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 team is legally and corporately registered as Chicago Bears Football Club, Incorporated.
The Bears have won nine Professional American Football league championships (eight NFL Championships and Super Bowl XX), trailing only the Green Bay Packers, who have twelve. The Bears have the most enshrinees in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, with 26 members. The Bears have also recorded more regular season and overall victories than any other NFL franchise.
The club was founded in Decatur, Illinois, in 1919, and moved to Chicago in 1921. Along with the Arizona Cardinals, it is one of only two remaining extant franchises since 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 was recently remodeled in a modernization intended to update stadium amenities while preserving a historic Chicago structure. The team has a fierce, long-standing rivalry with the Packers, whom they have played in over 170 games.
The team headquarters, Halas Hall, is actually located in the Chicago suburb of Lake Forest, Illinois. The team scrimmages at adjoining practice facilities there during the season. Currently, the team holds its annual training camp from late July to mid-August on the campus of Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais, Illinois.
Along with the Arizona Cardinals (originally from Chicago themselves), the Bears are one of only two charter members of the NFL still in existence. 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 US$100.
The Bears dominated the league in the early years. Their rivalry with the Cardinals, the oldest in the NFL (and a crosstown rivalry from 1920 to 1959), was key in four out of the first six league titles (see History of the Chicago Bears). 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, fiercest 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.
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).
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. 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.
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 defeated the Bears 30–13 on a cold, icy day at the Polo Grounds.
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. 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's success at the quarterback position for the Bears has not been matched, as he still holds club records for passing.
After declining throughout the 1950s, the team rebounded in 1963 to capture their 8th NFL Championship, which would be their last until 1985. The late 1960s and early 1970s produced notable players like Dick Butkus, Gale Sayers, and Brian Piccolo, 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.
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 National Football Conference Championship trophy as the George Halas Memorial Trophy.
From 1977 through 1985 the club's official cheerleaders were the Honey Bears, who were hired by then General Manager Jim Finks. They cheered at Soldier Field during all Bears home games and performed at halftime for the viewing public. The group's founder and choreographer, Cathy Core, was contacted by Finks on the topic of organizing the cheerleading squad, but as she didn't believe that Finks was actually calling she hung up. When she later found out the call was genuine, she apologized.
The idea of a cheerleading squad was thought up by Halas himself, who called them "dancing girls". Halas was quoted as saying that the Honey Bears would be around as long as he was alive. After his death in 1983, his heirs in the McCaskey family decided to end their relationship with the Honey Bears, declining to renew their contract following the Bears' championship season of 1985. Word has it that as long as the McCaskey family owns the team, the Honey Bears will remain a memory.
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. Their son Michael became the third president in team history. Mrs. McCaskey holds the honorary title of "secretary of the board of directors", but the 82–year–old matriarch has been called the glue that holds the franchise together. 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, and four years later she inherited the team upon George Halas' death. 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.
Mike Ditka, a tight end for the Bears from 1961 to 1966, was hired to coach the team in 1982. In the 1985 season the fire in the Bears–Packers rivalry was relit when Ditka used 350–plus pound lineman "Refrigerator" Perry as a truly "wide" receiver in a touchdown play at Lambeau Field, flagrantly taunting 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.
After the 1985 Championship season, the Bears remained competitive throughout the 1980s but failed to return to the Super Bowl under Mike Ditka. Since the firing of Ditka at the end of the 1992 season, the Bears have only made the playoffs five times. The club has also gone through three coaching changes since 1993. Dave Wannstedt was the head coach from 1993 through 1998. Dick Jauron succeeded Wannstedt after the 1998 season. After having his contract extended through 2004 after the Bears went 13–3 in 2001, Jauron was fired at the end of the 2003 season. 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. Incidentally, 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. McCaskey's reign as president has been viewed as a disaster with mishap after mishap. Phillips, the current Bears president, became the first man outside of the Halas-McCaskey family to run the team.
Lovie Smith, hired by the franchise on January 15 2004, is the third and current (as of 2007) 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. 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 thirteen of the 2006 season, winning their first playoff game since 1995, and earning a trip to Super Bowl XLI. 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.
The club has played in over a thousand games since becoming a charter member of the NFL in 1920. Through the 2007 season, they lead the NFL in overall franchise wins with 693 and have an overall record of 693–508–42 (going 677–491–42 during the regular season and 16–17 in the playoffs).
As of 2008, Forbes magazine has reported that the Chicago Bears franchise is worth $1.1 billion, making it the ninth richest franchise in the NFL. The city of Chicago itself is the National Football League's second largest market. The team has major sponsorship deals with Chase, Miller Brewing Company, Cadillac, Motorola, and Coca-Cola. 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.
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 white 'C' logo but to change the color of it from white to orange with a white trim. This is the current logo to this date; however, the club has experimented with some alternative logos throughout the past decade, including a black bear inside of the orange wishbone 'C', introduced in 1995, and an orange bear head, introduced in 1999.
In 1920 the team introduced the official team uniforms containing brown and blue stripes. In the 1930s, the franchise's team uniform underwent some substantial alterations. After many subtle and not-so-subtle changes, by 1933 the Bears donned all-orange jerseys with navy numbers and matching black 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. Due to poor response from the fans and the media, this design lasted only one season.
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 eleven 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.
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 uniforms worn by the team 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.
Also, the Bears wore all-white uniforms during their final two road games in the 2006 season. 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 Bears previously wore orange jerseys as part of a throwback uniform in a Thanksgiving Day game at the Dallas Cowboys in 2004. The classic look of the club's uniforms has given it the title of one of the best uniform kits in the league.
Soldier Field, located on Lake Shore Drive in Chicago, is the current home to the Bears. The Bears moved into Soldier Field in 1971 after Wrigley Field, the Bears' home for 50 years, became too small to hold an NFL event, and neighbors to Northwestern University objected to the team's playing in 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. The stadium'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.
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). Many fans refer to the rebuilt stadium as New Soldier Field. 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". Soldier Field was stripped of its National Historic Landmark designation on February 17 2006.
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. 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. 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".
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. The music video for the song depicts the team gyrating awkwardly and 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.
In addition to the "Super Bowl Shuffle 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". 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. A significantly overweight Farley died in 1997 from a drug overdose exacerbated by arteriosclerosis, and 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.
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 provides Friday night analysis on the Bears on CBS 2 Chicago, the CBS Chicago affiliate, called "2 on Football" with CBS 2 Sports Director Mark Malone. 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.
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 Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick.
Placekicker Kevin Butler holds the club record 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 Payton, with 750 points. Payton holds the team record for career rushing yards with 16,726. That was an NFL record until Emmitt Smith of the Dallas Cowboys broke it in 2002. Neal Anderson, who played from 1986 to 1993, is the closest to Payton's record with 6,166 yards. 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. 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.
During the 2006 season, return specialist Devin Hester set several kick return records. He had six touchdown returns, setting a record for most returns in a single season. 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. The record tied teammate Nathan Vasher's previous record, which was set almost a year earlier. Additionally, Hester set a Super Bowl record by becoming the first person to return an opening kick of a Super Bowl for a touchdown.
Note: The Finish, Wins, Losses, and Ties columns list regular season results and exclude any postseason play.
|Super Bowl Champions||Conference Champions||Division Champions||Wild Card Berth|
|Season||Team||League||Conference||Division||Regular season||Post Season Results||Awards|
|2005||2005||NFL||NFC||North||1st||11||5||0||Lost Divisional Playoffs (Panthers) (29-21)||Brian Urlacher (NFL DPOY)|
Lovie Smith (NFL COY)
|2006||2006||NFL||NFC||North||1st||13||3||0||Won Divisional Playoffs (Seahawks) (27-24 OT)|
Won Conference Championship (Saints) (39-14)
Lost Super Bowl XLI (Colts) (29-17)
|Chicago Bears Hall of Famers (26/5)|
|Primary Hall of Famers (26)|
|1||Paddy Driscoll||QB-S-K, Head Coach||42||Sid Luckman||QB-CB|
|3||Bronko Nagurski||RB-OT-LB||50||Mike Singletary||LB|
|5||George McAfee||RB-S||51||Dick Butkus||LB|
|7||George Halas|| founder, owner|
Head Coach, TE-DE
|11||Link Lyman||OT-DT||61||Bill George||LB|
|13||George Trafton||C-DT||66||Clyde (Bulldog) Turner||C-DT|
|13||Joe Stydahar||OT-DT||71||George Connor||OT-LB|
|16||Ed Healey||OT-DT||77||Harold (Red) Grange||RB-CB|
|16||George Musso||C-DT||78||Stan Jones||OT|
|16||George Blanda||QB||81||Doug Atkins||DE|
|21||Danny Fortmann||OG-DT||89||Mike Ditka||TE, Head Coach|
|34||Walter Payton||RB||99||Dan Hampton||DE|
|40||Gale Sayers||RB||--||Jim Finks||General Manager|
|Hall of Famers with minor portion of career with Bears (5)|
|N/A||Guy Chamberlin||TE-DE||N/A||Jimmy Conzelman||QB|
|N/A||Walt Kiesling||OL-DL||N/A||Bobby Layne||QB|
|Fritz Wasem||1919||1919||Not Available|
|George Halas||January 1920||December 1929||84||31||17||1|
|Ralph Jones||January 1930||December 1932||24||10||7||1|
|George Halas||December 1932||November 1942||88||24||4||3|
|Hunk Anderson||November 1942||December 1945||24||12||2||1|
|George Halas||January 1946||December 1955||76||43||2||1|
|Paddy Driscoll||December 1955||December 1957||14||10||1|
|George Halas||December 1957||May 27 1968||76||53||6||1|
|Jim Dooley||May 27 1968||December 1971||20||36||0|
|Abe Gibron||December 1971||December 17 1974||11||30||1|
|Jack Pardee||December 31 1974||January 19 1978||20||23||0|
|Neill Armstrong||February 16 1978||January 4 1982||30||35||0|
|Mike Ditka||January 20 1982||January 1993||112||68||0||1|
|Dave Wannstedt||January 19 1993||December 28 1998||41||57||0|
|Dick Jauron||January 24 1999||December 29 2003||35||46||0|
|Lovie Smith||January 15 2004||Present||38||30||0|