The time Dick Butkus nearly fought George Halas, and the five best things we heard at Friday's Bears100 celebration

The time Dick Butkus nearly fought George Halas, and the five best things we heard at Friday's Bears100 celebration

The opening festivities at the Bears100 Celebration Weekend Friday night didn’t disappoint, with so many franchise legends congregating with legions of fans at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont. Media members had a chance to speak with those legends, from Dick Butkus to Mike Ditka to Devin Hester and everywhere in between, Friday evening. Below is a sampling of some of the best quotes and stories we heard:

1. The time Dick Butkus nearly got in a fight with George Halas

Halas retired from coaching in 1967, four years after winning his last NFL championship and two years into the Super Bowl era. His successor didn’t have much success: Jim Dooley went 20-36 in his four years, and became the first Bears coach to ever be fired following the 1971 season. 

Following Dooley’s firing, Butkus remembers going in to the Bears’ office to get his mail and stopping by to see Halas. By that time, Butkus had established himself as one of the best defensive players in NFL history. The conversation between the team’s founder and star linebacker was frank, as Butkus remembered it playing out Friday:

“I’m asking him, ‘who’s going to be the new coach?’ And he says ‘ah, well, you’ll know,'" Butkus said. "And I said, ‘you know something, coach, I really don’t think you want to win here.’”

“And he got up and I thought he was going to take a poke at me. ‘What’d you say?’ (I said) ‘I don’t think you wanna win here.’ 

“I says, ‘who’s in the Super Bowl?’ He said, ‘oh Dallas and Miami’ or something. And I said, ‘two god damn expansion teams, when we should be there.’ And he sat down, and that was the end of the conversation.”

Abe Gibron was hired to replace Dooley, and Gibron’s .274 winning percentage in three seasons still stands as the worst in franchise history (John Fox narrowly avoided that ignominious designation, finishing his forgettable three years with a .292 winning percentage). Jack Pardee and Neill Armstrong both got the Bears back to the playoffs, but it wasn’t until Mike Ditka was hired in 1982 did the Bears return to their championship glory. 

Butkus’ point, though, still resonates today: Why has a franchise as historic and successful as the Bears only won one Super Bowl?

“There’s no reason why we can’t or shouldn’t be in the run all the time,” Butkus said. “I know you lose draft choices or whatever when you finish first all the time but how can you explain New England being up there all these years? That’s not right. The Bears should be the ones.”

The good news: Butkus saw an awfully positive sign of things changing in the Bears’ favor over 2018’s Labor Day weekend. 

“They always had a reputation about their pay,” Butkus said. “But I’m glad to see that they came out and paid some money for (Khalil) Mack and got him, and look what he did. It’s unbelievable what he did. He turned the whole thing around. They maybe don’t want to say that, but he did. He’s just got everybody by the way he plays.”  

2. Gray Matters

We’ll go for a shorter quote here: Jay Hilgenberg, the two-time All-Pro, six-time Pro Bowl and Super Bowl winning center, on current Bears coach Matt Nagy:

“I said it one time, when they dissect Matt Nagy’s brain it’s going to be the shape of a football,” Hilgenberg said. “It’s amazing what he comes up with.”

3. Mission No. 1

Mike Ditka grew up in Pittsburgh not knowing much about the Bears’ rivalry with the Green Bay Packers, which by the time he was drafted in 1961 had been building for four decades. So when he got to Chicago, Halas sat him down with an important message. 

“I can remember when I first came to the Bears, and I’m from Pittsburgh so I didn’t know a whole heck of a lot about it, so one thing Mr. Halas said — we sat down, we’re talking — the most important thing, he said: We’ve gotta beat the Packers twice,” Ditka said. “The most important — we’ve gotta beat the Packers twice. That’s what he said to me. I wasn’t sure who the Packers were.”

Twenty years later, the Bears brought Ditka back as a head coach. He went 15-5 against the Packers, which included an eight-game winning streak from 1985 to 1988. So for Ditka, that the Bears will begin their 100th season against the Packers, in the NFL’s 100th season, is only fitting. 

“That’s the way it should be,” Ditka said. “Mr. Halas and coach (Vince) Lombardi would like it that way. … It’s one of the great rivalries in the history of the game.”

4. How Gary Fencik wound up with season tickets for life

Fencik lived out every Chicagoland football player’s dream by winning a Super Bowl with the 1985 Bears. So when it was time for him to negotiate his final contract with the team, he wanted a clause inserted into it: A guarantee of four season tickets. 

“I said look, I’m from Chicago, I need season tickets,” Fencik said. “And they go, we can’t give you what we don’t have. We don’t have any tickets to give you.”

Instead, Fencik settled on a clause that wound up getting him those tickets a decade and a half later. 

“So I put it in my contract, in perpetuity, if the Bears ever built a new stadium I would have the option to buy four tickets between the 40 yard line and the middle of the first section,” Fencik said. “I’m on the 42-yard line, row nine, in the middle of the first section.”

As a season ticket holding fan, Fencik said this about the current Bears that, surely, plenty of other season tickets holders have felt too: “What you feel as a fan is that there is something special.”

5. Thinking Offense

A couple of quick bites from 1985 Super Bowl winners on the current Bears’ offense:

Jim McMahon: “He’s got a great offense to play in. From the little bit I’ve seen, that’s the kind of offense I would like to play in.”

Ditka: “I like what the Bears have. They can run the ball, they play very good defense, I love the quarterback. There’s a lot of good things there.”

For more: We'll have plenty more to come from Friday's Orange Carpet event, including three Hall of Famer's thoughts on Khalil Mack and Devin Hester's thought about joining those Hall of Famers in Canton. 

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The Bears have the top-ranked defense in Madden 20, plus other takeaways from today's ratings reveal

USA Today

The Bears have the top-ranked defense in Madden 20, plus other takeaways from today's ratings reveal

A boatload of Madden ratings dropped on Monday, and with it, more content than you could shake a stick at. 

The Bears, predictably, got a fair bit of love on the defensive side of the ball and were largely ignored on offense. 

No Fangio, No Problem

For a wide variety of reasons, it's trendy to point out that the Bears' defense is headed for some regression this season. Madden disagrees, though, rating the Bears defense (88) as the best in football. They did also give the Houston Texans' defense an 88 as well, but never let the details get in the way of a good story. Here's what they said: 

For Chicago, the unit is fronted by 99 Club member, LOLB Khalil Mack. FS Eddie Jackson (91 OVR) is a Superstar X-Factor like his teammate, Mack. That’s a scary combination for any opposing quarterback. Toss in CB Kyle Fuller (89 OVR) and you can see why this Bears unit should roar out of the gate in Madden 20. 

Year 2 Mitch Doesn't Get Any Love 

Trubisky was rated as the 24th best QB, which is already being debated passionately, regardless of how debatable it actually is. What's lowkey worse is that Chase Daniel, the 9-year NFL vet, got the same rating as Dax Raymond, the undrafted free agent. 

May We Remind You That Khalil Mack Is A Terrific Football Player 

Earlier in the month, Mack was revealed as one of the 4 players who received the infamous 99 rating. That means he's also the top-ranked LOLB, two points ahead of Denver's Von Miller and 16 points ahead of any NFC North LOLB. Enjoy those draft picks, Oakland! 

Akiem Hicks Gets Snubbed And Frankly We've Just About Had It 

Hicks was ranked as the 19th-best defensive lineman, which is just objectively untrue. In some alternate universe, there may be 18 better defensive linemen than Akiem Hicks, but that is just simply inaccurate in this one. He was heated about his rating, and we cannot blame him. 

The Lowest Ranked Bears Player Was ... 

Patrick Scales. Sorry Patrick Scales.

Akiem Hicks not happy with Madden 20 ratings: ‘Tell them to come see me’

Akiem Hicks not happy with Madden 20 ratings: ‘Tell them to come see me’

EA Sports released the full Madden 20 player ratings for every team in the NFL, and not everyone was happy with the numbers they received.

The Bears shared a video of backup quarterback Chase Daniel revealing ratings to his teammates, and defensive lineman Akiem Hicks seemed the most upset of the group.

“Bring some of the scouts out here doing the madden ratings,” Hicks said. “Tell them to come see me.”

Hicks received an overall rating of 87, tied for fourth-highest on the team and 10th-highest among defensive ends.

He has the same rating as Green Bay Packers DE Mike Daniels and Detroit Lions DE Trey Flowers.

In the video, running back Tarik Cohen was disappointed with his 92 speed, which is tied for third-fastest on the team behind wide receivers Taylor Gabriel and Emanuel Hall.

Cohen does lead the Bears with 97 agility and 92 elusiveness, but he thought his throwing power stat should be higher than 51 after his two career passing touchdowns.