The Moment that Stood Out about the Lions in 2013

Michael Rothstein at describes the 10 moments that stood out about the Lions in 2013:

“4. Schwartz and the fans. Maybe this is too high because it is fresh in the mind, but Schwartz yelling at the Lions fans for booing after taking a knee to go to overtime was a standout moment this season. You don't see a coach scream at fans in the middle of a game too many times. Schwartz lost his cool and then it took question upon question for him to admit anything the next day talking to the media. If anything locked up his fate no matter how the season ended, that episode was it.”

No. It wasn't too high. It was too low.

This is the last time I'm going to get a chance to take a shot at Schwartz so I'm going to make it count. His team was defined by a lack of discipline that emanated from the head coach and worked its way down. That lack of discipline was exemplified by this incident. It encapsulated what was wrong with Schwartz's teams during his tenure from poor self-control on the field to poor handling of the public pressures that came with that.

Never have I seen a head coach who so deserved the blame for failure of his team to perform.

Everyone Sees the Problem. The Question Is How to Solve It.

The Bears problems on defense are complex. But almost everyone agrees that what made them the worst defense in the NFL this season really boils down to one play from the last game. Rich Campbell at the Chicago Tribune comments:

“Coach Marc Trestman had no explanation because, really, there is no explaining it.

“Why did the Bears let a fumble, a live ball, sit on the turf without pursuing it late in the first half of their 33-28 loss to the Packers on Sunday? This is the Chicago Bearsdefense, a unit with a proud history of forcing turnovers, for cryin’ out loud.

“How could they let a Packers receiver pick up a fumble and jog into the end zone? In the de facto NFC North championship game, no less?

“’There has never been a time this whole year where I’ve blown the whistle in practice and the ball was on the ground that we didn’t pick it up and scoop and score with it,’ Trestman said. ‘For me to try to explain why that happened, I really can’t at this time because we’ve never allowed the ball to sit on the ground like that at any time in practice.'”

David Haugh, also at the Chicago Tribune, seems to think that defensive coordinator Mel Tucker should pay the price for this incompetence:

Jarrett Boykin‘s bizarre 15-yard fumble recovery return for a TD for the Packers exposed the defense’s lack of instincts and awareness. It doesn’t matter if Bears players swore they worked on picking up loose balls in practice the way they did under Lovie Smith. They didn’t when it mattered. The effects of good coaching show up on Sundays. That the Bears watched as Boykin scored indicted Tucker most of all.”

The essence of good play is not just practicing hard, as the Bears have done by all accounts, but having the fruits of that practice show up on Sunday. There were stories of former Bears offensive coordinator John Shoop staying up to all hours of the night watching film. But Shoop was a lousy offensive coordinator because all that film watching never showed up in the results on Sunday. The same is true here.

Firing Tucker would be one potential solution to this problem. And it’s not as unlikely as I once thought it was. Brad Biggs at the Tribune comments:

“It will be interesting to see if there is any fallout and potential changes to Trestman’s coaching staff as the week moves on. Trestman remained very supportive of defensive coordinator Mel Tucker throughout the season. He used three defensive coordinator in five seasons with the Montreal Alouettes.”

But, really, that’s just an easy change that may or may not solve the problem. After all, if that was Trestman’s ultimate solution, why did he have to do it three times? Why did former Bears head coach Lovie Smith run through offensive coordinator after offensive coordinator with little apparent change in the results?

its easy for a guy like Haugh (or most fans) to call for Tucker’s head. The real question is how do you fire Tucker without identifying what, specifically, he lacked that someone else will bring to the table? What, exactly, did he do wrong? How do you induce players to translate the work which they were doing right in practice to the field on Sunday? When you can tell me that, then I’ll listen.

Most people will tell you that the key to solving problems like those the Bears face may lie in accountability. How do you hold a player accountable of his actions?

One suggestion is to create competition. Adding players who can take your position from you can cause you to concentrate a lot more on what you are doing when it all counts. That is something general manager Phil Emery will undoubtedly strive mightily to do this offseason. On the other hand, there wasn’t a lot of competition for positions on the offensive side of the ball where the Beas played extremely well.

Could the difference between the offense and the defense come down to the man in charge? After all, Tucker is just an assistant. Is it possible that the Bears played better offensively under Trestman because playing for the head coach, the man who ultimately determines their fate, made them more accountable for their actions than playing for an assistant? Even if that’s not it, Trestman is the man who successfully coached the offense so its obvious that he has the potential to provide something that the defense lacks.

If so, then the performance of the defense might come down to Trestman’s failure and not Tucker’s. Trestman is the man responsible for the whole team, not just the offense, and he should be held responsible for the performance on both sides of the ball. Trestman may need to bear this in mind as he enters his second season. His deeper involvement on the defensive side of the ball may be what leads to the team’s overall success.

In any case, it’s fairly obvious that we all understand the problem. What will be interesting in the months and years ahead is looking to see how the Bears go about solving it.

Getting the Calls

Patrick Finley at the Chicago Sun-Times quotes quarterback Jay Cutler on defensive end Shea McClellin’s unnecessary-roughness penalty in the second quarter Sunday:

“Cutler was asked whether a flag would have been thrown if he had been the victim of the same hit.

“’Wouldn’t have been close to a flag,’ he said.”

I’m not surprised to hear this complaint from many fans. But I am surprised that Cutler, who with his mobility outside the pocket benefits from such calls more than most quarterbacks, doesn’t get it. I note that Troy Aikman doesn’t quite understand the situation, yet, either based upon his on air comments.

Any hit on a quarterback which is deemed to be not necessary is a personal foul. Period. It doesn’t matter if you use your helmet. It doesn’t matter how clean it is. It doesn’t matter if its soft as a baby’s bottom. If you didn’t need to do it and you did it anyway, its a penalty. Rogers was down. McClellin could have avoided the hit and didn’t. That’s all there is to it.

Cutler gets the same calls as everyone else.

A Man to Keep an Eye On

Rich Campbell at the Chicago Tribune profiles Bears head coach Marc Trestman as he reaches the end of his first regular season:

“Trestman addressed his team [after a devastating loss to Minnesota on Dec. 1], lauding players’ effort and preparation before acknowledging they did not deserve to win. He blamed himself for their mistakes.

“And in that moment, the Bears’ two-game resurgence began. There was, after all, something serendipitous about that crushing defeat.

“’You cannot fight adversity,’ Trestman told the Tribune in a recent interview. ‘You have to embrace it. You have to smile in the face of it and know that it’s just temporary and it will pass, and we have to keep doing what we’re doing.'”

This article describes Trestman in impressive terms. He is a man who tries to create an environment around the team where players perform for each other. It’s a nice, touchy feely approach to the game and, though it’s not always the one that gets the best results in my experience, its genuine and its probably the best approach for him, personally to take.

The problem is that players who are capable of driving themselves towards excellence without a fair bit of pushing along the way are rare. Admittedly, they’re the ones who turn out to be truly great. But if you are going to win a Super Bowl, it’s the other guys who have to be shoved along who will need to help carry you there. But as long as he can get tough with players when its called for, I’m confident that the team will be OK in Trestman’s hands with this approach.

As much as I liked what the article said about Trestman, I liked what it said about the writer even more. This was an insightful look into the way Trestman approaches the game and the life that surrounds it.

Most of my posts start with a quote from a newspaper article. There’s a reason for that. Like it or not, reporters are the source of every piece of information most fans get about the Bears. This means that you have to pay attention not only to the information conveyed, but also to who is conveying it. Everyone has biases and much though we may try to avoid them, they always come out when we express ourselves. Is the group “pro-life” or “anti-abortion”? Like it or not, the term you choose tells the reader what you think.

With that in mind, it will surprise no one that I’ve noticed the absence of former Tribune writer Dan Pompei more than most. Fellow writer Brad Biggs not withstanding, Pompei was just about the best football writer I’d ever read on a weekly basis. I still miss him but I’m glad to see young writers like Campbell, who has impressed me more than once with his observations, stepping in. Campbell is a different kind of writer from Pompei. But if he can consistently write quality articles while pointing out subtle things that the average football fan wouldn’t notice, I’m sure we’ll all continue to enjoy the game that much more.

No Pressure, Jay

David Haugh at the Chicago Tribune quotes former Cowboys quarterback Troy Aikman on current Bears quarterback Jay Cutler:

“The better [Green Bay quarterback Aaron] Rodgers plays Sunday, the smarter Cutler must. Yet after visiting a “relaxed” Cutler on Friday at Halas Hall, Aikman sensed no additional pressure — even if it is palpable around Chicago.

“’As you get older in this league or remove yourself from the game and look back at games that really shaped who you were as a player or what you achieved as a team, this is one of those games,’ Aikman said. ‘These are the types of games that, as a quarterback, really help establish whatever legacy you have. I’m looking forward to seeing how Jay responds.’”

Aren’t we all.

Just an FYI to Aikman, the more “relaxed” Cutler looks, the more nervous he is inside. His press conference late last week where he reverted to the bratty child we all have come to know is the result of that pressure. The more he feels it, the more he reacts in a way that’s designed to make you think he doesn’t care about you or what you think about the game.

But that doesn’t necessarily mean he won’t play well. What you need to do is take a good look at him warming up right before the game. His body language should tell you all you need to know. If he looks pale, stiff and expressionless, the Bears will be done before they even start. If he doesn’t, the Packers might have a game to play.

There are a lot of things to look for in this game. For me it’s mostly its about whether the Bears can bounce back and show some drive and determination when it counts. But those who put how Cutler responds at the end of a contract year with the division title on the line above that will, indeed, have a good argument.

Brandon Marshall for the Win

Dan Wiederer at the Chicago Tribune on wide receiver Brandon Marshall:

“The eighth-year receiver already has topped 1,000 yards for the seventh consecutive season and is headed to his fifth Pro Bowl next month. One place Marshall never has been, however: the NFL postseason. For the Bears to punch a ticket into this year’s playoffs, they will need Marshall to be on top of his game. He has been most weeks since joining the Bears, having registered 212 catches, 2,729 yards and 22 touchdowns in the last two seasons. With six catches Sunday, he will reach 100 for the fifth time in his career.”

I have stated repeatedly that the Bears making the playoffs isn’t very important because there’s no way that they (or the Packers) will do any real damage once they get there. But there are reasons why seeing them do it would be sweet. I would dearly love to see Marshall rewarded. He arrived followed by a boat load of trouble and many (myself included) assumed that past history was going to be an indication of future results. But, with some exceptions, Marshall has been a wonderful example of what a team player should be. He’s done it not just with words but with actions toward teammates like Alshon Jeffery.

Running back Matt Forte also deserves something more than a trip straight back to his living room. And it would be really nice to see Devin Hester break the return record as a Bear. So there’s much to play for today beyond what is logically an academic pursuit of a division title.

Not the Most Satisfactory of Responses

Dan Wiederer at the Chicago Tribune provides us with some weird quotes from Jay Cutler. For instance, here’s Cutler’s response to the return of Aaron Rogers to the field for the Packers this Sunday:

“I play offense.”

OK. But its a team game, right?

“It’s going to take all of us to win this game. This isn’t a personal game for anybody in that locker room. It’s all of us together.”

Then why was your response “I play offense”?

And finally, Wiederer ends with this:

“All of the Bears together will march on to a pretty big stage Sunday afternoon at Soldier Field with a playoff berth at stake. So with all that mixed together, does Cutler embrace such moments?

“‘You don’t get to choose,’ he said. ‘It is what it is. We’re in this situation. If it was different, we’d approach it the same way. We’re trying to win each and every game.’”

So, that’s not a “yes”.

I never felt worse about the Bears chances this Sunday than I do right now.

Quo Vadis Safeties

Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune answers your questions:

“Both safety positions have to be a top priority in the offseason surely. How have Chris Conte and Major Wright regressed so much this season? — @Vik469 from Twitter

“I would be very surprised if the safety positions were prioritized over the defensive line. If you want to talk about a “top” priority, you’ve got to start in the trenches. Neither player looks like they are playing with a high level of confidence this season. That is the first thing that strikes me. I’d expect the Bears to look for some help at this position but I don’t know if we’re going to see complete turnover. Conte remains under contract for 2014 and I expect him to return and, at the minimum, compete for a starting role.”

People who know me and read this blog know that I always agree totally with Biggs that the highest offseason priority should be solidity at the line of scrimmage.

I also agree that there probably won’t be major changes at safety. But I would definitely expect the Bears to bring in competition at the position. If nothing else, it might bring a little more focus to the play of the veterans there. Moreover, though I’m not a big fan of blaming coaches for player error, I think this is one area where the coaching staff does need to come under scrutiny. I would have thought that veteran defensive backs coach Jon Hoke along with former Bears safety Chris Harris would have had these guys on solid ground. But these players have looked poorly coached and haven’t been ready to play ball on occasion this season. I’m not suggesting immediate action. Hoke has a reasonably good history of solid coaching with the team to point to. But another year of this and I think a change has to be seriously considered.

This is a problem that needs to be solved. But like, like Biggs, I don’t think whole sale changes are called for yet.

Trestman Has No “Experience” with Cutler and Packers

John Mullin at quotes Bears head coach Marc Trestman:

“I don’t have any experience with [(Jay) Cutler’s Packers problems],” Trestman said this week. “So it would be really hard for me to comment on that. I don’t know that there’s trends or historical perspective on it. That’d be a difficult question for me to answer.”

Trestman might not have any “experience” with it.  But you can bet he’s watched plenty of tape on Cutler including – hopefully most especially – the Packer games.  If he hasn’t he’s a fool.

Indeed, all you need to look at is the performance against the Eagles.  There were extenuating circumstances, its true.  But when its all said and sifted,  against the Eagles defensive scheme Cutler looked exactly like he has against the Packers for the last three or four years.

If he’s learned anything from watching Josh McCown it certainly isn’t evident.

Game Comments (in Advance): Packers at Bears

Unfortunately with the Bears move from a noon kickoff Sunday to 3:30 PM, I will miss the game.  I have a flight back into Chicago scheduled late that afternoon.  It was set up many months ago and was going to be after the game ended.  But you can’t account for last minute television gree…  I mean accommodations that far in advance.

So, much to my chagrin, there won’t be any game comments this Sunday.  But then it occurred to me.  Why wait?  I’m pretty sure I know what’s going to happen.  So here are my comments – in advance:


  1. The Bears came out trying to run the ball and got nowhere against the Packers defense that was committed to stopping it and forcing quarterback Jay Cutler to throw.
  2. The Packers blitzed frequently, leaving the Bears receivers in man-to-man coverage.  This is pretty much the way to beat the Bears, especially with Cutler at quarterback.  The only way to beat this type of coverage is to throw with anticipation to a receiver coming-out of his break, something Cutler is and always will be totally incapable of doing.
  3. Cutler never saw double coverage he didn’t like.  The Packers regularly doubled Brandon Marshall on third down and Cutler tried to force it to him anyway.
  4. The Bears offensive line recovered to do a good job protecting Cutler. They were constantly under siege, as the Packers knew full well that pressuring Cutler and covering the receivers with tight man coverage is the way to beat him. Cutler spent a good part of this night holding the ball too long, as well.  Nevertheless the line got lots of help and the Packers had a tough time getting pressure.
  5. Having said that, the offensive line does deserve some credit and the Bears moved the ball reasonably well on the ground.  Matt Forte ran well against a Packers defense that chronically struggles with their tackling.


  1. The Packers came to play as they mixed it up and both ran and passed the ball well against the Bears defense.  The Bears played it straight most of the time but tried the occasional blitz on third down.
  2. The Bears struggled to get pressure on [insert name here].  When they blitzed, it never got home as the Packers got the ball out quickly.
  3. [insert name here] had a good day.  He was extremely accurate, something that’s easy to be when you haven’t seen any pressure all night.
  4. The Packers caught a bad break when running back Eddie Lacy went down to injury early in the game.  However it was good fortune for [insert name of JAG back up] who now looks like the next Adrian Peterson.  The Bears once again failed to stop the run despite keeping 8 men around the line of scrimmage all night.
  5. Many of the longer runs came from players being out of position. The worst offense (arguably) was when [insert name of linebacker here] was out of position on the [insert JAG back up] touchdown in the [insert any quarter].
  6. The Bears may not have watched the film but the Packers were definitely paying attention to what they saw in the Eagles game.  They attacked the edges and out-physicaled the Bears on the perimeter for big chunks of rushing yards.  Its hard to stop anyone when you are laying on the ground.
  7. On a related note, the Packers must have been drooling when the saw the success that both the Browns and the Eagles had with the screen game.  Neither of those teams plays it anywhere near as well and the Packers.  What a disaster.
  8. Poor tackling, yada, yada, yada.
  9. Chris Conte had another rough game and so did Major Wright.  The Packers did a good job of taking advantage of them and linebacker James Anderson with tight end [insert name of fan Packers pulled from the stands right before the game here].


  1. [insert names here] were [excellent/not on top of their game].  Many the major points were [hit/missed].  Color man [insert name here] was [his usual sharp self/having a down afternoon], [not] failing to point out little useful aspects of the game as they presented themselves.  I particularly liked it when he astutely pointed out that Cutler was failing to [insert any one of multiple mechanical problems here].
  2. Congratulations to Devin Hester, who broke the record for returns for a touchdown.  It was nice to see him get this.  Too bad the special teams were marred by multiple penalties all afternoon.  They’ll have to clean that up for next we…  oops.  Habit.
  3. The Bears had a number of drops, yada, yada, yada.  Brandon Marshall and [insert name here] were especially guilty.
  4. Too many penalties on both sides.  The Packers won’t get far regardless but if they have any hope of success next week in the playoffs they’re going to have to play perfect ball.  that means these stupid penalties and the drops have to go.
  5. Charles Woodson said it best:  “…it’s the same-old Jay. We don’t need luck; Jay will throw us the ball.”  [insert name here]’s fumble was very damaging for the Bears. Tim Jenning’s late interception was too little too late.
  6. The Packers exhibited all of the heart and perseverance that they showed after falling behind the Cowboys 26-3 in the first half of their game a couple weeks ago.  And the Bears exhibited all of the heart and perseverance that they showed after falling behind the Eagles 24-3 last week.
  7. Many Bears fans, I know, will be upset at this games.  But, in fact, it was the best possible result.  Let’s be honest.  The Bears weren’t going anywhere in the playoffs anyway.  As poster to Facebook,  Nat Mara, put it, “…watching the Bears in Seattle may scare me more than my own mortality”.  The Bears season has really been over since the loss to the St. Louis Rams.  The rest of the miserable division just wouldn’t let them realize it.  No, this was the best possible result because it exposed the Bears players each for what they are.  The biggest fear that I had was that head coach Marc Trestman would never have the opportunity to see Cutler play against the types of defenses that have revealed his weaknesses so fully for some years now.  That is not true anymore as Cutler came back from injury just in time to show what was needed.   After the last two games, Cutler is now naked with both his strengths and his weaknesses exposed fully against opponents that his Bear teams will be facing for years to come.  Indeed, after a year of trial, this is now true of all of the Bears players.  No matter what the team decides, in the Cutler matter and in all other personnel matters, they will be making those decisions fully informed with their eyes open.  That is far more important than the privilege of getting their brains beat in by the NFC West in the playoffs.

There you go.  Now, like me, you no longer have to watch the game.  See you in the off-season.