Dick Butkus: Bears firings bucked thrifty trend

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Bears legend Dick Butkus will announce the team’s draft picks on Day 2.

Dick Butkus didn’t think the Bears would clean house after last season.

Historically, he said, they’ve been too cheap to.

“I think (chairman) George McCaskey made a surprising move, because they were always chastised for being kinda (thrifty),” the legendary linebacker said Tuesday. “He just pulled the plug. He made those changes, which kind of surprised me, to tell you the truth.”

Butkus liked the decision to replace GM Phil Emery and coach Marc Trestman with Ryan Pace and John Fox, even if he was surprised it happened.

“I thought they would just let it linger on and try to solve it on the field,” he said. “But I thought it was a great move by George to make the change and show the fans of Chicago that they’re not going to stand for that any more — get the team back to where they should be.”

If it takes a new defensive scheme to get there, that’s fine. That Fox believes in a 3-4— and has had success with it — is a good reason to implement the scheme, Butkus said, even if it’s different from the Bears’ traditional set.

“If we’re gonna change the coach and general manager and everything else, there’s no problem changing the defense, either,” he said.

Butkus will be a symbolic part of Bears’ next chapter when he announces the team’s second-day selections in NFL Draft next week.

“It means a lot, to tell you to the truth,” he said of the draft’s move to Chicago. “It’s just a great city and a great sports city — and you’ve got one of the founding franchises in the NFL.”

From 1965-73, he experienced it first-hand, earning eight Pro Bowl bids and five first-team All-Pro honors before being inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1979.

Butkus sounded annoyed with some aspects of the modern game, from rules meant to help the offense — “It just seems like the NFL, or people, like scoring,” he said — to celebratory “antics” of players.

“I’d really love to ask one of the players when they get a sack or something and they’re losing 20-0 and he’s doing cartwheels back to the defensive huddle,” he said. “‘I don’t understand where you’re coming from.’”

When he played, Butkus said, “we walked back to the huddle and do it amongst ourselves — and not make a spectacle of ourselves.”

That huddle included fellow linebacker Doug Buffone, who died Monday at age 70. They started as locker mates in 1966 and became close friends.

“I was totally shocked,” said Butkus, who learned the news from his son. “It’s the old syndrome, you know: I was going to call him over the weekend just to check in with him and see what was going on.”

The Bears, he said, should give his friend one final honor this year.

“I think they should have a day, maybe, coming up this season,” he said.

Email: pfinley@suntimes.com

Twitter: @patrickfinley

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