There is a decidedly weird and fortunately decreasing (via age) sect of Chicago sports fans who still worship at the church of Mike Ditka. It's a legion that believes one thing to be true: that the everyman, blue-collar toughness Dikta emitted during the Bears' mid-80s run of dominance was exactly what sports -- nay, life -- is all about. These folks live among us and they are not hard to find: they exist mostly on your sports radio dial, but also as commenters on newspaper stories and walking, talking, real-life Dikta disciples who never miss a chance to tell you how much better football was when the '80s Bears were doing their thing, giving and taking concussions, getting in-season DUIs and certainly pulverizing the competition.
I assume this group of folks is rather excited with the news that the Bears reportedly plan on interviewing Mike Singletary for their head coaching opening. Everyone else should be rolling their eyes.
In Phil Emery We Trust, of course, and the GM's decision to 'cast a wide net' without an obvious head coaching candidate on the market is likely a very wise decision. Lovie Smith was good. Emery didn't fire him to hire another retread like Andy Reid or Bill Cowher or, someone save us, Jon Gruden. That none of these men have apparently ever appeared on Emery's radar is a testament to Emery's desire to find the next great NFL coach. As the search reaches its second week, there still isn't anything close to a favorite.
Here's what we know about Emery: if you're a forward-thinker, if you've shown the ability to orchestrate a potent offense or have demonstrated strong leadership skills, he wants to talk to you about becoming the next head coach of the Bears. So far, the list of potential candidates has reached 13. Just how wide is Emery's net? It includes a CFL coach, three special teams coaches and, yes, one Mike Singletary.
It's important to note that Singletary's inclusion in the coaching search is believed to come at the request of the McCaskey family, which I suppose is fine. Singletary is perhaps the most symbolic figure of the 1985 Super Bowl champions this side of Dikta and Walter Payton, and it's certainly a name that could get some ticket buyers excited. With that being said, let's make one thing clear: Mike Singletary should absolutely not be the next coach of the Bears.
Chicago has always had a odd fascination with authoritarian coaches, maybe for good reason. Dikta did give this city its only Super Bowl, even if he probably had the talent to win a couple more. Tom Thibodeau is a maniac, but he's a very good basketball coach. Ozzie Guillen and Joel Quenneville fit the intense, mustachioed profile of local sports leadership, and we haven't mentioned anything yet about Brian Kelly's purple face.
As silly as it sounds, this was a major reason why Smith was chastised locally. Lovie Smith was distinct for his ability to keep all of his facial muscles perfectly still even in times of major strife, and people hated him for it. I know.
While the national perception of Smith's firing was that it was unjust, local discourse and polls proved that the vast majority of Bears fans wanted a change. I defended Smith for years before finally ceding that you don't get five offensive coordinators in 10 years and that a decade's worth of offensive ineptitude (a lifetime's worth, if we're being honest) called for accountability. That doesn't mean Smith wasn't a fine coach during his Bears tenure: he was. It was simply time for a change.
Fortunately, that change won't be to Singletary. Emery is much too smart for that. While Singletary embodies the Ditka ethos that get the weirdos so hot and bothered, he's proven himself to be something of a buffoon, as well as a totally overmatched NFL head coach.
It took him one half of football to cement this. In his coaching debut on Oct. 20, 2008, Singletary sent tight end Vernon Davis, arguably his best offensive player, to the locker room after a taunting penalty. The press conference that would follow turned into a ready-made soundbite fit for beer commercials, SportsCenter promos and anything else geared to remind you that pro football is routinely coached by crazy people: "Cannot play with 'em, cannot win with 'em, can't coach with 'em, can't do it."
It would later come out that Singletary's halftime speech included the very bizarre motivational tactic of showing your team your butt. Yes: Singletary dropped his pants to try to get his team to play better, because that is a sensible thing to do. The 49ers lost.
Singletary would make it until the final week of the 2010 season before getting fired from San Francisco with an 18-22 overall record. The next season, Jim Harbaugh would inherit the 49ers. They're 24-7-1 since.
Under a previous administration, perhaps the threat of hiring a Hall of Fame inductee and former civic hero like Singletary would have been realistic. I feel confident enough in Emery's abilities right now to say he won't be a serious option. The Bears need a tactical wizard, someone who knows football is more than crushing beers on your forehead and mooning your players. The Bears need a thinker, not a screamer. By all accounts, Emery sounds like someone more likely to read Smart Football book than attend mass at the church of Dikta. The Bears should be in good hands.