1985 Chicago Bears: Were They The Best Team Ever In The History Of The NFL?

Darrell HorwitzSenior Writer IINovember 7, 2010

SAN FRANCISCO - OCTOBER 13:  Head coach Mike Ditka of the Chicago Bears looks on as the Bears prepare to take on the San Francisco 49ers at Candlestick Park on October 13, 1985 in San Francisco, California.  The Bears won 26-10.   (Photo by George Rose/Getty Images)
George Rose/Getty Images

Having had a chance to watch the 1985 Chicago Bears in all of their glory, I can unbiasedly say they are the greatest team in the history of the NFL. And there are plenty of others who agree.

They didn't just beat you; they beat you up.

I had the opportunity on Friday to revisit the memories of those days with over 20 former members of the team during a 25th anniversary celebration of the team. The luminaries included the punky QB Jim McMahon, Richard Dent, Dan Hamption, Steve McMichael, Otis Wilson, Willie Gault and a slew of others.

Watching the '85 Bears was like nothing I ever experienced in my lifetime, other than the Michael Jordan-led Chicago Bulls in the '90s. They were like rock stars, but even those great teams were never as popular as the '85 Bears, many of whom still work in this town just because of their ties to the team.

But unlike the Bulls, the Bears didn't capitalize on their talent and failed to get to another Super Bowl, despite being the youngest team in the league when they won.

You could blame it on players leaving, like Wilber Marshall, injuries to key players like McMahon throughout the years, and getting too full of themselves and taking advantage of commercial opportunities that came their way.

"Da Coach," Mike Ditka, was the leader of that team, and the leader of the guys with their hands out grabbing every buck that came their way.

Another major change was defensive coordinator Buddy Ryan leaving the team to coach Philadelphia. Even though statistically the defense had better numbers in 1986, they were never the same after Ryan left.

They stopped being an attacking defense that didn't care what the other team's game plan was. Under new coordinator Vince Tobin, they became a read-and-react type of defense.

Former 1985 Bears reserve defensive lineman Tyrone Keys summed it up best: "The No. 1 thing was [Mike] Singletary was able to make adjustments on the field when he was there with Buddy Ryan. After Buddy left, they had to stay in that same defense and he wasn't allowed to make changes like that. When both Buddy and Mike were there, Buddy gave him the freedom to make the calls like he saw fit."

When asked if it became much more of a reactionary defense in 1986, Keys said, "Definitely."

This was a team with a great front seven, including Hampton, McMichael, Dent and William Perry on the line, along with Wilson, Marshall and Mike Singletary at linebacker. Singletary and Hampton are Hall of Famers, and Dent and Marshall should be, along with offensive lineman Jimbo Covert.

It's hard to come out and say one team was the greatest of all time, but it's hard to argue against this team.

You had the "Steel Curtain" Steelers teams with Terry Bradshaw in the '70s, the Joe Montana-Jerry Rice led 49ers squads in the '80s, and the Cowboys in the '90s, but did any of those teams stand out the way the Chicago Bears did in 1985?

Could any of those teams have beaten the 1985 Chicago Bears in a one-game winner-take-all match?

They went 15-1, with the only smudge on their record a late-season loss to the Dan Marino-led Miami Dolphins.

In the playoffs that year, they shut out both the New York Giants and the Los Angeles Rams.

The only reason the New England Patriots scored ten points in the Super Bowl was because Walter Payton fumbled early in the game deep in Bears territory to give them the ball. The Patriots had three plays where they consistently moved backward until Tony Franklin kicked a field goal.

The touchdown the Patriots scored was against the reserves when the game was long over. You could argue that barring the fumble by Payton, the Bears might have pitched three straight shutouts in the postseason.

Along with probably the best defense ever for one year, the Bears had arguably the greatest football player ever in Walter Payton at running back. He was joined by the underrated Jim McMahon at quarterback, Willie Gault and Dennis McKinnon as the wide-outs, and a great offensive line led by Jimbo Covert.

This was a complete team that could beat you in so many ways.

The 1972 Miami Dolphins are still the only undefeated team in league history, but they played at a watered-down time with a 14-game schedule. Do you really think they could have competed with the '85 Bears?

The team probably most compared to the Bears was the 2000 Super Bowl champion Baltimore Colts led by Ray Lewis.

That was a great defensive team and probably the closest in recent memory to the dominance of the 1985 Chicago Bears. But would a team with Trent Dilfer at quarterback have a chance against the 1985 Bears? Hell no!

Some would argue that Chicago Bears team would not be able to play in this era, but Tyrone Keys disagreed: "For some of the guys, that might be true, but you look around at our team and see how big we are still, (the players at the Glory Days event) Richard (Dent) is just as big, I'm big, and Walter Payton could have definitely played in this era, and Willie Gault just ran a 4.4 forty yesterday just before he left L.A. So Willie is still as fast as anyone in the NFL at 50."

Taking the time to look at the roster of the 2010 Bears compared to 1985, there is not a lot of difference in the size of the players other than on the offensive line.

When asked by this writer if the 1985 team would be able to win it all in today's game, Keys responded, "Yes, most definitely. I think we were one of the best teams of all time. We were just that confident. We were more prepared than other teams. Of course teams are different now, they have computers, etc, but we were just ahead of our time."

When Mike Ditka was asked what the difference was between the '85 team and the way the game is played today, he said, "Nobody told you how to tackle back then."

Those Bears teams were known for some violent hits, and they might not be allowed to get away with the things they got away with in 1985, but for one year, the Chicago Bears were the best team ever to play the game.

Tell me I'm wrong.