Richard Dent still blames Ditka, Flutie for Bears’ playoff failure


Hall of Fame former Bears defensive end Richard Dent was the MVP of Super Bowl XX, but it still bugs him, nearly three decades later, that that was the only Super Bowl he ever played in. And Dent blames two men for that: Mike Ditka and Doug Flutie.

Dent said on 670 The Score in Chicago that the 1985 Bears thought they were going to be a dynasty, but Ditka cost them the opportunity to reach more Super Bowls after that year by failing to figure out the quarterback situation and playing Flutie when starter Jim McMahon got hurt.

“Well, we are going to be king of the hill all the time,” Dent said, via the Chicago Tribune. “And we came back three years in a row and had home-field advantage. Our coach couldn’t figure out the right quarterback to play. The disappointing part to me is that we only got one out of it. We should have been the first team ever to win three Super Bowls in a row. It was there in the taking, but we didn’t manage that one position right.”

Dent said that if Ditka hadn’t started Flutie, who at the time was an inexperienced 24-year-old, in the playoffs after the 1986 season, the Bears would have won Super Bowl XXI, too.

“Mike didn’t manage that quarterback position,” Dent said. “Bringing Doug Flutie in and thinking that he’s gonna come in and be on a team for three weeks and start him in a playoff game? Hell, I mean you’re trying to change the name on the Super Bowl trophy to Mike Ditka from Vince Lombardi when you do something like that. We had won with [Mike] Tomczak and [Steve] Fuller. That’s all we needed to do is stay with that plan.”

The Bears lost in the playoffs after the 1987 and 1988 seasons, too, and Flutie wasn’t around for those, so he doesn’t deserve any of the blame for that. But Dent is only the most recent of a number of former Bears who have said they’re still angry that Ditka botched the quarterback situation in 1986. That failure to repeat remains a bitter pill to swallow for the 1986 Bears, all these years later.

38 responses to “Richard Dent still blames Ditka, Flutie for Bears’ playoff failure

  1. “We should have been…” is pretty much all we need to know, right Richard?
    The Bears D “should have” done a better job vs. a pedestrian Redskins offense.

  2. I would have to agree with Richard. Doug Flutie, Tomsczak and Fuller were good enough to get the job done. Ditka started to loose it right after the Flutie fiasco…

  3. This was before my time, so I could be wrong, but wasn’t McMahon injured? Or was he healthy again by the playoffs? Seeing as Flutie had led them to an undefeated end to the season, Ditka probably wanted to keep it rolling…

    besides, its not Flutie’s fault the defense let up 27 points.

  4. Dent is pedalin’ revisionist history .

    Bears got upset at home in the second round of the 1986 Playoffs (aftr a bye ) to a very good Redskins team by a score of 27 -13 .
    Bears held a halftime lead of 13 – 7 before Dents vaunted Bears D gave up 20 unanswered 2nd half points .

    By the way –
    None of the Bears Qbs played well that whole season ( even McMahon -b4 he got hurt … who by his own admission has publicly stated he was having a horrible season )

  5. I think that is such bull. Always liked Dent but I think it is a copout to blame Ditka (who I don’t even like) for their failure to win additional Superbowls.

    IMO, the reason why they only won one Superbowl was because they were the most unfocused ‘hollywood’ group of players imaginable…..superbowl shuffle videos….at least eight guys wrote books…they were more focused on their press clippings than staying focused.

    Glass houses……

  6. Dent makes some interesting points, but there were a few other key factors in play.

    One is that the ’85 Bears defense was unsustainable. The Miami Dolphins pioneered the blueprint to counter the 46 defense. You want to flood the protection and rush 8+? Great., then we go quick-trigger and work the RAC/YAC yards — and you better not let the receiver break it.

    Secondly, the ‘Niners of that era were BEASTS. In fact, one could argue the ’49’ers were really close to winning four straight. It took some interesting developments in their ’87 loss to the Vikings and some key breaks in their loss to the ’90 G-men.

    Did the Vikes and Giants deserve to win those games? Absolutely. But the ’49’ers were STRONG.

    And so were the Giants.

    And don’t forget the Redskins – they put some special teams together too.

    So when Dent tries to pin the Bears lack of Lombardis on Ditka – it sounds a lot like the lame old “You didn’t beat us – we beat ourselves” card.

    My team is the Steelers, so I have nothing against Chicago and nothing for Miami, Washington, San Francisco or New York. Just trying to add what really bottlenecked Chicago from more titles. Their scheme was defeated by superior counter-measures, and they were also hampered by the superiority of the teams they competed with.

    To hear Chicago making excuses like this, and basically belittling other teams – degrades my opinion of them.

  7. Those Bears teams were not close the Redskins or 49ers before or after 1985. Easily the most overhyped team in the history of professional sports.

  8. Sour Grapes

    Between ’86 and ’91 (Six years) three teams won the SB. No Mr Dent, there were better teams to win the SB than the Bears.

  9. whoever thinks either Tomczak or Fuller were capable of even winning one playoff game, let alone take a team to the SB, let alone WIN the thing … you’re just crazy.

    Fuller remains in my memory the most timid NFLer I’ve ever seen, ANY position. But I’ve only been watching football for 50 years.
    And Tomczak would go on in subsequent years to prove how incredibly sub mediocre he was. A classic dumbbell.

    Dent and all the other players and coaches should look in the mirror. There was a definite dropoff in intensity and commitment after 1985. Like so many, once they got to the top of the hill, they lost focus.

  10. With the exception of 1985, from 1981 through 1995, the NFC championship game went through Bill Walsh, Joe Gibbs or George Seifert. 2 teams, 3 coaches.

    Dent shouldn’t be blaming Ditka for any shortcomings those Bears teams had. Maybe they just weren’t that great.

  11. It seems like Ditka might not be as beloved by his former players as he is by the entire city of Chicago – always blowing sunshine up everyone’s “yahoo” about him.

  12. McMahon was better than people want to give him credit for, plus he was the undisputed leader of that team and those guys killed for him. If he was healthy, they would have won more than one Super Bowl.

  13. ialwayswantedtobeabanker says: Nov 1, 2012 2:47 PM

    To hear Chicago making excuses like this, and basically belittling other teams – degrades my opinion of them.

    I was with you 100%, until you claimed Richard Dent speaks on behalf of all members of the Bears. Yikes, dude! C’mon now!

    Plus, don’t forget that Buddy Ryan left Chicago after they won that Super Bowl. In my opinion, as a fan, the defense did not adjust to the counter measures other teams were taking. Maybe Ryan’s absence was part of that… or maybe Ryan is also over-hyped….

  14. Ditka was never a great coach. All too often the coach gets way too much credit. Anybody can win one Super Bowl. It doesn’t mean the head coach can do it again.

    Look at Ditka’s tenure in New Orleans. His Ricky Williams trade is one of the dumbest moves in league history.

    Not to mention he didn’t get Walter a touchdown in the Super Bowl, he gave it to the Fridge instead.

    Obviously, it’s not all on Ditka but that Bears team definitely should have made more than one Super Bowl.

  15. I’ve been watching the Bears for a long time and I believe there is a parallel to be made between Ditka and Martz: both were the worst detriments a QB could have. I remember the ’85 Bears when Ditka would almost choke on his gum chewing out McMahon for not following through on the play; Ditka would insist, McMahon would audible and smile through the verbal lashing. Flutie might have been an incredible QB (he still holds a few club records) but Ditka crushed the life out of him. McMahon just didn’t let it bother him.
    By comparison Martz was also a control freak extraordinaire. He refused to let the QB audible and demanded deep drops for long gains. The result was a record number of QB sacks for the season because Cutler would follow his coach’s plan. What is that saying about doing the same thing over and over despite it never working?
    The difference between Martz and Ditka is that Chicago loved Ditka.

    Real Chicago Bears fans thats OLD enough and was in Chicago knows that Dent is telling the truth.
    1. Ditka ran Buddy Ryan out of Chicago by always arguing an fighting with him.
    2. Ditka let Marshall leave an go to the Redskins
    3. Ditka turned his back on Jim Mcmahon when he was hurt.
    4. Ditka told his players NOT to do TV. and indorsements THEN he took every dollar he could off the table. NOT ALL REAL CHICAGO FANS LOVED MIKE DITKA.


  17. The greatest irony to the Dent story is that he does have two rings, and he won that second ring with the real single greatest reason the Bears went nowhere: the 49ers.

  18. kattykathy says:
    Nov 1, 2012 2:50 PM
    Dent should not even be in the HOF.

    Please explain, what is it you remember most about him when he was playing?

  19. 1) Buddy was with the bears since Neil Armstrong was coach and accomplished nothing until Ditka took over as HC
    2) Buddy leaving as DC hurt because Vince Tobin stiffled the defense (ironically, the 86 team has the lowest point total in nfl history)
    3) Even with Mcmahon, the Giants would have beat them that year
    4) Letting Flutie go during the 1987 season turned out to be a big mistake, in retrospect.

  20. I’m a little younger, and the only thing I remember is my mom not giving me cake to celebrate with because the Bears lost. Because I was five at the time.

    Being a little younger, the worst QB performance I can remember is the Thanksgiving debacle in Dallas with Jonathan Quinn in 2004. He was absolutely horrid that year, especially that game.

    So imagine my shock when I looked at the stats from the ’86 playoff game and saw that Flutie’s stats were actually WORSE than Quinn’s. Now, you’re entitled to your own opinion about how the Bears could have lost that playoff game, but not your own facts, and the facts are this: Flutie completed only 11 passes out of 31 attempts, threw two picks, and I also understand he lost two fumbles as well. So that’s four turnovers.

    The offense helps the defense in keeping scores down, and when you turn it over like that, it puts a burden on the defense.

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