George Halas
George Halas in the early 1980s
Personal Information
Head Coach
Jersey #(s)
Born: February 2, 1895
Chicago, Illinois, in
Died: October 31, 1983(1983-10-31) (aged 88)
Chicago, Illinois, in
Career information
Year(s) 19191928
NFL Supplemental Draft / Pick:
College Illinois
Professional teams

As coach:

As owner:

  • Chicago Bears (1920-1983)
Career stats
Win-Loss Record 318-148-31
Winning % .682
Games 497
Stats at
Coaching stats at
Career highlights and awards

George Stanley Halas, Sr. (February 2, 1895 – October 31, 1983), nicknamed "Papa Bear" and "Mr. Everything", was a player, coach, owner and pioneer in professional American football. He was the iconic longtime leader of the NFL's Chicago Bears. He was also lesser known as an inventor, jurist, producer, philanthropist, and philatelist.

Early life and sports careerEdit


Halas was born in Chicago, Illinois, into a family of Czech-Bohemian immigrants.[2][3][4] His parents were Slavic migrants from Plzeň, Bohemia part of what would later become Czechoslovakia.[5][6] George had a varied career in sports. In 1915, Halas worked temporarily for Western Electric and was planning on being on the Eastland. He was running late, however, and missed the capsizing. After graduating from Crane High School in Chicago, he attended the University of Illinois, playing football for coach Bob Zuppke as well as baseball and basketball, and earning a degree in civil engineering.[7] He also became a member of Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternity. He helped Illinois win the 1918 Big Ten football title.

Serving as an ensign in the Navy during World War I, he played for a team at the Great Lakes Naval Training Station,[7] and was named the MVP of the 1919 Rose Bowl. On a team which included Paddy Driscoll and Jimmy Conzelman, Halas scored a receiving touchdown and returned an intercepted pass 77 yards in a 17-0 win; the team was also rewarded with their military discharges.

Afterward, Halas played minor league and semi-pro baseball, eventually earning a promotion to the New York Yankees, where he played 12 games as an outfielder in 1919.[7] However, a hip injury effectively ended his baseball career. The popular myth was that Halas was succeeded as the Yankees' right fielder by Babe Ruth, but in reality it was Sammy Vick who was replaced by Ruth.

Professional football careerEdit

Offered a position with the A. E. Staley Company, a Decatur, Illinois, starch manufacturer, as a company representative, player on the company-sponsored baseball team, and player-coach of the company-sponsored football team, Halas selected his alma mater's colors — orange and navy blue — for the team's uniforms. In 1920, Halas represented the Staleys at the meeting which formed the American Professional Football Association (which became the NFL in 1922) in Canton, Ohio. The year prior, Halas had suited up at end for the Hammond All-Stars in its pre-APFL incarnation.[1]

After suffering financial losses despite a 10-1-2 record, company founder and namesake Augustus E. Staley turned control of the team to Halas in 1921. Halas moved the team to Chicago and took on teammate Dutch Sternaman as a partner. The newly minted "Chicago Staleys" won the NFL championship that year. They took the name Bears in 1922 as a tribute to baseball's Chicago Cubs, which permitted the Bears to play their games at Wrigley Field.

Halas not only played end (wide receiver on offense, defensive end on defense) but also handled ticket sales and the business of running the club; lore says he even sold tickets before the game. All of that perhaps not being enough to do, Halas also coached the team. Named to the NFL's all-pro team in the 1920s, his playing highlight occurred in a 1923 game when he stripped Jim Thorpe of the ball, recovered the fumble, and returned it 98 yards — a league record which would stand until 1972. In 1925, Halas persuaded Illinois star player Red Grange to join the Bears; it was a significant step in establishing both the respectability and popularity of the league, which had previously been viewed as a refuge for less admirable players.

After ten seasons, Halas stepped back from the game in 1930, retiring as a player and leaving the sidelines as coach; but he remained the owner of the club, becoming sole owner in 1932. The lure of the field was too much, however, as Halas returned in 1933 to coach the Bears for another ten seasons. During his absence from coaching, the team had also won the 1932 championship. His 1934 team was undefeated until a loss in the championship game to the New York Giants.

In the late 1930s, Halas — with University of Chicago coach Clark Shaughnessy — perfected the T-formation system to create a revolutionary and overwhelming style of play which drove the Bears to an astonishing 73-0 victory over the Washington Redskins in the 1940 NFL Championship Game. Every other team in the league immediately began trying to imitate the format. The Bears repeated as NFL champions in 1941, and the 1940s would be remembered as the era of the "Monsters of the Midway".

Halas and Shaughnessy had created a revolutionary concept with the T-formation offense. The complex spins, turns, fakes, and all around athletic versatility required to execute the scheme, limited the possible players available. Halas recruited Columbia University quarterback Sid Luckman in 1939. Luckman launched his Hall of Fame career, playing the position from 1939 to 1950. Halas was not satisfied with other players who succeeded Luckman. During this coaching stint, he had on the Bears roster two future Hall of Fame players, Bobby Layne in 1948 and George Blanda from 1949 to 1958. Other notable players included Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Lujack from 1948 to 1951 and Zeke Bratkowski from 1954 to 1960. Blanda played in the NFL until 1975; Bratkowski moved on to Vince Lombardi's Green Bay Packers from 1960 to 1971; and Bobby Layne quarterbacked the Detroit Lions to three NFL championship games between 1952–54, winning two.

Halas went on a second three-year hiatus during World War II, serving in the Armed Forces from 1943–45, while the Bears won another title in 1943. Returning to the field in 1946, he coached the club for a third decade, again winning a title in his first year back as coach. After a brief break in 1956-57, he resumed the controls of the club for a final decade from 1958 to 1967, winning his last championship in 1963. He did not, however, enjoy the same success as he had before the war. He did win his 200th game in 1950 and his 300th game in 1965, becoming the first coach to reach both milestones. In 40 years as a coach, he endured only six losing seasons.

Head coaching recordEdit

Team Year Regular Season Post Season
WonLostTiesWin %Finish Won Lost Win % Result
DEC1920 10 1 2 .909 2nd in APFA - - - Lost challenge to Akron Pros
CHS1921 9 1 1 .900 1st in APFA - - - NFL Champions on tiebreaker over Buffalo All-Americans.[8]
CHI1922 9 3 0 .750 2nd in NFL - - - -
CHI1923 9 2 1 .818 2nd in NFL - - - -
CHI1924 6 1 4 .857 2nd in NFL - - - Purported championship win over Cleveland Bulldogs overruled
CHI1925 9 5 3 .643 7th in NFL - - - -
CHI1926 12 1 3 .923 2nd in NFL - - - -
CHI1927 9 3 2 .750 3rd in NFL - - - -
CHI1928 7 5 1 .583 5th in NFL - - - -
CHI1929 4 9 2 .308 9th in NFL - - - -
CHI1930 9 4 1 .692 3rd in NFL - - - -
CHI1931 8 5 0 .615 3rd in NFL - - - -
CHI1932 7 1 6 .875 1st in NFL - - - -
CHI1933 10 2 1 .833 1st in NFL West 1 0 1.000 Defeated the New York Giants in 1933 NFL Championship.
CHI1934 13 0 0 1.000 1st in NFL West 0 1 .000 Lost to the New York Giants in 1934 NFL Championship.
CHI1935 6 4 2 .600 3rd in NFL West - - - -
CHI1936 9 3 0 .750 2nd in NFL West - - - -
CHI1937 9 1 1 .900 1st in NFL West 0 1 .000 Lost to the Washington Redskins in 1937 NFL Championship.
CHI1938 6 5 0 .545 3rd in NFL West - - - -
CHI1939 8 3 0 .727 2nd in NFL West - - - -
CHI1940 8 3 0 .727 1st in NFL West 1 0 1.000 Defeated the Washington Redskins in 1940 NFL Championship.
CHI1941 10 1 0 .909 1st in NFL West 2 0 1.000 Defeated the New York Giants in 1941 NFL Championship.
CHI1942 5 0 0 1.000 1st in NFL West - - - -
CHI1946 8 2 1 .800 1st in NFL West 1 0 1.000 Defeated the New York Giants in 1946 NFL Championship.
CHI1947 8 4 0 .667 2nd in NFL West - - - -
CHI1948 10 2 0 .833 2nd in NFL West - - - -
CHI1949 9 3 0 .750 2nd in NFL West - - - -
CHI1950 9 3 0 .750 1st in NFL National 0 1 .000 Lost to the Los Angeles Rams in conference playoff game.
CHI1951 7 5 0 .583 4th in NFL National - - - -
CHI1952 5 7 0 .417 5th in NFL National - - - -
CHI1953 3 8 1 .273 4th in NFL West - - - -
CHI1954 8 4 0 .667 2nd in NFL West - - - -
CHI1955 8 4 0 .667 2nd in NFL West - - - -
CHI1958 8 4 0 .667 2nd in NFL West - - - -
CHI1959 8 4 0 .667 2nd in NFL West - - - -
CHI1960 5 6 1 .455 5th in NFL West - - - -
CHI1961 8 6 0 .571 3rd in NFL West - - - -
CHI1962 9 5 0 .643 3rd in NFL West - - - -
CHI1963 11 1 2 .917 1st in NFL West 1 0 1.000 Defeated the New York Giants in 1963 NFL Championship.
CHI1964 5 9 0 .357 6th in NFL West - - - -
CHI1965 9 5 0 .643 3rd in NFL West - - - -
CHI1966 5 7 2 .417 5th in NFL West - - - -
CHI1967 7 6 1 .538 2nd in NFL Central - - - -

Later lifeEdit

After the 1967 season, Halas — then the oldest coach in league history — retired as coach. He continued as the team's principal owner, and took an active role in team operations until his death. He was honored in 1970 and 1980 as the only person involved in the league throughout its first fifty and sixty years of existence. His son George, Jr. served as president of the Bears from 1963 until his sudden death at age 54 in 1979. One of Halas's final significant ownership acts was to hire Mike Ditka as head coach in 1982 (Ditka was a former Halas player in the 1960s).

In the 1971 made-for-television film Brian's Song, about the friendship between Chicago Bears players Brian Piccolo and Gale Sayers, Halas was portrayed by Jack Warden, who won an Emmy Award for his performance.

Halas died of pancreatic cancer in Chicago on October 31, 1983, at age 88, and is entombed in St. Adalbert Catholic Cemetery in Niles, Illinois. His eldest daughter, Virginia Halas McCaskey, succeeded him as majority owner, and her son Michael McCaskey served as team President from 1983-1999 at which time Mrs. McCaskey was forced to fire her own son on grounds of incompetence. In the 1985 season when the Bears won their first ever Super Bowl, they recorded a song called "Super Bowl Shuffle." In the song, backup quarterback Steve Fuller rhymes "Bring on Atlanta, Bring on Dallas / This is for Mike [then current coach Mike Ditka] and Papa Bear Halas."

Super Bowl XVIII was dedicated to Halas. The pregame ceremonies featured a moment of silence and the ceremonial coin toss by former Chicago Bear Bronko Nagurski.

Impact on footballEdit

File:!Ap halas.jpg

A pioneer both on and off the field, Halas made the Bears the first team to hold daily practice sessions, to analyze film of opponents to find weaknesses and means of attack, place assistant coaches in the press box during games, and to broadcast games by radio. He also offered to share the team's substantial television income with teams in smaller cities, firmly believing that what was good for the league would ultimately benefit his own team. A firm disciplinarian, Halas maintained complete control of his team and did not tolerate disobedience and insubordination by players. He also insisted on absolute integrity and honesty in management, believing that a handshake was sufficient to finalize a deal; few, if any, intermediaries were necessary.

George Halas' career ledger reads as follows: 63 years as an owner, 40 as a coach, 324 wins, and 8 NFL titles as a coach or owner. He was a charter member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1963.


In both 1963 and 1965 he was selected by The Sporting News, the AP and the UPI as the NFL Coach of the Year. In 1997 he was featured on a U.S. postage stamp as one of the legendary coaches of football. He has been recognized by ESPN as one of the ten most influential people in sports in the 20th century, and as one of the greatest coaches. In 1993, Miami Dolphins coach Don Shula finally surpassed Halas' victory total. To this day, the jerseys of the Chicago Bears bear the initials "GSH" on their upper left sleeves in commemoration of Halas.

There are three awards named for Halas: (1) the George Halas Trophy (awarded by the NFL to the National Football Conference champion), (2) the George S. Halas Trophy (awarded from 1966 to 1996, to the NFL defensive player of the year, by the Newspaper Enterprise Association), and (3) the George S. Halas Courage Award (Pro Football Writers Association).

The Pro Football Hall of Fame is located on George Halas Drive.


  1. 1.0 1.1 Marines Are Swamped By Great Stars :Minneapolis Team Swept Off Their Feet by Crack Hammond Eleven. (1919, October 27). Minneapolis Morning Tribune (1909-1922),10. Retrieved September 2, 2010, from ProQuest Historical Newspapers Minneapolis Tribune (1867-1922). (Document ID: 1513834502).
  2. Davis, Jeff, Papa Bear, (McGraw-Hill Co., 2005), 32.
  3. Encyclopedia of ethnicity and sports in the United States, Ed. George B. Kirsch,Othello Harris and Claire Elaine Nolte, (Greenwood Publishing, 2000), 164.
  4. Elliott J. Gorn, Sports in Chicago, (University of Illinois Press, 2008), 7.
  5. Twombly, Wells (1976), 200 Years of Sport in America, New York: McGraw-Hill, p. 186, Template:Citation/identifier 
  6. Gloria Cooksey, George Halas: An entry from Gale's Notable Sports Figures 2004.
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 Names, Larry D (1987). "The Myth". In Scott, Greg. The History of the Green Bay Packers: The Lambeau Years. 1. Angel Press of WI. p. 31. Template:Citation/identifier. 
  8. The following source differs from and states that the record was 10-1-1 for 1921: Vass, George (1971). "The Bears Find a Den". George Halas and the Chicago Bears. Henry Regnery Company. p. 44. Template:Citation/identifier. 
  9. George Halas Record, Statistics, and Category Ranks -

Further reading Edit



External linksEdit


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