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Mike Ditka Biography

Mike Ditka Biography

By Loot, NFL Handicapper, Lootmeister.com

In a lot of ways, Mike Ditka personifies the image of the NFL tough guy. First as a Hall of Fame tight end and later as a hard-nosed Super Bowl winning coach, when you think Ditka, you think football. If ever there were a man who was born to be involved in pro football, it was Ditka, who accomplished everything in this game that is conceivable.

One of only two players to ever win the championship as a head coach, assistant coach, and player, Ditka played in the NFL for 12 years, as a member of the Chicago Bears, Philadelphia Eagles, and the Dallas Cowboys. He went on to later coach his former team, the Bears, for 11 seasons, before later becoming the head coach for the New Orleans Saints for 3 seasons. He is a 5X All-Pro and a 2-time Coach of the Year.

Born as Michael Dyczko near Pittsburgh, the family changed their name to Ditka. In high school, Mike was a tremendous athlete. With his local prospects a bit dreary in a steel and manufacturing haven, he sought to seek other opportunities. Recruited heavily, Ditka attended Pittsburgh. As the team’s punter and tight end, Ditka developed into a top-notch prospect.

In 1961, Ditka was drafted with the 5th pick by the Chicago Bears. The Bears, once a solid contender, had fallen to below .500 the previous year and had not won a championship in 15 years. Ditka sprang to life right from the beginning. Keeping in mind that in 1961, tight ends were mostly used as a 6th offensive lineman, Ditka exploded with a 1076-yard season, including 12 touchdowns. This was when seasons were only 14 games long.

After another big year in 1962, the Bears were awesome in 1963. With 8 touchdowns, Ditka helped Chicago to an 11-1-2 season, which culminated in the Bears winning the NFL Championship by beating the New York Giants, 14-10. Ditka remained productive over the next 3 seasons, but the Bears had fallen to a mediocre 19-21-2 during this period. In 1967, Ditka was sent packing to Philadelphia.

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Used more for blocking as a member of the Eagles, Ditka’s receiving numbers suffered during this period, as he caught a mere 39 balls in his two seasons in Philly. Following the 1968 season, he went to Dallas, a real contender at the time. Ditka’s hard edge helped the Cowboys and in the 1971 season, they finally broke through and won their first Super Bowl, as Ditka caught a touchdown pass in the big game.

Following the 1972 season, where the 33-year old Ditka caught 17 balls, he called it quits and immediately became an assistant under legendary Tom Landry in Dallas. For almost a decade, Ditka learned under one of the best coaches of all-time. Finally, Ditka got his chance, when George Halas decided to make him the head coach of the Chicago Bears. Ditka’s first season was the truncated 1982 campaign, where a strike led to a 9-game season. The Bears were only 3-6.

The next season, Ditka began to put his personal trademark on the team, as Chicago improved to 8-8. In 1984, the Bears won their first-ever playoff game in the Super Bowl era, going 10-6 and making it as far as the NFC Championship. In 1985, Ditka and the Bears forged their way to one of the NFL’s most memorable seasons, as the Bears romped their way to a Super Bowl XX win.

That Bears team is considered one of the best in NFL history. The defense was dominant, perhaps the best of all-time. They won 18 of 19 games and it’s hard to think of another team that more mirrored their coach. It was the perfect fit and they rode it all the way into the history books. He continued as coach for the Bears through 1992, but they never got back to the big game. Ditka’s coaching career would end badly as he guided the Saints to a 15-33 record in his three seasons there from 1997-1999.

Ditka was not perfect. He admittedly messed up by not letting Walter Payton score in Super Bowl XX. With the talent he had on that Bears team, perhaps he should have won more than just that one Super Bowl. And he blew it in New Orleans, particularly by overpaying for the rights to RB Ricky Williams. At the end of the day, however, Ditka did a lot more things right than he did wrong over his long career as a top coach and player in the NFL.

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