'84 49ers and '85 Bears: Best of the 80s Bull Market Era. Who's Better?

Tim McGheeCorrespondent IIIJune 30, 2010

Many NFL fans, when encouraged, will immediately rank the 1985 Chicago Bears with its 18-1 record as the best team in the XLV years of the Super Bowl super era.  These '85 Bears could outscore any team, but it was their in-your-face-and-in-your-place 46 defense that was the final arbiter.

I don't think it's that simple.  For every season and its inevitable coronation of the '85 Bears as The Best Ever, there are sportswriters and football talking heads who cannot move beyond the matter of that singular blemish on the record.

Look at it this way.  As an advocate for the "I think the undefeated 1972 Miami Dolphins carry a whiff of bogus" crowd, I can state that the '72 Dolphins fans in their simplistic punditry make an ironic case for the omnipotence of the '85 Bears. 

Considering a team that can endure a loss and still be a team for the ages, that 1985 edition of Mike Ditka's Monsters of the Midway was outstanding.

That means the Long-Live-The-Undefeated-King arguments for the 1972 Dolphins and those who live and breathe by them are futile.  They just don't know it yet. 

The Dolphins argument primarily hinges on one NFL postulation: on any given Sunday...yada yada yada .  Miami's '72 team needs this yada yada and needs it desperately, because they had a schedule that was essentially packed with more éclairs than your corner bakery. 

No team on the 1972 squad's slate went better than 8-6.  Therefore, if the On Any Given Sunday continues to raise questions and cannot be applied without reasonable doubt, '72 Miami as the greatest ever doesn't hold much water. 

And, that's all you'll hear about them from me today, because there is another more deserving team to discuss. 

If you look over the remarkable seasons defining the 80s Bull Market Era, and there were more than any other six-season era, you'll discover that the 18-1 1984 San Francisco 49ers could also render moot the 1972 Dolphins and their sissy champagne-sipping annual celebration crew.

So, as it stands right now, to crown the best team in Super Bowl football, I'm pitting head-to-head the '84 Niners with the '85 Bears.  That's how good they were and that's how powerful the teams of that 1982-1987 period were.

Now, I don't possess a Madden 2000-X-box-Wii -or-whatever.  If I did, I'd have to run a couple thousand simulations to qualify my results with the Monte Carlo statistical method as stipulated by...uh...people with pocket protectors.

So, I'm doing it my way with both analysis and inference and some stuff you've never considered.

My way makes sense.

To me.

*   *   *   *

a) The '85 Bears and their beer-swilling Ditka fans presented to us by Saturday Night Live Da Bears! 

Now that's fun.  Pictured abo ve is Teri Hatcher and her 80s big hair; she's my favorite television actress and cheerleader for the 1984 Nin ers , brought to life on ABC's Desperate Housewives.  Now there's definitely an element of fun there.

My vote is cast with the team for which I would sell my '03 Buick Century to be a direct part of the aforementioned fan base.

'85 Bears up 1-0.  Draw me a PBR and I won't forget to take my Tricor .

b) The '84 Nin ers Super Bowl XIX opponent was the Miami Dolphins.  At 16-2, the '84 Dolphins would have crushed the other jerseys in XIX had the '84 49ers not completely immolated them by 22.

The '85 Bears drew the 14-5 New England Patriots, the AFC's number two wild card.  Tony Eason , Irving Fryar , The Pony, and Steve Grogan did not have a Hail Mary against that abusi ve defense, and I'll recite the Hail Mary pretty if the need arises.  The 36-point margin tells the story.

The '85 Bears were most impressi ve in their XX victory.  They were such badasses , Ditka could have  asked Buddy Ryan to hold his beer while he dialed it in from a Bourbon Street payphone. 

However, folks, if you disassemble a 16-2 team to win the Super Bowl (even though you're playing in Palo Alto, which is of course in your back yard), that deserves a point.

'84 Niners tie it at 1-1.

c)   Question: Did your quarterback moon anyone during Super Bowl week?

'84 49ers: No, but there are women who would like to see Joe do it.  '85 Bears: Yes, the occupants of a helicopter caught the glare off my lily-white butt, says Jim McMahon.

'85 Bears up 2-1.

d)  You can examine total yards all you wish, but the reasons for a team's existence are 1) to score as many points as possible and 2) to stuff your opponent back so they can't score points.

In 1985, Chicago scored 456 points in its 16-game season.  The Bears also held their opponents to an awesome low of 198 points, bringing back memories of the 1976 Pittsburgh Steelers .

The 1984 Niners' margin was 475 to 227 in its 16-game season.

It's difficult to call those numbers statistically significant for either team, whatever statistically significant means in the violent world of the NFL.


Give me a break, '85 Bears fans.

'85 Bears—still up 2.5 - 1.5

e) We've already gone over the performance of the '84 Niners and the '85 Bears in each team's respective Super Bowls.  I'd now like to see how San Francisco and Chicago compare with each other in their playoff performances of that special year.

The '84 49ers defeated the New York Giants 21-10 in the divisional round and won the NFC title against Chicago 23-0.

Not too shabby and very decisive, but the '85 Bears shutout both playoff opponents, defeating the Giants 21-0 and the LA Rams 24-0.

'85 Bears—seem to run away with it 3.5 - 1.5

f)  At the XIX game in Palo Alto, "The King," former 49er running back Hugh McElhenny , teamed up with "The Gipper ," President Ronald Reagan, for the coin toss ceremony.  McElhenny was at midfield while President Reagan participated via satellite from the Oval Office.

The Superdome played host to the 20 Super Bowl Most Valuable Players at midfield.  Bart Starr, MVP of Super Bowls I and II, represented the MVPs by tossing the coin.

The long line of Super Bowl MVPs was a grand sight.  However, I'll have to choose the two Old Timers , especially considering the day of XIX was January 20, 1985, the President's inauguration day after his 1984 landslide victory.

Besides, any 80s Bull Market Era team would only go for a GOP president.

'84 Niners still down 3.5 - 2.5, but blowing smoke to catch up.

g) Super Bowl records were shattered during both XIX and XX.  Here are examples:

XIX: Joe Montana went 24-of-35 for a Super Bowl record 331 yards and three touchdowns.

XX: The Bears set the record for fewest rushing yards allowed, an astonishing seven yards.

XX: The Bears held the Patriots to negative yardage in the first half—minus seven (?!), that's negative seven, yards.

XX: The Bears set a Super Bowl record with seven quarterback sacks.

Gee, I don't see an easy way to grade these.  I always go back to Dan Marino and his '84 Dolphins 16-2 record and how the 49ers dominated them.  But, hell, the '85 Bears completely annihilated the '85 Patriots, as those defensive records show.

I have to go 2/3 and 1/3 on this one, and that’s being very kind to the Nin ers .

'85 Bears up 4.2 - 2.8

Extremely kind, '85 Bears fans spit.

h) Super Bowl XX and its halftime "entertainment," Up With People (they just won't go away!) presents "The Beat of the Future." 


Consider this: If in this Beat of the Future, Up With People envisioned docking an iPod Nano in your automobile dashboard and listening to Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit," well, then I'd pay attention.

I really loathe the Disney-like parallel pseudo-reality of Up With People, but that may be just the bi-polar kicking in.

'84 49ers coming on 4.2 - 3.8

i) The television audiences of both Super Bowls were impressi ve .  The ’85 Bears added seven million viewers to the ’84 49ers number, a number that itself was up nicely because of the gladiator aura surrounding the Niners-Dolphins game.

Additionally, the '85 vintage Chicago attracted both new and casual fans because the team was so interesting, which is code for "they're bizarre."


'85 Bears up 4.7 - 4.3 as they come into the home turn.

j) The Super Bowl Shuffle versus Bill Walsh as a genius with a class act.

The Shuffle was entertaining, albeit presumpti ve .  My favorite Shuffler was Gary Fencik .  The safety is a Yale alum.  He primarily sung, "I'm going to ring your bell."  Go Elis

Walsh ironically looks professorial on the sidelines, as the Niners dismantle the day's opponent by playing their brand of physical, collision football.

All tied at 5.0.

k) The remaining category covers the really important stuff:

The 1984 49ers finished 18-1, but barely fell short of 19-0 after losing a tight October 14 Week Seven game to visiting Pittsburgh, 20-17.  After that, the Niners rolled.  Few know just how close San Francisco got to perfection.

The 1985 Bears went 12-0 before losing to Miami 38-24 in the Orange Bowl.  In attendance on the sidelines were the most annoying of the 1972 Dolphins, with uncorked bottles of champagne and leaded crystal flutes.  Leaded crystal flutes?  Real sissies.

Amazingly, the '84 49ers won the franchise's second Lombardi Trophy and Jerry Rice was still matriculating at Mississippi Valley State. 

No problem.  Freddie Solomon and Dwight Clark lined up wide.  Wendell Tyler was the running back and Roger Craig charged hard at the fullback position.

Fans and experts of the sport seem to think San Francisco was a finesse team.  Well, folks, the 49ers do finesse, but I think they do it maybe as a sociopath would...just to set you up so they can most effectively and skillfully drop the hammer. 

Mike Ditka lined up some great characters from his '85 Bears squad: 

Quarterback Jim McMahon led the team to victory while alternating his headbands between Adidas and Rozelle.

Defensive tackle Richard Dent won the XX Most Valuable Player award.  Dent commanded anyone who was around his position, wreaking havoc on whoever the unfortunate soul was the Patriot signal caller.

William "The Refrigerator" Perry tipped the loading dock scales at well over 300 (that's "Well" with a capital W).  Ditka put him in at defensive tackle and running back on short yardage situations. 

The Refrigerator was close to becoming a circus act until he rumbled one in for a score in Super Bowl XX.

Willie Gault at wideout was dangerous.  It seems he was taking out his frustrations on the NFL.  You see, President Jimmy Carter boycotted the 1980 summer Olympic games in Moscow (there might have been defections?), preventing Gault and thousands of oth ers to experience Olympic glory.

I know.  Carter tied his call for a boycott because the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan.  Allow the irony to drip before continuing.

And, finally, the 1985 Chicago Bears lined up Walter Payton, the most amazing running back in the history of the league.  "Sweetness" didn't get his Super Bowl touchdown, but everyone knows who got them there.

*     *     *

And the winner by a broken, crooked, gnarled nose...the 1985 Bears.

Sorry, Niners fans.  It came down to intimidation.

And, there is nothing shameful to be the second best team of the best era in NFL history.


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