The Chicago Ties to Super Bowl XLVII


Harbaugh and Ditka

You know what would be really cool? For the Chicago tie to the Super Bowl to be that the Bears would be in it.

You know what’s not really cool? Reality.

The Bears are on the outside looking in. Instead of preparing for an epic battle in New Orleans, most players are probably busy handing out Super Bowl party invites.

And even though some of those players are living it up in Hawaii for the Pro Bowl festivities, at the end of the day, no one really gives a rat’s ass about the Pro Bowl.

That’s actually a proven scientific fact. Google it.

Anyways, the moral of this story is that instead of being in the brightest spotlight the sport has to offer on Super Bowl Sunday, the Bears and their fan base will once again be forced to watch begrudgingly.

Hopefully there are at least a few good commercials to provide comic relief.

All the players and the fans can do now is hope that Phil Emery and Marc Trestman have enough up their sleeves to change the scenario in 12 month’s time.

In the mean time, we’re left to try to scrape together any sort of connection that the Baltimore Ravens or San Francisco 49ers may have with the Bears and possibly use that to determine a rooting interest.

But let’s not let our envy blind us of an important fact: these two teams are as elite as they come, and this is shaping up to be one amazing game.

So let’s explore the Chicago ties to Super Bowl XLVII, and I’ll even throw in my personal prediction at the end for kicks.

San Francisco 49ers

The most obvious Bears-9ers connection comes in the form of their head coach Jim Harbaugh.

From his college days in Michigan, Harbaugh projected to be a future star. In his final two years as a starter under legendary coach Bo Schembechler, Harbaugh led the Wolverines to a 23-3-1 record, including victories in the 1986 Fiesta Bowl and 1987 Rose Bowl.

Harbaugh even famously guaranteed a win over Ohio State in Columbus in his senior season, and he made good on that promise with a thrilling 26-24 victory.

As Lil’ Wayne likes to say, “it ain’t trickin’ if you got it.” (For everyone older than 25, that means, “it’s not trash talk if you can back it up”.)

After finishing 3rd in the Heisman Voting and being named an AP All American, his future prospects looked bright. The Bears made him the 26th overall pick in the 1987 NFL Draft, a move that shocked draft analysts who thought the Bears would fill their need at either wide receiver or defensive lineman before looking elsewhere.

No offense to Jim, but maybe the Bears should’ve taken another route. In his seven seasons with the Bears, Harbaugh was constantly battling other quarterbacks for the starting job (much like the Alex Smith/Colin Kaepernick controversy he dealt with this season).

Harbaugh fell out of favor with Coach Ditka early on. VERY early on. In an exhibition game against the Phoenix Cardinals in his rookie year, Harbaugh completed only one of 15 passes. He played in a reserve role from there on out.

He spent the next few seasons splitting time with Jim McMahon and Mike Tomczak before finally earning the full time gig in 1991.

Harbaugh enjoyed his best season as a Bear that year, starting all 16 games, passing for 3,121 yards and 15 touchdowns, and starting the Bears Wild Card match up against the Dallas Cowboys in the playoffs. That would be his one and only playoff appearance as a Bear, which they lost 17-13.

A year later, the team regressed, along with Harbaugh. Coach Ditka was fired after the season, and after the 1993 season, Harbaugh signed with the Indianapolis Colts.

Shortly after in 1995, he won the NFL Comeback Player of the Year, was voted to the Pro Bowl, was named AFC Player of the Year, and was the runner up for the NFL MVP. How’s that for timing?

On top of all of that, he also made this quintessentially 90’s commercial the following season. That might be his greatest accomplishment of them all.

By all accounts, there isn’t any kind of bad sentiment against Jim Harbaugh in these parts. Besides being a bit of a bust given his draft position, fans probably realize his potential as a Bear was hurt by the constant uncertainty of his starter status and having a generally poor team surrounding him.

He was a marginal quarterback in his time in Chicago, and outside of that ’95 season, he was a journeyman for his career.

He was also on the receiving end on Ray Lewis’ first career sack in 1996, and ended up playing with Ray two years later in Baltimore. That’s a true testament to Lewis once you think about it.

Now, instead of running frantically away from him, the 49-year-old is coaching against Lewis, and is on the cusp of winning a Lombardi Trophy in only his second year as an NFL head coach.

Outside of Harbaugh, there are a few other Chicago connections to the 49ers. But these aren’t Chicago Bears connections.

Colin Kaepernick, San Francisco’s resident superhero, was actually drafted by the Chicago Cubs. The Cubs drafted Kaepernick in the 43rd round of the 2009 MLB Draft, which was during his Red-Shirt Junior season at Nevada.

He chose not to sign with the Cubs to continue to play at Nevada, and reports are coming out now that he never really seriously considered baseball no matter how hard the Cubs tried to persuade him.

Seems like he made the right choice.

For every Cubs tie, you can find a White Sox tie. At least on the 49ers.

Kyle Williams, the son of White Sox general manager Kenny Williams, is a wide receiver for the 9ers. He’s currently on injured reserve with a knee injury, meaning he’ll be inactive for the Super Bowl.

You might remember Kyle’s name being in the news quite a bit last year around this time, and for good reason. He had the worst luck you could possibly imagine for any single player to have in the 9ers overtime loss against the New York Giants in the NFC Championship game. Many people (including myself) believe his errors lost the 49ers the game.

Luckily, the 9ers are back just a year later. Unfortunately, Williams won’t be able to make amends.

Baltimore Ravens

The connections to the Ravens are decidedly less prominent. The only notable ones would be linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo and cornerback Corey Graham, two players who used to be featured on the Bears defense.

Ayanbadejo spent three seasons in Chicago as a special teams ace. He went to three consecutive Pro Bowls from 2006-2008, the first two of those seasons being with the Bears.

He played a similar role in Baltimore until this season when both Ray Lewis and Terrell Suggs missed time due to injuries. He has stepped into the linebacker rotation without a hitch.

Graham was also most prominently featured on special teams during his five year stay in Chicago, although he saw more regular playing time on defense than Ayanbadejo.

He appeared in 77 games for the Bears, recorded 156 defensive tackles and snagged four interceptions.

Outside of those two guys, not much else to mention on the Baltimore side.

Other than Chicago ties, both teams have guys who I’m really partial to as a fan.

Two of my favorite players in the NFL are Michael Crabtree and LaMichael James, both of whom are on the 9ers. I’ve followed both of their careers since college and you can seldom find a fantasy team I own that doesn’t feature at least one of them.

Crabtree’s grab against Texas in 2008 redefined the word “possibility” for me. I can still hear Brent Musberger’s call ringing in my ear like it was yesterday, “CRABTREE! PULLS FREE! TOUCHDOWN RED RAIDERS!”

And LaMichael James was my favorite player on my favorite college football team, the Oregon Ducks. Doesn’t get much simpler than that. As I always say, “when the duck is happy, I’m happy.”

On the Raven’s side, if you claim to be a sport’s fan at all, how can you not be all over the Ray Lewis saga?

I’m also a big believer in Joe Flacco and I think he gets way more criticism than he deserves. Show me another QB who has started and won a playoff game in his first five NFL seasons.

Oh wait, you can’t, that’s right.

So with all my biases out in the open, and all of the ties back to Chicago clearly stated, here’s my personal Super Bowl prediction for how things will play out in the Super Dome on February 3rd:

Ravens 21, 49ers 17

Ray gets his ring, Flacco ups his “street cred”, and the eastern seaboard can take solace in the fact that it is still the Mecca of football greatness.

9ers fans, don’t get too dejected, there’s a caveat. I have a sneaky feeling the 49ers will be back again next year, and they’ll win Super Bowl XLVIII. Baby steps each year. Luckily the team is young enough and good enough to sustain the high level of play needed to do that.

Patience is a virtue, my friends.

You heard my prediction, what’s yours? As Bears fans, do you feel partial to either team given their connections to Chicago?

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