Each week throughout the NFL season, the Chicago Sun-Times chats with former Bears coach Mike Ditka on four topics. His thoughts:
1. The Bears are 0-2, they have lost their starting quarterback and it seems like the sky is falling. You had a few seasons like this with the Saints. As a coach, how do you keep yourself and your team motivated in this situation?
It’s hard. First of all, when you get off to a start like that, it shakes your confidence. They didn’t expect to be 0-2. They expected to be 2-0.
So, you look at that and you say, evidently that didn’t work. We have to get that corrected. Then you lose your quarterback. It’s going to be hard. They’re going to have to find a way to win with the running game, maybe special teams. That’s all going to become more important. They’re behind the eight ball right now.
2. Is Jay Cutler snake-bitten? Here’s a quarterback who has all the talent, and just when it seems he’ s starting to turn it around, something bad always happens.
You can’t look at it that way. He pulled a muscle and he’s out for a few weeks. Injuries like that are a little different than 50 years ago. People could play with them. But I understand, you have to protect the long-term future of the kid, so you can’t play him with an injury like that.
Best thing you can hope for is that they can tread water the next two weeks. It’s not going to easy. They go to Seattle and they’re a little ticked off right now.
3. What happened to the focus on defense under John Fox? Last week they gave up a franchise record 48 points at home, not to mention setting a team record in penalty yardage.
You have to have discipline. This is not easy on John, believe me. It’s hard on him because he’s a defensive-minded coach. When I coached, I had maybe the greatest defense in the game—ever. So, when you have a team like that, it takes so much pressure off your offense. You’re not in a situation where you have to score 35 points a game.
There’s no answer for what’s going on right now. Players have to go out and play harder. It has to be an affront, a personal challenge to them to beat the player in front of them. Start right there. If you can beat the guy in front of you, cover the guy you’re covering, then you start there. Don’t worry about the big picture. We have to take a step here before we can make a run there. That’s the way I would look at it.
4. Colts coach Chuck Pagano publicly criticized his quarterback Andrew Luck after the Monday night game. Do you agree with this approach?
Hey, I did it. So, you can’t go by what I say. Here’s the thing: The Colts don’t have a very good offensive line. I said it before the [ESPN] show started. I picked the Jets for one reason—how are the Colts going to pick up the blitz? Frank Gore is a good running back. He’s had some great numbers since 2005. But, if you’re picking up blitzes, you can’t be running the ball. He can’t pick ’em all up. Their line is not good. So, where does [Luck] go.
Look, Chuck Pagano is a good guy. He didn’t mean to hurt anyone.