- 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.