It's possible that the 2006 Bears are sick and tired of hearing about how great the `85 Bears were, so it appears that emerging victorious in Super Bowl XLI is the only way to put those comparisons to rest.
Defensive coordinator Ron Rivera was a reserve linebacker for that legendary `85 club, and he feels the current Bears could learn a thing or two from that colorful cast of characters.
"I think the one thing is that so much has been said and written about the `85 team that I think that this team realizes the significance of what it means to win," Rivera said on Friday in the auditorium at Halas Hall. "Just knowing how great and how big it has been for the `85 team, I know these guys would love to be able to share in that and be part of something very special."
The Monsters of the Midway, champions of the NFC for the first time in 21 years, will face the Indianapolis Colts on Feb. 4 at Dolphin Stadium in Miami.
Peyton Manning leads an Indy offense that is as explosive as ever, averaging 379.4 yards and scoring 26.7 points per game. Pro Bowl tailback Edgerrin James may now be in Arizona, but rookie Joseph Addai and veteran Dominic Rhodes combined to rush for 1,722 yards and caught 76 passes out of the backfield. Marvin Harrison (95 receptions, 1,366 yards, 12 touchdowns) and Reggie Wayne (86, 1,310, 9) formed the most productive receiver tandem in the league, and tight end Dallas Clark has made some huge grabs in the postseason.
But it all starts with Manning, who has finally shed the dubious title as the best quarterback in the NFL never to reach a Super Bowl. Archie's son had another prolific season, throwing for 4,397 yards and 31 TDs while posting a stellar passer rating of 101. Manning is arguably the most cerebral signal-caller in the game today and understands defenses as well as anyone.
Manning certainly leads the league in histrionics and hand gestures at the line of scrimmage, something that Rivera admits can be confusing to a defense at times.
"I think the biggest thing that our guys are trying to understand and we're trying to get across to them is really it's all about just prior to the snap," he said. "You've got to get past all the other stuff. When he's walking around pointing and everything else like that, he's not ready to play. As he moves down the line, as he's turning around and saying things to their guys, our guys have to understand that that's just a part of the choreographed motions that he has. So you've got to get past that."
Rivera is instructing his players to largely ignore all of Manning's calls and signals before the play and just wants them to see what's happening when the ball's ready to be snapped.
"Now when he's set and he's ready to go," he said, "now you've got to be ready to play obviously. And I think as the game goes on and they develop that feel for it, they'll feel more and more comfortable. And we're trying to get them to watch tape and understand what he's doing as they're watching the tape, but really there's nothing like it until you really get a chance to see it in person."
Experts have listed the Bears as 7-point underdogs in this game, but should they find a way to win, Rivera will have accomplished quite the daily double. Not many people have won a Super Bowl as a player and as a coach, and fewer still have done it with the same organization.
Rivera is well aware of what a rare accomplishment that would be.
"I think that it is pretty special," he said. "That's part of what I hope to accomplish is to be able to be a Super Bowl champion as a player and as a coach, and especially for the Chicago Bears. I think it would be phenomenal. Honestly, it really hit me the other day, just the whole emotions of getting here and just kind of realizing what it means. It is something very special."
Rivera may have lost out on his chance to become a head coach next season because of the Bears' march to the Super Bowl, but another championship ring wouldn't be a bad consolation prize.