- Despite the absence of running back Matt Forte I think you should expect the Bears to get off the bus running this week. The Rams apparently would agree. Jim Thomas at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch quotes linebacker James Laurinaitis:
“‘We have a lot of respect for their ability to run it,’ Laurinaitis said. ‘They’re going to come out running the ball. It’s fun to get back to kind of a normal offense this week. This first week (Detroit) it was a lot of spread-out throwing, and then last week (Washington) a lot of college stuff mixed in.'”
- Here’s a surprise from Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune :
“Typically, teams that are rooted in the Cover-2 scheme like
the Bears do not invest heavily in cornerbacks, choosing to pour money
into the front seven. But one source said the Bears were involved with
Cortland Finnegan until talks went above $9 million per season.”
I’ve claimed for a while that the Bears need corners who can play at least adequate man coverage. Apparently they agree.
“(Bears rookie DE Shea) McClellin is a high-(sic) effort guy. He has short arms and lacks explosiveness. There is a ceiling for guys like that. He is going to be like the kid in Washington last year (Ryan Kerrigan). He’ll start off playing hot, and as the year goes by, he’ll wear down and go quiet. That’s what happened to Kerrigan last year. All of a sudden his body is not fresh and all that hustle does not get as much. (McClellin) does not have enough in his body. Hustle guys wear down.”
- Mark Potash at the Chicago Sun-Times quotes offensive coordinator Mike Tice:
“‘We talked about putting players in position to make plays,’ said Tice, the Bears’ first-year offensive coordinator. ‘We’ve got to do a better job of that, and we will. At the same time, it’s very important that you win the individual battles, and we didn’t win enough of those.'”
Translation: “Now that the [feces] has hit the fan, after a summer of talking about how it was all going to be OK because I was going to compensate for it with my scheme, I finally have come to the realization that we actually need talent to work with on the offensive line. My apologies to Mike Martz.”
- Dan Pompei at the Chicago Tribune backs that thought up as he answers your questions:
“Everybody says great things about Mike Tice and his great coaching of the offensive line. Since he was hired three seasons ago our offensive line has been anything but great. It seems to me he’s not all that. What gives? Gary M., North Highlands, Calif.
“Trust me when I tell you Tice is an outstanding offensive line tutor. He gets the best out of his blockers. Sometimes, the best he gets out of them isn’t good enough.”
- Biggs further quotes Tice on the offensive line:
“The Bears aren’t waiting for the light to come on and stay on with [left tackle J'Marcus] Webb. Offensive coordinator Mike Tice made that clear when he was asked if his confidence in Webb has waned.
“‘We have seven players who suit up every week and those seven players all get reps with the ones,” Tice said. “And we’re going to try to make sure and make the proper decision of the five guys we’re going to put in there who can protect our quarterback and help us run the ball.’
“Translated, newcomer Jonathan Scott has been getting some work at left tackle with the starters. He was signed Sept. 10 and missed nearly all of training camp with the Lions because of a knee injury. It’s not an ideal situation, but when is it on the Bears’ line?”
- Vaughn McClure at the Chicago Tribune profiles Webb:
“Offensive line coach Tim Holt dissected the tape from the meltdown in Green Bay and came to one simple conclusion about why Webb’s play declined from Week 1.
“‘He just has to use his hands better,’ Holt said. ‘He let (Matthews) get into him a little bit. If he gets his hands on people, he wins.'”
I think the problem goes well beyond that by now. Webb knows to use his hands and I’m sure he’s been coached heavily to do so. That fact that he isn’t doing it indicates that the problem is mental. The physical tools are there and he’s intelligent I’m sure. But He obviously doesn’t have the concentration to play consistently against good opponents for a full three hours ball game.
The Bears have to find another answer. It might not be this year but they’re going to have to do it if they want to comete at the top of the NFL. Becasue Webb’s not going to cut it.
- Mike Mulligan at the Chicago Tribune also comments on the offense with this interesting point:
“But [Webb's] presence underlines a major problem for the Bears: When you
struggle with pass protection, it is difficult to rally from a deficit. The Bears
need to score early and often and play from a lead. [Bears quarterback Jay] Cutler is too careless with
the ball and the guys in front of him too shaky to pull off many comebacks.
“The Bears under coach Lovie Smith always have been front-runners, often
because they struggled at quarterback. Smith has a 51-10 record when
leading at halftime and a 13-42 mark when trailing. Since gunslinger Cutler’s
arrival they’re 19-4 and 5-18. Sounds like bad news for the Rams.”
- Here’s another offensive line-related question for Pompei
“I am wondering if the answer to the Bears offensive line problem is to just ignore max protection and maybe do just the opposite. If they were in a max-attack-type offense I think Cutler would be able to find the open receiver and/or communicate with Brandon Marshall/Earl Bennett for hot reads. It seems too often when they only had two receivers in patterns Cutler was waiting too long for them to get open. Some of Cutler’s best games were when he has had options to throw to, he can slide or even jump up to get the ball out to the open man. What do you think? Grant M.
“I think what you suggest can be a part of the Bears offense, and it has been to a degree. But the Bears would not be able to make a living playing empty backfield with four or five wide receivers running routes. Part of the beauty of the Bears’ personnel and schemes is the offense is somewhat unpredictable. To beat a good defensive coordinator like Dom Capers, you need to be able to do a number of things well, and do them at times when he isn’t expecting you to do them. Playing the type of personnel groups and formations you suggest would make them highly predictable. It also would be a high risk approach. It would probably result in more big plays, but also more interceptions and more sacks.”
- Sean Jensen at the Chicago Sun-Times is saying that the Rams have a “suspect offensive line”. But I watched them last week and they looked OK to me. Admittedly they were at home but still, Soldier Field isn’t like the Super Dome in New Orleans.
- Much of this disapproval of Jay Cutler from the media is new. But not from Pompei as he’s been pretty critical from the beginning. He contiunes that here:
“I must be the minority here, but I didn’t mind at all that Jay Cutler bumped J’Marcus Webb on the sidelines. I want my team leader to be fired up and get in guy’s faces. What bothered me about Cutler is how he crumbled after that, throwing up prayers and seemingly not able to adjust to the Packers defense. This seems to be a bigger indictment of lack of leadership, would you agree? Rik, Chicago
“True leadership isn’t about what you say. It’s about what you do. Show me a quarterback who gets the ball in the end zone, overcomes big odds and steps up in the clutch and I’ll show you a leader.”
True enough. But I think if you want to be a really good leader, it goes beyond that. Many people defend Cutler’s actions by saying something to the effect of “Sometimes you have to kick a few butts to get things done.” But is that what the Bears needed as a team at that point?
I would contend that a true team leader would have seen a struggling offense and, instead of yelling “Do better!” would have gotten everyone together, settled them down and guided them by telling them what to do. Instead, Cutler showed his frustration and made things worse. Instead of acting the part of a calming influence, a leader who had things under control and had confidence that the team would come back and do better, Cutler showed his lack of confidence in his teammates and cranked up fears of failure even higher.
Most of the time “leadership” requires the ability to step outside of yourself and give the group what they need to succeed rather than selfishly thinking of your own. Cutler will never be a true leader, no matter how well he performs on the field, because he’ll always lack the ability to do that. He’s far too self-centered.
- What is constantly a shock to me no matter how often I see it, is how savagely Cutler is attacked whenever possible, not by fans and media, but by his peers and ex-peers. In his article on how to motivate people and whether being tough is always the way to go about it, I think Phil Rosenthal at the Chicago Tribune provides an answer to the question by quoting Bob Sutton, a Stanford University professor and author of “The No (A-word) Rule” and “Good Boss, Bad Boss.”:
“‘If you (act like a jerk) you’ve got to be really competent,’ Sutton said. ‘If you consistently leave people feeling demeaned and de-energized, that’s the point where enemies are lying in wait.'”
Or, as Steve Rosenbloom at the Chicago Tribune succinctly put it as he compared Cutler to Douglas Neidermeyer in the movie Animal House:
“Neidermeyer’s epilog in the movie was ‘killed by his own troops in Vietnam.'”
- Pompei points out what is without doubt the most disturbing aspect of having Cutler as the Bears quarterback – his poor performance against good teams in prime time:
“Cutler’s defenders will point out, accurately, that he has not benefited from
system stability, Pro Bowl wide receivers and consistent pass protection —
especially consistent pass protection.
“But he isn’t the only quarterback who needs to spend some time in the
whirlpool on Mondays.
“Since 2009, [Green Bay quarterback Aaron] Rodgers has been sacked six times more than Cutler in
regular-season games. Ben Roethlisberger has been sacked 11 more, and his
rate of one sack per 12.2 dropbacks is higher than Cutler’s rate of 12.4.
“That has not prevented Roethlisberger from making it to a Pro Bowl and a
Super Bowl in that time span.”
- Sometimes I think its a shame that even after acquiring Jay Cutler, the Bears’ quarterback situation is still a national joke. But… might as well role with it. From Sports Views:
- On the other hand, Cutler might actually be practicing too hard. A little less realism might be better for morale. From The Sports Pickle.
- There is apparently some concern about the performance of quarterback Matthew Stafford in Detroit so far this season. From Justin Rogers at mlive.com:
“Through two games, Stafford has thrown twice as many interceptions, four, as touchdowns, and there has been a general lack of accuracy on many of his throws, including some of his completions.”
- Tom Silverstein at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel thinks the smaller, more agile Jerel Worthy and Mike Daniels will see a lot more time over B.J. Raji and Ryan Pickett Monday Night when the Packers play the Seahawks. Seattle employs a “1990s Broncos-like” offensive blocking scheme.
“The whole idea is to get the defense moving laterally so the offensive linemen can throw cut blocks that drop big defensive linemen on their faces. Think Gilbert Brown in Super Bowl XXXII.”
“‘You have to be smart,’ [defensive line coach Mike] Trgovac said. ‘I faced this scheme several years in a row in Atlanta when I was at Carolina. They just look for that one guy to cut, that one weak link.
“‘That’s what we worked real hard on, make sure everybody stays in their gap. The more you fly off the ball the easier it is for them to cut you.'”
- Like most teams who sustain success over a long period, the Packers are about to face some salary cap problems. From Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
- Pompei, this time writing for the National Football Post, addresses the shortage of tall cornerbacks. I thought this was an interesting point:
“One front office man said his team is fine with 5-10 corners as long as the player has long arms. Having long arms enable a cornerback to play taller than he is. ‘They can reach for balls downfield, reach for balls coming back and compete better for contested balls,’ [Seahawks general manager John] Schneider said.
“Long arms help a corner in press coverage too. It’s difficult for a short-armed corner to get a good jam and then turn and run because he has to get too close to the receiver.”
- I know that Cam Newton is not Jay Cutler. But I think that having a Steve Smith around on the Bears might do him and the team a lot of good. From Joseph Person at the Charlotte Observer.
- Bart Scott almost got into a fist fight with a reporter in what was described as a “bizarre scene”. From Darin Gantt at profootballtalk.com
“If the Jets are trying to dispel the notion of a circus, they have a funny way of going about it.”
- A good point from Andy Benoit at The New York Times:
“That said, Sunday’s biggest headline from Foxboro was the ankle injury to Aaron Hernandez. The third-year tight end is out at least six weeks.”
“Take a look at this statistic from ESPN: “The Patriots used two tight ends on just 20 of 77 offensive plays (Sunday), averaging 3.0 yards per play with two tight ends on the field. The Patriots used two or more tight ends on all 66 plays in Week 1 against the Titans, averaging 5.9 yards per play. Since the start of the 2011 season, the Patriots lead the N.F.L. with 80.1 percent of their offensive plays (926 of 1149) involving at least two tight ends.”
“The Patriots can find a way to win without Hernandez, but it will require rewriting most of their playbook.”
- Pompei would appear to agree:
“Kellen Winslow can give the Patriots some of the things Aaron Hernandez gives them, but not all of the things. Front office men who have evaluated Winslow recently say he has lost some speed and can’t get downfield the way he used to, or the way Hernandez can. But Winslow still has the ability to separate in a short area, as Hernandez does. If his knee holds up, Winslow can give Bill Belichick another chess piece.”
- Another good Audible:
“If any OL coach says he needs more contact to coach better, I call b.s. Offensive linemen can go out in shorts. It all starts with mental prep — knowing who to block — and technique and footwork. It’s so funny though — you get three OL coaches and you can hear three different reasons for why their line is struggling, and usually, only one of them is right.”
- Another interesting point from Benoit:
“Indy’s final drive [last week] provided a perfect snapshot for where their rookie quarterback [Andrew Luck] is.”
“What was most revealing on the drive was when [Adam] Vinatieri trotted on the field. There were still 12 seconds left. And his field-goal attempt was a 53-yarder. If it had been, say, Peyton Manning under center – or any star veteran quarterback – the Colts almost certainly would have ran one, maybe two more plays near the sidelines in hopes of getting Vinatieri a few yards closer. But with no timeouts left, Coach Chuck Pagano decided not to push his Luck. That’s fine, it worked out. But let’s all realize that the Colts seem to believe their young quarterback still has a long way to go.”
- And we have this related headline from The Onion:
“Colts’ ‘Suck For Luck’ Strategy Enters Second Season”
- As someone who doesn’t usually get as upset as he used to when the Bears lose, my first thought as I laughed at this video was “Who does this guy think he’s screaming at.” Then I looked at the number of hits and I realized that its about 20,000 people. Someone must like it.
- The Onion breaks some news with this headline:
“Stephen A. Smith Thinking Son Is Finally Ready For The Sex Argument”
- In light of the Buccaneers decision to maul the Giants as they were trying to run out the clock with a kneel down, The Sports Pickle gives us the NFL’s 25 most unwritten rules. This one was one of my favorites:
“5. Take as much HGH as you possibly can before the NFL starts testing for it.”
- How great is Ray Lewis? Is there nothing he can’t do? From The Sports Pickle.
One Final Thought
I thought this point from the Friday Buzz feature at The National Football Post was interesting:
“If Jon Gruden comes back to the NFL as many suspect, there might not be a long line of established personnel men wanting to work with him. Gruden frustrated people he worked with. He sometimes would set up workouts with players without consulting the front office and operated independently. His negativity also wore on co-workers.”
I always thought Jon Gruden was one of the best head coaches the NFL has seen in recent years. This comment explains a lot about why he’s no longer coaching. One of the worst faults you can have as the leader of a large organization of people is failure to communicate. You leave people in the dark in terms of what’s going on and they resent it. Even when it’s things you don’t think everyone needs to know, leave co-workers in the dark and they begin to wonder what else of a more important nature you didn’t tell them.
Gruden undoubtedly was a control freak who was used to getting his own way as a head coach. He was king of his domain. But when he was put in a situation where input from a large group of front office people was required, he failed to make the proper adjustments. Even for a coach as talented as Gruden, that’s death.