Not Thorwing Stones at Glass Houses. Much.

Judy Battista at NFL.com scorches the Cowboys over their signing of [*cough*]alleged[*cough*] woman beater, Greg Hardy. Hardy [*cough*]allegedly[*cough*] got away with it because he [*cough*]allegedly[*cough*] “came to a financial settlement” with the victim and the case was dropped after she couldn’t be located:

“There were plenty of warning signals for the Cowboys to heed and [owner and general manager Jerry] Jones released a statement Wednesday night explaining that the Cowboys spent considerable time trying to get to know Hardy.

jjhardy

“But there are others who know him, too.

“It was startling, on Wednesday, to hear a former Hardy teammate say publicly that he was sometimes unmanageable, and for Tampa Bay Buccaneers general manager Jason Licht to explicitly tell the Tampa Bay Times that the Bucs had stopped pursuing Hardy not for contract reasons but because ‘at the end of the day, we didn’t feel good about it.’

“It is rare for a team executive to be so candid about an active player and rarer still for a former teammate to break locker room camaraderie to air issues about a player who is trying to restart his career. But make no mistake, they were far from alone among those who evaluated Hardy over the last few weeks… [M]ost teams did not even give him a look and, at the end, it appeared that the Cowboys were bidding against themselves for Hardy’s services.

“‘He was a mess coming out of college,’ one NFL team executive said, when asked why his team did not go after Hardy. ‘He had a number of issues then and his behavior since entering the NFL hasn’t proved him to be anything different.'”

“Whether you find that problematic probably depends on whether you root for the Cowboys.”

“There isn’t much doubt that the Cowboys’ defense is better now than it was in that loss, and by the time another late-season game against a top quarterback rolls around, that might be all anybody is thinking about. But the tone-deaf celebratory nature of the Cowboys’ Hardy announcement — smiles and exclamation points all around — suggests that the message from those ‘No More’ public service announcements (in which the Cowboys’ own good guy, Jason Witten, was featured) ultimately gets drowned out by the demands for better results.

“There’s nothing surprising there. There was a similar din when the Philadelphia Eagles signed Michael Vick after his stint in a federal prison. The protesters were outside the gates for his first appearance in a game. But they dwindled rapidly as Vick showed contrition and, probably more significantly, that he still had some game left. Fans wore his jersey again and, in recent seasons, he was even hailed as a veteran mentor.”

I think Battista might be surprised on this one. Vick was found guilty and paid the price by going to jail. This is different. And the tolerance for these kinds of things is considerably less that it was when the Eagles signed Vick. Players like Adrian Peterson who immediately express remorse will get some slack from fans. Hardy might not, even from die hard Cowboy fans who hold the integrity and history of the franchise sacred.

Batista continues:

“Going forward, Hardy — and [Ray] Rice and Adrian Peterson, too — will be good tests to find out just how much our historical love of a second chance stretches to include even the most despicable acts. Hardy’s jersey sales will tell us plenty.

“For some, at least, that seems to be all the evidence about Hardy that matters.”

I came to the conclusion a long time ago that my team often wasn’t any better than the others when it comes to doing some things that I personally think are flat out wrong. I’ve slammed opponents for doing things like not letting the Bears interview a coach to give him the opportunity for advancement to coordinator only to see the Bears do the same thing the very next year. I’m still revolted by the fact that the Bears didn’t give Baltimore their fourth round pick in a trade the Bears, themselves, were at fault for botching a few years ago.

Ben Roethlisberger [*cough*]allegedly[*cough*] walked down the back hallway of a bar with his pants already down to [*cough*]allegedly[*cough*] rape a girl in the back room.  He, also, got away with it because he [*cough*]allegedly[*cough*] paid the woman off.  The Pittsburgh Steelers have a reputation for having as much integrity as anyone in the league.  But he’s still their quarterback.

No one can really say that their team is immune.

Bottom line, I won’t be buying any Greg Hardy jerseys and I don’t know anyone – Cowboys fans or not – who will.  But having said that, I don’t judge other teams actions much anymore. I just hope like heck, the system having failed, having gotten away with it once with both his freedom and his high paying job intact, that Hardy doesn’t do it again. Because he sounds to me like the kind of off balance character who might.  And whether he plays football or not, that’s what really matters.

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.

Why Could the Bears Be Winners as Soon as 2015 And Other Points of View

Bears

  • Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune quotes former Panthers defensive tackle Brentson Buckner on what new Bears head coach John Fox said in his first team meeting after taking over the 1-15 team:

    “‘He said, ‘You were 1-15 and they got rid of all the coaches,’ Buckner recalled. ‘None of those coaches played. None of those coaches dressed on Sunday. A lot of reasons you were 1-15 are sitting in this room, and it’s my job to weed you out.'”

    I’d say there are a few Bears that need to hear that. Its all roses and sunshine right now between Fox and Bears fans. But this alone makes me think the Bears probably got their man.

  • For some reason David Haugh at the Chicago Tribune is under the impression that we care what Brian Urlacher thinks.
  • Former NFL safety Matt Bowen at the Chicago Tribune tells us what we want to hear.
  • Rich Campbell at the Chicago Tribune tries to allay my fears that Fox won’t be able to fix the quarterback position. It didn’t work.My only comfort in this regard is that Bears general manager Ryan Pace will ultimately make the final decision on Jay Cutler. He’s’ has been watching Drew Brees for a good chunk of his career so he knows what a quarterback looks like.

    Pace is certainly going to watch a lot of tape before he comes to a decision. That means eventually he’s going to put on the tape of the game his New Orleans Saints played against the Bears on December 15. At that point he’ll know that he has to get rid of Cutler.

  • Biggs addresses what will be the next media topic, one that might drive the offseason until March:

    “No one knows yet, but the guess here is Fox is comfortable going into 2015 with [quarterback Jay] Cutler as his quarterback.”

    Yeah, that’s the way I read it, too. Fox will, at least, probably do his best to de-emphasize Cutler’s role to the extent you can with a quarterback. I’d expect a heavy dose of running back Matt Forte next year.

  • Biggs also quotes former Panthers and Bears wide receiver Muhsin Muhammad:

    “‘One of the things I appreciated from Fox that he did for every single player was you knew your role on the team. So if you’re the third receiver and you’re fighting for that No. 2 spot in training camp and you don’t win it — you’re not going to have a coach who says, ‘Keep trying, you can get there.’ No, he’s gonna go, ‘Hey my man, No. 2 is No. 2 for a reason and you’re No. 3 for a reason. When we go to three receivers, you are going to be in the game. Right now, I need you to focus on being the gunner on the punt team and I need you to be the best gunner you can be.’”

    One of the things that every successful head coach seems to get through to his players is the mantra, “Do your job.” Step one is probably being crystal clear on what that job is. Fox seems to be able to do that.

  • Denver Post columnist Benjamin Hochman on the Fox hire. Via Patrick Finley at the Chicago Sun-Times:

    “Chicago should be a good fit for him – and if he ever wins a Super Bowl, he’ll be remembered not only as the coach to win a Super Bowl, but to do so with Winnie The Pooh’s Eeyore at quarterback.”

  • Kudos to Mark Potash at the Chicago Sun-Times for addressing the delicate issue of Fox’s health.
  • John Mullin at csnchicago.com does a nice job of describing some of the differences in the defensive scheme that we might see next year:

    “Fox has run a 4-3 defense since his time in Carolina, but it has been substantially different than what the Bears ran under Lovie Smith and radically different from the strange hybrid the Bears evolved into under Mel Tucker.

    “The Broncos under Fox were a 4-3 team. But they operated with massive tackles Terrance Knighton (331 pounds) and Sylvester Williams (313) and a defensive left end Derek Wolfe (285) in the mold of Phillip Daniels and Bryan Robinson from the days of Dick JauronGreg Blache’s two-gap jumbo front four.”

    “Fox, like the Seattle Seahawks’ 4-3 and some of the so-called 3-4 schemes, employed a smaller speed rusher as the fourth member of his front four. This season in Denver it was DeMarcus Ware (258 pounds, 10 sacks).”

    Fox also normally played a 4-3 over front in Denver (where the three technique tackle is on the strong-side) whereas the Bears played an under front last year.

    Do the Bears have the players to make this adjustment? Mullin thinks DE Jared Allen is more suited to the Denver scheme and points out that Ego Ferguson and Jeremiah Ratliff both might be successful. But they won’t have much defensive line depth. Add in the needs at linebacker and in the defensive backfield (which remain no matter what the scheme) and it seems clear that there’s considerable work to do on personnel if Fox makes this philosophical shift happen.

  • On a related note, Hub Arkush at chicagofootball.com comments on Fox’s search for coordinators.

    “I am fascinated by [Vic] Fangio off the job he’s done in Frisco, and although I couldn’t care less whether the Bears play a 4-3 or a 3-4 as long as they play it well, there are a number of 3-4 fanatics out there in Bears nation who might finally get their wish.”

    Fangio ran a 3-4 when he was defensive coordinator for the 49ers.

    I’m with Arkush. I don’t care what they run. But I’m having a hard time believing they’ll try to run a 3-4 base. I’d say that it’s more likely that Fox wants to run a hybrid defense of the type that’s in vogue in the NFL now. Fox probably figures he has the experience to coach a 40 front and might want to bring in Fangio to provide the needed expertise to occasionally switch to a three man line.

  • Arthur Arkush at chicagofootball.com looks back at the Bears 2014 special teams:

    Phil Emery allowing Devin Hester to escape to Atlanta last spring without a clear contingency plan backfired. Hester showed he had plenty left in the tank for the Falcons, while the Bears cycled through returners.”

    In fairness, Emery had a clear contingency plan. It just didn’t work.

    The Bears couldn’t keep Hester. He was going to demand too much money and the Bears couldn’t pay what the Falcons paid for a guy that Cutler flat out refused to throw to. Letting Hester go was best for everybody, especially him.

    Reading this article was actually painful. You forget how bad they really were until you see so many of the errors collected in one spot. Special teams was a clown show last season.

Elsewhere

  • Scott Osler at the San Fransisco Chronicle is worried about the 49ers. Most of us are. New coach Jim Tomsula sounds like Forrest Gump at the podium which doesn’t exactly inspire confidence that he’s going to be a team motivator. But Osler is worried about a deeper problem:

    “Coaches come and go. York and Baalke are as cemented in place as Levi’s Stadium, and, well, gulp.

    “This is not a coach-friendly setup. [General manager Trent] Baalke is [owner Jed] York’s football guide and mentor, so Jed will always side with and give power to Baalke, putting the head coach in a weak spot.

    “And what has either man shown to instill faith in their ability to lead a team to the Super Bowl?”

    Not much. The roster is loaded with talent but that’s obviously not enough. Tomsula looks like Baalke’s version of Jerry Jones‘s “F- you Jimmy Johnson I can even win with Barry Switzer” than a winning choice. In fact, the guess here is that Tomsula’s best qualification is that he’s a good solider who won’t ever contradict Baalke. That’s not a good sign for either man.

  • Michael David Smith at profootballtalk.com passes on the fact that Rex Ryan has hired former Bears offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer as his offensive line coach. That’s probably a good move for both of them.

One Final Thought

There is something strange when a new guy takes over at a company the way that Pace and Fox are taking over the Bears. Dan Wiederer at the Chicago Tribune quotes former Panthers offensive tackle Jordan Gross as he elaborates:

“You’ve got an opportunity when you come in right off the bat as a new head coach to utilize the excitement guys are going to have about you.”

There’s also a certain degree of fear. Suddenly the guy in charge doesn’t know you from Adam and your comfort level is gone. Suddenly, you wonder if your job is still going to be there in a few months. That leads to a focus that’s hard to replicate in any other way.

Most people believe that the Bears have embarked upon a multi-year rebuilding process. I think that belief is justified – if you are talking about building a consistent winner. But almost anyone can win for one year if the stars align correctly (e.g. the 2006 Bears).

The Bears actually have the talent to win if they stay healthy next year, if the ball falls their way enough and, especially, if enough guys play above their heads and have what amounts to career years. I’m not saying that they will – a lot of things have to go right. But they have a unique opportunity by starting fresh with new management. Here’s hoping they can take advantage of it.

Inside The Mind of Ryan Pace and Other Points of View

Bears

  • New Bears general manager Ryan Pace takes his first step on to the slippery slope that is quarterback Jay Cutler. Via the Chicago Tribune:

    “The quarterback obviously is a critical, critical position to achieve sustained success. But it’s not the only position. For us to have a lot of success, all 53 guys are going to be accounted for. So yeah, I witnessed things with Drew Brees that I have in my mind, that I know why he was successful. And those are ingrained in me. But I want to get to know Jay (Cutler). I want to get to know him further before I come to these conclusions.”

    You won’t really know him until he lets you down. And then its too damned late.

    Talk is cheap, Ryan. Watch the tape. Watch how he reacts when the team is up against it and the breaks are beating the boys. That will tell you everything you need to know.

  • Michael C. Wright at ESPN.com definitively demonstrates the worthlessness of statistics. A blind man could see that Cutler’s are the result of a season where more of the passes were high percentage and where a great deal of scoring was in garbage time. Having said that, I’d love to see his passer rating for the first half only. Who wants to bet its in the bottom 7 or 8 in the league amongst starters?
  • Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune reads my mind when considering who the next Bears head coach might be:

    “Pace doesn’t have to seek outside input when it comes to former Bills coach Doug Marrone, who was the Saints offensive coordinator from 2006 to 2008. A source described Pace and Marrone as ‘very close’ and it’s believed they have talked. Whether an interview has been scheduled yet is unknown.”

    Marrone’s got experience and by all accounts he had the Bills headed in the right direction. But he took the money and ran in Buffalo and the Bears don’t need another front-runner, especially running the team.

  • Maybe the Bears will target John Fox and maybe they won’t. Like Marrone, Fox is an experienced coach which would be a nice change. My guess is that he’d try to work around Cutler.Fox is by all accounts a winner and has the right personality. My only real problem with him is that, like almost all of the hot candidates, he comes from the defensive side of the ball. Its still all about the quarterback. But I’ll give Fox this. He’s shown multiple times that he can assemble a staff. He’d probably find the right coordinators if anyone can.
  • If you are looking for an encouraging sign, Hub Arkush at chicagofootball.com has one for you in what he noticed from Pace in his first press conference:

    “When asked about the main qualities he looked for in a football player, Pace immediately and without hesitation listed character, toughness, instincts and intelligence.

    “That is a radical departure from Phil Emery’s infatuation with athletes.”

    Nowhere does this Emery weakness show up more than in his draft choices at linebacker where the players have been slow to react and, therefore, rarely managed to play down hill. By all accounts Pace should do better.

  • Anyone else thinking that free agent coach Jason Garrett might be a decent Bears head coach? He’s been moderately successful and might be ready to get out from under Jerry Jones‘s thumb to take the next step. Just spitballing…
  • Jen Lada at CSNChicago.com interviews Pace:

    “As an evaluator, you’ve seen the challenges that this franchise faces going forward. Is it difficult to compartmentalize or start to prioritize where to begin?”

    “It helps me if I go with a step-by-step approach. Really in my mind it’s head coach first step. Assess this roster thoroughly because that’s where mistakes are made. If you don’t assess your strengths and weaknesses on your own roster that’s not accurate, then your offseason plan will be inaccurate. So I need to make sure I assess the roster right and then go forward with an offseason plan, with our new head coach.”

    To me, this is a very revealing answer. That’s mostly because this is the way that I, myself, think. Pace likely has a very organized mind. In his head he has a list of things to do probably actually written down on paper. He writes things down as they occur to him (he says so later in the interview), orders them and probably has an ideal plan for getting them done including a loose schedule for each step. However, there are drawbacks. Because he’s a “step-by-step” guy he’s unlikely to be a multitasker and, because of that, things won’t always be done efficiently. Ideally you evaluate the roster while you are searching for a head coach. Pace sounds like the kind of person who is unlikely to do that. People like this frequently handle things well as long as they go as planned. The key to success is often how well they handle things when they don’t go as planned.

    How Pace handles the administrative details of the job (the few that are exposed via the media) will be very interesting to track.

Elsewhere

One Final Thought

Mark Potash at the Chicago Sun-Times on the process by which Pace was selected:

“We felt it was a really great fit. We loved his intensity. It was more about what he brought to the table than any negative on anybody else. They were all good.’

“For what it’s worth, Pace won the interview.”

For what its worth. I don’t know much about Pace but what I do know about him – his concrete history – doesn’t exactly ease my concerns about whether he’s qualified to run the Bears. I can’t get past the idea that the Bears have hired the next Josh McDaniels – a young coordinator who was made the head coach of the Broncos before he was ready and failed spectacularly because of that.

I’d be a lot happier if Pace was 47 not 37. I’d be a lot happier if he had experience seeing things done more than one way with one team. And I’d be a whole lot happier if he’d actually been a GM before, someone who had already made his mistakes and had time to gain perspective, look back and see where he went wrong.

There was a lot of talk in the papers about the Bears “breaking out of their mold” by choosing someone without a history with the organization. But that’s not the point. The Bears did what they’ve been doing for about 30 years now – chose a young, inexperienced candidate who has never done it before. Maybe its time to stop choosing the guys who just win the interview.

A Message of Hope. Kind of. And Other Points of View.

Bears

  • David Haugh at the Chicago Tribune after last Thursday night’s loss:

    “Yet Thursday’s low point for the Bears wasn’t Tony Romo escaping an unblocked Willie Young to hit [ColeBeasley for the Cowboys’ third touchdown or defensive end Anthony Spencer ripping the ball from Matt Forte‘s grasp to create another costly turnover. The nadir came when the video board announced [ChrisConte‘s back injury and the crowd roared in approval. Stay classy, Chicago.”

    I don’t know who these people are or what hole they crawl out of when they get up in the morning. All I know is that I live near Soldier Field in Chicago and I don’t know a single person who would do it no matter how drunk and stupid they got. Not a single one. I don’t know what’s wrong with these people.

  • According to Ed Sherman at the Chicago Tribune, the rating for the Cowboys-Bears match up was 31% down compared to their Monday Night game last year. It probably doesn’t bode well for ABC/ESPN and the ratings for the Bears December 15 Monday Night match with the Saints. And it serves them right.

    The only good thing about this downward trend in the Bears fortunes is that we might catch a break and get fewer prime time games next year. Sometimes I think there isn’t a network executive anywhere in the country that wouldn’t get down on his or her knees and do terrible things to Roger Goodell if they thought it would help them keep Bears fans up all night for every game.

  • Adam L. Jahns at the Chicago Sun-Times encapsulates the Bears season:

    “Damning statistic of the day Part 1?

    “The Bears have allowed 30 passing touchdowns this year. It’s the most in franchise history and there are three games left, which includes a matchup with quarterback Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints on Monday Night Football.”

    “Damning statistic of the day Part 2?

    “After Thursday, the Bears have been called for 19 false starts this season and there are still three games left. Last year, the Bears only had nine.”

    I’m not normally a stats guy. But poor pass defense and poor discipline account for a pretty big chunk of the Bears problems.

  • I should have started paying attention to Kevin Fishbain‘s All-22 Slideshow at chicagofootball.com earlier in the season. Its excellent. Here he shows, amongst other things, why the Cowboys were able to rip off those long runs in the second half. I’ll give you a hint. The Cowboys blockers are really good. The Bears front seven is not.
  • Coming up with ideas to write two or three articles a day about how awful the Bears are has to be a tough job. But there seems to be no end to the creativity of the writers in town. From Dan Wiederer at the Chicago Tribune:

    “Opposing quarterbacks this season are completing 66.5 percent of their passes against the Bears, averaging 279 passing yards per game with 30 touchdowns and only 11 interceptions. That adds up to a 103.4 rating. Which means that if ‘Bears Opposing Quarterback’ were an individual player this season, he would have a rating that would rank fourth in the NFL among full-time starters – behind only [Aaron] Rodgers (118.6), Dallas’ Tony Romo (108.8) and Denver’s Peyton Manning (107.8).”

    • Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune answers your questions:

      “Should a Day 2 pick be used on a speed receiver (see Sammie Coates, Auburn) to take the top off the defense and keep the safeties honest? — Vic F., Springfield, Va., from email

      “I think the big frames of Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery give them separation at times. Yes, a speedy wide receiver would be a nice complement to the offense. No question about it. Just because a player is fast doesn’t mean he’s going to be a good fit in an offense. It’s tough to come up with a draft pick like Johnny Knox, who comes out of nowhere to be productive.”

      As Devin Hester implied earlier this season before the Bears played the Falcons, you need a quarterback who is going to throw to those receivers if you want to draft them. The Bears have big, tall receivers because those are the only ones Cutler can deal with.

    • Jon Bostic will play in place of the injured D.J. Williams at middle linebacker. I can’t get over the nagging feeling the middle is where strong side linebacker Shea McClellan really belongs… Via Mark Potash at the Chicago Sun-Times.
    • Kevin Fishbain‘s All-22 Slide Show at chicagofootball.com reveals that blown coverages are a regular feature of the Saints defense in 2014. Sounds familiar.

      I’m also wondering if Cutler is the type of quarterback who will pick up on them when they happen. Can anyone remember even one pass play by the Bears to a receiver on a blown coverage this season? There must have been some…

    • Hub Arkush at chicagofootball.com answers your questions:

      “From @pancho0721: Is there a scenario where [Aaron] Kromer/[Mel] Tucker/Joe D[eCamillis] all get fired but the Bears somehow bring back Trestman?

      “It is at least 50–50 or better that is exactly what will happen and, ironically, if one of those three were to survive, Kromer could be the most likely candidate. Tucker and DeCamillis were not Trestman hires – they were Phil Emery hires. It would be much less expensive for the Bears to fire all three coordinators together than it would be to fire Trestman, and it is also far less an indictment of Emery’s poor management than having to fire Trestman after two years would be.

      “Rumors were rampant prior to the Kromer escapade that Trestman’s job was safe for another year, and the silence from Bears management since the Kromer deal exploded does nothing to contradict that.”

      50-50 sounds kind of high for all three. And you’d be looking for three new coordinators to join a lame duck head coach. I think if the Bears were to do that it would be better for everyone if they just cleaned house completely.

    • John Mullin at csnchicago.com says that the bears moved quarterback David Fales on to the roster from the practice squad because other teams were interested in taking him. An optimist might say that speaks well of his future.

Elsewhere

  • Ben Goessling at ESPN.com has a note that will be of interest to the Bears, especially when they prepare to face the Vikings for their last game in late December:

    “When the Minnesota Vikings prepared to move into TCF Bank Stadium for two years, they did a temperature study of the stadium that led them to switch from the south sideline — where the University of Minnesota football team sets up at the stadium — to the north sideline. Because of the shadows created by the press box and the suites on the south side of the stadium, the Vikings figured the north sideline would be sunnier, and therefore warmer, during cold-weather games late in the season.

    “What they didn’t know is exactly how big a difference it would make.

    “The Vikings checked the temperature during last Sunday’s game against the Carolina Panthers — where it was 12 degrees at kickoff — and found there was a 20-degree difference between the north and south sidelines, coach Mike Zimmer said. By the middle of the game, shadows were covering most of the field but the Vikings’ sideline, and Zimmer said he had several players thank him for the Vikings’ decision to switch sidelines. “

  • Arkush on quarterback Jameis Winston:

    “Winston has more than enough talent to be a Pro Bowl quarterback in the NFL but he will not be on my draft board and I can guarantee you he won’t be on at least a third of the team’s in the leagues boards as well because of his off-field issues and on- and off-field immaturity. Remember Mike Vick’s little brother, Marcus?”

    Ouch.

One Final Thought

I’m used to guys like Steve Rosenbloom suggesting that coaches will or should be fired. I usually sit up and start paying attention when guys like Mullin start doing it.

“The future of Marc Trestman for 2015 was fairly assured going into Thursday night’s game against the Dallas Cowboys. Barring a catastrophic, franchise-embarrassing final four games, Trestman is generally expected to be given a third year to try to get this Bears thing fixed.

“That catastrophic piece was forming through three quarters of the Bears’ 41-28 loss to the Cowboys.

“But in the span of less than a full quarter, Trestman’s players may have in fact saved his job after putting it at serious risk (again). Whether they saved some other staff jobs, however, is another matter.”

“As coaches are clear about, coaches don’t cut players; players cut themselves with their performances. The ‘coaches’ equivalent of that is increasingly playing out on defense and special teams.”

I’ve got news for those of you hoping that Trestman will be fired. The Monday Night game against the New Orleans Saints might very well qualify as a “catastrophic loss”. Quarterback Drew Brees is and he knows how to pick apart a soft zone every bit as well as Aaron Rogers.

“It won’t be that bad”, you say? “The Saints are awful this year, too”, you say? I’ve got one response: “October 26 – Saints 44, Packers 23”.

Hold on to your hats.

Game Comments: Cowboys at Bears 12/4/14

Defense

  1. The Bears came out in their standard 4-3 in a zone. They were bringing a fifth man up on the line of scrimmage. There might have been a little more single coverage but the game plan looked like a carbon copy of last week.
  2. The Cowboys started to look more typical in their second series. They converted two fourth downs, one for a touchdown and ran the ball very well. The Bears, of course, brought more guys into the box but the defensive line couldn’t penetrate to stop them and DeMarco Murray got plenty of yards running the ball. The Bears were getting beat at the line of scrimmage and, as so often happens, as that battle goes, so the game goes.
  3. The Cowboys found a lot of yards throwing to DeMarco Murray underneath over the middle.
  4. As in previous weeks there was plenty of room for Cowboys receivers to work in the zones in the Bears backfield. They took advantage.
  5. The Cowboys didn’t run as much play action as I expected but when they did it was devastating. The Bears totally sold out to the run in two wide receiver sets.
  6. I thought the Bears generally had a tough time getting pressure on Tony Romo unless they blitzed.
  7. The Bears did a really terrible job filling their gaps in the second half. It looked to me like most of it was on a young linebacking corp. They were probably wearing down by then, too.
  8. The Bears miss Jeremiah Ratliff a lot when he’s not out there.

Offense

  1. The Bears came out with a run to Fort right off the bat. And ran on first down in the second set of downs. There were all kinds of Cowboys in the backfield and Forte didn’t get anything. The did get some yards on a sweep right after that. The drive stalled when another run got blown up in the backfield on a blitz. I won’t say that the running game was that bad but there’s more to running the ball than just calling the plays. Generally speaking I thought the Cowboys were getting good penetration.
  2. The Bears had took their shots down field with some success. They do real well when they get single coverage and the Cowboys mixed their defenses up.
  3. Jay Cutler wasn’t very sharp again. There were some bad throws out there. At least most of them were low.
  4. A lot of the plays were the same as the ones we always see. Lots of short stuff. Lots of dump offs to mMatt Forte and Martellus Bennett.
  5. I thought Bennett had a good game against his former team.
  6. I give the Bears credit for having the right plays called against the Cowboys blitz. They handled it pretty well.
  7. Cutler just hasn’t had time to develop a connection with Marquess Wilson. They don’t really look in sync.

Miscellaneous

  1. The kicking game was a disaster. The opening kickoff by Jay Feely short. A poor punt by Pat O’Donnell gave the Cowboys great field position near the end of the first quarter. That led to seven points. I really don’t know why the Bears decided to squib kick a kick off in the second quarter. All it did was give the Cowboys good field position. There was a blocked extra point, too.

    The Bears apparently just don’t believe in downing the ball in the end zone and taking it at the 20. I guess the idea is that you’d rather take it at the 15 occasionally and take your shots at a big play. I’m not sure I agree.

  2. I thought the out right drops in this game were minimal and had no impact.
  3. There were really too many penalties on both sides, especially on special teams. There was an illegal touch by the Bears on a punt in the first quarter that was notable. They were offsides on an onside kick in the fourth quarter. The Cowboys had a block in the back on a run back that took seven points off the board. They also had a couple pass interference calls that hurt them.
  4. A fumble by Matt Forte on the first possession of the second quarter was devastating.
  5. The Cowboys broke this game open with some big runs. Really the Bears just got beat at the line of scrimmage and their inexperienced linebacking corp was exposed. The offense looked better to me and they didn’t kick themselves in the backside nearly as often as they have in previous weeks. But the fumble in the third quarter really hurt and they struggled in general to make big plays.

    The Cowboys won this game in typical Cowboy fashion. They just over powered the Bears on offense and prevented the big play on defense. Perhaps the Bears saw what their own future should be on the other side of the ball. If they did, they need to do a better job of getting the right players to do it.

On the Value of Player Introductions and Other Points of View

Bears

  • I’m sure that Jared Allen was due for a veteran’s day off. But they had to give it to the new defensive end that everyone wants to see on Family Night at Soldier Field? Jeremiah Ratliff also got the night off.

    I understand that by giving these guys Saturday off, the Bears are effectively giving them two days in a row. But I still think it’s odd. They’re usually more fan-friendly. Via Rich Campbell at the Chicago Tribune.

  • On a related note, cornerback Tim Jennings‘s continued absence is becoming troublesome. Remember that he’s effectively trying to reconnect with the nickelback position. This is almost certainly stunting his growth.
  • Patrick Finley at the Chicago Sun-Times notes that Outkast was reunited during Lollapalooza across the street Saturday. That’s probably why Ratliff and Allen needed the night off.
  • Hub Arkush at chicagofootball.com on the continued absence of Chris Conte and Craig Steltz due to offseason surgery:

    “It’s hard to guess how significant their injuries are to the team’s future at safety as both players could be long shots to make the club this year after Adrian Wilson, Ryan Mundy, M.D. Jennings and Danny McCray were all brought in via veteran free agency and Brock Vereen was drafted in the fourth round.”

    “Wilson got his first reps with the starters at Friday’s practice and quite a few more Saturday night. While both starting safety spots will almost certainly be up for grabs for at least a few more weeks, the five-time Pro Bowler will be extremely difficult to unseat if he proves to be 100 percent healthy.”

    “Wilson and Mundy are the most experienced and accomplished of the safeties in camp and while both have played mostly strong safety, it’s hard to ignore they ran together with the first unit at Saturday night’s practice.”

    I would have to agree with Hub. We’ll see how the preseason goes but I think Bears fans might have seen what will eventually turn out to be the starters last night.

  • Also from Campbell:

    “There was another shotgun snap on the ground, this time by Roberto Garza. It’s happening too frequently.”

  • Most writers (including me) have trashed the idea of signing Kyle Orton to back up quarterback Jay Cutler. Most of us are convinced that Orton left the Cowboys because he wants to retire. Nevertheless statements made by general manager Phil Emery to ESPN radio make it apparent that he hasn’t ruled it out. Via Michael C. Wright at ESPN.com:

    “‘There’s an interest on our end on looking at any player that can help this team, and we continue to do that,’ Emery said. ‘We want to keep looking at players that can really have a legitimate chance to make our team. If there’s a quarterback, a wideout, a defensive person — a DB that could help us — we’re certainly gonna look at him.’ “

  • John Mullin at CSNChicago.com points out that the Bears third preseason game will be more significant than usual because its against Seattle:
  • Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune and Dave Birkett at the Detroit Free Press get together in this video and echo many of my own thoughts on the NFC North race:

Elsewhere

  • Former NFL general manager Charlie Casserly doesn’t seem to be thrilled with the Dallas Cowboy’s linebackers. To say the least. From The Dallas Morning News:

    “[Rolando] McClain … let me say this. I would never have taken this guy with the eighth pick in the draft. I think this guy is not good enough. I don’t think he’s physical enough. I don’t think his instincts are good. I don’t think he can cover; I don’t think he can play. To me, it was a trade that is a waste of time. They were hoping, I guess, to get a big guy in the middle because [Justin] Durant and [DeVonte] Holloman aren’t that kind of a guy. Hey, I’m going to go see them in 10 days. I hope he’s not there to waste my time with him.”

    Damn.

  • Brandon George a The Dallas Morning News says that Caleb Hanie is making the same impression on the Cowboys that he did with Bears fans:

    “The veteran quarterback from Forney [High School] hasn’t been sharp throughout the first week of camp. He’s struggled with his accuracy and seems far behind backup quarterback Brandon Weeden at this point.”

  • Steve Van Over at the Cowboys Nation has a request:

    “Tell me I did not read that Jerry Jones sent out playoff ticket options? No, really. I want you to tell me.”

    Sorry, Steve. Can’t help you, buddy.

  • Frank Buffington, also at Cowboys Nation, has an interesting take on the ability of Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett as a game manager:

    “Last season, Jerry Jones talked about Garrett learning and improving as a head coach. Jones appears to be banking on Garrett being able to either learn to be better in game management situations or simply hoping that he improves with experience. But what if assessing multiple variables in mere seconds while under tremendous pressure and while performing several other tasks just isn’t a particular talent or ability that Garrett has? Garrett appears to be a very analytical thinker, which is an asset for the development of a long term strategy. However, studies of personality types indicate that analytical people typically struggle when forced to make quick decisions. This is likely because they like to analyze and process a large amount of information when making decisions, which typically isn’t possible when a quick decision is required.”

    Buffington goes on to suggest that the Cowboys hire a “game management specialist”. Not too sure about that one…

  • Nick Fairley might still face a suspension from the NFL for his DWI in 2012. From Kyle Meinke at MLive.com.
  • Packer’s first round pick Ha Ha Clinton-Dix remains a back up behind Micah Hyde. It’s still early but considering how miserable the Packers were at the position last year, I’d say its not a good sign that Clinton-Dix hasn’t broken the lineup over one of the incumbents. From Tyler Dunne of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
  • To my eye the Packers were one of the worst tackling teams in the NFL last year. So I guess its no surprise that there’s some distress in Packer land about the lack of tackling in camp. Also from the Journal Sentinel.
  • The Packers are an anomaly in that, though they seem to draft reasonably well, Tom Silverstein at the Journal Sentinel points out that they’ve continued to miss in the first round. And its killing their defense.
  • Officials visited the Packers during their Family Night on Saturday and the defense got a little shock. From Rob Demovsky at ESPN.com

    “Even though they know the officials are placing an emphasis on contact in the passing game, they did not expect what they saw. There were about 20 reps in the [receiver-defensive back one-on-one drill] and by unofficial count, the officials threw flags on 10 of them. Only one was on a receiver.”

  • Ben Goessling at ESPN.com quotes Vikings special-teams coach Mike Priefer, on the NFL experimenting with a rule to move extra points back to the 15-yard line:

    “Eventually, it’s probably going to change. I’ve kind of accepted that fact. It’s going to be tougher for the northern cities that have the wind and the weather because a 33-yard field goal, to me, is still not a chip shot. Even the extra point, I know it’s 99 percent, but it’s something they want to change and if they want to do it, we have to embrace it like any other change on special teams. You’ve got to embrace it and change what we do a little bit and move on.”

One Final Thought

Wright on the player introductions last night:

“During Family Fest, the players are introduced by the public address announcer by position before the workout, and they run out of a smoke-filled tunnel as fireworks go off as they enter the field. As the offensive players were announced, they ran out of the tunnel individually. When the defensive players were announced, each position group came out of the tunnel simultaneously, as somewhat of a display of solidarity.”

I’ve never been a big fan of these player introductions. The NFL isn’t the NBA (thank goodness). Each player at least to some extent suppresses his individuality for the good of the team. The introductions of single players or even of position groups counter a lot of what the game is about.

I know they’re traditional and the Bears work hard to make them look nice with all of the smoke and the inflatable tunnel and all. But, really, would fans miss them all that much?

Honestly, they’re a waste of time and money.

Mike Singletary Gets HIs Due and Other Points of View

Bears

“‘Football players win football games,’ Mayock said. ‘If you’re in the first round … and you’ve got a guard that is rated as the 11th-best player in the country and you are at 20 and you’ve got a tackle that is rated as the 27th-best player in the country, I am taking the guard every single time. He is a better football player.

“‘I understand the whole thing about you can get linebackers later and you can get running backs later and you can get guards later. I get all that stuff, and I do value corners and left tackles. But at the end of the day, you better get good football players, especially in the first round.

“‘I don’t care as much at that point what position he plays. Just get me an All-Pro. If I am 20 and I am drafting an All-Pro, nobody will ever criticize that.'”

“If the Bears sign or draft a left tackle, could J’Marcus Webb be moved to guard? It seems to me that he doesn’t have the quickness to play outside but he could be a good run-blocker with his size. — Dave Andre, Berwyn

“Can’t see that, Dave. Webb has prototypical size for a tackle. His arms are too long for guard. And he sometimes doesn’t bend as well as he should and loses leverage. If Webb isn’t a tackle, he isn’t anything.”

“Out of curiosity, how many of the Bears’ offensive linemen could start on other teams? Would any of them rank in the top 10-15 at their respective positions? — epagnucc@yahoo.com

Lance Louis could start on a lot of teams and would, in my opinion, rank in the top 10-to-15 right guards in the league. Roberto Garza could start on a number of teams. On a good day, J’Marcus Webb could start on a number of teams. The problem is he doesn’t always have a good day. If Gabe Carimi can get his strength and confidence back, he can start on a number of teams. The Bears’ line might not be quite as bleak as it appears. But it still needs some upgrades.”

Pompei’s answer to this last question is interesting. First, I totally agree with it. But it presents a problem that has been bothering me. If the line is OK at so many positions, where do you start?

Realistically I think Lance Louis is about as good at a right guard as you’re going to get. And I do think Carimi was hurt last year and that he could still be a good, solid tackle. Garza’s play could have been better but its really not an issue (yet).

I think most of us agree that left tackle is an issue. If J’Marcus Webb isn’t consistent by now he’s never going to be. But left tackles don’t grow on trees and you may not be able to acquire anyone any better, as exemplified by this answer from Pompei:

“Do you see any of the three best free agent tackles — Jake Long, Ryan Clady, Brendan Albert — hitting free agency without their club placing the franchise tag on them? Should the Bears pursue one of these three? — Alex Navarro, El Paso, Tex.

“Long has the best chance of hitting free agency. Clady has virtually no chance. Albert probably won’t become a free agent, but his situation is a little hard to read because the Chiefs have a new general manager and head coach. But it would be foolish to let a good left tackle walk. I would say the Bears should pursue Long if they could get him at a reasonable price. And they probably can’t. Long has not played up to his reputation the last couple of years, which explains why the Dolphins would consider allowing him to leave.”

The only position Pompei omitted was left guard and realistically that’s a position that you could upgrade, especially if you are willing to spend a first round pick on one (which, unlike some people, I believe you should feel free to do – see Mayock’s comment above). That could help a lot. But is simply replacing the left guard really going to be enough to fix such a thoroughly criticized an offensive line?

  • Biggs reviews the quarterback position and what needs to be done in the offseason. While most of the talk has been about Cutler, its worth noting that the backup positions are also up in the air:

“[Jason] Campbell had a wealth of experience when he filled in for [Jay] Cutler in a difficult spot on the road at San Francisco on Nov. 18. He was sacked six times under an onslaught of pressure and basically just completed check-down passes. Paying big money to a backup quarterback is something [general manager Phil] Emery has to reconsider with a relatively tight cap situation. [Josh] McCown was added as a security blanket for the final seven weeks and he could always return in that role. Undrafted rookie free agent Matt Blanchard has been signed to a reserve/futures contract. It seems like every team has a goal of drafting a developmental quarterback annually but with only five picks that could be difficult for Emery to justify. What he does need to do is formulate a plan for a No. 2.”

“It should mean a lot more versatile uses for the running backs and more action in the passing game. To get the backs out in the pattern, though, there will need to be an upgrade on the offensive line so they’re not needed to protect the quarterback as regularly. Look for [Matt] Forte to be happy with his role. Veteran Skip Peete will take over as the position coach.”

“I heard that under the new CBA, players that are on the PUP list for an entire year do not lose that year from their contract, meaning they add another year to their original contract. Is this true? Do we still have Johnny Knox under contract? — Eric Weil, Downers Grove

“When a player is on the reserve/physically unable to perform list for an entire season, his contract rolls over to the following year. So Knox still is under contract with the Bears.”

“[Brian Urlacher and [Lance] Briggs have been the most dynamic performers at the same position for the Bears since Dan Hampton, Richard Dent and Steve McMichael combined on the defensive line in the 1980’s. The run could be over.”

I’ve been saying that for years. It hasn’t been true yet.

But its eventually going to be…

  • I’m having a very difficult time understanding Devin Hester. He’s clearly unhappy (via Vaughn McClure at the Chicago Tribune). What isn’t clear is why. He expresses his frustration about losing touches on offense, then says that he’d consider giving up his role on offense all together. And he still hasn’t given a clear explanation about why he doesn’t want to be a Bear. If its because former head coach Lovie Smith is gone, I don’t see how demanding a trade is going to help that.

Hester has never been all that good at expressing himself. But, honestly, I’m starting to question his stability.

 

“Bears, 55, 49ers 24, Ravens 3: This time, the Bears solve that Kaepernick guy, and then Ray Lewis gets arrested for violating noise laws.”

“The fallout from this list might be more interesting if Cutler cared about his image and reputation. But he seems to dislike America right back, and when you think about it, that’s probably a more efficient way to go. Devote your time and energy to things that matter.

“Craving public adoration is soulless. It also can be exhausting, first seeking out that kind of love, and then working to maintain it. Hate, though, means never having to say you’re sorry.”

Elsewhere

  • I thought this Audible from Pro Football Weekly made an interesting point:

“Did you see old-man (Tom) Brady? Time is catching up to him fast. Remember the fourth down at the end of (the AFC Championship) game — he could not outrun a nose tackle (Haloti Ngata). Then when he slid, he put his leg up in the air to protect his body. He looked (soft). I hate to see him go down like this, but he is playing soft right now. I thought the whole team followed his lead. They got punched in the mouth in the second half, and they did not respond. They lost their identity.”

  • And while we’re at it, here’s another Audible that might interest Bears fans:

“I was down on (San Diego State TE) Gavin Escobar as a blocker after watching the Boise game — he flashed and didn’t work his feet. Then I ended up watching three more and thought he did a lot better. He’s an interesting guy, especially with the way this league is trending.”

“One of the reasons Rod Marinelli was such an important hire for the Cowboys is he can help out 72-year old defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin. Marinelli was hired to coach the defensive line, but some familiar with the situation would not be surprised if Marinelli becomes the de facto defensive coordinator. Many in the business believe Kiffin is not the coach he used to be.”

“The biggest problem with the Chiefs’ offense was it was predictable and basic. Defensive coordinators were having a field day manipulating the offense into checking into exactly what they hoped for. As one AFC defensive coordinator put it, ‘I felt sorry for the Chiefs offensive players. They had no chance. We could make them check into max protect every time.'”

  • Commissioner Roger Goodell on drug testing:

“‘I believe HGH testing will happen before the 2013 NFL season,’ Goodell said. ‘It’s the right thing to do for the players and it’s the right thing to do to send a message to everyone else in sports. The science is there. We need to get to that agreement.”

I’ll believe it when I see it because I can’t imagine the players will allow it unless its diluted to the point that its meaningless. If real testing is done where the maximum blood level is at a reasonable amount, it will change the game forever.

No way it happens.

  • Rick Morrissey at the Chicago Sun-Times on Ray Lewis and his role in the double murder 13 years ago:

“The media’s role in telling his story, especially TV’s mythmaking, is an embarrassment. Without the deaths being mentioned in the narrative, you’re writing fantasy. It’s like writing about the New World explorers and conveniently forgetting the pesky raping, murdering and pillaging.

“Lewis is smart, the same way Lance Armstrong is. He knows that for every person who questions him, there are 50 who want to believe in his story, and that it’s only a matter of time before the many sweep away the few. It’s how we ended up with the gooey prose that came out of the Ravens-Broncos playoff game, when the postgame handshake between Lewis and Peyton Manning was treated like something drawn by Norman Rockwell.”

Like Morrissey, this behavior by fans and the media used to worry me. It doesn’t anymore because I’ve learned that fans will shamelessly root for almost any athlete if it means helping the team win. But, as happened with Scotty Pippin with the Bulls and Sammy Sosa with the Cubs, once an athlete retires, an uncomfortable feeling sets in and suddenly people don’t want these guys around. The guess here is that ESPN, who is reportedly hiring Lewis to do commentary after the game when he retires, is about to find that out.

  • From Sean Jensen at the Chicago Sun-Times:

“The NFL Players Association released a health and safety survey Thursday in which 78 percent of players polled said they didn’t trust their team’s medical staff.

“Additionally, only 43 percent of respondents, who represented all 32 teams, rated team training staffs as ‘good.'”

“Moss’ combination of speed, length and ability to ‘high point’ the ball made him the best deep threat of his generation … but not the greatest all-around receiver in history.”

Pompei is, of course, correct. However in Moss’s defense, for his first three years with the Vikings, he was, indeed, the greatest receiver I’ve ever seen. Though Rice is statistically the best over an entire career and what Brandon Marshall did this year for the Bears absolutely astounded me, no one has ever come close to Moss as a deep threat over that time period.

 

One Final Thought

Pompei writes a nice column about the influence former Bears linebacker Mike Singletary had on Lewis and 49ers tightend Vernon Davis.

I didn’t feel good about the way that Singletary’s candidacy for the Bears head coaching job was treated by some in the media and many of the fans. Like other Bears greats who have gone on to be good head coaches elsewhere and not for the Bears, Singletary was the wrong guy in the wrong spot for the position. But I’m certain he’ll make a very good head coach when someone gives him another chance. I hope that time comes soon. In the mean time, its nice to see this article giving him his due.

All Gabe Carimi Needs is Time and Other Points of View

Bears

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oo the other hand we have this from Pompei:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Elsewhere

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kelly is rumored to basically already have the Cleveland job.

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


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

Columnist Gary Meyers comments:

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

“Clearly, he was not kidding.”

 

One Final Thought

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

Now That’s How a Press Conference is Supposed to Be Handled and Other Points of View

Bears

“How much more does Phil Emery need to see?

“On Sunday, the Bears general manager saw a miserable Bears offense, a problem that has dogged Smith for one fired offensive coordinator after another. Even in beating the Lions 26-24 to keep alive their playoffs hopes that the Vikings killed with an upset of Green Bay, the Bears’ offense was a whole lot of miserable with several slices of brutal.”

“The players should get some blame, as well, and maybe they couldn’t reach the playoffs under any coach, but they didn’t reach the playoffs under Smith.

“Again.

“How could Emery look at this situation and think it will be all better under Smith when it’s only getting worse?

“He can’t.”

And he didn’t. Its been nine years. Smith couldn’t seem to identify or attract good offensive coordinators. And he can’t or won’t coach offensive talent.

I finally lost faith. The Bears were never going have a decent offense under Smith. And the NFL is an offensive – specifically a passing – league. I hate to see any man fired. But it really was time to move on.

“Left unsaid was something that was said in a Soldier Field locker room in December of 1981.

“The Bears had just won their final game of that season but finished with a 6-10 record. A starting offensive lineman was asked whether he thought head coach Neill Armstrong should be fired.

“‘No,’ he said emphatically. ‘We might get somebody like Dick Vermeil in here.’

“The Eagles coach was a winner but difficult on his players. He was demanding and unafraid to call out players who didn’t meet his demands.

“In contrast, Armstrong was as, well, as nice a person as ever coached in the NFL.

“The offensive lineman in question’s worst fears were realized. The Bears hired Mike Ditka, who as a head coach made even Vermeil seem more like Armstrong.”

I suggested before the Lions game that the players might be a little too comfortable under Smith. Like Imrem, I’ve got a feeling this might be a good shake up in that respect.

  • Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune on the lousy way the Bears handled the head coaching situation:

“…Smith really is being fired at the wrong time. He won 10 games and all six losses came to playoff teams, most of which the Bears ran into when they were hot.

“The time to fire Smith was a year ago when [former general manager Jerry] Angelo was pushed out the door. But team president Ted Phillips said all sorts of glowing stuff about Smith and said he based his decision on the consistency he brought to the job. In a lot of positive ways, he has been consistent. His offenses also have consistently struggled and then there is the whole not-making-the playoffs thing again. More than likely, Smith was paired with Emery because the Bears didn’t want to pay Smith for two seasons not to coach the club.

“The time to fire Smith was after the 2009 season when the Bears started 3-1 and then lost eight of their next 10 games before ultimately finishing 7-9. The offense was jumbled and Smith’s defense got run over at times. But the Bears did not want to fire Smith – who had two years remaining on his contract – and risk paying two coaches not to coach the club in 2011 when ownership knew there would be a lockout. So, Smith was allowed to can half of his offensive staff, including coordinator Ron Turner, and a messy replacement search began and ultimately ended with his friend Mike Martz. Smith then got the team to shell out maximum dollars in free agency for pass rusher Julius Peppers to fix his defense.

“Smith guided the Bears to the NFC Championship Game the following year and earned a contract extension.”

What I find most frustrating is that the problem goes back before even this. Jerry Angelo was saddled with Dick Jauron for a year after he was hired and forced to keep him on after that when Jauron mustered a decent record. The team made the same mistake twice, saddling a general manager with a coach not of his own choosing.

For what its worth, Emery predictably denies that the year was a problem:

“‘Absolutely not,’ he said. ‘No. 1, coach Smith is an excellent person, I’ve learned a lot from him, I’ve learned a great deal about our coaches. I like a lot of our coaches, I think we have a fine group, some of them may end up back here so that was very valuable.'”

“Asked about the offensive line, Emery said he used the NFL’s STATS, Inc. and Pro Football Focus to get an unbiased evaluation of the line.

“”I went to STATS Inc., went through all the numbers. Went to Pro Football Focus, did all the numbers,” Emery said. ”I’m familiar with STATS Inc. We’re one of their contracted teams. Spent quite a bit of time with their people, not only their programmers but went to their offices, watched how they grade tape, how they triple check all their facts.

“”So I trust all their data, that’s it’s unbiased, that it doesn’t have my hands in it, that it doesn’t have our coach’s or scout’s hands in it, or anybody else in the league. They are simply reporting fact. Some ways to look at it is in a very Money Ball way, crunching the numbers.”

“The numbers revealed that the Bears were 26th in the NFL in pass protection, ”which tells me we’ve got to get better,” he said. But he added that three teams ranked below the Bears were in the playoffs and the 49ers were 25th. ”So I can’t absolutely say it’s the offensive line that’s going to determine our success or not.””

He also said that he didn’t look at run blocking because its so subjective.

It’s a good idea to use statistics as a tool but, as Emery noted when he looked at the evaluation of the 49ers offensive line, they are limited. Its good that he seems to know that.

  • I’m going to have to think a little more about his explanation for why the offensive line wasn’t improved last offseason (via Sean Jensen at the Chicago Sun-Times). I understand that the opportunities were limited and I totally agree on that score:

“My though process was, before we went into the draft, to analyze with our coaches and with our staff, we’ve got two tackles and we had determined that was our greatest need. We felt good about our guard, our interior play. We felt good about Roberto Garza going into the season and looking at the STATS Inc. stuff, the guy had a solid season. We felt good about Lance Louis. He had a solid season before he got hurt. We felt that for the left guard, we had a number of candidates. We had a bunch of guys that had a number of starts. We certainly had enough in reserve, between starters and backups, for the interior play. So for us, it was a tackle question. What’s the age of the two guys that we have? 24. Is there a young tackle in this draft that, at the end of this fall, is going to clearly be better than the two young 24-year-old tackles that we have? That’s the question I had to ask myself.”

The only critical comment I have here is that Emery kind of blew off the left guard position in his explanation. Saying that you had guys who had started before in the league and a lot of back ups to cover the position isn’t the same thing as saying that it couldn’t have been improved. Personally, I think it could have been. I’m not sure it should have been under the circumstances. Everything you do there means you can’t do something somewhere else. But I think it could have been improved had they decided to do that, something I’m not sure you could have reasonably expected at the other positions.

“A month after being hired as the Packers’ general manager in 1991, Ron Wolf fired Lindy Infante with one coach in mind as his replacement: larger-than-life Bill Parcells, then in hiatus as an analyst for NBC.

“Wolf had casual discussions with Parcells about the Packers job. But after he interviewed 49ers offensive coordinator Mike Holmgren, Wolf knew he had his man.

“‘Very briefly into the interview, I knew there wasn’t any sense to go further,’’ Wolf said at the time. ‘‘I felt like I had known Mike all my life.’

“That was about as far as that coaching search went. Holmgren was hired on Jan. 11, 1992, and the rest is Packers history.

“‘That’s the synergy I’m looking for,’ Bears general manager Phil Emery said Tuesday. ‘I want that person to grab me. I want to see it. I want to hear it. I want to walk away from it and know that that’s our guy.’

“In need of a home run after firing the beloved and respected Lovie Smith following a 10-6 season, it would make sense that Emery’s next move would be to make Jon Gruden or Bill Cowher an offer he couldn’t refuse. Instead, it appears he’s more intent on using his football intuition to find the right guy.”

“‘Ah, there’s a lot of good candidates out there,’ Gruden told me. ‘I’m just focused on the Outback Bowl.'”

That’s not a “No”…

  • Cowboys special teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis has been identified by Jay Glazer at FOX Sports as a Bears coaching candidate. That comes as this excerpt appeared in Pro Football Weekly‘s Whispers column:

” Cowboys special-teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis is receiving attention for soon-to-be vacant head-coaching positions. For years, he has been regarded as a future head coach, whether on the college or pro level, and this could be his first serious crack at getting interviews.”

  • Mike Holmgren says he’d like to coach somewhere next year. He’s intriguing. I wonder if his offense would mesh with Cutler, though. Is he the kind of adaptable coach Emery is looking for? It’s worth thinking about.

“There is no need for Phil Emery to be locked into hiring a head coach with an offensive background.

“But there is an overwhelming need for him to be locked into hiring someone who has foolproof answers on how to fix the offense.

“And that probably means the Bears should hire an offensive guy.”

“His first question for those candidates [without an offensive background] should be: Who is your offensive coordinator going to be?

“If the answer is a young offensive coordinator who could get a head coaching job if he has success, that candidate can’t be valued as highly as someone who would have a longer-lasting offensive solution.

“If a candidate without an offensive background were to guarantee he could bring along someone like Norv Turner or Chan Gailey as his offensive coordinator, he would be worth listening to. Turner and Gailey have had offensive success and are not likely to become head coaches again.”

 

  • How’s this for an odd quote from quarterback Jay Cutler on the firing of Smith? Via Biggs:

“‘We have a lot of good pieces offensively personnel wise and hope we get a good coordinator and play caller to make it work,’ he said.”

For heaven’s sake, Jay, why don’t you tell us what you really think?

“‘I think the important thing is that we continue to build around him,’ Emery said. ‘When I look at our team in the past and the team that I watched on tape and the team that I watched this fall, we’ve got to get better at the midfield area of making plays. Whether that is involving Matt Forte more and again I am going to be frank: Matt was brought back and I was excited about his signing because a big part of that is him as a pass receiver. For whatever reason, whether it was protection or whether it was utilization or whether it was catching, we didn’t utilize Matt or he didn’t have the opportunity to be fully utilized.'”

“‘It’s very important that that person either himself or staff wise has the right person to help Jay develop, but it’s also very important that they help everyone develop,’ Emery said.”

It’s critical that Cutler get a coach who can help him. One that he respects and will listen to. Personally, I think the best way to ensure that is to hire the offensive mind behind the team as the head coach and to make sure that coach has a sucessful background coaching quarterbacks. But however its done, its probably the most important part of the process.

“Of the last 10 Super Bowl winners, only one had a starting left tackle that was a first-round pick.”

“Guess who started for the Steelers at left tackle against the Packers two years ago? Jonathan Scott. He started seven games for the Bears at right tackle and it would not be surprising if they consider bringing him back into the fold.”

  • Adam L. Jahns at the Chicago Sun-Times quotes a delusional Henry Melton after the Bears beat the 4-12 Lions by 2 only points after being handed four turnovers:

“‘I feel we’re definitely a Super Bowl-caliber team,’ he said. ‘And for us not to get in is going to be heart-breaking.'”

“Emery doesn’t have a preference for a 4-3 or a 3-4 defense but said the team’s personnel is geared for a 4-3 and that the new coach would have to do a great job of convincing him the team could make the transition to a 3-4 with the players currently in the mix.

“‘I think it’s really important to find the person that has the knowledge and feel to make things fit with the talent that they have,’ Emery said. ‘That’s the mark of excellence that I’m looking for. Somebody that has adapted to the role or has the flexibility and the skill set to make the players that we have fit toward making a run for the championship.'”

Technically this isn’t true. Emery said the Bears didn’t have the personnel to run a “true 3-4” meaning a two gap scheme with three large linemen. The one gap schemes like the one Houston defensive coordinator Wade Phillips uses would presumably require less adjustment.

“Part of the appeal of a special teams coach is he is the only coach other than the head coach that works with nearly the entire roster. Emery, a strength and conditioning coach in college, has a similar background as an assistant who works with all players. In that way, he shares a common background with [Bears special teams coordinator Dave] Toub, who was a strength coach for 15 seasons at Missouri and UTEP.”

“‘When I was in Minnesota and they did this drill called long stride, short stride … before, I used to just run and then shoot my gun and the guy would step to the side. But when I got up there we did a thing called long stride, short stride, which long stride you are running and running and then right when you get to the point of attack you go to short strides and then accelerate through. That has helped me out a lot.’

“Bears special teams coordinator Dave Toub said he’s going to look into the drill Bowman describes during the offseason and consider implementing it and borrowing from Vikings special teams coach Mike Priefer.

“‘He is having a great year. He’s been consistent,’ Toub said of Bowman. ‘He’s better than he was before. No question. They definitely taught him some things at Minnesota. It has definitely made a difference for him. There’s something to it.'”

 

“Before #Bears left locker room I asked long snapper Pat Mannelly if he was nervous watching GB-Minn game. ‘My kid is not playing in it.'”

Elsewhere

  • No surprise that the Cardinals are already mishandling their hiring process. Someone, preumably from the organization, is saying the chances are 95% that Andy Reid will take the job. Perhaps it would be better to interview him first, don’t you think? From the Chicago Tribune.
  • An interesting Audible from Pro Football Weekly with some truth and which peripherally mentions the Bears:

“Missing on two drafts two years in a row does not hurt San Diego (for) those two years. It hits 3-4 years down the road when those (draft picks) are supposed to be good starters and depth players. The draft-heavy teams like San Diego and Chicago that really don’t like dipping into free agency or the waiver wire — when they realize they don’t have six or eight positions that they can play with, it forces you to jump in (to free agency). San Diego got involved with free agency the last two years and they missed on (the players they signed). It put them behind the 8-ball, to where they are reacting instead of acting. The bad drafts caught up to them. That’s how you fall off.”

  • You wouldn’t think a huge network like ESPN would be this insecure. Via Mike Florio at profootballtalk.com.

“[L]eague sources say that even during the playoff season, the Fords were disturbed by a number of incidents that fell under Schwartz’s domain. Schwartz’s occasional gruff management personality also has come under scrutiny and will be addressed by ownership if Schwartz is back in 2013.”

Kevin Seifert, also at ESPN, comments:

“[I] question whether firing Schwartz would repair the ‘tattered team culture’ Mortensen identified in his report. To be fair to him, Schwartz is one-third of the Lions’ leadership team. Is he solely to blame for the Lions’ culture? Don’t general manager Martin Mayhew and team president Tom Lewand contribute to that as well? “

They do. But every team to some extent reflects the personality of its head coach and there can be little doubt that the Lions’ lack of discipline reflects that of Schwartz.

“(419):

“Could have had sex with an ex NFL kicker last night.

“(206):

“That would’ve been embarrassing.”

 

One Final Thought

I could not agree more with Potash’s assessment of Emery’s press conference:

“But the only bizarre aspect of Phil Emery’s press conference on the firing of Lovie Smith was how un-Bear-like it was. How un-Lovie-like it was. How rational it was. It was like a real press conference — with substantive, detailed answers to legitimate questions. Instead of being insulted by a question about the offensive line and making us feel stupid for asking about it, Emery provided a step-by-step analysis of the line’s performance and why he did not address it in last year’s draft — the only thing missing were charts and graphs. He gave us more information we didn’t know in one 10-minute answer than Lovie Smith did in nine years. I was tempted to ask Emery ‘What time is it?’ just so I could learn how to build a watch.”

Emery taught me a lot about the team yesterday in one 54 minute press conference and I deeply appreciate that. I also noticed that it started exactly on time for once. He was as straight forward and transparent as you could reasonably expect. It was a pleasure to watch.

Its been less than a year and I already like him better than I ever liked Smith in nine. Let’s hope that feeling lasts.