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.