By Jim Owczarski Sports Editor Published Nov 05, 2014 at 1:05 PM

My earliest, vivid, memory of the National Football League was made on Saturday, Dec. 31, 1988. The Chicago Bears hosted the Philadelphia Eagles in the "Fog Bowl," a game that was alternately frustrating and exhilarating to watch on television. It started out as a clear, crisp winter day – but then morphed into something out of the Twilight Zone.

I had just turned 8 years old then, and previous Bears Sundays are well, foggy. I do have vague recollections of Walter Payton and the historic 1985 Bears – but at this point it’s hard for me to separate what are "real" memories against the old VHS tapes of games and NFL Films that I watched long after.

But what is clear to me, what I do remember, is that in my childhood, the Green Bay Packers were a joke. A punching bag. And this wasn’t just the fan sentiment in my family.

The Bears felt that way, too.

It’s why William Perry was given a handoff to bulldoze into the end zone. It’s why Charles Martin got fed up enough with it all to try and kill Jim McMahon.

But it was true.

Beginning with the first Bears-Packers game played after my birth – a 61-7 pasting where Walter Payton ran for 130 yards and three touchdowns as the Bears ran up 594 yards of total offense – the Bears had gone 11-4 against the Packers and had won eight straight games.

Then there was 1989, where the Packers swept the series in a down year in Chicago, but the Bears rebounded with four straight the next two years. So, by 1992, when I was 12, the Bears had gone 15-6 against the Packers.

But it wasn’t just the Bears who beat around the Packers.

By the start of 1992, the Packers had gone 75-106-3.

We know what happened then. Mike Holmgren came, as did Brett Favre. Then Reggie White. From 1992 through the hiring of Chicago’s Lovie Smith in 2004 the Packers went 20-4 in that rivalry, including a 10-game winning streak from 1994 to '98.

Smith came in, made beating the Packers a clear purpose, and accomplished it at the outset. He went 7-3 against the Packers from 2004 to '07, including a throwaway New Year’s Eve loss in 2006 on the last day of the regular season when the Super Bowl-bound Bears rested their starters.

That era coincided with the start of Mike McCarthy’s career in Green Bay, which began in 2006.

Since 2009, however, the Packers have gone 10-2 against the Bears, including a win in the NFC Championship in 2010. And, one of those Bears wins came after Rodgers was knocked out with injury last year.

On Monday, fittingly during "Bears week," the Packers extended McCarthy’s contract for what most believe is another three seasons, through the 2018 campaign.

He’s already set to pass Vince Lombardi for total wins this year (he needs six more). And in week 1 of next year he’ll pass Lombardi as the second-longest tenured head coach in franchise history (Curly Lambeau tops both lists).

In the NFL’s greatest era of parity, McCarthy has already won a Super Bowl, been to another NFC Championship game, had just one losing season and has directed the Packers to the playoffs in five straight seasons and six of his eight full years overall. His offense has ranked in the top 10 in scoring and total yardage seven times.

While having Aaron Rodgers establish himself as one of the game’s great quarterbacks during McCarthy’s tenure can’t be underrated in the overall picture, McCarthy has cemented himself as a Packers legend and helped continue the organization’s dominance.

Since 1992, the Packers have had just four head coaches (yes, Ray Rhodes counts) and have won 227 regular season games, and Mike Holmgren and McCarthy were at the helm for 16 of those of years. Only the New England Patriots have won more (231), also with four head coaches. The Pittsburgh Steelers have won 226 games with just two coaches.

It’s no coincidence that those three franchises have combined to appear in 11 of the last 21 Super Bowls, coming home with seven Lombardi Trophies.

Of course, in the Packers’ case, it helps having had two Hall of Fame quarterback during that time, too.

But that continuity is one of the reasons why the Packers have rejoined the Steelers and welcomed in the New England Patriots as one of the league’s pre-eminent franchises.

Coaches make mistakes. They call the wrong plays, blow timeouts and mismanage situations. They’ll give a player too long, or too short, a leash. McCarthy has done that in nine years on the job. He’ll do it again. It’s natural. He’s human. But he’s also proven that he’ll make the right calls and the right decisions the majority of the time.

A severe injury to Rodgers could also dramatically change the immediate course of the franchise – but I feel if that were to happen, McCarthy gives the Packers a better-than-average chance to recovering from that.

And, the Packers have been part of the NFL elite for over two decades now, but it wasn’t that long ago when that was not the case. I’m sure Thompson and team president Mark Murphy haven’t forgotten (heck, some of their teams beat up on the Packers), and it’s why locking up McCarthy for another four years was the right decision.

Jim Owczarski is an award-winning sports journalist and comes to Milwaukee by way of the Chicago Sun-Times Media Network.

A three-year Wisconsin resident who has considered Milwaukee a second home for the better part of seven years, he brings to the market experience covering nearly all major and college sports.

To this point in his career, he has been awarded six national Associated Press Sports Editors awards for investigative reporting, feature writing, breaking news and projects. He is also a four-time nominee for the prestigious Peter J. Lisagor Awards for Exemplary Journalism, presented by the Chicago Headline Club, and is a two-time winner for Best Sports Story. He has also won numerous other Illinois Press Association, Illinois Associated Press and Northern Illinois Newspaper Association awards.

Jim's career started in earnest as a North Central College (Naperville, Ill.) senior in 2002 when he received a Richter Fellowship to cover the Chicago White Sox in spring training. He was hired by the Naperville Sun in 2003 and moved on to the Aurora Beacon News in 2007 before joining

In that time, he has covered the events, news and personalities that make up the PGA Tour, LPGA Tour, Major League Baseball, the National Football League, the National Hockey League, NCAA football, baseball and men's and women's basketball as well as boxing, mixed martial arts and various U.S. Olympic teams.

Golf aficionados who venture into Illinois have also read Jim in GOLF Chicago Magazine as well as the Chicago District Golfer and Illinois Golfer magazines.