Great Football Teams: The 1940–1943 Chicago Bears

By Howie Long, John Czarnecki

Chicago has seen some great football moments. The Chicago Bears went 41–6–1 in the four seasons from 1940 to 1943, winning three NFL (world) championships during that time. George Halas, the team’s founder and Chicago’s coach for 40 seasons, participated in only two of these title runs because he joined the Navy midway through the 1942 season (the Bears were 6–0 when he left).

In 1963, the National Academy of Sports Editors voted Chicago’s 1940 team, which defeated the Washington Redskins 73–0 for the world championship, the greatest professional team of all time. Believe me, these teams, which were long on grit, dedication, and toughness, would hold their own against today’s superstars.

When the NFL began in 1920, the Bears were just another team. But Halas built them into a winning team and developed stars like Red Grange and Bronko Nagurski. He helped put excitement into pro football. In 1942, a crowd of 101,100 came to Soldier Field — still home to today’s Bears — to watch the Bears beat the college all-stars 21–0. At the time, this game was bigger than most professional rivalries because college football was more popular than the pro game with most football fans.

These teams had seven Hall of Fame performers: In guard Danny Fortmann, quarterback Sid Luckman, running back George McAfee, defensive tackle George Musso, tackle Joe Stydahar, center/linebacker Clyde “Bulldog” Turner, and Bronko Nagurski, who was called out of retirement that year to take the place of Chicago Bears who were away fighting the war. All seven played both offense and defense (which is almost unheard of in pro football today), and Luckman led or tied for the lead in NFL passing in four of his nine seasons.