Someday, when President Mike Ditka is sworn into office, all our problems will be solved. International tensions will be cleared up with a clothesline hit, a good cigar, and a steak. Fiscal deficits will be eradicated by the trading of multiple draft picks, the national anthem will be replaced by a simple cry of "DA BEARS!", and nickels will be the size of manhole covers. In the meantime, we'll have to dial our expectations down, and satisfy ourselves with Ditka's evaluation of one Timothy Richard Tebow, who's been out of the NFL since the New York Jets released him on Apr. 29.
Some would tell you that the former Heisman Trophy winner and first-round pick of the Denver Broncos is out of the NFL for good, at least as a quarterback. But Ditka, the ex-tight end and head coach of the Chicago Bears, who also served that latter function for the New Orleans Saints for a little while, believes that Tebow has a place in the NFL. Moreover, he's willing to go out on a limb in his current capacity as an NFL analyst.
From the Chicago Sun-Times, and his "4 Downs with Ditka" column, here's Ditka on Tebow's pro football future:
“I think [Tebow] can play quarterback in the NFL, but whatever offense you run might have to be tweaked a bit. This kid is a talent and he proved it in college. He is an outstanding leader. Now, does he have an unusual throwing motion? Yes. But there a lot of quarterbacks that didn’t have a perfect throwing motion. Some of them turned out to be great quarterbacks because they were great leaders. I really do think there’s a place for him. If not at quarterback, I think he could play tight end. If I was in the league and coaching today, I would take a chance on him at quarterback.”
Ditka has an interesting history with quarterbacks. He was selected by the Bears in the first round of the 1961 draft out of Pitt, and Da Bears won the NFL championship two years later with Billy Wade at quarterback. Wade ran for 132 yards and six touchdowns on 45 attempts, against a passing productivity combination of just 15 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. He ended his career with the Dallas Cowboys, and he saw Roger Staubach run around with great effectiveness. Staubach threw for more than 20 touchdowns in a season just three times in his 11-year career, but his mobility, toughness, and leadership were unquestioned, and his Hall of Fame credentials are beyond reproach.
Ditka became the Bears' head coach in 1982, and the team selected former BYU quarterback Jim McMahon in the first round that year. McMahon was never a statistical wonder -- he never threw for more than 15 touchdowns in a season and ended his long career with 100 touchdowns to 90 interceptions -- but he helped his team to a Super Bowl win at the end of the 1985 season, and a number of great seasons around that year. McMahon was also mobile, tough, and a natural (if unconventional) leader. Ditka's three-year term at the head of the Saints was marked by the Ricky Williams trade, but also the fact that he had a bunch of hot-shot college quarterbacks on his roster who really didn't do much in the NFL -- Danny Wuerffel, Heath Shuler, and the two Billy Joes (Hobert and Tolliver). In a word, yeesh. Still, Ditka felt comfortable enough with that particular demolition derby to engage in his own version of the Louisiana Purchase, swapping his entire 1999 draft for the right to grab Williams.
Point is, Ditka has never worked with what you'd call a "traditional" quarterback, putting up gaudy stats and living off pure numbers. He's always seemed to be more comfortable with unconventional guys at the position, and he's enjoyed considerable success with those types. Of course, he benefited from great run games and defenses as a player and coach, but it's easy to see how Ditka would gravitate to the Tebow idea. In his case, it's not just a bunch of Skip Bayless claptrap; the man truly believes in the intangibles to an extreme degree at the quarterback position.
We'll have to wait and see if any current NFL team president, general manager, or head coach subscribes to that same ideology.