Chicago Bears, professional football team and one
of four teams in the Northern Division of the National
Football Conference (NFC) of the National Football
League (NFL). The Bears play at Soldier Field in Chicago,
Illinois, and wear uniforms of navy blue, orange,
Chicago has collected nine NFL titles and ranks behind
only the Green Bay Packers in overall league crowns.
The Bears were the NFL’s most dominant team
during the 1930s and 1940s, earning six league titles.
George Halas, a cofounder of the NFL, collected 324
career victories during his 30 seasons as Chicago’s
head coach. He coached many future Hall of Fame members,
including quarterback Sid Luckman and running backs
Red Grange and Bronko Nagurski. Chicago made eight
trips to the playoffs from 1984 to 1994 and won the
Super Bowl in 1986. Running back Walter Payton, the
NFL’s all-time leading rusher with 16,726 yards,
produced ten 1,000-yard seasons in these 11 years.
The Bears franchise was founded as the Decatur Staleys
in 1920 by A. E. Staley of the Staley Starch Company.
He hired George Halas to organize, coach, and play
on the team. On September 17, 1920, Halas and representatives
from 11 other teams met in Canton, Ohio, and organized
the American Professional Football Association—the
precursor to the NFL. Halas assumed ownership of the
team in 1921 with his co-head coach, Dutch Sternaman.
They moved the team to Chicago’s Cubs Park (renamed
Wrigley Field in 1926). The club won the new league’s
first title in 1921, and a year later Halas and Sternaman
renamed the team the Bears.
Halas and Sternaman guided the Bears to eight consecutive
winning records from 1921 to 1928. Their many stars
included running backs Paddy Driscoll and Red Grange.
Chicago’s offensive line was anchored by center
George Trafton, who knocked four opposing linemen
out of commission in the first 12 plays during a 1920
A new era began in 1930 when another star running
back, Bronko Nagurski, joined the team. Chicago earned
back-to-back NFL titles in 1932 and 1933. Under Halas,
the team strung together an NFL-record 18 consecutive
victories from 1933 through 1934. The Bears went undefeated
in the 1934 regular season as rookie running back
Beattie Feathers became the first player ever to rush
for more than 1,000 yards in a single season. After
holding all 13 regular-season opponents to 16 or fewer
points, the Bears fell to the New York Giants in the
NFL Championship Game, 30-13.
From 1939 to 1950 quarterback Sid Luckman directed
Chicago to four league crowns. The Bears defeated
the New York Giants and the Washington Redskins twice
each in championship games. In 1940 the Bears’
new T-formation offense, which depended on the quarterback
to call plays and distribute the ball with passes,
pitches, and options, demolished Washington 73-0 in
what remains the most lopsided championship victory
in NFL history. In 1942 Chicago compiled its second
Chicago fell out of championship contention from
1951 to 1962, reaching the playoffs in only one season.
The Bears rebounded in 1963 when assistant coach George
Allen designed a zone defense that starred future
Hall of Fame members defensive end Doug Atkins, linebacker
Bill George, and tackle-guard Stan Jones. George,
originally a lineman, is credited with inventing the
position of middle linebacker, and Jones helped pioneer
the use of weights in training regimens. On offense,
Mike Ditka revolutionized the tight end position,
becoming one of the league’s best pass receivers.
The 1963 Bears posted a 9-3 win-loss record and defeated
the New York Giants 14-10 for the NFL title.
In 1965 the Bears drafted linebacker Dick Butkus
and running back Gale Sayers. Both were eventually
elected to the Hall of Fame, but Chicago failed to
reach the playoffs during their careers. Halas retired
as head coach in 1968, and a year later the franchise
posted its worst record ever at 1-13. The team moved
to Soldier Field in 1971, but the Bears posted losing
seasons from 1970 through 1975.
In 1977 the Bears made their first playoff appearance
in 14 years. Walter Payton won the second of five
consecutive NFC rushing titles, gaining a career-high
1,852 yards. Ditka returned to the club as head coach
in 1982 and drove the Bears to six Central Division
titles from 1984 to 1990. In 1985 the team achieved
a 15-1 win-loss record, shut out the Giants and the
Los Angeles Rams (now St. Louis Rams) in the playoffs,
and defeated the New England Patriots in the Super
Ditka’s Bears led the league in defense three
times during the 1980s, led by linebacker Mike Singletary
and ends Richard Dent and Dan Hampton. In addition
to Payton, Ditka’s offense also starred running
back Neal Anderson, wide receiver Willie Gault, and
quarterback Jim McMahon. Payton retired in 1987 with
16,726 yards and 110 rushing touchdowns.
Ditka coached Chicago to three more Central Division
titles before leaving the team in 1992. Former Dallas
Cowboys defensive coordinator Dave Wannstedt took
over as head coach and rebuilt the team during the
mid-1990s. In 1994 he guided the Bears to the playoffs,
where they upset the Minnesota Vikings before falling
to the San Francisco 49ers in the second round. The
Bears struggled during the late 1990s, and Wannstedt
was fired after the 1998 season.
The Bears also have the proud distinction of listing
the most long-time team members as Pro Football Hall
of Fame enshrinees. Such names as Red Grange, Bronko
Nagurski, Sid Luckman, Dick Butkus, Gale Sayers, Walter
Payton, Bulldog Turner, Danny Fortmann and Halas himself
are true legends not only of the Bears, but of pro
For their first 51 seasons in Chicago, the Bears
played in Wrigley Field, the famous home of the Chicago
Cubs baseball team. Since 1971, with the exception
of one season in 2002 during the stadium's renovation,
they have played in Soldier Field in downtown Chicago.
1986 Super Bowl XX Defeated New England Patriots,
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