Chicago Bears

Mon, 15 Sep 2008 21:34

The history of the Chicago Bears

About the NFL team Chicago Bears.

A member of the North division in the National Football league, the Chicago Bears is one of the leading football team, with a record nine wins in the Professional American Football League Championships. The team also boasts of having the most Pro Football Hall of Famers in its roster of talents, with a total of 26 members.

With headquarters in the Chicago suburb of Lake Forest, Illinois, the team has its annual training camp at the grounds of the Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbannais. The team was founded in 1919 in Decatur, then moved to Chicago in 1921. Wrigley Field was the team's home until the 70s, when the Bears moved to Chicago’s Soldier fields.

From the 1920 to the 1970s

Established by the A.E. Staley Company, the Chicago Bears were once named the Decatur Staleys. They became an NFL charter member in 1920. When the team relocated to Chicago in 1921, it was renamed as the Chicago Staleys. George Halas and Edward “Dutch” Sternaman, originally hired as team managers, later took over as owners and managers. The team then became the Chicago Bears by 1922.

The Bears were on top of the league during the early years. The Bears' closest rival was their neighbor, the Cardinals. During the first six years of the league, the Bears were defeated by the Bulldogs twice, and split with the Cardinal for the rest. They won the 1921 and 1924 championships. It was only in 1929 when they experienced a losing streak.

The rivalry between the Green Bay Packers and the Chicago Bears dates back to 1921. It was that year when owner Halas shut out the Packers from the league to prevent them from signing a player. The team was then let back in after the Bears had already sealed a deal with the said player.

It was in the 1920s when a long-standing NFL rule was created, stating that players may only be recruited after their college class graduates. This stemmed from the Bears’ aggressive recruitment of Red Grange on the final day of his last college game.

Halas became the sole owner of the team when his partner Sternaman left because of financial losses. Halas would be at the helm of the Chicago Bears until his death in 1983. Apart from being owner, he also coached the team on and off for forty seasons.

In 1932, the Bears defeated the Postsmouth Spartans in the season’s “unofficial” championship. This was also the first indoor football game held at the Chicago Stadium. With the success of this “unofficial” game, the NFL then instituted the championship game. In the first official championship game, the Bears defeated the New York Giants 23–21. These two teams met again for the 1934 championship, with the Giants winning this time 30–13.

Between 1940 and 1947, the Bears qualified for five championships, of which they won four. Sid Luckman was the quarterback of these winning games and was credited for leading the team toward its victories. This was also the period when they began wearing their C in their helmets. A song declaring them as “The Pride and Joy of Illinois” was penned. Their 1940 championship win likewise created one of the most lopsided record in NFL history. In this game, they beat the Washington Redskins 73–0.

The Chicago Bears had lackluster performances in the 1950s. It was only in 1963 when they seemed to have been brought back to life and captured their 8th NFL championship. After which, there was a decline again until 1985.

When he retired as coach in 1967, Halas became the only man to be involved with the NFL for sixty years since its inception. He was also the only living NFL founder to have seen the merger of the NFL and the American Football League (AFL). To honor him, he was elected as president of the National Football Conference. He held this position until his death in 1983. In addition to this, he was also honored by the NFL when the National Football Conference Championship trophy was later named the George Halas Memorial Trophy.

The 70s to Present

The Bears started the decade with a last place finish, a repeat of their 1969 season. By 1975, Walter Payton was drafted and buoyed the team. Payton would later lead an illustrious career, surpassing records set by Jim Brown and being voted as the NFL’s Most Valuable Player for the 1977 to 1978 season.

In 1977, team General Manager Jim Finks contacted Cathy Core, founder and choreographer of the Honey Bears, and commissioned the group as the team’s cheerleaders. The brainchild of Halas, he swore that the Honey Bear alliance will remain as long as he was alive. True enough, in his passing, the relationship was also dissolved by the McCaskey family, heirs of Halas.

When Halas died, her daughter Virginia McCaskey took over as the team’s majority owner, with her husband Ed McCaskey as chairman of the board. The 82-year old matriarch had been referred to as “The First Lady of Sports” and was credited for being the glue that held the Bears franchise together. She was listed by the Chicago Sun Times as one of the city’s most powerful women.

The one-time tight end for the Bears, Mike Ditka, was then hired to coach the team in 1982. By 1985, the Packers-Bears rivalry was reignited as “Refrigerator” Perry played wide receiver in a touchdown play at Lambeau Field. The Bears won their ninth NFL championship, during Super Bowl XX, which was also their first since the merger.

After the 1985 Super Bowl, the team never made it back to the championship under Ditka. The coach was fired by the end of 1992 and replaced by Dave Wannstedt. Wannstedt only stayed until 1998. He was replaced by Dick Jauron at the end of the 1998 season. Since Ditka left, the Bears only made it into the playoffs five times.

Jauron was fired when the 2003 season ended. At the same time, the McCaskey matriarch fired her son Michael as president and promoted him as chairman of the board. It was said that the McCaskey presidency was a franchise disaster. Ted Phillips took over as president.

In January 15, 2004, Lovie Smith was hired as head coach, bringing in his successful defensive tactic. Likewise, Ron Turner was rehired as offensive coordinator to improve the team’s offense. By 2005, the team reached the playoffs. The Bears made it to Super Bowl XLI only to lose to the Indianapolis Colts 29-17.

Being one of the NFL charter members, the Chicago Bears has logged a total franchise win of 693. Until 2007, the Bears' overall record is 693-508-42.

Its current owners, the McCaskey family, under the leadership of Virginia McCaskey, control 80% of the franchise. The McCaskey matriarch votes for her family and her own stock. Patrick Ryan of Aon Corp owns 19.7%. Chicago locals are said to be displeased with the McCaskey ownership. The family is rumored to be splitting up just because of the team.

The Chicago Bears franchise is said to be worth $984 million, supposedly the seventh richest franchise in the NFL. The team counts Miller Brewing Company, Chase, Cadillac, Coca-Cola, and Motorola as its major sponsors. It also has a deal with Fox-affiliate WFLD-TV for broadcasting preseason football games.