The Bears Reasonable Approach to Free Agency and Other Points of View

Bears

  • Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune gives the details of the Bears first three free agent signings of 2015. The interested observer will note that each of these contracts is about as front-loaded as you could make them. None has a great deal of guaranteed money past the second year.

These signings look like the type that are meant to allow maximum flexibility once the prospects which they will supposedly be developing come into their own. They’re also meant to spend the 2015 cap space that the Bears have available essentially as quickly as possible. The Bears definitely aren’t looking to buy a championship anymore. At least not this year. Hopefully they’ll leave some room to negotiate an extension with Alshon Jeffery and possibly Matt Forte. I understand the reluctance to extend Forte yet another deal at his age but he’s been very healthy and he’s still the most productive all around player this team has.

  • Speaking of Forte, Rich Campbell at the Chicago Tribune asks (and answers) the following question:

    “Now that Jay Cutler has been named the starter, how can the Bears prop him up?

    “Pace and new coach John Fox have hammered the importance of a strong running game and good defense.”

    Continuing the theme of how the offense is changing, Biggs makes some good points:

    “[Eddie] Royal gives [offensive coordinator Adam] Gase a receiver who can run option routes and crossing routes and be an underneath target as part of a combination. He can be in the flat when [Alshon] Jeffery is running a curl or corner route. Royal can be lined up tight to the alignment with Martellus Bennett, who can run high with Royal running low. They are two-level reads for Cutler the Bears didn’t have last year.”

    Yeah, sure, I get it. And with a running game you can add play action. Before you know it, you have a big boy NFL offense.

    The question is, “do the Bears have the personnel to run one?”. Campbell calls adding a running attack a “quick fix” because the Bears have Forte but I’m thinking the Bears aren’t going to be able to do this without doing some serious shuffling along the offensive line. The one thing former Bears head coach Marc Trestman didn’t do was emphasize things that he didn’t think his players could do. I think they didn’t run the ball more is because he didn’t think they could block it.

    The new blocking scheme will add an interesting wrinkle here and its possible that the finesse blockers the Bears have up front will do better with it. We’ll see.

  • On a related note, Biggs is reporting that the Bears are making a run at Dolphins free agent center Samson Satele. I’m a little iffy on whether this would be a clear upgrade or not. Satele is a smallish center who had a reasonably good start to 2014 but his performance apparently fell off late in the year. Satele is younger than current Bears center Roberto Garza and if the Bears sign him, Garza might move to right guard and kick Kyle Long to the outside at left tackle.

Center Stefen Wisniewski is being considered by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Seahawks per Kevin Patra at NFL.com. I thought maybe the Bears would make a run at him but there’s no apparent interest.

  • Adam L. Jahns at the Chicago Sun-Times reports the excitement that Bears head coach John Fox felt when he watched quarterback Jimmy Clausen‘s snaps last year:

    “So I’ve seen a guy that’s matured. I watched his one start [and] a lot of preseason snaps that he was involved in, and I’ve seen him grow as a quarterback.”

    Whatever else you think of former Bears head coach Marc Trestman, he seems to have been a pretty good quarterbacks coach. You have to wonder if Clausen will regress under new quarterbacks coach Dowell Loggains. Some will recall that Loggains pushed for the Browns to draft Johnny Manziel over Teddy Bridgewater, then coached him to some of the most miserable quarterback play the league has ever seen. The Browns apparently fired him for it.

    It’s still a quarterback driven league. I don’t think its a coincidence that the Packers coaching staff is always loaded with former quarterbacks coaches. You have to wonder if the Bears have the support on staff that’s needed to maximize what they can get out of theirs.

  • Hub Arkush at chicagofootball.com has personal experience with new Bears safety Antrel Rolle and says that we can expect him to be a vocal leader in the locker room that they’ve been missing.
  • Campbell continues to speculate about where the pieces are going to fit on defense:

    Jeremiah Ratliff and Ego Ferguson project as nose tackles in the 3-4, so the need to draft Washington’s Danny Shelton, for example, is smaller than how much a top-flight edge-rush prospect could help.

    Jon Bostic stands out as a leading candidate for playing time at inside linebacker, but few others do. And the Bears still are searching for big-bodied 3-4 defensive ends.”

    An awful lot of this depends upon what type of 3-4 the Bears decide to play. If its the classic, 2-gap type then I’m not entirely convinced that Ratliff won’t play defensive end. Certainly he’ll play a great deal of outside linebacker but Houston will probably see a great deal of time there. They’ll probably also try Will Sutton there.

    In any case, I’m saying that defensive line is one of, if not the top, needs that the Bears have. I’m also going to say that I’d hate to see the Bears pass on Shelton, especially to take an edge rusher where the Bears have all kinds of options. My gut tells me Shelton’s a player with that rare and possibly necessary body type and, especially if Ratliff plays more end, they’re going to want a good nose guard.

Elsewhere

  • Ben Goessling at ESPN on the Vikings acquisition of wide receiver Mike Wallace and the release of Greg Jennings:

    “Wallace seemed like a good fit for Norv Turner’s vertical passing game, more so than a 32-year-old Jennings did, but Jennings still was an effective enough slot receiver, a fine route-runner and a trusted adviser for younger wideouts that it looked like he could return in 2015. All that wasn’t worth $11 million in cap space to the Vikings, though, especially when they could save $6 million by releasing him.”

    “Wallace is no sure thing, either, after his relationship with the coaching staff fractured in Miami, but he’s three years younger, a few tenths in the 40-yard dash faster and a better schematic match for what the Vikings are doing now. “

    No, Wallace certainly isn’t a sure thing. But the odds are that Vikings offensive coordinator Norv Turner will find a better way to use him to his abilities than they did in Miami. On the other hand, Turner had an obvious problem with Jennings, opting to call receiver Charles Johnson the best on the team after the season “by far”. So that’s addition by subtraction there.

    Its hard not to like what’s going on in Minnesota right now. You wonder in quarterback Teddy Bridgewater‘s second season if they aren’t going to be ready to contend with the Packers. Again via Goessling:

    “‘I think you saw the receivers did some good things last year, but you saw us start evolving in the offense, because it’s the first year in the system, too,’ general manager Rick Spielman said Friday night, after the Vikings treated free-agent defensive end Michael Johnson to dinner. ‘And you saw how much more comfortable Teddy was, especially down the stretch. And they start developing that chemistry. Now, getting another big-play potential threat, as our young guys continue to develop, that’s kind of the direction we wanted to go.’ “

    Bottom line, the Vikings are worth watching.

  • Goessling also comments on the Adrian Peterson situation:

    “[A]s I understand it, the relationship between Peterson and the team might not even be the biggest concern at this point. The running back went, in very short order, from being a beloved figure in Minnesota to a pariah, as sponsors retreated and legislators heaped scorn on the Vikings for their initial decision to play Peterson following his indictment for child injury charges. He was stung by a Minneapolis Star Tribune investigation into his past, and claimed it did not take into account Peterson’s steps to clean up both his personal life and financial misappropriations in his charitable foundation. And he certainly heard the people — fans, media members and public figures alike — who called for the Vikings to end their relationship with him. It’s important to note all of these events are down the river from Peterson’s initial actions. His excessive discipline of his son initiated this, and Peterson has expressed regret for his actions in several interviews.”

    People are generally the same everywhere but the people of the state of Minnesota tend to be odder birds than most. Its a reasonably liberal state with strong notions of right and wrong. Its easy to believe that they were particularly hard on Peterson. Maybe too hard.

    Heaven knows its nice to see a fan base that doesn’t just roll over and forgive every action just because it was perpetrated by a star athlete. But Minnesota may be one of the few areas in the country that will never forgive Peterson no matter how sorry he is. I still think he’ll be back there. But its possible that he’ll eventually conclude that he has to force himself into a friendlier situation.

  • One of the free agents to keep an eye on in the secondary free agent market is Tramon Williams. The Packers already lost Davon House to Jacksonville and Rob Demovsky at ESPN says that they’d like to have Williams back. But at age 32 there’s a limit to what they’re going to offer him.

Williams is a possibility for the Bears but they’ve probably got their corners set with Tim Jennings on one side and Kyle Fuller on the other. And if they were going to sign a corner of a certain age it might as well be Charles Tillman.

  • Dan Hanzus at NFL.com points out that when it rains, it pours:

    “This time last year, [Jadeveon] Clowney was on top of the world. A college hero, combine wonder and soon-to-be No. 1 overall pick in the NFL draft. Since then there’s been a hernia surgery, concussion and two knee surgeries that have put his career in jeopardy. And now this

    “SportsRadio 610 has learned that Clowney was bitten by teammate D.J. Swearinger‘s pit bull last week. Police records obtained describe a bite to Clowney’s right arm that sent him to a Pearland emergency room. The incident occurred in the early morning of March 4th.”

  • Hanzus also notes that there were 11 people in the Dolphins photo when Ndamukong Suh signed his contract and none of them was named Joe Philbin. It turned out that Philbin was in the gallery “probably next to some schlub columnist who calls for his firing on a weekly basis. It’s just a matter of time before Joe’s desk is in the basement.”
  • According to Michael Rothstein at ESPN there’s a distinct possibility that the Lions will be moving to the 3-4 defense this year. Even with new defensive tackle Haloti Ngata (who might fit a 304 better) the Lions are desperately short of tackles on the roster who are signed for 2015.
  • The more I read about Colorado State quarterback Garrett Grayson, the more I wonder if he’s the guy the Bears (or someone else) trades back into the first round to get. From Sharon Katz at ESPN.
  • TMZ is claiming to have video of Seattle runningback Marshawn Lynch in a scuffle outside of a San Francisco bar.
  • Rumors persist that Chip Kelly acquired Sam Bradford as a bargaining chip to get to a position to draft Marcus Mariota. This time its Josina Anderson at ESPN doing the reporting:

    I still don’t think he can make it high enough into the draft order to pull it off (if he actually is trying at all).

  • The Giants are getting desperate for safety help now that Rolle has signed with the Bears. There isn’t much out there. Via Josh Alper at profootballtalk.com.
  • Mike Reiss at ESPN considers the alternatives for New England now that Reggie Bush has signed with San Francisco. I’d worry less about that and more about the potential absence of Vince Wilfork in the middle if I were them. Good nose tackles for that defense don’t grow on trees, something that the Bears might want to remember as they switch to the 3-4.

One Final Thought

Gregg Rosenthall at NFL.com considers the Bears to be one of free agency’s losers so far:

“Royal getting $10 million guaranteed was a head scratcher. And Pernell McPhee could be the latest Ravens defender to look a lot different away from Baltimore. It’s also hard to get excited about a team that is so openly ambivalent about its starting quarterback.”

This is a decidedly pessimistic view, of course. Technically Cutler’s situation had nothing to do with free agency. And McPhee could just as easily turn out to be Paul Kruger as Dannell Ellerbe.

Royal fills a gap in the offense. Yeah, it was too much guaranteed money. Apparently the Bears think Royal is Danny Amendola. For all we know he might be but we’ll never find out because Cutler isn’t Tom Brady. Anyway all of that guaranteed money is in the first two years. Which means that if he doesn’t work out the Bears could free themselves of that contract without a cap penalty when they’ve developed a draft pick to replace him.

Personally, I would have been disappointed had the Bears been more aggressive than they were the first week of free agency. This team needs to get younger and start developing prospects rather than overspending and selling out to win immediately. If the last couple years taught us anything its that you can’t buy a championship.

Posted in Chicago Bears, Cleveland Browns, Detroit Lions, Green Bay Packers, Houston Texans, Miami Dolphins, Minnesota Vikings, New England Patriots, Philadelphia Eagles, Seattle Seahawks | Leave a comment

Podcasting with Next Fan Up

It was my pleasure to join the inaugural episode of Next Fan Up, a new podcast put together by former ESPN producer Jay Soderberg.  You can listen here:

Next Fan Up – produced by Jay “Pod Vader” Soderberg -… • /r/eagles

or subscribe to the podcast here:

http://blogtalkradio.com/nextfanup/podcast

Lots of fun.  I’ll be joining other representatives from the NFC North in an episode which concentrates more on news around the division in a few weeks.

Posted in Chicago Bears | Leave a comment

Not the Only Thing. Thank Goodness. And Other Points of View.

Bears

  • The signing of new outside linebacker/defensive lineman Pernell McPhee reminded me ominously of the Lamarr Houston. The description of the versatility of each was so similar it was chilling. But Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune put me more at ease as he describes the history of previous Baltimore rejects:

    “Former Ravens Arthur Jones (Colts), Paul Kruger (Browns) and Dannell Ellerbe (Dolphins) all left for big paydays elsewhere the last two years. Total it up and they signed for $108.5 million with $43 million guaranteed on the way out of Baltimore. Ellerbe will reportedly be released in Miami. Jones was a solid player up front for the Colts last year and Kruger followed 41/2 sacks in 2013 with 11 this past season in Cleveland.”

    “Kruger was more than a system player for the Ravens and McPhee, who has terrific size at 6-foot-3, 280 pounds, is a better pass rusher. Kruger can’t put his hand in the dirt and rush like McPhee.”

    Rich Campbell at the Chicago Tribune comforts me a bit as well on this signing by quoting general manager Ryan Pace:

    “‘I don’t think it’s a scheme thing where he’s getting this production — he’s beating his man one on one,’ Pace said at Halas Hall. ‘What’s exciting about him is it might be a tackle, it might be a guard, it might be a center. He’s all over the place winning one-on-one matchups.'”

    We have to hope that he’s more Kruger than Ellerbe. But at least there’s a history of singing these free agents with success and Pace’s reasoning seems sound.

  • Biggs reports that the Bears appear to be playing it smart in free agency, looking for moderately priced bargains. These guys won’t be play makers but they’ll fill holes until the draft can replenish their young talent.
  • Mark Potash at the Chicago Sun-Times when asked if the Bears are rebuilding:

    “They’re rebuilding on the fly, which means they’re reconstructing their defense from the ground up, but still could contend if they stay healthy. Their offense was second in the NFL in points in 2013. They’re missing Brandon Marshall from that equation. But if he’s truly addition by subtraction, the Bears at least have the chance to contend in an NFL where almost every team’s expectations are fluid.”

    I disagree. There’s no way the Bears will contend for anything while transitioning to a 3-4 defense. They have square pegs fitting round holes all over the place and you can’t sign enough free agents to fill all the holes.

    The Bears built false hope amongst the fan base last year that they had a team that could go to the Super Bowl. Here’s hoping this regime is smart enough to control expectations. This team belongs near the bottom of the division next year.

  • Adam L. Jahns at the Chicago Sun-Times responds to “The Bears will fail in free agency if” with this surprising answer:

    “A quality receiver isn’t signed. Brandon Marshall’s production may be overblown, but the Bears still need help at the position. Pace wants to address needs in free agency to allow for taking the best player available in the draft. So it’s best to find a receiver, too, while still addressing the defense.”

    With needs all over the defense, I didn’t expect Jahns to push for an offensive player. But he’s got a point. You could argue that the Bears need two receivers and the odds are that they couldn’t take more than one in the draft.

  • Jeff Dickerson at ESPN passes on the rumor that the Bears have serious interest in Terrance Knighton. Knighton is a classic 2-gap, space eating nose tackle and such a signing would be an indication of what kind of 3-4 defense the Bears plan to run.
  • Rich Campbell at the Chicago Tribune indicates that the bears are in the bidding for center Sefen Wisniewski. Signing him might mean moving Roberto Garza to right guard, Kyle Long to left tackle and Jermon Bushrod to right tackle. That’s a shuffle that will make a lot of Bears fans who have been calling for the Long move happy.

Elsewhere

One Final Thought

David Haugh at the Chicago Tribune didn’t think much of the rumor that the Bears were interested in trading Jay Cutler for 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick

“Kaepernick drove the Niners crazy with the same inconsistency and inaccuracy that defined Cutler’s season. Kaepernick’s contract contains more outs than Cutler’s, but would a team give up draft picks for a starting quarterback without making a commensurate financial commitment? A younger quarterback prone to similar poor judgment would represent change merely for the sake of change, not to mention the draft picks the Bears likely would have to give up in any package for Kaepernick.”

The difference is, of course, that Kaepernick has the mental attitude of a winner and Cutler is the text book definition of a loser.

People in the media defending Cutler over a weak free agent crop is understandable. I don’t agree with it but its understandable. But defending him over a proven winner like Kaepernick is insane.

I think Rick Morrissey at the Chicago Sun-Times probably has the best handle on the situation:

“My head has told me for years that Cutler isn’t the answer for the Bears. My head told me that they should have cut ties with him this week. The argument we’ve been hearing for years – ‘Who are you going to find who’s better than Jay?’’ — isn’t an argument at all. It’s a capitulation. It’s defeatist thinking. It’s spinning your wheels and convincing yourself that you’re getting somewhere.

“If your job is to evaluate football players for a living and you’re confident in your abilities, you should be able to come to two conclusions after putting Cutler on a microscope slide:

“I can’t win with this guy.”

Having said that, Steve Rosenbloom at the Chicago Tribune at least makes me feel a little better about the current regime at Halas Hall, if not about the decision to stick with Cutler in 2015:

“[As] many times as we’ve lived this news conference, the thing that came through this time was the lack of love for Cutler from Pace and Fox.

“That’s a welcome change if they weren’t going to change quarterbacks.

“Past regimes cast Cutler as a franchise quarterback. They marveled at the physical skills and his knowledge of the game. They dreamed big dreams.

“And they got a nightmare.

“A nightmare that will continue with the quarterback who led the NFL in turnovers.

“Pace and [head coach JohnFox, however, sounded more like they were stuck with the $126.7 million quarterback than they won the lottery.”

I’m entering the stage of acceptance over this. The biggest problem is that, if you’re a fan that has any hope at all that the team can quickly turn it around this year, your season is already over in March. It’s not that the Bears can’t win games with Cutler at quarterback – they can. But I think it’s well established now that, for instance, they aren’t going to win a playoff game. Effectively the success of the team will always be capped as long as Cutler is here.

So now it’s all about watching the team develop. Development of the new schemes on offense and defense. Development and evaluation of new players and old. It’s about learning more and more about the nuances of the game.

Vince Lombardi once said, “Winning isn’t everything. It’s the only thing.” For the Bears, it’s not really too much about winning anymore.

Posted in Chicago Bears, Green Bay Packers, Points of View, San Francisco 49ers | Leave a comment

Insanity

No one ever said that you have to be completely mentally balanced to play in the National Football League. And Matt Slauson is a stark, raving lunatic. Via Dan Cahill at the Chicago Sun-Times:

“[Jay Cutler] can be every bit of a Tom Brady, a Peyton Manning, an Aaron Rodgers. He can be them, if not more.”

And, of course, Kyle Long isn’t far behind:

“‘We’re all on board in our room with who our quarterback is and we have been for quite some time,’ Long said. ‘He’s the guy with the talent who can get it done and I feel like if we put the right kind of pieces around him and implement the right kind of offense, Jay will be set up to have a lot of success.'”

Doesn’t have the right pieces… doesn’t have the right kind of offense… heard those before, Kyle.

Perhaps Biggs put it best when commenting on the Bears decision to stick with Cutler in 2015:

“At some point, the franchise will introduce Fox’s coaching staff and there will be talk about how coordinator Adam Gase‘s system is going to bring out the best in Cutler’s immense physical abilities. That’s the plan. That was what Marc Trestman/Aaron Kromer, Mike Tice, Mike Martz and Ron Turner tried. They will talk about Cutler’s comfort level with quarterbacks coach Dowell Loggains, with whom he has a relationship. Remember Jeremy Bates?”

The definition of “insanity” is to keep trying the same things over and over again and expecting them to work. The world went bat shit crazy yesterday.

Posted in Chicago Bears | Leave a comment

Being of Two Minds and Other Points of View

Bears

  • David Haugh at the Chicago Tribune petty much sums up why Brandon Marshall isn’t a Bear:

    “The Bears questioned where Marshall’s focus was, or he never would have been dealt. According to [Bears head coach John] Fox‘s football glossary, Marshall qualifies as Pro Bowler more than Super Bowler, a point underscored when the wide receiver wondered in his first meeting with Fox and general manager Ryan Pace whether he could work for Showtime again on Tuesdays during the season. A Super Bowler would have volunteered to quit his part-time TV job and established himself as a team-first, me-second guy. That never happened because that’s not Marshall.”

    I’m still not totally convinced that Marshall couldn’t have simply been told, “No. No Showtime. I expect your Fall to be God, family and football 24 hours a day, seven days a week.” But I can’t hardly blame Fox and Bears general manager Ryan Pace for wanting players who don’t need to be told that. In fact, you could argue that if you need to be told, your commitment will never be completely there anyway.

    There’s a good part of me that does’t care much for this trade. The Bears are going to miss Marshall’s talent on the field. He certainly played like a warrior right down to the very end of a miserable season and, unlike some of the players on this team, he’s one guy that no one could accuse of lacking heart. The locker room tirades weren’t good but at least they were rooted in a desire to win.

  • Anyway Marshall won’t have to fly to New York on Tuesdays now. Marshall never really understood what the problem was with doing the show even as his own statements danced around the real issue. Via Patrick Finley at the Chicago Sun-Times:

    “‘What’s more detrimental: a guy that goes out Friday night, smokes, drinks, do all that stuff, out ’til 4, 5 in the morning?’ Marshall said last month. ‘Or a guy on his day off flying to New York, an hour and a half flight, talking a little football and coming back?’

    “The hardest part, he said, was the show’s ‘tough questions’ surrounding the Bears’ 5-11 season.

    “‘How do you answer those questions?’ he said. ‘How do you keep those boundaries between, ‘Hey, I’m on television,’ but the No. 1 priority is to keep the team first.'”

    It’s true that spending what was probably more like four or five hours on a plane every Tuesday wasn’t a big deal. What Marshall either didn’t understand or didn’t acknowledge is the distraction that his appearances undoubtedly were for him the rest of the week. The bet here is that if Marshall was honest with himself he’d realize that a part of his mind all week was thinking about how he was going to answer those “tough questions” on Tuesday. That’s a part that wasn’t concentrating on football.

  • Steve Rosenbloom at the Chicago Tribune characterizes Marshall on the way out the door as a “loser”. It’s a message that resonates with me if for no other reason than it’s something I’ve said in my criticism of of quarterback Jay Cutler many times. The Bears are reportedly talking to former Bears coaches and staff about Cutler. Here’s hoping they were as frank as their evaluation as they apparently were with Michael C. Wright at ESPN.com:

    “At least 10 former Chicago Bears staffers from the Lovie Smith and Marc Trestman regimes said recently they believe the team can’t consistently compete for championships as long as it fields a lineup with Jay Cutler under center.”

    “Two teammates, who also asked to remain anonymous for this story, characterized Cutler as a divisive figure with whom they’d rather not continue to play.”

    “One more former staffer said the Bears could win with Cutler as long as the coaches handcuff him to the system.

    “But that’s precisely what the staff did when Mike Martz served as offensive coordinator during the 2010 and ’11 seasons, according to another former coach, and Cutler and Martz were often at odds”

    “One staffer said that while Cutler was injured and Josh McCown was flourishing as the replacement in 2013, there was a significant faction in the locker room that believed the latter should’ve remained the starter. Another coach said that fairly early in the 2014 season, it was apparent the team had made two mistakes: (1) not re-signing McCown, and (2) continuing to stand behind Cutler after it was clear he was not going to consistently operate within the confines of Trestman’s offense.”

    “[E]very one of the former staffers interviewed from the Smith and Trestman regimes pointed out similar flaws in the quarterback. Two ‘R’ words — ‘renegade’ and ‘rogue’ — were often used by the former staffers when asked about Cutler’s ability to play within the confines of an offensive system.”

    This is just about the most damning article about Cutler I’ve ever seen. The only think that could make it worse is if the sources gave their names. Most of it confirms what I always thought except that I believe that Cutler not only refuses to operate within the confines of the offense, I’m pretty sure he’s simply not capable of it.

    Given that, as Wright also points out, general manager Ryan Pace is close to former offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer, who I think we can safely say did not have a high opinion of Cutler, I’ll believe Cutler will be back next year when I see it.

  • Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune wonders if a Cutler trade won’t follow on the heels of the Marshall deal:

    “One NFL source said the Titans are the only realistic destination in terms of a trade for Cutler. It would be something if Pace could move Cutler and his guaranteed salary of $15.5 million for 2015. The solution isn’t to start Jimmy Clausen, re-signed to a one-year contract Friday, or David Fales. But the Bears might believe the sooner they shed Cutler and begin the process of searching for their next quarterback, the better. They might desire as clean of a slate as possible, and moving on from Cutler after trading Marshall would sure accomplish that.”

    As anyone who reads this blog knows, it’s been my feeling for a long time now that this is exactly what the Bears should do. Despite Biggs statement about the Titans there’s a part of me that wonders if Eagles head coach Chip Kelly isn’t clearing cap space to be used in part for Cutler. He’s not ideal but he’s a better fit for that offense than the guys he currently has.  Admittedly that’s a long shot.

    However, it’s also possible that the Marshall trade was simply a message to Cutler – the two ‘R’ words used in the previous item to describe Cutler won’t be tolerated under the current regime. We’ll see how it all works out.

  • Take this report of the Bears interest in quarterback Marcus Mariota for what its worth.
  • John Mullin at csnchicago.com reviews the list of the Bears own free agents and one name popped up that I’d forgotten about: long snapper Jeremy Cain. The Bears might want to get Cain re-signed. I don’t think you want to be caught out without a reliable long snapper and to my eye, Cain made the grade last year.

One Final Thought

Former Bears safety Anthony Walters :

“‘Part of you loves when pain is inflicted on you,’ Walters said. ‘It’s a grown man’s sport. I remember if I got hit so hard or if I hit somebody so hard where there may have been a moment of wariness, I’m like, ‘Wow, that was exhilarating.’

“‘It’s almost a rush and it’s hard to explain that. That’s what we grow up loving.'”

Posted in Chicago Bears, New York Jets, Philadelphia Eagles, Points of View | Leave a comment

Some Combine Thoughts and Other Points of View

Bears

  • I considered this comment from Adam L. Jahns at the Chicago Sun-Times to be interesting news:

    “The Bears have plenty of defensive holes, but that doesn’t mean Pace and Co. are being narrow-minded.

    “Some offensive lineman at the combine said they were told that the Bears are looking for interior line help.”

    This makes me wonder if many fans are going to get their way and see Kyle Long moved to tackle. They also need a plan for the future at center.

  • And this report from John Mullin at csnchicago.com was interesting as well:

    “As part of their evaluation process for [Bears quarterback Jay] Cutler, the Bears are going beyond the usual video reviews and expected to be reaching out for thoughts from some of the very offensive coaches who lost jobs in part due to Cutler. That group includes coordinators Ron Turner, Mike Martz, Mike Tice and Aaron Kromer, plus former quarterbacks coaches Matt Cavanaugh and Pep Hamilton, now Andrew Luck’s offensive coordinator with the Indianapolis Colts, sources confirmed.”

    I’d love to be a fly on the wall during these conversations. I’d hope that at least a few of these guys would be willing to characterize Cutler as the hopeless loser that he is. But my guess is that most of them will be kinder than they should be. Mullin certainly seems to think that the comments will be more centered around how to get the best out of Cutler but he’s working under the assumption that Cutler will be around next year. I’m not.

Elsewhere

  • I thought this article from Mark Potash at the Chicago Sun-Times was going to be another one of those Jameis Winston Vs. Marcus Mariota columns. It wasn’t. In particular, this point about college quarterbacks who play in spread offenses was interesting:

    “It’s worth noting that two head coaches with stellar reputations for developing quarterbacks had polar opposite views on that subject.

    “‘I think it’s great training,’ the Packers’ [head coach Mike] McCarthy said. ‘There was a time when people felt that shotgun and all this wide-open offense in college would hinder a quarterback playing in the NFL because you had to teach them to get under center. The reality of it is pressure, third-down, key-situational football is the biggest challenge for a young quarterback. And I think these college programs have done an outstanding job of playing wide-open, asking the quarterbacks to do more and I think they’re much better prepared today than when I first got into the league.

    “Arians had a different viewpoint: ‘So many times, you’re evaluating a quarterback who has never called a play in the huddle, never used a snap count,’ [Cardinals head coach Bruce] Arians said. ‘They hold up a card on the sideline, he kicks his foot and throws the ball.

    “‘That ain’t playing quarterback. There’s no leadership involved there. There might be leadership on the bench, but when you get them and they have to use verbiage and they have to spit the verbiage out and change the snap count, they are light years behind.'”

    I find myself siding with McCarthy here. The things that Arians is emphasizing are things that can be taught to a conscientious student that works hard. I don’t think what McCarthy is talking about can.

  • Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune documents the many changes to the Packers this off-season. He quotes head coach Mike McCarthy on the matter.

    “When we had the opportunity to win the Super Bowl, I didn’t feel like, ‘Hey, let’s not change anything and keep going.’ I have seen it happen in the past. I have been part of that situation. I think you have to take each and every year and start over.”

    There is a large part of me that wonders if this wasn’t part of the problem for the Bears last year. Offensively I, at least, would have liked to have seen some different people on the line. You have to wonder if the lack of change on that side of the ball didn’t contribute at least a little to the stagnation that we saw there.

  • Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty doesn’t quite get it as he talks about being a college spread quarterback transitioning into a pocket passing league. Via John Mullin at csnchicago.com:

    “‘I am a pocket passer. I want to extend plays, extend plays within the pocket,’ Petty said. ‘That might be a little bit different than most spread quarterbacks who want to run it out of the pocket. For me, I feel like my game can translate easier in that and the fact that I want to play within the pocket and I want to extend plays within the pocket and beat you doing that.'”

    If desire to work out of the pocket was all that counted, there’d be all kinds of first and second day draft picks at the position. It isn’t about desire to extend plays by escaping the pocket. Lots of guys can do that. It’s about movement within the pocket to find throwing lanes while you are surrounded by men who are about 6’6″. It’s about being able to do that and that’s something that no one will know if you can do until you do it. It doesn’t help that most spread quarterbacks aren’t asked to do the other thing that’s absolutely essential – throw with anticipation.

  • Unlike people who have a life, I spend over 20 hours watching combine coverage on the NFL Network.  I don’t hold much with giving a prospect a lot more consideration because of a good combine performance.  But it is a good chance to learn something about the prospects by listening to what analyst Mike Mayock has to say about them. Here are a few observations:
  1. In my opinion there are four impact players at the top of this draft:  Leonard Williams, Winston, Dante Fowler, and Danny Shelton.  Of the four, only Shelton is likely to be there for the Bears.  He’s got a lot of phone booth quicks for his size and its obvious that he might even provide some pass rush.  If you are going to run a base 3-4 of the type that the Patriots run, requiring a big, 2-gapping nose guard, he’s your guy.
  2. Williams reminds me of a shorter version of Julius Peppers.  I consider that to be high praise.  If you listen to his peers, its well deserved.  When the defensive line prospects lined up for a picture, the photographer asked, “Whose going number 1?” in the same joking way that he might ask you or I to “say ‘cheese’”.  All of them pointed to Williams and said, “Leonard”.  That’s an endorsement you can take to the bank.
  3. The two most impressive quarterbacks whose name wasn’t Winston or Mariota were Bryan Bennett and Petty.  You could hear the ball whistle as it left Bennett’s hand and he really appears to be able to spin it.  Petty is what Mayock correctly called a “natural thrower”.  Both look to me like the kinds of guys who have the talent to develop into a starter if they have the right heads for the job.
  4. I was led to believe that one of Winston’s major problems was that his release was too long.  If it was, he solved it.  His release was quicker than Mariota’s.
  5. The tight ends are really supposed to be bad this year and never was that more evident than when you watched them go through the gauntlet drill.  The wide receivers run through this drill at speed and are often fluid, natural pass catchers.  Th tight ends ran through it at half speed and were dropping balls all over.  It was painful.
  6. Several mock drafts now have the Bears taking linebacker Vic Beasley.  Man, I hope not.  My impression of Beasley as I watched him play for Clemson was that he lacked instincts.  I’d hate to see him be taken by the Bears because of a good combine showing.
  7. I was a little insulted as Daniel Jeremiah posted his “franchise fits” for each defensive position group on Sunday.  The Bears should have been on every single list.

One Final Thought

Hub Arkush at chicagofootball.com opines this little piece of inconsistency:

Justin Houston, Demaryius Thomas, Dez Bryant, Jason Pierre-Paul, Stephen Gostkowski and Charles Clay will be staying in Kansas City, Denver, Dallas, New York, New England and Miami, respectively, as the only players to receive franchise or transition tags this season.

“The biggest impact of those decisions is almost every team is now considering offers for Ndamukong Suh and Devin McCourty, and it would be a real shame if the Bears weren’t in on both.”

Why inconsistent? Here’s what Hub said about the Bears just 2 weeks ago before the announcement that they were going base 3-4 defense. Hub’s point was that the Bears need to rebuild, going younger and relying primarily upon the draft to improve:

“Forget free agency. If they’re staying in a 4-3 long term, they should re-sign Stephen Paea. That’s about it.”

He’s also repeatedly argued that the Bears should keep Cutler essentially because a weak free agent market means Cutler gives them the best chance to win. Since when is that a priority in a rebuilding year? Don’t you start searching now for a replacement rather than wasting a year with a guy you know can’t do the job? Even in a weak market you might catch lightening in a bottle with a guy like Matt Moore. Since when has Brian Hoyer had the chance to play with anything close to the offensive talent the Bears have? In fairness to Hub, other media members have made this argument with similar degrees of inconsistency.

Hub had it right the first time. It’s time to rebuild through the draft and let other teams throw around the stupid money. Given that teams like the Jaguars and the Raiders literally have to spend money to meet the minimum cap requirements, the price for players like Suh and McCourty could be especially insane this year. There will be plenty of players left over to fill gaps in the team after the initial wave of free agency is over.

Posted in Chicago Bears, Green Bay Packers, Points of View | 1 Comment

A Scary Choice and Other Points of View

Bears

  • According to Rich Campbell at the Chicago Tribune cornerback Tim Jennings had minor arthroscopic surgery on his knee. He’s expected to be fine for the beginning of the Bears offseason workout program April 6. But then there’s this:

    “Jennings posted a tweet Thursday night asking his followers to pray for him. On Friday, he posted a picture of himself and alluded to the surgery. Those posts have since been deleted. The person with knowledge of the surgery would not confirm which knee required it.”

    If its a minor, routine procedure that won’t cause him to miss any time and, presumably, won’t affect his play much if at all, why all the secrecy?

  • I don’t know if this was assigned to Adam L. Jahns at the Chicago Sun-Times or if it was his own idea. But it has to be the worst example of lazy journalism I’ve ever seen.
  • John Mullin at csnchicago.com thinks its likely that the Bears will be selecting a pass rusher in the first round this year based upon the history of both head coach John Fox and defensive coordinator Vic Fangio. He also points out that this would fit former Bears great Richard Dent‘s “Rule of three” for building a defense. It certainly makes sense that the Bears would be looking for an impact player in this area (along with virtually everyone else).
  • Adam L. Jahns at the Chicago Sun-Times undertakes the down right depressing task of rating the Bears team needs. Perhaps not surprising, they’re all on defense. But let’s not sleep on offensive line, either. NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock doesn’t like Marcus Mariota in that spot (via Patrick Finley at the Chicago Sun-Times) but if the Bears like him, I can’t see how they take a pass on him.

    The good news is that with so many needs it won’t be hard to take the best impact player available at almost any position. Really, only running back is out of the question entirely with wide receiver and tight end being unlikely.

    The bad news is how perishingly little whatever pick they make is going to help. There’s lots of aging talent with little in the way of youth to provide hope for the future. Perhaps this is the dark before the dawn. But if it is, that sun may take a long while to break through.

  • Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune answers your questions.

    “If the Bears are switching to a 3-4 defense, which position is the most vital in the first round? Nose tackle, pass-rushing outside linebacker or safety? — @Aronw1A”

    “1. Dominant defensive end.”

    “2. Impact outside linebacker.”

    “3. Run-stopping nose tackle.”

    “4. Strong-side inside linebacker.”

    “5. Situational pass rushing defensive end.”

    I was very surprised at this ranking. I had always heard that nose tackle was the highest priority simply because good ones are so tough to find. And, of course, everyone emphasizes pass rush which comes largely from the outside linebacker in a 3-4. These are, indeed, the needs emphasized by Rich Campbell at the Chicago Tribune in this article.

    My guess is that Texans defensive end J.J. Watt had a big influence on the current thinking and that this list would have been different this time last year.

  • Steve Rosenbloom at the Chicago Tribune suggests that the Bears overpay Packers wide receiver Randall Cobb in free agency. I disagree. 1) The Bears are rebuilding and probably shouldn’t be signing anyone in free agency. 2) The Bears will never maximize the talent of a smaller speed receiver like Cobb with Jay Cutler at quarterback. He’s shown very well in the past that he can’t or won’t throw to such receivers.

    As Rosenbloom, himself, puts it:

    “The Bears don’t have [Packers quarterback Aaron] Rodgers, just to clarify. In fact, they have the anti-Rodgers, but at least with a guy like Cobb, Cutler’s killer interceptions would be deeper.”

  • Whatever else you say about former Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher – and I’ve said a lot of unkind things – he had Cutler nailed dead to rights almost from the moment they met. That hasn’t changed. Via Brian Sandalow at the Chicago Sun-Times:

    “During an appearance Tuesday at Waukegan’s Robert Abbott Middle School, Urlacher was asked about the Bears’ regression and whether he was disappointed in the offense’s production. His answer —and his omission of a certain lightning rod of a Bear — was telling.

    “‘I don’t know disappointed; it just took a step back, I think, is the word,’ Urlacher said. ‘Great talent on offense at every position. Offensive line, receiver, running back, tight end, all great players. Just didn’t get the production that I guess the fans thought they should’ve gotten.’

    “Um, Brian. Forgetting somebody? You know, the guy behind center?

    “‘Great talent everywhere on their offense,’ Urlacher said.”

  • Finley describes the advantage to running the 3-4 defense (according to Fox):

    “Against spread offenses and empty backfields, Fox can drop eight players — including both outside linebackers — in a 3-4.”

    “The switch won’t be so dramatic in nickel and dime formations, when the Bears — who played less of the true cover-2 under Mel Tucker — likely will still deploy four down linemen. Besides, Fox said, the spacing for 4-3 and 3-4 sets are similar.”

    I might add that if you rush four (which you often will), then the offense won’t know where the fourth guy will come from.

  • Hub Arkush at chicagofootball.com on Pace:

    “One thing he’s perfected in his first month on the job as the Bears general manager is the ability to look you in the eye and make you feel like he gets your job and that you matter and then to respectfully answer your question without telling you a thing.

    “It’s an NFL executive deal. It can drive you nuts, but the good ones all have it.”

    I’ve got news for you Hub. It’s not restricted to NFL executives.

One Final Thought

The two best quarterbacks in this year’s draft really make me nervous. Really nervous. Mariota’s flaws are well-documented and, because they are on field issues, we’ve all seen them and can evaluate them ourselves. But Jameis Winston is different. We’ve heard about the off-field issues and everyone likes to think that with all of the trouble that they’ve caused, he’s put them behind him. But apparently that’s not the case and you need only look at his last college game to understand that. Via Biggs:

“One NFC college scouting director pointed to the video of Winston walking into the Rose Bowl in January when he mimicked smoking a joint and passing it.

“‘That’s the one position where you can’t live with immaturity,’ the scouting director said. ‘Is the talent level so different between [Mariota and Winston] that you want to draft Jameis and have the immaturity issues he’s going to bring? You’re talking about the face of your franchise.'”

The lasting image I have of Winston during that game was the argument he had with head coach Jimbo Fisher in the fourth quarter. Winston completely lost his cool and you could read Fisher’s lips as he threatened to bench him. To say that Winston didn’t handle the situation well would be a serious understatement.

This guy has trouble written all over him.

Posted in Chicago Bears | Leave a comment

The Bears Will Have the Opportunity to Draft Their Quarterback. If They Want Him.

One of the most consistent reasons I’ve heard for not dumping quarterback Jay Cutler is that neither of the two top prospects in the draft will be there when the Bears pick in the first round. Greg Gabriel at the National Football Post tells you (indirectly) why this is likely to be a patently false assumption and why the Bears will likely get a shot at Marcus Mariota and, maybe, even Jameis Winston. If they want them at all:

“We are a week away from the Combine, and the first round quarterback hype is already high. Many of the draftniks and media have both Florida State’s Jameis Winston and Oregon’s Marcus Mariota going in the top 10. Their thinking is that because they are the two most talented quarterbacks, they will automatically go that high. If you notice, it’s only the media and draftniks that are making these statements. No one from the NFL says a thing and they won’t until they get into the lying season full swing. Once you get to the Combine, you can’t believe a thing an NFL exec says about a prospect because 90% of the time they are lying.

“If you go back a year or 13 months, most of that same group had Teddy Bridgewater going, if not first overall, at least in the top 5. They also had Johnny Manziel as a sure-fire top 10. As we got close to the Combine, Central Florida’s Blake Bortles started to catch fire and by the start of that annual event, many ‘experts’ had all three of those quarterback’s being drafted in the top 10. The problem is the people making these predictions aren’t the ones making the decisions. While quarterbacks did get largely over-drafted for a number of years, in the last two drafts, they’ve been drafted just about where they should have been.”

Personally, I thought Bridgewater was under rated by NFL teams in the end (and his rookie season proved me right). But the point still stands. Everybody had NFL teams over-drafting quarterbacks last year just as they probably have them doing it this year.

I actually wouldn’t put it past Lovie Smith to over-draft Winston or Mariota. He isn’t dumb but i don’t think he’d know raw quarterback talent if it crept up and bit him in his nether regions.  I doubt very much that he knows what he’s doing and whether he will actually listen to the people that do is also highly doubtful. He’s a very stubborn man. In any case, which ever one Smith doesn’t take (or both) will fall, especially if its Mariota. That statement may surprise some but Mariota is a much bigger risk that Winston.

We can use notable failure Johnny Manziel as the ultimate cautionary tale for those wondering what the draft status of these quarterbacks should be. The comparison of Winston to Manziel doesn’t hold water because, though they share concern over off field issues, Winston has already shown that he can throw from the pocket with anticipation to a receiver. Immaturity aside I doubt very much that any quarterback accomplishes that without putting in some work, something that by all accounts the Browns were told that Manziel only rarely did. Mariota, on the other hand, compares well to Manziel on the field because hasn’t shown the kind of ability that Winston has. He worked from a spread offense and has never thrown from the pocket. His accuracy is also suspect. Winston has shown the traits on the field that you want to see. Mariota hasn’t and might never show them.

Both of these guys are over rated in the media right now. And it says here that one or both will fall to the Bears if they want them and (very probably) beyond that. In fact, if they do want one of them they might be wise to trade down (as Gabriel suggests that Jacksonville should have done before drafting Bortles last year).

There is one other factor to consider here and that’s why the quarterbacks tend to be over rated this time of year. The truth is that the opinions of draft “experts” like Todd McShay and Mel Kiper are highly suspect. In addition to the fact that no one is telling them the real truth about any of the prospects and how they are actually viewed by the league, its worth considering that they are under immense pressure to increase ratings. And we all know that when it comes to the media and the NFL, it’s all about the quarterback. The minute these guys start talking about offensive tackles, you can practically feel producers getting nervous and you can practically hear them telling the on air personalities in their ears to get back “on point”. Setting up questions like “which quarterback will go number one overall” is where media outlets like ESPN make their money. So it’s in everyone’s best interest to over rate the quarterbacks.

I’m not saying don’t listen. I’m saying listen strictly for the entertainment value. Because it’s all hot air until April when the Bears finally are off the clock.

Posted in Chicago Bears, NFL Draft | Leave a comment

Keeping the NFL Combine in Perspective

The NFL Combine is upon us and as freaks like me set up their television recorders for the event, Field Yates at ESPN has a timely reminder for us:

“32 players NOT invited to 2014 Combine were drafted, while 111 players invited to Indy were not selected.”

Scouts for some of the better organizations in the NFL sometimes talk about “anchoring” their board. What that means is that these organizations get their scouts in a room pre-combine and go through every player they are interested in, assigning them the round that they think these players should be taken in (thus “anchoring” them to that spot). After that, the better organizations stick to this board, only tweaking it here and there based upon workout numbers and, sometimes, further tape study. They never let a player jump up or down by more than a round or so from here on out.

Bottom line, players can affect their draft status with a good combine showing, especially players with off the field issues in the interview room. But for most of the better organizations, it can really only be a tie breaker with all else being equal. Matt Miller at the Bleacher Report may have put it best:

“This reminder is for me as well as you: Don’t buy into the combine hype. Fast times in the 40-yard dash are impressive, but they have to be validated on tape.”

Posted in NFL Draft | Leave a comment

The Price of Spectacle and the Spectacle of Price

The Chicago Tribune thinks that its hard to justify all of the trouble that having the NFL Draft in the city will bring. I’m having a hard time getting in line with their thinking.

What the Tribune isn’t considering is the city’s attitude towards professional football. You can rumble around about the Cubs, the White Sox and the Bulls but when you bottom line it, this is a football town. You don’t have to spend much time here to understand that most of the city breaths it all year around. Sure most of us won’t get in to see the actual draft. But the event itself with the festival in Grant Park is going to be a spectacle that’s going to bring far more entertainment to the populace of the city than the annual Jazz Fest or Taste of Chicago.

Sure, you’ll get south side and west side officials complaining about the money spent here that could be spent on the cities poorer neighborhoods. Jessie Jackson is due to be on camera any day now. I get it.  It’s his job to use events like this to highlight such issues just as its the Tribune’s job to play watch dog – and thus to sell newspapers – by pointing out that the city isn’t going to come away scott-free from the deal.  I’m sure the media is about to be deluged with economist after economist who will question whether the city will get back what it puts in. But the truth is that relatively few people are going to care that much. Far fewer than there would be normally for any other event.

City officials were drooling all over themselves to bring the Olympics here, something that would have cost a great deal more money and trouble with a great deal more risk for lost government revenue. They did that despite the fact that the majority of city residents weren’t in favor of having it here. So how much more should they try to bring something here that the people actually want?

Posted in NFL Draft | Leave a comment