A great deal of things can be attributed to Mike Ditka, happily known as "Da Coach." For starters, he owns a mustache that has long been envied by many an American male. He also is brilliantly coiffed, with a head of hair that can only be rivaled in the coaching ranks by Jimmy Johnson. And no one, no one, could have ever made the sweater vest as cool as Mike Ditka did.
Coaching legend, though?
While Ditka was considered a good NFL head coach, you probably won't find many who'd put him down as a genius tactician, innovator or teacher of the game. Yet five of his ex-Bears are currently NFL head coaches.
Leslie Frazier of Minnesota, Jeff Fisher of St. Louis and Ron Rivera of Carolina were all part of the1985 Super Bowl team. 49ers leader Jim Harbaugh also spent time under the tutelage of Ditka. The coach Harbaugh replaced? Another former Chicago Bear, Mike Singletary. The front office at San Francisco has shown itself to be prescient in picking up on the Ditka factor in its hiring practices.
Furthermore, not only does Ditka create coaches, he also creates esteemed NFL coaches. Fisher has long been considered one of the NFL's best, Frazier is well-thought-of and Harbaugh had his team in the NFC title game in his first season.
Ron Rivera? Well, he looks the part. Ditka taught him that.
I did say five current coaches. Suspended Saints coach Sean Payton also played under Ditka. He was the quarterback on the infamous "Spare Bears" replacement players team. Although his tenure under Ditka was brief, two or three games to bask in the aura of Da Coach is all any future coach would need. Ditka is just that powerful.
Bill Walsh, Bill Belichick, Bill Parcells—all you Bills need to take a step back. There is one true NFL coaching legend, the man whose wisdom and greatness live on through his students. You can keep your Don Shula, thank you very much. I'll take Iron Mike any old day.