Chicago Bears, American Football
team, member of the NFC Central
in the National Football League
. Formerly a powerhouse in the league, currently coming off a painful rebuilding cycle.
The Chicago Bears are among the NFL's inaugural franchises, with a long and distinguished history. The team was founded by George Halas in 1920 as the Decatur Staleys, and Halas joined twelve other owners to form the American Professional Football Association, which later became the NFL. The Staleys moved to Chicago in 1921, when they won the first AFPA title, and they became the Bears in 1922. They signed Red Grange in 1925. In 1933, they defeated the New York Giants 23-21 in the NFL's first championship game. In 1940, the Bears invented the T formation and unveiled it in the NFL title game against the Washington Redskins. They won the game, 73-0. In 1943, they again won the title by defeating Washington, 41-21, at Wrigley Field. In 1963, the Bears again won the NFL title by defeating the Giants at Wrigley, 14-10. It was the last title that they would win under George Halas' leadership. In 1965, the Bears drafted Gale Sayers and Dick Butkus in the first round of the NFL draft, which was a remarkable coup at the time. Sayers went on to become one of the finest running backs in football history, and Butkus redefined the middle linebacker position. Both men remained with the Bears for their entire careers.
In 1968, Halas retired from coaching with a career record of 324-151. In 1971, the Bears moved to Soldier Field from Wrigley Field. Walter Payton came to the Bears as a rookie in 1977, and promptly set the single-game rushing yards mark for a rookie. In 1982, Mike Ditka took over as the Bears' coach. George Halas died in 1983. In 1984, Payton broke the career rushing yards record previously held by Jim Brown. That season, the Bears went to the NFC championship game for the first time in their history. It was the closest to an NFL title that they had gotten since 1963, but they lost to the San Francisco 49ers, who went on to win the Super Bowl.
The next year, the Bears assembled what has been widely regarded as the best football team of all time. They went 15-1 in the regular season and won their only Super Bowl title. That was the year of the (in)famous Super Bowl Shuffle and the 46 defense at its highest level. The cast of characters that year included:
The Bears continued to make playoff appearances in the late 1980's and early 1990's, but the franchise has gone downhill since then, due to a combination of poor drafting, poor player development, and poor coaching. This year's team (2001) appears to have some potential at the midpoint of the season, but it remains to be seen how well they will finish. Current players to watch include: