Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Ones That Got Away: Decatur Staleys

Of the three dozen or so most prominent examples of players, coaches, and/or managers who left Chicago early in their careers and went on to greater glory elsewhere, two are Pro Football Hall of Famers who started out with the original Decatur Staleys, forerunners of the Bears, in 1920. They are recalled below.

Guy Chamberlin
Staleys, 1920 - 1921

   After a legendary collegiate career at Nebraska, Guy Chamberlin became one of the first and greatest stars of pro football. His size (six-foot-two and 210 pounds) and strength were exceptional for his era. He was a mainstay at both offensive and defensive end for the Staleys, before leaving when offered the chance to run a team of his own. Over the next five years, he was player-coach for four NFL champions in three different cities: the Canton Bulldogs in 1922 and 1923, Cleveland Bulldogs in 1924, and Frankford (Pennsylvania) Yellow Jackets in 1926. Chamberlin compiled a phenomenal career coaching record of 56-14-5. He entered the Hall of Fame in 1965.

Jimmy Conzelman
Staleys, 1920

     Six of the first eight NFL championships were won by player-coaches who had been members of the original Staleys--George Halas, Guy Chamberlin, and Jimmy Conzelman. An outstanding quarterback and halfback, Conzelman played for and coached four different teams in 10 years after he left the Staleys in 1921--Rock Island Independents, Milwaukee Badgers, Detroit Panthers, and Providence Steam Roller. In 1928, he won the championship wth Providence (the last franchise no longer in existence to have won a title). After devoting himself to a variety of pursuits--including business, writing, editing, speaking, and songwriting--for a number of years, Conzelman returned to coaching in the forties. In 1947, he guided the Chicago Cardinals to their second and last, championship. He entered the Hall of Fame in 1964.

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