There’s Something to Be Said for Consistency And Other Points of View

Bears

“‘We go back and forth. If we’re moving along, he gives me some ideas,’ [Bears quarterback Jay] Cutler said. ‘If I like it, I like it, and if I don’t, I change it a little bit before the (play) clock stops. It’s a back-and-forth type of thing.'”

I’m sure I won’t be the first one to suggest that the Bears run the two minute drill more. It might be tough to do it in the noisy environment of Ford Field in Detroit, however.

  • Long time NFL analyst Brian Baldinger on Cutler via Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune:

“The fact is whether J’Marcus [Webb] plays well or (Gabe) Carimi plays well or (Roberto) Garza is good, whatever it is, (Jay) Cutler doesn’t trust the line. That’s the worst part.

“‘Jay’s mechanics are horrible because he doesn’t trust they are going to hold up. So, he is already scrambling and running and the ball is all over the place and his mechanics just go to hell.'”

“Jay Cutler went deep (20+ in the air) nine times in the game, four to the right, five to the left. He was 0-for-5 to his left and 3-for-4 to his right.”

“‘(General manager Phil Emery) has got his work cut out for him. There was a guy in Philly, (former Eagles offensive line coach Juan Castillo). Juan always had a free-agent center. For 12 years, he never had a drafted center. He just developed them and they were all good players. You gotta work them. I mean work them like dogs. I just don’t think you have to go spend a bunch of first-round draft picks to fix it. But I do think you gotta have a work ethic. They have to be the hardest-working guys on the team. They can never have a free second during practice, every day. You’ve just got to drill them all day long. That’s what offensive linemen need.'”

  • Biggs alertly gives [runningback Matt] Forte credit not just for running well on Sunday but for blocking well, too.

“Forte’s latest injury adds to the pressure on quarterback Jay Cutler, who had another rocky game but did protect the ball. Cutler completed only one of his first 11 passes and was locked on to Brandon Marshall too often. He threw high and wide and took a sack from Calais Campbell when there was ample time to get rid of the ball. Quarterbacks lead the way in the postseason, and Cutler will have to be on the mark next week against the Lions, who can put points on the board.”

“Yeah, before today. I was feeling really good before the game today. We were running the ball well. You can’t really try to expect injuries or avoid them when you’re out there playing. You never know where everybody is coming from. Sometimes when you’re in a pile, people fall down, land on you, and stuff like that.”

Forte hasn’t looked the same. He’s been good this year because he’s still generally got good vision but he does lack burst.

  • Mark Potash at the Chicago Sun-Times reports that wide receiver Dan Sanzenbacher has been cut. The midget receiver had a chance to play in former offensive coordinator Mike Martz‘s offense but there’s no room for him in the current offense which requires less timing and relies more wide receivers getting open and making a play on their own.

“The Bears’ 7-1 start was fueled by big defensive plays; they had seven return touchdowns in the first eight games, a wild pace no one believed they could maintain. When the takeaways dried up, the losses piled up. Zack Bowman recovered a fumble for a touchdown Sunday and Charles Tillman returned an interception for a score to give the Bears an edge when the offense was stumbling. That’s a difficult way to maintain sustained success, especially against top offenses.”

  • Biggs indicates that the blocked field goal in the fourth quarter against the Cardinals might have been the fault of Kellen Davis. If [head coach Lovie] Smith gets fired, its the evaluation of talent typified by Davis’ contract extension and the idea that the Bears offensive line was going to be good enough as it is that will be a major part of what did him in.
  • On a related note, Mike Mulligan, also at the Chicago Tribune, reviews some of the more puzzling roster moves the Bears have made. A lot of this I blame on player evaluation by the coaching staff. Not all of these can be solved by this suggestion but one thing for certain: Emery is going to realize that player evaluations have to be made based upon what he sees on film and not by the coaches or the coaches are going to have to go. There’s no way guys like Davis get signed to big deals if that’s the case.
  • A lot more went on during that idiotic Cardinals fake field goal attempt than I thought. From Dan Pompei at the Chicago Tribune:

“The Bears read the Cardinals’ fake field goal attempt well. [Charles] Tillman slowed down Jay Feely and Amobi Okoye chased him down, while J.T. Thomas dropped into coverage to take away intended receiver Jim Dray.”

Lions

  • It would seem that Bears offensive coordinator Mike Tice isn’t the only one who is under fire during this Christmas season. Lions offensive coordinator Scott Linehan is under Anthony Kuehn‘s microscope at the Detroit Free Press, perhaps with even more justification.
  • How bad are the Lions problems in the red zone? Detroit Free Press columnist Dave Birkett explains:

“When Calvin Johnson broke Jerry Rice‘s single-season receiving record Saturday, he just missed out on another somewhat dubious mark.

“Johnson’s 225 yards tied Bernie Casey for the second most in NFL history without a touchdown, according to ESPN. Former Jacksonville Jaguars receiver Keenan McCardell set the record of 232 yards receiving without a score in 1996.”

Elsewhere

Tiger Woods has never won a major from behind. He is a great closer when he has the lead going into the fourth day. There are four rounds in golf. There are four quarters in football. When (Packers QB) Aaron Rodgers goes into the fourth quarter with a lead, there is a high percentage he is going to win. The odds go down a lot when he is behind. When you compare him to other great QBs, that inability stands out to me. I don’t know the specific stats — it’s just from watching him through the years. He’s just not a great fourth-quarter, come-from-behind quarterback. I don’t think he has figured out how to close out a game.”

“Take a look at some of the quarterbacks in this league who cannot bring the team together — that’s always been Joe Flacco’s problem. He’s incapable. That was his problem in college, too — it’s part of the reason he transferred. He couldn’t win the respect of the team. Flacco can’t do it, so the Ravens have to rely on Ed Reed and Ray Lewis to lead it. That’s not to say he cannot win, but when you’re talking about him as your franchise, that is a big discussion point to me.”

  • And here’s another Audible that should have the ring of truth with Bears fans:

“I don’t think (Texans QB) Matt Schaub is good enough of a leader to win a Super Bowl. It’s just one of those traits that you need to have — it’s missing. When the chips are down and you need to rally the team, is he the guy you want in the saddle?”

Bill Belichick had Peyton Manning mixed up for a few years when (Manning) was in Indianapolis. Once Peyton figured out how they were attacking him, he took control of that series. … (The Broncos) are a dangerous team right now.”

  • Jonathan Bales at The New York Times explains one of the keys to the success of the Raven’s offense:

“On Sunday, the Giants were defeated by a Ravens team that simply seemed more prepared. As they’ve done all year, the Ravens capitalized on the similarity between their running game and play-action passing attack; Baltimore does an outstanding job of making the bulk of their plays resemble one another. Whereas many teams seem to have a distinct run-pass dichotomy that’s relatively easy for defenses to decipher, the Ravens’ playbook is littered with runs that look like passes, and vice versa.”


 

One Final Thought

David Haugh at the Chicago Tribune gives a bit of a scathing evaluation of the Bears in their victory over the Cardinals. I’ve been as tough as anyone on the Bears, as exemplified by my post earlier this morning, and I won’t say that Haugh is entirely wrong. But in thinking about this game as well as the other wins that the Bears have accumulated, I think its both fair and important to make sure to give credit where credit is due. Yes, the Bears are only winning the games you are supposed to win. But very few of even the best teams in the NFL have done that this year. They’ve been amazingly consistent and that’s to their credit.

 

Fumbling the Snap And Other Points of View

Bears

  • From Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune, Devin Hester did his best not to point the finger after the game Sunday when it came to who was to blame for the interception to him from quarterback Jay Cutler. Wide receivers coach Darryl Drake has no such scupples:

“‘If Devin was wrong, Jay would have said it, or Devin would have said it,’ Drake said. ‘He wouldn’t have hid it.'”

Time for head coach Lovie Smith to pulls Drake aside and tell him to keep it all in the locker room. Heaven forbid someone should give the fans any information, especially when its something critical of Cutler.

“Does Jay Cutler make most of his passes off of his back foot? And if so, is it due mainly to pressure from the defense, or is it his throwing mechanics? Rex Grossman took a lot of grief as a Bear for passing off the back foot. Looks like Cutler also passes off the back foot, but he can still throw hard and get the ball where he wants it to be. Would Cutler’s passing improve if he threw more off the front foot? — Robert, Homewood

“A lot of times Cutler throws off his back foot because of pressure. Sometimes he does it because of poor form. I have talked with Bears quarterbacks coach Jeremy Bates about this, and he does not think it’s a problem. In fact, he thinks Cutler’s ability to throw from different angles and body positions is one of his strengths. Certainly, Cutler gets amazing velocity on passes sometimes when he is throwing with nothing but arm. So while this is a plus for Cutler, I also think he could be more accurate if he threw with more consistent technique.”

I would, of course, agree with this. But like a lot of things with Cutler, you take what you get and yo live with it. Its evident that he’s never going to have great mechanics in the same way its evident that he’ll ever be able to throw with anticipation. He’s not the most coachable quarterback. I’m sure that mentally he learns fast and well. But its now evident that physically you live with what you’ve got.

 

“With Chris Conte and Major Wright showing improvement this season, what are the chances of Brandon Hardin being moved back to his natural CB position? With Charles Tillman aging and Tim Jennings being undersized and fragile, the Bears could use a big corner. Or is he too slow to play CB at this level? — George Mckeown, Phoenix

“Speed is not the issue. If Hardin lined up at cornerback for the Bears, he might be the fastest player at the position. He ran a 4.43 40-yard-dash pre-draft. I think the issue would be whether or not he is athletic enough to play cornerback. Hardin might be too stiff to be able to flip his hips, run and change directions with quicker wide receivers. Some even wonder if he might be too stiff to excel at the safety position. But just because the Bears have two promising safeties does not mean they could not use another. You know how this team goes through safeties historically. If Hardin can play, he’ll get his chances at the safety position.”

 

  • Potash makes the unique argument that Lovie Smith needs to get fired for his own good. Somehow I doubt Smith would see it that way.

“I think teams make a mistake when they lock into hiring one specific kind of coach. You have to be open-minded when you enter a hiring process. The objective is to find the best man who can lead an entire organization, not the best offensive mind. The NFL has seen a lot of offensive wizards come down the pike who have made terrible head coaches. Just being able to run an offense well does not quality a coach to run a whole team. That being said, I think it’s always preferable to hire a head coach with an offensive background, if all things are equal. The reason is it’s difficult to find good offensive coordinators, and if you can find one and he does a good job, he’ll probably leave to be a head coach before long.”

Point well taken. But if you are going to hire a defensive head coach you’d better be absolutely sure he can consistently attract and hire good offensive coordinators who can coach quarterbacks. Because you’ll get nowhere without them.

The more I think about it, the more I think the Packers Tom Clements may be the man for the job. I like the idea of hiring Bruce Arians, who was Peyton Manning‘s first quarterback coach, from Indianapolis as well. Both men would fit the bill.

 

Cardinals

“With a skilled quarterback, the Cardinals could be a legitimate team in an improving NFC West. They’re sunk until they get that guy, and rookie sixth-round pick Ryan Lindley really doesn’t give them a chance. Lindley is completing only 51.1 percent of his passes. With a mixed look of zone coverages, the Bears should be able to come away with multiple takeaways. Unfortunately for the Cardinals and the other quarterback-poor franchises, this draft doesn’t offer much in the way of hope.”

  • I understand that Lindley hasn’t earned much respect. But I’d just as soon the Bears were a little more circumspect in their comments about him. The last time they got caught trash talking the Packers made them eat the ball.

“Winners of their first four games, the Cardinals dropped nine in a row before awakening from their slumber Sunday with a 38-10 thumping of the wildly underachieving Lions.

“But one positive for the Cardinals has been their secondary, particularly cornerback Patrick Peterson.

“The Cardinals’ pass defense has limited opposing quarterbacks to a combined passer rating of 68.0 this season, the lowest in the NFL.”

  • Biggs points to a couple match ups to keep an eye on in the Cardinals matchup. One is rookie Patrick Peterson against the Bears special teams. He’s an outstanding punt returner. In addition, defensive end Julius Peppers is up against a rookie left tackle, Nate Potter.
  • Fred Mitchell at the Chicago Tribune bemoans the loss of the Bears-Cardinals rivalry dating back to when both teams were in Chicago. It means nothing to Chicago now but as someone who is spending Christmas with relatives in St. Louis I’m thanking the gods that the Beas are playing them this week. Because the Cardinals were in St. Louis for many years and because many local fans picked up the Bears when they left for Arizona, the game is being televised as the most interesting match up in the St. Louis area. Hopefully the Rams’ noon game doesn’t go into overtime and I see the whole thing.

 

Elsewhere

“Q. You interviewed about 20 coaches, many of whom have won the Super Bowl. What is a common trait?

“A. They are all extremely competitive and some of them are ultra-paranoid about being outworked by the coach they are facing on Sunday. Andy Reid sleeps in his office most nights during the season. He goes to bed at 1 a.m. and starts his day at 4:30 a.m. Even with all the money the coaches make and the fame that comes with holding one of these 32 prestigious positions, they make this job much harder than it needs to be.”

“Browns: whatever is left in the fridge in Mike Holmgren‘s old office”

  • Also from The Spots Pickle, I wonder what took commissioner Roger Goodell so long to suggest this?


 


  • I understand that everyone, including Carson Palmer, has to make a living but I just don’t think you could pay me enough money to do this one. Via The Sports Pickle:



One Final Thought

This video is from 2009 but the Bengals still aren’t getting the snap count right. I blame Mike Tice. Happy holidays, everyone:

 

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

Bears

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Steve Rosenbloom comes to a similar conclusion:

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

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

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

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


Vikings

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

Elsewhere

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum:

One Final Thought

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

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

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

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

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

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

On Avoiding the Ups and Downs and Other Points of View

Bears

“Coaching, or perhaps a front office NFL job, could be in McCown’s future. In fact, the Bears gave him some feelers when they released him in training camp. But for now, maybe for a few years even, the 33-year-old wants to play. And he wants to play in Chicago.”

“Marshall said the biggest difference between Cutler and Campbell is that Cutler ‘likes to run around a lot,’ while ‘Jason is more of a pocket guy.'”

That is true. But the one difference that became very apparent early in the third quarter of the Texan’s game was the fact that Campbell is much more of a “timing” quarterback. Where Cutler is more likely to hold the ball, look around, see who is open and deliver, recievers were getting the ball from Campbell immediately as they turned out of thier breaks last week.

In many ways, Campbell would have been the perfect quarterback for former Bears offensive coordinator Mike Martz, who has made a living teaching quarterbacks to do this. As it is, the receivers need to adjust to the new style, something which they did well last week.

“The 49ers will lean on their Tank personnel (one wide receiver, two tight ends, two backs) to establish the run and set up their play-action passing game. Look for schemes that will target the Bears’ eight-man defensive fronts Monday night and test the eye discipline of the secondary.”

I couldn’t agree more. The Texans also successfully drew an eighth Bears defender up into the box by showing run personnel. They then frequently passed out of the formation hoping to get favorable matchups. I expect the 49ers to do the same thing, probably more effectively.

49ers

“‘He definitely has emphasized it, just based on how many times (the 49ers) run the ball. Especially coming off Houston last week. Houston was more of a stretch scheme. This week is more of a downhill, smash mouth football.'”

“Had Monday night’s opponent been a passing team, the Bears would have considered activating pass-rusher Cheta Ozougwu. But Amobi Okoye is 37 pounds heavier than Ozougwu and gives the Bears more flexibility against the run.”

  • In the wake of the news that 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh had to be treated for an irregular heart beat last week, Kevin Lynch at the San Franscisco Chronicle quotes former NFL head coach Brian Billick on the stress associated with the job:

“‘It will kill you,’ he said. ‘If not, it’s going to shorten your life.’

“However, trying to be less intense has it’s ramifications as well according to Billick.

“‘Part of the problem is, the longer you are in it, to keep your priorities right and hold off the devastating lows when you lose, also means you are keeping an even keel and not enjoying the wins as much as you should,’ he said. ‘You end up in that gray twilight of not enjoying the wins and not showing too much in defeat.'”

Elsewhere


“Head coaches do not necessarily need players to like them but do need their respect and trust. The coach has to have the players’ backs. Andy Reid, the coach, certainly does. However, Reid is also in the less friendly role of general manager, signing off on all roster and financial decisions regarding players.”

“This is the major flaw of the coach/general manager model. Although Bill Belichick has been able to achieve sustained success, he has done so with cold and impersonal detachment, often not even responding to player discontent about roles or contracts, further infuriating players and agents. Reid, although a flat-liner with the media, cares deeply about his relationship with his players.”


One Final Thought

Pompei, this time writing for The National Football Post points out that the NFL owners around the league seem to be taking a more heavy handed role in managing their franchises. I, also, have taken note of this and, like Pompei I think there may be a number of explanations for it. But if I were to pick the one biggest reason, I’d say it is encapulated in this statement:’

“Some of the aging owners such as [Bud] Adams [of the Titans] and Jerry Richardson of the Panthers, who fired his general manager midseason, may be less patient than ever.”

I think a lot of these owners are getting older and they want to win one more before they go. I have, in fact, sensed a certain degree of urgency from the Bears dating back to the Julius Peppers signing, which at the time I considered to be uncharacteristic. I love Virginia McCaskey and I hope she lives a long, long time. But the family must ba acutely aware that she isn’t getting younger.

New NFL Products Hit the Shelves Just in Time for the Christmas Shopping Season And Other Points of View

Bears

“[Tribune columnist David] Haugh argued that Angelo was done in by the lousy performance of backup quarterback Caleb Hanie, who was 0-4 in Cutler’s absence before he was relieved by Josh McCown. He submits that someone had to pay for the failures of Hanie when the Bears stumbled to an 8-8 finish and Angelo was chosen to be that guy over Lovie Smith. It’s a compelling argument.

I believe Angelo’s demise was draft-related. Team president Ted Phillips said, when he announced the move, that there was a talent deficiency on the roster and the gap needed to be closed with division rivals Green Bay and Detroit.”

“That being said, Angelo’s fingerprints are all over this roster and many of the moves he made are still helping the team and will for seasons to come.”

This is all true but it neglects what I think was another major reason – perhaps the major reason – for Angelo’s departure. He was probably the worst general manager in the NFL when it came to administration. It all culminated in the personal embarrassment suffered by ownership over the failed trade with Baltimore in the 2011 NFL draft where Angelo stupidly told two people to do the same job and neither did it thinking the other one did.

There’s a reason why Bears president Philips is now unofficially taking on more of an hands on administrative role with the club. Bears ownership doesn’t want any more personal calls from fellow owners like the Raven’s Steve Biscotti asking them what they think they’re doing.

  • I was personally glad to read from Biggs that former center Olin Kreutz was at the last game. I always wondered if Kreutz might not make a good coach and I’m glad to see there isn’t an apparent rift with the organization that might prevent him from coming.
  • Dan Pompei at the Chicago Tribune notes in his film review that both Brandon Marshall and Earl Bennett blocked well down field. Every good fundamental football team I’ve ever seen had this underrated characteristic.

“Cutler and Brandon Marshall completely outdueled Matthew Stafford and [Lions wide receiver Calvin] Johnson. Marshall finished with six receptions for 81 yards and a 7-yard touchdown reception to cap the game’s opening drive. Cutler completed 16 of 31 passes for 150 yards and was sacked five times but did not turn the ball over.”

You could argue that the difference in this game was Bears cornerback Charles Tillman. He shadowed Johnson all over the field. On the other hand the Lions already poor secondary was depleted and they had no one to cover Marshall.

“Not only did the Bears have cornerback Charles Tillman shadow Johnson with Pro Bowl persistence, but Smith tweaked his nickel personnel by adding a package in which Kelvin Hayden replaced D.J. Moore.

The rationale: In certain offensive formations, the Lions lined up Johnson in the slot — a mismatch for Moore. Instead of having Moore play cornerback, where his smallish size invited mismatch opportunities, the Bears used the 6-foot, 195-pound Hayden on the perimeter against the Lions’ smaller receivers.

“‘The different packages made (Stafford) kind of confused, kind of rattled,’ cornerback Tim Jennings said. “We wanted to mix it up.'”

“Why couldn’t the Bears get some type of return of a low draft pick for Chris Williams considering the shortage of quality linemen to even be backups? If he was not valuable enough to bring a draft choice then there may be others out there who may be an option for the Bears? It needs to be one way or the other. — Ross Scanio, Wheaton

“It’s hard to find a trade partner for a backup offensive lineman who is under contract only through the end of the year. If Williams had another year on his deal, my bet is the Bears would have been able to trade him for a late round draft pick. There clearly was interest in him, judging by the fact that he visited multiple teams and signed with the Rams for more than the NFL minimum. If the Bears thought there was an offensive tackle available better than Williams or Jonathan Scott, who is the player who replaced Williams, they would have signed him.

“Dan, I recall reading that if the Bears let Chris Williams walk after the end of the season they would be rewarded a compensatory selection. Is that correct? Is it worth losing a draft pick by releasing Williams now? — Tim L, San Antonio, Texas

“It is possible that if the Bears retained Williams until the end of the season and then he signed with another team, the Bears would have been awarded a compensatory selection in the 2014 draft, not the 2013 draft. Compensatory selections are determined by a complicated formula that encompasses not only the player or players lost, but also the players the team signs who were unrestricted free agents. Best case scenario is the Bears would have received a 2014 sixth round pick for Williams. More likely is it would have been a seventh rounder, but they might not have been awarded anything if they sign some premium free agents. Given the chance for a compensatory pick and the fact that Williams can play four positions on the line, I thought it would have made more sense to release another player.”

“Has the ghost of Frank Omiyale somehow seeped into Gabe Carimi‘s body? This is two weeks in a row with multiple penalties and sub-par play. If it happens again against Carolina, he has to be replaced by Jonathan Scott, right? — Bob Van Horne, Waco, Texas

Carimi is not going to be replaced anytime soon. Nor should he be. Remember, he was a first-round draft pick that this coaching staff has invested in. He’s going to be on a much longer leash than, say, Chris Spencer was. He also is one of the most talented linemen on the team. But he is basically still a rookie. We should expect some inconsistencies while he learns and grows. He has shown some good things too. Carimi does have to pick it up though.”

Its worth adding that I don’t think Carimi’s knee is completely heeled. His problems aren’t of a recent nature. He hasn’t looked right all year. Basically, I think he’s being left alone at right tackle in part because the team knows they are developing him to be a healthy, experienced lineman with experience next year.


Panthers

“One pro scouting director said from a coverage perspective, opponents have focused on taking away receiver Steve Smith, who has yet to score a touchdown. They are pressing Smith at the line, rolling coverage toward him and forcing Newton to go through his progressions.

“This is a defensive advantage in two ways. Other than tight end Greg Olsen, the Panthers don’t have any receiving options about whom defenses are very concerned. And Newton has not developed the patience and vision to find alternative targets consistently when Smith is covered.”

“Defensive fronts have adjusted to Newton’s sometimes spectacular running ability too.

“Scouts say defensive coordinators are having linemen two-gapping more and they are not trying to get upfield as much. They also are sometimes assigning a linebacker to “spy” Newton.

“Defensive coordinators aren’t trying to force him into making a mistake as much as they are encouraging him to run into the teeth of a disciplined, well populated and prepared front.”

Just one quick note on this. There’s been a lot of talk about who Cam Newton should be compared to lately because former NFL quarterback Warren Moon thinks Newton is too often being compared to black quarterbacks. Too bad because I’m going to do it anyway.

Last year when the Bears played the Panthers it wasn’t Newton’s mobility and athleticism that surprised me. It was his size and strength. Defensive linemen were hitting him in the pocket and literally bouncing off. The last guy I got to see play on a regular basis who could do that was Dante Culpepper. He was built like a linebacker and extremely tough to bring down. Here’s hoping the Bears do a better job on Newton this time around.

“Last year in the Bears’ wild 34-29 victory, that plan included having Jennings, while often not in strictly man-to-man coverage, lining up frequently over Smith. While not exactly divulging what he and defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli have in the works for Sunday, Smith did say, ‘It should be a lot of fun watching them.'”

“‘We kind of mix up a whole lot of coverages,’ Jennings said. ‘It’s not so matching one-on-ones or anything like that. It’s we want to give him different looks.

“’You’ve got to be able to compete with him, just kind of slow him down at the line of scrimmage and disrupt the timing between him and the quarterback.'”

Its fairly obvious to me, especially in light of the comments from Pompei’s article above this one, that the Bears are going to concentrate hard on Smith this time around. As well they should. This is what I said last year immediately after the game and I still think I was right:

“For some reason I don’t understand the Bears were giving Steve Smith no apparent extra attention. Its fairly obvious that Cam Newton depends heavily on him. I had flash backs to Wes Welker last year.”

I’d better not have that “Welker feeling” again or its going to have been a long afternoon for the Bears.

In any case it will, indeed, be a lot of fun to watch.

“‘It’s such a tough deal, but I also believe God doesn’t give anybody more than they can handle,’ Smith said. ‘What makes a person isn’t necessarily what he’s made of or what he goes through. It’s also the people around him.

“‘As teammates, what we try to do is help him in whatever shape or form. I can’t imagine going through some of the things that he’s going through and then going through them alone.'”

Elsewhere

  • The Dolphins and the Jets renew their annual soap opera this week. Benjamin Hoffman at The New York Times puts it in perspective:

“The Dolphins and the Jets have engaged in one of those adorable rivalries where they fight like school children, unaware that their squabbles are seen as largely irrelevant by others around them.”


  • Sneaky. Also from ProFootballMock.com.

One Final Thought

Fred Mitchell at the Chicago Tribune writes about the sense of humor of offensive coordinator Mike Tice. But the quote that stands out is the one about this week’s game:

“‘We need to be 6-1. Have you looked at our schedule coming up? We need to be 6-1 and we need to take care of our business.’

“No joke.”

The Bears Show that Good Defense Is Not that Complicated and Other Points of View

Bears

  • I laughed out loud when I read Sean Jensen ‘s interpretation of this comment from Brian Urlacher for the Chicago Sun-Times:

“It’s getting cold outside and it’s been a long time since the Bears played a game, but the most discussed knee in Halas Hall should be just fine come Monday night against the Detroit Lions.

“‘It’s the same either way,’ said linebacker Brian Urlacher, who continues to work his way back ­after spraining the medial collateral and posterior cruciate ­ligaments in his left knee in the regular-season finale last year.”

  • Mark Potash at the Chicago Sun-Times quotes Rod Marinelli on safeties Chris Conte and Major Wright:

“The biggest thing is that they tackle. And they tackle in space. Not tackle in a box. You have to tackle in space. And that takes great athleticism. You eliminate a lot of big plays by tackling in space. We’re very, very fortunate to have players of that caliber.”

“A primary focus for Webb this season has been improving his footwork, specifically his second step with his outside left foot. He had a tendency a year ago to step in the bucket and that created a more direct path to quarterback Jay Cutler. That led to hits, hurries, sacks and times when Webb simply had to lunge and grab. It’s something offensive line coach Tim Holt consistently is drilling into Webb.

“‘You get yourself in trouble when you turn at the line of scrimmage and give that defensive end a short corner to get to your guy,’ Webb said. ‘It’s a conscious effort when you’re tired, a conscious effort all the time.'”

“With all the talk about Henry Melton getting a contract extension, why is there no talk about one for the best player on the other side of the line, Lance Louis? Louis has been the most dependable, consistent offensive lineman this season by far and should be a cornerstone for the future. Agree? — Danny Jones, Iowa City, Iowa

“Good point Danny. Just because we have not heard any talk about extending Louis’ contract does not mean there hasn’t been any talk behind closed doors. And even if the Bears have not spoken with Louis’ agents about an extension, that does not mean they won’t prioritize re-signing him before he hits the open market. The thing about Louis is he is a developing, emerging player. So it might make sense for all parties to wait until after the season to best gauge his value to the team. But he clearly is not a player the Bears should allow to leave. They can’t afford to let a good offensive lineman walk after spending four years developing him.”

  • Bears running back Matt Forte makes a good point via Jensen:

“‘As you see in the last game when they played the Eagles, [the Lions] got constant penetration, and that kills the run game,’ Forte said. ‘So up front, we’re going to have to try to stop that. They do a lot of different run blitzes, so we’re going to have to do play-actions to try to calm that down.

“‘But it really just starts up front with not allowing penetration.'”

“Is there any chance the Bears will look at Minnesota to find ways to utilize Devin Hester the way the Vikings are using Percy Harvin or take some plays from Green Bay and their utilization of Randall Cobb? They all seem to have the same skill set but the Vikings and Green Bay seemed to have figured out how to use their dynamic players, and if they haven’t considered it can you please suggest they do so. Devin Hester taking direct snaps out of the backfield would be awesome. — Isaac Sykes, Woodbridge, Va.

“I’m sure the Bears have studied how the Vikings use Harvin and how the Packers use Cobb. These are three different players though. Harvin is much stronger and more difficult to tackle than Hester. Cobb has a better feel for the game than Hester. And Hester may be the fastest of the group. So you really can’t use Hester quite the way the Vikings use Harvin or the way the Packers use Cobb.”

  • I’m not entirely where this comment from Benjamin Hoffman‘s preview of the Bears-Lions matchup for The New York Times comes from but I thought it was worth noting.

“Chemistry is supposed to be vitally important in football. The Bears seem to prove that false each week. The team’s offense and defense appear to hate each other and yet the Bears keep winning.”

Lions

“… If he is going up in the air and leaving the ground to make a catch, he’s going to have to pay for it. Guys have to rally to the ball and it’s not just one guy hitting him. … Put something on his mind that can distract him from catching the ball. Anything.”

“The splits of the wide receivers are a top priority when you break the huddle as a defensive back. Here, both Johnson (Z) and Nate Burleson (X) are aligning inside of the numbers with the ball at (or near) midfield. Studying the Lions offense, this should be an automatic alert to play for a vertical shot down the field.”


“‘Once the ball’s put down and it’s whistled ready for play, man, it’s another game, it’s a different game,’ Stafford said, downplaying any hatred between the teams. ‘The beauty of the NFL is every week is different, and you have to approach it that way.'”

Fortunately for the Bears the Lions never have. With a head coach like Jim Schwartz fueling the flames with fist pumps and emotional sideline demonstrations after wins like the one last week, the likelihood of a let down becomes considerably higher.

  • An already miserable Lions defensive backfield promises to be worse than usual as the Lions are down to three healthy corners for Monday Night’s matchup. Via Darin Gantt at profootballtalk.com.

Elsewhere

  • An interesting point to look for today as the Jets play the Patriots. The Jets are concerned that officials are allowing the Patriots to substitute in their no huddle offense without allowing the defense time to do the same. By rule this is illegal. Via Mike Florio at profootballtalk.com
  • We have a good Audible from Pro Football Weekly:

Mike Nolan was known for running the 3-4 defense in Baltimore and before he was in Baltimore, he ran the over/under 4-3. He didn’t have that stout nose or the personnel to make it work in Atlanta so he switched to the wide “40” and lined (DEs Kroy) Biermann and (John) Abraham (and Ray Edwards) outside in a wide-seven (technique). If you look at their (defensive) tackles — (Jonathan) Babineaux, (Peria) Jerry and (Vance) Walker — none of them can play the nose. That is great coaching.”

  • I really don’t give a hoot about the Saints bounty scandal. But some people still do so… from Pompei, this time writing for the National Football Post:

“Everybody wins with the appointment of Paul Tagliabue to hear the appeals of the four players in the Saints’ bounty scandal. The Saints win because Tagliabue is not just an extension of Roger Goodell. And Goodell wins because he washes his hands of the mess while providing a credible arbiter.”

“There’s 4 total passengers on my flight n I just farted. That’s a quick game of ‘Who-Dunnit’, lets see if they catch me

“— Jared Odrick (@JaredOdrick98) October 19, 2012”

One Final Thought

And finally, we have one more revealing quote from Pro Football Weekly‘s Audibles section:

“There is a reason the Bears’ defense is as opportunistic as it is — when they snap the ball, count how many guys are looking at the ball. All 11 of them are keyed on it and ready to pounce. The linebackers are always zeroed in on it. They do a great job of pursuing. They don’t overcomplicate it.”

Gabe Carimi Is Not Quite Back Up to Snuff and Other Points of View

Bears

  • Sean Jensen at the Chicago Sun-Times quotes a scout on offensive tackle Gabe Carimi for the Bears Extra section:

“He just doesn’t look strong enough. Maybe part of that is the injury. He plays like he’s a 34-year-old.”

I would agree that Carimi hasn’t looked right and he’s been struggling. I don’t think its his strength so much as his quickness. He looks to me like he’s having a hard time keeping up with speed rushes to the outside. Like the scout, I suspect that the knee injury from last year hasn’t fully healed.

“Asked why quarterbacks no longer call their own plays, Tice said, ‘Because they don’t sit in meetings on Monday and Tuesday night and put the game plan in.’ But without hesitating, he added, ‘We did have some no-huddle [against Jacksonville] where we gave Jay some really, really good chances to do ‘either/or,’ and I thought he did a great job with the no-huddle. It was the most extensive that we had. It was another drive that stalled when we had something going, but we’re going to do more of that. We like him managing the no-huddle.’”

Using the no huddle does, of course, make sense. But other than that, expecting modern quarterbacks in the heat of battle to call plays with longer term planning and goals in mind is too much to ask. Most Bear fans will remember that former Bears offensive coordinator John Shoop couldn’t even do it just while standing on the side lines.

  • Potash does make a good point that the way the play calling is handled now leads to delays.

“The complicated nature of play-calling in the NFL that prevents Cutler from calling his own plays also causes its own problems. Offensive coordinator Mike Tice, a first-year play-caller, relays his call to quarterbacks coach Jeremy Bates, who gives the play to Cutler. If it gets there too late, it’s a problem. How many times have we seen an irritated Cutler walking back to the sideline after calling timeout because the play clock was running down?”

Passing plays through the quarterback coach made sense when Mike Martz was the coordinator because he spent his time in the booth. But with Tice on the sidelines, this makes less sense. My suggestion for cutting out the middle man would be cutting out Bates.

  • Potash can’t let go of the idea that Shea McClellin belongs at linebacker.
  • Dan Pompei at the Chicago Tribune suggests adjustments for the season after the bye. Here are a couple that I was in particular agreement with:

“I would not suggest that Brandon Marshall has been thrown to too frequently, because throwing to him has almost always been a good thing.

“But other Bears — [Devin] Hester, Earl Bennett and Matt Forte especially — are going to have to do more than they have as receivers at various points of the season.”

Good teams (like the Packers) are going to find ways to take Marshall away. That’s when the other guys have to get open against single coverage.

“Up until last week, the Bears relied heavily on Cover-2. They broke out a little bit against the Jaguars in an attempt to get eight men in the box.

“For their defense to be all it can be, it will have to be able to play more than Cover-2. It will have to be able to keep offenses off balance by blitzing, mixing in man-to-man, single high, quarters and man free.

“Whether the Bears can be more diverse will depend on how cornerbacks Charles Tillman, Tim Jennings and D.J. Moore and safeties Major Wright and Chris Conte hold up when given assignments that may be a bit out of their comfort zone.”

This is critical. Every team in the league knows the cover two beaters. Bear fans have seen them so often we dream them in our sleep. It works well against bad teams (or good teams playing badly) because they fail to execute. Against a good team on its game, though, its not going to fly. Not only do the Bears need to diversify their coverages in those situations but they have to do a good job of disguising them as well.

Lions

“The Lions, over their last 16 games (not counting pre-season, or exhibition, as it used to be called) are a 6-10 team. Is that an accurate predictor of this season? Can it be worse or will they get better?–Stephen, Windsor, Ontario

“I really expected them to be better, honestly. They have a great young quarterback and maybe the best receiver in football. Their defense should be awesome, certainly not 26th in points allowed. Certainly I didn’t see the rise of the Vikings, either, so that explains one loss – but to lose to the Titans, who are struggling, too?

“It’s not going to get any easier with the Eagles this week in Philadelphia and then the Bears in Chicago. And they still have both games against the Packers, who will be equally desperate, Houston and Atlanta. Unless the defense starts producing some turnovers – they have zero interceptions – I don’t see how things improve much against a very tough schedule.”

  • Of course the Lions beat the Eagles so that’s step one. Watching that game last weekend was a slow form of torture, especially in the first half. You would be hard pressed to find two sloppier teams. The Eagles were constantly bitten by negative plays and turnovers. The Lions consistently failed to take advantage as they were constantly killing themselves with penalties and undisciplined play. Both teams are an incredible waste of talent.
  • The lack of discipline on the part of the Lions was particularly evident along the defensive line. They got a lot of pressure on Michael Vick and they look like they are every bit as good as they were last year if not better. But they were rushing the passer like a blind dog in a meat house with many personal fouls and offsides penalties.
  • Having said that, beware the Lions in the fourth quarter. They woke up and starting moving the ball literally right when the quarter began as if they were just edging up to the starting line before that. Quarterback Matthew Stafford, who was inconsistent despite being under very little pressure all afternoon, suddenly woke up and started finding wide receiver Calvin Johnson underneath. The next week against the Bears could be very interesting, particularly if the Lions somehow manage to clean up their act for such an important divisional game.
  • Pompei, this time writing for The National Football Post writes about the “Wide 9” defensive philosophy where the defensive ends in a 4-3 sceme line up far to the outside. The Lions play it and the Vikings dabble in it.

“There are two primary benefits to the Wide 9. One is it makes it difficult for offenses to run outside. But the real reason teams use it is it gives the defensive ends excellent angles to get to the quarterback.

“‘It puts the fear of God into the offensive tackles if you have guys like Jason Babin, Jared Allen, Tamba Hali, Cliff Avril, Kyle Vanden Bosch, Lawrence Jackson and Willie Young,” [Lions defensive coordinator Gunther] Cunningham told me. ‘All these guys were some of the top speed guys coming into the draft and when you align wide, the OTs have to double kick on pass protection to block the edge. The double kick went out a few years back and now everyone is straight line dropping in the pass, meaning the OTs are holding space to stop the three technique, so the DEs that are wide have a straight line to the 7 ½ yard spot for the QB’s five step drop.'”

“The knock on the Wide 9 is it can leave a defense vulnerable to the inside run. In order for the Wide 9 to work, a defense needs a solid Mike linebacker and a good strong safety, because those two players often are going to be responsible for the B, C and D gaps. That’s why the Lions went after Stephen Tulloch last year, and why the Eagles traded for DeMeco Ryans this year.”

Elsewhere

“Can the officiating and broadcast crews keep up with Patriots when they play their accelerated no-huddle offense? If defenses are instructed to obstruct offense players after the whistle, will the refs call penalties?–Rufus T. Woodrow, New England

A.
I’m sure the broadcast crews were struggling – there’s certainly no time to show replays – because I was struggling. I would look down to jot down a note about the previous play and I’d miss the next one. I can only imagine what the defenses must feel like. Good question about the defenses obstructing players to slow things down – I would guess the officials will keep a close eye on that. That’s not supposed to happen, but it certainly does. Also wonder, as the no-huddle spreads around the league, if you’ll see players faking injuries to stop the clock.”

“How would you list the N.F.L.’s top ten coaches?–Frankly32

“Do I really have to? This is a minefield. This is in no particular order, but here are a few: [Tom] Coughlin, [Bill] Belichick, both Harbaughs [John and Jim], [Mike] Tomlin, Sean Payton, Jeff Fisher, [Andy] Reid, Mike McCarthy, and then some mix of [Mike] Shanahan/Mike Smith/Gary Kubiak – Shanahan has had great success but that was a while ago and he hasn’t had a quarterback until now to be in the same league with Elway, and I want to see Atlanta and Houston make deep playoff runs before elevating Smith and/or Kubiak despite their recent regular-season success.”

I like Batista and she’s one of the reasons I read the Times. And she does say she doesn’t want to do it. But suggesting “some mix of Shanahan/Mike Smith/Gary Kubiak” over Lovie Smith?

One Final Thought

I realize that this is only high school football but it really is amazing.

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

Bears

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lions

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

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

Elsewhere

“NUMBER: 0

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

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

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

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

One Final Thought

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Of Jay Cutler and Cam Newton. And Other Points of View.

Bears

  • This article from ESPN.com‘s Pat Yasinskas is really about Carolina quarterback Cam Newton. But the whole time I read it, I couldn’t stop thinking about Bears quarterback Jay Cutler.
  • Its hard not to contrast Cutler’s reaction to his incident on the sidelines with offensive coordinator Mike Tice (total denial) last Monday night with Tice’s. Via Sean Jensen at the Chicago Sun-Times:

“Asked if he was surprised that Cutler walked away, Tice laughed and said, ‘He probably had enough of me telling him why the play didn’t work.

“‘I get enough of me sometimes, too. I can talk a little bit, as you guys know. The heat of the battle, it’s tough. A lot of things happen on the sideline. A lot of things happen over the course of a game. I was really angry about the fact that we didn’t make that third-and-one. I was in his ear from the time he came off the field to the time he went over and put his helmet down. At a certain point, probably enough’s enough.'”

“Smith rightfully gets top billing as the Bears’ coach, but Tice is the rock star on the staff. And not because he’s Mr. Entertainment or Vince Lombardi, but because he sees the same game we do.”

  • I thought Jensen, who had a lot of experience covering Tice with the Vikings, had an interesting take on the incident:

“Cutler seems resistant to his reality, but he needs to begin to accept it.

“There wasn’t a hint of frustration or anger from Tice on Wednesday as he heaped praise on Cutler.

“‘Jay and I are good,’ Tice said. ‘I really admire his play the other night. I really admire how he’s prepared himself right now. I really admire how he’s bought in.’

“But Tice isn’t anyone’s pushover. So as their relationship moves forward, Cutler had better treat him with respect.”

  • Dan Pompei at the Chicago Tribune asks a question that most Cutler apologists will parrot:

“Romo carried himself like the pro he is. But he didn’t win.

Anything else you want to know?”

Yeah. Why is it too much to ask that Cutler do both?

In any case, Rick Morrissey at the Chicago Sun-Times provides some perspective for the average fan who is stuck personally disliking arguably his team’s most talented player:

“At some point — now would be good — we’re going to have to give up on the idea that Cutler can be rehabilitated. Personality transplants are not on the medical horizon. The name is Jay, not Joy, Cutler.”

In other words, “Yeah, he’s a punk. But he’s out punk. Like it or not, that’s the way it is.

That’s fine. As long as everyone also recognizes on some level that its also wrong.

In that respect, I was actually getting ready to write a full post on the Cutler situation and the total denial of most fans I know about the situation when Steve Rosenbloom at the Chicago Tribune said virtually everything I wanted to say. So I’ll just link to his article and let you watch the video and say it all goes double for me:

  • Many people will look at the final score of the Cowboys game and conclude that the offense was a dominant force. But Devin Hester got it right when he made this comment. Via Jensen:

“‘To me, this was a defensive victory,’ he said. ‘When you come up with five turnovers and 14 points, you pretty much won the game. They had an amazing night.'”

This team has that personality trait and it probably will for a long time. Its the defense that leads them and everything else follows on that. If they don’t make big plays first, they won’t happen on offense. Don’t look for it to be the other way around. They don’t have that kind of character. Haugh does a good job of making that point in his column here.

“‘The way that offensive line is blocking, it’s making it easy for me,’ Cutler said. ‘That was the best rhythm we have had offensively, in and out of the huddle, all year. We’ve just got to take that momentum and keep it rolling.'”

I did my best to concentrate on the offensive line during the game and my impression was that it wasn’t that simple. They got a lot of help and most of the time, Cutler was getting the ball out quickly to Brandon Marshall over the middle. When the tackles were one-on-one, most of the time one or the other struggled. But they did just enough to allow Cutler to get the ball off and occasionally they really did well.

By the way, its getting almost no notice but right guard Lance Lewis is a Pro Bowler. He’s been outstanding. Left guard Chilo Rachal and center Roberto Garza also had solid games with no noticeable gaffs as far as I could tell.

Besides being on the road and on short rest, the Bears also will have to adjust to the Jacksonville heat Sunday. The predicted high is 90 degrees.

The Bears have not played in a game with a kickoff temperature above 76 degrees since Oct. 10, 2010, when they beat the Carolina Panthers 23-6 in Charlotte.

The Bears got off to a fast start in that game — 17 points and 280 all-purpose yards (21.5 yards per play) in the first quarter — but petered out. In the final three quarters, they scored six points and had 168 all-purpose yards (2.9 per play).

“The Bears said they wanted more consistency this season from defensive tackle Henry Melton, who acknowledged that was a goal. At the quarter post of the season, it’s fair to say Melton is delivering. He sacked Tony Romo in the first quarter and has four for the season, just the way he wanted to begin a contract season. He also forced the play on Lance Briggs‘ 74-yard interception return in the third quarter. Teams pay for sacks, and Melton knows it. Could the franchise tag enter the discussion?”

As a serious Melton doubter before the season began, I can say that his play thus far has been a wonderful surprise. He’s been taking favorable match ups inside and capitalizing on them.

  • Its also hard to under estimate the importance of Lance Briggs to the defense. And yet I somehow always manage to do it. Fortunately Biggs doesn’t share that fault.
  • I’m not too thrilled seeing Julius Peppers have to sit out a half nor is it good to see Earl Bennett inactive due to injury. The Bears are going to need both of these guys. From McClure.
  • Pompei noticed something in his film study last week that I’d like to see more of:

“[Bears defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli had another wrinkle for the Cowboys too. The Bears lined up in a 3-4 defense twice, with Shea McClellin playing stand-up linebacker. Both times, he dropped and covered running back DeMarco Murray.”

  • This is unfortunate when you are a fan of a team in need of a left tackle. But its also hardly surprising. From Biggs:

“Some have already suggested the 2013 draft could be solid for offensive linemen, so I asked the national scout that exact question.

“‘Within the first two rounds,’ he said. ‘There are some big-time guards and some good tackles but not premier tackles. There are not premier lefts out there right now unless I have missed out on some juniors. Now, there are some big-time guards and some really good right tackles out there.

“‘There could be two to maybe three guards go in the first round, which is pretty out of the norm because usually it is just one. Usually those are back-end first-round guys if they are at that good. There are some good right tackles and there are a couple juniors out there that could be overdrafted (if they forego their senior season) but are there any Joe Thomases out there? Heck no. There is not. Numbers-wise on the offensive line, maybe the first two, two-and-a-half rounds might be strong. After that, it kind of falls off.'”

“One thing that could help is the Bears will face a 4-3 defense after playing three 3-4 fronts in four weeks.

“‘It’s a total technique change across the board, so it’s going to be a little edgy at times and not as clean as it could be when you’re playing against an over front or a team you work on every day,’ Tice said.

“‘If we played against a 3-4 team every day in practice we’d be a little better against it, but each game I felt we got a little bit better.'”

“A year after rushing for 2,000 yards, the Bears have yet to find their groove on the ground. Matt Forte hasn’t been fully healthy. The offensive line has been revamped. Don’t forget all of the new passing toys that arrived too. Offensive coordinator Mike Tice made a concerted effort in training camp to make sure the passing game was installed and operating efficiently. An inordinate amount of time was spent throwing the football in Bourbonnais. That meant less attention to the ground attack, but that should change this week against the Jaguars, who enter 30th in the NFL against the run.”

In fairness, the passing game seems to me to be much harder to coordinate (as the Cowboys can attest). Personally, I’d rather see the Bears spending and inordinate amount of time throwing the ball in camp. As a fan, its not easy to see your team get beat. But when you are watching on a Monday night with 24 hours with no sleep, seeing them beat themselves by running the wrong routes would be agony.

  • Vaughn McClure at the Chicago Tribune talks about the brewing feud between ESPN‘s Steven A. Smith and Marshall:

“‘I’m saying if you have old incidents dating from Oct. 31, 2004, to March 11, 2012 — if you have eight years of a track record of transgressions, I need to see more than a few months of a transformation,’ Smith said.

“Marshall apparently responded to Smith’s rant with this tweet: “Yellow journalism is a type of journalism that presents little or no legitimate well-researched news to sell papers or create controversy.”

This is what worries me about Marshall. Suggest something critical about his past that is nothing more than the truth and he calls it “yellow journalism”. I can’t help but think that, no matter what he says or how it looks on the outside, he’s still in denial.

  • Fred Mitchell at the Chicago Tribune quotes Cutler on how teams are trying to handle the Bears passing attack.

“‘I think week by week, teams are going to try to take ‘B’ [Marshall] away and make those other guys make plays,’ Cutler said Wednesday at Halas Hall. ‘I think that’s going to be the philosophy behind that.

“They’re going to bet that defensively they can cover those other guys and not let ‘B’ beat them. That’s what we’re seeing a lot of. But we have a lot of belief in our guys — Kellen (Davis) and Alshon (Jeffery) and (Devin Hester) and Matt Forte … all those guys we believe can make plays.””

I’m glad Cutler believes in them. Because other than Forte, I surely don’t. Like the Bears opponents, I’ll believe it when I see it.

“With Matt Forte starting to get pretty worn down, would he still demand a good price on the trade market? Trading him would leave the Bears with a solid player in Michael Bush and then the option to take a guy like Marcus Lattimore in the draft. — Joe Devine, Saskatoon, Canada

“I don’t know why the Bears would want to get rid of a player they just signed and a player who clearly helps them win games. But to answer your question, I think the Bears could get something of value in return for Forte. They probably couldn’t make a killing because he is soon to be 27-years old and he has some miles on him. The days of receiving five players and eight draft picks (including three first rounders), as the Cowboys did for Herschel Walker, are over. It’s unusual to see a star running back traded anymore. The Seahawks got Marshawn Lynch for fourth and fifth round picks two years ago, but he wasn’t in Forte’s class at the time of the trade. The Redskins gave up Champ Bailey and a second round pick for Clinton Portis in 2004, but Portis was younger than Forte at the time, and he had been more productive. So what could Forte bring in a trade? I would say if they found the right partner, the Bears probably could get a good starter at another position or a second round draft pick.”

I’m always of the opinion that the fans are under-estimated by people associated with the NFL. I’m a fan of the fans and I think they often see more than the professionals who are too close to what’s going on to see the forest for the trees. But questions like this about Forte seem to pop up in columns every week and I’ll never understand why anyone would want to trade Forte. Forte said during the offseason he thought he was being disrespected by the Bears organization during a contract dispute. But in my view its nothing compared to the disrespect of some fans who see to think the Bears would be better off without him. He’s not appreciated like he should be and that’s a shame.

“I just don’t understand why the Bears don’t at least try Gabe Carimi at LT. OK his ceiling maybe isn’t as high as J’Marcus Webb‘s, but he does not have the low downside either. Carimi went up against a lot better competition in college too and always performed well. Why not put him there and let him deal with those great pass rushing DEs. I have to believe he would perform better then what Webb has showed. Plus doesn’t Mike Tice say he is the best OL they have? If that is the case why isn’t your best OL playing the most important position on the line? — Peter, Wausau, Wis.

“If the Bears move Carimi to left tackle and he is just an average left tackle, which many suspect would be the case, you might have an average left tackle and a below average right tackle. Does that make them better? Carimi can be an above average right tackle. You don’t want to create one problem by solving another. I don’t recall Tice saying Carimi is the best offensive lineman on the team, but Tice clearly is high on Carimi. And even if a player is the best lineman on the team does not mean he could play any position.”

  • Many of us wondered what happened with Al Afalava, a promising young safety for the Bears who had a good rookie year in 2009 but was cut in 2010. Now we know. From McClure:

“Now, Afalava plays special teams for the Titans, and he regrets how things unfolded with the Bears.

“‘I learned that being on the sideline ain’t going to get you a job in the NFL,’ Afalava said Thursday. ‘I didn’t come in prepared my second year.

“‘Before my second year, I went home to Hawaii and put on weight that I wasn’t supposed to. I was close to 240 pounds after playing as rookie at 212. I was just living the life back home. Hawaii has good food.'”

Jacksonville

  • Looks like the Bears defense will get a shot against yet another bad offensive line. The odds are good that, like the Cowboys, their best chance to beat the Bears will be to run the ball. From Pompei.
  • You can couple that with this grim assessment of the Jaguars defense at the quarter pole mark from Ryan O’Halloran at the Florida Times-Union:

“The Jaguars can’t stop the run to force a third-and-long, and when they do, don’t have the pass rush to pressure the quarterback.

“So what are the Jaguars options? They rushed six or more players five times against the Bengals, who blocked it up with extra protection.

“The element of surprise — more zone blitzes, corners and safeties coming off the edges, etc. — should be next up.”

“Although the Jaguars remain 30th in rush defense for the second straight week, linebacker Paul Posluszny sees improvement. The Bengals rushed for 138 yards, but 48 came on a fake punt.

“‘Early on [the struggles] were a huge surprise,’ Posluszny said. ‘Each week, we’re getting better and better. Last week, we were successful and the fake punt skews the number. We’re tackling better and we’re more disciplined. We started out rough and now we’re making that ground up.’

“Not counting the fake punt, the Jaguars allowed only one rush of longer than 12 yards to Cincinnati.”

  • It’s apparently not all bad for the offensive line, as well. Also from O’Halloran:

“Along with center Brad Meester, left tackle Eugene Monroe is the only Jaguars offensive starter to play every snap this year. He’s been consistent in pass protection and occasionally dominant. Monroe has one penalty (a false start) and controlled Minnesota’s Jared Allen in Week 1.

“Helping Monroe’s performance is who he hasn’t faced. Houston moved J.J. Watt from right end to left end to go against reserve right tackle Guy Whimper and Indianapolis moved pass rusher Robert Mathis around so he wouldn’t get a steady diet of Monroe.”

I think you can count on Lovie Smith and Rod Marinelli to do the same with Peppers.

  • One match up to look at will be left guard Eben Britton against the Bears defensive tackles. Britton was benched at half time last game. From O’Halloran:

“‘He’s very prideful,’ [Jaguars head coach Mike] Mularkey said. ‘He came in here with a great attitude. A lot of guys would have sulked, but he didn’t do that. He works hard all the time, but you could tell it’s important to him. With another week, he’ll probably be better health-wise.'”

“One bright spot for the Jaguars is that Blaine Gabbert hasn’t been horrible under pressure. He’s middle of the pack with a 62.9 Accuracy Percentage when pressured and has yet to throw an interception. However, he takes a sack on 21.8% of those plays, the 10th-highest rate in the NFL.”

  • Maney continues with this interesting tid bit to look for:

“Gabbert will likely target slot corner DJ Moore, who’s given up 18 catches on 24 targets this season, two of them going for scores. Of 108 passes this season, Gabbert has thrown just eight longer than 20 yards in the air and 17 at intermediate distance (between 10 and 20 yards). Of those 25 passes over 10 yards in the air, just three have gone to the left side of the field and he didn’t attempt a single pass there against the Bengals. In fact, on passes beyond the line of scrimmage, he’s thrown just 18% to the left side of the field, compared to roughly 32% to the right and 50% to the middle of the field. He’ll want to throw left more often and stay away from the right side against the Bears, where [cornerback Tim] Jennings spends an overwhelming majority of snaps.”

  • Who will cover Marshall seems to be a major question in Jacksonville this week. As it should be. My advise is that whoever it is should get significant help. Form Gene Frenette at the Florida Times-Union.

Elsewhere

  • I got a lot of flack about a game comment I put up last week. I said that I thought Tony Romo‘s accuracy and touch are impressive. Bears fans thought that a QB who threw five interceptions shouldn’t be getting those kinds of compliments. So I was glad to see Andy Benoit at The New York Times come to Romo’s defense as well and do it in a much more thorough way than I could:

“So what about the five interceptions? Three, maybe four of them weren’t Romo’s fault. On the first pick, Dez Bryant ran the wrong route. On the second pick, Kevin Ogletree had a perfectly thrown ball bounce off his chest. The third pick probably should have been ruled a fumble, because the ball squeezed out of Romo’s hands after he was corralled by Henry Melton. Romo tried to escape the pocket on that play, but Melton had spectacular closing speed. Nevertheless, Melton shouldn’t have been able to break down Dallas’s protection so quickly. The fourth interception may have been Romo’s fault, though the intended receiver, Miles Austin, ran a very poor route, failing to cross the face of cornerback D.J. Moore.

I might add that, bad decision though it might have been, this pass was a laser beam that was right on target. Benoit continues:

As for the fifth interception….that was Romo’s fault, but in a lot of ways, it was his most impressive play of the night. The Cowboys were trailing by 24 late. Their only chance at a win was via a sports version of a miracle. So Romo went for it and threw into coverage. How many quarterbacks in that situation would have checked down to avoid risking a five-turnover game? Romo showed selflessness and character on that play. He showed those same traits in the postgame interviews, too, when he protected his teammates and accepted the unwarranted blame for his team’s sloppy showing.

This isn’t to say that Romo shouldn’t be scrutinized. He has played extremely well this season but hasn’t gotten much help from his supporting cast. It’s fair to point out, though, that receivers who play with Tom Brady and Peyton Manning never seem to get way off their quarterback’s page. You don’t see Brady’s targets drop passes in bunches. So why are Romo’s teammates so inconsistent at times?

There isn’t a single right answer to this question. But this is the question sportswriters should be exploring. It’s not as easy or fun as exploring why “Tony Romo stinks,” but it’s a lot smarter and fairer.”

  • Ben Stockwell at Pro Football Focus more or less tells it like it is as he reviews the Cowboys-Bears game film:

“At this point Cowboy fans, coaches and players must simply be tearing their hair out. In spite of consistency in personnel at key positions, the hallmark of this offense continues to be miscommunications and disconnects between players. At some point you have to wonder when this will be picked up on as a recurring problem to the extent that it costs someone their job.”

I’ve got to figure that if things keep going like this, there will be changes at the end of the year in Dallas.

  • Dan Pompei, this time writing for The National Football Post, highlights the new trend in the NFL – the “rat race offense”.
  • The Bears aren’t the only ones with an aging defense. And the one in Pittsburgh may not be aging as gracefully as Steelers coach Mike Tomlin faces some tough choices. From Alex Marvez at FOX Sports:

“‘It is a natural evolution of this business,’ Tomlin told FOXSports.com when the subject was broached after Wednesday’s practice. ‘Any of us that are in (the NFL) have to accept it on one level or another whether it’s coaches or players. That’s the mentality I have regarding it.'”

“‘We’re not trying to strike a balance (with age). We’re going with the guys who are capable of playing. We’ve got some veteran guys who are still good players. As long as they remain that, they’ll continue to play. We’ve got some young guys with some promise who are working. When they’re good enough to play, they’ll be in there.'”

  • Michael Vick swears this one’s just for sparring. From Mike Florio at profootballtalk.com.
  • The Sports Pickle asks “Which NFL quarterback should be benched?” My answer:

Mark Sanchez — he needs to be benched so he can clear his head and be ready to start again when Tim Tebow gets benched.”

One Final Thought

“As he trudges through the snow on his way to the Champaign County YMCA, where he would stay that night for $2, his shoes fall apart.

“‘I’ll never forget that feeling where the sole comes off your shoe, snow seeps in, your socks gets full of that cold, wet moisture,” he said. “But it was the greatest thing that happened to me. It gave me perspective. Those are the life-defining moments. They hard-wire you. When you meet challenges in life later on, you say, ‘This is nothing.'”

Some Perspective on “The Replacements” and Other Points of View

Bears

  • Cole Schultz at Pro Football Focus points out something I’ve also noticed:

“The offensive line may be the common scapegoat in Chicago, but the interior only gave up one quarterback disruption (108 pass blocking snaps), compared with the three disruptions given up by halfbacks (15 pass blocking snaps).”

Practically speaking it really doesn’t matter who is messing up the protections. But the reality is that we should be talking a lot more about the aspects of that protection that have little to do with the offensive line. It’s been a team effort.

  • Dan Pompei at the Chicago Tribune gives us a little insight into new left guard Chilo Rachal:

“[Running back Michael] Bush got a little help from newcomer Chilo Rachal. He was promoted to the starting lineup at left guard last week to give the Bears a little more nasty, and he did that Sunday.

“‘Chilo brings that edge to the offensive line and he doesn’t take a lot of grief in there,’ quarterback Jay Cutler said of the former 49er. ‘He’s a big guy. He’s kind of a mauler and I feel comfortable with him in there.'”

“This was Chilo’s kind of party.

“‘A physical, nasty game,’ Rachal said. ‘The physicality of a game like this, I get a kick off that.'”

  • Joe Cowley at the Chicago Sun-Times quotes Rachal on the Rams mouthy tendencies:

“‘They talk a lot, they talk a lot, extremely a lot,’ Bears starting left guard Chilo Rachal said of St. Louis’ defense. ‘And I feel like it’s unnecessary. Everyone is a competitor, and when you’re losing, I guess you feel like you need to talk mess, but I think it’s unnecessary.'”

“Cowboys outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware versus Bears left tackle J’Marcus Webb. Earlier this season Ware became the second-fastest defender to reach 100 sacks behind Reggie White. He is one of the NFL’s premier pass rushers. Webb has struggled against elite speed rushers. The Bears will have to give Webb plenty of help to neutralize Ware.”

  • Cowley thinks the usually boring Bears might be getting interesting. First Brandon Marshall appears to be in a feud with former NFL defensive tackle Warren Sapp after Sapp called him a “retard”. Marshall responds in two YouTube videos below:

“‘When I look at Warren Sapp, I can’t go to him and talk about finances because he filed for bankruptcy,’ Marshall said in the first of two online videos. ‘I can’t go to him and talk about my marriage because he filed for divorce. I can’t go to him and talk about being a great father when one day I have children because he’s not active in his children’s lives.

“‘So the lesson we should all learn here is, surround yourself with good people and be careful who you take counsel from.

“‘I’m not saying he’s been there on my side giving me counsel, but that’s not a guy that I can go to.'”


To no one’s surprise, Jay Cutler finally decided to fire back at D.J. Moore by saying he needed “a muzzle”. Because escalating such things in the media is what team leaders do.

Even Lovie Smith got testy with a reporter Monday:

“In his news conference, Smith was asked by a reporter about having bumpy offensive starts for several seasons, and when he thought he was interrupted, he said, ‘If you let me finish … I don’t need your help. Believe me, I don’t need your help.'”

  • I’ve given the cornerbacks their due credit before but, as Pompei points out, the safeties also deserve some credit for a solid start to the season. I thought this observation was interesting:

“In addition to making the play of the game on a pick-six, Major Wright tackled well. He came up and took down running back Daryl Richardson in the open field. Wright hasn’t always made the tackle in similar situations in the past.”

“‘That’s expected,’ Peppers said. ‘That’s nothing to be patting anybody on the back about. We should be playing like that.'”

“‘I’ll tell you something that a player told me a long time ago. (Longtime offensive lineman) Pete Kendall said there is a point in your career where your body flies around and your mind doesn’t know what it is doing. And then it comes to a point where it levels off. And then eventually you reach a point where it goes the other direction, your mind knows it and your body is just trying to get there. I am not going to say he is at that point. Like I said, you will probably be able to tell better by the end of the season. But I have all the respect in the world for the guy. In my opinion, he is a first-ballot Hall of Famer. He’s a great player.'”

  • Biggs quotes Geno Hayes on his near block of a Rams punt in the endzone in the fourth quarter:

“During the course of the game you start learning more things, their calls, when they called a check I knew he was going to slide out. So, when he slid out, the wing went inside and it gave us off edge. Once you get in the game and you can hear certain things, you know what is going to happen.”

  • David Haugh at the Chicago Tribune takes Jay Cutler to task for his spotty performance against the Rams. To my eye, Cutler’s mechanics haven’t been as good this year as they were last year. I wonder if there’s anyone on the staff who can coach him hard enough to correct them.
  • The staff at the Chicago Sun-Times give us this perceptive comment:

“Lost in the hysteria of the Seahawks’ 14-12 victory over the Packers on Monday night was the Packers’ recovery from an abominable start.

“Aaron Rodgers was under siege like Jay Cutler on the Bears’ worst night. He was sacked eight times in the first half but kept his composure and avoided disaster. He had no turnovers in the onslaught, and the Packers trailed only 7-0.

“It makes a difference. When Cutler was sacked nine times in the first half against the Giants in 2010, he was intercepted once, fumbled three times, lost one, had a 40.7 passer rating and left the game with a concussion. On Monday night, Rodgers was still standing with nary a turnover and a 90.6 passer rating (12-for-15, 86 yards). There’s a reason why he has thrown just one pick-six in 79 NFL games (2,468 attempts including the postseason).

“The Packers were on tilt but responded in the second half, allowing zero sacks. In 10 games in which Rodgers has been sacked five times or more, he has thrown 16 touchdown passes and nine interceptions with an average passer rating of 91.5.”

  • Former Bears linebacker Roosevelt Colvin isn’t a big Cutler fan. Biggs points out that he’s posted a number of verey negative tweets on the subject. Colvin gave this interesting response to a direct question about it from Biggs in which he also got a dig in on Mike Tice:

“‘I read body language a lot and a lot of the body language [Cutler] gives off, it seems like it doesn’t matter or if it matters it’s not my fault. You see the episode with the tackle last week, yelling at him because he messed up and the semi-bump with the shoulder. I just feel there are better ways to handle things.

“‘That’s not to say guys like Aaron Rodgers or Tom Brady or Eli Manning don’t get upset and yell at their players, but the dude did a decent job blocking one of the NFL’s best pass rushers. There was that one play where he got kind of caught up and didn’t block the guy correctly but you’ve got to lean on your offensive coordinator. Mike Tice has got to understand, ‘Hey, chip the guy instead of just letting the back run out in the flat.’ These are things that I came to understand in New England and made me feel like Bill Belichick is hands-down the best football coach in NFL history because of those types of things — it’s matchups. It’s all about matchups. You’ve got to make adjustments. If you see the guy is struggling, if you’re Jay Cutler go to the coach and say, ‘Hey, instead of letting the back release out right now, why don’t we take him out and chip Clay Matthews to give the dude a little help. That will buy me an extra two seconds to allow me to read the play and be more successful.’

“‘But you don’t see that. He gets a bad rap. You see him yelling at another guy and you see his head down. It’s upsetting. But, you know, he represents the state of Indiana so I continue to support him.”‘

“Ever since Mike Martz was jettisoned last year, Mike Tice was anointed and Jeremy Bates was brought in, the Bears have stated how their approaches would change to give Cutler the extra time he needs and to utilize some of his special traits. One such approach that the Bears have preached constantly was to employ designed QB rollouts. I have yet to see this used much. What happened to the Bears plans in this area? — Mike Otte, Duarte, Calif.

“The Bears used Cutler on rollouts three times against the Rams, Mike. That’s not very much. I agree with you they should be using rollouts more. When Cutler was in Denver, he was used in moving pockets much more frequently by Mike Shanahan, and he was very effective in those situations. I’ve been banging the drum on this topic since Cutler became a Bear. It makes sense not only because Cutler is good on the move, but also because the Bears have struggled to pass protect. For whatever reason, Bears offensive coordinators Tice, Martz and Ron Turner all have had other ideas. It’s possible rollouts will have a bigger place in game plans moving forward.”

“The Rams played a lot of press man coverage and also used some combination coverage to blanket Marshall. Press man is what the Bears can expect to see from the Cowboys and cornerbacks Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne.”

“Let’s talk about the offense: Do you think it will snap out of this funk? — @Pankster198, from Twitter

“Yes I do. The offense is too good to play the way it has in the last two games. Cutler goes in streaks, and he’s been in a bad one. I anticipate he’ll get on a hot one soon. The offense should be better later in the season if players stay healthy because offensive coordinator Mike Tice should understand the strengths and weaknesses of his players and plays better as time goes on, and new players should integrate more efficiently.”

But I’m sorry to say that I, myself, don’t think this Audible from Pro Football Weekly is far off the mark:

“I don’t know why there has been a love affair in the media with the Bears. The O-line sucks. The running backs are injury-prone. The receivers are overrated. The defense is old. That is not a good football team. And the quarterback (Jay Cutler) has such bad body language. He is very talented, but if they don’t sign him (to an extension), I don’t see anyone paying him a lot of money. Someone would pay him, but it would be a team like Kansas City or Miami, where a job is on the line and they have to win now. It would be a desperation move. When you break him down, he is not very good. He’s taken a step backward.”

  • Chicago Tribune editorial cartoonist Scott Stantis pokes fun at the Bears victory over the Rams on Sunday.

Elsewhere

  • I realize that I”m probably in the minority here but CBS’s insistence on showing the end of each ongoing noon game before taking you to your 3:15 game is very annoying. I don’t want to see flashes of games I haven’t been following just because they are coming to an end, even in over time. I want to see my new game from the beginning so I can judge the changes as it progresses.
  • Really touching Steve Sabol memorial commercial during the Bronco-Texans game (after they finally switched me to it). Great job on that.

From Chase Stuart at The New York Times:

“Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees and Tom Brady were outstanding in 2011. Rodgers broke the passer rating record, and Brees broke the passing yards record. Tom Brady also broke the passing yards record and finished second to Rodgers in Adjusted Net Yards per Attempt (ANY/A). The three quarterbacks were the clear class of the N.F.L., and the Patriots, the Packers and the Saints were the only teams to top 500 points, going a combined 41-7.

“But this year, all three quarterbacks are struggling. Together the teams are a combined 2-7 and barely resemble their 2011 versions. The Patriots are only fifth in the A.F.C. in scoring, while the Packers have outscored only three teams in the N.F.C. Brady ranks 10th in ANY/A so far this year, which is fantastic compared to the ugly spots Brees (23rd) and Rodgers (26th) occupy.”

  • I thought this Audible signaled good things for the Bears:

“I think teams have begun to figure out the Lions. They are very aggressive up front. They get after it (defensively), but the Niners showed you can use it against them and trap the (heck) out of ’em. They are struggling on defense right now.”

If you watched what the Bears did on the offensive line against the Rams, it was exactly this kind of strategy and it worked like a charm in the first half. The Rams eventually adjusted but can the Lions? I have my doubts and even if they do it will take some bite out of the effectiveness of that defensive line.

“I especially enjoy your postgame grading columns. I think it would be great to join you as you review film to come up with the grades so fans could see more into the game than what we only see during the game. — Al Harris

Glad you like the Film Session, Al. If you joined me for one, you might be pretty bored though. It’s a long process that takes hours and hours. I watch most plays over and over and over, pausing, rewinding, playing, pausing, rewinding, playing. Caffeine usually is a prerequisite, especially after a night game!”

Having done this myself before, I can tell you he’s not kidding. It took me an average of 10 hours to completely breakdown a game (with many inaccuracies). In the end I concluded that it was impossible to have a job and do it. Fortunately for Pompei it is his job but I sincerely hope for the sake of his sanity that he’s faster and better than I was.


One Final Thought

I confess that I didn’t even read most of the coverage of the emotional upheaval generated by the Packers-Seahawks game. But it did appear to be becoming dangerous. Like most fans, I was just trying to quietly ride out the referee labor stoppage and enjoy the games as they are. But maybe – just maybe – things really had gotten out of hand. Links from The Onion and The Sports Pickle.

I suppose you know things had gotten bad when this happens. From Fred Mitchell at the Chicago Tribune:

“It was announced Tuesday that SportsBettingOnline.ag is granting all of its members a weekly “Replacement Refs Mulligan,” which can be used to refund any bet that lost because of a controversial call.

“’While we’re an online sportsbook, we’re sports fans first. And this NFL season is unbelievably painful to watch, mainly because of the incompetence of replacement refs,’ Dave Johnson, head oddsmaker at SportsBettingOnline.ag, said in a release. ‘We feel for sports bettors, so we’re giving every one of our members a Replacement Ref Mulligan that they can use once a week.'”