Chicago Sports Franchises: Chicago Bears
March 2, 2011 Leave a comment
Titles: 1921, 1932, 1933, 1940, 1941, 1943, 1946, 1963 (all pre-Super Bowl NFL Championships); Super Bowl XX Champions: 1985
Retired Numbers: #3 Bronko Nagurski, #5 George McAfee, #7 George Halas, #28 Willie Galimore, #34 Walter Payton, #40 Gale Sayers, #41 Brian Piccolo, #42 Sid Luckman, #51 Dick Butkus, #56 Bill Hewitt, #61 Bill George, #66 Clyde “Bulldog” Turner, #77 Harold “Red” Grange
Rivals: Green Bay Packers, Minnesota Vikings
The Bears, originally named the Chicago Staleys, were established in Chicago in 1921 and renamed by new owner George Halas. Halas soon became a fixture in the Bears organization, as coach and owner until his death in 1983. As Halas was the only person to be involved with the NFL throughout the first 60 years of its existence, he was elected the first President of the NFC in 1970, and is also a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s first induction class of 1963.
The Bears dominated their league in the first years of existence. During the league’s first six seasons, the Bears were virtually unstoppable, posting 34 shutouts during that time period. The Bears’ storied rivalry with the Green Bay Packers dates back to 1921 when Halas somehow got the Packers expelled from the league in order to prevent them from signing a particular player that the Bears also had interest in. After formal acquisition of that player, the Packers regained entry into the league. That coincidentally was also the year in which the Bears captured their first NFL Championship.
The NFL instituted a formal playoff and championship format in 1932, and the Bears captured the first official title in this season, defeating the New York Giants. They also captured the title in the following season, quickly asserting their dominance in the league, which was quickly growing in popularity nationwide.
From 1940-1947, the Bears, primarily led by QB Sid Luckman, captured victories in four out of the five NFL Championship games in which they appeared, earning them the nickname “Monsters of the Midway.” The 1950’s saw a sharp decline in the quality of play in Chicago. However, the Bears bounced back in 1963 to capture the NFL Championship, the eighth in program history, and their last before the institution of the Super Bowl.
After some less than mediocre seasons in the 1970’s, the Mike Ditka era began in 1982. Ditka, a former tight end for the Bears, quickly made his mark in the Windy City, posting a storied and heated victory over the Packers at Lambeau enroute to the 1985 Super Bowl XX Championship, the first and last at this point, for the program.
After the 1985 Championship season, the Ditka-led remained contenders, but failed to return to the Super Bowl. Ditka was fired in 1992, and since then, the Bears have made the playoffs five times under three different head coaches (Dave Wannstedt, Dick Jauron, and current head coach Lovie Smith), but have been unable to win another Super Bowl.
Lovie Smith was hired as a rookie head coach in January 2004. In 2005, the Bears won the division, reaching the playoffs for the first time since 2001. The next season built on the previous successes, as the Bears clinched their second consecutive NFC North title, and earned a trip to Super Bowl XLI, where they fell to the Colts, 29-17.
In April 2009, the Bears made news with a trade in which they acquired Pro Bowl quarterback Jay Cutler, who has been solid in leading the Bears since then. The off-season before the 2010 season was also a significant one, as the Bears hired new offensive coordinator Mike Martz, and signing big names like Julius Peppers, Chester Taylor, and Brandon Manumaleuna, spending over $100 million on the first day of free agency.
In 2010, the Bears captured the NFC North Division title with a win over the Vikings, and clinched the no. 2 seed and a first-round bye with a win against the Jets. They reached the NFC title game after a win over the Seahawks, but fell to long-time rivals, the Packers, 21-14. This matchup was only the second postseason matchup between the two teams, the first since 1941.
The Bears franchise has played in over a thousand games since becoming a charter member of the NFL in 1920. Through the 2010 season, they led the NFL in overall franchise wins with 704, recording win number 700 against the Dolphins on November 18, 2010. Stay tuned tomorrow as we review the current state of affairs for “Da Bears!”