Packers vs. Bears: A Rivalry that Evolved this Past Offseason

Photo by Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

The Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears is the most storied rivalry in the NFL. Every single game is a battle. No meeting is ever considered a “gimmie.” When these two NFC North teams meet, the bad blood rises and the tempers flare.

The rivalry is slowly approaching 200 meetings, with the first one dating all the way back to Nov. 27, 1921. The teams have clashed twice a year ever since 1925 for a total of 194 regular-season meetings.

The Packers currently hold the edge with 95 wins, compared to Chicago’s 93. In the 194 matchups listed on Pro-Football-Reference.com, you can find the box score for every single matchup between these two historic franchises. After averaging the scores for all 194 matchups, the Packers once again are slightly better than Chicago. Green Bay has averaged 17.31 points per game to Chicago’s 17.14. The average margin of victory between these two teams is a measly 0.16 points in their 194 meetings.

These numbers are as close as it gets.

This rivalry has done nothing but grow from year to year. This past offseason was no different. Rookie Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst took over control of the team following the conclusion of the 2017 season. The impact was immediate.

Packers fans were able to experience a breath of fresh air as Gutekunst came out firing. Diverting from the ways of his predecessor, Ted Thompson, which had fans grumbling from year to year, Gutekunst was very aggressive in free agency and made offers to several players, signing a handful of them.

The Packers and the Bears shared vested interests of many of the same parties. Vic Fangio, the Bears defensive coordinator whose contract with the team expired following 2017, was pursued as an option to become Green Bay’s defensive coordinator. The position eventually went to Mike Pettine, but nonetheless it showed a lack of fear from Gutekunst.

During free agency, the Packers made an offer to now-Bears receiver Allen Robinson. Robinson eventually signed a three-year, $42 million deal with Chicago. But Green Bay’s interest was real and it forced Chicago to up their offer to their star receiver.

The next pursuit was in the form of Bears restricted free-agent cornerback Kyle Fuller. A 2014 first-round pick, Fuller was hit with the transition tag from Chicago. This allowed other teams to make offers to the corner, but it also allowed Chicago to match any offer that was made.

This is exactly what Green Bay did.

Under the transition tag, Fuller would have been scheduled to make a little under $13 million in 2018. Fuller then would have been in a similar situation following the 2018 season, and the Bears would have to decide on their long-term plans with the young cornerback. By handing Fuller an offer sheet of four years and $56 million, it forced the Bears’ hand into committing more financial resources and into a long-term deal with a corner, who has plenty of upside.

The final example is the recent acquisition of star defender Khalil Mack. The Bears, in a way, swooped in at the last second to acquire the All-Pro pass-rusher. The Packers were strongly rumored to be the most likely landing spot for the former Oakland Raider. It was later reported that Green Bay had offered both of their first-round NFL Draft picks in 2019 for the services of Mack.

It was Chicago, however, that ultimately won the race.

Before the offseason, there was already plenty of fuel for fire between the two teams. But now, this rivalry has evolved. Bears fans are feeling more giddy. Packers fans are disappointed. But Gutekunst is playing the long con against Chicago. He has forced them to make decisions and commitments before the team was possibly ready to do so.

Aside from the historic reasons for the rivalry, Mack versus Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers now becomes one of the best battles that we will see in the entire NFL. Both players are now locked up for the next six seasons. A rivalry within a rivalry.

For the past few years, Green Bay has been the far-better team. But that tide could be turning as well. A rebuilding Chicago squad, with the acquisition of Mack, is looking to finally overtake Green Bay as the king of the north. But that is what these two storied franchises do.

It’s like a boxing match. One team exchanges a blow and the other returns with an even bigger one. Back and forth. Back and forth. History has proven that this is the case, and there is absolutely nothing to suggest that this will change. Quite the contrary, actually.

Statistically, it does not appear as though these two teams can get any closer. But I don’t believe this to be true. Each team has had their runs of sustained success. For the Bears, it was in the 1980s when they were a dominant force in the NFL. For the Packers, their most recent bout of success is in continuation. As long as Rodgers is at the helm, it appears as though Green Bay and success will be synonymous terms.

But, now, it appears as though these roads may finally be converging. A road where both teams are equally as successful. A clash of the titans, if you will.

And I, for one, look forward to having a front row seat.