By Eduardo Monk Jr.
In Its 96 year history, the National Football League has seen dozens of dynasties, superhuman athletes, and teams that seem to bend reality for how good they are. But that begs the question-who is the greatest team ever? Some say the undefeated 1972 Miami Dolphins. Other strongly believe the 1999 St.Louis Rams. However, none of these teams had the offensive firepower, arrogance, and the brick wall of a defense as the 15-1 Super Bowl winning 1985 Chicago Bears did.
Firstly, take a look at the offense. One can argue this team was only good for their defense, and although not overly star-studded, they were led by highly underrated punk of a quarterback Jim McMahon and the obvious offensive focal point Walter Payton, this offense averaged a whopping 28.5 points per game.
Their passing game was strong (more on that later) but it was truly their running game that dominated. How could any offense struggle with Walter Payton in the backfield? Over that season, he dropped 1551 yards and 9 touchdowns without missing a single game with nearly 400 touches that season. He was their obvious workhorse, fighting for every yard and there is no one ever that can tackle him one on one. Mike Ditka once said, “You don’t have to coach Walter…just give him enough opportunities.” You just need to hand them the ball and watch him go. I don’t think I need to go into details on why their run game was stellar, they had Walter Payton is all you need to know.
Plus, our run game was awesomely updated by the genius idea from Ditka to put William “The Fridge” Perry in the backfield whenever they needed to just punch it in the end zone. He was a 300+ pound defensive tackle who ran for 7 yards and a pair of touchdowns over that year. He was a wrecking ball in the backfield and only Mike Ditka could have that kind of idea. Just another reason why they were the greatest, they found ways to bring a 300-pound defensive tackle into the offense. There is no team that could come up with an idea this original. Running backs are meant to be the quick guys, strong yet agile, but moving a slow mountain of a man in the backfield was unheard of at the time. That kind of creativity is unrealistically rare and gives the 85 Chicago Bears another layer of greatness-the creativity.
William “The Fridge” Perry was a perfect running back when a yard from the end zone for his wrecking ball style
Now they say the most important position in football is the quarterback, and the Bears did not have an elite quarterback. At all. They did not have a Joe Montana, not a Tom Brady, not a Brett Favre. They had the loud-mouthed, fiery, punky Jim McMahon. Only passing for 15 touchdowns and just over 2,000 yards, he wasn’t an elite guy. But he was a rebellious, loud-mouthed guy who was perfect for the Bears. Being a cocky team (more on that later), they needed a cocky guy to lead them, so enter Jim McMahon. The clashes he had with head coach Mike Ditka were explosive, and he was the flame igniting the jet fuel for this team. He was a great leader, as teammate Clay Brown once said: ” (When) Jim came in with so much confidence, it was like he had been there for ten years.” McMahon called audibles often and they worked well. His intelligence level isn’t to the point of Peyton Manning, but it’s pretty dang close. Head coach Mike Ditka once said he was the perfect quarterback for the Bears, and he could not have been more right on that statement. Despite lacking superhuman stats, he was a perfectly punky player leading a perfectly punky team.
Jim McMahon yelling on the sidelines at a defensive mistake
Now a look at the defense. You really don’t have to look past the 12.4 points a game against average, but I will anyway. There are zero questions that the 85 Bears had the greatest defense we have ever seen by far.
Firstly, you can’t have a good defense without great players. They had 3(!) Hall of Fame players on that defense with the middle linebacker “Samurai” Mike Singletary, and defensive ends Dan “Danimal” Hampton and “Colonel” Richard Dent. And that’s just the surface. Wilber Marshall and Otis Wilson completed the “Bermuda Triangle” linebacking corps, arguably the greatest of all time at linebacking, coming in at 5th all-time linebacker corps in 2007 by NFL Films. William “The Fridge” Perry was a media sensation but was one heck of a run stopper. The Bears were completely unstoppable when they wanted to hit the quarterback, with an unearthly 64 (yes you read that right) sacks over that season. The old football strategy is what they lived by, get in the backfield before the play develops and not much else will work for that offense. Defense wins championships, and the strong offensive team of the 85 Bears was made flat-out dominant beyond words when paired with this kind of defense
The linebackers, the heart of any defense and this held true with the Bears
Now defenses can have as many great players they want, but nothing will work without something special going on behind the scenes. And the Bear’s magic man was defensive coordinator Buddy Ryan. No man has ever been more of a genius on the defensive side of the ball, and he created the greatest defensive set of all time. He invented the defensive equivalent of Satan on this one, as the 46 defense was feared throughout all the land during that season. It essentially was to have 8 players in the box with 6 on the defensive line. It’s a risky defense, having little defense against the pass, but this created such an overload to where you can’t run up the middle. At all. Zero chance. It’s scientifically impossible. You can’t sweep the ball outside because of Otis Wilson and Wilber Marshall (Buddy knew his men, more on that later), both freakish athletes who could shake a leg. You can’t pass because you would get sacked hard by anyone on their unearthly defensive line or picked off because of your errant throws trying NOT to get sacked. Usually, when playing an aggressive defense you want to utilize a West Coast offense, since you can get 4-5 yards every play on quick passes on the soft pass defense before the defensive line got to you. But not against the Bears. Quarterbacks took the ball and were scrambling back as fast as their offensive line was being PUSHED back. It was truly hopeless to try any strategy against them.
Buddy Ryan was a complete genius on this defensive set for multiple reasons. One was obviously its effectiveness, but also back in that era, there were no great running quarterbacks. Buddy knew that, so he adapted his strategy to exploit that. On top of that, Buddy knew his players. He knew he had a bunch of physical guys dying to get into the backfield. He didn’t have ballhawks. He didn’t have skill guys. He had hard-hitting crazy punks. Buddy put them in a system designed for the kinds of players he had, and with the perfect combination of the skill of these guys, because they were not unskilled guys. But they were the more mad dog than ninja masters on defense. They attacked relentlessly without any conscience, not sinking back picking off passes with one hand and hurdling the offensive line. Buddy knew this, and he complimented it with the hyper-aggressive 46 defense. When you combine savage players with a savage system, it becomes a jungle when playing them.
However, the only loss the Bears suffered that year was due to the blind blitzing that works against anyone not named Dan Marino. But this defense gave FOUR shutouts over the course of that season and stopped the unstoppable on a weekly basis. This defense actually scored more points than their offense, just to put in perspective that this defense didn’t just stop, it went on the offensive too. Great teams can not have a stellar defense, no matter what sport, and when you have the greatest D of all time you need to be put in the greatest team conversation
Continuing, what else made this team so great was it’s coaches. And this wasn’t because they both got along so well, not that they always saw eye-eye and the exact opposite of working together as if they were brothers. Mike Ditka to Buddy Ryan was thermite to absolute zero. Complete opposites. But it worked. Very well. They had such a strong disliking to one another, but they had a deep mutual respect for one another. Ryan was a quieter guy while Ditka was well, Mike Ditka. The dude was jumping up and down and screaming at guys for going offsides. But both were blessed by the football gods with 2 of the most genius minds of all time. Some of their ideas on the football field were ludicrous but a degree of craziness no one is even brave enough to try and it worked out pretty well. From the hyper-aggressive 46 defense to the William Perry runningback strategy, the duo were mad geniuses that crafted this team in their own image. Which is scary. Their feud was also an integral part of the fire this team ran on. Their leaders got overly intense, so the players got overly intense. This team was crazy, made from madmen in which created the greatest team ever from that literal ton of craziness.
The Bears was among the most talented and well-led teams ever, but true talent isn’t the only thing that made this team great. They played with such an arrogance and fire that was on a whole another level than the rest of the NFL. They were complete monsters on the field. You could not keep up with them. Runningbacks would have the ball, dart for a hole as hard as possible and then get blown up from the side. They were completely unstoppable. You could tell just by watching them, they would be barking on the defensive line, hitting guys as humanly possible every single play, and were made of fire for how intense they were on the football field. There are very few players that have ever played with the fire the Bears played with every single play, and when a whole team plays like that, there’s no words to describe how dangerous it is just playing this team.
They lived up to the Monsters of the Midway nickname the Bears were dubbed. It was truly scary to play against them, and that kind of intimidation shows how great this team was. They were so good it was nightmarish. Bleacher Report Senior Writer Darrell Horwitz once said, “(this team) didn’t just beat you, they beat you up.” They were arguably the most violent team to ever play football. They flat-out killed players with some of their hits, and that’s one of the reasons why this defense was so good. They wanted to end every offensive player on the opposing team on every single play. They didn’t just want to win but break every offensive player in the process. This is a team straight from nightmares and just another reason why the 85 Bears are the greatest team ever
Not only that, they had such a flamboyance to them, every single player was almost a Hollywood star the way they reacted to the fame. They were always having fun on and off the field. They were all characters. This translated to a level of entertainment both during games and between them that the NFL has never seen. It’s a similar level of swag to how the Carolina Panthers are today but multiplied by 7. As like the 85 Bears, they are such an entertaining team to watch, always out there having fun, celebrating and they are all great guys. And despite the obvious collapse of the 15-1 Panthers, they had such a swagger. Come on, when you dab in your team photo, you know this team has got something going. This is nearly the same with the Bears, no team before them had such an arrogant swag like the Bears did. Not even today’s Panthers got to that level of swag.
The whole team were figurative rock stars and literal rap stars partying all the time and enjoying the game so openly as never seen before. If any proof is needed, I turn you to the Super Bowl Shuffle. Made a week before the playoffs, it was a music video from the players rapping about themselves, fun, and the doing the Super Bowl Shuffle, the little dance they invented. It was created for the sole reason because they felt like it. It was completely hilarious as 10 Bears players rapped on it with 6 others playing instruments and being the background dancers. It is classic Chicago Bears swagger. It peaked at number 41 on the US Billboard hot 100 and was even nominated for a Grammy for “Best Rhythm”. They are the only pro sports team to ever have a hit single. Even better, all money made from it was donated to charity. You can hit the link to listen to the song. There’s a level of looseness from the swag the Bears had that allowed them to play so fluidly, entertaining, and overall just dang good. But they were uptight enough to focus on the game but loose enough to enjoy the game and when one has fun, one plays better. And that’s why this team was the greatest, for this ideal balance of looseness and uptightness.
They even had a poster
There are a lot of great teams that you just can’t call great because they choke in the playoffs. The 85 Bears are not that kind of team. These guys WANT to be in the spotlight. Put them in a light as bright as the playoffs and they responded with 2(!) shutouts in 2 games over the NY Giants and LA Rams and then allowed 10 points to the Patriots, which a touchdown was scored in garbage time and a field goal came from a Walter Payton fumble and were 36 yards away. They averaged 3.333 points against in the playoff. The Bears nearly went unscored (some argue they really should have too) on in THE PLAYOFFS, where the games are literally designed to be intense, great games. It pits the best against the best, but the Bears didn’t crumble but (somehow) elevated their game when it mattered. Just another reason why these guys were the greatest of all time.
The best beat the best, and to be the best one needs to beat other contenders. Many argue that the 1972 Miami Dolphins were the greatest, not the 85 Bears. Some believe the 1999 Rams. To others, it’s the 1991 Washington Redskins.
The 72 Dolphins were the only undefeated team, through the regular season and the playoffs. Led by Don the Shula at head coach and with Bob Griese at quarterback, this team averaged 27.5 points per game and only allowed 12.2 points on defense. Impressive no doubt, but this team played in one of the weakest schedules ever. Their opponents combined their records for a sub .400 win percentage. Plus they only played in 14 games, unlike the 16 game season of the Bears. Plus they didn’t dominate in the playoffs against actually good teams, as they beat the Steelers by 4 points and only won by a touchdown in the Super Bowl over the ‘Skins. They were even considered the underdogs in that. While the 17-0 record is impressive and a historical feat yet to be repeated, the details of their prove the over relatedness of this squad. The Bears had that dominance that would have destroyed this team.
The 1999 Rams, the Greatest Show On Turf, led by late bloomer great Kurt Warner at QB and one of the GOAT running backs in Marshall Faulk, this was the greatest offense ever. They averaged nearly 33(!) points per game, and their defense wasn’t too shabby averaging 15.1 points per game. But this offense would get nowhere against this Bears defense. Rams left tackle great Orlando Pace would have his hands full with Richard Dent, and Marshall Faulk wouldn’t even muster 100 yards. The Rams D would have no ability to handle Walter Payton. The 99 Rams were among the greatest offenses ever if not the greatest, but defense wins championships. The Bears would shut Warner down and then drop 30 points on offense with McMahon and Payton tearing their defense up.
Now, the 1991 Skins. No doubt a great team, their offense was historically great, with QB Mark Rypien tossing 1,049 yards to Art Monk and 1,340 yards to Gary Clark. Going 14-2 with a tough schedule is highly impressive, and if you gave these guys the teams the 72 Dolphins played, they’d be killing each and every one 35-0. With a stifling defense that averaged 14.0 points against per game paired with an offense that ripped apart defenses with 30 points per game, their offense was better than the Bears and defensively close to the Bears. With a deadly passing attack of Monk and Clark, it would actually pose a bit of a problem for the Bears. But the Bears defense had 34 interceptions and Mark Rypien AVERAGED 1.18 picks a game for his career. While Clark and Monk would do damage, it wouldn’t be close to enough. But with a lack of a great run game to support the passing attack, they would be one dimensional against the Bears. Plus Mark Rypien was a subpar rushing quarterback, only averaging 1.3 yards during his career, so the onslaught of the Bears 46 Defense would harass him for the full 60 minutes. So when a team has little passing, zero rushing, and an above-par defense and attempts to play the Bears, there will be blood (or at least a lot of picks and sacks).
In conclusion, there’s zero doubt the Bears are the greatest. The relentless 46 Defense was unstoppable with a massively underrated offense that found ways to shred opponents. Not only that but the fire they played with put this team on another level saw and have yet to be seen. There is no team that can keep up with their intensity yet looseness and is only topped off with superhuman talent almost everywhere you look, and led by 2 football god blessed coaches, this team was only describable by one thing-The Monster of the Midway.