MIAMI -- Thanks to their dominant defense, spectacular season and over-the-top Super Bowl performance, the 1985 Chicago Bears are often ranked at or near the top of people's 'Greatest Teams of Alltime' lists.
Here in sunny South Florida, where the 2006 edition of the House That Halas Built is preparing for the second Super Bowl appearance in franchise history, I'd like to throw another superlative at those mid-'80s Bears.
They were the biggest underachievers in NFL history.
How, you ask, could a team that good have won just one Super Bowl, let alone one conference title? And if defense wins championships, how could a unit that featured the cutting-edge '46' scheme -- and which included such epic warriors as Mike Singletary, Richard Dent, Steve McMichael, Dan Hampton, Wilber Marshall and Otis Wilson -- fail to carry the Bears to greater glory?
Ron Rivera, now Chicago's defensive coordinator and then a backup linebacker, believes that "underachievers" is a fair term for the team that brought you the regrettable Super Bowl Shuffle.
"Oh, absolutely," Rivera said Tuesday, shortly after the conclusion of Media Day. "We should've won two or three [Super Bowls], and we kind of thought it then. The biggest reason we didn't repeat [in '86] was because we got selfish. Everybody wanted the attention, and that killed us as a team."
In fairness, there were other things that killed the Bears after their tremendous, 18-1 season in '85, beginning with Joe Gibbs, the brilliant Redskins coach whose teams eliminated the Bears from the '86 and '87 playoffs, the latter season ending in a Washington championship.
In '88 the Bears hosted the NFC Championship game and got a gift from the football gods -- a gametime freeze that measured as low as 47-below with wind-chill. Then they got a 28-3 punch to the kidneys from Bill Walsh, Joe Montana, Jerry Rice and the 49ers -- the same team that had shut them out in the '84 NFC Championship game at Candlestick Park.
That, my friends, is failing to make the most of one's opportunities. It's harsh, but true. A few seconds ago, when I showed the beginning of this column to current Bears All-Pro middle linebacker Brian Urlacher as I wrote from Chicago's hotel near the Miami airport, he half-smiled before shaking his head.
"That could be us," he said, "if we don't take care of business."
Two days earlier, while sitting in Urlacher's hotel room, I'd asked him about the '85ers and whether he was sick of hearing about how great they were back in the day. I already knew the answer from past conversations, but I never get tired of his animated presentation, so I asked anyway.
"That's all anybody ever wants to talk about -- what happened in '85," he said. "We want our own identity, and now we're in the process of getting it. Oh, they hate this right now. They're putting food-poison in our room service."
Urlacher laughed and continued: "I've actually gotten a couple of calls from those guys -- Dent and Otis. They're nice. They want us to win. I think."