Blaming the Play Caller Is the Easy Way Out and Other Points of View


  • Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune give his perspective on the state of Caleb Hanie by drawing this interesting comparison:

You can count on Lovie Smith to say one thing at the start of the preseason and the regular season: A team usually makes its biggest improvements from Game 1 to Game 2. The Bears will be taking that approach into Sunday’s game against the Chiefs, hoping Caleb Hanie will make strides after completing 50 percent of his passes and being intercepted three times.

End Chauncey Davis, added two weeks ago, got into the mix and likely made an impression with four tackles. That third end position is wide open for someone who wants to grab it, and as this loss showed, the Bears aren’t good enough on defense just yet to overcome errors on offense.

The guess here is [Kyle] Orton will be the man. Kansas City (4-7) claimed him for a reason and the Chiefs don’t have any margin for error now that they are three games behind the Raiders.

  • When the Bears let Jake Laptad go as the long snapper after not one practice, I assumed he must have been really bad. Not so according to Biggs:

“There weren’t any snaps bounced back to holder Adam Podlesh in practice. Laptad didn’t sail any snaps over the head of Podlesh on punts in practice. It just wasn’t what special teams coordinator Dave Toub, who had worked with Laptad during a two-week stint on the practice squad in October, wanted.”

“Why was Laptad let go?

“’Off the mark,’ Toub said. ‘He snaps so fast, he has such zip on the ball if it’s off the mark and it gets by you, you’re in trouble. He’s got a lot of talent. He’s just not ready. If he really wants to work at it and get better, he could be a snapper in the NFL. But he’s got to improve.'”

  • I finished reading this article on the Oakland game from Dan Pompei at the Chicago Tribune and I wondered if the Bears had actually lost.
  • Vaughn McClure at the Chicago Tribune makes a good point:

“[Defensive coordinator Rod] Marinelli also simplified the game by not using as many stunts.

“‘It was all about lining up and just beating the man across from you,’ [defensive end Israel] Idonije said. ‘We just went out there and got after it.'”

I thought they simplified the game plan in all aspects, not just with the lack of stunts.  The Bears played a surprising vanilla cover two a good portion of the game.  I’m not sure how I feel about that.  On the one hand it worked.  ON the other hand I don’t think its always going to work.  the Bears need to disguise their coverages every once in a while and I think it was a noticeable improvement when they started to do it last year.

“Quick, someone tell Hanie that late, high and wide over the middle is no way to go through the NFL.”

I think Hanie can and probably will improve everything else.  But I’m not sure how much his accuracy is going to improve this week.

  • On what I would say is a note related to the Ndamukong Suh incident Thursday, we have this from Pro Football Weekly‘s Audibles:

“If you look at what happened to the Lions against the Bears, the crazy thing about it is — the Lions moved the ball. They had a good plan. They just turned it over too much. And the wind was a major factor. I was wondering how the Bears could be so good — the defense did some good things, but watch the ball hang on the interception returns. Even the kick to (Devin) Hester that was returned, the wind took that ball right into his hands.”

Lovie (Smith) has not been a good coach for the Chicago Bears; he has been a great coach — just the way he handles the team. He has the ability to get players to play hard for him. They trust him. It’s hard to put a finger on exactly why, but they do.”

“(Bears DE Israel) Idonije is a beast. The Bears’ defense is so good, they run the football well — they can get by without a star at quarterback.”


“[Eagles head coach] Andy Reid has such a mess on his hands. People are talking about him being fired? I want to know — is he going to walk away? I know Juan Castillo was not his first choice as defensive coordinator. I look at the players they have signed. I don’t know if Andy has enough support right now. It looks to me like he is doing everything. I know this — he is one of the best football coaches in the NFL.”

“[DeSeanJackson — the once dynamic wide receiver who showed flashes of becoming one of the franchise’s greatest at that position — has turned into perhaps the most unreliable target on offense. He dropped a handful of passes [on Sunday] and shied away from contact against the Patriots. His worst offense came when he short-armed a sure-thing touchdown catch because he heard footsteps.

“Amid a contract dispute, Jackson said concern about his health was a factor in his style of play.

“‘Always. Always got to keep your head on a swivel,’ he said.

“Was he worried about his health on that play?

“‘What’d you think?’ he said as he walked away from reporters.”

Sounds like Bernard Berrian syndrome to me.  If I were a GM, I wouldn’t touch this guy with a ten foot pole.  But someone will.  And regret it.

“For their part, [Lion’s head coach JimSchwartz and the Lions should have said more [about Suh’s questionable play], sooner, too.

“Schwartz said after the game he didn’t see the incident but that Suh ‘can’t leave any gray area and can’t give an official any reason to’ penalize him or eject him from the game. Suh’s stomp gave the Packers an automatic first down after they had been stopped on third-and-goal, and John Kuhn scored two plays later on a 1-yard run to break open a close game.

“And while he won’t meet with local reporters until Tuesday, Schwartz had an opportunity to denounce the stomp in a Sirius/XM radio interview Friday but chose to talk around it instead, saying ‘if there’s discipline involved in a case like that it will come from the NFL’ and that Suh can’t lose his composure and ‘put his teammates in a bad position.’

“No one is saying Schwartz condones Suh’s stomp. As competitive as he is, that’s never been what Schwartz is about.”

Really?  Then why doesn’t he say so? Why hasn’t he said so already?  Birkett points out that Schwartz “happened to be” the Titan’s defensive coordinator when Albert Haynesworth stomped on the head of Cowboy’s center Andre Gurrode five years ago, implying that its just a coincidence. But by condemning the penalty and not the act itself, despite being given multiple opportunities to do otherwise, Schwartz’s message is the same now as it apparently was then: “Do what you want. Just don’t get caught.”

  • On a related note, we have this Audible from Pro Football Weekly:

“(Lions DT) Ndamukong Suh is so full of (crap). He’s living off where he got drafted. People that think he has played well are scouting off ESPN and watching too many highlights. Yeah, he looks great in flashes against weak sisters. I wouldn’t want him over either one of the guys we have. He is a coward.”

“Someone needs to call out Jon Gruden for hyping all of Bob LaMonte‘s clients. If they are repped by his (own) agent, they are great. Andy Reid is a genius. Mike Martz invented football. Enough is enough. When I watch football on television, I want to hear about the technical aspect — tell me about why the extra tackle is overloaded to one side and how the play was designed. If it didn’t work, call it out. Gruden pumps so much sunshine it’s become unbearable to watch.”

“Coaches hate scouts just like offensive coaches hate defensive coaches. It’s like the Army and the Marines — they are in competition with each other.”

One Final Thought

Fred Mitchell at the Tribune quotes Lovie Smith on the heavily criticized Mike Martz call that resulted in an Oakland interception near the goal line Sunday:

“Asked again if the call was too risky, especially for a young quarterback making his first NFL start, Smith replied:

“’Maybe from (the media) it is. It didn’t work, so of course you are going to get criticized when something doesn’t work. But next time it will.’”

Smith has a point.  Most fans and media members can’t tell you much about the nuts and bolts of playing defensive back or offensive guard.  But almost anyone one with an butt hole and an opinion thinks on some level he’s capable of judging what kind of play should or shouldn’t be called from the comfort of his living room couch.

Sure, looking back on it, the play call doesn’t look great.  And yes, I wish the Bears had run the ball more.  I’ve heard constantly since Sunday about how Martz didn’t protect Hanie.  But its not like Hanie is a rookie.  He’s a veteran back up.  Hindsight is 20-20 but if you put yourself up in the booth and you see the Raiders constantly stacking the box against the run, do you really think Martz asked Hanie to do anything he shouldn’t have been capable of doing?

That’s one of the reasons you ordinarily won’t catch me being too critical of the play calling of an offensive coordinator.  It’s just too easy blame that rather than the execution that we really don’t completely understand.

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