Mike Ditka is synonymous with the Chicago Bears. Arguably the greatest tight end in franchise history and one of the greatest head coaches, Ditka is an institution in Chicago. When Ditka has something to say, Bears fans listen (whether they agree with it or not).
Ditka still is involved in the NFL, having a television career that has existed nearly three decades and continues to appear in commercials. Now 81 years old, Ditka has joined a campaign for The Kraken Rum to kick off the summer by offering a free rum cocktail. For every cocktail reimbursed, The Kraken Rum will be matching the amount with a donation to the United States Bartender Guild Foundation.
In a one-on-one interview with CBS Sports, Ditka discussed the state of the 2021 Chicago Bears and their plans for a quarterback competition this summer. He also opened up on why Matt Nagy is the right head coach to groom Justin Fields in his rookie season.
Let's start with the obvious. Do you think Justin Fields should be the QB1 in Chicago in Week 1?
Ditka: "Well, I don't know why you'd draft the quarterback if your plans aren't to play him. So if they feel they got a quarterback now that's capable of being a successful NFL quarterback, then I understand, let him run. If not, put him on the field and let him learn.
"You learn by playing. You don't learn by watching."
How would you handle Fields if you were coaching him this year (given the immense talent he has)? What advice would you give to Nagy on Fields knowing this is a make-or-break year for him?
Ditka: "I don't think Matt needs any advice at all. He knows how to handle Fields and he'll do a good job with him. I think he's gonna be thrown in there but that's OK, he'll learn. We did that with McMahon and that worked out OK."
What do you think Fields provides to a talented Bears team that has fallen short in recent years? Is he good enough to get them back to the playoffs immediately?
Ditka: "What they need is consistency at that position. They gotta have consistency. If they can get consistency -- their defense is good, their running game is good. The Bears do a lot of good things, special teams is good. They gotta be able to score points and throw the football a little better."
The Bears have struggled to produce consistent quarterback play -- really since you coached Jim McMahon. Why do you believe the organization has failed to produce consistency at the position? Is it just as simple as making bad decisions in the front office?
Ditka: "First of all in the quarterback position, he's gotta be a player, he's gotta be able to make plays, but he's gotta be a leader, he's gotta be the guy who has the respect of the offense and the defense. Whether you liked Jim McMahon or you didn't, he did have that respect."
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Ditka: "A lot of it is coaching, but you gotta give the credit to the individual, they're the ones that push themselves and they know their limits so they know how hard to go. It comes down to the individual, they're good individuals, they want to succeed."
I wanted to ask being from Philadelphia, what was your time with the Eagles like? That 1968 season had to be one for the ages with the fan base wanting them to lose out.
Ditka: "(Laughing) I get a blank when I think about Philadelphia, that was a very unenjoyable part of my football career. It wasn't because of the fans or anything, but we weren't very good."