The Rich Get Richer. The Bears Don’t. Yet.

Dan Wiederer at the Chicago Tribune reports that the Bears once again received no compensatory draft picks.

These can be as high as third round picks depending upon the nature of the lost free agents the year before. For instance, the Lions could receive a third round pick in 2016 after the loss of Ndamukong Suh. The acquisition on Haloti Ngata after the loss of Suh was by trade and wouldn’t count against them in the formula used to calculate who gets what picks.

It’s easy to dismiss these often low round picks as being unimportant but they’re not. As has been said many times, the draft is a crap shoot and the more rolls of the dice you get, the more likely it is you’ll come up with a good player. The rich get richer in this respect because the good teams tend to be the ones that lose the good players. The Broncos, Chiefs and Seahawks all received four compensatory picks and the Ravens and Texans were awarded three apiece.

Meanwhile the Bears are stuck in what amounts to a catch 22. They have to sign free agents to make up for misses in the draft and they’re more likely to miss in the draft because they don’t have enough picks. Last year the Bears signed a slew of players – defensive ends Jared Allen, Lamarr Houston and Willie Young plus safety Ryan Mundy. This year they’ve already signed linebacker Pernell McPhee, safety Antrel Rolle, guard Vladimir Ducasse and wide receiver Eddie Royal. As Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune points out, they’re likely to sign quite a few more as they bargain hunt in the secondary free agent market:

“One veteran agent described it as a stare-down between clubs and players. Clubs are looking for budget buys with the goal of signing many players to minimum-salary-benefit deals. Players who thought they would be in line for something more are still trying to wrap their minds around the idea of playing for less. Both sides are waiting for the other to blink.”

“The Bears need to add defensive linemen. Jeremiah Ratliff and Ego Ferguson are likely to line up at nose tackle. The options at defensive end are not quite as clear. Coach John Fox said the ideal player for the scheme is a ‘longer three technique.’ Of course, the model for the position is the Texans’ J.J. Watt, but aspiring to find a player with his skill set and actually doing it are two different things.”

The Bears are also said to be interested in center Stefen Wisniewski.  They will need to sign a considerable number of other players to fill out the depth chart as well. Some of those signings could come at the league meetings which are currently being conducted – Adam Jahns at the Chicago Sun-Times points out that agents are working the hallways and courtyards of the Arizona Biltmore in Phoenix.  All of these signing could count against them.

No one is suggesting that teams aren’t being penalized when they lose a free agent – the compensatory draft pick is never close to the same value as the free agents lost. Nevertheless, the draft is the life blood of every team and those picks can become valuable players acquired for a cheap price. I look forward to the day when the Bears will be getting more chances to hit the lottery in this respect because it means that they will be ranked amongst the elite franchises. The only way that they’re going to get there is to start consistently hitting on the few draft picks they have, alleviating the need to run out and sign free agents to fill holes all over the field.  They also have to resist the temptation to make the splash signings that can often look better on paper than on the field.  Fortunately general manager Ryan Pace seems to be avoiding the temptation to do that. Again, fro Jahns:

“The win-now pressure that seemed to drive Emery isn’t as prevalent. Pace, who will meet with the Chicago media on Tuesday, is widely regarded in league circles to have a big rebuild on his hands, and the draft is the best way to do that.

Until the Bears are finished rebuilding, fans just have to be patient and wait for success to come their way.  Fortunately, this time it looks like it might be the proper way.

The Bears Reasonable Approach to Free Agency and Other Points of View

Bears

  • Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune gives the details of the Bears first three free agent signings of 2015. The interested observer will note that each of these contracts is about as front-loaded as you could make them. None has a great deal of guaranteed money past the second year.

These signings look like the type that are meant to allow maximum flexibility once the prospects which they will supposedly be developing come into their own. They’re also meant to spend the 2015 cap space that the Bears have available essentially as quickly as possible. The Bears definitely aren’t looking to buy a championship anymore. At least not this year. Hopefully they’ll leave some room to negotiate an extension with Alshon Jeffery and possibly Matt Forte. I understand the reluctance to extend Forte yet another deal at his age but he’s been very healthy and he’s still the most productive all around player this team has.

  • Speaking of Forte, Rich Campbell at the Chicago Tribune asks (and answers) the following question:

    “Now that Jay Cutler has been named the starter, how can the Bears prop him up?

    “Pace and new coach John Fox have hammered the importance of a strong running game and good defense.”

    Continuing the theme of how the offense is changing, Biggs makes some good points:

    “[Eddie] Royal gives [offensive coordinator Adam] Gase a receiver who can run option routes and crossing routes and be an underneath target as part of a combination. He can be in the flat when [Alshon] Jeffery is running a curl or corner route. Royal can be lined up tight to the alignment with Martellus Bennett, who can run high with Royal running low. They are two-level reads for Cutler the Bears didn’t have last year.”

    Yeah, sure, I get it. And with a running game you can add play action. Before you know it, you have a big boy NFL offense.

    The question is, “do the Bears have the personnel to run one?”. Campbell calls adding a running attack a “quick fix” because the Bears have Forte but I’m thinking the Bears aren’t going to be able to do this without doing some serious shuffling along the offensive line. The one thing former Bears head coach Marc Trestman didn’t do was emphasize things that he didn’t think his players could do. I think they didn’t run the ball more is because he didn’t think they could block it.

    The new blocking scheme will add an interesting wrinkle here and its possible that the finesse blockers the Bears have up front will do better with it. We’ll see.

  • On a related note, Biggs is reporting that the Bears are making a run at Dolphins free agent center Samson Satele. I’m a little iffy on whether this would be a clear upgrade or not. Satele is a smallish center who had a reasonably good start to 2014 but his performance apparently fell off late in the year. Satele is younger than current Bears center Roberto Garza and if the Bears sign him, Garza might move to right guard and kick Kyle Long to the outside at left tackle.

Center Stefen Wisniewski is being considered by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Seahawks per Kevin Patra at NFL.com. I thought maybe the Bears would make a run at him but there’s no apparent interest.

  • Adam L. Jahns at the Chicago Sun-Times reports the excitement that Bears head coach John Fox felt when he watched quarterback Jimmy Clausen‘s snaps last year:

    “So I’ve seen a guy that’s matured. I watched his one start [and] a lot of preseason snaps that he was involved in, and I’ve seen him grow as a quarterback.”

    Whatever else you think of former Bears head coach Marc Trestman, he seems to have been a pretty good quarterbacks coach. You have to wonder if Clausen will regress under new quarterbacks coach Dowell Loggains. Some will recall that Loggains pushed for the Browns to draft Johnny Manziel over Teddy Bridgewater, then coached him to some of the most miserable quarterback play the league has ever seen. The Browns apparently fired him for it.

    It’s still a quarterback driven league. I don’t think its a coincidence that the Packers coaching staff is always loaded with former quarterbacks coaches. You have to wonder if the Bears have the support on staff that’s needed to maximize what they can get out of theirs.

  • Hub Arkush at chicagofootball.com has personal experience with new Bears safety Antrel Rolle and says that we can expect him to be a vocal leader in the locker room that they’ve been missing.
  • Campbell continues to speculate about where the pieces are going to fit on defense:

    Jeremiah Ratliff and Ego Ferguson project as nose tackles in the 3-4, so the need to draft Washington’s Danny Shelton, for example, is smaller than how much a top-flight edge-rush prospect could help.

    Jon Bostic stands out as a leading candidate for playing time at inside linebacker, but few others do. And the Bears still are searching for big-bodied 3-4 defensive ends.”

    An awful lot of this depends upon what type of 3-4 the Bears decide to play. If its the classic, 2-gap type then I’m not entirely convinced that Ratliff won’t play defensive end. Certainly he’ll play a great deal of outside linebacker but Houston will probably see a great deal of time there. They’ll probably also try Will Sutton there.

    In any case, I’m saying that defensive line is one of, if not the top, needs that the Bears have. I’m also going to say that I’d hate to see the Bears pass on Shelton, especially to take an edge rusher where the Bears have all kinds of options. My gut tells me Shelton’s a player with that rare and possibly necessary body type and, especially if Ratliff plays more end, they’re going to want a good nose guard.

Elsewhere

  • Ben Goessling at ESPN on the Vikings acquisition of wide receiver Mike Wallace and the release of Greg Jennings:

    “Wallace seemed like a good fit for Norv Turner’s vertical passing game, more so than a 32-year-old Jennings did, but Jennings still was an effective enough slot receiver, a fine route-runner and a trusted adviser for younger wideouts that it looked like he could return in 2015. All that wasn’t worth $11 million in cap space to the Vikings, though, especially when they could save $6 million by releasing him.”

    “Wallace is no sure thing, either, after his relationship with the coaching staff fractured in Miami, but he’s three years younger, a few tenths in the 40-yard dash faster and a better schematic match for what the Vikings are doing now. “

    No, Wallace certainly isn’t a sure thing. But the odds are that Vikings offensive coordinator Norv Turner will find a better way to use him to his abilities than they did in Miami. On the other hand, Turner had an obvious problem with Jennings, opting to call receiver Charles Johnson the best on the team after the season “by far”. So that’s addition by subtraction there.

    Its hard not to like what’s going on in Minnesota right now. You wonder in quarterback Teddy Bridgewater‘s second season if they aren’t going to be ready to contend with the Packers. Again via Goessling:

    “‘I think you saw the receivers did some good things last year, but you saw us start evolving in the offense, because it’s the first year in the system, too,’ general manager Rick Spielman said Friday night, after the Vikings treated free-agent defensive end Michael Johnson to dinner. ‘And you saw how much more comfortable Teddy was, especially down the stretch. And they start developing that chemistry. Now, getting another big-play potential threat, as our young guys continue to develop, that’s kind of the direction we wanted to go.’ “

    Bottom line, the Vikings are worth watching.

  • Goessling also comments on the Adrian Peterson situation:

    “[A]s I understand it, the relationship between Peterson and the team might not even be the biggest concern at this point. The running back went, in very short order, from being a beloved figure in Minnesota to a pariah, as sponsors retreated and legislators heaped scorn on the Vikings for their initial decision to play Peterson following his indictment for child injury charges. He was stung by a Minneapolis Star Tribune investigation into his past, and claimed it did not take into account Peterson’s steps to clean up both his personal life and financial misappropriations in his charitable foundation. And he certainly heard the people — fans, media members and public figures alike — who called for the Vikings to end their relationship with him. It’s important to note all of these events are down the river from Peterson’s initial actions. His excessive discipline of his son initiated this, and Peterson has expressed regret for his actions in several interviews.”

    People are generally the same everywhere but the people of the state of Minnesota tend to be odder birds than most. Its a reasonably liberal state with strong notions of right and wrong. Its easy to believe that they were particularly hard on Peterson. Maybe too hard.

    Heaven knows its nice to see a fan base that doesn’t just roll over and forgive every action just because it was perpetrated by a star athlete. But Minnesota may be one of the few areas in the country that will never forgive Peterson no matter how sorry he is. I still think he’ll be back there. But its possible that he’ll eventually conclude that he has to force himself into a friendlier situation.

  • One of the free agents to keep an eye on in the secondary free agent market is Tramon Williams. The Packers already lost Davon House to Jacksonville and Rob Demovsky at ESPN says that they’d like to have Williams back. But at age 32 there’s a limit to what they’re going to offer him.

Williams is a possibility for the Bears but they’ve probably got their corners set with Tim Jennings on one side and Kyle Fuller on the other. And if they were going to sign a corner of a certain age it might as well be Charles Tillman.

  • Dan Hanzus at NFL.com points out that when it rains, it pours:

    “This time last year, [Jadeveon] Clowney was on top of the world. A college hero, combine wonder and soon-to-be No. 1 overall pick in the NFL draft. Since then there’s been a hernia surgery, concussion and two knee surgeries that have put his career in jeopardy. And now this

    “SportsRadio 610 has learned that Clowney was bitten by teammate D.J. Swearinger‘s pit bull last week. Police records obtained describe a bite to Clowney’s right arm that sent him to a Pearland emergency room. The incident occurred in the early morning of March 4th.”

  • Hanzus also notes that there were 11 people in the Dolphins photo when Ndamukong Suh signed his contract and none of them was named Joe Philbin. It turned out that Philbin was in the gallery “probably next to some schlub columnist who calls for his firing on a weekly basis. It’s just a matter of time before Joe’s desk is in the basement.”
  • According to Michael Rothstein at ESPN there’s a distinct possibility that the Lions will be moving to the 3-4 defense this year. Even with new defensive tackle Haloti Ngata (who might fit a 304 better) the Lions are desperately short of tackles on the roster who are signed for 2015.
  • The more I read about Colorado State quarterback Garrett Grayson, the more I wonder if he’s the guy the Bears (or someone else) trades back into the first round to get. From Sharon Katz at ESPN.
  • TMZ is claiming to have video of Seattle runningback Marshawn Lynch in a scuffle outside of a San Francisco bar.
  • Rumors persist that Chip Kelly acquired Sam Bradford as a bargaining chip to get to a position to draft Marcus Mariota. This time its Josina Anderson at ESPN doing the reporting:

    I still don’t think he can make it high enough into the draft order to pull it off (if he actually is trying at all).

  • The Giants are getting desperate for safety help now that Rolle has signed with the Bears. There isn’t much out there. Via Josh Alper at profootballtalk.com.
  • Mike Reiss at ESPN considers the alternatives for New England now that Reggie Bush has signed with San Francisco. I’d worry less about that and more about the potential absence of Vince Wilfork in the middle if I were them. Good nose tackles for that defense don’t grow on trees, something that the Bears might want to remember as they switch to the 3-4.

One Final Thought

Gregg Rosenthall at NFL.com considers the Bears to be one of free agency’s losers so far:

“Royal getting $10 million guaranteed was a head scratcher. And Pernell McPhee could be the latest Ravens defender to look a lot different away from Baltimore. It’s also hard to get excited about a team that is so openly ambivalent about its starting quarterback.”

This is a decidedly pessimistic view, of course. Technically Cutler’s situation had nothing to do with free agency. And McPhee could just as easily turn out to be Paul Kruger as Dannell Ellerbe.

Royal fills a gap in the offense. Yeah, it was too much guaranteed money. Apparently the Bears think Royal is Danny Amendola. For all we know he might be but we’ll never find out because Cutler isn’t Tom Brady. Anyway all of that guaranteed money is in the first two years. Which means that if he doesn’t work out the Bears could free themselves of that contract without a cap penalty when they’ve developed a draft pick to replace him.

Personally, I would have been disappointed had the Bears been more aggressive than they were the first week of free agency. This team needs to get younger and start developing prospects rather than overspending and selling out to win immediately. If the last couple years taught us anything its that you can’t buy a championship.

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!!!!”

 

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.

 

There’s Something to Be Said for Consistency And Other Points of View

Bears

“‘We go back and forth. If we’re moving along, he gives me some ideas,’ [Bears quarterback Jay] Cutler said. ‘If I like it, I like it, and if I don’t, I change it a little bit before the (play) clock stops. It’s a back-and-forth type of thing.'”

I’m sure I won’t be the first one to suggest that the Bears run the two minute drill more. It might be tough to do it in the noisy environment of Ford Field in Detroit, however.

  • Long time NFL analyst Brian Baldinger on Cutler via Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune:

“The fact is whether J’Marcus [Webb] plays well or (Gabe) Carimi plays well or (Roberto) Garza is good, whatever it is, (Jay) Cutler doesn’t trust the line. That’s the worst part.

“‘Jay’s mechanics are horrible because he doesn’t trust they are going to hold up. So, he is already scrambling and running and the ball is all over the place and his mechanics just go to hell.'”

“Jay Cutler went deep (20+ in the air) nine times in the game, four to the right, five to the left. He was 0-for-5 to his left and 3-for-4 to his right.”

“‘(General manager Phil Emery) has got his work cut out for him. There was a guy in Philly, (former Eagles offensive line coach Juan Castillo). Juan always had a free-agent center. For 12 years, he never had a drafted center. He just developed them and they were all good players. You gotta work them. I mean work them like dogs. I just don’t think you have to go spend a bunch of first-round draft picks to fix it. But I do think you gotta have a work ethic. They have to be the hardest-working guys on the team. They can never have a free second during practice, every day. You’ve just got to drill them all day long. That’s what offensive linemen need.'”

  • Biggs alertly gives [runningback Matt] Forte credit not just for running well on Sunday but for blocking well, too.

“Forte’s latest injury adds to the pressure on quarterback Jay Cutler, who had another rocky game but did protect the ball. Cutler completed only one of his first 11 passes and was locked on to Brandon Marshall too often. He threw high and wide and took a sack from Calais Campbell when there was ample time to get rid of the ball. Quarterbacks lead the way in the postseason, and Cutler will have to be on the mark next week against the Lions, who can put points on the board.”

“Yeah, before today. I was feeling really good before the game today. We were running the ball well. You can’t really try to expect injuries or avoid them when you’re out there playing. You never know where everybody is coming from. Sometimes when you’re in a pile, people fall down, land on you, and stuff like that.”

Forte hasn’t looked the same. He’s been good this year because he’s still generally got good vision but he does lack burst.

  • Mark Potash at the Chicago Sun-Times reports that wide receiver Dan Sanzenbacher has been cut. The midget receiver had a chance to play in former offensive coordinator Mike Martz‘s offense but there’s no room for him in the current offense which requires less timing and relies more wide receivers getting open and making a play on their own.

“The Bears’ 7-1 start was fueled by big defensive plays; they had seven return touchdowns in the first eight games, a wild pace no one believed they could maintain. When the takeaways dried up, the losses piled up. Zack Bowman recovered a fumble for a touchdown Sunday and Charles Tillman returned an interception for a score to give the Bears an edge when the offense was stumbling. That’s a difficult way to maintain sustained success, especially against top offenses.”

  • Biggs indicates that the blocked field goal in the fourth quarter against the Cardinals might have been the fault of Kellen Davis. If [head coach Lovie] Smith gets fired, its the evaluation of talent typified by Davis’ contract extension and the idea that the Bears offensive line was going to be good enough as it is that will be a major part of what did him in.
  • On a related note, Mike Mulligan, also at the Chicago Tribune, reviews some of the more puzzling roster moves the Bears have made. A lot of this I blame on player evaluation by the coaching staff. Not all of these can be solved by this suggestion but one thing for certain: Emery is going to realize that player evaluations have to be made based upon what he sees on film and not by the coaches or the coaches are going to have to go. There’s no way guys like Davis get signed to big deals if that’s the case.
  • A lot more went on during that idiotic Cardinals fake field goal attempt than I thought. From Dan Pompei at the Chicago Tribune:

“The Bears read the Cardinals’ fake field goal attempt well. [Charles] Tillman slowed down Jay Feely and Amobi Okoye chased him down, while J.T. Thomas dropped into coverage to take away intended receiver Jim Dray.”

Lions

  • It would seem that Bears offensive coordinator Mike Tice isn’t the only one who is under fire during this Christmas season. Lions offensive coordinator Scott Linehan is under Anthony Kuehn‘s microscope at the Detroit Free Press, perhaps with even more justification.
  • How bad are the Lions problems in the red zone? Detroit Free Press columnist Dave Birkett explains:

“When Calvin Johnson broke Jerry Rice‘s single-season receiving record Saturday, he just missed out on another somewhat dubious mark.

“Johnson’s 225 yards tied Bernie Casey for the second most in NFL history without a touchdown, according to ESPN. Former Jacksonville Jaguars receiver Keenan McCardell set the record of 232 yards receiving without a score in 1996.”

Elsewhere

Tiger Woods has never won a major from behind. He is a great closer when he has the lead going into the fourth day. There are four rounds in golf. There are four quarters in football. When (Packers QB) Aaron Rodgers goes into the fourth quarter with a lead, there is a high percentage he is going to win. The odds go down a lot when he is behind. When you compare him to other great QBs, that inability stands out to me. I don’t know the specific stats — it’s just from watching him through the years. He’s just not a great fourth-quarter, come-from-behind quarterback. I don’t think he has figured out how to close out a game.”

“Take a look at some of the quarterbacks in this league who cannot bring the team together — that’s always been Joe Flacco’s problem. He’s incapable. That was his problem in college, too — it’s part of the reason he transferred. He couldn’t win the respect of the team. Flacco can’t do it, so the Ravens have to rely on Ed Reed and Ray Lewis to lead it. That’s not to say he cannot win, but when you’re talking about him as your franchise, that is a big discussion point to me.”

  • And here’s another Audible that should have the ring of truth with Bears fans:

“I don’t think (Texans QB) Matt Schaub is good enough of a leader to win a Super Bowl. It’s just one of those traits that you need to have — it’s missing. When the chips are down and you need to rally the team, is he the guy you want in the saddle?”

Bill Belichick had Peyton Manning mixed up for a few years when (Manning) was in Indianapolis. Once Peyton figured out how they were attacking him, he took control of that series. … (The Broncos) are a dangerous team right now.”

  • Jonathan Bales at The New York Times explains one of the keys to the success of the Raven’s offense:

“On Sunday, the Giants were defeated by a Ravens team that simply seemed more prepared. As they’ve done all year, the Ravens capitalized on the similarity between their running game and play-action passing attack; Baltimore does an outstanding job of making the bulk of their plays resemble one another. Whereas many teams seem to have a distinct run-pass dichotomy that’s relatively easy for defenses to decipher, the Ravens’ playbook is littered with runs that look like passes, and vice versa.”


 

One Final Thought

David Haugh at the Chicago Tribune gives a bit of a scathing evaluation of the Bears in their victory over the Cardinals. I’ve been as tough as anyone on the Bears, as exemplified by my post earlier this morning, and I won’t say that Haugh is entirely wrong. But in thinking about this game as well as the other wins that the Bears have accumulated, I think its both fair and important to make sure to give credit where credit is due. Yes, the Bears are only winning the games you are supposed to win. But very few of even the best teams in the NFL have done that this year. They’ve been amazingly consistent and that’s to their credit.

 

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 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.

On Avoiding the Ups and Downs and Other Points of View

Bears

“Coaching, or perhaps a front office NFL job, could be in McCown’s future. In fact, the Bears gave him some feelers when they released him in training camp. But for now, maybe for a few years even, the 33-year-old wants to play. And he wants to play in Chicago.”

“Marshall said the biggest difference between Cutler and Campbell is that Cutler ‘likes to run around a lot,’ while ‘Jason is more of a pocket guy.'”

That is true. But the one difference that became very apparent early in the third quarter of the Texan’s game was the fact that Campbell is much more of a “timing” quarterback. Where Cutler is more likely to hold the ball, look around, see who is open and deliver, recievers were getting the ball from Campbell immediately as they turned out of thier breaks last week.

In many ways, Campbell would have been the perfect quarterback for former Bears offensive coordinator Mike Martz, who has made a living teaching quarterbacks to do this. As it is, the receivers need to adjust to the new style, something which they did well last week.

“The 49ers will lean on their Tank personnel (one wide receiver, two tight ends, two backs) to establish the run and set up their play-action passing game. Look for schemes that will target the Bears’ eight-man defensive fronts Monday night and test the eye discipline of the secondary.”

I couldn’t agree more. The Texans also successfully drew an eighth Bears defender up into the box by showing run personnel. They then frequently passed out of the formation hoping to get favorable matchups. I expect the 49ers to do the same thing, probably more effectively.

49ers

“‘He definitely has emphasized it, just based on how many times (the 49ers) run the ball. Especially coming off Houston last week. Houston was more of a stretch scheme. This week is more of a downhill, smash mouth football.'”

“Had Monday night’s opponent been a passing team, the Bears would have considered activating pass-rusher Cheta Ozougwu. But Amobi Okoye is 37 pounds heavier than Ozougwu and gives the Bears more flexibility against the run.”

  • In the wake of the news that 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh had to be treated for an irregular heart beat last week, Kevin Lynch at the San Franscisco Chronicle quotes former NFL head coach Brian Billick on the stress associated with the job:

“‘It will kill you,’ he said. ‘If not, it’s going to shorten your life.’

“However, trying to be less intense has it’s ramifications as well according to Billick.

“‘Part of the problem is, the longer you are in it, to keep your priorities right and hold off the devastating lows when you lose, also means you are keeping an even keel and not enjoying the wins as much as you should,’ he said. ‘You end up in that gray twilight of not enjoying the wins and not showing too much in defeat.'”

Elsewhere


“Head coaches do not necessarily need players to like them but do need their respect and trust. The coach has to have the players’ backs. Andy Reid, the coach, certainly does. However, Reid is also in the less friendly role of general manager, signing off on all roster and financial decisions regarding players.”

“This is the major flaw of the coach/general manager model. Although Bill Belichick has been able to achieve sustained success, he has done so with cold and impersonal detachment, often not even responding to player discontent about roles or contracts, further infuriating players and agents. Reid, although a flat-liner with the media, cares deeply about his relationship with his players.”


One Final Thought

Pompei, this time writing for The National Football Post points out that the NFL owners around the league seem to be taking a more heavy handed role in managing their franchises. I, also, have taken note of this and, like Pompei I think there may be a number of explanations for it. But if I were to pick the one biggest reason, I’d say it is encapulated in this statement:’

“Some of the aging owners such as [Bud] Adams [of the Titans] and Jerry Richardson of the Panthers, who fired his general manager midseason, may be less patient than ever.”

I think a lot of these owners are getting older and they want to win one more before they go. I have, in fact, sensed a certain degree of urgency from the Bears dating back to the Julius Peppers signing, which at the time I considered to be uncharacteristic. I love Virginia McCaskey and I hope she lives a long, long time. But the family must ba acutely aware that she isn’t getting younger.

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

Bears

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He should have been suspended.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

49ers

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

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

Elsewhere

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

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

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

One Final Thought

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

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

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

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

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

Quick Game Comments: Texans at Bears

Defense

  1. Houston came out showing run to draw an eighth guy into the box to weaken the coverage, then was passing.
  2. Matt Schaub came out throwing high but seemed to settle down.
  3. Major Wright looked like he came to play with some nice tackles, especially early.
  4. Color man Cris Collinsworth did a good job of pointing out early that the Bears were trying to set the edge to turn Arian Foster inside. The Packers beat the Texans by consistently doing exactly that.
  5. Foster is deceptively strong and he’s particularly good at using it to break tackles.
  6. Andre Johnson is one of the best wide receivers in the league, raking in my mind with Calvin Johnson when he’s healthy. He certainly show some skills tonight.
  7. Despite knowing that the Texans were going to do it, the Bears still got caught over pursuing to the ball and some big holes opened up in the run game in the first half because of it. They tightened things up later in the game.
  8. I thought the defensive effort this game was particularly good overall. It seemed to me like almost everyone was taking advantage of their opportunities and making plays.

Offense

  1. Brad Biggs pointed out on Twitter early in the game that the Bears were double teaming J.J. Watt with Gabe Carimi and reserve tackle Jonathan Scott.
  2. I’m thinking Jay Cutler was told that when the Texans rushed three that he should look to run through one of the resulting holes. Sounded like a good plan.
  3. The Bears wide receivers really struggled to get open against the Houston defensive backs, including Brandon Marshall who had to fight for every reception. Jonathan Joseph is about as good a cover corner as anyone I’ve seen this year and certainly better than anyone the Bears have seen this year.
  4. The Bears were 1-4 on third down and 0-1 on fourth down in the first half.
  5. Miserable game for Kellen Davis (again). You name it, he struggled to do it.
  6. Despite the fact that the Bears ran out of the double tightend formation and gave them a lot of help most of the game, I have to give the offensive line credit. I thought they did a good job of protecting Cutler and Jason Campbell. And there were times when the running game worked OK as the line pushed around the Houston front. But Houston eventually shut it down and dared them to throw to receivers who couldn’t get open.

Miscellaneous

  1. I’ve been accused repeatedly of being too soft on the announcing teams that the Bears have gotten this year. The problem is that they are drawing national games with the best commentators. This game was no different as Al Michaels is always clear, Michelle Tafoya is as competent as any sideline reporter you’ll find and Cris Collinsworth, for my money, is the best color man in the business. Collinsworth is particularly adept at pointing out little things a fan might miss, like facts about the coverage that can’t be seen on television. He made another good point when he highlighted the fact that the Bears defensive ends were taking an inside track to penetrate against the Houston offensive tackles and set the edge. The Houston offensive tackles were jumping outside under the assumption that was where the Bears ends would go.
  2. Drops finally reared their ugly head this game for the Bears. Brandon Marshall had an awful one in the endzone in the second quarter. Kellen Davis and Matt Forte each had drops as well.
  3. The good news is that the recent penchant that the Bears have had for committing a lot of penalties didn’t appear. Other than a couple holding calls on Chilo Rachal, the game was relatively clean for the Bears.
  4. Special teams were nondescript but its hard to complain when the other team is afraid to kick the ball deep. The Bears had good field position. The missed Robbie Gould field goal in the fourth quarter hurt.
  5. I don’t think I have to say much about turnovers, do I? From the first play of the game where Kellen Davis gave away a fumble it was a travesty. Awfully hard to win football games that way.
  6. Nice to see Virginia McCaskey looking and sounding so good on her Veterans Day commercial.
  7. The easiest thing to do here would be to talk about how turnovers are death, blah, blah, blah but I think we all know that. Instead I’d like to express how much I thoroughly enjoyed this game. I understand how odd that sounds after a Bears loss but, with the exception of the turnovers, the team met of exceeded my expectations in most ways. Even the Bears offensive line really did a reasonable job all things considered. The Bears defense went up against what I thought was a pretty good offense that played reasonably well and showed their metal.I thought this was a good, physical, competitive hard fought game that any fan should appreciate.