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.

Everything Rides on the Effectiveness of Alshon Jeffery and Other Points of View And Other Points of View

Bears

“It’s not like we were playing against the 31st-ranked defense or anything. It’s a tremendous football team on that side.”

True that. There’s no shame in losing to the Texans. They’re a good football team that played like a good football team. I thought the Bears generally played reasonably well. Yes, there were too many turnovers and that drives me crazy. But for once that’s not what lost the game. The Bears actually played better than expected in a lot of areas (eg. the offensive line).

When you are playing good competition, in this case better competition, you aren’t going to win them all.

“Despite solid protection, Campbell threw to his ‘check-down’ receiver too soon at times. For instance, when he threw to tight end Matt Spaeth for a one-yard loss late in the fourth quarter, [Brandon] Marshall had gotten open after a defender slipped.”

Question. Would you rather have Campbell checking down or having Cutler throw two or three interceptions inot coverage? Apparently Pompei had the same question in midn when he wrote this:

“On the final drive, when the Bears had nothing to lose, Campbell kept checking down. The situation justified risk taking, and it would have been better to go down with an interception than a series of short passes.”

I lean in Pompei’s direction on this. Still, its debatable. A completion underneath also gives a receiver a chance to make a play with his feet.

“Forte said offensive coordinator Mike Tice is still trying to figure out how to use his assorted weapons.

“‘Once we figure that out,’ Forte said, ‘I think we’ll be OK.'”

It’s Week 11, boys. If you haven’t figured it all out yet, you probably ain’t going to do it.

“There can be no bigger indictment of the Bears offense. The squib kicks looked like a national taunt, and the embarrassment might not stop until opponents get burned.”

“Altogether, the Bears offense started nine drives beyond their 35-yard line. Nine, do you hear me?”

“Here’s how those nine possessions ended: fumble, fumble, interception, field goal, interception, punt, field goal, missed field goal and downs. Drive home safely.”

  • I wasn’t really upset about the hit of Tim Dobbins on Jay Cutler until I read this quote from Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune :

“‘You want to try to aim for the hip, you get the legs, the body goes down with them,’ Dobbins said. ‘But with him, he was trying to deliver the ball so I really tried to hit him up high so I can mess up the throw as well.'”

Players are told repeatedly that they have to lower their target. Dobbins admitted knowing that. He admitted purposely aiming high instead.

He should have been suspended.

“Linebacker Brian Urlacher caught heat from some fans when he congratulated Houston Texans safety Danieal Manning after an interception.

“Urlacher wasn’t too thrilled that anyone would question him for doing that.

“‘That was a nice play. I could give a crap about what people think on the street,’ Urlacher said on ESPN radio. ‘Get mad at me all you want.

“‘He’s my friend. I wish he wouldn’t have caught it, but he did, so nice play to you.'”

Sometimes I really worry about people. This really goes beyond being friends. As Urlacher said, you don’t have to be happy about it but I don’t know why its such a bad thing for an athlete to show a little sportsmanship every once in a while.

Manning obviously believes he’s been vindicated. He hasn’t. The Bears had a plethora of strong safeties. He has the talent to play free safety and the Bears deperately needed him there. His lack of discipline wouldn’t allow him to deliver.

No matter how well he plays for the Texans, there’s no getting around the fact that he let the Bears down.

  • And kicker Robbie Gould opens his mouth once again and crap comes out. He had this ot say about the Soldier Field turf Sunday via Jahns:

“I have a year left on my contract. I hope to stay a Bear. And those will be situations that I’m going to take into [consideration]. I don’t know if I want to deal with that as I get older as a kicker.”

Want to cry about the turf? Fine. Join the club. Want to threaten to leave because of it and think everyone is going to run around in a panic and change the situation just because of you? See ya’ later, buddy.

“Brian Urlacher looked like he had a keg of beer on his back when he returned that interception (against Tennessee). The Bears might be the luckiest team I have ever seen on tape. There is a skill to popping the ball out, but only one guy is doing it. Is Charles Tillman‘s contract up? He is a machine. It’s amazing what he is doing this year. I’ve never seen it before.”

49ers

“It could get interesting when special-teams standout Blake Costanzo, who rarely goes a game without mixing it up with somebody on the other team, faces his former 49ers teammates Monday night. Costanzo, who leads the Bears with 10 special-teams tackles, was second on the 49ers last year with 17.”

  • “Nose tackle Isaac Sopoaga struggled, getting blocked twice by tight end Lance Kendricks. Kendricks flat-backed him the first time and then buckled him the second time on Steven Jackson’s second-quarter 7-yard touchdown run. Sopoaga also got moved out by center Rob Turner on another 5-yard run by Jackson. Maybe the 49ers are not as good against the run as last year because Sopoaga isn’t as stout.”
  • “When the Rams were running wild in the first quarter, inside linebackers Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman were also getting blocked, particularly Willis.”
  • “[A] 19-yarder was the only pass [QB Alex] Smith threw that traveled more than 10 yards in the air.”
  • “Smith was blitzed six times. He was sacked once, forced to run once (which ended with the Jo-Lonn Dunbar hit) and he also completed 3 of 4 passes for 45 yards and a touchdown against the other blitzes.”

Elsewhere

Adrian Peterson erupted in the fourth quarter. He was the beneficiary of some fantastic blocking. His 61-yard touchdown may have been the best display of well-executed run blocking this season. RT Phil Loadholt did a great job blocking down on Ndamukong Suh; C John Sullivan landed a block cleanly at the second level on MLB Stephen Tulloch; and RG Brandon Fusco (who struggled with sustaining power throughout the game) did a great job in his short-area pull. Peterson is, by far, the game’s most explosive runner to and through the hole.”

“I think Andy Reid is done. I don’t know how he can even want to go forward with what he is dealing with right now. His offensive line is the worst in football, hands down, not even close. And he loved Juan Castillo. I don’t care what anyone says — I don’t think it was his decision to let him go. The move was dictated from above. I understand the reason for it, but Juan wasn’t the problem. It’s the quarterback’s turnovers in the red zone.”

“(Jacksonville QB Blaine Gabbert) does not like to get hit. He does not step up in the pocket. He throws with a wide base. You can watch a quarterback’s footwork and tell whether he is accurate or not. The good quarterbacks shift their weight like a pitcher. Gabbert throws flat-footed with a wide base — you can’t be accurate that way. The best thing he did this year was cut his hair, but he still plays (scared).”

One Final Thought

Jensen quotes head coach Lovie Smith on injured wide receiver Alshon Jeffery:

“Smith noted that rookie receiver Alshon Jeffery might return for the Monday night game against the San Francisco 49ers.

‘[He’s] making a lot of progress,’ Smith said. ‘I don’t know for sure on him, but we can use all guys now.'”

I’ll say it straight out. I’ve heard fans make excuse after excuse for this team’s failure to perform against good competition and that’s fine. Everyone has their opinion and they are welcome to it. It isn’t like I’ve never been wrong.

The team has its share of problems – every team in the NFL does. For instance, the offensive line play has improved almost every week but you can still expect problems on the road in places like Detroit and Minnesota. But I’m telling you now, the root of the offensive problem – the one that isn’t going away and is going to be there game after game – lies in the fact that they have only one receiver who can consistently get open against man coverage and that’s Brandon Marshall. If Alshon Jeffery comes back and can’t do it, the Bears are going nowhere in the playoffs – assuming they make the playoffs. And yes, I think it’s that serious. That’s a lot to put on the shoulders of a rookie. But that’s how I see it.

The Bears Show that Good Defense Is Not that Complicated and Other Points of View

Bears

  • I laughed out loud when I read Sean Jensen ‘s interpretation of this comment from Brian Urlacher for the Chicago Sun-Times:

“It’s getting cold outside and it’s been a long time since the Bears played a game, but the most discussed knee in Halas Hall should be just fine come Monday night against the Detroit Lions.

“‘It’s the same either way,’ said linebacker Brian Urlacher, who continues to work his way back ­after spraining the medial collateral and posterior cruciate ­ligaments in his left knee in the regular-season finale last year.”

  • Mark Potash at the Chicago Sun-Times quotes Rod Marinelli on safeties Chris Conte and Major Wright:

“The biggest thing is that they tackle. And they tackle in space. Not tackle in a box. You have to tackle in space. And that takes great athleticism. You eliminate a lot of big plays by tackling in space. We’re very, very fortunate to have players of that caliber.”

“A primary focus for Webb this season has been improving his footwork, specifically his second step with his outside left foot. He had a tendency a year ago to step in the bucket and that created a more direct path to quarterback Jay Cutler. That led to hits, hurries, sacks and times when Webb simply had to lunge and grab. It’s something offensive line coach Tim Holt consistently is drilling into Webb.

“‘You get yourself in trouble when you turn at the line of scrimmage and give that defensive end a short corner to get to your guy,’ Webb said. ‘It’s a conscious effort when you’re tired, a conscious effort all the time.'”

“With all the talk about Henry Melton getting a contract extension, why is there no talk about one for the best player on the other side of the line, Lance Louis? Louis has been the most dependable, consistent offensive lineman this season by far and should be a cornerstone for the future. Agree? — Danny Jones, Iowa City, Iowa

“Good point Danny. Just because we have not heard any talk about extending Louis’ contract does not mean there hasn’t been any talk behind closed doors. And even if the Bears have not spoken with Louis’ agents about an extension, that does not mean they won’t prioritize re-signing him before he hits the open market. The thing about Louis is he is a developing, emerging player. So it might make sense for all parties to wait until after the season to best gauge his value to the team. But he clearly is not a player the Bears should allow to leave. They can’t afford to let a good offensive lineman walk after spending four years developing him.”

  • Bears running back Matt Forte makes a good point via Jensen:

“‘As you see in the last game when they played the Eagles, [the Lions] got constant penetration, and that kills the run game,’ Forte said. ‘So up front, we’re going to have to try to stop that. They do a lot of different run blitzes, so we’re going to have to do play-actions to try to calm that down.

“‘But it really just starts up front with not allowing penetration.'”

“Is there any chance the Bears will look at Minnesota to find ways to utilize Devin Hester the way the Vikings are using Percy Harvin or take some plays from Green Bay and their utilization of Randall Cobb? They all seem to have the same skill set but the Vikings and Green Bay seemed to have figured out how to use their dynamic players, and if they haven’t considered it can you please suggest they do so. Devin Hester taking direct snaps out of the backfield would be awesome. — Isaac Sykes, Woodbridge, Va.

“I’m sure the Bears have studied how the Vikings use Harvin and how the Packers use Cobb. These are three different players though. Harvin is much stronger and more difficult to tackle than Hester. Cobb has a better feel for the game than Hester. And Hester may be the fastest of the group. So you really can’t use Hester quite the way the Vikings use Harvin or the way the Packers use Cobb.”

  • I’m not entirely where this comment from Benjamin Hoffman‘s preview of the Bears-Lions matchup for The New York Times comes from but I thought it was worth noting.

“Chemistry is supposed to be vitally important in football. The Bears seem to prove that false each week. The team’s offense and defense appear to hate each other and yet the Bears keep winning.”

Lions

“… If he is going up in the air and leaving the ground to make a catch, he’s going to have to pay for it. Guys have to rally to the ball and it’s not just one guy hitting him. … Put something on his mind that can distract him from catching the ball. Anything.”

“The splits of the wide receivers are a top priority when you break the huddle as a defensive back. Here, both Johnson (Z) and Nate Burleson (X) are aligning inside of the numbers with the ball at (or near) midfield. Studying the Lions offense, this should be an automatic alert to play for a vertical shot down the field.”


“‘Once the ball’s put down and it’s whistled ready for play, man, it’s another game, it’s a different game,’ Stafford said, downplaying any hatred between the teams. ‘The beauty of the NFL is every week is different, and you have to approach it that way.'”

Fortunately for the Bears the Lions never have. With a head coach like Jim Schwartz fueling the flames with fist pumps and emotional sideline demonstrations after wins like the one last week, the likelihood of a let down becomes considerably higher.

  • An already miserable Lions defensive backfield promises to be worse than usual as the Lions are down to three healthy corners for Monday Night’s matchup. Via Darin Gantt at profootballtalk.com.

Elsewhere

  • An interesting point to look for today as the Jets play the Patriots. The Jets are concerned that officials are allowing the Patriots to substitute in their no huddle offense without allowing the defense time to do the same. By rule this is illegal. Via Mike Florio at profootballtalk.com
  • We have a good Audible from Pro Football Weekly:

Mike Nolan was known for running the 3-4 defense in Baltimore and before he was in Baltimore, he ran the over/under 4-3. He didn’t have that stout nose or the personnel to make it work in Atlanta so he switched to the wide “40” and lined (DEs Kroy) Biermann and (John) Abraham (and Ray Edwards) outside in a wide-seven (technique). If you look at their (defensive) tackles — (Jonathan) Babineaux, (Peria) Jerry and (Vance) Walker — none of them can play the nose. That is great coaching.”

  • I really don’t give a hoot about the Saints bounty scandal. But some people still do so… from Pompei, this time writing for the National Football Post:

“Everybody wins with the appointment of Paul Tagliabue to hear the appeals of the four players in the Saints’ bounty scandal. The Saints win because Tagliabue is not just an extension of Roger Goodell. And Goodell wins because he washes his hands of the mess while providing a credible arbiter.”

“There’s 4 total passengers on my flight n I just farted. That’s a quick game of ‘Who-Dunnit’, lets see if they catch me

“— Jared Odrick (@JaredOdrick98) October 19, 2012”

One Final Thought

And finally, we have one more revealing quote from Pro Football Weekly‘s Audibles section:

“There is a reason the Bears’ defense is as opportunistic as it is — when they snap the ball, count how many guys are looking at the ball. All 11 of them are keyed on it and ready to pounce. The linebackers are always zeroed in on it. They do a great job of pursuing. They don’t overcomplicate it.”

Gabe Carimi Is Not Quite Back Up to Snuff and Other Points of View

Bears

  • Sean Jensen at the Chicago Sun-Times quotes a scout on offensive tackle Gabe Carimi for the Bears Extra section:

“He just doesn’t look strong enough. Maybe part of that is the injury. He plays like he’s a 34-year-old.”

I would agree that Carimi hasn’t looked right and he’s been struggling. I don’t think its his strength so much as his quickness. He looks to me like he’s having a hard time keeping up with speed rushes to the outside. Like the scout, I suspect that the knee injury from last year hasn’t fully healed.

“Asked why quarterbacks no longer call their own plays, Tice said, ‘Because they don’t sit in meetings on Monday and Tuesday night and put the game plan in.’ But without hesitating, he added, ‘We did have some no-huddle [against Jacksonville] where we gave Jay some really, really good chances to do ‘either/or,’ and I thought he did a great job with the no-huddle. It was the most extensive that we had. It was another drive that stalled when we had something going, but we’re going to do more of that. We like him managing the no-huddle.’”

Using the no huddle does, of course, make sense. But other than that, expecting modern quarterbacks in the heat of battle to call plays with longer term planning and goals in mind is too much to ask. Most Bear fans will remember that former Bears offensive coordinator John Shoop couldn’t even do it just while standing on the side lines.

  • Potash does make a good point that the way the play calling is handled now leads to delays.

“The complicated nature of play-calling in the NFL that prevents Cutler from calling his own plays also causes its own problems. Offensive coordinator Mike Tice, a first-year play-caller, relays his call to quarterbacks coach Jeremy Bates, who gives the play to Cutler. If it gets there too late, it’s a problem. How many times have we seen an irritated Cutler walking back to the sideline after calling timeout because the play clock was running down?”

Passing plays through the quarterback coach made sense when Mike Martz was the coordinator because he spent his time in the booth. But with Tice on the sidelines, this makes less sense. My suggestion for cutting out the middle man would be cutting out Bates.

  • Potash can’t let go of the idea that Shea McClellin belongs at linebacker.
  • Dan Pompei at the Chicago Tribune suggests adjustments for the season after the bye. Here are a couple that I was in particular agreement with:

“I would not suggest that Brandon Marshall has been thrown to too frequently, because throwing to him has almost always been a good thing.

“But other Bears — [Devin] Hester, Earl Bennett and Matt Forte especially — are going to have to do more than they have as receivers at various points of the season.”

Good teams (like the Packers) are going to find ways to take Marshall away. That’s when the other guys have to get open against single coverage.

“Up until last week, the Bears relied heavily on Cover-2. They broke out a little bit against the Jaguars in an attempt to get eight men in the box.

“For their defense to be all it can be, it will have to be able to play more than Cover-2. It will have to be able to keep offenses off balance by blitzing, mixing in man-to-man, single high, quarters and man free.

“Whether the Bears can be more diverse will depend on how cornerbacks Charles Tillman, Tim Jennings and D.J. Moore and safeties Major Wright and Chris Conte hold up when given assignments that may be a bit out of their comfort zone.”

This is critical. Every team in the league knows the cover two beaters. Bear fans have seen them so often we dream them in our sleep. It works well against bad teams (or good teams playing badly) because they fail to execute. Against a good team on its game, though, its not going to fly. Not only do the Bears need to diversify their coverages in those situations but they have to do a good job of disguising them as well.

Lions

“The Lions, over their last 16 games (not counting pre-season, or exhibition, as it used to be called) are a 6-10 team. Is that an accurate predictor of this season? Can it be worse or will they get better?–Stephen, Windsor, Ontario

“I really expected them to be better, honestly. They have a great young quarterback and maybe the best receiver in football. Their defense should be awesome, certainly not 26th in points allowed. Certainly I didn’t see the rise of the Vikings, either, so that explains one loss – but to lose to the Titans, who are struggling, too?

“It’s not going to get any easier with the Eagles this week in Philadelphia and then the Bears in Chicago. And they still have both games against the Packers, who will be equally desperate, Houston and Atlanta. Unless the defense starts producing some turnovers – they have zero interceptions – I don’t see how things improve much against a very tough schedule.”

  • Of course the Lions beat the Eagles so that’s step one. Watching that game last weekend was a slow form of torture, especially in the first half. You would be hard pressed to find two sloppier teams. The Eagles were constantly bitten by negative plays and turnovers. The Lions consistently failed to take advantage as they were constantly killing themselves with penalties and undisciplined play. Both teams are an incredible waste of talent.
  • The lack of discipline on the part of the Lions was particularly evident along the defensive line. They got a lot of pressure on Michael Vick and they look like they are every bit as good as they were last year if not better. But they were rushing the passer like a blind dog in a meat house with many personal fouls and offsides penalties.
  • Having said that, beware the Lions in the fourth quarter. They woke up and starting moving the ball literally right when the quarter began as if they were just edging up to the starting line before that. Quarterback Matthew Stafford, who was inconsistent despite being under very little pressure all afternoon, suddenly woke up and started finding wide receiver Calvin Johnson underneath. The next week against the Bears could be very interesting, particularly if the Lions somehow manage to clean up their act for such an important divisional game.
  • Pompei, this time writing for The National Football Post writes about the “Wide 9” defensive philosophy where the defensive ends in a 4-3 sceme line up far to the outside. The Lions play it and the Vikings dabble in it.

“There are two primary benefits to the Wide 9. One is it makes it difficult for offenses to run outside. But the real reason teams use it is it gives the defensive ends excellent angles to get to the quarterback.

“‘It puts the fear of God into the offensive tackles if you have guys like Jason Babin, Jared Allen, Tamba Hali, Cliff Avril, Kyle Vanden Bosch, Lawrence Jackson and Willie Young,” [Lions defensive coordinator Gunther] Cunningham told me. ‘All these guys were some of the top speed guys coming into the draft and when you align wide, the OTs have to double kick on pass protection to block the edge. The double kick went out a few years back and now everyone is straight line dropping in the pass, meaning the OTs are holding space to stop the three technique, so the DEs that are wide have a straight line to the 7 ½ yard spot for the QB’s five step drop.'”

“The knock on the Wide 9 is it can leave a defense vulnerable to the inside run. In order for the Wide 9 to work, a defense needs a solid Mike linebacker and a good strong safety, because those two players often are going to be responsible for the B, C and D gaps. That’s why the Lions went after Stephen Tulloch last year, and why the Eagles traded for DeMeco Ryans this year.”

Elsewhere

“Can the officiating and broadcast crews keep up with Patriots when they play their accelerated no-huddle offense? If defenses are instructed to obstruct offense players after the whistle, will the refs call penalties?–Rufus T. Woodrow, New England

A.
I’m sure the broadcast crews were struggling – there’s certainly no time to show replays – because I was struggling. I would look down to jot down a note about the previous play and I’d miss the next one. I can only imagine what the defenses must feel like. Good question about the defenses obstructing players to slow things down – I would guess the officials will keep a close eye on that. That’s not supposed to happen, but it certainly does. Also wonder, as the no-huddle spreads around the league, if you’ll see players faking injuries to stop the clock.”

“How would you list the N.F.L.’s top ten coaches?–Frankly32

“Do I really have to? This is a minefield. This is in no particular order, but here are a few: [Tom] Coughlin, [Bill] Belichick, both Harbaughs [John and Jim], [Mike] Tomlin, Sean Payton, Jeff Fisher, [Andy] Reid, Mike McCarthy, and then some mix of [Mike] Shanahan/Mike Smith/Gary Kubiak – Shanahan has had great success but that was a while ago and he hasn’t had a quarterback until now to be in the same league with Elway, and I want to see Atlanta and Houston make deep playoff runs before elevating Smith and/or Kubiak despite their recent regular-season success.”

I like Batista and she’s one of the reasons I read the Times. And she does say she doesn’t want to do it. But suggesting “some mix of Shanahan/Mike Smith/Gary Kubiak” over Lovie Smith?

One Final Thought

I realize that this is only high school football but it really is amazing.

The Emery-Smith “Marriage” May Result in More of the Same. And Other Points of View.

Bears

“Asked if he thought he would be able to play in the 2012 season, Knox tweeted, ‘Im focusing on getting 100% first!’”

I don’t think anyone would blame Knox for a second if he never played again.  That was just about the scariest hit I’ve ever seen a football field.

“‘I was one of Jerry’s kids,’ he said. ‘Not to be funny but I was one of the guys Jerry [Angelo] drafted so from that standpoint I got a contract through him. He was good on his words with myself. What George McCaskey or Ted Phillips do upstairs, that’s what they get paid to do.’”

Elsewhere

  • Those who plan on purchasing jersey’s before April should beware.  Via Mike Florio at profootballtalk.com:

“In April 2012, Nike takes over the apparel contract from Reebok.  And on the day that the switch was announced in October 2010, Nike Brand president Charlie Denson told Darren Rovell of CNBC that significant adjustments are coming.

“‘We plan on changing the NFL jersey dramatically just like we’ve done with the college programs, using new thinking and the greatest technology available,’ Denson said. ‘The NFL program hasn’t had the same type of advancement in recent years.’”

“In past years, a player-initiated number change would have been met with a requirement that the player refund Reebok for the existing inventory of jerseys with the number he wants to abandon.  With the new Nike jerseys coming soon, there’s a chance that it will be open season for the shifting of numbers.”

  • Mike Vandermause at the Green Bay Press-Gazette says that the Packers have cancelled their fan fest again this year.  It was cancelled last year due to the lockout.

“The event sold out quickly the first two years, but in 2009 and 2010 it didn’t sell out. That is one of the factors the Packers are evaluating.”

Packer fans are at least as fanatical as Bear fans and you can’t keep Bear fans away from the annual convention here.  I’m having a hard time believing the Packers couldn’t sell this event out if they really were trying.

“Time has taught him that on Super Bowl Sunday, he best keep his eyes on Giants safeties Kenny Phillips and Antrel Rolle pre-snap.

“’The safeties never lie in coverage,’ Welker said.”

“I wish I could take all you guys to Indy with us,” Brady told his fans. “We’re going down there, and we’re going down there for one reason. We’re going to give it our best and hopefully we have a lot more people at our party next weekend.”

Here’s the headline at ESPNNewYork.com:

“Brady planning victory party.”

Typical.

“Giants:  ‘No pressure, but if you lose, Albert Haynesworth gets a Super Bowl ring.’”

“Patriots: ‘Convince Tom Brady that his life will somehow get even better if he wins.’”

One Final Thought

Unlike most Bear fans I know, I’m not entirely happy with what I’m hearing out of Halas Hall with the hiring of new general manager Phil EmeryThe following quote from Bears president Ted Philips is an example.  Via Mark Potash at the Chicago Sun-Times:

‘‘’The reality is just as with Jerry [Angelo] and Lovie [Smith],’ Phillips said. ‘When I hired Jerry, I said this; when I hired Phil, I said this: ‘I expect not to ever have to pick up your contract and read the language between you and Lovie.’ The idea is you work together to find the best team for the Bears.’’’

This attitude of cooperation was confirmed and well described in an article by Pompei:

“Emery’s predecessor, Jerry Angelo, used to refer to the general manager-head coach relationship as a ‘marriage.’  Emery did nothing to make it appear as if he and Smith are merely living together.”

“Emery even wants Smith to have a loud voice in the draft room. When asked about how he intends to make player evaluation decisions, Emery talked about the value of listening and opening your mind to what others are seeing. But he also said at a point toward the end of the process, it will be he and Smith who will develop the plan as far as who the Bears will draft or attempt to sign.”

This sounds good on the surface.  You make decisions by consensus.  But what do you do when that isn’t working?

Here’s what former Bears college scouting director Greg Gabriel had to say about the hiring.  Gabriel would have had a chance to closely observe how Smith and Angelo worked together while he was with the Bears.  Via Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune:

“’Phil is going to have his own thoughts,’ Gabriel said. ‘He is not going to get railroaded into doing something he doesn’t think is the right decision. Not a doubt in my mind. He’s very, very strong-minded.’”

“Railroaded”?

This certainly implies Smith had undue influence over personnel decisions.  But that’s just one man’s opinion.  Let see what Falcons president Rich McKay had to say.  Both Angelo and Emery worked for him at different times.  From Jensen:

“‘I think it’s a really good situation for [Emery]. And the most important thing is, he’s really comfortable with all those people.’

“But McKay quickly offered a warning.

“‘That doesn’t mean he’ll just agree,’ McKay said. ‘He will not be a man who just says yes. He’ll be one to challenge people to make the right decisions.’”

Again, we have the indirect implication that Angelo may have “just agreed” too often.  Its obvious that these men who are in a position to have some idea of what’s been going on detect some bitterness about the compromises Angelo made with Lovie Smith.

Given this situation I can’t help but agree with this comment from Steve Rosenbloom at the Chicago Tribune:

“Emery talked around who has the final call on drafting and signing that talent before finally saying it’ll come down to him and Smith. Funny, but that sounds like a GM’s call.”

I think Phil Emery probably can evaluate talent. However, the problems will arise when he and Lovie Smith disagree on a prospect. If you are still leading by consensus (and it certainly sounds like that continues to be the case) then many of Jerry Angelo’s problems may well continue.

What I wanted to hear from Emery was, “I’m in charge. I’m going to consult with the head coach but I’m going to pick my own guys in the end.” Instead I literally heard, “Lovie and I will make the final decisions together.”

Your organization is only as good as its weakest link. When it comes to player evaluation, I think Smith is probably that link. Based upon the quotes above, I don’t think I’m alone.

As it stands, it sounds like Smith is going to have to be convinced that the proper picks are the proper picks before they are made. We’ll see if Emery can do that.  Otherwise, all I see is more of the same.

Game Comments: Bears Vs. Falcons, 9/11/11

Offense

  1. It definitely looked to me like the Falcons started the game selling out to the run. The Bears did a nice job of passing and loosening them up but I never did think that they used the play action like they could have.
  2. There were little picks with the offensive line here and there.   Game commentators Daryl Johnston and Tony Siragusa kind of got on Gabe Carimi and I thought there were times when J’Marcus Webb looked over matched against John Abraham as well. But generally speaking I thought the offensive line was adequate. They did a better job of picking up blitzes and stunts than most pundits thought they would.
  3. There was some awful tackling out there on the part of then Falcons.
  4. Matt Forte did everything he could to prove that he’s worth every dime. He’s not flashy and it’s deceptive in that respect. He made an awful lot of yards on his own today.
  5. Kudos to Roy Williams. Reasonable performance. No dropped passes.
  6. The Bears did a marvelous job of spreading the ball around today. Kellen Davis got a lot of balls. Even Dane Sanzenbacher got into the act.
  7. Jay Cutler looks great. Just great. Couldn’t ask for anything better in terms of accuracy and anticipation.

Defense

  1. The Bears didn’t seem to be too thrown by the Falcons no huddle offense.
  2. The Bears got plenty of pressure on Matt Ryan. They showed what the coaches have been saying all of training camp. That the defensive line is improved.
  3. What gets me about Atlanta is that sometimes they make plays that are practically impossible to stop. Ryan is deadly accurate. But they don’t do it consistently. Some of the dropped passes and poor execution, particularly in the second half, were inexcusable.  They’re a dangerous team if they get themselves together.
  4. Major Wright again got himself in trouble. He got blocked out of a long run that Michael Turner broke in the third quarter.
  5. Kudos to Charles Tillman for the job he did with some tight coverage today. He played about as well as I’ve ever seen him.
  6. Anybody seen the great Julio Jones? Maybe he caught one ball. Hardly what you trade away your draft for.

Miscellaneous

  1. Johnston, Kenny Albert and Siragusa did a decent job today.  It wasn’t anything special, perhaps, but its always nice to have one of the better announcing teams in town.
  2. Five minutes into the game and the field already looked awful.
  3. Pretty clean game for penalty-wise except for special teams on both sides.
  4. Very few drops for the Bears. A lot for the Falcons. It made a big difference in the game. Again, kudos to Williams for having on to everything that came his way.
  5. Special teams for the Bears were much improved over the preseason. Of course it helps if your kicker is putting it out of the end zone. Kudos to Corey Graham. He was all over the place.
  6. Obviously the Bears broke out of their preseason slump to got out and get some turnovers. Brian Urlacher‘s interception was wonderful. Jay Cutler’s late game interception didn’t hurt but in other circumstances it could have. It’s also worth pointing out how many near interceptions Cutler threw. Maybe they need to clean that up a bit.
  7. If I’m a Falcons fan, I’m pretty upset right now.  That was a poor game from a team that’s a lot better than that.  Poor execution, poor tackling.  These are the things that lose games.  However, I’m not a Falcons fan.  I’m a Bears fan and I’m pretty happy.  The offense looked every bit as good as they did in the preseason against what is ordinarily a good defense. The Bears defense looked as good as they usually do.  I had to sit all summer and listen to “experts” trash the Bears and predict that they’d “take a step back”.  That’s because no one outside of Chicago has been really looking at what’s been happening here, especially on offense.  I hope those experts are sitting up and taking notice now.  This might be a very good team in what might be the best division in football.

Lance Briggs Continues to Act As If He Has a Choice And Other Points of View

Bears

“On the business side, if the organization and management says that they’re not willing to talk about my deal or willing to deal with my deal now or during the season or during the end of the season or next year, then I know that my days here are numbered.’’

I’m sure that I’m like everyone else when I ask exactly what he means by “my days here are numbered”.  My gut feeling is that Briggs estimates his value to be considerably higher than the Bears (and many of their fans) do.  As Mike Florio at profootballtalk.com points out, Briggs would likely be forced to return a portion of his signing bonus is he did held out, meaning he’d be losing  money he’s likely already spent.  Right or wrong, I’m pretty sure the Bears will let him do so and pay him nothing if that’s what he and his many dependents prefer.

Of concern was the fact that runningback Marion Barber didn’t return meaning his calf injury might be more serious than the team (publicly) thought.  As expected, Corey Wooton also wasn’t ready to practice yet.

  • How much immediate help new Bears safety Brandon Meriweather will provide is an open question.  He’ll need to learn how the Bears play defense.  The Chicago Sun-Times quotes Chris Harris:

‘‘As a safety you have to learn ­everything that’s going on.  A corner doesn’t have to learn the entire ­defense. As a safety, you need to know what this linebacker’s doing because of run gaps. You need to know what this linebacker’s doing because of pass coverage or what this corner’s doing or what the other safety’s doing.”

But I doubt Meriweather will have much trouble.  Via Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune:

“We do things differently, we call things differently,’ [head coach Lovie] Smith said. ‘But once you kind of get by some of the different terminology, most coverages are pretty much the same. Most defenses are pretty much gap control. When the ball’s in the air, you go get it. When a guy’s running with the ball, you go tackle him. There will be some challenges, but when you have a veteran like that they normally pick it up pretty quick.’” 

 

  • You have to wonder how much the signing of Meriweather has to do with the paucity of turnovers the Bears have generated in the preseason.  Meriweather is a risk taker who can give up big plays but he’ll also make big plays.
  • Much to my surprise, the Bears chose to waive cornerback Joshua Moore rather than one of the many undrafted free agents they left on the roster (again, from McClure).  Moore, who was essentially redshirted in 2010, isn’t particularly big at 5’11” but the Bears knew that when they drafted him.  Apparently he didn’t show enough in terms of making plays in camp.
  • Pro Football Focus asks four NFC North questions of four analysts.  I don’t have a last name for “Ben” but I like his thinking in this excerpt.

“Who is the one player from this division you see having a breakout year?”

Ben: With Pisa Tinoisamoa gone from the Bears the door is open for Nick Roach to really make an impression this season. Roach has impressed in limited action at both MLB and SLB in the last two seasons and with a full time starting spot now apparently his, even as a two-down linebacker, this is the year that the Bears re-discover a strong linebacking trio. Brian Iwuh could get a chance to make a similar impression if Lance Briggs’ injury and contract issues continue to be an concern through the season.”

  • Scouts Inc.  previews every NFC team.  Here’s what they had to say about the defense of the Bears first opponent, the Atlanta Falcons:

“Pass Defense:
“Atlanta’s conservative 4-3 scheme is especially vanilla in the secondary. Without an elite cover group, it plays assignment-oriented football. That shifts pressure onto the front four to generate a rush, but the Falcons had only 31 sacks last season, 13 coming from DE John Abraham.

“Rush Defense:
“The goal of the D-line is to eat up blockers while the back seven fly to the ball. But the Falcons gave up 4.6 YPC last year, so a healthy Curtis Lofton must be a game changer at LB.”

Schematically this sounds like an ideal defense for the Martz offense to attack, especially in the first game when a confusing mix of blitzes might be disastrous for an inexperienced offensive line.

Elsewhere

  • The penalty from the StarCaps case has finally come downKevin Williams and Will Smith are paying big time for the delay.  each is suspended two games but they are being fined four game checks.  According to Mike Florio at profootballtalk.com had they taken the penalty in 2008, they would have each paid roughly one-fourth of what they are paying now given their current salaries.  Add in the legal fees and your talking big money.

 The only winner in the deal was Pat Williams who, as we all know, was simply delaying the penalty until his career was over so he wouldn’t have to pay.

  • William C. Rhoden at The New York Times writes about the “Dream Team” Philadelphia EaglesVince Young stupidly put a target on their backs when he used the term to characterize the team which will always be over rated as long as he and the inconsistent Michael Vick are playing quarterback.

This team has set itself and its fans up for some serious disappointment.

“Fans in every NFL city think the Super Bowl host jinx is just a myth until it lands on their town. But there’s a variety of reasons why no team that has provided the stadium for the big game has ever played in it. And at the rate they’re piling up reasons, the Colts — host of February’s title game — might be the first knocked out of the running even before the regular season kicks off.”

  • Rafael Vela at the Cowboys Nation blog takes an interesting look at a couple of the blitzes that the Cowboys will see tomorrow night against the Jets.
  • Omar Kelly at the South Florida Sun-Sentinel points out the dangers of carrying two quarterbacks.  This is becoming a more common practice throughout the league but it could be a particular problem for the Dolphins.  Why?  Because they’ve gone from the starter to the third QB in a game twice in the last two years.  Not a good trend…

One Final Thought

Bengals runningback Cedric Benson is happy to be out of jail.  Via Joe Reedy at the Cincinnati Enquirer:

“I didn’t want to spend my bye week sitting in jail and wanted to get it behind me and focus on football,” Benson said.  “I’m not fit for jail. No one is. When you experience that you realize how much you don’t want to experience it again. It was a nice little wake up call so to speak and it was nice to taste that and hopefully never have to do it again.

hopefully”? “have to do it”?  Like its not avoidable and there might be another time when you have to do it?

I’ve got the under on whatever the length of time it will take Benson to stupidly get in trouble again.

Whatever the Reason, Nick Fairley Is Obviously Not Happy to Be a Lion and Other Points of View

Bears

“I don’t see any dramatic changes. My role will really be as a sounding board, an advisor if [team president] Ted [Phillips] wants me in that role; as a representative of the family, of ownership and the board; and to create as positive of an environment as possible. The way I see it my job is to work with and in support of the president and CEO in creating a climate that’s conducive to sustained success.”

“I read comments from Jerry Angelo where he indicated that this was a tough draft. Apparently he had a hard time getting a handle on things but I don’t think he ever explained why. Could you shed some light on it? Tom Shannon, Chicago

“What Angelo meant is that it was difficult for him to get a handle on how the draft would play out regarding the Bears. To start with, any time you are picking 29th, things are usually unpredictable. And that was the case this year. But this draft had more peculiarities than most, especially in the most important spot for the Bears, from the late first round to the late second. You had the volatility that the quarterbacks would create. Then you had four positions – wide receiver, linebacker, safety and tight end – with very few legitimate prospects in that late first round, second-round range. So that would force teams to go in other directions that they might not normally go in. All in all, the Bears were fortunate the draft played out like they hoped it would, and they were able to walk away from the first two rounds with potential starters at their two biggest areas of need – offensive tackle and defensive tackle. But they really couldn’t predict it would have happened that way.”

“You are right that this is the second free safety the Bears have taken in as many years. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t happy with Major Wright. You can never have too many safeties who can cover. Perhaps if some of the safeties they had taken in previous years had become better players, they wouldn’t have had to select Chris Conte. But it’s not like they were taking safeties in the high rounds that were not panning out. They were taking safeties late, with the hopes that one of them could come through.”

I think the fan is referring to a Sun-Times column by Mike Mulligan where he made the same points.

“With the addition of Gabe Camiri, the Bears have their bookend tackles for the next decade. I like the we need to get bigger philosophy for the O line. So, any truth to the rumors of Chris Williams playing center? I think Olin Kreutz is overrated at this point of his career; and too small.
“David, Oak Brook

“I don’t see any chance of Chris Williams starting at center this year. If the Bears did want to give Williams a new position, they would need an offseason to acclimate him. They don’t have an offseason this year thanks to the labor problems. So I think their options with Williams are limited. It’s possible the Bears will have Williams learn to play the position eventually and consider him as a potential successor to Kreutz, but it’s not something that is going to happen soon. If this team gets its way, Kreutz is going to be snapping the ball in 2011.”

“The NFL is a cutthroat business at every level. That’s why I got a kick out of [Baltimore owner Steve] Bisciotti‘s comments about saying what the Bears did was a deviation from their great legacy. No one in the history of the league was more cutthroat than George Halas. In fact, this move was in perfect keeping with the Halas tradition.”

I thought the Bears should have given the ravens the pick. But I admit that I also smiled at Biscotti’s comment. What would he know about Bears tradition?  I’m sure Halas would have laughed him out of the league if he had asked him to just give him that pick.

One scouting director in another city said he was the top safety on his team’s board. A veteran scout for another club mocked the selection, the seventh safety the Bears have drafted in seven years.”

Elliot Harris at NFL.com looks at the percentage of starters drafted by NFC teams:

“While most of the teams towards the bottom of the rankings had tough years, like the Redskins and Vikings, the 2010 Bears were an anomaly. One explanation is the success of trades and free-agent acquisitions, which is how the franchise acquired Jay Cutler and Julius Peppers. Another is Chicago’s success at drafting contributors who don’t necessarily start. Either way, the Bears’ championship game appearance shows there is definitely more than one method to having a successful season.”

“In a recent ‘Chalk Talk’ you quoted Jerry Angelo about the injury to Stephen Paea’s knee: “He went to the [Combine] recheck in Indy—we interact with 10 other teams in the league and everybody that we interact with was fine with him.” What does “interact with 10 other teams” mean?
“Tom S.
“Chicago

“The NFL splits into four groups of five teams and two groups of six teams to do medical evaluations of players at the Combine. The Bears are paired with the Dolphins, Eagles, Lions, Steelers and Texans. Doctors from one of those teams examine each prospect and then give a report to the other five clubs. Individual teams can seek to gather additional information on their own when warranted, such as asking the player to take an MRI exam. The group of six teams also trades its medical information with a handful of other clubs. (That’s why Jerry Angelo mentioned interacting with 10 other teams). Players with medical issues at the Combine return to Indianapolis for a recheck at a later date. That’s also what Angelo was referencing when discussing Stephen Paea’s knee injury.”

“Now I’m nervous.”

“I have written about concussions before and the headaches that were the result of helmet-to-helmet hits as a pro, college and high school player. They won’t go away anytime soon, nor will we see concussions stop at the NFL level.

“Actually, I believe they will increase. The reasons are clear: Talk of an 18-game schedule, the speed of players and, above all, the desire to use the helmet as a weapon.

“Lower your head on contact and put the ballcarrier down.”

I’d be nervous, too. I can’t wait for the next moron to call into WSCR and complain that they shod put the players in dresses because the new rules are taking the violence out of the game.

“’We didn’t draft [Nathan Enderle] to be the third quarterback,’ Martz said. ‘If that was the case, then there was no reason to draft a quarterback.'”

It’s true enough in that you draft him to eventually become more than that. But Martz seems to me to be implying something more immediate:

“You have to be good at that position to win, and one just isn’t enough. We feel really good about Caleb, but what if Nate is better? Who knows? I don’t know that he is or isn’t.”

I know what he is. A rookie. And you just implied that without a single season of experience he might still be better than your current second quarterback who has three under his belt.

Yes. I think Martz definitely has a problem with Hanie.

“Asked if he has abandoned a passing philosophy that — with Kurt Warner and Marc Bulger — emphasized throwing to spots and timing-based routes, Martz said, ‘We never left that. That’s what the system is.’

“But Martz said the way defenses approached his offense forced them to deviate from that.

“’That’s probably the best way to put it,’ Martz said.

“’But [Jay Cutler] has no problem with that at all. It’s not something he can’t do. But we leaned on the running game.'”

Martz might not have abandoned the philosophy but to my eye Cutler clearly did (which is probably why Jensen asked the question). Cutler might actually not have a problem with it in theory. But for whatever reason he and the rest of the offense didn’t execute it on the field and Cutler was often looking for open receivers instead of throwing to a spot. Let’s hope they get their act together this year.

“Now, I can’t speak for Jay [Cutler] in the sense of, I don’t know what being a diabetic does to you. I have no idea, so I can’t really speak to that. But I’m just saying that he needs to improve his body language, and I think everybody would admit that.

“But as far as the game of football and the ability to throw the football, he does that very well. And I think the other quality we got to get to is the leadership thing. You’ve got to be able to lead as a quarterback.”

I usually ignore most of whatever spews out of Ditka’s mouth. But I admit I’m not exactly left wondering when Cutler is going to start organizing those offseason workouts during the lockout.

Elsewhere

  • Speaking of OTAs I find it ironic that players pushing for reduction of out right elimination of them are out there doing it on their own during the lockout.
  • Bengals quarterback coach Ken Zampese thinks big picture when talking newly drafted quarterback Andy Dalton. Via Joe Reedy at the Cincinnati Enquirer:

“As I looked at the other guys that were coming out, who would I sleep better at night having? It was Andy (Dalton). You start thinking about quality of life during the season and how the day-to-day stuff goes, that was the guy.”

“The Cardinals’ 2010 season may have solidified Kurt Warner’s Hall of Fame candidacy. Rarely does a team face-plant after losing one player – even if that player is a star quarterback.”

“It takes a special degree of compulsiveness to constantly overthink things in a system as rudimentary as the one San Francisco ran in 2010. In that sense, [quarterback] Alex Smith was peerless.”

“4. Washington Redskins

Desperate for a quarterback, the Redskins reach and take Terrelle Pryor with the fourth pick in the draft. Higher-rated quarterbacks are available, but Dan Snyder falls in love with the Ohio State quarterback in pre-draft interviews after Pryor promises Snyder he can tattoo advertising on him to open up an additional revenue stream.”

“Just finished watching a highlight film of Julio Jones. If he can carry that over to the NFL….SCARY.”

If he can hold on to the ball.

  • Todd McShay at ESPN thought the Lions had the best draft in the NFL because they ignored needs in the secondary and took the best available guys. That was defensive tackle Nick Fairley in the first round.


Apparently McShay didn’t hear that the Lions did everything they could to trade up to get defensive back Patrick Peterson (via Dave Birkett at the Detroit Free Press). Doesn’t sound like a team that was all that happy to ignore needs to me.

Fairley will help via the pass rush but the Lions are going to still have to do something to improve that defensive backfield and that linebacking corp or they’re not going to be as good as people think.

One Final Thought

I previously posted that I thought that Fairley looked angry because he fell to the 13th pick. If the draft had been in January, there’s a chance he would have gone #1 overall. But this Bears fan had a different take on the matter:

Draft Strategy Around the League and Other Points of View

Bears

  • Pat Kirwan at NFL.com doesn’t think the Bears are going to be filling their needs along the line of scrimmage in the first two rounds of the NFL draft.  He has them picking Texas cornerback Aaron Williams in the first round and Boise State wide receiver Titus Young in the second round.
  • Vaughn McClure at the Chicago Tribune writes a profile of Matthew Smith, who is Bears head coach Lovie Smith‘s son and his agent:

“It’s valid if you disagree with a particular play call, but to say my dad is dumb because he doesn’t do what you do in a situation, that’s what gets my blood boiling.  Nobody gets to my dad’s position being dumb. My dad is very, very smart.”

  • The Tribune‘s Brad Biggs makes the point that the Bears, who have excellent special teams, will be hurt by the new kickoff rules which are being proposed by the Competition Committee.
  • The Bears are lucky in some respects.  Bart Hubbuch at the New York Post thinks its a good year to need a corner in the draft.
  • Bear fans who are still hurting from the Chris Williams fiasco won’t be too happy to hear that Wisconsin offensive tackle Gabe Carimi has knee problems.  Many mock drafts have the Bears taking Carmi in the first round.  Via Dan Pompei writing for The National Football Post.

Elsewhere

  • Sad news as doctors have discovered that NFL Films president Steve Sabol has a tumor on the left side of his brain.
  • ESPN‘s NFC North blogger Kevin Seifert answers your questions.  Here’s a really good one:

“Andy of Chicago writes: Much has been made about the Packers’ roster depth. Along with the 53 they had at the end of the season, they could return as many as 15 players from IR and perhaps Johnny Jolly from suspension. Throw in another 8 or 9 draft picks, and those first-year gems that Ted Thompson seems to find outside of the draft before the season (Sam Shields, Frank Zombo, Ryan Grant, etc.) and that’s a lot of bodies in camp. Figuring they’ll probably lose 7 or so players to free agency, do you think Thompson might change his strategy and package picks in the draft to prioritize quality over quantity, i.e., move up on the board?”

Seifert:

“If the Packers think (Texas A&M linebacker Von) Miller is as good as media analysts suggest, would it be worth them to trade multiple picks to get into the top 5 and draft him? The idea would be that any players the Packers take on the second and third days of the draft are going to have a hard time making their roster.

“It makes some sense, but I it would require a significant departure from the way Thompson has built the team in the first place. I think the chances of him staying course — adding more and more talent on annual basis — are much higher than a one-time philosophical shift.”

“I think that guy is going to be a great player.

“You can’t win without one, and trust me, when I lost them, I got fired.”

“I can teach a guy to get up under center.  But I can’t teach a guy to throw. He has a tremendous arm, and I think he’s going to be really effective no matter what he was doing in college.”

“The concept of trading for next year’s picks value wise is pretty good.  Generally speaking, if you can bump up a round, that’s pretty good value.”

“General manager Martin Mayhew has long championed taking the best player — within reason. For instance, the Lions won’t take a quarterback in the first round.

“But if that yields an offensive lineman as most mock drafts suggest, the Lions could be left with the same gaping holes at linebacker and defensive back they finished with last season.”

“A number of coaches throughout the NFL have been turned off by the overall way Missouri QB Blaine Gabbert has handled himself this post-season. They did not like the fact he didn’t workout at the NFL Combine and cited his overall demeanor and body language as turnoffs. The more info I gather on Gabbert the less I feel like he’s being endorsed as a high first round pick. He could end up being the one quarterback to slide a lot further than many think come April.”

  • Well, the Packers didn’t lose defensive coordinator Dom Capers as I’d hoped they would after he did such an excellent job in 2010.  But that doesn’t mean there wasn’t a significant shake up in the Green Bay staff.  Pro Football Weekly‘s Dan Arkush reports:

“But team insiders believe [new wide receivers coach Edgar] Bennett, in particular, will have a very tough act to follow in Jimmy Robinson, who left for a position on Jason Garrett‘s staff in Dallas. Robinson, who commanded great respect as a former NFL receiver, is widely considered to be the best WR coach in the business. While Bennett could not be more eager to prove himself in his new role, the consensus seems to be that he definitely will have his work cut out for him.”

  • Can’t imagine Staley doing this.  And I don’t want to:

One Final Thought

Fred Mitchell and David Kaplan at the Tribune quote Bears linebacker Lance Briggs on the departure of defensive tackle Tommie Harris:

“We know the business and we know that one day we all won’t be together.  It was tough to see Alex (Brown) go last year, and now it is tough to see that Tommie is not going to be there in the locker room and sharing laughs. I have been in Chicago ever since Tommie was drafted, and we developed a relationship on and off the field. That’s how football players grow, being able to trust that man next to you to do his job.”

Jay Cutler Is a Twinkie and Other Points of View

Bears

“Something positive

“DT Tommie Harris looked creaky at times and was asked to handle only about 15 snaps a game. Given his hefty contract, it’s no surprise that the Bears released him after the season. But Harris can still play. He can still get uncommonly deep penetration with his initial quick step off the ball. As long as he’s not asked to move laterally, he can produce. Any 4-3 team needing a situational interior pass-rusher should take note.”

  • CBS Sports’ Rob Rang has updated his Big Board.  Some names of note for Bear fans:

16. Mike Pouncey, OG, Florida: Size, strength and the athleticism to block at the next level, Pouncey’s ability to stand out against SEC competition makes him an easy first-round pick.

20. Tyron Smith, OT, Southern California: In terms of pure talent, Smith is this year’s best tackle — but his experience lies on the right side, his future lies on the left and scouts have questioned his maturity. He’ll impress when he works out at USC’s pro day March 30.

21. Gabe Carimi, OT, Wisconsin: A road grader with enough size, reach for pass protection, Carimi would be best off moving to right tackle.

22. Corey Liuget, DT, Illinois: Overshadowed a bit by ex-teammates Mikel Leshoure and Martez Wilson at Illinois, Liuget will wind up the earliest-drafted and best NFL player of the trio.

23. Danny Watkins, OG, Baylor: Don’t let his marginal tests at the combine or the fact that he’s 26 distract from the fact that Watkins is the toughest, nastiest interior lineman in this class. He might not make the first round, but he’ll one day be viewed as a steal.

24. Derek Sherrod, OT, Mississippi State: I’m admittedly higher on Sherrod than most, but see him as an ideal swing tackle capable of stepping in immediately and well worth a first-round pick.

25. Phil Taylor, DT, Baylor: A top-20 talent athletically, but will have to answer questions about his suspension and transfer from Penn State to get drafted there.

Mikel Leshoure was 35.

  • The Bears are on the clock with the ESPN crew:

Elsewhere

“Myth Buster

Jared Allen is a dominant pass rusher

“In 2010 at least, this wasn’t true. Allen was not much of a factor early in the season–– even though he faced frequent one-on-one blocking. He came to life down the stretch … once he faced inferior competition. This isn’t to say Allen is not an elite defensive end. But his struggles last season only give more ammunition to detractors who point out that a majority of his sacks in ’09 came against the feeble Packers and Bears offensive lines.”

“Myth Buster

Jahvid Best is a superstar in the making

“The ’10 first-round rookie running back has superstar features (speed, lateral agility, terrific acceleration and soft hands). But he had a tendency to abandon his blocking last season, which led to too many potential three-and four-yard gains ending in gains of zero or lost yardage. Experience and playing behind a more consistent offensive line should help.”

  • Williamson also does another entry in his weekly “Pressure Point” series which looks at a player who must improve in 2011.  This week its Marshawn Lynch and Williamson doesn’t pull any punches:

“Lynch is more effective as an every-down runner and, at his best, he can wear down a defense. But he just doesn’t do a good enough job of creating on his own when the blocking is sub-par. He becomes a lateral runner instead of a bulldozer. He too often gets what is blocked and nothing more.”

“With all the team needs Seattle has, I would not use a lot of resources on the running back position right now…  But if Lynch doesn’t step up his game in 2011, I would look for a back one year from now.”

  • According to the New York PostJenn Sterger is suing her former manager to get back materials related to the Brett Favre sexting scandal.  He may intend to use those items in a tell-all book.  I had a feeling that Sterger would have dropped this without a fuss if it weren’t for bad advice she was getting from the start of it.  I’d say this supports the idea.
  • NBC 2 Fort Myers in Florida reports that Oakland Raiders offensive tackle Mario Henderson was arrested on a weapons charge Thursday morning (via BenMaller.com).  At 6’7″, 300 lb Henderson is so large that he couldn’t fit into the back of the police car.  He was offered the option of lying down in the back or walking four blocks to the station.  He decided to lie down.
  • Commissioner Roger Goodell needs to start staying awake in that tanning bed.  Via Deadspin:

Sun burn

One Final Thought

Jay Cutler‘s true, soft nature revealed:

However, lets not make the mistake of believing this means he’s not tough.