Walter Payton #34 of the Chicago Bears hugs Quarterback Jim McMahon #9 after a game.
As the NFL Draft approaches, Grizzly Detail is counting down the Top 30 draft picks in Chicago Bears history. In order to qualify for this, a player must have worn a Bears uniform for at least five seasons (sorry Rosevelt Colvin and Wilber Marshall), and players who were selected in lower rounds of the draft will have an advantage in the countdown.
We continue the countdown with our Number 29 selection, which goes to everyone’s favorite bad boy from the 1985 Bears, quarterback Jim McMahon.
McMahon, the fifth overall pick in the 1982 draft, came into a situation with the Bears where they were loaded with talent, but he was truly the straw that stirred the drink for the team. In his seven seasons with the Bears, he racked up an impressive 46-15-0 record, with a 57.8 completion percentage and 11,203 yards passing. He passed for 67 touchdowns and rushed for 15 more in his career in the Windy City, and even after he left the team after the 1988 season, he still held a special place in the hearts of Bears fans.
In the 1985 season, McMahon overcame a litany of injuries to rack up an 11-0 record for the Bears, completing 56.9% of his passes and tossing 15 touchdowns. He also rushed for three more scores that season, and he ultimately led the team to their only Super Bowl championship as they throttled the New England Patriots 46-10. In that game, he passed for 256 yards, but his big contribution was on the ground as he rushed for two touchdowns.
McMahon was known as much for his brash style and wild antics off the field as he was for what he did on the field. Even today, McMahon still embraces his reputation as a bad boy, but he has also succumbed to early on-set dementia as he pays the price for a life full of hard hits and hard-nosed play. He has been the subject of Sportscenter segments about his struggles with memory loss, and he also was featured in a cover story in Sports Illustrated about his post-football life:
“When he did get out of bed to go to the mailbox or the hardware store, McMahon would kiss (Laurie) Navon goodbye, but 20 minutes later she’d find him in the kitchen, keys still in hand, struggling to remember where he wanted to go. Then there were the times he’d get up, stumble on something accuse Navon of having rearranged their furniture in the middle of the night.”
Despite McMahon’s plight, he still talks at length about his time with the Bears, and fans of the team still adore him all these years later.
McMahon wasn’t the most statistically spectacular quarterback in Bears history, but he certainly had his moments of brilliance. He rubbed men like Mike Ditka the wrong way at times, but he got the job done and helped the team to win their only Super Bowl. Despite all of these character traits, we knocked McMahon down the list a bit for several reasons.
His struggles with injuries limited his effectiveness at times in the Windy City, and with only seven years under his belt with the Bears, his lack of longevity affected his standing too. Finally, there was the fact that he was a top-5 draft pick, and in a countdown that values longevity and value in the picks, McMahon took a bit of a dip on the ranking.