By Amy Silverman
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After the game, the two coaches walked off the field together. Joe Bugel, who always seems like a particularly ambitious used-car salesman, kept grabbing at Mike Ditka, hugging him, patting him, smiling up at him. Ditka, the embodiment of the bohunk bartender in a seedy saloon, seemed embarrassed by Bugel's puppy-dog display of affection, but suffered the hugs with a grim smile.
They are a pair of aging greasers who grew up in the football country of Pennsylvania and who have some similarities. Both wear their long hair dyed and brushed straight back to avoid the appearance of aging. Both hold their hair in place with pounds of hair ointment, much of which had melted during the heat of the game and run down the backs of their necks, staining the collars of their shirts with deep grease marks.
Ditka has become a millionaire, not only through football but also on the outside, with his business interests as well as his television commercials. He won a Super Bowl a few years back, but has since made a practice of alienating his players and now seems to have lost the ability to win important games, especially in late season.
Ditka's philosophy is to degrade and demean his players. If they complain of injuries, he derides them. If they play hurt, he finds a way to blame them for that, too. On the sidelines, Ditka is often out of control. He continually curses his own players. You would not be surprised to see him attack them with his fists or his clipboard as they jog off the field to the bench.
He is a thoroughly unpleasant human being, as well as a consummate bully boy. For both of these reasons, he has become one of Chicago's outstanding citizens and a member of the NFL Hall of Fame. Bugel doesn't make much money compared to other coaches around the league. But then he doesn't deserve much, either. If he gets fired sometime during this season, he will never be the head coach of any professional team again.
He will go back to being a line coach somewhere, because he was apparently good at that while with the Washington Redskins. But there is a question mark. How old can you be before you are too old to be a line coach in this league?
So despite his outward enthusiasm, Bugel's position would appear to be a desperate one. It is no wonder that his joy seemed uncontrolled after beating the Bears last weekend. Bugel's style of coaching is that of a cheerleader who keeps whooping it up and praising his players. This is ironic, because the Cardinals have not demonstrated the slightest desire to win games during their entire stay in Arizona. As far as anyone can tell, their only reason for playing so hard in the exhibition season is because they must make the team in order to take the free ride that playing with a losing team can actually become. But Bugel's record so far shows that he is a loser, and his reactions to defeat indicate he is also a whiner. This doesn't make him different from other coaches. But Bugel's teams never lose because of Bugel. They lose because of penalties or injuries. They never suffer defeat because Bugel has no consistent philosophy for winning. This summer is the same as last summer for Bugel. Then he walked around in a state of euphoria because the Cardinals won all their games during the exhibition season. Then the regular season began. It was a complete and total disaster.
The Cardinals lost Timm Rosenbach, their first-string quarterback, and decided to spend the rest of the year using a punter to play the quarterback position. The results should have been anticipated. Tom Tupa was an average punter and a mediocre quarterback. Their dismal performances, week after week, drove fans away from Sun Devil Stadium. It wasn't that the season ticketholders stayed away. The problem was that the season ticketholders found they weren't even able to give their tickets away.
Now Rosenbach is back and apparently healthy. The Cardinals have won their first two exhibition games, but neither was a real test. There will not be a real test until the regular season starts.
Bugel seems to think he has enough quarterbacks on hand this season to make it through. But he is wrong.
Even if Rosenbach turns out to be a man of iron, that won't be enough. This is a team that isn't deep enough at the other positions to be a contender.
In Bill Bidwill, the Cardinals have an owner who is content to be a loser. During recent court hearings, it was revealed that he pays himself $1.3 million in salary for being owner. This is a man who has reason to be content with things just the way they are. Don't look for a change. The Cardinals will find ways to start losing once the regular season gets under way. They always have. @rule: