Mike Ditka | AP photo
Updated: March 4, 2013 6:41AM
Mike Ditka, who had a stint as Saints coach, has participated in three Super Bowls staged in New Orleans: Super Bowl VI as a tight end with the Dallas Cowboys, Super Bowl XII as a Cowboys assistant coach and Super Bowl XX as the Bears’ coach. We asked Ditka, who is in New Orleans this weekend, for his favorite memories from those Super Bowls and his thoughts on this year’s game.
Super Bowl XLVII, Sunday at Louisiana Superdome: Ravens vs. 49ers
Earlier in the year, I picked the 49ers. Jim Harbaugh has done a great job. I like the way they play. The move with Colin Kaepernick (right), a lot of people said that wasn’t fair, but the reason Jim did it is because he saw a higher ceiling with this kid. It was the right move. It was innovative, it puts a lot of pressure on defenses. That is the biggest part of why I like them. But if they have a weakness, it’s in the middle of the secondary. They need to pressure Joe Flacco. If they don’t, the middle of their secondary is not good enough to stop Anquan Boldin and their other receivers.
Super Bowl VI, Jan. 16, 1972, at Tulane Stadium: Cowboys 24, Dolphins 3
There was a lot of anticipation and anxiety. I knew it was basically the end of my playing career. It was tremendous excitement, but if someone tells you they’re not nervous going into a Super Bowl game, they’re lying. I don’t care how well you’re prepared, what kind of shape you’re in, you are going to have extreme nervousness as a player. And most of those nerves are around the fact that you’re afraid to fail your teammates. Once the game started, it was all over the first time you hit somebody. Then you knew what you had to do, what you could do, and you weren’t going to be denied.
Super Bowl XII, Jan. 15, 1978, at Louisiana Superdome: Cowboys 27, Broncos 10
As an assistant coach, you feel part of it because you have prepared your people. I handled special teams for coach Tom Landry. In that situation, you start to understand why organizations fail or succeed because it’s about the whole group. It’s not just about the head coach or the quarterback or the running back — it’s about everybody. That’s because if everybody doesn’t get their job done, especially in the Super Bowl, then you are going to have a problem. Even though my role wasn’t that big, I think it was important because I felt good about how I prepared the special teams and the receivers.
Super Bowl XX, Jan. 26, 1986, at Louisiana Superdome: Bears 46, Patriots 10
When I got to New Orleans, I was pretty confident as the head coach because of the football team I had. Very seldom will you see a football team go through the playoffs and give up 10 points in three games. That’s what they did. They were dominant as a defense because they controlled everything because Buddy Ryan had them playing at a very high level. And our offense was good. We could run the ball, we led the league in first downs and time of possession, but a lot of that was set up by our defense being so solid. I’ll be honest, when we went to New Orleans to play the Patriots, I had no idea the outcome would be that big, but I was supremely confident that we were going to win.