful injury to Brown.
Virtually the same group as 1985 but they sit down so low despite making 22 interceptions because with all that talent they allowed Jay Schroeder to throw for two touchdowns in a playoff game at Soldier Field and beat them. Richardson had seven interceptions in possibly his best year. Bell returned to the team for one season after his holdout, but wasn't the same player and his role was different than in Buddy Ryan's scheme.
Mike Ditka's last division winner. The only holdover from the Super Bowl was Gayle. Mark Carrier debuted as a rookie by setting the Bears team record with 10 interceptions. Donnell Woolford was a first-round draft pick who seemed to hit his stride that season and cornerback Lemuel Stinson produced six interceptions. As a group, the secondary came up with 24 interceptions but they weren't the best tackling unit.
Tillman and Tim Jennings manned the corners and they finished down against the pass at 20th, but were fifth in interceptions and played Smith's cover-2 effectively. Tillman and Harris each made five interceptions.