D(itka) day is here for Bears McCaskey returns and is expected to decide coach's fate

January 04, 1993|By Fred Mitchell | Fred Mitchell,Chicago Tribune

CHICAGO -- Today could be "D" day, as in Ditka day, for the celebrated Chicago Bears coach who's in limbo.

Club president Michael McCaskey was expected to announce Ditka's fate today in Lake Forest.

Ditka and the rest of his coaching staff are scheduled to meet to discuss player evaluations for the 1993 season. If Ditka and any of his staff are not asked back, such player evaluations would be insignificant.

McCaskey took off on a one-week family vacation to Southern California immediately after the Bears (5-11) concluded their worst season in decades. That fueled speculation McCaskey plans to fire the Bears' second all-time winningest coach. Ditka has one year left on his three-year contract, but he discovered last month that the final year is not guaranteed.

McCaskey returned from his vacation this weekend. He inherited Ditka as the team's coach when he took over for his grandfather, George Halas.

Washington Redskins defensive coordinator Richie Petitbon, 54, a former Bears defensive back and teammate of Ditka, has been mentioned as a possible candidate to succeed Ditka should McCaskey cut the cord. The Redskins still are alive in the playoffs, meaning Petitbon could not yet be contacted for a job vacancy with another club.

Bears defensive coordinator Vince Tobin also has been highly thought of by McCaskey over the years.

Following the Dec. 20 loss to Detroit, Ditka spoke of his desire to expand his power and have more say regarding the draft and player personnel.

"I'm going to make a decision, too. The only way I'll continue [coaching the Bears], is if I control it," Ditka said then.

The Bears are one of a few NFL teams without a general manager. Since the firing of Ditka confidant Jerry Vainisi in 1986, the club has operated without a general manager, per se. Bill Tobin is vice president/player personnel and heads up the scouting department as well as overseeing trades and free-agent signings.

Bobby Beathard, who carved out a great reputation as general manager of the Redskins, now serves in that capacity for the AFC West champion San Diego Chargers.

"I think the most important thing is just having a bunch of guys who can work together," Beathard said of his cooperation with first-year coach Bobby Ross and the rest of the Chargers' front-office staff.

"Anything we do usually involves a lot of discussion. It's never just one guy. I work with the scouts, but the decisions are the ones that have been discussed and planned. Coach Ross is very involved with his assistants and it's a true team effort. No one person has the monopoly to know everything. If any one of us gets to the point where he feels he knows all the answers, then we'll be in trouble."

Beathard is credited with the trade to acquire quarterback Stan Humphries from Washington for a third-round draft pick after starter John Friesz went down with a serious knee injury in the first preseason game.

"Eventually somebody has to say which way, and it's usually Bobby or me," Beathard said. "He does the coaching part and I do the scouting part. These guys have been so much fun to work with that I don't see a problem."

The Bears' staff has not enjoyed the same kind of fun in recent years.

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