Inside the Head of Michael Vick Is a Scary Place

Mike Florio at profootballtalk.com on Jets quarterback Michael Vick‘s apparent concession of the starting job to Geno Smith:

“Maybe Vick, who has had a hard time making up his mind about which jersey number to wear, will change his mind once or twice, or more often, as offseason workouts unfold and as training camp approaches. Or maybe Vick has been around Smith long enough to realize that the best way to win the job is to make Smith believe he’s already won it.”

Phil Emery Is a Hipster and Other Points of View

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Points of View, April 25, 2013

Though I’ve pledged to make my posts shorter and to the point in a minor reboot of the site, I still want to highlight these short points that don’t deserve extensive comment here and there.  Don’t worry, they won’t be the novels that they used to be.

  • The Green Bay Packers are reportedly trying to become more physical by signing bigger, tougher players this offseason.  Josh Alper at profootballtalk.com comments:

“It doesn’t take sophisticated analysis to figure out that a team that gave up 323 rushing yards in their playoff loss could stand to be stouter than it was in 2012. The inconsistent running game would also benefit from a bit more physicality on the line and in the backfield, so there’s plenty of areas for the Packers to target in their effort to toughen up.”

“[I] think it’s just a matter of who takes me first, because I know the Eagles may want me, the Cleveland Browns may want me, the Buffalo Bills and the Jets.  I think those are all sequential picks, you know what I mean, within those top 13 picks or whatever. I’m just hoping one team loves me, because really, that’s all you need, one team to fall in love with you.”

All of these teams might, indeed, be interested in Emanuel.  In the second round.  I’ll be surprised, along with a lot of other people, if he goes higher than that to any of them at their present draft positions.

  • We also have this nugget from The National Football Post in the Friday Buzz section:

“One player who is making a late run up draft boards is LSU safety Eric Reid. Teams do not have a consensus on how the safeties should fall, but there are some teams who rate Reid the top safety, ahead of Texas’ Kenny Vaccaro. There is a chance Reid could be off the board by the middle of the first round.”

Reid is probably a name to pay attention to if you are a Bears fan.  Dan Pompei at the Chicago Tribune suggests that he could be central to a scenario where the Bears trade down.

Facing Financial Reality

Teams seem more bound and determined than ever to eliminate dead money from their cap situations. In an interesting twist, consider the new contract that Darrelle Revis agreed toas a result of his trade from the Jets to the Buccaneers over the weekend. Via Mike Florio atprofootballtalk.com:

“[It’s] a one-year deal with a series of five one-year, team-held options. If the Bucs choose to keep Revis, they’ll pay him $16 million per year for the privilege of doing so. If/when the Bucs decide that Revis isn’t earning his keep, the Bucs can cut him.”

The deal is reminiscent of the contract D.J. Williams agreed to with the Bears. He is actually being paid game to game this year.

The contract also reflects the new reality in the NFL. Players are having a hard time getting the money and the security they want this offseason. Jack Betcha at The National Football Post does a good job of explaining the situation as he tees off on the agents for these players for building unrealistic expectations.

“[T]here is still an unusual amount of high quality free agents on the street and it’s not always the fault of the system, the teams, the CBA or the player that they haven’t been signed and paid to date. Occasionally the agent is to blame and here is why:

“Agents can be guilty of overpricing the player to the marketplace. Before a client hits the free agent market it’s vitally important for agents to do their research for 10 months leading up to the beginning of free agency. It’s important to establish a value for your client and his position based on what the market will bare. Talking with GMs, pro personnel directors, the NFLPA research department and team salary cap managers can accomplish this.”

“This year was an interesting year in free agency because the two prior years (non-capped year included) were complete anomalies. They didn’t provide us with the best of comps going into this year. Additionally, there was only a modest increase in the cap, which was practically flat. With the addition of ten new GM’s over the last two years (who historically don’t make huge free agency signings), and cheaper draft choices under the new CBA, it was a perfect recipe for a soft free agent market in 2013 (as I predicted here).

“For those agents who were looking to hit it big this year, they may have missed the boat and did a huge disservice to their client.”

The Bears saw this problem last year with Olin Kreutz and now this year with Brian Urlacher. Whether its the agents or the players, both got greedy. The Bears offered more than they were worth on the open market. Instead of being grateful, both tried to get more from an organization the never overpays. It hard to say exactly where the blame lies but if their agents didn’t make them aware of the realities of the situation before hand, they are largely to blame.

In any case, I keep hearing that there are growing complaints amongst the players, the agents and the NFLPA about collusion. They probably aren’t willing to go public yet because they want to see what the market is like for veteran players after the draft when teams that haven’t filled needs go shopping again.

But I’ll be very surprised if it turns out that there’s any such thing going on. Much more likely, these entities only have themselves to blame for their problems in the market.

All Gabe Carimi Needs is Time and Other Points of View

Bears

“‘He’s ready. He’s paid his dues,’ Manning told Tom Kensler of the Denver Post. ‘Mike’s a good leader. He’s got some good coaches that have been mentors to him, different coaches that he’s worked with in the NFL that I think he’s incorporated some of their leadership philosophies and his own philosophy.'”

“‘I tell you, he’s a worker,’ Manning said of the 40-year-old McCoy. ‘We spend a lot of hours together — early mornings, late nights — trying to get our game plan in place. There is no substitute for work ethic, and Mike certainly has that. In my opinion, he deserves a shot at one of these head coaching jobs.'”

But its Denver left guard Zan Beatles who probably said what Emery wants to hear. Via Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune:

“He’s really a guy that can set his ego aside and really mold something around the guys that he has. Obviously, he has done a good job of that the last couple years being as different as these offenses have been. He’s willing to listen and take input and stuff like that.”

McCoy. himself, confirms this with a quote via Dan Pompei at the Chicago Tribune:

“‘I learned from Dan Henning a long time ago that if the quarterback doesn’t like something, or he can’t do it, you eliminate that from the game plan. Same with the running game. If there are schemes up front that our offensive line runs better, why try to force feed something else? I always say I don’t care what we want to do, but what can our players do well? That’s where it all starts.'”

“Call [former Packers head coach Mike] Holmgren in Arizona. Find out if the guy who tamed Brett Favre and made him a winner can do the same with the Bears’ version of the early foolish and stubborn Favre.

Jay Cutler has been compared to Favre in terms of physical talent and gunslinger mentality. Favre, of course, learned. Cutler, so far, has appeared unfazed by coaching. I don’t know if he thinks coaching is beneath him, but it certainly has eluded him.”

“Holmgren made the playoffs seven straight years in Green Bay. He made the playoffs five straight years in Seattle. He has coached 24 postseason games, winning nine in Green Bay and four in Seattle. By comparison, The Bears have won four playoff games since Mike Ditka.

“Oh, and don’t forget one Super Bowl and two NFC titles.

“If Cutler can’t respect that and develop under a coach whose resume includes Favre, Joe Montana, Steve Young and Matt Hasselbeck, then it probably wouldn’t be the fault of the coach. Connect the dots, people. Anyone too dumb to learn from a coach who is that accomplished also is too dumb to quarterback the Bears.”

Oo the other hand we have this from Pompei:

“As for Holmgren, he was a special coach in his prime. Whether he still would be one at the age of 65 and after four years away from coaching would have to be determined.”

“Quarterback Josh McCown, a 10-year veteran who has worked with Cutler, Bates and Mike Martz, said it was easy to see the chemistry between Bates and Cutler.

“‘No question,’ McCown said. ‘They have great chemistry, and that’s a credit to [Bates]. He understands what he wants to get accomplished but also players are all individuals, and we’re all different. He knows one guy has to be taught differently than the next guy and so on and so forth. He’s willing to do anything it takes to get the message taught.

“‘Jay responds to [Bates’] teaching style.'”

Cutler’s mechanics generally were considered to have taken a step back this year. He certainly was more inconsistent.

“Cutler has not proven he deserves to be paid like one of the elite quarterbacks in the National Football League in my opinion, but he probably thinks he has. So it might be difficult to reach agreement with him on a long term commitment at this point. If I were in charge of the Bears’ roster, I would probably let him play out the last year of his deal in 2013. If he plays well, they can pay him then. If he plays OK and they don’t have a better option, they can franchise him. If he plays poorly, they can let him walk.”

“[Carimi] can’t be judged on his 2012 season for a couple of reasons. The first is he came into the season after knee surgery and was affected by it, especially early. As his knee came around, it became apparent that both his lower body strength and confidence had suffered. He never did get comfortable. What Carimi needs is time — time to rebuild his physical and mental strength. My bet is he ends up being a very good right tackle in the NFL.”

“Now what becomes important is, do I feel like Shea’s got the motor, the athletic ability, the savvy to be a good starting player in the NFL? Yes, I do.”

What he doesn’t have is the size. It will be interesting to see what happens to his body in the offseason.

Elsewhere

“If Jones makes a change at coach, here’s how we think it will happen. He’ll line up a successor quietly before firing [head coach Jason] Garrett, like Jones did when he lured Bill Parcells to Dallas while Dave Campo was still the coach.

“The name to watch continues to be Jon Gruden. As mentioned on Monday’s Pro Football Talk, Jones was spotted a few weeks ago in Tampa, where Gruden lives.

“If not Gruden, Mike Holmgren remains a possibility.”

  • Jay Gruden, Jon’s brother, has been speculated to be a candidate for a number of job. He’s coaching Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton and is apparently doing a pretty good job. Via Vaughn McClure at the Chicago Tribune:

“‘Andy’s a quarterback who makes all the throws and stays alive,’ [Houston safety Danieal] Manning said. ‘And he’s smart, so there’s not much disguising you can really do to him. Last year we were able to disguise a little bit. This year, he’s picking up all the disguises.'”

“The biggest decision Capers has to make is whether to leave Woodson at safety full time or continue to move him into a slot corner position when he goes to the nickel or dime scheme.

“[Casey] Hayward has proved to be an outstanding slot corner with a team-leading six interceptions, and it would be a mistake [not] to use of his cover skills.

“In addition, Woodson hasn’t tackled anybody in 2½ months and [defensive coordinator Dom] Capers probably doesn’t want him constantly at the line of scrimmage in the slot position prepared to take on running back Adrian Peterson. So, he could just keep him at safety and let Hayward play the slot.”

“Running back James Starks (knee) probably won’t play against the Vikings, but he has been helping the cause.

“Starks has lined up as Peterson with the scout team a good portion of the week, hoping to give the defense a reasonable look at what to expect. This is the first step in Starks getting back on the field, but he’ll need the Packers to win to have a shot at playing again this season.”

The only way Starks is really going to help is if he can get them to improve their fundamentals and tackle better. Because from what I saw last week, that is the major problem.

“Some NFL executives have questioned whether or not Chip Kelly’s style of offense will play in the pros. Kelly, however, has been putting this message out through back channels: He would not run the same offense he runs at Oregon if hired by an NFL team. Instead, he would run a pro style offense, but with a faster tempo than most and with a good dose of no huddle. The NFL model for Kelly might be similar to what the Patriots run. Also in question is the way he makes his practices grueling. One NFL front office man said Kelly would have to lighten up the practice pace, especially later in the week, or he would have no players left by the middle of the season.”

Kelly is rumored to basically already have the Cleveland job.

    • Todd Haley might be a little smarter than I would have given him credit for. From Josh Alper at profootballtalk.com
  • On a related note, the fact that former Eagles head coach Andy Reid has been hired by Kansas City isn’t going to stop me from posting this from profootballmock.com:


  • Most of the time, having a coaching search with a wide variety of candidates is considered to be a good thing. But the Eagles head coaching search might a little TOO broad. From The Sports Pickle.
  • Rex Ryan has an unusual tatoo. I’m’ surprised that she isn’t wearing Sanchez’s shoes. From the New York Daily News.

Columnist Gary Meyers comments:

“The tattoo does make sense in one regard. In expressing last week that the Jets are the only team he wants to coach, Ryan said, ‘Let’s face it. I wear Jets stuff every single day, every day.’

“Clearly, he was not kidding.”

 

One Final Thought

And The Sports Pickle brings us this video under the headline “Drunk Packers’ Fan Cheers, Dies”:

Fumbling the Snap And Other Points of View

Bears

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

Cardinals

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Elsewhere

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

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

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

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


 


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



One Final Thought

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

 

The Price of Success

Former defensive tackle Trevor Price, who played four seasons under Jets head coach Rex Ryan evaluates Ryan as a head coach for The New York Times. This is a wonderful column that spends about 3/4 of the space talking about what a nice guy Ryan is and how its hurting him as a head coach. I expected it to end with something common like, “It’s a shame but he’s a born coordinator and not a good head coach like former Cowboys head coach Wade Phillips and many others.” Instead, to my surprise and delight, I got this:

“However, the debacle that was Monday’s loss at Tennessee was probably the day of change. Because when Ryan looks back on this season, it is going to harden him and change him.

“The day is going to come when his player and coaching decisions will be made with the same cutthroat efficiency that you find in places like New England, Baltimore and Philadelphia. Ryan will realize he has no choice but to develop that same poisonous ‘him or me’ attitude that permeates almost every other head coach in the N.F.L. And on that day the Jets will gain one of the better head coaches in the league. At the same time they will lose one of its better human beings.”

On one level, like most fans, I want to see great football and I’d love to see Ryan overcome adversity to find a level of success. But most of the time, you assume guys like Ryan are what they are. In truth, this is my experience in all walks of life. Most nice people would rather continue to be nice – usually thinking that this is, in actuality, the best way to be successful or, perhaps, figuring its better to sacrifice some success for the preservation of their own conscience.

I consider myself to be in the second category. From my childhood I’ve been raised to believe that “treating people right” comes before success and money. That these things are what’s really important in a person. Those beliefs have been repeatedly tested and, in fact, have been tested epecially hard lately as government funding levels for medical research from the National Institutes of Health plumet and tough decisions need to be made every day by scientists who lack funding. But in the end, I couldn’t do what New England coach Bill Belichick does. Perhaps this means I’m not tough enough but the preservation of my soul is just too important.

This was a great column not because it provided great insight (it did) but because as the reader and a non-Jets fan, I now find myself invested in Ryan’s future. I really hope Ryan keeps his job if for no other reason than so I can see what happens. The problem is that I don’t know whether to hope that he becomes successful or whether to hope he doesn’t.

Can I Hear an Amen? And Other Points of View

Bears

  • 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.

 

Packers

“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.”

Elsewhere

“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 profootballmock.com:

 

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.

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

Bears

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Steve Rosenbloom comes to a similar conclusion:

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

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

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

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


Vikings

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

Elsewhere

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum:

One Final Thought

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do Bears Players Too Often Fail in Position Changes? And Other Points of View.

Bears

  • Gabe Carimi and Chil Rachal are out, Jonathan Scott and Chris Spencer are in. I expect this won’t be the last we see of Carimi as I’m reasonably sure he’s being limited by a bad knee, whether the team wants to adimit it or not. When given the chance by Sean Jensen at the Chicago Sun-Times to blame his recovery from the dislocated knee last year Carimi didn’t say “No”.

As an aside, I can’t imagine how annoying it is to Carimi that the Tribune keeps using this picture of him for their articles.


  • Good question from fan, good answer from Dan Pompei at the Chicago Tribune. You decide the right of it:

“During Monday’s game, Jon Gruden mentioned how many of the Bears’ O-linemen were playing unfamiliar positions: J’Marcus Webb entered the league as a RT, Chilo Rachal only played on the right side prior to this season, Roberto Garza spent most of his career at RG, and Gabe Carimi played his entire college career at LT. But that doesn’t begin to cover the position changes forced on players by this coaching staff. Lance Louis, the only O-lineman currently playing his natural position, lost a year of development last season playing RT. Chris Spencer, who started for several years at center and was signed the day Olin Kreutz left, has only played guard for the Bears. Danieal Manning, now playing very well for Houston, was switched from safety to corner to safety to nickleback and finally back to safety before being let go as a free agent because he hadn’t developed the way the coaches thought he should. And these guys are still at it: no one outside Halas Hall believes Shea McClellan‘s best position is as a 4-3 DE, while Evan Rodriguez was touted on draft day as a pass-catching TE and is now a FB. Is it fair to say they have flat-out failed when it comes to changing players’ positions? Are the players starting to lose faith that the coaches can put them in a position to be successful? — Mark Early, Arlington, Va.

“I think you have to look at each case individually Mark. If a guard can’t switch from the left side to the right, how good is he? If you think Gabe Carimi has struggled at right tackle, you don’t want to see how he would be blocking on the left side. Roberto Garza has played no worse at center than he did at guard. Lance Louis played right tackle out of necessity last year. I think both rookies, McClellan and Rodriguez, have looked pretty promising at their positions. The one guy who was really hurt by position switching, in my opinion, was Danieal Manning.”

The only comment I really have is that Danieal Manning was hurt the most by his inability to play the position the Bears really needed him at: free safety. The rest of the excuses might have some validity but that’s the bottom line.

  • Kelvin Hayden brings a bit of a different attitude to the nickel back position as he discusses the pass that 49er wide receiver Kyle Williams burned him on. His comments to Mark Potash at the Chicago Sun-Times invite comparisons to what former starter D.J. Moore might have said:

“‘It was just a play where one bad step will cost you, and it cost me,’ Hayden said. ‘It was just one bad play. Hopefully, I learn from it. I think I have.’

Hayden said he played well otherwise, but that was of little consolation.”

“Bears trainers were reportedly worried about the significant concussion suffered by Jay Cutler during Chicago’s loss to the Texans [two weeks ago], expressing fears that the traumatic brain injury might prevent the petulant quarterback from ever sulking again.”

Vikings

  • Runningback Adrian Peterson on his recovery from surgery after he tore his anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments. He appears to be better now than he was before the injury. Via Pompei:

“‘It really made me look at things differently,’ he said. ‘It really made me scratch harder, dig even deeper when I was working out and training to get back. This injury is like a blessing in disguise. It helped me push through (to) another level.’

“Peterson said he is like one of the Dragon Ball Z warriors who transforms to a ‘Super Saiyan’ when he needs to channel something extra.

“‘Some of them just fight regular, but then they come up against competition and go Super Saiyan,’ he said. ‘That’s what it is. I had to go Super Saiyan to get back.'”

  • Dan Wiederer and Chris Miller at the Minneapolis Star Tribune report that Percy Harvin missed practice. His presence or absence Sunday might make a crucial difference in the game.
  • Barry Wilner at the Associated Press breaks down the game. Bottom line for the Vikings: Run the ball, don’t turn it over (which they have a history of doing) and get pressure with the front four. We’ll see if they can execute it.

Elsewhere

  • Lions coach Jim Schwartz on invalidating an automatic review by throwing his own challenge flag, thus incurring an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. Via Chris McCoskey at The Detroit News:

“‘I know the rule,’ Schwartz said. ‘You can’t challenge a turnover or a scoring play and I overreacted. He was obviously down on the field. I had the flag out of my pocket before he even scored the touchdown.

“‘I cost us a touchdown.'”

Kudos to Schwartz for taking responsibility. But it doesn’t change the fact that by losing his head, he cost his team not only because he gave the Texans a touchdown but because, as their leader, the team’s lack of discipline reflects directly on his own.

The personality of every team reflects the personality of it head coach.

  • Much as I like Rex Ryan I have to wonder about the way that team is playing right now. Like the Lions and the Eagles, it looks to me like there is a lot of wasted talent on the field and Ryan is being asked if he thinks he’ll be back next year with some justification. From Gary Myers at The New York Daily News:

“‘I do,’ he said when he was asked if he thought he would be back. ‘And I think our team will play a heck of a lot better and I don’t believe anybody will ask that question by the time the year is over. That is my personal opinion.’

“It’s a good thing Ryan has built up plenty of goodwill with Woody Johnson, because this performance against the hated Patriots was bad enough to get most coaches fired. The Jets showed no sense of urgency in what was a desperate attempt to make themselves relevant in December.”

“Mathematically, they are alive. Emotionally, there might not be much left of this team. But still no ‘Rex must go’ chants, which was the only good news of the night for Ryan.”

  • Give Carl some credit for this lock. But maybe not for his opinions on concussions:

One Final Thought

Dan McNeil at the Chicago Tribune and I see eye to eye on the importance of this game Sunday:

“The reality is Sunday’s date with the surprising 6-4 Vikings could wind up defining the season and, potentially, coach Lovie Smith’s long-term future with the Bears.”

I won’t say that they gave up but the team looked about as glad to get off the field in San Fransisco as I was to turn the TV off. They were broken.

Since that’s the case, this question to Pompei is probably on a lot of fans minds:

“If the Bears don’t end up making the playoffs this year, do you see Lovie Smith‘s job being in jeopardy? — Daniel Gutstein, Lincolnwood

“For the Bears not to make the playoffs, they probably would have to lose four of their remaining six games. They might have to lose five of six. That would be a significant collapse. And, assuming there weren’t extenuating circumstances that led to the collapse, I think that kind of late-season failure could put Smith’s job in jeopardy.”

Here’s the remaining schedule and how I see it playing out:

  • Vikings at Bears – win
  • Seahawks at Bears – loss
  • Bears at Vikings – loss
  • Green Bay at Bears – loss
  • Bears at Arizona – win
  • Bears at Lions – loss

This would put the Bears at 9-7 with a reasonable shot at the playoffs. Green Bay is the better team and the Bears aren’t going to beat anyone with that offensive line in those domes in Detroit and Minnesota. The Arizona game on the road is a close call but, in this case, its the Bears who are the better team.

How close are the other games? I honestly think it comes down more to where they are played rather than who the Bears are playing. The season is going to turn on this week’s game and the Seattle game afterwards. The Bears are better than the Vikings at home and need to take care of business. Seattle is probably the better team but, again, the Bears play better at home and the Seahawks aren’t as good on the road. Both are very close calls.

Bottomline, I think Smith’s chances are reasonably good to keep his job. But I’ve certainly been wrong before and its going to be a close thing unless they turn out to be better than I think they are.