For George Halas, Chicago's Papa Bear, NFL was good football den
It's a rare person who lives his life without encountering a few dull spots. But I guess you'd have to say that George Halas, who played, coached, general managed, owned, and finished up as chairman of the board of the Chicago Bears, came closest to knocking that theory into the middle of next week.Skip to next paragraph
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Halas, who passed on in Chicago earlier this week, was like a wheel that never stopped rolling. He believed profoundly in hard work, punctuality, discipline, and responsibility, and couldn't stand anyone who didn't. His final years with the Bears were filled with controversy, yet his career achievements were monumental. Back in 1920 Halas was one of seven enterprising young men who leaned against a couple of new Hupmobiles in Ralph Hay's auto dealership in Canton, Ohio, and laid the groundwork for what is today's National Football League. At the time George was player-coach of the Decatur (Ill.) Staleys, whose quarterback, Charlie Dressen, would later become manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers.
The following year Halas and a partner moved the franchise to Chicago, but it wasn't until 1922 that they nicknamed the team the Bears. Pro football was a shoestring operation in those days. Teams operated with a limit of 18 players and everybody played both ways.
Anyway, the 1921 Chicago Staleys, directed by 26-year-old player-coach George Halas, won the NFL's first champion-ship. But it wasn't until 1925 that pro football began to catch the public's fancy.
Halas was responsible for that too. As soon as the college season was over that year, George signed Red Grange, the most exciting football player of his day, out of the University of Illinois and took him on a nationwide barnstorming tour. During the Bears' three-month, coast-to-coast trip with Grange the team once played seven games in nine days. The highlight of the trip was a New York game between the Bears and the Giants in the Polo Grounds that drew 70,000 fans, double the attendance for the previous week's Army-Navy game.
''It was not uncommon back in those days,'' Halas once told reporters, ''to leave by train on Friday night for a road game and be home by Monday. I remember playing in Philadelphia and having to run for the train still in our uniforms because there wasn't time to do anything else. However, that wasn't the worst of it. That came later when we discovered there was only one shower on the Limited!''
Although Halas coached the Bears for 40 years, his tenure was interrupted on three occasions, twice when he fired himself for periods of two years each, and once while serving 39 months with the US Navy during World War II. As general manager, though, he was never further away from his head coaches than a parrot is from a pirate's shoulder.
During those 40 years, George won 326 games (including playoff contests), more than any other coach in history, college or pro. Included in those victories were eight world championships, the last in 1963.
Halas's coaching stops with the Bears were from 1920-1929; 1933-1942; 1946- 1955; and 1958-1967. When George finally retired to the front office in 1968, it never occurred to him that maybe he should stay away from the practice field.
Along with associates Ralph Jones and Clark Shaughnessy, Halas perfected the T-formation, developed the man-in-motion, and pioneered the use of split ends. George also helped change the rules so that quarterbacks could throw from anywhere behind the line of scrimmage.
After the Bears annihilated the Washington Redskins 73-0 in the 1940 NFL championship game, the entire league began to change what it was doing offensively, eventually adopting George's more wide-open style of play.
Halas, who played right field briefly with the New York Yankees until being injured and replaced by Babe Ruth, was always tough on NFL referees. George prowled the sidelines - teeth clenched, hands shoved deep in his overcoat pockets, the expression on his face looking as though it belonged in a scabbard.
Even what few friends Halas had among NFL referees (Jim Durfee, for example), didn't get along with George on game days.
Once, when Halas got on Durfee for a call he didn't like, Jim began walking off an additional five-yard penalty against the Bears.
''What's that for?'' George wanted to know.
''It's for coaching from the sidelines,'' Durfee replied, which was illegal during the pre-World War II era.
''Well,'' said George, ''that shows just how dumb you are because the penalty for coaching from the sidelines is 15 yards, not five.''
''For somebody else, maybe,'' Jim said. ''But the penalty for your kind of coaching is only five yards!'' How UPI rates the football teams
The United Press International Board of Coaches Top 20 1983 college football ratings, with first-place votes in parentheses (total points based on 15 points for first place, 14 for second, etc.).
1.Nebraska (38) (9-0) 612 2.Texas (3) (7-0) 577 3.Auburn (7-1) 503 4.Georgia (7-0-1) 470 5.Miami (Fla.) (8-1) 429 6.Illinois (7-1) 420 7.Maryland (7-1) 339 8.Southern Methodist (6-1) 313 9.North Carolina (7-1) 277 10.Florida (6-1-1) 215 11.Oklahoma (6-2) 176 12.Brigham Young (7-1) 126 13.Boston College (6-1) 112 14.Iowa (6-2) 100 15.Ohio State (6-2) 77 16.Michigan (6-2) 64 17.Alabama (5-2) 31 18.Notre Dame (6-2) 28 19.Pittsburgh (6-2) 26 20.West Virginia (6-2) 24