ESPN calls Bears Packers rivalry the NFL’s greatest… and they’re dead wrong!
"Other matchups have certainly burned hot in the NFL due to quarterbacks (Brady-Manning), home proximity (Bengals-Browns), divisional standings (the entire NFC East) or just general dislike (Ravens-Steelers), but none match the history of the Bears-Packers matchup. The rivalry started in 1921, and since then the two teams have combined for many big games and big moments."
rivalry (ri·val·ry ˈrī-vəl-rē) : a state or situation in which people or groups are competing with each other
The key word in the above definition of rivalry is “competing,” something that’s been sorely lacking in the games between the Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers over the last 30 years. For those of us old enough to remember the 1980’s, we look fondly on the days of the Bears-Packers rivalry. But those who only go back to the Dave Wannstedt, Dick Jauron or Love Smith eras (we’ll refer to the Marc Trestman years as nothing more than a speed bump), the “rivalry” is rather one-sided.
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Dating back to the 1990’s, the Bears and Packers have matched up 53 times with the Packers on the positive side of the ledger a whopping 35 times! That’s a .660 winning percentage. That doesn’t sound like much of a rivalry any more. I won’t say the rivalry is dead, but it’s certainly on life support.
The Bears and Packers have faced off 192 times in the Bears since 1921. The Bears hold a narrow 94-92 lead in the series, with six ties. This season could mark the last time the Packers have led in the rivalry since the 1930’s. The 1930’s!!!!
The Bears 7-1-3 in the first games between the teams before the Packers went on to rattle off the next seven straight. The Bears controlled the rivalry throughout the 40’s and 50’s before the Bart Starr era in the 1960’s, when the Packers went 15-5 on the Beloved. The Bears went on to command the 70’s and 80’s, going 22-16 in that stretch before the last three decades where the Packers have dominated.
The Brett Favre-led Packers rattled off ten straight between 1994-1998 and then had a seven game run between 2000-2003. Favre recorded an impressive 0.688 winning percentage against the Bears in his Packers career.
After a brief lift when Lovie Smith took over the Bears in 2004, where the Bears went 7-3 from ’04 – ’08, the Packers dominated again winning eight of the next nine games including the 2010 NFC Championship game with most of those games helmed by Aaron Rodgers who has an even better .765 winning percentage.
The Bears have not held up their end of the rivalry in the last few decades. For the fans, it’s definitely fun to talk smack and engage in the rivalry, but for the players, it’s not the same as “the good old days” when the players and coaches genuinely hated each other. These guys hug it out after the game and exchange jerseys.
A rivalry is at it’s best when both parties are competing and the outcomes are hotly contested. That hasn’t been the case between the Bears and Packers for most readers’ lifetimes. ESPN is dead wrong calling the Bears-Packers the NFL’s greatest rivalry. Longest rivalry? Yes. Most historic rivalry? Absolutely. Greatest? Not anymore. Let’s hope that John Fox and Ryan Pace can help restore the rivalry.