To understand Mike Ditka you have to understand his upbringing growing up in a tough Western Pennsylvania town. From a blue-collar Polish-American family with a very tough and demanding father who really loved him. Who ends up going to college at Pittsburgh University another real tough iron blue-collar city and then gets drafted by the Chicago Bears. Similar town as Pittsburgh culturally, but with about ten times as many people.
So Iron Mike for the most part has always been around where he came from and what he’s most comfortable with as a man. And then he ends up playing one of the toughest positions in the game tight end where you have to be tough and physical to be successful. The Mike Ditka that people got to see as a football player is the Mike Ditka that a lot more people saw as head coach of the Chicago Bears. This get in your face tough ass didn’t take crap from anyone who simply wanted the best from his players.
Mike Ditka was the ultimate tough love head coach father figure that coached the Chicago Bears for eleven seasons. From 1982-92 and if you look at his record he was very successful one of the most winningest head coaches in the NFL in the 1980s. You do your job and you give your best effort, Ditka is your best friend. But if you screw up and make mental mistakes or are lazy, Ditka is the last person you want to be around. Because he’ll tell you how bad you were, how dumb you were and how bad of a mistake you’ve made.
And if you don’t do better in the future, you better look for another job. Which was the message of Mike Ditka and you might not like his tactics, but that’s what Ditka was about. And I think something he learned from Tom Landry in Dallas. That if you want the best out of your players, you have to want it, you have to expect it and you better demand it. And your players must be aware of it as well. Mike Ditka was a blue-collar Polish-American head coach coaching in a blue-collar city with a large Polish-American community.
Iron Mike fit Chicago as well as any head coach has ever fit any major pro sports city. And why he called his football team the 85 Bears the Grabowski’s, because his team were so blue-collar and represented that city so well. And it worked very well in the 1980s until it burned out in the early 1990s when the Bears let him go.