A FEW MINUTES WITH ... Mike Ditka

Advocate Staff Photograph by Mandy Lunn. Picture shot on 9/12/99  Head Saints Coach, Mike Ditka, watches his team play the Carolina Panthers during their game at eh Superdome Sunday afternoon.  Saints won 19-10.       Keyword Coach
Advocate Staff Photograph by Mandy Lunn. Picture shot on 9/12/99 Head Saints Coach, Mike Ditka, watches his team play the Carolina Panthers during their game at eh Superdome Sunday afternoon. Saints won 19-10. Keyword Coach

The three-time Super Bowl champion (twice as a player) discusses Randy Moss, the president’s thoughts on football’s violent nature and his time as Saints coach:

What’s happened this week to make you say, “C’mon, man?”

Randy Moss saying he’s the best receiver to play the game. C’mon, man! The two greatest receivers are in this room right now (Jerry Rice and Cris Carter). Two of the greatest, I should say. There were many, many more. Not that Randy Moss isn’t a great receiver. Of course he is. But there is no such thing as “the greatest.” We have a tendency to live in the present, and we forget the past.

What did you think about President Barack Obama’s comments that, if he had a son, he’s not sure he should play football?

I think everybody is entitled to their own opinions on that. You could say if I had a son, I wouldn’t want him to drive a car, either. I’m not making light of the fact. Football is a contact sport; it’s a collision sport. People hit each other. The bodies have gotten bigger, faster and probably stronger in a lot of ways. The equipment has become so sophisticated now that the helmet, although it’s in place for protection, has become almost a weapon where you have no fear to strike with your head. I understand the comment. A lot of parents are probably saying the same thing.

Do you still have the sweater you wore on the sideline at Super Bowl XX?

Somewhere. If it’s not raffled out for charity, I’ve got it somewhere.

Any regrets from your tenure as Saints coach?

Yeah, probably. I could have settled on a quarterback a little bit faster. We might have been a little bit better. But I was searching for the perfect one, and there was no such thing. We could have done a lot of things different, but that was partly my fault. ... I thought I had a couple of guys that came in. I had (quarterback) Danny Wuerffel; I thought he had great potential. And I had (running back Ricky Williams). I liked Ricky. I thought we needed somebody who was a good player and that we could market. He was the best guy. Now, he got off the track down here for a while, but he’s back on track now. He’s a great kid, and I have nothing but respect for him.

What did you think of the punishments the Saints were assessed in “Bountygate?”

Too drastic. Way too drastic a punishment. I understand the commissioner’s point of view, and I understand what he was trying to do, but I think the punishment was way too severe.

Who will win Sunday and why?

This could be a three-overtime game, down to sudden death. I picked the 49ers earlier in the year. I’ve been on their bandwagon. I can’t change that.

Gary Estwick