The Top of the Discard Pile

Michael C. Wright at ESPN.com summarizes what he thinks was the Bears major problem in 2014:

“I think what sticks out the most is how badly Bears general manager Phil Emery miscalculated in terms of the contributions this team would be able to get from some of the additions he made. Emery paid big money to sign [Jared] Allen and Lamarr Houston in free agency and they’ve combined for 6.5 sacks. Houston had never produced more than six sacks in a season, yet Emery billed him as the crown jewel of the team’s free-agent class. Then the Bears went out and signed a bunch of no-name safeties. M.D. Jennings was the most experienced safety of all the signees and he didn’t even make the team. Let’s not even get into the big money paid to [Jay] Cutler. “

“You’ve got three big receivers in Alshon Jeffery, Brandon Marshall and Marquess Wilson, but not one target capable of taking the top off coverages.”

“I’d say about 80 to 85 percent of this team’s problems in every facet are the result of bad personnel moves. So although [Marc] Trestman and the coaching staff — deservedly — take plenty of heat, Emery dealt them a horrible hand from a personnel standpoint. “

The Bears are, indeed, holding a terrible hand.   In my opinion it’s largely due to their recent tendency towards short-term free agent fixes.  The most damaging comment I heard all year was when an unnamed assistant from another team anointed the Bears the “biggest collection of front-runners in the NFL”.  After years of fighting criticism that they’re “cheap” its ironic that people like me are calling for ownership to stop throwing money at this problem and to find a long-term solution.

I’d only add that Wright should consider that Emery has been handcuffed in terms of what he could do with the receivers by what Cutler can (or will) do. They don’t have any speed receivers because Cutler refuses to throw to them, preferring “go up and get it” guys. Speed receivers require that you get the ball to them with anticipation while they’re open, not after safeties and cornerbacks close the gap and its too late.  Cutler isn’t the only problem this team has. But he’s the center of many of them.  That doesn’t excuse Emery or Trestman. Both handcuffed themselves to Cutler and deserve every bit of criticism thrown their way.

People like to say that “it all starts at the top”.  In a way that’s true for the Bears and nothing illustrates that more than Wright’s comments above.  But this offseason what’s at the top isn’t really the biggest priority.  The most important thing the Bears need to do, and the one that’s least likely, is to start closer to the bottom with the most important position on the team.  It starts at quarterback and no matter what happens with Emery and Trestman, the Bears are going nowhere with Cutler at the position.  The highest priority offseason task should be dumping and at least starting to replace him with youth and, above all, good coaching.

The odds are good that ownership won’t do it but if they are really committed to long-term excellence, eating Cutler’s contract will be the quickest way to get on the road to rebuilding the team. They’ll be worse in the short-term but ultimately it’s going to have to be done so they might as well get started.

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The Worst Day the Bears Organization Had All Year

Despite their poor record, Vikings fans have confidence that their team is on the rise and that is largely due to the continued development of quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. Mark Craig, the Vikings writer and NFL columnist for the Minneapolis Star Tribune tells Dan Wiederer at the Chicago Tribune why:

“There was some belief in (quarterback) Christian Ponder at the end of his rookie season in 2011, too. So that probably has some fans spooked because of how badly Ponder’s career flopped. But for most objective observers, Bridgewater is different mainly because of how calm he remains in chaotic situations. Even when Ponder was considered on the rise, he ran from pressure and never really thought his way through it while still in the pocket.

“Bridgewater does that routinely, and I think fans recognize that there could be a bright future with him and [offensive coordinator Norv] Turner united.”

Many will say in hindsight that that signing quarterback Jay Cutler was the lowest point of 2014 for the organization.  I disagree.  The worst day for the Bears and the rest of the NFC North all year was the day that the rest of the league allowed Bridgewater to fall to the Vikings.

From the minute I saw Bridgewater play in college at Louisville I thought he was going to be a very good NFL quarterback.  A blind man could see that he was already playing like one. He moved like one, he thought like one, he threw accurately and with anticipation like one.

The fact that he wasn’t drafted higher and, in particular, that Johnny Manziel was taken ahead of him is a prime example of the stupidity of football personnel men who value outstanding arm strength and athleticism over these traits. The guess here is that football coaches in particular are the worst in this regard. Their confidence in themselve leads them to believe that the traits that Bridgewater exhibits can be coached and that all a prospect needs is physical talent and the right guy to mold it.   Cutler is a living tribute to why this approach doesn’t work. You don’t need many years as a neutral observer of the NFL to understand that physical talent is not all you need and, indeed, isn’t the most important characteristic.

Don’t get me wrong. You can’t draft a quarterback without some arm strength and Bridgewater doesn’t lack it. But to emphasize these traits over his obvious talent is areas that make a truly great pro quarterback was, and is, idiocy.  With the cap space eaten up by Cutler’s contract and the Vikings’ acquisition of Bridgewater, the Bears may be paying the price for that misconception for a long time.

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Being Human. And Other Points of View.

Bears

  • I knew the minute I saw the headline that Rick Morrissey at the Chicago Sun-Times had written this. Similar to Hub Arkush, Morrissey’s cynicism can be refreshing when you want someone to write a hard truth. But both tend to go too far and see things in an unbalanced, unnecessarily negative light. This is one of those times. I find the implication that its acceptable for players like Dominic Raiola to occasionally cross the line into dirty play to be unacceptable. Morrissey says, “To be clear, I’m not condoning Raiola’s behavior” but then goes on to say that we shouldn’t be outraged by it because that’s just the way true, competitive football players are. What nonsense.
  • And just to spite me, Arkush chimes in with a positive comment buried amongst his negativity:

    “What else can go wrong this season? Well, the Bears could beat the Vikings and drop several spots in the draft, and my gut tells me that’s what’s going to happen. There is a chemistry among a tight group of veterans on this team, and what we learned last Sunday is that they’re not going to embarrass themselves.”

    I don’t know which veterans he’s talking about but Robbie Gould and Jay Cutler, who is saying all the right things verbally while saying, “I’m still a sulking boy” by wearing a Vanderbilt hat in press conferences, are giving them a bad name.

    If this is Cutler’s last game as a Bear, his legacy with me will be associated with Brian Urlacher‘s most perceptive comment when he referred to Cutler (off the record) as a female body part. Physically Cutler is as tough as anyone you’d ever like to see. But Urlacher was still dead on.

  • John Mullin at csnchicago.com weighs in with his own perceptive comments as he begins to put a bow on the 2014 season. Most of this article is an indictment of Bears head coach Marc Trestman but I took some other interesting tidbits from it as well:

    “Trestman too often appeared out of touch with the NFL ‘way’ both on and off the field.”

    “Much of [the team dysfunction] traced to Trestman, who in ill-advised and clumsy exercises of damage control only succeeded alienated his central team leader.

    “Teammates voted Cutler one of the captains going into the 2013 season. But Trestman this year installed a system of rotating captains instead. He named Cutler as a captain just three times through the first 15 games, only once more than second-year right guard Kyle Long. Defensive end Jared Allen has been a co-captain in the last five and six of the last seven games.”

    My assumption was that Trestman was instituting the rotating captains in part to keep the BBQ-shilling Lance Briggs from being named permanently. It never occurred to me that Cutler, with his evident lack of innate leadership skills, might also be a target. If he was then it was useless. Cutler is who he is and that’s not a leader. Perhaps this was a recognition of that rather than an inducement to improve in that area. Either way it is an indictment of both men.

  • Mullin continues:

    “Starting to describe a mistaken route by Brandon Marshall against the Green Bay Packers in Week 10 this year, Trestman began saying that Marshall had run a wrong route, then caught himself and redirected into something about miscommunication. That effectively threw blame on Cutler and began the real unraveling of the coach-quarterback relationship, the most important for any team.”

    Assuming this was the case, you would think that Cutler would recognize that such misdirection would help him more often than it would hurt him. But the see comment above about the female body part.

  • And finally, one last quote from Mullin’s article:

    “Trestman talked often of wanting to keep team business in-house, yet took no steps to curtail repeated outbursts by Marshall and imposed no more discipline on [Aaron] Kromer than to order an apology for speaking to an an outsider about frustrations with Cutler. Asked for reactions to various player actions, Trestman typically professed that he hadn’t heard what was said or hadn’t seen what was done or had happened.”

    “They were small things and not what should have affected play on the field. But some question existed throughout on whether Trestman truly related to players on levels that mattered to them. He spoke of things like ‘growing the man’ and every quarterback having his own ‘journey,’ which is true but not coin of the communications realm in the NFL. And treating someone like a man doesn’t automatically make him one.

    “Perhaps just coincidentally, the Bears were degenerating into an undisciplined team on field, reflected by penalties and overall sloppiness on all phases. Trestman’s second season marked the first time in 30 years that a coach’s team became more penalized from his first year to his second. In just 14 games the Bears already were dramatically ahead of their year-one rate of infraction under Trestman.”

    It’s almost certainly not a coincidence and Mullin undoubtedly strongly suspects that. Indeed, treating someone like a man doesn’t automatically make him a man. I’m reminded of what former NFL safety Matt Bowen wrote for the Chicago Tribune earlier this month:

    “To be honest, players want to be held accountable. They want to be pushed, challenged. That’s how they improve and it resonates throughout the building when poor performances are deemed unacceptable.”

    Trestman lives in an ideal world where people push themselves and hold themselves accountable. It’s a lamentable truth that more often that not reality doesn’t match that. His failure to recognize this might have been his greatest mistake.

    There is a lot more to this article. I’ve already quoted too much of it but if I extracted more excerpts a lot of them would be just to add “Me, too.” Its well written and well worth a read.

    My guess is that this is the first of many such articles from many different sources that will come after Black Monday. It will be interesting to see what new facts come out of them.

Elsewhere

  • Mary Kay Cabot at the Cleveland Plain Dealer quotes Browns linebacker Karlos Dansby on what he sees as a wasted season for the Browns top two picks of the 2014 draft:

    “‘There’s so much ([cornerback Justin] Gilbert) could’ve done better and he didn’t put forth the effort,’ said Dansby. ‘So yeah, it’s a wasted year.

    “‘Like [quarterback] Johnny [Manziel] said the same thing, it’s a wasted year for him. That’s how he feels. He’s like ‘damn, I’ve got to take this more seriously. I’ve wasted all this time.’ That’s basically what he’s saying. So it’s like ‘don’t waste your time man, because it’s precious bro. You never know when you’re going to be done. You’re one play away from never playing this game again.”

    “Dansby said he was surprised to hear Manziel publicly admit Tuesday that he has to take it more seriously because this is his job now.

    “‘When did you figure that out?’ said Dansby.”

    Its possible that Gilbert and Manziel will suddenly turn it on and start working harder. But I think its far more likely that this is who they are. Some people with the Browns are evidently going to have to start paying less attention to the physical talent and more attention to what these prospects have inside. And given that Manziel wasn’t the general manager’s choice, the guess here is that its the coach and the owner who interfered to get Manziel on board.

  • You can see why Jets players love head coach Rex Ryan. Compare his statements about Sheldon Richardson‘s Pro Bowl snub to the mealy mouthed response Trestman or former Bears head coach Lovie Smith likely would have made. Ryan’s comments are contrasting Richardson with Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald.  Via Dom Cosentino at NJ.com:

    “Rex Ryan on Wednesday admitted he was ‘kind of shocked’ Jets defensive end Sheldon Richardson wasn’t selected to the 2015 Pro Bowl. And after initially saying he thought it might have been because the Jets have won just three games this season, Ryan dropped the hammer.

    “‘If it kept him out of the Pro Bowl because some guy had X-amount of sacks, and that guy can’t hold his jock as a player, to be honest with you, I think that’s kind of strange to me,’ Ryan said.

One Final Thought

I did find this Morrissey comment to be amusing:

“Part of me says this season can’t end soon enough. Another part of me wants it to go on forever. Drama, controversy, finger-pointing — it’s a columnist’s dream. Who stays and who goes? Phil Emery? Marc Trestman? Jay Cutler? All of them? None of them? The real season starts after the [Vikings] game.”

I, personally, follow the league for the game on the field and like it best when the players are overcoming adversity to triumph over obstacles. But the downside of being human also comes with that and I guess I’ll take what I can get.

Posted in Chicago Bears, Cleveland Browns, New York Jets, Points of View | Leave a comment

Kyle Long Has the Right Idea. And Other Points of View.

Bears

    • David Haugh at the Chicago Tribune produces this interesting tid bit that could be an indication of what general manager Phil Emery‘s future might hold:

      “Quietly, the Bears have begun exploring potential replacements for Emery in the event they make a change in their front office, a league source said. Nothing has been decided, but a source characterized the Bears as open to several approaches to fixing what’s wrong.”

    • Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune argues that franchising quarterback Jay Cutler wasn’t a practical option last offseason:

      “Hindsight is a wonderful tool for armchair quarterbacks. It’s always easy to identify a blitz protection gone awry and a secondary receiver that was wide open when looking at the film. Playing armchair GM is even easier. Certainly placing the franchise tag on Cutler and making him play this season before making a multiyear commitment would have put the organization in a different position right now.”

      I’ll accept Biggs’s arguments but suggest that they are basically beside the point. Hindsight might be 20-20 on franchising Cutler but regular reservations about him were expressed by fans and media everywhere including this space. Much has been said about Cutler’s ability to read defenses and that may or may not be fair. But there’s no doubt that he’s a “see-it-throw-it” quartback in a league where you have to throw the ball with anticipation to a receiver before he gets open. Cutler has never shown that he can do that and he didn’t show it last year, either. It simply can’t work any other way in the modern NFL.

      The problem wasn’t that the Bears didn’t franchise Cutler. The problem was that they misevaluated him. My only real question was how much of that misevaluation falls on Emery and how much on Bears head coach Marc Trestman.

Patrick Finley at the Chicago Sun-Times has some nice things to say about defensive coordinator Mel Tucker:

“Say this for Tucker, though: the Bears’ much-needed youth movement on defense has helped replenish a roster beset by age and injury.

“Assuming David Bass starts for the injured Willie Young, Tucker will take the field Sunday in Minnesota with five first- or second-year players in a starting role. At least five more — including rookie defensive tackles Will Sutton and Ego Ferguson — have been steady contributors this season.

“Tucker said ‘every single one of those guys’ has improved this season.”

They have, indeed. And its very noticable, especially at linebacker where they play a little faster with a little more confidence every outing. The Bears are a long way from the defense that gave up back-to-back 50 point disasters mid-season. Tucker and the defensive coachng staff deserve a great deal of credit for that. Its a shame that its too little too late. But at least they’ve help lay a foundation for the future. Here’s hoping some of them survive the coming apocalypse.

One Final Thought

Kyle Long is going to the Pro Bowl again this year and he’s got the right idea. Via Dan Wiederer at the Chicago Tribune:

“Whoever they put out there at quarterback, I know what my job is. So that’s what I’ve got to handle.”

Some veterans like kicker Robbie Gould could take a lesson from him.

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Bears Fans in for a Grim Finale with Cutler Back at QB. And Other Points of View.

Bears

  • Alshon Jeffery didn’t seem to have a good explanation for why he was dropping passes all over the field Sunday. Via Dan Wiederer at the Chicago Tribune:

    “‘You’ve got to catch the ball,’ Jeffery said. ‘Some of them probably were just me trying to catch and turn before I had the ball. But most of all, I still have to catch the ball.'”

    I know that balls coming from a different quarterback can often look different and these transition take some getting used to. That might be particularly true after taking balls from Cutler all year. He routinely fires the ball particularly hard trying to fit it into tight windows to receivers who are barely open by the time it gets there.

    The Bears receivers might also have needed to get used to the ball coming out before they go into their breaks. I’m sure they knew that going in but knowing it is one thing, experiencing it is something else.

  • Dominic Raiola claims that stomping on Ego Ferguson‘s leg was a “total accident”. It sure as hell didn’t look like a total accident. It looked like the kind of Ndamukong Suh-type thug move the Lions have been known for. Apparently the Jim Schwartz effect doesn’t wear off too easily. From the Chicago Tribune.On a related note, I can’t wait to hear what Brandon Marshall has to say about the Lions center on Inside the NFL this week.
  • Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune evaluates running back Matt Forte‘s performance Sunday:

    “Forte ran hard, carrying would-be tacklers with him on a handful of occasions. He made a poor attempt at pass blocking against Jason Jones on the fourth-and-1 play at the goal line as Jones and blitzing linebacker Ashlee Palmer forced Clausen to roll out and throw off-balance.”

    Forte has been struggling a bit in protection, particularly in recent weeks. Mark Potash at the Chicago Sun-Times cites some Pro Football Focus stats and claims that the problem dates back to last year. This might be an area to work on in the offseason. The inconsistencies on the offensive line haven’t helped.

  • Potash on the FOX broadcast Sunday:

    “Last week, ESPN’s Jon Gruden called for Jimmy Clausen to replace Cutler. This week, Fox analyst Troy Aikman took his shot.

    “‘I think [Cutler’s benching] goes beyond performance,’ Aikman said on the Bears-Lions telecast, ‘and is real reflective of whatever Jay Cutler is or isn’t as a leader or someone who inspires the play of those around him.'”

    The guess here is that Cutler is suffering for past sins with the national media. I never heard the generally positive Gruden go after anyone like he did Cutler. I can’t imagine what Cutler did to piss him off but it must have been pretty bad. In that respect, Cutler might be getting what he deserves.

  • Kicker Robbie Gould just can not keep his mouth shut. Rick Morrissey at the Chicago Sun-Times sees through the hypocrisy:

    “‘It’s not the Bear way. This whole season is not the Bear way. Pointing fingers, things getting out of the locker room, that’s not the Chicago Bear way. And I think for me, being around an organization for 10 years, seeing guys like Charles Tillman, Lance Briggs, who most likely have walked through the tunnel the last time — it’s tough. We weren’t taught this way under Lovie (Smith, the Bears’ previous head coach).

    “‘We weren’t taught to do these things, and we stayed together as close-knit as we possibly could. You don’t have to like everybody, you don’t need to like everybody. But you have to respect everybody and go to work for those people. It’s unfortunate for everyone because it’s not the Chicago Bear way.’

    “The Chicago Bear way – is that when a kicker questions his head coach’s decisions?

    “The Chicago Bear way – is that when Briggs misses a practice the week of the first regular-season game to fly to California for the grand opening of his new restaurant? Let’s not get nostalgic. Almost from the start, the pining for the Lovie era by veterans undercut Trestman’s ability to do his job.”

    I consider Gould’s comments not just to be a betrayal to the team and the coaching staff but a form of cowardice. With Trestman having one foot out the door, the odds were good that there would be no repercussions for Gould.

Elsewhere

One Final Thought

David Haugh at the Chicago Tribune has been sharply critical of virtually everything at Halas Hall for the last month and his reaction to the news that the Bears would go back to quarterback Jay Cutler after Jimmy Clausen came up with a concussion Sunday was no exception:

“[General manager Phil] Emery should have knocked at the door, asked [head coach Marc] Trestman to turn off his book on tape, and ordered the coach to start rookie David Fales against the Vikings. If Trestman refused, Emery should have fired him — something likely to happen next Monday anyway.”

It’s not that simple and Haugh knows it. It’s easy to say that but you still have an entire team that needs to believe that the organization is still trying to win on Sunday. Even more, if Fales isn’t ready to start then you could do quite a bit more harm than good throwing him into the fire. Its worth noting that both Wiederer and Rich Campbell also disagree with Haugh.

I don’t like the idea of starting Cutler. I thought Clausen had a chance of beating the Vikings but I don’t think Cutler will be able to do anything different against what is sure to be the kind of defense that has had him snake bitten all year – the kind that Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer as much as said he should have played after the last game. I thought Clausen was beginning to do some of the things that are necessary to break out of it, even if it was only the last game at stake. But you have to do what you have to do and Cutler probably does give them a better chance to win, small as those chances may be.

Having said all that, I’m not the kind of horrible person who would wish injury on anyone but I must admit that there is a part of me that would like to see something else happen that might allow us to see something of Fales on Sunday. As it is, I think we are all in for another frustrating afternoon of watching Cutler and the Bears offense flounder.

Posted in Chicago Bears, Detroit Lions, Minnesota Vikings, Points of View | Leave a comment

Game Comments: Lions at Bears 12/21/14

Offense

  1. I wasn’t very happy with the body language I saw from Martellus Bennett early. I got the impression that he wasn’t too happy with the new offensive situation with Jimmy Clausen at quarterback. I don’t know if he figured Clausen wasn’t going to be any good or if he figured he wasn’t going to get the ball enough from him but his attitude left something to be desired.
  2. The Bears stuck mostly to quick little passes and screens. Part of that was to protect Clausen, I’m sure. In that respect the pass protection wasn’t good but considering the opponent and the loss of Kyle Long, it could have been worse. Clausen was notably better under pressure than we were led to believe by the press during the week.
  3. There was decent balance with the play calling as the Bears did try to run the ball. Not surprisingly they didn’t have much success, especially up the middle. But they didn’t abandon it until late in the game.
  4. I really thought Jimmy Clausen looked OK. He was hurt by all of the dropped passes but most of them were reasonably accurate. I thought maybe he was a bit out of sync with his receivers, especially early, but that’s natural. I think Clausen earned another start.
  5. I note one particular drop by Marquess Wilson on 3rd and long in the second quarter that would have gotten the Bears into field goal range. The Lions let them off the hook by roughing the punter on the next play, giving the Bears another set of downs. But what was interesting was that Wilson dropped the pass in part because it was in the air before he turned around. That’s the kind of thing modern NFL quarterbacks have to do and its the kind of thing Jay Cutler couldn’t do. Next game hopefully Wilson will be more ready.
  6. Clausen seems to spread the ball around a bit more than Cutler, including Wilson more often. At some point you’d like to see Josh Morgan get a pass.
  7. That was about the worst game I hope we ever see Alshon Jeffery have. He didn’t time it very well as a good day from him could have been the difference.

Defense

  1. The Bears got decent pressure on Matthew Stafford but, like last game, it was inconsistent. You can’t rush five guys and not get to the quarterback.
  2. The Bears played a lot of man-under and that allowed them to be much more physical with the Lions receivers, especially Calvin Johnson. I thought they had limited success. it was a lot better than that soft zone they tried to run last game.
  3. Give Kyle Fuller credit. He defended Calvin Johnson with limited success today but he competes like heck.
  4. Matthew Stafford had a really bad day. His accuracy was even more poor than some of his decisions were.
  5. To my eye the defense was better against the run this week. I think the young linebackers showed up and had a good game.
  6. The most notable failure of the defense was getting off the field on third down and fourth down. The Lions kept them out there way too long and eventually wore them down late in the fourth quarter.

Miscellaneous

  1. I watched the game from a bar and I couldn’t hear Joe Buck and Troy Aikman. But if they spent the whole game asking themselves, “What the hell are we doing here?” I wouldn’t blame them. Meanwhile the Packers were stuck with Ronde Barber and Chris Myers. At least it wasn’t David Diehl.
  2. Special teams weren’t too bad. The very first play was a penalty but take away that and it was OK. The blocked field goal kept them in the game. What was the deal with the pooch kick to start the second half?
  3. There were an awful lot of dropped passes by both teams. Golden Tate had a bad drop in the third quarter that forced the Lions to kick a field goal. Wilson had his share. Bennett also had one early. But the king of the drops for the Bears was Alshon Jeffery. He should be totally ashamed of himself.
  4. Way too many penalties on both sides. The most notable was a very damaging pass interference call on Tim Jennings in the fourth quarter that led to the game winning touchdown.
  5. The Bears did well with turnovers but the Lions gave away the first half with three including two Matthew Stafford interceptions and one muffed punt. They did their best to give the game away.
  6. I wish the Bears had taken the field goal at the beginning of the second quarter rather than going for it on fourth down. They were only down by a touchdown and those points would have been a valuable lift.
  7. As you might expect, the most obnoxious fans in the bar were the Packer fans. Meanwhile I sat in my little corner watching the continued development of Teddy Bridgewater against the Dolphins on the screen right next to the Bears game. Some will remember this as being the Packer’s year. But long term the emergence of Bridgewater will be the far more important development and it may have repercussions in the division for many years to come. We’ll get another close look at him next week.’
  8. I’ll give the Bears credit for giving a credible performance this game but you have to note that the Lions gave them a lot of help. A better team would have beaten them at home after getting the gift of 3 turnovers. If I had to peg one memorable, negative factor in the loss it was the killer dropped passes. If I had to point to one positive it was the performance of some of the younger players on defense who showed a little moxey today. Clausen’s performance would be a close second. Let’s hope the players around him do better after a full week of practice with him.
Posted in Chicago Bears, Detroit Lions, Game Comments | Leave a comment

The “Serial” Murder of Bears Season and Other Points of View

Bears

  • Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune thinks Monday’s debacle was finally the end for Bears head coach Marc Trestman. Its the first time all year the veteran reporter has said so and he’s probably the reporter in town whose opinion I have the most faith in when it comes to these sorts of things:

    Aaron Kromer, spared for the time being, seems destined to go down with Trestman as well at the end of this season, which mercifully is less than two weeks off.”

    “(null)”

    “Those in league circles have reserved serious doubt over the last two months that the Bears would move on from Trestman after only two seasons — and with two seasons remaining on his contract. It’s not the way the McCaskeys have conducted business in the past. Heck, they brought back Dave Wannstedt after a four-win season in his fifth year. But things were never this out of kilter when Wannstedt was in charge.”

    No matter what the Bears do, no matter how many coaches or GMs they fire or don’t fire, they’re going nowhere as long as Jay Cutler stays. I can’t imagine they’ll eat that unfortunate contract they signed him to earlier in the year but there will be no hope whatsoever that they’ll be better next year if they don’t.

  • Rich Campbell at the Chicago Tribune on general manager Phil Emery‘s pre-game comments:

    Emery was extremely angry about the Kromer situation. His comments during the pre-game show on WBBM-AM (780) indicated as much. At the risk of misinterpreting them, it sure sounded as though he would not have been as lenient or forgiving as [head coach Marc] Trestman was in permitting [offensive coordinator Aaron] Kromer to remain on the staff.

    As I’ve said many times, GMs have no business commenting on the state of the team too often during the season. Generally the players need to hear one voice and that is the head coach’s. In this case Emery could do no good and a lot of harm by commenting. As it stands, most of Chicago is now under the impression that he is distancing himself from Trestman. Whether that is true or not, it does no one any good to communicate it and it leaves people with further proof of the organizational dysfunction that is becoming more and more evident under his watch.

  • Matt Bowen at the Chicago Tribune offers the insight into the Bears situation that comes with being a former player:

    “To be honest, players want to be held accountable. They want to be pushed, challenged. That’s how they improve and it resonates throughout the building when poor performances are deemed unacceptable.”

    Somewhere along the line I think Marc Trestman got the impression that NFL players would hold themselves accountable without interference from him. Probably in an ideal world, that would be the case. Sadly, it doesn’t seem to match reality. That should have been evident way back in September when linebacker Lance Briggs decided to take the day off to open a restaurant. If it was, it was probably too late by then to do anything about it.

  • Biggs addresses Kyle Long‘s situation with the team and wonders if they’ll ever move him from guard to tackle:

    “[Ndamukong] Suh, who the Lions will attempt to re-sign in free agency, isn’t the only three-technique tackle in the NFC North to concern the Bears. The Packers’ Mike Daniels and Vikings’ Sharrif Floyd are emerging young talents.”

    “Teams construct rosters to have matchup advantages against division opponents and shifting Long to tackle would create a void for the Bears six times a season if Suh remains with the Lions.”

    That’s a good point. I’m a believer in the Marc Trestman/Aaron Kromer theory that teams should keep the pocket clean from the inside out with strong guards as the anchor of the line. I think I like Long where he is.

  • Defensive coordinator Mel Tucker on covering Calvin Johnson and, presumably, the other Lions receivers. Via Adam L. Jahns at the Chicago Sun-Times:

    “‘We have to play tighter coverage, be more disruptive on the routes and we have to hit the quarterback more,’ Tucker said. ‘We’ll work to get that done.”

    Too little too late but its nice that Tucker finally is adjusting to his situation. At the time of the first meeting he thought he could bring pressure on Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford and take care of the Lions receivers in soft coverage. That hasn’t worked all year, dating back to the preseason.

  • Hub Arkush at chicagofootball.com continues to lose my respect by taking cheap shots at the Bears for their decision to bench Cutler:

    “Ironically, Cutler with his 28 touchdowns, 18 interceptions and 89.5 passer rating rates a notch above Matthew Stafford, who has 19 touchdowns, 10 interceptions and an 87.8 rating. Stafford does have 157 yards on Cutler with 3,797 to Cutler’s 3,640.”

    “Perhaps that is why Stafford hasn’t been benched?”

    Arkush knows perfectly well that Cutler’s stats were accumulated in garbage time of horrendous losses. Often the games were close with very low scores at half largely because of the offense’s ineptitude. Cutler is a fantasy quarterback.

    You don’t have to agree with the Bears decision to go with Jimmy Clausen – there’s plenty of reason to be skeptical of Clausen. But these kinds of cheap arguments should be beneath Arkush.

One Final Thought

For those of you who haven’t seen this parody of the podcast, “Serial”, from Barstool Sports, you need to listen to it. We may never know who murdered the Bears.

Posted in Chicago Bears, Points of View | Leave a comment

Trestman to Exit on His Own Terms

Like David Haugh in my last post, Michael C. Wright at ESPN.com and I rarely see eye-to-eye. But I think he was spot on as he compares Marc Trestman‘s decision to bench Jay Cutler with a similar decision made by former Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio to bench Byron Leftwich for David Garrard in 2008:

“When Del Rio informed people inside the organization of the decision he’d long been wrestling with, the team’s assistants agreed — at least publicly — while folks on the personnel side, including former front-office boss James ‘Shack’ Harris, vehemently disagreed. The situation became so heated it forced a meeting with then team owner Wayne Weaver involving Del Rio and those on the personnel side against the move.

“Del Rio swayed Weaver to give him final say in that decision by making the argument that, ultimately, ownership holds the coach accountable whether the team is successful or not. So if Del Rio was going down, he wanted to do it with the man he preferred under center.

“That’s not to say that’s exactly what’s going on behind closed doors at Halas Hall. But with questions concerning Marc Trestman’s job security, if he is going to go down in flames, he’d likely prefer to do so with a quarterback he knows will execute the system the way he asks. As opposed to someone doing his own thing, which is what Cutler has done for the better part of the season — based on observations from NFL experts such as Trent Dilfer — leading to serious struggles and the quarterback leading the league in turnovers (24). “

Trestman’s problems aren’t entirely associated with Jay Cutler. The fact that he thought giving the players Wednesday off would help instill the needed discipline to help the team win against the Lions on Sunday is enough to tell you that. But I’m reasonably certain that he can coach quarterbacks. And the bet here is that he’d like to prove that before its all over. In that respect, I think the media asked the wrong question yesterday in Trestman’s press conference. Via Rich Campbell and Dan Wiederer at the Chicago Tribune:

“Trestman on whether he’d view any potential success by [Jimmy] Clausen as a validation of his offensive system:

“‘I’m not looking to try to do anything but help our football team win a game.'”

At this point any success that Clausen has should be viewed as validation of Trestman simply as a quarterback coach. Trestman can’t possibly be coaching him to do the things he’s doing. Whether he admits it or not, there has to be something inside of Trestman that will say, “See? I know what I’m doing. It’s just the guy I’m coaching that’s the problem.”

So when Hub Arkush at chicagofootball.com asks “Is there anyone out there who actually believes the Bears would have performed better last Monday night if Clausen had been under center?” my answer is, “Yes, I do.” I don’t buy weak attempts at defending Cutler like this one from Mark Potash at the Chicago Sun-Times:

“Cutler did not play well this season, but Trestman’s offense seemed to put more pressure on Cutler to be something he’s not instead of taking the pressure off Cutler and giving him room to breathe and margin for error. In four of the Bears’ five victories this season, Cutler has thrown a combined eight touchdowns and no interceptions. The only time the Bears won with Cutler throwing an interception was against the Vikings, when Cutler threw three touchdown passes and two interceptions in a 21-13 victory.

“Trestman did what most coaches do with Cutler — he played to his perceived strengths instead of his actual strengths. Cutler has been effective rolling out and in a no-huddle offense. He’s been good when the Bears have a solid running game. But the Bears didn’t emphasize any of those tacks for most of the season.”

Perhaps Potash could point out how Trestman was supposed to run the ball “effectively” with an offensive line that couldn’t block it. Or perhaps he could point to the cases where teams won consistently with a quarterback who had to roll out, literally eliminating half the field from the play, in order to feel comfortable running an NFL offense.

Cutler was a complete mess on Monday night – as bad as any quarterback I’ve seen play for the Bears. And that’s pretty bad. He was inaccurate and confused, holding the ball and at times panicking at the sight of his own shadow.

Yes, how much of an improvement Clausen will be is an open question but I think there’s a reasonable chance he could do better. Trestman deserves to be able to show that much.

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Cutler’s Benching a Question of Trust

David Haugh at the Chicago Tribune and I rarely agree on anything. But I thought this little bit from his column Friday morning after Jay Cutler‘s press conference following his benching was insightful:

“Cutler again flashed the charisma of a guy who appeared more relieved than emotionally wrecked after being benched for the first time in his life. That doesn’t mean Cutler took the news well.”

Haugh was thinking of the sense of relief that comes with now being almost on the outside looking in on a situation where the stress that comes with change permeates the air. There’s probably some of that. But I’ll bet Cutler is also relieved for a different reason.

Cutler has to know that he hasn’t been performing well and he certainly has to know that he isn’t doing what the coaching staff wants him to do. I doubt very much that he trusts anyone associated with the offense to be where they need to be on the field at a given time and that lack of trust isn’t allowing him to be an NFL quarterback in the modern sense. One that throws the ball before a wide reciever comes open, not after. One that can look down field for longer than it takes to glance at his firs read without looking at the pass rush. It seems to me like Cutler is completely unable to overcome those feelings of distrust to do his job. Indeed his biggest problem is that he’s always been completely unable to do so. Upon considering his situation, Cutler’s probably as glad as anyone that he doesn’t have to haul himself out there to struggle with those demons yet again this Sunday.

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Game Comments: Saints at Bears 12/15/14

Offense

  1. The Bears came out seemingly determined to run the ball. This time both in word and in deed. Three of the first five plays were runs. The sixth play was a nice play action.

  2. Cutler was really inaccurate to start the game. He also had a really hard time letting go of the ball. He had a horrible game. He’s timid, he’s confused, he’s a complete mess right now.

  3. Given Cutler’s state of inaccuracy, it was fortunate that the Saints had trouble filling gaps on the run defense. It was a contest to see who could be more inept – the Bears blocking or the Saints run defense. Eventually the Saints started crashing the line and penetrating to stop the run and Forte struggled. They had little to worry about in terms of the passing game from Cutler.

  4. The Bears offensive line didn’t help Cutler out much as they had a pretty bad game in protection against the Saints blitzes.

Defense

  1. The Bears mixed it up but played a lot of man-to-man on the Saints offense. The coverage generally wasn’t very good. The Bears are bad in the defensive backfield right now.

  2. The Bears struggled to stop the screen play and, really, that single play was responsible for their scoring opportunities early as the were pretty incompetent running everything else.

  3. The Bears also struggled to get pressure on Drew Brees. Brees generally looked comfortable and he generally performed like it.

  4. And, again, the Bears struggled with misdirection plays as the Saints took advantage of the young defense trying to be aggressive.

  5. Kyle Fuller had a flat out bad game here. He’s either hurt or regressing badly. In fairness he was matched up a lot on Jimmy Graham.

  6. Some really poor tackling out there.

  7. The Saints don’t seem to run the ball much and I was surprised they didn’t challenge the Bears more on the ground. I thought they had reasonable success when they did.

  8. I don’t know who had Josh Hill on the Saints first touchdown of the second half but it was yet another broken coverage, something that’s been all too frequent this year. Ryan Mundy had him but looked like he thought he was passing him off to someone else on the play that he thought was behind him.

Miscellaneous

  1. Mike Tirico was his usual professional self. Jon Gruden was a disappointment. He sounded like he hadn’t done his homework and had mailed in this performance to some extent. There was a lot of off the cuff BS’ing going on. Tirico made most of the good points. Gruden’s contract extension with ESPN wasn’t good news if that’s the way he’s going to perform every week.

  2. The Saints botched a field goal but, being gentlemen, the Bears gave them another shot at it with a holding call by Jared Allen. The Saints missed the second attempt and I swear circus music started playing in my head.

    The Bears also ran a really poor fake punt in the second quarter. not only did it fail but they only had 10 men on the field.

    Patrick O’Donnell had a good game. There were some good kick off returns as well as the Saints kicker had a tough time kicking it deep.

  3. There weren’t many out right drops as Cutler made virtually every pass a difficult one to catch. The Saints did well here, too.

  4. There were an unbelievable number of penalties on both sides. Special teams had a penalty on the very first kick off of the game starting the offense inside the 10 yard line.

    Kyle Fuller had a damaging pass interference call at the end of the first quarter. That led to a touchdown.

  5. Jay Cutler was intercepted on the very first series on a pretty bad pass. The Saints gave it back two plays later on a fumble by Nick Toon. Great start. Cutler’s interception was the first of many and a better team than the Saints would have put up even more points than they did.

  6. On behalf of Chicago Bears fans everywhere we’d like to apologize to the rest of the league for subjecting you to this. Let’s all hope the networks will let the Bears and their fans suffer alone in quiet dignity on Sunday afternoons next season.

Posted in Chicago Bears, Game Comments, New Orleans Saints | 1 Comment