Wide Receiver Seems to Be the Bears Issue of the Day and Other Points of View

Chicago Bears

  • David Kaplan and Fred Mitchell at the Chicago Tribune talk to former Bears and Colts general manager Bill Tobin about how he went about drafting two members of this year’s Pro Football Hall of Fame class: Richard Dent and Marshall Faulk.
  • Former NFL safety and current Chicago Tribune contributor Matt Bowen‘s needs for the Bears:  offensive tackle, cornerback, wide receiver.  The Bears surely do need all three but they probably see defensive tackle as a more critical need than both cornerback and wide receiver.  Probably.
  • Looks like Todd McShay agrees with me.  Maybe I should reconsider my position.  Via ESPN’s NFC North blogger Kevin Seifert.
  • Having said that, Brad Biggs, also at the Tribune, continues his excellent positional review of the Bears, this time with the wide receivers:

“The Bears continue to value their receivers more than others do. They lack a difference-maker at the position and if they want to see Cutler flourish, it’s a position that will have to be addressed.”


Kevin Van Valkenburg, Baltimore Sun

Here is why there is no chance NFL owners and the NFL Players Association work out a new labor agreement by March 3: It takes only nine owners to shoot down whatever proposal both sides come up with.

This isn’t just a labor dispute in the eyes of some owners. It’s a battle for the future of the sport. Rich men do not like parting with their money, especially the richest and most eccentric of the bunch, and they can (and most likely will) block whatever proposal the two sides put together in the next three weeks until they get exactly the deal they want.

I get a kick out of it when people say that the people involved in this are “too smart” to let it go into the season next year.  If the baseball strikes of the seventies, eighties and nineties taught us anything, its that this is definitely not true.

  • Chris Mortenson at ESPN talks about the labor impasse.  Note that he thinks that the current labor deal has to be allowed to expire to get it out of the jurisdiction of the federal courts in Minneapolis.  Very interesting but not surprising.  The owners are not happy with judge David Doty.

Mortenson comes through with more details in this article.

“’Typically in the staff meeting after the season concludes, I pretty much a have the whole season laid out for our coaching staff,’ McCarthy said. ‘That’s not the case this year.’

“As a result, McCarthy said he and the staff have taken what he called a ‘prepare for the known’ approach to the offseason. Since the annual NFL Scouting Combine is being held as scheduled in Indianapolis in two weeks, and the 2011 NFL Draft is set for April 23-25, the staff is focusing on those set-in-stone events. McCarthy said the assistant coaches are off until Feb. 21, then will have some more time off after the scouting combine. They’ll then return to work to do their scheme evaluation work the first two weeks of March, another annual offseason ritual.”

  • ESPN’s Trent Dilfer thinks more of quarterback Cam Newton than I do.

I’ll give Dilfer his due as a former NFL quarterback.  But I think the guys at Scouts Inc., who have Newton as the 28th rated prospect and who have undoubtedly studied a lot of tape rather than simply judging him based upon a workout, probably have a better handle on him.

  • McShay talks about his mock draft below.

One Final Thought

The Sports Pickle reports that the NFL has made an interesting offer to those who were not allowed to sit in the seats they paid for at Super Bowl XLV.

Marshall Faulk Doesn’t Think Much of the Bears Receivers and Other Points of View


“On spending the bulk of his career in the NFC Central: ‘Playing in the NFC Central, the old black-and-blue division, people really didn’t throw the ball. .?.?. It wasn’t the NFC East, where they threw the ball a lot, or the NFC West, where they threw the ball a lot. I could’ve gotten more opportunities, but you have to take advantage of what’s there.’’’

“But those of us who had the privilege to see Dent play every week don’t need statistics or honors to justify his place in the Hall.”

“But every time I see Johnny Knox run a slant he goes behind the defender and you see an interception go the other way and everyone looks at Jay Cutler and says, ‘How did he throw that pass?’ That is going to be a mistake no matter who the quarterback is.”

“I see no pure wideout. When we ran [Mike] Martz‘ offense in St. Louis we had three or four pure wideouts. … If you are still teaching that stuff to your wide receivers then in this offense you can’t blame the QB.”

  • Corey Wooton goes over goes over the getting off the ball in this YouTube video.

  • Dan Berstien and Terry Boers at WSCR in Chicago – Lovie Smith is a Liberian?


  • From Pro Football Weekly‘s Audibles.  This feature is a collection of anonymous quotes from NFL men around the league:

“Everyone got all excited about Michael Vick — and there was reason to be excited early — but if you look at how he finished the season, you see (that) teams started to figure out that if you make him play quarterback, he is not that good.  He’s not a great three-step, five-step, read-and-throw-to-the-open-receiver quarterback. And he takes more hits because he does not read it quickly. Look at the Indy game when (Colts MLB Gary) Brackett drills him. If his primary (receiver) is not there and he has to go through the thought process, he holds it for an extra second to second-and-a-half, and in this league, that is the difference between a  defender breezing by — like they do with Peyton Manning, barely touching him — or getting drilled. If I’m Michael Vick, I’m digging up every game that Steve Young played late in his career when he made his transformation, and I’m studying it.”

  • Death is not an option:  Carolina wins the Super Bowl or Big Foot is found in North Carolina.  From Tom Sorensen at the Charlotte Observer.
  • Joe Reedy at the Cincinnati Enquirer provides an update on the Carson Palmer situation.  Despite a change at offensive coordinator, Palmer apparently still wants out of Cincinnati.  And despite the owner stating that he won’t be traded he still apparently believes he will be.  He is selling his house.
  • Speaking of the Bengals, I can’t wait to see new offensive coordinator Jay Gruden run a West Coast style offense with a running back who flat out refuses to catch the ball out of the backfield.
  • Pat Williams says he’s done fighting the NFL over Star Caps.  Via Brian Murphy at the St. Paul Pioneer Press.
  • James Walker at ESPN.com reports that the Cleveland Browns have made some interesting roster cuts.  Included on the list of players is defensive tackle Shaun Rogers and former Bear – and Ram – offensive tackle John St. Clair.
  • The Sports Pickle thinks that the Packers Super Bowl title should be revoked over this video.  Sounds good to me.

One Final Thought

Mitchell quotes Dent further:

“I was very, very thirsty for (the Hall)… Once you play the game a certain way, people start telling you, ‘You know, you may have the opportunity to be in the Hall.’ A bunch of people don’t understand the (Hall) process. I don’t understand the process.”

“I was patient, didn’t care to call anybody out… My day has come.”

The video is from the Chicago Tribune website.

Bookies Take a Bath on the Super Bowl and Other Points of View



  • Michael Wilbon at ESPN talks about watching the Super Bowl at the White House with Bears fan Barak Obama.  Oh, yeah.  He’s the President of the United States, as well.

“The worst-case scenario is the type of grudge match that wiped out the 1994 World Series and the 2004-05 NHL season. Although possible, there are too many billions at stake for the sides not to eventually come to their senses.”

Baseball fans said the same  thing in 1994.

I’ve gotten a definite impression that there are a least some owners who are more interested in breaking the union than getting an agreement.  I get the impression that DeMaurice Smith is more interested in making sure he doesn’t give much if anything in his first negotiation than he is in looking after the best interests of the game and, therefore, the players.  Its a bad combination.

I’m not holding my breath waiting for the next season to start.

“Chargers: Is this their last season in San Diego? They are the clubhouse favorite to relocate to Los Angeles, and the NFL will be looking to move back into the nation’s second-largest market once the CBA is resolved. If the Chargers can’t get a stadium deal in San Diego — and the prospects of one are looking bleaker by the day — they will be looking to exercise the escape clause in their Qualcomm Stadium lease.”

I know that the Chargers are only one of many teams that have talked of relocating.  But I think this one might be the real thing.  There’s absolutely no way they’re going to get a stadium in San Diego.

  • Mike Munchak in the Titan’s new head coach:

“With players, the way we look at it when we’re going to new teams is the city appeal, how we feel about the location, and then it’s, ‘What was it like when I played that team?’  Certain teams you play against, you’re like, ‘Them guys were soft. I don’t want to be part of that organization. I don’t want to play for them.’ Or, ‘They were arguing on the sideline, I don’t want to be part of that type of disruption.’

“‘I know there’s some teams that we played, some guys were like, ‘It’d be all right to go to war with those guys. They show up on game day. They show up to fight.’ And that’s what we do.'”

I think the NFC North as a group holds up pretty well in this respect.  The Vikings, perhaps, didn’t show as much fight as you’d like to see.  Other than that, the the division has some pretty tough, high football character teams.

  • Charlie Walters at the Pioneer Press thinks the Vikings are looking at last place next year.  I’m not so sure.  There’s a lot of talent on that team.  If Les Frazier gets them to play like they did in 2009 with the addition of even a decent quarterback, they’ll be as dangerous as anyone.
  • On the other hand, Jeremy Fowler, also at the Pioneer Press, points out that DT Pat Williams is unlikely to be back.  If DE Ray Edwards leaves via free agency and DT Kevin Williams actually has to serve a suspension stemming from the Star Caps case, they could have some trouble on the defensive line next year.  That’s the strength of their team.
  • According to Geoff Mosher at the Delaware News Journal, the Eagles have shot down a rumor making the rounds through cyberspace that Jon Gruden, a former Super Bowl champion coach and current ESPN analyst, would be replacing Andy Reid as Eagles head coach.  Via benmaller.com.
  • Those who claim that sports books always go with the spread that gives them a 50:50 split, listen up.  The Las Vegas casinos as a whole made less than a million dollars on the Super Bowl with some suffering rare losses.  The books who lost stuck with the “dead number” not moving thier odds despite heavy betting on the Green Bay Packers.  The strategy is risky but it maximizes profits if the initial number turns out to be the right one.
  • George Bretherton at The New York Times thinks the Steelers should have run the ball more in the second half of Super Bowl XLV.  I generally agree, especially as he has laid it out.  But more generally the Steelers made it very tough on themselves throughout the game with harmful penalties that consistently put them in holes they had to try to pass their way out of.
  • The Sports Pickle tracked the NFL’s official Facebook page during Super Bowl XLV.

One Final Thought

Mike Greenberg and Mike Golic can’t understand people who don’t watch the Super Bowl.  Its really simple.  They haven’t discovered television.  Or fire.

Cutler Needs Time with Martz to Succeed. And Much, Much More.

Sean Jensen at the Chicago Sun-Times writes about the fact that quarterback Jay Cutler needs an off season with offensive coordinator Mike Martz to correct his problems.  That means Bear fans should be praying there’s no lockout.  This is a very, very good article and its worth the read.  But I’ll bottom line it with the principal quotes from former Bears quarterback Jim Miller:

“’The problem with Jay is, because he’s so athletic, you don’t want to curtail him too much because that takes from that part of his game,’ said Miller, an analyst for Comcast SportsNet and Sirius NFL Radio. ‘But I get upset watching him because he could be so much better. He could be lights-out if he cleans up his footwork and fundamentals. All those things are correctable.’”

“’Jay can get there, but he has to have the ‘want to’ to be great, and the discipline to be able to do that.  He did a much better job this year of checking himself and not throwing dumb interceptions. Now if he can take it to the next level, with his footwork and things like that, then he can play to the level of an Aaron Rodgers.’”

Over and over again I’ve tried to point out that Cutler’s problems with leadership, with the media, with his peers, all reflect one fundamental difficulty.  That despite his immense physical talent, people doubt whether he has what it takes to do the little things he needs to do as a player to be great.

That’s what Miller means when he uses terms like “want to” and “discipline”.  He’s not talking about “toughness”.  He’s talking about what keeps a man in front of a screen until midnight watching tape.  He’s talking about, not spending 20 minutes twice a week working on footwork but spending hours on it, drilling and drilling and drilling.

Renowned psychiatrist Anna Freud once said, “I was always looking outside myself for strength and confidence, but it comes from within. It is there all the time.”

Cutler needs more time with Martz, who is probably the first decent quarterback coach they’ve had since Greg Olson left.  But he needs a lot more than that.  He needs the desire and force of will that it takes to overcome all obstacles and be the best.  That can’t from a coach.  It can only come from within one’s self.  We can only hope that it is buried somewhere deep within Jay Cutler.

Bears at a Crossroads at Cornerback

Brad Biggs at the Chicago Sun-Times continues his positional analysis with the cornerbacks.  He describes the Bears fundamental problem:

“The thing to keep in mind is Cover-2 based defenses don’t put a high premium on the position. That’s not to say cornerbacks are not valued. But it’s a zone-based scheme so the Bears aren’t out looking to invest in shutdown corners like Nnamdi Asomugha, who command huge salaries.”

The Bears find themselves at an important junction at cornerback.  Biggs is absolutely right about the cover two and in the past its obvious that general manager Jerry Angelo has followed the philosophy described the article.  Concentrate on the pass rush and pick up your zone cornerbacks after that.

But having said that, the Bears probably played more single coverage this year than they ever have before.  They had to.  Teams are getting too good at setting up mismatches and picking apart zones if you don’t occasionally mix up the defense.  The Bears had success doing that this year but they occasionally came up short simply because they couldn’t cover, particularly when it came to keeping up with good slot receivers.  Wes Welker in New England makes a living off of mismatches created in this fashion.  That’s why the only way to beat them is to do what the Jets do – play ferocious man-t0-man defense and challenge every throw.  Green Bay does the same thing with whoever they decide to line up in the slot on a play-by-play basis.

If the Bears are going to continue to play so much man-to-man coverage underneath, they are going to need more and better cover corners.  Where they are going to find them while still filling their other holes is a real problem.

Time to Acknowledge the One Basic Fact about the Packers

Mark Potash at the Chicago Sun-Times explains why the Packers winning the Super Bowl is really bad news for the Bears:

“Why are the Packers able to plug in rookie Bryan Bulaga — the 24th pick of the 2010 draft — at offensive tackle and win the Super Bowl, while the Bears’ Chris Williams — the 14th pick of the 2008 draft — is running out of o-line positions to find a home?

“Why was Packers linebacker Erik Walden — picked up off the street on Oct. 27 — an unstoppable force in Week 17?

“Why was Cullen Jenkins — who missed the last month of the regular-season with a calf injury — a bigger factor in the NFC Championship Game than Peppers?

“How did Packers backup quarterback Matt Flynn nearly beat the New England Patriots on the road a week after the Patriots dominated the Bears when Todd Collins threw four interceptions and had a 6.2 rating against the Carolina Panthers?

“The Packers have two basic advantages over the Bears right now: they do more with more and they do more with less.”

In other words, they’re a better organization top to bottom than the Bears.  It makes me sick to write it but its basically true.

“they do more with less”?  Why not just say they’re better coached?

“they do more with more”?  Why not just say they have better young talent because they’ve got a better general manager who knows how to draft?  One who didn’t have to spend a fortune in free agency or give away two years worth of top draft picks to make up for his own failures.

Potash only needed two words to write this article:  “They’re better.”  Its totally disgusting but its the simple truth.

The Sad Story of William “The Refrigerator” Perry and Other Points of View


  • In what has to be the saddest story I’ve read all year, Tom Friend at ESPN details the struggles of William Perry against his both his physical and mental disabilities.  Here is the accompanying video:


  • The Super Bowl ads can be found here at the Chicago Tribune.  Here’s what was probably my favorite one:

  • Former Baltimore head coach Brian Billick talks to Joe Reedy at the Cincinnati Enquirer about new offensive coordinator Jay Gruden and the “West Coast offense”:

“’There’s no such thing as a West Coast offense anymore. It doesn’t exist,’ Billick said. ‘Everyone has taken different bits and pieces of it and its morphed into a number of different things. He may use some of the West Coast verbage but even the most ardent of west coast guys who came directly from the [Bill] Walsh lineage whether its be via [Mike] Holmgren to Andy Reid to Jon Gruden, they’ve all evolved it and it’s morphed into different forms almost like the Dungy 2 or Tampa 2, everyone uses a form of it. To identify a team like that, it’s kind of a misnomer because everyone is doing it.”

One Final Thought

Like Mayne’s vidoe above, “Vince Lombadi’s” final speech to players in both locker rooms is also no less moving for being posted late.  This was a nice series of video’s put together by the league.  I hope they do it again next year.

Super Bowl XLV Still Hasn’t Happened Yet and Other Points of View


“If you want to criticize something, let’s talk about the offensive line, let’s ask the decision-makers up in the front office in Chicago, and I know they’re going to hate me for this, but why is Jay Cutler and Matt Forte playing behind that? I’m not going to get on those guys, because you can’t even move outside until you fix inside.”


“The key for the Steelers is their pre-snap disguise. Free safety Ryan Clark will show a single high safety look (Cover 1 to the offense) while strong safety Troy Polamalu will move to his blitz alignment and time the snap of the ball. What the Steelers create is a two-on-one blitz versus the running back in protection (strong safety and nickel back) with the outside linebacker “scooping” to attack the left tackle. This blitz will test the protection schemes of the Packers’ offensive line and could get a free runner at [Green Bay quarterback Aaron] Rodgers‘ blind side.”

“The Packers need to attack Ben Roethlisberger from his right side to push him left. That means the Steelers quarterback will have to throw across his body when he scrambles loose, rather than setting up in a more natural stance and finding his receivers.”

Hines Ward recalled how Tomlin initially instituted dress codes and included more contact than an MMA fight during his first training camp.

“‘He was very militant,’ Ward said. ‘Some veteran guys challenged his authority, and they’re no longer here. The guys that he kept, we bought into his belief and his system.'”

“When you walk in our building and you have pictures of Curly Lambeau, Vince Lombardi, Mike Holmgren — our history is among us all the time,” he said. “It creates a standard and expectation that fits right along with our visions.”

“Roethlisberger will be without Maurkice Pouncey, the outstanding rookie center who suffered a high ankle sprain early in the AFC championship game against the Jets. The Steelers switched to backup center Doug Legursky, a second-year player who finished the game.

“‘The NFL is made up of lots of players like him — guys who somehow got an opportunity and seized it,’ Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said. ‘We’re completely confident (in him). That’s why we’re not changing what we do.'”

“The Packers and Steelers are two reasons you shouldn’t get too enamored with free agents. Neither team usually is a player in the free agent market, and both are better because of it.”

Matt Cassel has Drew Brees to thank for his success last season. Cassel’s coach Todd Haley made Cassel watch a lot of tape on Brees’ footwork and his pass drops, and rode Cassel hard about trying to do it the way Brees does it. Brees is known for having the best footwork in the league, and Haley wants Cassel as close to that as possible. Haley asks some of the same things of Cassel that Sean Payton asks of Brees. Haley and Payton were co-workers in Dallas.”

“Even based solely on the regular season, I thought McCarthy should have been runner up [to Bill Belichick].”

I think McCarthy should have won.

“You don’t hire an offensive or defensive guy. You hire a leader.  That’s the No. 1 thing to look for is a leader, someone to stand in front of the room, command the respect of the organization and obviously the players, and somebody the owner feels good about.

“Because wherever their expertise is, they have to be able to hire around it. So No. 1 is leadership, the second thing is the ability to communicate, and the third for me is to hire and delegate.”

“ARLINGTON, TX—Despite the overwhelming media hype, countless interviews with players and coaches, and considerable speculation about the big game since the conference champions earned Super Bowl berths nearly two weeks ago, Super Bowl XLV still hasn’t happened yet. “It feels like it should have happened last Sunday, but it didn’t,” Ohio-area football fan Jared Britton told reporters Friday, adding that instead of the Super Bowl, the Pro Bowl happened.”

One Final Thought

Football con man Michael Vick won the AP Comeback Player of the Year award despite having attended a party just last June at which a man was shot in cold blood.  I’m wondering if he still gets this award if it had been a dog.

Answers to the Wrong Questions Indicate Fan Support for Eighteen Games Weak

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell gave his state of the league address yesterday.  Amongst the things he talked about was the proposed 18 game regular season:

“Repeatedly, the fans have said the quality of the preseason doesn’t meet NFL standards. That is … the basis on which we started to look at the 18-and-two concept, by taking two of those low-quality, non-competitive games and turn those into quality, competitive games that the fans want to see.”

He’s got a point about the preseason.  But I’ll say that he might be surprised (as I was) by the number of fans who would rather just see those two games eliminated.

I, personally, think the more football the better.  But many fans I know disagree with me because they are worried that the quality of the game will be diluted.  That seems to be supported by the results of this poll from the Associated Press:

“Of everyone surveyed, 27 percent strongly favor or somewhat favor adding two regular-season games and dropping two preseason games. When the group is narrowed to those identifying themselves as NFL fans, support for the change rises to a total of 45 percent — yet only 18 percent who strongly favor it.”

There seems to be little doubt that fan support for an extension of the season is weak.  And, of course, anyone who has been paying attention knows that the players as a group hate the idea.  But I think everyone is asking the wrong question.  It seems clear that the owners aren’t going to easily agree to anything that doesn’t include the two extra games.  So let’s try this one:

Which would you rather have?  Eighteen games in 2012 or a lockout where there are less than 16 games 2011?

That one shouldn’t be a tough choice for anyone.

Fantuz Flakes Commercial and Other Points of View


  • But you know when you’ve really made it?  When you have your own dandruff shampoo (the video was made by the Hamilton Tiger-Cats).
  • Biggs continued his excellent positional analysis series with the running backs.  I thought this was an interesting choice of words:

Harvey Unga faced an uphill battle to make the 53-man roster as an addition in the supplemental draft and the Bears found a convenient way to redshirt him with a hamstring pull in training camp.”

Kevin Colbert, the Pittsburgh Steelers’ director of football operations, noted that nearly three-quarters of Pro Bowl players were selected in the first three rounds.

‘‘’So it’s very important that you get those players right,’ Colbert said, ‘and we really emphasize making sure we don’t make mistakes on the 1’s, 2’s and 3’s. If you get lucky on the later rounds, great. But the 1’s, 2’s and 3’s, if you miss on them, they can set you back for some years.’’’


  • Pittsburgh defensive end Brett Keisel has been growing his beard for seven months.  He thinks it gives the Steelers’ “Super Bowl powers”.  From Sam Farmer at the Los Angeles Times.
  • NFL commissioner Roger Goodell addresses the negotiations with the Player’s Union in this video as he answers a queston from Chad Ochocinco:

One Final Thought

I am not going to pick the Super Bowl game, especially against the spread, because I think its too close to call.  But in what I consider to be a good sign for the Steelers, most of the money in Vegas is coming in on the Packers.

Most of the bets aren’t in yet.  But MGM Resorts International, which operates 10 sports books on the Las Vegas Strip, said about 70 percent of the money bet so far in its casinos is for a Packers victory.  Bookies aren’t in the business of losing money.