Mike Ditka

Mike Ditka praises Bears' offseason, calls Nagy a 'very good coach'

Mike Ditka praises Bears' offseason, calls Nagy a 'very good coach'

Former Chicago Bears coach Mike Ditka spoke with NBC Sports on Monday and offered praise for Matt Nagy and the process GM Ryan Pace put in place this offseason.

“The Bears are trying to win and Matt’s [Nagy] a good coach, a very good coach," Ditka said. "I think they got to put the pieces together, they know what they want to do. They’re in the process of trying to draft the right people, put the right people in, work with the people they already have."

There's no relationship in football more important than the bond between a head coach and his quarterback, and according to Ditka, the Bears are trending in the right direction.

“I think they got a great quarterback and I really think there are a lot of good positions there. It’s good to have a great quarterback and a running game and all those things are important, but I think you win in this league by understanding you got to control the football, play great defense, you got to match up well on special teams. I think they’ll do that.

"They weren’t going to become a football club, not just throw the pass here, we’re going to throw the ball 50 times, it’s not that. You play the game to win the game. It doesn’t matter if you run the ball 100 times or you pass it 100 times. Whatever way you can win, you win.”

The Bears should be a lot more aggressive on offense this season with Nagy calling plays. The first-year coach has said he plans to test defenses with the vertical passing game and Chicago has the skill players to do it. Allen Robinson and Taylor Gabriel both have third-level speed.

The combination of Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen will also be a huge part of Nagy's system. Howard, who's coming off back-to-back 1,000-yard rushing seasons to start his career (the first player in Bears history to accomplish such feat) is chomping at the bit to take on the role Kareem Hunt starred in for Kansas City last season, the same one that resulted in the rookie back leading the NFL in rushing yards.

Still, before the Bears can have visions of a playoff berth, they have to get through the NFC North.

“In the National Football League you have to look at your division, that’s where it all starts," Ditka said. "You got Green Bay, you got Detroit, you got Minnesota, you got Chicago. Now Chicago has to understand they got to come out of the six games with Minnesota, Detroit and Green Bay with at least four wins. At least four. If you come out 5-1 or 6-0, fantastic, but that’s going to determine how you play the rest of the league.

“You must control your division to win your division. You might get lucky and win it, but you have to really control it. I think that’s the big thing they have to do, really concentrate on those three teams in their division. Everything else will work out. You’re going to play some good teams, we know that, but take care of your division and let the other chips fall where they may. I think they got a very good chance, I like what they’re doing.”

Mike Ditka says Mitch Trubisky has traits of Jim McMahon

Mike Ditka says Mitch Trubisky has traits of Jim McMahon

The last time the Chicago Bears won the Super Bowl, Mike Ditka was roaming the sideline as head coach and Jim McMahon was the starting quarterback. This season marks 33 years since the Bears hoisted the Lombardi Trophy, but the excitement around this Bears team is palpable.

One reason Bears fans are so hopeful is QB Mitch Trubisky. The second-year pro is entering his first full season as the starting quarterback and could launch into stardom with the new offensive system and skill players around him.

According to coach Ditka, Trubisky has the most important trait for success.

“I like Mitch a lot, I really do. I think he is a good leader and has a lot of talent," Ditka told NBC Sports on Monday. "I know he has heart and I think that’s the main thing."

Trubisky has taken hold of his leadership role this offseason. He's saying and doing all the right things, and according to his coaches and teammates, has taken major strides in learning the new offense.

Ditka said Trubisky has some of the same qualities McMahon brought to the club during the best years in Bears history.

"I was with the guy who played quarterback for us last night, Jim McMahon, he wasn’t the most talented guy in the world but he knew how to play the position," Ditka said. "He wanted to win. I think that’s the way Mitch is, but I think Mitch is a very, very talented guy.”

Chicago has been something of a media darling this offseason. General manager Ryan Pace has received near-universal praise for his efforts in free agency and the NFL draft. And while all the positive news is great for team morale, it's an entirely different beast when coach Ditka proclaims his confidence in Trubisky.

There's no room for failure for the Bears in 2018.

Since Mike Ditka, Bears coaching hires both good and bad – sometimes very good, sometimes very bad

Since Mike Ditka, Bears coaching hires both good and bad – sometimes very good, sometimes very bad

As the Bears begin their search for the coaching successor to John Fox, names will be swirling. Which the Bears decide upon will likely be the most notable Chicago sports event of the year, even though that year still has 364 more days to run.

It will be a move that comes with some interesting history.

The organization has been made sport of for any number or missteps, some amply justified, others maybe not so much. Hiring Bears coaches, while marked by erratic swings, has not been by any means a complete drumbeat litany of calamity.

After Mike Ditka was dispatched in 1992, Dallas defensive coordinator Dave Wannstedt was arguably the most sought-after candidate for top sideline jobs. The Cowboys were coming off Super Bowl obliteration of the Buffalo Bills to cap off a resurgence in which Wannstedt was the No. 1 sidekick of coach Jimmy Johnson and had only once suffered through two straight losing seasons in a career ranging from college assistant to NFL head coach.

Then-Bears President Michael McCaskey pursued and edged out the New York Giants to land Wannstedt, who achieved some early success before his job-ending collapse from 1996-98.

McCaskey enacted a collapse of his own in the mishandled attempt to hire Dave McGinnis, a botched moment that effectively cost McCaskey his job. The Bears ultimately hired Dick Jauron, who managed as many playoff appearances as Wannstedt (one) but little else.

The move to Lovie Smith produced a division championship in year two (2005) and a Super Bowl appearance in year three, and ultimately produced a win total (81) trailing only George Halas and Ditka.

Missed playoffs then brought an end to Smith’s tenure despite a 10-6 record in 2012, whereupon Smith was fired by Phil Emery, who brought in Marc Trestman to start a two-year stint of dysfunction that got both Emery and Trestman fired.

The organization then turned to Fox, like Wannstedt once upon a time, perhaps the top candidate on the open market. His record of success included taking Carolina and Denver to (losing) Super Bowls, but had never experienced consecutive losing seasons through 27 years of NFL coaching at any level.

Fox’s time ended, as Wannstedt’s did, with three straight losing seasons for the first time in his career.