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

Bears

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Elsewhere

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Bottom line, the Vikings are worth watching.

  • Goessling also comments on the Adrian Peterson situation:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

One Final Thought

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

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

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

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

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

Why Bears Fans Should Be Thankful. And Other Points of View.

Bears

  • Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune answers your questions. Included is the annual call for running back Matt Forte to be traded:

    “I don’t know how much the Bears could get in return for Forte when you consider he’s 29, he’s got 2,260 carries and receptions combined over the past seven seasons and his contract calls for him to be paid $8.2 million this season. Again, I’m not saying he can’t be a valuable performer both as a running back and as a receiver in 2015. I just don’t believe a team would be willing to fork over much to acquire him. Forte’s value is probably greatest to the Bears right now.”

    Every year somebody writes in and calls for Forte to be traded. And every year my answer is the same. Forte is the Bears best player right now. It would be insane to trade him, especially given that they’d never get what he’s worth.

    These are the guys you want to keep.

  • ESPN‘s Kevin Seifert and Matt Williamson rate the top 20 free agents this offseason. See any Bears on that list? That tells you everything you need to know.
  • According to the article, the Bears are estimated to have the tenth most cap space available in the league at roughly $25 million.

Elsewhere

  • Mike McCarthy is giving up play calling duties and by all accounts is going to be more of a CEO-type head coach next season. That’s led to quite a number of new titles on the coaching staff. Via Darin Gantt at profootballtalk.com:

    “They named Tom Clements associate head coach/offense, Edgar Bennett offensive coordinator, Alex Van Pelt quarterbacks/wide receivers coach, Mike Solari assistant offensive line coach.”

    As Gantt notes, throwing an extra position group on Van Pelt’s “a little curious”. The guess here is that McCarthy might be giving up play calling duties and Clements might be the offensive coordinator but that means McCarthy will be spending a lot more time with the quarterbacks, making Van Pelt literally a third wheel (with Clements also being a former quarterbacks coach).

    Rob Demovsky at ESPN says that the shift also means that McCarthy will be spending a lot more time in meetings for both the defense and the special teams. I thought these quotes from McCarthy were interesting:

    “‘And I will spend a lot of time with the special teams. Special teams needs to improve. It’s an area definitely of concern in the past.’

    “McCarthy referred to himself as ‘the third guy in the room now’ when talking about the special teams coaching staff, which includes new coordinator Ron Zook and new assistant Jason Simmons. Zook, who was the assistant last season, replaces Shawn Slocum, who was fired Jan. 30.

    “‘That culture’s going to change in there,’ McCarthy said. ‘I promise you that.’ “

    The Packers special teams were miserable last year. It sounds like McCarthy is going to make sure that there’s going to be a lot more kicking asses and taking names next year.

    I don’t have much doubt that McCarthy is doing the right thing here. It’s long past time for Clements to be a coordinator in more than just name and the best head coaches are the ones that coach the coaches. I think McCarthy will be pretty good at that.

  • I like former Bears and Buccaneers quarterback Josh McCown well enough. But calling him “the best free agent quarterback available” is stretching it. From Michael David Smith at profootballtalk.com.
  • Armando Salguero at the Miami Herald gives this in depth breakdown of the Miami Dolphins as the NFL’s ultimate stagnant team. Its not a pretty picture and it makes you wonder if they won’t be headed towards a complete blow up in a few years as the roster ages with little overall influx of real talent.

One Final Thought

Of course, the Dolphins organization is a well oiled machine compared to the Cleveland Browns. Jason La Canfora paints a picture of unbelievable dysfunction starting with the meddling owner who insisted on drafting Johnny Manziel over the general manager’s preference for both Derek Carr and Teddy Bridgewater.

“The culture in the Browns building is toxic, I’m told. Morale is beyond low. If you can flee, you are fleeing. There is no shortage of individuals throughout that organization who would, like former offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, get the hell out of there if at all possible. There’s an overwhelming sense of dread about the future and a fear that, come the end of the 2015 season, [owner Jimmy] Haslam will do the one thing he has managed to do with any consistency during his three-season reign — that is, blow up his entire building once again and fire everyone, in essence blaming all but himself for his sweeping failure.”

No matter who you root for in this league most of us can all be glad of one thing: you aren’t a Browns fan. This article is a must read for any fan who needs to feel better about the Bears current situation.

The Season Isn’t Over. Yet. And Other Points of View.

Bears

  • Mark Potash at the Chicago Sun-Times quotes Bears safety Ryan Mundy after the Bears blow out loss to the Patriots last Sunday:

    “‘We’re definitely frustrated, ­upset and disappointed — all those emotions,’ Mundy said. ‘We’ve just got to stick together — that’s the most important thing. At times like this, it’s really easy to have the worst in people come out, especially with all the arrows that are being thrown our way. Our job as a team is to stick together.'”

    There’s a lot of truth to that, of course. But more importantly I think your job as a team is to do your job as individuals. Right now its pretty rare to find a play where all 11 guys have been doing that. Tight end Martellus Bennett might have put it best (via Patrick Finley, also at the Chicago Sun-Times):

    “‘It’s not just Jay [Cutler]. It’s the offensive line. It’s the running backs. It’s the tight ends. It’s the wide receivers. He’s the quarterback, so everybody always looks at him. But we have to make sure all the guys around there are doing their jobs.

    “‘Jay does his job, we do our jobs and we’re O.K. I think that’s the biggest thing: that everyone around has to look at themselves. I’m not here to judge Jay or talk about Jay. I only can look in the mirror and see what I have to do and what I can do better to help my teammates out. And that’s what it’s really about.'”

  • From Brad Biggs‘s film review in the Chicago Tribune:

    “Cornerbacks Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner had their way with [Brandon] Marshall and Alshon Jeffery. The duo combined for only 72 receiving yards before Cutler was pulled. Marshall was unable to create separation and Jeffery didn’t fare much better.”

    Miami’s Cortland Finnegan also blanketed Marshall the week before allowing double coverage on Jeffery for much of that game. This is a major issue. I’m wondering if Marshall is still hurt. He has that look about him. Biggs would seem to agree:

    “Maybe it is a sign that Marshall, while healthy, isn’t all the way back from that ankle injury. But who knows what to believe? One week he feels explosive. The next week he says the injury should have kept him out a month. But it is one of the issues plaguing an offense that is short on explosive plays.”

    In any case if these two don’t start getting open more, the Bears season will end even worse than most fans suspect at this point.

  • I’m sure everyone has pictures of this billboard. But just in case:

  • Hub Arkush at chicagofootball.com answers your questions:

    “From @imx007: What’s the chance (the) Bears owners follows lead of the Blackhawks and Cubs and actually put real football people in?

    Ted Phillips is the team President and he has no football background at all. He is a very good accountant and was the team’s finance guy when Virginia McCaskey replaced her oldest son Michael with him. Actually, Michael was elevated to Chairman of the Board and Philips became President but the net effect was to move the family out of the day-to-day operations of the team. To Phillips’ credit, his first major move was to change Michael’s policy of not having a GM;…[Jerry] Angelo and [Phil] Emery were and are football people. The two questions are: 1. Are/were they the right football people; and 2. Should they be reporting to a football person? The first answer is it’s starting to look uncertain, but it’s still too soon to give up on Emery. The answer to number two, I think, is most definitely yes.”

    There’s a flaw in this logic in that ultimately a non-football person has to decide which football person to hire. I see little difference between Phillips doing it in collaboration with ownership and ownership simply doing it on their own.

    In the end, Phil Emery is making the football decisions. I don’t have a problem with that. As Arkush says, its a little early to tell, but I think the team’s drafts have gotten decidedly better, especially at the top, under his leadership. Whether Marc Trestman was the right hire as head coach is debatable but there is certainly a lot to like about him as an offensive mind and quarterback coach. I applauded this hire at the time for exactly those reasons. We’ll just have to wait and see if his leadership style either catches hold with the team or changes with the circumstances.

  • Biggs makes the point that the biggest adjustment that the Bears have to make in the second half is to get the running game in order. This is one traditional way to beat the zone defenses the Bears have been seeing this year:

    “There’s too much window dressing to the ground game and not enough brawn and muscle. Alshon Jeffery coming in motion on a fake jet sweep isn’t leaving opposing defensive coaches studying film deep into the night. The Bears must commit to running rough, dominating the line of scrimmage.

    “‘We have an offensive line that can block the run,’ Trestman said. ‘And we have a very good running back.'”

    The latter is definitely true. Whether the former is true is yet to be seen.

  • Honestly, does anyone care what Michael Irvin thinks?

One Final Thought

Could this possibly be the ever cynical Hub Arkush that we’ve come to know and love?

“From @mosconml: Let’s not kid ourselves, the playoff hopes are done. Who’s looking good at MLB, SS and FS in the draft?

“Well, first of all you’re wrong. In my preseason predictions, I had the Bears at 4-5 coming out of Lambeau, and winning six of their last seven to go 10-6 and claim a wild card. I don’t feel that way anymore, but to say it’s no longer possible is just wrong. Apparently you haven’t been watching the NFL recently. Two weeks ago the Saints were done at 2-4 and now they’re in first place in the NFC South. Many times even 9-7 can get you into the playoffs. I hate what the Bears have done so far like everyone else, but let’s let it play out at least three more weeks before we bury them.”

Couldn’t agree more.

Leading the Leader and Other Points of View

Bears

  • Rich Campbell at the Chicago Tribune points out that Cutler continues to overthrow receivers and attributes it to poor mechanics. But he then offers no specifics about what is wrong with those mechanics and gives us nothing to look for. Frustrating.
  • I’m not in the business of bashing quarterback Jay Cutler. Too much. But I found this article by Campbell to be pretty amusing. He first starts off by quoting an exchange between GM Phil Emery and a fan on the Bears website:

    “Q: ‘Given Jay’s enormous contract in the offseason – how happy are you with his performance thus far? I’m a huge Jay Cutler fan, but he can’t seem to make that leap to elite status and just makes too many mistakes.’

    “Emery: ‘Jay Cutler is a winning quarterback in this league and no matter how you analyze the history of quarterbacks in the NFL, if you have a winning record you are an elite player at that position. I’ll say it again: Jay has enormous skills and he continues to improve in all areas as a football player. I know he has some throws he would like to have back, but all of our players have had plays that they would like to have back.'”

    He then quotes the statistics (only some of which I’ll include here):

    “Cutler’s teams have a 59-52 record in games he has started during his eight-plus NFL seasons.

    “The Bears, for whom Cutler has played the last six seasons, are 42-32 when he has started. Since coach Marc Trestman took over before the 2013 season, the Bears are 8-10 when Cutler has started.

    “Cutler is 1-1 in the postseason, having beaten the 7-9 Seattle Seahawks in 2010. The Bears lost the NFC championship game at home that season to the Green Bay Packers. Cutler did not finish the game due to a knee injury.”

    OK. Maybe it’s not so funny.

  • Biggs answers your questions:

    “How is it that nationally, Matt Ryan is not held to the same scrutiny that Jay Cutler is?””– Brian C., from email”

    “The difference between Ryan and Cutler over the course of their careers is Ryan has experienced sustained success. His record as a starter in his first five seasons was 56-22. He experienced two 13-3 seasons and helped the Falcons to the playoffs in four out of five years. Cutler is in his sixth season with the Bears and they have reached the postseason once. The Bears have been unable to sustain success under Cutler and that is probably the best explanation for the difference in perceptions nationally for the quarterbacks.”

    Nationally Cutler is most criticized for his tendency to turn the ball over. Even I’m surprised to see that he has 8 fumbles this year compared to Ryan’s 1 fumble.

  • Here’s another interesting response from Biggs:

    “Why is no one talking about the inability of the Bears to tackle properly?””– John J., from email”

    “This is a question I could pull out of the mailbag five or six times a year.”

    “But I think most observers would agree the Bears have been better tackling in the open field this season. Open-field tackling is difficult, for starters. When it’s one-on-one, that’s not always an easy play to make. How many times do you see tight end Martellus Bennett slip by a defender? It happens usually at least once a game. So tackles are missed on both sides of the ball.”

    I couldn’t agree more. I’m usually one of the first people to start criticizing tackles on a game-to-game basis. But you can’t do it unless you are seeing it consistently over and over again. Seeing players miss the occasional tackle is not unusual and its not a big deal. There are lots of things to criticize about the Bears this year. This isn’t one of them. Yet.

One Final Thought

Patrick Finley at the Chicago Sun-Times describes the reason given for the fact that the Bears ran so little in the first half Sunday:

“Cutler said he made the right decisions when changing plays from runs to passes in the 27-14 loss Sunday to the Dolphins, even though he handed the ball off only two times in the first half.

“He changed two runs to passes and decided to throw on two more run/pass options. One, a deep ­incompletion to Alshon Jeffery on third-and-one, stalled the Bears’ first drive and seemed to mire them in a funk that lasted the first half.”

Translation: They couldn’t pass against a run defense.

The excerpt highlights what is wrong with the media focus on Cutler’s performance last week. Most writers have emphasized the fact that Cutler has mental breakdowns which result in turnovers, something that Rich Campbell at the Chicago Tribune does a particularly good job of highlighting here. They also ridicule the idea put forward by the team that turnovers are a team statistic. But perhaps they shouldn’t be so hasty as, in a way, this is particularly true of Bears.

The Bears insist that Cutler is an elite quarterback, something that is patently absurd. The Packers Aaron Rogers is an elite quarterback. He makes everyone around him better. Cutler depends upon everyone around him to make him better. And that’s the rub.

Cutler is the kind of guy who is going to be a great quarterback when things are going well. But when the going gets tough, Cutler’s not going to get going. That’s what happened last Sunday. The Dolphins were blitzing and playing the run and the Bears receivers were getting blanketed in single coverage. The team was sinking and in those situations Cutler isn’t going to be the life raft that keeps them afloat. He’s going to be a lead weight that takes them to the bottom.

That’s why Cutler’s turnovers are a team statistic. Most media and fans are laboring under the mistaken impression that Cutler’s turnovers are causing the team to underperform. Its the other way around. Like it or not, whether you think its the way that it should be or not, its the team’s poor play that is resulting in Cutler’s poor play.

If the Bears want to get better, they’re wasting their time if they are depending upon making Cutler better first. They should certainly try but he’s 33 years old and everyone has to accept that he is what he is. The only way the Bears are going to get better is by coaching up the other positions and making them better. If they do that, Cutler will follow.

A Question of Style and Other Points of View

Bears

  • Rick Telander at the Chicago Sun-Times on quarterback Jay Cutler after the Bears loss to the Dolphins Sunday:

    “You know what’s sad? This from Dolphins intercepting safety Reshad Jones: ‘After watching film all week, we saw [Cutler] was looking where he threw the ball. He was always looking at his receivers and never looking off. We tried to take advantage of that, and it paid off.’”

    Rick Morrissey, also at the Chicago Sun-Times, says that wide receiver Brandon Marshall reportedly called out Cutler after the loss (amongst others).

  • Former Bears Blake Costanzo on Twitter. Via Morrissey:

    “[Head coach Marc] Trestman [sic] has made the bears soft. I took pride in wearing that jersey. [Mike] Ditka, [Brian] Urlacher, [Lance] Briggs. Unreal man. No respect”

  • Here’s one thing Morrissey said that I can totally agree with:

    “‘We have no identity,’ cornerback Tim Jennings said. ‘We still don’t know who we are. We win on the road; we lose at home. That’s the most frustrating thing about it. We don’t know who we are just yet.’

    “He might want to consider the very real possibility that this is exactly who the Bears are.”

    So might the fans. As Jeff Dickerson at ESPN.com put it, “This team seems to be destined to be 0.500.” My suggestion is that fans relax and deal with it.

  • Hub Arkush at chicagofootball.com after the loss:

    “Could it be these Bears think too much of themselves and that just arriving at Soldier Field should be enough? Are they playing hard enough and giving 100 percent effort?”

  • Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune shares my concern here:

    “The other thing that jumped out was running back Matt Forte receiving only two carries in the first half. That couldn’t have been part of the game plan in the ‘good week of practice,’ right? The offense runs through Forte and there the Bears were on third-and-1 from their own 47-yard line on their first possession. Shotgun formation? Check. Press coverage from the Dolphins? Check. So throw it deep to Alshon Jeffery with Brent Grimes in coverage? Uh, check.

    “Trestman called it the right move when Miami opted to press the wide receivers. But it was a low-percentage shot and reinforced one thing: The Bears do not always seem comfortable running the ball in short-yardage situations.”

    I didn’t have the big problem with this call that most fans had. You take your shots down field when you can and the call would have been a brilliant surprise move if it had worked.

    But I’m still bothered by the overall situation. The Bears have had trouble blocking in short yardage situations for two years now and it led me after last season to call for changes in the offensive line. The Bears opted to stick with the same five guys and they are reaping their reward.

    Its OK to take a shot down field on a play like this on rare occasions. But if you aren’t confident enough to run the ball on third-and-1 and get it the vast majority of the time its a problem. The Bears resort to passes or trap plays and other types of techniques to get leverage instead because they aren’t strong enough up front to block a run play without it. They need to be able to occasionally just blow off the ball to get a yard. Because good teams simply won’t be finessed.

  • Biggs makes an outstanding point regarding wide receiver Brandon Marshall‘s post game tirade:

    “Former Bears receiver David Terrell was a likable guy with a playful personality. But Terrell had an act from time to time like winning was more important to him than anyone else in the locker room. I’m not comparing Terrell to Marshall at all. Terrell was a bust. Marshall is a big-time offensive producer. But the idea that one guy takes winning and losing more personally than 52 others doesn’t pass the smell test. The locker room is full of professionals and it requires a professional approach. No other player wants to hear another guy in the locker room say it hurts more for him.”

    Rich Campbell and Dan Weiderer, also at the Chicago Tribune try to pass Marshall’s tirade off as something that happens every week. I don’t buy it.

  • Offensive guard Kyle Long on his criticizing the fans in a postgame interview:

    “Long backtracked Monday, telling WXRT-FM (93.1) that ‘it was wrong for me to point fingers at the fans’ and that it was up to the Bears to give the crowd a reason to cheer.

    “‘I just think (reporters) had asked everybody in the locker room how they felt about (fans booing), and a lot of the guys didn’t take the bait,’ Long said. ‘Obviously emotions are running high after a game. Obviously if we were giving them something to cheer about there would be a lot more cheers coming off the field at halftime. Hopefully the score would be a little bit closer as well.”

    The impression of both the players and the media that the fans were booing the poor first half performance as the Bears went in at half time might not be totally off base. There was certainly a lot of frustration and venting at that point. But I can tell you that, right or wrong, the fans around me were most upset by Trestman’s decision to take a knee with time left on the clock rather than taking a time out and to move into field goal position. My impression was that the reaction at the time was more about that than anything else.

  • Patrick Finley at the Chicago Sun-Times places the blame for the Bears not running the ball in the first half squarely on Cutler. He quotes Trestman as saying that the change to more of a run-based offense after half time was because the Bears took the option of changing the plays from Cutler:

    “‘We took some of the options off, and we handed the football off,’ Trestman said. ‘And we got more of what we would expect out of our offense — a good, solid drive.'”

  • With all of the talk of concern about the lack of leadership from Cutler and Marshall, (and Trestman) no one seems to be talking about the obvious void – the lack of leadership on the defensive side of the ball. This was, of course, supposed to fall to Lance Briggs but he has pretty much proven now that its not his bailiwick and I’ve yet to hear of anyone stepping into his shoes.
  • No matter how much criticism Cutler takes he still goes home after every game to this:

Just sayin’

One Final Thought

Morrissey is also questioning Trestman’s leadership style:

“Those of us who respect Trestman and appreciate his mind know that neither respect nor football knowledge necessarily makes a successful NFL head coach. There’s more to the game than X’s and O’s. There’s the matter of dealing with large, talented human beings who, because they have been coddled their entire lives, believe they can do anything they want. It takes a real leader to tell them they can’t. Allow them to run free, and, well, this happens.”

Anyone up for some Double Nickel barbecue?

Game Comments: Dolphins at Bears 10/19/14

Defense

  1. The Bears defense game out playing mostly cover 1. They were trying to stop the run with the standard 6 or 7 in the box (depending on the personnel) and they were getting run over. They eventually had to start sneaking an extra guy up into the box before putting a stopper in it.

  2. The Bears were getting fooled by the read option all day and Ryan Tannehill in particular made allot of yards with it when he kept the ball.

  3. The Bears were back to their old habit of over pursuit and it cost them badly as the Dolphins took advantage of it with a number of misdirection plays.

  4. The defense adjusted at half time and stopped putting an extra man in the box, trying again to stop the run with base personnel with limited success.

  5. Give Ryan Tannehill credit. He looked great today. He’s under fire in Miami and has a reputation for being inconsistent. He had a good game today.

  6. Jeremiah Ratliff came out like a ball of fire and had a very good game, especially early.

  7. I don’t’ know what the stats were on time of possession but the Bears defense was just plain worn out in the fourth quarter. Miami just wore them down.

Offense

  1. The Bears offense was under siege this game. The Dolphins came out with a plan to blitz Jay Cutler and with tight coverage on Bears receivers in the defensive backfield and it worked to a tee. Cutler was under pressure all game and whenever he threw to anybody they were always covered. It was an awesome effort by the Dolphin defense.

  2. I’m not sure who the first Cutler interception was to. It looked like he was expecting Santonio Holmes to cut his route short but it was so far off it was really hard to tell.

  3. Tough day for the bears offensive tackles as Cameron Wake had his way with them.

  4. The Bears did a little better in the second half when they adjusted and came out running the ball, something they didn’t do enough of in the first half. I know that the Dolphins have a very good run defense but you have to do it at least some. The Bears also started feeding Brandon Marshall and, eventually, Martellus Bennett the ball more.

  5. The Bears continue to struggle with screen plays. They must be tipping them off because defensive linemen are reading them like a book.

Miscellaneous

  1. Alshon Jeffery had a tough game with the drops.

  2. Neither team had an excessive number of penalties until the Dolphins starting committing them in droves in garbage time.

  3. Turnovers: Do I really need to say more?

  4. The Soldier Field grass looked good.

  5. Well, let’s look at the bright side. Special teams didn’t kill the Bears today. They even blocked a field goal and had a decent return with some very good blocking.

  6. The Bears looked extremely slow on both sides of the ball, today, especially on the defense. It was much more apparent live and its a serious concern, especially at linebacker. They also got beat badly at the line of scrimmage, especially on offense. These two factors were a big part of this loss. Other than that, the only thing left is to give Miami credit for coming out and playing an outstanding game. The Bears got beat by a better team today.

Not a Good Sign and Other Points of View

Bears

  • I’ll be attending the game Sunday so whatever Game Comments there will be, if any will be brief. Sorry. Its tough to take notes under those circumstances. Maybe some day someone will give me credentials for the press box. 🙂

  • Hub Arkush at the Chicago Sun-Times notes that Lamarr Houston was missing in action again last Sunday. This is becoming something of a concern.

    I thought it was also notable that at a time when most media members were handing out kudos to Michael Ola for his work substituting in for various members of the offensive line due to injury, Arkush said that Ola “struggled at times” last week. Arkush tends to be more critical than most but if you buy into the evaluation, Ola may not ever be more than a back up.

  • Another point from Arkush that will rub some fans the wrong way:

    “The rush was great once the jail break started at the end of the game, but for 60 minutes, the Bears were a B-/C+.”

    I must agree. The sacks at the end of the game made the effort look better than it actually was and the performance of the defensive line has been generally exaggerated. But to give credit where credit is due, I thought I saw more consistent pressure through all four quarters than I’ve seen all season. Its just that not all of it resulted in sacks.

  • Rich Campbell at the Chicago Tribune asks safety Ryan Mundy about the fine associated with his helmet-to-helmet hit on Falcons wide receiver Roddy White last Sunday:

    “What could Mundy have done differently on the play?

    “‘Nothing,’ he said Wednesday.”

    Wrong answer. Mundy came in shoulder first, as he should. But he came in too high and clearly hit White’s helmet with his. A couple inches lower and the hit would have been clean.

    Mundy is like many other defensive backs around the league that apparently just can’t get the message into their brains no matter how often the league tells them. You have to lower your target. That’s what he should have done differently.

  • Former Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb is slipping into bitter old man mode again.

  • Arkush thinks that the key to the game today may be the play of the Dolphins linebackers.

One Final Thought

Every single Chicago Sun-Times “expert” picked the Bears on Sunday over the Dolphins. Same for the Tribune and at ESPN. Kiss of death.

Star Quarterbacks Are People, Too. And Other Points of View

Bears

  • Rich Campbell at the Chicago Tribune notes, as I did earlier, that perhaps the most interesting roster decision the Bears are going to have to make is at linebacker. He’s the first person I’ve read who has suggested this, though:

    “[There might be] two spots for three players — Shea McClellin, the 2012 first-round pick who has converted from defensive end; Khaseem Greene, last year’s fourth-round pick with more special teams experience than McClellin; and undrafted rookie Christian Jones, who has shown himself to be among the Bears’ most physically gifted youngsters.

    “If Jones plays well in exhibition games, the Bears won’t be able to stash him on their practice squad. McClellin, whom general manager Phil Emery has steadfastly supported, must show promise in these exhibitions.”

    .

  • The Bears released their first depth chart of the season as passed on by Dan Wiederer at the Chicago Tribune. It was notable for a number reasons:
    • Though virtually everyone assumes that Marquess Wilson has won the third wide receiver job, the Bears chose to name a starting fullback (Tony Fiammetta) and list Wilson along with Eric Weems on the second team.
    • Weems was the punt and kick off returner, not Chris Williams. Everybody’s favorite underdog, Williams was not listed anywhere on the chart (with Kevin Fishbain at chicagofootball.com pointing out that the third team pair was Josh Bellamy and Josh Morgan).
    • They listed McClellin alone at strong side linebacker. There continues to be some who are wondering if he’s being handed a position he didn’t earn. He’ll be worth watching closely on Friday.
    • Ryan Mundy is your strong safety and Brock Vereen is your free safety. For now.
    • Danny McCray and M.D. Jennings are the back up safeties with veteran Pro Bowler Adrian Wilson nowhere to be found (John Mullin at csnchicago.com notes that he’s listed with the third team). Adam L. Jahns at the Chicago Sun-Times notes that Wilson might be facing an uphill battle to make the roster if he doesn’t start because he doesn’t play special teams.
    • Jordan Palmer apparently has the edge over Jimmy Clausen for the back up quarterback job. Reports consistently indicate that Clausen has been more impressive in camp but I’m starting to wonder if Palmer isn’t simply doing more what the Bears want in terms of taking care of the ball.
    • Shaun Draughn was chosen as the back up running back over Michael Ford and Ka’Deem Carey.
    • Trevor Scott was listed as the fourth defensive end over David Bass and Lane Austen. Bears 2013 draft pick Cornelius Washington appears to be in deep, deep trouble here.
    • The two punters and two long snappers were listed together with the Bears failing to make a choice between the competitors.
  • Mark Potash at the Chicago Sun-Times compares this year’s second team to last year’s. He thinks the depth is better on defense. I would rather say its better on the defensive line. Other than that, I’m not too sure I see a big difference anywhere.
  • Being a punter involves more than just kicking the ball. From Jahns:

    “‘The field goals are different than college,’ said [rookie punter and holder Pat] O’Donnell, a sixth-round pick. ‘Especially here in Chicago, if the wind is blowing left-to-right or right-to-left, the hold changes quite a bit.

    “‘[Kicker Robbie Gould]’s showing me how to adjust to that. He’s been a great mentor for it. He demonstrates it. He works with it every single day. He ­critiques it on film.'”

  • A fan ran out onto the field during Family Fest at Soldier Field. It was notable for this exchange:

    “After pondering aloud why someone would run onto a field full of pro football players, [Judge Adam] Bourgeois asked [John J.] Annoreno, ‘Why you gotta be so silly?’

    “Annoreno, still bedecked in a Jay Cutler jersey, had no answer for the judge.

    “‘I bet if you sat across the street in the county jail, you’d know,’ Bourgeois said.”

    Moron.

Elsewhere

  • Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune visits Lions training camp:

    “The Lions lit about the last fire they can under DT Nick Fairley, declining to pick up his fifth-year option for 2015 that would have cost the team less than $6 million. Fairley, drafted 13th overall in 2011, has been a consistent underachiever and has struggled to remain in shape. He still has considerable upside but needs to commit himself, and the Lions are about done waiting for that to happen.”

  • Nate Ulrich at the Akron Beacon Journal think s that Johnny Manziel is closing the gap on Brian Hoyer in Cleveland’s’ camp:

    “In the first unscripted, live action of training camp, Manziel’s run-around-and-create-something-on-the-fly style was on display more than any other time since the Browns drafted him 22nd overall May 8. It’s his greatest strength, though it’s not always evident in a regular practice setting.”

    It’s not always evident in a practice setting because the practice is supposed to prepare you for the games. I don’t know what kind of football they watch in Akron, but “run-around-and-create-something-on-the-fly” doesn’t win games in the NFL. It can help you win games. But if its all you can do, I assure you it will add up to a bunch of losses.

    Assuming that the coaches know what they’re doing and don’t give in to public pressure and assuming the owner doesn’t interfere – a very big assumption – there’s no way Manziel starts unless he learns to throw from the pocket. And nothing I’ve read or heard has indicated to me that he’s anywhere close to having done that.

  • Armando Salguero at the Miami Herald on their penchant for changing offensive coordinators:

    “The folks who love the shifting and motion and so forth love to tell you it helps keep the defense from locking in on guys. It is harder to bracket a receiver who is moving presnap. It also creates indecision for the defense.

    “But the folks that approach offense in a stationary presnap fashion — like the Dolphins did under Mike Sherman the past couple of years — will tell you their way of doing things is also well-thought.

    “‘When you’re stationary as a football team or ahead of your emphasis on stationary, you might be able to make more adjustments offensively, check a play in another direction, redirect things, signal things differently,’ [head coach Joe] Philbin said.

    “‘If you’re snapping a ball and guys are moving, you don’t really have that option. And so you have to kind of go with the play. Your intent is that you’re going to create a little bit of indecision, limit the play speed of the defense with all the shifting and motioning and so forth. The flipside is you’re not always 100 percent sure of the adjustments and you may get stuck into a look that maybe is less than ideal.'”

    “It says here that both approaches have won. Both approaches have been highly successful.

    “The bottom line is talent.”

  • Gene Collier at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette gives a reasonably humorous perspective on the state of the NFL before last nights “Hall of Fame Game”:

    “Real, live, reasonably authentic football returns to your televisions tonight, America, and you’ve really, really missed it, right?

    “Well, me neither.

    “The NFL is the perfect new illustration of that old country lyric: ‘How can I miss you when you won’t go away?'”

    “Most Americans walk around filled to the neck with NFL info, but if you’re planning your own live look-in tonight, you should be aware of some things for which you are perhaps unsuspecting.

    “First, the Dallas Cowboys are not on.”

  • Ray Fittipaldo, also at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, lets us know that, much though he would like for it to appear otherwise, LeGarrette Blount hasn’t changed much since his days at Oregon:

    “[Vince] Williams went up against [Le’Veon] Bell in the backs-on-backers drill Friday before 7,000 fans at Latrobe Memorial Stadium. Williams bull-rushed Bell and pushed him deep into the backfield. The whistle did not blow and they continued to battle until Williams landed on top of Bell.

    “The fight turned into an all-out melee a few seconds later when running back LeGarrette Blount, who was not dressed for practice, rushed to Bell’s defense and dived into the pile. Chaos ensued until coaches were able to break up the fight.”

  • Jim Sohan at the Minneapolis Star Tribune thinks that the Vikings organization has bucked its history and finally stabilized. I would have thought that he’d have seen enough of Rick Spielman as a general manager to know better.

    Full disclosure in fairness to Spielman: Mike Zimmer looks like a pretty good choice as head coach. And Norv Turner is a great offensive coordinator. And I do have a man-crush on Teddy Bridgwater.

    OK. Maybe I need to re-think this…

  • If you’re wondering why I think Brdgewater was a brilliant pick, this excerpt from Matt Vensel provides one reason. Again, from the Star Tribune:

    “After Matt Cassel was unable to lead the first-team offense to a touchdown in a situation in which a field goal wouldn’t cut it, Bridgewater coolly guided the second-stringers 60 yards for a touchdown. Not counting a spike to stop the clock, Bridgewater completed each of his six attempts for all 60 yards and the touchdown, which came on a 20-yard strike to wide receiver Rodney Smith.

    “Chatting with reporters after practice, Bridgewater acknowledged that the two-minute drill ‘went good.’ But he was still stewing over the interception he threw in the red-zone drill moments earlier.

    “‘I’m not so happy about the way it ended as I am [upset] about the interception I threw in the red zone. That’s something I’ll learn from,’ Bridgewater said. ‘Coach Zimmer always stresses that we have to outsmart our opponent. If you have points, try to keep those points. I’m not as happy about the touchdown as I want to be.'”

  • Bob McGinn at the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel interviews Green Bar general manager Ted Thompson. I guess that success is relative in the NFL:

    “Q. The Packers’ only playoff victory in the last three seasons was over the Joe Webb-quarterbacked Minnesota Vikings. Have the Packers underachieved in the postseason from 2011-’13 considering you have a quarterback like Aaron Rodgers in his prime?

    “A. We would have liked to have won more, but that’s the way it worked out. The NFL is not an easy business. We’re aware of that, and when you get in the playoffs it gets turned up several notches. We’re hoping to do better this year.”

    Looked at objectively, the whole division has under-achieved when you come right down to it.

One Final Thought

You know, when its all said and sifted, all-world quarterback Peyton Manning is just as big a geek as I am. Maybe bigger.

The Horizontal Draft Approach and How Teams Don’t Pick the Best Available Player

Armando Salguero at the Miami Herald says that, though all general managers say they are taking the best available player, many are  actually drafting horizontally and not vertically:

“Drafting horizontally basically means the Dolphins want to give themselves space to fill their needs instead of simply picking the player with the highest draft grade.”

“Drafting horizontally, one critic of the format told me last week, is a great way to fool the media and the owner into thinking you’re picking the best available player who coincidently plays a position of need (wink, wink) when what you’re really doing is just filling your greatest needs.”

“The vertical approach simply grades a number of players that are draft eligible one after the other, regardless of position. It is a 300-name totem pole of sorts with the best player in the draft at the top and Mr. Irrelevant at the bottom.

And, theoretically, the selection process takes on a life of its own because as names come off the board, all a team has to do when its turn comes up is pick the next player with the highest grade.

If a team is drafting 12th overall, as the Dolphins are, and the highest player on the board has the No. 6 overall grade, that’s the pick regardless of position or need.

That’s the classic approach. It’s simple. It’s black and white.

The horizontal approach leaves room for more grays.

Teams using this approach stretch every position group horizontally across a board. Left ends, nose tackles, right ends, weak linebackers, strong linebackers, inside linebackers, wide receivers, quarterbacks and so on. (Teams with 4-3 defenses use different position groups as teams running 3-4 looks.)

The Dolphins would then take a small number of players — between 120 and 180, depending on the year — and plug them into their board according to their position.

Along the first line under every position, the club places the name of players that have a first-round grade. So first-round cornerbacks are on the same horizontal line as first-round quarterbacks or running backs or any other position.

Along the second line, the name of every player with a second-round grade is placed under his appropriate position. That’s how a second-round safety can be on the same horizontal line with a second-round quarterback.

And on draft day, when the No.?12 pick comes up — assuming the Dolphins aren’t trading up or down — [Jeff] Ireland will be able to scan horizontally across the first round and spy the handful of players graded at the pick. Those players will be laid out horizontally at their various positions.

The Dolphins GM can then select a name out of that group.

It shouldn’t surprise that the player selected often plays a position of need, because logic and human nature will dictate that picking a quarterback ahead of a cornerback won’t help the team as much in 2012 even if the quarterback is rated higher.”

I’m pretty sure that Salguero is actually simplifying what is, in fact, a very complex process with a lot of blurry edges for every team.  I’d be willing to bet that no team in the NFL drafts vertically in the strictest sense of the word as described above and very few draft strictly horizontally. The NFL Network goes into the draft room of one team every year and, though they don’t give you a good look at it, I’ve never seen a draft board that wasn’t set up by position.  Most probably there’s both a vertical and horizontal arrangement on every board.

They key is to take the best available player that’s going to improve your team.  For some teams that means taking the best player at a position of need (horizontal).  For others it means taking the best player who can improve any position (vertical).  The Dolphins fall closer to the first category.

On the other hand, the Bears almost certainly will fall closer to the latter category this year.  They’ve tried very hard to fill positions of need with free agents in the hopes of leaving themselves free to take almost any player on draft day.  But that doesn’t mean regardless of position.  They aren’t taking a running back in the few rounds because they simply aren’t going to find one who is going to be an upgrade over Matt Forte.  Unless they’re planning on playing a lot more man coverage, they aren’t going to find an upgrade over their two Pro Bowl cornerbacks.  And though quarterback is a little different in that you might draft for the future there, its also almost certainly out, at least for the first round.  But defensive tackle, defensive end, and safety?  These aren’t necessarily positions of need per se.  But I’m betting the Bears wouldn’t hesitate to go in any of those directions.

Personally I prefer the vertical approach.  Success in the league depends upon the ability to find impact players.  Common sense tells you that you are less likely to find one if your hands are tied by only considering a hand full of positions.  But for budget conscious teams like the Packers, and particularly those with lots of needs like the Dolphins, the horizontal approach isn’t just the best way to go.  It’s the only way to go.  Something to consider as we watch the process unfold on April 25.

It’s Only Human And Other Points of View

Bears

“He actually has been OK at times but lapses into poor technique leads supporters to lose their patience. Based on how he played earlier this year, he should give Vikings defensive end Jared Allen a challenge. But in year two at left tackle and year three as a starter, Webb should have advanced beyond the point of semi-regular meltdowns.”

Gabe Carimi lost his starting job to [Jonathan] Scott this week, but still made an impact as an extra tackle on short-yardage plays. He also played guard for the first time in his life whe he replaced [Lance] Louis in the third quarter.”

Biggs goes on to explain how Carimi handled the switch. Here’s what Carimi himself had to say:

“‘(Center Roberto) Garza helped me out a lot. He looked at me like this (holding his hand up to hide his mouth) while we were walking up to the line to explain the play.’

“Said Garza: ‘Everybody was trying to help everybody. He had never played guard before so I was just trying to help him with little things. We were in a tough situation. No one else could get hurt.'”

Like most Bear fans I sincerely hope Carimi’s future isn’t at guard.

“But I’ll tell you what, Monday night they were sliding to him so it’s (Roberto) Garza, Chilo (Rachal) and J’Marcus Webb and Justin Smith and Aldon Smith bum-rushed both of them. That should never happen. When you have three for two, that should never, ever happen. To me, part of that is coaching. Part of that is guys aren’t doing the right thing. Because the guard should jam the heck out of the D-tackle knowing that Roberto is coming over and then (Rachal) helps the inside of J’Marcus so he can set real hard on the middle of the defensive end. That was probably the most disturbing thing to me. “

Tucker was also extremely critical of Gabe Carimi but I doubt he was taking his knee unjury into account. Its going to be hard to see what Carimi is going to be until next year when we can be sure its completely rehabilitated. Biggs appeared to agree in the article.

  • It’s really unfotunate that Louis’ season is over as Sean Jensen at the Chicago Sun-Times reports that he has a torn ACL. With the possible exception of center Roberto Garza, he was the only lineman who was really having a good year.

“Dan, what’s your take on Edwin Williams? I thought he was better than expected when forced into service last season. I’ve been a bit surprised that Chilo Rachal was playing ahead of him. — Mark Early, Arlington, Va.

“I think Bears coaches are anxious to get a good look at Williams. The thing about him is he really hasn’t had a chance to show exactly what he is. My feeling was that he might be best at center, but I’m not so sure anymore. Williams is not as athletic as Chris Spencer, and he’s not as powerful as Chilo Rachal, but he has more power than Spencer and more athleticism than Rachal. So he is a blend, and he has a chance to develop into a decent starting guard as Lance Louis did.”

I have frequently wondered why Williams didn’t get a better chance at guard. He’s always played well in games when called upon. My conclusion has been that Williams may not be much of a practice player but perhaps Pompei has it right. He might not be special in any one athletic characteristic and that might make him blend into the background.

“It has been a long time since Andre Gurode suited up as a reserve for the Ravens in the AFC championship game last season, but the 34-year-old still went to the gym five days every week, hoping for a phone call.”

  1. Why hasn’t Gurode been signed by someone before now?
  2. Will he have to knock off a bunch of rust before playing effectively (if he’s capable of it) with this Bears?

We shall see. Unlike most of the Bear fans I have talked to, I have some hope that Gurode will provide an upgrade. He had knee surgery two years ago and, like Carimi this year, I doubt he had fully recovered one year after the procedure. The Bears might be getting him right as he’s getting back to a high lievel of play.

  • My impression was that Cutler did a pretty good job of spreading the ball around Sunday against the Vikings. But Biggs points to the statistics which who otherwise. Marshall was targeted 17 times — three times more than the other seven Bears with catches.

“Marshall’s physical play is ideal as cold weather sets in. By breaking tackles, he gained 7 yards after contact on one play and 12 on another [against the Vikings].”

  • McClure points out that wide receiver Dane Sanzenbacher may see some significant playing time tomorrow. Like most Bear fans, I like the undersized Sanzenbacher. But you know they’re in trouble whenever your see him playing.

“Why the Bears’ defense has worked — mostly

“The Bears have played with a safety up in run support frequently over the past several games, with only limited success. But their base scheme has generally succeeded against the Vikings because it does not over-pursue or leave itself vulnerable to cutbacks, a Peterson strength.

“The concern now, however, is that Foster had 85 yards in the first half of the Houston game with the zone-blocking/cutback scheme, and the San Francisco 49ers obliterated the edges of the defense with jumbo packages and ‘wham’ blocking from fullbacks and tight ends.

“‘Anytime we come off a game and something hurts us, we go in, install it, re-fit it,’ [defensive coordinator Rod] Marinelli said. ‘Because we’ll see it again down the line, somewhere, sometime, this week, next week. We’ll see some of that stuff again.

“‘We see the corrections we can make. We go through it, re-teach it, fit it up and then we’ve got to go play fast with it. Beat blocks, get off blocks, all those basic things.'”

The Bears have, in fact, been sneaking that safety up at the last minute all season and doing it with amazing accuracy in terms of predicting when the opponenent will actually run. Up until the Texans game, that is, where both they and the 49ers used that aggressive play calling to draw that safety up, then try to beat the coverage in the passing game.

“‘We were in man coverage and the tight end, he’s pretty good,’ Wright said. ‘In the red zone, they definitely like to use their tight end. The quarterback didn’t look off and Chris made a great break on him. I had him off the line and Chris had him over the top. The formation was triples and they always run their tight end on a seven route on the backside of triples so we kind of knew and had a bead on that.'”

“I’m not going to go into the extent of them but a lot have to do with focusing on certain spots of the ball. It’s almost like you have certain drills you do as a golfer that you work on something but it happens to improve something else because of the focus you are putting into it. Getting down to the nuts and bolts of it, coming up through the ball is something that we have been working on. Something as simple as just keeping your head down past the time the ball has been punted. Not crossing over. Having good drops. Getting down to the basics of it.”

  • I’m not sure I’m entirely satisfied with the way Rosenbloom ended his column Monday:

“Let’s be clear: The Vikings are a bad team. Tough, but not a contender. That made them a good opponent for the Bears. That’s the kind of team the Bears are beating this season. The Bears will face good teams eventually. Good thing it wasn’t Sunday.”

I’ve been as vocal as anyone about the Bears taking advantage of a soft schedule early in the year. But the Vikings aren’t a bad team. They’re an average team and the Bears are an above average team. So the Bears did beat a team at home that they should have beaten. But let’s not degrade the accomplishment. They’re not elite but they’ve shown repeatedly that they’re pretty good.

Seahawks

  • From Lovie Smith’s description, I’d say that, like Chrisitan Ponder, Seattle’s’ Russell Wilson sounds like the kind of quarterback who won’t lose you a game. Via Biggs:

“He’s been steady, he’s done what they asked him to do and he’s mobile in the pocket, makes great decisions and has just been productive for them.'”

  • Nick Eaton at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reviews what went wrong in Miami last week. It appears that the Seahawks took an extra week off after getting one with their bye. The good news for the Bears is that it continued a series of bad road performances for the young Seahawks team. Tim Booth at the Associated Press reviews the team’s road struggles and points out that they didn’t just start this year. The bad news? They may be showing signs of breaking out of it is this statistic is any indication:

“In Seattle’s previous five road games, Wilson performed markedly worse than he had at home. All eight of his interceptions this season he threw on the road. Before Sunday’s game, he had a passer rating of 65.8 on the road compared to 122.0 at the CLink.

“But on Sunday, he went 21-of-27 — including 16-consecutive completed passes — for 224 passing yards, two touchdowns, no interceptions and a stellar passer rating of 125.9.”

Elsewhere

  • Potash on how Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder takes advantage of the presence of Adrian Peterson in the Vikings backfield:

“According to Pro Football Focus, Ponder has completed 63 of 93 play-action passes for 623 yards, four touchdowns and one interception this season. His quarterback rating on play-action is 96.3, much better than his 80.6 mark when it isn’t used. Play-action passes also make up 29.5 percent of his throws, the third-most among quarterbacks.”

  • Whatever else you might say about the Vikings, if you have a left tackle, you are well on your way to stability. From Pompei.
  • Here’s an interesting point made by Judy Battista at The New York Times that has also been noted by several of my friends:

“Q. Why do the Giants seem so inconsistent? – Crabsail, Locust, N.J.

“A.
Let me answer that with another question: Have you seen many teams you’d call consistent this season? Even the ones with the best records have seemed unstoppable some weeks and barely able to hold it together on others. That’s the nature of parity.”

  • profootballmock.com also has the real reason for the sprinkler “failure” in Miami:


One Final Thought

Neil Hayes at the Chicago Sun-Times inteviews an anonymous scout on the state of the offensive line:

“How can an offensive line bullied by the 49ers dominate an above-average Vikings front seven six days later?

“‘It happens all the time,’ said a veteran NFL scout who specializes in offensive line play. ‘Green Bay got shattered by New York [on Monday night]. They weren’t close to what they were capable of doing. Watch them this week.

“‘It’s human nature. I can’t explain it. Nobody can. If you could you would be a billionaire. If you could define human emotion when it comes to a football team or human performance we wouldn’t be having this conversation right now. It happens. It just does.

“‘You wonder sometimes. You want to count on this and you want to count on that but you can’t count on anything. There’s an emotional factor and sometimes it rules the game.'”

“‘Sometimes there’s an urgency on a football team that’s difficult to define,’ the scout said. ‘The 49ers had it against the Bears. The Bears had it against the Vikings. When the Vikings beat the 49ers, it was the other way around. Explain that one to me. Why that happens I can’t tell you.”