ROSEMONT – The timing was perfect for the franchise to celebrate their most important anniversary to date.
Just as the Bears were getting ready to honor their 100th anniversary, the team emerged from an eight-year hibernation of success, qualifying for the playoffs for the first time since 2010. A 12-win season, coupled with new talent along with a fresh atmosphere created by Matt Nagy, the team has reignited the enthusiasm in a passionate fanbase.
So the gathering of some of the best players in franchise history at the Rosemont Convention Center came at a good time. These athletes were able to not only meet with fans but also the players that make up the latest era of the Bears.
Did they have some words of encouragement? Of course.
“There’s no reason why we can’t or why we shouldn’t be in the run all the time,” said Hall of Fame linebacker Dick Butkus on Friday. “I know you lose draft choices or whatever and when you finish first all the time.
“How can you explain New England being up there all the time, all these years? It’s not right. The Bears should be the ones.”
Just like they were back in the era of Mike Ditka, especially in the mid-to-late 1980s when they won five-straight NFC Central Division titles, reached the NFC Championship three times, and captured the Super Bowl XX title.
Ditka had a chance to meet with current head coach Matt Nagy during the event and shared his enthusiasm for what’s going on.
“I think what Matt’s doing is right. I think they’re coming back, I really do. I think they’re back,” said Ditka.
So any advice?
“The thing you’ve got to realize in this league, you’ve got to take care of your division,” said Ditka. “That’s Green Bay, Detroit, and Minnesota. You’ve got to take care of those three teams. If you can come out of your division with a good record, a winning record, plus three games, you’re in good shape.”
This Bears’ team will do so with some similarities to that 1985 team that continues to live in franchise lore. One big similarity is the defense, especially Khalil Mack, whose ability to pressure the quarterback harkens back to the “46” scheme that won the Bears’ last championship.
Like Mack, Richard Dent created a lot of havoc off the edge, and told the linebacker this weekend that the key for his continued success is the evolution of his game.
“Mack is approaching four or five years of nasty. You know, there is a lot of film out there, so people now see things where you have to adjust and bring a new wrinkle to your game, because ‘Father Time’ is going to catch up,” said Dent on his advice to Mack. “So when ‘Father Time’ catches up, you’ve got to have another wrinkle – and that wrinkle has to take place between four and six years.”
Yet the Bears’ offense is quite a bit different than any other era in franchise history. In fact, Jim McMahon told fans at a panel with quarterback Mitchell Trubisky on Saturday that he wished he could have played in Nagy’s system.
Steve McMichael, who was apart of the middle of that great 1985 defense, gave some advice to the coach about how to use that offense in a new era of the NFL.
“I told Coach Nagy, I know the league rules say you can’t make them hit anymore, but you can run the (expletive) out of them,” said McMichael. “Because the team that gets tired first loses the game. Now, who’s in supreme shape wins the game.”
The Bears have been doing more of that lately, bringing out the best in their fans along with the legends that watch on proudly.