Well, sports fans, last season was quite a disappointment for the Chicago Major League Baseball club’s big brothers, as they plodded their way to a 5-7-2 record, finishing a dismal 5th place in the NFL West despite nearly scoring that magical number of 17 points per game. They even lost twice to the rival Green Bay Packers, though the Chicago faithful can’t–and won’t–harbor too much ill will for that ignominy given the clear superiority of the eventual league champion led by the season MVP, Bart Starr.
Regardless, those two games that ended in a tie were exciting, as both matches saw over 300 passing yards combined by the two teams! Of course, the 49ers were able to account for that on their own in the 30-30 draw, but let’s not take anything away from our ursine heroes in their efforts down the road.
Going into next season, the key remains, despite the Bears being the pioneers and historical masters of the forward pass, the running back position. Games are won and lost in the trenches, and the Bears are fortunate to have the indestructible Kansas City Comet, Gale Sayers, running around and through opposing defenders.
If the Bears are going to crawl out of the cellar and light up the scoreboard like the skies of Hanoi, the way will be lit by the tail of the Kansas City Comet.
And it has to be because quarterback remains a massive question mark on this team. Sources around the league remain shocked that the team that invented the T-Formation and perfected the forward pass, the franchise that suited up Sid Luckman, Johnny Lujack, and George Blanda, doesn’t have a reliable field general under center. Rudy Bukich, former number one draft pick and he of the rocket arm who likes to throw it deep, started all 14 games last season, yet he may not be favored to win the starting job again over Jack Concannon or Larry Rakestraw. If one of these three proves not to be the answer, it is possible that the Bears will waste a once in a lifetime talent at running back, surely an unforgivable sin in Chicago and the NFL. Chicago fans are quick to recognize talent, and after the latest drought of talent under center, you can take it to the bank that they’ll never take a solid quarterback for granted. Concannon, of course, comes to the Bears via trade with the Eagles in exchange for the brash and outspoken tight end, Mike Ditka, who wore out his welcome with Papa Bear Halas and will likely not be welcomed back in Chicago as a result.
Of course, the heart and soul of the Monsters of the Midway remains the defense, led by middle linebacker Dick Butkus. I know a lot of Chicago faithful were skeptical–and downright pessimistic–of the oddly named Illini player when Papa Bear announced he would be replacing the legendary Bill George in the middle, but the clean shaven and mild mannered kid has excelled under pressure and looks to build on his solid start in professional sport. I just hope he doesn’t let his head get too big and try to go all Hollywood on us.
Which brings us to coaching. There’s no one better in the business than Papa Bear, though that Lombardi fellow has been doing a bang up job up north. Nonetheless, the man that founded this team is still the man to lead them to the promiseland. And with the brand new prospect of a championship battle between the NFL and the upstart–and frankly inferior–AFL, I think it’s near certain that Papa Bear Halas will be one of the first coaches to match his success bringing home NFL championships (8 to date) with whatever comes in modern football.
Looking at the schedule for this coming 1967 season, it’s not going to be easy to climb back atop the heap. Even with the newly devised “Central” division institutionalizing forced rivalries with the Lions and Vikings in addition to the true rivalry with Green Bay, the road to a division and then league title goes through Lambeau Field. Still having a hard time getting used to that new name. I hope it doesn’t catch on that a stadium can be around for 10 years and be called one thing and then just switch it up on you for no reason beyond someone dying or a local company helping out the coffers with a few hundred bucks or so. Anyway, the Bears have to at least split with Starr’s squad or it’s another long offseason of ice delivery for Butkus and his buddies when they could be enjoying a massive payment $15,000 each for winning the first ever “Super Bowl.” I know it’s popular to predict that the Bears will finish even steven at .500, but I think they have a real shot at going 8-6.
Now, if I may be so bold, I want to close with a personal opinion, and it may be an unpopular one, but this writer doesn’t care too much for the continued role of George Halas, Junior, aka “Mugs,” in the role of President and GM underneath his sagacious father’s wing. That nepotism rarely does well for competitive athletic success, and I think Mugs could learn a thing or two from his sister, Ginny, who knows it’s better to be seen and not heard as she quietly supports the family business from afar.
The good news is that no matter what, this storied franchise will do Chicago proud year after year, and would never do anything that would drive players and fans batty or even make a profanely named internet commenter preview a team like the Colts 50 years hence.