Chicago Bears: Classic Winners
The Chicago Bears are a National Football League franchise that can best be described as classic.
One of the original NFL teams, the Bears are the only league team to remain in one city. The Bears endured the struggles of pro football at its very beginning. But with the help of a few great players and one great owner/coach, it didn’t take long for tickets to Chicago Bears games to be an item in the City of Broad Shoulders.
Now those tickets have been passed down through generations of fans who worship their beloved Bears. And the ticket buyers have been rewarded with nine NFL Championships, including one Super Bowl. The Bears are the winningest team in the league.
Chicago Bears History
Originally an industrial team like many semi-pro teams of the time, the Bears were founded in 1920 as the Decatur Staleys, named for the A. E. Staley food starch company. Then part of the American Professional Football Association, they moved to Chicago in 1921 and became the Bears. The league was renamed the National Football League the next year.
George Halas and Edward "Dutch" Sternaman were hired to run the team from the beginning, and Halas would become the owner and coach for decades.
Under Halas’s direction, the Bears would win 10 division or conference championships, and seven NFL championships.
The Bears’ first great season was the 1933 team that went 10-2-1, with Red Grange and Bronko Nagurski in the backfield and Bill Hewitt at end. The Bears won their first league title game, a 23-21 triumph over the New York Giants.
In the 1940s, the Bears became known as “The Monsters of the Midway,” with Halas developing the T formation to use his stable of backs led by Nagurski and quarterback Sid Luckman.
They went 8-3 in 1940 and mauled the Washington Redskins, 73-0, in the NFL Championship. The following season the Bears rolled to a 10-1 record and a 37-9 triumph over the Giants in the championship.
The league and personnel were pared down during the World War II years, but the Bears managed an 8-1-1 record in 1943 and another NFL crown.
They beat the Giants again in the 1946 NFL Championship game after an 8-2-1 season.
Halas would serve as coach off and on through his retirement from coaching in 1967, looking down from the front office even when he wasn't head coach.
He would win one more NFL Championship when the 1963 Bears marched to an 11-1-2 on a stout defense. They beat the Giants 14-10 in the title game, and Halas was NFL Coach of The Year.
After Halas left the sidelines, the Bears would not be settled at coach again until the 10-year reign of former player Mike Ditka.
They had some greats on the field during that era, including linebacker Dick Butkus, and running back Gale Sayers, who both joined the team in 1965.
Sayers carried the ball to record-breaking seasons until Walter Payton became part of the team in 1975. Payton would become the Bears’ all-time leading rusher.
In 1982, Ditka was hired to coach, and that started another run of titles for the Bears.
Halas died the next year and left the ownership of the team to his daughter, Virginia Halas McCaskey.
Ditka’s first great team was the 1984 squad that went 10-6, won NFC Central, but came up short in the NFC title game.
The next year, Ditka fielded possibly the best Bears team ever. With QB Jim McMahon, Payton, and a defense led by Richard Dent, Mike Singletary and Wilbur Marshall, Chicago went 15-1 on the regular season.
Then they bowled over everyone on the way to the Super Bowl, shutting out the Giants and the Los Angeles Rams in the playoffs. In the Super Bowl, the Bears destroyed the New England Patriots, 46-10.
Ditka's teams would win four more NFC Central tittles before he left on the heels of a 5-11 season in 1992. They did not get further than the NFC title game again under Ditka.
Lovie Smith’s Teams
The Bears would have some troublesome years after Ditka left in 1992. Dave Wannstedt took them to the playoffs in 1994, and Dick Jauron coached an NFC North winner in 2001. But the other years were lean, until after Lovie Smith was brought in to coach in 2004.
In Smith’s second year, the Bears posted an 11-5 record and made the playoffs without many star players. It got him NFL Coach of The Year honors.
Then in 2006, Smith took a team with lots of competition in the offensive backfield and strong special teams play into the playoffs with a 13-3 record. In the post season, the Bears got out with a 27-24 home overtime win over the Seattle Seahawks. Then they pounded the New Orleans Saints 39-14 to take the NFC Championship.
In a rainy Miami Super Bowl, the Bears surrendered to Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts, 29-17.
Smith won the NFC North once more in 2010, but had two straight non-playoff teams after that and was fired.
The 2018 version of the Bears showed promise. Matt Nagy took a team that had not fared well under Marc Trestman or John Fox, and he made them playoff material again.
With a young quarterback in Mitch Trubisky, the Bears won the tough NFC North with a 12-4 record. Despite losing a close first-round duel to the Philadelphia Eagles, the team gave holders of Chicago Bears tickets hopes for another classic Bears run.
Chicago Bears Facts
Renovations: 1978, 1982, 1988, 1992, 1994, 2002-'03
Bears All-Time Leaders
Passing yards: Jay Cutler 23,443 2009–2016
Rushing yards: Walter Payton 16,726 1975–1987
Receiving yards: Johnny Morris 5,059 1958–1967
Points: Robbie Gould 1,142 2005–2015
Coaching Wins: George Halas 318 1920–1929, 1933–1942
28 Bears players have been enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, more than any other team. George Halas, Bronko Nagurski, and Red Grange were a part of the original class of inductees in 1963.
The Bears would only draw roughly 5,000–6,000 fans a game, in their early years in the 1920s. Getting Red Grange to play for them picked up ticket sales and saved the franchise.
From 1922 through 2018, the Bears won 769 games, including post season.
The sole loss in the 1985 season was a 38-24 Monday night defeat at the hands of Dan Marino and the Miami Dolphins in the Orange Bowl.
During the success of the 1940s, the team took the nickname "Monsters of the Midway" and their now-famous helmet with the wishbone "C."