- Matt Forte‘s thoughts after the Minnesota game were probably very pertinent to the Bears current situation. Via Dan Wiederer at the Chicago Tribune:
“Sometimes we line up in a formation that we ran a specific play out of a few more times than we should have. Defenses are smart. They watch film, read their keys and they know stuff like that.”
The Vikings were keying on the screen game and stopping it cold. The Bears never adjusted. Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune supports my claim:
“The Bears said they didn’t gameplan to get Matt Forte the eight receptions he needed to surpass Larry Centers for the NFL single-season record for a running back at 102. It just happened. Unfortunate thing is the eight catches went for only 23 yards. That is proof they were not all designed. According to Pro Football Reference, it was only the fifth time since 1960 a player has had eight catches and 23 or less yards. In 1995, Jets running back Adrian Murrell had nine receptions for 12 yards in a 12-0 loss to the Saints.”
The Bears never really adjusted offensively to any of the things that defenses were doing to them. Not Sunday. Not before Sunday. Not in game. Not between games. The vast majority of the time the only thing they did at half time as far as I could tell was recommit to the original plan. And the original plan always looked the same. And not surprisingly the results looked the same. That’s probably a major reason why Marc Trestman is no longer the Bears head coach.
- Of all of the players I thought the comments upon Trestman’s departure of wide receiver Brandon Marshall were probably the most interesting. From Rich Campbell at the Chicago Tribune:
“‘You have some guys that aren’t used to change, which is kind of unique,’ Marshall said. ‘So when change happened, a lot of guys, they didn’t respond well, and that really hurt us.
‘Everybody sees it differently. For me, I know every coach comes in, they’re going to do things differently. I was able to bend a little bit, and there were some guys that wasn’t able to bend, and it trickled down into our locker room, and it kind of, like, hurt us. That’s why we’re here.'”
“‘We just didn’t come together. Players didn’t come together. Coaches didn’t come together. And unfortunately, we got guys that’s fired and you’ve got players that’s going to be cut and traded.'”
I wasn’t happy to hear that former defensive players like Lance Briggs and special teamers like Robbie Gould were agitating after the coaching change. But I think its ironic that the defense and special teams arguably were the units that came together and performed the best late in the year. It was the offense that was totally dysfunctional and they were the ones that, as a unit, were most responsible for getting Trestman fired..
- I probably like wide receiver Brandon Marshall more than most fans at the moment. But the guy’s got to settle down. Via David Just at the Chicago Sun-Times.
- I actually watched most of the press conference that George McCaskey and Ted Phillips held at Halas Hall. Like most of the media, I was fascinated by McCaskey’s response when he was asked about how his mother and the primary owner Virginia felt about the changes there (the Chicago Tribune won’t let me embed it but the video is here). McCaskey paused a long time before answering, obviously considering carefully how much he wants to talk about his 91 year old mother. When you see any of the family with her in public its obvious that they goes to great lengths to protect her when she’s out and about. After he decided to answer the question candidly, his comments were the hit of the press conference.Even though I figured the family was trying badly to get her a championship and, for obvious reasons, were trying to get it darned soon, like most people I figured that Virginia had little influence on how the Bears were being run. I think I was wrong. It was very obvious to me that George meant it when he said Virginia was “pissed off”. You can see Phillips nodding his head in the background of this video as George McCaskey spoke. The bet here is that he’d heard about Virginia’s dissatisfaction and he may very well have heard it directly from her.
- Chris Hine at the Chicago Tribune asks if nice guys can coach in the NFL. I think the answer is the same in the NFL as it is anywhere else. You can be nice. You can’t be soft.
- I couldn’t agree more with Mike Freeman at the Bleacher Report.
- David Haugh at the Chicago Tribune that Ravens assistant general manager Eric DeCosta wouldn’t be interested in the Bears’ GM job if Bears president Ted Phillips “still” was involved in football decisions. Honestly, I can’t remember a situation where I heard that Phillips ever was involved in making “football decisions”. He’s involved in hiring the GMs but surely people recognize that the final decision on such things are ownership’s. Phillips is, for all practical purposes, an advisor in the process to George McCaskey. An extremely influential one, to be sure – he does, after all, have to work with whoever the hire is. But no one is going to be hired without McCaskey’s full approval. It’s basically his decision. And, more to the point, the operation of the team has always fallen under the responsibility of the GM and his staff with, by every account, very little interference from anyone above that. It sounds to me like someone needs to talk to DeCosta and explain the situation to him. And maybe to Haugh as well.
- Haugh did have that I do agree with and understand perfectly well:
Ordinarily the thought of interviewing and hiring a head coach before hiring a GM would have driven me crazy. But I think I might have an idea of what’s going on here. Given Ernie Accorsi‘s involvement, I’m going to guess that he’s advised them to start by showing interest in the popular candidates and, possibly, by interviewing them. That gets their foot in the door before other teams have a chance to snatch them up.
But I’m also going to guess that he’s told them that it would be best to hire the GM first and let him have huge input, if not make the final decision, if possible. Indeed, that’s what sources have told Patrick Finley at the Chicago Sun-Times here. Only in the case of a guy that they’re 100% sure is the right head coach would they actually make the hire.
The guess here is that the search for a GM will go right smartly, as well. It sounds to me like the Bears are moving with a sense of urgency, knowing that the right guys might not be available if they wait around. And, of course, if they wait too long to hire the head coach the better available assistants will be gone as well.
- I thought Mark Potash at the Chicago Sun-Times had an interesting take on former GM Phil Emery:
“Emery was dedicated and thorough, but he did not have a manager’s touch. The first indication was his poor handling of Brian Urlacher’s departure from the team in 2013 — with a low-ball contract offer and an approach that didn’t give him the respect he deserved. You can quibble about the details, but if Urlacher — one of the greatest Bears in franchise history — leaves the organization with disdain, you’ve done something wrong.”
I thought, and still think, that Urlacher’s dissatisfaction with the way this happened had more to do with him than Emery. And as to the last statement, remember that Brett Favre‘s parting with the Packers didn’t exactly go well, either. But few of us would argue that the Packers were wrong.
Having said that, perhaps in retrospect we should have considered this to be the first sign that that Emery had some flaws in this area.
- I have a very strong suspicion that former Accorsi associate Marc Ross is . Perhaps the Bears have a thing for people whose names are Marc with a ‘c’. Here’s hoping this one works out better.
- I found this report from John Mullin at csnchicago.com that Emery was the reason why former defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli didn’t stay on in the same role after Love Smith’s departure to be interesting:
“At the time, the plan was to retain the highly regarded Marinelli to run the defense. And he had planned to, remaining on even after close friend Smith was fired. But back in mid-January 2013, as part of their final selection process for a head coach to replace Smith, Emery and the organization had Marinelli interview the three finalists for the head-coaching job.
“Marinelli was asked to rank the three. He did. [Bruce] Arians was his runaway first choice; [Darrell] Bevell was the second; Trestman was a distant third.
“Emery selected Trestman.
“When he learned of the decision, Marinelli abruptly angrily resigned and left Halas Hall for Dallas and a de facto demotion to defensive line coach.”
Not that Emery made the right decision but has anyone considered the fact that Bruce Arians was going to bring in Todd Bowles as his defensive coordinator (via Potash)? You could actually argue that one reason why Arians wasn’t hired was because Emery wanted Marinelli more and then, ironically, lost out on both in the process.
- Of note this year has been the development of linebacker Christian Jones. Biggs comments:
“Linebacker Christian Jones showed continued development throughout the course of the season. He looks like he could challenge for a starting position next year. Jones said he wants to become stronger against the run so he can play more downhill.”
To my eye all of the young linebackers got better as the season wore on and I’d say they all need to get play downhill more. The key is probably play recognition, something I’m guessing will only some with experience.
- I don’t know what the Chicago Sun-Times number one sports story of the year is going to be but which ever one it is, its the wrong one. Because the number one sports story is their number 2 story. Hockey isn’t as popular as football and the Cubs and White Sox split the town in half. Though I’m sure my personal guess – Jackie Robinson West – pulled at some heart strings and will be a popular choice, no one paid any attention to them until the final week of the story and no one was paying any attention to them a week afterwards. Nothing move the needle in this town like the Bears.
- So much for head coach Jim Caldwell ringing discipline to Detroit. The Lions might be the dirtiest football team I’ve ever seen. And they’re killing themselves with it. Dominic Raiola really let that team down. Now Ndamukong Suh tried his best to do the same thing. Via the Chicago Tribune.
- Darin Gantt at profootballtalk.com reports that the Arizona Cardinals are very interested in how quarterback Drew Stanton has been treating his knee. The knee has become infected. The problem? . So the belief is that he got unauthorized treatment outside the facility. Not good for him or the team that needs him badly to return for the postseason.
One Final Thought
Biggs runs through 23 potential head coaching candidates.
Generally speaking I’m sticking to my guns and saying that the Bears need a head coach who can coach quarterbacks. That was, in my opinion, the one single thing that was unquestionably right about Marc Trestman.
But as I ran through this list I saw one one exception to that rule: David Toub. Much though I love Rex Ryan (suggested here by Potash), Toub is the better non-offensive/quarterback-oriented choice because he’s one of the few guys – maybe the only realistic guy – that I have confidence would be able to consistently find the right offensive coordinators to succeed. He’d be absolutely perfect.
Just one other note. I’ll be disappointed if the Bears aren’t seriously considering Packers offensive coordinator (and former quarterbacks coach) Tom Clements. Though Biggs didn’t have him on his list . Someone who had learned what its all about under Mike McCarthy might be a good fit. He’s probably ready.
Martellus Bennett‘s comments after head coach Marc Trestman and general manager Phil Emery were fired were profound. From Dan Wiederer at the Chicago Tribune:
“On whether there’s any reason to be optimistic about next season:
“‘That should be a rhetorical question. At the end of the day, it’s a whole new year. And anyone who has no optimism about a new year, I feel bad for those people. I believe in optimism and I don’t know about anybody else but I think the fans should know that the only thing that I can control is what I do. And I’m going to work hard and become a better player for them than I was this year. So it’s going to be a bigger and better show. So make sure you’ve got your gummy bears.'”
There are a lot of reasons to be optimistic next year. This isn’t some bottom of the barrel 2-14 team. There’s more talent on the roster than I thought there was at the beginning of the year. It’s a shame that it’s still all about the quarterback, though. What happens there will be everything. Long-time Tribune beat writer and NFL observer Don Pierson at the Chicago Tribune agrees:
“Don’t let anybody convince you a pro quarterback gets more credit and more blame than he deserves. If anything in the pass-first era, the quarterback deserves even more credit and more blame.”
“Someday, it’s got to align. Someday, somebody in charge will look at a Russell Wilson or a Drew Brees or a Joe Montana and say, ‘Not very big, not a great arm, but he’s a quarterback.’ Curious how those three played their college ball only a couple hours drive from Soldier Field. Somebody will go to Eastern Illinois and draft a Tony Romo before he signs somewhere else as a free agent.
“Somebody will look at a Bears’ roster someday and see quarterbacks Chad Hutchinson, Craig Krenzel and Jonathan Quinn, their leading passers in 2004, and decide they better draft Aaron Rodgers instead of Cedric Benson. Or they will look at Brian Griese, their 2007 leading passer, and think maybe Joe Flacco would be a more useful draft pick than Chris Williams. Or they will pay closer attention when a young Arena League player and Green Bay castoff Kurt Warner asks for a tryout.
“Someday the McCaskeys will find somebody who can find somebody.”
A message of hope for us all. I can’t quote it all but this article should be required reading for any Bears fan.
I like George McCaskey. I really do. I like his passion. I like his candidness. Like most of the McCaskey family that I’ve been exposed to, I get the impression that he’s a genuinely good, quality person raised by quality parents in a quality home. These are people you’d want as neighbors and friends.
But, like Rick Telander at the Chicago Sun-Times, I’m having a hard time believing he’s going to right the Bears ship. Telander’s reasoning is that the Bears need someone at the top who doesn’t require a consultant to tell him how to run the franchise:
“A good idea is knowing whom you want, and getting him. Pronto.”
He’s got a point. But my problem is more basic. You can hire the right people for your company even if you don’t know all of the details behind what they are going to do for you. All it requires is good judgement of basic human character.
When McCaskey was asked about quarterback Jay Cutler, here’s what he said. Via Adam L. Jahns at the Chicago Sun-Times:
“‘I’m a fan of Jay’s personally and I’m a fan of Jay’s professionally. But all of the personnel decisions are going to be up to the new general manager and the new head coach.'”
Up to the new GM and head coach. Great. That’s as it should be. And I love the fact that the family is willing to eat $38 million that isn’t my money to let him go if the new guys think its necessary.
It’s the first part of that quote that bugs me.
He’s a Jay Cutler fan? The same Jay Cutler to whom he guaranteed $54 million only to see him replace his Bears hat with a Vanderbilt hat in press conferences for the last month of the season? Cutler wasn’t just making a statement about Aaron Kromer or about Marc Trestman. He was making a statement about the team. He was making a statement about George McCaskey, the McCaskey family, their organization and its patrons. And he’s a fan?
It’s now clear that Cutler is a mentally and emotionally deficient loser. A blind man could see it in a minute and its hard to have faith in anyone who can’t immediately recognize it. And I’m really sorry for that for all kinds of reasons.
Michael C. Wright at ESPN.com summarizes what he thinks was the Bears major problem in 2014:
“I think what sticks out the most is how badly Bears general manager Phil Emery miscalculated in terms of the contributions this team would be able to get from some of the additions he made. Emery paid big money to sign [Jared] Allen and Lamarr Houston in free agency and they’ve combined for 6.5 sacks. Houston had never produced more than six sacks in a season, yet Emery billed him as the crown jewel of the team’s free-agent class. Then the Bears went out and signed a bunch of no-name safeties. M.D. Jennings was the most experienced safety of all the signees and he didn’t even make the team. Let’s not even get into the big money paid to [Jay] Cutler. “
“You’ve got three big receivers in Alshon Jeffery, Brandon Marshall and Marquess Wilson, but not one target capable of taking the top off coverages.”
“I’d say about 80 to 85 percent of this team’s problems in every facet are the result of bad personnel moves. So although [Marc] Trestman and the coaching staff — deservedly — take plenty of heat, Emery dealt them a horrible hand from a personnel standpoint. “
The Bears are, indeed, holding a terrible hand. In my opinion it’s largely due to their recent tendency towards short-term free agent fixes. The most damaging comment I heard all year was when an unnamed assistant from another team anointed the Bears the “biggest collection of front-runners in the NFL”. After years of fighting criticism that they’re “cheap” its ironic that people like me are calling for ownership to stop throwing money at this problem and to find a long-term solution.
I’d only add that Wright should consider that Emery has been handcuffed in terms of what he could do with the receivers by what Cutler can (or will) do. They don’t have any speed receivers because Cutler refuses to throw to them, preferring “go up and get it” guys. Speed receivers require that you get the ball to them with anticipation while they’re open, not after safeties and cornerbacks close the gap and its too late. Cutler isn’t the only problem this team has. But he’s the center of many of them. That doesn’t excuse Emery or Trestman. Both handcuffed themselves to Cutler and deserve every bit of criticism thrown their way.
People like to say that “it all starts at the top”. In a way that’s true for the Bears and nothing illustrates that more than Wright’s comments above. But this offseason what’s at the top isn’t really the biggest priority. The most important thing the Bears need to do, and the one that’s least likely, is to start closer to the bottom with the most important position on the team. It starts at quarterback and no matter what happens with Emery and Trestman, the Bears are going nowhere with Cutler at the position. The highest priority offseason task should be dumping and at least starting to replace him with youth and, above all, good coaching.
The odds are good that ownership won’t do it but if they are really committed to long-term excellence, eating Cutler’s contract will be the quickest way to get on the road to rebuilding the team. They’ll be worse in the short-term but ultimately it’s going to have to be done so they might as well get started.
Despite their poor record, Vikings fans have confidence that their team is on the rise and that is largely due to the continued development of quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. Mark Craig, the Vikings writer and NFL columnist for the Minneapolis Star Tribune tells Dan Wiederer at the Chicago Tribune why:
“There was some belief in (quarterback) Christian Ponder at the end of his rookie season in 2011, too. So that probably has some fans spooked because of how badly Ponder’s career flopped. But for most objective observers, Bridgewater is different mainly because of how calm he remains in chaotic situations. Even when Ponder was considered on the rise, he ran from pressure and never really thought his way through it while still in the pocket.
“Bridgewater does that routinely, and I think fans recognize that there could be a bright future with him and [offensive coordinator Norv] Turner united.”
Many will say in hindsight that that signing quarterback Jay Cutler was the lowest point of 2014 for the organization. I disagree. The worst day for the Bears and the rest of the NFC North all year was the day that the rest of the league allowed Bridgewater to fall to the Vikings.
From the minute I saw Bridgewater play in college at Louisville I thought he was going to be a very good NFL quarterback. A blind man could see that he was already playing like one. He moved like one, he thought like one, he threw accurately and with anticipation like one.
The fact that he wasn’t drafted higher and, in particular, that Johnny Manziel was taken ahead of him is a prime example of the stupidity of football personnel men who value outstanding arm strength and athleticism over these traits. The guess here is that football coaches in particular are the worst in this regard. Their confidence in themselve leads them to believe that the traits that Bridgewater exhibits can be coached and that all a prospect needs is physical talent and the right guy to mold it. Cutler is a living tribute to why this approach doesn’t work. You don’t need many years as a neutral observer of the NFL to understand that physical talent is not all you need and, indeed, isn’t the most important characteristic.
Don’t get me wrong. You can’t draft a quarterback without some arm strength and Bridgewater doesn’t lack it. But to emphasize these traits over his obvious talent is areas that make a truly great pro quarterback was, and is, idiocy. With the cap space eaten up by Cutler’s contract and the Vikings’ acquisition of Bridgewater, the Bears may be paying the price for that misconception for a long time.
- I knew the minute I saw the headline that Rick Morrissey at the Chicago Sun-Times had written this. Similar to Hub Arkush, Morrissey’s cynicism can be refreshing when you want someone to write a hard truth. But both tend to go too far and see things in an unbalanced, unnecessarily negative light. This is one of those times. I find the implication that its acceptable for players like Dominic Raiola to occasionally cross the line into dirty play to be unacceptable. Morrissey says, “To be clear, I’m not condoning Raiola’s behavior” but then goes on to say that we shouldn’t be outraged by it because that’s just the way true, competitive football players are. What nonsense.
- And just to spite me, Arkush chimes in with a positive comment buried amongst his negativity:
“What else can go wrong this season? Well, the Bears could beat the Vikings and drop several spots in the draft, and my gut tells me that’s what’s going to happen. There is a chemistry among a tight group of veterans on this team, and what we learned last Sunday is that they’re not going to embarrass themselves.”
I don’t know which veterans he’s talking about but Robbie Gould and Jay Cutler, who is saying all the right things verbally while saying, “I’m still a sulking boy” by wearing a Vanderbilt hat in press conferences, are giving them a bad name.
If this is Cutler’s last game as a Bear, his legacy with me will be associated with Brian Urlacher‘s most perceptive comment when he referred to Cutler (off the record) as a female body part. Physically Cutler is as tough as anyone you’d ever like to see. But Urlacher was still dead on.
- John Mullin at csnchicago.com weighs in with his own perceptive comments as he begins to put a bow on the 2014 season. Most of this article is an indictment of Bears head coach Marc Trestman but I took some other interesting tidbits from it as well:
“Trestman too often appeared out of touch with the NFL ‘way’ both on and off the field.”
“Much of [the team dysfunction] traced to Trestman, who in ill-advised and clumsy exercises of damage control only succeeded alienated his central team leader.
“Teammates voted Cutler one of the captains going into the 2013 season. But Trestman this year installed a system of rotating captains instead. He named Cutler as a captain just three times through the first 15 games, only once more than second-year right guard Kyle Long. Defensive end Jared Allen has been a co-captain in the last five and six of the last seven games.”
My assumption was that Trestman was instituting the rotating captains in part to keep the BBQ-shilling Lance Briggs from being named permanently. It never occurred to me that Cutler, with his evident lack of innate leadership skills, might also be a target. If he was then it was useless. Cutler is who he is and that’s not a leader. Perhaps this was a recognition of that rather than an inducement to improve in that area. Either way it is an indictment of both men.
- Mullin continues:
“Starting to describe a mistaken route by Brandon Marshall against the Green Bay Packers in Week 10 this year, Trestman began saying that Marshall had run a wrong route, then caught himself and redirected into something about miscommunication. That effectively threw blame on Cutler and began the real unraveling of the coach-quarterback relationship, the most important for any team.”
Assuming this was the case, you would think that Cutler would recognize that such misdirection would help him more often than it would hurt him. But the see comment above about the female body part.
- And finally, one last quote from Mullin’s article:
“Trestman talked often of wanting to keep team business in-house, yet took no steps to curtail repeated outbursts by Marshall and imposed no more discipline on [Aaron] Kromer than to order an apology for speaking to an an outsider about frustrations with Cutler. Asked for reactions to various player actions, Trestman typically professed that he hadn’t heard what was said or hadn’t seen what was done or had happened.”
“They were small things and not what should have affected play on the field. But some question existed throughout on whether Trestman truly related to players on levels that mattered to them. He spoke of things like ‘growing the man’ and every quarterback having his own ‘journey,’ which is true but not coin of the communications realm in the NFL. And treating someone like a man doesn’t automatically make him one.
“Perhaps just coincidentally, the Bears were degenerating into an undisciplined team on field, reflected by penalties and overall sloppiness on all phases. Trestman’s second season marked the first time in 30 years that a coach’s team became more penalized from his first year to his second. In just 14 games the Bears already were dramatically ahead of their year-one rate of infraction under Trestman.”
It’s almost certainly not a coincidence and Mullin undoubtedly strongly suspects that. Indeed, treating someone like a man doesn’t automatically make him a man. I’m reminded of what former NFL safety Matt Bowen wrote for the Chicago Tribune earlier this month:
“To be honest, players want to be held accountable. They want to be pushed, challenged. That’s how they improve and it resonates throughout the building when poor performances are deemed unacceptable.”
Trestman lives in an ideal world where people push themselves and hold themselves accountable. It’s a lamentable truth that more often that not reality doesn’t match that. His failure to recognize this might have been his greatest mistake.
There is a lot more to this article. I’ve already quoted too much of it but if I extracted more excerpts a lot of them would be just to add “Me, too.” Its well written and well worth a read.
My guess is that this is the first of many such articles from many different sources that will come after Black Monday. It will be interesting to see what new facts come out of them.
- Mary Kay Cabot at the Cleveland Plain Dealer quotes Browns linebacker Karlos Dansby on what he sees as a wasted season for the Browns top two picks of the 2014 draft:
“‘There’s so much ([cornerback Justin] Gilbert) could’ve done better and he didn’t put forth the effort,’ said Dansby. ‘So yeah, it’s a wasted year.
“‘Like [quarterback] Johnny [Manziel] said the same thing, it’s a wasted year for him. That’s how he feels. He’s like ‘damn, I’ve got to take this more seriously. I’ve wasted all this time.’ That’s basically what he’s saying. So it’s like ‘don’t waste your time man, because it’s precious bro. You never know when you’re going to be done. You’re one play away from never playing this game again.”
“Dansby said he was surprised to hear Manziel publicly admit Tuesday that he has to take it more seriously because this is his job now.
“‘When did you figure that out?’ said Dansby.”
Its possible that Gilbert and Manziel will suddenly turn it on and start working harder. But I think its far more likely that this is who they are. Some people with the Browns are evidently going to have to start paying less attention to the physical talent and more attention to what these prospects have inside. And given that Manziel wasn’t the general manager’s choice, the guess here is that its the coach and the owner who interfered to get Manziel on board.
- You can see why Jets players love head coach Rex Ryan. Compare his statements about Sheldon Richardson‘s Pro Bowl snub to the mealy mouthed response Trestman or former Bears head coach Lovie Smith likely would have made. Ryan’s comments are contrasting Richardson with Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald. Via Dom Cosentino at NJ.com:
“Rex Ryan on Wednesday admitted he was ‘kind of shocked’ Jets defensive end Sheldon Richardson wasn’t selected to the 2015 Pro Bowl. And after initially saying he thought it might have been because the Jets have won just three games this season, Ryan dropped the hammer.
“‘If it kept him out of the Pro Bowl because some guy had X-amount of sacks, and that guy can’t hold his jock as a player, to be honest with you, I think that’s kind of strange to me,’ Ryan said.
One Final Thought
I did find this Morrissey comment to be amusing:
“Part of me says this season can’t end soon enough. Another part of me wants it to go on forever. Drama, controversy, finger-pointing — it’s a columnist’s dream. Who stays and who goes? Phil Emery? Marc Trestman? Jay Cutler? All of them? None of them? The real season starts after the [Vikings] game.”
I, personally, follow the league for the game on the field and like it best when the players are overcoming adversity to triumph over obstacles. But the downside of being human also comes with that and I guess I’ll take what I can get.
- David Haugh at the Chicago Tribune produces this interesting tid bit that could be an indication of what general manager Phil Emery‘s future might hold:
“Quietly, the Bears have begun exploring potential replacements for Emery in the event they make a change in their front office, a league source said. Nothing has been decided, but a source characterized the Bears as open to several approaches to fixing what’s wrong.”
- Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune argues that franchising quarterback Jay Cutler wasn’t a practical option last offseason:
“Hindsight is a wonderful tool for armchair quarterbacks. It’s always easy to identify a blitz protection gone awry and a secondary receiver that was wide open when looking at the film. Playing armchair GM is even easier. Certainly placing the franchise tag on Cutler and making him play this season before making a multiyear commitment would have put the organization in a different position right now.”
I’ll accept Biggs’s arguments but suggest that they are basically beside the point. Hindsight might be 20-20 on franchising Cutler but regular reservations about him were expressed by fans and media everywhere including this space. Much has been said about Cutler’s ability to read defenses and that may or may not be fair. But there’s no doubt that he’s a “see-it-throw-it” quartback in a league where you have to throw the ball with anticipation to a receiver before he gets open. Cutler has never shown that he can do that and he didn’t show it last year, either. It simply can’t work any other way in the modern NFL.
The problem wasn’t that the Bears didn’t franchise Cutler. The problem was that they misevaluated him. My only real question was how much of that misevaluation falls on Emery and how much on Bears head coach Marc Trestman.
Patrick Finley at the Chicago Sun-Times has some nice things to say about defensive coordinator Mel Tucker:
“Say this for Tucker, though: the Bears’ much-needed youth movement on defense has helped replenish a roster beset by age and injury.
“Assuming David Bass starts for the injured Willie Young, Tucker will take the field Sunday in Minnesota with five first- or second-year players in a starting role. At least five more — including rookie defensive tackles Will Sutton and Ego Ferguson — have been steady contributors this season.
“Tucker said ‘every single one of those guys’ has improved this season.”
They have, indeed. And its very noticable, especially at linebacker where they play a little faster with a little more confidence every outing. The Bears are a long way from the defense that gave up back-to-back 50 point disasters mid-season. Tucker and the defensive coachng staff deserve a great deal of credit for that. Its a shame that its too little too late. But at least they’ve help lay a foundation for the future. Here’s hoping some of them survive the coming apocalypse.
One Final Thought
Kyle Long is going to the Pro Bowl again this year and he’s got the right idea. Via Dan Wiederer at the Chicago Tribune:
“Whoever they put out there at quarterback, I know what my job is. So that’s what I’ve got to handle.”
Some veterans like kicker Robbie Gould could take a lesson from him.
- Alshon Jeffery didn’t seem to have a good explanation for why he was dropping passes all over the field Sunday. Via Dan Wiederer at the Chicago Tribune:
“‘You’ve got to catch the ball,’ Jeffery said. ‘Some of them probably were just me trying to catch and turn before I had the ball. But most of all, I still have to catch the ball.'”
I know that balls coming from a different quarterback can often look different and these transition take some getting used to. That might be particularly true after taking balls from Cutler all year. He routinely fires the ball particularly hard trying to fit it into tight windows to receivers who are barely open by the time it gets there.
The Bears receivers might also have needed to get used to the ball coming out before they go into their breaks. I’m sure they knew that going in but knowing it is one thing, experiencing it is something else.
- Dominic Raiola claims that stomping on Ego Ferguson‘s leg was a “total accident”. It sure as hell didn’t look like a total accident. It looked like the kind of Ndamukong Suh-type thug move the Lions have been known for. Apparently the Jim Schwartz effect doesn’t wear off too easily. From the Chicago Tribune.On a related note, I can’t wait to hear what Brandon Marshall has to say about the Lions center on Inside the NFL this week.
- Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune evaluates running back Matt Forte‘s performance Sunday:
“Forte ran hard, carrying would-be tacklers with him on a handful of occasions. He made a poor attempt at pass blocking against Jason Jones on the fourth-and-1 play at the goal line as Jones and blitzing linebacker Ashlee Palmer forced Clausen to roll out and throw off-balance.”
Forte has been struggling a bit in protection, particularly in recent weeks. Mark Potash at the Chicago Sun-Times cites some Pro Football Focus stats and claims that the problem dates back to last year. This might be an area to work on in the offseason. The inconsistencies on the offensive line haven’t helped.
- Potash on the FOX broadcast Sunday:
“Last week, ESPN’s Jon Gruden called for Jimmy Clausen to replace Cutler. This week, Fox analyst Troy Aikman took his shot.
“‘I think [Cutler’s benching] goes beyond performance,’ Aikman said on the Bears-Lions telecast, ‘and is real reflective of whatever Jay Cutler is or isn’t as a leader or someone who inspires the play of those around him.'”
The guess here is that Cutler is suffering for past sins with the national media. I never heard the generally positive Gruden go after anyone like he did Cutler. I can’t imagine what Cutler did to piss him off but it must have been pretty bad. In that respect, Cutler might be getting what he deserves.
- Kicker Robbie Gould just can not keep his mouth shut. Rick Morrissey at the Chicago Sun-Times sees through the hypocrisy:
“‘It’s not the Bear way. This whole season is not the Bear way. Pointing fingers, things getting out of the locker room, that’s not the Chicago Bear way. And I think for me, being around an organization for 10 years, seeing guys like Charles Tillman, Lance Briggs, who most likely have walked through the tunnel the last time — it’s tough. We weren’t taught this way under Lovie (Smith, the Bears’ previous head coach).
“‘We weren’t taught to do these things, and we stayed together as close-knit as we possibly could. You don’t have to like everybody, you don’t need to like everybody. But you have to respect everybody and go to work for those people. It’s unfortunate for everyone because it’s not the Chicago Bear way.’
“The Chicago Bear way – is that when a kicker questions his head coach’s decisions?
“The Chicago Bear way – is that when Briggs misses a practice the week of the first regular-season game to fly to California for the grand opening of his new restaurant? Let’s not get nostalgic. Almost from the start, the pining for the Lovie era by veterans undercut Trestman’s ability to do his job.”
I consider Gould’s comments not just to be a betrayal to the team and the coaching staff but a form of cowardice. With Trestman having one foot out the door, the odds were good that there would be no repercussions for Gould.
- Cedric Benson that nothing good happens at two in the morning. No surprise there. From the Austin American-Statesman.
- Given his performance against the Bears on Sunday, I find Lions head coach Jim Caldwell‘s to be laughable. Via Josh Alper at profootballtalk.com.
One Final Thought
David Haugh at the Chicago Tribune has been sharply critical of virtually everything at Halas Hall for the last month and his reaction to the news that the Bears would go back to quarterback Jay Cutler after Jimmy Clausen came up with a concussion Sunday was no exception:
“[General manager Phil] Emery should have knocked at the door, asked [head coach Marc] Trestman to turn off his book on tape, and ordered the coach to start rookie David Fales against the Vikings. If Trestman refused, Emery should have fired him — something likely to happen next Monday anyway.”
It’s not that simple and Haugh knows it. It’s easy to say that but you still have an entire team that needs to believe that the organization is still trying to win on Sunday. Even more, if Fales isn’t ready to start then you could do quite a bit more harm than good throwing him into the fire. Its worth noting that both Wiederer and Rich Campbell also disagree with Haugh.
I don’t like the idea of starting Cutler. I thought Clausen had a chance of beating the Vikings but I don’t think Cutler will be able to do anything different against what is sure to be the kind of defense that has had him snake bitten all year – the kind that Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer as much as said he should have played after the last game. I thought Clausen was beginning to do some of the things that are necessary to break out of it, even if it was only the last game at stake. But you have to do what you have to do and Cutler probably does give them a better chance to win, small as those chances may be.
Having said all that, I’m not the kind of horrible person who would wish injury on anyone but I must admit that there is a part of me that would like to see something else happen that might allow us to see something of Fales on Sunday. As it is, I think we are all in for another frustrating afternoon of watching Cutler and the Bears offense flounder.