Four downs with Ditka
BY MIKE DITKA
Mike Ditka | AP photo
1. You were Jim Harbaugh’s first coach in the NFL. What makes him a good coach?
He’s not a guy who talks a lot; he’s a doer. He’s a very motivated and driven individual, very competitive. Everybody wants to succeed, but he’s going to find a way to succeed. That’s just who he is. He’s not going to leave any stone unturned until he does succeed. Jim has always been that way. He takes great pride in what he does. He came from a great family. His brother is a great coach. When you look at Jim and John, you are looking at two guys who have a good foundation. And they’re doing it their way.
2. What are your impressions of 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick?
Jim put him in there because he saw a much higher ceiling with Kaepernick than with Alex Smith. Smith is a good football player, but he thought Kaepernick can take the 49ers further than Alex could. After watching him, it’s clear he’s talented and athletic. He has speed and an underrated arm. He’s such a threat that he puts a lot more pressure on defenses than your typical quarterback.
3. Does Lovie Smith deserve another shot as an NFL head coach, or is he a better defensive coordinator?
That’s a hard question to answer. Do I think he deserves another shot? Yes. Will he get one? I really don’t know. Very seldom does a coach get fired after winning 10 games nowadays. I can understand you have a new GM, you want to do things your way. I think if you win 10 games in a pretty good division, that’s pretty good. When I look at things like that, I wonder. There really isn’t a whole hell of a lot of loyalty anymore when it comes to coaches.
4. You grew up admiring Stan Musial, who died last week. What stands out when you think of Musial?
He was my childhood hero. He came from the same part of Pennsylvania, about 40 miles from where I grew up. Just watching him play the game, watching the way he handled everything, I just became a tremendous fan of his. I got to meet him a number of times. I have a great picture of him hanging in my bedroom. It’s autographed by him. In my restaurant, I have another picture autographed by him, an autographed bat. That’s stuff that will go to my grandkids. This guy was the epitome of class on and off the field. You never heard anyone, not even writers, say anything bad about Stan Musial because he was a quality, high-character individual. He had a restaurant, and he played the harmonica, signed autographs and laughed with fans. He did all the things modern-day athletes don’t have time to do anymore.