Opposites attract similar records Gibbs, Ditka offer contrast in winning

October 03, 1991|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,Sun Staff Correspondent

HERNDON,VA. — HERNDON, Va. -- Their records speak for themselves.

It's about the only thing they have in common to say.

When Joe Gibbs and Mike Ditka line up on the opposing sidelines Sunday at Soldier Field, they'll boast almost identical records as two of the most successful coaches of the last decade.

Gibbs, in his 11th year as the Washington Redskins' coach, is 117-55 while Ditka, in his 10th year the Chicago Bears' coach, is 100-52. Gibbs has a 4-3 edge in their seven games.

When the Redskins (5-0) take on the Bears (4-1) on Sunday, it'll be a big game.

It usually is when these two coaches meet.

They've coached against each other in three playoff games, and the visiting team won all three.

All this proves is that there's more than one way to coach a football team.

Ditka is bombastic and fiery even though there are reports he's mellowed in recent years while Gibbs is so wary that he tends to act as if he's afraid of his own shadow, much less the opposing team.

So what makes a successful coach?

"It's be yourself," Gibbs said. "I think it's like any other job, just be yourself and work at it."

"Good head coaches are made by good players, that helps," Ditka said. "The better the players, the better the coaches."

Ditka added, "Some say some coaches are motivators and some are technical people, but I think every coach is everything a little bit. In order to be a good coach, you have to have good people helping you."

The most obvious difference between Gibbs and Ditka is their respective personalities.

Gibbs rarely loses his temper in public.

Ditka does it all the time, although he insists he's changed, especially since he came back from a heart attack in 1988.

"Times have changed," Ditka said. "What was good 20 years ago or 10 years ago isn't good now. In some ways, I've changed, whether you call that mellowing or not, I don't know, but I've changed."

His most famous recent outburst wasn't 10 years ago or 20 years ago, but just two years ago after a 38-14 loss to the Washington Redskins in RFK Stadium.

He said, among other games, that the Bears wouldn't win another game (he was right) and that cornerback Donnell Woolford "couldn't cover anybody."

The television clip of that out burst has been replayed a zillion times.

"That day was a very frustrating day for me and yet to take my frustration out on a few individuals who were out there busting their butts, that was silly. I was wrong," he said.

Ditka couldn't leave it there, though.

"But I've admitted that 150 times. This makes the 151st," he said.

When he was asked if he'd ever say such things again about his players, he said, "Not even if I believed that. Because then I

would be enlightening you people and that would be a foolish thing to try to put knowledge into people who don't have any," he said.

Ditka laughed and said, "I try to get one in, a little zinger."

Ditka always gives as good as he gets.

He was recently quoted as saying Jim Harbaugh was the best quarterback he's had, which would make him better than Jim McMahon.

"I said it kind of tongue in cheek. I was just kind of getting even for a shot that was taken at our '85 [Super Bowl] team," he said.

Ditka always likes to even the score.

He understands the way the game is played.

He understands Sam Wyche's "the effort to win is more important than winning" comment, but he knows that's not the way it's played.

"If he made those comments when he was 4-0 instead of 0-4, nobody would have said a word. I think he meant well, but we're judged by our victories, not by our defeats and not by efforts. That sometimes is tragic, it's wrong, but we understand that.

"In our business you must understand that the bottom line is did you win or lose. This is the essence of sport. I don't know that it's ever been any different. I think the people who are in the game understand the rules of the game," he said.

By that yardstick, both Gibbs and Ditka are doing very well.

The question now is how long they'll continue to do it.

Gibbs tries not to discuss that topic because he once made headlines by pondering his future.

There was recently a published report that he'd take a year off to pursue his auto racing interests or might be interested in coaching a Charlotte expansion team. He called it a "pipe dream."

Ditka, though, said, "Not 30, that's for sure. Not like Don [Shula]. I like coaching. I like the game. I do believe there'll probably come a time when you say, 'Hey, it's not that much fun anymore. I don't enjoy this about it. I don't enjoy that about it,' and you walk away. But I enjoy it [now]. When I wake up in the morning, I look for it. I think about it when I go to sleep. So the moment I quit doing that and start thinking about something else, that's probably the moment I'll do something else."

It may be a while before he thinks about something else.

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