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On this date: George Halas retires as an NFL head coach

AP Photo/Charles Knoblock

Forty nine years ago today, George Halas retired as head coach of the Chicago Bears, concluding one of the most memorable coaching runs in sports history.

Halas finished with a regular-season record of 318-148-31 in 40 seasons. The 318 wins are second in NFL history to Don Shula. His 170 games over .500 rank second to Shula. His 40 seasons as a head coach rank first. Shula and Curly Lambeau rank second with 33.

Bill Belichick has the most wins among active coaches with 237. He could win 10 games a season for the next eight seasons and he’d still have fewer wins than Halas.

Halas won six championships as a head coach, the first at age 26 in 1921, when the league was known as the AFPA, the last at age 68 in 1963. In the other three major sports, no coach can match Halas' gap of 42 years from first title to last title (the Elias Sports Bureau reports that the NHL's Scotty Bowman ranks closest in other sports at 29 years). The stars of Halas' early teams included pioneers of the game, like quarterback Sid Luckman and running back Bronko Nagurski. The top receiver on his last championship team was tight end Mike Ditka, who later became Bears head coach.

One of the most famous games Halas coached was a 73-0 win over the Redskins in the 1940 NFL Championship. The Bears had lost 7-3 to that Redskins team a month prior, but won a game in which their defense forced nine turnovers, and six different players scored a rushing touchdown. The Bears outgained the Redskins on the ground, 381-5.

Halas’ most successful regular-season team was the 13-0 team from 1934. That squad lost to the Giants in the NFL Championship, a game known as “The Sneakers Game.” The Giants changed into basketball sneakers at halftime to better deal with a slippery playing surface. They outscored the Bears in the fourth quarter 27-0 to win 30-13.

Halas was not only the club's head coach. He was the owner of the franchise from 1921 until his death in 1983.

Halas’ six NFL championships remain tied with Lambeau for the most all-time. Belichick and Vince Lombardi sit one behind at five, so if the Patriots win the Super Bowl again, you’ll likely be hearing a lot more about Halas in the coming year.