George Halas retired as Bears coach 50 years ago today

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Coaches typically retire not long after the season ends. Fifty years ago today, arguably the most important person in NFL history abruptly walked away, at the age of 73.

The Chicago Tribune has republished the story regarding the retirement of George Halas as coach of the Bears.

“I have made this decision with considerable reluctance, but no regrets,” Halas said during a press conference described as “stunned” in the article written by George Strickler. “There was a strong temptation to continue for another season. Next year is the Bears’ golden jubilee and I would like to have been on the field in 1969 rounding out 50 years as a player and a coach. . . . But looking at practical realities, I am stepping aside now because I can no longer keep up with the physical demands of coaching the team on Sunday afternoons.”

Halas attributed the decision to an arthritic hip.

“I have always followed the ball — and the officials — up and down the field,” Halas said. “A coach has to stay on top of the action to make decisions. I cannot do that any longer. . . . I supposed I began to realize this in one of our final games last season when I started rushing after the referee who was pacing off a penalty and it suddenly dawned on me that I wasn’t gaining on him. I began to wonder whether the officials were speeding up, or I was slowing down.”

Back in those days, when players had offseason jobs and the draft was the only thing that happened between late December and the launch of training camp, a late May retirement didn’t do much to affect a franchise. Jim Dooley took over for Halas, spending four years with the team and generating a record of 20-36.

In all, Halas coached the team for a total of 40 years. He remained active with the team he owned and founded until he died 15 years later, and his initials have appeared on the left sleeve of the team’s jersey since 1984.

11 responses to “George Halas retired as Bears coach 50 years ago today

  1. Wonder what he would think about the league he help found and the direction its going in.

  2. That’s a humorous story. One of the old character guys the league was founded on. When I started working in Chicago at my first job, I had to take a check over to the Bears’ offices. George, his secretary and the Business Manager were all in their 80’s, and they weren’t the only old characters in the place. George was friendly – and happy to get the check.

  3. The “Founding Father” of pro football. He had vision, ingenuity and determination. If he only knew what his beloved Bears and other teams are now worth now a days. If the Titans can go for over 2 BILLION dollars. What would the founding franchise in a Major city be worth?.. My guess, well over 3 Billion…..Wow-Wee.

  4. One of the great founders of a new burgeoning football league which today is known as the NFL.
    Classy, angry and fiercely competitive, he truly embodied the spirit, life and everything’s that’s great about the game of football.
    As a coach he racked up over 300 wins and 6 Championships.
    And he did it all with the style and class (perhaps a little blue on Packer Sundays, from what I’ve heard), Chicagoans know all too well.

    As a Packer fan, Halas truly walked that wire between animosity and respect.
    He was a bitter enemy 2 days out of the year, but a true friend throughout the rest of the calendar.

    Halas helped to orchestrate Green Bay’s departure from the league in 1922 by reporting their use of 3 college players illegally and then helped to persuade league partners to allow the team back in. (He would also sign one of the fore mentioned players after the smoke cleared)

    Halas was also instrumental in pushing for public funding, in ‘56, for the construction of Lambeau Field.
    Probably fully realizing the oft mentioned saying of, keeping you friends close and your enemies closer.

    Always a ton of respect for Papa Bear!

  5. I have always felt that the Super Bowl Trophy should have been named after George Halas not Vince Lombardy. Halas did more for the league than NFL than Lombardy did as 8 year coach.

  6. Halas’ biggest mistake was working with Max Winter to get the Vikings into the NFL. If only he saw today what their fans were like, although it did produce fodder for AFC teams in the Super Bowl.

  7. Tons of respect Papa Bear and the Bear’s organization.

    Good job, Coach….and Thank you.

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