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The Bears' Super Bowl-winning general manager has died.

Jerry Vainisi passed away Tuesday at the age of 80 in Oak Park, Ill.

Vainisi spent 15 years working for the organization, from 1972-1987, and was the GM from 1983-87.

First, Vainisi served as team controller, then treasurer and then an in-house counsel. In 1983, he followed Jim Finks as GM after Finks had quit when he wasn't consulted by George Halas prior to the hiring of Mike Ditka as head coach by the Bears owner.

Most of the talent for the Super Bowl team was brought in during Finks' drafts, but the 1984 draft came after Finks left and during Vainisi's time as GM. The Bears drafted linebacker Wilber Marshall in 1984, then William Perry and Kevin Butler the next year when they won the Super Bowl.

Vainisi, was a good friend of Ditka's, hired Bears current president and CEO Ted Phillips in 1983 as the team controller.

"I will always appreciate the few years I spent with Jerry and am forever grateful for his decision to hire me as the Bears controller in 1983, which started my 40-year career with the Bears," Phillips said in a statement Wednesday. "My thoughts and prayers are with him and his entire family."

Vainisi's time as GM ended after the 1986 season when the Bears lost 27-13 to the Washington Redskins with Doug Flutie at quarterback. 

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Flutie started only one game for the Bears before the playoff game, after they had traded for him due to an injury to Jim McMahon. Michael McCaskey fired Vainisi after the playoff game. 

Later, Vainisi was vice-president of player personnel for the Lions three years including when they drafted Barry Sanders in 1989. He also worked in operations for the World League of American Football and later became president of Forest Park Bank.

Vainisi was a Chicago native who had an accounting degree at Georgetown and law degree from Kent College. 

His sports career started as a ball boy in the 1950s, ironically enough, at Green Bay Packers camp. His older brother was a Packers scout. Later he was a sports announcer in Monmouth, Ill. Vainisi is in the Chicago Sports Hall of Fame.


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