Clausen as the Starter? Not Likely. But Not as Unlikely as People May Think.

Jimmy_clausen_bears

Some will deride the suggestion that Jimmy Clausen (above) could compete with Jay Cutler for the starting quarterback job despite John Fox‘s suggestion that there will be an “open competition” (via John Mullin at csnchicago.com). And I’m not laying money on Clausen, either, because Cutler’s got more physical talent. But I think some may be underestimating Clausen.

Clausen started for the Panthers in 2010, the year he was drafted, and performed poorly. He didn’t see the field after that until last year when he mopped up in 3 games (at least two of which were utter disasters when he got his chance). He got one start in game 15 last year where he performed better than his statistic indicated (his passer rating was only 77).

What would you have said about former Bear Josh McCown before 2013? Perhaps its more than a coincidence that when surrounded with very good skill position talent and with decent protection he bloomed. And perhaps it’s more than a coincidence that when he lost that talent, he fell apart. Isn’t it possible that Clausen is every bit as good and will show more with decent talent around him?

I’m by no means convinced that a mediocre quarterback who did all of the right things couldn’t be every bit as good as Cutler or better. Food for thought.

Admittedly its based upon only one start, but Clausen looks to me like the kind of guys who might, maybe, bloom late. I’ll be interested to see. There’s always the remote possibility that if the coaches decide that they can win with him, they’ll go with Clausen over Cutler just for the intangibles and because Clausen is so much less mentally fragile. A very remote possibility to be sure. But a possibility.

Greg Hardy Said to Be “Unmanageable” by Former Teammate

Now that the Cowboys have signed defensive end Greg Hardy it’s appropriate to ask if it was worth the risk. Todd Archer at ESPN poses that very question to former Carolina Panthers teammate Ben Hartsock:

“‘Well, I think that’s a great question,’ Hartsock said. ‘When he’s on the field, he’s a dominant force. Because of that, he’s going to get more leniency. The issue he has right now is whether he’s too toxic. He’s going to be on a very, very short leash. If he screws up one more time, I believe he’ll be on his way out.'”

“‘You trust him to the extent that you don’t necessarily know what you’re going to get,’ Hartsock said. ‘The Greg Hardy that was on the field was going to be a nightmare for the opposing team. But then you go in and everybody is in the hot tub or the cold tub after practice just shooting the breeze and the guy carries on a very reasonable, level-headed inquisitive type of conversation. But then there are other times when he’s just unmanageable. And that’s why I think things have gotten in trouble with his personal life. He’s going have to go a long ways to earn the trust of any organization, whether it be Dallas or any other franchise across the league.'”

“Unmanageable” is not the kind of work you want to be thrown around about your $13 million man. The guess here is that Hardy isn’t going to be one of those guys who learns his lesson and cleans up his act. I’m expecting more trouble here before its all said and done.

On the End for Lance Briggs and Other Points of View

Bears

  • Hub Arkush at chicagofootball.com grades the Bears effort against the Lions:

    “There are a number of things that jump off the tape of the Bears’ 34-17 loss to the Lions on Thanksgiving Day.

    “But no matter how many times you watch it, you are drawn back to the failure of Marc Trestman and his coaching staff to put the Bears in a position to win.

    “On offense, the Bears threw the ball 48 times and ran it just eight, including 29 passes and just one rushing attempt in the second half.

    “It is clear from early in the third quarter on that the Lions’ defense abandons any concern about the run and on almost every Bears snap. Detroit’s front four pin their ears back and race to the passer while six and often seven defenders drop into coverage and clog the passing lanes.”

    This was my initial thought as well. However, there are a couple caveats to consider before really taking off on Trestman:

    1. The screen is designed to slow the pass rush. Correctly execute the screen passes and the Lions have to respect at least that much before “pinning their ears back”. So the game plan isn’t as ridiculous as it sounds in that respect.
    2. According to Mark Potash at the Chicago Sun-Times, the Patriots ran the ball just 15 times in a victory against the Jets this season.

    The real problem here wasn’t the game plan. It was the Bears failure to execute it. The margin for error when you are “dinking and dunking” down the field is extremely slim. Said another way, the Bears aren’t the 49ers of the 1980s, who executed such game plans with regularity, and they certainly aren’t Patriots.

  • John Mullin at csnchicago.com on the departure of linebacker Lance Briggs:

    “Briggs will probably leave the NFL after this season in much the same way as running mate Brian Urlacher did in early 2012 and Charles Tillman may after this season — still possessed of some skills, an abundance of savvy, but with health and age questions that will discourage pretty much any suitors, including the Bears.”

    Mullin apparently forgets that Urlacher had offers which were commensurate with his remaining skills and health status. He chose to deny that reality and blame the Bears for his situation. Briggs will choose the path he takes in much the same way.

  • John Mullin at csnchicago.com makes a pretty good point. He doesn’t ask whether defensive coordinator Mel Tucker will be fired but asks who will be there to replace him if he is?

    “But the reason the Bears once wound up with John Shoop as offensive coordinator was that in late-2000, then-coordinator Gary Crowton left to coach BYU. Dick Jauron and the Bears finished 5-11 in 2000, a regression from 6-10 in Jauron’s first year. The assumption around the NFL was that Jauron was done after one more year.

    Chris Palmer and others (Marc Trestman was a candidate) were willing to take the offensive-coordinator job but wanted a three-year contract before they made that move. The Bears organization wasn’t willing to make that deal, and Shoop was promoted instead after the Bears won two of their last three.

    “The Bears may have changed and would consider a multi-year deal for coordinators in that situation. Doubtful, though.”

    If I had to choose a new coordinator for this defense it would probably be Rex Ryan, who is almost certainly out as head coach of the Jets. He might be willing to come for the sake of the family history with the franchise. But something tells me the McCaskey’s wouldn’t look kindly on the hire of the bombastic Ryan, preferring someone who is more bland and less likely to embarrass the franchise.

Elsewhere

  • Matt Miller, the NFL Draft Lead Writer at the Bleacher Report has Jameis Winston going to the New York Jets with the fifth pick in the draft. Buckle your seat belts.

    He has the Bears picking Kentucky defensive end Bud Dupree with the 13th pick.

  • Also from Miller:

    “Let’s end the week on a bright note. Any NFL team looking for a new general manager needs to call the Kansas City Chiefs and ask to speak with Chris Ballard.

    “I actually did that this week, but Ballard was unavailable to chat in-season. Here’s what I know of him, though: At least one NFL team wanted him as its general manager last year, and more will this season after watching the Chiefs play much better than anyone expected. He’s smart, dedicated and experienced enough to know how to both evaluate and value talent (something many first-time general managers fail at).

    “If a general manager job comes open and Ballard is given the opportunity to hire his own head coach, he’ll be at the top of many wish lists this spring.”

    Ballard was formerly with the Bears and that “at least one NFL team” who wanted him as its general manager last year was rumored at the time to be Tampa Bay. But Ballard undoubtedly knew that the real GM was going to be Lovie Smith and he undoubtedly knew from bitter experience better that to take that job.

  • Mike Tanier is always entertaining and this preview of the Vikings-Panthers matchup Sunday was no exception:

    “[Teddy] Bridgewater is one of many Vikings players with the potential to get much better, so staying healthy should be a priority for him. In a league where [Robert] Griffin moves in the pocket like it’s his first time on a lobster boat and Cam Newton moves like it hurts to blink, self-preservation may be a young quarterback’s smartest move. The Vikings could be a dangerous team next year. Until then, slide, Teddy, slide!”

One Final Thought

Lance Briggs has slowed quite a bit and he’s been a disappointment as a team leader. But even I was surprised when almost 90% of the same people who blindly expressed their desire to keep local favorite Jordan Lynch on the team .

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Rick Morrissey at the Chicago Sun-Times provided what I believe was a thoughtful perspective:

“I suspect we’ll appreciate Briggs more when he’s gone than we did while he was here. He and the city need a break from each other. Fans weren’t happy with his contract demands or with how much his play had slipped the past few seasons. But eventually the memory of a linebacker making play after play will win out. As it should.”

Game Comments: Bears at Panthers 10/5/14

Defense

  1. The Bears came out looking to stop the run early, keeping an extra player near the line of scrimmage with three wide receivers and a back on the field.

  2. I thought the Bears got more pressure on the quarterback than last week in the first half. Not so much in the second half as the Panthers went to quick passes that tore up the Bears zone and when they started to see more success on the ground. They occasionally blitzed but it wasn’t getting there in time.

  3. I don’t know what happened to the defense at the end of the first half. They loosened up to not give up the big play – a good idea – but then gave up the touchdown anyway to let the Panthers back into the game. It was the start of good things for Carolina as they went through the Bears defense like a hot knife through butter in the third quarter.

  4. Kelvin Benjamin and Kyle Fuller both looked like rookies today. The Panthers obviously liked the matchup because they kept going to it but there were lots of mistakes between them.

  5. Former Bear Greg Olson looked good.

Offense

  1. Like the Bears, the Panthers came out playing the run. It certainly looked like they planned well. The Bears came out looking to feed Matt Forte the ball.

  2. It certainly looked like the Panthers defense came out ready to play. They were initially ready to stop Forte however he got the ball. The Bears came out running and with short passing and the Panthers were all over it. It was fairly obvious that they were going to have to go down field to find any points, at least initially.

  3. Loved the one-handed grab by Jeffery in the first quarter. The one thing about Brandon Marshall that can be irritating is his habit of dropping the ball. Jeffery has great hands.

  4. Interesting that right as I concluded that the Bears would have to go long (above), the Panthers began to blitz. The pressure generated led directly to the first turnover in the first quarter. Looks like the Panthers came out with a good defensive game plan. It became a chess game after that. The Bears countered with well-timed screens designed to slow the rush and were able to read the defense to continue to feed Forte at the appropriate times.

  5. The Panthers needed a more disciplined pass rush. Jay Cutler was escaping the pocket far too often. He’s mobile but he’s not Robert Griffin.

  6. Panthers head coach Ron Rivera called out Luke Kuechly last week in an effort to get him to play better. I thought it worked. Kuechly looked great, even early at a time when nothing else on the Carolina defense looked good.

  7. The Bears did a particularly good job moving the ball on third down. The Panthers frequently forced third and longs in the first half and the Bears frequently escaped. The Panthers were much better with this in the second half when the game became a battle of offenses. The Bears lost that battle decisively.

  8. I didn’t like the way that the Panthers stopped the Bears running game in the second half, making them effectively one dimensional. At some point this team is going to have to be able to run and get the tough yards if its going to win consistently.

Miscellaneous

  1. Thom Brennaman is a consummate pro and its always a pleasure when he does Bears games. Like John Lynch last week, I was less impressed by David Diehl. Diehl is observant and he does manage to point things out that the average fan might miss. That’s nice, especially coming from the natural point of view of someone who is used to playing at the line of scrimmage, something many of us don’t pay enough attention to. But he still didn’t teach me anything about the game in the same way that the best color men in the business do. I can learn more listening for ten minutes to Cris Collinsworth than I can listening to the average color man like Diehl for an entire game.

  2. Only the Bears special teams could actually commit a penalty, then give up a touchdown on the same play. What a great way to start a game. If you’re a Panther.

    I understand and have accepted that the special teams on this team isn’t going to help very often. But can’t they at least find a way to not kill them? Is that really too high of a bar to set?

    It’s hard to believe that Joe DeCamillis was actually made an assistant head coach to allow him to come to Chicago.

    I like Santonio Holmes’s attitude. He looks like a winner at punt returner.

  3. Kelvin Benjamin had a rough game and he was the only receiver on the field that I thought had an egregious number of drops.

  4. There were a lot of penalties out there on both sides. The Bears can’t afford this if they are going to try to work their way down the field by feeding Matt Forte.

  5. The interception in first quarter could have been a killer already 7 points down. I really wish Cutler would think more about throwing those away. Fortunately the Panthers gave the ball right back.

    Hard to believe that the Panthers came in with a reputation for not turning over the ball. This was undoubtedly a big part of the reason why they were favored and it was a big part of the reason I was wary of this game. But with three fumbles in the first half, they didn’t do much to live up to that reputation. They led to two touchdowns for the Bears (which would have been 17 points except for a Robbie Gould miss on an easy field goal).

    Jay Cutler giveth and Jay Cutler taketh away with the fourth quarter interception that led to the game tying field goal. But it was the Matt Forte fumble that was the killer.

  6. The Bears had this game in hand in the first half as Carolina did everything they could to give them the game. But they handed it back in the fourth quarter with devastating turnovers and that was the difference.

    It’s disappointing that the last comment about this game matches the last comment I had after the first game of the year so closely. This team shoots itself in the foot too often. They’ve decided to be a ball control offense that works its way gradually down the field and that’s not a bad thing – if you can execute. But they continue to shoot themselves in the foot with penalties and turnovers. This is what bad teams look like. It’s not a good sign that we’re still seeing it after game five.

Quick Comments – 8/11/13

  1. Hub Arkush of HubArkush.com writes a typically harsh critique of the Bears performance on Friday night for the Chicago Sun-Times. I thought these comments were interesting:

    Matt Forte and Michael Bush get incompletes. Judging running backs when they had two and three touches, respectively, and only one rushing attempt each is folly. Their lack of work did raise an interesting question though.

    “Asked in his postgame news conference why he ran once and threw the ball eight times plus a ninth attempt that ended in a sack when [quarterback Jay] Cutler was in the game, coach Marc Trestman replied, ’I think what you don’t see is there were a number of runs called where he had the option to throw it because they were in the box.’

    “What Trestman was not asked and did not comment on was whether he approved of all the audibles or checkdowns Cutler called. That is definitely a storyline to watch.”

    “I’m not sure why we’d assume J’Marcus Webb is going to suddenly improve in his fourth season, and I don’t think it should take two or three more preseason games to figure that out. Charles Johnson schooled him in Carolina, and it’s time to move on at right tackle.

    “The problem is Jonathan Scott remained out with a sore knee and Eben Britton, who was having a good camp, was not impressive against the Panthers. Jordan Mills showed why he belongs on the practice squad this year, and where that leaves the Bears at right tackle is with a real problem.”

    Amen to that. With any luck, offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer will be quicker to recognize the problem as one that won’t be solved than Mike Tice was and that general manager Phil Emery will be scanning the waiver wire for other team’s roster cuts. At least the problem is right tackle. They’re much easier to find.

    As to the audibles, I assumed the Bears decided to work more on the passing game and wanted to protect the runningbacks from injury. It will be, indeed, be interesting to watch to see if there’s a struggle with the play calling as Cutler is given a lot of power to change the plays at the line in this offense. I didn’t even think about the possibility that he might insist on calling more passes against the will of the coaches.

    But its early and lets not over react. Its just something to keep an eye on.

  2. Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune quotes former player and current NFL Network Analyst Brian Balldinger on Webb:

    ““I think moving to right tackle is the best place for him right now if he is going to make it He’s been given a lot of opportunities. You don’t get many more opportunities than J’Marcus has had. It’s gotta hurt him when he gets beat. It’s got to hurt. And when it hurts, you do something about it. Sometimes I wonder if it hurts J’Marcus when he gets beat and his quarterback gets chased or gets hit. That’s what we’ve got to find out. If that’s inside of him now, maybe Aaron can get that if it is in there … you can have 70 great plays but if your quarterback gets hit one time and you lose that game on that one fumble, you had a terrible day. It’s got to haunt you the rest of the day. I don’t know if it haunts him right now.”

  3. The following comment from Biggs in the same article is worth noting:

    “ Note: So, there were seven four-phase players: [Eric] Weems, [Armando] Allen, [Craig] Steltz, [Jon] Bostic, [Khaseem] Greene, [Blake] Costanzo and [Anthony] Walters and [Sherrick] McManis was on three phases. When you don’t see the name of safety Brandon Hardin, that doesn’t bode well for him. It was surprising not to see Joe Anderson with the ones too, given all the talk about him contributing in that phase. However, it’s early and we know how quickly the trickle-down effect reaches special teams.”

    I would only add that I saw the absence of Devin Aromashodu to the ominous.

Steam of Consciousness – Bears at Panthers 8\8\13

  1. I think poor Jon Bostic may have chin-ballitus.
  2. The drops and missed opportunities by Isaiah Frey, Brandon Hardin and Sherrick McManus aren’t going to be helpful to them in in making the team. But the one by Fendi Onobun may very well be fatal. He’s apparently been doing the same thing in practice.
  3. Its very early but the interception of Jay Cutler’s pass on the very first play of the pre-season may well have been the worst possible thing that could have happened. At a time when you are doing everything you can to get him to throw on time to a receiver he can trust to be there, this could be a confirmation of all of his fears. If this type of thing continues to happen too often, it could be a rough year.
  4. Armando Allen couldn’t afford that fumble. He’s in a close roster battle with Michael Ford.
  5. Eric Weems was nice and active on special teams. I thought McManus was around the ball pretty often as well. Devin Aromashodu needed to show up here. I didn’t see him.
  6. The injuries to Henry Melton and Patrick Mannelly were clearly the story of the game here for most normal fans. The Bears have been very healthy for the last few years. They may be about to face what the rest o the league goes through every year.
  7. Bostic and Khaseem Greene are very fast to the ball and instinctive. Both had good games. But both got caught out of position on occasion and that’s probably going to continue. The Bears have always been susceptible to misdirection plays. I don’t see that changing with these two on board.
  8. I don’t have to point out that this wasn’t a great night for the offensive line. But I will. Jonathan Scott could win the right tackle job simply by not playing and letting the other guys show their flaws. They need to stiffen up in the interior as well.
  9. I wasn’t too impressed with the Bears defensive depth but I was glad to see Nate Collins show up. They’re probably going to need him in the defensive tackle rotation.
  10. Too many missed tackles on special teams. They’ll want to clean that up.
  11. Watching the pre-game, 37\% of you guys really think this team is going to win 12 or more games? Really?

Bears Need a Head Man Who Can Coach Quarterbacks and Other Points of View

Bears

  • Dan Pompei at the Chicago Tribune and I absolutely see eye-to-eye on his views on the new Bear head coach, whoever that may be:

“You can’t hire a head coach simply because he is a good play caller or quarterback coach. He has to be more than that. But it sure would be ideal if you could get a candidate who is a good play caller and quarterback coach with the ability to lead, administrate, communicate and sell. That’s what the Packers did when they hired Mike McCarthy. It’s what the Saints did when they hired Sean Payton. It’s what the Texans did when they hired Gary Kubiak. It’s what the 49ers did when they hired Jim Harbaugh. But many, many other teams have tried to go down the same path and found they coach they hired wasn’t everything they hoped he would be. Those coaches still get dirt under their nails doing work they did when they were assistants because nothing is more important than a productive quarterback. But they also delegate much of what they used to do to others.”

These are my thoughts exactly. Its not that people like Hub Arkush who are disappointed more defensive coordinators or coaches without a quarterback coaching background like Ken Whisenhunt haven’t been interviewed don’t have a point. They do. Your head coach has to be a leader above all.

But if possible the Bears need a coach who will permanently fix the quarterback position. I’m not just talking about Jay Cutler. That would be too short-sighted. I’m talking about developing future quarterbacks for years beyond that.

If you are counting on hiring an assistant coach like that, you are inevitably going to lose him to another team in search of a head coach. And finding one isn’t a trivial task as Lovie Smith could tell you. Doing it once would be hard. Doing it more than once would be much, much harder.

In my view the ideal model is the Ted Thompson-Mike McCarthy relationship in Green Bay. It’s not an ideal that would be easy to achieve. But I think you need to shoot for it or something similar. That means a head coach who can coach quarterbacks if at all possible.

  • Dan McNeil at the Chicago Tribune makes a fair point about the emotional upheaval surrounding the Bears head coaching search:

“If it’s fair to postpone the evaluation of a draft class for at least two seasons, it also is fair to be open-minded to a veteran assistant coach getting his first crack at serving as headmaster.

“A head coaching search, coupled with the roster overhaul Emery has in front of him, give me ample reasons to be patient with Emery. It would be silly to gnash teeth and wring hands over the virtual unknown who’s going to stand at the lectern answering questions about his new job sometime in the next couple of weeks.

“Somebody will, but it won’t be me. I wanted Jerry Angelo and Lovie Smith jettisoned long ago.

“I have nothing but time and patience for the Bears to keep evolving.”

  • Mike Florio at profootballtalk.com thinks Bruce Arians makes a lot of sense as the next Bears head coach:

“Arians makes plenty of sense for the Bears, given that they have a quarterback who is a bit of a handful in Jay Cutler. Arians has extensive experience dealing with a difficult quarterback. In Pittsburgh, Arians and Ben Roethlisberger didn’t simply coexist; they were close friends.

So when job No. 1 (or close to it) in Chicago is finding a coach who can work well with Cutler, Arians could be the right answer.”

Whether Cutler actually needs a friend as a coach is a legitimate question. But I tend to agree with Florio that Arians is a good candidate for the job.

  • Former NFL head coach Marv Levy makes a good point via Mark Potash at the Chicago Sun-Times:

“‘The general manager of the Alouettes told me that when I went to Canada, I could have 12 men on the [field]. Then I found out the other teams could, too,’ Levy said with a chuckle. ‘The same things win. It isn’t the Wildcat offense or this or that. If you run, throw, block, tackle, catch and kick better than your opponent — the fundamentals.'”

I’m as guilty as anyone of concentrating too much on X’s and O’s and they are a factor. But I think everyone should always keep in mind that the major difference between winning and losing is good fundamental football and, I might point out, making sure the defese played good fundamental football may have been Lovie Smith‘s biggest strength. Let’s hope, whoever the new head coach is, that we don’t see a step back in that area.

  • Sean Jensen at the Chicago Sun-Times reports that Vikings coaches Mike Piefer and former Bears middle linebacker Mike Singletary will interview for the head coaching position.Pompei indicates that Singletary’s inclusion on the list may be at the suggestion of the McCaskey family which wouldn’t be a surprise.

David Haugh at the Chicago Tribune is off base with this assessment:

Singletary’s not a bad candidate. There was a time when I would have done hand springs to see the Bears interview an ex-player. He’s a bright guy and the odds are good he learned a great deal from his failures in San Francisco. Singletary’s got the same problem Dennison has. No experience coaching quarterbacks. But other than that he’s a fine candidate. Pompei put it best:

“‘I think he’s been ready for awhile,’ Kubiak told reporters on Monday. ‘I think Rick is a very smart guy. He’s selective. I’ve been called on him for about three years in a row now, but I think Rick knows what he wants to do with his life and if he’s going to take an opportunity to be a head coach, he’s going to be selective in what he does. He’s got a great background in the National Football League. He’s a 10-year defensive player in the National Football League. He’s been a special teams coach in the National Football League. He’s been an offensive line coach. He’s been an offensive coordinator. There’s nothing this guy hasn’t done.'”

Except be a quarterback coach. And that’s a problem in a quarterback-driven league.

  • Jensen passes along what Cutler said on his weekly radio show. I found Cutler’s phasing when asked about current Denver offensive coordinator and Bears head coaching candidate Mike McCoy interesting to say the least:

“I think we had two meetings together, and then [the Broncos] kicked me out… I liked Mike. Knows a lot about football, very flexible.”

As I remember Cutler wasn’t “kicked out”. He ran away and quit. Interesting how his mind works.

“The good thing is it’s easier to find blockers for a zone scheme than it is blockers for a man scheme because of supply and demand. There are way more teams that use a man scheme. There also is this to consider: NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has made it clear the league is thinking about making chop blocks on running plays illegal. The backside chop is a staple of zone blocking teams, and could affect their running games significantly.”

  • Pompei runs through the long list of players whose fate at least partly depends on who the new head coach is. The most intriguing will be Brian Urlacher. It used to be that cutting Urlacher would be a problem with the fans. But given that Urlacher felt the need to express his true feelings by trashing them in the media late in the season (without an apology), that shouldn’t be a problem now. Hopefully they’ll do what they think is best without making the mistake of thinking this is still a consideration.

“Coming off his first Pro Bowl nod, how good do you think Henry Melton can be ultimately? Better than Tommie Harris before his injuries? Can he be the best defensive tackle in the NFL? Also, he has to be our No 1 priority when it comes to re-signing our own players, right? — Charles Laughton, New London, Conn.

“The thing about Henry Melton that is unusual is he still has considerable room for growth at the age of 26 and four years into his NFL career. So I would expect him to keep getting better. I’m not sure he’ll ever be better than, say, Ndamukong Suh, who is in another league talent wise. But he should remain among the best defensive tackles in the league. As for the comparison to Harris, he was a special, special player before his injuries. It is possible Melton can be that kind of player. Considering he was a fourth round selection, Melton may have been Jerry Angelo‘s best draft pick.”

Melton is good but he will almost certainly never be Tommie Harris. The Bears will never miss Melton the way they missed Harris after he was injured. The defense was never the same after he went down.

  • Biggs points out that special teams coordinator Dave Toub is in demand as he interviews for the same poisiton with the Panthers and Chiefs. That’s fine but, as Biggs points out, Toub is under contract here and I’d say he’s going nowhere unless the new head coach doesn’t want him – and I’m thinking there’s a fair chance that he will.

Elsewhere

  • According to Sam Farmer at the Los Angeles Tribune Saturday’s game against the Packers is being seen as a referendum on 49ers head coach Jm Harbaugh‘s decision to replace quarterback Alex Smith with Colin Kaepernick earlier in the season:

“Harbaugh chose the path of greater resistance, and in the process bumped up the stakes.

“‘If it all blows up on Saturday, that will take a lot of goodwill out of the bank,’ [former 49ers quarerback Steve] Young said. ‘Now, that doesn’t change much. I mean, [Harbaugh] is still going to be around, still going to be a great coach. But it’s a high-risk situation.'”

  • Pompei has the Packers ranked second in his power rankings. I like the Packers but that’s awfully high for a team with a suspect defense. The Packers are going to have to continue to play the kind of good fundamental ball I saw last week against the Vikings before I’ll believe. I think Pompei is right on the button with the first ranked Broncos and, like Pompei, I like the Seahawks a lot better than most people seem to.
  • The schematic Xs and Os that former NFL safety Matt Bowen writes up for the Chicago Tribune are always interesting but I thought this article breaking down the Packers offensive options against the 49ers pressure was particularly good.
  • This Audible from Pro Football Weekly has the ring of truth:

Jon Gruden wants full control. It’s the same as Bill Cowher and Joe Gibbs and Bill Parcells and any established coach worth his salt who is considering coming back. The problem is — there are not a lot of GMs that want to concede that authority. Why do you think Mike Holmgren is backing down and saying he’ll be happy to just coach?”

“A priest administered last rites. Following kidney removal surgery, his football coach told him he would never play again. He was lucky to be alive. He responded by petitioning the school to be allowed to suit up. The player’s name? Mike Shanahan.”

  • Pitty the girlfriends, NFL fans.

One Final Thought

My mother of all people sent me this joke. A little to close to the truth over the last year if you ask me…

The coach had put together the perfect team for the Chicago Bears. The only thing that was missing was a good quarterback. He had scouted all the colleges and even the Canadian and European Leagues, but he couldn’t find a ringer who could ensure a Super Bowl win.

Then one night while watching CNN he saw a war-zone scene in Afghanistan. In one corner of the background, he spotted a young Afghan Muslim soldier with a truly incredible arm. He threw a hand-grenade straight into a 15th story window 100 yards away.

KABOOM!

He threw another hand-grenade 75 yards away, right into a chimney.

KA-BLOOEY!

Then he threw another at a passing car going 90 mph.

BULLS-EYE!

“I’ve got to get this guy!” Coach said to himself. “He has the perfect arm!”

So, he brings him to the States, teaches him the great game of football and the Bears go on to win the Super Bowl.

The young Afghan is hailed as the great hero of football, and when the coach asks him what he wants, all the young man wants is to call his mother.

“Mom,” he says into the phone, “I just won the Super Bowl!”

“I don’t want to talk to you, says the old Muslim woman.”You are not my son!”

“I don’t think you understand, Mother,” the young man pleads. “I’ve won the greatest sporting event in the world. I’m here among thousands of adoring fans.”

“No! Let me tell you!” his mother retorts. “At this very moment, there are gunshots all around us. The neighborhood is a pile of rubble. Your two brothers were beaten within an inch of their lives last week, and I have to keep your sister in the house so she doesn’t get raped!” The old lady pauses, and then tearfully says,

“I will never forgive you for making us move to Chicago!!!!”

 

No Guts, No Glory and Other Points of View

Bears

Alshon Jeffery hurt the Bears as much as he helped them. A savvy route runner would not have been on the ground on that first-quarter play in which [quarterback Jay] Cutler was picked off.

“Then in the third quarter he dropped what should have been a 39-yard touchdown pass.

“But his second-quarter touchdown catch was very nice. He swam past Josh Robinson to free himself and made an over-the-shoulder catch that a lot of receivers struggle with. In the fourth quarter he pulled in a back-shoulder throw for 30 yards with Robinson all over him.”

Jeffery looks like a guy with a bright future in the league. As Pompei implies, he’s going to have to learn to be more consistent. He’s also going to have to stay out of the training room. But, like most wide receivers in particular, I think we can look forward to him being better his second year. This looks to me like a win for general manager Phil Emery.

  • Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune points out the need for offensive linemen but defends (a little) Emery with this comment:

“Drafting a playmaking tight end would be the best option, but the Bears’ needs on offense surely will begin with the line. It’s probably best the team passed on John Carlson in free agency last spring. He signed a $25 million, five-year contract with the Vikings and has been a bust.”

Its probably worth noting at this point that guard David DeCastro, who I really, deep down thought the Bears should have drafted, spent a good portion of his first season injured. So you could argue that Emery dodged a couple bullets.

“‘No, no, no, no,’ he said. ‘We’re just trying to win games right now and put the best five out there. That’s way too far in the future. The big thing to for him is he didn’t have an offseason coming off the (knee) surgery. He’s going to be living in the weight room. He’s going to get bigger and do more leg work and all that stuff. Whatever position he is going to be at, he’s going to have to get more lower-body work.'”

 

“What has to be bothersome for [head coach Lovie] Smith is his defense could not prevail despite an anemic effort from the Vikings’ Christian Ponder, as bad a starting quarterback as there is in the league. But Ponder managed to pull off an elaborate engagement proposal to his girlfriend during the week with Christmas lights and then beat the once-vaunted Bears defense despite completing only 11 of 17 passes for 91 yards. “

I’m not any kind of a Christian Ponder fan by any means. Certainly statistically those aren’t numbers that jump out at you. And Ponder does have a reputation for making some bad decisions. But I saw very little of it in this game. There weren’t many errant passes, either. To my eye, Ponder isn’t exactly surrounded by great talent at wide receiver or on the offensive line. It looks to me like the Vikings habit of trying to combine heavy reliance on the running game with penalties and undisciplined play is really more the problem than anything else. But whatever problems the Vikings offense had Sunday, Ponder wasn’t one of the big ones. He won’t win you many games. But when he plays like he did this week, he won’t lose you many either.

 

  • Biggs quotes special teams coach Kevin O’Dea on how he fixed Adam Podlesh‘s mechanics:

“‘We just changed one thing,’ O’Dea said. ‘When you deal with punting there are a lot of moving parts so the simpler you can keep it, the better. All we did was just change where his eyes focus to and aligned it better with where his leg and his hip are. That’s all we did. I am talking about the drop. So, we just put the drop back in line with where he can use maximum power. Now, he can use his leg in his swing to get maximum power into the ball.

“‘It’s his eyes as he drops the ball. We have a specific spot what he’s looking at for him. And everyone is different. It’s just like golf. Everybody has a little bit different sequence and where their swing is and how they line up and where their hips are and everything. So, all we did was study where his hips are, where his eyes are. Now, we just moved it a little bit. And right now it seemed to get him back in line. Now, he’s getting back in rhythm. Hopefully, it stays that way.'”

“Lovie Smith has to go.

“Now.

“If I’m Phil Emery, I wouldn’t have let him on the plane home after that 21-14 disaster in Minnesota.”

Rick Morrissey at the Chicago Sun-Times adds his two cents:

“Since George Halas retired for good, every Bears coach who has been fired failed in his last opportunity to beat the Packers. No pressure, Lovie.”

It is, of course, the time of year for this kind of speculation but this year it feels a lot more serious than usual. Mike Mulligan at the Chicago Tribune makes the case that its best for everyone if the Bears can keep Smith as head coach:

“Smith is miles away the most qualified person for the job he holds. Does anybody believe the Bears would get in a bidding war for Jon Gruden, rumored to be on the way back, or be interested in coaxing Bill Cowher out of retirement?”

No. But I didn’t think they’d sign Julius Peppers, either. And I didn’t think they’d fire Jerry Angelo.

There’s only one thing I’ll say about this. I don’t think Smith is a bad head coach. The could – and just might – do a lot worse particularly if there isn’t a definite plan and swift action on hiring a new one byt Emery (or Bears president Ted Phillips depending on who you think will actually do it).

But Simth has been here a long time and it doesn’t look to me like they’re going to get back to another Super Bowl with him at the helm. Too often it looks to me like the Bears are being out schemed in games. Smith is a master at handling players – arguably the biggest part of his job. And I don’t think they’ve stopped listening to him. But And there’s no denying that once the season is over, the Bears will have likely have faded very badly down the stretch two years in a row. And its now evident that X’s and O’s aren’t Smith’s strong point, nor is it the strong point of the coaches he’s hired.

There is one other factor here. Smith is a defensive coach in an offensive league. It may be time to get someone in here who can coach offense and, more importantly, who can judge talent on that side of the ball. It’s hard to watch the juggling act that’s taking place on the offensive line without thinking that something isn’t right about how things are being handled there. It’s the kind of misjudgment that we’ve seen all too often with coaches and players under Smith.

I acknowledge all of Mulligan’s points as being valid. But at some point you have to draw a line and take a chance or you’ll never get better. No guts, no glory. We may be at that point.



Packers

“The Packers (9-4) have won seven of their last eight games. The Bears (8-5) have lost four of their last five. Further complicating matters is the fact that while the Bears are losing players, the Packers are gaining them.

Pompei continues the (admittedly in this case inadvertant) comparison:

“In many ways, this has been a disastrous year for the Packers.

“There have been enough injuries to justify opening their own green and gold hospital. Thirteen starters have missed 66 games with injuries, and 10 players are on injured reserve.

“They are down to their third-string right tackle, their third-string running back and their third-string inside linebacker.

“There were two games that were all but in the win column before strange occurrences turned them into losses.

“And there have been a couple of butt whippings, the kind the Mike McCarthy Packers have not been accustomed to.

“And where has this left the Packers as the NFL season barrels down the stretch?

“More dangerous, and maybe better, than ever. Adversity has toughened this team.”

Morrissey elaborates:

“The Packers were down 14-0 Sunday to the Lions, and against all odds, reason, disease, pestilence and God’s will, they somehow came back to win.

“That’s apparently what it takes to overcome a two-touchdown deficit.

“We know this because the Bears trailed the Vikings 14-0 and treated it like an ascent of Mount Everest in sandals and swimwear.”

Good teams who deserve to be in the playoffs finish strong. Those that don’t, don’t.

“Cornerback Charles Woodson (broken collarbone), guard T.J. Lang (ankle) and linebacker Clay Matthews (hamstring) could return this week. Wide receiver Jordy Nelson (hamstring) is less likely to play.”

  • Pompei writes a pretty good column covering what teams have been doing to the Packers. It should be familiar to Bears fans:

“Although the Bears have failed repeatedly to hold down the Packers, the rest of the league believes the Bears know how to do it.

“So this season, almost every Packers opponent has borrowed the Cover-2 pages from the Bears’ playbook. It might not be Star Wars defense exactly in terms of complexity, but it has resulted in the deflections and interceptions of numerous Packers missiles.

“‘Our offense is not as flashy as last year,’ Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers told the Tribune. ‘It’s tough especially when teams are going to play you very soft the majority of the game, which we’ve seen this year. It has been 80 percent split safety.”

“The best way to get a defense out of a two-safety high look is to gash them with the running game. The Packers struggled to do that early, starting three running backs and failing to reach 110 rushing yards in eight of their first 10 games.

“But as the temperatures have dipped, their running game has warmed up. In their last two games they have run for 152 and 140 yards respectively.”

Elsewhere

“In the Pistol, the quarterback lines up about four yards behind center, or three yards closer than he would in shotgun. If one back is in the game, he lines up directly behind the quarterback instead of next to him. This is an advantage for the running game because the back can go left or right easily.

“The beauty of the Pistol, as the Redskins and Robert Griffin are showing, is you can combine a spread passing game with a power run game.”

“‘You have to contain it, you can’t let it get on the edge,’ the NFC coach said. ‘You have to make the quarterback cut back inside to pursuit. If he pitches it, you have to get outside and contain. If they want to run an inside zone, fine, that’s where the core of the defense is. Defensive backs have to be disciplined, throw off timing, jam, reroute, and not allow the receivers to get a good release.'”



One Final Thought

Before the Vikings game I commented that, with 4 games left against decent to very good teams, the Bears were going to have to win on drive and want-to. With that in mind, Haugh describes this exchange with Smith after the Bears loss to the Vikings Sunday:

“‘That opening drive really put us on our heels, and we never really recovered,’ Smith said.

“I asked Smith why the Bears never recovered, what with 56 minutes left in an NFL game after [Vikings runningback Adrian]Peterson‘s touchdown.

“‘You tell me,’ Smith snapped. ‘How do you answer a question like that? If I knew that, we would have done a little bit more about it.'”

I can tell Smith why.

 

It’s About Character and Other Points of View

Bears

  • I’m not too sure about this comment from Bears offensive coordinator Mike Tice on the return of wide receiver Alshon Jeffery to the lineup. Via Mark Potash at the Chicago Sun-Times:

“So that really helps us because when they try to key on Brandon [Marshall], we really have two go-to guys on the field at the same time.”

Jeffery is a step above the other receivers, no doubt. But he’s hardly a “go-to guy” (yet).

  • On a related not, Sean Jensen at the Chicago Sun-Times points out that, whether its being done on purpose or not, the “Randy Ratio” is back.

“We’re going back to the fundamentals — what we were doing earlier in the season. We just have to do that to be successful.”

That sounds like a pretty good idea and not just for the defensive linemen. Part of the problem last week was that the Seahawks are a good team that played reasonably well. But the Bears didn’t help with some serious fundamental breakdowns in things like gap discipline. They play their best when they’re playing fundamentally sound.

“Whether or not Brian Urlacher returns from a hamstring injury this year, he’ll be a Bear next season. That comes from highly placed sources inside my head.”

“It’s not so much his straight-line speed that has suffered since injuring his knee in last year’s season finale. He proved he could still run when he chased down Golden Tate from behind after Tate’s 49-yard gain in the second quarter of Sunday’s game. It’s brakes that he lacks. He struggles to plant his feet and re-direct himself. It has looked like he has been playing on ice all season.

“Never before in a season have we seen Urlacher overrun plays he used to make routinely.”

Whether Urlacher has lost some quickness is a debatable issue. But, like most of the players in Lovie Smith‘s aggressive cover two defense, Urlacher has been over running plays on occasion his entire career.

“Moore has excellent ball awareness and ball skills for a corner. But I think coaches were disappointed in the fact that he was not playing more physically. [Kelvin] Hayden is a bigger, stronger defender and better tackler.”

Moore will likely start this week with Hayden replacing the injured Tim Jennings in the lineup.

Vikings

  • Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune is dead on with this comment:

“The idea has been thrown out there that the Bears could seek retribution on Vikings defensive end Jared Allen for the illegal hit that ended the season of right guard Lance Louis, who suffered a torn ACL in the teams’ first meeting. But it’s football and not a street fight. The Bears’ line needs to be concerned about blocking Allen, who whipped left tackle J’Marcus Webb for 3-1/2 sacks in the meeting at Minnesota last season, not taking him out. The second they divert their attention from blocking Allen will be the moment he turns the corner and zeros in on quarterback Jay Cutler, still not a month removed from a concussion.”

“Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder became engaged this week after he proposed to ESPN personality Samantha Steele with an elaborate setup in which he spelled ‘Marry Me’ using Christmas lights. Sound like a second-year player with his mind fully on the game? Not really. Ponder doesn’t have a lot of help on the outside and that problem is made worse with the absence of Percy Harvin. He possesses a deer-in-the-headlights look too often in the pocket and struggles making plays downfield. At least things are going swimmingly for him off the field.”

  • Pompei gives a scout’s report on Viking safety Harrison Smith: “Opponents should use play action and try to take advantage of Smith’s aggressiveness to get receivers open in the middle of the field.”
  • Matt Bowen at the Chicago Tribune points out that with Brian Urlacher out and with Adrian Peterson likely to be the Vikings main threat, its a perfect situation to use plays like this one to attack middle linebacker Nick Roach with tight end Kyle Rudolph. I’d expect a lot of this at crucial times.

Elsewhere

  • One of the things that head coach Lovie Smith‘s Bears teams are noted for is consistency. They usually beat the teams they should beat because, like their head coach, they never get too high or too low. Most of us consider this to be a good thing. However, its hard not to see that teams who do get up for the Bears usually end up winning because the Bears have not been mentally prepared to rise to the challenge. With that in mind, Judy Batista at the New York Times answers a fan question about the inconsistency of the Giants under head coach Tom Coughlin:

“I don’t think the Giants’ problems are ones of effort – they don’t quit, do they? – I think they are one of execution. Nine penalties is not because they are not trying, it’s because they are sloppy and perhaps not focused enough. The Giants have undoubtedly had a recent history of going up and down. I don’t have any idea how they would be with another coach, but ask yourself this: Would you exchange Tom Coughlin’s results with the Giants for anybody else’s? I’d take the inconsistency in the regular season in exchange for getting on a roll late in the season and into the playoffs any day.”

So would I. I guess the question is, would Bears general president Ted Phillips?

  • Toni Monkovic at The New York Times debates whether the gun control comments from Bob Costas at halftime of the Cowboys-Eagles game was appropriate. The quickest way to get me to change the channel for any sports show, radio or television, is to start talking politics, race or religion. But even I would have to admit that the appropriateness if this topic is debatable given Jovan Belcher‘s murder-suicide.
  • Stuart Miller, again at The New York Times addresses the issue of replacing more injured players on the roster, particularly with the new concussion rules. It appears to me like the idea of a developmental league may be gaining a little steam.

“2011: Robert Griffin, III, QB, Baylor
RG3 is the greatest young quarterback ever.

“2010: Cam Newton, QB, Auburn

“Cam Newton works as a professional quarterback in the NFL and is the former greatest young quarterback ever.”

One Final Thought

Here’s another curious comment, this time from David Haugh at the Chicago Tribune:

“If the Ravens can go 4-2 without Ray Lewis, then the Bears should finish 3-1 without Urlacher against a favorable schedule.”

“Favorable”? You’ve got to be kidding. Yes, Arizona is a game the Bears should win but two dome games against a decent team in Minnesota and a team with more talent, if less discipline, in Detroit? And the Packers who have both talent and discipline?

I know everyone wants the Bears to be a sure playoff team but let’s cut them a break and be realistic. That’s a darned tough schedule and I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see the Bears go 1-3 during that stretch with or without Urlacher.

Having said that, Potash takes the opposite approach and addresses the doomsday scenario with the Bears losing all four of their final games. He says they can still make the playoffs at 8-8. I consider both that and the possibility that they Bears will actually lose all of those games to be highly unlikely. I’ll be very surprised if they lose to Arizona and, though the other games are tough, they do have a reasonable chance to surprise me and pull them out. It isn’t like the Vikings and Lions aren’t perfectly capable of playing poorly enough to lose.

I think this quote from wide receiver Brandon Marshall pretty much bottom lines the situation via Haugh:

“Championship teams start to separate themselves in the month of December. Right now it’s about character, want-to and passion and who wants to get it done.”

I don’t think the Bears have the talent to get to 10-6 and a certain playoff berth. But the difference between winning and losing in the NFL isn’t that big and I definitely do believe that they can overcome that deficiency by simply playing better than thier opponents. We’re about to find out what this team is made of.

“It’s Not Scheme Issue” and Other Points of View

Bears

  • Chicago Tribune columnists Steve Rosenbloom and Fred Mitchell and sports editor Mike Kellams “talk postgame” with former NFL safety Matt Bowen after the Bears’ loss to the 49ers with .

I loved the comment that Bowen made above when asked if [head coach Lovie]Smith would just skip the film review of a rough game coming on a short week. He said he had one coach who did that and he didn’t last long in the league, going right back to college (where he belonged).

“Their problem is that they are a well-coached team that loses big games because they get outcoached. And you know what’s coming next: Smith’s steady hand will right the ship. If [quarterback Jay] Cutler returns, the Bears will bounce back against the Vikings, Seahawks, Arizona Cardinals and Detroit Lions. But eventually the Bears are likely to run into Mike McCarthy and Dom Capers, Jim Harbaugh or Tom Coughlin. And the big question will be more clear than ever: Are Smith, [offensive coordinator Mike] Tice and [defensive coordinator Rod] Marinelli up to the challenge?”

“How is it that Jacksonville Jaguars backup Chad Henne can come off the bench after not having taken a single snap in practice and — with the lowest-ranked offense in the NFL — torch the Houston Texans for 354 yards, four touchdowns and a 133.8 passer rating?”

The reason is that, like the 49ers, the Texans got up for the Bears game. In fact, you could argue that the 49ers tied the Rams last week because they were actually looking past them to this game.

This leads to some great team performances in prime time. But it also leads to some ups and downs over the course of a season that are going to give you some bad games against teams you should beat. To Lovie Smith’s credit, the Bears avaid these kinds of uneven performances by never getting too high or too low. Unfortunately, it also leads to games like the one Monday night where one team is sky high and the other isn’t.

  • I couldn’t help but smile at this passage from Rick Telander‘s column in the Chicago Sun-Times:

“I think it was early in the second quarter of the Bears’ loss to the San Francisco 49ers on Monday night that I started watching the Bears’ offensive line.

“No one ever watches an offensive line. It’s like watching bowling balls getting racked or pigs feeding.”

  • Dan Pompei at the Chicago Tribune came through with his best film review of the season. Lots of things I saw. Lots of extra insight into the things I didn’t. This quote doesn’t sound like much but its something I think we’re going to see more and more of:

“This was a game in which the Bears needed [tight end] Matt Spaeth‘s blocking, but he got on the field for only nine offensive snaps. [Offensive tackle] Jonathan Scott played six snaps as a tight end, however.”

  • This is a terrible blow. Via Sean Jensen at the Chicago Sun-Times.

“The ultimate blame on offense winds up at the feet of Bears coach Lovie Smith, who is a defensive specialist. But he is responsible for all units, not just the defense. If the offense perpetually lacks vitality and creativity, it’s his job to make the moves to create.”

I’m really starting to wonder if Smith doesn’t need to take more of a personal hand in the offense. It seems to me like a guy who can coax defensive players into the proper mindset to make plays so consistently should have more to contribute to an offense with players who so often fail to do that.

“Jay Cutler is not as good as he was a year ago. His mechanics are really bad this year. There was a reason he clashed with Mike Martz — he pushes his quarterbacks hard. You know Cutler does not like anyone riding him. That’s why they didn’t get along. … He doesn’t have tight ends who can play. They can’t pass protect well, and he’s getting beat like a drum. That’s part of it, too.”

“One issue with upgrading over Caleb Hanie as the backup quarterback is the bar was set low. Jason Campbell has experience and is well-regarded, but some believe athletic backup quarterbacks help because when plays break down, they can make plays with their legs. With the issues the Bears have on the offensive line, that makes even more sense. Jay Cutler has made plenty of plays with his legs this season, which has really aided the offense in some games. Campbell isn’t quite as nimble.”

That’s really not fair. You take Campbell out of that game and put Jay Cutler in and you know what you’ve got? The Green Bay game in week two. Different man, same pressure burying them with nowhere to escape to and no time to do it.

In fairness, Biggs does seem to acknowledge this on some level:

“Given the ugly games Jay Cutler has had in prime time, it’s not a bad thing he missed this messy affair. The presence of Cutler alone would not have shifted the balance. Cutler threw a career-high five interceptions the last time the Bears played in San Francisco in a brutal Thursday night loss. Had he played in this game, it likely would have led to more criticism of him from national commentators. Now pundits can pick on Campbell and Smith’s overrun defense instead.”

“If the previous two games have proved anything, it’s that the first half of the schedule was packed with cupcakes. [General manager Phil] Emery has been out on the road scouting in advance of a big predraft meeting next month. He probably didn’t need to see this wreck to know offensive linemen, plural, must be a priority even over a backup quarterback.”

“Don’t be surprised if McCown finishes the season with the team, and not just because there will be elevated concerns about Cutler’s availability once he is medically cleared to return. Some within the organization wanted McCown to stick at the outset of the season but it would not have been a practical decision with three veteran quarterbacks on the 53-man roster. Now that he’s back, it could be a seven-week job for him.

“The coaches like McCown and believe he’s a positive influence in the quarterback room. In a short period of time, he developed a good relationship with Cutler and likes working with the starter.”

Chris Spencer, who started the first two games there, will replace Chilo Rachal, who started the last eight. Rachal had a brutal performance against his former team, the 49ers, giving up one sack and a hurry and getting flagged for two holding penalties. On Wednesday afternoon, the Bears announced that Rachal left the team for “personal reasons” and was put on the reserve/left-squad list.

“According to a league source, the 49ers knew how to “get in his head,” prompting Rachal’s poor performance. The source added that Rachal, in general, is emotional and needs constant positive reinforcement.”

According to Vaughn McClure at the Chicago Tribune Rachal “became extremely upset upon learning of his demotion” and walked out. He has five days to return.

“The topic came up when McClellin was drafted 19th overall and he said he missed one practice after a concussion at Boise State in 2010 and had a minor one the year before. McClellin changed the style of helmet he uses in 2011. There’s no reason to believe this will be a lingering issue for him, but caution is a good idea.”

True enough. But I’m concerned and no one is likely to forget that this was an issue that, it could be argued, should have affected the status of this draft choice. Jerry Angelo certainly took his fiair share of criticism about drafting a guard with a bad back in Chris Williams. You coud argue that a history of concussions should have been even more of a red flag.

  • D.J. Moore is going to have a hard time getting out of Smith’s dog house with statements like this one to Adam L. Jahns at the Chicago Sun-Times:

“‘From what [coach Lovie Smith] told me, it was performance-related,’ Moore said. ‘I don’t know. Whatever they tell me to do, I’ll do, and go to work every day, try as hard I can and hopefully get back out there soon.’”

For the record, the correct answer is “It was performance-related” not “they told me its performance-related.” I confess that I don’t know enough to understand exactly what the problem is. But I can say for certain that if Smith believes his performance is sub-par, then it almost certainly was and I can guarantee he’s been told more than once exactly what he’s doing wrong. He won’t get better until he accepts coaching and does what he’s told and he certainly won’t be playing as much as he should until that happens.

Vikings

  • Somewhat to my surprise, Pompei’s this week 23-20. If it was at Minnesota, I’d agree. But I think the Bears offensive line will have an easier time handling Jared Allen at home. The Bears need to bounce back and win this game. Perhaps I’m overestimating their intestinal fortitude but I’m leaning their way this week.

“Minnesota has improved about as much as any team from where they were last year. Having a quarterback (Christian Ponder) being able to play for a year helped them a lot and getting the running back (Adrian Peterson) helped them more than anything. Anytime you have Percy Harvin and Peterson on the roster, you’ve got a chance.”

“‘[In the past] he’d always look to hit the home run,’ Frazier said. ‘And sometimes that would create negative plays. Now he’s truer to his reads.'”

“The Vikings will devote significant attention to receiver Brandon Marshall — as they did with Larry Fitzgerald in Week 7. They’ll also ask the defensive line to create pressure without needing blitz help.”

The Vikings ate the Cardinals alive with seven sacks.

  • The Vikings are handling their personnel along the offensive line in something of an unusual way. Again via Wiedierer:

Brandon Fusco will make his 11th consecutive start at guard but will again share time with Geoff Schwartz. Meanwhile, at safety, Jamarca Sanford will remain starting alongside Harrison Smith but will also cede playing time in spurts to Mistral Raymond.

The rotation at guard began in Week 6. Fusco has been OK at times but hesitant at others, leaving an opening for Schwartz to step in.”

Rotations at guard aren’t the norm in the NFL where continuity on the line is highly valued.

Elsewhere

 

“If I’m a very old woman who struggles to get around, and Carolina Panther coach Ron Rivera and his players offer to lead me across the street, I decline.

“The Panthers would do great getting her off the curb and past the stripe in the middle of the road.

“But 5 feet from the other side, they’d fall or get nervous or forget the woman was there.

“As light turned to dark, she’d be alone in traffic, dodging SUVs, vans and the occasional city bus.

“The Panthers can’t finish. They failed again to finish Sunday. They needed leadership and inspiration and they needed to adjust. They did not.”

  • Breaking news for The Onion: “Andy Reid Cuts Several Players From Mustache.”




 

One Final Thought

Neil Hayes at the Chicago Sun-Times is as off-base in blamming offensive coordinator Mike Tice for the Bears problems as everyone was when they were blaming Mike Martz. Similarly, runningback Matt Forte refuses to admit what is evident to any disinterested observer. Via Biggs:

“‘I don’t believe in that soft schedule, tough schedule crap,’ running back Matt Forte said. ‘It’s the NFL. Everybody is good.

“‘We didn’t expect it to go like that. We didn’t play well across the board. Nobody. You saw the game. We haven’t done anything really. We have to get better at a lot of stuff as an offense. We haven’t proved anything.'”

This is, of course, exactly what you’d expect him to say. But that doesn’t change the reality. Biggs explains in a commentary which to my mind is absolutely spot on:

“It’s not a scheme issue. What the Bears have is a talent deficiency and this is a deep-rooted problem that goes back to the early years of Jerry Angelo’s administration. I’ve written time and time again how the Bears ignored the offensive line in the draft and therefore had no young players in the system. When Angelo made an effort to get one in 2008, he went bust with Chris Williams, now an ex-Bear. This isn’t a new problem and those who want to cast blame on offensive coordinator Mike Tice need to take a long look at the man who bears ultimate responsibility for the offense: Lovie Smith. But ultimately, what the Bears have here is a personnel issue on the offensive line, one that can be a surprise to positively no one, new general manager Phil Emery included. There is no quick solution and that is the answer no one wants to accept. “

The Bears weren’t at their best Monday. But teams that play really badly usually show obvious signs of it that any fan can recognize. Dropped passes, an excessive number of penalties, a lot of turnovers. The Bears had some penalties and a couple turnovers. But none of it was anywhere near what I’d call excessive.

The truth is that the Bears looked exactly like they did for the first nine games of the season. They just got beat by a well-motivated group with more talent that played well – i.e. by a better team. That’s all there is to it.