DENVER (CBS4) – CBS4′s Vic Lombardi says you can’t fool around when interviewing “Iron” Mike Ditka, although he did once don a wedding dress for the cover of a national magazine.
Ditka hasn’t coached in years, but judging from the packed house he drew at the annual Jewish Family Service luncheon the other day, he’s still as popular as ever. After the event, Lombardi was able to sit down with Ditka and ask him his thoughts on several topics.
Of course Lombardi first wanted to know if Ditka still gets together with the Saturday Night Live characters who parodied Chicago Bears fans.
“Oh yeah, when I had the original restaurant in Chicago they came in all the time,” Ditka said. “And they still come in once in a while. I see George Wendt around … they’re just good guys.
“You’ve got to understand, as silly as it was, the culture in Chicago at that time was like, wow; that’s the way that they treated me. I could do no wrong and we could do no wrong and the Bears were ‘Da Bears.’”
Lombardi next moved onto the topic of former Denver Broncos quarterback Jay Cutler, who now plays for the Bears.
“Jay Cutler needs tough love right now. I think the problem he has is that’s what he’s lacking. He’s a talent, but I think he has to prove that he is the commander-in-chief of that football team for them to get better,” Ditka said. “The other thing he has to learn is that you can’t turn the ball over and win consistently in the National Football League.”
In Cutler’s final year in Denver he was a Pro Bowler and his career path was on the upswing. Lombardi wondered if Ditka would have pulled the trigger on the trade that sent Cutler to the Bears.
“There had to be a reason. I’m not privy to that … I think egos come into everything and maybe (former head coach Josh McDaniels) thought he couldn’t control him the way he wanted to control him, so he made a move.”
As for the quarterback situation in Denver, the Broncos have a promising young quarterback in Tim Tebow and Ditka is very familiar with Kyle Orton.
“Kyle Orton is a good football player. I’ve watched Kyle play at Purdue, I’ve watched him play for the Bears. He’s a good football player,” Ditka said. “People ask me about Tebow. I would play Tebow. That doesn’t make me right, but I would go to war with him because, as I said, you can’t coach character, you can’t coach leadership; and he has those.”
Ditka said he doesn’t care if people think Tebow doesn’t throw the ball well.
“Throw it underhand, I don’t care. He wins football games. The guy is a winner.”
Next topic — the NFL lockout.
“First of all it’s a power struggle; I think that’s what has happened. I think the owners are wrong at this point — I only say this point because if I own a business, and I owned the business for 25 or 30 years, and I run it successfully and I pay my employees and I give them benefits … then they come in and tell me they want to own half my business, then I’m going to tell them to get out of here.”
Ditka has been enjoying retirement these days, but if a team were to call he’d probably certainly listen.