If Bears scrap Ditka, it will be a big waste


IRVING, Texas -- Whatever happens, and it will, these Chicag Bears are table scraps.

"This may be a Kodak moment," said Shaun Gayle. "Take a picture of everybody standing around because this is the last chance you'll get to see them."

Should we start with camera-ready Mike Ditka, still the coach of the Bears? If locker-room endorsements are any clue, Ditka's leadership is wanted by the players. Save maybe Neal Anderson, understandably unwarm, the Bears thought that more Ditka is a good idea.

"I would hope he would not leave the Bears," said Mike Singletary, who is. "He brought a vision here, and I think that vision is still alive. It's a bit blurry, but it's still alive. Hopefully he gets some of the things he needs."

Singletary is, of course, the wrong Mike to be making such a decision. The Mike that matters (McCaskey) is off on a week's vacation, if you can believe that. Believe it.

For a brief moment in Ditka's game post-mortem, it appeared as if he and McCaskey had talked all this over, and Ditka launched what appeared to be a farewell summary.

"Regardless of what happens," Ditka said, mentioning a talk he had had with Mike the night before, "it has been a hell of a run. I don't know where the line is to apologize, but wherever it is, I won't be in it."

Talk with Mike? McCaskey?

"No," Ditka said, apparently stunned that anyone would think the two of them had actually communicated. "Singletary."

Too bad.

Whatever is to be done, cannot be done too soon. Maybe the decision is already made. The only question McCaskey must consider is if the Bears are better with Ditka or without him. I say they are better with him.

Ditka's demand for more control is not unreasonable, but even George Halas made Ditka accept Buddy Ryan with the job. Owners own. Coaches coach.

So when Ditka mutters something about too many substitutions all year, about leaving players out on the field until they are hurt, no matter how stupid the notion is, Ditka is acknowledging he has no control over his assistants. I say, fire them.

Ditka cannot whine later about underlings subverting his intentions. He is as in charge as he wants to be.

Greg Landry?

Absolutely. He must go. For his own sake, before his resume is smudged beyond repair. Vince Tobin? How crazy is this? Make him the head coach or get rid of him.

Bill Tobin?

Keep him. Give him a chance to adjust to the brave new world of pro football where the only shopping is not done on draft day. Also give him the money to survive in it. Tobin's judgment of talent is not as big a concern as the Bears' pocketbook.

Jim Harbaugh should leave. For himself. He can. He is one of those emancipated free agents with an actual option.

"I don't know for sure if I will be back," Harbaugh said. "The choice is partly mine and partly the coaches. I want to be here."

Even if Ditka is the coach?

"Whoever is the coach," Harbaugh said. "If they feel they want to go in a different direction, they'll tell me. It's their team. I know I'm good enough to play in this league."

Harbaugh said he did not take personally the game peeks at P. T. Willis and Will Furrer and said he understood. Lots of players were looked at at lots of positions, he said.

L As Ditka would avoid that line of apology, so will Harbaugh.

"No regrets," Harbaugh said. "At times I played the best football of my whole life."

At times it looked like the Bears were trying to find out which quarterback could play the worst. Harbaugh, who had more chances to fail, finished a distant third to the stumbling bench refugees, Willis and Furrer.

"I knew I had a lot to learn," Furrer said, "and now it's confirmed."

If wholesale building is what's next, give the Bears to Furrer, like they gave the Packers to Brett Favre. If the few pieces Ditka and everyone else insists are all that is needed, humor Harbaugh.

"I hate to see Jim made the scapegoat," Furrer said. "A couple bounces either way, we're in the playoffs."

Not true, of course. Not about Harbaugh. As he said, everyone takes responsibility for this season. But the 11-5 Bears of last year should have been 8-8 as the 5-11 Bears of this year should have been 8-8 (four games were lost by three points or fewer). Playoffs were never an honest destination for either.

This means the Bears are mediocre.

This means the Bears need a Ditka of passion and firmness, or someone of equal presence, a Bill Parcells, a Buddy Ryan?

Coaching the Bears is not an entry-level job.

Any change that begins with Ditka is a wholesale change. Changing Ditka is starting over.

"I know one thing," Ditka said, "I'm a Bear."

We'll see.

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