Pick A Defense
The Super Bowl ring's the thing
Have they already finished the season and won the Super Bowl? It's a moot point then. You're putting the cart before the horse.
I can't wait to see the stats they have when the season is over compared to ours. This is great for the fans. I'm rooting for them. It's great. I like to witness great defenses. But the tale of the tape has yet to be measured.
I guess we could debate what they've done compared to what we did at the halfway point of the season, or any season. But you know, from 1980 to 1990, we were No. 1 in every defensive category for the decade. I'm not just talking about one year. Now if you're that consistent, you're going to have a great year in there because of the bell curve.
But this is apples and oranges. My generation ran the ball to set up the pass. This new-school league passes the ball to set up running the ball and running out the clock when they get the lead. It's like playing a video game. Back in our day, running back was the marquee position; now it's quarterback.
No offense to Les Frazier and Mike Richardson, but the current Bears are better at cornerback than our defense was -- but I wouldn't trade any of our guys for any other positions.
I look at them like they're a top-five defense. I don't care if they're sixth, you've got a contender contending for the Super Bowl.
If this defense goes on and shines for the rest of the year and they go to the Super Bowl and win it, I'll be glad to usher them into the brotherhood. Welcome to the club. There's a lot of room on the mountain.
Business is good around town when the Bears win. I told Lovie Smith I'd love to dispel the rumors that the '85 Bears don't want you to win the Super Bowl. When the Bears went in '06, I declared more money on my tax return. There are more places around town who want to see an old man talk about the Bears.
But the book hasn't been written yet. It's only halfway written right now because they've got to go through the gauntlet over the next six games. So we'll see. Just sit back and enjoy because this doesn't happen every day.
We went from '63 to '85 (between championships), so it's time again.
This piece was gleaned from a phone interview Melissa Isaacson conducted with McMichael. McMichael was a Bears defensive lineman from 1981 to '93. He was a two-time All-Pro and Pro Bowler, and is on ESPNChicago.com's list of the 50 greatest Bears of all time.
Takeaways give edge to this year's D
After writing a first draft of this argument, I found out I'm going against Steve "Mongo" McMichael, who actually played on the 1985 Bears defense. So I'll begin with a plea: Don't hurt me, Mongo.
Because, while it might offend him, I'm throwing my support behind the current Bears defense. It might be quirky that the 2012 defense has scored so often through the first eight games, but that's what's happened. To me, the Bears' predilection for defensive touchdowns says less about fortune than it does about preparation and the value of continuity in a league with few guarantees.
The Lovie Smith-led Bears don't have the charisma and the panache of the Shufflin' Crew, and that's fine with them. They repeat corny Rod Marinelli phrases like, "The star of our defense is our defense." Led by 30-something veterans, this group knows the time is now to make their mark on franchise history and, more importantly, get this team back to the Super Bowl.
The current Bears defense is on a record-setting pace with seven touchdowns scored as opposed to nine given up. The 1985 group had scored two touchdowns and given up 13 through its first eight games.
But aside from those numbers, the '85 Bears had slightly better -- and only slightly in most cases -- numbers in pertinent statistics, like points allowed per game (14.3 to 15), takeaways (29 to 28), and sacks (32 to 25).
Of course, not all comparisons between eras are totally valid. Buddy Ryan ran the 46 defense, which wreaked havoc with steady, unrelenting pressure, so the sack numbers will obviously skew toward that group.
The current NFL is a pass-happy league, with myriad schemes to defend. Scouting is a lot easier nowadays. Every Bear has an iPad with the playbook and video clips. And defenses have less leeway to intimidate, maim and otherwise harm quarterbacks and receivers.
While the '85 Bears were rich with future Hall of Famers and reveled in Ryan's attitude, the Lovie-2 faithful have mastered their coach's brand of defense. That's why it's no surprise that Charles "Peanut" Tillman, who has grown up here playing this defense, is playing his best football at 31. He's comfortable and confident, as are his peers.
I'm not knocking the '85 Bears -- I think that's cause for deportation out of the city -- but give me a defense that can create takeaways and score. I'd take them in any era.
Jon Greenberg is a columnist for ESPNChicago.com.