The Chicago Bears are a professional football team in the National Football League (the NFL). The Chicago Bears play in the National Football Conference (NFC) North Division with three other teams: the Green Bay Packers, the Minnesota Vikings and the Detroit Lions. The Chicago Bears have won 8 NFL Championships and 1 Super Bowl Championship. Soldier Field, located in Chicago, Illinois, hosts all Chicago Bears home games.
In 1919, the A.E. Staley Company of Decatur, Illinois formed a club football team called the Decatur Staleys. Who would have thought that that small club team would turn into one of the most prolific professional football teams in the NFL. Only two years later, after the team relocated to Chicago, the Chicago Staleys won the NFL Championship because they had one less tie than the Buffalo All-Americans (the NFL did not have an annual championship game until 1932). The next year, George Halas, the new team owner and president, changed the team name from the “Staleys” to the “Bears” and moved the team into Wrigley Field – the home of the MLB baseball’s Chicago Cubs. The Chicago Bears were competitive during the 1920’s as they developed one of the greatest rivalries in NFL history with the Green Bay Packers. However, the Chicago Bears did not win another NFL Championship until 1932. That year, the Chicago Bears defeated the Portsmouth Spartans in the first “Unofficial” NFL Championship Game. Because of the success of that championship game, the NFL instituted an annual championship game at the end of the each season. The following year, the Chicago Bears defeated the New York Giants 23-21 to capture the first “Official” NFL Championship. And while the Chicago Bears lost to the New York Giants 30-13 in the 1934 Championship Game, from 1932 through 1946, the Chicago Bears won 6 NFL Championships as they dominated play with tough hard-nosed defenses. From 1940 through 1947, the Chicago Bears played in five NFL Championship Games. In the 1940 NFL Championship Game, the Chicago Bears crushed the Washington Redskins 73-0, which is still considered the most lopsided victory in NFL history. In that game, Head Coach George Halas implemented the “T-Formation” offense which utilized 2 running backs in the backfield instead of just a single running back as was commonly used at the time. The following year, the Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers finished the NFL regular season with the same record, so the two teams faced each other in the first ever “divisional” playoff game. The Chicago Bears defeated the Green Bay Packers 33-14 and then went on to defeat the New York Giants 37-9 for its 2nd consecutive NFL Championship. In 1942, the Chicago Bears appeared in their 3rd straight NFL Championship Game but lost to the Washington Redskins 14-6. In 1943, the Chicago Bears exacted revenge on the Washington Redskins by defeating the Washington Redskins 41-21 in the NFL Championship Game for its 3rd NFL Championship in four years. After a two year playoff absence, the Chicago Bears returned to post-season play in 1946 and won its 4th NFL Championship of the decade with a 24-14 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Following the 1946 NFL Championship, the Chicago Bears franchise suffered a period of poor play on the football field. However, in 1963, the Chicago Bears won their 8th NFL Championship with a 14-10 victory over the New York Giants. That 8th NFL Championship would be Head Coach George Halas’ 6th and last NFL Championship as Head Coach of the Chicago Bears during his 36-year career. During the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, the Chicago Bears were lead by Linebacker Dick Butkus, Running Back Gale Sayers and Fullback Brian Piccolo. But the Chicago Bears never made another NFL Championship run during this period. In 1975, the Chicago Bears drafted future Hall of Fame Running Back Walter Payton. Walter Payton became one of the most beloved players in Chicago Bears history, so much so that the loyal Chicago Bears fan base called him “Sweetness”. Walter Payton played his entire 13-year career with the Chicago Bears and was selected to 9 Pro Bowl appearances. In 1977, Walter Payton won the NFL’s Most Valuable Player Award and he passed Jim Brown’s career rushing yardage record in 1984 (although Dallas Cowboys’ Running Back Emmitt Smith ultimately broke Walter Payton’s career rushing yardage record in 2002). Walter Payton was inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame in 1993 and sadly he passed away from a rare liver cancer in 1999.
One of the most memorable Chicago Bears teams was the 1985 Super Bowl Champion Chicago Bears. Legendary Head Coach Mike Ditka controlled the ship during the Chicago Bears 15-1 season. Their only loss came at the hands of the Miami Dolphins, the only team in NFL history to make it unbeaten through the regular season and playoffs. While the Chicago Bears were disappointed with that loss, they did not let it turn their focus from the task at hand, the Super Bowl. The Chicago Bears dominated play during that 1985 season with tenacious defensive play by Mike Singletary, Richard Dent, Mike Richardson, Gary Fencik, Otis Wilson and William Perry. In Super Bowl XX, the Chicago Bears defeated the New England Patriots by the score of 46-10. After falling behind 3-0 early, the Chicago Bears went on to outscore the New England Patriots 46-7 the rest of the way to celebrate their first NFL Championship in almost 20 years. In that game, the Chicago Bears set numerous Super Bowl records, including number of sacks (7), margin of victory (36 points) and rushing yards allowed (7 yards).
The 1985 Chicago Bears Championship team was also known for its Super Bowl Shuffle, a song and dance recorded as a video for Chicago Bears fans to enjoy and love. The “Super Bowl Shuffle” song eventually made it all the way up the Billboard Charts to the 41st spot and the song even earned a Grammy nomination for Best Rhythm & Blues Vocal Performance – Duo or Group. Needless to say, the Chicago Bears did not win the Grammy.
Because of the hype surrounding the 1985 Chicago Bears Championship and the success of the “Super Bowl Shuffle”, NBC-TV’s Saturday Night Live began a regular skit on its live program celebrating Head Coach Mike Ditka and the Chicago Bears. Actors George Wendt (a Chicago native who starred on the hit TV show Cheers), Mike Myers, Chris Farley and Robert Smigel participated in a local radio talk show called “Bill Swerski’s Superfans.” Drinking lots of beer, eating pounds and pounds of polish sausage, and commiserating and obsessing over the fate of the Chicago Bears, the quartet kept Saturday Night Live fans in stitches for many many years until the firing of Head Coach Mike Ditka in 1993. The “kicker” on each segment always involved Chris Farley’s character suffering a heart attack because he got so worked up over the recent Bears mistakes. No other sports sketch on Saturday Night Live has made such an impression on fans as “Bill Swerski’s Superfans.”
Following the 1985 Super Bowl Championship, the Chicago Bears won the NFC Central Division four times and advanced to post-season play five times from 1986 through 1991. However, the Chicago Bears never returned to the Super Bowl coming close only once in 1988 when the Chicago Bears lost to the San Francisco 49ers 28-3 in the NFC Championship Game. From 1992 through 2004, the Chicago Bears recorded only three winning seasons and advanced to the playoff sonly twice. In 2001, the Chicago Bears finished 1st in the NFC Central with a 13-3 record, but the Philadelphia Eagles dominated the Chicago Bears in Soldier Field and handed the Chicago Bears a devastating 33-19 loss. The Chicago Bears unexpected successful 2001 season came to an abrupt end with that 1st round playoff loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.
In 2005, new Head Coach Lovie Smith and the Chicago Bears’ #1-ranked defense led the Chicago Bears to a 1st place finish in the NFC North division with an 11-5 record. Although the Chicago Bears had high hopes for a return to the Super Bowl, the Chicago Bears were not prepared in the playoffs as they suffered a humiliating 29-21 loss to the Carolina Panthers in the divisional round of the playoffs. The much heralded Chicago Bears defense surrendered an embarrassing 218 receiving yards and 2 touchdowns to Panthers Wide Receiver Steve Smith and the Chicago Bears offense fell short in the unexpected shootout. Despite the loss, the Chicago Bears kept the faith and had high hopes for the 2006 NFL season. Their resiliency and confidence paid off as the Chicago Bears finished the 2006-7 NFL season with the best record in the NFC. Their 13 wins secured home field advantage throughout the playoffs and that advantage played huge dividends as the Bears defeated the Seattle Seahawks 27-24 in an overtime thriller in the Divisional Round of the playoffs. In the NFC Championship Game, the Chicago Bears defeated the New Orleans Saints 39-14 to advance to the team's first Super Bowl appearance since the 1985 championship season. In Super Bowl XLI, despite taking an early 7-0 lead on Devin Hester's kickoff return to start the game, the Indianapolis Colts outscored the Chicago Bears 29-10 the rest of the way to deny the franchise of its 2nd Super Bowl championship. During the 2007-2008 NFL season, the Chicago Bears finished 4th in the NFC North with a disappointing 7-9 record and did not qualify for post-season play. Injuries and an inconsistent offense led to one of the more disappointing seasons in Bears history, especially after the long-awaited Super Bowl berth.
Hall of Famers
During its storied history, the Chicago Bears have had a record 26 players and coaches inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame. Coaches inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame include Head Coach Paddy Driscoll (1965), Founder, Owner and Head Coach George Halas (1963), Head Coach Mike Ditka (1988) and General Manager Jim Finks (1995). Offensive players for the Chicago Bears who have been inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame include: Running Back Bronko Nagurski (1963), Halfback George McAfee (1966), Offensive Tackle William “Link” Lyman (1964), Center George Trafton (1964), Offensive Tackle Joe Stydahar (1967), Offensive Tackle Ed Healy (1964), Offensive Tackle and Offensive Guard George Musso (1982), Quarterback George Blanda (1981), Offensive Guard Dan Fortmann (1965), Running Back Walter Payton (1993) and Running Back Gale Sayers (1977), Quarterback Sid Luckman (1965), Running Back Harold “Red” Grange (1963), and Offensive Tackle Stan Jones (1991). Defensive players for the Chicago Bears who have been inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame include: Linebacker Mike Singletary (1998), Linebacker Dick Butkus (1979), Linebacker Bill George (1974), Defensive End Doug Atkins (1982) and Defensive End Dan Hampton (2002). While many early Chicago Bears players played on both sides of the football during their careers, the most notable NFL Hall of Fame inductees include: Tight End/Defensive End Bill Hewitt (1971), Center/Linebacker Clyde “Bulldog” Turner (1966) and Offensive Tackle/Linebacker George Connor (1975).