Smells Like '85
As the Chicago Bears 100 Celebration ensued, the history and culture of the Chicago Bears were more present than ever. Under Phil Emery, the Bears lost their identity, and the Monsters of the Midway were gone. It was so bad that Brian Urlacher said he did not feel comfortable at Halas Hall during the Emery/Trestman regime. They were trying to stray away from the traditional style of Chicago Bears football and were striving to build an offensive powerhouse. There was a short time that Trestman's offense looked pretty good, but in the end, it wasn't working out. Even if the Bears offense took off and the team had playoff type success, that style of play would never resonate with the city the way a dominant defense does. By the end of Emery's time in Chicago, the roster was full of prima donna's, me-first players, and an overall lack of talent. Then Pace was hired, and everything changed.
After Ryan Pace's first two years as the General Manager, every me-first player was off the team. Everyone knows Fox's time in Chicago was unsuccessful. The Chicago media can be treacherous, but he deserved all the criticism he received. He is possibly the worst speaker to ever stand behind the podium in Halas Hall, which says a lot. Nobody will ever argue that Fox was a productive head coach in Chicago, but he did serve his purpose. Without Fox, the Bears would've never hired Fangio. By now, fans should know how much Fangio has done for the defense. Also, Fox was the perfect fall guy for the whole operation. He took some heat off of Pace while he was overhauling the roster. After the roster improved, and Trubisky was drafted, Pace knew it was time for a Head Coach that would resonate with its young talented roster. The 12-4 team we saw in 2018 under Nagy would have probably gone 8-8 under John Fox. Nagy is everything that the team needs. He has balanced Chicago Bears tradition while developing a modern message that resonates with a young team. Nagy and Pace have been welcoming back former Chicago Bears legends. Former Bears players are standing on the sidelines at games, being honored regularly, and attending practices. Nagy makes sure all his players are educated on the history of the organization. Mitchell Trubisky was asked if he knew why Jim McMahon always wore sunglasses, and he instantly responded that it was because of an injury McMahon suffered as a kid. Nagy even paid tribute to Papa Bear by calling a play out of the T Formation to open the 2018 season. Fans have seen what happens in Club Dub, and how Nagy backs up his coined "Be You" catchphrase with actions. He finds fun ways for his players to compete against each other. By the end of the season, players were having Saturday dance completions. The winner would get a small perk like a better seat for a flight to an away game, or something along those lines. During OTA's Nagy decided to call off practice and have the team compete in an obstacle course. The top four teams battled for bragging rights over dodgeball. It was another fun way of finding out competitive players are. You want players that look for competition in everything. Whether its a game of corn hole or a made up locker room game, great players compete every chance they get. Tom Brady had given up drinking alcohol, for the most part, but slammed a brew on Colbert when he was challenged to a competition. Similar to how Trubisky responded to Aaron Rodgers missed attempt to chug a beer on national television. This is the competitive nature that leads me to the title "Smells Like '85."
On the most recent Bears All Access podcast Jeff Joniak and Tom Thayer interview former Bear, Steve McMichael. McMichael tells a story about the first time he met Papa Bear, "I walked in and he said you don't need no agent son come on in my office, and I walked in there, and it was like I was walking into a 1920 gangster movie, and he was James Cagney. You know the vernacular of the 1920s, you know what he said to me, I've heard what kinda dirty rat you are in practice, don't change see." Thayer and McMichael went on about the competition level in practice, and how much better it made the offensive and defensive lines. Thayer said the games were easy compared to practicing against guys like Richard Dent and Steve McMichael. While the guys were going through old stories Joniak and McMichael both said, this new team felt a lot like the team in '85. Steve McMichael also described his teammates in 1985 as "Characters with Character." The Fridge, Da Coach, Sweetness the Superbowl Shuffle, and so much more came from that group of guys. They were entertaining as well as dominant.
The 2019 Chicago Bears also know how to put on a show while playing great football. Matt Nagy has brought enough of youthful exuberance to Chicago to make Dan Hampton thank god that he replaced John Fox and got us back on track, while he was at the Bears 100 Celebration. It isn't all smoke and mirrors with Coach Nagy though. During the safety panel at the Bears 100 celebration, Eddie Jackson explained how good Coach Nagy is at preparing the team and communicating the gameplan. By gameday, the players are so prepared they can just let loose and play ball. Nagy wants players to show their personality as long as they are not selfish about it, and you were able to see this during last season. The Bears had the best touchdown celebrations in 2018 by far. Non-Bears players at the Pro Bowl even made comments about how much fun players were having in Chicago, which is a big reason why Pace was able to sign so many top end UFDA's and veteran free agents to cap friendly deals. Also, the Bears now have star power. Kahlil Mack is featured running through a brick wall during a Nike commercial. Eddie Jackson and Tarik Cohen are on the national radar after having all-pro seasons, and getting the Bears the respect they deserve. The Bears will play five games in prime time this season, not including Thanksgiving. Even Mitchell Trubisky earned himself a Gatorade sponsorship. Trubisky may not be the punky QB that led the Bears to glory in '85, but he is the guy.
Trubisky is more of a good ol' boy, but he still has his fun. Whether it's dressing like Ditka, or putting on Jim McMahon's headband, he's willing to be the butt of a joke. Chicagoan's love a guy that can be a good sport while getting made fun of, it's only natural for us to cut a guy down to size if they are getting a little too cocky. McMahon was what the Bears needed in 85, he fit the teams make up, and Trubisky is what the bears need in this era. The Bears 100 Celebration was a great way to tie in the new with the old, and get the Chicago fan base 'fired up' for this season. I'm sure Papa Bear was smiling down, watching his extended family celebrate. At the celebration the Defensive Lineman talked about how it's not about next year or any other year, the opportunity is now. It's only fitting that the Bears, the team celebrating their 100th season with the NFL, will take care of business this year. Fans can only hope that the rest of the team is as eager to get on the field as Akiem Hicks seems to be. Everything that's happening heading into the 2019 season has me feeling that this is the year, it smells like '85.