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George and his dragons
Tex Maule
October 27, 1958
Wily George Halas, who almost invented pro football, leads his Bears out of hibernation
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October 27, 1958

George And His Dragons

Wily George Halas, who almost invented pro football, leads his Bears out of hibernation

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There could not have been a more typical Chicago Bear victory than the one last Sunday. Willie Galimore, a halfback who is harder to hold than an eel in a tub of butter, scored two touchdowns; penalties fell thick as a snowstorm off Lake Michigan; and George Halas, who owns the Bears and employs himself as their head coach, almost precipitated a riot as he got into a pushing contest with a Los Angeles Ram halfback. When it was all over, the Bears had beaten the Rams 31-10 to take over second place all by themselves in the Western Conference.

It was a familiar feast to the eyes of Chicago football fans to find Halas back on the sidelines throwing his tantrums. For this unusual man—so quiet and soft-spoken off the field and so violent on it—is a hero to the home folks and the blackest villain in sport in every other league city. When he is not engrossed with his beloved Bears, Halas is a man whose mild blue eyes peer pleasantly through half-steel-rimmed glasses and who dresses and acts much like the president of a friendly small-town bank. He has the same paternal interest in his players that a small-town banker has in his depositors. But when the Bears trot out on the field, Halas shucks his mild manner to race up and down the sidelines, howling imprecations at officials. He kicks field goals and extra points, squirms away from tacklers, throws blocks, bats down passes. He is as good a show as the game, and Chicago fans love to watch him; in other league cities there is no sport quite like booing George Halas on Sunday afternoon.

But what is Halas doing back in the coaching end of the Bear operations after he resigned with such finality three years ago?

"I couldn't stand it on the sidelines not running the club," he says quite frankly. "It was a lot harder on me than coaching. And I thought I saw a few things that might help us, so I came back. I feel good."

Halas, of course, must be ranked among the greatest of football coaches. He stuck with the T through the long years of single-wing football and he has remained au courant to the latest developments. In fact, many of them stem from the Chicago Bears, who inspired the almost universal shift to T-formation football in 1940, with their whopping 73-0 victory over the Washington Redskins in the pro title game.

"Coaching is tougher now," Halas says. "The defenses change constantly, from play to play, and the offense has to broaden to cope with that. The personnel is so much better, too. When I started, each team had one or two great players. They would be great today, too. But now each team has so many more of them."

Halas has mellowed in recent years; he was once known as one of the hardest-driving of all pro coaches. According to Sid Luckman, who quarterbacked the great Bear teams of the early '40s and who is the prototype of all T quarterbacks, Halas had mellowed when he came back from Navy service after the war.

"He was a lot tougher before," Luckman says. "But don't get me wrong. I don't think there's a Bear who ever played for Halas who doesn't have the deepest respect and admiration for him. You knew he would stick by you. He was like a father to me. I can truthfully say that all I am today I owe to George Halas and the Bears." Since Luckman is an eminently successful Chicago businessman, this compliment means something.

His estimate of the Halas character points up what may be George's most valuable asset as a coach—a quality of warmth which inspires tremendous affection from the players. Although Halas, on the surface, is still a stern, strict disciplinarian, the warmth seeps through.

For instance, one of his pet rules has to do with the weight of the Bear players. Halas decides how much each player should weigh when the season starts and checks the scales against his estimate religiously every day. "It's like handicapping a horse," he explains. "A 2-pound up in weight means a difference in speed. I figure five extra pounds on a 190-pound halfback is the difference between a good and a great player."

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