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CHICAGO – This January, the Bears are trying to snap a losing streak of sorts when it comes to hiring their on field leader for their franchise.

The last six choices for that position – Dave Wannstedt, Dick Jauron, Lovie Smith, Marc Trestman, John Fox, and Matt Nagy – have all tried and failed to win a Super Bowl title. Of that group, only Smith was able to take the Bears to a Super Bowl (2006 season) and the NFC Championship Game (2006, 2010).

In fact, the last time the team was able to hire a coach that would lead them to a Super Bowl was 40 years ago on Thursday.

On January 20, 1982, team founder George Halas hired Mike Ditka to be the Bears’ head coach to replace Neill Armstrong, who led the Bears to the playoffs in 1979 but had back-to-back losing seasons to follow.

At what was then the team’s Chicago downtown office at 55 East Jackson, Halas at a table with Ditka as they were surrounded by reporters and cameras for the introductory news conference.

“It’s an opportunity of a lifetime for me,” said Ditka that day to reporters. “It’s something I’ve looked forward to.”

Indeed Ditka, who was a Hall of Fame tight end that helped the team to the 1963 NFL Championship, had written to Halas years earlier to express his desire to someday coach the Bears. At the end of his playing career with the Cowboys in 1972, he joined Tom Landry’s staff in Dallas as a special teams coach and assistant head coach.

Ditka would take over a team with the best player in franchise history, Walter Payton, along with a promising defense coached by Buddy Ryan, who was retained by Halas as the coordinator of that unit.

In his first season, the Bears finished 3-6 in the strike-shortened season but improved to 8-8 in 1983, doing so after the death of Halas in October. In 1984 the team had their breakthrough, winning the NFC Central Division and an NFC Divisional Playoff game in Washington, the team’s first postseason victory since 1963.

That run ended with a shutout loss in the NFC Championship to the 49ers, but it would serve as inspiration for arguably the most celebrated seasons in the history of Chicago professional sports.

With Payton, the game “46” defense, the charismatic Ditka, and Ryan, the Bears went 15-1 and then blew through the NFC playoffs with shutout wins over the Giants (21-0) and the Rams (24-0) at Soldier Field. Super Bowl XX was no contest as the “Monsters of the Midway” crushes the Patriots 46-10 for the championship.

That would be the high point of the Ditka era, and while the team made the playoffs five of the next six years, they’d only appear in the NFC Championship Game in January 1989. After a 5-11 1992 season, Ditka was fired after 11 seasons with a 106-62 overall record.

Larry Hawley had the anniversary of the start of the Ditka era on this edition of “Throwback Thursday” on WGN News Now, and you can watch it in the video above.