Jim O'Donnell: As Chicago Bears fade to flail, the style of Jim Finks seems so far away

  • Jim Finks, right, listens to a question at a news conference Sept. 12, 1974 after he was named the Bears' general manager, replacing George Halas Jr.

    Jim Finks, right, listens to a question at a news conference Sept. 12, 1974 after he was named the Bears' general manager, replacing George Halas Jr. Associated Press

Updated 11/20/2020 8:38 PM

BEARS FANS HAVE reason enough to be infuriated.

The team's offensive incompetence against Minnesota Monday night was foul enough to call for a gubernatorial order of bye weeks extending to the start of the 2021 season.


The ineptitude goes all the way up the vertical, through Matt Nagy and Ryan Pace to the ownership mix of the McCaskey family and associates.

If market size mattered in the NFL anymore -- and it doesn't -- the league office might quietly intervene in the same way Pete Rozelle did back in 1974.

That was when the deft commissioner "hinted" to George "Mugs" Halas Jr. that Vikings wizard Jim Finks was ready to bolt if he could get a piece of a team.

Emboldened, Halas Jr. somehow brokered the marriage of Finks and the Bears with "The Papa Bear" himself -- George Halas -- willingly giving up approximately 2.5% of the franchise.

Finks hung in there from September 1974 until his sudden resignation in the fall of 1983 to become president of the Cubs.

The reason: Halas Sr. had intervened once too often.

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Along the way, Finks flipped the culture of the franchise and left it positioned for the concluding run-up to the magic of 1985 and Super Bowl XX.

With four of his top nine selections (1975-'83), Finks took offensive tackles -- Dennis Lick, Ted Albrecht, Keith Van Horne and Jimbo Covert.

Four other No. 1's went for: Walter Payton (1975), Dan Hampton (1979), Otis Wilson (1980) and Jim McMahon (1982).

That's called, "Draftin'!"

Compared to the energy of that era, is it any wonder reasonable Bears fans of today are hoping for a 6-10 finish, the quick ashcannings of Pace and Nagy and a complete rollover of so many things at Halas Hall?

FIFTY-SEVEN YEARS AGO this weekend, President John F. Kennedy was murdered in downtown Dallas.

Three notes:

• All the fool's history later, it is an indisputable fact that America has never recovered;


• Two days afterward, Mike Ditka took a short curl from Bill Wade on a third-and-22 vs. the Steelers at Forbes Field and turned it into a supernatural 63-yard gain.

"The most determined run in the history of pro football," the late George Allen said.

Ditka's effort prompted a 17-17 tie with Pittsburgh. Three weeks later, the Bears (11-1-2) won the NFL-West over the Packers (11-2-1) and were en route to the league crown;

• Hours before Ditka's Sunday run, a former Wrigley Field vendor named Jack Ruby slipped through a Cover-70 defense in the basement of Dallas Police headquarters and killed Lee Oswald, the apprentice spook who was being framed for the slaying of President Kennedy.

Ruby worked under young Bill Veeck in the late 1930s, selling programs and peanuts at Cubs games.

In a 1983 conversation, Veeck said, "Jake was the best 'duker' we had."

"A duker" was a program seller who would juice sales on slow days by slapping a program in the downturned palm -- or "duke" -- of an unsuspecting passerby.

With the sneaky seller yelling, "Hey Mac, where's my dime?," the embarrassed recipient, according to Veeck, would invariably pay up.

"Rubinstein," Veeck said, "would do anything for a nickel."

STREET-BEATIN': The Bulls certainly underwhelmed in the NBA draft and brought great disappointment to a significant core of informed faithful by passing on Dayton's Obi Toppin at No. 4. New basketball ops chief Arturas Karnisovas continued the sedated feel with numbing non-speak the following morning on WSCR-AM (670). ...

Grand Sunday to sequence the NFL's platinum three network TV teams: Jim Nantz-Tony Romo (Titans-Ravens, noon, CBS-2), Joe Buck-Troy Aikman (Packers-Colts, 3:25 p.m., Fox-32) and Al Michaels-Cris Collinsworth (Chiefs-Raiders, 7:20 p.m., NBC-5). ...

A memorial service for sports writer Vaughn McClure was held in Hoffman Estates. Plans for The Vaughn McClure Foundation continue to progress. ...

Two NBA teams filled play-by-play slots with talents of color, including Portland (Jordan Kent) and Sacramento (Mark Jones). Michael Jordan's Charlotte Hornets are sitting on an opening with the planned start of the 2020-'21 season one month away. ...

ESPN -- apparently oozing South Side optimism as the calendar creeps toward 2021 -- has Tony La Russa and the Sox appearing in two opening-week games next spring. (The Cubs were blanked.) ...

And Ohio State power front Ryan Day, with an understatement ready for post-Orwellian screenshots and T-shirts everywhere: "It's 2020. Anything can happen."

• Jim O'Donnell's Sports & Media column appears Thursday and Sunday. Reach him at jimodonnelldh@yahoo.com.

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