Chicago Bears

The Mike Ditka Coaching Tree

WASHINGTON - JUNE 26:  During a congressional hearing on the National Football League's system for compensating retired players, Hall of Fame tight end and head coach Mike Ditka listens to testimony June 26, 2007 in Washington, DC. Former players and coaches including Ditka, Harry Carson, and Curt Marsh were scheduled to testify during the hearing before a subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee.  (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
Dan BooneSenior Analyst IJune 4, 2009

This article will be short and it will be sad.

It is the forlorn tale of a lonely tree that died.

Or never was planted.

Or watered.

Or worse, a tree that never was.

What's sadder then a tree that never was?

Where are the Ditka Trees?

Coaching trees are all the rage. The double Bills, Parcells and Walsh, have a weed-like, much talked about, coaching tree intertwined around the league. So does Sid Gilliam and Tom Landry.

Ditka was a Landry tree. Ditka was also a George Halas tree. Ditka's offense moved much like a redwood tree.

Papa Bear Halas wasn't much of a tree planter either. His best tree, George Allen, stormed out of the Second City like an angry ent after a drunk orc.  And Allen took his defense with him.

Allen had a long, strange trip as a tree. From the Over the Hill Gang in DC battling Tom Landry and his Ditka tree in Dallas, only to be eventually doused to death in Long Beach by his players during a Tuna tree victory celebration.

The old coach caught cold and died. Slain by a Tuna celebration. Life sure is strange: an old Redskin slain by an insipid celebration inspired by a traveling Giant Cowboy man.

The poor Indians always get screwed by the Cowboys in the end.

If someone would have doused George Halas with freezing water, he might have killed them. Or had the Chicago Outfit off them.

Remember Al Capone? Scarface came to Bears games and Halas liked his bootleg booze.

At least Halas would have punched them in the mouth for a silly shower. Then he would have fired them or traded them to Philadelphia like he did with his Ditka tree.

Even Big Doug Atkins in the depths of a wicked Tennessee whiskey binge wasn't that brave or depraved. Not to pour water on Papa Bear, no Atkins packed a pistol and was 6'9 and three hundred pounds so he was not scared of Halas, no Atkins just didn't want to go to Philadelphia like the transplanted Ditka tree did.

Big Doug went to the Big Easy instead.

But back to the Ditka trees.

That crop looks like old Oklahoma during the Dust Bowl days. Yes, the water, sound and fury flies, Tom Joad tangos, but no tree grows.

Not one.

No he can't have Jeff Fisher. He's a Buddy Ryan boy through and through. Fisher followed Ryan all around like a favorite hound. Buddy gave him a bone and let him coach defense for him.

Mike Singletary you say? The Fat Man, Buddy, liked him better than Rex and Rob. Well at least better then Rob.

No Ditka coached the offense, except for McMahon's many anger inspiring audibles, and Ryan coached the defense.

At least until Buddy realized he, like WC Fields, would rather be in Philadelphia. So Buddy left and took Jeff Fisher and his twins with him.

Ditka got a pair of Tobins, Bill and Vince, to replace Buddy. The Tobins couldn't plant trees in Chicago either. Maybe its the weather or the owners. Maybe it's both.

I mean anyone in Chicago ever see an Abe Gibron tree? It be a big tree, a laughing redwood. A Dave Wannstedt development?

Despite Ex-General Manager Bill Tobin recently saying he built the Super Bowl Bears a quick check will show Jim Finks drafted 21 of the 22 players who started in the Bears celebrated Super Bowl victory.

Jim Finks could plant trees. Jim Finks could pick players. Jim Finks took his green thumb and ran from the roar of Papa Bear when Ditka came in the door.

But back to Ditka as a bad Paul Bunyan.

Ditka not only couldn't plant a coaching tree, he couldn't pick a quarterback either. Ditka paved over players and made them parking lots. Just ask Mike Tomczak's shrink.

But maybe Jim McMahon will someday coach Brigham Young and the tiny Ditka acorn will become a great oak.

A Ditka tree will grow and Jimmy Mac will grin and say Da Coach taught me everything I know. And the Devil will have ice skates because Hell will have frozen over.

Maybe Matt Suhey will replace Joe Paterno? Or Steve "Mongo" McMichael will leap into Lovie's vacated seat and with bad whiskey on his kerosene breath bring back the old Bears.  

Perhaps Ricky Williams, who Da Coach picked in New Orleans, will be a tree, or at least a bud, for his old coach someday.

Or just to tick of Buddy Ryan back in Kentucky, Ditka can claim him and his boys as part of his coaching tree.

Or call him part of his coaching poison ivy plant. Buddy would be some type of wicked Oklahoma weed that bites and barks.

Still when Jim Harbaugh struggling at Stanford is your only tepid tree; it's enough to call the Arbor Day Foundation.

Plant a tree for Da Coach.

Because Ditka didn't have a green thumb.

Not like all these Belichick saplings springing up everywhere.

Maybe,in the end, Ditka was a tree planting type of person. The coach wasn't a tree hugger no the coach was a lumberjack.

Chop, chop, chop.


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