Super Bowl Lessons and Other Points of View

Bears

  • Former Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher once again fails to convince me that his contentious exit from the Bears had to do with anything other than his own pride. Via Rich Campbell at the Chicago Tribune
  • Jared Allen thinks quarterback Jay Cutler takes too much “crap”. I agree. I think he should go somewhere else so he doesn’t have to take it anymore (but see the “Final Thought” below). From Patrick Finley at the Chicago Sun-Times.
  • John Mullin at csnchicago.com runs through the lessons that he thinks the Bears need to learn from the Super Bowl. His major take home point was that they need a nose tackle. But I, personally, think that Hub Arkush at chicagofootball.com nailed it on the head with this quote from Tom Brady:

    “It’s been a long journey. It’s just a great win. We left it all on the field. The key was mental toughness.”

    It certainly was. 10 points down with 10 minutes to go the Patriots dug deep to score two touchdowns to win. The Bears, on the other hand, were called the biggest group of front-runners in football by one opposing assistant coach last year.

    The Bears may need a nose tackle. But more than anything they need more mentally tough players at almost every position, starting with the quarterback.

  • Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune considers the question of whether wide receiver Brandon Marshall should be brought back.

    “The Bears have a similarly big-bodied wide receiver in Alshon Jeffery and the second-round pick from 2012 will enter the final year of his rookie contract eligible for a new deal. Jeffery, 24, had 85 receptions for 1,133 yards and 10 touchdowns last season. What the roster lacks is speed at the position and maybe [GM Ryan] Pace, [head coach John] Fox and [offensive coordinator Adam] Gase will look to mix up the depth chart with some quick and shifty receivers like Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola, who Tom Brady used to lead the Patriots over the Seahawks’ No. 1-ranked defense in Sunday’s Super Bowl.

    “The ideal might be to pair a big wide receiver with a faster and quicker receiver like Randall Cobb, Antonio Brown or Emmanuel Sanders, who Fox and Gase used this past season with the Broncos in tandem with Demaryius Thomas, a larger 6-foot-3 target. Sanders is fast and possesses great change of direction, something you can’t say about any Bears receivers.”

    If you sign any of those guys you are going to need a quarterback who can and will throw to them and hit them in stride.   Cutler’s limitations make those kinds of signings risky propositions. Regardless, assuming he’s recovered from his injuries of 2014 the offense won’t be better without an All-Pro receiver like Marshall.

  • Odds makers are having fun setting up prop bets surrounding this year’s new head coaches. I find Fox’s placement on some of these lists to be curious. I would say that Fox’s chances of getting fired first are well behind Oakland’s Jack Del Rio and Buffalos Rex Ryan. I would also say that the odds that Fox will get in trouble first for an inappropriate comment are also well behind Del Rio’s and I would also place him below the Jet’s Todd Bowles and Atlanta’s Dan Quinn if for no other reason than they are virtual unknowns in terms of how they will handle the pressure. From David Just at the Chicago Sun-Times.

Elsewhere

  • If you ever wanted to know what is running through the mind of a really well-coached player, Super Bowl hero Malcom Butler gives you a clue by describing what he was looking at before he made his huge, game winning goal line interception. Via Hub Arkush at chicagofootball.com:

    “[Receiver Ricardo Lockette] kept his head still and just looked over there, so that gave me a clue, and the stacked receivers. I just knew they were going to throw. My instincts, I just went with it, just went with my mind and made the play.”

    Butler is an undrafted rookie.

One Final Thought

Kevin Fishbain at chicagofootball.com goes over a quarterback free agent class that isn’t quite as bad as I thought. Some of these guys like Brian Hoyer and Matt Moore might do significantly better than in previous stops in a run-oriented offense that has the offensive weapons that the Bears do.

Having said that, the Super Bowl taught me something. By no means would I ever call Russell Wilson a great quarterback but he still managed to get the Seahawks to a Super Bowl. Wilson has considerably more mental toughness than Cutler, which will always severely limit Cutler’s ability to take a team far into the playoffs. But I’m starting to come around on the idea that keeping him around and brining in one or more of these free agents to compete with him might not be a bad idea. This might allow you to start your championship quarterback search and still keep Cutler around as insurance in the (probably likely) event that you don’t find him. Financially, the worst case scenario is that you end up with Cutler as a very expensive back up but recent history shows that he’d likely still have to play at some point in that role. Drafting a quarterback to develop might complete the picture.

Updated: Typical Cutler. And Other Points of View.

Bears

  • Rich Campbell at the Chicago Tribune interviews former Bears consultant Ernie Accorsi.

    That “we” is significant, I think. Accorsi must have liked the work he did here. He identifies himself with the organization even though technically his job is done. That bodes well for the Bears future with a young GM that will undoubtedly need some advice every once in a while.

    This is a great, wide-ranging interview, by the way. A lot can be learned about football from Accorsi’s thought processes. This section on how Bears general manager Ryan Pace came to be on his radar is a good example:

  • Former Bears returner Devin Hester needs to speak for himself:

    “The city of Chicago knows and disagrees with the situation they made. For a guy like Brian Urlacher, probably one of the top three or five names that ever played in Chicago — for his career to end like that, that’s tough.”

    I did not disagree with the way that Urlacher exited. Though we were all sad to see him go, he was given a fair offer and turned it down. Notably, no one else signed him and, as far as anyone knows, no one offered him anywhere near what the Bears did.

    Having said that, I look back on Hester’s exit with some regret. We’ll never know what kind of receiver he would have made here. He’s not a big “go up and get it” guy and he had a quarterback who was unable or flat out unwilling to throw to him. I think he could speak for the city of Chicago if he said we all wish him well in Atlanta.

  • These Tribune polls have been around for some time now and I’m rarely surprised at the results. Nor did which asks “Should the Bears tell Brandon Marshall not to do ‘Inside the NFL‘ next season?” did. Almost 90% of you said “yes”. There’s no actual direct benefit to Bears fans to Marshall being on. So the logical, selfish response would ordinarily be “yes”.Probably most of the voters assumed Marshall wouldn’t be around in Chicago so it wouldn’t matter anyway. There’s been a ground swell against Marshall since the season ended amongst both fans and media. His locker room outburst early in the season didn’t help but I’m sure most of it is lack of production in what was a miserable season.

    Don’t hold your breath thinking that Marshall will be gone. He was playing hurt most of the year and he’s one of the few players on the team that I thought played with the talent, the guts and the desire of a winner. I’m confident that I’m not the only one who knows it and I’m reasonably certain he’ll be back whether he’s on Inside the NFL or not.

  • Lance Briggs comments on the Bears coaching situation:

    “‘John [Fox], I think, he’s the right man for the job,’ Briggs said. ‘I’ve seen John over the years. He’s had a lot of success in the NFL. He understands the NFL. He’s a football coach.’

    “And former coach Marc Trestman?

    “‘Some things worked. Some things don’t,’ Briggs said. ‘Marc is a good man. I wish him all the success over in Baltimore. It just was what it was.'”

    Give Briggs credit. Since his last contract negotiation was over he’s usually said all of the right things. I just wish he’d done the right things more often.

  • Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune on new Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio:

    “After joining the 49ers following a year at Stanford under Jim Harbaugh, Fangio waited until he saw his players in person after the 2011 lockout to make major decisions with his defense. That meant the plan didn’t unfold until after he had seen them on the practice field beginning in late July. Fangio didn’t want to have his opinion of players potentially shaped from film of them in a different scheme with different coaches. He waited to see the talent personally, plugged in players in the right spots and the 49ers’ defense took off immediately.”

    Assuming that we’re looking at a hybrid scheme, it looks like Bears defenders are going to have a lot to learn very quickly this year. Over the last decade, Bears players have basically been asked to play one basic position one way and do it extremely well. This is going to be a lot different. It should be interesting to see how well they adapt.

Elsewhere

  • For those who care the NFL’s full statement Friday about the ongoing “inflate-gate” investigation cane be found here.
  • Hub Arkush at chicagofootball.com tells you exactly why I dislike Seattle coach Pete Carroll:

    “[Bill] Belichick was found to have violated league rules in “Spygate” and was fined $500,000, and the Patriots lost a first-round draft choice. Now he is implicated — although not charged — in the deflated footballs incident, and many are calling him a cheater.

    “Carroll built a dynasty at USC and then had it all wiped out by findings of rampant rules violations while he skipped town just ahead of the posse to take the Seattle job.

    “Asked about that on media day, Carroll responded he never talks about it because he still thinks the NCAA was wrong. Mmm huh.

    “Earlier this season Seattle was fined over $300,000 and docked two 2015 minicamp practices due to Carroll overseeing illegal practices this past summer.

    “I guess they’re both cheaters, but only the Patriots coach is being branded with the scarlet C this week. Is that because Belichick has won so much more than Carroll, or because Carroll is so much more media friendly?”

    Probably both. But neither excuses it.

One Final Thought

One has to wonder how the Bears expect Cutler to run an offense when this is what happens at home with the kids when Kristin Cavallari is away. Cavallari had apparently just arrived at the airport when this exchange took place:

Screen-Shot-2015-01-26-at-8.53.56-AM

Jaxon is 2 and Camden is 8 months old.

[Edit 2/1/15: After getting some comments from friends on this post it occurs to me that I need to point out that I am, indeed, joking.

My sister in law was pregnant with twins (they would have been her third and fourth child) and my mother was going on about how much fun it was. My father turned to me and said, “She doesn’t remember. You were 
three, your brother was two and we had newborn twins. There were evening where all I could do was shut the door, sit on on the bed and put my head in my hands.”

Don’t worry. I don’t like Cutler but I wouldn’t blame him for this.]

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.