What constitutes “greatest”?
It means what I want it to mean.
Oh, the Steelers were horrible pre-merger, and I know it. In fact, it’s because they were horrible that they had such an amazing run in the 1970s (see, Lions fans, it is possible to draft well). They also had the good fortune to shift to the AFC and play the former AFL teams, which while not bad were certainly not the class of the league by any means.
I recognize things for what they are, but that still doesn’t change the fact that the Steelers were the team of the decade in the 1970s, played at a high level for the next two less-successful decades, and are clearly one of the best teams of this decade. That’s 40 years of good performance, if not always outright excellence.
Define long ago. The Bears were nearly the equal of the 49ers in the 80s with a regular season winning percentage of .685 between 1983 and 1991. The 5 year span between '84 and '88 is the third best all time, behind the Colts and Pats of the 2000s. How exactly can you equate what the Bears did over their entire existence with the 49ers when they were nearly equal in the same time span that supposedly gives the 49ers their only cred.
The Bears were great in the 30s and 40s, the equal of the Packers and better than anyone else. The Packers were great under Lombardi in the 60s but only better than the Bears in the 80s by virtue of Championships won against a much, much smaller league with less competition. One could make a case that the Bears, 49ers and Redskins of the 80s were more impressive and dominant than the Packers were in the 60s. If not for the criminal Charles Martin the Bears would probably be widely considered the team of the 80s.
Long story short, if the Steelers and Packers get to be discussed as candidates while their dismal stretches are ignored, then the Bears are every bit their equal. Frankly the Bears are light years ahead of the Steelers if you consider their entire body of work.
The Bears have a winning record against every team they’ve faced more than 20 times with the exception of the Colts (they are 12-12 versus the Falcons) including every team mentioned here except the Cowboys.
Hey, we agree on something. Charles Martin was a thug, a cheap shot artist, a criminal, and a disgrace to the Packer uniform.
But Ditka is the main reason the Bears failed to establish the dynasty, not Charles Martin. Once he lost Buddy Ryan, it took him awhile, but he was able to dissolve a potential dynasty team into a bunch of also rans in a few short years.
Indeed. That was the era in which I was ashamed to be a Packer fan. With guys like Martin, Ken Stills, Mossy Cade, and Chuck Cecil, it was clear that Forrest Gregg didn’t understand the difference between “tough player” and “thug”.
<laughing> To put the name of the Bears in the same sentence with the Niners of the 80s/90s is laughable. To be considered GREAT, you actually have to, you know, win things. Like more than one Super Bowl.
The Bears had one short stint as kings of the hill, relatively speaking (the 30s and 40s). They’ve been mostly mediocre the rest of the time, and when not mediocre, were less accomplished than other teams of the time (viz Packers in the 60s, Niners in the 80s). They are also rans, indeed, almost the very definition of also rans.
It wasn’t Ditka that ended the Bears in the 80s, it was the New York Football Giants.
I think the Steelers have to be automatically disqualified because of their 40 years of ineptitude during an era when this thread seems to agree it was much easier to win championships. (That’s why Superbowls are valued more.)
Also, don’t mention free agency as something to make the Steelers more impressive since the vast majority of their greatness was well before free agency. Not that the Steelers aren’t great now, but remove the 70s altogether and how much history of greatness do they have? Even with the 70s and the quirk of assimilation that allowed them to feast on scrubs, their history of ineptitude is at least half if not most of their history.
EDIT: Don’t get me wrong, the Steelers are a great franchise, absolutely top 3. I’d put the Packers on top, though, maybe Steelers #2 Cowboys #3, and then let the Bears, Giants and 49ers duke it out for the four spot.
I put a lot of stock in teams winning championships in different eras. The 49ers Superbowls all felt like the same era. That’s what makes the Steelers separate runs in the 70s and 00s so impressive to me.
Depends how you define dynasty. You can make a very good case that the Bears would have won 3 Super Bowls if not for season ending injuries to McMahon in '84 and '86, those defenses were actually better those two years than '85 and Walter was better in '84 than '85.
Ditka and Ryan were together for 3 seasons and the Bears were the winningest team in a 5 year span in the history of the league from '84-'88. It’s since surpassed, but that alone is enough to qualify as a dynasty in my book. If not for injuries to McMahon the Bears certainly would have been favorites and had home field throughout the '84 and '86 playoffs making 3 Super Bowl titles very possible, even likely. Injuries to McMahon were the problem.
I think it’s unfair to entirely blame Ditka for Ryan’s departure. How many DCs put together Super Bowl winning defenses, let alone ones in the GOAT discussion, and don’t end up leaving for HC jobs? Did Coughlin drive off Spagnulo? Did Johnson drive off Wannstedt? When you win SBs your coaches tend to get poached, that’s why Ryan left. Everything else is just theater.
I know you’re just being snarky but what your saying is nonsense. Certainly the Bears needed to win more SBs to claim “team of the 80’s” honors, but their greatness wasn’t short by any stretch in the 30’s and 40’s. Did you miss the part where they have the second most titles of any franchise? Their greatness in the 80’s was not a one-hit wonder. They were the best team in the NFL when their QB wasn’t in pieces, and even with him in the hospital by midseason they still won 12 and 14 games and hosted playoff games.
It was actually the Redskins. They knocked us off in consecutive seasons in Soldier Field. The Bears and Redskins have a sneaky great NFL rivalry that goes way back.
Based on that statement how can you really say that the 49ers are on par with the Bears and Giants who each have multiple runs of greatness?
That’s a fair point. I can’t, really.
EDIT: And you’re kidding yourself if you think the Bears would have ever had a shot at a title in 86 if not for injuries or whatever. The Giants would have crushed them.
If it’s any team outside of the Bears that ruined the Bears it was the Redskins, who beat the Bears at Soldier Field 27-13 in 1986, and then again 21-17, again in Soldier Field, in 1987.
I stand corrected.
I respectfully disagree. Ditka drove an outstanding team into mediocrity, not McMahon’s shoulder.
It certainly wasn’t all his fault, but he wasn’t half the coach that Ryan was. When the Bears won the Super Bowl, in great part because of their dominant defense, the players put BOTH Ditka and Ryan on their shoulders because they knew who was really responsible for their success, Ryan. Which grated on the egomanical Ditka’s nerves, so much so that he said he was “estatic” when Ryan left. And then, well we know how it went after Ryan left.
Don’t get me wrong, though. I actually enjoyed watching a dominant team like the Bears fail to win the big games, just like watching the Pats lose to the Giants. And I laughed my ass off when New Orleans gave him the reins to ruin … errr… run their team too.
The Bears during the period of 1984 to 1990, when they were first in the division every year except one, won exactly one Super Bowl. They made two other conference finals, losing to the aforementioned 49ers both times. They lost in the divisional playoffs three times, twice to the Redskins, once to the Gints. While they managed a nice run of good looking records, they did so against mostly mediocre opposition in many cases, having the benefit of a run of years in which their four divisional rivals played like crap, which, in my opinion, both now, and at the time, resulted in many over-estimating their abilities. I was never surprised to watch them get knocked out of the playoffs for that reason.
Other than this admittedly nice, but less than stellar run (it certainly pales in comparison to the Niners of 1981 to 1998, who won five Super Bowls, lost none, and lost five other conference championship games), the Bears have had exactly one period of excellence. It was, to be fair, a very good period of excellence. It produced 6 championships in the course of 15 seasons, which isn’t a bad run. Throw in their “stolen” championship in 1921, and they did well in the early years, better than the Packers. But 15 years does not a “greatest” franchise make, else the Niners would be making a claim here as well. They are also rans. And it isn’t the result of some sort of fluky situation; it’s because they simply weren’t as good as they thought they were in the 80s, and haven’t been that good before or since. <shrug>
And they shouldn’t be all that defensive about it. If we take 32 teams, and we throw out all the teams added after 1970 (Seahawks, Buccaneers, Ravens, Jags, Panthers, Texans) on the basis that they simply haven’t had enough time to be the overall greatest franchise, that’s 26 teams to choose from. Put the Packers, the Steelers and the Cowboys in the top 3, and that leaves the Niners, the Bears and maybe the Browns to chew over the bones that are #4-6 (and I’d put the Bears ahead of the Niners; I never meant that I felt they were equal, just both also-rans), that leaves them well-ahead of a lot of franchises, a few of which have had their own, well-respected runs on history (Giants, Dolphins, Vikings, Raiders, Redskins, etc.).
I agree with you on Ryan and Ditka, but you’re misreading what I’m saying. In the short time that Ditka and Ryan were together they made such magic that the Bears ought to have been considered a dynasty as it was. In that short time if McMahon were healthy they’d have won enough SBs to be a dynasty even with Ryan bailing and Ditka eventually killing them.
Well, it’s tricky. Both Ryan and Ditka were deeply flawed coaches and they complimented each other really well in the locker room and film room, they just hated each other. Ryan was clearly a much, much better schemer and play caller than Ditka, that’s no doubt. Ditka however was a much better manager, motivator and judge of talent. Ditka doesn’t get nearly enough credit for being a solid scout and teacher. Guys Ditka drafted and schooled buoyed Wanny for half a decade.
And you’re insane if you think Ryan was any less of an egomaniac than Ditka. Of the two I’d say he was much, much worse and Ditka is a massive egomaniac.
Remember, Ryan was the DC for a full 5 years before Ditka arrived and the Bears were good but not great. The strike screwed things up, but the Bears didn’t become a great team until Ditka showed up and tied everything together and hired good assistants. It’d be tough to argue that Ryan was a better HC in Philly than Ditka was in Chicago and Philly had some players on defense.
I find it hard to get too broken up when you’re laughing at a dominant team losing with the immortal Steve Fuller and rookie Doug Flutie (with 1 game under his belt) starting at QB in the playoffs.
That was really all I was saying. I never implied that the Bears were as good as the Niners in the 80s. Just that they were in the ballpark. Being in the ballpark with the great NFC teams of the 80’s is an important notch in their belt in the discussion of the OP. They were better than people remember in seasons other than 1985, They weren’t a one-hit wonder like some people presume who weren’t paying attention back then, that era was absolutely loaded in the NFC and the Bears pretty much always beat the 49ers, Giants and Redskins in the regular season which made the losses behind backup QBs in the playoffs all the more frustrating.
I’m behind the Packers and Cowboys picks. The 40 years of suck by the Steelers really makes it hard for me to put them ahead of the Bears, Giants and Redskins who had great stretches in the early years of the league and were rarely terrible for extended periods of time. The Steelers and 49ers are pretty similar in those terms where their performances in the Super Bowl era puts them at the very top of this list of teams without any pre-Super Bowl credentials.
I was skeptical of the claim that the Bears regularly beat the Giants in the regular season during the 80s so I went to profootballreference to check it out.
Turns out the Bears and Giants played exactly once during the regular season from the 1980 to 1989 season. The Bears did win, but it was week 1 during the strike year of 1987, so neither team was represented.
How fucked up is that? How could two such storied franchises who were both at the top of their game during that decade only meet once? Big fan of the 2002 realignment, as those schedules of old blew chunks. The poster child for that effect was of course Marino and Elway not playing each other.
During that same stretch the Bears and Giants met only once during the postseason, and of course that was the 21-0 shutout the Bears hung on Big Blue in 85. They did meet again in the 1990 playoffs, (but not in the regular season,) where the Giants got a measure of revenge by stomping on the Bears 31-3. Mike Tomczak was the QB for the Bears that day. I don’t know how you feel about him but he was no definitely no scrub thrust into the spotlight after a starter went down.
Huh? The strike games were weeks 4-6 of that season. The Giants got whupped in week 1.
That scheduling quirk is bizarre. Even moreso because the Bears played the 49ers, Eagles, Redskins and Cowboys a whole bunch of times.
Tomczak actually was a scrub that year. Harbaugh had won the starting gig in the preseason and managed a 82 QB rating in his first year as a starter before getting hurt in week 15. No team had more QBs injured before playoff games than the Bears.
It makes Ditka’s recent rant about resting players at the end of the season somewhat instructive.
Oops, my bad. Yeah, Giants got whupped fair and square.
The craziest thing I noticed when going through the Giants’ schedules of the 80s was that in 1981 the Giants played the Packers twice during the regular season. That was before my time. I wonder how the heck that happens, playing a non-divisional opponent twice during a regular season.
Dude, we’re talking about 1990. Are you really trying to sell me on the trials and tribulations of having to go to a backup quarterback? At least Tomczak already had 31 career starts for the Bears under his belt going into that game. Jeff Hostetler had a grand total of four.