- NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock tells Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune some truth:
“‘Football players win football games,’ Mayock said. ‘If you’re in the first round … and you’ve got a guard that is rated as the 11th-best player in the country and you are at 20 and you’ve got a tackle that is rated as the 27th-best player in the country, I am taking the guard every single time. He is a better football player.
“‘I understand the whole thing about you can get linebackers later and you can get running backs later and you can get guards later. I get all that stuff, and I do value corners and left tackles. But at the end of the day, you better get good football players, especially in the first round.
“‘I don’t care as much at that point what position he plays. Just get me an All-Pro. If I am 20 and I am drafting an All-Pro, nobody will ever criticize that.’”
- Dan Pompei at the Chicago Tribune answers your questions:
“If the Bears sign or draft a left tackle, could J’Marcus Webb be moved to guard? It seems to me that he doesn’t have the quickness to play outside but he could be a good run-blocker with his size. — Dave Andre, Berwyn
“Can’t see that, Dave. Webb has prototypical size for a tackle. His arms are too long for guard. And he sometimes doesn’t bend as well as he should and loses leverage. If Webb isn’t a tackle, he isn’t anything.”
“Out of curiosity, how many of the Bears’ offensive linemen could start on other teams? Would any of them rank in the top 10-15 at their respective positions? — firstname.lastname@example.org
“Lance Louis could start on a lot of teams and would, in my opinion, rank in the top 10-to-15 right guards in the league. Roberto Garza could start on a number of teams. On a good day, J’Marcus Webb could start on a number of teams. The problem is he doesn’t always have a good day. If Gabe Carimi can get his strength and confidence back, he can start on a number of teams. The Bears’ line might not be quite as bleak as it appears. But it still needs some upgrades.”
Pompei’s answer to this last question is interesting. First, I totally agree with it. But it presents a problem that has been bothering me. If the line is OK at so many positions, where do you start?
Realistically I think Lance Louis is about as good at a right guard as you’re going to get. And I do think Carimi was hurt last year and that he could still be a good, solid tackle. Garza’s play could have been better but its really not an issue (yet).
I think most of us agree that left tackle is an issue. If J’Marcus Webb isn’t consistent by now he’s never going to be. But left tackles don’t grow on trees and you may not be able to acquire anyone any better, as exemplified by this answer from Pompei:
“Do you see any of the three best free agent tackles — Jake Long, Ryan Clady, Brendan Albert — hitting free agency without their club placing the franchise tag on them? Should the Bears pursue one of these three? — Alex Navarro, El Paso, Tex.
“Long has the best chance of hitting free agency. Clady has virtually no chance. Albert probably won’t become a free agent, but his situation is a little hard to read because the Chiefs have a new general manager and head coach. But it would be foolish to let a good left tackle walk. I would say the Bears should pursue Long if they could get him at a reasonable price. And they probably can’t. Long has not played up to his reputation the last couple of years, which explains why the Dolphins would consider allowing him to leave.”
The only position Pompei omitted was left guard and realistically that’s a position that you could upgrade, especially if you are willing to spend a first round pick on one (which, unlike some people, I believe you should feel free to do – see Mayock’s comment above). That could help a lot. But is simply replacing the left guard really going to be enough to fix such a thoroughly criticized an offensive line?
- Biggs reviews the quarterback position and what needs to be done in the offseason. While most of the talk has been about Cutler, its worth noting that the backup positions are also up in the air:
“[Jason] Campbell had a wealth of experience when he filled in for [Jay] Cutler in a difficult spot on the road at San Francisco on Nov. 18. He was sacked six times under an onslaught of pressure and basically just completed check-down passes. Paying big money to a backup quarterback is something [general manager Phil] Emery has to reconsider with a relatively tight cap situation. [Josh] McCown was added as a security blanket for the final seven weeks and he could always return in that role. Undrafted rookie free agent Matt Blanchard has been signed to a reserve/futures contract. It seems like every team has a goal of drafting a developmental quarterback annually but with only five picks that could be difficult for Emery to justify. What he does need to do is formulate a plan for a No. 2.”
- Biggs also writes about what the coaching change means to the Bears running backs:
“It should mean a lot more versatile uses for the running backs and more action in the passing game. To get the backs out in the pattern, though, there will need to be an upgrade on the offensive line so they’re not needed to protect the quarterback as regularly. Look for [Matt] Forte to be happy with his role. Veteran Skip Peete will take over as the position coach.”
- Pompei teaches me something I didn’t know as he answers more of your questions:
“I heard that under the new CBA, players that are on the PUP list for an entire year do not lose that year from their contract, meaning they add another year to their original contract. Is this true? Do we still have Johnny Knox under contract? — Eric Weil, Downers Grove
“When a player is on the reserve/physically unable to perform list for an entire season, his contract rolls over to the following year. So Knox still is under contract with the Bears.”
- Bigg’s take on the linebacker position was also interesting:
“[Brian Urlacher and [Lance] Briggs have been the most dynamic performers at the same position for the Bears since Dan Hampton, Richard Dent and Steve McMichael combined on the defensive line in the 1980’s. The run could be over.”
I’ve been saying that for years. It hasn’t been true yet.
But its eventually going to be…
- I’m having a very difficult time understanding Devin Hester. He’s clearly unhappy (via Vaughn McClure at the Chicago Tribune). What isn’t clear is why. He expresses his frustration about losing touches on offense, then says that he’d consider giving up his role on offense all together. And he still hasn’t given a clear explanation about why he doesn’t want to be a Bear. If its because former head coach Lovie Smith is gone, I don’t see how demanding a trade is going to help that.
Hester has never been all that good at expressing himself. But, honestly, I’m starting to question his stability.
- Pompei highlights the career of former Bears strength and conditioning coach Rusty Jones, who was a pioneer in the field. When I heard that Jones was retiring, the possibility that the Bears had pushed him out for some reason occurred to me. Knowing that he’s a pretty good coach, I’m glad to read that the Bears were sensible enough to actually want him back.
- Steve Rosenbloom at the Chicago Tribune makes an interesting Super Bowl pick:
“Bears, 55, 49ers 24, Ravens 3: This time, the Bears solve that Kaepernick guy, and then Ray Lewis gets arrested for violating noise laws.”
- I paid zero attention to this Forbes list of “America’s Most Disliked Athletes,” where Cutler ranked fourth. But Rosenbloom did, as usual, have an interesting take:
“The fallout from this list might be more interesting if Cutler cared about his image and reputation. But he seems to dislike America right back, and when you think about it, that’s probably a more efficient way to go. Devote your time and energy to things that matter.
“Craving public adoration is soulless. It also can be exhausting, first seeking out that kind of love, and then working to maintain it. Hate, though, means never having to say you’re sorry.”
- I thought this Audible from Pro Football Weekly made an interesting point:
“Did you see old-man (Tom) Brady? Time is catching up to him fast. Remember the fourth down at the end of (the AFC Championship) game — he could not outrun a nose tackle (Haloti Ngata). Then when he slid, he put his leg up in the air to protect his body. He looked (soft). I hate to see him go down like this, but he is playing soft right now. I thought the whole team followed his lead. They got punched in the mouth in the second half, and they did not respond. They lost their identity.”
- And while we’re at it, here’s another Audible that might interest Bears fans:
“I was down on (San Diego State TE) Gavin Escobar as a blocker after watching the Boise game — he flashed and didn’t work his feet. Then I ended up watching three more and thought he did a lot better. He’s an interesting guy, especially with the way this league is trending.”
- Here’s an interesting excerpt from The National Football Posts‘s Friday Buzz feature:
“One of the reasons Rod Marinelli was such an important hire for the Cowboys is he can help out 72-year old defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin. Marinelli was hired to coach the defensive line, but some familiar with the situation would not be surprised if Marinelli becomes the de facto defensive coordinator. Many in the business believe Kiffin is not the coach he used to be.”
- Another interesting Friday Buzz entry:
“The biggest problem with the Chiefs’ offense was it was predictable and basic. Defensive coordinators were having a field day manipulating the offense into checking into exactly what they hoped for. As one AFC defensive coordinator put it, ‘I felt sorry for the Chiefs offensive players. They had no chance. We could make them check into max protect every time.’”
- Commissioner Roger Goodell on drug testing:
“‘I believe HGH testing will happen before the 2013 NFL season,’ Goodell said. ‘It’s the right thing to do for the players and it’s the right thing to do to send a message to everyone else in sports. The science is there. We need to get to that agreement.”
I’ll believe it when I see it because I can’t imagine the players will allow it unless its diluted to the point that its meaningless. If real testing is done where the maximum blood level is at a reasonable amount, it will change the game forever.
No way it happens.
- Rick Morrissey at the Chicago Sun-Times on Ray Lewis and his role in the double murder 13 years ago:
“The media’s role in telling his story, especially TV’s mythmaking, is an embarrassment. Without the deaths being mentioned in the narrative, you’re writing fantasy. It’s like writing about the New World explorers and conveniently forgetting the pesky raping, murdering and pillaging.
“Lewis is smart, the same way Lance Armstrong is. He knows that for every person who questions him, there are 50 who want to believe in his story, and that it’s only a matter of time before the many sweep away the few. It’s how we ended up with the gooey prose that came out of the Ravens-Broncos playoff game, when the postgame handshake between Lewis and Peyton Manning was treated like something drawn by Norman Rockwell.”
Like Morrissey, this behavior by fans and the media used to worry me. It doesn’t anymore because I’ve learned that fans will shamelessly root for almost any athlete if it means helping the team win. But, as happened with Scotty Pippin with the Bulls and Sammy Sosa with the Cubs, once an athlete retires, an uncomfortable feeling sets in and suddenly people don’t want these guys around. The guess here is that ESPN, who is reportedly hiring Lewis to do commentary after the game when he retires, is about to find that out.
- From Sean Jensen at the Chicago Sun-Times:
“The NFL Players Association released a health and safety survey Thursday in which 78 percent of players polled said they didn’t trust their team’s medical staff.
“Additionally, only 43 percent of respondents, who represented all 32 teams, rated team training staffs as ‘good.’”
- Pompei argues that Jerry Rice is the greatest receiver in NFL history not Randy Moss:
“Moss’ combination of speed, length and ability to ‘high point’ the ball made him the best deep threat of his generation … but not the greatest all-around receiver in history.”
Pompei is, of course, correct. However in Moss’s defense, for his first three years with the Vikings, he was, indeed, the greatest receiver I’ve ever seen. Though Rice is statistically the best over an entire career and what Brandon Marshall did this year for the Bears absolutely astounded me, no one has ever come close to Moss as a deep threat over that time period.
- Can’t get enough of those Quarterbacks on Facebook. From ProFootballMock.com.
- Though a utility company finally owned up, I like the explanaiton for the Super Bowl blackout provided by ProFootballMock.com better:
One Final Thought
Pompei writes a nice column about the influence former Bears linebacker Mike Singletary had on Lewis and 49ers tightend Vernon Davis.
I didn’t feel good about the way that Singletary’s candidacy for the Bears head coaching job was treated by some in the media and many of the fans. Like other Bears greats who have gone on to be good head coaches elsewhere and not for the Bears, Singletary was the wrong guy in the wrong spot for the position. But I’m certain he’ll make a very good head coach when someone gives him another chance. I hope that time comes soon. In the mean time, its nice to see this article giving him his due.