Da Bears were Monsters


What does it take to be the best at something? It may be that you have the best record, the best people or the best leadership. The 1985 Chicago Bears had all of these. They had the best NFL record that season at 15-1. The Bears also had first-rate players like Walter Payton, Jim McMahon, Richard Dent, Dan Hampton, Steve McMichael, Mike Singletary and William “Fridge” Perry. In addition, this team was coached by Mike Ditka with Buddy Ryan leading the defense. All of those elements also helped the team win the Super Bowl that year against the New England Patriots. Anyone who wants an uplifting story about sports needs to look no further than the 1985 Chicago Bears.

This team had all the makings of a great story, and when it is told from a fan’s perspective, it becomes a great book too. In 2014, Rich Cohen wrote a book about this legendary football team entitled Monsters, the 1985 Chicago Bears and The Wild Heart of Football. It starts off with Cohen’s interest in football, the Bears and his trip to see them in the Super Bowl. Then it covers a brief history lesson about the beginning of football itself and the evolution of the game. Next, it discusses Mike Ditka’s Tight End career in the NFL and the controversy when he became the coach. Cohen also gives an inside look on how the ’85 Bears came to be so great by interviewing players such as Doug Plank, the Bears’ Safety, and Kevin Butler, the kicker. Later, Cohen introduces the important players and their impact on this team one-by-one.

Jim McMahon rocking his Rozelle headband

Monsters does a good job of relaying how much fun this “Super Bowl Shuffle” team was and goes into great detail about some specific moments during the season. What stood out to me were two particular events. One involved the rebellious quarterback Jim McMahon. The NFL once fined McMahon for wearing an Adidas headband during the game instead of the blank one he was allowed to wear. The reason was that it violated the NFL’s agreement with advertisers. The following week after he was fined, McMahon set out to get under the NFL’s skin. He decided to write Rozelle (the name of the NFL commissioner) on his headband because “technically” he had a plain headband on but he was still “advertising.” McMahon had figured out a way to be defiant and submissive at the same time! My other favorite story included in the book was when Walter Payton was not happy after winning the Super Bowl. What made Payton upset was that he did not get a touchdown in the Super Bowl. Payton had carried the team for a long time and was considered the only good part of the Bears for years prior to ’85, so he was disappointed that he did not get the opportunity to contribute through scoring in that game. That revealed a different perspective on how some players feel; winning a game is not always enough to cause elation.

For those who enjoy recalling the statistics of a team, Monsters describes all the numbers of the championship season. The quarterback, the leader of the team, was Jim McMahon. He got injured during the season on a cheap shot tackle. Still, he finished the season with 2,392 yards passed, 15 TDs and 11 interceptions. The best player on the Bears team was Walter Payton, who rushed for 1,551 yards and 9 rushing touchdowns during the season. Even though they were two great players, the defense propelled them to the top. The Fridge got 5 sacks in his rookie season and had some iconic rushing touchdowns on offense too. Dan Hampton, Steve McMichael, Otis Wilson and Mike Singletary all combined for a miraculous 28 sacks and 10 fumble recoveries during the season. Still, Richard Dent was possibly the best defensive player on the team with 17 sacks on the year and came away as the Super Bowl MVP.

Monsters offers more than one would assume because Cohen does not only focus on the big names in this book. He wants to give credit to some other players from this amazing team that rounded out the talent including some we even forget were even on the ’85 Bears. For instance, the fullback, Matt Suhey got the Bears 471 yards rushing that year. There were also wide receivers like Willie Gault, who had 704 yards receiving and 1 receiving touchdown and was also their fantastic punt returner, and Dennis McKinnon, who caught 31 passes for 481 yards and 7 touchdowns. Still, the player with the most receptions that season was the Tight End Emery Moorehead, who got 481 yards and 1 touchdown. Football is a team sport and each player has an important role in creating a great team.

What makes Monsters unique is that you can sense Cohen’s love for the game and this team throughout the book. This is especially evident when he recalls the time he got to go to the game with dad to cheer on his hometown team. Since the team is tied to his own childhood, he effectively captures the spirit of the ’85 Bears.  Later, he gets the chance to meet those players he looked up to as his heroes. He interviews the coaches and players and asks them questions that he, as a fan, wanted to know. How Cohen relays their responses provides an alternate point of view that many people never get to hear.

Walter Payton was a BEAST! (Click here to see)

Unlike other books about this topic, Cohen does not end Monsters with the winning of the Super Bowl. He thinks the story of 1985 Chicago Bears is more than just a glory season. He also gives an overview of what became of that great team. The biggest legacy this team left behind is the Walter Payton Man of the Year award. It is given to commemorate players who contribute to their community in a positive way. Players who receive this award get to wear a special patch on their jersey for the rest of their career. This is, of course, named after the running back of the ’85 Bears who died at the age of 45 from liver disease. Cohen also mentions that Mike Singletary became the 49ers Head Coach for the 2009 and 2010 seasons. The 1985 Bears showed that defense wins championships. It is still widely believed that the ’85 Bears defense is the best of all time because of their size, strength and athleticism. Today’s Bears try to replicate that team in 1985 with players like Kahlil Mack, Eddie Jackson and Akiem Hicks. We may never see the likes of the ’85 team again, but even those who do not care much about football would enjoy the stories that are recalled in Monsters. This book is not just about a football team; it documents the complete journey of what it takes to be the best.