The Chicago Bears are one of, if not the most storied franchise in the NFL. With 9 World Championships, 14 Championship Game appearances, 27 playoff berths, 24 Division Championships, nearly 800 wins and over a century’s worth of history, it can be difficult to choose one favorite team.
Do you go with the personification of swag that was the ‘85 Bears? How about the ‘84 Bears, who were arguably even better before Jim McMahon was injured? Maybe the ‘63 Bears who represent the last of Pappa Bear Halas’ 5 NFL Championships as a coach? How about the ‘46 Bears who topped the League with all-time greats like Sid Luckman, George McAfee, Ed Sprinkle, Joe Stydahar and Bulldog Turner?
Perhaps something more recent, such as the 2006 Bears who returned to the Super Bowl with their dominant defense, surprisingly effective offense, and otherworldly special teams? The 2010 Bears who were perhaps a Jay Cutler injury away from another Super Bowl berth? The 2018 Bears who rode Vic Fangio’s dominant defense until “the incident”?
All great choices. Speaking for myself though, I’m going a different direction. I’m going with a team that got me truly excited about the Bears for the first time. A team that renewed my hope after growing up watching a decade of mediocrity and failure. The first Bears team that performed well while I was old enough to understand why. My favorite team of all time, is that unlikeliest of Bears squads:
The 2001 Chicago Bears
That season started off like so many others in my lifetime to that point, with an opening day loss. Everyone sighed a collective “Here we go again”, after 5 straight losing seasons and over a decade of mismanagement that had dismantled the potential dynasty that could have spawned from the great Bears teams of the 1980s.
Losing 6-17 to the defending Super Bowl Champion Ravens, with their entire scoring output coming from the leg of Paul Edinger, about the only noteworthy thing about that game (other than a solid outing by the defense) was that it marked Troy Aikman’s first regular season game in the booth after a storied NFL career. In fact, this week 1 team bore little resemblance, at least offensively, to what the 2001 Bears would be remembered as. Future ex-con Shane Matthews was the starting quarterback (throwing for just 138 yards and 2 interceptions), James Allen the starting half-back (rushing 21 times for 43 yards, a 2.05 ypc average), and Marcus Robinson was the #1 receiver (though he didn’t catch a ball in the game). Things, however, were about to change.
Week 2 brought the division rival Vikings to town. The game started not all that differently to the week prior, with Shane Matthews underwhelming to the tune of 3 for 7 for just 26 yards in the 1st quarter, while the defense kept things close. Then, in the 2nd quarter, it happened. Matthews went down with a rib injury, and in came Jim Miller… some say John Lennon’s “Working Class Hero” could be heard echoing through the bowels of pre-renovation Soldier Field, while others insist it was Green Day’s rendition. The truth, however, may be lost to time.
What’s certain though, is this marked the first major turning point in the season. While Miller was never a prolific passer, he did seem to inspire those around him. The team just played better when he was in the game. Miller would finish the game with 204 yards, including a pair of 4th quarter touchdowns to Marcus Robinson and Marty Booker, both of whom ended the game with over 90 receiving yards a piece, carrying the Bears to a 17-10 comeback victory.
This would spark a 6 game winning streak that would see the emergence of rookie running back Anthony “A-Train” Thomas (who would go on to win Offensive Rookie of the Year), an unfortunate injury to Marcus Robinson, Multiple temporary QB swaps due to injury, and back-to-back overtime wins against the 49ers and Browns, both off the back of seemingly impossible Mike Brown pick-sixes. The pure elation and excitement I had while watching these plays live, is seared into my brain right next to the final out in Game 7 of the 2016 World Series, Devin Hester’s opening kick-off return in Superbowl XLI, and my first touchdown catch in JFL (Central Illinois’ version of Pop Warner). Pure sports euphoria.
This run set the stage for a team that would go 13-3, win the NFC Central in it’s last year of existence (god, I feel old), and gave a teenage me his first semi-adult look at a Bears team in the play-offs. It felt like a team that was just, meant to be. That season watching Jim Miller, Marty Booker (who went on to catch 100 balls for over 1,000 yards), Anthony Thomas, Dez White, Big Cat Williams, Olin Kreutz, Alfonso Boone, Keith Traylor, Ted Washington, Rosie Colvin, Brian Urlacher, Jerry Azumah, R.W. McQuarters, Tony Parrish, and the inimitable Mike Brown, was an oasis in a desert of forgettable seasons. It was my first taste of good Bears football as a serious and somewhat knowledgeable football fan.
There have been better teams in my lifetime, but none that I appreciated more than the 2001 Bears. They were the scrappy under-dogs that epitomized nearly every 80’s and 90’s sports movie. A blue collar team that you could never count out, and you underestimated at your own peril. The Bears of the 90’s and early 2000’s were largely forgettable, and often disappointing. But in the early aughts, for one brief shining moment, the stars aligned, and Bears fans got to watch winning football again. I for one, will never forget it.
But enough about me, what’s YOUR Favorite Bears Team of All-Time? Share it with us in the comments, and be sure to include why it’s your favorite. You don’t have to scribble out 1,000 words of nostalgic indulgence like I did, but at least a blurb would help everyone get to know you a little better, and that’s what this series is all about.
Bear Down, everyone!
Will Robinson II is a freelance graphic artist/content creator, an avid Bears fan and apparently speaks in the third person. You can follow him on Twitter @WhiskeyRanger29, and check him out on Youtube at WhiskeyRanger.