Fox Clashing Too Much with Management-Types? Well, You Can Hardly Blame Him for This One…

Neil Hayes at the Chicago Sun-Times recalls covering the Raiders in 1996. New Bears head coach John Fox quit as the defensive coordinator late in the exhibition season after an apparent dispute with owner Al Davis. This one should make Bears fans feel a little better about last season’s version of their team. A little.

“If you thought the 2014 Bears were rife with dysfunction, you should’ve seen the Raiders in the mid-1990s. Strange seasons, such as the one the Bears endured in 2014, were the norm for them.

“Davis’ bizarre leadership created paranoia so profound that [the Raiders head coach Mike] White refused to identify the person responsible for calling offensive plays. He insisted plays were called by committee, with himself, offensive coordinator Jim Fassel and offensive line coach Joe Bugel all offering input before a call was made prior to the play clock expiring.

“Yeah, right. I was a beat reporter covering the team that season. By midseason, I would ask Fassel to comment about the weather because it was the only subject he could discuss without fear of repercussion. His daily weather updates became a running joke.”

In all seriousness, I’m starting to worry about Fox’s apparent penchant for clashing with high level organizational employees. At least his parting with the Broncos was apparently more amicable.

Adam L. Jahns at the Chicago Sun-Times addresses the topic:

“… Broncos executive vice president of football operations and general manager John Elway seemingly questioned Fox’s desire to win after the sides parted ways last week.

“Fox’s peculiar departure from the Broncos raises a red flag. Coaches with 46-18 regular-season records and four division titles in the last four seasons don’t get the boot often.”

Technically, Elway didn’t question Fox’s desire to win. He questioned the team’s fire. When describing Fox he used words like “tenacious”.

Still, its noticeable that the quotes in the articles in local newspapers have mostly come from players in Fox’s days with Carolina. In fact, I can’t remember a single one from a current Bronco. It does make one wonder what went on there. In that regard, this article from Hub Arkush at chicagofootball.com where he details reports from the Denver media is worth a read.

Bottom line, here’s hoping he and Bears general manager Ryan Pace remain on the same page.

Posted in Chicago Bears, Denver Broncos, Oakland Raiders | Leave a comment

Jay Cutler Gone or Less Relevant? Either Way the Bears Are Better.

I couldn’t agree more with what John Mullin at csnchicago.com writes here:

“The Seattle Seahawks are going to a second consecutive Super Bowl with a quarterback they didn’t need. The New England Patriots are going to their sixth with one that they didn’t need, either. And therein lies a draft lesson for the Bears, who don’t need a quarterback right now, assuming that GM Ryan Pace, coach John Fox and whoever their new offensive coordinator is decide that a $15.5-million devil you know is better than one you don’t.”

Let’s add that the Packers went to the NFC Championship game with a firt round quarterback that they didn’t need.

If I’m Ryan Pace, I’m not wasting time with quarterback Jay Cutler, the devil I know. I’m starting my search for the right guy now. Even if it’s with a suspect player, its still someone you don’t know isn’t the guy. But even if he doesn’t do that, he should be looking for a quarterback to start in the future for this team in the draft – and not just in the bottom rounds.

Unfortunately I’m not Pace. So I think its more likely that this scenario laid out by Rick Morrissey at the Chicago Sun-Times will play out:

“The guess is here is that there won’t be any takers for Cutler’s fat contract and that he’ll remain a Bear. Fox will rely more on running back Matt Forte and tell Cutler to knock it off with the stupid turnovers. The offense will be geared with that in mind. Cutler will go from the highest-paid quarterback of 2014 to the highest-paid game manager of 2015.”

I dno’t think he’ll exactly be a game manager. Fox acknowledged during his press conference that you won’t win if you can’t pass, especially on third down. But there’s little doubt in my mind that if Cutler stays, he’ll be de-emphasized in the offense. The more the better as far as I’m concerned and I know I’m not alone.

Posted in Chicago Bears, Green Bay Packers, New England Patriots, Seattle Seahawks | Leave a comment

Why Could the Bears Be Winners as Soon as 2015 And Other Points of View

Bears

  • Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune quotes former Panthers defensive tackle Brentson Buckner on what new Bears head coach John Fox said in his first team meeting after taking over the 1-15 team:

    “‘He said, ‘You were 1-15 and they got rid of all the coaches,’ Buckner recalled. ‘None of those coaches played. None of those coaches dressed on Sunday. A lot of reasons you were 1-15 are sitting in this room, and it’s my job to weed you out.'”

    I’d say there are a few Bears that need to hear that. Its all roses and sunshine right now between Fox and Bears fans. But this alone makes me think the Bears probably got their man.

  • For some reason David Haugh at the Chicago Tribune is under the impression that we care what Brian Urlacher thinks.
  • Former NFL safety Matt Bowen at the Chicago Tribune tells us what we want to hear.
  • Rich Campbell at the Chicago Tribune tries to allay my fears that Fox won’t be able to fix the quarterback position. It didn’t work.My only comfort in this regard is that Bears general manager Ryan Pace will ultimately make the final decision on Jay Cutler. He’s’ has been watching Drew Brees for a good chunk of his career so he knows what a quarterback looks like.

    Pace is certainly going to watch a lot of tape before he comes to a decision. That means eventually he’s going to put on the tape of the game his New Orleans Saints played against the Bears on December 15. At that point he’ll know that he has to get rid of Cutler.

  • Biggs addresses what will be the next media topic, one that might drive the offseason until March:

    “No one knows yet, but the guess here is Fox is comfortable going into 2015 with [quarterback Jay] Cutler as his quarterback.”

    Yeah, that’s the way I read it, too. Fox will, at least, probably do his best to de-emphasize Cutler’s role to the extent you can with a quarterback. I’d expect a heavy dose of running back Matt Forte next year.

  • Biggs also quotes former Panthers and Bears wide receiver Muhsin Muhammad:

    “‘One of the things I appreciated from Fox that he did for every single player was you knew your role on the team. So if you’re the third receiver and you’re fighting for that No. 2 spot in training camp and you don’t win it — you’re not going to have a coach who says, ‘Keep trying, you can get there.’ No, he’s gonna go, ‘Hey my man, No. 2 is No. 2 for a reason and you’re No. 3 for a reason. When we go to three receivers, you are going to be in the game. Right now, I need you to focus on being the gunner on the punt team and I need you to be the best gunner you can be.’”

    One of the things that every successful head coach seems to get through to his players is the mantra, “Do your job.” Step one is probably being crystal clear on what that job is. Fox seems to be able to do that.

  • Denver Post columnist Benjamin Hochman on the Fox hire. Via Patrick Finley at the Chicago Sun-Times:

    “Chicago should be a good fit for him – and if he ever wins a Super Bowl, he’ll be remembered not only as the coach to win a Super Bowl, but to do so with Winnie The Pooh’s Eeyore at quarterback.”

  • Kudos to Mark Potash at the Chicago Sun-Times for addressing the delicate issue of Fox’s health.
  • John Mullin at csnchicago.com does a nice job of describing some of the differences in the defensive scheme that we might see next year:

    “Fox has run a 4-3 defense since his time in Carolina, but it has been substantially different than what the Bears ran under Lovie Smith and radically different from the strange hybrid the Bears evolved into under Mel Tucker.

    “The Broncos under Fox were a 4-3 team. But they operated with massive tackles Terrance Knighton (331 pounds) and Sylvester Williams (313) and a defensive left end Derek Wolfe (285) in the mold of Phillip Daniels and Bryan Robinson from the days of Dick Jauron-Greg Blache’s two-gap jumbo front four.”

    “Fox, like the Seattle Seahawks’ 4-3 and some of the so-called 3-4 schemes, employed a smaller speed rusher as the fourth member of his front four. This season in Denver it was DeMarcus Ware (258 pounds, 10 sacks).”

    Fox also normally played a 4-3 over front in Denver (where the three technique tackle is on the strong-side) whereas the Bears played an under front last year.

    Do the Bears have the players to make this adjustment? Mullin thinks DE Jared Allen is more suited to the Denver scheme and points out that Ego Ferguson and Jeremiah Ratliff both might be successful. But they won’t have much defensive line depth. Add in the needs at linebacker and in the defensive backfield (which remain no matter what the scheme) and it seems clear that there’s considerable work to do on personnel if Fox makes this philosophical shift happen.

  • On a related note, Hub Arkush at chicagofootball.com comments on Fox’s search for coordinators.

    “I am fascinated by [Vic] Fangio off the job he’s done in Frisco, and although I couldn’t care less whether the Bears play a 4-3 or a 3-4 as long as they play it well, there are a number of 3-4 fanatics out there in Bears nation who might finally get their wish.”

    Fangio ran a 3-4 when he was defensive coordinator for the 49ers.

    I’m with Arkush. I don’t care what they run. But I’m having a hard time believing they’ll try to run a 3-4 base. I’d say that it’s more likely that Fox wants to run a hybrid defense of the type that’s in vogue in the NFL now. Fox probably figures he has the experience to coach a 40 front and might want to bring in Fangio to provide the needed expertise to occasionally switch to a three man line.

  • Arthur Arkush at chicagofootball.com looks back at the Bears 2014 special teams:

    Phil Emery allowing Devin Hester to escape to Atlanta last spring without a clear contingency plan backfired. Hester showed he had plenty left in the tank for the Falcons, while the Bears cycled through returners.”

    In fairness, Emery had a clear contingency plan. It just didn’t work.

    The Bears couldn’t keep Hester. He was going to demand too much money and the Bears couldn’t pay what the Falcons paid for a guy that Cutler flat out refused to throw to. Letting Hester go was best for everybody, especially him.

    Reading this article was actually painful. You forget how bad they really were until you see so many of the errors collected in one spot. Special teams was a clown show last season.

Elsewhere

  • Scott Osler at the San Fransisco Chronicle is worried about the 49ers. Most of us are. New coach Jim Tomsula sounds like Forrest Gump at the podium which doesn’t exactly inspire confidence that he’s going to be a team motivator. But Osler is worried about a deeper problem:

    “Coaches come and go. York and Baalke are as cemented in place as Levi’s Stadium, and, well, gulp.

    “This is not a coach-friendly setup. [General manager Trent] Baalke is [owner Jed] York’s football guide and mentor, so Jed will always side with and give power to Baalke, putting the head coach in a weak spot.

    “And what has either man shown to instill faith in their ability to lead a team to the Super Bowl?”

    Not much. The roster is loaded with talent but that’s obviously not enough. Tomsula looks like Baalke’s version of Jerry Jones‘s “F- you Jimmy Johnson I can even win with Barry Switzer” than a winning choice. In fact, the guess here is that Tomsula’s best qualification is that he’s a good solider who won’t ever contradict Baalke. That’s not a good sign for either man.

  • Michael David Smith at profootballtalk.com passes on the fact that Rex Ryan has hired former Bears offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer as his offensive line coach. That’s probably a good move for both of them.

One Final Thought

There is something strange when a new guy takes over at a company the way that Pace and Fox are taking over the Bears. Dan Wiederer at the Chicago Tribune quotes former Panthers offensive tackle Jordan Gross as he elaborates:

“You’ve got an opportunity when you come in right off the bat as a new head coach to utilize the excitement guys are going to have about you.”

There’s also a certain degree of fear. Suddenly the guy in charge doesn’t know you from Adam and your comfort level is gone. Suddenly, you wonder if your job is still going to be there in a few months. That leads to a focus that’s hard to replicate in any other way.

Most people believe that the Bears have embarked upon a multi-year rebuilding process. I think that belief is justified – if you are talking about building a consistent winner. But almost anyone can win for one year if the stars align correctly (e.g. the 2006 Bears).

The Bears actually have the talent to win if they stay healthy next year, if the ball falls their way enough and, especially, if enough guys play above their heads and have what amounts to career years. I’m not saying that they will – a lot of things have to go right. But they have a unique opportunity by starting fresh with new management. Here’s hoping they can take advantage of it.

Posted in Buffalo Bills, Chicago Bears, Dallas Cowboys, San Francisco 49ers | Leave a comment

John Fox Initiates A Warming Trend

Its 41°F  here in Chicago. Though that may not seem to be very warm compared to the usual temperatures in most of the habitable world, it counts as toasty here relative to the single digit readings which have been closer to the norm than freezing.

And in the spirit of the season, here’s a comforting thought from Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune:

“[New Bears head coach John] Fox is not expected to attend the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala., next week while he works to complete his coaching staff. [Bears general manager Ryan] Pace said he will join the Bears’ staff for the premier college all-star game.”

It’s a harmless little statement. But it says so much if you read in to it.

To the point, Hub Arkush at chicagofootball.com compares and contrasts Fox with former Bears head coach Lovie Smith here. What Arkush leaves out is the real difference between the two. I hope.

Smith had two huge problems with the Bears. 1) He couldn’t hire the right assistants on the offensive side of the ball, specifically the right offensive coordinator. 2) He had a reputation for interfering with player personnel decisions, particularly those associated with the draft.

Fox shows every sign of not sharing those characteristics. He considers his first priority to be coaching and assembling a staff to be his first duty right now. He’s sacrificing a trip to the Senior Bowl where the live player evaluation process begins in order to do it.

Am I reading a lot into this? Yes. But actions speak louder than words and I think everyone will agree that this is a good sign.

Even if they weren’t in the playoffs, can you imagine Packers head coach Mike McCarthy thinking about going to the Senior Bowl right now? I think the odds are better that he’d be thinking about his next offseason quarterback camp.

For many years my ideal head coach has been an offensive coach with experience developing quarterbacks. I stand by that. But Fox is well-connected and shows every sign of being able to find the right offensive assistants. At least as much as that’s possible. If the Bears see any success under Fox at all, the coordinator positions will be constantly in flux. When Smith was the head coach, you always got the impression that he didn’t want to hire the strongest candidates. It was as if he was hesitant to deal with people who might express a contradictory opinion ([*cough*]Ron Rivera[*cough*]) or, even worse, was afraid of hiring his own replacement. Given Fox’s history, he shows no signs of even thinking about these things, much less making them a major consideration.

I do everything I can to be as objective as possible and reject the overly positive opinions of fans and members of the media at times like this. It’s not called a “honeymoon period” for nothing. But, like the Chicago weather, I admit that I’m starting to warm to this hire. Fox is a defensive head coach but he brings most of the other things that are necessary for the job. Perhaps the lesson that we can take away from last year under former head coach Marc Trestman is that those things are as important, if not more important, than getting a head coach who will be guaranteed to permanently fix the quarterback position. Ideally you’d like to have both. But ideally you’d like to it to be 75°F. Instead, for now, I guess we should be happy with what we can get. Everything is relative after all.

Posted in Chicago Bears | Leave a comment

Reeling in the “Big Fish”? And Other Points of View

Bears

  • Steve Rosenbloom at the Chicago Tribune has started calling new general manager Ryan Pace “Harry Potter”. Very amusing.
  • Hub Arkush, writing for the Chicago Sun-Times, uses flawed logic to discourage too much consideration of John Fox as the Bears head coach:

    “Most of what you hear is that with the youth and inexperience of general manager Ryan Pace, the Bears need an experienced hand with a proven track record in the coach’s spot to guide the team and help guide their young GM. That makes absolutely no sense.

    “If the Bears hired Pace thinking he wasn’t quite ready and needed a mentor to train him, then it’s a really bad hire.”

    “In what universe do employees teach and tell their bosses what to do?”

    No one that I have read or talked to has suggested that Fox be hired so that he can tell Pace what to do. His experience and advice would be valuable. That’s a completely different thing.

    “The most exciting thing about Pace’s arrival is his youth, the newness of everything around him and the clean break from all the frustrations of the last 25-plus years.

    “A coach who already has failed twice and was just fired casts a pall over all of that.”

    A. “the newness of everything around him and the clean break from all the frustrations of the last 25-plus years” has nothing to do with youth. It has to do with a hire who has had nothing to do with previous regimes. It has to do with fresh ideas. Pace’s youth does not excite me nor, I’m sure, does it excite many other people.

    B. Being fired twice does not equate with failing twice. Fox had ideas about how to “fix” a Bronco’s team that was already very successful that didn’t jib with John Elway‘s. The fact that Elway was looking for complete change is supported by the fact that he let the coaching staff go rather than promoting from within and keeping the staff. The guess here is that Elway wanted a fresh face to invigorate the team, something that Fox wouldn’t be able to bring after 4 years on the job no matter how good of a coach he was. That’s not “failure” in my book.

    “What’s going to happen the first time the young buck has to tell the wizened old coach he’s wrong and he’s going to do it his way?”

    “And what happens if that starts to happen a lot?”

    Probably nothing. The guess here is that Fox isn’t the kind of guy who won’t accept authority no matter who represents it but if he is, then he’s not the right hire for that reason, not because of the age difference.

    I dont’ see the same drawbacks to Fox that Arkush does. That’s not to say I don’t see any. Fox’s record is for success against what I consider to be weaker divisions without teams like the Packers. That concerns me. I’m not saying that Doug Marrone is the better hire but at least he’s had to compete with Bill Belichick.

  • David Haugh at the Chicago Tribune thinks Marrone is the wrong hire. That alone makes me wonder if he isn’t the right choice.
  • Rich Campbell at the Chicago Tribune summarizes what I consider to be the one significant argument for both Fox and Marrone:

    “Fox would be the Bears’ first coach with previous head coaching experience since George Halas re-hired himself in 1958. Since 1968, the organization has hired nine first-time coaches who combined for only one championship — Mike Ditka‘s 1985 team. Is that a meaningful pattern? Perhaps we’ll find out.”

    Yes, I think its meaningful. I think if you’ve got three guys on top of the organization who either aren’t football guys (George McCaskey and Ted Phillips) or have never hired a coach before (Pace), hiring someone with a concrete record to judge them by is probably the way to go about it. Hiring anyone else is really just a matter of gut instinct. Does anyone trust the instincts of any of those three, yet?

    Campbell goes on to do a good job of summarizing the arguments for and against Fox. It’s a better read than most.

Elsewhere

One Final Thought

I find the media frenzy associated with the potential Fox hire amusing. This article from Dan Wiederer at the Chicago Tribune is typical:

“Within a success-starved fan base that certainly has plenty of scar tissue still present from the [Dave] McGinnis episode [of the 1990’s] as well as a long stretch of relative irrelevance in the Super Bowl conversation, a fear factor had crept in. Could the Bears really let a big fish get away at such a critical time?”

I get it. It would be nice to have a coach with previous experience for once. And we’re all anxious to see a head coach hired as soon as possible. But we’re not talking about Bill Walsh here. As far as I’m concerned, I would be almost as comfortable with Marrone if Pace was. Fox has his share of negatives and its notable that no one else is or was interviewing him for their positions.

I’m not saying he’s the wrong choice. I’m fine with him. But “big fish” is quite an exaggeration.

Posted in Baltimore Ravens, Chicago Bears, Denver Broncos | Leave a comment

Inside The Mind of Ryan Pace and Other Points of View

Bears

  • New Bears general manager Ryan Pace takes his first step on to the slippery slope that is quarterback Jay Cutler. Via the Chicago Tribune:

    “The quarterback obviously is a critical, critical position to achieve sustained success. But it’s not the only position. For us to have a lot of success, all 53 guys are going to be accounted for. So yeah, I witnessed things with Drew Brees that I have in my mind, that I know why he was successful. And those are ingrained in me. But I want to get to know Jay (Cutler). I want to get to know him further before I come to these conclusions.”

    You won’t really know him until he lets you down. And then its too damned late.

    Talk is cheap, Ryan. Watch the tape. Watch how he reacts when the team is up against it and the breaks are beating the boys. That will tell you everything you need to know.

  • Michael C. Wright at ESPN.com definitively demonstrates the worthlessness of statistics. A blind man could see that Cutler’s are the result of a season where more of the passes were high percentage and where a great deal of scoring was in garbage time. Having said that, I’d love to see his passer rating for the first half only. Who wants to bet its in the bottom 7 or 8 in the league amongst starters?
  • Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune reads my mind when considering who the next Bears head coach might be:

    “Pace doesn’t have to seek outside input when it comes to former Bills coach Doug Marrone, who was the Saints offensive coordinator from 2006 to 2008. A source described Pace and Marrone as ‘very close’ and it’s believed they have talked. Whether an interview has been scheduled yet is unknown.”

    Marrone’s got experience and by all accounts he had the Bills headed in the right direction. But he took the money and ran in Buffalo and the Bears don’t need another front-runner, especially running the team.

  • Maybe the Bears will target John Fox and maybe they won’t. Like Marrone, Fox is an experienced coach which would be a nice change. My guess is that he’d try to work around Cutler.Fox is by all accounts a winner and has the right personality. My only real problem with him is that, like almost all of the hot candidates, he comes from the defensive side of the ball. Its still all about the quarterback. But I’ll give Fox this. He’s shown multiple times that he can assemble a staff. He’d probably find the right coordinators if anyone can.
  • If you are looking for an encouraging sign, Hub Arkush at chicagofootball.com has one for you in what he noticed from Pace in his first press conference:

    “When asked about the main qualities he looked for in a football player, Pace immediately and without hesitation listed character, toughness, instincts and intelligence.

    “That is a radical departure from Phil Emery’s infatuation with athletes.”

    Nowhere does this Emery weakness show up more than in his draft choices at linebacker where the players have been slow to react and, therefore, rarely managed to play down hill. By all accounts Pace should do better.

  • Anyone else thinking that free agent coach Jason Garrett might be a decent Bears head coach? He’s been moderately successful and might be ready to get out from under Jerry Jones‘s thumb to take the next step. Just spitballing…
  • Jen Lada at CSNChicago.com interviews Pace:

    “As an evaluator, you’ve seen the challenges that this franchise faces going forward. Is it difficult to compartmentalize or start to prioritize where to begin?”

    “It helps me if I go with a step-by-step approach. Really in my mind it’s head coach first step. Assess this roster thoroughly because that’s where mistakes are made. If you don’t assess your strengths and weaknesses on your own roster that’s not accurate, then your offseason plan will be inaccurate. So I need to make sure I assess the roster right and then go forward with an offseason plan, with our new head coach.”

    To me, this is a very revealing answer. That’s mostly because this is the way that I, myself, think. Pace likely has a very organized mind. In his head he has a list of things to do probably actually written down on paper. He writes things down as they occur to him (he says so later in the interview), orders them and probably has an ideal plan for getting them done including a loose schedule for each step. However, there are drawbacks. Because he’s a “step-by-step” guy he’s unlikely to be a multitasker and, because of that, things won’t always be done efficiently. Ideally you evaluate the roster while you are searching for a head coach. Pace sounds like the kind of person who is unlikely to do that. People like this frequently handle things well as long as they go as planned. The key to success is often how well they handle things when they don’t go as planned.

    How Pace handles the administrative details of the job (the few that are exposed via the media) will be very interesting to track.

Elsewhere

One Final Thought

Mark Potash at the Chicago Sun-Times on the process by which Pace was selected:

“We felt it was a really great fit. We loved his intensity. It was more about what he brought to the table than any negative on anybody else. They were all good.’

“For what it’s worth, Pace won the interview.”

For what its worth. I don’t know much about Pace but what I do know about him – his concrete history – doesn’t exactly ease my concerns about whether he’s qualified to run the Bears. I can’t get past the idea that the Bears have hired the next Josh McDaniels – a young coordinator who was made the head coach of the Broncos before he was ready and failed spectacularly because of that.

I’d be a lot happier if Pace was 47 not 37. I’d be a lot happier if he had experience seeing things done more than one way with one team. And I’d be a whole lot happier if he’d actually been a GM before, someone who had already made his mistakes and had time to gain perspective, look back and see where he went wrong.

There was a lot of talk in the papers about the Bears “breaking out of their mold” by choosing someone without a history with the organization. But that’s not the point. The Bears did what they’ve been doing for about 30 years now – chose a young, inexperienced candidate who has never done it before. Maybe its time to stop choosing the guys who just win the interview.

Posted in Buffalo Bills, Chicago Bears, Dallas Cowboys, Denver Broncos, New Orleans Saints | Leave a comment

An Ironic Twist Makes Eric DeCosta a Likely GM Candidate

The most interesting name coming out of the Bears general manager search is Eric DeCosta of the Baltimore Ravens. DeCosta has shown little desire to leave his position with the Ravens and has turned down interview requests for GM jobs before. But I’m starting to think that the Bears might have a real shot at getting him to listen on their opening. Here’s why.

Most Bears fans remember the incident in 2011 draft when former Bears GM Jerry Angelo infamously botched a trade with the Ravens. Angelo promised the Ravens a fourth round pick if they would trade their 26th pick for the Bears 29th pick. But Angelo failed to properly inform the league.  The Ravens actually missed the 26th pick and ended up picking 27th.

Baltimore and Chicago both got the guys they wanted in the end (Baltimore picked Jimmy Smith and the Bears took Gabe Carimi). But neither Baltimore GM Ozzie Smith nor owner Steve Bisciotti was amused. Angelo refused to give the Ravens the fourth round pick that the Bears owed them and Bisciotti called upon the McCaskey family to force him to do it. Via Biggs, writing for the National Football Post at the time:

“‘I’m disappointed in the Bears and the McCaskeys,’ Bisciotti told Jamison Hensley of the Baltimore Sun. ‘It is in my opinion a deviation from their great legacy. They concluded that their heartfelt and admirable apology was sufficient for our loss. All of us at the Ravens strongly disagree … probably end of story.'”

It was. But now it probably isn’t.

Baltimore had every right to be upset and the McCaskey’s couldn’t have seen that they deserved to get that pick any less clearly than I did. When Angelo was fired in 2012, via Dan Pompei, then at the Chicago Tribune, stuck out:

“‘It can’t be that he was fired for the performance of the team,’ said one AFC front-office man, who is not a friend of Angelo’s. ‘It has to be something else.'”

Who wants to bet that the quote came from the Ravens? They would know very well that the “something else” might very well have been Angelo paying the ultimate price for the trade fiasco (amongst others). It didn’t get them their pick back. But there had to be some satisfaction with the McCaskey’s acting in response to the injustice all the same.

So what’s the point? Though they were justifiably upset with the handling of the problem at the time DeCosta has to be looking at it now from a much different point of view. Few people would understand better than the members of the Ravens organization that the McCaskeys are going to do the right thing by their hires. Few people would understand better how firm the commitment to step back and allow you to do your job is. And few people would understand that they aren’t going to interfere, even when they don’t agree with you, better than DeCosta. That might make the Bears job different from the other’s that DeCosta has failed to interview for in the past.

Posted in Baltimore Ravens, Chicago Bears | Leave a comment

Some Personal Favorites for Bears Head Coach and Other Points of View

Bears

  • Matt Forte‘s thoughts after the Minnesota game were probably very pertinent to the Bears current situation. Via Dan Wiederer at the Chicago Tribune:

    “Sometimes we line up in a formation that we ran a specific play out of a few more times than we should have. Defenses are smart. They watch film, read their keys and they know stuff like that.”

    The Vikings were keying on the screen game and stopping it cold. The Bears never adjusted. Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune supports my claim:

    “The Bears said they didn’t gameplan to get Matt Forte the eight receptions he needed to surpass Larry Centers for the NFL single-season record for a running back at 102. It just happened. Unfortunate thing is the eight catches went for only 23 yards. That is proof they were not all designed. According to Pro Football Reference, it was only the fifth time since 1960 a player has had eight catches and 23 or less yards. In 1995, Jets running back Adrian Murrell had nine receptions for 12 yards in a 12-0 loss to the Saints.”

    The Bears never really adjusted offensively to any of the things that defenses were doing to them. Not Sunday. Not before Sunday. Not in game. Not between games. The vast majority of the time the only thing they did at half time as far as I could tell was recommit to the original plan. And the original plan always looked the same. And not surprisingly the results looked the same. That’s probably a major reason why Marc Trestman is no longer the Bears head coach.

  • Of all of the players I thought the comments upon Trestman’s departure of wide receiver Brandon Marshall were probably the most interesting. From Rich Campbell at the Chicago Tribune:

    “‘You have some guys that aren’t used to change, which is kind of unique,’ Marshall said. ‘So when change happened, a lot of guys, they didn’t respond well, and that really hurt us.

    ‘Everybody sees it differently. For me, I know every coach comes in, they’re going to do things differently. I was able to bend a little bit, and there were some guys that wasn’t able to bend, and it trickled down into our locker room, and it kind of, like, hurt us. That’s why we’re here.'”

    “‘We just didn’t come together. Players didn’t come together. Coaches didn’t come together. And unfortunately, we got guys that’s fired and you’ve got players that’s going to be cut and traded.'”

    I wasn’t happy to hear that former defensive players like Lance Briggs and special teamers like Robbie Gould were agitating after the coaching change. But I think its ironic that the defense and special teams arguably were the units that came together and performed the best late in the year. It was the offense that was totally dysfunctional and they were the ones that, as a unit, were most responsible for getting Trestman fired..

  • I probably like wide receiver Brandon Marshall more than most fans at the moment. But the guy’s got to settle down. Via David Just at the Chicago Sun-Times.
  • I actually watched most of the press conference that George McCaskey and Ted Phillips held at Halas Hall. Like most of the media, I was fascinated by McCaskey’s response when he was asked about how his mother and the primary owner Virginia felt about the changes there (the Chicago Tribune won’t let me embed it but the video is here).  McCaskey paused a long time before answering, obviously considering carefully how much he wants to talk about his 91 year old mother. When you see any of the family with her in public its obvious that they goes to great lengths to protect her when she’s out and about. After he decided to answer the question candidly, his comments were the hit of the press conference.Even though I figured the family was trying badly to get her a championship and, for obvious reasons, were trying to get it darned soon, like most people I figured that Virginia had little influence on how the Bears were being run. I think I was wrong. It was very obvious to me that George meant it when he said Virginia was “pissed off”. You can see Phillips nodding his head in the background of this video as George McCaskey spoke. The bet here is that he’d heard about Virginia’s dissatisfaction and he may very well have heard it directly from her.
  • Chris Hine at the Chicago Tribune asks if nice guys can coach in the NFL. I think the answer is the same in the NFL as it is anywhere else. You can be nice. You can’t be soft.
  • I couldn’t agree more with Mike Freeman at the Bleacher Report.
  • David Haugh at the Chicago Tribune writes about the NFL Network report that Ravens assistant general manager Eric DeCosta wouldn’t be interested in the Bears’ GM job if Bears president Ted Phillips “still” was involved in football decisions. Honestly, I can’t remember a situation where I heard that Phillips ever was involved in making “football decisions”. He’s involved in hiring the GMs but surely people recognize that the final decision on such things are ownership’s. Phillips is, for all practical purposes, an advisor in the process to George McCaskey. An extremely influential one, to be sure – he does, after all, have to work with whoever the hire is. But no one is going to be hired without McCaskey’s full approval. It’s basically his decision. And, more to the point, the operation of the team has always fallen under the responsibility of the GM and his staff with, by every account, very little interference from anyone above that. It sounds to me like someone needs to talk to DeCosta and explain the situation to him. And maybe to Haugh as well.
  • Haugh did have one comment that I do agree with and understand perfectly well:

    “If Phillips wants the Bears to benefit from his experience, behind the scenes, he will reinforce the perils of hiring a coach before the general manager. A strong chain of command depends on the general manager’s compatibility with a coach he chooses — not one forced on him. It’s interesting that the Bears requested permission Tuesday to interview NFL coordinators Adam Gase and Todd Bowles for their coaching vacancy, which is best filled by somebody with experience. But the names of possible GMs on their radar carry more significance because that represents the Bears’ logical first move.”

    Ordinarily the thought of interviewing and hiring a head coach before hiring a GM would have driven me crazy. But I think I might have an idea of what’s going on here. Given Ernie Accorsi‘s involvement, I’m going to guess that he’s advised them to start by showing interest in the popular candidates and, possibly, by interviewing them. That gets their foot in the door before other teams have a chance to snatch them up.

    But I’m also going to guess that he’s told them that it would be best to hire the GM first and let him have huge input, if not make the final decision, if possible. Indeed, that’s what sources have told Patrick Finley at the Chicago Sun-Times here. Only in the case of a guy that they’re 100% sure is the right head coach would they actually make the hire.

    The guess here is that the search for a GM will go right smartly, as well. It sounds to me like the Bears are moving with a sense of urgency, knowing that the right guys might not be available if they wait around. And, of course, if they wait too long to hire the head coach the better available assistants will be gone as well.

  • I thought Mark Potash at the Chicago Sun-Times had an interesting take on former GM Phil Emery:

    “Emery was dedicated and thorough, but he did not have a manager’s touch. The first indication was his poor handling of Brian Urlacher’s departure from the team in 2013 — with a low-ball contract offer and an approach that didn’t give him the respect he deserved. You can quibble about the details, but if Urlacher — one of the greatest Bears in franchise history — leaves the organization with disdain, you’ve done something wrong.”

    I thought, and still think, that Urlacher’s dissatisfaction with the way this happened had more to do with him than Emery. And as to the last statement, remember that Brett Favre‘s parting with the Packers didn’t exactly go well, either. But few of us would argue that the Packers were wrong.

    Having said that, perhaps in retrospect we should have considered this to be the first sign that that Emery had some flaws in this area.

  • I have a very strong suspicion that former Accorsi associate Marc Ross is the next GM of the Bears. Perhaps the Bears have a thing for people whose names are Marc with a ‘c’. Here’s hoping this one works out better.
  • I found this report from John Mullin at csnchicago.com that Emery was the reason why former defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli didn’t stay on in the same role after Love Smith’s departure to be interesting:

    “At the time, the plan was to retain the highly regarded Marinelli to run the defense. And he had planned to, remaining on even after close friend Smith was fired. But back in mid-January 2013, as part of their final selection process for a head coach to replace Smith, Emery and the organization had Marinelli interview the three finalists for the head-coaching job.

    “Marinelli was asked to rank the three. He did. [Bruce] Arians was his runaway first choice; [Darrell] Bevell was the second; Trestman was a distant third.

    “Emery selected Trestman.

    “When he learned of the decision, Marinelli abruptly angrily resigned and left Halas Hall for Dallas and a de facto demotion to defensive line coach.”

    Not that Emery made the right decision but has anyone considered the fact that Bruce Arians was going to bring in Todd Bowles as his defensive coordinator (via Potash)? You could actually argue that one reason why Arians wasn’t hired was because Emery wanted Marinelli more and then, ironically, lost out on both in the process.

  • Of note this year has been the development of linebacker Christian Jones. Biggs comments:

    “Linebacker Christian Jones showed continued development throughout the course of the season. He looks like he could challenge for a starting position next year. Jones said he wants to become stronger against the run so he can play more downhill.”

    To my eye all of the young linebackers got better as the season wore on and I’d say they all need to get play downhill more. The key is probably play recognition, something I’m guessing will only some with experience.

  • I don’t know what the Chicago Sun-Times number one sports story of the year is going to be but which ever one it is, its the wrong one. Because the number one sports story is their number 2 story. Hockey isn’t as popular as football and the Cubs and White Sox split the town in half. Though I’m sure my personal guess – Jackie Robinson West – pulled at some heart strings and will be a popular choice, no one paid any attention to them until the final week of the story and no one was paying any attention to them a week afterwards. Nothing move the needle in this town like the Bears.

Elsewhere

  • So much for head coach Jim Caldwell ringing discipline to Detroit. The Lions might be the dirtiest football team I’ve ever seen. And they’re killing themselves with it. Dominic Raiola really let that team down. Now Ndamukong Suh tried his best to do the same thing. Via the Chicago Tribune.
  • Darin Gantt at profootballtalk.com reports that the Arizona Cardinals are very interested in how quarterback Drew Stanton has been treating his knee. The knee has become infected. The problem? He didn’t have surgery or any treatment from the team that would lead to such an infection. So the belief is that he got unauthorized treatment outside the facility. Not good for him or the team that needs him badly to return for the postseason.

One Final Thought

Biggs runs through 23 potential head coaching candidates.

Generally speaking I’m sticking to my guns and saying that the Bears need a head coach who can coach quarterbacks. That was, in my opinion, the one single thing that was unquestionably right about Marc Trestman.

But as I ran through this list I saw one one exception to that rule: David Toub. Much though I love Rex Ryan (suggested here by Potash), Toub is the better non-offensive/quarterback-oriented choice because he’s one of the few guys – maybe the only realistic guy – that I have confidence would be able to consistently find the right offensive coordinators to succeed. He’d be absolutely perfect.

Just one other note. I’ll be disappointed if the Bears aren’t seriously considering Packers offensive coordinator (and former quarterbacks coach) Tom Clements. Though Biggs didn’t have him on his list . Someone who had learned what its all about under Mike McCarthy might be a good fit. He’s probably ready.

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One for the Optimists…

Martellus Bennett‘s comments after head coach Marc Trestman and general manager Phil Emery were fired were profound. From Dan Wiederer at the Chicago Tribune:

“On whether there’s any reason to be optimistic about next season:

“‘That should be a rhetorical question. At the end of the day, it’s a whole new year. And anyone who has no optimism about a new year, I feel bad for those people. I believe in optimism and I don’t know about anybody else but I think the fans should know that the only thing that I can control is what I do. And I’m going to work hard and become a better player for them than I was this year. So it’s going to be a bigger and better show. So make sure you’ve got your gummy bears.'”

There are a lot of reasons to be optimistic next year. This isn’t some bottom of the barrel 2-14 team. There’s more talent on the roster than I thought there was at the beginning of the year. It’s a shame that it’s still all about the quarterback, though. What happens there will be everything. Long-time Tribune beat writer and NFL observer Don Pierson at the Chicago Tribune agrees:

“Don’t let anybody convince you a pro quarterback gets more credit and more blame than he deserves. If anything in the pass-first era, the quarterback deserves even more credit and more blame.”

“Someday, it’s got to align. Someday, somebody in charge will look at a Russell Wilson or a Drew Brees or a Joe Montana and say, ‘Not very big, not a great arm, but he’s a quarterback.’ Curious how those three played their college ball only a couple hours drive from Soldier Field. Somebody will go to Eastern Illinois and draft a Tony Romo before he signs somewhere else as a free agent.

“Somebody will look at a Bears’ roster someday and see quarterbacks Chad Hutchinson, Craig Krenzel and Jonathan Quinn, their leading passers in 2004, and decide they better draft Aaron Rodgers instead of Cedric Benson. Or they will look at Brian Griese, their 2007 leading passer, and think maybe Joe Flacco would be a more useful draft pick than Chris Williams. Or they will pay closer attention when a young Arena League player and Green Bay castoff Kurt Warner asks for a tryout.

“Someday the McCaskeys will find somebody who can find somebody.”

A message of hope for us all. I can’t quote it all but this article should be required reading for any Bears fan.

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…And One for the Pessimists

I like George McCaskey. I really do. I like his passion. I like his candidness. Like most of the McCaskey family that I’ve been exposed to, I get the impression that he’s a genuinely good, quality person raised by quality parents in a quality home. These are people you’d want as neighbors and friends.

But, like Rick Telander at the Chicago Sun-Times, I’m having a hard time believing he’s going to right the Bears ship. Telander’s reasoning is that the Bears need someone at the top who doesn’t require a consultant to tell him how to run the franchise:

“A good idea is knowing whom you want, and getting him. Pronto.”

He’s got a point. But my problem is more basic. You can hire the right people for your company even if you don’t know all of the details behind what they are going to do for you. All it requires is good judgement of basic human character.

When McCaskey was asked about quarterback Jay Cutler, here’s what he said. Via Adam L. Jahns at the Chicago Sun-Times:

“‘I’m a fan of Jay’s personally and I’m a fan of Jay’s professionally. But all of the personnel decisions are going to be up to the new general manager and the new head coach.'”

Up to the new GM and head coach. Great. That’s as it should be. And I love the fact that the family is willing to eat $38 million that isn’t my money to let him go if the new guys think its necessary.

It’s the first part of that quote that bugs me.

He’s a Jay Cutler fan? The same Jay Cutler to whom he guaranteed $54 million only to see him replace his Bears hat with a Vanderbilt hat in press conferences for the last month of the season? Cutler wasn’t just making a statement about Aaron Kromer or about Marc Trestman. He was making a statement about the team. He was making a statement about George McCaskey, the McCaskey family, their organization and its patrons. And he’s a fan?

It’s now clear that Cutler is a mentally and emotionally deficient loser. A blind man could see it in a minute and its hard to have faith in anyone who can’t immediately recognize it. And I’m really sorry for that for all kinds of reasons.

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