The Chicago Bears franchise is one of the oldest football franchises remaining in the National Football League. The team that would become the Chicago Bears began in 1920 as the Decatur Staleys, but within two years they would have their name changed to the Chicago Bears. The owner of the franchise was George Halas, who would remain with the team for decades. He coached the team in four different stints, off and on from 1920 to 1967 (Carroll 46), yet he was instrumental in team decisions until his death in 1983. Before he died, Halas chose Mike Ditka to be the new head coach of the Bears in 1982 (Ditka 156). Ditka would be the coach to guide the Bears to the 1985 Super Bowl Championship. Although the Bears won seven NFL titles before the Super Bowl was created, 1985 was their only Super Bowl Championship to date. Halas coached them to six of the seven NFL titles (championships) they won in the forty years of the NFL before the Super Bowl (Carroll 45).
The NFL began in 1920, as stated earlier, in the form of the American Professional Football Association (Carroll 15). To make a long story short, pro football puttered around for thirty years, with really nothing significant. This is not to say there were no memorable players during that time, as Washington Redskins quarterback Sammy Baugh invented the forward pass and offensive end (wide receiver) Don Hutson continually set receiving records (Carroll 21). In 1946, a new professional football league emerged, the All-America Football Conference (AAFC). They coaxed some of the biggest college stars to join the AAFC by holding their college draft (event where teams choose amateur players for their rosters) before the NFL could in 1949 (Carroll 1451). The league was struggling, and this secret draft was their last-ditch effort to save the league (it failed, as the league became defunct following the 1949 season). In 1960, Pete Rozelle became NFL Commissioner, an office which he would hold until 1989. He would eventually be regarded as the most successful commissioner in pro sports history (Carroll 26). Also in 1960, another new league began, the American Football League (AFL). They would remain through the 1969 season, when they merged with the NFL to become the National Football Conference (NFC) and American Football Conference (AFC) inside the label of the NFL. In 1966, the two leagues decided on a championship game between the champions of each league. The AFL-NFL World Championship Game (which would later become Super Bowl I), featured the Green Bay Packers of the NFL defeating the AFL Champion Kansas City Chiefs (Carroll 28). In 1963, the Pro Football Hall of Fame opened in Canton, Ohio. Seventeen people were elected that year, headlined by quarterback Sammy Baugh, and longtime Bears coach and owner, George Halas. Each year, a panel picks a list of finalists that are eligible to be inducted. Modern players must have been retired for five years before they can be inducted, as well as coaches (Carroll 385). The next highlight of the league was in 1972, when the Miami Dolphins accumulated the first perfect season in NFL history. The Chicago Bears had twice achieved a perfect record in the regular season, only to lose in the playoffs (Carroll 45). The 1948 Cleveland Browns accumulated a perfect season, however, they were playing in the AAFC (Carroll 74). After the Dolphins perfect season, the NFL would move from dynasty to dynasty, beginning with the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 1970s. The Steelers won four Super Bowls in the late 1970s, before giving way to the next dynasty, the San Francisco 49ers (Carroll 92). The 49ers also won four Super Bowls in the 1980s, although their victories were mostly spread out through the decade (Carroll 64). In the early 1990s, the Dallas Cowboys became the team of the decade by winning Super Bowls in three of four years (Carroll 47). Currently there is no front-runner for the dynasty of this decade, although the St. Louis Rams have asserted themselves as a team that is capable of stepping into the role.