“You recently stated that wide receiver is the Bears’ biggest offseason need. However, with the Bears being near the top of the league in sacks allowed again, wouldn’t the offensive line be a bigger concern?
“The Bears certainly allowed too many sacks for the second straight season, but I personally think it had more to do with the offensive scheme and the plays that were being called than the ability level of the offensive linemen. I think everyone is going to be shocked at how much better the line will look in 2012 (even with the same players). New coordinator Mike Tice no doubt will put a big emphasis on pass protection in terms of keeping more players in to block, chipping defensive ends with running backs and tight ends and getting the ball out of the quarterback’s hands quicker via three- and five-step drops.”
Mayer is hardly alone in this opinion. Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune and Sean Jensen at the Chicago Sun-Times have both expressed it. But I’m absolutely appalled by Mayer’s reasoning.
I expect this kind of thing from national writers who are covering 32 teams and can’t stay on top of the Bears alone every week. Many of those writers probably never saw a full Bears game beyond early season match ups with the Saints and Lions. But for anyone who knows what he’s talking about and who presumably saw every Bears game to say that the performance of the offensive line was the fault of Mike Matz‘s scheme is absurd. Mayer may have had a point early in the year. But his description is in no way representative of how the Bears actually played offense after that.
“‘I think the most impressive part was the combination of Mike adjusting what they were doing because of all the struggles early in the year,’ Warner said, referring to a run when the Bears won five games in a row and the offense scored 32 points per game. ‘In my opinion, outside of Jay [Cutler] and Matt Forte, they don’t have any superstars on offense. They don’t have any go-to receivers. That guy who can separate themselves or gives you a match-up problem. They just don’t have that guy. So Mike had to adjust to the limitations.’”
Those adjustments included running the ball a great deal. Anyone who was actually watching will also note that most of the time, Martz kept extra guys in to chip and help the line, again, particularly late in the year after those first few games.
The real question isn’t whether the adjustments were made but why they were made and how much Martz had to do with it. How much of it was head coach Lovie Smith forcing the issue? Marz admittedly had “philosophical differences” with Smith. Did Smith force him to run the ball more than he wanted? Possibly.
In any case, there can be no doubt that the adjustments were made. And there can be little doubt that the Bears offensive line was absolutely miserable despite them. Jensen gives the statistics:
“According to Pro Football Focus, J’Marcus Webb was the worst full-time starting left tackle in the NFL this season.
“Webb had a rating of minus-24.7, which ranked 67th among offensive tackles, according to PFF.”
“For the second consecutive season, their offensive line ranked last in the league, according to STATS [, Inc.].”
The bottom line is that despite being given what I consider to be a great deal of help, the Bears offensive line showed itself for what it is – one of the worst, if not the worst, groups in the NFL. And the Bears badly need an upgrade there.
“The question now is where Emery, who worked under Angelo, will differ and be an improvement over his predecessor.
“’Phil is going to have his own thoughts,’ [former Bears college scouting director, Greg] Gabriel said. ‘He is not going to get railroaded into doing something he doesn’t think is the right decision. Not a doubt in my mind. He’s very, very strong-minded.’”
You’ve got to wonder is that isn’t a back handed shot at Bears head coach Lovie Smith, who undoubtedly did talk former general manager Jerry Angelo into making some draft picks that he didn’t want to make.
“…the pace of this process is a strong indication of the place the new general manager will have in the Bears’ organization. This is clearly not a job that, when unfilled, leaves the organization unable to function. If the Bears intended this job to be the second-most powerful role in the franchise, just below that of Phillips, I imagine they would have moved with greater urgency. “
“The best way to describe the Bears’ next general manager, be it Emery or Licht, is that he will be the team’s top talent evaluator and will share in decisions with coach Lovie Smith and others. He will not be an all-powerful guru or a franchise-wide authority figure, at least not any time soon.”
I’m going to disagree with Seifert here. The Bears have made it pretty clear that Smith will report to Emery and I’m pretty sure Emery will actually be in charge. Probably the only real restriction is that Emery let Smith coach without interference, which Emery would be well advised to do anyway. Smith really is a good head coach and Emery may well be glad to have him next year. In any case, Emery will decide Lovie Smith’s fate after next season when it becomes more financially reasonable to fire him if necessary. Emery really is in charge.
Jon Greenberg at ESPNChicago.com also had an interesting take on the hiring of the new GM. Based upon this article (once again written before the decision was made) I’d say Greenberg isn’t all that happy with the final outcome:
“My biggest questions are: Do the Bears want someone with a new vision on how to change the organization while reveling in its history? Or do they want someone who will slide in, tidy up a few loose ends and keep the organization on track?
“I hope it’s the former.”
“This is a historic moment for the flagship franchise, and I hope, for the sake of the organization, the Bears take the plunge and hire Licht, who will bring fresh eyes and lessons learned in the years he spent with the most successful football franchise of the past decade.”
Greenberg might be right. But my inclination is to believe that this is an exaggeration. Emery was only with the Bears for two years under Angelo and he only worked with Smith for four moths. So its not like he’s necessarily going to be inclined to just walk in and be comfortable with a status quo that he was all that used to before he left.
One of the first things Emery is going to deal with is running back Matt Forte and his contract negotiations. From Pompei as he answers your questions:
“Could a new GM come in, look at the “mileage” on Forte and decide to trade him for much-needed picks? This seems to be an NFL trend recently. What is Forte worth in trade? Rick, Naperville
“The new GM would have to sign Forte first, then trade him, and I don’t believe this has much of a chance of happening. Running backs in general do not carry great trade value. Most of the time, a team would rather draft a younger back that pay a trade premium in order to acquire an older one, and then have to pay that older one a lucrative salary besides. There aren’t many good recent examples of a team trading a running back in his prime. In 2004, the Broncos traded Clinton Portis to the Redskins for cornerback Champ Bailey and a second-round pick. Last year, the Bills got a fourth-round pick for Marshawn Lynch. If I had to put a value on Forte in a trade, I’d guess he’d be worth a first-round pick. But his value could fluctuate up or down depending on the market, and the number of teams interested.”
I find it interesting that this fan wants to trade one of the few impact players the Bears have for draft picks. The whole purpose of the draft is to find guys like this through the shaky process of extrapolating college talent into the unknown. Once you do find them, you don’t trade them for for the privilege of making more hit or miss picks. You keep them and build on them.
“The Packers are not likely to stick with the status quo at outside linebacker as they did one year ago. Clay Matthews needs help. Outside linebackers coach Kevin Greene told me he never has seen a player get double and triple teamed as much as Matthews was this year. Matthews told me he had four blockers on him on a number of occasions—‘You get a tight end chipping you, a back coming off the edge, a tackle, and then a guard fanning your way,’ he said. The reason, obviously, is the Packers had no one else who could take advantage of singles. Dom Capers subsequently ended up dropping Matthews more and taking him out of what he does best—rushing the passer. Matthews still played at a very high level in 2011, but he needs a pass rush partner for the Packers to be a better defense.”
So the Packers need another pass rusher. Welcome to the club. Given that finding an elite pass rusher is a tough task in today’s NFL, I’ll suggest a simpler solution – teach your defense how to tackle. It can go an awfully long way towards solving a lot of problems.
“Miami is presently behind Cleveland and Washington in the race for Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III, which means it will likely take a king’s ransom (probably two first-round picks, and two second round picks AT LEAST) to move ahead of both teams to select the Heisman Trophy winner.”
“One of the reasons the Rams general manager search is moving slowly is the team is a little limited by the fact they aren’t offering control of the 53-man roster. As a result, other teams can block the Rams from hiring someone who is under contract, such as Lake Dawson. Two names we’re hearing are Mike Ackerly of the Titans and Rich Snead of the Raiders—both of whom have worked with Fisher.”
This problem should sound familiar to Bear fans. Its undoubtedly one of the reasons why they are having trouble finding a “passing game coordinator” who won’t be calling plays. Its true that nowadays teams seem to be perfectly fine with refusing to allow assistants to interview for promotions regardless of this fact. But I’m sure it makes the decision much easier.
“Moore has a ridiculously high quarterback rating in every quarter BUT the fourth quarter this season. During the fourth quarter, which is the most critical of the four, he’s got a 61.6 rating, and competing 56.5 percent of his passes. He’s throw four interceptions and two touchdowns during the fourth.”
“Sunday’s rally [against the 49ers] was Manning’s seventh fourth-quarter comeback of the season and his eighth game-winning drive — staggering numbers that are emblematic of the Giants’ penchant for playing close games. Earlier in the year, especially, it seemed the Giants went down to the final series every week; several players even joked about the ‘cardiac’ nature of the team’s play.”
“Defensive line—There was more talent at this position than any other. North Carolina’s Quinton Coples solidified himself as a top 10 pick and clearly was the class of the group. Two others who helped themselves and may have become solid first rounders were Alabama’s Courtney Upshaw and South Carolina’s Melvin Ingram, whose versatility makes him a fit for any kind of defense. Teams that use a three man front came away very impressed with Ta’amu Alameda of Washington. No way he gets out of round two. In one-on-one pass rush drills, Kendall Reyes of Connecticut showed surprising athleticism for his size.”
There’s no doubt that the concussion issue is a real problem in the NFL. But this fan suggests what I think is one of the most ridiculous proposed solutions to it as Judy Batista at The New York Timesanswers reader’s questions:
“On the topic of concussions: Has anyone to your knowledge compared the rate of concussions in football where they wear helmets to rugby where they don’t? I suspect helmets in football give players a false sense of security so they end up using their heads more as a weapon. Any thoughts?–SDE, Bow, N.H.”
“This is not an uncommon line of thinking on the subject. And I understand that line of thinking. But I don’t see getting rid of helmets – not when football players are as big and moving as fast as they do. I don’t want to think about the injuries that might occur when a receiver going over the middle for a catch collides with a defender coming at great speed to break up the catch – if neither is wearing a helmet. I don’t know if there are been studies comparing it to rugby. But there are also factors in the way the two sports are played that almost certainly impact number of concussions, too. The scariest hits in the N.F.L. seem to come when receivers and defenders collide at great speed while going for the ball, and while neither is looking to see what is about to hit them. Those kinds of plays simply don’t happen in other sports.”
“Back in the day, when I had the time and money, I used to wager on N.F.L. games.
“There was only one couch, Don Shula, who, when I bet, his value I could quantify. I added a point for the Don. His game planning skills gave me the courage to take the Fins against the ’85 Bears.
“How do you, Judy, quantify the value of a head coach? Consider that, after all, most N.F.L. players, have been football stars since Pop Warner. Really, at the very least, they’re all excellent football players.
“So, just how much does coaching matter? I think: More than in any other sport.
“And you? [ also…please relate to the obvious: Darth vs. Tom]–JP, Jersey City, N.J.”
“This is all you need to know about the role of coaching: The Patriots are going to the Super Bowl in a season in which Julian Edelman – a middling receiver – was deployed as a cornerback when the secondary was depleted. I’m not sure how many other coaches would have thought of that, but Bill Belichick did. He also has overhauled his offensive style multiple times in the Tom Brady years – obviously Brady deserves a ton of credit for being spectacular enough to make all those incarnations work so well – but this is not a coach who can only do one thing.”
“In the Baltimore-New England Game, when Brady does the QB keeper on fourth down, all he needed to do was break the plane of the goal line for the touchdown. However, when Flacco threw to Evans for the potential go ahead score in the final minute, it looked like Evans had the ball, got both feet down, and then the ball was knocked out by Moore. There was no video review to see if he had possession of the ball. Apparently he had to keep possession even after both feet were down, but why should that matter?–Seatant, New York City”
“The lack of a video replay was a big question after that play – but Mike Pereira, the former head of officials, was at the San Francisco game and watched the replay and said it was a clear drop and no need for replay. He didn’t make a move with the ball, he simply dropped it. In the case of a catch, it’s more than just breaking the plane – you have to actually hold on to the ball (think of that wacky Calvin Johnson play last year when he caught the ball and it looked for all the world like a touchdown catch and then the officials said he hadn’t held on). There’s a fine line. And to the officials’ eyes that was a drop by Lee Evans.”
The thing that bugged me about this wasn’t the call. It was the fact that the announcing team didn’t immediately address the issue by clarifying the rules and addressing the possibilities for viewers. Really a poor job on CBS’s part.
Next week’s game might prove interesting as the battle is engaged at the line of scrimmage. Giants defensive end Osi Umenyiora and Patriots left tackle Matt Lighthave fought twice before in previous match ups. From Gregg Rosenthal at profootballtalk.com:
“‘I don’t know what it is that he does, but it’s something that he’s doing that really gets under my skin,’ said Umenyiora on Friday via CSNNE.com. ‘Because I’m not that type of guy, you know what I mean? He’s probably the only person I’ve ever fought on a football field.’”
“‘There’s not a doubt in my mind that they rattled him. He started seeing things that weren’t even there,’ he said. ‘He’s human. He literally ducked down one time and there was no one there. Nobody was close to him. He thought he saw something and it wasn’t there. He literally ducked. We were literally like, ‘Did you see that? Is that really Tom Brady?’ He had been hit from his blindside earlier in the game.’”
I thouroughly enjoyed this article on the history of the Patriots franchise by Bill Pennington at The New York Times:
“How humble and bizarre were the Patriots’ beginnings?
“In one of their earliest games, a fan ran into the end zone to bat down an opponent’s last-play, game-tying touchdown pass attempt. The fan then retreated, vanishing into the crowd with a Patriots victory assured.
“In another game, the stands caught on fire, interrupting play as evacuating fans congregated at the 50-yard line. Several other Patriots games were delayed by power outages, impromptu snowball fights or referees who refused to take the field until they were paid. In one memorable pregame sequence, an ex-player was plucked from the stands to suit up, then made the tackle on the opening kickoff.”
Ravens center Matt Birkis considering retirement. From Florio. I suppose I don’t blame him. He was given the very difficult task of blocking Vince Wilfork last week and Wilfork ate his lunch. But in fairness, Wilfork is a load and there aren’t many centers in the game (if any) who can handle him without help as Birk was often asked to do.
I knew that there were some ridiculous prop bets out there. But some of these highlighted at Sports Illustrated are beyond even what I thought:
“Will Kelly Clarkson‘s bare belly be showing when she sings the National Anthem?
“Yes (only): 3/1”
“What color will Madonna’s hair be when she begins the Super Bowl Halftime show?
“Any other color: +250”
“Warner said while he’s been very impressed with Cutler, he’s still not convinced he can make the anticipation throws that were a staple in Martz’s ‘Greatest Show on Turf’ offense in St. Louis.
“‘‘He can’t let it go and trust his guys,’ Warner said. ‘Maybe it’s the guys he’s playing with. But as far as talent and being able to create plays, and as far as seeing something and throwing it, there’s no question he can be one of the best in the league.’”
Whatever else you say about Martz, he knew how to use different route combinations to get wide receivers open. When the quarterback could throw with anticipation to a spot and the scheme ran right, it could generate a lot of points with less than optimal talent.
“’I am tailoring what I am doing to what I’ve done, which is common sense,’ Tice said. ‘Why run it when they have one more guy than you can block? Why not throw it when you have free access and you have a guy who can beat single coverage?’”
“’If you’re going to take advantage of the box count and you’re going to get the ball to that guy with single coverage, you need a guy who is going to get open more than 90 percent of the time. We don’t have a guy who has stepped up, in my opinion, and shown us that ability. We either have to develop one who is in the building or we have to bring one in via the draft or free agency.”
And there lies the rub.
Even John Shoop could count guys in the box. The problem is that it gets a lot more complicated than this. The offense that Tice describes is going to be about match ups. That’s great when you have match ups with the defense that you can win. But what do you do when you don’t have any talent?
Tice isn’t going to be like Martz. He isn’t going to be able to use the X’s and O’s to make up for what the Bears roster lacks. He’s going to allow defenses to stack the box, put pressure on the quarterback and dictate the match ups that the Bears will usually be unable to win.
The Bears very likely could get a lot worse offensively before they get a lot better.
“So, the team needs to add at least two cornerbacks to the mix and probably three. If they can upgrade over what Jennings has given them the last two seasons, that would be a plus, especially when they run into the Green Bay Packers twice next season.”
“Former NFL scout Dave Razzano recently ranked his top general manager candidates in The Razz Report, and he listed Licht as No. 7.
“Wrote Razzano, ‘Both organized and thorough in his approach, the personable Licht has worked under some of the league’s more prominent names like Jimmy Johnson, Andy Reid and now Belichick, where he plays a big part in keeping the Pats on top of the AFC standings. Licht has played a strong role with three different teams now and will likely find himself on several GM short lists in the near future. His eye for talent and overall personnel skills are why Bill Belichick brought him back to New England after a short stint with the Arizona Cardinals.’”
“Here’s how former Tribune In the Wake of the News sports columnist Michael Holley described Emery in his book War Room:
“’He worked at the Naval Academy for seven years, so he’s not a career military man, although he does sound like one: His voice is clear and commanding. … He’s got an iPad in front of him with his notes as well as reports from the scouts. His recall is impressive. … You get the feeling the iPad isn’t always necessary due to his ability to give historical playbacks from memory.’”
“If the Bears hire Emery, he will have to be a good learner too. He doesn’t have much experience with the salary cap and contracts, pro personnel or sitting in an office.
“’That was the knock on Thomas Dimitroff, Jerry Reese, Ted Thompson, Trent Baalke and a number of guys who have become successful general managers,’ Kansas City general manager Scott Pioli said. ‘He runs the scouting staff, and that is quite a responsibility.’”
“But if the Bears franchise him not for the purpose of negotiations, but instead as their final decision on how to compensate him in 2012, there could be trouble.
“Forte [told ESPN Radio 1000]: “A lot of teams franchise guys so that they can get a deal done or negotiate a deal. It just depends on what the motive of that is.
“The franchise tag for running backs this offseason is expected to be a little less than $8 million. If it seems clear the Bears plan to pay him that salary, with no credible offer for an extension beyond the 2012 season, Forte implied he might not be in training camp on time.
“’I wouldn’t say holdout,’ he said, ‘but people probably wouldn’t know where I was.’”
Think the Bears are taking too much time to hire a general manager? You’ll want to see what Mike Silver at Yahoo sports has to say about the Raiders’ “search”. Apparently you’re not doing it right no matter how you handle it.
Omar Kelly at the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reports that Packers offensive coordinator Joe Philbinis the choice for head coach in Miami. Philbin Is an interesting choice. The Dolphins are looking for a proficient pass-oriented offense like the Packers. But one wonders how much head coach Mike McCarthy had to do with designing that offense and getting it to run. Philbin’s background is with the offensive line. That’s usually not the kind of person a big time passing offense comes from.
McCarthy might be a Packer but his comments to the Associated Pressindicate that he most certainly is not dumb. Much has been said about Packers quarterback Aaron Rogers not being quite as sharp as usual throwing to receivers who were dropping balls all over the field last weekend in their loss to the Giants. But McCarthy put his finger right on one of the major problems that went largely unappreciated:
“‘The tackling just was not there all year,’ McCarthy said in press conference to end the season, via the Associated Press. ‘Without getting into the specific statistics, we did not tackle well enough as a football team, from start to finish. It’s something that’s emphasized every single day in practice and something that [defensive coordinator] Dom [Capers] and I talked a lot about today.’”
“Success has its challenges, and one is replacing the inevitable brain drain that occurs as opponents try to replicate. This month, the Packers have lost a top front office talent in [Reggie] McKenzie and one of their top coaches in Philbin. The pressure is on the Packers to continue to develop qualified successors.”
“‘If you hit them in the mouth and you stand up to them, that’s the way you play it,’ Williams told the Baltimore Sun. ‘I think when you’re as good as they are, you get used to people kind of being intimidated. And I think when you show them that you’re not, it automatically makes them have to change the way they’re used to playing, and that automatically gives us an advantage.’”
“He’s right. Olsen caught three passes for 113 yards with a 58-yard touchdown in the 35-24 victory over the Seattle Seahawks in the divisional round. It was his second-to-last game in a Bears uniform as he was traded to the Carolina Panthers on the eve of training camp.”
“Trading Olsen didn’t help the Bears’ passing attack in 2011 but the moves made did augment the running game. It’s time to find a way for the tight ends to start helping the quarterback by doing more than chip blocking from time to time.”
If Greg Olsen wants to invite comparisons to the New England tight ends, he’s making a serious mistake. Teams are showing once again that the tight end can be a great weapon in the passing game. But you need more than Olsen, a glorified wide receiver who can be covered by a nickel back. I doubt the Bears regret a thing.
Dave Toub is still in the mix for the Miami Dolphins job. We’d all hate to see him leave. But I have to say that, based upon what I’ve seen on the field from patch work personnel, I think Toub would make a great head coach. I’m rooting for him.
According to Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune, Toub may leave anyway. A 15 day exclusive negotiating rights period for the Bears ends Monday and Toub becomes a free agent. Hopefully he’s happy here and accepts a reasonable offer from the Bears.
“As someone who respects your NFL insights, I read your column on Jerry Angelo‘s departure with great interest and surprise. It seems that the 2011 Bears had a very thin roster due in large part to the high number of recent draft picks that never became solid NFL players, and I had assumed that Angelo was the person who should bear most of the responsibility for the poor draft performance. Or is player development the bigger issue? Am I missing something? John Bradford, Arlington Heights
“If you want to blame someone for draft picks that missed, ultimately you have to blame Angelo. The buck stops with the general manager. But it’s not as simple as saying one person is responsible for all the evils of the roster. Every selection of his was made by consensus decision. And, as you point out, there is a player development issue at work. An organization’s ability to identify, select and develop players is only as strong as its weakest link. And the weakest link isn’t always in one place. You have to look at every player who didn’t work out individually to figure out why.”
I have said that I believe that Lovie Smith is a good head coach. But I have to wonder if he isn’t the weakest link in terms of personnel. Can the Bears live with that? It will be interesting to see how the new general manager handles the situation.
In [Earl] Bennett’s absence, [Dane] Sanzenbacher, the undrafted free agent from Ohio State, stepped up. Nineteen of his 25 receptions came in the first seven games when, for a while, he was the team’s leading wide receiver. It’s not a condemnation of Sanzenbacher to say something is wrong with that. An undrafted college free agent should not step in and lead a team in receiving unless something is wrong with the receivers in place.
Biggs thinks wide receiver is the team’s number one need. If its not, its close. The Bears have so many holes that the new GM should have no problem taking the best player available regardless of position.
Biggs also reviews the defensive line. He notes that Stephen Paea started slow but came on towards the end of the year. I had my doubts about Paea but it looks like he might develop into something, yet. He also points out that Matt Toeaina moved ahead of Anthony Adams into the starting line up. Adams may have seen his last days as a Bear. Frankly, I wasn’t impressed with either one of these guys this year and no one would be surprised to see the Bears draft (yet another) defensive tackle. Toeaina needs to pick it up next year to make the roster.
“I really like Mike Tice a lot. I have enormous respect for him as an offensive line coach and then his years there (as head coach) in Minnesota,” Aikman said. “I’ve just not seen offensive linemen come in and be coordinators and be very effective. We’ll see how it works out, but this is a passing league. Mike Tice wants to run the ball.
“Can you win? Yeah, you can win. But if I were a quarterback, I’d want to be playing for somebody who understands the passing game about as well as anyone else around the league.”
I heard local radio analysts moan about Mike Martz and offensive balance all year (despite the fact that they were balanced between the run and the pass most of the time). But I’ll say this. The NFL is a passing league and you better be able to do it and you better be able to be aggressive about it. Mike Martz was a guy who could do that. Can Mike Tice? Like Aikman, I have my doubts.
No matter which way they turn, the Lions will be on the hook for a ceiling-crushing commitment to Johnson. Unless he makes a cash concession to lessen the cap hit, the Lions are in a really, really tough spot.
Johnson may have a cap number of $22 million dollars next year.
The reality of the Packers defense is somewhere between two numbers.
The first number is 32 — where the Packers ranked in yards allowed during the regular season.
The second number is 1 — where the Packers ranked in takeaways.
This is where I believe Lovie Smith and the Bears defensive coaching staff excel. Somehow, year after year, Smith seems to be able to get his players to strike a balance between the aggressiveness needed to generate turnovers and the risk associated with it. The get turnovers (when they’re playing well) but still manage to be consistent as a unit by giving up the big play. Smith seems to have a gift of instilling just the right kind of attitude of controlled aggression in defensive players. If only he could get the offensive players to execute with that kind of consistency and balance.
Rafael Vila at the Cowboys Nation blog always does a good job of analyzing the draft, particularly as it affects Dallas. This entryabout how teams determine whether they will move up or stay put was interesting.
“The Falcons took a big step forward last year, but were throttled by the champion Packers in the divisional round. Atlanta’s brass convinced themselves they were only a player short and went all-in for receiver Julio Jones. They flipped last year’s 1st, 2nd and 4th rounders for the Alabama flyer. Jones had a solid season, but yesterday, his offensive line and his team’s secondary looked anemic. Might those marquee picks have been better spent filling in the remaining holes on the team?
“The Falcons will hear that question a lot, because they also owe this year’s 1st and 4th round picks to the Browns to complete the Jones deal.”
This one got by me completely but Mike Florio at profootballtalk.com notes that the hiring of Josh McDaniels to help the Patriots during their playoff run signals the existence of a loop hole in the NFL rules that needs to be closed:
“If player rosters become frozen in place when a team’s season ends, coaches who finish the season with one team shouldn’t be permitted to join a team that is still alive in the playoffs.
“Regardless of whether former Rams offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels’ presence on the Patriots’ staff will make a difference for a team that has lost two straight home postseason games without him, the ability of a coach from a non-playoff team to climb aboard the bandwagon of a playoff squad seems unfair.”
One Final Thought Dez Clark and Alex Brown interview former Bears and current Lions safety Chris Harris. Harris thinks he was released from the Bears because he was “too outspoken” about a number of things while with the Bears.
The role that Lovie Smith’s ego may have played in this aside, what Harris apparently doesn’t understand is that lack of discipline off the field leads to lack of discipline on it. In retrospect, he’s probably a better fit with the Lions.
“An intriguing figure here is Bears receivers coach Darryl Drake.”
“[Drake] has a good relationship with [Mike] Tice, shares a smash-mouth philosophy that involves wideouts blocking (or sitting on the bench) and was part of the Bears managing to have nine different receivers with at least 18 receptions this season, the most since 10 in 1994.”
I hope the Bears look outside of the organization to fill this position. Specifically I hope they use it to attract a top notch quarterback coach like former Bear coach Greg Olson. Whether Olson would want to come back to the Bears after experiencing what he undoubtedly felt was a dysfunctional situation at the time is another question.
One of the many reasons why the Green Bay Packers are so successful offensively is that they have two quarterbacks coaches on their staff if you include the head coach. The Bears don’t have any and arguably didn’t have any worth the name at all last year. Remember that Jay Cutler went outside the organization for coaching in the off season due to the lockout. I’m sure Mike Martz is OK with quarterbacks, especially as the X’s and O’s go. But I would argue that Cutler probably got a lot more out of his offseason with a real QB coach than from either Martz and Shane Day during the season.
“Cutler might push for Jeremy Bates, who he worked with previously with the Broncos. Bates was out of the NFL this season after one year with the Seahawks. How would [Lovie] Smith perceive him after Bates declined overtures from the Bears for an interview two years ago? Maybe just fine. Sources said [Jerry] Angelo turned off Bates.”
I don’t know that Bates is the best choice. But whatever else you think of him, at least he’s a quarterback coach who should have some idea of what he’s doing after serving under Mike Shanahan and as offensive coordinator under Pete Carroll.
“‘We’re in the business of winning football games. We’re not going to prostitute character. We don’t put winning in front of character.'”
“April 2011, on a botched trade with the Ravens:
“’Believe me, I am going into my 31st year in this league. There has been a hell of a lot worse that has been done, believe me, on the clock and there have been things out there documented so let’s not get into judging souls here. If there is something that needs to be done, I trust the league will do their due diligence and so be it.’”
Angelo’s first quote is laudable and, in fact, I think he generally did his best to live up to it. That makes it all the more disappointing that he badly failed in this respect by not making good on a botched trade with the Baltimore Ravens by giving them the fourth round pick they should have had in last year’s draft.
Dan Pompei at the Chicago Tribune gives his thoughts on the way the organization is handling the search for a new general manager:
“[Ted] Phillips says he is unconcerned [about the search]. ‘There are a lot of candidates out there that would be proud to work with a coach like Lovie Smith,’ he said.
“Certainly, the new GM could do a lot worse than Smith. That’s not the point.
“The point is the coach should be an extension of the man he reports to. And it’s the GM who should decide if Smith can be that extension.”
In principal I agree with Pompei. But in reality, as I look around the league teams with head coaching openings aren’t waiting to hire new general managers to make offers. So, right or wrong, the Bears aren’t alone in approaching the situation this way.
Having said that, there is reason to question why Smith managed to keep his job. Again from Pompei:
“Angelo gave the coaches the players they wanted. If he had a failing, it may have been that he gave in to them too much and wasn’t more forceful with his opinions. Angelo was hired because he was a consensus builder; he may have been fired because of it as well.
“So there is culpability on the part of Smith and his assistants for whatever personnel problems the Bears have endured.”
I totally agree. This is a pretty good summary of what is perhaps the Bears biggest problem. Smith is a good head coach. He has managed to compete in the NFC North despite the talent gap that we all accept is there. The challenge is to hire a GM who takes complete charge of supplying Smith with the players he needs without letting him have undue influence over the process or the decisions which are made. It will be very interesting to see how the new man manges the situation.
Matt Bowen at the Tribune makes the very valid point that almost all of the players at Halas Hall have been put on notice:
“However, with change and new direction at Halas Hall comes the loss of that sense of security for the players.
“Angelo won’t be there to protect “his guys,” and although coach Lovie Smith is coming back for at least one more season, a new decision-maker won’t owe these players anything.
“He didn’t draft them or sign them to an offseason contract. No handshakes or false promises here.
“His job is to replace them with upgrades.”
This sense of discomfort and the extra effort that comes with it might make the Bears better next year. Sometimes change no matter what it entails can be good.
“What defined this unit was its ability to create pressure and its inability to finish plays. The Bears tied for 19th in the league in sacks despite entering the final week leading the league in hurries, according to STATS.”
ESPN’s NFC North blogger Kevin Seifert makes the claim that the trade of tight end Greg Olsen look bad for the Bears now. I disagree. Olsen had only 4 more receptions with the Panthers last year than he did during a mediocre 2010 season despite performing in an offense that supposedly fit his skills (though he did have more yards).
Olsen was nothing more than a big, slow wide receiver. Opponents generally stopped him by simply treated him like one and going into a nickel defense. He was a liability when run blocking. If Mike Tice really wants to maximize the receiving potential of the tight end position, the Bears were going to have to find another one anyway.
“Saturday night’s 45-28 loss to the New Orleans Saints should be the last time the Lions are graded on a curve, cheered for their effort or applauded for an accomplishment other than a victory. It’s true: No one expected them to beat the Saints, who now are 9-0 at home since the start of the regular season. And few if any will have harsh words after the Lions collapsed in the fourth quarter against the NFL’s hottest quarterback.
“But after returning to relevance this season, the Lions have earned themselves big-boy treatment moving forward, both inside the organization and outside.”
Seifert’s got a point. The Lions have been cut a lot of slack this year as a young team fighting its way out of a losing tradition.
But that has also worked against them. I think right about week 11, analysts started to seriously underestimate the Lions, giving them little shot to make the playoffs. Those of us who watched them all year in the the NFC North division knew better.
They played mighty well Saturday night and if they play with discipline from here on out, they’re going to have no trouble living up to the “big-boy treatment”.
Of course, if they’re going to be treated like big boys, some of them are going to have to start acting like grown ups. Via Mike Florio at profootballtalk.com. By the way, Chris Harris, at the least, should know better than to act like this from his days with the Bears if nothing else.
From Jonathan Tamari at the Philadelphia Inquirer, we have DeSean Jackson with too little too late.
“A trend is emerging among NFL teams in that they are seeking young, flexible general managers with strong personnel backgrounds. They want men like Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff and who understand the big picture, are unafraid to make bold moves and are willing and able to deal with media and sponsors as well as agents and coaches. That’s why Eric DeCosta, Les Snead, Marc Ross, Tom Telesco, Ryan Grigson, Jason Licht and their ilk have been popular candidates for openings.”
Also from Pompei:
“The problem is not having captains, Rex Ryan. It’s having the wrong captains.”
“The Raiders needed a guy just like Reggie McKenzie. And now they need to let him do his job.”
“APRIL 19 Draft babble reaches fever pitch. Your cubicle neighbor, who spends autumn Saturdays watching VH1 music countdowns and thinks Stanford’s nickname is the Trees, wants you to know that he does not think Andrew Luck is that good.”
“As the 2012 NFL playoffs begin, coaches across the league find themselves in agreement on one fundamental aspect of the game: Punting the ball sucks, because the other team gains possession of the ball.”
“In his final season at Stanford, 28.7 percent of his passes fell uselessly to the ground and cost his team a down while conferring absolutely no benefit whatsoever.”
I know its not football related but this clip of Charles Barkley talking about the Weight Watcher’s program during a period where he thinks the camera’s off is still worth posting. Via The Sports Pickle:
“Dec. 16, 2011, after receiver Sam Hurd‘s drug arrest: ‘When we do our homework on players, we have a very sound and tested mythology that we go about researching all players in college to veteran free agents and it starts in college.’
“Dec. 16, 2011, after being asked whether Hurd’s shocking arrest would impact his future:
“‘It was Ted’s decision,’ McCaskey said. ‘He asked for my input. I gave it to him. I gave him the input of the rest of ownership, and Ted made the decision, which we fully support.'”
It’s entirely possible that McCaskey “input” was to suggest that Angelo be fired. I’ve no doubt that he then left the final decision in Phillips hands. And I’m sure Phillips is smart enough to know what to do in that situation.
Phillips insisted that the decision was made strictly on performance. But in this respect, Pompei makes the a valid point:
“It’s not like Angelo and Smith put together an inferior team. ‘It can’t be that he was fired for the performance of the team,’ said one AFC front-office man, who is not a friend of Angelo’s. ‘It has to be something else.'”
Exactly. And lending credence to the idea that Phillips didn’t plan to see Angelo go before meeting with McCaskey is the fact that he’s only just now doing his “due diligence”. While the Rams and Colts are interviewing candidates like potential republican presidential nominees, Phillips appears to be just now getting familiar with the landscape.
It’s all speculative because ownership didn’t make it clear. But the fact that it wasn’t clear seems to me to be suggestive. And no one who has thought about it would blame the McCaskeys for wanting Angelo’s head. Let’s be honest. From the checkbox fiasco right down through the Baltimore trade where the McCaskeys had to personally try to settle down Baltimore owner Steve Bisciotti to the Hurd situation, Angelo’s management of the front office was a frequent source of embarrassment to ownership. In retrospect, Angelo deserved his fate on that score if for no other reason.
Regardless, the comment stuck with me all of these years and came back to me again this morning. There were half a dozen articles to read on the promotion of Mike Tice to offensive coordinator. But this quote from Sean Jensen‘s story in the Chicago Sun-Times stood out:
“’I have been organized my whole life,’ Tice said via e-mail, ‘because I am not smart.
“’Details are the key. We need to detail everything out. Have a play for every situation. And have a way to get out of all bad plays.’”
I love this quote. First because I think its refreshingly honest. Second because Tice sounds exactly like me.
I don’t consider myself to be “not smart”. I’m betting that Tice doesn’t think of himself exactly that way, either. But I think I know what he means. Because I would apply the “not quick” description to myself much more often that I would like.
Regular readers know that I’m a research scientist. This means that on occasion I am required to stand in front of a large audience and speak about what I’m doing. I like doing this because I actually like what I do and I like to talk about it. But at the same time its a terrifying experience. That’s because of the question and answer period that follows each presentation.
I plan these talks for days. Every detail has to be mapped out so that its presented in a clear and concise manner and so that nothing important is left out. And I think as hard as I can about the audience and what people might ask afterward. In fairness, I’ve gotten pretty good at anticipating the questions. But no matter how much you plan, no matter how organized you are, someone is occasionally going to ask a question you just didn’t see coming and you are going to be required to think on the fly. When it’s me, the result is sometimes not good.
The whole problem translated into football terms can be demonstrated by what happened to the Bears earlier in the season when they played the Seahawks. The Bears played a pretty good first half of football. They were rolling Caleb Hanie out to his right and he was throwing well on the run. On the other side of the ball, they were having a lot of success rushing Tarvaris Jackson, who was holding the ball too long. Then the second half came. The Seahawks adjusted by getting the ball out of Jackson’s hand quicker and by keeping Hanie in the pocket. The Bears had no answer.
People who are very well organized and who plan well can sometimes tend to self-select. We eventually come to the conclusion that this is the only way that we can get by and be successful. We’re very often compensating because we’re “not quick”.
As the Bears official offensive X’s and O’s coach, Mike Tice is about to face a big challenge that he didn’t have as a head coach or as an offensive line coach. Despite his comment above, I don’t have a single doubt that he’s smart. Very smart. But eventually someone is going to throw something at him in a game that he doesn’t expect. And that’s when we’re going to find out who he really is.
It was a surprise to me when Mike Florio at profootballtalk.com included Lovie Smith in the “Possibly Fired” coaches category. Florio says he wouldn’t be but, to say the least, I’d be shocked.
Dan Pompei at The National Football Postwrites about a deep 2012 inside linebacker class. The Bears have to be at least considering doing something here. Their linebacker depth is putrid and, though he’s still playing at a high level, Brian Urlacher isn’t getting any younger. These guys don’t always gradually decline. They often crash and the Bears should be prepared.
I’m guessing that Tim Jennings earned an offseason offer from the Bears. From the Tribune:
“Q: How important was it for you personally, going into a free agency?.
“It was definitely positive. Every guy stepped up in the last game like that. For me to come up there and make a few plays with the guys, it’s a plus for me. I enjoyed it.”
I’d say that the failure of Zack Bowman to show what he needed to against the Packers didn’t hurt Jennings’ status, either. Bowman is almost certainly gone they’ll want Jennings as insurance against the success of whatever option they take to replace him.
The Lions are trying to extend the contract of Cliff Avril. The team may regret waiting until late in the season to try to lock up the defensive end, who has 11 sacks and six forced fumbles. His value has skyrocketed through the course of the season. At 25, Avril is just starting to come into his own. ‘He is an elite, playmaking pass rusher who is going to get better,’ Avril’s agent Brian Mackler told me. One way or another, the Lions are not likely to let Avril hit the open market. The franchise tag for defensive ends this year is expected to be in the vicinity of $10.5 million, and that remains a viable option if the two sides can’t come to an agreement on a long term deal.
I don’t doubt that Avril has benefited from the attention Ndamukong Suh gets. But if he can benefit in the same way from playing with Peppers, I’m all for it.
“Managing the blitz: Entering Sunday’s game, no NFL quarterback had been blitzed on a lower percentage of his dropbacks (23.7) than the Lions’ Matthew Stafford. That makes sense, considering the number of skilled Lions pass-catchers who are left in favorable coverage against a blitz. But the Saints love to blitz under defensive coordinator Greg Williams, making for an interesting fulcrum point in this matchup. It’s worth noting that Sunday, the Packers blitzed Stafford 34.4 percent of the time and dramatically limited his production on those plays. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Stafford completed nine of his 21 passes against the blitz for 154 yards and an interception Sunday. Against the Packers’ standard pass rush, Stafford completed 27 of 38 passes for 366 yards, five touchdowns and one interception.”
“The first [Bears touchdown Sunday] was a blown coverage on the 22-yard touchdown pass to Roy Williams in the second quarter. Vikings safeties Jamarca Sanford and Mistral Raymond failed to pick up Williams, who ran uncovered into the end zone. The safeties were left looking at one another.
“‘I saw it three plays before that, they blew the coverage,’ Williams said. ‘We ran the same set and they did it again.'”
The Chicago press aren’t the only ones who have begun the process of trying to figure out how to fix an organization. The Minnesota presses also now getting into full gear. Tom Pelissaro at 1500ESPN.com starts by speculating about the overhaul of the coaching staff.
“The wild card is Mike Singletary, a longtime friend of [Leslie] Frazier‘s who was viewed as a coordinator candidate when he joined the team as assistant head coach/linebackers coach in January, less than a month after the San Francisco 49ers fired him as head coach.
“Concerns about Singletary’s strategic acumen followed him to Minnesota, and his approach to preparation has raised red flags. According to two sources, Singletary has left assistant Jeff Imamura in charge of some position meetings, skipped all of the Vikings’ meetings the night before last month’s game at Detroit to attend a wedding and has occupied himself much of the season with side projects instead of the next opponent.
“That all makes it far more likely Frazier will try to engineer a soft exit for Singletary than promote him into a coordinator position for which many experienced candidates could be available. But their close personal relationship complicates the issue.”
Pelissaro also has thoughts about what should happen at the top:
“Vice president of player personnel Rick Spielman has been the Wilfs’ guide on football matters for years, so giving him final say over (and accountability for) the roster wouldn’t be a total shock.”
“The team needs one voice – and not the voice of Rick Spielman, who suffered season-long laryngitis, refusing to comment on the mess he helped to create.”
Jared Allen on what he would have done if he’d broken the NFL sack record Sunday. Via Seifert:
“‘I probably would have thrown my helmet into the crowd,’ Allen said, ‘jumped up, ran up, kissed my wife and my baby in the suite, walked into the locker room and quit. No, I might have done some turf angels. Probably would have cried. [The Chicago Bears] probably would have gotten a first down — a 15-yard penalty on me. I probably would have taken my shoulder pads off. So probably a good thing I didn’t get it, right?'”
I’ve said this before and I’ll no doubt say it again. Allen is impossible not to like.
“Jackson’s solution for all the problems: More Hue Jackson.
“‘I’m going take a stronger hand in this whole team, this whole organization,’ Jackson said. ‘There ain’t no way that I’m going to feel like I feel today a year from now, I promise you that. There’s no question. Defensively, offensively and special teams. I aint feeling like this no more. This is a joke. . . . Yeah, I’m going to take a hand in everything that goes on here.'”
I’m not the biggest fan but even I was surprised at this Audible from Pro Football Weekly. I wonder what’s behind it:
“Cincinnati has a quarterback. They have a great receiver. The defense is playing their (butts) off. The one piece they have to think about replacing is Cedric Benson.”
The Sports Pickle takes us through sone of the most embarrassing NFL records:
“Most Times Sacked in a Season: 76 — David Carr, Texans, 2002
“No attempted murder charges were ever brought against Carr’s offensive line. A true black mark on the criminal justice system.”
One Final Thought
Pompei attributes the Bears victory Sunday to a large extent to finally getting some luck that had been missing the previous five games. He’s right but I’d attribute it more to a few other things. Over the previous five games:
Broken coverages and other assorted bone headed mental errors: No stat available. Fortunately.
Every game has an opponent. But these are the real enemy.
The Bears came out and showed blitz on the first play. They continued to do it judiciously all day, including in the final series with less than two minutes left. No prevent defense there.
The Bears generally kept a lot of guys near the line of scrimmage and played a lot of man coverage. This was all probably to pressure rookie Christian Ponder. It looked to me like the Vikings wide receivers were getting open. A better team would have taken advantage of the poor coverage.
Interesting call by the Vikings on third down near the Bears ten yard line. It was a screen. I’m assuming that’s because they don’t trust Ponder not to turn the ball over, yet. It probably also meant they were willing to settle for a field goal figuring (correctly) it would be a low scoring game.
On a related note, both Tony Siragusa and color man Daryl Johnston pointed out early that the Vikings were sticking with short passes, not stretching the field much. Again, this probably had a lot to do with making things easy for Ponder and then Joe Webb.
Ponder’s accuracy looks suspect sometimes. Even with the short passes, I thought he sometimes made the ball tougher to catch than they should have been. Webb was better.
To their credit, I think the Bears defense was prepared for Webb. They had both Lance Briggs and Brian Urlacher paying special attention to him.
Webb was very tough to bring down. He doesn’t really look that strong. I was impressed.
The Vikings are a pretty good fundamental football team blocking at the line of scrimmage. I think their lack talent showed, though. They had a tough time with the Bears front seven.
Julius Peppers didn’t have a good game but pressure did come from other guys on the field, which was nice.
Israel Idonije got lots of penetration.
Percy Harvin seemed to be everywhere this game. He looked good.
Toby Gerhart had a big game. For a big guy he’s deceptively fast and agile.
The guess is that Vikings WR Devin Aromashodu really wanted to make a mark against his old team today. I won’t say he was great but he did show up to play.
Kind of wondering how the Vikings can come out of a timeout with one minute left in the half and still end up with both the field goal team and the offense running out on the field.
Kudos to Vikings offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave. He called a really good game. The Bears defense is a tough nut to crack and, with the exceptions above, there’s not a lot of talent ot work with.
Gruesome looking play on the Urlacher injury. It looked like it was his knee as he landed on his leg awkwardly but the way he went down it looked like it could have easily been his back.
Many will question the decision to play Urlacher this game (though I won’t). Tough to get hurt the last game of the season.
With a few exceptions, I thought the Bears defense played with good discipline today.
The Vikings got the message sent in previous Bears games and came out stacking the box – as they should. They crashed the line of scrimmage and shot the gaps at the merest hint of a run. They were aggressive on their pass rush.
The Bears offensive line struggled with pressure up the middle and also did a poor job of run blocking.
Given this fact, one started wondering early once again where the play action pass was. Is this maybe one of those things that “isn’t a big part” of Mike Martz’s offense?
It looks to me like Josh McCown earned his way into Bears training camp and probably onto the Bears roster next season.
First half, third and long and, knowing the Vikings will probably blitz, the Bears kept a tight end and a running back in to block but Jared Allen still had to be left alone on J’Marcus Webb. Sack.
First down early in the third quarter. Armando Allen is set to Jared Allen’s side but fails to chip him. Webb is once again left one-on-one with Allen. Sack.
Third quarter, third and thirteen. Armando Allen once again left in to block. The Vikings blitzed, of course, as they did all game in this situation. Allen picked it up as best he could. Earl Bennett was the short route option over the middle but was well covered. As a result, Jared Allen was left one-on-one with Webb. Sack.
Too bad for Allen that he wasn’t playing Brett Favre. He might not have had to earn that record breaking sack.
Former Bears and current Vikings defensive line coach Karl Dunbar must have enjoyed this game.
Mike Martz will get a lot of criticism for not doing more to help J’Marcus Webb out this game. I’m going to disagree. Martz left guys in to help the line. As I’ve implied above, the problem was that they either didn’t execute or the Vikings blitzed and occupied the extra guys. You want to control Allen, the first thing you have to do is keep yourself out of compromising situations where the Vikings can take advantage of you.
I’m very disappointed that the Bears didn’t handle the Vikings aggressive defense better earlier. They needed to execute the short passing game, throw more screens, run more misdirection, do more cutting back with the running backs and run some draw plays or delayed handoffs. I understand that when its third and long, some of that isn’t a good option. But they still had some opportunities and what they finally did was pretty late.
Kenny Albert, Johnston and Siragusa did the announcing. I’m genuinely surprised that the Bears drew this announcing team. They did a serviceable job on a pretty meaningless game.
You can tell its the seasons’ last game as the Vikings had a little fun and threw DE Everson Griffin out as the gunner on a punt.
The Vikings field goal unit arguably blew this game single handedly. The Bears managed to block one but their return teams struggled.
The Vikings didn’t help Christian Ponder out much as they frequently failed to come up with catchable balls. The Bears wide receivers once again did OK in this respect.
Though he caught a touchdown pass, Roy Williams also managed to have his traditional drop.
Griffin killed the Vikings early with two special teams penalties. One of them eliminated a Hester return to only the two yard line.
Charles Tillman made a play and got a very timely interception in the second quarter. D.J. Moore iced the game with his.
On the other side, the Bears came out the first series and immediately fumbled the ball away. Kahlil Bell did it again before the first quarter was even over. But the crowning play had to be McCown throwing a dangerous ball for an interception from the Viking end zone with the Bears up four in the fourth quarter. For heaven’s sake if you aren’t going to help win the game at least don’t lose it. You’d think the one thing these guys would have beaten into their heads is that this absolutely cannot happen. And yet it does, over and over. Frustrating.
There obviously has been much talk over the last week about where the Bears biggest needs are (a much shorter list would be where they don’t have needs). One hot topic for debate will be whether they should be happy with where their offensive line is. I’m gong to say now that offensive tackle should be high on the list of needs. It’s in situations like this, in a noisy dome and particularly on third and long or in any other situation where a team has to pass when you find out how much talent you have. I know they don’t grow on trees but – at minimum – the Bears don’t have the left tackle they need. The interior of the line didn’t cover itself in glory, either, as pressure up the middle was an issue.
No matter what any fan tells you, football starts at the line of scrimmage. I’m going to say that the Bears offseason should once again start there as well. The Bears do need impact players but if the tackle you like is there again in the first round, I think you take him.