Bears officials may be ready to ditch Ditka Assistants focus of latest tirade

December 23, 1992|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,Staff Writer

After 11 years of running battles with his players, the medi and Chicago Bears management, it finally may be time for Mike Ditka to take his caustic comments elsewhere.

The volatile coach of the Bears is seemingly engaged in a power struggle with the front office -- a struggle he doesn't figure to win despite his Super Bowl victory and 112-67 career record.

During a radio show Monday, Ditka told a WGN audience that he has no power to hire and fire his assistant coaches. He said "the assistant coaches really work for me and if they don't work for me, there's no use having a head coach. The owner might as well be the head coach."

He had similar complaints after the Bears' 16-13 loss to the Detroit Lions Sunday. On Monday morning, Ditka met with team president Michael McCaskey for approximately a half-hour. Neither would comment about the meeting.

Still, on his Monday night radio show, Ditka denied there was a power struggle and said he expected to return next season. "It's my intention to return in 1993, and I think things will be done properly," he said.

He is in the second year of a three-year contract, although the third year is not guaranteed.

In the midst of a 5-10 season, Ditka is not happy with offensive coordinator Greg Landry or defensive coordinator Vince Tobin.

He has said he wants more authority if he's going to stay -- including control over his staff and a say in personnel matters. A few years ago, McCaskey went so far as to try to discourage Ditka from calling plays.

This season already has been filled with distractions for the Bears. Ditka had a celebrated run-in with quarterback Jim Harbaugh after a costly fourth-quarter interception against the Minnesota Vikings.

Ditka shut down his Monday news conferences, and he has berated fans and media regularly on his radio and TV appearances.

On the field, the Bears have grown old and slow. They need to upset the Dallas Cowboys Sunday to avoid their worst season in 17 years.

The San Francisco 49ers finally get a read on Joe Montana's long-awaited comeback when he takes center stage against the Lions Monday night. The 36-year-old quarterback's performance will either move him ahead of Steve Bono as Steve Young's backup, or serve as a showcase for teams that may be interested in Montana next year.

Given Young's success this season -- he's a strong MVP candidate in the NFL -- Montana likely would have to return as the No. 2 man next year if he returns to the 49ers at all. That figures to be tough to swallow for a man who has won four Super Bowls.

The last time Montana played was in the 49ers' NFC championship game against the New York Giants Jan. 20, 1991. He suffered a broken right hand in that game, and tore a tendon in his right elbow the following preseason. He has missed the past 31 regular-season games.

Still, he is the topic of much debate in the Bay area. Yesterday, the San Francisco Chronicle ran two columns on Montana. One celebrated his imminent return, and the other said the Niners should trade him.

Poor protocol

It was not a red-letter day for the NFL Sunday. Here's why:

* After Los Angeles Raiders cornerback Eddie Anderson leveled Nate Lewis with a jarring hit that caused Lewis to drop a pass, Anderson knelt beside the San Diego Chargers receiver and began to count him out. The action drew a 15-yard taunting flag.

* After Miami kicker Pete Stoyanovich missed an extra-point kick that left the Dolphins down by 17-16 with 2:22 left, New York Jets defensive coordinator Pete Carroll grabbed his throat in a choking gesture along the sidelines.

There was no flag for that, but Stoyanovich laughed last with a game-winning, playoff-clinching 37-yard field goal with seven seconds left. Carroll had the good sense to apologize to Stoyanovich after the game.

Bucking the odds

The Buffalo Bills did their best to end the NFC's domination of the AFC during the regular season, going 4-0 against NFC competition. They beat the 49ers, New Orleans Saints, Los Angeles Rams and Atlanta Falcons. They also lost consecutive games to AFC East rivals, the Indianapolis Colts and New York Jets.

"We'd be better off if we were 8-0 vs. the AFC East with the same number of wins and losses," said Bills coach Marv Levy. "The only game to me where the NFC is different from the AFC is the Super Bowl."

The NFC has won eight straight Super Bowls.

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