Mike Ditka glad Chicago Bears not overlooking anyone

  • By Kevin Patra NFL.com
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Many fans sneer at reports of a team interviewing a special teams coordinator for a head coach opening, believing a man in such a position rarely is ready for the responsibility of running an entire team.

This season, Atlanta Falcons special teams coordinator Keith Armstrong has had several interviews for head-coaching openings. However, many view those meetings as merely satisfying the Rooney Rule.

It's a belief that is unfair to Armstrong, and legendary Chicago Bears coach Mike Ditka says it's shortsighted to dismiss those coordinators.

"When (George) Halas hired me, I heard people say ridiculous things," Ditka told the Chicago Sun-Times. "'Well, he's not ready to be a head coach.' "

Ditka, if you remember, was the special teams coordinator and assistant head coach to Tom Landry with the Dallas Cowboys for nine seasons before taking over head-coaching duties in Chicago.

In his search to replace Lovie Smith, Bears general manager Phil Emery seemingly has interviewed, or is scheduled to interview, every candidate with a face, including four special teams coordinators: Armstrong, Joe DeCamillis (Cowboys), Mike Priefer (Minnesota Vikings) and Dave Toub (Bears).

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John Harbaugh, who has been to the playoffs in each of his five seasons as head coach of the Baltimore Ravens, is the most recent example of a special teams coordinator having the ability to make the leap.

When he was hired in 2008, Harbaugh pointed out that special teams coordinators work with nearly every player on the field, from offensive linemen to defensive backs, building a foundation not all that dissimilar from the bevy of players a head coach must handle.

Whomever the Bears hire, Emery has made it clear he will consider every viable candidate, regardless of previous positions, to find the best possible coach. That is all the fans of any team can hope for.

Follow Kevin Patra on Twitter @kpatra.