Johnny Morris' decade-long playing career with the Bears ended in 1967, when he was No. 1 on the club's all-time receiving list with 5,059 yards.
Fast-forward 52 years. Morris remains atop franchise annals in career receiving yards.
"It’s shocking, actually," Morris said Friday before the Bears' centennial celebration opening ceremony. "... There's a couple guys that would have broken it, but they were traded and moved on."
Morris is referring to Marty Booker and Brandon Marshall, each traded when they were within two, if not one career year, of eclipsing his mark when it had stood for 37 and 48 years, respectively — a shocking gap, nonetheless. Three NFL receivers have crested 5,059 combined receiving yards over the past four seasons — Antonio Brown, DeAndre Hopkins and Julio Jones.
"It’ll be broken one of these days. But when you throw 50 passes a game and probably run 20 times — back in our game, we ran 50 times and threw 20 — that’s why I’m amazed it hasn’t been broken."
It would have been rather ironic if Marshall were allowed to stick around to break the record under ultra-conservative John Fox. It also might have been bittersweet since he basically booked his own ticket out of town with his cancerous, me-first attitude, or the antithesis of the all-class Morris.
But to say the table could now be nearly set for the record to fall would be an understatement. Not only do the Bears have an offensive-minded coach in Matt Nagy, they have a WR corps that position coach Mike Furrey recently declared includes "10 guys that can have long careers."
Also a bit ironic: the closest current pursuer to the record isn't technically a wide receiver, and he's even smaller than Morris, who was listed at 5-foot-10 and 180 pounds. Tarik Cohen, with 1,078 yards in his first two combined seasons, sits at No. 62 on the all-time list. That's 21 spots ahead of Allen Robinson, whose debut regular season in navy and orange ended with 754 yards.
Cohen is entering a potential contract year but seems destined to be a Bear for years to come. The bigger question might be how his role shifts in a new-look backfield. Robinson only signed a three-year deal and can potentially cash in again as soon as 2021, but he showed signs in January of the 2015 form that resulted in a 1,400-yard campaign.
Is either the 24-year-old Cohen or 26-year-old Robinson the favorite to usurp Morris, who'll be 84 this fall? Or perhaps it's TE Trey Burton, second-year player Anthony Miller or even rookie Riley Ridley?
Here's what we can say definitively: Matt Nagy's Bears actually dig the forward pass, and though he loves spreading the ball around, these are his two best playmakers. So although Morris' record is safe for at least a few more seasons, doesn't "one of these days" suddenly feel more imminent?