If anyone knows greatness, it’s Super Bowl-winning coach Mike Ditka.
And Peyton Manning – regardless of what happens this Sunday – is greatness.
“Greatness is defined in a lot of different ways,” Ditka said on The Doug Gottlieb Show. “Peyton Manning will go down as one of the best football players I’ve ever seen – quarterback or not. He’s a team player. He makes the people around him better. To me, that is excellence. That is what Tom Brady does. That’s what Johnny Unitas did. A lot of people have that ability.
“I don’t know where you rank him,” Ditka said of Manning. “I don’t know about legacies. All I know (is), where would Denver be without Peyton Manning? I think that’s the question you got to ask yourself.”
The answer? Probably not in the Super Bowl.
So please, forget all of this “Peyton has to win on Sunday to secure his legacy” talk.
“He is who he is,” Ditka said. “He’s a great football player. He’s playing in the Super Bowl, and they’re going up against as good a defense as I’ve seen in the last 20 years. It’s going to be tough. Somebody’s going to win, somebody’s going to lose. Let’s hope it’s a great game.”
Notice that Ditka said “in the last 20 years” – not “in the last 30 years.” Because 30 years would include his 1985 Bears defense, which is considered by many the greatest defense ever assembled. It included names like Mike Singletary, William Perry and Leslie Frazier.
“Here’s the thing,” Ditka said. “Nobody understood (what we were doing) when we played a 46 defense – what it was or how to try to attack it. Everybody thought you had to bunch people up and try to protect. No, you have to spread people open so you can see where the pressure’s coming from. These offenses today are completely different than the offenses we operated against in the old days.”
Ditka’s style then was similar to Pete Carroll’s now. He let his players be themselves – as long as they prepared, worked hard and brought it every Sunday.
If Ditka were coaching Richard Sherman, however, that post-game rant following the NFC Championship wouldn’t have happened – and if it did happen, there would have been consequences.
“I thought (Sherman) was trying to demean (Michael Crabtree),” Ditka said. “I don’t think you can do that to your opponent. You beat your opponent, but you don’t disrespect him, and I think that’s what he was trying to do.
“He’s since apologized for it. I hope he’s learned his lesson. He’s too good a football player to do that. Did I like it? No. Would I have tolerated it? No. I would have put him on the bench. I’m sorry, that’s me. That’s just the way I am. Doesn’t make me right, doesn’t make me wrong – (but) you have an obligation as a player to respect the opponent.”