Ditka: Halas was greatest Bear of all time

George Halas not only was an NFL founder, but he drafted Mike Ditka and made him head coach. AP Photo/Dozier Mobley

Mike Ditka was humble Wednesday when told he was voted No. 3 on ESPNChicago.com's list of the "50 Greatest Bears" of all time, but he was more vocal about a few other players.

Ditka thought George "Papa Bear" Halas should have been No. 1 instead of No. 5. Walter Payton, Dick Butkus, Ditka, Gale Sayers and Halas are the top five.

"The No. 1 Bear of all time is still George Halas," Ditka said on "The Waddle & Silvy Show" on ESPN 1000. "You don't understand what he went through to make this league work. This league, there was a time when nobody thought it would ever work. He made it work. He persevered. He robbed Peter to pay Paul, he made it happen. And I don't think he got all the credit, not only him, but I'm talking about (Curly) Lambeau and a couple other guys were involved in it, too. It's pretty special. So he would be No. 1."

Ditka made sure Sid Luckman was high on the list, and he is at No. 6, although he wasn't happy that neither Johnny Lujack nor Bill Wade made the cut.

But Ditka was happy to see his former quarterback, Jim McMahon, checked in at No. 36. McMahon doesn't have the most outrageous stats, but he made a difference that helped lead the Bears to the Super Bowl XX championship.

"I love McMahon," said Ditka, who coached the Bears from 1982-92. "You don't understand, I'm going to explain one thing to you. When I got there, I had a couple of quarterbacks on the team (Vince Evans and Bob Avellini). Everybody is like, 'You got have this guy. He's a great athlete. Can't miss. This guy is really going to be great.'

"After I drafted McMahon (in '82), I looked at what I had, looked at what I thought McMahon could bring to the table, I started playing him. We became a better team automatically. The record didn't show it, and then we got better, better and better and we won the Super Bowl with him. Would I want anybody at quarterback besides Jim McMahon? No. Because he was a perfect fit for our personality."

The Bears went 3-6 in McMahon's first season, which was shortened by a strike, then improved to 8-8, 10-6 and 15-1 during their Super Bowl championship season.