The Bears had been on a slow decline since their 1963 championship. They'd nearly made the playoffs in 1968, only to lose to the Packers on the regular season's final day to send Green Bay to the playoffs as division champions. (Sound familiar?)
The 1969 season started out poorly and got worse, the Bears losing their first seven games, though to be fair, four of the losses were by six points or fewer -- 20-17, 28-24, 13-7 and 9-7 -- and as you can see just by those, those Bears had trouble scoring points (two other losses were by shutout, and in the 0-7 start, the Bears had scored just 69 points, averaging less than 10 per game).
It was with that record that they welcomed the Pittsburgh Steelers -- also off to an 0-7 start -- to Wrigley Field on Sunday, November 9. With TV blackouts still in place, Bears fans in Chicago who weren't at the game (45,856 were in attendance) could only listen to the WGN radio broadcast with Jack Brickhouse and Irv Kupcinet. I have a vivid memory of sitting in a sunny living room in my house that day doing exactly that, listening to "Brick and Kup", as they were known to Bears fans.
The Bears demolished the Steelers 38-7, scoring more than half as many points as they had in the entire season to that date. Cooper Rollow's recap in the Tribune began this way:
The Bears yesterday unleashed all the pent-up agony and humiliation of two months of frustration on the Pittsburgh Steelers.
With a murderous demonstration of defensive might and an offense that tagged along just for the fun of it, they crushed their Eastern conference opponents, 38 to 7.
It was like Goliath stomping on a dandelion. Or perhaps more appropriately, it was like Dick Butkus tramping on Terry Hanratty, Dick Shiner, and other assorted Steelers, as the Bears finally achieved their maiden 1969 victory on the ninth day of November.
Bobby Douglass, the southpaw slinger from Kansas, directed the victory, and he twice fumbled the ball away and served up an interception.
But in between his misdemeanors, Douglass hurled touchdown passes of 25 yards to Brian Piccolo and 12 yards to Bob Wallace. He also scrambled in and around the disorganized Steeler defense for 72 yards, making him the Bears' second leading rusher.
The leader, of course, was the king -- Gale Sayers. The Kansas Comet, enjoying his third consecutive 100-yards-plus rushing day with a net of 112 yards in 28 carries, scored twice, on line smashes of 2 and 1 yards.
The Bears then went back to their losing ways, finishing out the 1969 season with six straight defeats in which they were outscored 183-93. Their 1-13 record is still the worst in franchise history.
The woeful Steelers also finished 1-13. The draft tiebreaker of the time for the No. 1 pick was a coin flip. Yes, seriously. The Bears lost the flip (under modern tiebreaker rules, they would have lost out on the top pick anyway, as the current tiebreaker is head-to-head, and the Bears' win over Pittsburgh would have given the Steelers the top choice), and thus Pittsburgh got the No. 1 slot in the 1970 draft.
The Bears traded their 1970 pick, No. 2 overall in the draft, to the Packers for Lee Roy Caffey, Bob Hyland and Elijah Pitts, all of whom had been productive players for the Pack. All three had played in at least one Super Bowl for Green Bay. Caffey and Hyland both played one mediocre season for the Bears; Pitts was waived before ever playing a regular-season game for the Bears.
With the No. 1 overall pick in the 1970 draft, the Steelers selected some guy named Bradshaw. Perhaps you've heard of him.
I'm not suggesting the Bears should have tanked that game against Pittsburgh, nor any other game, in 1969. But man, it would have been nice to see that quarterback in a Bears uniform through the 1970s.