There Are “Injuries” and Then There Are “Injuries”

brain-injuryAdam Jahns at the Chicago Sun-Times is off base with this comparison between quarterbacks Jay Cutler and Carson Palmer:

“But [Arizona head coach Bruce] Arians is the perfect coach for him at the perfect time. The No. 1 pick in 2003, Palmer just happened to connect with Arians in his 30s, a decade into his career.”

“The point is, it’s never too late for a quarterback to find that right fit, especially at a time when college schemes have impeded their development and most NFL teams desperately need them.

“It’s an interesting notion to consider as Bears quarterback Jay Cutler prepares for his second start under coach John Fox and offensive coordinator Adam Gase.

“Can Fox and Gase finally be the right guys for Cutler?”

This doesn’t fly with me. Palmer was always a pretty good quarterback whose career was simply derailed by injury. He happened to hit upon both Arians and a pretty good Arizona surrounding cast at the same time to revive his career. Cutler’s only injury is in his brain, which simply isn’t wired in a way that’s likely to generate wins.

 

I’m much more inclined to agree with Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune, who was spot on this morning when he said that “…Jay Cutler is in Year 10 and has won one playoff game. If you don’t believe the quarterback you have can win the Super Bowl for you, you’re spinning your wheels until you get one.”

In a Rush to See the Bears Do It to the Passer

Steve Rosenbloom at the Chicago Tribune is excessively tough on the Bears in his Tuesday column. But one thing that he had spot on was the disturbing lack of pass rush Sunday:

“This is, what, Tuesday, and the Bears still haven’t touched Aaron Rodgers.

“Waiting. Wait. Ing.”

” I couldn’t find Pernell McPhee. Same goes for Jared Allen and Lamarr Houston.”

He’s right. The outside linebackers did a good job on Sunday against the run. But they get paid to rush the passer and they get paid a lot. Packers quarterback Aaron Rogers was not only barely touched on Sunday, they barely got close.

The Packers offensive line is good when its healthy. But they’re not that good.

The Bears aren’t going to beat many teams without a pass rush. The Arizona line isn’t exactly a strength of their team and and their quarterback Cason Palmer is a statue that won’t be running around the way Rogers did.  So there will be an opportunity to improve this coming Sunday. If the Bears don’t, it will be very disturbing. Buckle up.

Bears May Try to Use the Cardinals Aggressiveness Against Them

Kent Somers at the Arizona Republic tells us what the Bears next opponent, the Arizona Cardinals did and didn’t do well against the Saints on Sunday:

“The Saints used the Cardinals’ aggressiveness against them. Quarterback Drew Brees continually hit running backs with screens and swing passes whenever the Cardinals would blitz. The Cardinals worked on those plays throughout camp, but in the game, defenders were too anxious to attack Brees.

“They neglected to decipher that there was a reason they were running free – they weren’t being blocked. “

I would expect the Bears to pick up on this and copy this game plan with one or two variations. For instance, though the Bears will certainly throw the screen passes, we know that the they would also like to run the ball against a Cardinals team that is rough and tough up front. Perhaps this means that we’ll see more counter plays from the Bears where, as above, they can take advantage of the Cardinals aggressiveness.

Something to keep an eye on.

Quick Comments from Selected Late Sunday NFL Games

Some quick observations on some of the games that I caught late in the day after the Bears game was over.

Broncos – Ravens:

There was a huge question about Peyton Manning‘s arm before their game against the Ravens this weak. Manning has been struggling with his arm strength all preseason and has put up some ugly game tape. Pre-game reports that he’d been putting more zip on the ball after starting to wear a glove on his throwing hand, something he didn’t do in the preseason. However, I’m inclined to attribute more of it to the huge windup he’s developed in an effort to get more behind his throws. He was also much more inaccurate than he has been in the past.

Manning actually didn’t do too badly. But that long release may haunt him all season, as it did on a Jimmy Smith pick six on Manning’s first throw of the second half.

On the other side Denver constantly harassed Joe Flacco with a ferocious pass rush. Both Denver and Baltimore struggled to protect their quarterbacks and I’m now officially concerned about both of these offensive lines.

Finally, Terrell Suggs‘s torn achilles will keep him out for the year. That’s bad news for my Ravens Super Bowl pick.

Titans – Buccaneers:

The Jameis WinstonMarcus Mariota match up looked very much like you’d expect it it.

Mariota looked far more pro-ready, being in command of the offense the entire game against that nice, standard cover-two defense. He threw four touchdowns in the first half alone.

Winston was far more up and down, mostly down, as he was in the preseason. Winston has quit a way to go before he’s going to be a competent NFL quarterback and its going to be a long season for the Bucs.

Another thing to keep an eye on is that Buccaneer running game, which looked very effective. If Winston develops at all, he’s going to get a lot of help from some wonderful running by Doug Martin.

The Bears play the Buccaneers on December 27.

Chargers – Lions:

Preseason reports had people wondering if Chargers first round running back Melvin Gordon was headed towards bust territory. I wouldn’t say that Gordon looked bad so much as he looked disappointingly nondescript. But as expected, the Lions Ameer Abdulla was the guy to watch in this game. His tendency to accelerate through his cuts and continue to gain momentum is rapidly putting him into an upper class of running backs.

There should be concern about that Lions defense without Ndamukong Suh. The Chargers dissected them in the second half both in the running game and with the pass. They made it look far too easy for any Lions fan comfort. Or for the comfort of the Bears, who are going to be visiting San Diego in November.

I’m not entirely sure what was wrong with Matthew Stafford but he looked awful in this game. You might generously say that he wasn’t on the same page with his receivers but his accuracy was very suspect. This is a situation to keep an eye on in the competitive NFC North.

Cardinals – Saints:

The Bears next opponent is the Arizona Cardinals. My initial impression watching them beat up on the New Orleans Saints is that this is a rough, tough team up front on both sides of the ball. If the Bears run on this team like they did on the Packers in the first half, more power to them. I have my doubts.

The Saints looked completely flat. I’m really surprised as offseason reports indicated that they were muscling up to become more physical. If they did, they didn’t show it. Sean Payton didn’t have this team prepared to play in this game. The Saints have to pick it up.

Cowboys – Giants

Tony Romo had ages to throw the ball in this game. That Dallas offensive line is a wall. No one got close. And they road graders blocking the run. Honestly, I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a better offensive line.

The Cowboys are a tough team. Which why I was shocked that the Giants were actually ahead at half. They were badly out played and the statistics were sick – they only had the ball for about 8 minutes of the half. But the Cowboys kept shooting themselves in the foot with turnovers and but you have to give the Giants credit. They hung tough.

The Giants offensive line wasn’t nearly as impressive as the Cowboys but Erik Flowers looks like he’s going to turn out to be a pretty good pick at left tackle. And of course, they have Odell Beckham, who drew a safety rolled to his side all night. I was also impressed by their coverage teams on special teams. But they were out classed you figured that they were eventually going to lose – and they did.  But the Cowboys did everything they could to give it away.

Some Creativity May Be Required For Teams Seeking Tight Ends in the Draft

Feb-20-Maxx-Williams

Tom Carpenter at ESPN highlights one of the more interesting things to look for inthe upcoming draft: where Minnesota tight end Maxx Williams (above) will go. Anyone who watched the combine knows that the tight end class is pretty grim and Williams is generally considered to be the best of them.

“Why is Williams’ draft stock slipping?

“Like most young tight ends — he is just 20 years old — he struggles at times with his blocking and route running.”

“Williams also reportedly came off a bit immature and self-centered during NFL combine interviews, as he struggled to give good answers to some difficult questions.”

The Arizona Cardinals, Baltimore Ravens and New Orleans Saints are all picking late in round 1 and may be tempted to take a chance on Williams.  The Bears cold also use a second tight end opposite Martellus Bennett.

There is an alternative. In the mock draft that I’m participating in the Atlanta Falcons representative took wide receiver Devin Funchess as a tight end instead of taking Williams. Funchess is 6-4 1/2, 232 lb and if he can learn to block, he could be tough to stop as a receiving tight end. Teams needing pass blocking tight ends might even resort to converting offensive tackles or linebackers.  It will be interesting to see if that’s what teams decide to do instead of taking a risk on the borderline tight end prospects that are available up and down the draft.

Adrian Peterson – The Saga Continues

Chris Wesseling at nfl.com reviews the current state of the Adrian Peterson saga in Minnesota:

“After meeting at Peterson’s home earlier this month, general manager Rick Spielman recently requested a dinner session with the star running back’s agent, Ben Dogra, at the upcoming NFL Annual Meeting in Phoenix. Dogra declined, NFL Media’s Albert Breer reported, per a source with knowledge of the situation. Yahoo’s Charles Robinson first reported the news.

“Multiple sources close to Peterson have informed Breer that the major sticking point is Kevin Warren‘s recent promotion from general counsel to COO. Under the impression that Warren worked with the NFL to place him on the Exempt/Commissioner’s Permission List last September, Peterson still wants out of Minnesota, Breer added.”

“Robinson has reported that the Cardinals will offer a high draft pick if Peterson becomes available. Franchise icon Larry Fitzgerald deemed the prospect of adding a player of that caliber a ‘game-changer’ for Arizona.”

A few thoughts here:

  1. First, Peterson is doing himself no favors by retaining Dogra as his agent. Dogra reportedly engaged in a heated exchange with Vikings vice president of football operations Rob Brzezinski at the NFL Combine during which he was said to have screamed that Peterson would never play for the Vikings again.”Super agent” or not, anyone who loses his cool in a public exchange that should be purely business shouldn’t be negotiating contracts. Dogra’s got a combative style and his grudge against Brzezinski at least is well-known. He’s not going to be the kind of guy who is going to be capable of the kind of dispassionate thinking needed to act in the best interests of his client.
  2. Second, Dogra is obviously campaigning to get Peterson traded. By telling teams that the Vikings have no intension of releasing him, he’s trying to get them to make offers rather than wait and see if they can get him for nothing. But if either the Cardinals or Dogra think anyone is going to get Peterson for “a high round pick”, they’re dreaming. Even in his 30s, Peterson almost certainly has many years left. If the Vikings accept anything less than a package that includes multiple first round picks they’re fools. And they’re not fools. Peterson is worth far more to the Vikings than anything anyone else is likely to offer.
  3. Finally, Dogra can try to get Peterson traded all he wants, Peterson’s best option will likely be to play in Minnesota. He’ll almost certainly get more money there than anywhere else. In addition, if the Vikings play hardball – and I think they eventually will when push comes to shove – Peterson’s likely options will be to play for them or lose a ton of money in salary sitting at home. Players threaten to sit out all the time but rational thinking almost always prevails and the player ends up playing. Again, assuming that Dogra actually manages to recommend what’s best for his client, that’s what Peterson will do.

Some Personal Favorites for Bears Head Coach and Other Points of View

Bears

  • 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 writes about the NFL Network report 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 one comment that I do agree with and understand perfectly well:

    “If Phillips wants the Bears to benefit from his experience, behind the scenes, he will reinforce the perils of hiring a coach before the general manager. A strong chain of command depends on the general manager’s compatibility with a coach he chooses — not one forced on him. It’s interesting that the Bears requested permission Tuesday to interview NFL coordinators Adam Gase and Todd Bowles for their coaching vacancy, which is best filled by somebody with experience. But the names of possible GMs on their radar carry more significance because that represents the Bears’ logical first move.”

    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 the next GM of the Bears. 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.

Elsewhere

  • 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? He didn’t have surgery or any treatment from the team that would lead to such an infection. 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.

The Bears Offense Is Taking Shape and Other Points of View

“‘I look at my past history and I know what I am capable of doing,’ [Hester] said. ‘We all know I am the best return man that is stepping on this field. Coach Joe D. and I, we have spent a lot of time watching film on some of the things that can be corrected. It’s a team thing.'”

“‘The mistakes that I made and the mistakes that we made as a unit, those are easy to correct,’ he said. ‘At the end of the day, I am the best returner in this game, and I know that for a fact. What man can sit here and tell me that I lost it when I know what I am capable of doing?'”

“Who is the best fit for the slot WR position long term? — @Tjacobs78, from Twitter

“With the way the slot position is evolving in the NFL, that’s a difficult question to answer. In the past, most teams had a specific profile for a slot receiver—they wanted a quick, tough receiver who could create separation with craftiness, burst and change of direction on underneath routes. That is not necessarily the case anymore. Most teams play multiple players with different body styles and athletic talents in the slot. The Bears did it that way last year, and I anticipate they will do it the same way this year. I don’t believe they will have one slot receiver. They’ll have two or three players who get a lot of time in the slot. One is sure to be Earl Bennett though. He fits the traditional definition of a slot receiver. If the Bears can get advantageous matchups, you can count on Marshall spending some time in the slot too.”

On a related note, Cardinals coach Bruce Arians makes a good point as he talks to the Associated Press about wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald. Via Mike Florio at profootballtalk.com:

“’If you want a hundred balls, move around. If they know where you’re at, it’s easy to take you out of the game.’

“Of course, that means taking Fitzgerald out of his comfort zone.

“’I think as a human being you’re a bit of a creature of habit,’ Fitzgerald said. ‘I’ve played the same position since I was in junior high school.  I’ve never had to really move around and you know I’ve gotten good at it.  So I think we all resist change to a certain degree, especially if you’ve had a little bit of success.  But as I’ve gone through the offseason workouts, I’ve definitely become more receptive of it.’”

Teams are doing a good job of moving their best players around to create mismatches now a-days and a good spot to do that is in the slot. Perhaps the most interesting thing to watch for scheme-wise this season will be what the Bears do with running back Matt Forte. There is much talk in Chicago about creating mismatches with the tight end but moving Forte, a versatile offensive weapon, around the formation will likely be a big key to the offense.

“Changes up front

“The Bears’ offensive line has undergone major changes personnel-wise and scheme-wise. Center Roberto Garza described it as a ‘totally different offense [with] totally different techniques.’ It’s an inside-out protection scheme under offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer.

“‘[It’s] different footwork, hand placement, some of the ways our combination blocks are being done differently, targets and things like that,’’ Garza said.

“Marc & Jay

[Head coach Marc] Trestman is doing everything he can to get to [quarterback Jay] Cutler and get the best from him. He has used a verbal clock to speed up his reads and release and brought in some of his former quarterbacks, notably Rich Gannon, to speak to him, Josh McCown and Matt Blanchard.”

These two points from Jahns were of interest because they tell us more about what to expect the offense will look like. Despite all of the talk about adapting to Jay Cutler’s strengths its now becoming evident that Trestman is going to expect him to adapt to his general style of offense rather than completely changing his own ideals to fit Cutler.

Blocking from the inside out means conceding the outside rush to keep a clean pocket up the middle for Cutler. It probably means that, with the occasional exception, we aren’t going to be seeing Cutler in roll outs or plays where the plan is to get him on the move where he often performed best in previous years. Trestman is going to expect him to step up and throw from the pocket the vast majority of the time.

Cutler probably also isn’t going to be able to scan the field and wait for receivers to pop open. If Trestman has Cutler on a verbal clock, counting seconds for him to get rid of the ball, that means Cutler is going to be expected to throw the ball on time to a receiver with anticipation. This has been tried before. Former offensive coordinator Mike Martz evidently worked to get Cutler to do the same thing. Cutler lost confidence in his receivers and eventually stopped trying to do it, leading Martz to give up. Personally, I have little hope that Cutler is capable of doing it here, either, but the situation is different this time around. This time if Cutler doesn’t adapt, he will be the one on the street, not Trestman. That, along with a more dependable group of wide receivers, could make the difference.

“Books

“A book: a Father’s Day gift slightly less clichÉd than a tie. ‘Here, Dad, I got you a reading assignment as a gift.’ Congratulations — you are the Phil Jackson of sons, only with zero championship rings.

“If you must go the book route, get him a bundle of laughs on the cheap. For one cent, you can get Charlie Weis‘ book “No Excuses: One Man’s Incredible Rise Through the NFL to Head Coach of Notre Dame.” For another cent, you can get “Return to Glory: Inside Tyrone Willingham‘s Amazing First Season at Notre Dame.” And for a third cent, you can get Lance Armstrong‘s “It’s Not About the Bike: My Journey Back to Life.” That’s three cents (plus shipping and handling) for hundreds of pages of side-splitting laughter. Can’t beat that. (And by that, I mean the value, not Weis, Willingham or non-PED-fueled Armstrong. They’re all quite beatable.)

Life, the Universe and a Head Coaching Change and Other Points of View

Bears

  • I thought former 49ers quarterback Steve Young‘s comments on Trestman via Mark Potash at the Chicago Sun-Times were interesting:

“Can he work his magic with [quarterback Jay] Cutler, who despite his athletic ability has been a tough nut to crack for NFL coaches.

“‘There’s no question about that,’ Young said. ‘That’s why I’m so happy they’re looking at Marc, for many reasons. Marc’s capable of doing much more, but one of the things that he can really do is break down the quarterback and build him back up.

“Now the real question is, do you have a willing participant? Because there’s a lot of great athletes in the NFL and one of the things that keeps them from I think getting to their full potential is this idea that, ‘I’m such a great athlete that I just go out and play. I’m that good.’

“‘And some of them are that good, but they never reach their full potential unless they go to school. And especially at quarterback. So if you have a willing participant in Jay Cutler and Marc Trestman, you could make some good music.'”

  • On a related note, I’d say these comments from former Raider quarterback Rich Gannon, who also played under Trestman, bode well. Via Brad Biggs and Dan Pompei at the Chicago Tribune:

“‘One thing about him that is a strength is his ability to listen,’ Gannon said. ‘He takes feedback. Marc has always been the type of guy who can sit down with you and talk about things. What do you like about this? What don’t you like? His feedback is excellent. And he has an ability to be honest with you. Somebody needs to be honest with Jay Cutler.'”

“In the CFL, players are also only allowed to be at work for four hours a day, so Wolfe said Trestman has learned to be much more efficient. He ‘had to maximize every bit of time. So his time management will be amazing.'”

  • You can search everywhere on the Internet and never find more insight into people like Trestman than you’ll find right here in Chicago from Dan Pompei. We’re lucky to have him. This was an outstanding profile on Trstman.

Not to worry. Zynser hated almost all of the other ones as well.

    • Barry Rozner at the Daily Herald doesn’t believe general manager Phil Emery should have been rushed through the coaching interview process. I agree. Frankly, I think the people who were critical of Emery here are idiots. The only valid point to be made is that you generally don’t fire a guy unless you know you have someone better already in mind to replace him, in which case you go get that guy immediately. Its entirely possible that he had his guy(s) in mind but was doing what scouts do – being extremely thorough and exploring all avenues before making a decision, as suggested by this tweet from ESPN‘s Adam Schefter:

“Two HC candidates that interviewed with Chicago said they never have interviewed with anyone as prepared and detailed as Bears GM Phil Emery”

In line with that, here’s what former Bears special team coordinator Dave Toub said about his interview for the job via Biggs::

“Toub described his interview with Emery for the head job as ‘intense.’ He was appreciative to be considered.

“‘It was very thorough,’ he said. ‘He is what everyone thinks he is. He is a very thorough information gatherer. I know I was in there for three hours with him. It was pretty much straight through. We took a five-minute break. It was him and I question-and-answer for three hours and it went by quick. By the time we were done, I said, ‘Wow.’ It was impressive. Very thorough. Covered everything. There wasn’t anything we didn’t cover.'”

And who the heck has a problem with that?

 

“How did an offense that gave Cutler a lot of what he wanted end up worse than ever?

“Cutler not only gained old friend [Jeremy] Bates as a personal quarterback wrangler, but also escaped the seeming death march of offensive coordinator Mike Martz and was reunited with Pro Bowl receiver Brandon Marshall.

“And the Bears offense scored three touchdowns in a game once in the last two months of the season.”

“Maybe that was the big question in the interview process and maybe Trestman answered it better than Bruce Arians and Darell Bevell.

“Even if it wasn’t asked and answered, that in fact is the big question. The only question.

“Why did the Bears offense get worse?”

“Running a team and calling plays at the NFL level are two different things. I get it. You should to. But what the Bears have right now in Trestman is a start to developing a big boy offense around their quarterback.

“That sells in January.”

“What separates him from Martz is his flexibility. Having passed the Florida bar in 1983, he is a lawyer, a mediator. He won’t shoehorn Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall into an offense just because it’s what he knows best. He found ways for slow-footed Bernie Kosar, uber-athletic Steve Young and aging Rich Gannon to succeed despite their divergent skill sets.”

Pompei continues:

“This is what Trestman is going to do.

“He is going to break down Cutler, take him back to the beginning. Strip all the layers of paint. Sandpaper away the roughness.

“Then he is going to build him back up again, one fundamental at a time.”

“We’ve seen this approach with Cutler before. It was taken by Mike Martz, another outstanding quarterbacks coach and offensive mind. Trestman reminds me of him in some ways.

“But there are some differences. Trestman is more flexible in his approach. And he is more likely to demand that his protections make his quarterbacks look good as opposed to vice versa.

“From where we sit now, we can say Martz and Cutler never were a good match. Martz’s system calls for his quarterback get rid of the ball quickly and on time and that he do precisely what the play sent in from the sideline calls for him to do.

“That’s not Cutler. Or at least it has not been Cutler.

“Trestman probably cannot make Cutler something he never has been, but he can minimize his weaknesses and accentuate his strengths.”

Which brings us to Steve Rosenbloom and his comments on the Bears offense under Trestman:

“Moving right along, there is one more reason for Cutler to buy in to Trestman’s ideas — one more reason that ought to be part of Trestman’s sales pitch:

“You don’t need a great offensive line if the ball comes out quickly.”

As Pompei points out, that’s not even a question. The question is whether Cutler is capable of getting it out quickly. He’s hasn’t shown the ability to do that and he probbly never will (though trust in his receivers would certainly help).

What we may be about to witness is a facinating tug of war between Trestman’s ideals and Cutler’s ability to meet them. Pompei suggests that Cutler can’t and I tend to agree. But has Marc Trestman come to that conclusion? I would suggest that he has.

According to Potash the Alouettes improved from a CFL-worst 68 sacks allowed to a CFL-best 22 with the same offensive line in 2008, Trestman’s first year as head coach. But he did that by having quarterback Anthony Calvillo go to the short passing game, getting the ball out quicker. Indications are he’s taking a different tack with the Bears as he has stressed that the Bears offensive line has to get better. From Biggs:

“Often described as a quarterback guru, Trestman laid out his goals to make Cutler an efficient passer and was emphatic that can happen only if he has adequate protection.”

Bottom line, I think that Trestman has a good idea of what he’s dealing with in Cutler. Its encouraging that he still thinks he can use his skill set to get the best ou t of him. Here’s hoping Emery manages to put together a line that can rise to the occasion and allow that to happen.

  • Trestman on whether Cutler is a franchise quarterback:

“‘Jay Cutler is a guy who loves football. Jay Cutler is a guy who’s willing to learn,’ Trestman said. ‘Jay Cutler, to me in my very short time with him, wants to do everything he can to help this franchise and please our amazing fans.

“‘That’s where we’re going to start. We’re going to work one day at a time in a proactive way with a sense of urgency to get him to be the guy that he wants to be and we want him to be.'”

That’s not a “yes”.

  • Trestman was asked whether he would promote defensive backs coach Jon Hoke to defensive coordinator. It’s not that Trestman was a lot more informative than former head coach Lovie Smith. But straight forward answers like this explaining why he’s not being more informative will get him pretty far. Via Jahns:

“‘I’m going to go in here and sit down with [general manager] Phil [Emery] and talk about where we are with our staff,’ Trestman said. ‘Things could have changed over the last few days. I’m willing to talk about that a little bit down the road. But I don’t want to put myself or our organization’s position [out there] until we sit down and discuss where the coaching situation is, because things change so fast in the National Football League at this time of year.'”

 

 

Elsewhere

  • Pompei’s weekly power rankings look about right to me. I’d love a 49ers-Patriots Super Bowl and I’ve a sneaking suspicion that’s what we’re going to get.
  • Bowen explains at least one big key to the Falcons if they want to beat the 49ers:

“Both defensive ends, John Abraham (RE) and Kroy Biermann (LE), must rush with contain principles to keep [quarterback Colin] Kaepernick in the pocket. If the Falcons allow Kaepernick to escape the pocket, or step through open rush lanes, the quarterback has the open-field ability to pick up an explosive gain on the ground.”

  • Here’s an Audible from Pro Football Weekly that has the ring of truth:

“If you think back to all the New England teams that won Super Bowls, the trademark was vigilante leadership. It was Mike Vrabel, Tom Brady, Rodney Harrison, Larry Izzo, Richard Seymour. They did not have the most talented teams when they were winning Super Bowls early on — but if there were any issues or problems that came up in the locker room, they were policed on their own. It is such a key ingredient to winning football.”

  • Former Bears and current Ravens safety Corey Graham probably didn’t mean this as a swipe at former Bears head coach Lovie Smith. But it is. Via Sean Jensen at the Chicago Sun-Times:

“Coach [John] Harbaugh gives guys a chance to come out and play. He told me before I signed here that if I deserved to play I would. He is a man of his word. He has given me the opportunity to play and that is all I’ve asked for.'”

  • I’d say this quote via the Chicago Tribune pretty much tells the story of the 49ers-Packers game:

“Put simply by Packers receiver Greg Jennings: ‘We lost to a better team today.'”

Just as the Packers were simply the better team when they played the Bears this season. The Bears have a long way to go.

Having said that, I think ESPN‘s NFC North blogger Kevin Seifert had an interesting point of view on this game:

“In the end, I’m not sure whether there would have been a schematic solution to counter [49ers quarterback Colin] Kaepernick on this night. We saw a breakout performance on a national scale. But by most accounts, the Packers didn’t look hard enough for an answer. The Packers played as if they were waiting for their game plan to kick in rather than trashing it once it became clear it had failed.

“Several players implied as much in the postgame locker room, and no one was more blunt than defensive back Charles Woodson.

“‘We didn’t make any adjustments,’ said Woodson, who later added: ‘I just think when the game is going the way it is, you’ve got to try something different. It’s hard to just continue to do the same thing over and over again, and continue to get burned. … We need to figure out: Could we have done something differently as far as our game plan was concerned?’ “

“Woodson said the Packers are playing ‘the right defense’ but consistently qualified his comments by noting a lack of adjustments. At halftime, Woodson said, the Packers talked only about ‘trying to execute the defense we were running.’ In the end, Woodson said, ‘If it works, then it works. If it doesn’t, then maybe you change.’ “

I’m going to cut defensive coordinator Dom Capers a little bit of slack on this one. A spy helps but the key to beating a mobile quarterback has always seemed to me to be a disciplined pass rush that leaves him no running lanes to escape. Admittedly the Packers aren’t built that way and admittedly you have to be well-coached to do it so to some extent it does still come back to Capers. But having said that, Xs and Os-wise doing the same thing better may not have been the wrong answer here.

“As good as the 49ers have been this season, they have not won three in a row. They will need to win a third straight game to get to the Super Bowl.”

Lovie Smith took a lot of heat as Bears head coach as well he should. But his even manner led to an amazing degree of consistency in the performance of his team. Fortyniners head coach Jim Harbaugh, on the other hand, is very emotional leading to up and down performances from the 49ers. The 49ers are, in my opinion, the best team left in the playoffs. But can a guy like Harbaugh keep a team high enough to put together enough victories to win a Super Bowl? We’re about to find out…

  • Vikings runningback Adrian Peterson has taken a unique approach to the coming 2013 season. From The Onion.

 

One Final Thought

I thought the fact that Trestman’s teams in the CFL made the playoffs all five years he was there was impressive. Then I read this from the Chicago Tribune:

“There are eight teams in the CFL, divided into two divisions. Six teams make the playoffs.”

Way to kill my buzz, man.

That aside, there was a lot of talk about Trestman as an intellectual before he was hired. I heard him compared to guys like former Bears head coach Dick Jauron and, in some quarters, even Smith and Patriots head coach Bill Belichick. In listening to his press conference, I can say that Trestman doesn’t sound anything like any of those guys. I distinctly remember Jauron looking nervous and afraid to even open his lips at his introductory press conference. Belichick and Smith never say anything if they can help it.

No, Trestman is a talker. Not that he actually said all that much but its evident that he’s not at all afraid to show his enthusiasm for the game and for the process of getting better to compete in it. Indeed, the person that Trestman most reminded me of was Phil Emery. Which is probably why he was hired. Mike Mulligan at the Chicago Tribune would seem to agree:

“[L]istening to Emery during a surprisingly introspective introduction of Trestman at Thursday’s news conference, one thing became immediately clear: The general manager sees something of himself in his new coach.”

I don’t know if that’s a good thing or not because I don’t know enough about Emery yet to make that judgment, much less Trestman.

Only one thing is certain. A new era has definitely started around here and I’m both excited and grateful. I suppose its an indication of my maturity as a fan when I say that I’m not too worried about whether it works or not. The important thing is that my life – all of our lives – just got a lot more interesting.

I can’t wait to see what happens.

All Gabe Carimi Needs is Time and Other Points of View

Bears

“‘He’s ready. He’s paid his dues,’ Manning told Tom Kensler of the Denver Post. ‘Mike’s a good leader. He’s got some good coaches that have been mentors to him, different coaches that he’s worked with in the NFL that I think he’s incorporated some of their leadership philosophies and his own philosophy.'”

“‘I tell you, he’s a worker,’ Manning said of the 40-year-old McCoy. ‘We spend a lot of hours together — early mornings, late nights — trying to get our game plan in place. There is no substitute for work ethic, and Mike certainly has that. In my opinion, he deserves a shot at one of these head coaching jobs.'”

But its Denver left guard Zan Beatles who probably said what Emery wants to hear. Via Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune:

“He’s really a guy that can set his ego aside and really mold something around the guys that he has. Obviously, he has done a good job of that the last couple years being as different as these offenses have been. He’s willing to listen and take input and stuff like that.”

McCoy. himself, confirms this with a quote via Dan Pompei at the Chicago Tribune:

“‘I learned from Dan Henning a long time ago that if the quarterback doesn’t like something, or he can’t do it, you eliminate that from the game plan. Same with the running game. If there are schemes up front that our offensive line runs better, why try to force feed something else? I always say I don’t care what we want to do, but what can our players do well? That’s where it all starts.'”

“Call [former Packers head coach Mike] Holmgren in Arizona. Find out if the guy who tamed Brett Favre and made him a winner can do the same with the Bears’ version of the early foolish and stubborn Favre.

Jay Cutler has been compared to Favre in terms of physical talent and gunslinger mentality. Favre, of course, learned. Cutler, so far, has appeared unfazed by coaching. I don’t know if he thinks coaching is beneath him, but it certainly has eluded him.”

“Holmgren made the playoffs seven straight years in Green Bay. He made the playoffs five straight years in Seattle. He has coached 24 postseason games, winning nine in Green Bay and four in Seattle. By comparison, The Bears have won four playoff games since Mike Ditka.

“Oh, and don’t forget one Super Bowl and two NFC titles.

“If Cutler can’t respect that and develop under a coach whose resume includes Favre, Joe Montana, Steve Young and Matt Hasselbeck, then it probably wouldn’t be the fault of the coach. Connect the dots, people. Anyone too dumb to learn from a coach who is that accomplished also is too dumb to quarterback the Bears.”

Oo the other hand we have this from Pompei:

“As for Holmgren, he was a special coach in his prime. Whether he still would be one at the age of 65 and after four years away from coaching would have to be determined.”

“Quarterback Josh McCown, a 10-year veteran who has worked with Cutler, Bates and Mike Martz, said it was easy to see the chemistry between Bates and Cutler.

“‘No question,’ McCown said. ‘They have great chemistry, and that’s a credit to [Bates]. He understands what he wants to get accomplished but also players are all individuals, and we’re all different. He knows one guy has to be taught differently than the next guy and so on and so forth. He’s willing to do anything it takes to get the message taught.

“‘Jay responds to [Bates’] teaching style.'”

Cutler’s mechanics generally were considered to have taken a step back this year. He certainly was more inconsistent.

“Cutler has not proven he deserves to be paid like one of the elite quarterbacks in the National Football League in my opinion, but he probably thinks he has. So it might be difficult to reach agreement with him on a long term commitment at this point. If I were in charge of the Bears’ roster, I would probably let him play out the last year of his deal in 2013. If he plays well, they can pay him then. If he plays OK and they don’t have a better option, they can franchise him. If he plays poorly, they can let him walk.”

“[Carimi] can’t be judged on his 2012 season for a couple of reasons. The first is he came into the season after knee surgery and was affected by it, especially early. As his knee came around, it became apparent that both his lower body strength and confidence had suffered. He never did get comfortable. What Carimi needs is time — time to rebuild his physical and mental strength. My bet is he ends up being a very good right tackle in the NFL.”

“Now what becomes important is, do I feel like Shea’s got the motor, the athletic ability, the savvy to be a good starting player in the NFL? Yes, I do.”

What he doesn’t have is the size. It will be interesting to see what happens to his body in the offseason.

Elsewhere

“If Jones makes a change at coach, here’s how we think it will happen. He’ll line up a successor quietly before firing [head coach Jason] Garrett, like Jones did when he lured Bill Parcells to Dallas while Dave Campo was still the coach.

“The name to watch continues to be Jon Gruden. As mentioned on Monday’s Pro Football Talk, Jones was spotted a few weeks ago in Tampa, where Gruden lives.

“If not Gruden, Mike Holmgren remains a possibility.”

  • Jay Gruden, Jon’s brother, has been speculated to be a candidate for a number of job. He’s coaching Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton and is apparently doing a pretty good job. Via Vaughn McClure at the Chicago Tribune:

“‘Andy’s a quarterback who makes all the throws and stays alive,’ [Houston safety Danieal] Manning said. ‘And he’s smart, so there’s not much disguising you can really do to him. Last year we were able to disguise a little bit. This year, he’s picking up all the disguises.'”

“The biggest decision Capers has to make is whether to leave Woodson at safety full time or continue to move him into a slot corner position when he goes to the nickel or dime scheme.

“[Casey] Hayward has proved to be an outstanding slot corner with a team-leading six interceptions, and it would be a mistake [not] to use of his cover skills.

“In addition, Woodson hasn’t tackled anybody in 2½ months and [defensive coordinator Dom] Capers probably doesn’t want him constantly at the line of scrimmage in the slot position prepared to take on running back Adrian Peterson. So, he could just keep him at safety and let Hayward play the slot.”

“Running back James Starks (knee) probably won’t play against the Vikings, but he has been helping the cause.

“Starks has lined up as Peterson with the scout team a good portion of the week, hoping to give the defense a reasonable look at what to expect. This is the first step in Starks getting back on the field, but he’ll need the Packers to win to have a shot at playing again this season.”

The only way Starks is really going to help is if he can get them to improve their fundamentals and tackle better. Because from what I saw last week, that is the major problem.

“Some NFL executives have questioned whether or not Chip Kelly’s style of offense will play in the pros. Kelly, however, has been putting this message out through back channels: He would not run the same offense he runs at Oregon if hired by an NFL team. Instead, he would run a pro style offense, but with a faster tempo than most and with a good dose of no huddle. The NFL model for Kelly might be similar to what the Patriots run. Also in question is the way he makes his practices grueling. One NFL front office man said Kelly would have to lighten up the practice pace, especially later in the week, or he would have no players left by the middle of the season.”

Kelly is rumored to basically already have the Cleveland job.

    • Todd Haley might be a little smarter than I would have given him credit for. From Josh Alper at profootballtalk.com
  • On a related note, the fact that former Eagles head coach Andy Reid has been hired by Kansas City isn’t going to stop me from posting this from profootballmock.com:


  • Most of the time, having a coaching search with a wide variety of candidates is considered to be a good thing. But the Eagles head coaching search might a little TOO broad. From The Sports Pickle.
  • Rex Ryan has an unusual tatoo. I’m’ surprised that she isn’t wearing Sanchez’s shoes. From the New York Daily News.

Columnist Gary Meyers comments:

“The tattoo does make sense in one regard. In expressing last week that the Jets are the only team he wants to coach, Ryan said, ‘Let’s face it. I wear Jets stuff every single day, every day.’

“Clearly, he was not kidding.”

 

One Final Thought

And The Sports Pickle brings us this video under the headline “Drunk Packers’ Fan Cheers, Dies”: