There’s a mantra around the NFL that says 60-plus-year-old coaches aren’t capable of leading a team to successes.
Imagine how much confidence you’d have as a Bears fan if Papa Bear George Halas were coaching the 2010 squad in the semi-final championship game against the Seahawks, Sunday.
Never mind the fact that the beloved old man died Halloween night, 1983.
Halas was 68 when he guided the Bears over Allie Sherman and the New York Giants December 29, 1963 at Cubs park to win his last title as the team's front man. You talk about staying power. Halas coached the Bears for 40 years - four tenures of 10 years each winning 324 games.
So you tell me the game has changed dramatically? Not true. In 1963, the Bears, with Hall of Fame Middle Linebacker Bill George, employed a base 4-3-4. That’s pretty much the same defense the current club employs under coach Lovie Smith and Rod Marinelli. The only real difference is the increased use of the nickel back in passing situations.
To say the old man wouldn't grasp today's terminology is nuts. Cover-2 is merely the off-spring of double zone. "Tampa two" is nothing more than coach-speak for “god help us if our safeties don't protect the middle of the field.”
The terms halfback and fullback gave way to running back when Lyndon Johnson was in the oval office.
Here's the bottom line. If our 45 guys in shoulder pads block and tackle better than your 45 behemoths over three hours I don't care what kind of geeked up offense or jazzy defense you run ... Ours will beat ya.
So why couldn't a guy like Halas – who was 68 in his final run -- coach this team? Here’s why: It’s just too bland and it lacks characters, guys who believe that curfews are made to be broken. Granted the current Bears have a few players like Olin Kreutz and Brian Urlacher who are borderline nut cases, but Halas needed full-blown creative tension.
I yearn for Halas' arguments with Hall of Fame defensive end Doug Atkins. Big Doug was - so help me Richard Dent - the greatest pass rusher in Bears history. He was also one heck of a drinker. Legend has it that he once defeated his fellow hillbilly and teammate Freddie Williams in a training camp martini-drinking contest 23 to 22. We should note that for years Williams insisted on a recount.
Halas loved to jaw with a tough but brash young tight end named Mike Ditka. I don't have to tell the blue and orange faithful that Mike gained everlasting fame when he spouted out the immortal words, "Halas throws nickels around like manhole covers."
Halas even loved to see his coaches go head to head! During the late ‘50s into the ‘60s offensive coach Luke Johnsos had such a keen dislike for quarterback mentor Sid Luckman that he frequently locked Luckman out of coaches meetings.
Did Halas scold Johnsos? Of course not; the old bird thrived on modified chaos.
So we're at the finish line. Lets go back to the original point. Could George Halas if he were in his 60s coach the Bears at Soldier Field a week from Sunday?
Absolutely. The greatest of Bears, the NFL's founding father would line up his guy with a profanity laced locker room pregame tirade and then quietly take satisfaction every time one of his guys was flagged for spearing.
Hey, George Stanley Halas wouldn't miss a beat. He'd prowl the sidelines in his trademark fedora and grey overcoat berating officials every 20 seconds. Halas wear an NFL hoodie? Jeez, you would have to put a gun to his head.
Yes, the old man could front this team but it wouldn't be as much fun as the good old days because, quite frankly, this team isn't that much fun.
"Without Halas we'd all be playing soccer." Former Cleveland Browns owner Art Modell describing Halas' impact on his beloved National Football League.