By Kerry J. Byrne
Cold, Hard Football Facts Teddy Bear (@footballfacts)
The Chicago Bears have dominated on defense better, longer and more often than any team in NFL history, riding that defense to a legacy perhaps unmatched in all of North American sports.
It’s time we celebrate the greatness and the old-school mystique of hard-nosed, wintry, defensive-minded lakefront football as performed by the late, great George Halas’s crew since the earliest days of the pro game.
We were inspired to salute the great Monsters of the Midway after compiling the 100 Stingiest Defenses in the History of Football (1940-present). The Chicago Bears topped the list.
Ten of the 100 stingiest defenses in history belong to Papa Bear’s cubs, more than any other franchise. Hell, 10 current franchises failed to make the list even once.
The Chicago Bears produced five of the stingiest defenses in history during the days of old-school football, from the World War II Era through the depths of the Dead Ball Era in 1977.
But here’s the most impressive part: they’ve done it again five times here in the Live Ball Era (1978-present), also more than any other franchise, most recently in 2005.
(See the entire list of 100 stingiest defenses of all time, franchise by franchise, right here.)
It starts at the top and there’s no more iconic patriarch in sports. Papa Bear himself was MVP of the 1919 Rose Bowl, founded a little somethin’ somethin’ called the NFL in 1920, played nine seasons, coached 40 seasons, won a record six NFL championships, and then in his spare time served the military in two world wars – you know, just for shits and giggles.
Bill Belichick greatest coach ever, my ass.
Quite frankly, we need the Chicago Bears – the brawny, mud-and-spittle image of the Chicago Bears – more than ever here in this pussified, bloated, drifting, politically correct modern America.
Today even the NFL itself is trying to soften the sport while skittish parents fear letting their children play the game we once celebrated as a testament to American manhood and might.
"(Football is) absolutely necessary to the nation's best interest," said former Notre Dame coach Knute Rockne, who ruled the Chicago sports scene when the Bears were still a side show, as dramatized in the 1940 movie Knute Rockne: All American. "The most dangerous thing in American life today is that we’re getting soft, inside and out. We’re losing that forceful heritage of mind and body that was once our most precious possession."
The Chicago Bears have never lost that forceful heritage. They march on in the same brutally glorious defensive fashion today that they did at the height of their own power and at the height of American hegemony in the 1940s.
The Chicago Bears have won more games than any team in NFL history (722), largely a function of their longevity. They're one of two franchises (with the Cardinals) that have been with the NFL since 1920.
But the Chicago Bears also boast the best winning percentage in NFL history (.578), despite playing the most games.
And the Chicago Bears have produced more Hall of Fame players than any team in NFL history (29).
They've compiled this grand legacy largely on the backs of their defenses. In fact, 26 of Chicago’s 29 HOFers played defense, either as two-way performer or defensive specialist. The only exceptions: Mike Ditka, Gale Sayers and Walter Payton.
The next Bears Hall of Famer will probably be a defender, too. Middle linebacker Brian Urlacher looks to be on his way out of town, but only after 13 years of carrying on perhaps the most intimidating positional tradition in American sports:
Middle linebacker, Chicago Bears.
The Bears already boast three middle linebackers in Canton. The fourth might as well be a birth right. And Urlacher will get a good, long look from HOF voters when he finally hangs up his grass-clogged cleats.
Hey, who needs a pretty boy quarterback when you have Bill George, Dick Butkus, Mike Singletary and Brian Urlacher tearing at offenses like they’re the last piece of bloody red meat before hibernating for the winter?
It sure as hell ain’t the Chicago F*cking Bears, that’s who.
The Chicago Bears haven’t fielded a franchise quarterback since Sid Luckman hung up his leather helmet 63 years ago. That’s right. Ol’ Sid hasn’t thrown a pass for the Bears since Papa Bear kicked him to the curb in favor of sexy younger model Notre Dame Heisman winner Johnny Lujack back in 1950.
Yet in the six-plus decades since, Luckman is still the all-time leading passer in franchise history (14,686 yards), a fact which is quite literally impossible here in this era of post-Space-Age passing stats. Saints quarterback Drew Brees has passed for 15,273 yards just since 2010.
So whether by design, philosophy, pride, principal or even bad luck the Chicago Bears haven’t quite adapted to the times.
And we say bully for them.
The team continues to chug alone relentlessly like a trusty told mechanical steam engine in a digital world: even in the disappointing 10-6 season of 2012, the Chicago Bears finished the year No. 3 in scoring defense (277 PA) – the 17th time in the Live Ball Era the Bears held opponents under 300 points.
Admit it: you love the way the Chicago Bears dish out classic hits in the modern NFL, like a James Brown dance move inserted into a Lil Wayne video. You love that hopelessly old-school football is habitually hip in Chicagoland.
You love the way the Chicago Bears have muscled their way into the playoffs over the decades with a truly forgetful collection of second-rate and castoff quarterbacks: Ed Brown, Bob Avellini, Jim McMahon, Jim Harbaugh (great QB coach, second rate QB), Steve Walsh, Jim Miller, Kyle Orton and Rex Grossman, among others.
You love the way the 1985 Chicago Bears went down as one of the most intimidating teams in history, behind a truly frightening defense and an offense that defiantly ran the ball 610 times – the last Super Bowl champion to top 600 rush attempts in a season.
You love the way the 2010 Chicago Bears nearly rallied to topple future Hall of Famer Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers in the NFC title game behind third-string QB Caleb friggin’ Hanie, in one of the almost-greatest wins in NFL history – well, until Hanie’s awkward pick-six sealed his team’s noble-loss fate.
You love the way patriotism still plays big in Chicago, the way Jim Cornelison extends a manly salute to Old Glory when he belts out “the flag was still … THERE!” with the unabashed pride of a war hero remembering fallen buddies.
The Chicago Bears don’t need a preening soprano pop star with a 50-piece orchestra to perform the national anthem. Nope.
Not the Chicago F*cking Bears.
They roll out a single barrel-chested baritone with nothing but a color guard and a stiff wind off of Lake Michigan, place him in the middle of the field and let his lone voice echo from one side of the American heartland to the other while Bears fans cheer deliriously from beginning to end.
“We’re the Chicago F*cking Bears. This is how we roll.”
When the 10th anniversary of 9-11 rolled around, it was Cornelison's national anthem before the Falcons-Bears game in Chicago that was broadcast from coast-to-coast and in every NFL stadium, an admission by the league itself that nobody kicks off a football game with the red-white-black-and-blue fervor of Chicago Bears fans.
(Of course, the ultimate Chicago national anthem was probably the one before the 1991 NHL all-star game, but why nit-pick? Watching Chicago fans that day was like watching Lynyrd Skynyrd peform "Free Bird." Just when you didn't think they couldn't rock any harder, they rocked harder.)
Let’s face it. Even in this soft, sissified, apologetic modern America, the heaving mass of sports fans still crave patriotic spectacle paired with human carnage, even if it’s no longer cool to admit it on the big-city cocktail circuit: think of Joe Theismann’s chicken-bone leg snap on Monday Night Football back in 1985 or its grisly basketball sequel from Louisville’s Kevin Ware just last weekend – each gleefully shown over and over in instant replay and, in the more recent incident, in online video.
We see human carnage in the wrecks of NASCAR, the one-on-one brutality of MMA and the last lingering remnant of frontier justice in pro sports in the NHL, where each team still employs a thick-skulled, quick-fisted enforcer to provide safety for soft goal-scoring stars.
Peace through strength, as they call it, even if that enforcer is usually a tough-ass farm kid from allegedly more pacifistic and enlightened Canada.
The Chicago Bears deliver patriotic spectacle game after game and have famously delivered human carnage in graphic fashion over decades of defensive excellence.
Start with the 73-0 victory over the Washington Redskins in the 1940 NFL championship game, still the most lopsided contest in NFL history. The innovative T-formation offense gets all the credit from historians.
But the Chicago Bears that day won with defense. They forced eight interceptions, nine turnovers and produced three defensive scores against a team led by no less a talent than the Pigskin Messiah, Sammy Baugh.
The 1963 Chicago Bears, armed with arguably history’s greatest defense, delivered the most infamous individual slaughter on record in the NFL championship game, which they won 14-10.
The New York Giants that year averaged 32.0 PPG, one of the best offenses of all time, behind a brilliant season by Y.A. Tittle, who threw 36 TD passes that season – a record which stood for 21 years.
The Bears were no match offensively. But the explosive Giants were crushed into sausage like a sacrificial lamb in the meat grinder of the Chicago Bears defense.
“Tittle was abused mercilessly by the Monsters of the Midway," as we noted in our study of the greatest passing seasons in history. “He threw five picks, was twice knocked out of the game, was hastily taped up on the sidelines and famously injected with more needles than a med-school lab dummy.”
Then there was the frightening defensive tsunami unleashed by Hurricane Ditka that overwhelmed the New England Patriots 22 years later in Super Bowl XX. The Bears won, 46-10.
There have been bigger blowouts on the scoreboard in NFL history. But few NFL teams have ever looked so helpless and overmatched as the Patriots did that day against the mighty Chicago Bears. The Patriots boasted one of the great rush attacks the NFL had ever produced, led by an offensive lineman, John Hannah, who was dubbed the greatest of all time by Sports Illustrated.
Those Patriots netted 123 yards of offense, suffered seven sacks and coughed up five turnovers in the face of the Chicago Bears.
Football fans in New England to this day can still hear the blood-curdling screams of Richard Dent’s helpless victims when a cold January wind blows in from the Midwest.
The Bears continue to wreck offenses in modern times. They are the only franchise that has already produced two of the 100 Stingiest Defenses in Football History here in the 21st century: in 2001 (203 PA) and 2005 (202 PA), nearly impossible numbers in the post-Space-Age NFL.
It’s only fitting that the Chicago Bears ply their trade in the City of Big Shoulders, the home of slaughterhouses, Al Capone, the Valentine’s Massacre, the nationally televised riots of 1968, needless street violence and famously rough urban machine politics.
Tough still plays and Chicago. And the Chicago Bears have been committed to the toughest football in the land since the dawn of professional football.
Don’t ever change, Chicago Bears.
Just keep in mind it wouldn’t kill you to draft a franchise quarterback more than once every 70 years.