Can I Hear an Amen? And Other Points of View

Bears

  • Mark Potash at the Chicago Sun-Times reviews comments from some of the Packers that have angered Brandon Marshall:

“What did [Charles] Woodson and [Tramon] Williams say that riled Marshall? Woodson tweaked Jay Cutler in a post-game interview, telling ESPN’s Rachel Nichols ‘it’s the same old Jay’ after the Packers held Cutler to 126 passing yards and a 28.2 passer rating in the Packers’ 23-10 victor on Sept. 13 at Lambeau Field.

“But it was Woodson’s comments on The Jim Rome Show that apparently irked Marshall.

“‘They do have some big receivers over there, but they’re not fast receivers,’ Woodson told Rome. ‘There’s no Calvin Johnson on that team that’s going to stretch a defense. Yeah, there are some big guys, physical guys and they like to push and pull and grab and get behind guys, but we weren’t going to let that happen, so it worked in our favor.’

“The ‘they like to push and pull and grab’ part seems to be the source of Marshall’s ire. ‘I want [Woodson] out there because of some of the things that they say,’ Marshall said. ‘I take it personal when someone takes jabs at the way I approach the game or my career. I’m excited to see him out there at full speed.'”

Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune tells us essentially what Woodson meant by “we weren’t going to let that happen”:

“The Packers bracketed Marshall with a lot of two-man coverage, meaning the cornerback had man coverage underneath with safety help over the top. That support allows the cornerback to sit on routes. Marshall couldn’t get open and quarterback Jay Cutler held the ball too long waiting for him to break open, ultimately allowing the four-man rush to get to him repeatedly. The Bears entered the game hoping they would get a dose of press man coverage — the kind of physical action Marshall covets — and it didn’t happen.”

“As illogical as it sounds, the Bears offense is actually less potent this season with Brandon Marshall than it was a year ago without him. The bottom line is points, and the Bears are averaging 23.7 per game after scoring 22.1 a year ago. When you factor in eight return touchdowns this season, the offense is short of the pace from 2011 even with a bona fide No. 1 receiver. The upshot of this is the roster is more flawed than anyone expected when the team raced out to a 7-1 start. And as much as he would like to, Marshall cannot do it alone.”

Its not at all illogical. The runnings game has been absent and Mike Martz was a better, more experienced offensive coordinator.

James Brown was in for about 40 plays at LG against the Vikings. How did he grade out? Barring a free agency move or a high pick at guard in the draft are we seeing the future at LG? — Vic Fiebig, Springfield, VA

“Brown played OK for his first extended exposure. Nothing great. Nothing terrible. We don’t have anywhere near enough evidence to say if he will be a permanent starter in the near future. From the looks of it now, the Bears will be shopping for a veteran guard who can step in and play the position next season while Brown develops. But it will be interesting to see how he plays for the rest of the season, assuming he does play.”

“With the production Michael Bush has had along with the struggles [Matt] Forte is having does a Matt Forte trade make sense in the off season? What do you think we could get in return for the running back? — Joe Devine, Edmonton, Canada

“My impression is Forte is worth more to the Bears than he would be in a trade, but I could be wrong. Teams don’t want to pay much for older running backs. Forte just turned 27. He has not been as productive as he was in 2011, and he is the 17th leading rusher in the NFL. What could you get for him? Probably a third round pick. Maybe a second. Maybe not. But he is an all-around back who can help the Bears offense as a runner, receiver and pass protector. Players like him are not easy to find. I would not be looking to trade him, and I don’t think the Bears will be either.”

The lack of respect that Forte gets from fans constantly amazes me. He’s not having his greatest season but when I watch him catch and run with such nice vision and compare him in my mind to other running backs around the league, I just can’t understand why fans are so anxious to trade him. He’s one of only three or four Bears players that good teams like the Packers can look at with envy. I agree with Pompei. You don’t trade assets like Forte.

 

“The Bears look like they are running scared now. Lovie Smith treats Brian Urlacher like Rex Ryan treats Darrelle Revis. When the Jets lost Revis for the year, Rex basically said, ‘We are done. We suck.’ Look at the records in Chicago when Urlacher is not playing. The defense cannot line up or stop anyone. It’s a disaster. … I’m surprised Nick Roach is still on the team. I always thought he was a backup. I’m shocked he has stayed healthy (all year).”

 

  • Most of us are used to thinking about the blow to the offense and defense but Potash highlights the problem special teams coordinator Dave Toub has on special teams due to injuries.
  • Pompei says to expect Olindo Mare‘s kickoffs to be a bit shorter than Robbie Gould‘s and that Smith likely won’t have as much confidence in his on longer field goals.

“Recently the contracts and job security of Lovie Smith and offensive coordinator Mike Tice have come under scrutiny. But the other guy on the staff with reason to worry might be longtime strength and conditioning coach Rusty Jones. The Bears don’t seem very strong or well-conditioned. Their offensive linemen hardly impose their will on anybody. Their roster has sustained so many injuries through 13 games that Lovie Smith was forced to cancel practice Wednesday because he didn’t have enough healthy bodies.”

“You look at the last game we played, and I hate to go back to the last game, a couple plays here and there. It’s not like we were just playing terrible football. We’re going to tighten up a few things, which we’re doing, which is our routine, and we’re going to win a few football games and everything will be OK.”

Indeed, they weren’t playing terrible football. Many of us would feel better if they had. The truth is they aren’t much better than the Vikings (or the Lions). Add the effect of a dome on the offensive line and the penalties that come with that and its the difference between winning and losing against an opponent that doesn’t play badly enough to blow it.

 

Packers

“Three-four defenses like the Packers use have been a problem for the Bears this year, in part because they are different. Three of the Bears’ five losses have come against teams that play 3-4s, and the Bears have averaged 7.6 points per game in those losses.

“Bears offensive coordinator Mike Tice explains.

“‘Most of the teams we play are ‘over’ teams, so it’s one gap, one gap, one gap,’ he said. ‘You spend the whole offseason and training camp working against an over front that is a penetrating, slanting, quick front. Now you play a two gap team, it’s different. It’s a whole different technique.’

“Against a three-man front, blockers have to figure how long to stay on the down lineman before releasing and seeking out the defender at the next level. There are different combination blocks to be concerned with.”

Elsewhere

“The Ravens got a steal with Corey Graham. He is now starting for the Ravens as a cornerback. He was brought in to be a special-teams phenom, and he has turned out to be a find for them on defense with all the injuries they have had at the position.”

“I hear the name of (Chiefs pro personnel director) Ray Farmer and I like him. He’s a great guy, but no one wants anything to do with the Kansas City Chiefs right now. … I know how they run it. It’s way too mechanical. They want robots in the front office, not evaluators. It’s important to have a system and to make scouting a science as much as you can, but this business is about having a gut feel and calling it like you see it. I don’t want a robot scouting for me.”

“OK, so what’s next, Joe Vitt putting a bounty on Gregg Williams?”

  • The ideal gift for the Eagles fan. From profootballmock.com:

 

One Final Thought

This comment from Biggs has the ring of truth:

“Speculation only mounts when it comes to the future of coach Lovie Smith, who is signed through 2013. The bottom line: The Bears have eight wins with three games to go, giving them a decent chance of finishing with 10 victories and a playoff berth. As disconcerting as it might be for some fans, 10 wins and a playoff berth — no matter how long it lasts —probably would ensure Smith’s future with the team. You don’t see many NFL teams launch a coach after double-digit wins and a postseason appearance. Jim Schwartz would love to be in Smith’s spot right now.”

I’m not thrilled with the way the players are responding to Smith right now and the way they came out in the first quarter last week gave me pause. If they continued to do that, I’m thinking the Bears won’t get those 10 wins. But if Smith does get them and makes the playoffs, that means the team will have responded to him and won at least one game I didn’t think they would. His job should be safe.

I know a lot of fans want to launch Smith. But the issue is overblown. Whether you think he’s a good head coach or not, the team’s primary problem is still lack of talent. As long as they’re moving to address that, they’ll be going in the right direction.

Having said all that I’ll wrap up with what might be the most important point as Pompei answers another question:

“If da Bears lose this game to Green Bay, will the search for a new head coach start? — @WCW4Life12, from Twitter

“No, it would be too early. You have to let the season play out. But I’ll say this. General managers and owners all over the NFL need to be prepared in the event that they decide to make a change. Dec. 31 is too late to start doing homework on available coaches.”

Amen, brother.

The Qualities of Leadership and Other Points of View

Bears

  • Despite the absence of running back Matt Forte I think you should expect the Bears to get off the bus running this week. The Rams apparently would agree. Jim Thomas at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch quotes linebacker James Laurinaitis:

“‘We have a lot of respect for their ability to run it,’ Laurinaitis said. ‘They’re going to come out running the ball. It’s fun to get back to kind of a normal offense this week. This first week (Detroit) it was a lot of spread-out throwing, and then last week (Washington) a lot of college stuff mixed in.'”

  • Here’s a surprise from Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune :

“Typically, teams that are rooted in the Cover-2 scheme like
the Bears do not invest heavily in cornerbacks, choosing to pour money
into the front seven. But one source said the Bears were involved with
Cortland Finnegan until talks went above $9 million per season.”

I’ve claimed for a while that the Bears need corners who can play at least adequate man coverage. Apparently they agree.

“(Bears rookie DE Shea) McClellin is a high-(sic) effort guy. He has short arms and lacks explosiveness. There is a ceiling for guys like that. He is going to be like the kid in Washington last year (Ryan Kerrigan). He’ll start off playing hot, and as the year goes by, he’ll wear down and go quiet. That’s what happened to Kerrigan last year. All of a sudden his body is not fresh and all that hustle does not get as much. (McClellin) does not have enough in his body. Hustle guys wear down.”

“‘We talked about putting players in position to make plays,’ said Tice, the Bears’ first-year offensive coordinator. ‘We’ve got to do a better job of that, and we will. At the same time, it’s very important that you win the individual battles, and we didn’t win enough of those.'”

Translation: “Now that the [feces] has hit the fan, after a summer of talking about how it was all going to be OK because I was going to compensate for it with my scheme, I finally have come to the realization that we actually need talent to work with on the offensive line. My apologies to Mike Martz.”

“Everybody says great things about Mike Tice and his great coaching of the offensive line. Since he was hired three seasons ago our offensive line has been anything but great. It seems to me he’s not all that. What gives? Gary M., North Highlands, Calif.

“Trust me when I tell you Tice is an outstanding offensive line tutor. He gets the best out of his blockers. Sometimes, the best he gets out of them isn’t good enough.”

“The Bears aren’t waiting for the light to come on and stay on with [left tackle J’Marcus] Webb. Offensive coordinator Mike Tice made that clear when he was asked if his confidence in Webb has waned.

“‘We have seven players who suit up every week and those seven players all get reps with the ones,” Tice said. “And we’re going to try to make sure and make the proper decision of the five guys we’re going to put in there who can protect our quarterback and help us run the ball.’

“Translated, newcomer Jonathan Scott has been getting some work at left tackle with the starters. He was signed Sept. 10 and missed nearly all of training camp with the Lions because of a knee injury. It’s not an ideal situation, but when is it on the Bears’ line?”

“Offensive line coach Tim Holt dissected the tape from the meltdown in Green Bay and came to one simple conclusion about why Webb’s play declined from Week 1.

“‘He just has to use his hands better,’ Holt said. ‘He let (Matthews) get into him a little bit. If he gets his hands on people, he wins.'”

I think the problem goes well beyond that by now. Webb knows to use his hands and I’m sure he’s been coached heavily to do so. That fact that he isn’t doing it indicates that the problem is mental. The physical tools are there and he’s intelligent I’m sure. But He obviously doesn’t have the concentration to play consistently against good opponents for a full three hours ball game.

The Bears have to find another answer. It might not be this year but they’re going to have to do it if they want to comete at the top of the NFL. Becasue Webb’s not going to cut it.

  “But [Webb’s] presence underlines a major problem for the Bears: When you
struggle with pass protection, it is difficult to rally from a deficit. The Bears
need to score early and often and play from a lead. [Bears quarterback Jay] Cutler is too careless with
the ball and the guys in front of him too shaky to pull off many comebacks.

“The Bears under coach Lovie Smith always have been front-runners, often
because they struggled at quarterback. Smith has a 51-10 record when
leading at halftime and a 13-42 mark when trailing. Since gunslinger Cutler’s
arrival they’re 19-4 and 5-18. Sounds like bad news for the Rams.”

“I am wondering if the answer to the Bears offensive line problem is to just ignore max protection and maybe do just the opposite. If they were in a max-attack-type offense I think Cutler would be able to find the open receiver and/or communicate with Brandon Marshall/Earl Bennett for hot reads. It seems too often when they only had two receivers in patterns Cutler was waiting too long for them to get open. Some of Cutler’s best games were when he has had options to throw to, he can slide or even jump up to get the ball out to the open man. What do you think? Grant M.

“I think what you suggest can be a part of the Bears offense, and it has been to a degree. But the Bears would not be able to make a living playing empty backfield with four or five wide receivers running routes. Part of the beauty of the Bears’ personnel and schemes is the offense is somewhat unpredictable. To beat a good defensive coordinator like Dom Capers, you need to be able to do a number of things well, and do them at times when he isn’t expecting you to do them. Playing the type of personnel groups and formations you suggest would make them highly predictable. It also would be a high risk approach. It would probably result in more big plays, but also more interceptions and more sacks.”

  • Sean Jensen at the Chicago Sun-Times is saying that the Rams have a “suspect offensive line”. But I watched them last week and they looked OK to me. Admittedly they were at home but still, Soldier Field isn’t like the Super Dome in New Orleans.
  • Much of this disapproval of Jay Cutler from the media is new. But not from Pompei as he’s been pretty critical from the beginning. He contiunes that here:

“I must be the minority here, but I didn’t mind at all that Jay Cutler bumped J’Marcus Webb on the sidelines. I want my team leader to be fired up and get in guy’s faces. What bothered me about Cutler is how he crumbled after that, throwing up prayers and seemingly not able to adjust to the Packers defense. This seems to be a bigger indictment of lack of leadership, would you agree? Rik, Chicago

“True leadership isn’t about what you say. It’s about what you do. Show me a quarterback who gets the ball in the end zone, overcomes big odds and steps up in the clutch and I’ll show you a leader.”

True enough. But I think if you want to be a really good leader, it goes beyond that. Many people defend Cutler’s actions by saying something to the effect of “Sometimes you have to kick a few butts to get things done.” But is that what the Bears needed as a team at that point?

I would contend that a true team leader would have seen a struggling offense and, instead of yelling “Do better!” would have gotten everyone together, settled them down and guided them by telling them what to do. Instead, Cutler showed his frustration and made things worse. Instead of acting the part of a calming influence, a leader who had things under control and had confidence that the team would come back and do better, Cutler showed his lack of confidence in his teammates and cranked up fears of failure even higher.

Most of the time “leadership” requires the ability to step outside of yourself and give the group what they need to succeed rather than selfishly thinking of your own. Cutler will never be a true leader, no matter how well he performs on the field, because he’ll always lack the ability to do that. He’s far too self-centered.

  • What is constantly a shock to me no matter how often I see it, is how savagely Cutler is attacked whenever possible, not by fans and media, but by his peers and ex-peers. In his article on how to motivate people and whether being tough is always the way to go about it, I think Phil Rosenthal at the Chicago Tribune provides an answer to the question by quoting Bob Sutton, a Stanford University professor and author of “The No (A-word) Rule” and “Good Boss, Bad Boss.”:

“‘If you (act like a jerk) you’ve got to be really competent,’ Sutton said. ‘If you consistently leave people feeling demeaned and de-energized, that’s the point where enemies are lying in wait.'”

Or, as Steve Rosenbloom at the Chicago Tribune succinctly put it as he compared Cutler to Douglas Neidermeyer in the movie Animal House:

“Neidermeyer’s epilog in the movie was ‘killed by his own troops in Vietnam.'”


Video from the Chicago Tribune.

“Cutler’s defenders will point out, accurately, that he has not benefited from
system stability, Pro Bowl wide receivers and consistent pass protection —
especially consistent pass protection.

“But he isn’t the only quarterback who needs to spend some time in the
whirlpool on Mondays.

“Since 2009, [Green Bay quarterback Aaron] Rodgers has been sacked six times more than Cutler in
regular-season games. Ben Roethlisberger has been sacked 11 more, and his
rate of one sack per 12.2 dropbacks is higher than Cutler’s rate of 12.4.

“That has not prevented Roethlisberger from making it to a Pro Bowl and a
Super Bowl in that time span.”

  • Sometimes I think its a shame that even after acquiring Jay Cutler, the Bears’ quarterback situation is still a national joke. But… might as well role with it. From Sports Views:


Elsewhere

  • There is apparently some concern about the performance of quarterback Matthew Stafford in Detroit so far this season. From Justin Rogers at mlive.com:

“Through two games, Stafford has thrown twice as many interceptions, four, as touchdowns, and there has been a general lack of accuracy on many of his throws, including some of his completions.”

“The whole idea is to get the defense moving laterally so the offensive linemen can throw cut blocks that drop big defensive linemen on their faces. Think Gilbert Brown in Super Bowl XXXII.”

“‘You have to be smart,’ [defensive line coach Mike] Trgovac said. ‘I faced this scheme several years in a row in Atlanta when I was at Carolina. They just look for that one guy to cut, that one weak link.

“‘That’s what we worked real hard on, make sure everybody stays in their gap. The more you fly off the ball the easier it is for them to cut you.'”

“One front office man said his team is fine with 5-10 corners as long as the player has long arms. Having long arms enable a cornerback to play taller than he is. ‘They can reach for balls downfield, reach for balls coming back and compete better for contested balls,’ [Seahawks general manager John] Schneider said.

“Long arms help a corner in press coverage too. It’s difficult for a short-armed corner to get a good jam and then turn and run because he has to get too close to the receiver.”

“If the Jets are trying to dispel the notion of a circus, they have a funny way of going about it.”

“That said, Sunday’s biggest headline from Foxboro was the ankle injury to Aaron Hernandez. The third-year tight end is out at least six weeks.”

“Take a look at this statistic from ESPN: “The Patriots used two tight ends on just 20 of 77 offensive plays (Sunday), averaging 3.0 yards per play with two tight ends on the field. The Patriots used two or more tight ends on all 66 plays in Week 1 against the Titans, averaging 5.9 yards per play. Since the start of the 2011 season, the Patriots lead the N.F.L. with 80.1 percent of their offensive plays (926 of 1149) involving at least two tight ends.”

“The Patriots can find a way to win without Hernandez, but it will require rewriting most of their playbook.”

Kellen Winslow can give the Patriots some of the things Aaron Hernandez gives them, but not all of the things. Front office men who have evaluated Winslow recently say he has lost some speed and can’t get downfield the way he used to, or the way Hernandez can. But Winslow still has the ability to separate in a short area, as Hernandez does. If his knee holds up, Winslow can give Bill Belichick another chess piece.”

“If any OL coach says he needs more contact to coach better, I call b.s. Offensive linemen can go out in shorts. It all starts with mental prep — knowing who to block — and technique and footwork. It’s so funny though — you get three OL coaches and you can hear three different reasons for why their line is struggling, and usually, only one of them is right.”

“Indy’s final drive [last week] provided a perfect snapshot for where their rookie quarterback [Andrew Luck] is.”

“What was most revealing on the drive was when [Adam] Vinatieri trotted on the field. There were still 12 seconds left. And his field-goal attempt was a 53-yarder. If it had been, say, Peyton Manning under center – or any star veteran quarterback – the Colts almost certainly would have ran one, maybe two more plays near the sidelines in hopes of getting Vinatieri a few yards closer. But with no timeouts left, Coach Chuck Pagano decided not to push his Luck. That’s fine, it worked out. But let’s all realize that the Colts seem to believe their young quarterback still has a long way to go.”

“Colts’ ‘Suck For Luck’ Strategy Enters Second Season”

  • As someone who doesn’t usually get as upset as he used to when the Bears lose, my first thought as I laughed at this video was “Who does this guy think he’s screaming at.” Then I looked at the number of hits and I realized that its about 20,000 people. Someone must like it.


Stephen A. Smith Thinking Son Is Finally Ready For The Sex Argument”

  • In light of the Buccaneers decision to maul the Giants as they were trying to run out the clock with a kneel down, The Sports Pickle gives us the NFL’s 25 most unwritten rules. This one was one of my favorites:

“5. Take as much HGH as you possibly can before the NFL starts testing for it.”

One Final Thought

I thought this point from the Friday Buzz feature at The National Football Post was interesting:

“If Jon Gruden comes back to the NFL as many suspect, there might not be a long line of established personnel men wanting to work with him. Gruden frustrated people he worked with. He sometimes would set up workouts with players without consulting the front office and operated independently. His negativity also wore on co-workers.”

I always thought Jon Gruden was one of the best head coaches the NFL has seen in recent years. This comment explains a lot about why he’s no longer coaching. One of the worst faults you can have as the leader of a large organization of people is failure to communicate. You leave people in the dark in terms of what’s going on and they resent it. Even when it’s things you don’t think everyone needs to know, leave co-workers in the dark and they begin to wonder what else of a more important nature you didn’t tell them.

Gruden undoubtedly was a control freak who was used to getting his own way as a head coach. He was king of his domain. But when he was put in a situation where input from a large group of front office people was required, he failed to make the proper adjustments. Even for a coach as talented as Gruden, that’s death.

 

Quick Comments: Bears Vs Colts

Offense

  1. The Colts came out and eventually played pretty standard 3-4 defense. There were some blitzes but nothing really fancy. They did occasionally try to challenge the Bears with tight coverage, especially early. But they were living dangerously and they knew it. They eventually switched to a zone defense and the Bears killed them on it.
  2. The Bears initially had a tough time protecting quarterback Jay Cutler. Fortunately Cutler has the ability to move out of the pocket and make plays and that’s exactly what he did.
  3. Cutler is just wonderful to watch. For a little while early in the game it looked like he was going to have to single handedly carry the offense and I really wondered if he couldn’t have pulled it off. After a rough start I thought his accuracy was pretty good. You won’t see many passes better than the throw to Alson Jeffry for a touchdown midway through the fourth quarter to make everyone a little more comfortable.
  4. The protection eventually settled down and got better in the second quarter. That’s because they got an enormous amount of help with many players being kept in to help in protection. By my count the Bears ran exactly one four receiver set the entire first half. There were a lot of double tight end and two back sets and the offensive line struggled against the blitz without at least two men to help. I think we’re looking at the plan for the year.
  5. It wasn’t obvious and he wasn’t terrible but Gabe Carimi did have trouble. He looked a step slow on occasion and I have a feeling he’s going to struggle with that knee for a while.
  6. New Colts defensive back Vontae Davis played well. I was surprised that the Colts didn’t move him around more to keep him on Bears receiver Brandon Marshall.
  7. Kellen Davis looked really bad out there. There were some awful missed blocks and a couple penalties.
  8. Matt Forte had a great day. He runs with such wonderful vision. Like Cutler, he’s a just pleasure to watch.
  9. Evan Rodriguez did some good lead blocking out of the backfield, for example, on the first Michael Bush touchdown run. I think we now know why Tyler Clutts was released.
  10. The Bears had a very hard time fooling the Colts on play action despite the fact that the Bears were beating them on the run. I can only assume that they decided that they weren’t going to let the Bears passing game beat them.
  11. I like that end around play to Devin Hester that the Bears are running. He needs room to create.I know it didn’t work very well but eventually he’s going to break it.
  12. I don’t guess I have to acknowledge that Marshall was everything he was supposed to be. But I guess I just did it anyway.

Defense

  1. The Bears came out with some fancy defense with nine in the box and lots of single coverage in an effort to confuse quarterback Andrew Luck. It became obvious that it wasn’t working so they switched to a more standard form of defense on the second series. Not a lot more blitzing than usual after that.
  2. Luck and the Colts knew how to attack the cover 2. They called all the right plays. It was just a question of execution. When they did, they moved the ball.
  3. Brian Urlacher definitely looked a step slow. I was surprised that they didn’t challenge him more often. In the second quarter he was blocked to the ground on one long Donald Brown run and it was quickly followed by another Brown run for a touchdown where Urlacher both over-pursued and was blocked again. He was definitely rusty after missing almost all of training camp. Like everyone else, I thought removing Uralcher early was a good idea as long as the Colts didn’t manage a come back.
  4. I was happy to see the Bears getting some pressure but it wasn’t consistent. Henry Melton and Shea McClellin both flashed. But there were some periods where Luck looked awfully comfortable.
  5. Julius Peppers also was getting occasional pressure on Luck. Interestingly it was in part because the Bears moved him around so the Colts couldn’t easily develop a consistent scheme to double team him. This will be an interesting strategy to track as the season wears on.
  6. Colts receiver Reggie Wayne looks as good as ever. I’m sure Luck will come to lean heavily on him as he adjusts to the league.
  7. Luck wasn’t all that accurate. He was frequently bailed out with some good catches by his receivers. He got better as the game wore on and he does get the ball out fast and he does move well in the pocket, which is part of the reason why the Bears had a tough time getting to him. He’s going to be good.
  8. Good to see that the Bears cleaned up their tackling for this game.
  9. Generally speaking, I thought the coverage was pretty good today by the defensive backs, especially the corners, who had to compensate for the loss of Charles Tillman.

Miscellaneous

  1. Greg Gumbel and Dan Dierdorf were solid if not spectacular. No earth shaking insights but all the importnat information was conveyed.
  2. I thought Dierdorf’s observation that Cutler will force the ball in to Marshall whether he’s double covered or not in the second quarter was a particularly good one. I think we all remember Cutler trying to do the same thing to Greg Olsen his first year with the Bears. He’ll be more successful doing it with Marshall but I still see trouble in the future.
  3. I wasn’t too thrilled with the offensive interference call on Hester in the second quarter. I wasn’t too thrilled with some of the pass interference calls on both teams. In fairness, the tight coverage the Colts occasionally tried to challenge the Bears with led to quite a number being on them and many were justified.
  4. Other than that, I thought there were too many penalties on both teams, especially early. I think everyone settled down a bit as the game went on so hopefully it isn’t a long-term problem. Notably there were no penalties on J’Marcus Webb.
  5. Too many turnovers by both sides but especially by the Colts. The pick six thrown by Cutler in the first quarter would have been a killer against a better team.
  6. Tim Jennings had two great interceptions on under-thrown Luck passes. But I’ve got to say that on the first one, safety Chris Conte nowhere in sight. A well thrown pass would have been a TD. Conte might have suffered a bit from last time in camp. Hopefully he’ll clean things up. However, Conte notably did manage to intercept a pass so maybe I shouldn’t bee too tough on him.
  7. To my eye the Indianapolis special teams are much improved this year. The Bears were unspectacular and the offense was starting in very poor field position much of the time. Adam Vinatieri‘s miss wide right at end of first half and LaVon Brazill‘s fumble marred the effort.
  8. Adam Podlesh looked good with no apparent effects from his injury.
  9. The Colts drop the ball too often. Donald Brown really hurt the Colts with his drops. The Bears receivers were solid in this respect.
  10. This was a good start for the Bears. They took care of business and all credit to them for that. But many of my concerns remain about them. All that help they’re leaving in for the offensive line could eventually stunt the progress of the offense and I think we’d all like to see more pressur from the defensive front. I can’t help but think that a better team would have given them a tough time.

 

What Will You Score on “The Test”? And Other Point of View

Bears

Any time the Bears want to rush the passer, fine by me.

  • Having said that, one of the unsung performers of the offseason was Israel Idonije, who I thought stuck out every time I saw him play. Apparently I wasn’t the only one. From Pro Football Weekly‘s Whispers column.

“We hear the Bears are very happy with the way DE Israel Idonije has performed in training camp and the preseason. Idonije is still the starting left end, but his role has changed since last season. He has been moving inside to three-technique in the nickel package to clear a spot at left end for rookie Shea McClellin, and the team is optimistic about the push Idonije can provide from the interior.”

  • I had high hopes for Stephen Paea going into this season in part because I have no faith in Henry Melton. Unfortunately Vaughn McClure at the Chicago Tribune reports that, as I feared, Paea’s ankle injury is likely to linger into the season.

“Asked if there is a measure in place for the linebacker to do more this season, [linebacker Lance] Briggs turned coy.

“‘That is kind of a wait-and-see type deal,’ he said. ‘We don’t want to reveal too many secrets for the 2012
season. I can tell you one thing, nine years in, eight years in Lovie’s system, there is a lot of trust in our
locker room.’

“Don’t fall into the trap of thinking the Bears work exclusively in a two-deep zone. There is more going
on.

“‘We like them talking like that. That’s what you want,’ Marinelli said. ‘We have some really good
blitzers.’

“In desperate times, perhaps they will be used more.”

“He is still adjusting some to his new surroundings. He’s working to get into football shape after missing offseason work to deal with the emotional personal issues he’s faced. Price didn’t finish practice on Tuesday after he fell ill. He’s had some nagging injuries and needs to be better conditioned.”

I wish had more confidence in Price. But I really wonder if Price doesn’t need a heart transplant. The Bears may be throwing a roster spot into a sink hole…

  • Biggs tells us that Rashied Davis got an injury settlement from the Bears. I love the way that Rashied Davis all of the sudden became “injured” right before they released him. You hear stories about how veterans get wind of such things and suddenly go for an injury settlement as a nice little going away present. He may have decided to milk it.
  • All along I thought Armando Allen had an edge in his battle with Lorenzom Booker because he’s younger. Turns out it was exactly the opposite. Allen ended up on the practice squad. From Joe Cowley at the Chicago Sun-Times.
  • Dan Pompei at the Chicago Tribune expressed my own feelings before cuts came down:

If [quarterback Josh] McCown did not convince the Bears it’s worth keeping him as a third quarterback, the game was more
meaningless than anyone thought.

Having said that, he does provide a good explanation for why McCown eventually didn’t make it:

“He is not a fit on the Bears roster at this point, which is why signing him in March was odd. But that isn’t to say he won’t fit on the Bears roster at some point this season, and that might be why signing him in March was wise.

“Now McCown has experience in the system and knowledge of the Bears receivers. If Jay Cutler or [Jason] Campbell goes down, McCown likely will get the first call if he is available.”

“Why will the NFL not do away with four preseason games? This game represented 10 percent of the revenue the Browns will get for home games. Who in their right mind believes NFL owners are going to give away that kind of money?”

Exactly. It still surprises me when I run into people who don’t understand that the players don’t actually start getting paid until the first game. Those preseason games are pure profit.

“Under the new rule, each team is allowed to designate one player per season for a potential return from the IR and the designation must be made at the time the player is added to the reserve list. The player must have a major injury that renders him unable to practice for at least six weeks. The player is not eligible to return to practice for a period of six weeks and cannot be reinstated to the active 53-man roster for at least eight weeks. At any time after the six-week period of not practicing, the player can begin a three-week period where he does work on the field to be evaluated for a potential return to the active roster.”

“The Bears cut a pair of draft picks as cornerbacks Isaiah Frey and Greg McCoy were placed on waivers. It was notable the team gave up on both the sixth- and seventh-round picks, a departure from tendencies in the Jerry Angelo era. Instead of being forced to cut fullback Tyler Clutts, the Bears found a trading partner. He was dealt to the Texans for cornerback Sherrick McManis, a former Northwestern standout Houston drafted in the fifth round in 2010. McManis projects to be a special teams addition.”

“How about moving J’Marcus Webb to guard? He could be All-Pro. Let Chris Williams play left tackle this year, where his floor is higher than Webb’s, and look to get a long term fix next year. Jim P., Chicago

“We are not sure if Webb can play left tackle in the NFL yet, but we can be reasonably sure he cannot play guard. He is 6-8 and has long levers. I don’t think there is a guard in the NFL built like him. He’s too gangly to play guard. The game is quicker inside, and Webb does not have the quickness for that position. He also would struggle to get leverage against more compact interior defenders. He is perfectly built to play tackle, however. That’s why the Bears have not given up on him.”

  • Pompei answers another question about the line that’s been bothering me as well:

“The Bears starting left guard position appears to be a battle between Chris Spencer and Chilo Rachal, but why isn’t Edwin Williams being considered for the job? If I recall correctly he finished last year at the LG spot and played solid. Does Mike Tice want Williams to focus solely on the center position? Matt, Montreal

“Williams might be able to fill in for a guard in a pinch, but his future is at center. Williams does not play with the kind of power and leverage the Bears want their guards to play with. You could see it in a third quarter play against the Giants last week. Linebacker Greg Jones powered Williams back two yards and then disengaged to tackle Armando Allen in the backfield for a loss of three yards. Williams does have the athleticism for the center position.

It did not escape the notice of his coaches. Veteran defensive teammates even warned Hardin about his
style.

What irritates me about this is that every player that I saw quoted after the accident said that Hardin’s technique was fine. But clearly it was an issue. Covering for a player is one thing. Out right lying, particularly when kids are watching to learn how to play the game, is something else all together.

“Quarterback Jay Cutler downplayed the looks the tight ends were getting in games last week, saying, ‘Just because the ball didn’t go to them last game or the preseason game before that, it’s really not an indication of what we’re going to do with those guys.'”

We shall see.

“’He had a great game,’ Toub said. ‘He did a really good job. We just allowed him to punt it away and he relaxed and he carried over what we have been seeing in practice onto the field. First two games, not so good. That third game, he was really good.’”

“It’s interesting that Toub said Quigley was just allowed to ‘punt it away.’ Often times, Toub is very specific about how he wants his punters to perform, asking them for directional kicks. Whether that is an issue here for the undrafted rookie from Boston College is not known.

  • Biggs also quotes Toub on Devin Hester:

“Toub also said Devin Hester has lobbied for more work as a returner in preseason this summer:

“’We gave him one return every game,’ Toub said. ‘We had him in there for every preseason game. That is something a little different than what we have done in the past as per his request. He wanted to get a little more touches so we think he is going to be a lot more ready for the season than other years.'”

“‘It’s more of a spread offense. It gets guys in mismatches,’ Hester said. ‘We’ll have four or five playmakers on the field, and it’s going to be like, ‘Who are you going to double-team?’'”

Brandon Marshall. They’re going to double team Brandon Marshall, Devin. And if just one of you other guys becomes the playmaker everyone thinks you are, I’ll be one happy and surprised man.

  • I’m on board with this:

Elsewhere

“’It’s not only the throwing programs that have developed, the seven-on-seven camps, but take a look at the media in general and the Internet,’ Bears general manager Phil Emery said. ‘Just look at a school’s website, a school’s in-house reporting staff. These guys are so used to dealing with the media and dealing with high-level pressure and all the attention it brings, being a quarterback at a major-college program is huge.

“’Tennessee, you look at what they do just on their website and the layers and layers of reporting that all the major schools do now through their own vehicles and the market they try to generate in the fan interest, these guys are really brought up to handle pressure. Where maybe not so in the era before Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco. Yeah, there was pressure, but not that kind of 24/7, Internet, blogs writing about how good or bad you are every day in practice and games. Who you see, what you do — these guys are really used to dealing with it.’

“So a Ryan Leaf, drafted second to Peyton Manning in the 1998 draft, couldn’t hide the fact that he was a meltdown waiting to happen these days. A JaMarcus Russell, picked first overall by the Raiders in 2007, would be exposed as unprepared.”

  • Like many people, I was thinking that once healthy, Jeff Otah might be an option for the Bears at left tackle. Maybe not… From Pro Football Weekly‘s Audibles:

“You want to know what is wrong with (ex-Panthers ORT) Jeff Otah? He never really played football. He does not know how to handle pain. He got hurt when he was at Pitt in one of the games I was at, and you would have thought his leg got amputated. He was screaming like a child, and it turned out to be a sprained knee or some mild injury. We had him in for a visit too, and he was staring off into space. … He needs it to be kept simple. Someone will pick him up because he is still young and tackles are so hard to find.”

One Final Thought

Colts general manager Ryan Grigson on head coach and former Raven’s defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano. Via Pompei.

“‘I think leaders are born,’ Grigson said. ‘Chuck has that. He knows how to identify with each and every guy out here. Just like he did with Ray Lewis and Ed Reed, and then with rookie free agents he had that he turned into players. There is such a vast array of guys he is able to reach.'”

 

Tim Tebow’s Favorite Target and Other Points of View

Bears

  • Mark Potash at the Chicago Sun-Times reports that Shea McClellin is getting first team reps with the nickel defense. The nickel defense is on the field almost half the time. Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune goes on to point out that putitng McClellin at end in passing situations allows them to put Israel Idonije at tackle.
  • Potash thinks they should hold Brian Urlacher out until the Lions game in October.
  • Steve Rosenbloom at the Chicago Tribune and I see eye to eye:

“Brian Urlacher’s injury gets all the attention, but [defensive tackle Stephen] Paea and his injury expose two problems: The depth at defensive tackle is questionable, and more importantly, the talent at that spot has not proven to be game-changing consistently.”

I had high hopes for Paea this year. He might still come through but this is the kind of early setback that tends to have ramifications that last into the season.

“But it’s practice. You got to do it,” he told Fox. “I think just the shock of being out there so long and doing so many movements like that was too much for my knee.”

The longer practices are a result of the collective bargaining agreement limiting the number of days a team can practice and how much contact there can be. So if Urlacher is correct its ironic that he has his own union to blame for worsening the injury.

Chris [Williams] is a very smart guy,” Tice said. “He figures it out very fast. The one thing he doesn't do is make mental mistakes.”

This is, of course, the issue. The Bears really want Webb to win the job but they aren't going to put up with the mental errors this year. What's particularly frustrating is that Webb's mistakes should be easily corrected. But for whatever reason he just can't seem to be able to concentrate. One more offsides penalty in a preseason game might be the end of Webb as the left tackle. And, based upon this quote via Jensen, I think Webb knows it:

“'I feel like I am doing what Coach is asking me to do,' Williams said. 'Trying not to make any mistakes. I'll let the rest sort itself out.'”

Biggs sums up the situation very well as amply later in the week:

“[J'Marcus] Webb vs. Williams: Maybe this would be more accurately described J'Marcus Webb vs. himself.”

  • Of course Rosenblom wants to know whose head should be put on a platter for allowing the left tackle situation to develop as it has. The real question is where were you going to find a left tackle? There weren't any real freeagents worthy of the posiiton and the only prospect vailable to the Bears in the draft was Riley Reiff, a player who many doubted fit the position. So if you are looking for someone to blame you are going to have to take a good look at the previous regime in the front office.
  • Vaughn McClure’s impresson of defensive end Corey Wootton’s play last Thursday matched my own.

“Third-year defensive end Corey Wootton got a chance Thursday to measure how far he has come. Wootton, who started the exhibition game against the Broncos as Peppers rested, matched up against Ryan Clady, one of the top tackles in the league.

“Wootton was far from perfect, but he held his own on a few plays.”

‘‘'We’re going to keep things pretty basic,' said Cutler, who didn’t play in the preseason opener against the Denver Broncos last week. 'What we unroll against the Redskins isn’t the final product.'

“'We want to get in and out of the huddle. We want to execute plays. But it’s not going to be the end of the world if we’re not clicking on all cylinders.'”

  • Steeler's offensive coordinator Todd Haley talks about quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. But he might as well be descibing the situaiton with Cutler. From Sam Farmer at the Los Angeles Times:

“'You rely on that in emergency situations,' Haley said. 'When you make a bad call, or there's a breakdown up front or with the back, or something doesn't go the way it's supposed to, you have a guy that can get you out of trouble better than anybody else.

“'You don't just drop him back and say, 'Hey, work the field.' If you do that, you're going to be watching him dive and keep plays alive all the time. But those are also situations where he's put in harm's way.'”

What Haley's is saying is that he wants Roethlisberger to drop back and get rid of the ball. that doesn't appear to be an option with Cutler, who simply cannot throw with anticipation which is the reason he didn't get along in former offensive coordinator Mike Martz's offense. It will be interesting to see if Roethlisberger can make the adjustment.

  • Matt Bowen at the Chicago Tribune explains how the Bears are likely to use wide receiver Earl Bennett.

This anonymous quote from Pro Football Weekly's Audibles section caught my attention:

“Everyone knows how good (Bill) Belichick is. John Harbaugh has come into Baltimore as a special-teams coach and done an outstanding job. We saw (Bears special-teams coach) Dave Toub get head-coaching consideration in Jacksonville last year. His special-teams units are one of the best in the league year after year. He’s a former strength coach like (Bears GM) Phil Emery. The Bears went into their pipeline to find the new GM. I’m not so sure the next head coach is not on staff already. You've got two coordinators (Mike Tice, Rod Marinelli) who have done it, but the one who hasn’t, I think, may be the most ready.”

There are a couple things that interest me here. 1) This personnel man assumes that Lovie Smith will be fired at the end of the year (meaning they aren't headed for very good things). 2) He's targeted Dave Toub to replace him. Toub is certainly deserving of a head coaching shot and would be a facinating candidate. But picking someone from the staff may not be enough of a change to satisfy most fans.

Elsewhere

  • Dan Pompei at the Chicago Tribune profiles former Illinois kicker Derek Dimke , who is in Detriot's training camp:

“Dimke initially kept calling [current starter Jason] Hanson, who is 20 years his senior, “sir.” Hanson eventually told him to knock it off.”

“After a crunching collision between multiple Raiders and Kolb behind the line of scrimmage early in the second quarter, defensive lineman Tommy Kelly said as he made it to the sideline, 'That boy’s scared,' according to the Raiders TV broadcast being streamed through NFL.com’s Preseason Live package.”

  • Pompei thinks it might be interesting to keep an eye on former Bears safety Brandon Meriweather tonight:

“'I know in Chicago it was mainly two, three deep (coverage),' [Redskins coach Mike] Shanahan said. 'He is more of a safety like he was in New England, a box guy who plays a lot of different coverages. I’m not sure he’s a very good straight two deep or three deep player. But our scheme kind of fits what he does. And I like the time we’re getting him. Whatever happened in Chicago, he has to come in here and fit in. I’m hoping he keeps playing at this level.'”

Translation: “The Bears misused him.” I'm not sure I buy that, though. Meriweather's problems with Lovie Smith really had more to do with discipline on the field, I think.

  • Here's another thought provoking Audible:

“New England, I think, is going to dry up. The quarterback (Tom Brady) is on his way down and I don’t think he’s surrounded by the same amount of talent he was earlier in his career. The other one to me that is on the downswing is New Orleans. We’ll see if (Drew) Brees is worth everything they put into him. There are a lot of good teams out there. It was a different game last year with the lockout ­— and it favored teams like the Patriots and Saints.”

“It’s easier to know who to block when you are facing a four-man front, and that ultimately translates to better quarterback play. As an offensive guy — I can tell you — the 3-4 (front) is more difficult to play against. I think you see a lot more quarterbacks with the deer-in-headlights look when they’re dealing with ‘30’ fronts. It’s more difficult to decipher. Why do you think (Peyton) Manning has the hardest time with the Chargers? It helps if your secondary can be great window dressers, showing three deep and playing two, but there is no disguise as effective as surprising quarterbacks with the rush. … The trend moved toward the 3-4 a few years ago. Now it’s trending back toward the ‘40’ (front).”

“The White Fan Favorite

“This guy is usually a combination between The Late-Round Project and The Undrafted Superstar. Except he’s white. And he probably already has sold 5,000 jerseys. But it’s not so much a racial thing, it’s just that … I don’t know … a lot of fans identify with him somehow.

“It could be because chances are he’ll be just like them in a few weeks in that he also won’t be employed as an NFL football player.”

One Final Thought

TIm Tebow appears to developing chemistry with his favorite target in Jets camp. From The Onion:

“'As we get into camp, more and more often Tim has been throwing to the ground,' center Nick Mangold said. 'During plays, he just has this instinct for finding the ground every time. It’s becoming apparent to everyone on the team that the ground is Tim’s go-to target.'”

 

The Bears Could Afford to Be a Little Less Bland in the Preseason and Other Points of View

Bears

  • Here’s a good point made by cornerback Charles Tillman here. Via the Chicago Tribune:

 

“On what he will take away from playing a couple of series in this game
“‘My wind, tackling. Tackling is always a big deal the first game. Guys are sometimes overrunning the ball because it’s live [for the first time]. That’s the thing you want to work on right now, live tackling, because we’re missing a lot of tackles.’”

 

Tackling tends to be an overlooked skill for most of us.Until it all turns bad during the season and its to late to do anything about it. I can't recall a single media reference to how well the Bears tackled Thurday night, which is a good indicator of how they did. Now is the time to practice the fundamentals and get them down.

 

  • Good point here by Vaughn McClure at the Chicago Tribune as well:

 

Nickel of time: D.J. Moore seemed rather bold the other day when he said no one could challenge him for his spot at nickel back. Moore went out and backed up his words immediately Thursday night.”

 

Moore tipped the ball that was intercepted by Major Wright Thursday night.

 

 

2. Why are NFL teams so afraid to show 'too much too soon'? How good is a game plan, a scheme or a play if the element of surprise is so critical to its success? Is it that hard to devise enough plays and wrinkles that opponents won't know what to expect?”

 

I know they want to keep things conservative in terms of play calling. But come on. How can you evaluate players if you don't let them play?

 

You don't have to call a bunch of fancy blitzes but would a few deep passes and some press coverage have really hurt all that much?

 

 

“McClellin will fit in well because he gives the defense something it didn't have. He will get steamrolled at times like he did Thursday, but he will put a lot of offensive players on the ground and disrupt a lot of plays.”

 

The offensive linemen that McClellin saw in the first half did, indeed, steam roll him any time there was a run to his side. For those looking for more encouraging signs, however, McClellin showed promise as a pass rusher and to my eye he played the run much better in the second half.

 

 

“‘He’s a left end, not a right end,’ the scout said of McClellin. ‘To me, he is really truly a better fit as a 3-4 sam (strong-side) linebacker. You’re never going to see him be special off the edge. He’ll be a pain in your ass and he’s strong but that’s my opinion.’

“Too many people have wondered about the possibility McClellin could one day move to middle linebacker, so I bounced that scenario off the scout. He scoffed at the notion, pointing out the athleticism of Brian Urlacher far exceeds McClellin.

“‘If you’re talking inside, I could see him as a two-down inside linebacker in a 3-4,’ the scout said. ‘But in a 4-3 defense? No, that is not the answer for this kid. The Bears will play him at end and he’s going to be a high-motor player for them.’”

 

  • The scout also commented on other aspects of the game. Here is a cross-section:

 

Alshon Jeffery is not agile enough to beat press coverage at the line of scrimmage and ‘needs to develop into one of those Keyshawn Johnson-type guys that is physical.’”

“The fourth quarterback (Matt Blanchard) didn’t look too bad until he started looking at receivers instead of reading coverage.”

“The tight end (Kellen Davis) is just Average Joe and the guys behind him are really Average Joes.”

 

 

‘‘’Matt has that knack,’ said Mike DiMatteo, his coach at Lake Zurich from 2003-05, ‘it’s something you can’t put your finger on. But he’s one of those guys with that knack [for winning]. He’s absolutely fearless. He’s not afraid of a challenge. And he’s a tough kid. It’s pretty ­impressive.’’’

‘‘’To walk into a stadium [Thursday night] that was holding more people than he’s ­probably ever been in front of in his life,’’ [Bears general manager Phil] Emery said, ‘to throw that long ball and be accurate in the short area and to carry himself with poise under duress in a very charged environment says everything about him.’’’

 

 

“The Bears re-signed Tim Jennings this offseason before going to the free-agent well to add competition for him at left corner. Early signals from training camp indicate that Jennings still has a fairly secure lead in the position battle, though. Former Colt and Falcon Kelvin Hayden, the top competitor for Jennings' job, has not stood out as much as Jennings in practice, we hear, and Hayden is the third corner on the depth chart at this point.”

 

  • A few other observations of my own that havne’t been emphasized elsewhere and weren’t worth a separate post.

 

  1. Other than Israel Idonije, the defensive linemen were thoroughly handled by the Bronco’s starting offensive line in the absence of Julius Peppers. I thought things got better once the backups got in.
  2. Gabe Carimi looked a step slow. It could just have been rust but it did make me wonder if his knee is still bothering him.
  3. The Bears receivers struggled to get separation from press coverage but I thought Josh McCown looked sharp most of the time. His balls were on time and exactly where they needed to be. I agree with the scout quoted above on Blanchard.
  4. It's just a preseason game but if I’m a Bronco fan, I’m mildly perturbed by all of those penalties. They’ll need to clean that up.

 

 

Elsewhere

  • Darin Gantt at profootballtalk.com highlights the problems Cardinals’ quarterback Kevin Kolb is having. I’m going to be interested in seeing how things go with Seattle quarterback Matt Flynn, another highly touted backup who headed for better things with another team. At least Flynn got some good coaching in Green Bay before he left.
  • Chris Mortenson at ESPN reports that Cedric Benson is close to signing with Green Bay.

 

There’s no mystery as to why Benson has had a tough time finding a team. He runs really hard but he not only isn’t a good receiver out of the backfield, he doesn’t even try. And he’s not a good blocker.

 

No one asked him to do any of that when he was at Texas. Now that he’s with the big boys he can’t find anyone who isn’t asking him to do it.

 

Frankly, as desperate as they are for help at running back, I’m surprised Green Bay is interested. My first thought was that this rumor was actually planted by the agent just to generate some interest.

 

 

“We hear it’s still unclear how a fullback will be used in the Patriots’ offense, but it did seem to be one of the team’s focal points this offseason after adding Spencer Larsen and Tony Fiammetta. The Pats placed Fiammetta on the exempt-left squad list, leaving Larsen as the one to make the team as a No. 1 fullback. Josh McDaniels had Heath Evans as a fullback in New England during his first stint as the team’s offensive coordinator, and Larsen was with him in Denver. The Pats have used extra linemen and versatile players in the past as lead blockers, but getting more efficiency from that spot with a prototypical fullback like Larsen is still an option — late last season New England brought FB Lousaka Polite aboard.”

 

 

“Johnson and his wife went to a restaurant for dinner. They returned home and she found a receipt for a box of condoms, [Davie Police Department Capt. Dale] Engle said.

An argument ensued, Engle said.

“’It gets pretty heated,’ Engle said. ‘By the time they get home here in Davie it's pretty heated. She alleges he leaned over and head butted her. He says she leaned towards him and that they butted heads. Needless to say she has a good laceration on her forehead.’”

 

 

One Final Thought

The toughest teachers I’ve ever had were the ones I learned the most from and often (though not always) were the ones I ended up liking the best. So I thought this quote from former Bear defensive end Alex Brown was of interest. Via Biggs:

“[Former defensive coordinator Greg] Blache let you know what your job was and when you didn’t do your job, he let you know. I am saying it in the nicest way possible, OK? He said it in a pretty mean way. As a grown man, you didn’t think you’d be talked to like that, you know? He was different and I wouldn’t change it for anything because it made me tougher as a person. As a player, it gave me that thick skin that I needed to play in the NFL. I enjoyed it. I loved him. I really, really appreciate him. It was great.”

 

Cutler’s Success Will Be Determined by His Receivers More than Ever and Other Points of View

Bears

  • Mike Florio at profootballtalk.com thinks the Bears offense might look a lot like the Viking’s offense a decade ago.  He makes and interesting point:

“While all of this may be good news for the fantasy football crowd, the reality is that, under [Bears offensive coordinator, MikeTice, the Vikings went to the playoffs only once in four seasons.  If that pattern repeats itself in Chicago, he won’t be the offensive coordinator for long — because there will be a new head coach.”

“[Gabe] Carimi’s return is critical. While [Phil] Emery has shored up key positions, he has left himself open to criticism by leaving an average offensive line virtually untouched. The line is better than critics think. With a makeshift lineup, the Bears were ninth in the NFL in rushing, and Jay Cutler was sacked nine times in is final seven games last season. But disastrous games with Cutler running for his life against the New York Giants in 2010 and the Detroit Lions in 2011 still define our image of the line.”

As well they should.

  • Former Bears left tackle Jim Covert has some suggestions to improve Chicago Bears’ pass blocking.  From Fred Mitchell at the Chicago Tribune:

“’The technique nowadays is dreadful,’ said Covert, now president and CEO of The Institute for Transfusion Medicine. ‘You very rarely see guys punch(-block) people with their hands, get separation.

“’In these days of the three-step drop … the short passing game … you can essentially shock the guy at the line of scrimmage and almost fall down and (the defender) won’t get to the passer. Yet these (offensive linemen) continually back up and catch people and it is just frustrating to watch.

“’You can’t catch people, you have to shock people at the line of scrimmage. You have to stop them. Pass blocking is controlled aggression.’”

  • Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune on the challenges Bears guard Chilo Rachal faces with a new offense in Chicago:

“The 6-foot-5 Rachal is listed at 323 pounds but says he is about 310 right now, the weight he reported to camp at last summer after dropping “30 some pounds.”  He possesses the size and athleticism to do some of the pulling offensive coordinator Mike Tice likes in the running game.

“‘I’m in real good shape,” he said. “I feel explosive. I can move good.’”

“Mike Ditka was among those honored with a Ring Lardner Award on Wednesday night.

“‘I am honored, but for me to get any kind of broadcast award, you guys have got to be nuts,’ joked Ditka during the organization’s annual dinner at the Union League Club in downtown Chicago. ‘You must have (gone) to the bottom of the barrel and turned it upside down.’”

“If Chicago wanted to be host to a Super Bowl, it should have done two things differently in 2001 when the city decided to rebuild Soldier Field.

“It should have made the capacity significantly larger, and it should have put a dome over it.

“And MetLife Stadium, where the Super Bowl will be played, has FieldTurf. Soldier Field has grass. In February, Soldier Field has a mixture of dead grass, mud and sand.”

“So the chances of Chicago having a Super Bowl are roughly the same as the chances of Jupiter having one.”

“This is by far the largest scouting staff the Bears ever have had. The 2012 Bears personnel staff will have 18 scouts, six more than the 2011 staff.”

“Despite making exorbitant salaries, 60 percent of NBA players are broke within five years of retirement, according to a 2009 Sports Illustrated article. And 78 percent of NFL players are broke within three years.”

So what would former Bears tell the current Bears?  I thought former tight end Dez Clark has the best advise:

“You play football and you let people who manage money manage your money, but you always know what’s going on with your money. And if you think it’s too good to be true, it probably is.”

 “I am a Matt Forte fan, but if he is going to be more of a distraction and not be in the Bears’ long-term future, is there any thought to trading him for a first- or second-round pick?  Michael Bush is a solid running back and when given the chance has performed at a high level. Mr. L, Woodstock

“I highly doubt any team would give the Bears a first-round pick for Forte, and I wonder if a team would even give up a second-round pick. It’s possible that a desperate team that loses its runner to injury could part with a second-rounder. But Forte is worth much more than that to the Bears.”

Two points:

1)  I am constantly amazed at the insistence of fans that current players are worth as much as they are in trade.  Teams hang on to first and second round draft picks like gold.

2)  I’ve heard words like “expendable” thrown around when referring to Mat Forte.  But I can tell you truly that Michael Bush cannot perform at a level anywhere close to Forte.  He’s a big back who runs and blocks like one and I like him.  But he can’t catch passes like Forte nor can he run with Forte’s vision.  Believe me, the Bears would miss Forte badly if they went into the season without him.

“Does Shea McClellan look big enough to compete at defensive end? He looks undersized and less than intimidating. He also seems to lack strength, only doing 18 reps of the bench press. How does he look up close? Eric Johnson, Las Vegas

“He certainly does not look like Julius Peppers or Israel Idonije. But that in and of itself does not mean McClellin cannot compete and excel at the position. McClellin, at 6-foot-3, 260 pounds, would look plenty big next to Dwight Freeney (6-foot-1, 268), Robert Mathis (6-foot-2, 245) or Elvis Dumervil (5-foot-11, 260). Some of how he copes with not being the biggest defensive end depends how the Bears use him. If the Bears line up McClellin squarely over the tackle on every snap, they may be disappointed. But put him on an edge and let him use his instincts quickness and speed, and they should be very pleased. Some smaller defensive ends believe their lack of size is an advantage because it enables them to get underneath the pads of bigger blockers. McClellin, not surprisingly, has been pretty good at playing the leverage game during his college career.”

I would only add that Phil Emery, being a former strength and conditioning coach, undoubtedly took McClellin as much because of the potential he saw in his body as anything else.  I’ve got a suspicion McClellin’s going to get a lot bigger.

Elsewhere

“I can’t believe Roger Goodell would risk having scab officials ruin games.  The NFL might be better off cancelling games than having every game called into question because of the perception of inferior officiating.”

I don’t think I’d go that far but I do see a lot of trouble on the horizon.  For instance, here’s what rookie Bears defensive end Shea McClellin said about adjusting to the NFL game: (via Mitchell)

“Everybody says speed (in the NFL) … is probably the biggest difference.”

He’s not wrong.

I remember going to see my first NFL game live like it was yesterday.  I’d seen many college games before and figured, based on what I’d seen on television all of my life, that what I was about to see wasn’t that much different.  I couldn’t have been more wrong.

The speed of the NFL game is just incredible.  The first think I remember thinking was that even if I had the physical traits, there was no way I’d be able to play linebacker in the NFL because the speed of the game requires that you react by instinct.  The second thing I thought was how tough it would be a referee.

  • If only it were this easy…  From The Sports Pickle.
  • “Rodgers” is Apparently Harder to Spell Than “Favre”.  Also from The Sports Pickle:

 

One Final Thought

Greg Cosell at NFL Films provides insight into quarterback Jay Cutler:

“You may recall one issue raised in the evaluation process was Cutler’s tendency to force throws into coverage. Those who said that were wrong. Cutler was throwing to wide receivers matched one-on-one on the outside. Here’s the way it works in the passing game: The best you can get is man coverage. When that happens, the quarterback expects his receivers to get open. If your receivers do not win, it’s not the quarterback’s fault. At Vanderbilt, Cutler threw a lot of passes to receivers that could not win against more talented SEC corners. That was viewed erroneously as a troubling indication of poor judgment and decision making.”

“Cutler is often what I call a ‘see it, throw it’ passer. By that I mean he must see his receiver break open before he pulls the trigger. His powerful arm allows him to do that. He’s not a true anticipation passer, throwing the ball before receivers begin their breaks. He’s capable of it, and there are instances in which he has done it, but that’s not the signature of his play.”

These are good points.  They explain why Mike Martz’s offense was never a good fit for Cutler.  Martz requires his quarterbacks to throw to a spot and trust the receiver to get there to catch it.  It failed on both fronts with Cutler both because he’s not mentally wired to throw with that kind of anticipation and he (rightfully) did not trust his wide receivers.

It’s possible that Cutler will do better with Tice.  But it will be more important than ever that he have wide receivers that can battle for the ball one-on-one in coverage.  Earl Bennett and Brandon Marshall have shown they can do that.  Alshon Jeffery was drafted because the Bears think he can do that.  The rest of the Bears receivers…  well, we’ll see.

Giving Thanks for Bears Ownership. And Other Points of View.

Bears

  • Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune reviews the playing time of all of the NFL players.  Here are some of relevant points he extracts:

1)  Five of Dave Toub’s eight top special teams tacklers are free agents.  It could be another tough coaching job ahead.

2)  “Roy Williams led all wide receivers with 600 snaps, though he fell short of a predicted 70 to 80 catches. He tied Johnny Knox for the team-lead with 37 receptions.”

3)  [Chauncy] Davis played more than any of the other third ends last season with 104 snaps.”

Honestly, I’d almost forgotten Davis was on the team.  He was that unremarkable despite playing opposite Julius Peppers.  The Bears need a third defensive end badly.

4)  [Lance] Briggs was on the field for all 1,081 defensive snaps and Urlacher missed only 14.

“The question isn’t so much about age. It’s rather: How long can they continue to perform at an elite level?” 

“He’s become such an icon at middle linebacker that people forget Urlacher played a sort of hybrid safety in Rocky Long‘s system at New Mexico, and that he actually got his initial reps at outside linebacker. Suffice to say, the move to the middle worked out. Urlacher is still playing at a high level but will be 34 this spring, and Chicago would be wise to add some depth at linebacker in the upcoming draft. I think they can wait a few rounds, however; I’d like to see them find a wideout (preferably with some size), another solid offensive lineman and a corner first.”

“Phil (Chicago):

“Is Michael Floyd‘s draft stock tumbling due to his lack of participation at the senior bowl? What does he need to do at the combine to solidify himself as a mid-first round type guy?

“Mel Kiper  (1:17 PM):

“No, I don’t think that’s something that will make him plummet. I think he’s the kind of guy that had a good year, a productive year. He caught some passes. You want to see him show some more aggressiveness. You want him to be the guy that wants to take over the game. He’s in the top 25 on the Big Board. He’s a mid to later first round pick.”

I think Kiper hit this one right on the nose.  Really great NFL receivers have a look in their eye and often seem to make tough catches by sheer will.  Floyd could be elite but there were times when you wondered if he had the “want to” necessary to make it big.

“Darth Ditka (Sunny Florida)

“Should the Bears trade up for Kendall Wright or stay put at #19?

“Mel Kiper  (1:06 PM)

“You look at their needs and it’s WR, OT, CB, things like that. They could look at Wright, who could be there when they pick at 19. If not, Mike Adams at OT.”

Here’s what Kiper has to say about Adams, an offensive tackle from Ohio State who is number 20 on his Big Board.

“Makes his mark as a pass-rusher, with good feet, length and quickness to wall off defenders. Awareness could be improved, and he’s dealt with plenty of injuries. But stock is on the way up.”

It would be really nice to get a good left tackle with that first round pick.

“An under the radar player who is expected to be a very hot free agent is 49ers receiver Josh Morgan. Teams are buzzing about the possibility of acquiring Morgan, who is considered a very good talent who should be available at a lesser price than the receivers on the top rung. The 49ers have been enthralled with Morgan for four years, but he never really had a breakout because of health issues and offensive ineptitude in previous seasons. A broken leg limited him to five games in 2011. But front office men see Morgan as someone with decent size, speed, toughness and playmaking ability.”

The Bears could consider Morgan.  But his height is 6’ even.  It isn’t everything but I really think they acquire someone bigger.

“(Bears offensive coordinator) Mike Tice is an excellent coach. The Bears will be a lot better on offense next year. He played a long time in the league. He understands the big picture. He is a very underrated coach.”

Ron Turner was a good coach, too.  But, like Turner, Tice isn’t a guy who is going to use X’s and O’s to overcome deficiencies in the roster.  He’s not going to be able to get many good match ups from a group that lacks talent.  Here’s hoping I’m wrong.

Jeff Fisher‘s dream job was with the Bears. It’s where he played. It’s a serious football town. They play his brand of football ­— a tough, physical style. He would have been a great hire (in Chicago).”

I would have loved to have Fisher here.  But you couldn’t justifiably fire Smith.  The current problem with the team isn’t due to his coaching.  I think Fisher would have wanted too much control over personnel as well.

Elsewhere

  • I spent a good part of my morning catching up on the Audibles.  So there are a lot of them in the post.  And another one:

“When I look at the way Leslie Frazier is running the Vikings, I think of Tony Dungy. I would think Tony might have had something to do with the hires they just made (at defensive coordinator). The problem with that (Tampa-2) defense — if you don’t have six or seven Pro Bowlers on the field, it is not going to work. … When you don’t disguise your coverages, it’s like taking candy from a baby.”

We’re pretty fortunate in Chicago in that Lovie Smith came to this conclusion at least two years ago.  The Bears have done much more in the way of disguising coverages ever since.  Frazier is eventually going to have to make this adjustment.

Jim Mora (Sr.) had it right. Michael Vick is a coach killer. The Eagles made a mistake signing him long-term. I can tell you right now — he was a machine the first half of 2010, and then he … started turning the ball over. You cannot win a Super Bowl with a guy that is that inconsistent. They said he was hurt. I’m not sure they didn’t bench him after he started 3-8 going back to last year (counting Vick’s two season-ending losses a year ago). If I’m Andy Reid, I’m looking hard at Matt Flynn right now.”

“The most underrated cog in Green Bay is (QB coach) Tom Clements. He is the one who has worked with (Aaron) Rodgers and (Matt) Flynn the most closely. The head coach calls the plays. Sure, Joe Philbin was a part of it, but I will be interested to see how much he can get done on his own (in Miami). (GM) Jeff Ireland has been involved with the hiring of two coaches — Tony Sparano and Philbin. Neither would have been on my short list, but we’ll see how it works this time around. They have two years to get it done, and then it’s clean-out time.”

I also have my doubts about the Philbin hire.  Philbin’s really an offensive line coach.  Its clear to me that Mike McCarthy is the guy running that offense and he’s the guy coaching the quarterbacks.  What you are actually doing is hiring someone who you hope has learned something from him.  But if you think you are getting a guy who was heavily involved in the way the offense runs, I think you may be fooling yourself.

“Come the beginning of April, every wart on every draft prospect is going to get bigger and bigger. There will be a group of guys that find flaws on every player and will focus on them and concentrate on them instead of the positive traits. They will be talking about how Andrew Luck does not have John Elway‘s arm. It was like Cam Newton last year. Everyone was ripping the kid until the final three days before the draft when it became clear that (Panthers GM) Marty (Hurney) really was going to take him. “

“The folks should be able to see the god—- games on television,” he said. “Playoff games. Playoffs — all playoff games should be available.”

A year later, Congress passed a law to make sure they were.

  • Steve Breaston, who played under former Bears wide receivers coach Todd Haley in Arizona and Kansas City thinks Haley, the new Steeler’s offensive coordinator is “not always a butt hole”.  Via Florio.
  • One word: “genius”.

New York Giants Fan 2 Story Fall During Super Bowl Parade from MediaNiche on Vimeo.


Eli Manning Asks Dad If He Can Stop Playing Football Now

  • The NFC and AFC Seasons in review are now available on DVD from the NFL.  Here are the sales pitches for the NFC South.  From The Sports Pickle:

 

One Final Thought

 

And one more Audible from Pro Football Weekly:

 

Jim Irsay is taking on the persona of Jerry Jones. He wants to be the acting GM. He’s doing interviews. He wants to be the face of the franchise. That’s a big part of the reason (Bill) Polian is gone. It’s the Jim Irsay show now.”

 

There are a lot of days that I’m thankful that the McCaskey’s own the Bears.  I read things like this and today becomes one of them.  The family takes a lot of heat.  But generally speaking they stay out of the way and let people do their jobs.

 

People love to give the McCaskey’s trouble because they see them as distant.  I personally don’t believe that and I’ve implied that I think they were more involved in the Jerry Angelo firing than anyone is letting on.  But setting that aside, the alternative to “distant” is Jim Irsay.  Think about it.

 

 

 

 

 

Lovie Smith Apparently Thinks We’re Morons. And Other Points of View.

Bears

“Bates turned down an opportunity to interview with the Bears and sources indicated it was because of a communication issue with former general manager Jerry Angelo.”

You have to wonder if “communication issue” isn’t code for something else.  I’m sure the odd situation at Halas Hall where Angelo interfered with the coaches wasn’t lost on Bates.

“If I’m a Bears fan, I wouldn’t get caught up in titles too much concerning why Bates wasn’t hired as passing-game coordinator. That is all it is, a title.”

Then why didn’t they give it to him? I think the answer can be found as John Mullin at CSNChicago.com opines that the hiring of Bates portends changes in the offense.  I don’t agree and, in fact, Bates’ background in the West Coast Offense is probably the real reason he wasn’t given the title of passing game coordinator.  He’s probably not familiar enough with the scheme Tice wants to run to be of much use in that capacity, at least for a while.

“In terms of being one-and-done in Seattle, it relates more to Matt Hasselback than any failures by Bates. Hasellback had been in the west-coast Offense his entire career under Mike Holmgren. There were certain principles in the offense, I believe, Matt felt very strongly about over years of experience executing the system. Bates arrived in Seattle with his own set of beliefs in the system under [Jon] Gruden and Mike Shanahan’s tutelage as well.

“Yes, it is the same offense but areas of emphasis and how it is executed normally morph under whoever is calling the plays. Hence, the statement ‘philosophical differences’ when Bates was relieved of his offensive play-calling duties, despite making the playoffs while in Seattle.”

“Why was Jeremy Bates out of football last year? Did he get fired in Seattle and if he is so good why didn’t he have a job in the NFL this past season? — Chip, Wichita

“Bates was fired in Seattle for a couple of reasons, according to people I’ve spoken with who are familiar with the situation. The primary reason is the Seahawks offense wasn’t very good. The second reason is he didn’t mesh well with everyone in the building. He is known for being a bit prickly. He is, however, a football junkie who has a passion for the game and is good at what he does. A lot of head coaches are leery of adding a coach who is potentially combustible, which explains why Bates was out of football last year.”

“What do you think the chances are that the Bears go after Jermichael Finley in free agency? I’m assuming that new offensive coordinator Mike Tice will utilize the tight end much more than Mike Martz considering he actually played the position in the league… — Mike Clark; Hawley, Penn.”

“It might come down to whether or not the Bears want to invest in a big time wide receiver or a big time tight end, assuming Finley hits the open market. You can’t have everything you want because cash and cap space are limited. Finely would be an outstanding addition to the Bears because of the reasons you delineated. But adding him would not alleviate the need for a wide receiver. We have to be careful about making too many assumptions about how Tice wants to use the tight end. Just because he used to be a tight end doesn’t mean anything. Martz is a former tight end too. In Tice’s time in Minnesota, his tight ends were not big parts of the offense in his first two years. But in both of his last two years, tight end Jermaine Wiggins led the team in catches.

1)  I don’t think investing in a tight end in free agency is a wise move.  I’m not sure of the current statisitics but at one time it was the most injured position in football.

2)  Actually Tice did try to use Jim Kleinsasser  to create mismatches in his first years as Vikings head coach.  The problem was that the Vikings weren’t too successful at it.  Here’s hoping that he’s more successful with the Bears.

“Who would you rather see in a Bears uniform next year: Vincent Jackson or Marques Colston? Both players seem to possess the talent and size of a number one wide receiver. Is there are possibility that the Bears sign one of these free agents? — Phil Keith, Milwaukee

“They are similar wide receivers. Both are very good players. Both have been very productive. Both players cause mismatches because of their size. Both have benefited from playing with outstanding quarterbacks and in ideal conditions. Their hands are decent, not great. Even though both players are about the same size (6-5, 230 for Jackson versus 6-4, 225 for Colston), Jackson is a more physical receiver. Colston might be a little faster and moreexplosive. From what I’m hearing, both could be available, probably at a price of about $9 million a year. Jackson might be a better fit for the NFC North, but either would look good in a Bears uniform. Jackson and Colston aren’t the only attractive potential free agent wide receiver for the Bears. Others who could be on the market include Dwayne Bowe, Josh Morgan, Robert Meachem, Wes Welker, Reggie Wayne, DeSean Jackson, Mario Manningham, Laurent Robinson and Plaxico Burress.

Kendall Wright*, WR, Baylor

“The Bears have not spent a first-round pick on a wide receiver since David Terrell in 2001, and at some point they have to pull the trigger on a playmaker for QB Jay Cutler. A versatile speedster who can threaten defenses vertically and is dangerous after the catch, Wright is on the rise after catching 108 passes for 1,663 yards and hauling in 14 touchdowns in 2011.”

There are very few reasonable things the Bears could do in this draft that I would object to.  But this pick would make me very unhappy.  Wright is only 5’10” and its doubtful he would help a Bear receiving corp that can’t get off the line of scrimmage.  They’re looking for a better version of Roy Williams.

“Assuming the Bears address their biggest need and finally get Jay Cutler a legit No.1 receiver this offseason, don’t you think they should trade Johnny Knox as well?… — Martin G., Philadelphia

“The trade market for wide receivers in body casts usually isn’t too inviting.”

LOL.

I think its funny that had to actually create a category, “Biggest mistake II”, just to get  Bear in there.  The Roy Williams signing was nowhere the the magnitude of “Biggest mistake I” Donovan McNabb.

Let’s face it.  The Bears were a pretty ‘blah” team.

“More Snaps

Corey Graham: +3.4 from 89 snaps

“Sure it’s a small sample size, but there was enough in watching Graham fill in for D.J. Moore covering the slot to wonder just how the special team’s ace would handle a role as part of the defense. The soon-to-be free agent did more in 89 snaps than some do in five times as many so maybe this will be the year a team gives him a shot to make his way into their sub-package D.”

Elsewhere

“Appearing with Ross Tucker on SiriusXM NFL Radio’s Opening Drive, [former Colts general manager Bill] Polian said that Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski failed a physical with the Colts prior to the 2010 draft.

“Though it looks like excuse-making, the reality is that there were many different opinions regarding Gronkowski two years ago.  He had a serious back injury in college, which originally occurred while lifting weights.  Some teams viewed the situation as a potential career-limiter.  Other teams saw it as a non-issue.”

“We’re either going to have to improve the quality of what we’re doing in the Pro Bowl or consider other changes, or even (consider) eliminating the game, if that’s the kind of quality game we’re going to provide.”

“Any chance to up the intensity will also be met with a pragmatically cautious approach by players, New England Patriots lineman Logan Mankins said earlier this week.

“’You’re going to give a little effort, but you’re not going to get out of control,’ Mankins, a four-time Pro Bowl pick, said during a Super Bowl media session. ‘Some guys are free agents over there. You get hurt in a Pro Bowl and it’s going to affect that contract with another team. Who would want to get hurt in a Pro Bowl and not be able to play the next season?’”

I totally agree with Mankins.  As a fan I’d be pretty upset to see someone on my team get hurt playing in a meaningless game like this.  I’d rather see it eliminated.

“Trade deadline: The league is looking into moving the mid-October trade deadline later in the season to create more intrigue and strategy for buyers and sellers. For instance, the Broncos got nothing for Kyle Orton by unloading him in November, even though a lot of teams were angling for a quarterback. The Broncos could have used help at other positions and happily would have worked a trade.

“Also, the league will weigh the merits of compressing the free-agency window, just as it was forced to do last summer because of the lockout. That created a lot of excitement and interest because of the fast-moving bazaar of players switching teams. It saved teams money, too — something of keen interest to owners — because most players simply didn’t have the time to play one suitor off another.”

  • I thought it was interesting that in his latest mock draft, McShay has wide receiver Justin Blackmon falling to the Redskins at 6 (past the Vikings who definitely need offensive weapons).  This is probably going to be one of the most interesting drafts ever in terms of who goes where in the to ten picks.  There are a lot of guys there past consensus number one pick Andrew Luck with not a lot separating them in terms of talent.  Its also going to be interesting to see if anyone falls in love with Robert Griffin III and trades up for him.
  • To my surprise, the Vikings quest to get a new stadium continues:

“The current site on the table is adjacent to the Vikings current home at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, and the plan would allow the Vikings to continue playing at the Metrodome for the majority of the construction process. The team would need to play for one season at the University of Minnesota’s TCF Bank Stadium while the last 25 percent of construction is completed, and Vikings vice president of public affairs and stadium development Lester Bagley has been meeting with University officials to discuss those arrangements, according to Sid Hartman of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.”

I’ll say this.  The Vikings really don’t want to move.  With an empty stadium waiting in Los Angeles, I’m not so sure I’d still be in Minnesota right now if I owned the team.

Personally, I think Turner is a reasonably option for anyone looking for a coordinator.  But Shoop has had a lot more success in college at North Carolina.  Some guys are just better coaching the college game and he might be one of them.  Unless he’s learned a great deal in the time since he left the Bears, I’m going to say he’s much, much better off staying there in the future.

In the end, the Buccaneers finally ended up hiring Mike Sullivan, Eli Manning’s quarterbacks coach with the Giants (Via Florio).

You’ve got to be kidding me.

“Though Manningham didn’t have huge numbers, reliance on him in one of the game’s biggest moments meshed with something former Colts coach Tony Dungy had been saying last week.  In the 2006 AFC title game, during which the Pats raced to a 21-3 lead, Belichick found a way to take away both Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne.  The Colts then adjusted, targeting tight end Dallas Clark and taking advantage of opportunities in the running game.

“And so with Belichick so determined to take away what the opposing offense does best and with opposing offenses now figuring it out, the chess match needs to move to the next level, with Belichick making the enemy think he’ll be taking away the top weapons and then pouncing on the guy to whom the ball will actually go.”

“Safeguards in contracts against misconduct typically consist of the payment of money, often via something known under the law as ‘liquidated damages.’  Basically, the parties agree in advance that the actual harm resulting from a violation will be too difficult to tabulate, so they agree to a specific payment that will be due and owing if/when the party does that which the party agreed not to do.”

I hope she never makes another ungarnished dime again.

“Late in the Super Bowl, on the Patriots’ final drive, the Giants were called for having 12 men on the field.

“But the penalty was only 5 yards, and the time that drained off the clock — eight seconds — was well worth the punishment. The infraction was almost certainly  unintentional — Justin Tuck was trying to hustle off the field. But what’s to prevent other teams from copying this formula under similar circumstances?”

I agree with Monkovic that the chances are good that the competition committee will make a rule addressing this.

“Now that’s odd: The Patriots did win something — the coin toss. That might not sound like a big deal, but it was the first time the AFC has won that 50/50 proposition in 15 consecutive Super Bowls.”

  • The Sportress of Blogitude has pictures of Greg Jones as he proposes to his girlfreind after the Super Bowl.  Note the look of joy on his mother’s face in the background in every picture.

One Final Thought

From Sean Jensen at the Chicago Sun-Times:

“The Bears also interviewed Alex Van Pelt and Greg Olson, but Smith insisted Bates was his man.

“‘I did a lot of research, and I think Jeremy is a perfect fit,’ Smith told the team website.

“‘Did we look at other guys? Yes, we did. Every time we have an opening, I look at everybody available.

“‘But in the end, it was Jeremy by a landslide.’”

Really?

Like me, Kip Lewis at CSNChicago.com remembers things a little differently:

“Recently published reports stated Jeremy Bates would not be considered for a position on the Bears’ coaching staff, but today Bates was named the team’s quarterbacks coach.”

As does Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune:

“The Bears’ announcement of Bates’ hiring did not include the term “passing game coordinator,” a title that was offered to ex-Buccaneers offensive coordinator Greg Olson, who turned down the job last month. Olson chose to join the Jaguars, who gave him the title of assistant head coach along with quarterbacks coach.”

I understand that Lovie Smith has to put a positive spin on this.  But that doesn’t mean he should feel free to  treat us like an idiots.  We know what happened here.

The Exact Moment Jay Cutler Was Injured and Other Points of View

Bears

“The Oakland Raiders’ defense doesn’t distinguish itself in many statistical categories. It’s ranked 24th overall, 25th against the run and 20th against the pass.

“But the Raiders are tied for sixth in the NFL with 28 sacks and feature one of the faster defenses in the league.”

  • Bears runningback Matt Forte had an interesting take on what needs to be done against the Raiders, who will undoubtedly be expecting a heavy dose of the running game. Via Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune:

“‘It always has been on my shoulders,’ said Forte, who rushed for more than 100 yards in four of five games before his recent slump. ‘I don’t think it’s anything new. I just want to continue to be successful and get some more passes out of the backfield. Then they can’t stack the box and we can get the ball out in space.'”

“The protagonist in the book is a legendary sportswriter who uncovered that his home town team’s coach has orchestrated a massive cheating plan to get his team to win the Super Bowl. Well, can he divulge it? Will it fly? Is his evidence right? Will he be sued for libel? And he agonizes over it.

I’m thinking of written a book, too. Its about a legendary writer who blogs in his underwear from his mom’s basement investigates a huge cheerleading scandal. Really, really huge. Like Kelley Brook huge. He’s very dedicated that way.

Right now, Graham ranks fourth in fan voting for the Pro Bowl, causing him to wonder what happened to the Chicago machine.

“They always talk about Chicago is one of the biggest markets but we can’t tell. They ain’t voting for me,” he said. “I have to give them something to vote for. If I go out and make a lot of plays, more people will vote.”

I’m ashamed to say that until I read this quote I had not voted. I did with a ballot at nfl.com. Other notable Bears to con side include Brian Urlacher, Lance Briggs, Charles Tillman, Julius Peppers, Jay Cutler, and Matt Forte. I also voted for a few more who were, let’s just day, questionable choices for people voting without a Bear bias.

“It was a hot topic around the league Friday although the Bears didn’t want to share any strong opinions, less than two weeks after Suh ripped the helmet off quarterback Jay Cutler and avoided discipline.”

“When the play was described to Smith, he shrugged.

“‘Oh really,’ he said. ‘Oh man, I’m sure the league will have something to say about that.’

“A reporter then piped up that’s not always the case with Suh.

“‘Next question,’ Smith responded.”

“If Tice has any regrets about his assistant coach experience, it was his being denied the chance to interview for the Titans offensive coordinator position in the offseason.

“‘You’re always disappointed when you don’t have a chance to better yourself, professionally, and that’s what the interview process is all about,’ he said. “I wanted to do that interview.'”

And I continue to believe that the right thing to do for the Bears would have been to allow it.

  • With the Bears Jay Cutler injured, special teams will have to continue to be strong for the Bears. On that note, every Bear fan can give thanks on this day for arrogance and overconfidence. Again, via Biggs.
  • I’m not always Roy Williams‘ biggest fan. But he certainly is quick with a quote. McClure gets him here on new Bears quarterback Josh McCown, who played with Williams on the Lions:

“Shoot, the most athletic white boy I’ve ever seen in my life.

  • David Haugh at the Chicago Tribune writes a nice article on the things every back up quarterback thrown into the starting role needs to know:

“‘That’s a subtlety a good head coach will manage well,’ [Jim McMahon backup Steve] Fuller recalled over the phone. ‘They didn’t drastically alter the whole system to make me feel like, ‘Oh, God, they’re frightened I’m in there.’ You strike a balance between putting in wrinkles versus completely scaring the crap out of the guy by putting in stuff completely different that would be panicking.'”

“We didn’t blitz much last week, and that could help. There are little things we will have to improve, and we will. The pass rush, it just hasn’t been consistent. You just keep working at it”

I thought the Bears did blitz a lot last week. The problem is that the ball was coming out so fast there was no chance to get to Philip Rivers. If they’re planning on blitzing even more this could be an interesting game.

“Jay Cutler has taken some criticism for not playing through injuries in the past, which is why he should consider wearing a protective walking boot on his thumb.”

Apparently they don’t think much of the Bears chances with Hanie at quarterback:

Elsewhere

“Our current national delusion is the belief that a quarterback whose team scores 17 points (7 as the result of defensive or special teams play) against a New York opponent, but who leads a grinding fourth-quarter game-winning drive, has done something truly exceptional. So there’s a (yawn) quarterback controversy brewing in Philadelphia, the City of Backup Quarterback-ly Love. If Michael Vick (ribs) is healthy, he will start over Vince Young, though locals are clamoring for Young, whose three early-game interceptions were apparently not signs of ineptitude but his flair for the dramatic. Meanwhile, DeSean Jackson’s self-promoting behavior has become so erratic and counterproductive that he is one step from renaming the rest of his season the Torpedo of Touchdowns Tour.”

“The Rex Ryan Experience has always had a risky side. If promises aren’t delivered, words become hollow and credibility suffers. It doesn’t seem to be an act for the long term. When Ryan is gone, sports journalists may miss him most. Dullness is an enemy, particularly on deadline. Fans around New York would miss him, too — if not at first, eventually. But they would never see another like him. You can’t re-create a football coach with his bluster, joy and joshing.”

“Dear Steve Weatherford,
“It has come to my attention that you sometimes punt the football straight into the arms of the league’s most dangerous return men, forcing me to constrict and temporarily hinder blood flow to the brain. This week, you will be facing Darren Sproles, who has five total return touchdowns in his career. Please be advised that if he scores a touchdown as a direct result of one of your punts, I will shut down, then leap through the esophagus to strangle you, leaving you breathless and unemployed faster than you can say ‘Matt Dodge.’
“Sincerely,
Tom Coughlin’s Pulmonary Artery.”

  • The Sports Pickle gives us visual evidence that Ndamukong Suh might be a dirty player:

One Final Thought

Shortly after I putting up my own post connecting the behavior of the Lions as a team with that of head coach Jim Schwartz, this article from Jason Cole at Yahoo! Sports came to my attention:

“This all comes back to Schwartz. He has done much to turn the Lions around, starting with the excitement of a 5-0 start. However, in the moments after Detroit’s first loss on Oct. 16 against San Francisco at home, Schwartz also lost his cool. After a bad exchange with counterpart Jim Harbaugh, Schwartz lost control and chased Harbaugh down the field.

“In some respects, it was comical. At the same time, it probably warranted a fine. Now, weeks later, the Lions are playing like a team that doesn’t know how to handle tough situations. What a shocker. Players take their cues from the people in charge.”

The whole article is worth a read.

The “Lions organization” has released a statement condemning Suh’s actions. But as Michael David Smith at profootballtalk.com points out no one really knows who that means. Specifically, its notable that two days after the incident other than a weak “I haven’t seen the replay but we can’t afford the penalty” we’ve heard nothing from Schwartz, whose constant and vehement defense of Suh over the course of the season in the face of such dirty play enabled the behavior to the point that Thursday’s incident was inevitable. If Schwartz doesn’t come out and strongly put his foot down on Suh this time, the statement from the “organization” will be virtually meaningless.