Linebacker Is the “Ghost Need” for the Bears

Bolshevik revolutionary and Marxist theorist Leon Trotsky once said “Old age is the most unexpected of things that can happen to a man.”

No one is calling for the Bears to draft a linebacker high in the draft.  That includes me.  But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a need.

Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune continues his excellent positional analysis series with the Bears linebackers:

“While this doesn’t look like a need position, it is because [Brian] Urlacher, [Lance] Briggs and [Hunter] Hillenmeyer are the only linebackers under contract for next season.”

Its a shame the Bears don’t have high round draft picks to invest in every position on the field.  They seem to have a lot of needs to a team that just won their division.

This is an aging unit and its going to need an influx of youth soon.  Urlacher is 33, Briggs is 30 and, if they bring him back, Pisa Tinoisamoa will be 30 next season.  Biggs thinks that Urlacher has “enough spring in his legs to remain at a high level for a couple more seasons”.  I think so, too.  But I thought Brett Favre had another year in him after a wonderful performance in 2009.  Instead he went from old to too old in a snap.  And its worse for position players who rely more on their athleticism than the typical veteran quarterback.

I’ve even seen it in my own work.  One year a person is perfectly healthy and doing the job they’ve always done.  The next year they have 3 or 4 health problems, each building off of the last and each making the other worse.  Its a scary situation.

The fact that the Bears don’t have any youth here is largely due to the failures of past draft.  General Manager Jerry Angelo has invested in defensive lineman after defensive lineman – and rightfully so.  But the fact that he hasn’t hit on one in a very long time means that he can’t afford to stop drafting the position in favor of other needs.  Eventually the Bears are going to pay for his failures and it might well be here.

The guess here is that this need slides again in favor of more immediate problems.  But the linebacker position is one that we will want to keep an eye on.  Age isn’t something that always gradually shows up over time.  Instead it creeps up on you in the dark takes you from behind when you least expect it.

Roethlisberger Gets “Punched in the Nose” and Other Points of View


“‘Bring him back,’ Goodwin said Thursday. ‘The biggest thing about Olin is his leadership. I’ve been watching film on him the last few games because we didn’t know who we were going to face in the Super Bowl. Let me tell you, he can still play. All the things I saw him do when I was with the Bears, he can still do now. It’s a no-brainer to re-sign him, No. 1 as a player, but No. 2 as a leader.'”


“What has gotten the Packers to this point is good drafting, but not just that. It’s also solid player development. The Packers’ coaching staff prepares young players well, and then gives them opportunities.”

“When you see the Packers’ defense jog onto the field Sunday, rest assured they will be guided neither by statistical tendencies nor computer “readouts.” Their game plan will be the work of a man who literally wrote the book on this system, a man who sat at a desk last week with a pen and an bag of multicolored highlighters and wrote down his plan to help win a Super Bowl championship. Based solely on his own knowledge, instincts and a file of reports from every game he has coached, Capers will almost certainly make a call or two that the NFL has never seen.”

  • ESPN’s Sal Palatonio interviews B. J. Raji.  Sounds like the Packers are depending on Raji to dominate as the Steelers are hurting at center:

  • Jake Locker isn’t one of Mel Kiper‘s top 25 NFL prospects:

Nate Solder 6-9 315
Gabe Carimi 6-7 327
Tyron Smith 6-5 280
Anthony Castonzo 6-7 287
Derek Sherrod 6-6 305

One Final Thought

Sam Farmer at the Los Angeles Times quotes Steelers offensive coordinator Bruce Arians on the troubles quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has faced:

“That happens to a lot of these guys, the young kids who come in and have success.  There’s a sense of entitlement. … It happens to all of us. Whether it’s someone who writes a bestseller, you look at yourself different. You feel pretty good about yourself.

“It’s the same thing as a coach. You win some ballgames, you feel pretty good about yourself. It’s different when that success kind of becomes who you are, and you stray away from your family and you roots and everything.

“It takes a punch in the nose to get you back.”

Aaron Roger’s Extensive Comments on Brett Favre and Other Points of View


“It was interesting to hear the Green Bay Packers praise the play of nose tackle Anthony Adams prior to the NFC Championship Game. It was also very telling. By nature, the position doesn’t produce much in the way of statistics, but he proved long ago to be a shrewd free-agent signing. Adams is a dependable and durable two-down performer and quietly he’s one of the real leaders in the locker room, making him a priority to re-sign as he’s an unrestricted free agent.”

“The 23rd overall pick of the Packers, Bulaga has mostly played at right tackle, and his performance has been inconsistent. One NFC scout told me that Bears seventh-round pick J’Marcus Webb has more upside than Bulaga.”


“I bet two dozen [Steeler] players … Not one, not a single player, went to his defense. It wasn’t personal in a sense, but all kinds of stories like, ‘He won’t sign my jersey.’ ”

The original quote was reported by’s Peter King. King has admitted that he put the “Steeler” in brackets and that the commissioner never implicitly stated that this was the case. But it not exactly a denial by Goodell, either.

“I asked Ochocinco how [quarterback Carson] Palmer’s situation compares to when the receiver tried to get traded a few years ago.
“’The difference is I would be scrutinized,’ he said. ‘In Carson’s case, they would do everything they can to fix the situation.’”

Ochocinco thinks the Bengals fired offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski to make Palmer happy.

  • I know that football players are a superstitious lot.  But this is ridiculous.  Via Jim Litke at the Associated Press.
  • This expert is obviously better than most as he makes his Super Bowl pick:

  • Hmmm.  He makes a good point.  But I’m not so sure I trust that guy.  Let’s see what this expert has to say:

Yep.  That pretty much finalizes it.


  • Steeler’s center Maurkice Pouncey speaks to Chris Berman at ESPN.  He really seems to think he can play.  We’ll see.

One Final Thought

Florio collected some interesting quotes from Pittsburgh offensive coordinator Bruce Arians. This was among them

“’That’s what makes you enjoy this week so much: All those times getting your ass kicked,’ Arians said in reference to the times he was actually fired as a college coach.”

Thinking of Betting on the Super Bowl? Maybe Better Think Again. And Other Points of View


  • Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune does another positional analysis, this time of the offensive line. He concludes that the Bears need two linemen, probably one veteran and one draftee, probably one for the interior who can play center and probably one for the tackle position. I generally agree. Perhaps the most interesting point was his bottom line:

[General manager Jerry] Angelo has his work cut out for him. The Bears assign one person to be a crosschecker for each position in the draft, an overseer if you will. Angelo has been that man for the offensive line. The draft is his baby and the line has been his position. It’s time to produce.

  • David Haugh, also at the Tribunetalks to backup quarterback Caleb Hanie.  The Bears are in a bit of a bind with Hanie because they’ll probably have to pay $1.759 million next year to keep him.  I found this quote to be interesting:

“‘You think about fourth-and-4, if I had just pumped that ball into Earl (Bennett),’ Hanie said. ‘Or on (B.J.) Raji‘s (interception return for a touchdown) if I would have taken just three steps instead of five steps, would he have just missed it. Or if I had gotten reps on that play, I would have maybe progressed over to Devin (Hester). But that’s how it goes sometimes.”’

This is the classic “loser’s lament”, worthy more of a Lions player who is still learning how to finish a game..  Hanie should know than to make these kinds of statements.


Tom Brady and Drew Brees averaged 44 attempts against the Steelers this year. They picked Pittsburgh apart with short precision passing for 655 yards, five scores, and one pick.

I doubt this fact has been lost on the Packer coaching staff.

In any case, hope that the Packers coaching staff will still be raided is not lost (yet).  Let’s not forget that Dom Capers would certainly still look good on that Titan sideline as head coach. Assuming Green Bay head coach Mike McCarthy doesn’t decide to refuse to give him permission to interview, of course. After all, he might find his way from there to the Bears one day.

“Rush four—and drop seven. That’s it. Whenever you send the corner cat (Sam Shields in this situation, “C” in the white square), you are playing coverage in the backend and looking to steal a play.”

Raji is the defensive tackle that drops into coverage as Shields rushes.

“Dom has done more as far as moving people around,” Fox analyst Jimmy Johnson said. “LeBeau has done a fantastic job, but they are pretty standard with their zone blitzes. They let their players’ abilities be better than the guy across from them. Dom really moves his people around a lot. They can be coming from anyplace. He’s probably a little more diverse than LeBeau.”

  • Chris Erskine at the Chicago Tribune gathers hair advice for Troy Polamalu and Clay Matthews.  Sunday, for heaven’s sake, please come quickly.
  • Sam Farmer at the Los Angeles Times does a pretty good job of bottom lining this game for me:

“Tell me how the Packers do at stopping Rashard Mendenhall, and I think I can tell you who wins this game.”

Mustain was rated ahead of Tim Tebow and behind only Matthew Stafford among prep quarterbacks in 2006.

But don’t let that spoil the rest of National Signing Day.

  • Some of the Super Bowl ads are starting to hit the Internet.  This Doritos commercial looks promising.

One Final Thought

Via we have this little nugget for those thinking of investing in the Super Bowl.  R.J. Bell at says that Vegas has won money on 18 of the last 20 Super Bowls – the exceptions being 2008 (Giants vs. Pats) and 1995 (49ers vs. Chargers).  What’s the estimated net amount that gamblers have lost over that time period?  Over $11 BILLION dollars.

Don’t go betting the house on this one, folks.  Or barn if you live in Green Bay.

Fran Tarkenton Addresses Cutler Situation with Interesting Insights

I keep promising myself to let the issues surrounding Jay Cutler‘s injury during the NFC Championship game die. But little interesting points of discussion keep coming out of it.

Fran Tarkenton made some interesting comments on the “Mully and Hanley Show” on WSCR in Chicago (via the Chicago Tribune).

“It’s going to be very difficult. I don’t question Jay Cutler’s toughness. Anybody who plays in the National Football League is tough. I don’t question his courage. I question his judgment.”

“He made a bad decision by taking himself out of the game. I think he’ll have to live with this decision for a long, long time, and I think it will be a very hard decision to overcome, inside the locker room, outside the locker room, in the fan base, wherever he might go. I think it’s a very unfortunate thing.”

“We’re not football players like the rest of the guys. The rest of the guys are hitting people and knocking people down; we’re running away from them. We’ve got to be the emotional leader, the inspirational leader and the physical leader out there. That’s what quarterbacks have always been … in Chicago, from Sid Luckman, (Jim) McMahon, Bobby Douglass and on — the (Roger) Staubachs and all of them — that’s just what you do.

I’m not so sure I agree with the leadership part of this. Cutler is probably better off being who he is rather than forcing himself into this role. But that doesn’t mean he shouldn’t be setting an example.

As tough as Cutler is and as many hits as he took during the year, I have to wonder if Tarkenton doesn’t have a point. I’ve said before that Cutler’s history suggests that he might not be who handles the tough times well mentally. He was playing poorly you have to wonder if he just said to himself, “The knee is hurt. That’s it.” rather than deciding to fight through both the bad knee and the poor play simultaneously.

Tarkenon says that this is likely a problem “inside the locker room, outside the locker room, in the fan base”. As supportive as they’ve been publicly of Cutler is it possible that Brian Urlacher or Lance Briggs could watch Cutler riding that exercise bike and not wonder if they wouldn’t have been out there playing on that knee? How about Tommie Harris, whose knee hasn’t been right since 2006? As part of that fan base, I’m starting to wonder.

Defensive Tackle High on the List of Needs as Harris Shows Flashes and Toeaina Wears Down

Brad Biggs and the Chicago Tribune addresses the tackle position in his latest positional analysis, this time of the defensive line:

The talk of Peppers’ arrival impacting Tommie Harris was just that — talk. Harris was limited to six starts as Matt Toeaina took over the role for the majority of the season. At 27, he’s not the same player he once was and he won’t be again. But just as the former first-round draft pick did a year ago, he showed signs of being a disruptive force down the stretch.

The problem is, of course, that as Harris got his chance to come on late in the season because Toeaina wore down. This appears to be a problem with Toeania as it has happened virtually every year he’s played for the Bears. He starts with a strong training camp and plays well early. But he tends to disappear as the season wears on.

Biggs makes the point that Henry Melton might take a big leap next year at this position. He envisions a competition between him and Toeania for the starting position. But I’m not so sure I’m depend upon either of these guys doing the job. Melton did show flashes this year and was a contributor. But if I’m the Bears, I’m not holding my breath waiting for him to show more. He may well be as good as he’s going to get and “situational pass rusher” might be his MO.

Biggs calls the the position of “medium priority shading toward low”. I will disagree and put it higher on the list, perhaps just below offensive line. Israel Idonije did a reasonable job taking advantage of the attention Julius Peppers drew at the opposite defensive end. But the three technique tackle is still a central position in the Bears defense. They may, once again, be looking for defensive linemen.

Player Says Seventy Percent Are in the Game Only for the Money and Other Points of View


  • Eric Washington has left the Bears to become the defensive line coach for the Carolina Panthers.  He held the same position with the Bears but I’m sure everyone knows that, title aside, Rod Marinelli really hods that position here.  Via Neil Hayes at the Chicago Sun-Times.
  • Hayes also reports that the Eagles have requested permission to interview Jon Hoke, the Bears defensive backs coach, for their defensive coordinator position.  this is all well and good but let’s see these teams show a little love for that wonderful Packer defense by raiding their staff.
  • Dan Pompei answers you questions:

“Please tell me that you would not prefer any of [the backup quarterbacks on the free agent market], simply because of their experience over [Caleb] Hanie as the Bears backup QB. Tim Flynn, Denver”

“Look, the market for backup quarterbacks is not a pretty one. There aren’t enough good players go around to be starters, let alone backups. I wasn’t suggesting any of those players. I was just stating they may be available, and they may be fits for the type of players Martz is looking for. My suggestion would be to make Hanie the No. 2. He is as good an option as the Bears could find.”

Pompei is probably right.  But you never know.  Offensive coordinator Mike Martz obviously likes the veteran back ups…

“It’s not a story that is going to disappear for Cutler — it can’t after so many peers throughout the league kicked him while he was down. That was the bigger issue. It wasn’t that the Chicago Bears quarterback’s toughness, which is well-established, was questioned. It’s the fact that given an opening, so many chose to pounce on him, crossing unwritten lines in doing so.”

  • But not all of the players are jumping on Cutler.  Broncos right offensive tackle Ryan Harris, who played with him in 2008, had some nice things to say.  Via Vaughn McClure at the Chicago Tribune:

“I know him from my experience with him, and my experience was that he was always tough and always focused on the game.”

Harris is a free agent this offseason and the Bears are widely believed to be shopping for offensive linemen.  Coincidence?  I think not.

“Sometimes it’s considered hidden yardage, and Cutler sure supplied plenty of it with his legs. He rushed for 232 yards, 35 behind Chester Taylor for the second-most on the team.”

  • Biggs rates the draft/free agency priority as “low”.  But that depends upon your definition of “low”, I think.   Assuming they’ll end up settling for Hanie as the number 2 (a big assumption) I’d think the Bears might look to draft a quarterback to develop as the number three.  Angelo has said in the past that ideally he’d like to take one every year.
  • Matt Forte speaking to about whether he’s heard anything from the organization about an extension.  “I’ve expressed my interest.”  Via Sean Jensen at the Chicago Sun-Times.


“However, not everything about broadcasts is moving forward. When the NFL moved the umpire this season, bumping him from the middle of the defense to a spot behind the quarterback, it was a huge setback for TV.

“Why? Because the umpire wore a microphone in games, allowing him to pick up the sound of the quarterback and defensive players making their calls at the line of scrimmage, and get the ambient noise of bodies colliding.

“Broadcasts, [NBC’s “Football Night in America” producer,FredGaudelli said, “took a 20-year step backward when they moved the umpire… From a pure television technological standpoint, right now we’re so handcuffed that we’re putting out sounds that are not remotely close to being state of the art in 2011. We don’t have any sounds.”

One Final Thought

Player X, an anonymous player turned blogger, writes for ESPN about “pay check players” in the NFL:

“It’s Super Bowl time, which means right now there are 30 NFL teams whose seasons are over. In other words, almost 1,600 players are sitting at home watching. (Okay, or maybe on vacation somewhere.) And guess what? Most of them couldn’t be happier.

“That’s because the majority of the guys — I’d say probably close to 70 percent — are in the game only for the money. They don’t care about winning. The editors showed me the story on Super Bowl rings, and, man, I couldn’t disagree more: Most players don’t care about championship bling. Sure, in interviews, 100 percent of them will say it’s all about winning championships. But they know that’s what the public wants to hear. I’m telling you, most of them are lying. They couldn’t care less about getting a ring.”

We can only hope this is just a cynical jerk popping off.  I’d hate to think that these guys are throwing their bodies around and away every week for a pay check.