They come along every decade or so, and we initially fall for the bait.
The Dallas Cowboys of the mid-1990s.
The Pittsburgh Steelers of a couple of years ago.
Today's New York Jets.
We call them wild and wacky and crazy and amazing, almost begging the adjectives to burst off the page and infuse life into the relatively lifeless. But, for the past 25 years, dazzling words have failed to meet harsh reality. Yes, the Cowboys of Aikman, Smith and Irvin were wonderful. Yes, the Steelers of Big Ben and Hines Ward and Santonio Holmes walked with a swagger. Yes, the 2010 Jets seem to pack a punch.
None, however, match the 1985 Chicago Bears.
Not even close.
RELATED:Rare photos of the 1985 Bears
That it's been 2 1/2 decades since the greatest team in NFL history ran through and over the league is mind-boggling in its own right. Twenty. Five. Years. How can that be? It seems like a season or two ago that Mike Singletary, eyes the size of Oreo cookies, was patrolling the middle of the field, flanked by the freaky athleticism of Wilbur Marshall and Otis Wilson. It seems like a season or two ago that the punky QB known as McMahon was launching deep bombs to Willie Gault down the sideline; that Walter Payton was finding a hole behind Matt Suhey; that Gary Fencik was launching his helmet into opposing receivers and Jimbo Covert was pulverizing pass rushers from his spot along the line.
Teams have come and teams have gone, but the '85 Bears, well, they were different. Crazy. Alive. "We walked the walk and we talked the talk and we were never intimidated," Gault said. "There's a reason our legacy has lasted this long. We were a special collection of men."
Chicago finished with '85 season with a 15-1 record -- the only blemish being a Monday Night loss at Miami. They pulverized the Giants and Rams in the NFC playoffs, then destroyed the Patriots in the Super Bowl, 46-10.
Their coach, Mike Ditka, hated Buddy Ryan, the defensive coordinator. Their quarterback, McMahon, hated Dan Hampton, the star defensive lineman. There were fights nearly every day in practice; no-holds-barred wars between offensive and defensive players that usually lasted until a pool of blood could be found on the ground. "It was crazy intense," Covert said. "Our toughest games were our practices. Sundays seemed easy."
To commemorate the 25th anniversary, a pair of books have been released. Ditka teamed with Rick Telander, a former Sports Illustrated senior writer, to pen The '85 Bears: We Were the Greatest. And Steve Delsohn, an ESPN reporter and co-author of Jim Brown's autobiography, wrote Da Bears: How the 1985 Monsters of the Midway Became the Greatest Team in NFL History. Both texts are wonderfully written and deftly reported, with a common theme that few football fans can deny -- namely, that the Bears were one-of-a-kind champions.
Writes Telander: "Not only did [the Bears] make it to Super Bowl XX, they snatched the champion's mantle and toyed with it and danced on its fabric like maniacs. ... At its crescendo, that 1985 squad was, almost without question, the best NFL team ever. And it was the first to have larger-than-life characters sprinkled throughout. Quasi-nutcases, some. Or maybe it was just the first to have the media appreciate those characters, dissect them, revel in them, despise them, adore them -- starting with the head coach. It was a sitcom played out for our entertainment."
In New York, people are beginning to act as if the Jets are the real deal. Their coach, Rex Ryan, is Buddy's son, and they can match Gault's breakaway speed with Holmes' breakaway speed; Payton's legend with LaDainian Tomlinson's legend; Singletary's hard hits with David Harris' hard hits. But there's a difference-a gigantic one.
Come Sundays, the Jets hope to win. They want to win. They believe they'll win.
"We knew we'd win," Suhey said. "It wasn't just confidence. It felt like absolute certainty."