"If you're the leader of the football team, I think you've got to stand up and be that leader, assume that role," said Ditka, now an analyst for ESPN, via the Detroit Free Press. "A lot of it is what you do on the field, certainly. But I think a little of it has to do with appearance, too. You know, respect the game, respect your team. That's all.
"I'm not knocking him. I'm just saying that's the first thing I would tell him if I inherited him. When you're going to go do an interview, put [your hat] on like it's supposed to be on, not backwards, sidewards, whatever way they put them on anymore."
(Oddly, no mention of perms.)
Of course, Ditka coached Jim McMahon, the former Bears quarterback who was known to scribble messages on his headband (among other things). The coach explained McMahon's antics as "A lot of what he did was just what I call 'show,' " but added that the quarterback always put the team's best interest ahead of the theatrics.
As for Stafford, Ditka is mostly impressed with what he has seen.
"I think he can make all the throws. He's a smart kid," Ditka said, before reiterating, "I wish he'd put the baseball cap on frontwards instead of backwards all the time."
But the coach also acknowledges what Lions fans have seen too many times in recent years: Stafford's decision making can be problematic.
"I think when you look at him you see all the touches of greatness, in my opinion," he said. "Then you see some plays and go, 'Wow! Why'd he do that?' "
That's where new coach Jim Caldwell comes in. The man who served as Colts quarterbacks coach from 2002-08 (and eventually assumed the head-coaching gig once Tony Dungy retired) is intimately familiar with working closely with a franchise QB.
"Within our system, [Stafford's] going to have some flexibility, but also, there's going to be some parameters as well, which I think he'll be amenable to," Caldwell said in January. "I think he'll do a great job in that area as well. ... I'm anxious and excited about giving him an opportunity to work within those parameters and I think you're going to see improvement from the onset. He's a willing guy, he's capable, he has an immense amount of talent and we've just got to bring that to the forefront."
Caldwell made no mention of the forward-facing hat, but when you win people generally tend to overlook such things.