The Chicago Bears are the NFL’s oldest franchise along with the Cardinals franchise. Founded in 1920, and originally called the Decatur Staleys, the Bears have the most wins in League history (741) and the highest win percentage (.570). In their 96 year history, the Bears organization has won 9 NFL Championships, 8 before the AFL-NFL merger in 1970, and the other in Super Bowl XX with a team that is arguably the best of all-time. They’ve won 4 Conference championships, 18 Division titles and made the playoffs 26 times.
Fourteen Bears players have had their number retired, which ranks 4th among teams in North American professional sports. Twenty-Six former Bears are in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. So that makes it tough to narrow it down to which four are the most significant in team history to put on their Mount Rushmore. But these are the guys I think make the cut.
- No owners, unless they were also coaches, and their place on this list is based on their contributions as coach. No General Managers or Personnel executives. Just those who directly affected the games on Sunday. I will make a separate list for those contributors soon.
- Key contributors to the team’s history and success, not just fan favorites or box office draws.
- Can you tell the franchise’s story without them? If no, they’re on the list.
George Halas (1920-1983) “Papa Bear”, as many knew him, was not only the founder and owner of the Bears, but is still its all-time winningest coach with 324 wins including the playoffs. He won a total of 8 NFL Championships as owner or coach. The number 7 he wore as a player is retired, and the uniforms worn to this day by the player’s bears his initials “GSH” on their upper left sleeves. The Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio is on George Halas Drive in his honor.
Walter Payton (1975-1987) “Sweetness” is widely recognized as the greatest NFL running back of all-time. When he retired in 1987, his 16,726 rushing yards was not only the most in team history, but NFL history. He still holds 5 NFL records. The Super Bowl XX Champion is not only the team’s leading rusher, but also has the most touchdowns ever scored in team history (125) which was also a league record at the time of his retirement. Payton was a 3-time NFL MVP (1976,1977,1985), 2-time NFL Offensive Player of the Year (1977, 1985), 6-time 1st-team All-Pro, 3-time 2nd-team All-Pro, and 9-time Pro Bowler. He’s also a member of the 1970’s and 1980’s NFL All-Decade team, as well as the NFL’s 75th Anniversary All-Time Team. His iconic number 34 jersey is still one of the most popular selling amongst fans and is retired by the organization.
Dick Butkus (1965-1973) was known as “the most feared man in football” during his days leading the Defense on the shores of Lake Michigan. He played during a time when defensive statistics weren’t kept, so his greatness isn’t as documented as the players of today. But, Butkus was a 2-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year, 8-time Pro Bowler, 6-time 1st-team All-Pro, 2-time 2nd-team All-Pro, and member of the NFL’s 75th Anniversary All-Time team, the 1960’s and 1970’s All-Decade teams. His number 51 is retired by the organization.
Mike Ditka (1961-1966 player; 1982-1992 coach) The coach was “Iron Mike” before Heavyweight Boxing Champion Mike Tyson ever burst onto the sports scene. As a player with the Bears, Ditka was a 5-time Pro Bowl tight end, 5-time All-Pro and won an NFL Championship with the team. He was the 1961 Rookie of the Year and the first tight end inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1988. He is a member of the NFL’s 50th and 75th Anniversary All-Time teams.
As coach of the Bears he won the team’s first and only Super Bowl in the 1985 season. He earned 106 wins in his tenure in Chicago and was named Associate Press NFL Coach of the year twice (1985, 1988), United Press International NFL Coach of the Year twice (1985, 1988), Sporting News NFL Coach of the Year (1988) and Pro Football Weekly NFL Coach of the Year (1988).
There you have it. The Bears Mount Rushmore. Fans of the “Monster’s of the Midway” let me know what you think. Should Gale Sayers, Mike Singletary, or Red Grange be on the list? I want to hear your opinion.