Jay Cutler (Finally) Gets Comfortable and Other Points of View

Bears

  • Vaughn McClure at the Chicago Tribune writes this fluff piece on quarterback Jay Cutler.  This comment from defensive back D.J. Moore about Cutler’s improved off field attitude was interesting:

“It makes people like you more,” he said. “When people like you more, they root for you more. When people root for you, I think you do better. Good people win. You can’t just walk around and be an (expletive) and then be like, ‘Now I want you guys to come out and support me.'”

This excerpt might say more about Caleb Hanie‘s insecurity than about Cutler:

Part of offensive coordinator Mike Martz‘s teaching philosophy is never to scold the starter but get points across through berating the backup. Hanie feels the brunt of Martz’s admonitions.

“Last year was pretty rough with that,” Hanie said. “You just feel like you’re in the doghouse. And I think Jay took pleasure in seeing me get yelled at. This year is a little better but last year, I think that was entertainment for Jay.”

Other interesting points:

1) All of the players, including Cutler, eat “organic stuff” from Whole Foods.
2) Cutler takes Dane Sanzenbacher to dinner every week.

Overall we get a picture of Cutler as someone who isn’t particularly quick to fit in with others but who is finally starting getting comfortable in the environment of the Bears locker room.

“A year ago at this time, the Packers and Giants were in the hunt for a playoff spot. Aaron Rodgers (12 touchdowns, nine interceptions, 85.2 rating) and Eli Manning (14 touchdowns, 11 interceptions, 88.3) were having Cutler-like seasons. In the second half, Rodgers stepped up (13 touchdowns, two interceptions, 122.4). Manning did not (17 touchdowns, 14 interceptions, 83.0). The ­Packers edged the Giants for the last wild-card berth. And the rest, very literally, is history.

“It might be too much to ask Cutler to be Aaron Rodgers. He just has to be closer to Rodgers than he does to Eli Manning — and [Rex] Grossman — in the second half.”

“He needs to avoid sacks and stay away from desperate, ill-advised throws that can be intercepted. If he does that, he can win some games in the fourth quarter, as he must.”

Cutler has generally performed well the last few weeks but he seems to throw at least two or three dropped interceptions every game. That needs to be cleaned up.

  • Pompei also evaluates the offensive line in the same article:

“The two major shortcomings have been pass protection (21 sacks allowed is tied for third in the NFL) and penalties (20 false starts — six more than the next closest team).”

“This unit has the potential to play better. In fact, the trend already is toward more efficient blocking.”

I would agree. I would also add that the two places that the offensive line has struggled the most are in the two domes they’ve played in, Detroit and New Orleans. It’s when the Bears have to go to a silent count and the linemen lose their one advantage that you find out how much talent you actually have. The Bears have been sadly lacking in these noisy environments. Fortunately the only dome the Bears have left on the schedule is in Minnesota and we can hope that if that team continues to lose, the stadium won’t be as raucous as the others the Bears have played in.

“[J’MarcusWebb looks like a right tackle to me with those big, long arms but somehow he gets the job done,” the scout said. “I thought he did an exceptional job against [Vikings defensive end] Jared Allen. It was one of those emotional games, and I think the level of emotion was higher for the Bears than the Vikings for whatever reason. But I still think he has done a good job. He’s holding his own there.

“You’d think they’d put [LanceLouis over on that side because he’s a little more of an athlete, but he’s holding his own at right tackle.”

  • Back to Pompei as he goes on to evaluate the cornerbacks:

“The corners have given up some yards against better receivers, especially against the Panthers.”

Meaning “especially Steve Smith“. The problem is the same one they had last year. They can’t cover good receivers man-to-man. As a result the Panthers were able to move Smith around and to get into favorable match ups. The Bears are eventually going to have to address this issue if they are going to compete consistently with some of the better teams in the league like the Patriots.

  • Finally, another good point from Pompei:

Devin Hester may have fewer return opportunities [in the next nine games] because he has been on too many highlight reels lately.”

The Vikings did an excellent job of pinning Hester to the sidelines and limiting his returns. We saw a lot of that during Hester’s last prolonged slump and I can almost guarantee that we’re going to see a lot of it in the future.

  • I do take issue with one contention that Pompei makes about the defensive line:

“Losing Corey Wootton for all but 12 snaps so far has hurt this unit. The Bears need him.”

The Bears are definitely hurting interms of depth here. But otherwise I’d say that we haven’t seen Wooton enough to make any judgments in terms of the quality of his play. And perhaps that says more about him than anything.

  • Mark Potash, writing for the Chicago Sun-Times, makes the point that the Packers game on Christmas day is a critical one for the Bears. Though I acknowledge that this is always an important game I think we have to also acknowledge that the Packers are clearly a better team and the Bears aren’t likely to beat them for the division title. The game in the second half that, in my opinion, the Bears must win is Nov. 13 against the Lions at home. Generally speaking the Bears still must show that they are better than this team More specifically they are likely going to need to come out on top of them in terms of tie breakers if they are going to make they playoffs.

Elsewhere

“What he’s overlooking is the fact that he wasn’t benched due to his play or because he’s the scapegoat for a 1-5 start punctuated by a blowout loss at Soldier Field that ran the team’s road record against the Bears to 1-10 since 2001. Chrisian Ponder is playing and McNabb isn’t because the Vikings realize that the playoffs are a pipe dream, and because the Vikings need to know what Ponder can do. Especially if that 1-5 (now 1-6) becomes 1-10 and worse, giving the Vikings a crack at Andrew Luck.”

I might add that McNabb really needs to step outside himself and take a good look at his performance. That game in Chicago was awful and he’s now with a team that can’t cover for his deficiencies.

  • Sam Farmer, writing for Tribune News Services puts together a profile of former Bear quarterback Jim Harbaugh. The comments from former 49ers quarterback Steve Young might say as much about the Bears as the 49ers:

“What I love about Jim is he’s an offensive-minded coach and he knows quarterbacks, and in this town that’s three-quarters of the work,” said Hall of Fame quarterback Steve Young, who won the 1995 Super Bowl with the 49ers. “I really love that he takes chances. He’s a bold play-caller, and you just don’t see many of those around the league.

“He calls a game to help Alex, and if Alex is playing well everyone is playing well. That’s the way Bill [Walsh] used to do it. Anything that looks like Bill Walsh, I’m excited about.”

  • It’s Dan Pompei day here as also he makes some interesting points in his Sunday Blitz column for The National Football Post.

“Nobody knows for sure at this point if Jim Caldwell will keep his job. But what we do know is Colts management is not blaming him for the performance of the team.”

Assuming this is true, and I think it is, then the blame lies squarely on general manager Bill Polian. Polian has not exactly stocked the team with talent through some mediocre drafts and that lack is now being exposed.

  • Pompei also had this to say about Brad Childress:

“Former Vikings coach Brad Childress is looking like a better coach with each passing week. A few months ago, some people were predicting Childress would never be a head coach again. Front offices are starting to take a harder look at what Childress accomplished in Minnesota within the context of how the Vikings are performing now. It will be an upset if Childress isn’t a candidate for a head coaching job or two in the offseason.”

Childress was a poor head coach. The Vikings have been competitive inmost games this year despite being stuck with McNabb, then rookie Christian Ponder at quarterback. Childress had Brett Favre and that has exposed him on two fronts. First, Favre was a abetter quarterback. Second, his preferential treatment of him (e.g. driving to the airport to pick him up) showed how little understanding he had of the team concept. As intelligent as he is, Childress just didn’t understand how to manage people and even Favre had little or no respect for him in the end.

  • One more thing from Pompei:

Terrell Owens needs two things to justify his existence: the football and an audience. Oh well, he still has a football.”

I really do think Owens has some good football left in him. But it’s obvious that he just isn’t worth the personality problems anymore.

One Final Thought

ESPN NFC North blogger Kevin Seifert on the Lions being “entertaining”:

“I guess everyone is entitled to their opinion, but I think you’re taking it too far if you think Lions linebacker Stephen Tulloch was mocking the act of prayer and/or God by “Tebowing” after a sack in the first half Sunday. I’m guessing Tulloch got some pushback from somewhere, because Monday he tweeted: ‘I have a love & passion for the game of football. Football is a form of entertainment. Have a sense of humor, I wasn’t mocking GOD! #Tebowing.’ Yes. Let’s everyone lighten up on this one.”

Of course he wasn’t mocking God. I guess I’m wondering when it became OK to mock other players. #nosportsmanship #norepect

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

Bears

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Elsewhere

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

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

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

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

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

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

One Final Thought

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

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

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

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

Cuts Have Arrived and Gone but Roster Shaping Not Over Yet. And Other Point of View.

Bears

“This guy is straight out of a Rod Marinelli dream. Reed’s effort raises the level of play of everyone around him. And the word out of closed Halas Hall practices is the Bears haven’t been able to block him the last couple of weeks either.”

I have my doubts.  Reed had a good game and did flash some ability Thursday night but it was still against back ups.  He did n’t do a whole lot when given a chance before that with the big boys.  Reed might, indeed, be their guy but other teams are making their cuts as well and the last defensive end may not be necessarily on the roster yet.  Probably both he and Mario Addision should still be worried.

  • Pompei points out that second round pick Sephen Paea has been a disappointment so far.  Pompei thinks he still might be recovering from a Senior Bowl knee injury.  Paea certainly needs work regardless.  He doesn’t play with much leverage.  You can set all the bench press records in the world but it doesn’t mean anything if you aren’t a football player.
  • Fred Mitchell at the Chicago Tribune writes about wide receiver Dane Sanzenbacher.  Sanzenbacher will keep the last wide receiver spot.  But the job basically requires that you play special teams and what to do with him there appears to be an issue.
  • Greg Gabriel, Bears Director of College Scouting when Lance Briggs was seeking a new contract four years ago, comments for the National Football Post on Briggs’s current request for renegotiation:

 “If I’m the Bears I would tell both Briggs and [agent Drew] Rosenhaus to take a long walk on a short pier. If they don’t like it, then don’t play! Fine him the maximum for not living up to his contract. They will argue that he has outplayed the contract, but that’s not true.”

Elsewhere

Tommie Harris  Colts
Brad Maynard  Texans
Justin Gage  Titans
Lousaka Polite  Dolphins

  • Defensive end Jacob Ford, who played a key role for the Titans the last few years, was cut.  Via profootballtalk.com.
  •  The Sports Pickle brings you the Dancing Football Ref:

  • On a related note, Bears safety Chris Harris is apparently training to join him on the field as a dancing side judge:

 “The Texans believe they can get more out of safety Danieal Manning than the Bears did. Their plan is to play him closer to the line than the Bears did with their Tampa 2 scheme. Texans coaches believe Manning is more valuable around the ball. They are high on his toughness, talent and work ethic.”

The Bears knew that Manning would make a good strong safety and got plenty out of him at the position.  The problem is that they already have strong safeties and they needed Manning to be able to play free.  When failed in that role and as a nickel back, he was worth less than what teams like the Texans were willing to pay.

  • Pompei also points out that defensive end Ryan Kerrigan has looked very good for the Redskins so far.  I’m still wondering how the undersized Kerrigan will hold up in the 3-4.  I thought he was a better fit for a 4-3 team like the Bears.
  • Perhaps not surprisingly, the NFL season will begin without HGH testing as the NFL Player’s Union stalls.  I can understand why.  If testing is done such that players who are taking the hormone actually get caught, we would probably be looking at a very different game.   But I really doubt that will happen.

One Final Thought

What do you do when you receiver a brand new reel wrapped in a Packer’s bandana?  Perform an “exorcission” of course:

Alex Brown Is Not a Chicago Kind of Guy and Other Points of View

Bears

  • Though its been mentioned, I don’t think enough has been said about just how well the offensive line did on Saturday night.  John Mullin at CSNChicago.com puts some perspective on it:

“The grading out was perhaps even higher considering that film revealed that the Titans brought extra pressure on 48 percent of the snaps. The conclusion: The offensive line not only played better and longer than at any time this preseason, but also did it under pressure.

“‘That [blitz percentage] is almost every other play,’ [offensive line coach Mike] Tice said. ‘So that’s good for us because our identification was very clean throughout the game.’”

The line did a superb job of adjusting to the blitz.  The Titans aren’t the Packers but it appears that the line is gelling.

“The Chicago Bears’ front office makes it too easy for those who like to clown on its misadventures. In the past few months alone, we’ve seen a botched draft-day trade, a practice canceled because no one knew about the poor conditions at Soldier Field and a veteran running back bolt the practice facility after (mistakenly) believing he had been released.”

“You can go all the way back to 2002, when a paperwork error left the Bears unable to collect compensation for the potential loss of two restricted free agents, receiver D’Wayne Bates and linebacker Warrick Holdman.”

Seifert also gave GM Jerry Angelo some credit for building a Super Bowl team.  But even given that the continuous blundering is hard to overlook.

“One sign Harvey Unga will not be returning to #Bears: He doesn’t have a locker in the locker room. Remains excused for personal reasons.”

Elsewhere

  • Former Bears head of college scouting Greg Gabriel, now with The National Football Post, writes a very nice article on what it means when a player is a “bust”:

“What is the primary reason a player busts? I’m going to say in most instances, he lacks football character. He lacks a passion for the game and the willingness to do all it takes to be great. If a player is playing for the money and not the love of the game he won’t succeed. The game is far too tough to be playing at a high level without passion.”

The entire article is recommended reading.

  • Michael Vick’s new deal continues to drive sports talk radio around the nation.  The Eagles aren’t known for making a lot of personnel mistakes but I’ll go on record and say this was a big one.  I don’t care if Vick is black.  I don’t care if he went to jail for dog fighting.  I don’t care if he makes exciting plays with his feet.  If you can’t accurately pass the ball consistently, I don’t even want you to be on my team, let alone to pay you $100 million for it.
  • The Sports Pickle assesses the impact that the loss of Peyton Manning would have on the Colts:

“[W]ithout him under center, the Colts have almost no chance of getting drubbed out of the playoffs”

“Helmet-less, pizza-carrying ‘Cocks QB knocked unconscious in moped wreck”

“To be honest, I never thought I’d ever have to string together those particular words in a headline, at least one that didn’t also involve the words ‘Stephen Garcia’, ‘nude’ and ‘half-finished six-pack of PBR’.”

One Final Thought

Mark Potash at the Chicago Sun-Times thinks former Bear Alex Brown would be a good fit for a return:

“Considering his familiarity with the Bears’ defense and the team’s need for depth at defensive end with Corey Wootton injured, Brown would seem to be a good fit. Nick Reed and rookies Mario Addison and Jake Laptad are behind Julius Peppers and Israel Idonije on the depth chart.”

I heard an Brown conversation about a month ago with WSCR’s Zack Zaidman where he finished the interview up by trashing Bear fans.  He talked about the lack of fan support in Chicago and about how much happier he was in New Orleans where fans would cheer for players regardless of performance.

The Bears are a tough team in a tough town.  If Brown doesn’t want to be in that environment then he’s better off not coming back.  I’m sure he can stay in New Orleans where the fans will cheer him for bringing water out to the players between quarters.

 

Duerson’s Brain a Cautionary Tale for Critics of New Rules and Other Points of View

Bears

“‘I am very comfortable with these three quarterbacks,’ Martz said when asked if the need for a veteran backup still exists. ‘Nathan will compete with Caleb for the backup position. I would expect that Caleb will end up being the guy, but Nathan is good enough to be that player.'”

I’m guessing that the fourth quarterback on the roster, Matt Gutierrez, must be feeling good about being all but eliminated from consideration in May.

Pompei also had this for those who say Enderle was a reach in the fifth round:

“Critics wondered why the Bears chose Enderle so high when they had other needs. Enderle represented good value in the fifth round. I had a fourth-round grade on Enderle based on opinions from three front-office men from other teams I spoke with prior to the draft.”

“Enderle doesn’t have a cannon like Cutler. That’s OK. The three things Martz prioritizes in a quarterback are accuracy, intelligence and toughness.”

Martz goes on to say that he doesn’t have to make mechanical changes with Enderle, and he played in a “very sophisticated offense” that asked him to do a lot of the things he will be asked to do with the Bears.

I’ll accept that Enderle might be competition for Hanie but the odds are very low that he’ll do so effectively if the lockout doesn’t end reasonably soon.  Despite what Martz says, from what I can tell, Enderle has a lot of work to do shortening that occasionally long wind up of his.

“Nate Enderle took a boatload of sacks at Idaho, so he’ll fit right into Mike Martz’s system.”

“Free safety Chris Conte (California) was quietly viewed by some as the best developmental prospect of this year’s weak safety class. Speaking of developmental prospects, Idaho quarterback Nathan Enderle, at 6-4, 240 pounds, has the build and arm strength well worthy of his fifth-round selection.”

“Now, more than ever, I believe the Detroit Lions, not Chicago, is the team to challenge Green Bay in the NFC North. With Nick Fairley and Ndamukong Suh paired at defensive tackle, the Lions’ D-line becomes an extraordinary pass defense, while the addition of Titus Young gives the club an explosive wide receiver opposite Calvin Johnson. Yeah, I know, the Lions still need cornerbacks, but quarterbacks won’t have much time to exploit whoever is there. I’m already making Detroit this year’s sleeper, and there’s plenty of room on the bandwagon. This is a vastly improved team that won its last four starts — including one over Green Bay — and just beefed up an already impressive defensive line.”

Elsewhere

  • Rob Rang at CBSSports.com gives his thoughts on the draft:

“No. 1 pick Nick Fairley gives the Lions a potential tandem at defensive tackle, with Ndamokung Suh, that is the best not only in the NFC North, but in the NFL. Suh is the Lions’ best defensive player but Detroit strengthened that area in a way that also projects to aid the secondary with improved pass rush.”

Did anyone else notice how angry Fairley looked when they finally called his name?  He wasn’t happy lasting to 13 after being projected so much higher in January.  I would expect he’ll start trying to make the rest of the NFL pay for their doubt.  (Picture from US Presswire)

Fairley

  • Tom Kowalski at mlive.com contrasts current GM Martin Mayhew‘s draft room with former GM Matt Millen‘s.  He repeats this storry about the 2006 draft when the Lions were on the clock debating about whether to take guard Max Jean-Gilles.  Kowalski doesn’t mention it explicitly but the first problem was that they hadn’t worked this out in advance rather than debating it for five minutes while actually on the clock.  Here’s the second problem:

“The Lions spent so much time talking about Jean-Gilles that, when they decided not to draft him, they didn’t have another option ready to go. As they wondered what to do, a voice in the back of the room (the identity of which I haven’t confirmed yet) said ‘Take Brian Calhoun.’ So they did.

“In his two-year career in Detroit, Calhoun had 54 rushing yards and 55 receiving yards and never scored a touchdown.”

“Look, Mayhew isn’t going to be perfect and he’s going to whiff on some draft picks (cough, Derrick Williams, cough). But one of the tricks to a successful draft is limiting your mistakes by being thoroughly prepared. It’s one thing to miss, it’s another thing to not know what the hell you’re swinging at.”

“Don’t tell me the lockout didn’t have an impact on this year’s draft because it did. I’ve never seen so many reaches, starting with Aldon Smith with the seventh pick of the first round, continuing with quarterbacks Jake Locker and Christian Ponder and moving through the bottom of the round, then on into the next two days. There were stretches everywhere, and I have to believe it was because clubs drafted for need. Usually, you hear “the-best-player-available” explanation for choices, but not this year. The past three days clubs gambled everywhere to fill needs they would have already solved through free agency or trades.”

“The Seattle Seahawks allowed opponents to score 33 or more points in nine of their past 12 starts, including the playoffs, and ranked 25th in points allowed. So what do they do? Draft offense with three of their first four choices. Someone please explain.”

Not only did they take offense, they didn’t even take good offense, reaching for guard James Carpenter in the first round:

“OT James Carpenter to Seattle: Most people had him rated somewhere in the middle of the second round, yet the Seahawks took him with the 25th selection … with Gabe Carimi and Derek Sherrod still on the board. The Seahawks envision Carpenter as their next right tackle and say they love his versatility and nastiness. OK, I’ll buy that — just not at the 25th spot.”

How much of a reach was the selection of Carpenter?  Even Alabama coach Nick Saban couldn’t believe it:

Finally, we have this from coach Pete Caroll:

“’We are happy with Charlie and hoping he is going to continue to flourish and blossom. I’m not feeling like we missed out on a quarterback opportunity’ — Seattle coach Pete Caroll on Charlie Whitehurst and the Seahawks’ failure to draft a quarterback.

Bottom line Caroll is starting to remind me why he didn’t make it with the Jets all those years ago.  With him at the helm the Seahawks may have been as good last season as they’re going to be for a few years.

“I’ll tell you what I find intriguing about quarterback Blaine Gabbert: When the Washington Redskins had a chance to choose him they didn’t. Instead, coach Mike Shanahan traded out. Shanahan knows how to develop quarterbacks, and he needs a good young one in Washington. But instead of taking Gabbert after he unexpectedly lasted until the 10th pick, Shananan passed. Then he just avoided the position altogether, refusing to use any of his draft picks on a quarterback. Keep that in mind as Gabbert’s career unfolds”

The guess here is that Washington didn’t “avoid the position altogether” on purpose.  They probably traded back thinking they could pick up Christian Ponder.  The Vikings were rumored to like Jake Locker and the Redskins probably thought they’d pass on Ponder.  They didn’t.

“When one team held an audition for him, no receivers from Auburn showed up. You got to be kidding me. You’re Cam Newton, and you can’t get anyone from your offense to come to your workout?”

I’ve heard people say that Newton’s character concerns don’t necessarily translate to the field.  I think this translates.

“With so many pressing needs on the roster, they still want to fix RB? And they get Murray who is best known for his ability to catch the ball (he had 71 receptions in 2010). This redundancy with Felix’s new-found catching ability is quite a statement.”

“True, Elmore has posted videos of him both jumping out of a pool and into a truck on YouTube. But it’s also worth noting that Elmore actually had more production last season than his more-famous teammate, defensive end/linebacker Brooks Reed.”

Wonder how he would have done without Reed on the other side garnering the attention.

  • Sturm also had this to say about the fact that Cowboys owner Jerry Jones called Larry Lacewell, Butch Davis and Barry Switzer for advice on various picks:

“Previous draft disappointments haunt the Cowboys. And when Jerry tells us that he is not listening to his scouts, but more about how he listens to his old buddies about picks, then we should assume that the draft process has not changed very much. I needed Jerry to tell me that Tom Ciskowski and his staff have targeted this player and we trust them. Instead, he tells me that Switzer signed off on the Cowboys taking an Oklahoma RB.”

Amen.  At least when Jerry Angelo stands in front of the media, he can tell you how much his coaches and area scouts whose business it is to watch these prospects for months and years like the picks and why.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again.  No matter what else you think of them, thank heavens the Bears have ownership that doesn’t interfere with the day-to-day running of the personnel department.  Generally speaking it is a route to disaster long term for any franchise.

“Detroit Lions — Nick Fairley and Ndamukong Suh give the Lions two young, strong players who can help carry Matthew Stafford off the field when he’s injured”

One Final Thought

Finally Judge welcomes Patrick Peterson to the NFL with this sarcastic response to a quote from him:

“‘Everybody loves the game of football. I can’t see the world without it. How do you think the world would be without it?’ — Arizona CB Patrick Peterson. I dunno, Patrick, but why don’t you ask the people who survived the 57-day strike in 1982. Better yet, ask someone in Libya.”

I’ll tell you exactly how they the world will be.  Full of people surprising themselves by finding better things to do on Sunday.  NFL beware.

The Significance of “Scheme Versatility” and Other Points of View

Bears

“Top needs: OL, DT, CB, OLB
“Summary: The top needs I saw for the Bears were on the offensive line and along the defensive interior, where they’ve had some recent attrition. [GabeCarimi was a great value that late in Round 1, and is a player that can be moved along the line (presumably to right tackle) to help right away. [StephenPaea isn’t a guy who will get a lot of penetration, but he’ll help the Bears’ linebackers avoid blockers. They also added some safety help, and took a shot on [NathanEnderle, a kid with a big arm who could develop behind Jay Cutler. I don’t see Enderle as a starter, but a backup is a nice thing to have, and backup quarterback was actually a need position for the Bears, particularly given all the hits Cutler takes. Solid draft for the Bears, who got to get back in the early mix this year.”

  • John Mullin at CSNChicago.com gives his thoughts on the Bears draft:

“But they again selected a safety in the third round (Chris Conte of California) and later added a quarterback (Nathan Enderle of Idaho in the fifth), which many considered luxuries the club couldn’t afford.”

Jensen does a good job of reviewing the up coming (some day) free agency period mentioning a number of possibilities including some name wide receivers.

  • John Mullin at CSNChicago.com asks a very good question: “Where does new Bears defensive tackle Stephen Paea play?” He’s big enough to play nose tackle:

“But 4-3 teams do not often trade two draft choices for purposes of moving up to grab a nose tackle. What the Bears gave themselves with Paea is options in the form of someone who could play either tackle position. A nickel unit with Melton and Paea paired inside is potentially a better interior rush tandem than the Bears have had in several seasons.”

As Mullin implies, Paea may find himself moving between the inside and the three technique depending on the situation. But I’m not sure that’s how the Bears are going to roll. They like to rotate guys in and out and given thelimited number of snaps they’ll probably want to leave Paea at one position. But the possibility of moving him around is intriguing.

Elsewhere

“He prefers a quarterback meet these seven criteria before selecting him high in the draft: More than a three year starter; has started 30 games; has won 23; has thrown at least two touchdowns for every interception; has completed 60 percent of his passes; is a senior; is graduating.

    “Which quarterbacks held up from the class of 2011? Andy Dalton and Ricky Stanzi. Greg McElroy was three starts shy of qualifying.”

    • The minute I saw Michael Irvin on the set of the NFL Network during the first round, I know I wan’t going to be able to stomach it for more than short doses. So I think it is unfortunate that the ESPN broadcast was also subpar.

    Did anyone else think that Mel Kiper and Jon Gruden talked less than usual between picks? I thought Chris Berman was going to go horse from having to fill so much. I don’t get it.

    “‘[Vikings first round pick] Christian Ponder is Elvis Grbac,’ Dilfer said. ‘He’s Elvis Grbac. Elvis Grbac was a beautiful thrower. He threw for 4,000 yards. He did a lot of nice things. Every time it got tough, he melted.'”

    Peyton Hillis being named cover boy of Madden 12 by a vote of fans is more evidence why Pro Bowl voting should be done by professionals.”

    As long as they don’t decide to do it like the Hall of Fame…

    One Final Thought

    Mullin also makes a point I’ve been thinking about. The Bears like to claim that good players who fit their scheme are falling to them because of the popularity of the 3-4 around the NFL:

    “Fronts in 3-4’s typically employ space-eaters, 320 pounds or bigger, even the ends.

    “That then leaves a talent like Paea, at 6-1, 305 pounds, available for a scheme like the Bears. Same with a Melton, who now is up to more than 290 pounds.”

    There’s a point to be made here but I think its become less true this year not more. The buzz word I heard dozens of times over the course of the draft is “scheme versatility”.  Defensive coordinators are starting to play multiple fronts and move their personnel around more to create mismatches. This is starting to break the mold of the typical player fitting one scheme. The Washington Redskins are a good example. Their first round pick, Ryan Kerrigan, is a bit undersized for 3-4 defensive end and not really athletic enough for outside linebacker. I thought he was really a better fit for defensive end in a 4-3 scheme. But the Redskins drafted him for the 3-4 anyway, probably figuring they could take advantage of his traits in multiple ways in different situations. That’s the trend.

    Labor Problems Decreasing Interest in the Draft? And Other Points of View

    Bears

    • Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune passes on comments Washington cornerback DeAngelo Hall made last week in which he calls Bears quarterback Jay Cutler a “clown”. I don’t know what’s at the root of it but I’ve never seen a player so disliked by his peers.
    • Cutler and Kristin Cavallari are engaged according to Perez Hilton.  So at least someone seems to love him.
    • Mike Mulligan at the Chicago Sun-Times notes that, like special teams coordinator Dave Toub, offensive coordinator Mike Martz turned down an offer for a contract extention that didn’t include a significant raise. He makes this point about Martz’s philosophical change mid-season after he let the offensive statistics fall for the good of the team. The Bears started running the ball more behind a subpar offensive line:

    “So the maverick coordinator reeled in his flamboyant tendencies and ran the most balanced offense in the league in terms of run and pass plays, keying a five-game winning streak as part of a 7-2 close to the season.

    “Apparently subjugation of ego is appreciated during the season, but not rewarded after it.”

    • Biggs says that Bears kicker Robbie Gould has an escalator in his contract for touchbacks on kickoffs. The league moved the kickoff line 5 yards closer to the goal line in an off season rule change meaning Gould likely will have more touchbacks than in the past.
    • Mulligan and I see eye-to-eye on the Bears draft history:

    “The Bears, however, aren’t a draft-driven team. Roughly half their starters were selected by other teams. The Bears have garnered their success by making a big trade for quarterback Jay Cutler one year and adding defensive end Julius Peppers in a free-agent deal the next. They still have enough talent to win consistently, but their inability to develop younger players soon — and perhaps for a long time — will be a major problem, especially with the Packers in the NFC North.”

    By the way, when Mulligan says “roughly half their starters” that includes the starters at the three most important positions on the field – pass rushing defensive end, left tackle and quarterback.

    • John Mullin at CSNChicago.com makes a good argument against the Bears trading out of the first round.
    • Neil Hayes at the Chicago Sun-Times talks about the Bears need at defensive tackle. He quotes director of player personnel Tim Ruskell on the Bears draft philosophy, similar to what they were looking for when Ruskell was with GM Jerry Angelo in Tampa Bay:

    “’We were looking at players that weren’t the rest of the league’s No. 1 choice. Rod was always a guy that kind of favored the undersized guy inside — he didn’t have to be 6-4 — whereas some teams say, ‘I need a giant in there.’ So we had a little bit of an advantage.’

    “Angelo hasn’t always taken advantage of that advantage. From Jarron Gilbert to Marcus Harrison, Dusty Dvoracek and Michael Haynes, the Bears have struggled in recent years to find productive players at the position.”

    “In view of the fact that Baylor offensive lineman Danny Watkins is already 26, do you think the Bears would consider drafting him? I can’t believe they would use a first-round pick on someone who is five years older than most of the other prospects.

    “Mark S.
    “Palatine, Illinois

    “I’m not sure what the Bears think of Baylor’s Danny Watkins as a player. But when Jerry Angelo was asked about Watkins last week, it didn’t seem like the Bears general manager had a problem with the lineman’s age. Said Angelo: “Players play into their 30s at that position, you could even say into their mid-30s and still play good football. We’ve had a few here and have a few here. I don’t think it’s a red flag. We use the terms red flag and yellow flag. Obviously, red flags are a real concern. A yellow flag, you’d be cautious, but it wouldn’t stop you from taking a guy.” Watkins, by the way, didn’t play football until enrolling in junior college. He played hockey and rugby while growing up in Canada.”

    Elsewhere

    “It will be interesting to see if teams continue to look at the Draft as a long-term proposition without free agency preceding it. There will be teams where long-term planning is pushed aside to address short-term needs without having had the opportunity to address them in free agency.”

    “All I know is that in the last four years there were 17 chosen in the first round, with four sticking as full-time starters. That would be Chris Long of St. Louis, Washington’s Brian Orakpo, Denver’s Robert Ayers and Anthony Spencer of Dallas, though Spencer and Orakpo are outside linebackers in 3-4 defenses.”

    • Wes Bunting at the National Football Post writes about five late risers in the NFL draft. Here is one name he mentions which I have heard connectd to the Bears:

    “WR Randall Cobb: Kentucky

    Possesses the ability to consistently separate vs. a two-way go from the slot, is a natural plucker of the football and will create after the catch. Could mature into one of the league’s better slot men and now looks like a solid second-round pick.”

    • Todd McShay at ESPN talks about some pre-draft rumors. As usual there’s lots of talk about quarterbacks flying off the board:


    “Smart coaches have a plan, and all the early PR on [Cowboys head coach Jason] Garrett praises his leadership and organizational skills. Does he also have a quarterback, his quarterback, picked out? I wonder because Andy Dalton‘s name lies quietly among all the offensive tackles, cornerbacks and defensive ends on Dallas’ visit list. The Cowboys have worked out Dalton and like him.

    “If Dalton slides to pick 40, I would not be shocked if the Cowboys draft opened like this:

    “1. Patrick Peterson, 2. Andy Dalton
    “1. Tyron Smith, 2. Andy Dalton”

    “When I didn’t get called that first day, honestly, I was angry,” Avril said. “I walked into the house, my mom was trying to talk to me, trying to calm me down, and that’s the first time I actually got an attitude with my mom and was like, ‘I don’t want to talk to anybody.’ That’s the first time ever and she knew it had to be something serious.”

    “After months of preparing for the birth of the new Mannings, Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning announced Tuesday he will carefully assess his newborn twins in the coming weeks before he names one of his offspring as the starting child.”

    One Final Thought

    Mike Florio at profootballtalk.com says that he hasn’t seen the usual spike in traffic at his site because interest in the NFL draft is down:

    “Though traffic is still solid, that [usual] bump hasn’t been seen. And it meshes with the sense we’ve obtained from others in the business that people simply aren’t as interested in a draft that occurs under a cloud of uncertainty as to whether there will even be a season.”

    I have also noted this lack of interest locally in Chicago but have chalked it up to the fact that the Bears are picking so late in the first round.  Nevertheless, people in bars and on mailing lists that I can usually count on for good NFL talk have been unusually silent this year.  I couldn’t even get enough people together to run a decent mock draft.

    I have to wonder if Florio doesn’t have a point.  The NFL labor problems may already hurting the sport.

    NFL Considering Scab Owners and Other Points of View

    Bears

    “There’s not many perfect fits for that three-technique for Chicago but you could see maybe a Corey Liuget out of Illinois. I’ve got him going 14th to the Rams but after the Rams, there’s not many teams looking for a true defensive tackle. I personally think he’d be a better fit as a nose tackle in a 4-3…[but] if he’s there at 29 you’d have to think long and hard about passing on a guy like Liuget.”

    “Most of our guys … they are smaller receivers, so to have a little bit of a different flavor wouldn’t be a bad idea.”

    • Omar Kelly at the South Florida Sun-Sentinel has posted this interesting video of Dolphins head coach Tony Sparano talking about finding an NFL center.  He’s talking about moving guard Richie Incognito to the position.  Many believe that the Bears are looking for someone to either replace or groom behind Olin Kreutz:

    • Bob Sturm at the Dallas Morning News points to this video which demonstrates why he thinks offensive tackle Nick Solder is overrated.  Most experts believe that the Bears would take Solder if he fell to them.  This is not a flattering picture of a guy who was flat out dominated by a smaller, quicker man.

    Elsewhere

    • Tom Pelissero at 1500ESPN.com in Minnesota adds up the clues and comes to the conclusion that the Vikings may be looking to trade up and take a run at Blaine Gabbert.
    • Elizabeth Merrill at ESPN profiles Gabbert.  I know that there are no character concerns for him but there’s something off when a guy has had a personal trainer simce the eighth grade.  I don’t want to make too big a deal of it but it hardly sounds like a normal upbringing.  I hope we aren’t talking about  Todd Marinovich.
    • Drew Sharp at the Detroit Free Press tries to convince us that the lockout will hurt the Lions “far worse” than most teams.  The Lions have a stable coaching staff with no scheme changes.
    • Chris McCosky at The Detroit News quotes Lions head coach Jim Schwartz on Colorado cornerback Jimmy Smith:

    “I learned a long time ago that you can’t judge a guy on a quote, on what a guy said or what you heard that he said.  If you don’t know the guy, you can’t judge him.”

    Smith has four failed drug tests.  I don’t think this is a case of “he said, she said”.

    • Schwartz and Tom Kowalski at mlive.com are still trying to find a way to twist poor coaching and Calvin Johnson‘s error into a catch.  These guys need to get together with Bob Costas and get it all out by throwing a pity party and having a good group cry.  I was at Missouri during the fifth down controversy and even we didn’t whine this much for this long with a lot more justification.
    • Vic Carucci at NFL.com has Bear fans weeping over the idea that the lockout as put a wet blanket on the Green Bay victory celebration.
    • Seifert makes the case that the Packers  might have a need at wide receiver.  Could be but I would still put it no higher than fourth on the list.
    • Kendrick Ellis appears to be the latest beneficiary of the constant need to nose tackles for the 3-4.  Via Aaron Wilson at The National Football Post.
    • Johnny Jolly we hardly knew ye.
    • Armando Salguero at the Miami Herald writes that Dolphins owner Steven Ross has told Sparano and general manager Jeff Ireland that they don’t have to win now and that they have guaranteed job security.  So basically they’re dead men walking.
    • Former NFL safety Matt Bowen at The National Football Postcomes out strongly against HGH testing because it requires drawing blood.  But I’m pretty sure players have to give blood already for AIDS testing.  Fear is almost certainly what is stopping testing for growth hormone.   But I doubt its fear of a needle.
    • Bowen also points out that rookies will be behind due to the lockout for a number of reasons including lack of a playbook.  Though he has a point, most rookies will almost certainly find a veteran to help them out with these issues.
    • The Charlotte Observer got beat writers for the top 5 teams in the draft to do a mock draft.  Its a neat concept that I’d like to see done for the entire first round.
    • Joe Reedy at the Cincinnati Enquirer does a comparison of the top two wide receivers in the draft.  A.J. Green is a possibility for the Bengals but that fourth pick would be awfully high for Julio Jones.
    • I’m way behind on my videos. The Seattle Seahawks are on the clock at ESPN:

    • So are the Saints:

    • and the Eagles:

    • and the Colts:

    • and finally the Chiefs:

    “If you polled the entire league, I would guess the opinions are split on (Auburn QB) Cam Newton. Anyone that really knows the kid and did their homework will have him down on their board. We had him at the very top of our board before the Combine. He’s got talent — you have to give it to him. But I wouldn’t think about him until the end of the first (round), and even there, I’m not sure I’d want him. Now it’s a little different when you’re in the hunt for a quarterback. We got a good one. … I just think you’re asking for too much trouble with a guy like him. It’s just like Vince Young — all the warning signs were there. The lower (Newton) goes, the better his chances will be.”

    and on a related note:

    “What do you think the hit ratio is on one-year wonders in the first round. We did the study over five years. It’s not very good. What’s scary is how many of them there are in this year’s draft. I would not touch either of the two at Auburn that everyone is talking about. I hope they go early so that some good players fall to us.”

    I’m on the fence about Nick Fairley but I’ll say out right that Newton in the top ten is a boat load of bust waiting to happen.  Both of these guys seem to me to have potential football character issues.

    “Trading down is an option that I am sure they would love. I also here of several other teams that would love to move down, too – Washington for sure. So, you need a partner. That is why we look at 2 particular positions – QB and WR. Here is why you want those guys taken at 1-8 (Gabbart, Newton, Green, and Jones) – so that the good DE/OL/DT prospects get to you at #9. Here is why you DONT want them to be taken at 1-8 – so you have teams calling you to move up and snag them. This is the draft day chess game that the Cowboys have to play and have to play right.”

    “(Georgia OLB) Justin Houston is very talented, but he could be the next Vernon Gholston. It’s scary, but he shuts it down way too much. He’s one of the draft’s great magicians. He can disappear with the best of them.”

    • Shocking news from the The Onion which is reporting that NFL is considering hiring replacement owners for the 2011 season.
    • And The Sports Pickle has obtained an official proposal for rules changes from the NFL Kickers Association.  Amongst the suggestions is the elimination of tackling on kickoffs to avoid injuries (i.e. humiliation, embarrassment and emasculation).
    • After paying a 16 year old girl for sex, former New York Giant Lawrence Taylor got sentenced to 6 years probation and to a lifetime of humiliating jokes and laughter from this blogger a total stranger who occasionally breaks in and hijacks my keyboard.  In Lithuania.

    One Final Thought

    The fifth Season of Mad Men looks like it will be delayed to 2012 as executives from AMC and Lionsgate Studio can’t agree on who gets more of the lucrative amounts of money that the show brings in.  Suddenly I have the urge to show DeMaurice Smith a picture of January Jones, wait about 30 seconds and then kick him in the balloons…

      Angry Birds NFL Style and Other Points of View

      Bears

      • Neil Hayes at the Chicago Sun-Times tracks 25 mock drafts to see who they have the Bears picking.  It seems clear that a lineman of some type would be the ideal.  He quotes ESPN‘s Mel Kiper on why the Bears should take an offensive tackle instead of a defensive tackle in the first round:

      “You can get defensive players in the second round area at the defensive tackle spot that can be a factor for you.  At offensive tackle, not so much. … It’s just slim pickings. You have a better chance to getting a defensive tackle than an offensive tackle at that point.”

      • Vaughn McClure at the Chicago Tribune documents the (somewhat belated) response of wide receiver Johnny Knox to criticism that former NFL runningback Marshall Faulk leveled at him last month:

      “‘I do understand what he was trying to say: There are things I can do a better job of in terms of protecting myself and Jay,’ Knox said. ‘I honestly see what he was talking about.'”

      Elsewhere

      • ESPN‘s NFC North blogger Kevin Seifert goes over how a work stoppage will affect teams in the NFC North in terms of football-related issues.  He thinks it will be disastrous for the Vikings.  They will have no offseason with a new offense, a new quarterback and no NFL monetary commitment towards a new stadium.  This entry is a good read.
      • Darin Gantt at the Charlotte Observer thinks the labor stoppage could actually help Panthers quarterback Matt Moore.  Moore is the most experienced quarterback on the roster and a long lockout could prevent them from upgrading in free agency.  Any drafted quarterback might not be NFL ready.
      • Charlie Sheen responds to the NFL labor stoppage.
      • Seifert wonders if fans will be renewing their season tickets.  Renewing on time basically contributes towards the owner’s lockout fund.
      • Gary Myers at The New York Daily News points out that if franchise tags are not determined to be valid in court, Peyton Manning is set up to become one of the most lucrative free agents in history.
      • Prominent sports agent Gary Wichard died Friday morning.
      • Former Cincinnati Bengals star Cris Collinsworth and 82 others were rescued from a seafood barge eatery on that broke free from gangplanks and floated down a flooded Ohio River.
      • Patriots safety Brandon Meriweather provides further evidence for the adage that nothing good happens when you are out at two o’clock in the morning.
      • On a related note, rumor has it that former Bear and current Patriots safety Brandon McGowan will be a free agent.  Via Pro Football Weekly.
      • Former NFL safety Matt Bowen breaks down the four verticals versus the cover two.  He uses the Bears defense of the Patriots at the end of the first half of their game last season as an example of how not to defend it.  As you can see from the diagram, right corner Charles Tillman fails to re-route the receiver inside at the line of scrimmage.  Free safety Major Wright also bites on an inside pump fake.

      • Bob Sturm at the Dallas Morning News is breaking down big Cowboys special teams plays.  In this entry he also highlights the almost impossible job that special teams coaches all over the league have.  Really good stuff.
      • Omar Kelley at the South Florida Sun-Sentinel explains why the Dolphins are “overpaying” Paul Soliai.  If the 3-4 has done one thing it has made nose tackle the hardest position to find outside of quarterback.  That will show during the draft as teams scramble to find them.
      • Former Colorado tackle Nate Solder had his pro day last week.  Matt Russell, who is Denver’s director of pro scouting and who played for the Buffaloes before being drafted by Detroit in the fourth round of the 1997 NFL draft took on Solder.  The results weren’t pretty:

      One Final Thought

      The Sports Pickle has designed an NFL version of Angry Birds.  Here’s a screen shot:

        Jay Cutler Dazzles with His Usual Rainbows and Sunshine at the Podium And Other Points of View

        Bears

        • David Haugh at the Chicago Tribune writes about Jay Cutler‘s attrocious behaviour with the media and, indirectly, the fans.  For those who wonder why the national media will seem to be biased against the Bears:

        “By now we in Chicago have learned to judge Cutler only by his behavior on Sundays. Just a hunch, but I doubt that’s going to happen across football America after Wednesday.”

        “‘I didn’t have as many catches but I had as many impact plays if not more key catches, third downs, touchdowns, whatever the case,’ Olsen said. ‘I contribute in the running game, pass protection in the backfield, blitz pickup, so it’s not always about stats.

        “‘This year kind of opened my eyes to that. In the past, I wanted to catch the ball more. This year, ‘Hey, you can be a tight end and have a huge impact on the game and maybe only catch one or two passes.’ There is no doubt I am a better all-around player.'”

        The guess here is that Olson’s eyes may have been opened by Brandon Manumaleuna‘s contract numbers.  Manumaleuna is a blocker who isn’t known for his pass catching ability but the Bears paid him a decent chunk of change to bring him here in free agency last year.

        “But perhaps as importantly, running the ball means not passing the ball, which is a good thing in my world when Cutler has some Carlos Zambrano in him. It’s the mentality that he’s just going to do it because he has always done it and now he’s going to do it harder and faster, and then it’s times 10 because it’s the playoffs, and then his head explodes. We’ve seen the Zambran-O-Meter go to 11. Not all the time, but enough.

        “The fear is Cutler doing the same thing when he doesn’t have to. He doesn’t have to be a hero. He just can’t be the reason the season ends.”

        Elsewhere

        • Adam Schefter at ESPN talks about the CBA hang up over the expansion of the regular season to 18 games.  Everybody, repeat after me:  “Follow.  The.  Money.”

        • Texans center Chris Myers demands that running back Arian Foster come bearing gifts the next time he sees the line.

        • Seattle coach Pete Carroll was at the podium when a reporters phone, which was being used as a recorder, started ringing.  Carroll answered it. (via the Associated Press):

        “‘Someone’s phone is ringing here. Let’s check this out. … Hello? No, not right now. This is a press conference. OK. Sorry, I’ll get back to you,’ Carroll said. ‘Old friend from high school.'”

        “[Colts head coach Jim] Caldwell was outcoached in last year’s Super Bowl, but most of the blame for the Colts loss still went to Manning. Caldwell appears to be coaching like someone who is afraid to lose the game – not someone who is trying to win.”

        “An argument could be made that Manning is the offensive coach of this team. If that’s the case, then maybe Manning has too much on his shoulders.”

        One Final Thought

        Les Miles‘ job application at Michigan has been somehow leaked to the public.  From The Sports Pickle: