LAKE FOREST, IL – The Chicago Bears have announced that they will retire Pro Football Hall of Fame tight end and former team head coach Mike Ditka's No. 89. The number will officially be retired during halftime of the Bears December 9 Monday Night Football game versus the Dallas Cowboys.
"Mike Ditka embodies the spirit of everything the Bears are about," Chairman George H. McCaskey said. "He's an icon. The last time we won the championship Mike Ditka was our coach and the last time we won before that Mike Ditka was a player. The organization knew it was the right thing to do.
"He revolutionized the tight end position as a player and grabbed an entire franchise by the throat as a head coach and willed it to victory in the Super Bowl. We have more retired numbers than any other team in the NFL. After this, we do not intend to retire any more numbers but we thought if there is going to be a last one, there is no more appropriate one than 89."
"It's a tremendous honor," Ditka said. "It's something that I didn't anticipate or expect, but it's a great honor. When you think of all the great Bears players who have had their jerseys retired, I can't say that there's any greater honor. I'm very humbled by it and very thankful that George [McCaskey] made the decision to go ahead and do that because it's really great.
"It's the consummation of a career. It's one of the greatest things you could be honored with. When you mention [Gale] Sayers and [Dick] Butkus and some of the guys who have had their jerseys retired, it's an unbelievable group of men and great players in the NFL and for the Chicago Bears. It's a tremendous honor. It's just fantastic and I'm very honored and very pleased. I can honestly say that if it wouldn't have happened it wouldn't have mattered because the joy I had from playing with the Bears was unbelievable. I had a lot of fun doing what I did. I had a great career and a great time."
Ditka was a part of the Bears last two NFL titles as he played for Chicago from 1961-66 and coached the team from 1982-92. He is the only player in the NFL's modern era to win a title with the same team as both a player (1963) and head coach (1985).
After being selected by the Bears with the fifth overall pick in the 1961 Draft, Ditka revolutionized the NFL's tight end position. In his six seasons with the team, Ditka was named to five Pro Bowls and was a two-time All-Pro. He was named NFL Rookie of the Year in '61 after hauling in 56 receptions for 1,076 yards and 12 touchdowns and finished his Bears career with 316 receptions for 4,503 yards (14.3 ypr) and 34 touchdowns. Ditka went on to play six more seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles (1967-68) and Dallas Cowboys (1969-72) and finished his NFL career with 427 receptions for 5,812 yards (13.6 ypr) and 43 touchdowns. As a Cowboys player, he helped the team to their Super Bowl VI title.
After his playing career was over, Ditka served as an assistant coach for the Cowboys from 1973-81 and was a part of their coaching staff when they won Super Bowl XII.
Ditka returned to the Bears as a head coach on January 20, 1982. He went on to guide the team to 112 overall wins (106-62 in the regular season, 6-6 in the playoffs), seven winning seasons, six NFC Central titles, three NFC Championship games and Chicago's Super Bowl XX victory. In 1985, he oversaw arguably the greatest team in NFL history as he led the Bears to a 15-1 regular season record, tops in franchise annals. The Bears continued their domination throughout the playoffs with shut out victories over the New York Giants (21-0) and Los Angeles Rams (24-0) before beating the New England Patriots in convincing fashion 46-10 in Super Bowl XX to claim the team's ninth world championship.
Ditka's 106 regular season victories are second most in franchise history and his six playoff victories are tied for the most with Pro Football Hall of Famer George Halas. He was twice voted the Associated Press NFL Coach of the Year (1985 and 1988). Ditka went on to coach the New Orleans Saints for three seasons (1997-99) and finished his coaching career with a regular season record of 121-95 (.560) with a 6-6 playoff record.
In 1988 he became the first tight end ever inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Ditka's No. 89 is the 14th jersey number to be retired by the Chicago Bears joining, No. 3 (Bronko Nagurski), 5 (George McAfee), 7 (George Halas), 28 (Willie Galimore), 34 (Walter Payton), 40 (Gale Sayers), 41 (Brian Piccolo), 42 (Sid Luckman), 51 (Dick Butkus), 56 (Bill Hewitt), 61 (Bill George), 66 (Clyde "Bulldog" Turner) and 77 (Harold "Red" Grange).
Follow Bear Report on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Bear Report Web site or magazine, click here.