Posts tagged with: MIke Ditka

Why do we still care what Mike Ditka thinks?

Mike Ditka thinks Jay Cutler has to prove himself as a true leader in Chicago. This makes sense, I suppose. Cutler has a rocket arm, but he hasn’t fired a single meaningful pass yet in a Bears jersey.

What I really wonder, though, is why people still care what Mike Ditka says.

The Tribune ran an interview with Ditka yesterday. In it, the former Bears coach says that Cutler needs to show maturity as he takes over the quarterbacking position on the Bears.

Again, this is true. But, again, why is the Tribune interviewing Ditka? It’s been a long time since Ditka’s mid- to late-80s heyday. And even when the Bears were piling up fat won-loss records, Ditka wasn’t the most innovative NFL thinker out there.

Ditka believed in smash-mouth football. That worked in 1985. But then offensive coordinators got clever. They relied on short passes and quick plays. Ditka didn’t adjust. That’s why his Bears teams fared so poorly in the playoffs after that magical 1985 season: They could overpower the league’s weaker teams. But the star teams, the Giants, 49ers and Redskins could always count on a playoff victory when they met the Bears.

So lets not wait eagerly for every word the former coach gives us. The NFL passed Ditka by a long time ago.

When will the calls for a “screamer” coach begin?

It’s happened every year since Mike Ditka was fired. So you know it’ll happen again during the Bears’ 2009 season: The calls will come in to local sports talk stations that the Bears need to hire a coach who screams, yells, swears and kicks things at his players.

People here still love Mike Ditka. Yes, the coach did win a Super Bowl. But he also squandered more talent than any Bears coach I can remember. All those regular-season wins were fun. But what about the playoffs? If you don’t count the 1985 Super Bowl year, Ditka put together a 3-6 record in the playoffs.

But still people pine for him. And every time the Bears of today lose a game, a certain portion of the fan base blames the fact that head coach Lovie Smith doesn’t scream or stomp his feet on the sidelines.

Now, I don’t think Smith is a great football coach. I think the Bears are often too predictable, too safe. But I don’t think it’s because he’s not emotional enough on the sideline. I actually like a head coach who treats his players like adults.

I never thought screaming into someone’s face was a good way to motivate a person. To me, it just makes the screamer look like an ass.

I’ll never understand the love for these players

After the Bears acquired Jay Cutler, I was amazed to hear people on talk radio still singing the praises of Kyle Orton. For those who don’t know them, here are Orton’s stats for last season: He completed 58.5 percent of his passes, for 2,972 yards, 18 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. His quarterback rating came in at 79.6.

Does that sound like Pro Bowl passing to you? It doesn’t to me.

Simply put, Orton was a mediocre quarterback. There was nothing remotely special about him. I’ll never figure out why so many people seemed to love the guy. The only difference between Orton and Rex Grossman is that Grossman could every once in a while connect on a deep ball.

Orton joins a long line of Bears personnel who have all the love but none of the statistics to back it up.

Let’s start with the biggest of them all: Mike Ditka.

Don’t get me wrong. I loved Ditka back in 1984 and 1985 — I’m old enough to have watched those seasons, by the way. He was the perfect coach for those teams. But Ditka underachieved immensely following those two season. Sure, he compiled a stellar regular season win-loss record. Remember, though, the old NFC Central was one weak division during most of Ditka’s stay. When Ditka’s teams reached the playoffs after 1985, they disappointed. Following a 14-2 record in 1986, the Bears laid an egg at home and were pounded by Washington 27-13. In 1987, they lost their first game again to Washington, this time by a 21-17 score.

Then in 1988, the Bears finally won another playoff game, beating the Eagles in the famous Fog Bowl. They were humiliated 28-3, though, the following week at home by their old nemesis, the San Francisco 49ers. In 1990, the Bears won another playoff win, though it came against a mediocre 8-8 New Orleans Saints team. There were crushed 31-3 the following week by the Super Bowl bound New York Giants.

In Ditka’s last playoff appearance, in 1991, the Bears were outclassed by Troy Aikman and the on-the-rise Dallas Cowboys.

Take out the 1985 season, and Ditka’s Bears were only 3-6 in the playoffs. Not too impressive.

So why all the love for Ditka? He was a good coach. But not a great one.