Do the Bears Need a “Big-name” Wide Receiver? And Other News


“‘[Johnny Knox is] really learning how to set guys up,’ Drake said. ‘Just using his head and his eyes and not breaking stride.

“‘Body language tells everything from a receiver running routes. When you can control that body and not allow that guy to read where you’re going … the biggest thing in young receivers is they have a tendency to look where they’re going, look down at the ground. Now, these guys are playing with their eyes up. When that DB sees you looking at the ground, he’s sitting on steps. That’s something these guys have done a tremendous job of learning.”’

“They obviously don’t have one big-name receiver. But do they need one? I think they work pretty well together.”

I do, too.  Though this might be a topic better left to closer to the draft, I think you can, in fact, make the case that the Bears don’t need one.  For instance, in this video former Patriot linebacker Tedy Bruschi makes the point that the Patriots might actually be better without Randy Moss for reasons other than simply the loss of his attitude in the locker room:


“The move raises obvious questions regarding the relationship between Weis and head coach Todd Haley, a coach of the year candidate regarded by some as a first-class pain in the rear.  The potential for a lockout that would reduce dramatically the salaries of NFL assistant coaches also may have been a factor, although Weis presumably is getting the bulk of his compensation from his Notre Dame buyout.”

“Mara declined interview requests last week. But he will not fire Coughlin, win or lose Sunday, unless the Giants’ performance is so unfathomably embarrassing that it would prompt Mara to rethink Coughlin’s future.”

“The Giants simply do not do knee-jerk. They do not fire 9-win — or perhaps 10-win — coaches. They do not issue statements of support, only to retract them a few hours later, as happened with the Denver Broncos this season. They do not operate a coaching carousel, as they do in Washington, with the circus music on a loop. And most critical to the current crisis, they do not conflate what happened to them last year with what is happening now.”

  • I have to say that I’m becoming a Battista fan.  Here the Times writer does a really well-thought out article on the growth of the passing game in the NFL.  The article ends with this debatable point by Hall of Fame quarterback Troy Aikman:

“I still hear people say, ‘We’ve got to run the ball and stop the run,’ ” Aikman said. “No, you don’t. I don’t know when that cliché is going to die. If you’re playing the Giants or Steelers, that’s pretty important. When you’re playing the other teams, you can stop the run all you want and they’ll still score 40 on you. If I had my choice, I’d rather be able to stop the pass.”

One Final Thought

Former All Pro linebacker Carl Banks gives a classy response as he concentrates what’s important when commenting on not being included in the Giants’ Ring of Honor.  Via Joe Brescia at The New York Times:

“I didn’t spend much time on it. The Giants have a legacy of great players. I know without a doubt that my contributions have always been greatly appreciated by the organization. In due time, if there’s another opportunity, I’m sure they’ll consider it. But I didn’t feel slighted. If it doesn’t happen, I know the organization appreciates my contribution to its success.”

Ownership the Problem as the Vikings Get Serious About Retaining Frazier

With the word yesterday that talks are becoming serious about removing the “interim” tag from former Bear player and current Vikings head coach Leslie Frazier‘s title, I’m left with the question of what is holding things up?

Frazier has a lot going for him.  For one thing, the team is playing better.  For another, there is a possible work stoppage on the horizon and no owner wants to pay two coaching staffs not to work.

Not surprisingly, Todd Archer at is reporting that Jerry Jones is leaning toward leaving interim head coach Jason Garrett permanently in charge, as well.  Indeed, Clarence E. Hill, Jr. at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram is reporting this morning that Jones is likely to retain Garrett according to a “high-ranking team source”.

One answer to the Vikings problem is likely control over personnel.  Judd Zulgad and Chip Scoggins at the Minneapolis Star Tribune explain the current situation:

“When owner Zygi Wilf overhauled things after his first season in 2005, he implemented a triangle of authority that divided power between [former head coach Brad] Childress and vice presidents Rob Brzezinski and Fran Foley, who would quickly be replaced by Rick Spielman.”

“Wilf and the rest of the decision-makers could look at what happened with Childress and realize giving a coach so much power wasn’t a good idea in the first place — especially, when that never seemed to be the original intent.”

The situation highlights a problem with the Vikings organizational structure.  Because the owner in Minnesota is very active in managing the organization, whoever has his ear is more or less in charge. That can lead to decisions which aren’t always the best for the organization.

Right now the highest ranking official in Minnesota, and the one with the most direct access to Wilf, is vice president of player personnel, Speilman, who would undoubtedly like to be general manager.  He wouldn’t want Wilf hiring a new head coach or, worse, another general manager who would demand complete personnel control.  That means its in his best interests to see that Frazier remains in place and he’s undoubtedly whispering into Wilf’s ear about the advantages of such an arrangement.

Is that what’s best for the Vikings?  I have my doubts.  Spielman has been a GM before for the Dolphins and I saw nothing at the time that indicated that he’s particularly good at it.  Other than spending Wilf’s money, I don’t see that the Viking personnel department has done anything worth more notice than usual.  Indeed, the irony is that Frazier may be thinking the same thing as he considers how much control of personnel he can or should wield.  As the likely hot minority candidate, he has some leverage and that may be the sticking point.

Admittedly there’s a bit of speculation in the above scenario.  Maybe quite a bit.  But the bottom line still remains.  We are fortunate right now in Chicago to have ownership which has taken a step back from making football decisions for the organization.  When that’s not the case, internal politics can take priority over doing what’s best.

What Does It Mean to “Rest the Starters”? It All Depends.

I’ve been saying for days that we won’t see the Bears starters the whole game today.  And certainly that will probably be true, especially for any player who is nursing an injury.  But that doesn’t mean that they’ll just roll out the “second string” at 22 positions on offense and defense.  Brad Biggs, writing for the Chicago Tribunemakes the point:

“The idea of resting players against the Packers really isn’t realistic. Yes, players with any minor injuries will sit, but with a 53-man roster that turns into 46 (counting the third quarterback on game day), it’s not like [Bears head coach] Lovie Smith is going to be able to sit starters across the board.”

and then there’s this fact to consider as well:

“Running back Matt Forte and wide receiver Johnny Knox have some statistical milestones in mind. Forte needs 22 yards to reach 1,000 and Knox is 40 shy of that figure.”

The extent to which Smith should or will accommodate Forte and Knox is a debatable question but the guess here is that he’ll give them each a fair shot at reaching their respective milestones.  How long does that mean you leave them in?  If the Bears are playing well, you’re probably talking about roughly a half.  If they’re not, it means you leave them in until the game is obviously lost.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, it is doubtful that Smith will pull anyone on the offensive line with the possible exception of veteran Olin Kreutz.  They’re playing better but the problems on the offensive line still exist, in part because they’ve only been together half a season.

I was listening to an local football commentator on WSCR one morning this week.  Callers had been trying to make the point that the Bears should play the Packers game all out because more game experience would be good for a Bear offense that has only recently begun to perform well.  The expert sarcastically asked how much better the players are going to get as a unit with only one more game. When you are an offensive line that has been together as a unit for only 8 games, and one that has yet to play well in the first half of any of them, the answer is a lot better.

Statistically there’s only a 2% chance that the Bears will have anything to play for as a team today.  In that case, they won’t play their “starters” much.  But when the word is framed in terms of who you leave in and who you leave out, the definition is going to vary.

Slot Receiver the One to Watch in Packer Offense

Matt Bowen, writing for the Chicago Tribune, provides his always insightful look into the Xs and Os for the average fan.  He looks at how the Packers will use Greg Jennings to target Brian Urlacher in the cover-2.  The graphic that comes with the article, shows how a typical red zone play develops.  The X receiver in the graphs carries the free safety away from the middle of the field while the strong safety worries about possible vertical routes from the three receivers from on that side of the field.  Urlacher has the slot receiver, Jennings, in the middle:

“This is a tough play for any Mike linebacker. Brian Urlacher is responsible for covering the Z vertically up the field. He will open his hips to the passing strength (closed side) and carry Jennings on the post to the middle of the end zone. Safeties Major Wright and Chris Harris will break to overlap Jennings on the throw from Aaron Rodgers, but the play initially has to be made by Urlacher. That’s a tough assignment versus the speed of Jennings.”

But it won’t be just Jennings who will be challenging Urlacher today.  The play reminds me of an article I read an article last week from Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.  McGinn points out that the slot was always the position that Donald Driver occupied but that now, with age catching up to Driver, its falling more to James Jones and Jennings:

“Sunday against the Giants, coach Mike McCarthy sent out three wides on 17 snaps. Nine times Driver was in the slot, but on the other eight he was either by himself outside or outside the slot receiver.

“Because the slot receiver has an easier two-way go against the defender and often is covered by the No. 3 cornerback, slot has been the money position.”

“Jennings, a classic X (split end) receiver in his first four years, has played the slot more than ever before. Jones, who generally lined up wide right in three-wide sets, also has worked extensively inside. [Jordy] Nelson can go anywhere now, too.”

I used to think that the safeties had the toughest assignment in the cover 2 defense.  But gradually I’m starting to realize that if they’ve got it the worst, middle linebacker Brian Urlacher‘s job can’t be far behind.  Many will remember that it was Wes Welker, lining up all over the field but most often in the slot where he got a free release and could go in any direction, who did the most to ruin the Bears when they played the Patriots.  Its obviously going to be an important position to keep an eye on today as well no matter who lines up there.