The 2016 Chicago Cubs and 1985 Chicago Bears dominated their leagues in their championship year. Ironically their rise and decline followed the same path.
That wasn’t supposed to happen for either the Chicago Cubs or Bears. Almost everyone expected dynasties to arise from franchises long mired in mediocrity and failure.
Rebuilds from 1981-1983 and 2011-2014
The Bears playoff appearance in 1979 was not dissimilar to the Cubs 2007-2008 playoff appearances. Easy come; easy go. By 1981 the Bears were headed back to oblivion. So were the Cubs by 2010. Changes were in the air.
The Bears hired Mike Ditka in 1982, who promised a new approach and a winning culture. In 2011 the Cubs fired General Manager Jim Hendry and hired Theo Epstein, who also spoke of long-term success.
Right off, things got worse. The Bears went 3-6 in Ditka’s first season. The Northsiders lost a combined 196 games in 2012 and 2013. The 1983 season wasn’t much better for the Bears, 8-8, nor the 2014 season for the Cubs at 73-89.
But during those last rebuild years, pieces were starting to show up that became part of the winning seasons ahead and for the dynasties that were expected.
For the Bears, Willie Gault, Richard Dent, Jimbo Covert were coming of age, joining veterans like Dan Hampton, Gary Fencik, and Steve McMichael. For the Cubs, Javier Baez, Jorge Soler, and Kyle Hendricks began to appear alongside Anthony Rizzo, Jake Arrieta, and Starlin Castro.
In 1983 the Bears won five of their last six games. In 2014 the Cubs went a game over .500 in August and September and would have been even better but for a seven-game losing streak against playoff-bound Pittsburgh and a tough Toronto team. Kris Bryant, Kyle Schwarber, and Addison Russell lurked in the minors.