Mike Ditka Hated the 2 Years He Spent Playing for the Philadelphia Eagles: ‘I Was About Trying to Kill Myself’

Chicago Bears legend Mike Ditka doesn’t want to hear about it always being sunny in Philadelphia. As far as the Pro Football Hall of Fame tight end is concerned, his time in the City of Brotherly Love involved nothing but hatred and misery.

Some cities aren’t for everyone, but the veteran head coach went a step further. In fact, Ditka made it quite clear how much his two seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles took a toll on him.

Mike Ditka hated playing for the Philadelphia Eagles

Long before becoming a cigar-chomping head coach, Ditka spent the first six seasons of his playing career as an All-Pro tight end for the Chicago Bears. He served as an explosive vertical threat in an ever-expanding passing game and hauled in 316 catches for 4,503 yards and 34 touchdowns across 84 regular-season games.

Nothing is forever, however. The Bears traded Ditka and a fourth-round pick in the 1968 NFL Draft to the Eagles in April 1967 for quarterback Jack Concannon. In 20 games with the Eagles across two seasons, the standout tight end turned 39 catches into 385 yards and four touchdowns.

Off the field, Ditka wanted nothing to do with Philadelphia. In his self-titled 1986 autobiography, the five-time Pro Bowler reflected on his time with the Eagles as “purgatory on Earth.” Ditka admitted that things were so bad, between his injuries and conflicts with management, that he “was about trying to kill myself with the drinking.”

The Eagles slumped to 6-7-1 in 1967 before dropping to 2-12 in 1968. Luckily for Ditka, he wouldn’t be in Philadelphia forever.

Ditka said playing for the Dallas Cowboys changed his life

The Dallas Cowboys had yet to brand themselves as ‘America’s Team’ by the time 1969 arrived. Instead, they were still a relatively new franchise trying to turn things around after several inconsistent seasons under head coach Tom Landry.

The Cowboys traded receiver Dave McDaniels to the Eagles in January 1969 to acquire the 29-year old Ditka, a veteran whose best years were likely behind him. Rather than use him as a weapon in the passing game, the Cowboys brought the former All-Pro off the bench and had him serve primarily as a blocker. He caught 72 passes for 924 yards and five touchdowns across 54 games and 22 starts with the Cowboys.

At least this story had a happy ending. Ditka won his first career Super Bowl ring in January 1972, and he even hauled in a touchdown in Super Bowl 6. He played his final NFL season a year later and started all 14 games at tight end that season.

Immediately after retiring, Ditka joined the Cowboys as an assistant coach. He remained on staff until rejoining the Bears in 1982 as the team’s head coach.

Ditka had plenty of opportunities to torture the Eagles

Revenge is supposed to be a dish best served cold, or that’s at least how the saying goes. Tell that to Ditka, who had no problem giving the Eagles fits regardless of the weather conditions.

He caught two catches for 17 yards and a touchdown in a 38-7 victory over the Eagles on Oct. 5, 1969, his first game against the team since the trade. The veteran tight end hauled in five catches for 62 yards against the Eagles during the 1971 season. Dallas won both games and outscored the Eagles 62-14 in the process.

Let’s flash forward a bit to the 1980s when Ditka stood on the sideline and coached the Bears. In his 11 seasons coaching the Bears, the Super Bowl-winning head coach won all five regular-season matchups against the Eagles. Chicago also took down the Eagles on Dec. 31, 1988, in the famous Fog Bowl game at Soldier Field.

Although he coached the New Orleans Saints from 1997-99, Ditka never faced the Eagles in that time. The veteran head coach retired following that year, having notched six of his 127 total coaching victories against a team that made him miserable. That’s how you get revenge in the NFL.

How to get help: In the U.S., contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration helpline at 1-800-662-4357.

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