Title: Ditka tries to light fire under team.(Sports)
Date: September 30, 1997 Publication: Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL) Author: Bush, JoeByline: Joe Bush Daily Herald Sports Writer
NEW ORLEANS - You say Mike Ditka looks the same, sounds the same and spits the same?
You're right. Same old (three weeks from his 58th birthday) squinty Iron Mike. Except there seems to be a little rust on one of his legendary talents: motivation.
When asked for the main difference between Ditka and Bears coach Dave Wannstedt, Saints center Jerry Fontenot, who played under both regimes in Chicago, said:
"I'd have to say Mike's ability to motivate. He's a good speaker. He can really drive a point home. It's not like Dave's not a good speaker, but Mike just has a special gift and he's able to use it."
Much was made of Ditka's long-awaited tirade at halftime of the Saints' 33-7 loss to San Francisco in Week 3, but the fact is the Saints still lost the second half, 10-7.
The next week Ditka hired a stress therapist to counsel the team on the eve of the game with Detroit. The Saints won 35-17.
Sunday, New Orleans created more anxiety with a 14-9 loss to the 1-3 Giants. After the Saints' first three possessions produced 17 yards, 0 first downs and an interception, Ditka lit into the offensive line.
The offense came up with 130 yards and 2 field goals on its next three possessions.
Ditka was amazed by his team's lack of energy at Giants Stadium, and Monday, he openly questioned his role in that blackout.
"We had no emotion going into that game," Ditka said. "We could have been going down Fifth Avenue on a shopping spree as well as playing the Giants. I'm serious.
"You cannot win without emotion. You cannot win without enthusiasm, without excitement, without getting crazy, without getting pumped up, without believing, without screaming and hollering, without believing in your teammates and encouragement.
"You can't win without that. If we think we're going to roll up a win with three-button suits on and a Wall Street Journal under our arms, we're crazy. We can't do that, we're not good enough to do that."
"It really is frustrating. I know I'm a dumb-(butt) if I can't impart that to them. I guess I've failed in that area. But I'm not going to quit trying."
Ditka almost got misty while talking about his mid-to-late 1980s Bears squads. They didn't need many pep talks.
"We had a lot of leaders," Ditka said. "I could go right down the list on offense and defense. Whether it'd be Payton or McMahon or Singletary or Fencik or Suhey. They all led in their own ways. Our linemen, they didn't talk that much. Covert was a great leader by example.
"We have a lot of good guys here that are winning their battles, too, we just don't have enough of them."
He was spoiled with the last of a bygone breed of player, and he wonders if part of his present problem is present attitudes.
Motivation takes two, and as he looked around the Saints' pregame locker room Sunday he said to himself, "Wow, maybe this is the new football. I don't know."
In other words, Ditka says, if you can't get fired up just by having an NFL job, something's wrong.
"If you give a guy an opportunity to start in this league, you hope he would understand what magnitude that is and what it would mean to them and their career," he said. "I don't understand it. This is the greatest game in the world.
"To have an opportunity to play it and not to grasp everything you do with all your energies and every bit of your might and have fun doing it and lay it all on the line every week, you've got to be crazy."
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COPYRIGHT 2009 Paddock Publications
COPYRIGHT 2009 Paddock Publications
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