Kansas City – Denver: What We Learned

Jan 5, 2013; Houston, TX, USA; General view of the NFL Wild Card logo on the field before a game between the Houston Texans and Cincinnati Bengals during the AFC Wild Card playoff game at Reliant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports ORG XMIT: USATSI-119966 ORIG FILE ID: 20130105_sal_ad1_152.JPG
Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
  1. Peyton Manning‘s arm is shot.Yeah, I know. He threw a dramatic game-winning touchdown. And he also threw a number of other nice passes.  But he also threw quite a number of balloons, especially in the first half. When everything is perfect for Manning and he’s got his feet underneath him with a clean pocket, he’s fine. But he’s no longer the playmaker that can make up for other team deficiencies. Which brings me to the next point.
  2. The Broncos need to adjust to Manning’s obvious physical deficiencies. He’s still a smart, savvy quarterback who is one of the best in the business pre-snap. But he’s not going to be able to completely adjust to head coach Gary Kubiac‘s new offense by continually getting under center and running play action. At least not yet.  Manning was a different quarterback when Kubiac put him into the shotgun more often and/or when he was in the two minute offense. Suddenly Manning was reading the blitz and getting the ball out before the Chiefs could touch him. Kubiac is going to have to shelve some of his offense, at least temporarily, until Manning gets his feet back under him.
  3. The Chiefs have a pair of very good tight ends, at least one of which has come out of nowhere. Travis Kelce I’d at least heard about but James O’Shaughnessy was a complete surprise. Both of these guys are athletic and dangerous. It should be fun watching them this year.
  4. These are two of the best defenses in the NFL – we knew that going in. But, even given that, I’m very concerned about both of these offensive lines, especially Denver’s. The Broncos gave up three sacks and the Chief gave up four. Most significantly, Denver had only a paltry 60 yards rushing. That ‘aint good, folks.Denver did a lot of shuffling alone its offensive line in the offseason and its possible that they will gel as the season goes on. But for now, a bad offensive line combined with a physically limited Peyton Manning isn’t a good mix.
  5. On a related note, someone has to settle the Broncos down as they gave away so many personal foul penalties in the first half that all Kansas City had to do was collect them and, as former Chiefs coach Hank Stram put it, “matriculate” their way down the field. I appreciate physical play but you still have to make them earn it, boys.
  6. Also on a related note, is there any doubt that Denver defensive coordinator Wade Phillips is one of the best in the game? He does nothing but win everywhere he goes. He’s one of those guys who is simply born to be a coordinator instead of a head coach. He won a chess match last night against a great offensive mind.And that brings us to Andy Reid.  I’m beginning to wonder if Reid also isn’t simply a born coordinator. He certainly doesn’t appear to be a big game coach and some of the decisions he made from the sidelines last night were head scratchers. I appreciate aggressiveness but putting the game in the hands of Alex Smith by throwing the ball, especially right before half time, was bad news. Reid may have taken the Chiefs as far as they’ll ever get with him as the coach.
  7. Turnovers kill. Jamall Charles and Alex Smith. Protect football. ’nuff said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On the End for Lance Briggs and Other Points of View

Bears

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Elsewhere

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

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

  • Also from Miller:

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

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

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

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

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

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

One Final Thought

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

Screen Shot 2014-12-01 at 5.52.35 AM

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

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

Mike Singletary Gets HIs Due and Other Points of View

Bears

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But its eventually going to be…

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

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

 

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

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

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

Elsewhere

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Commissioner Roger Goodell on drug testing:

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

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

No way it happens.

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

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

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

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

  • From Sean Jensen at the Chicago Sun-Times:

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

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

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

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

 

One Final Thought

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

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

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

Bears

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Elsewhere

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Pitty the girlfriends, NFL fans.

One Final Thought

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

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

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

KABOOM!

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

KA-BLOOEY!

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

BULLS-EYE!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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.

A Final Word on the Tragedy in Kansas City and Other Points of View

Bears

  • Dan Pompei at the Chicago Tribune believes that Lovie Smith made the right call by going for it on fourth and inches in the first quarter Sunday because an NFL team should be able to gain half a yard in that situation. Too bad the game is about what you can do not what you should be able to do.

“After gaining just 14 yards on eight carries in the first half [Sunday], Matt Forte gained 52 yards on 13 carries in the second half to finish with 66 yards on 21 carries. But he also caught three passes for 30 yards, including a 12-yard touchdown when he lined up wide on third-and-four in the third quarter.

“Why can’t the Bears do that more often? Coming into the game, Forte had 27 catches for 184 yards, 47 of them on a screen pass against the Titans.”

Former Bears offensive coordinator Mike Martz seemed to use Forte much more effectively in the passing game than current coordinator Mike Tice does. The touchdown reception was nice to see. We should see more of it.

“I’m surprised the Bears have not tried (ORT Gabe) Carimi at left tackle. That’s what he played at Wisconsin. Chris Williams looked better than Carimi at right tackle, and Williams had to be bailed out from playing on the outside. He couldn’t get it done at tackle or guard.”

I like this feature and I tend to respect the opinions of scouts. But this is one of the dumber comments I ever heard. There’s no way Carimi’s going to play left tackle on a bum knee. Maybe next year. I doubt it but at least it won’t be a dumb comment at that point.

  • Adam L. Jahns at the Chicago Sun-Times lauds Carimi’s play Sunday. To my eye Carimi did a pretty good job of pass blocking but that big, tall frame of his really isn’t made for run blocking at guard. I didn’t watch every play but I think it really hurt the Bears running game.
  • Craig Steltz says via Jahns that he knew he might be playing Sunday with Chris Conte having the flu. That may be so bt he sure looked rusty. FOX highlighted two striaght plays where he apparenlty left a Seattle tight end wide open in the endzone.

“(Bears DE Corey) Wootton has been a surprise this year. He is having by far his best year in terms of creating sacks and pressures. (Having your team use) a first-round pick on a player at your position can have that effect.”

“And if the team does miss the playoffs, where does that leave coach Lovie Smith? The suspicion is that Smith’s future isn’t tied to Urlacher’s, but that Urlacher’s future certainly is tied to Smith’s. The player is out of contract at year’s end and the Bears plan to assess the situation then.”

  • You can put this Audible into the “truth hurts” category:

“There are some bad football teams right now with good records. I’d put Baltimore and Chicago in that category. Losing to Charlie Batch at home is not a good sign. … I didn’t think Russell Wilson was going to be as good as he has been. He is the biggest reason the Seahawks beat the Bears. I was too hard on him coming out of college. The kid is a good player.”

I wouldn’t say the Bears are a bad football team. But I think even some of the hard core fans now realize that they aren’t as good as thier record. With the Packers and two dome games coming up, I think that will become even more apparent shortly.

  • Vaughn McClure at the Chicago Tribune notes the punter Adam Podlesh is doing a much better job after the Bears sent a warning shot across his bow by bringing in a few punters for workouts two weeks ago.
  • Jack Betcha at The National Football Post goes through the signs that your team is going nowhere. The Bears were doing well until he threw in this comment in almost an offhand way at the end:

“I also believe that teams that have 5 year droughts of not drafting O-lineman in the first three rounds are setting them self up for failure.”

“This is a tough time. This is the time where it’s easy to point fingers at people. The one thing about this organization, this team, this coaching staff, the players, we are going to come together through adversity. Through training camp and OTAs, little things that happen, I’ve been able to witness that. So that’s the promising thing for this moment right now. Very disappointed, but not discouraged.”

Give both Marshall and quraterback Jay Cutler credit. These are tough, competitive guys with reputations for being disruptive. But things aren’t going well out there right now and they are the ones trying to lead the team out of it. Kudos.

    • Jahns reviews the Bears defensive struggles with the read option play Sunday. I’m no expert. I didn’t even know what to call it in my game comments. But I can tell you that I watch college defenses stop this play pretty much every Saturday. I’m surprised it turned out to be such a challenge. Apparently the Seahawks were, too, because it took them four quarters to finally convince themselves that they could consistently run it.

Steve Rosenbloom comes to a similar conclusion:

“So, to recap, the Bears weren’t ready for [Seatlle quarterback Russell] Wilson’s read-option, didn’t adjust successfully during the game, and still couldn’t figure it out a day later. Indeed, there’s a great chance that we’ll come back to this game and its fallout as the time the Bears decided they needed a coach who can resolve at least one of those things.”

Pesonally, I’ve always thought that Smith was a good head coach who was working on limited talent. But there’s no getting around the fact that he has failed to attract the kind of offensive coaching talent that’s necessary to win in the NFL. If the team doesn’t make the playoffs this year, Smith might not survive it. And its not just panic talk to say they definitely might not make the playoffs. I think they’ll win at Arizona. But they’re probably going to have to surprise me by winning in one of those domes, Detroit or Minnesota, to make it in.

Many die hard Bears fans will try to blame injuries if the team collapses. Don’t. Neither the defense nor the offense was playing well against good teams even before the injuries. It isn’t entirely Smith’s fault – as I said above, aging talent is still the major issue. But I’ve walked away from more than one game this season thinking that they lost in part because they got definitely out coached. I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see Smith pay the price.

      • Anyone actually own one of these? Yes, they actually sell them. Via profootballmock.com:


Vikings

“Watching how Adrian Peterson has worked his butt off to get back to where he is — gutting it out at the beginning of the year to get to the bye week. He’s the best story in football. It’s always been an attitude with him. It’s a mentality. He’s unrelenting. It is a nightmare for defenses to account for. … (QB Christian) Ponder has hit the wall. There’s no consistency week to week.”

Elsewhere

“I’ve heard talk about (Eagles GM) Howie Roseman already meeting with (Oregon head coach) Chip Kelly. Obviously, there are no rules preventing a GM from talking to a college coach during a (school) visit. I think San Diego would be a better fit for Kelly, myself. The run-and-shoot (scheme) worked at first back in the 1990s, and the Lions drafted Andre Ware and were plucking players to run it. NFL staffs were pulling out all the stops to figure out how to stop it, and once they did, it fell hard and hasn’t worked since. If you want the blueprint for how to stop Kelly in the NFL, watch the Stanford game. I guarantee you NFL coaches are calling up (Stanford head coach David) Shaw and saying, ‘Send me that tape.’ With Oregon’s running game trickling to the NFL, (NFL coaches) need to snuff it out.”

      • But I’m not too sure about this one:

“(Patriots offensive coordinator) Josh McDaniels is going to be a hot ticket (on the coaching circuit). He’s been a head coach before — did he have too much authority? I don’t know. … He believes in his system. The offense has been humming.”

The guess here is that McDaniels doesn’t get another shot at a head coaching job until he shows that he can do it somewhere other that New England. Too much authority or not he made a mess of things in Denver.

“The problem with Mark Sanchez ­— I always thought it was more mental than physical. Playing quarterback is hard in this league. You need to put in the time to prepare. It has always been about more than the game to him — using his celebrity status to his advantage. … You usually only get one chance to bring in a head coach and one swing at selecting a quarterback. (The Jets) traded up for Sanchez and it didn’t work. (Eric) Mangini didn’t turn out too well. Say what you will about Rex (Ryan) — I think he is refreshingly honest — I don’t know how much time he has left.”

Sanchez might have lost his job to third string quarterback Greg McElroy on Sunday.

Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum:

One Final Thought

Mike Florio at ProFootballTalk.com comments on this quote from Brady Quinn following the tragic murder-suicide by Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher:

“‘The one thing people can hopefully try to take away, I guess, is the relationships they have with people,’ Quinn told reporters after the game. ‘I know when it happened, I was sitting and, in my head, thinking what I could have done differently. When you ask someone how they are doing, do you really mean it? When you answer someone back how you are doing, are you really telling the truth?

“‘We live in a society of social networks, with Twitter pages and Facebook, and that’s fine, but we have contact with our work associates, our family, our friends, and it seems like half the time we are more preoccupied with our phone and other things going on instead of the actual relationships that we have right in front of us. Hopefully, people can learn from this and try to actually help if someone is battling something deeper on the inside than what they are revealing on a day-to-day basis.’

“These are words that we should all study, and heed. I’ll be printing them out, keeping a copy on my desk, and reminding my son of Quinn’s thoughts whenever I can.

“It’s impossible to know whether greater sensitivity by those around Jovan Belcher could have prevented Saturday’s events. Chances are it wouldn’t have mattered. But the lesson is that we should all be more attentive to the people whose lives are intertwined with ours, through our families or our friends or our places of work. We enter and exit this world alone, but we are in between those moments part of a broad and complex fabric that both provides us with support and commands it from us.

“Let’s remember that the next time — and every time — we’re more worried about interacting with someone who isn’t in the room than someone who is.”

Bears Will Pay What It Takes to Resign Cutler and Other Points of View

Bears

“The Bears don’t have a more animated position coach on staff. Hoke is firm and firmer when with players on the field in training camp. He’s in the facemask of [cornerback Charles] Tillman, a 10-year veteran, the same way he is with an undrafted rookie free agent. It’s not always an approach that works in the NFL.

“‘That is the way I was raised in coaching,’ said Hoke, who worked in the college ranks for 19 years before joining the Texans’ staff in 2002. ‘I had a guy tell me one time, and I do believe it: ‘Encourage, correct, encourage.’ … When they come off and I am in their ear, sometimes it’s correction and sometimes it’s encouragement. It’s always in that vein, though.'”

Head coach Lovie Smith is smart enough to know that you need coaches who are both calm and fiery on your staff so that there’s a good mix of the two attitudes for those players who require some of each. He’s not the fiery type unless he’s really angry – in which case it has a much bigger impact when he shows it. But he hires coaches like Hoke and receivers coach Darryl Drake to balance the staff.

“Bears rookie defensive end Shea McClellin panicked when he was handed a $38,091 bill from Mastro’s Steakhouse on Tuesday night.

“‘I saw it, and I was like, ‘I don’t know how I’m going to pay for this.’ I don’t think my debit card can go that high,’ McClellin said.”

“Fortunately for McClellin, the veteran defensive linemen pulled a prank on him, recruiting the restaurant to doctor the bill.

“Still, Rookie Night is a longtime tradition for the Bears’ defensive line, and the first-round pick had to foot the tab. While he wouldn’t provide an exact amount, McClellin nodded when asked if the bill was more than $10,000.”

So he panicked at $38,000 but thought more $10,000 was OK?

“Wootton said his quick first move was due to reading Bradley, not picking up the snap count.

“‘I felt the tackle leaning a little bit,’ he said. ‘So I kind of figured it would be on one.'”

The guess here is that you can thank defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli for teaching Wootton to pay attention to that kind of detail.

  • Former Bears safety Mike Brown is long gone from the Bears. But his influence still lingers. From Rick Morrissey at the Chicago Sun-Times:

“Tillman’s interception was his own; the weaving interception return he gives to former Bears safety Mike Brown.

“‘I know he’s not playing with us, but I learned a great deal from him, the way he scored and set up the blocks,’ he said. ‘That was the only person I thought about as I was running: ‘That’s what he would have done. It worked! Snap! I scored!””

  • There was all kinds of happiness amongst Bear fans Monday – as well there should be. But Steve Rosenbloom at the Chicago Tribune definitely has a point when he talks about the first half of the Jaguars game:

“Here’s the deal: A good team will make you pay for such early erratic play.

“You can’t always depend on a second-half rally, even if you’re a streak shooter.

“You won’t always get two defensive touchdowns, even if that’s the norm the last two games.

“Start sooner, OK? Is that too much to ask?”

“I have noticed that J’Marcus Webb plays much better against powerful rushers vs. speed rushers. He was unable to stop the Packers’ Clay Mathews at all, but plays very well against the Cowboys’ D’Marcus Ware. I personally think Ware is the better player but, Matthews the worse match up. I was wondering if your analysis of his performance says the same? — Randall D.; Kalamazoo, Mich.

“Webb is in the NFL because of his size, not his quickness. He stands 6-7. He ran a 5.28 40-yard dash before coming into the league. He has size 22 feet. He is not going to be able to match up well with smaller, quicker defensive ends who can get underneath his pads. But he is difficult to move, and he can engulf defenders. So I agree with you, the Bears are better off with Webb against a power rusher than speed rusher any day.”

  • Despite the fact that he didn’t do too poorly, apparently at least one fan is still not satisfied with the Bears left tackle this week. From profootballmock.com:

“Chicago Bears OT J’Marcus Webb has recently been prone to unfortunate false starts, reports Webb’s longtime girlfriend Angela Baker.”

Lions

  • This isn’t particularly good news for the Bears. Via Biggs

Jahvid Best could make his 2012 debut when the Bears play next. The Detroit Lions running back has been on the physically unable to perform list but will be eligible to return to practice Oct. 15 and could potentially be in action Oct. 22 when the Lions come to Soldier Field on “Monday Night Football.” Best last played on Oct. 16, 2011 when he suffered a concussion against the San Francisco 49ers. Best, who reportedly will undergo tests this week, rushed for a career-high 163 yards and one touchdown (an 88-yarder) against the Bears in Week 5 last season.”

Elsewhere

“NUMBER: 0

“That’s the number of quarterback hits the Giants totaled against Cleveland’s Brandon Weeden, another alarming performance from a defensive line that is supposed to be loaded, with stars like Justin Tuck, Jason Pierre-Paul and Osi Umenyiora. Asked if he was concerned about the pass rush, Tuck was blunt, saying, ‘Yes, I am.'”

  • If the Browns game against the Giants is typical, Trent Richardson is going to be a beast in this league. He looks to me like he’s well on his way to being what Cedric Benson should have been with the Bears.
  • As I read the Chicago Tribune‘s game story about the Packers loss to the Colts Sunday, this particular sentence stuck out:

“What irked [Packers head coach Mike] McCarthy the most after the Packers’ second loss in the final seconds in three weeks was their inability to hang onto the football – on offense and defense.”

I have a lot of respect for the Packers – it would be hard not to after they went 15-1 last season and basically blew the Bears out of the water already this season. But game after game, last year and this year, they have had a bad habit of dropping far too many passes. You had to wonder when it was going to start biting them in the rear. Apparently it has.

One Final Thought

Potash talks about GM Phil Emery‘s coming job during the offseason:

“The future of coach Lovie Smith and quarterback Jay Cutler with the Bears will be at the top of the list. Smith was the bigger issue Wednesday, with Emery quashing a radio report that he is negotiating a contract extension for his coach. But the Cutler situation could be much more dicey, a bigger test of Emery’s ability to excel in his self-acknowledged role ‘as an evaluator and manager of people.’

“The decision will come down to this: With Cutler’s great arm and ability to make throws that even Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers can’t make, does he have what it takes to lead a team to a championship — or even just win one?”

No it won’t. You aren’t going to find many perfect QBs in the NFL. Let Jay Cutler go and you are back trying to win with the Rex Grossman‘s and Matt Cassel‘s of the world. Emery is smart enough to know that.

I did think this statistic from the article was interesting, though:

“Numbers can be as blinding as they are revealing. Cutler is second in the NFL in fourth-quarter passer rating this season (118.4), which indicates that he’s at his best when it counts. But Cutler also has a perfect 158.3 passer rating when the Bears are ahead by 10 points or more and a 58.4 rating when they’re not. That indicates he is at his best when the wind is at his back.”

The last is, of course, the most telling statistic. Cutler’s never going to be the kind of QB that is going to lead a team out of a hole. He’s going to take problems and make them worse just as he’s going to take the team when things are going well and make it better. It will always be up to the defense to make plays first and get things going in a positive direction.

But back to my point. No one has been more critical of Cutler’s lack of maturity and leadership skill than I have. But he’s who the Bears have and, as is the case with any player, its up to them to take advantage of his skills and work around his flaws. Leadership skills or not, they’ll work hard to re-sign him for whatever it takes. Don’t doubt it for a second.

Forte Not Doing Himself Any Favors and Other Points of View

Bears

  • Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune reports on the Bears acquisition of running back Michael Bush.  This was a good signing, I think.  You need two good running backs these days.  Bush has good size but moves well and is almost kind of a slasher.  At minimum, he’ll be a good replacement of Marion Barber and he’ll probably be better in short yardage situations than anyone on the roster.
  • Bush’s signing generated this somewhat petulant response from Bears free agent Matt Forte on Twitter:

“There’s only so many times a man that has done everything he’s been asked to do can be disrespected! Guess the GOOD GUYS do finish last….”

Dan Pompei at the Chicago Tribune has a potential explanation:

“Perhaps the reason Matt Forte is so sensitive to sharing the meeting room, shower area and backfield with Michael Bush is he knows Bush can be more than just his caddie.”

The problem that I have isn’t that Forte feels disrespected. Its just that when someone offers you more money than most people will make in a lifetime, I don’t want to hear you complain about it.

His situation is totally different from yours and mine and I do understand that. I just don’t want to hear him cry about how “good guys finish last” on Twitter as if we’re supposed to be sympathetic.

Forte has an agent who is in charge of negotiating his contract and making public statements when warranted by things like this.  He would be a lot better off dumping Twitter, concentrating on football and letting his agent do his job by catching the flak.

  • Pompei answers this good fan question:

“There were six other NFL teams that finished with the same record as the Chicago Bears. The Arizona Cardinals pick 13th in the upcoming draft and the Bears will select at 19. How was draft order determined, and how badly do you think this will impact the Bear’s ability to get the player they want?”
“— Norb Gecewicz, Deer Park

“The first tiebreaker in the draft for teams with identical records is strength of schedule. Because the Bears played a stronger schedule than the Cardinals, Cowboys, Eagles, Jets, Raiders (their pick now belongs to the Bengals) and Chargers, they pick last among all the 8-8 teams. And picking 19th as opposed to 13th definitely could cost the Bears dearly. If you say the Bears’ biggest need is an edge rusher, the Cardinals, Cowboys, Jets and Chargers all could use one as well (though each of those teams runs a 3-4). If you say the Bears really need an offensive tackle, the Cardinals, Jets and Chargers are threats to take one of them. And if you still want another receiver, the Cardinals, Jets and Bengals all could ruin the Bears’ plans.”

  • For those looking to see the Bears bolster the defensive line, Pompei gives some draft analysis:

“The four best defensive ends in the draft that fit the Bears’ scheme, in alphabetical order, are Melvin Ingram from South Carolina, Whitney Mercilus from Illinois, Nick Perry from Southern Cal and Courtney Upshaw from Alabama. There is a chance the Bears will have their pick of these four, but I really think there is a good chance Mercilus is off the board at 19. I also think there is a good chance Quinton Coples from North Carolina could be off the board, but I don’t see him as the kind of player the Bears will be looking for. Different players will rank these ends in different orders based on their schemes, so we can’t be completely sure how they will come off the board.”

“According to the West Virginian Times, Smith and Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin were both on hand Friday, probably to get a close look at defensive end/outside linebacker Bruce Irvin.”

Despite the fact that he was at the combine for interviews, Biggs says that the Bears will have him in for a visit before the draft.  He may require an extra hard look because of his checker past.  In fact,  after his pro day last week, he was arrested for allegedly damaging a sign outside a Jimmy John’s sandwich shop.  But given the Bears new focus on “on field character”, it probably won’t matter much.

Pompei reports on what scouts think of Irvin for The National Football Post:

“The fear is that at 245 pounds, Irvin isn’t big enough to put his hand in the dirt, and he doesn’t have the understanding of the game to play outside linebacker. Coaches will have a hard time trusting him as an outside linebacker, but it may be the only thing he can do.”

  • Pompei answers another very good fan question:

“With Mike Shanahan looking for weapons for Robert Griffin and the price for [Brandon] Marshall being so reasonable, why do you think the Redskins did not trade for him? Marshall had his most productive games playing for Shanahan. With the trade for RG3 and the signing of Pierre Garcon and Josh Morgan, it’s obvious that draft picks and money are not the issue. Does Shanahan know something we Bears fans don’t? — Mazhar Paliwala, Buffalo Grove

“My sense is Shanahan had his fill of Brandon Marshall, but I could be wrong. In 2009, ESPN’s Chris Mortensen reported that had Shanahan stayed in Denver, he was preparing to cut Marshall because he believed Marshall hurt the Broncos more than he helped them. If Mortensen said it, I believe it. He’s as solid as they come. Then again, the Marshall that Shanahan knew might not be the Marshall that Lovie Smith is going to know, if Marshall is to be believed. Marshall says his treatment for borderline personality disorder has made him a new man. We’ll see. But there is another reason why the Redskins might not have been in the Marshall trade discussions. Even though the compensation requests from the Dolphins were reasonable, the Redskins don’t have much trade ammunition after the RG3 trade. They already are missing a second-round pick this year and first-round picks in 2013 and 2014. They really are not in position to be giving away two more picks.”

“You have to be careful with players who did not produce a lot in college, especially wide receivers. I think he would be a fine pick in the second round, where taking big risks makes more sense.”

  • Pompei also quotes former Redskins GM Vinny Cerato on new Bears QB Jason Campbell:

“He has a big arm, a very good arm.  He’s athletic. He can run. He can make first downs with his legs. He can make all the throws.

“The negatives are he holds the ball too long at times. He fumbled a lot from the pocket. And he has just average anticipation. He gets in trouble some from holding the ball.”

  • ESPN’s NFC North blogger Kevin Seifert delivers some bad news regarding Brian Urlacher:’s late season knee injury.
  • Mark Potash at the Chicago Sun-Times reports that Corey Graham has signed with the Baltimore Ravens, presumably because they promised him a chance to play in the defensive back field.  They promised Brandon Ayenbadajo the same thing.  How’s that working out?
  • Pompei, this time writing for The National Football Post, on former Bears running back Cedric Benson:

“The Bengals’ backfield makeover isn’t about dissatisfaction with Cedric Benson as much as it is about molding the offense to suit Jay Gruden’s offense… The Bengals are looking at backs with speed, receiving skills, and the ability to pass protect.”

So it’s about dissatisfaction with Benson.

Elsewhere

  • Last week I wondered if the Bears might not pursue defensive end Andre Carter.   Ian Rappaport at the Boston Herald provides a pretty good clue as to why they haven’t.
  • Fans wondering why the Bears didn’t pop for Mike Wallace will find thier answer here.  From Matt Barrows at the Sacramento Bee.
  • Mike Florio at profootballtalk.com reports that Jeremy Shockey is seriously considering a law suit against the NFL Network’s Warren Sapp after Sapp reported that he was the snitch who gave information on the Saints bounty program.
  • It looks like the Redskins and Cowboys are also feeling litigious.  They might sue the league over the penalties they incurred for dumping salary in what was theoretically an uncapped year of the last labor contract.  It apparently wasn’t and the teams are now paying for violating a rule that wasn’t a rule even though it was.  If you get my meaning.  Via Mike Florio:

“It’s unknown whether the Redskins and Cowboys are bluffing in order to force a compromise, or whether they indeed truly intend to file suit.  Reducing the allegations to writing necessarily will expose that the league was engaged in collusion in 2010, which could have all sorts of unintended consequences for the entire NFL, including the Redskins and the Cowboys.

“And so the real question is whether the Redskins and Cowboys are angry/crazy enough to drop a grenade into a room they won’t be able to escape.

“The answer very well could be yes.”

  • Cowboys QB Tony Romo takes a lot of heat.  So this statement from a Brownsville Herald interview with Hall of Fame QB Troy Aikman is going to take some people by surprise:

“Herald: Who do you think is the better quarterback, you or Tony Romo?

“Aikman: ‘I think Tony already is a better quarterback than I was. I know how quarterbacks are judged but as far as his play-making ability and the things that he is capable of doing, he is a far more athletic quarterback, capable of making more plays than I ever was able to. He has a good team around him and hopefully, and I believe this will happen, I believe that he will win a Super Bowl before he is done playing.’”

“You know, you can’t … everyone has their opinion.  You go out there and try to help your football team win, and I just happen to play with an edge to me. I never want to hurt the football team, but also want to make big plays and help this football team win and lead this football team.”

Translation:  “Yes”.

“Quinn will now be reunited with coach Romeo Crennel and new offensive coordinator Brian Daboll, both of whom worked with Quinn in Cleveland.  It actually gives Quinn a bit of an edge over incumbent starter Matt Cassel.

“‘You can’t make every decision in life based on money,’ Quinn told the Kansas City Star, via NFL.com.  ‘For me, personally, I had to make the best decision I felt like for me.  And Kansas City was the right choice.’”

  • Former Bears Director of College Scouting Greg Gabriel, now at the National Football Post, doesn’t think much of writers (and bloggers) who think they know more than scouts and general managers about prospects.
  • The NFL is apparently considering making some changes to instant replay.  The proposals call for moving the entire operation to the replay booth without the involvement of officials on the field and expanding the automatic use of replay to all turnovers:  interceptions and fumbles.  The full list of proposed rule changes can be found here.  Via Florio.
  • To ESPN’s great joy, there’s some momentum building for Robert Griffin III as the number one overall pick instead of Andrew LuckMerril Hoge likes RG3 better (vai Florio) and there are certain aspects of his game that Greg Cosell at the NFL Films Blog likes better as well.  On the other hand, the scouts that Pompei trusts aren’t buying it.

Both Cosell and Pompei, who is writing for The National Football Post, agree that Luck is the most NFL ready in terms of his experience in a pro style offense and that Griffin has the stronger arm.  But the differences in opinion are notable:

1)  Cosell believes RG3 shows better ball placement, Pompei’s article disagrees.

2)  Pompei’s people believe that Luck avoids pressure in the pocket better.  But what Cosell says in this regard about RG3 is significant:

“[Griffin impressed me with] his patience and composure in the pocket. He did not move when the bodies started closing it down. He threw effectively out of what we call a “muddied” pocket”. He did not need much functional space to deliver the ball with velocity and distance. Surprisingly, in my 5 game breakdown of Luck, he exhibited a tendency to move too quickly, to leave the pocket too early. The result was often a positive because of his athleticism and ability to throw on the run, but I am very anxious to chart this element of his game in the NFL.”

What sticks out to me about Griffin is his unconventional throwing style.  But its not necessarily a bad thing.  He seems to throw over the top a lot which will keep the ball from being batted down and he his release is reasonably quick as he literally seems to flick the ball out.

I don’t know if I like him better than Luck but I definitely do like him.

“I understood why the Dolphins wanted Peyton Manning, possibly the greatest quarterback of all time. I even understood the pursuit of Matt Flynn as someone who has a potential upside worth exploring. But you have to draw the line somewhere and accept that you’re no longer seeking to upgrade the position, but rather just looking to replace Moore for the sake of it.”

“If you watched Matt Moore last year, you’ll know that the Miami Dolphins really don’t need to. Which begs the question; just what were they watching?”

“So why are the Dolphins having a hard time luring free agents to South Beach?  Steelers safety Ryan Clark has a theory.”

“Clark later says, ‘It’s my honest opinion. Not a good guy making decisions.’

“Here’s referring, presumably, to G.M. Jeff Ireland.”

“If it’s true, the Dolphins need to find a way to fix the situation.  If it’s not true, the Dolphins need to find a way to reverse a false perception.”

I’m not so sure its Ireland that Clark is referring to.  Stephen Ross, the owner of the Dolphins, doesn’t seem to have the sense of integrity that most of the other people around the try to NFL exhibit.  I think his attempt to secretly interview Jim Harbaugh for a position that Tony Sparano still held told us all we need to know about him.

I might add that he didn’t do his trading partner on the Brandon Marshall deal any favors either.  Via Izzy Gould at the South Florida Sun-Sentinel:

“[Miami fan Jason] Lawrence said he asked [Ross] about the decision to trade leading wide receiver Marshall to Chicago for two third-round draft picks. Twice, Lawrence said, Ross would not say if the Dolphins were rebuilding. He told Lawrence moving Marshall was not about money, but more about protecting team morale.

“’[Ross] said they had been shopping [Marshall] for a couple weeks,’ Lawrence said. ‘Nobody would return their phone calls about getting him. If Chicago didn’t take [Marshall] … they would have ended up cutting him very shortly after that, and got nothing.’”

So basically the Bears gave two third round picks for a wide receiver they could have gotten for a lot less because no one else wanted him.  Setting aside what this means for the Bears, the fact that Ross would embarrass the Bears by letting this out speaks volumes for his integrity or lack thereof.

Teams are likely to be very careful about dealing with the Dolphins in the future.

  • Looking at GM Jeff Ireland’s Wikipedia page, some Dolphins fans have apparently chosen to protest the teams recent moves in their own unique way.  Via The Sports Pickle:

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One Final Thought

For those wondering why the Saints got such a severe penalty for carrying on a bounty program, you might want to read the official statement from the NFL.  There was a lot of lying going on, here.

Its fairly evident that head coach Sean Payton was, to say the least, taken by surprise (even though he shouldn’t have been).  Via Florio:

“[Jay Glazer on NFL Network] said, ‘Are you OK?’ And he said, ‘No, I’m not OK.’ He is stunned. He’s going to lose about $8 million. He is beside himself here.’”

Steve Rosenbloom at the Chicago Tribune bottom lines the situation:

“Some people contend that every team has run something like the Saints’ pay-for-pain idea. Maybe, maybe not. But the Saints did it, continued doing it and got caught. So, consider this a tax on the stupid, as well.”