ESPN '30 for 30' on 'The ’85 Bears' more than just a memory exercise


ESPN '30 for 30' on 'The ’85 Bears' more than just a memory exercise

So often when we look back at a memorable time or event, we remember less an individual specific and more the people that made it special. Such is the case with the ESPN "30 for 30" documentary “The ’85 Bears” that airs Thursday night at 8 p.m.

In the end, it really was about the people, and “The ’85 Bears” does a thoroughly enjoyable and informative job of recalling all the epic football but does it all against the fabric of personality that was the really enduring part of it all.

The football parts are the obvious: A defense that in one six-game stretch scored 27 points while the six opposing offenses managed just 27 points – combined. What Jim McMahon accomplished on Thursday night in Minnesota. The successive hammerings of the New York Giants, Los Angeles Rams and New England Patriots through those playoffs.

[RELATED: The ’85 Bears - To get it all, look way beyond just the football]

In a way this is a significant part of the whole story of Buddy Ryan, the defensive coordinator who made the defense what it was, and that defense made the ’85 Bears what they were. If there is a surprise it lies in the level of emotion that Gary Fencik, Dan Hampton, Mike Singletary, Otis Wilson and others have to this day around Ryan. Consider this a mini spoiler-alert: Be sure and watch this all the way to the end. Trust me: Some of the guys reading “The Letter” is worth it.

Actually, there are two “The Letters.” And the story around the one the defense sent to George Halas before Mike Ditka was ever hired is a huge part of “The ’85 Bears” and that is the starting point for much of everything. The succession of players — Fencik, Hampton, Steve McMichael, Singletary, Wilson — reading parts of the actual letter, and their telling Halas’ reaction are nothing short of gripping.

So are the recollections of McMahon, Jimbo Covert, and about Walter Payton.

[MORE '85 BEARS: Super Bowl XX - 30 years later in a career covering the Bears]

John Madden told me during the writing of “The Rise and Fall of the Greatest Football Team in History” that the ’85 Bears were something right out of central casting. You really couldn’t make this bunch up, and that still comes through.

“The ’85 Bears” has plenty of history, but doesn’t wallow in the past, not even Ditka himself, the past being of course for cowards and losers. The reaction of the players to Ditka being hired is amusing. As is the reaction of McMichael, Singletary and the others to meeting Ryan.

From working on “The Rise and Self-Destruction of the Greatest Football Team in History” I know very well how deep the frustration still lies. Richard Dent telling me that Ditka was “the reason we won a Super Bowl and the reason we didn’t win three.” Hampton faulting Vince Tobin not for any defensive specific so much as for “turning attack dogs into guard dogs,” going from the woof’ers of ’85 to the more conservative guard dogs of ’86 and after, regardless of what some stats might say.

[SHOP: Buy a Walter Payton retro jersey]

But my daughter Jenny was 7-years-old when we were dealing with something sad, and this little kid says, “Dad, let’s not be sad for what we don’t have. Let’s be happy for what we do have.” From the mouths of babes.

Such is what “The ’85 Bears” are all about — not about the Super Bowls that “should” have been won, but the one that was, and all that went with it. This show is a chance to be happy about that.

Thomas Jones tweets plan to fix Bears' struggling offense

Thomas Jones tweets plan to fix Bears' struggling offense

It didn't take Thomas Jones long to become a fan-favorite during his tenure with the Bears, which spanned three seasons from 2004-2006.  Jones, who was the seventh overall pick in the 2000 NFL draft, resurrected his career in Chicago with back-to-back seasons over 1,200 rushing yards in 2005 and 2006.

So, when he speaks about how to improve the offense through the running game, coach Matt Nagy and the rest of Chicago's offensive staff should at least give it a listen.

Technically, Jones tweeted his plan to repair the Bears' struggling offense. But, the point remains.

"Nagy should learn the history of the Bears," Jones tweeted. "When they've won in the past it's because they ran the ball 1st! The fans & the makeup of the Bears is blue-collar. Hard-nosed, physical fundamental football. Limit turnovers, chew up the clock & let the defense get you the ball back.

"And where is their fullback? How can you run the ball in Chicago without a fullback in the game? When u have a fullback in the game the linebackers know they have to strap up their helmets. It's going to be a physical game & some of them don't want that. Can't make it easy for them."

To be fair, fullback is a nearly extinct position in the NFL. But Jones' suggestion runs deeper than that; the Bears need to at least appear like they want to run the ball in order to make the defense respect the threat of a running game.

"They NEVER try to establish the run which puts all of the pressure on a young QB who is still learning & trying to figure out who he's going to be in this league," Jones said. "The O line won't get into any rhythm if they don't run block enough & the defense can only hold up for so long."

According to Jones, Mitch Trubisky isn't ready to be the centerpiece of Chicago's offense just yet.

"Mitch is too young to have all of that pressure on him at once. He's talented but he's not ready yet. You have talented backs & an incredible defense. The O Line just needs to gain confidence run blocking in real-time. They have to establish a running game or things won't change."

Jones drew on some experience from the 2005 season when the Bears kept things pretty basic for then-rookie quarterback Kyle Orton, who enjoyed some moderate success that year. He also chimed in on the Trubisky vs. Patrick Mahomes and DeShaun Watson debate.

"Everyone matures at different times in the NFL. He's not those other guys so comparing him to them isn't going to help them win games right now. Establish a run game & take pressure off of him. Simplify the offense by giving him basic pass plays like we did with Orton in 05."

So how do the Bears get their offense back on a winning track? You guessed it: run the ball!

"It's not a old times sake thing. It's football. Every winning team establishes some sort of running game. Even if it's running back by committee or a running QB. The more tired a defense is from having to chase & tackle the more mental mistakes they're going to make.

"Which gives you a higher chance to win the game. When you run the ball you can take more chances throwing the ball downfield, running specialty plays such as screens and reverses. The defense can't just lay their ears back because they know they can get gashed at any time."

Head over to Jones' Twitter page to follow along with his complete Bears breakdown. It's pretty epic and is a great reminder of just how passionate he is about this team, this city, and winning.

Power Rankings Roundup: The free fall continues, and the NFC North is really good

Power Rankings Roundup: The free fall continues, and the NFC North is really good

The Bears' two-game losing streak is doing them no favors in The Web's power rankings, but even pessimistic reviews haven't totally sold them off yet (thanks defense!). What's a bit more daunting, however, is how quickly the other teams in the NFC North are rising. Some fun road games ahead huh?? Here's what they're saying: –– #15
Trubisky is clearly pressing as the pressure mounts on his shoulders. He's taken a big step back in his third season ... how long can Matt Nagy stand by the former No. 2 overall pick? –– #16
The Bears no longer resemble a playoff team -- not with Mitchell Trubisky at quarterback. Chicago's offense ranks 30th in total yards per game, 30th in yards per play, 28th in passing yards per game and 28th in rushing yards per game.

CBS Sports –– #16
Their offense is woeful at times and just won't allow them to win many games. The defense hasn't been as good the past two games either, which makes Sunday's game against the Chargers a must-win for both teams.

Sports Illustrated –– #17
Maybe Matt Nagy isn’t a cure-all. Maybe the defense is feeling the weight of carrying the offense and starting to crack (36 points to a backup QB with two weeks to prepare at home). Or maybe, just maybe, this team was never that good in the first place.

Bleacher Report –– #13
To say that the Bears are having issues offensively is an understatement. In Mitchell Trubisky's first game back from injury, he had fewer than 100 passing yards into the final quarter. Chicago had seven carries for 17 yards on the ground—for the game.

Chicago Tribune –– #18
Classes in Offense 202 need to be canceled. Nearly all the students are failing miserably. That’s reality when the Bears have yet to total 300 yards of offense in a single game. High-powered offenses will come close to that total in a good half.

Sporting News –– #19
When the Bears don't play good defense and can't run the ball, they're in trouble, because it puts games on the right arm of Mitchell Trubisky. They have a few schedule breaks coming up, but they need their third-year QB to play a lot better for that to matter.

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