Monsters of the Midway
The Monsters of the Midway is most widely known as the nickname for the National Football League's Chicago Bears—particularly the dominant teams of 1940 and 1941. The name underwent something of a renewal when the 1985 edition of the Bears proved to be similarly dominant and has been used as a nickname for the Bears, in particular their intimidating defenses and linebackers, ever since. The name got another renaissance in 2006 when the Bears went back to the Super Bowl thanks to their dominant defense and again in the 2018 season, when the dominant Chicago defense led the team to an NFC North championship.
Origins of the name
The nickname Monsters of the Midway was originally applied to the University of Chicago "Maroons", a college football team under the leadership of Amos Alonzo Stagg. "Midway" is a reference to the Midway Plaisance, a long, green swath of boulevard space bordering the southern end of the campus between 59th and 60th Streets and running from Washington Park to Jackson Park on Chicago's South Side. The U of C ended its major college football program in 1939, around a time of several Bears NFL Championships. During this time, their home field was Wrigley Field, the legendary home of the Chicago Cubs, on the North Side of the city, roughly 12 miles (20 km) from the Midway. The "C" symbol on their helmets is borrowed from the U of C Maroons. The moniker is also used by the university's Velo Club bicycle racing team, for their annual criterium in May on the Midway.
It is not, contrary to some mentions, a reference to Chicago's Midway Airport, which was known as "Chicago Municipal Airport" until 1949, at which time it was renamed to honor veterans of the Battle of Midway.
The popularity of "Monsters of the Midway" was renewed by the dominant Chicago Bears defense of 1985. That year the Bears went 15–1 in the regular season. In the playoffs the Bears posted two shutouts against the New York Giants (21–0) and the Los Angeles Rams (24–0). This culminated in the Super Bowl, wherein they defeated the New England Patriots 46–10.
The 1985 Bears defense was ranked first in the NFL in points allowed and yards allowed. That year defensive end Richard Dent led the league in sacks and linebacker Mike Singletary won the Defensive Player of the Year Award. Both players were two of five Bears from that team enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, the others being running back Walter Payton, defensive end Dan Hampton, and coach Mike Ditka.
Although the Monsters of the Midway nickname is sometimes applied to the Bears team as a whole it is primarily applied to the defensive side of the ball. This is due to the Bears having a long tradition of tough and intimidating defenses that date back to the beginning of the franchise. Both the initial association of the nickname to the Bears and its 1980s revival were due mainly to the Bears' strong defensive performances. Founder George Halas primarily played defensive end and the Bears have been credited with as defensive innovators with schemes such as the 46 Defense and the Tampa 2. Over the years ten of the Bears' defenses being ranked among the 100 stingiest defenses of all time by Cold Hard Football Facts, more than any other franchise.
Within their acclaimed defenses, the Bears have been described as having a particularly strong legacy at middle linebacker, with players often being referred to as "Monsters in the Middle", a play on the Monsters of the Midway nickname. This is mainly due to the play of Bill George, Dick Butkus, Mike Singletary, and Brian Urlacher, all of whom were members of the first-team NFL All-Decade teams for their respective tenures, and are ranked within the top fifteen Bears of all time by ESPN Chicago. Furthermore, George, Butkus, Singletary, and Urlacher are Pro Football Hall of Fame inductees and Butkus and George have their numbers retired by the Bears.
- Bill George (1952–1965) – Considered the first true middle linebacker and inadvertently the creator of the 4–3 defense, George was an eight time All-Pro, NFL Champion (1963), and member of the National Football League 1950s All-Decade Team. Inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1974.
- Dick Butkus (1965–1973) – Widely considered one of the greatest and most intimidating linebackers of all time, Butkus was a six time All-Pro, two time NEA Defensive Player of the Year, and member of the NFL All Decade Team for both the 1960s and the 1970s. Inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1979.
- Mike Singletary (1981–1992) – Middle linebacker for the Super Bowl winning 1985 Chicago Bears and the archetypical linebacker in Buddy Ryan's innovative 46 defense. Singletary was an eight time All-Pro, two time AP NFL Defensive Player of the Year, and member of the National Football League 1980s All-Decade Team. Inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1998.
- Brian Urlacher (2000–2012) – The linebacker that led the Bears back to prominence after a decade of subpar play. Urlacher thrived in the Tampa 2 defense of coach Lovie Smith due to his agility and intelligence and was a four time All-Pro, NFC Champion in 2006, one time AP NFL Defensive Player of the Year, member of the National Football League 2000s All-Decade Team. Inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2018.
The game Mutant League Football referenced the name, calling one of its fictional teams the "Midway Monsters".
- "Monsters of the Midway". chicagobears.com.
- "Before It Was Normal: Celebrating the University of Chicago's 40th Anniversary Return of Football". ESPN.
- Jim Murray (January 1, 1985). "Dr. Ditka Has Created Some New Monsters". Los Angeles Times.
- "Chicago Bears - A Tradition of Defense". March 13, 2013.
- Kerry Byrne (April 4, 2013). "Monsters of the Midway: We Need The Chicago Bears More Than Ever". Cold Hard Football Facts.
- Melissa Isaacson. "Bears' legacy deep up the middle". ESPN Chicago.
- "50 Greatest Bears". ESPN Chicago.