Chicago Bears

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Chicago Bears
Current season
Established 1919; 95 years ago (1919)[1]
Play in Soldier Field
Chicago, Illinois
Headquartered in Halas Hall, Lake Forest, Illinois
Chicago Bears logo
Logo
League/conference affiliations

Independent (1919)[1]
National Football League (1920–present)

Current uniform
Ch bears uniforms.png
Team colors

Dark Navy, Orange, White

              
Fight song "Bear Down, Chicago Bears"
Mascot Staley Da Bear
Personnel
Owner(s) Virginia Halas McCaskey
Chairman George McCaskey
President Ted Phillips
General manager Phil Emery
Head coach Marc Trestman
Team history
  • Decatur Staleys (1919–1920)
  • Chicago Staleys (1921)
  • Chicago Bears (1922–present)
Team nicknames
Championships

League championships (9)

Conference championships (4)

Division championships (18)

Playoff appearances (26)
  • NFL: 1932, 1933, 1934, 1937, 1940, 1941, 1942, 1943, 1946, 1950, 1956, 1963, 1977, 1979, 1984, 1985, 1986, 1987, 1988, 1990, 1991, 1994, 2001, 2005, 2006, 2010
Home fields
Team owner(s)
  • A.E. Staley Company (1919–1921)
  • George Halas and Dutch Sternaman (1921–1932)
  • George Halas (1932–1983)
  • Virginia Halas McCaskey (1983–present)
Team president(s)

The Chicago Bears are a professional American football team based in Chicago, Illinois. They are members of the North Division of the National Football Conference (NFC) in the National Football League (NFL). The Bears have won nine NFL Championships (eight pre-merger, and one Super Bowl). The Bears hold the NFL record for the most enshrinees in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, with 27 members, and the most retired jersey numbers (15). The Bears have also recorded more regular season and overall victories than any other NFL franchise. The franchise recorded its 700th win on November 18, 2010.[3][4][5]

The franchise was founded in Decatur, Illinois, in 1919,[1] and moved to Chicago in 1921. Along with the Arizona Cardinals (originally from Chicago), it is one of only two remaining franchises from the NFL's founding. The team played home games at Wrigley Field on Chicago's North Side through the 1970 season. With the exception of the 2002 season, they have played their home games at Chicago's Soldier Field every year since 1971. The stadium is located next to Lake Michigan, and during the 2002 season, it was remodeled in a modernization intended to update stadium amenities while preserving a historic Chicago structure. The team has a storied, long-standing rivalry with the Green Bay Packers, whom they have played 186 times. The Bears currently hold the edge in head-to-head matchups with a record of 93–90–6. The two teams have only met each other twice in the postseason; the Bears won in 1941 and the Packers won in 2011.[6]

The team headquarters, Halas Hall, is in the Chicago suburb of Lake Forest, Illinois. The Bears practice at adjoining facilities there during the season. They hold their annual training camp from late July to mid-August at Ward Field on the campus of Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais, Illinois.

Franchise history

1919–1939: Early Bears

In March of 1920 a man telephoned me ... George Chamberlain and he was general superintendent of the A.E. Staley Company ... In 1919, [the company's Fellowship Club] had formed a football team. It had done well against other local teams but Mr. Staley wanted to build it into a team that could compete successfully with the best semi-professional and industrial teams in the country ... Mr. Chamberlain asked if I would like to come to Decatur and work for the Staley Company.

George Halas, in his book Halas by Halas.[1]

The team's founder George Halas (right) with NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle

Originally named the Decatur Staleys, the club was established by the A. E. Staley food starch company of Decatur, Illinois in 1919 as a company team. This was the typical start for several early professional football franchises. The company hired George Halas and Edward "Dutch" Sternaman in 1920 to run the team. The 1920 Decatur Staleys season [7] was their inaugural regular season completed in the newly formed American Professional Football Association. Full control of the team was turned over to Halas and Sternaman in 1921.[8] Official team and league records cite Halas as the founder as he took over the team in 1920 when it became a charter member of the NFL.[9]

The team relocated to Chicago in 1921, where the club was renamed the Chicago Staleys. Under an agreement reached by Halas and Sternaman with Staley, Halas purchased the rights to the club from Staley for $100.

In 1922, Halas changed the team name from the Staleys to the Bears. The team moved into Wrigley Field, which was home to the Chicago Cubs baseball franchise. As with several early NFL franchises, the Bears derived their nickname from their city's baseball team (some directly, some indirectly – like the Bears, whose young are called "cubs"). Halas liked the bright orange-and-blue colors of his alma mater, the University of Illinois, and the Bears adopted those colors as their own, albeit in a darker shade of each (the blue is a navy blue, and the orange is Pantone 1665, similar to burnt orange).[citation needed]

The Staleys/Bears dominated the league in the early years. Their rivalry with the Chicago Cardinals, the oldest in the NFL (and a crosstown rival from 1920 to 1959), was key in four out of the first six league titles. During the league's first six years, the Bears lost twice to the Canton Bulldogs (who took two league titles over that span), and split with their crosstown rival Cardinals (going 4–4–2 against each other over that span), but no other team in the league defeated the Bears more than a single time. During that span, the Bears posted 34 shutouts.

The Bears' rivalry with the Green Bay Packers is one of the oldest and most storied in American professional sports, dating back to 1921. In one infamous incident that year, Halas got the Packers expelled from the league in order to prevent their signing a particular player, and then graciously got them re-admitted after the Bears had closed the deal with that player.[10]

The 1924 team photo

The franchise was an early success under Halas, capturing the NFL Championship in 1921 and remaining competitive throughout the decade. In 1924 the Bears claimed the Championship after defeating the Cleveland Bulldogs on December 7, even putting the title "World's Champions" on their 1924 team photo. But the NFL had ruled that games after November 30 did not count towards league standings, and the Bears had to settle for second place behind Cleveland.[11] Their only losing season came in 1929.

During the 1920s the club was responsible for triggering the NFL's long-standing rule that a player could not be signed until his college's senior class had graduated. The NFL took that action as a consequence of the Bears' aggressive signing of famous University of Illinois player Red Grange within a day of his final game as a collegian.[12]

Despite much of the on-field success, the Bears were a team in trouble. They faced the problem of ever-rising operation cost, but flatlined attendance. The Bears would only draw roughly 5,000–6,000 fans a game, while a University of Chicago game would draw 40,000–50,000 fans a game. By adding top college football draw Red Grange to the roster, the Bears knew that they found something to draw more fans to their games. C.C. Pyle was able to secure a $2,000 per game contract for Grange, and in one of the first games, the Bears defeated the Green Bay Packers, 21–0. However, Grange remained on the sidelines while learning the team's plays from Bears quarterback Joey Sternaman. Later in 1925, The Bears would go on a barnstorming tour, showing off the best football player of the day. 75,000 people paid to see Grange lead the Bears to a 17–7 victory over the Los Angeles Tigers, who were a quickly put together team of West Coast college all-stars. After a loss to San Francisco, the Bears cruised to a 60–3 over a semi-pro team called the Portland All Stars.[13]

Any hopes that Grange would lead the Bears to glory in 1926 were quickly dashed. A failed contract talk led to Grange bolting the Bears to the AFL's New York Yankees, owned by Pyle. The Bears also lost star quarterback Joey Sternaman, who joined the Chicago Bulls of the AFL. The Bears replaced Grange with Paddy Driscoll, a star football player in his own right. The Bears used the money made from the Grange barn-storming tour to sign the man that replaced him. Grange split his time between making movies and playing football. However, the time was not right to have two competing pro football leagues, and the AFL folded after only one season. Grange would return to the Bears.[13]

After the financial losses of the 1932 Championship season, Halas' partner Dutch Sternaman left the organization. Halas maintained full control of the Bears until his death in 1983. He also coached the team off-and-on for forty seasons, an NFL record. In the 1932 "Unofficial" NFL Championship, the Bears defeated the Portsmouth Spartans in the first indoor American football game at Chicago Stadium.

The success of the playoff game led the NFL to institute a championship game. In the very first NFL Championship, the Bears played against the New York Giants, defeating them 23–21. The teams met again in the 1934 NFL Championship where the Giants, wearing sneakers[14] defeated the Bears 30–13 on a cold, icy day at the Polo Grounds.

1940s: The Monsters of the Midway

The 1946 NFL Championship team photo

From 1940–1947, quarterback Sid Luckman led the Bears to victories in four out of the five NFL Championship Games in which they appeared. The team acquired the University of Chicago's discarded nickname "Monsters of the Midway" and their now-famous helmet "C", as well as a newly penned theme song that declared them "The Pride and Joy of Illinois". One famous victory during that period was their 73–0 victory over the favored Washington Redskins at Griffith Stadium in the 1940 NFL Championship Game; the score is still an NFL record for lopsided results.[15] The secret behind the one-sided outcome was the introduction of a new offensive formation by Halas. The T-formation, as Halas named it, involved two running backs instead of the traditional one in the backfield. Luckman established himself as one of the franchise's most elite quarterbacks. Between 1939 and 1950, He set the Bears' passing records for most career touchdowns, yards, and completions. Many of Luckman's records stood for decades before they were eclipsed by Jay Cutler in 2014. Luckman still possesses the franchise record for most career passing touchdowns.[16]

1950s–1968: Late-Halas era

After declining throughout the 1950s, the team rebounded in 1963 to capture its eighth NFL Championship, which would be its last until 1985. The late 1960s and early 1970s produced notable players like Dick Butkus, Gale Sayers, and Brian Piccolo,[17] who died of embryonal carcinoma in 1970. The American television network ABC aired a movie about Piccolo in 1971 entitled Brian's Song, starring James Caan and Billy Dee Williams in the roles of Piccolo and Sayers respectively; Jack Warden won an Emmy Award for his performance as Halas. The movie was later released for theater screenings after first being shown on television. Despite Hall of Fame careers, Butkus and Sayers would also have their careers cut short due to injuries, hamstringing the Bears of this era.

Halas retired as coach in 1967 and spent the rest of his days in the front office. He became the only person to be involved with the NFL throughout the first 60 years of its existence. He was also a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame's first induction class in 1963. As the only living founder of the NFL at the February 1970 merger between the NFL and the American Football League, the owners honored Halas by electing him the first President of the National Football Conference, a position that he held until his death in 1983. In his honor, the NFL named the NFC Championship trophy as the George Halas Memorial Trophy.

1969–1982: Struggles

After the merger, the Bears finished the 1970 season last place in their division, a repeat of their placing in the 1969 season. In 1975, the Bears drafted Walter Payton from Jackson State University with their first pick. He won the NFL Most Valuable Player Award in the 1977–78 season.[18][19] Payton would go on to eclipse Jim Brown's NFL career rushing record in 1984 before retiring in 1987, and would hold the mark until 2002, when Emmitt Smith of the Dallas Cowboys surpassed it.[20] Payton's career and personality would capture the hearts of Bear fans, who called him "Sweetness". He died from a rare form of liver cancer in 1999 at the age of 45.

On November 1, 1983, a day after the death of George Halas, his oldest daughter, Virginia McCaskey, took over as the majority owner of the team. Her husband, Ed McCaskey, succeeded her father as the Chairman of the Board.[21] Their son Michael became the third president in team history.[22] Mrs. McCaskey holds the honorary title of "secretary of the board of directors", but the 90-year–old matriarch has been called the glue that holds the franchise together.[23] Mrs. McCaskey's reign as the owner of the Bears was not planned, as her father originally earmarked her brother, George "Mugs" Halas, Jr. as the heir apparent to the franchise. However, he died of a massive heart attack in 1979. Her impact on the team is well-noted as her own family has dubbed her "The First Lady of Sports", and the Chicago Sun-Times has listed her as one of Chicago's most powerful women.[24]

1985: Super Bowl Champions

Mike Ditka, a tight end for the Bears from 1961 to 1966, was hired to coach the team by George Halas in 1982. His gritty personality earned him the nickname "Iron Mike". In the 1985 season the fire in the Bears–Packers rivalry was relit when Ditka used 315 pound defensive tackle "Refrigerator" Perry as a running back in a touchdown play at Lambeau Field, against the Packers. The Bears won their ninth NFL Championship, first since the AFL-NFL merger, in Super Bowl XX after the 1985 season in which they dominated the NFL with their then-revolutionary 46 defense and a cast of characters that recorded the novelty rap song "The Super Bowl Shuffle". The season was notable in that the Bears had only one loss, the "unlucky 13th" game of the season, a Monday night affair in which they were defeated by the Miami Dolphins. At the time, much was made of the fact that the 1972 Dolphins were the only franchise in history to have had an undefeated season and post-season. The Dolphins came close to setting up a rematch in the Super Bowl, but lost to the New England Patriots in the AFC title game. "The Super Bowl Shuffle" was videotaped the day after that Monday night loss in Miami.

1986–2003: Post-Super Bowl

After the 1985 Championship season, the Bears remained competitive throughout the 1980s but failed to return to the Super Bowl under Ditka. Since the firing of Ditka at the end of the 1992 season, the Bears have made the playoffs five times under three different head coaches: Dave Wannstedt from 1993 through 1998, Dick Jauron from 1999 through 2003, and Lovie Smith from 2004 to 2012. Before the Bears hired Jauron in January 1999, Dave McGinnis (Arizona's defensive coordinator, and a former Bears assistant under Ditka and Wannstedt) backed out of taking the head coaching position. The Bears scheduled a press conference to announce the hiring before McGinnis agreed to contract terms.[25] Soon after Jauron's hiring, Mrs. McCaskey fired her son Michael as president, replacing him with Ted Phillips and promoting Michael to chairman of the board.[26] Phillips, the current Bears president, became the first man outside of the Halas-McCaskey family to run the team.[27]

2004–2012: Lovie Smith era

Lovie Smith accomplished his first objective as the team's head coach by sweeping the Green Bay Packers during the 2005 season.

Lovie Smith, hired on January 15, 2004, is the third post-Ditka head coach. Joining the Bears as a rookie head coach, Smith brought the highly successful Tampa 2 defensive scheme with him to Chicago. Before his second season with the Bears, the team rehired their former offensive coordinator and then Illinois head coach Ron Turner to improve the Bears' struggling offense.[28] In 2005, the Bears won their division and reached the playoffs for the first time in four years. Their previous playoff berth was earned by winning the NFC Central in 2001. The Bears improved upon their success the following season, by clinching their second consecutive NFC North title during Week 13 of the 2006 season, winning their first playoff game since 1995, and earning a trip to Super Bowl XLI.[29] However, they fell short of the championship, losing 29–17 to the Indianapolis Colts. Following the 2006 season, the club decided to give Lovie Smith a contract extension through 2011, at roughly $5 million per year. This comes a season after being the lowest paid head coach in the National Football League.[30]

The club 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 and had an overall record of 704–512–42 (going 687–494–42 during the regular season and 17–18 in the playoffs).[31] On November 18, 2010 the Bears recorded franchise win number 700 in a win against the Miami Dolphins.

The Bears made one of the biggest trades in team history by acquiring Pro Bowl quarterback Jay Cutler in 2009.

The Bears made one of the biggest trades in franchise history, acquiring Pro Bowl quarterback Jay Cutler from the Denver Broncos in exchange for Kyle Orton and draft picks on April 2, 2009. After a disastrous 2009 campaign with the team going 7–9,[32] Mike Martz was hired as the team's offensive coordinator on February 1, 2010.[33] On March 5, 2010, the Bears signed defensive end Julius Peppers, running back Chester Taylor, and tight end Brandon Manumaleuna, spending over $100 million on the first day of free agency.[34] Also during the 2010 offseason, Michael McCaskey was replaced by brother George McCaskey as chairman of the Bears.[35] With a 38–34 win against the New York Jets, the Bears clinched the No. 2 seed and a first-round bye for the 2010–11 NFL playoffs. They reached the NFC Championship Game following the defeat of the Seattle Seahawks, where they played Green Bay Packers at Soldier Field – only the second playoff meeting between the two storied rivals, the only other game played in 1941.[36] The Bears lost the game, 21–14.

The team started the 2011 season strong with a 7–3 record, and running back Matt Forté led the NFL in total yards from scrimmage. Eventually, quarterback Jay Cutler fractured his thumb, and Forté also was lost for the season against the Kansas City Chiefs after spraining his MCL, and the Bears, with Caleb Hanie playing, lost five straight before winning against the Minnesota Vikings with Josh McCown starting in favor over Hanie. At season's end, general manager Jerry Angelo was fired, and former Chiefs director of scouting and former Bears scout Phil Emery was brought in. Offensive coordinator Mike Martz resigned, and eventually retired, and was replaced by offensive line coach Mike Tice. The Bears made another notable move by trading for Miami Dolphins receiver and Pro Bowl MVP Brandon Marshall.[37] The Bears became the first team in NFL history to return six interceptions for touchdowns in the first seven games of the season, with another pick-six by Brian Urlacher in Week 9 bringing Chicago two behind the record set by the 1961 San Diego Chargers.[38] However, the Bears missed the playoffs with a record of 10–6 (after starting the season 7–1, the first team to start with the record and miss the playoffs since the 1996 Washington Redskins),[39] and Smith was fired on December 31.[40]

2013–present: Marc Trestman era

Then-CFL head coach and former NFL journeyman Marc Trestman was hired to succeed Smith after an exhaustive search that included at least 13 known candidates.[41][42] On March 20, 2013, the Brian Urlacher era ended when both sides failed to agree on a contract.[43] The Trestman era began on September 8 with a 24–21 win over the Cincinnati Bengals, making Trestman the fourth head coach in Bears history to win in his coaching debut, after George Halas (1920), Neill Armstrong (1978) and Dick Jauron (1999).[44] The Bears ended the 2013 season 8–8.

Ownership

Virginia McCaskey, her children, and grandchildren control 80 percent of the team, and Mrs. McCaskey votes her children's stock as well as her own. Patrick Ryan, executive chairman of Aon Corp., and Aon director Andrew McKenna own 19.7% of the club.[45] In a Crain's Chicago Business article, one businessman described his wishes for the team to maximize its potential. In 2009, Yahoo! Sports listed the McCaskeys as the third worst owner in the NFL, stating "[T]hey get less for what they've got than any team in our league."[46] There have been rumors that the McCaskey family might split up over the team.[23]

In 2012, Forbes magazine reported that the franchise is worth $1.19 billion, making it the eighth richest franchise in the NFL.[47] Chicago is the National Football League's second largest market.[48]

Sponsorships

The team has major sponsorship deals with Chase, Miller Brewing Company, Cadillac, United Airlines, Motorola, Verizon, BP, Allstate, U.S. Cellular and Dr Pepper.[49][50][51] The team was the first in the NFL to have a presenting sponsor, with the 2004 season advertised as "Bears Football presented by BankOne (now Chase)". Additionally, the Bears have an agreement with WFLD-TV (the Fox affiliate in Chicago) to broadcast pre-season football games.[52]

Logos, uniforms, and mascots

One of the original logos (1962–1973)

The club's first logo was introduced in the early 1950s as a black bear on top of a football. They kept this until 1962, when the Bears trademark 'C' logo was first introduced.[53]

The change in their logo from the black bear was due to the addition of logos on helmets, which pro football teams started adding in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Unlike some NFL franchises that have had many different looks over time, the Bears have kept the wishbone 'C' for over 40 years.

In 1974, the team decided to keep the same 'C' logo but change the color from white to orange with white trim. This is the current logo; however, the club has since introduced alternate logos, including a black bear inside of the orange wishbone 'C', introduced in 1995, and an orange bear head, introduced in 1999.

Uniforms

In 1920 the team introduced uniforms containing brown and blue stripes. In the 1930s, the franchise's uniform underwent substantial alterations. By 1933 the Bears donned all-orange jerseys with navy numbers and matching navy blue helmets. In 1936, they modified this design into "an early version of psychedelia" by adding three orange stripes to their helmets, changing the color of the jerseys from orange to white, complementing the new white jerseys with fourteen navy and orange alternating stripes on the sleeves, and introducing socks with a similar striped pattern extending from ankle to knee. Because of poor response from the fans and the media, this design lasted only one season.[54]

By 1949, the team was wearing the familiar navy blue shirts with white, rounded numbers. In 1956, the team added "TV numbers" to the sleeves. The Bears 'C' logo first appeared on the helmets in 1962. The logo changed from white to a white-bordered orange logo 11 years later, and has remained unchanged ever since. The Bears added the initials GSH to the left sleeve of their jerseys in 1984 in memory of George Halas.

For decades, the team was known as the only NFL team to wear jersey numbers that were not the traditional block-style numbers (though during the 1971 season, the Bears' road jerseys used the block-style numbers). Although a handful of other NFL teams and the Houston Oilers during their early AFL days experimented with rounder jersey numbers, by the mid-1960s the Bears were the only team left to continue wearing rounded jersey numbers. Since the mid-1990s, however, several teams have shifted away from the block numbers in favor of numbers that match a specific team font (e.g. Denver Broncos, Baltimore Ravens, Philadelphia Eagles, etc.) or in the case of the Pittsburgh Steelers, match the jersey number font with the helmet numbers while otherwise leaving the jersey design alone.

Other variations to the Bears uniforms over the years include the addition of navy blue pants as a part of the road kit in 1984. During the 1994 season, the Bears – with most of the other NFL franchises – introduced throwback uniforms to be worn in the honor of the NFL's 75th anniversary. These uniforms with brown and blue stripes resemble the original Bears uniforms worn in the 1920s. On October 7, 2002 the Bears wore navy blue pants with their navy blue home jerseys for the first time, and lost at home to Green Bay before a national Monday Night Football audience. The Bears did not wear the all-blue combination again until the 2006 regular season finale against the Packers, also a loss, on December 31.

On November 13, 2005 and October 29, 2006 (both times in games against the San Francisco 49ers), the Bears introduced an orange alternate home jersey. The orange swaps roles with the navy blue on this alternate jersey, as it becomes the dominant color while the navy complements. The orange jerseys were worn again on October 19, 2008 at home against the Minnesota Vikings in a 48–41 victory.[55]

The Bears also wore the orange jerseys against the Detroit Lions in 2007, a 2009 game vs. the Cleveland Browns, as well as in 2011 against the Packers and Lions. The Bears previously wore orange jerseys as part of a throwback uniform in a Thanksgiving Day game at the Dallas Cowboys in 2004. Their uniforms, especially for their classic look, have been cited as one of the best in the league.[56]

Since 2005, the Bears have worn their alternate orange jerseys for one home game a season that is near Halloween. For the 2005–07 and 2010 home openers, the team wore the white jerseys with the navy blue pants. The team is 4–0 in these games, beating the Lions in 2005, 2006, and 2010, and beating the Chiefs in 2007.

The Bears honored the original Monsters of the Midway during the 2010 season by wearing throwback uniforms of the era for selected games. The uniforms are a nod to the 1940s when the Bears won four NFL titles with Hall of Famers Danny Fortman, Sid Luckman, George McAfee, George Musso, Bronko Nagurski, Joe Stydahar and Clyde "Bulldog" Turner.[57] The Bears wore the throwbacks once again for the 2012 season.[58]

In 2012, after Nike took over the NFL uniform supplier from Reebok, the Bears uniform received changes. One of the changes include moving the numbers on the sleeves onto the shoulder pad, as well as enlarging the GSH on the stripes.[59]

Mascots

Unofficial mascots "Bearman" and "Honey Bear"

Before the Bears had mascots, they used to have a cheerleading squad called the Chicago Honey Bears, which was around from 1976 to 1985. However, after Halas died, his daughter terminated the group after Super Bowl XX, calling them "sex objects" and degrading to women.[60]

Before the introduction of Staley Da Bear, the club had two unofficial mascots named "Rocky" and "Bearman". "Rocky" was a man who donned a "1" Bears jersey, carried a megaphone, and started chants all over Soldier Field during the 1970s, 1980s and early 1990s. There is no known source of who "Rocky" was, except that he disappeared from Soldier Field in the early 1990s and presumably lived in Northwest Indiana.[61] Don Wachter, also known as "Bearman", is a season ticket holder who decided in 1995 that he could also assist the team by cheerleading. The club allowed him to run across the field with a large Bears flag during player introductions and each team score. In 1996, he donned his "costume" of face paint, bear head and arms, and a number 46 jersey. "Bearman" was forced to stop wearing his costume with the introduction of Staley Da Bear in 2003; however, in 2005 Wachter was allowed in costume again.[62]

Rivals

Divisional rivals

Green Bay Packers

The Green Bay Packers are one of the Bears' biggest rivals since their team's inception in 1920. The team currently leads the series 93–90–6, and the teams have met twice in the postseason. The Bears won the 1941 meeting, 33–14, and eventually defeated the New York Giants in the 1941 NFL Championship Game, and the Packers won the 2011 meeting, 21–14, en route to a Super Bowl XLV win over the Pittsburgh Steelers. The teams' first meeting was a victory for the Bears (known as the Staleys at the time) in 1921 in a shutout, 20–0. The Packers claimed their first win over the Bears in 1925, 14–10. The 1924 matchup (which ended in a 3–0 win for Chicago) was notable for featuring the first ever ejection of players in a game in NFL history, as Frank Hanny of the Bears and Walter Voss of the Packers were ejected for punching each other.[63] The rivalry also featured one of the last successful fair catch kicks in 1968, when Bears kicker Mac Percival kicked the game-winning field goal.[64]

Minnesota Vikings

Chicago and Minnesota took each other on in the Vikings' inaugural game, with the Vikings defeating the Bears in a 37–13 rout, and Minnesota currently holds the series lead 54–50–2.

Detroit Lions

Main article: Bears–Lions rivalry

The Detroit Lions and Bears have faced off since the Lions' inception in 1930, when they were known as the Portsmouth Spartans, with the Spartans winning, 7–6, and Chicago winning the second meeting, 14–6. Since then, the Bears have led the series, 95–66–5. The rivalry grew in 1932, when the Bears and Spartans met in the first ever postseason game in NFL history, with the Bears winning the game 9–0. The game also was known as the first "indoor football" game, as the game took place in indoor Chicago Stadium due to a blizzard at the time. The game also started the forward pass.[65]

Historic rivals

Arizona Cardinals

Despite the Cardinals' relocation to St. Louis and then Arizona, the Bears and Cards had been rivals during Arizona's time in Chicago, and both have met each other more times than any other team that's not in their current divisions. Both teams have shared many moments against each other, such as Ernie Nevers scoring 40 points against the Bears in 1929 in a 40–7 rout. In 2006, however, the Bears defeated the Cards in a 24–23 comeback from a 20-point deficit in the 2nd half, which resulted in Cardinals coach Dennis Green's famous rant.[66] The Bears currently lead the all-time series, 57–27–6.

Other rivals

  • Cleveland Browns: Since 2005, the Bears and Browns have met in the final game of the preseason, after the two teams made an agreement to play each other in alternating cities due to their close proximity.[67] The Browns won the 2005 game 16–6, but the Bears have since gone 5–3, winning in their 2006, 2008, 2009, 2011, and 2012 matchups. In their all-time series, the Browns lead 6–9 (as the current expansion team).
  • Indianapolis Colts: Despite not meeting as often, the Bears and Colts are known as being geographic rivals, with NFL.com analyst Dave Dameshek calling the game the I-65 Bowl, after Interstate 65, which connects between Chicago and Indianapolis.[68] The Colts (while in Baltimore) won the first meeting in 1953 13–9. Both teams have shared various moments in the past, with the Bears suffering their worst loss in franchise history 52–0 to the Colts during their time in Baltimore.[69] The Bears later won 57–0 in 1962 against the Colts, which is the highest scoring differential in team history.[70] The most notable moment between the two teams was Super Bowl XLI, with Indianapolis pulling away with the win despite Chicago dominance in the first half, which was also known for being the first ever Super Bowl to be played in rain.[71] The teams also share various relations with each other, including the relationship between former Colts coach Tony Dungy and Bears coach Lovie Smith, who both were on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers team in the late 1990s and early 2000s, and both coaches met in Super Bowl XLI. The Colts currently lead the series, 23–19, though the Bears won the last meeting in 2012, 41–21.
  • San Francisco 49ers: In the 1980s, the Bears and San Francisco 49ers have met twice in the postseason, as well as many times in the regular season. In the teams' first meeting in 1950, the Bears triumphed, 17–0. In the 1980s, the Bears went 3–4, including 2 postseason meetings. The 49ers won the first meeting in a 23–0 shutout, as well as the next meeting, 28–3. In 1985, the Bears claimed their revenge for their humiliating loss by sending in rookie William "The Refrigerator" Perry in at fullback in a 26–10 rout. Since the game, the Bears have lost all eight games at Candlestick Park, the last being a 32–7 loss in 2012.[72] In the 49ers' new stadium Levi's Stadium's opening game against the Bears, the Bears triumphed 28–20.[73]
  • New York Giants: In a newer preseason rivalry (as well as an old rivalry), the Bears and Giants have taken each other on frequently in the preseason against each other since 2009, and since 2011, has been the 3rd game in the preseason (both teams didn't meet in 2010). The 2 teams have also shared some bad blood before the AFL-NFL merger, as the Bears defeated the Giants in the inaugural NFL Championship Game. The Giants would claim their revenge in the infamous "Sneakers Game" over the undefeated Bears. The Bears would defeat New York in the 1963 NFL Championship Game. In the recent decade, the Bears defeated the Giants in 2006, 38–20, and Bears rookie Devin Hester showed his ability to return on special teams when he tied a Bears record for longest play when he ran a missed field goal back 108 yards for a touchdown on Sunday Night Football.[74] The Giants would claim their revenge in 2010, when they defeated the Bears in a 17–3 victory, in which the Giants sacked Bears quarterback Jay Cutler nine times in the first half.[75] The Bears eventually won in 2013, 27–21.

Stadium

Main articles: Wrigley Field and Soldier Field
Soldier Field in 2011, as seen from the lakeshore

Soldier Field, located on Lake Shore Drive in Chicago, is the current home of the Bears. The Bears moved to Soldier Field in 1971 after outgrowing Wrigley Field, the team's home for 50 years. Northwestern University's residential neighbors objected to their playing at Dyche Stadium, now called Ryan Field. After the AFL-NFL Merger, the newly merged league wanted their teams to play in stadiums that could hold at least 50,000 fans. Even with the portable bleachers that the team brought into Wrigley, the stadium could still only hold 46,000.[76] Soldier Field's playing turf was changed from astroturf to natural grass in time for the start of the 1988 season. The stadium was the site of the infamous Fog Bowl playoff game between the Bears and Philadelphia Eagles.[77]

In 2002, the stadium was closed and rebuilt with only the exterior wall of the stadium being preserved. It was closed on Sunday, January 20, 2002, a day after the Bears lost in the playoffs. It reopened on September 27, 2003 after a complete rebuild (the second in the stadium's history).[76] Many fans refer to the rebuilt stadium as "New Soldier Field".[78] During the 2002 season, the Bears played their home games at the University of Illinois' Memorial Stadium in Champaign, where they went 3–5.

Many critics have negative views of the new stadium. They believe that its current structure has made it more of an eyesore than a landmark; some have dubbed it the "Mistake on the Lake".[79] Soldier Field was stripped of its National Historic Landmark designation on February 17, 2006.[80]

In the 2005 season, the Bears won the NFC North Division and the No. 2 Seed in the NFC Playoffs, entitling them to play at least one home game in the postseason. The team hosted (and lost) their divisional round match on January 15, 2006 against the Carolina Panthers. This was the first playoff game at Soldier Field since the stadium reopened.

The stadium's end zones and midfield were not painted until the 1982 season.[81] The design sported on the field included the bolded word "Chicago" in both end zones. In 1983, the end zone design returned, with the addition of a large wishbone "C" Bears logo painted at midfield. These field markings remained unchanged until the 1996 season.[82] In 1996 the midfield wishbone "C" was changed to a large blue Bears head, and the end zone design were painted with "Bears" in cursive. This new design remained until the 1999 season, at which point the artwork was returned to the classic "Chicago" and the "C". In the new Soldier Field, the artwork was tweaked to where one end zone had the word "Chicago" bolded and the other had "Bears".[83]

The Bears in popular culture

The CNA Center in Chicago flashes a "GO BEARS" window display before a Bears Sunday Night Football game

While the Super Bowl XX Champion Bears were a fixture of mainstream American pop culture in the 1980s, the Bears made a prior mark with the 1971 American TV movie Brian's Song starring Billy Dee Williams as Gale Sayers and James Caan as Brian Piccolo. The film told of how Piccolo helped Sayers recover from a devastating knee injury to return to his status as one of the league's best players, and how Sayers in turn helped the Piccolo family through Brian's fatal illness.[84][85] A 2001 remake of the movie for ABC starred Sean Maher as Piccolo and Mekhi Phifer as Sayers.[86]

The 1985 team is also remembered for recording the song "The Super Bowl Shuffle", which reached number forty-one on the Billboard Hot 100 and was nominated for a Grammy Award.[87][88] The music video for the song depicts the team rapping that they are "not here to start no trouble" but instead "just here to do the Super Bowl Shuffle". The team took a risk by recording and releasing the song before the playoffs had even begun, but were able to avoid embarrassment by going on to win Super Bowl XX by a then-record margin of 46–10. That game was one of the most watched television events in history according to the Nielsen ratings system; the game had a rating of 48.3, ranking it seventh in all-time television history.[89]

In addition to the "Super Bowl Shuffle"[90] rap song, the Bears' success in the 1980s – and especially the personality of head coach Mike Ditka – inspired a recurring sketch on the American sketch comedy program Saturday Night Live, called "Bill Swerski's Superfans".[91] The sketch featured Cheers co-star George Wendt, a Chicago native, as host of a radio talk-show (similar in tone to WGN radio's "The Sportswriters"), with co-panelists Carl Wollarski (Robert Smigel), Pat Arnold (Mike Myers) and Todd O'Connor (Chris Farley). To hear them tell it, "Da Bears" and Coach Ditka could do no wrong. The sketch stopped after Ditka was fired in 1993. The sketch usually showed the panelists drinking lots of beer and eating lots of Polish sausage, and often featured Todd getting so agitated about what was happening with the Bears that he suffered a heart attack, but quickly recovered (through self-administered CPR). The sketch also features the cast predicting unrealistic blowout victories for Bears games.[92] Da Super Fan sketch has not been brought back by SNL, with the exception of a single appearance by Horatio Sanz as a Super Fan for the Cubs on Weekend Update in 2003. Outside of SNL, George Wendt reprised his role of Swerski in the opening promo of Super Bowl XL on ABC.

On TV shows based in Chicago such as The Bob Newhart Show, Married... with Children, Family Matters, Still Standing, According to Jim, Early Edition and The Bernie Mac Show, the main characters are all Bears fans, and have worn Bears' jerseys and T-shirts on some occasions. Some episodes even show them watching Bears games. Roseanne is another TV show based outside of Chicago to feature the Bears as the consensus household favorite, as 'Dan Connor' John Goodman is seen wearing Bears hats in several episodes. That 70's Show featured several Bears references, as it was based in Wisconsin, home of the Packers. On one episode while the gang is at a Bears vs. Packers game, Eric comes to the seat in a Walter Payton jersey and is booed by the surrounding Packers fans. In an episode of the Disney Channel show Shake It Up, based in Chicago, recurring character Dina Garcia (Ainsley Bailey) sold scalped Chicago Bears tickets. More recently, Modern Family character Cameron Tucker has been shown as a Bears fan. In an episode of the Disney Channel show "I Didn't Do It", based in Chicago, Lindy Watson (Olivia Holt) and Logan Watson (Austin North) try to get a football signed by NFL Hall of Famer Dick Butkus after destroying their fathers Butkus signed ball, Alshon Jeffery also makes a cameo appearance as well.

Ditka's success and popularity in Chicago has led him to land analyst roles on various American football pregame shows. Ditka worked for both the NFL on NBC and CBS's The NFL Today, and he currently works on ESPN's Sunday NFL Countdown and provided Friday night analysis on the Bears on WBBM-TV's 2 on Football with former WBBM-TV sports director Mark Malone.[93] He is also the color analyst for all local broadcasts of Bears preseason games. Ditka also co-starred himself alongside actor Will Ferrell in the 2005 comedy film Kicking & Screaming.[94]

Also, Ditka, Dick Butkus, Walter Payton, Jim McMahon, William "Refrigerator" Perry and Brian Urlacher are among Bears figures known for their appearances in TV commercials. Urlacher, whose jersey was among the league's best-selling in 2002, was featured on Nike commercials with former Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick.[95][96]

In the 1961 Hanna-Barbera animated short "Rah Rah Bear," Yogi Bear helps the Bears beat the New York Giants.[97] The Bears were later depicted in an episode of the 1985 cartoon version of the NBC sitcom Punky Brewster, where the Bears are playing the Green Bay Packers.[98][99]

Clark Griswold (Chevy Chase) from the National Lampoon's Vacation series appears in some scenes wearing a navy blue with burnt orange scripting Chicago Bears ball cap. He wears the same Chicago Bears cap throughout all four Vacation movies.[100]

Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher made a cameo in the seventh season of the HBO series Entourage in 2010.

Broadcast media

Chicago Bears Network

Radio

Currently, WBBM (780 AM) and its simulcasting partner, WCFS-FM (105.9 FM) broadcast Bears games with Jeff Joniak doing the play-by-play, along with color commentator Tom Thayer, who played for the Bears from 1985–1992,[101] and sideline reporter Zach Zaidman. Over the years, many Bears play-by-play broadcasters have included Jack Brickhouse, Wayne Larrivee, and color commentator Hub Arkush.

Chicago Bears Network
Radio affiliates
Market Station Notes
Chicago WBBM (780 AM)/WCFS-FM (105.9 FM) All games
Bears Insider
WLEY-FM (107.9 FM) All games (in Spanish)
WSCR (670 AM) Bears All-Access

Television

Their current preseason TV announcers on WFLD (channel 32), which also carries the majority of the team's regular season games through the NFL on Fox, are Sam Rosen (play-by-play), Erik Kramer (color commentary) and Lou Canellis (sideline reporter).

Chicago Bears Network
Television affiliates
Market Station Notes
Regional cable Comcast SportsNet Chicago Bears Recap
Bears Huddle
Bears Blitz
Chicago WFLD Preseason and Fox regional/national games
Bears Gameday Live
Bears Gamenight Live
Cedar Rapids, Iowa KFXA Preseason and Fox regional/national games
Champaign-Urbana WCCU Preseason and Fox regional/national games
Peoria WMBD-TV Preseason and CBS regional/national games
Quad Cities KLJB Preseason and Fox regional/national games
Rockford WIFR Preseason and CBS regional/national games
Rockford WQRF Preseason and Fox regional/national games
Springfield WRSP-TV Preseason and Fox regional/national games
South Bend WSBT-TV Preseason and CBS regional/national games

Statistics and records

For more details on this topic, see Chicago Bears statistics.

Patrick Mannelly holds the record for the most seasons in a Bears uniform with 16.[102] On the other hand, Steve McMichael holds the record for most consecutive games played by a Bear with 191;[102] he accomplished the feat from 1981 to 1993. In second place is Payton, who played 186 games from 1975 to 1987 at running back, a position considered to be conducive to injury, only missing one game in a span of 13 seasons.

Placekicker Kevin Butler holds the club record[102] for scoring the most points in his ten-year Bear career. He scored 1,116 points as the Bears kicker from 1985 to 1995. He is followed in distant second place by Kicker Robbie Gould, Payton, with 750 points, follows in third. Payton holds the team record for career rushing yards with 16,726.[102] That was an NFL record until Emmitt Smith of the Dallas Cowboys broke it in 2002. Current Bears running back Matt Forte, who started playing for the Bears in 2008, is the closest to Payton's record with 6,985 yards. Forte also holds the team's single season record for rookies in rushing attempts, rushing yards and receptions. Mark Bortz holds the record for most Bear playoff appearances, with 13 between 1983 and 1994, and is followed by Kevin Butler, Dennis Gentry, Dan Hampton, Jay Hilgenberg, Steve McMichael, Ron Rivera, Mike Singletary, and Keith Van Horne, who have each played in 12 playoff games.

The 1940 Chicago Bears team holds the record for the biggest margin of victory in an NFL game (playoff or regular season) with a 73–0 victory over the Washington Redskins in the 1940 NFL Championship Game. The largest home victory for the Bears came in a 61–7 result against the Green Bay Packers in 1980. The largest defeat in club history was a 52–0 loss against the Baltimore Colts in 1964. The club recorded undefeated regular seasons in 1934 and 1942, but (unlike the 1972 Dolphins) did not win the championship game in either season. In 1934, the club completed a 13–0 record but were defeated by the New York Giants, and in 1942 the club completed an 11–0 record but were defeated by the Redskins. Had the Bears won either championship, the club would have completed a championship three-peat – a feat completed only by the Packers (twice), although no team has done it since the AFL-NFL merger.[103] Halas holds the team record for coaching the most seasons with 40 and for having the most career victories of 324. Halas' victories record stood until Don Shula surpassed Halas in 1993. Ditka is the closest Bears coach to Halas, with 112 career victories. No other Bears coach has recorded over 100 victories with the team.[102]

During the 2006 season, return specialist Devin Hester set several kick return records. He currently holds the franchise record for most return yards with 2,261.[104] He had six touchdown returns, setting a record for most returns in a single season.[105] In 2007, he recorded another six touchdown season from returns. One of the most notable of these returns came on November 12, 2006, when he returned a missed field goal for a 108-yard touchdown.[106] The record tied former teammate Nathan Vasher's previous record, which was set almost a year earlier.[107] Additionally, Hester set a Super Bowl record by becoming the first player to return an opening kick of a Super Bowl for a touchdown.[108] On December 20, 2010, Hester set an NFL record for most touchdowns on a punt or kickoff return with his 14th career return coming against the Minnesota Vikings. In 2011, Hester broke the record for the most punt returns against the Carolina Panthers.

In 2012, Charles Tillman has the record for most forced fumbles in a single game with 4 against the Tennessee Titans. Also against the Titans, Chicago became the first team in league history to score a touchdown pass, a touchdown run, an interception return for a touchdown, and a blocked kick/punt for a score in the same quarter.[109] Tillman and teammate Lance Briggs became the first pair in NFL history to return an interception for a touchdown in consecutive games against the Jacksonville Jaguars and Dallas Cowboys.[110]

Season-by-season results

For more details on this topic, see List of Chicago Bears all-time record versus NFL.
This is a partial list of the last five seasons completed or in progress by the Bears. For the full season-by-season franchise results, see List of Chicago Bears seasons.

Note: The Finish, Wins, Losses, and Ties columns list regular season results and exclude any postseason play.

Record as of December 29, 2013

Super Bowl Champions Conference Champions Division Champions Wild Card Berth
Season Team League Conference Division Regular season Post Season Results Awards Ref
Finish Wins Losses Ties
2009 2009 NFL NFC North 3rd 7 9 0 [111]
2010 2010 NFL NFC North ** 1st ** 11 5 0 Won Divisional Playoffs (Seahawks) (35–24)
Lost Conference Championship (Packers) (21–14)
[112][p]
2011 2011 NFL NFC North 3rd 8 8 0 [113]
2012 2012 NFL NFC North 3rd 10 6 0 [114]
2013 2013 NFL NFC North 2nd 8 8 0
Totals W L T
722 526 42 All-time regular season record (1920–2010) [115][q]
17 18 All-time postseason record (1932–2010) [115][q]
739 542 42 All-time regular season and postseason record (1920–2010) [115][q]

Records

All-Time Bears Leaders
Leader Player Record Number Years on Bears
Passing Jay Cutler 14,913 passing yards 2009–Present[116]
Rushing Walter Payton 16,726 rushing yards 1975–1987
Receiving Johnny Morris 5,059 receiving yards 1958–1967
Coaching Wins George Halas 318 wins 1920–1967

Players of note

For more details on this topic, see List of Chicago Bears players.

Current roster

Chicago Bears roster
Quarterbacks

Running backs

Wide receivers

Tight ends

Offensive linemen

Defensive linemen

Linebackers

Defensive backs

Special teams

Reserve lists

Practice squad

Rookies in italics
Roster updated November 28, 2014
Depth ChartTransactions

51 Active, 5 Inactive, 10 Practice Squad

AFC rostersNFC rosters


Pro Football Hall of Famers

In the Pro Football Hall of Fame, the Bears have the most enshrined primary members with twenty-seven, however the club also have had five Hall of Famers spend a minor portion of their career with the franchise.[117] Founder, owner, head coach, and player George Halas, halfback Bronko Nagurski, and Red Grange were a part of the original class of inductees in 1963. The franchise saw 14 individuals inducted into the Hall of Fame from 1963–1967. Defensive end Richard Dent, a member of the Super Bowl XX team is the most recent Bear inducted, a part of the Class of 2011.

Retired numbers

The Bears have retired fourteen uniform numbers, which is the most in the NFL, and ranks fourth behind the basketball Boston Celtics (21), baseball New York Yankees (16), and hockey Montreal Canadiens (15) for the most in North American professional sports. The Bears announced on May 24, 2013 that they will retire Mike Ditka's number 89 jersey on December 9, 2013.[118] The organization also stated that Ditka's jersey will be the last number the Bears will retire.[119]

Chicago Bears Retired Numbers
ChicagoBears3.png ChicagoBears5.png ChicagoBears7.png ChicagoBears28.png ChicagoBears34.PNG ChicagoBears40.png ChicagoBears41.png
Bronko Nagurski
FB/LB/T
1930-37, '43
Minnesota
George McAfee
RB/DB/PR
1940-41, '45-50
Duke
George Halas
End/HC
Owner/Founder
1920-83
Illinois
Willie Galimore
RB
1957-63
Florida A&M
Walter Payton
RB
1975-87
Jackson State
Gale Sayers
RB/KR
1965-71
Kansas
Brian Piccolo
RB/FB
1965-69
Wake Forest
ChicagoBears42.png ChicagoBears51.png ChicagoBears56.png ChicagoBears61.png ChicagoBears66.png ChicagoBears77.png ChicagoBears89.png
Sid Luckman
QB/DB/P
1939-50
Columbia
Dick Butkus
MLB
1965-73
Illinois
Bill Hewitt
End
1932-36
Michigan
Bill George
MG/MLB
1952-65
Wake Forest
Clyde
(Bulldog)
Turner

C/LB
1940-52
Hardin-Simmons
Harold (Red) Grange
RB/DB
1925, '29-34
Illinois
Mike Ditka
TE
1961-66
HC
1982-92
Pittsburgh

Coaching staff

For a more in-depth look into the history of the head coaches of the Bears, see List of Chicago Bears head coaches
Chicago Bears staff
Front Office
Head Coaches
Offensive Coaches
 
Defensive Coaches
Special Teams Coaches
Strength and Conditioning

Coaching Staff
Management
More NFL staffs

AFC East
BUF
MIA
NE
NYJ
North
BAL
CIN
CLE
PIT
South
HOU
IND
JAX
TEN
West
DEN
KC
OAK
SD
NFC East
DAL
NYG
PHI
WAS
North
CHI
DET
GB
MIN
South
ATL
CAR
NO
TB
West
ARI
STL
SF
SEA

Notes and references

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Sources

  • Taylor, Roy (2004). Chicago Bears History. Arcadia Publishing (SC). ISBN 0-7385-3319-X. 

External links