January 5, 2000

Kuharich and Ditka respond

Tom Benson announced a virtual clean sweep of his Saints team. He has terminated the contracts of Mike Ditka and all his assistant coaches, as well as Billy Kuharich and salary cap pro Terry O'Neal.

"This was a difficult decision. Bill rose through the ranks here to become president of the company. Mike Ditka is one of the greatest football people ever. Both men were tremendous contributors to our community and both gave a lot back to our club and our city. But I promised that we would do whatever it takes to re-establish a winning franchise, and these are the moves I consider necessary to begin that process."

Benson said he will "find the right individual to take us where our organization and our fans want to be. Our goal is winning."

Much like the 1986 changeup that brought in Jim Finks as GM first then Jim Mora, Benson plans to establish his GM and let the GM build from there. That changeup plan brought the Saints their only respectable success.

"It was necessary to clear the slate in order for us to begin the same process that we used in 1986, a process that produced Jim Finks as president and general manager. We will use the same process."

Ditka, on the other hand, was surprised but understanding.

"We tried, but we didn't get it done. That's the bottom line. When you don't get it done you're going to get out of there, and in a hurry. I understand it fully: You're 3-13, you have the expectations we do, you bring in Ricky Williams, and it doesn't work out. I mean, we got to be realists."

Ditka commented that he is now done with coaching for good, but that he "really thought we'd get another year."

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