Thursday, Jan. 20, 2011
Posted 9:53 PM
By John Mullin
He was one of the pivotal figures in football history, winning arguably the most memorable Super Bowl of all time. Yet Joe Namath never made it to another Super Bowl, his New York Jets lost in the divisional round the following year, and New York did not have a winning season for another 12 years.
Dan Marino reached a Super Bowl in his second season, became one of the many San Francisco 49ers victims in that game, and never reached another Super Bowl in a Hall of Fame career.
As teammates quarreled over the free Super Bowl Champions hats in the locker room after Super Bowl XX, center Jay Hilgenberg and others felt the first pangs of fear that in spite of having one of the greatest teams of its era, they would never be back.
They never were.
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For more than a few current Bears, the Green Bay Packers are more than simply the quintessential rival. The Packers are what stand between them and returning to a Super Bowl, something many of the greats of the game have never accomplished.
Veterans of the 2006 team suffered the sting of losing a Super Bowl.
Nothing will ever erase that, said defensive tackle Tommie Harris. But what we have now is an opportunity to go there again and thats something that you want more than anything because you know what it means.
The Bears are not looking past the Packers. Far from it. What Green Bay did to the Atlanta Falcons, Philadelphia Eagles, New York Giants and the Bears themselves, all Packers wins, is grounding.
Lessons of history
But while many modern athletes have little sense of the history of their sport, Bears veterans do.
I think one of the misconceptions is that most players who make it to the Super Bowl, they think that they can make it back next year, said cornerback Charles Tillman. I was one of those guys. After we lost to Indianapolis a couple of years ago, I was one of the guys who said, You know what, we'll be back next year. And it just doesn't happen like that.
"I saw Dan Marino said that when he made it to the Super Bowl. He said, I"ll be back again, and he never made it in his whole career. So it's definitely you've got to make the best of it when you're there.
Harris, Tillman, Julius Peppers, Lance Briggs, Brian Urlacher, Chris Harris, Israel Idonije, Olin Kreutz, Roberto Garza, Desmond Clark, Rashied Davis, Robbie Gould, Patrick Mannelly, Danieal Manning and Devin Hester. Brad Maynard twice.
All have been in this exact position, going into an NFC Championship game, which they won, and then lost the Super Bowl after it.
And they know how rare the moment is before them.
I definitely want to seize the moment, Tillman said. I would say then I was ready to go to a Super Bowl and now Im looking at it a second time around and I dont want to just go to one; I want to win one. I think the attitude around here has changed from that standpoint.
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The endor the beginning?
Because so many of the Bears top players (Briggs, Kreutz, Peppers, Urlacher, Garza, Idonije) are 30 or older, the obvious question is whether or not the Super Bowl window is closing on them.
General Manager Jerry Angelo has said that the window for a team is 2-4 years, and the Bears are four years after their previous Super Bowl appearance. The reality is that a tumble is possible, as Brett Favre found out suddenly and catastrophically in Minnesota.
No. I dont see us getting any worse next year, Urlacher said. I think we should get better. You dont want to say this is your last shot and Im not saying that if we should lose. We want to win this game, but I am not in any way thinking this is our last shot. I think were a talented football team. Well just get better every year.
John "Moon" Mullin is CSNChicago.com's Bears Insider, and appears regularly on Bears Postgame Live and Chicago Tribune Live. Follow Moon on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bears information.