“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.