He was a Green Bay Packers fan growing up. His brother played for the Packers. He even named his dog Packer, but that all changed for Jerry Vainisi when George Halas hired him to be the Bears general manager in 1983.

Vainisi, currently the CEO of Forest Park National Bank, spoke at a Rotary luncheon on Wednesday in Oak Park about his time helping develop one of the NFL’s most dominant football teams, the 1985 Super Bowl XX winning Bears. He also spoke about how that legendary team compared to today’s squad, although, there wasn’t much of a comparison. The ’85 Bears were better hands down.

Surprisingly, Vainisi said one major difference between the two teams is at quarterback. “Jim McMahon was the leader of that football team and everybody knew it,” he said. “While Jay Cutler is a heck of an athlete and has a great arm, he has a long way to go in that regard.”

Vainisi has been suspect of Cutler ever since the Broncos let him go. “When a team is willing to give up a franchise quarterback, that’s a red flag.”  

Vainisi retold McMahon’s story about how the quarterback entered the game against Miami late and proceeded to ignore Mike Ditka’s call for pass plays with the intention of getting Walter Payton a rushing record.

“Ditka called a timeout and implored McMahon to throw the ball on the next play. McMahon went back to the huddle and told his teammates, ‘Well, the shits really going to hit the fan now.’ McMahon handed the ball off to Payton and he got the rushing record.

“Jim had a certain charisma and charm that went along with his bad boy image.”

It’s a great story except for the fact that the Bears lost that game, there only loss of the season.

Vainisi, who drafted Barry Sanders while GM at Detroit following his time with the Bears, said he was confident they would beat the Packers this Sunday.

But the Gold Coast resident, who also splits his time between Wisconsin and Florida, was sticking with Pittsburgh to take it all.

“I think the Steelers are going to win it all,” he said.

“But what if it’s against the Bears?” asked one hopeful attendee.

“Pittsburgh,” Vainisi quickly replied. Groans could be heard in the quiet room.      

I think Vainisi is wrong. I say if the Bears beat the Packers on Sunday, the Bears will win the Super Bowl on Feb. 6 regardless of who they play. 

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Brad Spencer

Brad Spencer has been covering sports in and around Oak Park for more than a decade, which means the young athletes he once covered in high school are now out of college and at home living with their parents...