Whatever Happened to Jim McMahon, the ‘Punky QB’ of the Chicago Bears?
Jim McMahon’s NFL statistics aren’t going to overwhelm too many people. He wasn’t the most talented or the most athletic quarterback in the league, but McMahon was highly effective with the Chicago Bears. He was also outspoken, charismatic, and a Super Bowl champion.
The 1985 Chicago Bears
Jim McMahon was the quarterback of one of the best teams of the 1980s – the 1985 Chicago Bears. Although those Bears were mostly recognized for their dominant defense, McMahon was the field general for a highly effective offense that averaged 28.5 points per game.
In 1985 McMahon was selected this first and only Pro Bowl after throwing for a career-high 2,392 yards and completing 56.9 percent of his passes. He was the ‘punky QB’ as described in their ‘Super Bowl Shuffle’ video which was widely popular during their run to Super Bowl XX. He was the leader of the best team in the NFL.
The Bears won their first 12 games of the season before falling on the road to the Miami Dolphins 38-24. They finished the regular season with a 15-1 mark and their defense led the league in points allowed (198) and yards allowed (4,135). In the postseason, they turned it up a notch by shutting out both the New York Giants (21-0) and the St. Louis Rams (24-0) en route to a berth in Super Bowl XX.
The Bears crushed the New England Patriots 46-10 and were crowned Super Bowl champions. McMahon rushed for two touchdowns and threw for 256 yards in the win.
Jim McMahon’s NFL career
Jim McMahon was drafted fifth overall by the Chicago Bears in the 1982 NFL draft and immediately made an impact. McMahon won the starting job as a rookie and was named NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year that season. In 1984, he led the Bears to the NFC Championship where they were beaten by the San Francisco 49ers.
Known for his dark sunglasses and his headbands, McMahon was a character off the field. He once donned a white headband and wrote ADIDAS on it. The league, under Commissioner Pete Rozelle, didn’t find it humorous and fined the quarterback $5,000. McMahon followed that up by wearing a headband with ‘Rozelle’ on it. The commissioner seemed to enjoy the humor and wrote McMahon a personal note.
Personalized headbands became a thing for McMahon. He would write ‘POW-MIA’ to recognize veterans or ‘JDF-CURE’ to raise awareness for juvenile diabetes. His headbands helped raise donations for various charities.
McMahon went on to win another Super Bowl as a backup quarterback to Brett Favre and the Green Bay Packers, who also defeated the New England Patriots. McMahon played for six different teams and ended his career in 1996. He finished his career with 100 touchdown passes.
Life after football
Jim McMahon played the game of football with reckless abandon. He suffered various injuries, including a lacerated kidney and various concussions, throughout his career but played through most of them. In 2012, McMahon, in a Sports Illustrated article, said that concussions he suffered during his NFL days might be catching up with him. He said he was suffering from memory loss, saying he would walk into a room and forget why he went there.
In an interview in 2017, McMahon said he had thoughts of suicide because his pain was so bad at one point. “My head hurt so bad that I would mostly stay in my room for months at a time,” he said. “The shades were down. Any kind of light hurt. I couldn’t remember where I was, I couldn’t remember what I was supposed to do. The pain was like somebody sticking ice picks in my head. If I’d owned a gun, I’d probably have committed suicide. I just wanted the pain to end.”
Recently, McMahon gave current Bears quarterback Mitch Trubisky some advice before last year’s 100th season.
“To be successful, man, you’ve got to start wearing the headband and some sunglasses,” said McMahon as he handed the items to Trubisky. “Now you’re ready to go, kid. Things will start to change now with all that on.”