Mike Ditka is one of the greatest NFL Players and one of the most iconic coaches of all time. As a player, Mike Ditka is considered one of the greatest of all time and became the first ever tight end to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall Of Fame. As a coach, he helped create the most dominant defense in NFL history with the 1985 Chicago Bears. In this post, we will take a look at Mike Ditka and the brutal and punishing Chicago Bears team under him.
Mike Ditka And The Chicago Bears: A Violent Revolution
When did Mike Ditka become the head coach of the Chicago Bears?
In early 1982, Chicago Bears owner George Halas summoned Mike Ditka back from Dallas and offered him the head coaching position, which he accepted.
From 1982 to 1992, under HC Mike Ditka, the Bears posted a record of 112-68. After George Halas, Ditka became the second Bears coach to record more than 100 wins as a coach. Additionally, the Bears won 6 Division titles and made three trips to the NFC Championship game. The pinnacle of this era was the Bears’ 1985 season, where they won Super Bowl XX and became the greatest defense in NFL history.
How did Mike Ditka start rebuilding the Chicago Bears?
The 1982 season was Mike Ditka’s first season as head coach of the Bears, and he began his rebuilding program by drafting QB Jim McMahon out of Brigham Young University to be the face of the franchise. The season was interrupted by a players’ strike and was shortened to nine games. As a result, the NFL had a special playoff with the top eight teams in both conferences participating. The Bears did not qualify for the postseason, finishing in 12th place with a 3–6 record.
George Halas’ Death
In the spring of 1983, George Halas died of pancreatic cancer at the age of 88. He was the last surviving founder of the NFL. Halas’ death also brought the addition of the initials “GSH” to the left sleeve of the Bears’ uniforms. In Ditka’s second season, the Bears improved and finished with an 8–8 record. With Halas’ death, his daughter Virginia McCaskey and her husband Mike McCaskey assumed ownership of the team. The 1983 draft was critical, as it saw several players from the 1985 Bears championship arrive at the core of the team.
Walter Payton’s All-Time Rushing Record
In 1984, Walter Payton broke Jim Brown’s all-time rushing record (which pleased Brown, who had threatened to come out of retirement if Pittsburgh Steelers running back Franco Harris broke the record: Brown disliked Harris’ game where he avoided contact with defenders and preferred to run out of bounds). Payton’s record stood for eighteen years until it was broken by Emmitt Smith in 2002. The Bears finished the season with a 10–6 record to win their first NFC Central Division Championship.
Although the Bears won the division, they did not have the playoff game at home and had to play the Divisional Playoffs at JFK Stadium against the Washington Redskins (today’s Washington Commanders), where they eliminated the Redskins by a score of 23-19, preventing them from appearing in their third Super Bowl in four seasons. The Bears advanced to the NFC Championship to play the San Francisco 49ers. The 49ers defeated the Bears by a score of 23-0 on their way to a Super Bowl Championship.
The 46 Defense
1985 is the most celebrated year in Bears history. In different classifications, the ’85 Bears have been marked as one of the top 5 NFL teams of all time. The Bears defeated the first 12 of their opponents in the season, the point differential in these first 12 games was 456 to 198.
Buddy Ryan’s Innovation
The Bears innovated on defense, defensive coordinator Buddy Ryan incorporated the “46 defense.” The season brought players into the national spotlight, such as William “The Refrigerator” Perry, Mike Singletary, Jim McMahon, Dan Hampton and Walter Payton.
During the season, in week 3, McMahon had back spasms and did not start the game, the Bears were losing against the Minnesota Vikings, and finally McMahon entered the field and surprised the Vikings, considered “The Viking Miracle”. In Week 9, the Bears destroyed the champion 49ers by beating them 26–10, sacking Joe Montana seven times. The Bears added insult to injury by sending Perry to fullback, just as they did the 49ers in the NFC Championship Game a year ago but instead of being a simple blocker like McIntyre, Ditka used him as a running back. The Bears also handed the Dallas Cowboys their worst loss in franchise history to date in Week 11 with a score of 44-0. With this win, the Bears clinched the division. Later in the Week 12 game on Monday Night Football, the Bears suffered their only loss, a 38-24 loss to the Miami Dolphins, who in doing so maintained their status as the only team to have had a perfect season.
Did Mike Ditka Clash With Buddy Ryan?
Even though the Bears were dominant, there was a rift brewing in the locker room. Head Coach Mike Ditka and Defensive Coordinator Buddy Ryan did not agree on game plans.
Mike Ditka and The 1985 Bears: The Dominant March To The Superbowl
In the Divisional Playoff game, the Bears played the New York Giants, and eliminated them 21-0, on a cold and windy afternoon. The Bears faced the Los Angeles Rams in the NFC Championship Game. This game was also a shutout, finishing with a score of 24-0. The New Monsters of the Midway advanced to Super Bowl XX.
In Super Bowl XX, the Bears were marked as all-betting favorites to beat their opponents the New England Patriots. In the week leading up to the game, Jim McMahon allegedly made some controversial comments about New Orleans women who threatened to kill him, McMahon was also embroiled in several questions with reporters over the report that he was suffering from an injury to his glutes as well. The NFL was cracking down on head and neck bands, one of which was McMahon’s trademark look. However, during the game, McMahon wore a headband that read “Pete”, in honor of former commissioner Pete Rozelle.
Super Bowl XX had a circus atmosphere and garnered a large television audience and reversed a decline in NFL viewership during the previous two Super Bowls. The Bears began to shake when Walter Payton had a fumble in Bears territory that the Patriots recovered. On the next possession, the Patriots were unable to advance and had to settle for a field goal, taking a 3-0 lead. The Patriots’ lead was short-lived, however, as the Bears fought back by scoring the next 44 points in a relentless run on the helpless Patriots, including a touchdown by “The Refrigerator.” The Bears won the game 46–10, establishing up to that point the Super Bowl’s largest scoring margin; defensive end Richard Dent was named the Super Bowl’s Most Valuable Player. Mike Ditka, who had made his career as a tight end by playing for the Chicago Bears in the 60s, immortalized himself as a coach with his dominant run with the 1985 Chicago Bears.
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