Former Bears Safety Plank Obviously Not Feeling the Love and Other Points of View

Lots of Bears news so there isn’t anything from the “Elsewhere” category today.

Best hands, Earl Bennett: The NFC North has no shortage of elite receivers who have collected Pro Bowl honors, from Greg Jennings to Calvin Johnson to Sidney Rice. None of them displayed the kind of reliability Bennett achieved last season for the Chicago Bears. He dropped only one of the 70 passes thrown his way, according to ESPN Stats & Information, and caught 46. Jennings dropped five of the 122 passes thrown his way. Johnson also had five (on 134 targets). Rice was limited to five games. “

“Their offensive line needed an overhaul more than most people realized. (Line coach) Mike Tice was trying to get plays blocked with players — yeah, some of them were older, like (Olin) Kreutz — but they aren’t suited for Martz’s system. Most are guys better for the West Coast style: movement guys, quickness and technique. They haven’t been able to beat teams at the point of attack physically with their running game for a long time. They resorted to some deception and got (Matt) Forte on the edge in gimmick plays, but really have trouble blocking the run. …

“On defense, you know what you’re getting, and that’s the problem. I don’t think it’s going to change. They run their cover 2. They might disguise it, but they’ve basically got to do it all with athletic ability. Their coverage guys are using the outside shoulder leverage to funnel receivers into the middle, where there’s help. You know all of this going in, right away. That’s why you see some teams hurting their defense early in games with the prearranged plays.”

He’s spot on about the offensive line.  But I think this person doesn’t give Lovie Smith and Rod Marinelli enough credit.  The Bears started disguising coverages last year and they generally did a pretty good job of it.  If they keep doing that, their defense will continue to be less than straight forward to figure out at crucial moments in the game.

“Last season, the defense benefited by facing three third-string quarterbacks, and the team had no starters on injured reserve. Such good fortune rarely occurs for any team, let alone in successive years. Combine that expectation with an aging defense, the reduced impact of special teams and keen competition from dominant Green Bay and rising Detroit, and it all adds up to more pressure on the offense in 2011 — Cutler in particular.”

“Responding to a question about Fantuz during an in-studio appearance on ESPN 1000’s “Waddle and Silvy Show” Monday, Olsen said: “I think he’s pretty good. I have to say I’ve been impressed. He’s a good kid. He’s worked hard. He called us from the very beginning to find out when we were working out and what we were doing. He’s stepped right in and been at workouts.” Fantuz signed with the Bears in February after spending the past five seasons with the Saskatchewan Roughriders in the Canadian Football League. Last year he caught a career-high 87 passes for a league-leading 1,380 yards.”

I haven’t seen Fantuz play but some commentators have been quick to dismiss him, probably because he’s from the CFL.  I intensely dislike that kind of elitism and I’m not at all sure he doesn’t deserve better.  If Olsen is being honest, and I don’t see why he wouldn’t be, Fantuz might be able to contribute a great deal this year as a sizable receiver the Bears currently lack.

“You know.  I do have my fair share against, I think, against Jay Cutler. But he is still a good quarterback. I take nothing from Jay. But at the end of the day I do get a good read on him on certain plays. So, but I would say Jay.”

  • Jeff Dickerson at reports that newly drafted Bears quarterback Nathan Enderle has started coming to player organized workouts.  Enderle undoubtedly skipped the workouts to this point because he’s not under constract but I doubt he could help himself.  Along with the rest of the mid to late round draft picks I expect he’ll be quickly signed after the lockout with none of the usual mucking about.  So assuming he doesn’t get hurt (a big assumption) there’s not much reason for him to hold himself out.

One Final Thought

Fred Mitchell at the Chicago Tribune quotes former Bears safety Doug Plankon whether he will ever coach in Chicago.

“Every organization kind of looks at former players differently.  This is my own personal evaluation. I don’t know if former Chicago Bears coming back in a coaching capacity would really interest the organization. Or at least that’s the way it’s perceived. I would never expect (a Bears coaching opportunity) to happen.”

The Bears always talk about former player beaming part of the “family”.  Apparently their former players don’t “perceive” is that way.

Adam Schefter: Ochocinco a Possibility for the Bears

ESPN‘s Adam Schefter thinks Chad Ochocinco could end up being a Chicago Bear:

“I also wouldn’t completely dismiss the possibility of Chad Ochocinco landing [in Chicago], since Cincinnati is not expected to pay him $6.25 million this season. I will say that I believe Chicago’s wide receivers are a bit better than most people think. The Bears can win, and have won, with the receivers they have. But to get another big receiving threat, particularly if it were to weaken a division opponent such as Minnesota — and the Vikings did the same thing to the Bears when they signed away Bernard Berrian — would help Cutler and Chicago. It’s likely the Bears will make a play on one of those big receivers.”

I have two words for Adam:  “No.”  “Way.”  If the Bengals thought the Ocho had anything left, they’d find a way to keep him.

But let’s set that aside by assuming he’s just not worth the $6.25 million that they’d currently have to pay.  There’s just no way the Bears are going to sign a guy that brings that kind of drama to the football team – and rightly so.  That kind of disruption calls for an equal return on the field and we’re not exactly talking about Randy Moss just out of college.  We’re talking about a guy who hasn’t managed to do anything on the field worth noting for at least two seasons.

The Bears really do like their receivers.  Or at least they like them better than to waste a roster spot on an older guy like Ochocinco.  They tried that before with Marty Booker in 2008 and it stunted the growth of the younger guys on the roster.  They’re unlikly to make that mistake again.

Greg Gabriel Thinks Wootton Will Step Up After Recovery from Knee Problems

Former head of college scouting for the Bears Greg Gabriel looks at second year players to watch out for this season.  He highlights Bears defensive end Corey Wootton:

“Wootton was the Bears fourth-round pick a year ago. Going into his senior season he had a very high combine grade, but he was hurt (right knee ACL) in his team’s bowl game at the end of his junior season and did not look like the same player. He lacked the explosiveness that he showed as a junior. This carried over to his workouts before the draft and thus he slipped to the fourth round. With the Bears having a lot of depth in their defensive line it wasn’t until the last part of the season that he began to get playing time. In his limited role he showed flashes of his former self and this year he could play a big role in the defensive line rotation. The Bears like to rotate 6 to 7 players on the defensive line, so it could mean playing as much as 50 percent of a game. This is a tall, athletic guy with edge pass rush ability.”

I certainly hope Gabriel’s right.  But you’ll forgive me if I have my doubts.  I can understand “lack of explosiveness” for the first year after surgery (his senior year at Northwestern).  It usually takes about that long to fully recover.  But it seems to me like Wootton should have been showing us more last year even if he was just a rookie.  There wasn’t much special about his play and other than knocking Brett Favre out of his final game, there weren’t many highlights.

The Bears certainly do need Wootton to step up (along with defensive tackle Henry Melton).  But I’m not holding my breath.

Terrelle Pryor Suffers Most From First Bad Decision

Dan Pompei at the National Football Post has this interesting comment on the spring ratings amongst the players who were possibilities for the supplemental draft:

“Cornerback Janoris Jenkins was the highest rated cornerback among all senior prospects and was rated one of the top prospects at any position. His 6.9 grade was well above the 6.5 given to Alfonzo Dennard of Nebraska, the No. 2 ranked corner. After his dismissal from Florida, Jenkins decided to enroll at North Alabama rather than enter the supplemental draft.

“Michael Floyd also decided to forego the supplemental draft. The wide receiver is returning to Notre Dame despite the fact that he was the highest rated receiver among seniors to be. His 6.5 grade put him ahead of Texas A&M’s Jeff Fuller and Wisconsin’s Nick Toon.

“Terrelle Pryor of Ohio State did decide to enter the supplemental draft, but the rankings indicate he could have used another year in school. Nine quarterbacks were rated ahead of him.”

In my opinion all of these players made the wrong decision, at least financially.  As Pompei points out, a lot will change in terms of these ratings over the next year.  What that tells me is that Jenkins and especially Floyd have nowhere to go but down.  Off-field priorities aside, Pryor on the other hand could have really used an extra year to boost his stock.

But Pryor’s real error in my opinion was made years ago when he decided to go to Ohio State to begin with.  I held at the time and still believe that the right decision would have been to take advantage of his physical talents in a spread offense.  Instead he chose to go to a pro style offense at Ohio State and (somewhat arrogantly) look ahead to a pro career which was years in the future and which might nor might not ever materialize.

The question to ask is this.  If Pryor had taken advantage of his natural talents in a spread offense, would he still be tenth on the list of quarterbacks?  I’m not so sure.

Bears Will Probably Continue to Try to Have Training Camp Away From Chicago

Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune explains why the Bears still have training camp in southern Illinois:

“While only half of the teams in the league go away for training camp, the Bears remain committed to the experience for a number of reasons, one of which is allowing fans a closer look at the team. It also gives the Bears a chance to sell merchandise as fans must enter and exit the ONU fields through a pro shop.”

I’m pretty sure they could find a way to allow fans access at Lake Forest and I know they could set up a pro shop.  The guess here is that this has more to do with a promise to the state legislature to have training camp somewhere in Illinois (presumably not in Chicago) in exchange for stadium funding.  And they’re a traditional franchise that probably doesn’t like to change the experience.

The Return to 2009 Unrestricted Free Agency. What Does It Mean for the Bears?

Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune thinks the Bears might have a problem if, as expected, the new free agency rules revert back to 2009 rules.  Under those conditions players with four or more years of service will be unrestricted free agents.

“How will it affect the Bears? If you are cornerback Corey Graham, safety Danieal Manning or linebacker Nick Roach, it’s good news. Although the Bears tendered a qualifying RFA offer to all three, under these guidelines they will be unrestricted.”

I mildly disagree with the premise that this will be a big deal for the Bears in that I don’t think they will miss any of these guys all that much.  Corey Graham is a role player, Danieal Manning is an easily replaceable strong safety.  You could make an argument for Roach as being the one who would hurt the most to lose but a healthy Pisa Tinoisamoa is, in my opinion, every bit as good (the key being the “healthy” part of that sentence).  Admittedly Tiniosamoa isn’t under contract either but it isn’t expected that he’ll be hard to re-sign.

All in all I don’t see this as being a big problem and, if I were to guess, I’d say its less of a problem for the Bears than for most other teams in the league.  The odds are good that the Bears put as high or a higher priority on re-signing Anthony Adams and Olin Kreutz.

Authors note:  Most of you will note the inactivity on the blog lately.  I’ve been working on putting in government grants for my real job.  The light is near the end of the tunnel though and you can expect to see many more posts starting late next week.  With any luck, that will co-incide with an end or near-end to the lockout, anyway.


Fundamental Football Still the Path to Victory

Football Outsiders has taken a look at percentages of broken tackles.  This statistic is defined as:

“Either the ballcarrier escapes from the grasp of the defender, or the defender is in good position for a tackle but the ballcarrier jukes him out of his shoes. If the ballcarrier sped by a slow defender who dived and missed, that didn’t count as a broken tackle.”

The Bears ranked 12th on this list which isn’t good enough for a cover two team that must tackle well and execute.  But the statistic is biased against speed teams because they have more opportunities to make tackles that can be broken.

What really stood out to me was the Lions spot.  ESPN‘s NFC North blogger Kevin Seifert compared their number to the ranking in 2009, pointing out that they improved by only one spot, moving from 32 to 31 on the list.

The Lions are a very popular pick to make the playoffs this year amongst the “experts”.  Players like Ndamukong Suh are already claiming the status of contender, in his case even suggesting the possibility of a 16-0 season.  A lot of that  confidence stems from an influx of talented players like Nick Fairley.

That’s a good thing for them.  But it isn’t everything.  People think the primary problem with the Lions has been lack of talent don’t know football.  Their problem is that they make too many mistakes.  They don’t play they game with good fundamentals.  Yes, the Lions finished the season strong last year and they should be better.  But if they can’t catch the ball (and hang on to it all of the way through the catch), if they can’t run without fumbling, and if they can’t tackle, its all moonshine.  Its because of statistics like this that bad teams lose.

The “experts” can proclaim the Lions the team of the year all they want.  I’ll believe the Lions are winners only when I see them improve not just their talent, but in the way that talent plays the game.

Can the McCaskey’s Avoid Selling the Bears?

Congratulations to NBC Chicago‘s Peggy Kusinski for asking new Bears Chairman George McCaskey the first interesting question since he took over:

“Does he ever see the McCaskeys no longer being majority shareholders of the Chicago Bears?

“‘No,’ he replied.

“The goal is to hang on to the team and pass it on to the fourth generation.  And that poses its own problem.  There are 11 McCaskey children now owning the Bears, but there are nearly two dozen grandchildren to groom.

“‘The numbers present a challenge just by themselves.  We’ll be up for it.  The goal is to hold onto the team for the second coming,’ he said.”

No surprise there, right?  Not so fast, my friend.

Its hard for media members to top toe around this because no one really wants to suggest such a morbid topic but what happens to the Bears after current majority owner Virginia McCaskey dies is a serious issue for the family.  The franchise is currently valued at at least $800 million and the estate tax is 55% plus a 5% surcharge.  That’s a lot of cash.

So when George McCaskey talks about the numbers presenting a challenge, he’s not just talking about children and grandchildren.  He’s thinking about the financial realities behind just keeping the franchise within the family’s control.

[EDIT – It turns out I posted this too quickly.  This 2006 ESPN article by Darren Rovell explains how the Bears will get around the estate tax issue:

“Unlike most of the rest of us who are plowing through the IRS code and crunching our own tax numbers right now, today’s franchise owners can afford to make themselves privy to the most sophisticated techniques in existence that might lighten the tax burden for the next generation in their families.

Take the Chicago Bears as an example. George Halas bought the team in 1920 for $100; and when he died in 1983, he transferred ownership to Virginia McCaskey, his daughter. McCaskey, who is now in her 80’s, reportedly has a controlling interest with an 80 percent share in the club. But technically, those shares were at some point gifted to her 11 children; so that when she passes away, there will be a minimal transference and therefore few estate taxes related to the club. Bears spokesman Roger Hacker said the percentage owned by each of the children is not public information and would not be released, but it appears that we can expect the McCaskeys to own the Bears for a while longer, at least.”]

Ben Roethlisberger Really Does Do All of HIs Thinking Below the Waist. And Other Points of View.


“Quality Fits:

“Chris Conte, Chicago Bears: Conte played cornerback for the first three years of his career at Cal, so when he made the switch to free safety as a senior, he flew a bit under the radar for most. However, while Moore earned most of the attention in the Pac-10, Conte was the more reliable tackler and coverage defender despite his limited experience. The Bears have experimented with undersized safeties for years under Lovie Smith, but in the 6-2, 197 pound Conte, they get a rangy center fielder with a legitimate combination of size and speed. The learning curve will be steep considering his lack of experience at the position, but Conte will prove a starting caliber free safety early in his NFL career.”

“I don’t understand why more kids don’t go to schools like Rice, Northwestern, Stanford and Vanderbilt.”

“Chicago (B-)
“Pro Bowlers: 5 (t-21st)
“Draftees Active in 2010: 38 (t-20th)
“Players with 50+ Career AV: 4 (t-6th)
“Players with 20+ Career AV: 21 (t-4th)
“Best Pick: LB Lance Briggs (3rd round, 2003)
“Worst Pick: WR David Terrell (No. 8 overall, 2001)

“Summary: The Bears have found a lot of later-round gems, but have really struggled to hit on their first-rounders. Only Tommie Harris was a true success, with Marc Colombo and Cedric Benson not finding their niches until the Bears gave up on them (apparently too early). The second round has been their forte (no pun intended), where they’ve gotten Matt Forte, Devin Hester, Charles Tillman, Tank Johnson and Danieal Manning.”

“A 4-3 one-gap team does not trade up, which the Bears did, for a nose tackle. It trades up for a three-technique.”

I’d agree and add that the Bears already have an adequate player that fits inside to sign and fill out the lineup in Adams. If not him , then there are a number of other options. But if they put Paea there, what will they do at the three technique? I think its obvious what the plan was when the drafted him.

“The father of Chicago Bears defensive end Julius Peppers has lost his law enforcement job after being charged in North Carolina with felony possession of cocaine.”

George Thomas Kurney was a sheriff’s deputy.

“What are the chances of Andy Fantuz starting for the Bears at WR? Brandon, Wisconsin

“He has an excellent chance of starting — if Johnny Knox breaks his leg, Devin Hester retires, Earl Bennett blows out his knee, and whoever the Bears sign as a free agent breaks his arm. Otherwise, he doesn’t have much of a chance.”


“Last season, the NFC West became the first division in the modern era to send a losing team to the playoffs. The Seahawks made it at 7-9.

“So, Larry, seeing as three teams have uncertain quarterback situations, is the NFC West the league’s most fluid division?

“‘Yes,’ he said. ‘Fluidly bad.'”

  • For those who still listen to his blather, Mike Ditka basically tells the Detroit Free Press that he thinks referees should ignore the rules. On the positive side he also gives the Lions the kiss of death by joining the crowd of experts who love them this year.
  • The Lions haven’t won anything yet but head coach Jim Schwartz has already dubbed his defensive line the “Silver Crush”.
  • Pompei also answers your questions:

“What are the chances the Bears go after Nnamdi Asomugha? Mike, St. Charles

“If the Bears go after Asomugha, it will be completely out of character for them. Given the defensive scheme they run, they have not prioritized high-priced, shutdown cornerbacks. They need physical corners who can tackle and who have ball skills. I don’t see that changing now.”

The Bears are almost certainly not on the list of teams that are going to be on the phone to Asomugha. But it seem like they’re one of the few that aren’t. Asomugha is almost certainly the number one free agent this offseason. His telephone is going to be mighty busy about five seconds after free agency opens. Three teams in the NFC East, Washington, Philadelphia and Dallas, would seem to be right at the top of the list. It going to be fascinating to see where he goes and for how much.

“If Andy Reid thought Kevin Kolb was so good, why would he be trading him? He knows quarterbacks. Good quarterbacks don’t get traded when they are young by good coaches.”

“Bee Master: You are wrong. Next speller. Ben Roethlisberger?
“Roethlisberger: Hit me.
“Bee Master: Your word is ‘no’.
“Roethlisberger: No. Y-E-S. No.”

One Final Thought

The boys at The Onion take us through the ins and outs of player-led workouts. Here’s a typical drill for the Bears:

“Defensive players practiced their team fundamentals by having linebacker Lance Briggs hit the tackling dummies while linebacker Brian Urlacher got all the credit.”

Does Mike Martz Have Too Much Power? If So He’s Not Alone.

The world is full of compromise.  And no one apparently hates it any more than Timothy Miller of Endwell, N.Y.  Tim is apparently convinced that offensive coordinator Mike Martz is ruining the Bears franchise.  How else do you explain the fact that he emailed not one, but two NFL writers asking if Martz has cast a spell over the team that will lead to its ultimate demise.

First, let’s see what ESPN‘s NFC North blogger Kevin Seifert has to say:

“Tim of Endwell, New York, writes:  Do you think the Chicago Bears are giving Mike Martz too much power? With his influence on demanding a veteran quarterback last year, (Todd Collins) the miss-handling of playing time with Devin Aromashodu, and drafting quarterbacks in back to back years. With Martz’s track record with previous teams, it seems like he has a lot of influence even though he might not be here for too long.”

“Kevin Seifert:

“I tend to look at it from another perspective. Martz’s skill as an offensive mind and quarterback teacher has never really been questioned. His downfalls in St. Louis, Detroit and San Francisco can be attributed more to personality clashes and philosophical differences. If you hire a coach like Martz and plan for him to be with you for more than a year, it’s best to treat him like an asset and hope he can leave a lasting impact on your franchise in a way many other coordinators could not.

This discussion would be more difficult if the Bears were using first and/or second-round draft picks to appease Martz. [Dan] LeFevour was drafted in the sixth round and [Nathan] Enderle in the fifth. I’m fine with the Bears using a late-round pick on the chance that Martz could accelerate development for a player at the most important position in the game. Even if [Jay] Cutler‘s presence means that Enderle will never start for the Bears, it’s not unheard of for NFL teams to develop and trade backup quarterbacks for draft picks far exceeding the value of where they were selected.”

Dan Pompei at the Chicago Tribune also answers Tim’s question:

“A team has to put a lot of faith in the person who is running the offense. The alternative is saddling that person with players he doesn’t believe in. You want the offensive coordinator to have ownership in the final product. How can the offensive coordinator buy in if management isn’t buying in to him? It’s especially important with a veteran coach who has had considerable success as Martz has. The Bears can’t concern themselves with how long Martz will or won’t be here. The future isn’t promised with any coach.”

Both explanations are true but in general terms I think Pompei gets closer to the heart of it.

The life of general manager Jerry Angelo isn’t an easy one.  The problem with Martz is no different than the problem with head coach Lovie Smith, defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli, and to a lesser extent the rest of the coaches.  Angelo has the unenviable job of trying to please all of them because he knows full well that you can’t ask a coach to work with a guy he doesn’t believe in.  Not if you want to get optimal results.

Most fans would really like to see the personnel people have the strongest say about who is drafted.  Perhaps they do.  But there’s always going to be a question of who wanted which players because Angelo is constantly compromising.  In the end, Angelo’s fate relies not just on the ability of these men to coach but on their ability to evaluate talent and extrapolate what they see to what will happen on a professional football field.

The bottom line is that Martz does have too much power.  So does Smith and so do the rest of the coaches.  But that’s the way of the world if you want it to be peaceful and well-run.