The Qualities of Leadership and Other Points of View

Bears

  • Despite the absence of running back Matt Forte I think you should expect the Bears to get off the bus running this week. The Rams apparently would agree. Jim Thomas at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch quotes linebacker James Laurinaitis:

“‘We have a lot of respect for their ability to run it,’ Laurinaitis said. ‘They’re going to come out running the ball. It’s fun to get back to kind of a normal offense this week. This first week (Detroit) it was a lot of spread-out throwing, and then last week (Washington) a lot of college stuff mixed in.'”

  • Here’s a surprise from Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune :

“Typically, teams that are rooted in the Cover-2 scheme like
the Bears do not invest heavily in cornerbacks, choosing to pour money
into the front seven. But one source said the Bears were involved with
Cortland Finnegan until talks went above $9 million per season.”

I’ve claimed for a while that the Bears need corners who can play at least adequate man coverage. Apparently they agree.

“(Bears rookie DE Shea) McClellin is a high-(sic) effort guy. He has short arms and lacks explosiveness. There is a ceiling for guys like that. He is going to be like the kid in Washington last year (Ryan Kerrigan). He’ll start off playing hot, and as the year goes by, he’ll wear down and go quiet. That’s what happened to Kerrigan last year. All of a sudden his body is not fresh and all that hustle does not get as much. (McClellin) does not have enough in his body. Hustle guys wear down.”

“‘We talked about putting players in position to make plays,’ said Tice, the Bears’ first-year offensive coordinator. ‘We’ve got to do a better job of that, and we will. At the same time, it’s very important that you win the individual battles, and we didn’t win enough of those.'”

Translation: “Now that the [feces] has hit the fan, after a summer of talking about how it was all going to be OK because I was going to compensate for it with my scheme, I finally have come to the realization that we actually need talent to work with on the offensive line. My apologies to Mike Martz.”

“Everybody says great things about Mike Tice and his great coaching of the offensive line. Since he was hired three seasons ago our offensive line has been anything but great. It seems to me he’s not all that. What gives? Gary M., North Highlands, Calif.

“Trust me when I tell you Tice is an outstanding offensive line tutor. He gets the best out of his blockers. Sometimes, the best he gets out of them isn’t good enough.”

“The Bears aren’t waiting for the light to come on and stay on with [left tackle J’Marcus] Webb. Offensive coordinator Mike Tice made that clear when he was asked if his confidence in Webb has waned.

“‘We have seven players who suit up every week and those seven players all get reps with the ones,” Tice said. “And we’re going to try to make sure and make the proper decision of the five guys we’re going to put in there who can protect our quarterback and help us run the ball.’

“Translated, newcomer Jonathan Scott has been getting some work at left tackle with the starters. He was signed Sept. 10 and missed nearly all of training camp with the Lions because of a knee injury. It’s not an ideal situation, but when is it on the Bears’ line?”

“Offensive line coach Tim Holt dissected the tape from the meltdown in Green Bay and came to one simple conclusion about why Webb’s play declined from Week 1.

“‘He just has to use his hands better,’ Holt said. ‘He let (Matthews) get into him a little bit. If he gets his hands on people, he wins.'”

I think the problem goes well beyond that by now. Webb knows to use his hands and I’m sure he’s been coached heavily to do so. That fact that he isn’t doing it indicates that the problem is mental. The physical tools are there and he’s intelligent I’m sure. But He obviously doesn’t have the concentration to play consistently against good opponents for a full three hours ball game.

The Bears have to find another answer. It might not be this year but they’re going to have to do it if they want to comete at the top of the NFL. Becasue Webb’s not going to cut it.

  “But [Webb’s] presence underlines a major problem for the Bears: When you
struggle with pass protection, it is difficult to rally from a deficit. The Bears
need to score early and often and play from a lead. [Bears quarterback Jay] Cutler is too careless with
the ball and the guys in front of him too shaky to pull off many comebacks.

“The Bears under coach Lovie Smith always have been front-runners, often
because they struggled at quarterback. Smith has a 51-10 record when
leading at halftime and a 13-42 mark when trailing. Since gunslinger Cutler’s
arrival they’re 19-4 and 5-18. Sounds like bad news for the Rams.”

“I am wondering if the answer to the Bears offensive line problem is to just ignore max protection and maybe do just the opposite. If they were in a max-attack-type offense I think Cutler would be able to find the open receiver and/or communicate with Brandon Marshall/Earl Bennett for hot reads. It seems too often when they only had two receivers in patterns Cutler was waiting too long for them to get open. Some of Cutler’s best games were when he has had options to throw to, he can slide or even jump up to get the ball out to the open man. What do you think? Grant M.

“I think what you suggest can be a part of the Bears offense, and it has been to a degree. But the Bears would not be able to make a living playing empty backfield with four or five wide receivers running routes. Part of the beauty of the Bears’ personnel and schemes is the offense is somewhat unpredictable. To beat a good defensive coordinator like Dom Capers, you need to be able to do a number of things well, and do them at times when he isn’t expecting you to do them. Playing the type of personnel groups and formations you suggest would make them highly predictable. It also would be a high risk approach. It would probably result in more big plays, but also more interceptions and more sacks.”

  • Sean Jensen at the Chicago Sun-Times is saying that the Rams have a “suspect offensive line”. But I watched them last week and they looked OK to me. Admittedly they were at home but still, Soldier Field isn’t like the Super Dome in New Orleans.
  • Much of this disapproval of Jay Cutler from the media is new. But not from Pompei as he’s been pretty critical from the beginning. He contiunes that here:

“I must be the minority here, but I didn’t mind at all that Jay Cutler bumped J’Marcus Webb on the sidelines. I want my team leader to be fired up and get in guy’s faces. What bothered me about Cutler is how he crumbled after that, throwing up prayers and seemingly not able to adjust to the Packers defense. This seems to be a bigger indictment of lack of leadership, would you agree? Rik, Chicago

“True leadership isn’t about what you say. It’s about what you do. Show me a quarterback who gets the ball in the end zone, overcomes big odds and steps up in the clutch and I’ll show you a leader.”

True enough. But I think if you want to be a really good leader, it goes beyond that. Many people defend Cutler’s actions by saying something to the effect of “Sometimes you have to kick a few butts to get things done.” But is that what the Bears needed as a team at that point?

I would contend that a true team leader would have seen a struggling offense and, instead of yelling “Do better!” would have gotten everyone together, settled them down and guided them by telling them what to do. Instead, Cutler showed his frustration and made things worse. Instead of acting the part of a calming influence, a leader who had things under control and had confidence that the team would come back and do better, Cutler showed his lack of confidence in his teammates and cranked up fears of failure even higher.

Most of the time “leadership” requires the ability to step outside of yourself and give the group what they need to succeed rather than selfishly thinking of your own. Cutler will never be a true leader, no matter how well he performs on the field, because he’ll always lack the ability to do that. He’s far too self-centered.

  • What is constantly a shock to me no matter how often I see it, is how savagely Cutler is attacked whenever possible, not by fans and media, but by his peers and ex-peers. In his article on how to motivate people and whether being tough is always the way to go about it, I think Phil Rosenthal at the Chicago Tribune provides an answer to the question by quoting Bob Sutton, a Stanford University professor and author of “The No (A-word) Rule” and “Good Boss, Bad Boss.”:

“‘If you (act like a jerk) you’ve got to be really competent,’ Sutton said. ‘If you consistently leave people feeling demeaned and de-energized, that’s the point where enemies are lying in wait.'”

Or, as Steve Rosenbloom at the Chicago Tribune succinctly put it as he compared Cutler to Douglas Neidermeyer in the movie Animal House:

“Neidermeyer’s epilog in the movie was ‘killed by his own troops in Vietnam.'”


Video from the Chicago Tribune.

“Cutler’s defenders will point out, accurately, that he has not benefited from
system stability, Pro Bowl wide receivers and consistent pass protection —
especially consistent pass protection.

“But he isn’t the only quarterback who needs to spend some time in the
whirlpool on Mondays.

“Since 2009, [Green Bay quarterback Aaron] Rodgers has been sacked six times more than Cutler in
regular-season games. Ben Roethlisberger has been sacked 11 more, and his
rate of one sack per 12.2 dropbacks is higher than Cutler’s rate of 12.4.

“That has not prevented Roethlisberger from making it to a Pro Bowl and a
Super Bowl in that time span.”

  • Sometimes I think its a shame that even after acquiring Jay Cutler, the Bears’ quarterback situation is still a national joke. But… might as well role with it. From Sports Views:


Elsewhere

  • There is apparently some concern about the performance of quarterback Matthew Stafford in Detroit so far this season. From Justin Rogers at mlive.com:

“Through two games, Stafford has thrown twice as many interceptions, four, as touchdowns, and there has been a general lack of accuracy on many of his throws, including some of his completions.”

“The whole idea is to get the defense moving laterally so the offensive linemen can throw cut blocks that drop big defensive linemen on their faces. Think Gilbert Brown in Super Bowl XXXII.”

“‘You have to be smart,’ [defensive line coach Mike] Trgovac said. ‘I faced this scheme several years in a row in Atlanta when I was at Carolina. They just look for that one guy to cut, that one weak link.

“‘That’s what we worked real hard on, make sure everybody stays in their gap. The more you fly off the ball the easier it is for them to cut you.'”

“One front office man said his team is fine with 5-10 corners as long as the player has long arms. Having long arms enable a cornerback to play taller than he is. ‘They can reach for balls downfield, reach for balls coming back and compete better for contested balls,’ [Seahawks general manager John] Schneider said.

“Long arms help a corner in press coverage too. It’s difficult for a short-armed corner to get a good jam and then turn and run because he has to get too close to the receiver.”

“If the Jets are trying to dispel the notion of a circus, they have a funny way of going about it.”

“That said, Sunday’s biggest headline from Foxboro was the ankle injury to Aaron Hernandez. The third-year tight end is out at least six weeks.”

“Take a look at this statistic from ESPN: “The Patriots used two tight ends on just 20 of 77 offensive plays (Sunday), averaging 3.0 yards per play with two tight ends on the field. The Patriots used two or more tight ends on all 66 plays in Week 1 against the Titans, averaging 5.9 yards per play. Since the start of the 2011 season, the Patriots lead the N.F.L. with 80.1 percent of their offensive plays (926 of 1149) involving at least two tight ends.”

“The Patriots can find a way to win without Hernandez, but it will require rewriting most of their playbook.”

Kellen Winslow can give the Patriots some of the things Aaron Hernandez gives them, but not all of the things. Front office men who have evaluated Winslow recently say he has lost some speed and can’t get downfield the way he used to, or the way Hernandez can. But Winslow still has the ability to separate in a short area, as Hernandez does. If his knee holds up, Winslow can give Bill Belichick another chess piece.”

“If any OL coach says he needs more contact to coach better, I call b.s. Offensive linemen can go out in shorts. It all starts with mental prep — knowing who to block — and technique and footwork. It’s so funny though — you get three OL coaches and you can hear three different reasons for why their line is struggling, and usually, only one of them is right.”

“Indy’s final drive [last week] provided a perfect snapshot for where their rookie quarterback [Andrew Luck] is.”

“What was most revealing on the drive was when [Adam] Vinatieri trotted on the field. There were still 12 seconds left. And his field-goal attempt was a 53-yarder. If it had been, say, Peyton Manning under center – or any star veteran quarterback – the Colts almost certainly would have ran one, maybe two more plays near the sidelines in hopes of getting Vinatieri a few yards closer. But with no timeouts left, Coach Chuck Pagano decided not to push his Luck. That’s fine, it worked out. But let’s all realize that the Colts seem to believe their young quarterback still has a long way to go.”

“Colts’ ‘Suck For Luck’ Strategy Enters Second Season”

  • As someone who doesn’t usually get as upset as he used to when the Bears lose, my first thought as I laughed at this video was “Who does this guy think he’s screaming at.” Then I looked at the number of hits and I realized that its about 20,000 people. Someone must like it.


Stephen A. Smith Thinking Son Is Finally Ready For The Sex Argument”

  • In light of the Buccaneers decision to maul the Giants as they were trying to run out the clock with a kneel down, The Sports Pickle gives us the NFL’s 25 most unwritten rules. This one was one of my favorites:

“5. Take as much HGH as you possibly can before the NFL starts testing for it.”

One Final Thought

I thought this point from the Friday Buzz feature at The National Football Post was interesting:

“If Jon Gruden comes back to the NFL as many suspect, there might not be a long line of established personnel men wanting to work with him. Gruden frustrated people he worked with. He sometimes would set up workouts with players without consulting the front office and operated independently. His negativity also wore on co-workers.”

I always thought Jon Gruden was one of the best head coaches the NFL has seen in recent years. This comment explains a lot about why he’s no longer coaching. One of the worst faults you can have as the leader of a large organization of people is failure to communicate. You leave people in the dark in terms of what’s going on and they resent it. Even when it’s things you don’t think everyone needs to know, leave co-workers in the dark and they begin to wonder what else of a more important nature you didn’t tell them.

Gruden undoubtedly was a control freak who was used to getting his own way as a head coach. He was king of his domain. But when he was put in a situation where input from a large group of front office people was required, he failed to make the proper adjustments. Even for a coach as talented as Gruden, that’s death.

 

Tim Tebow’s Favorite Target and Other Points of View

Bears

  • Mark Potash at the Chicago Sun-Times reports that Shea McClellin is getting first team reps with the nickel defense. The nickel defense is on the field almost half the time. Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune goes on to point out that putitng McClellin at end in passing situations allows them to put Israel Idonije at tackle.
  • Potash thinks they should hold Brian Urlacher out until the Lions game in October.
  • Steve Rosenbloom at the Chicago Tribune and I see eye to eye:

“Brian Urlacher’s injury gets all the attention, but [defensive tackle Stephen] Paea and his injury expose two problems: The depth at defensive tackle is questionable, and more importantly, the talent at that spot has not proven to be game-changing consistently.”

I had high hopes for Paea this year. He might still come through but this is the kind of early setback that tends to have ramifications that last into the season.

“But it’s practice. You got to do it,” he told Fox. “I think just the shock of being out there so long and doing so many movements like that was too much for my knee.”

The longer practices are a result of the collective bargaining agreement limiting the number of days a team can practice and how much contact there can be. So if Urlacher is correct its ironic that he has his own union to blame for worsening the injury.

Chris [Williams] is a very smart guy,” Tice said. “He figures it out very fast. The one thing he doesn't do is make mental mistakes.”

This is, of course, the issue. The Bears really want Webb to win the job but they aren't going to put up with the mental errors this year. What's particularly frustrating is that Webb's mistakes should be easily corrected. But for whatever reason he just can't seem to be able to concentrate. One more offsides penalty in a preseason game might be the end of Webb as the left tackle. And, based upon this quote via Jensen, I think Webb knows it:

“'I feel like I am doing what Coach is asking me to do,' Williams said. 'Trying not to make any mistakes. I'll let the rest sort itself out.'”

Biggs sums up the situation very well as amply later in the week:

“[J'Marcus] Webb vs. Williams: Maybe this would be more accurately described J'Marcus Webb vs. himself.”

  • Of course Rosenblom wants to know whose head should be put on a platter for allowing the left tackle situation to develop as it has. The real question is where were you going to find a left tackle? There weren't any real freeagents worthy of the posiiton and the only prospect vailable to the Bears in the draft was Riley Reiff, a player who many doubted fit the position. So if you are looking for someone to blame you are going to have to take a good look at the previous regime in the front office.
  • Vaughn McClure’s impresson of defensive end Corey Wootton’s play last Thursday matched my own.

“Third-year defensive end Corey Wootton got a chance Thursday to measure how far he has come. Wootton, who started the exhibition game against the Broncos as Peppers rested, matched up against Ryan Clady, one of the top tackles in the league.

“Wootton was far from perfect, but he held his own on a few plays.”

‘‘'We’re going to keep things pretty basic,' said Cutler, who didn’t play in the preseason opener against the Denver Broncos last week. 'What we unroll against the Redskins isn’t the final product.'

“'We want to get in and out of the huddle. We want to execute plays. But it’s not going to be the end of the world if we’re not clicking on all cylinders.'”

  • Steeler's offensive coordinator Todd Haley talks about quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. But he might as well be descibing the situaiton with Cutler. From Sam Farmer at the Los Angeles Times:

“'You rely on that in emergency situations,' Haley said. 'When you make a bad call, or there's a breakdown up front or with the back, or something doesn't go the way it's supposed to, you have a guy that can get you out of trouble better than anybody else.

“'You don't just drop him back and say, 'Hey, work the field.' If you do that, you're going to be watching him dive and keep plays alive all the time. But those are also situations where he's put in harm's way.'”

What Haley's is saying is that he wants Roethlisberger to drop back and get rid of the ball. that doesn't appear to be an option with Cutler, who simply cannot throw with anticipation which is the reason he didn't get along in former offensive coordinator Mike Martz's offense. It will be interesting to see if Roethlisberger can make the adjustment.

  • Matt Bowen at the Chicago Tribune explains how the Bears are likely to use wide receiver Earl Bennett.

This anonymous quote from Pro Football Weekly's Audibles section caught my attention:

“Everyone knows how good (Bill) Belichick is. John Harbaugh has come into Baltimore as a special-teams coach and done an outstanding job. We saw (Bears special-teams coach) Dave Toub get head-coaching consideration in Jacksonville last year. His special-teams units are one of the best in the league year after year. He’s a former strength coach like (Bears GM) Phil Emery. The Bears went into their pipeline to find the new GM. I’m not so sure the next head coach is not on staff already. You've got two coordinators (Mike Tice, Rod Marinelli) who have done it, but the one who hasn’t, I think, may be the most ready.”

There are a couple things that interest me here. 1) This personnel man assumes that Lovie Smith will be fired at the end of the year (meaning they aren't headed for very good things). 2) He's targeted Dave Toub to replace him. Toub is certainly deserving of a head coaching shot and would be a facinating candidate. But picking someone from the staff may not be enough of a change to satisfy most fans.

Elsewhere

  • Dan Pompei at the Chicago Tribune profiles former Illinois kicker Derek Dimke , who is in Detriot's training camp:

“Dimke initially kept calling [current starter Jason] Hanson, who is 20 years his senior, “sir.” Hanson eventually told him to knock it off.”

“After a crunching collision between multiple Raiders and Kolb behind the line of scrimmage early in the second quarter, defensive lineman Tommy Kelly said as he made it to the sideline, 'That boy’s scared,' according to the Raiders TV broadcast being streamed through NFL.com’s Preseason Live package.”

  • Pompei thinks it might be interesting to keep an eye on former Bears safety Brandon Meriweather tonight:

“'I know in Chicago it was mainly two, three deep (coverage),' [Redskins coach Mike] Shanahan said. 'He is more of a safety like he was in New England, a box guy who plays a lot of different coverages. I’m not sure he’s a very good straight two deep or three deep player. But our scheme kind of fits what he does. And I like the time we’re getting him. Whatever happened in Chicago, he has to come in here and fit in. I’m hoping he keeps playing at this level.'”

Translation: “The Bears misused him.” I'm not sure I buy that, though. Meriweather's problems with Lovie Smith really had more to do with discipline on the field, I think.

  • Here's another thought provoking Audible:

“New England, I think, is going to dry up. The quarterback (Tom Brady) is on his way down and I don’t think he’s surrounded by the same amount of talent he was earlier in his career. The other one to me that is on the downswing is New Orleans. We’ll see if (Drew) Brees is worth everything they put into him. There are a lot of good teams out there. It was a different game last year with the lockout ­— and it favored teams like the Patriots and Saints.”

“It’s easier to know who to block when you are facing a four-man front, and that ultimately translates to better quarterback play. As an offensive guy — I can tell you — the 3-4 (front) is more difficult to play against. I think you see a lot more quarterbacks with the deer-in-headlights look when they’re dealing with ‘30’ fronts. It’s more difficult to decipher. Why do you think (Peyton) Manning has the hardest time with the Chargers? It helps if your secondary can be great window dressers, showing three deep and playing two, but there is no disguise as effective as surprising quarterbacks with the rush. … The trend moved toward the 3-4 a few years ago. Now it’s trending back toward the ‘40’ (front).”

“The White Fan Favorite

“This guy is usually a combination between The Late-Round Project and The Undrafted Superstar. Except he’s white. And he probably already has sold 5,000 jerseys. But it’s not so much a racial thing, it’s just that … I don’t know … a lot of fans identify with him somehow.

“It could be because chances are he’ll be just like them in a few weeks in that he also won’t be employed as an NFL football player.”

One Final Thought

TIm Tebow appears to developing chemistry with his favorite target in Jets camp. From The Onion:

“'As we get into camp, more and more often Tim has been throwing to the ground,' center Nick Mangold said. 'During plays, he just has this instinct for finding the ground every time. It’s becoming apparent to everyone on the team that the ground is Tim’s go-to target.'”

 

The Bears Could Afford to Be a Little Less Bland in the Preseason and Other Points of View

Bears

  • Here’s a good point made by cornerback Charles Tillman here. Via the Chicago Tribune:

 

“On what he will take away from playing a couple of series in this game
“‘My wind, tackling. Tackling is always a big deal the first game. Guys are sometimes overrunning the ball because it’s live [for the first time]. That’s the thing you want to work on right now, live tackling, because we’re missing a lot of tackles.’”

 

Tackling tends to be an overlooked skill for most of us.Until it all turns bad during the season and its to late to do anything about it. I can't recall a single media reference to how well the Bears tackled Thurday night, which is a good indicator of how they did. Now is the time to practice the fundamentals and get them down.

 

  • Good point here by Vaughn McClure at the Chicago Tribune as well:

 

Nickel of time: D.J. Moore seemed rather bold the other day when he said no one could challenge him for his spot at nickel back. Moore went out and backed up his words immediately Thursday night.”

 

Moore tipped the ball that was intercepted by Major Wright Thursday night.

 

 

2. Why are NFL teams so afraid to show 'too much too soon'? How good is a game plan, a scheme or a play if the element of surprise is so critical to its success? Is it that hard to devise enough plays and wrinkles that opponents won't know what to expect?”

 

I know they want to keep things conservative in terms of play calling. But come on. How can you evaluate players if you don't let them play?

 

You don't have to call a bunch of fancy blitzes but would a few deep passes and some press coverage have really hurt all that much?

 

 

“McClellin will fit in well because he gives the defense something it didn't have. He will get steamrolled at times like he did Thursday, but he will put a lot of offensive players on the ground and disrupt a lot of plays.”

 

The offensive linemen that McClellin saw in the first half did, indeed, steam roll him any time there was a run to his side. For those looking for more encouraging signs, however, McClellin showed promise as a pass rusher and to my eye he played the run much better in the second half.

 

 

“‘He’s a left end, not a right end,’ the scout said of McClellin. ‘To me, he is really truly a better fit as a 3-4 sam (strong-side) linebacker. You’re never going to see him be special off the edge. He’ll be a pain in your ass and he’s strong but that’s my opinion.’

“Too many people have wondered about the possibility McClellin could one day move to middle linebacker, so I bounced that scenario off the scout. He scoffed at the notion, pointing out the athleticism of Brian Urlacher far exceeds McClellin.

“‘If you’re talking inside, I could see him as a two-down inside linebacker in a 3-4,’ the scout said. ‘But in a 4-3 defense? No, that is not the answer for this kid. The Bears will play him at end and he’s going to be a high-motor player for them.’”

 

  • The scout also commented on other aspects of the game. Here is a cross-section:

 

Alshon Jeffery is not agile enough to beat press coverage at the line of scrimmage and ‘needs to develop into one of those Keyshawn Johnson-type guys that is physical.’”

“The fourth quarterback (Matt Blanchard) didn’t look too bad until he started looking at receivers instead of reading coverage.”

“The tight end (Kellen Davis) is just Average Joe and the guys behind him are really Average Joes.”

 

 

‘‘’Matt has that knack,’ said Mike DiMatteo, his coach at Lake Zurich from 2003-05, ‘it’s something you can’t put your finger on. But he’s one of those guys with that knack [for winning]. He’s absolutely fearless. He’s not afraid of a challenge. And he’s a tough kid. It’s pretty ­impressive.’’’

‘‘’To walk into a stadium [Thursday night] that was holding more people than he’s ­probably ever been in front of in his life,’’ [Bears general manager Phil] Emery said, ‘to throw that long ball and be accurate in the short area and to carry himself with poise under duress in a very charged environment says everything about him.’’’

 

 

“The Bears re-signed Tim Jennings this offseason before going to the free-agent well to add competition for him at left corner. Early signals from training camp indicate that Jennings still has a fairly secure lead in the position battle, though. Former Colt and Falcon Kelvin Hayden, the top competitor for Jennings' job, has not stood out as much as Jennings in practice, we hear, and Hayden is the third corner on the depth chart at this point.”

 

  • A few other observations of my own that havne’t been emphasized elsewhere and weren’t worth a separate post.

 

  1. Other than Israel Idonije, the defensive linemen were thoroughly handled by the Bronco’s starting offensive line in the absence of Julius Peppers. I thought things got better once the backups got in.
  2. Gabe Carimi looked a step slow. It could just have been rust but it did make me wonder if his knee is still bothering him.
  3. The Bears receivers struggled to get separation from press coverage but I thought Josh McCown looked sharp most of the time. His balls were on time and exactly where they needed to be. I agree with the scout quoted above on Blanchard.
  4. It's just a preseason game but if I’m a Bronco fan, I’m mildly perturbed by all of those penalties. They’ll need to clean that up.

 

 

Elsewhere

  • Darin Gantt at profootballtalk.com highlights the problems Cardinals’ quarterback Kevin Kolb is having. I’m going to be interested in seeing how things go with Seattle quarterback Matt Flynn, another highly touted backup who headed for better things with another team. At least Flynn got some good coaching in Green Bay before he left.
  • Chris Mortenson at ESPN reports that Cedric Benson is close to signing with Green Bay.

 

There’s no mystery as to why Benson has had a tough time finding a team. He runs really hard but he not only isn’t a good receiver out of the backfield, he doesn’t even try. And he’s not a good blocker.

 

No one asked him to do any of that when he was at Texas. Now that he’s with the big boys he can’t find anyone who isn’t asking him to do it.

 

Frankly, as desperate as they are for help at running back, I’m surprised Green Bay is interested. My first thought was that this rumor was actually planted by the agent just to generate some interest.

 

 

“We hear it’s still unclear how a fullback will be used in the Patriots’ offense, but it did seem to be one of the team’s focal points this offseason after adding Spencer Larsen and Tony Fiammetta. The Pats placed Fiammetta on the exempt-left squad list, leaving Larsen as the one to make the team as a No. 1 fullback. Josh McDaniels had Heath Evans as a fullback in New England during his first stint as the team’s offensive coordinator, and Larsen was with him in Denver. The Pats have used extra linemen and versatile players in the past as lead blockers, but getting more efficiency from that spot with a prototypical fullback like Larsen is still an option — late last season New England brought FB Lousaka Polite aboard.”

 

 

“Johnson and his wife went to a restaurant for dinner. They returned home and she found a receipt for a box of condoms, [Davie Police Department Capt. Dale] Engle said.

An argument ensued, Engle said.

“’It gets pretty heated,’ Engle said. ‘By the time they get home here in Davie it's pretty heated. She alleges he leaned over and head butted her. He says she leaned towards him and that they butted heads. Needless to say she has a good laceration on her forehead.’”

 

 

One Final Thought

The toughest teachers I’ve ever had were the ones I learned the most from and often (though not always) were the ones I ended up liking the best. So I thought this quote from former Bear defensive end Alex Brown was of interest. Via Biggs:

“[Former defensive coordinator Greg] Blache let you know what your job was and when you didn’t do your job, he let you know. I am saying it in the nicest way possible, OK? He said it in a pretty mean way. As a grown man, you didn’t think you’d be talked to like that, you know? He was different and I wouldn’t change it for anything because it made me tougher as a person. As a player, it gave me that thick skin that I needed to play in the NFL. I enjoyed it. I loved him. I really, really appreciate him. It was great.”

 

Quick Comments: NFL Draft First Round

  1. Did the Vikings play the Browns?  Hard to tell. Tampa Bay may have been threatening to move into the pick.  Trent Richardson was considered to be the best prospect in the draft by some analysts.
  2. Why so many trades?  It’s likely because there’s a rookie wage scale. Teams are a lot more likely to trade picks if they know it won’t cost them an arm and a leg in addition to draft picks.
  3. I’m guessing that when Tampa Bay traded back to the seventh pick they thought that they were going to get Morris Claiborne. Then Jaguars took Justin Blackmon and the Rams were likely going to go to another need position.  The Cowboys probably foiled the plan when they traded up to jump ahead of the Bucs. Mark Barron is fine but there wouldn’t have been a thing wrong with Stephon Gilmore in that slot, either.
  4. The Eagles needed to trade ahead of the Rams at 14 because they would have grabbed Fletcher Cox in a heart beat. Nice work getting into the 12 spot by trading with Seattle.
  5. Bruce Irvin at 15, Seattle?  Really?
  6. I was sure the Bears were going to go with left tackle Riley Reiff when he got past St. Louis. Instead they went with the defensive end.
  7. I experienced some disquiet when I saw the Lions benefit from the Bears pass to take Reiff.
  8. Quinton Coples fell but not too far to the Jets at 16.  He’s going to be fascinating to watch.  If he becomes a higher effort guy, he could be one of the best players from this draft.
  9. The Patriots traded up twice in the first round?  Who saw that coming?  I can’t say it was a bad idea, though.  Chandler Jones at 21 and Dont’a Hightower at 25 were both great pickups for their defense.  I’m sure Houston would have nabbed Hightower at 26 and if not them, then Baltimore later in the round.  Jones was a fast riser who might not have lasted long, either.
  10. Shea McClellin does fit the Bears in a lot of ways. I thought the Bears might be scared off by the reported three concussions that McClellin sustained but perhaps they bought into McClellin’s denial that this was the case.
  11. McClellin is apparently a high motor, high effort guy who I think most Bear fans are going to like.  He has the reputation of being a tweener who many thought would be a better fit as a 3-4 linebacker.  Assuming he plays end with the Bears, he won’t see as many double teams with Julius Peppers on the other side.  He’ll probably need work against the run.
  12. Pro Football Weekly has McClellin rated as going at the top of the second round.
  13.  The Bears filled a need but was he the best player available?  I have my doubts.  There were a lot of high rated offensive linemen on the board that the Bears probably didn’t anticipate would be there.  They used their offseason to set up to take a defensive linemen only to see Riley Reiff, David DeCastro, and Cordy Glenn fall to them.  They recently signed guard Chico Rachal with the possible intention of moving Chris Williams back to tackle.  I’m wondering if they might have handled their offseason differently had they known DeCastro and Reiff would be there.

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly Brandon Marshall Acquisition. And Other Points of View.

Bears

  • Sean Jensen at the Chicago Sun-Times points out some of the many positives about the Bears trade of two third round draft picks for wide receiver Brandon Marshall:

“The Bears were linked to Vincent Jackson, a two-time Pro Bowl selection. But Jackson is nearly two years older than Marshall, who turns 28 on March 23, and his price tag was much higher. Jackson signed a five-year contract with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers that averages $11.1 million a year, nearly $2??million more than Marshall.”

“Marshall joins the Arizona Cardinals’ Larry Fitzgerald and the Atlanta Falcons’ Roddy White as the only receivers to top 1,000 receiving yards in each of the last five seasons. He holds the NFL record with 21 catches in a single game.”

“What Marshall can do, with size and explosiveness, is make big plays. He had 16 receptions of 25 yards or more last year, which was fourth most in the NFL according to Stats.”

“He was the star of stars at the last Pro Bowl and was awarded the most valuable player award for catching six passes for 174 yards and four touchdowns. He owns the NFL single-game record for catches with 21 against the Colts in 2009.”

“Marshall should make Cutler better quickly, according to one pro scout, because he will give him more margin for error.

“’Brandon is bigger than Devin Hester or Johnny Knox, so Cutler can throw it to an area and Marshall can go get it,’ he said. ‘That makes Cutler more accurate.’”

“If history is an indicator, Marshall will be high maintenance in the locker room and away from Halas Hall.”

“Marshall better get the football.

“If he does not, he can be disruptive. Marshall has a history of complaining and pouting if things don’t go his way.”

  • And Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune also makes a good point:

“Marshall, 6-foot-4, 230 pounds, is also known as a rugged blocker in the running game, something that will make him an ideal fit for new coordinator Mike Tice.”

  • At least I think we’ve seen the last of this anyway:

“Symbolically and otherwise, striking with the Marshall trade so soon after free agency began illustrated [general manager Phil] Emery understood the urgency of fixing the Bears’ offense before anything else.”

No matter what you think of the moves Emery made yesterday, one thing is certain.  He did act decisively and with urgency to fill some needs.  A good sign.  A better one will be if he turns out to have gotten the right guys.

  • Jensen also points out one major disadvantage to the trade for Marshall:  the fact that he eats up a lot of their available cap space.  The Bears had roughly $24 million in space before the Marshall signing and he will account for almost $10 million of that.  $14 million probably won’t allow them to sign a Mario Williams and take care of their draft picks and other free agents at the same time.  So Williams is probably not a possibility any more.
  • Pompei agrees that the Bears are likely out of the running for Williams. He suggests alther options such as re-signing Israel Idonije and/or making a run at Kamerion Wimbley if the Raiders cut him.  The Raiders need to either guaranteed $17.5 million by Sunday or let him walk.   They don’t currently have the cap space to do that.
  • Jensen also reports on the signing of back up quarterback Jason Campbell.  Campbell played well for the Raiders last year before being injured, going 4-2 as a starter.
  • Pompei also had this to say after the Campbell signing:

“Although veteran Josh McCown did some good things toward the end of last season, some in the organization view him as a No. 3 quarterback.”

I think your number 3 had better be a developmental guy.  An interesting question that will need ot be answered in the coming months is whether Nathan Enderle will be that guy or will it be someone else?

“’I always respected what he did and how he worked at his craft — and he’s not the biggest guy, he’s not the strongest guy,’ [49ers special teams coach Brad] Seely told the Associated Press this last season. ‘But he’s one of those guys that his whole is much better than the parts. What he brings on Sunday is really a unique situation for us in special teams in the sense that he’s really good at his job.’”

“’I’m happy. I’m satisfied,’ Jennings said. ‘I got it over and done with. I just wanted the Bears to show me love. I feel like I’ve put in a good amount of the work the last few years. I didn’t really want to test free agency out. I just wanted to be wanted. Free agency wasn’t an option.’”

“The move means the team no longer has cornerback as a major need, though the Bears still could use a corner.  It is likely the team will either draft a cornerback or sign a free agent who is not in high demand.”

“The Bears coaching staff would like to see him make more plays on the football.”

Yes, the Bears still need a corner.  Jennings is good insurance but they’d rather have someone better, I think.  After all is said and done, fans will recall that the Bears did bench Jennings at one point last year for allowing too many big plays.  His resigning is probably more an indication that they didn’t see anyone in free agency that they thought they could sign at the right price and they didn’t want to gamble on finding the right guy in the draft.

“What are the chances of the Bears signing a left tackle and a wide receiver in free agency and going heavy on defense in the draft to add some much needed youth on that side of the ball? — Steve Larsen; Sebring, Fla.

“I like the way you are thinking Steve. I wouldn’t get too excited about landing a left tackle in free agency though. The left tackle free agent class will be very, very thin — possibly non-existent. And the last we heard, the Bears are confident that J’Marcus Webb can improve enough to handle the position. But the idea of going with defense in the draft is a good one. The Bears defense doesn’t just need to add good players, it needs to add good, young players.”

I really don’t understand why the Bears are stuck on J’Marcus Webb as the left tackle of the future.  Virtually everyone else who has eyes can see that Webb doesn’t have what it takes to handle the position.  In a division full of excellent defensive linemen, they need a left tackle badly.

  • On a related note, Khaled Elsayed at Pro Football Focus tells us how much they love free agent Eric Winston, who was just released from the Houston Texans.  Winston is a right tackle but the Bears could be in the market if they’re willing to move either him or Gabe Carimi to the left.  Probably the best free agent lineman is still Jared Gaither, who is a true left tackle.  He is still a possibility.
  • On the other hand, we have this question to Pompei:

“Given how hard it is to get good, starting offensive tackles in free agency, should the Bears draft an OLT in the first round and use free agency to upgrade at WR and DE? If not, who will be the Bears swing tackle in 2012? — Paul Taylor; Chandler, Ariz.

“If a left tackle who is an excellent value is available at 19, I’d have no problem if the Bears selected him. I don’t suspect that will be the case, however. There probably are three offensive tackles worth taking that high — Matt Kalil of Southern Cal, Riley Reiff of Iowa and Jonathan Martin of Stanford. My hunch is all three will be off the board by the time the Bears pick, and better values will be available at other positions. The Bears’ swing tackle in 2012 very well could be Chris Williams, or, if Williams wins a starting offensive tackle job, the swing tackle could be Webb. Either way, at this point it looks like Williams is moving back to tackle.”

I note that Mel Kiper at ESPN has both Bobby Massie and Mike Adams ranked above Jonathan Martin in his position rankings.  Adams, at least, projects as a left tackle.  In fact, Kiper has him going to the Bears in his latest mock draft.  Adams posted disappointing numbers in the bench press at the combine.  But I’m guessing that how Adams performed on tape is what’s going to count with Emery.

Adams was an inconsistent performer but when he was on, he showed immense talent on the field.  He might be a guy to watch.

“Will the Bears draft an outside linebacker and start him or sign a free agent? Nick Roach is an average linebacker at best. — Tawone Miller, Chicago

“I think there is a good chance the starting linebackers in 2012 will be Roach, Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs. I don’t believe the Bears will actively try to replace Roach, though there is a chance they could draft a linebacker in the high rounds with the thought that he will be an eventual replacement for Urlacher or Briggs. If that player can be an immediate upgrade from Roach, he could start out as the strong side linebacker this year. The only other complicating factor in the linebacker scenario is Briggs’ unhappiness with his contract. There remains a chance Briggs could play elsewhere this season, but I think it’s a slim chance.”

Its been easy to ignore the linebacker position with Urlacher and Briggs as steady performers.  But I think everyone agrees that its high time the Bears paid some attention to it.

  • Head coach Lovie Smith had lunch with wide receiver Stephen Hill, a potential draft pick.  Hill impressed at the combine with his size and speed but isn’t known for having very good hands.  He sounds to me like a Raider but safe to say the Bears are interested.  Via Biggs.
  • On a related note, ESPN NFC North blogger Kevin Seifert points out that Smith was on hand to watch wide receiver Justin Blackmon workout.  As the Bears have absolutely no shot at drafting Blackmon, I can only assume there’s another Okalahoma State player on their radar.

Elsewhere

  • Probably the most disturbing aspect of the New Orleans Saints bounty program isn’t the involvement of defensive coordinator Gregg Williams.  Its the involvement of a somewhat shady character named Michael Ornstein, who is profiled by the web site Dead Spin here.   Ornstein is a close friend and confidant of Sean Payton.

“Ornstein on at least four occasions pledged his own money to the Saints’ defense’s bounty fund. In 2009, $10,000 toward knocking an opposing quarterback out of the game. In 2011, two separate contributions to targeting the quarterback. And on at least one other occasion, Ornstein pledged his money in an email to Payton, which spelled out the details of the bounty program.

“The NFL knows this because it has that email, a highly incriminating paper trail that makes it impossible for Payton to argue his innocence, or for the Saints to claim the bounty never left the locker room. It might be the single most damaging piece of evidence, based solely on Ornstein’s history.”

“As you assuredly know, the Vikings were on track to have the NFL’s second-worst record before they defeated the Redskins 33-26 in Week 16. (Tailback Adrian Peterson also suffered a major knee injury in that game, an unrelated but no less serious event.) After Friday night’s trade, we now know the difference between winning and losing that game was two future first-round picks and a second-rounder.”

“What were people saying at the beginning of last season? With no OTAs or much time for installation — the veteran teams that kept it simple and relied on one playbook instead of three would be the ones left standing. There were a lot of other reasons for it, too — don’t get me wrong. But I think there is a lot of truth to it for the last four coaches that were standing.”

“Yet according to sources, Tebow paid Broncos defensive players Von Miller, Brian Dawkins and Elvis Dumervil more than $50,000 each over the course of the season for helping opposing players back to their feet after tackling them.”

Where does it all end?!

  • And finally, The Onion scoops everyone with this headline:  “Wes Welker Signs 2-Foot Extension With Patriots”.

One Final Thought

Apparently Biggs had the same thought a lot of us did when he heard about the Brandon Marshall trade:

“But it’s more than curious the Dolphins would let go of the 27-year-old Marshall for so little, especially since the offense new coach Joe Philbin is installing relies on wide receivers more than any in the league. Also, the Redskins went all-out for wide receivers in free agency and Marshall’s former coach Mike Shanahan didn’t deal for him.”

Of course, there are the usual concerns that we all knew about, a list of transgressions, arrests and general troubles that is about a “mile high”.

“Marshall has had issues off the field. In school at Central Florida, he was charged with assault on a law enforcement officer. He pleaded a DUI arrest in Colorado down to driving while impaired.

“The Rocky Mountain News reported sheriff’s deputies were called to Marshall’s home 11 times in a 21/2-year span. In 2008, he put his arm through a television set, a story he originally explained by saying he slipped on a McDonald’s wrapper. In March 2009, he was charged with disorderly conduct following a disagreement with his fiancee, now wife, in Atlanta.”

And lets not forget this one:

“Last April, Marshall’s wife, Michi Nogami-Marshall, was arrested after allegedly stabbing Marshall.”

All of this was explained away as Marshall said after the April incident that he was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder, a mental illness that leads those who suffer from it to struggle with relationships, mood control and emotions.

So he’s been troubled and he has a history of mental illness which he now has under control right?  So what’s with the low price tag?  Suddenly, late last night, the reason was revealed:

“Monday night, [Marshall] was involved peripherally in an incident at a New York club in which his wife was hit with a bottle during an altercation neither of them was part of, according to a statement from Marshall’s attorney, Harvey Steinberg. He said Marshall took his wife to a hospital where she was treated for ‘serious injuries’ and Marshall hopes to ‘assist authorities’ regarding the matter.”

Of course, given that he initially claimed that he “slipped on a McDonald’s wrapper” in the 2008 incident above, you knew this wasn’t going to be the end of the story:

“The New York Post, however, reported the episode took place around 4 a.m. Sunday and that Christin Myles filed a police report saying that during the fracas Marshall hit her in the left eye, blackening it.”

For those of you who think all of this is irrelevant and that all that counts is what he does on the field, think again.  Given the laundry list of troubles above, I think you can count on at least a four game suspension is any part of that New York Post story turns out to be true.  Indeed, Florio also makes this relevant point:

“The question then becomes, if the Dolphins knew, did the Bears?  And will the Bears care?  There could be some rule or bylaw somewhere allowing the Bears to bail on this one if the Dolphins were aware of pertinent information and failed to share it.”

I think a lot of Bear fans would also like to know if their new general manager hasn’t already blown his first major acquisition by not investigating the situation throughly enough.

Regardless, whether the Bears knew about the incident or not, I don’t think the Bears are going to bail on the trade.  Besides the fact that they are unlikely to admit that they didn’t do their due diligence, they need Marshall too badly.  And that highlights the real problem.

This is what happens when a franchise is mismanaged the way the Bears have been over the last five or six years.  It all comes down to the draft.  Without players in the system, you are left to try to make up the talent difference through other means.  That means picking through other teams trash in free agency or, as in this case, actually paying for it.   That was the case in 2009 when they traded for Jay Cutler because they couldn’t draft a quarterback and its the case now.

What’s worse, because the Bears have decided to compete now rather than playing for the future, they paid for Miami’s trash in draft picks.  And that’s really why this trade is disturbing.  Just like the situation three years ago with Cutler, the Bears now have fewer options in the draft to solve the real issue.  Which means they’ll probably have to dip into trades and free agency even more in the future to make up the difference.  Its a spiral of death that any Washington Redskin fan can appreciate.

The Brandon Marshall trade highlights how desperate the Bears long-term situation really is.  And it also highlights the short-sighted direction they have decided to take in order to solve the problem.  Given that they are trading draft picks to maintain competitiveness and that even the ones they have will take years to accumulate and develop, we won’t probably see things get better for a long time.

Lovie Smith Apparently Thinks We’re Morons. And Other Points of View.

Bears

“Bates turned down an opportunity to interview with the Bears and sources indicated it was because of a communication issue with former general manager Jerry Angelo.”

You have to wonder if “communication issue” isn’t code for something else.  I’m sure the odd situation at Halas Hall where Angelo interfered with the coaches wasn’t lost on Bates.

“If I’m a Bears fan, I wouldn’t get caught up in titles too much concerning why Bates wasn’t hired as passing-game coordinator. That is all it is, a title.”

Then why didn’t they give it to him? I think the answer can be found as John Mullin at CSNChicago.com opines that the hiring of Bates portends changes in the offense.  I don’t agree and, in fact, Bates’ background in the West Coast Offense is probably the real reason he wasn’t given the title of passing game coordinator.  He’s probably not familiar enough with the scheme Tice wants to run to be of much use in that capacity, at least for a while.

“In terms of being one-and-done in Seattle, it relates more to Matt Hasselback than any failures by Bates. Hasellback had been in the west-coast Offense his entire career under Mike Holmgren. There were certain principles in the offense, I believe, Matt felt very strongly about over years of experience executing the system. Bates arrived in Seattle with his own set of beliefs in the system under [Jon] Gruden and Mike Shanahan’s tutelage as well.

“Yes, it is the same offense but areas of emphasis and how it is executed normally morph under whoever is calling the plays. Hence, the statement ‘philosophical differences’ when Bates was relieved of his offensive play-calling duties, despite making the playoffs while in Seattle.”

“Why was Jeremy Bates out of football last year? Did he get fired in Seattle and if he is so good why didn’t he have a job in the NFL this past season? — Chip, Wichita

“Bates was fired in Seattle for a couple of reasons, according to people I’ve spoken with who are familiar with the situation. The primary reason is the Seahawks offense wasn’t very good. The second reason is he didn’t mesh well with everyone in the building. He is known for being a bit prickly. He is, however, a football junkie who has a passion for the game and is good at what he does. A lot of head coaches are leery of adding a coach who is potentially combustible, which explains why Bates was out of football last year.”

“What do you think the chances are that the Bears go after Jermichael Finley in free agency? I’m assuming that new offensive coordinator Mike Tice will utilize the tight end much more than Mike Martz considering he actually played the position in the league… — Mike Clark; Hawley, Penn.”

“It might come down to whether or not the Bears want to invest in a big time wide receiver or a big time tight end, assuming Finley hits the open market. You can’t have everything you want because cash and cap space are limited. Finely would be an outstanding addition to the Bears because of the reasons you delineated. But adding him would not alleviate the need for a wide receiver. We have to be careful about making too many assumptions about how Tice wants to use the tight end. Just because he used to be a tight end doesn’t mean anything. Martz is a former tight end too. In Tice’s time in Minnesota, his tight ends were not big parts of the offense in his first two years. But in both of his last two years, tight end Jermaine Wiggins led the team in catches.

1)  I don’t think investing in a tight end in free agency is a wise move.  I’m not sure of the current statisitics but at one time it was the most injured position in football.

2)  Actually Tice did try to use Jim Kleinsasser  to create mismatches in his first years as Vikings head coach.  The problem was that the Vikings weren’t too successful at it.  Here’s hoping that he’s more successful with the Bears.

“Who would you rather see in a Bears uniform next year: Vincent Jackson or Marques Colston? Both players seem to possess the talent and size of a number one wide receiver. Is there are possibility that the Bears sign one of these free agents? — Phil Keith, Milwaukee

“They are similar wide receivers. Both are very good players. Both have been very productive. Both players cause mismatches because of their size. Both have benefited from playing with outstanding quarterbacks and in ideal conditions. Their hands are decent, not great. Even though both players are about the same size (6-5, 230 for Jackson versus 6-4, 225 for Colston), Jackson is a more physical receiver. Colston might be a little faster and moreexplosive. From what I’m hearing, both could be available, probably at a price of about $9 million a year. Jackson might be a better fit for the NFC North, but either would look good in a Bears uniform. Jackson and Colston aren’t the only attractive potential free agent wide receiver for the Bears. Others who could be on the market include Dwayne Bowe, Josh Morgan, Robert Meachem, Wes Welker, Reggie Wayne, DeSean Jackson, Mario Manningham, Laurent Robinson and Plaxico Burress.

Kendall Wright*, WR, Baylor

“The Bears have not spent a first-round pick on a wide receiver since David Terrell in 2001, and at some point they have to pull the trigger on a playmaker for QB Jay Cutler. A versatile speedster who can threaten defenses vertically and is dangerous after the catch, Wright is on the rise after catching 108 passes for 1,663 yards and hauling in 14 touchdowns in 2011.”

There are very few reasonable things the Bears could do in this draft that I would object to.  But this pick would make me very unhappy.  Wright is only 5’10” and its doubtful he would help a Bear receiving corp that can’t get off the line of scrimmage.  They’re looking for a better version of Roy Williams.

“Assuming the Bears address their biggest need and finally get Jay Cutler a legit No.1 receiver this offseason, don’t you think they should trade Johnny Knox as well?… — Martin G., Philadelphia

“The trade market for wide receivers in body casts usually isn’t too inviting.”

LOL.

I think its funny that had to actually create a category, “Biggest mistake II”, just to get  Bear in there.  The Roy Williams signing was nowhere the the magnitude of “Biggest mistake I” Donovan McNabb.

Let’s face it.  The Bears were a pretty ‘blah” team.

“More Snaps

Corey Graham: +3.4 from 89 snaps

“Sure it’s a small sample size, but there was enough in watching Graham fill in for D.J. Moore covering the slot to wonder just how the special team’s ace would handle a role as part of the defense. The soon-to-be free agent did more in 89 snaps than some do in five times as many so maybe this will be the year a team gives him a shot to make his way into their sub-package D.”

Elsewhere

“Appearing with Ross Tucker on SiriusXM NFL Radio’s Opening Drive, [former Colts general manager Bill] Polian said that Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski failed a physical with the Colts prior to the 2010 draft.

“Though it looks like excuse-making, the reality is that there were many different opinions regarding Gronkowski two years ago.  He had a serious back injury in college, which originally occurred while lifting weights.  Some teams viewed the situation as a potential career-limiter.  Other teams saw it as a non-issue.”

“We’re either going to have to improve the quality of what we’re doing in the Pro Bowl or consider other changes, or even (consider) eliminating the game, if that’s the kind of quality game we’re going to provide.”

“Any chance to up the intensity will also be met with a pragmatically cautious approach by players, New England Patriots lineman Logan Mankins said earlier this week.

“’You’re going to give a little effort, but you’re not going to get out of control,’ Mankins, a four-time Pro Bowl pick, said during a Super Bowl media session. ‘Some guys are free agents over there. You get hurt in a Pro Bowl and it’s going to affect that contract with another team. Who would want to get hurt in a Pro Bowl and not be able to play the next season?’”

I totally agree with Mankins.  As a fan I’d be pretty upset to see someone on my team get hurt playing in a meaningless game like this.  I’d rather see it eliminated.

“Trade deadline: The league is looking into moving the mid-October trade deadline later in the season to create more intrigue and strategy for buyers and sellers. For instance, the Broncos got nothing for Kyle Orton by unloading him in November, even though a lot of teams were angling for a quarterback. The Broncos could have used help at other positions and happily would have worked a trade.

“Also, the league will weigh the merits of compressing the free-agency window, just as it was forced to do last summer because of the lockout. That created a lot of excitement and interest because of the fast-moving bazaar of players switching teams. It saved teams money, too — something of keen interest to owners — because most players simply didn’t have the time to play one suitor off another.”

  • I thought it was interesting that in his latest mock draft, McShay has wide receiver Justin Blackmon falling to the Redskins at 6 (past the Vikings who definitely need offensive weapons).  This is probably going to be one of the most interesting drafts ever in terms of who goes where in the to ten picks.  There are a lot of guys there past consensus number one pick Andrew Luck with not a lot separating them in terms of talent.  Its also going to be interesting to see if anyone falls in love with Robert Griffin III and trades up for him.
  • To my surprise, the Vikings quest to get a new stadium continues:

“The current site on the table is adjacent to the Vikings current home at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, and the plan would allow the Vikings to continue playing at the Metrodome for the majority of the construction process. The team would need to play for one season at the University of Minnesota’s TCF Bank Stadium while the last 25 percent of construction is completed, and Vikings vice president of public affairs and stadium development Lester Bagley has been meeting with University officials to discuss those arrangements, according to Sid Hartman of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.”

I’ll say this.  The Vikings really don’t want to move.  With an empty stadium waiting in Los Angeles, I’m not so sure I’d still be in Minnesota right now if I owned the team.

Personally, I think Turner is a reasonably option for anyone looking for a coordinator.  But Shoop has had a lot more success in college at North Carolina.  Some guys are just better coaching the college game and he might be one of them.  Unless he’s learned a great deal in the time since he left the Bears, I’m going to say he’s much, much better off staying there in the future.

In the end, the Buccaneers finally ended up hiring Mike Sullivan, Eli Manning’s quarterbacks coach with the Giants (Via Florio).

You’ve got to be kidding me.

“Though Manningham didn’t have huge numbers, reliance on him in one of the game’s biggest moments meshed with something former Colts coach Tony Dungy had been saying last week.  In the 2006 AFC title game, during which the Pats raced to a 21-3 lead, Belichick found a way to take away both Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne.  The Colts then adjusted, targeting tight end Dallas Clark and taking advantage of opportunities in the running game.

“And so with Belichick so determined to take away what the opposing offense does best and with opposing offenses now figuring it out, the chess match needs to move to the next level, with Belichick making the enemy think he’ll be taking away the top weapons and then pouncing on the guy to whom the ball will actually go.”

“Safeguards in contracts against misconduct typically consist of the payment of money, often via something known under the law as ‘liquidated damages.’  Basically, the parties agree in advance that the actual harm resulting from a violation will be too difficult to tabulate, so they agree to a specific payment that will be due and owing if/when the party does that which the party agreed not to do.”

I hope she never makes another ungarnished dime again.

“Late in the Super Bowl, on the Patriots’ final drive, the Giants were called for having 12 men on the field.

“But the penalty was only 5 yards, and the time that drained off the clock — eight seconds — was well worth the punishment. The infraction was almost certainly  unintentional — Justin Tuck was trying to hustle off the field. But what’s to prevent other teams from copying this formula under similar circumstances?”

I agree with Monkovic that the chances are good that the competition committee will make a rule addressing this.

“Now that’s odd: The Patriots did win something — the coin toss. That might not sound like a big deal, but it was the first time the AFC has won that 50/50 proposition in 15 consecutive Super Bowls.”

  • The Sportress of Blogitude has pictures of Greg Jones as he proposes to his girlfreind after the Super Bowl.  Note the look of joy on his mother’s face in the background in every picture.

One Final Thought

From Sean Jensen at the Chicago Sun-Times:

“The Bears also interviewed Alex Van Pelt and Greg Olson, but Smith insisted Bates was his man.

“‘I did a lot of research, and I think Jeremy is a perfect fit,’ Smith told the team website.

“‘Did we look at other guys? Yes, we did. Every time we have an opening, I look at everybody available.

“‘But in the end, it was Jeremy by a landslide.’”

Really?

Like me, Kip Lewis at CSNChicago.com remembers things a little differently:

“Recently published reports stated Jeremy Bates would not be considered for a position on the Bears’ coaching staff, but today Bates was named the team’s quarterbacks coach.”

As does Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune:

“The Bears’ announcement of Bates’ hiring did not include the term “passing game coordinator,” a title that was offered to ex-Buccaneers offensive coordinator Greg Olson, who turned down the job last month. Olson chose to join the Jaguars, who gave him the title of assistant head coach along with quarterbacks coach.”

I understand that Lovie Smith has to put a positive spin on this.  But that doesn’t mean he should feel free to  treat us like an idiots.  We know what happened here.

The Emery-Smith “Marriage” May Result in More of the Same. And Other Points of View.

Bears

“Asked if he thought he would be able to play in the 2012 season, Knox tweeted, ‘Im focusing on getting 100% first!’”

I don’t think anyone would blame Knox for a second if he never played again.  That was just about the scariest hit I’ve ever seen a football field.

“‘I was one of Jerry’s kids,’ he said. ‘Not to be funny but I was one of the guys Jerry [Angelo] drafted so from that standpoint I got a contract through him. He was good on his words with myself. What George McCaskey or Ted Phillips do upstairs, that’s what they get paid to do.’”

Elsewhere

  • Those who plan on purchasing jersey’s before April should beware.  Via Mike Florio at profootballtalk.com:

“In April 2012, Nike takes over the apparel contract from Reebok.  And on the day that the switch was announced in October 2010, Nike Brand president Charlie Denson told Darren Rovell of CNBC that significant adjustments are coming.

“‘We plan on changing the NFL jersey dramatically just like we’ve done with the college programs, using new thinking and the greatest technology available,’ Denson said. ‘The NFL program hasn’t had the same type of advancement in recent years.’”

“In past years, a player-initiated number change would have been met with a requirement that the player refund Reebok for the existing inventory of jerseys with the number he wants to abandon.  With the new Nike jerseys coming soon, there’s a chance that it will be open season for the shifting of numbers.”

  • Mike Vandermause at the Green Bay Press-Gazette says that the Packers have cancelled their fan fest again this year.  It was cancelled last year due to the lockout.

“The event sold out quickly the first two years, but in 2009 and 2010 it didn’t sell out. That is one of the factors the Packers are evaluating.”

Packer fans are at least as fanatical as Bear fans and you can’t keep Bear fans away from the annual convention here.  I’m having a hard time believing the Packers couldn’t sell this event out if they really were trying.

“Time has taught him that on Super Bowl Sunday, he best keep his eyes on Giants safeties Kenny Phillips and Antrel Rolle pre-snap.

“’The safeties never lie in coverage,’ Welker said.”

“I wish I could take all you guys to Indy with us,” Brady told his fans. “We’re going down there, and we’re going down there for one reason. We’re going to give it our best and hopefully we have a lot more people at our party next weekend.”

Here’s the headline at ESPNNewYork.com:

“Brady planning victory party.”

Typical.

“Giants:  ‘No pressure, but if you lose, Albert Haynesworth gets a Super Bowl ring.’”

“Patriots: ‘Convince Tom Brady that his life will somehow get even better if he wins.’”

One Final Thought

Unlike most Bear fans I know, I’m not entirely happy with what I’m hearing out of Halas Hall with the hiring of new general manager Phil EmeryThe following quote from Bears president Ted Philips is an example.  Via Mark Potash at the Chicago Sun-Times:

‘‘’The reality is just as with Jerry [Angelo] and Lovie [Smith],’ Phillips said. ‘When I hired Jerry, I said this; when I hired Phil, I said this: ‘I expect not to ever have to pick up your contract and read the language between you and Lovie.’ The idea is you work together to find the best team for the Bears.’’’

This attitude of cooperation was confirmed and well described in an article by Pompei:

“Emery’s predecessor, Jerry Angelo, used to refer to the general manager-head coach relationship as a ‘marriage.’  Emery did nothing to make it appear as if he and Smith are merely living together.”

“Emery even wants Smith to have a loud voice in the draft room. When asked about how he intends to make player evaluation decisions, Emery talked about the value of listening and opening your mind to what others are seeing. But he also said at a point toward the end of the process, it will be he and Smith who will develop the plan as far as who the Bears will draft or attempt to sign.”

This sounds good on the surface.  You make decisions by consensus.  But what do you do when that isn’t working?

Here’s what former Bears college scouting director Greg Gabriel had to say about the hiring.  Gabriel would have had a chance to closely observe how Smith and Angelo worked together while he was with the Bears.  Via Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune:

“’Phil is going to have his own thoughts,’ Gabriel said. ‘He is not going to get railroaded into doing something he doesn’t think is the right decision. Not a doubt in my mind. He’s very, very strong-minded.’”

“Railroaded”?

This certainly implies Smith had undue influence over personnel decisions.  But that’s just one man’s opinion.  Let see what Falcons president Rich McKay had to say.  Both Angelo and Emery worked for him at different times.  From Jensen:

“‘I think it’s a really good situation for [Emery]. And the most important thing is, he’s really comfortable with all those people.’

“But McKay quickly offered a warning.

“‘That doesn’t mean he’ll just agree,’ McKay said. ‘He will not be a man who just says yes. He’ll be one to challenge people to make the right decisions.’”

Again, we have the indirect implication that Angelo may have “just agreed” too often.  Its obvious that these men who are in a position to have some idea of what’s been going on detect some bitterness about the compromises Angelo made with Lovie Smith.

Given this situation I can’t help but agree with this comment from Steve Rosenbloom at the Chicago Tribune:

“Emery talked around who has the final call on drafting and signing that talent before finally saying it’ll come down to him and Smith. Funny, but that sounds like a GM’s call.”

I think Phil Emery probably can evaluate talent. However, the problems will arise when he and Lovie Smith disagree on a prospect. If you are still leading by consensus (and it certainly sounds like that continues to be the case) then many of Jerry Angelo’s problems may well continue.

What I wanted to hear from Emery was, “I’m in charge. I’m going to consult with the head coach but I’m going to pick my own guys in the end.” Instead I literally heard, “Lovie and I will make the final decisions together.”

Your organization is only as good as its weakest link. When it comes to player evaluation, I think Smith is probably that link. Based upon the quotes above, I don’t think I’m alone.

As it stands, it sounds like Smith is going to have to be convinced that the proper picks are the proper picks before they are made. We’ll see if Emery can do that.  Otherwise, all I see is more of the same.

Some Grim Thoughts on Mike Tice and Other Points of View

Bears

“The question now is where Emery, who worked under Angelo, will differ and be an improvement over his predecessor.

“’Phil is going to have his own thoughts,’ [former Bears college scouting director, GregGabriel said. ‘He is not going to get railroaded into doing something he doesn’t think is the right decision. Not a doubt in my mind. He’s very, very strong-minded.’”

You’ve got to wonder is that isn’t a back handed shot at Bears head coach Lovie Smith, who undoubtedly did talk former general manager Jerry Angelo into making some draft picks that he didn’t want to make.

“Emery should do well on draft day.

“Drafting players, though, is only one part of being a general manager, even if it’s the only one most of the world sees or cares about.

“If all a general manager did well was draft, he ultimately wouldn’t be very successful.

“He also has to be a leader. He has to be able to manage the coach and his staff. He needs to endure ownership. In a tweeting world, he better be media savvy.

“A general manager is an administrator.”

This was perhaps one of Angelo’s greatest faults.  His tenure as Bears general manager was littered with administrative gaffs.  Let’s hope, as Pompei implies, that Emery will do better.

“…the pace of this process is a strong indication of the place the new general manager will have in the Bears’ organization. This is clearly not a job that, when unfilled, leaves the organization unable to function. If the Bears intended this job to be the second-most powerful role in the franchise, just below that of Phillips, I imagine they would have moved with greater urgency. “

“The best way to describe the Bears’ next general manager, be it Emery or Licht, is that he will be the team’s top talent evaluator and will share in decisions with coach Lovie Smith and others. He will not be an all-powerful guru or a franchise-wide authority figure, at least not any time soon.”

I’m going to disagree with Seifert here.  The Bears have made it pretty clear that Smith will report to Emery and I’m pretty sure Emery will actually be in charge.  Probably the only real restriction is that Emery let Smith coach without interference, which Emery would be well advised to do anyway.  Smith really is a good head coach and Emery may well be glad to have him next year.  In any case, Emery will decide Lovie Smith’s fate after next season when it becomes more financially reasonable to fire him if necessary.  Emery really is in charge.

  • Jon Greenberg at ESPNChicago.com also had an interesting take on the hiring of the new GM.  Based upon this article (once again written before the decision was made) I’d say Greenberg isn’t all that happy with the final outcome:

“My biggest questions are: Do the Bears want someone with a new vision on how to change the organization while reveling in its history? Or do they want someone who will slide in, tidy up a few loose ends and keep the organization on track?

“I hope it’s the former.”

“This is a historic moment for the flagship franchise, and I hope, for the sake of the organization, the Bears take the plunge and hire Licht, who will bring fresh eyes and lessons learned in the years he spent with the most successful football franchise of the past decade.”

Greenberg might be right.  But my  inclination is to believe that this is an exaggeration.  Emery was only with the Bears for two years under Angelo and he only worked with Smith for four moths.  So its not like he’s necessarily going to be inclined to just walk in and be comfortable with a status quo that he was all that used to before he left.

  • One of the first things Emery is going to deal with is running back Matt Forte and his contract negotiations.  From Pompei as he answers your questions:

“Could a new GM come in, look at the “mileage” on Forte and decide to trade him for much-needed picks? This seems to be an NFL trend recently. What is Forte worth in trade? Rick, Naperville

“The new GM would have to sign Forte first, then trade him, and I don’t believe this has much of a chance of happening. Running backs in general do not carry great trade value. Most of the time, a team would rather draft a younger back that pay a trade premium in order to acquire an older one, and then have to pay that older one a lucrative salary besides. There aren’t many good recent examples of a team trading a running back in his prime. In 2004, the Broncos traded Clinton Portis to the Redskins for cornerback Champ Bailey and a second-round pick. Last year, the Bills got a fourth-round pick for Marshawn Lynch. If I had to put a value on Forte in a trade, I’d guess he’d be worth a first-round pick. But his value could fluctuate up or down depending on the market, and the number of teams interested.”

I find it interesting that this fan wants to trade one of the few impact players the Bears have for draft picks.  The whole purpose of the draft is to find guys like this through the shaky process of extrapolating college talent into the unknown.  Once you do find them, you don’t trade them for for the privilege of making more hit or miss picks.  You keep them and build on them.

Elsewhere

“The Packers are not likely to stick with the status quo at outside linebacker as they did one year ago. Clay Matthews needs help. Outside linebackers coach Kevin Greene told me he never has seen a player get double and triple teamed as much as Matthews was this year. Matthews told me he had four blockers on him on a number of occasions—‘You get a tight end chipping you, a back coming off the edge, a tackle, and then a guard fanning your way,’ he said. The reason, obviously, is the Packers had no one else who could take advantage of singles. Dom Capers subsequently ended up dropping Matthews more and taking him out of what he does best—rushing the passer. Matthews still played at a very high level in 2011, but he needs a pass rush partner for the Packers to be a better defense.”

So the Packers need another pass rusher.  Welcome to the club.  Given that finding an elite pass rusher is a tough task in today’s NFL, I’ll suggest a simpler solution – teach your defense how to tackle.  It can go an awfully long way towards solving a lot of problems.

“Miami is presently behind Cleveland and Washington in the race for Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III, which means it will likely take a king’s ransom (probably two first-round picks, and two second round picks AT LEAST) to move ahead of both teams to select the Heisman Trophy winner.”

“One of the reasons the Rams general manager search is moving slowly is the team is a little limited by the fact they aren’t offering control of the 53-man roster. As a result, other teams can block the Rams from hiring someone who is under contract, such as Lake Dawson. Two names we’re hearing are Mike Ackerly of the Titans and Rich Snead of the Raiders—both of whom have worked with Fisher.”

This problem should sound familiar to Bear fans.  Its undoubtedly one of the reasons why they are having trouble finding a “passing game coordinator” who won’t be calling plays.  Its true that nowadays teams seem to be perfectly fine with refusing to allow assistants to interview for promotions regardless of this fact.  But I’m sure it makes the decision much easier.

“Moore has a ridiculously high quarterback rating in every quarter BUT the fourth quarter this season. During the fourth quarter, which is the most critical of the four, he’s got a 61.6 rating, and competing 56.5 percent of his passes. He’s throw four interceptions and two touchdowns during the fourth.”

I’m actually a big fan of Moore but I have to admit that Kelly has a point.  Contrast Moore with Giants starter and Super Bowl participant Eli Manning. From Sam Borden at The New York Times:

“Sunday’s rally [against the 49ers] was Manning’s seventh fourth-quarter comeback of the season and his eighth game-winning drive — staggering numbers that are emblematic of the Giants’ penchant for playing close games. Earlier in the year, especially, it seemed the Giants went down to the final series every week; several players even joked about the ‘cardiac’ nature of the team’s play.”

“Defensive line—There was more talent at this position than any other. North Carolina’s Quinton Coples solidified himself as a top 10 pick and clearly was the class of the group. Two others who helped themselves and may have become solid first rounders were Alabama’s Courtney Upshaw and South Carolina’s Melvin Ingram, whose versatility makes him a fit for any kind of defense. Teams that use a three man front came away very impressed with Ta’amu Alameda of Washington. No way he gets out of round two. In one-on-one pass rush drills, Kendall Reyes of Connecticut showed surprising athleticism for his size.”

“On the topic of concussions: Has anyone to your knowledge compared the rate of concussions in football where they wear helmets to rugby where they don’t? I suspect helmets in football give players a false sense of security so they end up using their heads more as a weapon. Any thoughts?–SDE, Bow, N.H.”

“This is not an uncommon line of thinking on the subject. And I understand that line of thinking. But I don’t see getting rid of helmets – not when football players are as big and moving as fast as they do. I don’t want to think about the injuries that might occur when a receiver going over the middle for a catch collides with a defender coming at great speed to break up the catch – if neither is wearing a helmet. I don’t know if there are been studies comparing it to rugby. But there are also factors in the way the two sports are played that almost certainly impact number of concussions, too. The scariest hits in the N.F.L. seem to come when receivers and defenders collide at great speed while going for the ball, and while neither is looking to see what is about to hit them. Those kinds of plays simply don’t happen in other sports.”

“Back in the day, when I had the time and money, I used to wager on N.F.L. games.

“There was only one couch, Don Shula, who, when I bet, his value I could quantify. I added a point for the Don. His game planning skills gave me the courage to take the Fins against the ’85 Bears.

“How do you, Judy, quantify the value of a head coach? Consider that, after all, most N.F.L. players, have been football stars since Pop Warner. Really, at the very least, they’re all excellent football players.

“So, just how much does coaching matter? I think: More than in any other sport.

“And you? [ also…please relate to the obvious: Darth vs. Tom]–JP, Jersey City, N.J.”

“This is all you need to know about the role of coaching: The Patriots are going to the Super Bowl in a season in which Julian Edelman – a middling receiver – was deployed as a cornerback when the secondary was depleted. I’m not sure how many other coaches would have thought of that, but Bill Belichick did. He also has overhauled his offensive style multiple times in the Tom Brady years – obviously Brady deserves a ton of credit for being spectacular enough to make all those incarnations work so well – but this is not a coach who can only do one thing.”

“In the Baltimore-New England Game, when Brady does the QB keeper on fourth down, all he needed to do was break the plane of the goal line for the touchdown. However, when Flacco threw to Evans for the potential go ahead score in the final minute, it looked like Evans had the ball, got both feet down, and then the ball was knocked out by Moore. There was no video review to see if he had possession of the ball. Apparently he had to keep possession even after both feet were down, but why should that matter?–Seatant, New York City”

“The lack of a video replay was a big question after that play – but Mike Pereira, the former head of officials, was at the San Francisco game and watched the replay and said it was a clear drop and no need for replay. He didn’t make a move with the ball, he simply dropped it. In the case of a catch, it’s more than just breaking the plane – you have to actually hold on to the ball (think of that wacky Calvin Johnson play last year when he caught the ball and it looked for all the world like a touchdown catch and then the officials said he hadn’t held on). There’s a fine line. And to the officials’ eyes that was a drop by Lee Evans.”

The thing that bugged me about this wasn’t the call.  It was the fact that the announcing team didn’t immediately address the issue by clarifying the rules and addressing the possibilities for viewers.  Really a poor job on CBS’s part.

“‘I don’t know what it is that he does, but it’s something that he’s doing that really gets under my skin,’ said Umenyiora on Friday via CSNNE.com. ‘Because I’m not that type of guy, you know what I mean? He’s probably the only person I’ve ever fought on a football field.’”

“‘There’s not a doubt in my mind that they rattled him. He started seeing things that weren’t even there,’ he said. ‘He’s human. He literally ducked down one time and there was no one there. Nobody was close to him. He thought he saw something and it wasn’t there. He literally ducked. We were literally like, ‘Did you see that? Is that really Tom Brady?’ He had been hit from his blindside earlier in the game.’”

  • I thouroughly enjoyed this article on the history of the Patriots franchise by Bill Pennington at The New York Times:

“How humble and bizarre were the Patriots’ beginnings?

“In one of their earliest games, a fan ran into the end zone to bat down an opponent’s last-play, game-tying touchdown pass attempt. The fan then retreated, vanishing into the crowd with a Patriots victory assured.

“In another game, the stands caught on fire, interrupting play as evacuating fans congregated at the 50-yard line. Several other Patriots games were delayed by power outages, impromptu snowball fights or referees who refused to take the field until they were paid. In one memorable pregame sequence, an ex-player was plucked from the stands to suit up, then made the tackle on the opening kickoff.”

  • Ravens center Matt Birk is considering retirement.  From Florio.  I suppose I don’t blame him.  He was given the very difficult task of blocking Vince Wilfork last week and Wilfork ate his lunch.  But in fairness, Wilfork is a load and there aren’t many centers in the game (if any) who can handle him without help as Birk was often asked to do.
  • I knew that there were some ridiculous prop bets out there.  But some of these highlighted at Sports Illustrated are beyond even what I thought:

“Will Kelly Clarkson‘s bare belly be showing when she sings the National Anthem?
“Yes (only): 3/1”

“What color will Madonna’s hair be when she begins the Super Bowl Halftime show?
“Blonde: -400
“Any other color: +250”

“The way some people responded to Kyle Williams has been shameful and disgusting. Get a life, people.”

  • And on a related note, The Sports Pickle constructs this handy flowchart for those of you considering wishing death upon an athlete via Twitter or Facebook.

One Final Thought

Former NFL quarterback Kurt Warner re-enforces what I think a lot of us picked up from the very beginning about the relationship between Jay Cutler and the scheme that former offensive coordinator Mike Martz tried to run in Chicago.  Via Sean Jensen at the Chicago Sun-Times:

“Warner said while he’s been very impressed with Cutler, he’s still not convinced he can make the anticipation throws that were a staple in Martz’s ‘Greatest Show on Turf’ offense in St. Louis.

“‘‘He can’t let it go and trust his guys,’ Warner said. ‘Maybe it’s the guys he’s playing with. But as far as talent and being able to create plays, and as far as seeing something and throwing it, there’s no question he can be one of the best in the league.’”

Whatever else you say about Martz, he knew how to use different route combinations to get wide receivers open.  When the quarterback could throw with anticipation to a spot and the scheme ran right, it could generate a lot of points with less than optimal talent.

Cutler’s fit for the offense aside, this leads me to my less than optimistic thoughts about new coordinator Mike Tice and his comments on how to run the Bears offense.  Via Biggs:

“’I am tailoring what I am doing to what I’ve done, which is common sense,’ Tice said. ‘Why run it when they have one more guy than you can block? Why not throw it when you have free access and you have a guy who can beat single coverage?’”

“’If you’re going to take advantage of the box count and you’re going to get the ball to that guy with single coverage, you need a guy who is going to get open more than 90 percent of the time. We don’t have a guy who has stepped up, in my opinion, and shown us that ability. We either have to develop one who is in the building or we have to bring one in via the draft or free agency.”

And there lies the rub.

Even John Shoop could count guys in the box.  The problem is that it gets a lot more complicated than this.  The offense that Tice describes is going to be about match ups.  That’s great when you have match ups with the defense that you can win.  But what do you do when you don’t have any talent?

Tice isn’t going to be like Martz.  He isn’t going to be able to use the X’s and O’s to make up for what the Bears roster lacks.  He’s going to allow defenses to stack the box, put pressure on the quarterback and dictate the match ups that the Bears will usually be unable to win.

The Bears very likely could get a lot worse offensively before they get a lot better.

Do the Bears Regret Trading Greg Olsen? And Other Points of View.

Bears

“Despite what he said immediately after the season, Smith probably wouldn’t be too shattered if the rumors that have Packers assistant Winston Moss as the favorite to land the Raiders job are true.”

“So, the team needs to add at least two cornerbacks to the mix and probably three. If they can upgrade over what Jennings has given them the last two seasons, that would be a plus, especially when they run into the Green Bay Packers twice next season.”

“Former NFL scout Dave Razzano recently ranked his top general manager candidates in The Razz Report, and he listed Licht as No. 7.

“Wrote Razzano, ‘Both organized and thorough in his approach, the personable Licht has worked under some of the league’s more prominent names like Jimmy Johnson, Andy Reid and now Belichick, where he plays a big part in keeping the Pats on top of the AFC standings. Licht has played a strong role with three different teams now and will likely find himself on several GM short lists in the near future. His eye for talent and overall personnel skills are why Bill Belichick brought him back to New England after a short stint with the Arizona Cardinals.’”

“Here’s how former Tribune In the Wake of the News sports columnist Michael Holley described Emery in his book War Room:

“’He worked at the Naval Academy for seven years, so he’s not a career military man, although he does sound like one: His voice is clear and commanding. … He’s got an iPad in front of him with his notes as well as reports from the scouts. His recall is impressive. … You get the feeling the iPad isn’t always necessary due to his ability to give historical playbacks from memory.’”

“If the Bears hire Emery, he will have to be a good learner too. He doesn’t have much experience with the salary cap and contracts, pro personnel or sitting in an office.

“’That was the knock on Thomas Dimitroff, Jerry Reese, Ted Thompson, Trent Baalke and a number of guys who have become successful general managers,’ Kansas City general manager Scott Pioli said. ‘He runs the scouting staff, and that is quite a responsibility.’”

“But if the Bears franchise him not for the purpose of negotiations, but instead as their final decision on how to compensate him in 2012, there could be trouble.

“Forte [told ESPN Radio 1000]: “A lot of teams franchise guys so that they can get a deal done or negotiate a deal. It just depends on what the motive of that is.

“The franchise tag for running backs this offseason is expected to be a little less than $8 million. If it seems clear the Bears plan to pay him that salary, with no credible offer for an extension beyond the 2012 season, Forte implied he might not be in training camp on time.

“’I wouldn’t say holdout,’ he said, ‘but people probably wouldn’t know where I was.’”

Breaking sports news video. MLB, NFL, NBA, NHL highlights and more.

Elsewhere

  • Many people associated with the Kansas City Chiefs, including former head coach Todd Haley, thought Pioli had the team head quarters bugged.  From a very interesting article by Kent Babb at the Kansas City Star.
  • Think the Bears are taking too much time to hire a general manager?  You’ll want to see what Mike Silver at Yahoo sports has to say about the Raiders’ “search”.  Apparently you’re not doing it right no matter how you handle it.

Breaking sports news video. MLB, NFL, NBA, NHL highlights and more.

  • Omar Kelly at the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reports that Packers offensive coordinator Joe Philbin is the choice for head coach in Miami.  Philbin Is an interesting choice.  The Dolphins are looking for a proficient pass-oriented offense like the Packers.  But one wonders how much head coach Mike McCarthy had to do with designing that offense and getting it to run.  Philbin’s background is with the offensive line.  That’s usually not the kind of person a big time passing offense comes from.
  • McCarthy might be a Packer but his comments to the Associated Press indicate that he most certainly is not dumb.  Much has been said about Packers quarterback Aaron Rogers not being quite as sharp as usual throwing to receivers who were dropping balls all over the field last weekend in their loss to the Giants.  But McCarthy put his finger right on one of the major problems that went largely unappreciated:

“‘The tackling just was not there all year,’ McCarthy said in press conference to end the season, via the Associated Press.  ‘Without getting into the specific statistics, we did not tackle well enough as a football team, from start to finish.  It’s something that’s emphasized every single day in practice and something that [defensive coordinator] Dom [Capers] and I talked a lot about today.’”

“Success has its challenges, and one is replacing the inevitable brain drain that occurs as opponents try to replicate. This month, the Packers have lost a top front office talent in [Reggie] McKenzie and one of their top coaches in Philbin. The pressure is on the Packers to continue to develop qualified successors.”

“‘If you hit them in the mouth and you stand up to them, that’s the way you play it,’ Williams told the Baltimore Sun. ‘I think when you’re as good as they are, you get used to people kind of being intimidated. And I think when you show them that you’re not, it automatically makes them have to change the way they’re used to playing, and that automatically gives us an advantage.’”

One Final Thought

Biggs also reviews the Bears tight end position:

“As the Patriots other tight end Rob Gronkowski was tying an NFL playoff record with three touchdown receptions Saturday night in a 45-10 demolition of the Denver Broncos, former Chicago Bears tight end Greg Olsen reacted on Twitter. He pointed out the Bears had a tight end making plays for them in the postseason a year ago.

“He’s right. Olsen caught three passes for 113 yards with a 58-yard touchdown in the 35-24 victory over the Seattle Seahawks in the divisional round. It was his second-to-last game in a Bears uniform as he was traded to the Carolina Panthers on the eve of training camp.”

“Trading Olsen didn’t help the Bears’ passing attack in 2011 but the moves made did augment the running game. It’s time to find a way for the tight ends to start helping the quarterback by doing more than chip blocking from time to time.”

If Greg Olsen wants to invite comparisons to the New England tight ends, he’s making a serious mistake.  Teams are showing once again that the tight end can be a great weapon in the passing game.  But you need more than Olsen, a glorified wide receiver who can be covered by a nickel back.  I doubt the Bears regret a thing.

Former Bear Chris Harris Was “Too Outspoken” and Other Points of View

Bears

  • Dave Toub is still in the mix for the Miami Dolphins job. We’d all hate to see him leave. But I have to say that, based upon what I’ve seen on the field from patch work personnel, I think Toub would make a great head coach. I’m rooting for him.

According to Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune, Toub may leave anyway. A 15 day exclusive negotiating rights period for the Bears ends Monday and Toub becomes a free agent. Hopefully he’s happy here and accepts a reasonable offer from the Bears.

“As someone who respects your NFL insights, I read your column on Jerry Angelo‘s departure with great interest and surprise. It seems that the 2011 Bears had a very thin roster due in large part to the high number of recent draft picks that never became solid NFL players, and I had assumed that Angelo was the person who should bear most of the responsibility for the poor draft performance. Or is player development the bigger issue? Am I missing something? John Bradford, Arlington Heights

“If you want to blame someone for draft picks that missed, ultimately you have to blame Angelo. The buck stops with the general manager. But it’s not as simple as saying one person is responsible for all the evils of the roster. Every selection of his was made by consensus decision. And, as you point out, there is a player development issue at work. An organization’s ability to identify, select and develop players is only as strong as its weakest link. And the weakest link isn’t always in one place. You have to look at every player who didn’t work out individually to figure out why.”

I have said that I believe that Lovie Smith is a good head coach. But I have to wonder if he isn’t the weakest link in terms of personnel. Can the Bears live with that? It will be interesting to see how the new general manager handles the situation.

In [Earl] Bennett’s absence, [Dane] Sanzenbacher, the undrafted free agent from Ohio State, stepped up. Nineteen of his 25 receptions came in the first seven games when, for a while, he was the team’s leading wide receiver. It’s not a condemnation of Sanzenbacher to say something is wrong with that. An undrafted college free agent should not step in and lead a team in receiving unless something is wrong with the receivers in place.

Biggs thinks wide receiver is the team’s number one need. If its not, its close. The Bears have so many holes that the new GM should have no problem taking the best player available regardless of position.

  • Biggs also reviews the defensive line. He notes that Stephen Paea started slow but came on towards the end of the year. I had my doubts about Paea but it looks like he might develop into something, yet. He also points out that Matt Toeaina moved ahead of Anthony Adams into the starting line up. Adams may have seen his last days as a Bear. Frankly, I wasn’t impressed with either one of these guys this year and no one would be surprised to see the Bears draft (yet another) defensive tackle. Toeaina needs to pick it up next year to make the roster.
  • Former NFL coach John Madden on Chicago Tribune Live talks about Mike Tice‘s promotion to offensive coordinator:

“I really like Mike Tice a lot. I have enormous respect for him as an offensive line coach and then his years there (as head coach) in Minnesota,” Aikman said. “I’ve just not seen offensive linemen come in and be coordinators and be very effective. We’ll see how it works out, but this is a passing league. Mike Tice wants to run the ball.

“Can you win? Yeah, you can win. But if I were a quarterback, I’d want to be playing for somebody who understands the passing game about as well as anyone else around the league.”

I heard local radio analysts moan about Mike Martz and offensive balance all year (despite the fact that they were balanced between the run and the pass most of the time).  But I’ll say this. The NFL is a passing league and you better be able to do it and you better be able to be aggressive about it. Mike Martz was a guy who could do that. Can Mike Tice? Like Aikman, I have my doubts.

Elsewhere

  • Justin Rogers at MLive.com writes about how teams took advantage of Ndamukong Suh‘s aggressivenessto run right at him. Suh, like the rest of the Lions team, has to learn to play with discipline if he wants to take the next step.
  • Dave Birkett at the Detroit Free Press makes this point about the Lions:

“Including Saturday night, when New Orleans amassed an NFL playoff-record 626 yards of offense and never punted once, the Lions went a combined 0-6 against conference teams that made the playoffs.”

No matter which way they turn, the Lions will be on the hook for a ceiling-crushing commitment to Johnson. Unless he makes a cash concession to lessen the cap hit, the Lions are in a really, really tough spot.

Johnson may have a cap number of $22 million dollars next year.

The reality of the Packers defense is somewhere between two numbers.

The first number is 32 — where the Packers ranked in yards allowed during the regular season.

The second number is 1 — where the Packers ranked in takeaways.

This is where I believe Lovie Smith and the Bears defensive coaching staff excel. Somehow, year after year, Smith seems to be able to get his players to strike a balance between the aggressiveness needed to generate turnovers and the risk associated with it. The get turnovers (when they’re playing well) but still manage to be consistent as a unit by giving up the big play. Smith seems to have a gift of instilling just the right kind of attitude of controlled aggression in defensive players. If only he could get the offensive players to execute with that kind of consistency and balance.

  • Rafael Vila at the Cowboys Nation blog always does a good job of analyzing the draft, particularly as it affects Dallas. This entryabout how teams determine whether they will move up or stay put was interesting.
  • Vila also notes the first thing that came to mind for many of us after watching the Atlanta Falcons rapidly exit the playoffs with obvious weaknesses at the line of scrimmage:

“The Falcons took a big step forward last year, but were throttled by the champion Packers in the divisional round.  Atlanta’s brass convinced themselves they were only a player short and went all-in for receiver Julio Jones.  They flipped last year’s 1st, 2nd and 4th rounders for the Alabama flyer.  Jones had a solid season, but yesterday, his offensive line and his team’s secondary looked anemic.  Might those marquee picks have been better spent filling in the remaining holes on the team?

“The Falcons will hear that question a lot, because they also owe this year’s 1st and 4th round picks to the Browns to complete the Jones deal.”

  • This one got by me completely but Mike Florio at profootballtalk.com notes that the hiring of Josh McDaniels to help the Patriots during their playoff run signals the existence of a loop hole in the NFL rules that needs to be closed:

“If player rosters become frozen in place when a team’s season ends, coaches who finish the season with one team shouldn’t be permitted to join a team that is still alive in the playoffs.

“Regardless of whether former Rams offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels’ presence on the Patriots’ staff will make a difference for a team that has lost two straight home postseason games without him, the ability of a coach from a non-playoff team to climb aboard the bandwagon of a playoff squad seems unfair.”

One Final Thought
Dez Clark and Alex Brown interview former Bears and current Lions safety Chris Harris. Harris thinks he was released from the Bears because he was “too outspoken” about a number of things while with the Bears.

The role that Lovie Smith’s ego may have played in this aside, what Harris apparently doesn’t understand is that lack of discipline off the field leads to lack of discipline on it. In retrospect, he’s probably a better fit with the Lions.