Wannstedt a wanted man: Bears get in the hunt, too

CHICAGO — CHICAGO -- Chicago Bears president Michael McCaskey spoke with Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator Dave Wannstedt by telephone yesterday about the Bears' head-coaching position.

McCaskey first received permission to talk with Wannstedt from Cowboys owner Jerry Jones.


Dallas travels to San Francisco for Sunday's National Football Conference Championship game.

Washington Redskins assistant Petitbon said yesterday he was expecting a call from the Bears. McCaskey would neither confirm nor deny any contact with Petitbon last night.


"We're not saying," McCaskey said. "I don't want to keep a running scorecard going about who I talk to and who I don't. Sometimes the word gets out, and sometimes it doesn't."

Asked whether he plans to wait until after the Super Bowl to decide on a coach, McCaskey replied: "It is hard to predict. I just mention that as one possible way it could unfold, just so people aren't going to think that it is going to be next week, because that is unlikely."

Asked on his Monday radio show which candidate he would endorse to succeed him, Mike Ditka, whom the Bears fired after the season, said he was more reluctant to speak out on that topic than he was to proclaim his political favorites last fall.

"I don't want to get into that because it just wouldn't be right," said Ditka, who doesn't sound sure whether he wants to return to the sidelines or move into the front office of some club as an owner, general manager or CEO.

Described by some observers as a young Ditka, Wannstedt, 40, was contacted by the New York Giants on Monday to discuss filling the job left open with the firing of Ray Handley.

"Dave's skills, his demeanor, his stature, his appearance, all of that is very effective with the players," said Jones. "And that's aside from his own personality.

Wannstedt, who was a finalist last year for the Pittsburgh Steelers' job, which went to Bill Cowher, has not elaborated publicly on his head coaching prospects.

If Wannstedt is McCaskey's ultimate candidate, McCaskey may wind up in a bidding war with the Giants and, perhaps, the New England Patriots.


Bears assistants Greg Landry and Johnny Roland are believed to be in-house candidates for the job.