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 were 10-6 in Lovie Smith’s last season. Many experts thought they were playoff contenders the previous two seasons. Now this. How did it go so bad so quickly?
It’s a lot of decisions that are made at the top and a lot of decisions made by the coach—it’s the personnel, it’s everything. You know you just don’t wave a magic wand and it works out. It’s a lot harder to turn things around today than it was 30, 40 years ago when I was doing it because of the money and the salary caps. You can’t add by subtracting. What I mean by that is when you get good players and you let them go, what did you get in return? I don’t know about some of the moves they’re making right now. They’re struggling. It’s not going to get any easier. It’s only going to get harder. They have to find a way to put a tourniquet on the wound, because they’re bleeding pretty good right now.
2. What does it say when you’re three game into the season, and you already are dumping players? What message does that send to the team?
Well, they have to make up in their minds who they want and don’t want. These are the kinds of decisions the front office will need to make.
I don’t know anything about football anymore—I’m too old—but I can tell you one thing: Jared Allen could play for me any day. So could [Jon] Bostic. Maybe that’s the kind of player they don’t want. But I never see Jared Allen give anything but 100 percent. He plays hard. Is he as young as he once was? No. But who is. The Panthers will love him down there. He’ll do fine.
3. Did the Bears financially strap themselves with Jay Cutler’s contract?
That’s all the front office stuff that I never really got involved with. Bill [Tobin] and Jerry [Vainisi] would deal with that stuff. They might say we like this guy but we can’t afford him, and I’d say, “Then we’ll play without him.” Or, I might tell them about a player who I thought would fit in, and they’d try to make the money work. I understood that.
You know, we started getting rid of some of the key players that made our team successful. Great ones! Including [Jim] McMahon. [Steve] McMichael, [Richard] Dent, [Dave] Duerson … the list goes on. Again, you can’t add by subtraction.
I understand the economics and all that, but no one understands these players better than the coach. If these decisions were made by the coaching staff to get rid of the players they just did, then fine.
It doesn’t matter what I think, It’s what they think. I like Jay Cutler. He’s a good guy. He has a lot of talent. I’ve said a hundred times I’d like to see him personify the leadership role more. That’s all. He is who he is. But is he entitled to it? Yes! Because he got paid it. You can’t argue with that.
Would I have done it? If I was the general manager, I’m probably a little more frugal. I’d probably be more like Mr. Halas.
4. Why not give backup quarterback David Fales a shot this weekend?
They have to find a way to put some life into that club. They need enthusiasm, excitement to get them optimistic about what they’re doing again. It’s hard. John [Fox] has his hands full right now. It’s really going to be hard. Sometimes you can say adversity brings people together. Sometimes adversity splits people up, too. So, you have to be careful with that. They’re going through some adversity right now. Their confidence is shaken. They thought they’d be a lot better on both sides of the ball and that hasn’t happened.
If [Jimmy] Clausen doesn’t have a good start, why wouldn’t you try Fales. The brick wall is not going to get easier. You’re still hitting your head into it.