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Ditka intends to say ‘until they run me out’

November 24, 1997

NEW ORLEANS (AP) _ One day after suggesting that it might be time to give up coaching for good, Mike Ditka said today that he intends to stay with the New Orleans Saints.

``I’m not going anywhere. I’ll stay here until they run me out of this town,″ Ditka said in an interview on WWL radio.

Ditka’s statement was in sharp contrast to the mood he exhibited Sunday after the Saints lost 20-3 to the Atlanta Falcons.

Ditka, his eyes welling with tears, had said he was ready to quit.

``I don’t have it anymore,″ said Ditka, who returned to coaching after a four-year absence. ``I feel I have failed this football team.″

Ditka had said he would likely quit at the end of the season if things didn’t turn around in the final four games. And, he added, if owner Tom Benson wants to fire him now, he wouldn’t object.

``Maybe the game has passed me by,″ he said. ``Maybe all the experts were right.″

But today, Ditka said he would remain as long as Benson lets him.

Ditka said he spent the night thinking about his future with the Saints and discussed it with his wife.

``I’m disappointed and I’m frustrated ... Sometimes you feel like you’re riding a horse and you can’t make it turn the way you want,″ he said.

Ditka said he had expected the Saints to be in a position to go to the playoffs this season. He took the blame for ``some mistakes in evaluating personnel.″

``I feel that we should have better results than we’ve had, that I should’ve done a better job,″ Ditka said.

Ditka returned to coaching this season with the Saints after spending the past four years as a commentator for NBC. Prior to that, he spent 11 seasons in Chicago, guiding ``Da Bears″ to a 112-68 record and one Super Bowl championship.

``I gave it a run, but I can’t reach people,″ Ditka said Sunday. ``I thought I could touch people, but I don’t reach them anymore and that bothers me.″

Ditka’s hot temper is well known, but he seemed like a defeated man as the Saints (4-8) bumbled their way to another loss Sunday. Other than arguing briefly when the officials allowed a sack after an inadvertent whistle in the second quarter, he stood stoically on the sideline.

``If it doesn’t mean that much to other people, why should it mean that much to me?″ he said. ``And I think that’s what happened to me today. It didn’t mean very much to me in the second half. For the first time in my life, I can say that _ it didn’t mean anything.″

So far, Benson and general manager Bill Kuharich have declined comment. Kuharich said he wanted to speak with Ditka before making any comment on the coach’s future.

The Saints have the NFL’s worst offense and also rank last in turnovers and turnover ratio. Against Atlanta, they managed only 173 yards while committing five turnovers.

Defensive coordinator Zavin Yaralin said Sunday that Ditka was speaking out of frustration.

``We’re all frustrated,″ Yaralin said. ``I’ll tell you this: He is not stepping down. He’ll be back. He’s just not used to losing.″

Ditka’s players didn’t seem too concerned by his comments.

``What am I supposed to do?″ defensive tackle Wayne Martin said. ``I have my own job to do. I have a family to feed.″

``I don’t know what he is thinking right now,″ end Joe Johnson said. ``Maybe it won’t be so, but maybe he has to move on. Whatever happens, happens.″

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