Managing Expectations and Other Points of View

Bears

  • Dan Wiederer at the Chicago Tribune reports this nugget:

    “[New Bears head coach John] Fox asserted Monday that one of his biggest attractions to the Bears job was to work for a storied franchise in a city that oozes football passion. And in that vein, he made it clear he intends to soon connect with several Bears icons, singling out Brian Urlacher and Mike Ditka.”

    “Said team President Ted Phillips: ‘It says that he understands our history and the tradition and making sure the great players that we’ve had in our past are still important today.'”

    Yeah. What it says is that he’s smart enough to know what ownership wants to hear.

    “Fox also took note of the franchise’s lone Lombardi Trophy, displayed in the Halas Hall lobby to commemorate the Bears’ 1985 Super Bowl triumph.

    “‘That trophy,’ Fox said, ‘is kind of lonely out there.'”

    Its notable that George McCaskey actually uses that very phrase to describe the trophy when he takes people on personal tours of the facility.

    The McCaskeys take the history of the franchise very seriously and they were pretty close to Urlacher. They probably weren’t happy that Emery managed to anger Urlacher in the way the franchise parted company with him.

  • Steve Rosenbloom at the Chicago Tribune comments on another thing that Fox said that caught my ear:

    “‘Football is a combative, physical game,’ new Bears coach John Fox offered in his plain-spoken manner. ‘It takes combative, physical people.’

    “Party’s over. Get tough or get out.”

    That fits with what we’ve heard. Looks like the Bears are going to be a lot more physical if Fox has anything to say about it.

  • With the hiring of Vic Fangio as defensive coordinator, the media has begun speculating about what personnel changes will be needed to run a 3-4 defense. This article from Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune is typical. The Bears don’t’ have much in the way of personnel that match up with a 3-4 scheme. But, as Biggs points out, they needed a lot of defensive personnel anyway. Nevertheless, they’ll be throwing away a number of good defensive linemen like Jared Allen that don’t fit the scheme well. This could lengthen the rebuilding process quite a bit. It will be interesting to hear what the players have to say about the change.Having said that, Fangio has shown himself to be versatile and virtually everyone agrees that even under the best of conditions he’d run a hybrid defense which shows its fair share of 40 fronts. They cold simply run a lot more of those looks the first couple years as they make the necessary personnel changes. That would be my guess as to what we’re in store for.
  • Via Patrick Finley at the Chicago Sun-Times the Bears have hired Josh Lucas as Director of Player Personnel. Lucas spent the last 10 seasons with the Saints, scouting the South region for the last two seasons.I hate to once again be the voice of pessimism here but Pace is going to have to look outside the New Orleans organization at some point to get the best people. He’s worked for one organization his whole career. I’d sure feel better about him if I thought he was better connected.

    My understanding is that consultant Ernie Accorsi‘s job was over when Fox was hired. I’d feel better if he was still around advising Pace.

  • The Bears new special teams coordinator is Jeff Rogers. Which probably means nothing to you at this point other than his name isn’t Joe DeCamillis. Via Mullin.
  • The Colts can only block the Bears from interviewing Rob Chudzinski for one more week. Via Darin Gantt at profootballtalk.com

Elsewhere

  • Those of you who are considering betting on the Super Bowl should think about this tidbit from Kevin Seifert at ESPN:

    “There is one initial tidbit to consider in advance of a Seahawks-Patriots Super Bowl, which will be refereed by Bill Vinovich. (That’s according to multiple reports, including one from ESPN rules analyst Jim Daopoulos.) Since Vinovich returned to the referee role in 2012 after recovering from heart problems, he has been assigned five Seahawks games. Seattle is 5-0 in those games, including three victories by at least 20 points. “

  • I felt really bad for the Packers defense after their overtime playoff loss to the Seahawks. The Packers flat out outplayed Seattle for 56 minutes of regulation time and the Packer defense in particular played testicles out. They were all in, playing cover-0 for a good part of the game.I actually had the Packers picked to win. I’d heard that the Seahawks were “loose” last week to the point where you wouldn’t even have known they had a conference championship game coming up. They took the Packers lightly and, even though they lost, the Packers gave them all they could handle. The game was a joy to watch.
  • Michael David Smith at profootballtalk.com passes on the news that Tony Verna, inventor of instant replay, has died:

    “It wasn’t easy. Verna told the Pacific Standard in 2013 that prior to that 1963 Army-Navy Game, networks needed about 15 minutes to cue up a film and show a play for a second time. To do it in 15 seconds required an innovative approach that featured some fits and starts and setbacks including vacuum tubes burning out and a replay having to be scrapped because the film they used had previously been used to record an I Love Lucy episode and Lucille Ball’s face could still be seen superimposed over the football field.

    Needless to say it wasn’t posted to the Internet.

One Final Thought

Wiederer quotes Fox:

“I’ve always been of the (mindset) of understate, overproduce. I’ve never predicted records. If I could do that I’d be at a race track somewhere.”

I’d say that’s the smart play. You could argue that high expectations – those of the fans, media and, especially, the players, were the biggest thing that killed the 2014 Bears. Remember “Cutler for MVP?”. It was a joke.

I think expecting to win is a good thing. But there are too many factors that can derail a team that isn’t as good as it thinks it is to allow such things to get out of hand. The Bears had a Super Bowl or bust mentality last year that was, in retrospect, only appropriate for the Super Bowl runner up. They hadn’t done anything, yet.

Jay Cutler Gone or Less Relevant? Either Way the Bears Are Better.

I couldn’t agree more with what John Mullin at csnchicago.com writes here:

“The Seattle Seahawks are going to a second consecutive Super Bowl with a quarterback they didn’t need. The New England Patriots are going to their sixth with one that they didn’t need, either. And therein lies a draft lesson for the Bears, who don’t need a quarterback right now, assuming that GM Ryan Pace, coach John Fox and whoever their new offensive coordinator is decide that a $15.5-million devil you know is better than one you don’t.”

Let’s add that the Packers went to the NFC Championship game with a firt round quarterback that they didn’t need.

If I’m Ryan Pace, I’m not wasting time with quarterback Jay Cutler, the devil I know. I’m starting my search for the right guy now. Even if it’s with a suspect player, its still someone you don’t know isn’t the guy. But even if he doesn’t do that, he should be looking for a quarterback to start in the future for this team in the draft – and not just in the bottom rounds.

Unfortunately I’m not Pace. So I think its more likely that this scenario laid out by Rick Morrissey at the Chicago Sun-Times will play out:

“The guess is here is that there won’t be any takers for Cutler’s fat contract and that he’ll remain a Bear. Fox will rely more on running back Matt Forte and tell Cutler to knock it off with the stupid turnovers. The offense will be geared with that in mind. Cutler will go from the highest-paid quarterback of 2014 to the highest-paid game manager of 2015.”

I dno’t think he’ll exactly be a game manager. Fox acknowledged during his press conference that you won’t win if you can’t pass, especially on third down. But there’s little doubt in my mind that if Cutler stays, he’ll be de-emphasized in the offense. The more the better as far as I’m concerned and I know I’m not alone.

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.”

On the Value of Free Agents and Other Points of View

Bears

  • Rick Telander and Jim Morrissey at the Chicago Sun-Times breakdown the Bears “victory” over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Sunday. I had to laugh when Morrissey called the first half “unwatchable” because he literally read my mind. I couldn’t stop thinking about what a horrible game it was.
  • Hub Arkush at chicagofootball.com on the “win”:

    “Yes, the Bears did get another win over Tampa. But if they play the same game Thursday in Detroit, they could be looking at another massacre of Patriots- or Packers-like proportion.”

    Someone please spare us.

  • I certainly do understand why linebacker Lance Briggs didn’t want to talk to the media about his groin injury. But its hard not to see him leaving the locker room before media were allowed in as yet another example of what a poor leader he is. Via Patrick Finley at the Chicago Sun-Times. Briggs’ evident lack of respect for Bears head coach Marc Trestman is not helping matter. As Rich Campbell at the Chicago Tribune reports, Trestman preferred to keep the extent of Briggs’s injury a secret, describing it as “day-to-day”. But Briggs doesn’t really care much about what Trestman wants to do. Once again he put his personal agenda ahead of the team and announced on his television show that he’d be out a few weeks. If there was any doubt about whether Briggs would be back its got to be long gone. He has to go.
  • Dan Wiederer at the Chicago Tribune quotes Dave Birkett from the Detroit Free Press on the state of the Lions:

    “No one could have forecast their defense playing this well, and [Ndamukong Suh is] the biggest reason why it has.”

    You’re kidding, right? Who wouldn’t predict that they would play that well? With all of that talent we’ve predicted it every year. All they needed was a dose of discipline. Evidently the focus that comes with getting a new coaching staff was all it took. There’s no excuse for the way that team under-performed under former head coach Jim Schwartz. He was (and is) a punk and his teams reflected that year after year.

  • Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune addresses the pending Suh’s impending free agency. His contract ends five days after the Super Bowl:

    “In a late-September report ESPN indicated Suh and the Lions were preparing to part ways and the player was interested in the New York market while the Bears and Cowboys ‘would have some level of interest.’ [Phil] Emery has not engaged in tampering, but he has a track record in three offseasons of being an aggressive player in free agency. He likes making a splash and is driven to put the team in a position to compete for a Super Bowl every season.”

    I have certainly had my problems with Suh over the years (who outside of Detroit hasn’t?). Nevertheless, I’d welcome him to Chicago just like everyone else. Having said that, there’s a part of me that really hopes the Bears don’t try to do this. I’m tired of rooting for a team of mercenaries and I don’t think that this is the way to build an organization. There’s something to the argument that the Bears have built a team of “front-runners”, as one assistant coach from a recent opponent put it (read “the Packers”). Admittedly painting with a broad brush:

    1. free agents who chase the money and/or
    2. free agents who leave organizations to surround themselves with others who can make them better rather than the other way around and/or
    3. free agents who go to organizations that can help them win rather than the other way around and/or
    4. those those who are traded or who force trades because they can’t stick it out where they are…

    No matter how careful you are about who you acquire, I’m not so sure those are the people you build around. Let’s be honest, almost by definition they really are, for the most part, front runners. I’d like to see the Bears stop being the Washington Redskins, stay patient and build the team they want with players who have developed the attitude that they want through the draft.

  • Biggs answers your questions:

    “Why doesn’t the Jay Cutler and Marc Trestman pairing work? Talk of benching, offensive regression and now no passes over 10 yards. — @DarrylConrad via Twitter”

    “The offense has regressed and is certainly in a slump right now. The downfield passing game has certainly been affected. But that’s not just Cutler. It’s the play calling, the offensive line (that has dealt with a handful of injuries) and the wide receivers, who also haven’t been fully healthy this season.”

    I beg to differ. Its now evident that signing Cutler long-term was a mistake. Physically there are no limits to what he can do and this is undoubtedly what led Trestman and Emery to do it. But mentally Cutler is far too limited. He’s a “see it, throw it” quarterback who will never have the ability to throw with anticipation or dissect a defense in the way that is needed to truly succeed at a high level in the NFL. I doubt very much that he’s even trying to extend himself in this direction any more, especially with his money now in hand. All of the things that Biggs mentions are, indeed, problems. But Cutler is the player who is setting the ceiling so low. It might eventually be more than adequate if they start playing with discipline but there’s very little hope that the Bears will ever have a truly elite NFL offense with Cutler throwing the ball.

  • With all of the talk about Trestman losing the team (as he’s apparently lost Briggs) its worth noting the excellent point that Adam L. Jahns at the Chicago Sun-Times makes in his weekly session with Mark Potash answering fan questions. Its at about 1:25.

Elsewhere

  • It used to be that immediately cutting a player after poor conduct sent a message to the rest of the team. Apparently that’s not the case anymore.

One Final Thought

Morrissey argues that there’s something wrong with the world if the Bears get to 6-6:

“Whatever happens Thursday, this team is going nowhere. You can’t fix the defense this season. The offense has turned into a bunch of dump-off passes to running back Matt Forte. Either the Bears officially don’t trust Cutler anymore or Trestman has officially misplaced his imagination. “There are people who subscribe to Bill Parcells’ philosophy of being exactly what your record says you are. But if the Bears get to 6-6, their record will be a big, fat liar.”

I really don’t think Morrissey has anything to worry about. This game shows every sign of being a dumpster fire but I can’t see the Lions giving it away this year like they have in the past. Even then, they beat the Bears twice last year. Arkush elaborates further:

“You like common opponents? The Lions are 5-3 against the Panthers, Packers, Jets, Bills, Vikings, Falcons, Dolphins and Patriots, against whom the Bears are 3-6. They beat the Packers 24-7 while Green Bay has outscored the Bears 93- 31 in the Bears’ two losses.”

It won’t be 55-14. But one of two things is going to happen: either the Lions will blow them out or it will be a “defensive struggle” where neither team has the competence on offense to move the ball out their own side of the field. Either way this one promises to be another painful prime time crap-fest with the added element that this time you’ll be surrounded by relatives that you can’t look in the eye afterwards.

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.

Game Comments: Bears at Patriots 10/26/14

Offense

  1. The Bears came out running right away. The Patriots didn’t even disguise the fact that they knew it was coming, putting an extra guy in the box from the get go.
  2. Quarterback Jay Cutler was not accurate again this game, making his targets work for their catches when they could reach them.
  3. The Patriots did a very good job of covering the Bears underneath and limiting yards after the catch. So the Bears were having a tough time even getting their usual yards between the 20s.
  4. Having said that, the Bears did get some room for Matt Forte to catch some balls out of the backfield in the second quarter. It resulted in a touchdown.
  5. Half time adjustments included throwing the ball more to Brandon Marshall. Again. When we we be at a point where they’ll do that from the beginning and that won’t have to be an adjustment anymore?  By the way it didn’t work.  What else is new?
  6. The Bears also came out aggressive after the half. The Patriots weren’t exactly in a prevent defense but it was obvious that they were playing softer to prevent big plays that might let the bears back into the game.
  7. Nice catch from Martellus Bennett for a touchdown near the end of the third quarter.
  8. The offensive line was particularly bad in protection today. Stunts, blitzes, it didn’t matter. They weren’t picking anything up. It didn’t help that Cutler was missing some reads.
  9. Having said that, the run blocking wasn’t below average and Matt Forte had his usual good game.

Defense

  1. The Bears came out in nickel and were apparently not prepared to get run over. Which is what happened. Again. In fairness they did eventually stop the bleeding later in the first half through the end of the game though it was at the expense of their pass defense.
  2. Having established the run early, Tom Brady did pretty much whatever he wanted in the passing game with play action.
  3. What’s interesting is that the nickel didn’t even work. It was undoubtedly meant to stop the Patriots from passing to secondary receivers but the match up of Rob Gronkowski on Ryan Mundy wasn’t even close.
  4. Brady was extremely accurate hitting even well covered receivers in areas where they could catch it.
  5. It doesn’t seem fair that the Bears make a great goal line stand at the beginning of the fourth quarter, stopping the Patriots on fourth down, only to have to give up a field goal due to a field goal because of a Patriots penalty. Give the Bears defense credit for being ready for the no huddle and to run back on the field on a last second switch by the Patriots to go for it on fourth down.
  6. Chris Conte had some good open field tackles.
  7. I like Al Louis-Jean’s potential allot. But Brandon LaFell ate him alive.
  8. Not that it matters but it certainly did seem to me like the Bears got screwed on the Gronkowski touchdown near the end of the first half. Gronkowski dropped that ball.
  9. The injury to Lamarr Houston. [head shake]

Miscellaneous

  1. I had no unusual problems with Sam Rosen, John Lynch and Pam Oliver. They are what they are and they were what they usually are. Lynch was, perhaps, sharper than he was last time we saw him making, some good observations that fans might have missed. For example, he pointed out that Forte’s touchdown in the second quarter resulted from a route adjustment by the running back. He also pointed out that Cutler was staring down receivers like a rookie again this week.Then, of course, there was that wonderful moment in the broadcast when Joel Nobody sent the audience back after an update from the Houston-Tennessee game to “the Patriots versus Southwest Missouri State”. Hilarious.
  2. Some poor punting in the first quarter didn’t help the Bears offense out much. The coverage teams struggled, too. The Patriots first punt was near the end of the third quarter so not much that can be said there.
  3. The Bears didn’t have many obvious drops. Alshon Jeffery had a very bad one on fourth and 10 to stop a drive at the beginning of the first half. The Patriots got away with dropping too many this week but they’ll eventually want to clean that up.
  4. A holding call on Martellus Bennet effectively stopped the first drive forcing the Bears to pass when they were trying to establish the run. Matt Slauson got the Bears offense off to an awesome start on the second series with an immediate false start. It was all a part of a great beginning to a great game. And all part of yet another game where the Bears committed too many of them. I’m sure that the Patriots will hear about it from head coach Bill Belichick as well and they had more than their share, too.The officiating was bad. Which is the new normal. Maybe its just all part and parcel of a bad day but an awful lot of those bad calls seemed to go the Patriots’ way. They really didn’t need the help.
  5. You guys think Jay Cutler turns the ball over too much? Try Geno Smith with three INTs against the Bills. In the first quarter.Of course, that doesn’t excuse Cutler. It isn’t the reason they lost but how Cutler could have dropped the ball at the end of the first half, resulting in a Patriots recovery for a touchdown, I simply can’t understand. I know he was trying to throw the football but come on, man. Can’t you just limit the damage and get the hell out of there?
  6. As a NFL fan the phases you go through as you watch a definitive loss to a better opponent from beginning to end are very similar to the stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. I went through them all. In the first quarter and a half.After that it was all total embarrassment.

Phil Emery Is a Hipster and Other Points of View

  • Bears quarterback Jay Cutler and his wife Kristin Cavallari only allow their kid to where “organic” clothes.  Via monstersandcritics.com.
  • Hipster Phil Emery shuns the conformist NFL.  From Dan Berstein at CBSChicago.com.
  • Bill Belichick and Greg Schiano are bringing their staffs together to discuss “coaching topics”. This is despite the fact that tier teams play each other in Week 3 this year. Via Darin Gantt at profootballtalk.com.
  • Belichick had this interesting observation via Michael David Smith, also at profootballtalk:

    “I would say that, just based on my experience as a coach through the years, that basketball players, most have good hands. They have to handle the ball a lot,” Belichick said, via the Providence Journal. “The ball is on them quick, tight passes and handling the ball in traffic and that kind of thing. Usually, when you get a good basketball player, those guys usually have pretty good ball skills in terms of handling the ball: strong hands in being able to keep it and quick hands, being able to snatch it and handle it cleanly and, hopefully, without losing it.”

  • Smith also passes along this advice for new Jets quarerback Gino Smith. Smith is taking a lot of criticism in the New York papers for firing his agents after the draft:

    “One of the problems Smith is having right now, as Mike Florio noted on PFT Live, is the very fact that he doesn’t have an agent. When players are taking heat in the media, it’s often the agent who gives him good public relations advice and helps him to beat back all the hits he’s taking. Smith could use someone whose job it is to look out for his interests, and he doesn’t have that right now.”

  • Joe Fortenbaugh at The National Football Post thinks Bears fans will demand that first round pick Kyle Long develop quickly:

    “With Notre Dame tight end Tyler Eifert and a host of other talented players still on the board, the Bears turned some heads when they opted to pull the trigger on former Oregon Duck Kyle Long. The coaching staff and front office are clearly comfortable with the decision, but Bears fans are not. Only the Arizona Cardinals (188) have surrendered more quarterback sacks over the last four years than the Chicago Bears (184). Long may be a raw prospect in need of some development, but that won’t stop Bear Nation from demanding quick results from new head coach Marc Trestman’s controversial first draft pick.”

  • If the Bears record is accurately predicted by the point sreads, the Bears will be 9-6 heading into the last week of the season. Via Fortenbaugh.

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.

One Step Back, Two Steps Forward and Other Points of View

Bears

“The Bears that got [former head coach] Lovie Smith fired won 10 games. Would fans – and the organization – view anything less in 2013 as a disappointment? Would missing the playoffs again be more acceptable if noticeable offensive strides are made under Trestman, but a defense facing turnover at certain spots (while generating fewer turnovers) can’t match what it did this year? That would’ve been difficult even if Smith, Rod Marinelli, and that staff remained intact. “

My own answer is “No, it would not be a disappointment if the Bears took a step back” and not because I expect less out of the defense. The truth is the Bears didn’t beat anyone who I thought was really good when they played them. Certainly they showed themselves to be definitively inferior when they played the top teams in the league, including Green Bay, San Francisco and, to an extent, Seattle. A good part of that was and is lack of talent and I don’t consider a quick turnaround to be likely.

Bottom line, it all depends on the circumstances. A lesser record with definitive progress where the Bears play better against the better teams in the league would be more acceptable than a soft 10-6 where its evident that the team was never going to progress into the top echelon of the league.

  • Here’s a little positivity from an Audible in Pro Football Weekly:

“Marc Trestman is a natural for [general manager] Phil Emery. Phil will appreciate guys who are really intelligent, organized and prepared and very careful with what they say — that is Trestman. He already has a relationship with Jay Cutler. There are a lot of positives about the hire.”

“[Rich] Gannon’s first two Oakland seasons with Trestman were the two most accurate of his career. His two with Trestman in Minnesota were decidedly pedestrian despite having Anthony Carter and Cris Carter as his receivers.

“[Steve] Young’s two seasons with Trestman were very good but neither were as good as the 1994 season before Trestman or 1997 after Trestman. Bernie Kosar had a Pro Bowl 1987 with Cleveland but 1988 was right about Kosar’s career averages for passer rating, completion percentage, etc. as he lost some time to injuries.”

  • Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune thinks Michigan quarterback turned wide receiver/punt returner Denard Robinson is an intriguing prospect:

“With offenses becoming more dynamic, it’s all about finding ways to utilize athletic players in space, and that’s what makes Robinson intriguing. Take a player with his skill set and turn him loose.”

“The Bears are keeping Tucker off limits to the media at the Senior Bowl, but word is he will keep the status quo with virtually all facets of the defense. Even though Tucker has experience in both a three- and four-man fronts, he is not expected to make any radical changes in Chicago.

“In fact, a source said he even is retaining Lovie Smith’s terminology, meaning he will have to adjust more than his players.”

There’s a lot of good information in this article. It recommended reading.

Elsewhere

  • As many Bears fans will testify, Carolina quarterback Cam Newton isn’t the only guy who deserves the criticism leveled at him in this Audible from Pro Football Weekly:

“(San Francisco QB) Colin Kaepernick can run faster than any quarterback in the league. He is faster than RG3 [Robert Griffin III] running the ball down the field, and he is a whole lot stronger and more physical. He can take a hit and pop back up. I really liked him when he was coming out. He is a leader. That was the difference between him and Cam Newton. Cam is a frontrunner who is good when things are good. When it’s (bad), he’s part of the reason and will make it worse.”

  • There are probably a whole lot of Bear fans out there who will agree with this Audible as well:

“You know what I don’t get. There are a lot of smart people around this league. I’m surprised they have not figured it out yet. If you want to have success, why not go get a guy who has done it already and is willing to do what it takes. Why not pay a guy like (Falcons GM) Thomas Dimitroff or (Niners GM) Trent Baalke a little extra money to be your president. It’s happened with a lot of coaches — Mike Holmgren and Bill Parcells. Teams will pay these head coaches $6 (million) or $7 million. Why not go pluck the guys who have done the best job stacking rosters and building the culture in the locker room and finding the right talent? They have proven they can run the ship. You can put a plan in place to delegate authority on the other side of the building. If you can find the right coach and find the right quarterback, you have a chance every year. If I’m an owner looking for someone to run my franchise, I’m looking for the guy who has proven he can fill those roles with the right people. That’s the key to this whole thing.”

“Matt Ryan did not get any further with Tony Gonzalez, Julio Jones and Roddy White than Jay Cutler did with Earl Bennett, Devin Hester and Johnny Knox. When you are guilty of an interception and unforced fumble within 20 minutes of a Super Bowl, it’s not about ‘weapons;’ it’s about the plays you make or don’t make when it matters…”

  • I’ve been as critical as anyone can be of Lions head coach Jim Schwartz. But I totally agree with him here as he argues against changing his defensive scheme. The Lions defense could have done better, no doubt, but the wide 9 alignment they the problem. This fascination with the 3-4 defense by fans and media puzzles me, especially in a situation like this one where more discipline and better play within the existing scheme is so obviously what’s needed. Via Michael David Smith at profootballtalk.com.
  • Let’s just say that the NFL Coaches Association might a problem with NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith. Florio quotes NFLCA executive director David Cornwell as he apparently goes on the rampage in response to some implied criticism from Smith:

“‘DeMaurice Smith is the best thing that has happened to NFL owners since they became NFL owners,’ Cornwell said in a statement provided to PFT.

“‘De controlled both the NFLPA and the NFL Coaches Association from 2009 to 2012. During this period, De threw 3 generations of NFL players under the bus in exchange for a photo op with Roger Goodell and Robert Kraft; threw the Washington Redskins and Dallas Cowboys under the bus to conceal from NFL players the truth about the declining salary cap; and, De threw NFL coaches under the bus when he: (1) sat silently as NFL teams unilaterally changed coaches’ retirement benefits; (2) filed an unauthorized legal brief under the NFLCA’s name during the NFL lockout; (3) kicked the NFLCA out of the NFLPA’s offices for challenging the filing of the brief, and he rolled the bus over NFL coaches when he snatched $308,000 in coaches’ dues money and sued the NFLCA because NFL coaches understandably want competent representation.

“‘I intend to address all of the issues that confront all NFL coaches and clean up the mess that De left behind. While I do, perhaps De will answer these questions: When you controlled the NFLCA, did you fight for uniform retirement and health benefits that will follow NFL coaches from team-to-team? Why does the salary cap continue to decline while League revenues and team values continue to increase? If you stand by the CBA that you negotiated, why do you shift money from other player benefits to the salary cap to create the illusion that the salary cap is flat or slightly rising?'”

  • Patriots head coach Bill Belichick takes finding unknown players and maximizing their talent to a whole new level. From The Onion.

 

One Final Thought

Want to see something sick? According to footballsfuture.com 28 teams needed to find offensive line help in the 2012 off-season. That’s not counting teams that were looking for depth. Know how many offensive linemen are in Scouts Inc.‘s top 32 prospects this year? Four.

Not many scouting services have released lists of team needs yet this year but as they roll out over the next month or two the bet here is that, if anything, there will be more teams on that list of line needy teams not less. With that in mind, Pompei takes a look at the likely first and second round offensive tackles here. Mullin adds this encouraging thought:

“The Bears added a highly regarded Central Michigan lineman in the 2007 draft but it was defensive end Dan Bazuin, not Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Staley, who went to the 49ers three picks before the Bears chose Greg Olsen. The Bears, coming off a Super Bowl appearance with an offensive line four-fifths free agents, picked Bazuin 62nd overall before Marshal Yanda went to Baltimore 86th and tackle Jermon Bushrod went to New Orleans 125th.”

“[S]econd-guessing is easy, and Jerry Angelo conceded that finding offensive linemen was not a strength of his regime. If anything, the bigger point is that the likes of Yanda and Bushrod, both Pro Bowl selections, were taken in mid rounds of drafts.”

Life, the Universe and a Head Coaching Change and Other Points of View

Bears

  • I thought former 49ers quarterback Steve Young‘s comments on Trestman via Mark Potash at the Chicago Sun-Times were interesting:

“Can he work his magic with [quarterback Jay] Cutler, who despite his athletic ability has been a tough nut to crack for NFL coaches.

“‘There’s no question about that,’ Young said. ‘That’s why I’m so happy they’re looking at Marc, for many reasons. Marc’s capable of doing much more, but one of the things that he can really do is break down the quarterback and build him back up.

“Now the real question is, do you have a willing participant? Because there’s a lot of great athletes in the NFL and one of the things that keeps them from I think getting to their full potential is this idea that, ‘I’m such a great athlete that I just go out and play. I’m that good.’

“‘And some of them are that good, but they never reach their full potential unless they go to school. And especially at quarterback. So if you have a willing participant in Jay Cutler and Marc Trestman, you could make some good music.'”

  • On a related note, I’d say these comments from former Raider quarterback Rich Gannon, who also played under Trestman, bode well. Via Brad Biggs and Dan Pompei at the Chicago Tribune:

“‘One thing about him that is a strength is his ability to listen,’ Gannon said. ‘He takes feedback. Marc has always been the type of guy who can sit down with you and talk about things. What do you like about this? What don’t you like? His feedback is excellent. And he has an ability to be honest with you. Somebody needs to be honest with Jay Cutler.'”

“In the CFL, players are also only allowed to be at work for four hours a day, so Wolfe said Trestman has learned to be much more efficient. He ‘had to maximize every bit of time. So his time management will be amazing.'”

  • You can search everywhere on the Internet and never find more insight into people like Trestman than you’ll find right here in Chicago from Dan Pompei. We’re lucky to have him. This was an outstanding profile on Trstman.

Not to worry. Zynser hated almost all of the other ones as well.

    • Barry Rozner at the Daily Herald doesn’t believe general manager Phil Emery should have been rushed through the coaching interview process. I agree. Frankly, I think the people who were critical of Emery here are idiots. The only valid point to be made is that you generally don’t fire a guy unless you know you have someone better already in mind to replace him, in which case you go get that guy immediately. Its entirely possible that he had his guy(s) in mind but was doing what scouts do – being extremely thorough and exploring all avenues before making a decision, as suggested by this tweet from ESPN‘s Adam Schefter:

“Two HC candidates that interviewed with Chicago said they never have interviewed with anyone as prepared and detailed as Bears GM Phil Emery”

In line with that, here’s what former Bears special team coordinator Dave Toub said about his interview for the job via Biggs::

“Toub described his interview with Emery for the head job as ‘intense.’ He was appreciative to be considered.

“‘It was very thorough,’ he said. ‘He is what everyone thinks he is. He is a very thorough information gatherer. I know I was in there for three hours with him. It was pretty much straight through. We took a five-minute break. It was him and I question-and-answer for three hours and it went by quick. By the time we were done, I said, ‘Wow.’ It was impressive. Very thorough. Covered everything. There wasn’t anything we didn’t cover.'”

And who the heck has a problem with that?

 

“How did an offense that gave Cutler a lot of what he wanted end up worse than ever?

“Cutler not only gained old friend [Jeremy] Bates as a personal quarterback wrangler, but also escaped the seeming death march of offensive coordinator Mike Martz and was reunited with Pro Bowl receiver Brandon Marshall.

“And the Bears offense scored three touchdowns in a game once in the last two months of the season.”

“Maybe that was the big question in the interview process and maybe Trestman answered it better than Bruce Arians and Darell Bevell.

“Even if it wasn’t asked and answered, that in fact is the big question. The only question.

“Why did the Bears offense get worse?”

“Running a team and calling plays at the NFL level are two different things. I get it. You should to. But what the Bears have right now in Trestman is a start to developing a big boy offense around their quarterback.

“That sells in January.”

“What separates him from Martz is his flexibility. Having passed the Florida bar in 1983, he is a lawyer, a mediator. He won’t shoehorn Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall into an offense just because it’s what he knows best. He found ways for slow-footed Bernie Kosar, uber-athletic Steve Young and aging Rich Gannon to succeed despite their divergent skill sets.”

Pompei continues:

“This is what Trestman is going to do.

“He is going to break down Cutler, take him back to the beginning. Strip all the layers of paint. Sandpaper away the roughness.

“Then he is going to build him back up again, one fundamental at a time.”

“We’ve seen this approach with Cutler before. It was taken by Mike Martz, another outstanding quarterbacks coach and offensive mind. Trestman reminds me of him in some ways.

“But there are some differences. Trestman is more flexible in his approach. And he is more likely to demand that his protections make his quarterbacks look good as opposed to vice versa.

“From where we sit now, we can say Martz and Cutler never were a good match. Martz’s system calls for his quarterback get rid of the ball quickly and on time and that he do precisely what the play sent in from the sideline calls for him to do.

“That’s not Cutler. Or at least it has not been Cutler.

“Trestman probably cannot make Cutler something he never has been, but he can minimize his weaknesses and accentuate his strengths.”

Which brings us to Steve Rosenbloom and his comments on the Bears offense under Trestman:

“Moving right along, there is one more reason for Cutler to buy in to Trestman’s ideas — one more reason that ought to be part of Trestman’s sales pitch:

“You don’t need a great offensive line if the ball comes out quickly.”

As Pompei points out, that’s not even a question. The question is whether Cutler is capable of getting it out quickly. He’s hasn’t shown the ability to do that and he probbly never will (though trust in his receivers would certainly help).

What we may be about to witness is a facinating tug of war between Trestman’s ideals and Cutler’s ability to meet them. Pompei suggests that Cutler can’t and I tend to agree. But has Marc Trestman come to that conclusion? I would suggest that he has.

According to Potash the Alouettes improved from a CFL-worst 68 sacks allowed to a CFL-best 22 with the same offensive line in 2008, Trestman’s first year as head coach. But he did that by having quarterback Anthony Calvillo go to the short passing game, getting the ball out quicker. Indications are he’s taking a different tack with the Bears as he has stressed that the Bears offensive line has to get better. From Biggs:

“Often described as a quarterback guru, Trestman laid out his goals to make Cutler an efficient passer and was emphatic that can happen only if he has adequate protection.”

Bottom line, I think that Trestman has a good idea of what he’s dealing with in Cutler. Its encouraging that he still thinks he can use his skill set to get the best ou t of him. Here’s hoping Emery manages to put together a line that can rise to the occasion and allow that to happen.

  • Trestman on whether Cutler is a franchise quarterback:

“‘Jay Cutler is a guy who loves football. Jay Cutler is a guy who’s willing to learn,’ Trestman said. ‘Jay Cutler, to me in my very short time with him, wants to do everything he can to help this franchise and please our amazing fans.

“‘That’s where we’re going to start. We’re going to work one day at a time in a proactive way with a sense of urgency to get him to be the guy that he wants to be and we want him to be.'”

That’s not a “yes”.

  • Trestman was asked whether he would promote defensive backs coach Jon Hoke to defensive coordinator. It’s not that Trestman was a lot more informative than former head coach Lovie Smith. But straight forward answers like this explaining why he’s not being more informative will get him pretty far. Via Jahns:

“‘I’m going to go in here and sit down with [general manager] Phil [Emery] and talk about where we are with our staff,’ Trestman said. ‘Things could have changed over the last few days. I’m willing to talk about that a little bit down the road. But I don’t want to put myself or our organization’s position [out there] until we sit down and discuss where the coaching situation is, because things change so fast in the National Football League at this time of year.'”

 

 

Elsewhere

  • Pompei’s weekly power rankings look about right to me. I’d love a 49ers-Patriots Super Bowl and I’ve a sneaking suspicion that’s what we’re going to get.
  • Bowen explains at least one big key to the Falcons if they want to beat the 49ers:

“Both defensive ends, John Abraham (RE) and Kroy Biermann (LE), must rush with contain principles to keep [quarterback Colin] Kaepernick in the pocket. If the Falcons allow Kaepernick to escape the pocket, or step through open rush lanes, the quarterback has the open-field ability to pick up an explosive gain on the ground.”

  • Here’s an Audible from Pro Football Weekly that has the ring of truth:

“If you think back to all the New England teams that won Super Bowls, the trademark was vigilante leadership. It was Mike Vrabel, Tom Brady, Rodney Harrison, Larry Izzo, Richard Seymour. They did not have the most talented teams when they were winning Super Bowls early on — but if there were any issues or problems that came up in the locker room, they were policed on their own. It is such a key ingredient to winning football.”

  • Former Bears and current Ravens safety Corey Graham probably didn’t mean this as a swipe at former Bears head coach Lovie Smith. But it is. Via Sean Jensen at the Chicago Sun-Times:

“Coach [John] Harbaugh gives guys a chance to come out and play. He told me before I signed here that if I deserved to play I would. He is a man of his word. He has given me the opportunity to play and that is all I’ve asked for.'”

  • I’d say this quote via the Chicago Tribune pretty much tells the story of the 49ers-Packers game:

“Put simply by Packers receiver Greg Jennings: ‘We lost to a better team today.'”

Just as the Packers were simply the better team when they played the Bears this season. The Bears have a long way to go.

Having said that, I think ESPN‘s NFC North blogger Kevin Seifert had an interesting point of view on this game:

“In the end, I’m not sure whether there would have been a schematic solution to counter [49ers quarterback Colin] Kaepernick on this night. We saw a breakout performance on a national scale. But by most accounts, the Packers didn’t look hard enough for an answer. The Packers played as if they were waiting for their game plan to kick in rather than trashing it once it became clear it had failed.

“Several players implied as much in the postgame locker room, and no one was more blunt than defensive back Charles Woodson.

“‘We didn’t make any adjustments,’ said Woodson, who later added: ‘I just think when the game is going the way it is, you’ve got to try something different. It’s hard to just continue to do the same thing over and over again, and continue to get burned. … We need to figure out: Could we have done something differently as far as our game plan was concerned?’ “

“Woodson said the Packers are playing ‘the right defense’ but consistently qualified his comments by noting a lack of adjustments. At halftime, Woodson said, the Packers talked only about ‘trying to execute the defense we were running.’ In the end, Woodson said, ‘If it works, then it works. If it doesn’t, then maybe you change.’ “

I’m going to cut defensive coordinator Dom Capers a little bit of slack on this one. A spy helps but the key to beating a mobile quarterback has always seemed to me to be a disciplined pass rush that leaves him no running lanes to escape. Admittedly the Packers aren’t built that way and admittedly you have to be well-coached to do it so to some extent it does still come back to Capers. But having said that, Xs and Os-wise doing the same thing better may not have been the wrong answer here.

“As good as the 49ers have been this season, they have not won three in a row. They will need to win a third straight game to get to the Super Bowl.”

Lovie Smith took a lot of heat as Bears head coach as well he should. But his even manner led to an amazing degree of consistency in the performance of his team. Fortyniners head coach Jim Harbaugh, on the other hand, is very emotional leading to up and down performances from the 49ers. The 49ers are, in my opinion, the best team left in the playoffs. But can a guy like Harbaugh keep a team high enough to put together enough victories to win a Super Bowl? We’re about to find out…

  • Vikings runningback Adrian Peterson has taken a unique approach to the coming 2013 season. From The Onion.

 

One Final Thought

I thought the fact that Trestman’s teams in the CFL made the playoffs all five years he was there was impressive. Then I read this from the Chicago Tribune:

“There are eight teams in the CFL, divided into two divisions. Six teams make the playoffs.”

Way to kill my buzz, man.

That aside, there was a lot of talk about Trestman as an intellectual before he was hired. I heard him compared to guys like former Bears head coach Dick Jauron and, in some quarters, even Smith and Patriots head coach Bill Belichick. In listening to his press conference, I can say that Trestman doesn’t sound anything like any of those guys. I distinctly remember Jauron looking nervous and afraid to even open his lips at his introductory press conference. Belichick and Smith never say anything if they can help it.

No, Trestman is a talker. Not that he actually said all that much but its evident that he’s not at all afraid to show his enthusiasm for the game and for the process of getting better to compete in it. Indeed, the person that Trestman most reminded me of was Phil Emery. Which is probably why he was hired. Mike Mulligan at the Chicago Tribune would seem to agree:

“[L]istening to Emery during a surprisingly introspective introduction of Trestman at Thursday’s news conference, one thing became immediately clear: The general manager sees something of himself in his new coach.”

I don’t know if that’s a good thing or not because I don’t know enough about Emery yet to make that judgment, much less Trestman.

Only one thing is certain. A new era has definitely started around here and I’m both excited and grateful. I suppose its an indication of my maturity as a fan when I say that I’m not too worried about whether it works or not. The important thing is that my life – all of our lives – just got a lot more interesting.

I can’t wait to see what happens.