Mike Ditka was named the 12th head coach of the Saints on January 28, 1997. He signed a five-year contract extension on August 5, 1998, placing him under contract through the 2002 season.
He holds an overall career coaching record of 124-88, including his first two seasons coaching the Saints, and the 11 seasons he coached the Chicago Bears. He holds a 118-82 regular season coaching record. Ditka is currently the only active NFL coach in the Hall of Fame and ranks first in regular season winning percentage (.590) and second in overall winning percentage (.585) among active NFL coaches who have coached at least 100 career games.
Ditka came to the Saints after spending four years as an NFL commentator and analyst on the NFL on NBC. “I think we have the players to win our division,” said Ditka. “That’s our goal this year. We’ll find a way to win. We’ll find it.” Ditka brings to the challenge a propensity to win with hopes of bringing success to an organization, which has only had five winning seasons in the history of the club.
Ditka has realized success as an All-American at the University of Pittsburgh, NFL Rookie of the Year (1961), All-Pro (1961-66), Super Bowl Champion as a player with Dallas (1972), Super Bowl Champion as an assistant coach with Dallas (1977) and a Super Bowl Champion as head coach of the Chicago Bears (1986).
Under Ditka, the Saints have doubled their win total (6-10) from the previous season in 1997, while immediately stamping the New Orleans defense with his signature, finishing fourth in the entire NFL. The six-win total was the second-best inaugural season victory by a first-year head coach in team history.
During his 11 years with the Bears, Ditka’s teams dominated the NFC Central with 52 regular season victories between 1985-88. This mark is the most ever by an NFL team in any four-year period. Ditka ranks second among every Bears coach in both tenure and victories. He trails only his first pro coach (1961), George Halas, the team’s founder and coach for 40 seasons. Ditka coached the Bears to six NFC Central titles, three appearances in the NFC title game, and a Super Bowl victory in 1985, Ditka’s team posted an 18-1 record. After Super Bowl XX, Ditka won Coach of the Year. Ditka is the only Chicago Bear coach to lead his club to five straight post-season appearances. In 1988, Ditka won Coach of the Year honors during the same season in which he suffered a mid-season heart attack (November 22, 1988), and posted a 12-4 regular season record. The Bears would lose to the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Championship game at Soldier Field.
Ditka began his NFL career in 1961 when he was drafted by the Chicago Bears in the first round (fifth overall) from the University of Pittsburgh. Ditka’s impact was immediate catching 56 passes and earning NFL Rookie of the Year honors. Ditka played six total seasons with the Bears, earning Pro Bowl honors in each of his years with the Bears, before being traded to Philadelphia in 1976. After spending two years with the Eagles he was traded to Dallas where he played four more years. He caught a touchdown pass in the Cowboys’ 24-3 victory over the Dolphins in Super Bowl VI. Ditka began his NFL career in 1961 when he was drafted by the Chicago Bears in the first round (fifth overall) from the University of Pittsburgh. Ditka’s impact was immediate catching 56 passes and earning NFL Rookie of the Year honors. Ditka played six total seasons with the Bears, earning Pro Bowl honors in each of his years with the Bears, before being traded to Philadelphia in 1976. After spending two years with the Eagles he was traded to Dallas where he played four more years. He caught a touchdown pass in the Cowboys’ 24-3 victory over the Dolphins in Super Bowl VI.
The final tribute to Ditka’s playing career was bestowed upon him 16 years after his retirement from football when he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame (July 30, 1988). Ditka retired from playing football following the 1972 season, but was soon hired by Cowboys’ head coach Tony Landry as an offensive assistant with the Cowboys, his teams were in the playoffs eight times, won six divisional titles, three NFC Championships, and the Super Bowl following the 1997 campaign.
Born October 18, 1939, in Carnegie, Pennsylvania, Ditka was raised in nearby Aliquippa where his father, Mike Sr. worked on the railroad. He participated in three sports at Aliquippa High School, playing basketball, baseball and football. He enrolled at the University of Pittsburgh and was an All-American as a senior in 1960. Ditka played defensive end, linebacker, tight end and ranked among the nation’s top punters with a 40-yard average in his final three seasons.
He is actively involved in a numerous charitable endeavors including Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Sports Teams Organized for Prevention of Drug Abuse, and the Say No to Drugs campaign. The Mike Ditka Foundation, established in 1989, raises money for Misericordia, a residential facility for developmentally disabled youth, and for the pediatric AIDS program at Children’s Memorial Hospital. Ditka continues to assist his alma mater by sponsoring the Mike Ditka Endowed Scholarship Fund at the University of Pittsburgh to which he will continue $100,000 throughout the 1990’s.
Ditka is a highly sought after motivational speaker and television personality. He has appeared on virtually every late night network talk show and been featured on various network newscasts. Ditka is the subject of Saturday Night Live's continuing popular "Da Bears" skit and in 1989 he played himself in episodes of the television series LA Law and Cheers. Ditka is also one of pro football's most visible ambassadors. He was part of CBS-TV's playoff coverage following the 1989 season and has recently begun a new career as an NFL and PGA commentator for NBC Network. Currently, he is the co-host of CBS’ NFL Today Since his days with the Chicago Bears, Ditka has opened Iron Mike’s Grille, located in the Tremont Hotel in Chicago.