Some Creativity May Be Required For Teams Seeking Tight Ends in the Draft


Tom Carpenter at ESPN highlights one of the more interesting things to look for inthe upcoming draft: where Minnesota tight end Maxx Williams (above) will go. Anyone who watched the combine knows that the tight end class is pretty grim and Williams is generally considered to be the best of them.

“Why is Williams’ draft stock slipping?

“Like most young tight ends — he is just 20 years old — he struggles at times with his blocking and route running.”

“Williams also reportedly came off a bit immature and self-centered during NFL combine interviews, as he struggled to give good answers to some difficult questions.”

The Arizona Cardinals, Baltimore Ravens and New Orleans Saints are all picking late in round 1 and may be tempted to take a chance on Williams.  The Bears cold also use a second tight end opposite Martellus Bennett.

There is an alternative. In the mock draft that I’m participating in the Atlanta Falcons representative took wide receiver Devin Funchess as a tight end instead of taking Williams. Funchess is 6-4 1/2, 232 lb and if he can learn to block, he could be tough to stop as a receiving tight end. Teams needing pass blocking tight ends might even resort to converting offensive tackles or linebackers.  It will be interesting to see if that’s what teams decide to do instead of taking a risk on the borderline tight end prospects that are available up and down the draft.

Skipping Bayless and Other Points of View


  • Phil Thompson at the Chicago Tribune notes that there were no Bears evident at Jimmy Clausen‘s wedding. His Twitter background image is one of himself in a Carolina Panther’s uniform.

    Slow news day.

  • Nate Atkins at . Smith’s situation is reminiscent of what happened to current Bear Lamarr Houston. He succeeded as a 3-4 five technique, in his case for the Texans, then signed on with Oakland to be a 4-3 defensive tackle. Like Houston, Atkins struggled with the transition. Also like Houston, he might be a good bet to bounce back in the defensive scheme that he is best suited for. This sounds like good thinking to me – and like something Bears general manager Ryan Pace might very well do.
  • Kevin Fishbain, Hub and Arthur Arkush debate the best and worst free agent signings by the Bears for I’m going to go ahead and agree with Hub that Mason Foster was probably their best signing. There are too many question marks at inside linebacker and they needed someone they could depend on there. Id say dependable is Foster’s floor.

    A mildly disturbing trend that runs throughout this article is the subtle suggestion that the Bears are consistently overpaying for players like Eddie Royal and Alan Ball. These suggestions tend to be a lot more than subtle in the national media where I’ve heard the Royal signing openly ridiculed. These won’t be spectacular errors if they don’t work out but I’d rather see that money spent a bit more wisely.

  • Arthur Arkush evaluates wide receiver prospect Kevin White. I’m starting to become a little wary of White. He relies heavily on his physical ability to beat defenders. That might be OK but what happens when he gets to the NFL and finds out he can’t dominate every corner like he did in college. More and more I agree with scouts that the much more savvy Amari Cooper is the safer pick.


  • NFL analyst Rodney Harrison isn’t a believer in the Jets. Via Dan Hanzus at

    “‘The Jets are, all of a sudden, on a high thinking they’re going to win a championship,’ Harrison said on NBC Sports Radio, per ESPN. ‘You’re not going to win a championship, you’re not even going to make the playoffs, because you don’t have a quarterback. If you go into the season and you’re expecting Geno Smith to improve, it’s not going to happen. He might get a little better, but when times get tough, when adversity hits, guess what he’s going to do? He’s going to fold just like the last couple years.'”

    Sound familiar Bears fans?

  • Kevin Patra at says that the punishment of the Atlanta Falcons for pumping crowd noise into the Georgia Dome has come down. The NFL fined the Falcons $350,000, took away their fifth-round selection in the 2016 NFL Draft, and suspended team president Rich McKay will also be suspended for at least three months from the Competition Committee beginning April 1.

    I think the Falcons are being made an example, here. I’m virtually certain that they’re nowhere near the only team in the NFL to do this. When the Rams were in the same division with the Saints the players talked about the noise being so loud on their bench in the Super Dome that they had to turn the speakers on the sideline around just to hear themselves talk.

  • Bucky Brooks at has quarterback Marcus Mariota falling to the Chargers at 17. It’s not impossible. But it’s going to be tough for the Saints who are probably starting to plan for a future without Drew Brees, to pass on him at 13.

    Mariota’s a risky pick for most teams, though. He could easily fall pretty far. The other thing to consider is that’s easy trade up range for the Eagles, who are sitting at 20. Mariota played under head coach Chip Kelly at Oregon and Kelly has called him the best player in the draft.

  • Mary Kay Cabot at thinks that the Browns will try to move up to take Mariota, as well. That sounds like exactly the kind of thing owner Jimmy Haslam might push for.
  • Matt Vensil at the Minneapolis Star-Tribune says that 6-9, 351 lb offensive tackle Babatunde Aiyegbusi, who signed with the Minnesota Vikings after flying over from Poland to try out is now experiencing the items commonly found in an American diet including tacos, pink lemonade, chicken wings and waffle fries. What’s the over-under on his weight by the time training camp starts?

One Final Thought

I really don’t care that a student trashed Cam Newton in his elementary school paper. But the comparison to former Chicago Tribune and current ESPN lazy blow hard Skip Bayless by‘s Darin Gantt is right on target:

“And actually, he’s better than Bayless, because there’s at least an intellectual honesty to the kid’s claims.”


I think I’d get more out of it if I switched on the TV and found the 10 year old yelling at me.

Some Life Lessons And Other Points of View


    • I’m trying to avoid a knee jerk reaction to the Bears questionable signing of defensive end Ray McDonald. Let’s just say I’m a bit disturbed by the repetitive nature of his apparent transgressions and leave it at that until I can get some more of my questions answered.
    • Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune reports that the Bears have signed defensive end Jarvis Jenkins. Patrick Finley at the Chicago Sun-Times reports that they also signed linebacker Mason Foster. Kevin Patra at characterizes Jenkins as “a mediocre run defender” that “provides little in terms of a pass rush”. Connor Orr at the same site is more positive about Foster, saying that he’s durable and that his “ability to defend the pass — Foster has five picks over the last four years, including two returned for touchdowns — should also help add some much-needed range and versatility to a dusty Bears front seven”.

      The good news is that they’re on one-year prove it deals. The bad news?

      Jenkins record as a Washington Redskin: 17-31

      Foster’s record as a Buccaneer: 17-47

      I know that beggars can’t be choosers but do these guys sound like winners to you? Just sayin’…

    • John Mullin at says that former Bears linebacker Lance Briggs could be headed to either Tampa Bay or San Francisco. Briggs still has a year or two left in him but I think he pretty much burned his bridges in Chicago with stunts like missing practice for the famous “Double Nickel Barbecue” opening the first week of the NFL season. This could be good signing for teams with coaches who have better control of their players.

Its pretty rare when a re-draft gives the Bears the same player that they actually took in retrospect. But that’s what happened when Bucky Brooks at did a re-draft of 2014 and still gave the Bears Kyle Fuller.


  • Running back Michael Bush reacts to his time in the forty yard dash at the NFL Veteran Combine. Via Patrick Finley at the Chicago Sun-Times:

    “It was an unofficial time, but the 4.91-second 40-yard dash crushed the former Bears running back. Visibly dazed, his face acted out the five stages of grief in the next five minutes.”

  • Marc Sessler at on the NFL Veterans Combine: “It was like watching Old Yeller get shot 105 times”.
  • Steve Rosenbloom at the Chicago Tribune on the NFL Draft coming to Chicago: “Thank God we didn’t get the Olympics.” Amen to that.
  • Cleveland emerged as the favorite to be on the HBO series “Hard Knocks” over the weekend. Pat McManamon at ESPN doesn’t think it would be good for quarterback Johnny Manziel to be on the show his first camp coming out of rehab. I’d tend to agree. Personally I have almost no hope that Manziel will ever be a decent NFL quarterback but if he’s to have any shot at it, minimizing distractions is going to be critical. Manziel would probably make everyone in Cleveland happiest if he got off Twitter and kept his mouth shut as much as possible with limited media exposure. That might be his only hope.
  •‘s Bucky Brooks has quarterback Marcus Mariota falling to New Orleans at 13 slot in the first round. I doubt he’d get any lower than that but I guess you never know. He has the Bears taking wide receiver Amari Cooper.
  • The time for Adrian Peterson and his agent Ben Dogra to face facts and accept that Peterson is playing for Minnesota or nobody next year is fast approaching. Rather than quote the whole article, I’ll just refer you to Mike Florio‘s post at and leave it at that.
  • Kind of having a hard time understanding why the Lions wouldn’t pick up Riley Reiff‘s fifth year option but if they’re going to, they aren’t saying so. Good offensive linemen don’t grow on trees. Or maybe they do. I’ve always been a little mixed up on that “birds and the bees” thing. Via Dave Birkett at the Detroit Free Press.
  • Rob Demovsky at ESPN details the problems the Packers currently have at inside linebacker. Both A.J. Hawk and Brad Jones were released last month. How bad is it? The depth chart at doesn’t even list a second starter.

One Final Thought

Laura Pavin quotes former Bears tight end Desmond Clark on how his life turned around:

“When one of his dad’s drug-dealing friends began trying to recruit Clark into a life of drug dealing, his cousin, also a crack addict, became furious. She told him that Clark was meant for more than the life she, his dad and his brother — who was selling drugs — were leading.

“‘I walked out of the house that day feeling a little different about myself, thinking ‘Hey, maybe I can be something beyond this situation,’ said Clark, 37. ‘As I grew up, what I took from that was that you can speak life into other people.'”

When I started reading this article, I thought it was going to be the typical “My mother was a saint and helped me come from nothing to the NFL” kind of read. Instead, it was surprisingly good with some interesting life lessons. It’s recommended reading.

Hard Things to Say About Soft Facts

zRyan Pace

I’m a Bears fan. But every once in a while, I have to write a post that really angers other Bears fans. This is going to be one of those. Consider yourself warned.

What is getting me started today is a post by Brad Gagnon at the Bleacher Report. In it he tries to figure out why the performance of quarterback Drew Brees has declined since the Saints won the Super Bowl in February, 2010. Or, more accurately, why his apparent performance has declined. Here’s what he concluded:

“This is a team sport, and quarterbacks are often affected greatly by the circumstances surrounding them. That could mean weapons (or lack thereof), support from the running game (or lack thereof), pass protection (same deal), defensive efficiency (which alters scenarios and forces quarterbacks to take more or fewer chances), play-calling (i.e. balance) and the offensive philosophy under which they’re working.

“And the reality is, there are some rather strong indicators that Brees has mostly been just as strong as he used to be.”

“[B]rees has to be held at least partially responsible for what has happened to the Saints since that 2009 Super Bowl, but a lot of the time it feels as though he’s forcing things merely to compensate for the issues those around him have been experiencing. “

“Quite simply, the Saints are getting worse by the year. So it shouldn’t surprise anyone to see Brees struggle in certain areas, particularly when it comes to trying to make things happen all on his own.

“Consider all the losses the Saints have suffered in free agency the last couple years (Jermon Bushrod, Sedrick Ellis, Jonathan Casillas, Brian de la Puente, Roman Harper, Will Smith, Lance Moore, Malcolm Jenkins, Patrick Robinson, [Pierre]Thomas, [Kenny] Stills, [Cutis] Lofton, [Jimmy] Graham), their inability to hit it big in key draft spots, and that they basically lost an entire season due to the penalties handed down and the distractions from the bounty scandal.

“Consider all of that, and you begin to see Brees as a victim. “

Perhaps Bears fans should also consider that Bears general manager Ryan Pace has been their director of pro personnel and, more importantly since 2013, the director of player personnel.

To be fair to Pace he became director of pro personnel in 2007 and undoubtedly helped build that Super Bowl team. And, as pointed out by Gagnon above, there are a lot of factors behind the decline in the Saints since, some of which Pace couldn’t have had anything to do with. But there’s no denying that some of it is the football players surrounding Brees and a lot of it has to do with misses in the draft that forced the team to lose some veterans and over-pay to keep others. Was Pace making all of the personnel decisions? No. Saints head coach Sean Payton has final say. But, as former NFL general manager and Bears consultant Ernie Accorsi pointed out, a good part of the reason Pace was hired was because it was believed that Saints general manager Mickey Loomis was a finance guy and that Pace was the driving force behind many of the personnel decisions:

“I always look at who’s making the player personnel decisions on a team, and do they have players they’re getting in the middle rounds they’re winning with? You have to do that today. You only have seven picks, and the draft is still your lifeblood.

“And I look at the Steelers — that’s why I think (GM) Kevin Colbert is so good. They have third-, fourth-, fifth-, sixth-round draft choices that they’re winning in the playoffs with every year. And New Orleans rebuilt that team in a hurry, and that’s how they rebuilt it. Listen, Brees was a big pickup and all. That’s fine. But you look all through that line, and you have players playing all through those two lineups that they picked in the middle or lower rounds. So, on paper, I thought, ‘Someone has to be making the right decisions here.'”

Or the wrong decisions.

Payton is widely believed to be remaking the Saints roaster this off-season because he thought that the players that they have are talented but too soft. That’s led him to make deals like trading away Graham to get tougher on defense and along the offensive line and to improve the running game. The question is, why were they soft in the first place and who was advising him to take these talented but ultimately flawed football players in the first place?  And where are all of the drafted players that were supposed to step in for these veterans that every good team loses and needs to replace to sustain success?

It’s hard not to think that the responsibility is partly, if not largely, Pace’s.  And further it’s not a stretch to wonder if all of these professions of sorrow at seeing Pace go by members of the Saints organization aren’t hiding small sighs of relief.  Given the make over that the Saints have been forced in to partly by poor personnel decisions, practically speaking the loss might not have been all that great.

I’m not passing judgment on Pace before he even gets a chance with the Bears. He’s a young guy who has a lot to learn. The indications are that he’ll also have some support from other, experienced, well-accomplished people, not the least of which will be Bears head coach John Fox. But all we have to go on right now is recent past history. And that means facing some ugly facts no matter how much it pisses people off.

Quarterback? Maybe Not Mariota but Definitely Somebody.

Former NFL scout Daniel Jeremiah, now writing for, created quite a stir nationally when he predicted that the Bears would take Marcus Mariota with the seventh pick in his latest mock draft:

“The Bears have a new general manager and a new coach. Oftentimes, that means a new quarterback is on the way. It’s time to rebuild in Chicago.”

This led to the following question for Hub Arkush at

“From @skafkis: Is Mariota on Bears radar?

“I’d be lying if I told you I knew exactly what Ryan Pace is thinking right now, and they did send Dowell Loggains, the new quarterbacks coach, out to Oregon for Mariota’s Pro Day. But I have not found a single scout, coach or general manager who is absolutely sold on Mariota, and the majority of them have real doubts.

“He is a great kid who may or may not have the leadership gene that Jay Cutler has lacked, but many are concerned he doesn’t.

“He has yet to prove he can stand under center, take a snap, drop three or five steps and turn and read the field. And on the rare occasions when he has stood in the pocket and tried to find receivers more than 12-to-14 yards down the field, he’s been mediocre at the very best.”

“I suspect the Bears know all that and wouldn’t risk the seventh overall pick that way. If they were to trade down and Mariota takes an Aaron Rodgers or Brady Quinn tumble, perhaps you go at 22 or 23, but that’s awfully unlikely.”

I completely agree with Hub. I know that this is a time of year when everyone pretty much starts lying about prospects in an effort to manipulate the draft board of other teams. But based upon what I’ve seen, I think these concerns are completely legitimate. Mariota didn’t play in a pro style offense and hasn’t shown that he can throw from the pocket, particularly with anticipation to a reciever. From what I’ve seen of him, he looks like an introvert. It’s possible that once he gets comfortable with a team and gets to know the players, his leadership qualities will come out but that kind of thing takes time.

As former NFL safety Matt Bowen points out at the Bleacher Report, it’s all about the  potential, development and time:

“[F]or scouts setting their final grades, it all still comes back to projecting Mariota’s talent at the NFL level. They have to consider how long it might take him to adjust to pro coaching and how much risk there is that he can’t make that adjustment.”

The Bears might be comfortable with Mariota at number seven but I wouldn’t be. In fact, absent a trade up scenario I have some doubt that Mariota will go before the Rams at 10 and he might even fall to the Saints at 13 or even beyond. As Hub says, he’s highly unlikely to get low enough for the Bears to trade back up into the first round to get him, though.


Personally, I’m starting to warm to Garrett Grayson (above). Grayson is a bit of a stiff but notice how he slides in the pocket, something I think is very difficult to teach, in the video below:

This is a good video to watch because Grayson is under a lot of pressure from a Utah team that was a lot better than Grayson’s Colorado Sate.  Though he takes the majority of the snaps from the shotgun, Grayson played in a pro style system. Former NFL coach Jon Gruden recognizes the advantage this gives Grayson:

“There’s a lot of parts of Colorado State’s system that I recognize, unlike a lot of college football that’s running up-tempo, no-huddle, spread-option football.  There’s some principles at Colorado State that will serve Grayson well…He’s a dark horse in this (quarterback) class.”

Notice how he throws with anticipation to his receivers and how he hangs in the pocket under pressure and keeps his eyes down field. He’s also reasonably accurate and throws a pretty good deep ball.  Jeremiah has hi as his third quarterback behind Jameis Winston and Mariota:

Grayson’s intangibles are reportedly excellent.  But aren’t they always.

On the negative side, you can see that his mechanics need work and his release is slow with a little bit of a wind up.  I’m also not sure how well he feels pressure. But all in all I like what I see. He’s might be a second round pick and I’d say he should be no less than a third.

In any case, Jeremiah was right about one thing. There’s little doubt in my mind that the Bears will be looking for a young quarterback to develop and I’m sure I’m not alone. Trusting the future of the franchise to Jay Cutler with no options behind him is fool hardy given his history. Keeping an eye on all of these prospects will be an intersting occupation leading up to the draft. I can guarantee that you haven’t heard the last from me on the topic as I get a chance to look around at some of the other options.

Inside The Mind of Ryan Pace and Other Points of View


  • New Bears general manager Ryan Pace takes his first step on to the slippery slope that is quarterback Jay Cutler. Via the Chicago Tribune:

    “The quarterback obviously is a critical, critical position to achieve sustained success. But it’s not the only position. For us to have a lot of success, all 53 guys are going to be accounted for. So yeah, I witnessed things with Drew Brees that I have in my mind, that I know why he was successful. And those are ingrained in me. But I want to get to know Jay (Cutler). I want to get to know him further before I come to these conclusions.”

    You won’t really know him until he lets you down. And then its too damned late.

    Talk is cheap, Ryan. Watch the tape. Watch how he reacts when the team is up against it and the breaks are beating the boys. That will tell you everything you need to know.

  • Michael C. Wright at definitively demonstrates the worthlessness of statistics. A blind man could see that Cutler’s are the result of a season where more of the passes were high percentage and where a great deal of scoring was in garbage time. Having said that, I’d love to see his passer rating for the first half only. Who wants to bet its in the bottom 7 or 8 in the league amongst starters?
  • Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune reads my mind when considering who the next Bears head coach might be:

    “Pace doesn’t have to seek outside input when it comes to former Bills coach Doug Marrone, who was the Saints offensive coordinator from 2006 to 2008. A source described Pace and Marrone as ‘very close’ and it’s believed they have talked. Whether an interview has been scheduled yet is unknown.”

    Marrone’s got experience and by all accounts he had the Bills headed in the right direction. But he took the money and ran in Buffalo and the Bears don’t need another front-runner, especially running the team.

  • Maybe the Bears will target John Fox and maybe they won’t. Like Marrone, Fox is an experienced coach which would be a nice change. My guess is that he’d try to work around Cutler.Fox is by all accounts a winner and has the right personality. My only real problem with him is that, like almost all of the hot candidates, he comes from the defensive side of the ball. Its still all about the quarterback. But I’ll give Fox this. He’s shown multiple times that he can assemble a staff. He’d probably find the right coordinators if anyone can.
  • If you are looking for an encouraging sign, Hub Arkush at has one for you in what he noticed from Pace in his first press conference:

    “When asked about the main qualities he looked for in a football player, Pace immediately and without hesitation listed character, toughness, instincts and intelligence.

    “That is a radical departure from Phil Emery’s infatuation with athletes.”

    Nowhere does this Emery weakness show up more than in his draft choices at linebacker where the players have been slow to react and, therefore, rarely managed to play down hill. By all accounts Pace should do better.

  • Anyone else thinking that free agent coach Jason Garrett might be a decent Bears head coach? He’s been moderately successful and might be ready to get out from under Jerry Jones‘s thumb to take the next step. Just spitballing…
  • Jen Lada at interviews Pace:

    “As an evaluator, you’ve seen the challenges that this franchise faces going forward. Is it difficult to compartmentalize or start to prioritize where to begin?”

    “It helps me if I go with a step-by-step approach. Really in my mind it’s head coach first step. Assess this roster thoroughly because that’s where mistakes are made. If you don’t assess your strengths and weaknesses on your own roster that’s not accurate, then your offseason plan will be inaccurate. So I need to make sure I assess the roster right and then go forward with an offseason plan, with our new head coach.”

    To me, this is a very revealing answer. That’s mostly because this is the way that I, myself, think. Pace likely has a very organized mind. In his head he has a list of things to do probably actually written down on paper. He writes things down as they occur to him (he says so later in the interview), orders them and probably has an ideal plan for getting them done including a loose schedule for each step. However, there are drawbacks. Because he’s a “step-by-step” guy he’s unlikely to be a multitasker and, because of that, things won’t always be done efficiently. Ideally you evaluate the roster while you are searching for a head coach. Pace sounds like the kind of person who is unlikely to do that. People like this frequently handle things well as long as they go as planned. The key to success is often how well they handle things when they don’t go as planned.

    How Pace handles the administrative details of the job (the few that are exposed via the media) will be very interesting to track.


One Final Thought

Mark Potash at the Chicago Sun-Times on the process by which Pace was selected:

“We felt it was a really great fit. We loved his intensity. It was more about what he brought to the table than any negative on anybody else. They were all good.’

“For what it’s worth, Pace won the interview.”

For what its worth. I don’t know much about Pace but what I do know about him – his concrete history – doesn’t exactly ease my concerns about whether he’s qualified to run the Bears. I can’t get past the idea that the Bears have hired the next Josh McDaniels – a young coordinator who was made the head coach of the Broncos before he was ready and failed spectacularly because of that.

I’d be a lot happier if Pace was 47 not 37. I’d be a lot happier if he had experience seeing things done more than one way with one team. And I’d be a whole lot happier if he’d actually been a GM before, someone who had already made his mistakes and had time to gain perspective, look back and see where he went wrong.

There was a lot of talk in the papers about the Bears “breaking out of their mold” by choosing someone without a history with the organization. But that’s not the point. The Bears did what they’ve been doing for about 30 years now – chose a young, inexperienced candidate who has never done it before. Maybe its time to stop choosing the guys who just win the interview.

Game Comments: Saints at Bears 12/15/14


  1. The Bears came out seemingly determined to run the ball. This time both in word and in deed. Three of the first five plays were runs. The sixth play was a nice play action.

  2. Cutler was really inaccurate to start the game. He also had a really hard time letting go of the ball. He had a horrible game. He’s timid, he’s confused, he’s a complete mess right now.

  3. Given Cutler’s state of inaccuracy, it was fortunate that the Saints had trouble filling gaps on the run defense. It was a contest to see who could be more inept – the Bears blocking or the Saints run defense. Eventually the Saints started crashing the line and penetrating to stop the run and Forte struggled. They had little to worry about in terms of the passing game from Cutler.

  4. The Bears offensive line didn’t help Cutler out much as they had a pretty bad game in protection against the Saints blitzes.


  1. The Bears mixed it up but played a lot of man-to-man on the Saints offense. The coverage generally wasn’t very good. The Bears are bad in the defensive backfield right now.

  2. The Bears struggled to stop the screen play and, really, that single play was responsible for their scoring opportunities early as the were pretty incompetent running everything else.

  3. The Bears also struggled to get pressure on Drew Brees. Brees generally looked comfortable and he generally performed like it.

  4. And, again, the Bears struggled with misdirection plays as the Saints took advantage of the young defense trying to be aggressive.

  5. Kyle Fuller had a flat out bad game here. He’s either hurt or regressing badly. In fairness he was matched up a lot on Jimmy Graham.

  6. Some really poor tackling out there.

  7. The Saints don’t seem to run the ball much and I was surprised they didn’t challenge the Bears more on the ground. I thought they had reasonable success when they did.

  8. I don’t know who had Josh Hill on the Saints first touchdown of the second half but it was yet another broken coverage, something that’s been all too frequent this year. Ryan Mundy had him but looked like he thought he was passing him off to someone else on the play that he thought was behind him.


  1. Mike Tirico was his usual professional self. Jon Gruden was a disappointment. He sounded like he hadn’t done his homework and had mailed in this performance to some extent. There was a lot of off the cuff BS’ing going on. Tirico made most of the good points. Gruden’s contract extension with ESPN wasn’t good news if that’s the way he’s going to perform every week.

  2. The Saints botched a field goal but, being gentlemen, the Bears gave them another shot at it with a holding call by Jared Allen. The Saints missed the second attempt and I swear circus music started playing in my head.

    The Bears also ran a really poor fake punt in the second quarter. not only did it fail but they only had 10 men on the field.

    Patrick O’Donnell had a good game. There were some good kick off returns as well as the Saints kicker had a tough time kicking it deep.

  3. There weren’t many out right drops as Cutler made virtually every pass a difficult one to catch. The Saints did well here, too.

  4. There were an unbelievable number of penalties on both sides. Special teams had a penalty on the very first kick off of the game starting the offense inside the 10 yard line.

    Kyle Fuller had a damaging pass interference call at the end of the first quarter. That led to a touchdown.

  5. Jay Cutler was intercepted on the very first series on a pretty bad pass. The Saints gave it back two plays later on a fumble by Nick Toon. Great start. Cutler’s interception was the first of many and a better team than the Saints would have put up even more points than they did.

  6. On behalf of Chicago Bears fans everywhere we’d like to apologize to the rest of the league for subjecting you to this. Let’s all hope the networks will let the Bears and their fans suffer alone in quiet dignity on Sunday afternoons next season.

A Message of Hope. Kind of. And Other Points of View.


  • David Haugh at the Chicago Tribune after last Thursday night’s loss:

    “Yet Thursday’s low point for the Bears wasn’t Tony Romo escaping an unblocked Willie Young to hit [ColeBeasley for the Cowboys’ third touchdown or defensive end Anthony Spencer ripping the ball from Matt Forte‘s grasp to create another costly turnover. The nadir came when the video board announced [ChrisConte‘s back injury and the crowd roared in approval. Stay classy, Chicago.”

    I don’t know who these people are or what hole they crawl out of when they get up in the morning. All I know is that I live near Soldier Field in Chicago and I don’t know a single person who would do it no matter how drunk and stupid they got. Not a single one. I don’t know what’s wrong with these people.

  • According to Ed Sherman at the Chicago Tribune, the rating for the Cowboys-Bears match up was 31% down compared to their Monday Night game last year. It probably doesn’t bode well for ABC/ESPN and the ratings for the Bears December 15 Monday Night match with the Saints. And it serves them right.

    The only good thing about this downward trend in the Bears fortunes is that we might catch a break and get fewer prime time games next year. Sometimes I think there isn’t a network executive anywhere in the country that wouldn’t get down on his or her knees and do terrible things to Roger Goodell if they thought it would help them keep Bears fans up all night for every game.

  • Adam L. Jahns at the Chicago Sun-Times encapsulates the Bears season:

    “Damning statistic of the day Part 1?

    “The Bears have allowed 30 passing touchdowns this year. It’s the most in franchise history and there are three games left, which includes a matchup with quarterback Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints on Monday Night Football.”

    “Damning statistic of the day Part 2?

    “After Thursday, the Bears have been called for 19 false starts this season and there are still three games left. Last year, the Bears only had nine.”

    I’m not normally a stats guy. But poor pass defense and poor discipline account for a pretty big chunk of the Bears problems.

  • I should have started paying attention to Kevin Fishbain‘s All-22 Slideshow at earlier in the season. Its excellent. Here he shows, amongst other things, why the Cowboys were able to rip off those long runs in the second half. I’ll give you a hint. The Cowboys blockers are really good. The Bears front seven is not.
  • Coming up with ideas to write two or three articles a day about how awful the Bears are has to be a tough job. But there seems to be no end to the creativity of the writers in town. From Dan Wiederer at the Chicago Tribune:

    “Opposing quarterbacks this season are completing 66.5 percent of their passes against the Bears, averaging 279 passing yards per game with 30 touchdowns and only 11 interceptions. That adds up to a 103.4 rating. Which means that if ‘Bears Opposing Quarterback’ were an individual player this season, he would have a rating that would rank fourth in the NFL among full-time starters – behind only [Aaron] Rodgers (118.6), Dallas’ Tony Romo (108.8) and Denver’s Peyton Manning (107.8).”

    • Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune answers your questions:

      “Should a Day 2 pick be used on a speed receiver (see Sammie Coates, Auburn) to take the top off the defense and keep the safeties honest? — Vic F., Springfield, Va., from email

      “I think the big frames of Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery give them separation at times. Yes, a speedy wide receiver would be a nice complement to the offense. No question about it. Just because a player is fast doesn’t mean he’s going to be a good fit in an offense. It’s tough to come up with a draft pick like Johnny Knox, who comes out of nowhere to be productive.”

      As Devin Hester implied earlier this season before the Bears played the Falcons, you need a quarterback who is going to throw to those receivers if you want to draft them. The Bears have big, tall receivers because those are the only ones Cutler can deal with.

    • Jon Bostic will play in place of the injured D.J. Williams at middle linebacker. I can’t get over the nagging feeling the middle is where strong side linebacker Shea McClellan really belongs… Via Mark Potash at the Chicago Sun-Times.
    • Kevin Fishbain‘s All-22 Slide Show at reveals that blown coverages are a regular feature of the Saints defense in 2014. Sounds familiar.

      I’m also wondering if Cutler is the type of quarterback who will pick up on them when they happen. Can anyone remember even one pass play by the Bears to a receiver on a blown coverage this season? There must have been some…

    • Hub Arkush at answers your questions:

      “From @pancho0721: Is there a scenario where [Aaron] Kromer/[Mel] Tucker/Joe D[eCamillis] all get fired but the Bears somehow bring back Trestman?

      “It is at least 50–50 or better that is exactly what will happen and, ironically, if one of those three were to survive, Kromer could be the most likely candidate. Tucker and DeCamillis were not Trestman hires – they were Phil Emery hires. It would be much less expensive for the Bears to fire all three coordinators together than it would be to fire Trestman, and it is also far less an indictment of Emery’s poor management than having to fire Trestman after two years would be.

      “Rumors were rampant prior to the Kromer escapade that Trestman’s job was safe for another year, and the silence from Bears management since the Kromer deal exploded does nothing to contradict that.”

      50-50 sounds kind of high for all three. And you’d be looking for three new coordinators to join a lame duck head coach. I think if the Bears were to do that it would be better for everyone if they just cleaned house completely.

    • John Mullin at says that the bears moved quarterback David Fales on to the roster from the practice squad because other teams were interested in taking him. An optimist might say that speaks well of his future.


  • Ben Goessling at has a note that will be of interest to the Bears, especially when they prepare to face the Vikings for their last game in late December:

    “When the Minnesota Vikings prepared to move into TCF Bank Stadium for two years, they did a temperature study of the stadium that led them to switch from the south sideline — where the University of Minnesota football team sets up at the stadium — to the north sideline. Because of the shadows created by the press box and the suites on the south side of the stadium, the Vikings figured the north sideline would be sunnier, and therefore warmer, during cold-weather games late in the season.

    “What they didn’t know is exactly how big a difference it would make.

    “The Vikings checked the temperature during last Sunday’s game against the Carolina Panthers — where it was 12 degrees at kickoff — and found there was a 20-degree difference between the north and south sidelines, coach Mike Zimmer said. By the middle of the game, shadows were covering most of the field but the Vikings’ sideline, and Zimmer said he had several players thank him for the Vikings’ decision to switch sidelines. “

  • Arkush on quarterback Jameis Winston:

    “Winston has more than enough talent to be a Pro Bowl quarterback in the NFL but he will not be on my draft board and I can guarantee you he won’t be on at least a third of the team’s in the leagues boards as well because of his off-field issues and on- and off-field immaturity. Remember Mike Vick’s little brother, Marcus?”


One Final Thought

I’m used to guys like Steve Rosenbloom suggesting that coaches will or should be fired. I usually sit up and start paying attention when guys like Mullin start doing it.

“The future of Marc Trestman for 2015 was fairly assured going into Thursday night’s game against the Dallas Cowboys. Barring a catastrophic, franchise-embarrassing final four games, Trestman is generally expected to be given a third year to try to get this Bears thing fixed.

“That catastrophic piece was forming through three quarters of the Bears’ 41-28 loss to the Cowboys.

“But in the span of less than a full quarter, Trestman’s players may have in fact saved his job after putting it at serious risk (again). Whether they saved some other staff jobs, however, is another matter.”

“As coaches are clear about, coaches don’t cut players; players cut themselves with their performances. The ‘coaches’ equivalent of that is increasingly playing out on defense and special teams.”

I’ve got news for those of you hoping that Trestman will be fired. The Monday Night game against the New Orleans Saints might very well qualify as a “catastrophic loss”. Quarterback Drew Brees is and he knows how to pick apart a soft zone every bit as well as Aaron Rogers.

“It won’t be that bad”, you say? “The Saints are awful this year, too”, you say? I’ve got one response: “October 26 – Saints 44, Packers 23”.

Hold on to your hats.

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


One Final Thought

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

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

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

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

Can I Hear an Amen? And Other Points of View


  • Mark Potash at the Chicago Sun-Times reviews comments from some of the Packers that have angered Brandon Marshall:

“What did [Charles] Woodson and [Tramon] Williams say that riled Marshall? Woodson tweaked Jay Cutler in a post-game interview, telling ESPN’s Rachel Nichols ‘it’s the same old Jay’ after the Packers held Cutler to 126 passing yards and a 28.2 passer rating in the Packers’ 23-10 victor on Sept. 13 at Lambeau Field.

“But it was Woodson’s comments on The Jim Rome Show that apparently irked Marshall.

“‘They do have some big receivers over there, but they’re not fast receivers,’ Woodson told Rome. ‘There’s no Calvin Johnson on that team that’s going to stretch a defense. Yeah, there are some big guys, physical guys and they like to push and pull and grab and get behind guys, but we weren’t going to let that happen, so it worked in our favor.’

“The ‘they like to push and pull and grab’ part seems to be the source of Marshall’s ire. ‘I want [Woodson] out there because of some of the things that they say,’ Marshall said. ‘I take it personal when someone takes jabs at the way I approach the game or my career. I’m excited to see him out there at full speed.'”

Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune tells us essentially what Woodson meant by “we weren’t going to let that happen”:

“The Packers bracketed Marshall with a lot of two-man coverage, meaning the cornerback had man coverage underneath with safety help over the top. That support allows the cornerback to sit on routes. Marshall couldn’t get open and quarterback Jay Cutler held the ball too long waiting for him to break open, ultimately allowing the four-man rush to get to him repeatedly. The Bears entered the game hoping they would get a dose of press man coverage — the kind of physical action Marshall covets — and it didn’t happen.”

“As illogical as it sounds, the Bears offense is actually less potent this season with Brandon Marshall than it was a year ago without him. The bottom line is points, and the Bears are averaging 23.7 per game after scoring 22.1 a year ago. When you factor in eight return touchdowns this season, the offense is short of the pace from 2011 even with a bona fide No. 1 receiver. The upshot of this is the roster is more flawed than anyone expected when the team raced out to a 7-1 start. And as much as he would like to, Marshall cannot do it alone.”

Its not at all illogical. The runnings game has been absent and Mike Martz was a better, more experienced offensive coordinator.

James Brown was in for about 40 plays at LG against the Vikings. How did he grade out? Barring a free agency move or a high pick at guard in the draft are we seeing the future at LG? — Vic Fiebig, Springfield, VA

“Brown played OK for his first extended exposure. Nothing great. Nothing terrible. We don’t have anywhere near enough evidence to say if he will be a permanent starter in the near future. From the looks of it now, the Bears will be shopping for a veteran guard who can step in and play the position next season while Brown develops. But it will be interesting to see how he plays for the rest of the season, assuming he does play.”

“With the production Michael Bush has had along with the struggles [Matt] Forte is having does a Matt Forte trade make sense in the off season? What do you think we could get in return for the running back? — Joe Devine, Edmonton, Canada

“My impression is Forte is worth more to the Bears than he would be in a trade, but I could be wrong. Teams don’t want to pay much for older running backs. Forte just turned 27. He has not been as productive as he was in 2011, and he is the 17th leading rusher in the NFL. What could you get for him? Probably a third round pick. Maybe a second. Maybe not. But he is an all-around back who can help the Bears offense as a runner, receiver and pass protector. Players like him are not easy to find. I would not be looking to trade him, and I don’t think the Bears will be either.”

The lack of respect that Forte gets from fans constantly amazes me. He’s not having his greatest season but when I watch him catch and run with such nice vision and compare him in my mind to other running backs around the league, I just can’t understand why fans are so anxious to trade him. He’s one of only three or four Bears players that good teams like the Packers can look at with envy. I agree with Pompei. You don’t trade assets like Forte.


“The Bears look like they are running scared now. Lovie Smith treats Brian Urlacher like Rex Ryan treats Darrelle Revis. When the Jets lost Revis for the year, Rex basically said, ‘We are done. We suck.’ Look at the records in Chicago when Urlacher is not playing. The defense cannot line up or stop anyone. It’s a disaster. … I’m surprised Nick Roach is still on the team. I always thought he was a backup. I’m shocked he has stayed healthy (all year).”


  • Most of us are used to thinking about the blow to the offense and defense but Potash highlights the problem special teams coordinator Dave Toub has on special teams due to injuries.
  • Pompei says to expect Olindo Mare‘s kickoffs to be a bit shorter than Robbie Gould‘s and that Smith likely won’t have as much confidence in his on longer field goals.

“Recently the contracts and job security of Lovie Smith and offensive coordinator Mike Tice have come under scrutiny. But the other guy on the staff with reason to worry might be longtime strength and conditioning coach Rusty Jones. The Bears don’t seem very strong or well-conditioned. Their offensive linemen hardly impose their will on anybody. Their roster has sustained so many injuries through 13 games that Lovie Smith was forced to cancel practice Wednesday because he didn’t have enough healthy bodies.”

“You look at the last game we played, and I hate to go back to the last game, a couple plays here and there. It’s not like we were just playing terrible football. We’re going to tighten up a few things, which we’re doing, which is our routine, and we’re going to win a few football games and everything will be OK.”

Indeed, they weren’t playing terrible football. Many of us would feel better if they had. The truth is they aren’t much better than the Vikings (or the Lions). Add the effect of a dome on the offensive line and the penalties that come with that and its the difference between winning and losing against an opponent that doesn’t play badly enough to blow it.



“Three-four defenses like the Packers use have been a problem for the Bears this year, in part because they are different. Three of the Bears’ five losses have come against teams that play 3-4s, and the Bears have averaged 7.6 points per game in those losses.

“Bears offensive coordinator Mike Tice explains.

“‘Most of the teams we play are ‘over’ teams, so it’s one gap, one gap, one gap,’ he said. ‘You spend the whole offseason and training camp working against an over front that is a penetrating, slanting, quick front. Now you play a two gap team, it’s different. It’s a whole different technique.’

“Against a three-man front, blockers have to figure how long to stay on the down lineman before releasing and seeking out the defender at the next level. There are different combination blocks to be concerned with.”


“The Ravens got a steal with Corey Graham. He is now starting for the Ravens as a cornerback. He was brought in to be a special-teams phenom, and he has turned out to be a find for them on defense with all the injuries they have had at the position.”

“I hear the name of (Chiefs pro personnel director) Ray Farmer and I like him. He’s a great guy, but no one wants anything to do with the Kansas City Chiefs right now. … I know how they run it. It’s way too mechanical. They want robots in the front office, not evaluators. It’s important to have a system and to make scouting a science as much as you can, but this business is about having a gut feel and calling it like you see it. I don’t want a robot scouting for me.”

“OK, so what’s next, Joe Vitt putting a bounty on Gregg Williams?”

  • The ideal gift for the Eagles fan. From


One Final Thought

This comment from Biggs has the ring of truth:

“Speculation only mounts when it comes to the future of coach Lovie Smith, who is signed through 2013. The bottom line: The Bears have eight wins with three games to go, giving them a decent chance of finishing with 10 victories and a playoff berth. As disconcerting as it might be for some fans, 10 wins and a playoff berth — no matter how long it lasts —probably would ensure Smith’s future with the team. You don’t see many NFL teams launch a coach after double-digit wins and a postseason appearance. Jim Schwartz would love to be in Smith’s spot right now.”

I’m not thrilled with the way the players are responding to Smith right now and the way they came out in the first quarter last week gave me pause. If they continued to do that, I’m thinking the Bears won’t get those 10 wins. But if Smith does get them and makes the playoffs, that means the team will have responded to him and won at least one game I didn’t think they would. His job should be safe.

I know a lot of fans want to launch Smith. But the issue is overblown. Whether you think he’s a good head coach or not, the team’s primary problem is still lack of talent. As long as they’re moving to address that, they’ll be going in the right direction.

Having said all that I’ll wrap up with what might be the most important point as Pompei answers another question:

“If da Bears lose this game to Green Bay, will the search for a new head coach start? — @WCW4Life12, from Twitter

“No, it would be too early. You have to let the season play out. But I’ll say this. General managers and owners all over the NFL need to be prepared in the event that they decide to make a change. Dec. 31 is too late to start doing homework on available coaches.”

Amen, brother.