2022 marks 102 seasons for the Chicago Bears, with legendary owner George S Halas moving the Decatur Staleys to Chicago in 1921 and renaming the franchise the year later. However, this centenary hasn’t brought much in the way of celebration. A 6-11 season fizzled out on January 9th with a loss to the Vikings; head coach Matt Nagy and GM Ryan Pace were fired the day after.
This offseason has seen new GM Ryan Poles do some tidying up with contracts ¬– backup quarterbacks Nick Foles and Andy Dalton are gone, Khalil Mack was traded to the sunnier pastures of the L.A. Chargers and star wideout Allen Robinson left in free agency to join the Super Bowl LVI champion L.A. Rams.
However, this leaves new HC Matt Eberflus with, it’s fair to say, a fairly underwhelming roster. The price-setters concur, with the latest NFL betting odds from Coral suggesting that the Bears won’t get out of the NFC North, let alone reach Super Bowl LVII. However, the McCaskey family are patient owners – Nagy got four seasons despite never making the play-offs – and Eberflus will be given time to piece together plays for second year QB Justin Fields. Some o-line protection might help Fields also, but it’s safe to say 2022 will be a rebuilding season at Soldier Field.
While this season might not forecast glory days, the Bears have had plenty of them in the past. Let’s take a look at three for struggling fans to hold dear this year.
Super Bowl XX
Many will tell you that the 1985 Bears were the best team ever assembled. Led by a brash Jim McMahon, the greatest Bear of all in Walter Payton, and a defense that only allowed an average 12.4 points over the season, only a Week 13 loss in Miami stopped them equaling the 1972 Dolphins as the only team ever to have a perfect season. The Bears didn’t allow a single point in the divisional round, beating the Giants 21-0. Same again for the Conference title where the Rams were routed 24-0. The offence came out to play in the grand finale, where the New England Patriots were humbled by Mike Ditka’s men 45-10. The story of that season is recounted by countless Chicagoans to their kids – and to anyone who isn’t from Chicago – but the definitive account is narrated by Vince Vaughn in the wonderful ESPN ’30 for 30: The ’85 Bears’.
Devin Hester runs it back
Few would have predicted that the next time the Bears saw a Super Bowl would be 2007. Between serious injuries to McMahon, Richard Dent and Otis Wilson (to name a few) and the strained relationship between coaches Ditka and Buddy Ryan snapping, the ’85 Bears never became a dynasty and two decades passed before they once again got to the game’s biggest stage. Having already set a record rookie season after being picked from University of Miami, Devin Hester traveled back to his alma mater city to face off against the Indianapolis Colts in Super Bowl XLI. The whistle blew, the Colts kicked off to the Bears and Hester took it 92 yards up the Hard Rock Stadium turf to give Chicago a touchdown from the opening kick off. It’s the only time it’s been done in Super Bowl history, and with the NFL having tightened restrictions around returns due to safety concerns, Hester’s record may never be broken. The Colts went on to prevail 29-17, but Chicago have always kept an eye on kick returning as a specialism since; Johnny Knox, Tarik Cohen and Cordarrelle Patterson have all scored from returns in years subsequent.
The 1965 draft
Drafting has been an issue in recent years for the Bears. Although we’ve reported that Roquan Smith continues to be quietly one of the best linebackers in the league, few will let Pace forget he traded up to take Mitchell Trubisky ahead of Patrick Mahomes. The 1965 draft saw Halas take Dick Butkus and Gale Sayers, arguably second and third in the Bears’ pantheon of greats behind Sweetness himself. If new GM Poles could do that, Chicago will be saying his name in awed tones 60 years from now, too.
There might be some green shoots for the Bears; Fields is now the undisputed starter, RB David Montgomery is a stud, and young receiver Darnell Mooney continues to progress. Chicago can make moves happen with $22.5m in cap space at the time of writing. It’s notable that in the 1922 season, while the Bears didn’t win the title, the Packers – playing that season as the Green Bay Blues – finished a distant eighth, winning only four of ten. Would Chicago fans take that for this season? Absolutely