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Looking Back Broncos: Three reasons to dislike the Chicago Bears

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The Chicago Bears and Denver Broncos have always been in different conferences. From before the Denver even had an AFL franchise to the most recent Jay Cutler drama, the Chicago Bears have affected the Denver Broncos in surprising and negative ways. From Halas opposing the Broncos very existence to Dick Butkus to Jay Cutler, here's a look back at the tempestuous history between these two franchises.

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Before joining the Mile High Report staff in 2011, I wrote this fanpost. The Broncos, at that time, had just endured the childish spat between then coach Josh McDaniels and mediocre Denver quarterback Jay Cutler. I have long been a fan of the history of the Broncos, and I thought it was finally time to outline why every fan should dislike the Chicago Bears. Please, note that I don't say hate. Hate is a very strong word I reserve for the only the Raiders, Chiefs and Chargers.

Looking Back Broncos this week is an update on that fanpost I wrote back in 2011. Here are three reasons why every Denver Broncos fan should dislike the Chicago Bears.

REASON #1 - George Halas

While good ol' "Poppa" Halas did so many wonderful things for pro-football, he tried everything in his power to see that Denver never got an NFL franchise.

Prior to the formation of the Broncos as an original AFL member-team, the founder of the Broncos, Bob Howsam, had petitioned the NFL to buy the Chicago Cardinals and move them to Denver.

Back then, the Chicago Bears reigned supreme as the only quality franchise from the eastern Illinois border to San Francisco/Los Angeles. The first Dallas Texans team, not the team that became the Kansas City Chiefs, briefly existed but doesn't really factor into this conversation - see below. Also note that the 49ers at that time only recently (1950) came from the AAFL and were relatively new to the west coast long with the freshly relocated Rams team arriving in Los Angeles from Cleveland.

THE NFL'S OFFICIAL ENCYCLOPEDIC HISTORY OF PROFESSIONAL FOOTBALL (NFL PROPERTIES, INC. (c) 1977

THE NFL'S OFFICIAL ENCYCLOPEDIC HISTORY OF PROFESSIONAL FOOTBALL (NFL PROPERTIES, INC. (c) 1977

As you can see there was this huge expanse in the middle of the country where no NFL team existed.  In the late 1950s, the Bears were essentially the only grounded NFL team that western states could follow.  Remember football on television was largely a regional affair and since the Bears were it, they were essentially all anyone out west ever saw.

The Cardinals of that time were more or less the NFL version of today's Colorado Rockies, but with a little more success. Bob Howsam's request to buy the Cardinals was opposed primarily by Halas who viewed a team in Denver as a threat to the Bears' western empire (there were other considerations like stadium size among other things, but the territorial threat was Halas' primary concern).  Considering the size of Broncos Country seen here in pictographic form, the Bears fear of losing territory was a legitimate one.

via businessinsider.com

via businessinsider.com

When Lamar Hunt moved to launch the AFL with the aid of Houston's Bud Adams and other owners, the NFL decided to offer both Adams and Hunt NFL franchises on one condition... that none of the other possible AFL franchises (LA Chargers, Minnesota (Oakland had yet to be an option), Buffalo Bills, New York Titans, Denver Broncos, Boston Patriots) were allowed to join.  Thankfully, Hunt never accepted the deal and went forward in founding the AFL. Despite his ties to the hated Kansas City Chiefs, as Broncos fans we owe a great deal to Lamar Hunt.

Years later when Hunt and Adams (outside of knowledge of then AFL Commissioner - and Oakland Raiders owner - Al Davis) were in negotiations to merge the AFL with the NFL, George Halas again flexed his muscle and requested that Denver, along with one other team not be allowed to join the NFL.  Again, Hunt held his ground and the all AFL franchises were merged into the NFL and the rest is history.

Though Halas was a great figure in the history of football, he was an enemy of the Broncos since before their inception.

REASON  #2 - Dick Butkus

In 1965 the hapless Broncos drafted Dick Butkus. Like fellow Hall-of-Famer/Little House on the Prairie sidekick Merlin Olsen did with the Rams in 1962, Butkus rejected the Broncos -- to sign with the Chicago Bears of the NFL. Such was Denver's luck back then. Denver didn't sign any of their high profile picks until becoming a part of the NFL - the first being Hall-of-Famer Floyd Little (still feels good to say that).

It's easily understood why Butkus went the way he did. The Broncos were about as disheveled an organization as one could be during that time. However, what could Butkus have been had he come to Mile High (or Bears Stadium as it was known then... Hey, wait a minute! Bears Stadium?!).  Butkus could have been one of the early great Broncos, instead he played it safe. His loss.

Over the last few years, I've had a few opportunities to rail against Butkus and Merlin Olsen for not signing with Denver. Shortly after one of these times, the Denver Broncos website ran an article stating that there was never any prayer for either to sign with the Broncos. It's easy to look back at those picks and say that it was silly for Denver to try and draft them, but that then begs the question, why did they do it?

How little of a chance was there? So little that when asked about it on 104.3 The Fan on Thursday that his story about being drafted by the Broncos was mostly about the Bears. What's also interesting is that Butkus not only rejected the Broncos, he rejected the entire league in that if he wanted to sign with any other AFL team, that could have been arranged. All my animated snark aside, the interview is worth the listen.

The Broncos could have picked anyone. The failures of 1960-61 in signing draft picks should have told them not to select Olsen and the 1960-1964 draft signing failures should have told them not to go after Butkus. Yet, they did anyway. The Broncos brain trust in the early 1960's had to believe that they had a shot (even though it's clear in the Butkus interview that there just wasn't one). If they knew going into it they had no prayer, why not draft Mickey Mouse or Mickey Rooney? Why not draft someone so far down their draft board that they could make a compelling case for them to sign with Denver?

To be honest, none of that really matters all these many years later. I'd happily take Randy Gradishar, Karl Mecklenburg, or Von Miller over Dick Butkus every day of the week.  If you don't want to be a Bronco, we don't want you.

Which brings me to....

REASON #3 - Jay Cutler

Do I need to rehash this? I think you all know the deal. Let's not forget, though, that ol' Jay once said he had a stronger arm than John Elway. Let's also not forget that, upon arriving in Chicago, that Cutler said that Bears fans were more passionate than fans in Denver. Lastly, let's not forget that he slapped away Pat Bowlen's overtures to repair the damage Josh McDaniels caused by engaging in trade talks with the Patriots for now-Cowboys backup and turnover machine Matt Cassel. You just don't disrespect Mr. B like that.

***

So now you know.  Think about these reasons when the Bears host the Broncos this Sunday.  When you see the GSH on Bears players' sleeve, remember that George Halas didn't want you to have a team. He didn't want you to have the Broncos. When you see or hear about Dick Butkus, think about the Bronco great that could have been. Just think about how fortunate Broncos fans are to be in a position where we can not only dislike the Bears, but play against them as well. How fortunate we are to watch this historically awesome defense sack and intercept the ever-loving crud out of Jay Cutler.

Go Broncos.