Mike Ditka and Dick Butkus are two of the most iconic names in Chicago Bears history, and their legacies extend far beyond the football field. As the Bears prepare to retire Mike Ditka’s No. 89 jersey at Soldier Field, it’s worth reflecting on the intertwined stories of these two figures and the complex relationships they shared with the Bears organization.
Mike Ditka And Dick Butkus: Legendary Numbers Retired in Adverse Weather
The retirement of Mike Ditka’s jersey brings memories of the last jersey retirements for the Bears, which were those of Dick Butkus and Gale Sayers in 1994. Interestingly, that ceremony took place during a torrential downpour at Soldier Field. Butkus fondly remembers the night for its unforgettable weather, and the challenging conditions added a unique touch to the event.
Both Mike Ditka and Dick Butkus faced challenges with the Bears organization after their playing careers. Butkus took legal action against the team when they refused to honor the remaining years on his contract following a severe knee injury in 1973. Eventually, he received a $600,000 settlement in 1976. Ditka, on the other hand, had a strained relationship with then-club president Michael McCaskey during his coaching tenure and was eventually fired.
A Complex Relationship with “Papa Bear” Halas
Despite their initial challenges with ownership, both Ditka and Butkus had complex relationships with the
Bears’ legendary owner-coach, George Halas. Halas, known for his thriftiness, was the subject of Ditka’s famous quip that he “throws around nickels like manhole covers.” However, George Halas later brought Ditka back into the Bears fold as a coach, highlighting his generosity and dedication to the team.
Mutual Respect and a Chicago Bond
Despite their differences and challenges, both Ditka and Butkus shared a deep respect for the Bears organization and the city of Chicago. Butkus emphasized Halas’s contributions to the game and his no-
nonsense approach. He appreciated the bond he shared with Halas, who could go from stern discipline to paternal encouragement in a matter of minutes.
Brian Urlacher and Continuing the Legacy
As the Bears retire Mike Ditka’s jersey, Dick Butkus believes that recently retired linebacker Brian Urlacher should also be inducted into the Hall of Fame. Butkus recognizes Urlacher’s outstanding contributions to the position and the challenges he faced due to injuries. Urlacher, often compared to Butkus during his playing days, continues the lineage of great Bears linebackers.
Who is Mike Ditka?
Mike Ditka is a former NFL player and coach, best known for his time as both a tight end and head coach for the Chicago Bears.
Who is Dick Butkus?
Dick Butkus is a legendary NFL linebacker who played for the Chicago Bears and is widely regarded as one of the greatest defensive players in football history.
How have Mike Ditka and Dick Butkus contributed to the Chicago Bears and the NFL as a whole?
Both Mike Ditka and Dick Butkus have left lasting legacies with the Chicago Bears. Ditka as a coach led the Bears to victory in Super Bowl XX, while Butkus is celebrated for his remarkable defensive skills and contributions to the sport’s history.