"I knew Ditka wasn't going to give me a chance," says McMahon. The night before the deal was announced. McMahon invited Zucker and his wife over for a cookout. After dinner McMahon popped the get-me-out-of-here bombshell. "It got to be an ego situation with Ditka, and Ditka won," says Zucker. "It's kind of funny, but I guess the Chargers and the Bears were putting the finishing touches on the deal as Jim and I were talking."
The two teams had discussed McMahon on draft day, April 23, but Chicago had turned down a deal that also included a swap of first-round draft picks. Talks resumed when Henning saw how bad his own quarterbacks were in a 20-3 preseason loss to Dallas on Aug. 13. San Diego thinks Tolliver needs two years of seasoning, and then he'll be a tough, strong-armed, Phil Simms-type of player. But the Chargers gagged at the thought of letting David Archer and Mark Malone be the caretakers. "What Jim does is drive the car he's given and not drive it off the road," says San Diego general manager Steve Ortmayer.
"Life is change," says Ditka. "Football is change." However, after Saturday's game, McMahon's old teammates and entire sections of Soldier Field didn't appear ready for the change. Defensive end Richard Dent met McMahon at midfield and gave him a hug and a peck on the cheek. Dent then bit his lip as he turned away.
Carrying his four-year-old son, Sean, off the field with him, McMahon tried to put into words how he felt. "Strange," was about the only word that could be made out, because the crowd was screaming at him so loudly. Waves of "Love you, Jimmy!" cascaded down upon him as he ducked into the tunnel and exited, for the first time in Chicago, toward the strangers' locker room.