Tim Tebow’s Favorite Target and Other Points of View

Bears

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Elsewhere

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Here's another thought provoking Audible:

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

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

“The White Fan Favorite

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

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

One Final Thought

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

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

 

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

Bears

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

Elsewhere

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

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

An argument ensued, Engle said.

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

 

 

One Final Thought

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

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

 

What Staley Should Have Been and Other Points of View

Bears

  • Dan Pompei at the Chicago Tribune asked 5 personnel men to evaluate the NFC North by position.  The Packers were voted to have the best head coach in Mike McCarthy.  But the scouts had some interesting things to say about Bears head coach Lovie Smith:

“Every ballot was the same except one, in which a personnel assistant ranked the Bears first, ahead of the Packers.

“His justification?

“’Lovie Smith has had to deal with quarterback issues, job speculation and inconsistencies that Mike McCarthy has not,’ he said.

“Another front office man voted the Bears staff second but said, ‘Lovie does a nice job. He is steady and that is a team that is well coached, well prepared and ready to play.’”

  • Michael Bush on his new role with the Bears.  Via Pompei and Brad Biggs:

“Asked if he dislikes that role, he said, ‘No one likes to be a battering ram. It just happens that way.’”

  • Also via Pompei and Biggs, Dave Toub is confident that D.J. Moore can take the departed Corey Graham’s place as gunner on the punt team:

“’We are going to hope to depend on him,’ Toub said.”

  • It’s early but this nugget from same article could be significant:

“Tight end Kyle Adams had a place on first-team kickoff return, a good sign for second-year player from Purdue.”

  • Starting cornerback Tim Jennings has a fight on his hands for his starting cornerback position. From Sean Jensen at the Chicago Sun-Times:

“[Kelvin Hayden] was the one DB that stepped up (Sunday), locking down Brandon Marshall so tightly on one rep that Jay Cutler didn’t even throw the football. When Marshall’s turn came around, he yelled for Hayden to get back out there and cover him, even though it wasn’t Hayden’s turn. Unfortunately, the horn ended the drill before Round 2 could take place.”

On the other hand we have this from Vaughn McClure at the Chicago Tribune after Tuesday’s practice:

“’Each day we see a few guys who step up and make a few more plays,’ Lovie Smith said. ‘Like what Tim Jennings was able to do today (and) Charles Tillman. Both of our corners were able to get a pick. There are good football players on the other side, so it’s a challenge for them every day.’’”

So sounds like some good things are happening there.

  • McClure highlights a trend that I also noticed this year in the draft as he talks to defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli about new safety Brandon Hardin:

“Hardin already has quite an adjustment to conquer. He played cornerback in high school and in college at Oregon State. The guy in front of him, [Chris] Conte, made the same transition last season and drew rave reviews.

“Marinelli explained the philosophy behind drafting corners to play safety.

“’It’s athleticism,’ he said. ‘People are spreading the field on you more, opening the field up. That day of the guy wearing the big neck roll and coming down tackling is not there. You need athleticism.’”

 

“If anyone unexpected stood out in pass-rush drills, it was defensive end Corey Wootton, whose standing on the team is jeopardized by McClellin’s arrival and two previous years of minimal production. Wootton looked quick and confident on the edge.”

That’s fine but I think we’d all like to see it the games at some point.

“’The speed of the game tells me I’m in the NFL,’ Jeffery said. ‘It’s a lot more faster.’”

Its training camp and the preseason.  Jeffery ain’t seen nothin’, yet.

“He’s difficult to cover in one-one-one situations because he’s so active with his hands, and he still can run past cornerbacks to get deep.”

On the other hand we had this:

“Fellow rookie Alshon Jeffery looked OK but was absolutely stymied at the line of scrimmage by cornerback Kelvin Hayden on one play. Hayden is big, physical and understands the elements of the Cover-2 scheme.”

Like most rookie wide receivers, Jeffery obviously has a long way to go.  But the’s big and he should eventually do better against veterans like Hayden.  Teams that have played aggressive man coverage on the Bears have given them a very hard time. Hopefully the acquisitions of Marshall and Jeffery are the first step towards changing that.

“As for the overall line, I think it can be efficient enough. It’s not going to be a great offensive line, but the days of great offensive lines may be over. If you look around the league, there are not many impressive offensive lines. Most of them have question marks like the Bears do. It is a reality of the NFL in this day and age.”

Outside the division the Bears play five of the eight worst returning offenses, including the bottom three: Colts (30), Rams (31) and Jaguars (32) — all in the first five games. The defense has a chance to establish itself early and hit that top-10 standing that has been so crucial in Smith’s tenure.”

Elsewhere

“Later, during the 11-on-11 team period, Tebow received a few more jeers. On one play when he held onto the ball for too long, a couple fans called for him to ‘Throw it, Tebow!’ Later, on a shaky incompletion, they called out, ‘Tebow, come on!’ and ‘That’s a Tebow ball!’”

Rex Ryan knows that when you are a defensive coach and you are inside the 5 or 10, you don’t account for the quarterback. When Tim Tebow is on the field, now you have to account for the quarterback. It’s much more difficult to get away running cover zero (man) and pinching the ends. With Tim Tebow, Cam Newton, Michael Vick or Robert Griffin, you have to account for the quarterback ­— so it takes one less player away from stopping the run. The other thing Tebow brings — as a defensive coordinator, even if it’s only five or seven plays, every team will now have to spend X amount of time preparing for a package with Tebow. If you don’t, he can make you pay. And even if you do, he might still catch you off guard. He can be a weapon.”

“Watching Danieal Manning in Houston (last year), he has great instincts. He’s a smart player. He just kept moving positions in Chicago. It was a question of development — not instincts. He is very talented.”

 “The Lions announced that Schwartz had signed a “multiyear” extension June 29. Schwartz has been steadfast in his refusal to speak about his contract status and remained tight-lipped in his first public comments about his contract.

“Early in his 35-minute news conference, Schwartz and reporters engaged in verbal jousting.

“Reporter: ‘Why won’t you reveal the length of it?’
“Schwartz: ‘It’s my choice.’
“Reporter: ‘But why?’
“Schwartz: ‘It’s personal to me. Do you make your contract terms public?’
“Reporter: ‘I don’t have a contract.’
“Schwartz: ‘You choose to reveal that.’
“Reporter: ‘I’ll tell you mine if you tell me yours.’
“Schwartz: ‘I don’t play that game.’”

Here’s a prediction:  Detroit will be shocked when [insert name of latest troubled Lion player here] is in hot water with the league for being uncooperative with the press.

  • Michael David Smith at profootballtalk.com notes a reported incident in which Schwartz laid into receiver Ryan Broyles for getting in line for a drill without buckling his chin strap:

“Schwartz, who said last year that he didn’t appreciate it when he heard an obscenity when attempting to shake the hand of 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh, brushed off his own obscenities toward Broyles.

“‘I barked at a lot of people,’ Schwartz said.”

  • Speaking of bad head coaches, Andy Benoit at The New York Times pulls no punches on Andy Reid as he previews the 2012 Eagles:

“The real reason the Eagles underachieved was they never figured out how to properly piece their tremendous individual parts into a fine-turned machine. It had nothing to do with “attitude” or “focus” or “desire.” It had everything to do with strategy and execution. The offense relied too much on big plays and did not always feature enough of LeSean McCoy, even though he had become arguably the best all-around running back in the N.F.C. The defense was stale and ill-conceived, featuring the now infamous wide-nine front looks that worked perfectly to highlight Philly’s weaknesses at linebacker. The star-studded secondary was incongruent, thanks to youth at safety and miscast players at cornerback (Nnamdi Asomugha in the slot!?). These are the things that lead to losing five games just on blown fourth-quarter leads alone.”

“If all this sounds like a description of bad coaching, well…it is.”

  • ESPN’s NFC North blogger Kevin Seifert says that the Packers are emphasizing tackling in their camp.  They should.  From what I say it was 85% of their problem on defense last year.  If they can just reduce their missed tackles they’ll be consideerably better.
  • Forty-niners owner Jed York gets it. From Sam Farmer at the Los Angeles Times:

“What are some of the high-tech features [of the planned stadium]?

“Some stadiums focus all their money on the scoreboards. That’s a hardware solution. You can only show certain things on a scoreboard. There’s only one screen, or two, three or four. If you have a tablet or some kind of smartphone device, it will be, what do you want to learn? You might like the offensive-line battle. And it’s hard for you to see that, and that’s not something that’s going to be on the scoreboard. But you might want to watch Justin Smith maul an offensive guard and figure out, what’s he doing? So to have a Justin Smith-cam that you’re going to be able to watch on your tablet, those types of things are going to allow you to connect to the game in ways that you want to connect to the game.

“A lot of people would rather watch games on TV than pay to see them live. And what about the fans who have fantasy teams and want to watch all the Sunday games?

“One idea is to put the Red Zone Channel on the scoreboard for the early games and let people in the stadium. One of the things we’ve talked about is opening concessions before the game at reduced prices. When you look at the food and beverage consumed on a Sunday at a football game, 50% is consumed in the parking lot before people actually come in. So why not open that up and have sort of a tailgate atmosphere inside the stadium and watch games?”

One Final Thought

The Onion thinks Matt Forte’s long-term contract with the Bears will be “career-ending”:

“’It’s such a shame to see such a promising young talent fall victim to a multi-year deal with the Bears,’ said ESPN’s John Clayton, adding that he had to look away when Forte announced the painful signing. ‘We’ve unfortunately seen this fate befall so many players through the years and while some of them try to recover, after a few years spent battling with a Bears contract, nobody is ever the same.’”

“Money” Does Not Equal “Respect” and Other Points of View

Bears

“[Defensive coordinator Rod] Marinelli said playing in space didn’t bring out the best in Melton at end as he had a tendency to ‘look around.’ But he quickly showed the pad level and leverage necessary to be effective inside. The switch was in the works at the start of his rookie season in 2009 before he was placed on injured reserve with a minor ankle injury. His assignment was to bulk up for the move inside and he did that.”

  • Special teams coordinator Dave Toub on how they are trying to make the best punt returner in the NFL even better.  Via Biggs:

“’We’ve been working on [Devin Hester] catching the really short punts, going up and getting those instead of letting them drop,’ Toub said. ‘That has been our emphasis. He really has done a good job. Devin has had a great camp, not only as a wide receiver but as a returner too.’”

  • Steve Rosenbloom at the Chicago Tribune has been uncharacteristically high on the current Bears team.  In a limited way, he even finds a way to talk around the fact that the Bears failed to add to the offensive line:

“But there might be a more notable reason the Bears ignored improving the unit that usually defines great teams: The Bears plan to have [quarterback Jay] Cutler run away from the bad blockers.”

Yes, that’s a good part of the game plan, I think. In fact, though I haven’t bought a single thing the Bears have actually said about this topic, this one thing that they haven’t said seems to be the one reason for optimism:  that when Jay Cutler was at his best last season, it was because he made plays on the move despite a poor offensive line.  Nothing proves that more than seeing what happened to the targets that replaced him after he was injured.  The guess here is that the Bears plan to use more designed rollouts and bootlegs the way the Broncos tailored their offense for him in Denver.  And, indeed, it might work.

“One of the areas that we wanted to improve across the board was our hands, using our hands better, keeping the players away from us. We know we have guys that can run, so that’s going to help our running game. That’s really all we can look at right now.”

Jackson (Tennessee)

“Who wins the Bears LT competition? [J’Marcus] Webb or [Chris] Williams?

Kevin Seifert

“I think they want Webb to win it. If [offensive coordinator Mike] Tice thought Williams could do the job, he wouldn’t have moved him to guard a few years ago.”

“…

“You don’t move a productive left tackle out of that position if he is in fact productive. It’s much easier to find a guy to play guard than tackle. It was a reflection on Chris to a large extent.”

  • Hayes hypes up the Bears wide receiver corp.  I have to say that I’m not completely buying into the hype here either.  If the Bears are smart enough to play thier smaller, speedier wide receivers inside to match them up with nickle backs and allow them to get off of the line of scrimmage, that will be a plus.  But even given that, as far as I can see a lot is going to depend upon Alshon Jeffrey.  He’s a big target that could demand a double team which he won’t get as long as Brandon Marshall is on the field.  The problem is that wide receivers rarely produce in their first year.

Frankly, with all of the high expectations being generated in the media for this team, I have to wonder if they aren’t being set up for failure.  The Packers are still the class of the division and if the Lions play up to their potential, as far as I’m concerned the Bears are still the third place team in the division.

  • Joe Cowley at the Chicago Sun-Times tells us what Matt Forte thought of his teammate’s comments about him as he continues to stay away in a contract dispute.

“While [Lance] Briggs had Forte’s back, Forte didn’t appreciate quarterback Jay Cutler recently speaking for him.

“Cutler said he ‘would be shocked if [Forte] doesn’t sign his tender by July 15, or whenever it is, and show up.’

“‘I don’t know, it depends on how we’re doing in the negotiations,’ Forte said when asked if he would sign and be in camp on time. But it kind of looks bad when other people speak for you. [Cutler] doesn’t really know what’s going to happen. He’s not in the negotiations. He’s just being optimistic.’”

I thought at the time that Cutler made those comments that it was an uncharacteristically stupid thing for him to do.  Forte has now confirmed that impression.  Forte’s only leverage in negotiations is the threat of a hold out.  If his friends and teammates are saying that he’s not going to do that, it can only hurt.

  • Nathan Enderle, we hardly knew ye.  Hell, we never knew ye at all.   Via Biggs.
  • I, personally, loved it but Dan McNeil at the Chicago Tribune didn’t seem as thrilled with the blanket Bears coverage during their minicamp:

“This Bears minicamp media blitz, however, is maddening. It’s got me worried about those in my fraternity.

“In case you’ve missed the local newspapers, sports radio or the television sports magazine shows lately, you’ve been spared Bears blather of epic proportion. The kind of overkill that hasn’t been seen around here since the 1985-86 woof woofers were packing for training camp in Platteville, Wis.

“Slow down, boys. Almost all of these stories will stand up when the Bears start smacking each other around in the sweltering heat in about six weeks.”

Elsewhere

  • I hope you all will forgive me but I’ve about had it with the Saints bounty scandal and I’m just not going to talk a lot about it.  I’d like for the thing to just get done and over with.

Having said that, I did find one comment from Browns linebacker Scott Fugita regarding the players appeal hearing interesting.  From Dave Zirin at SI.com:

“‘People said I was stupid for confessing to paying for big plays.  I didn’t think of that as a big deal,’ Fujita said.  ‘Is it against the rules?  Technically, yeah, it’s against the rules, but that’s the way it was done when I was a young player and I’m not ashamed of that.  If that’s what I’m going down for, let’s call it for what it is.  The problem is that the league has billed this thing as being this super-organized pay-to-injure scheme, which it never was.’”

What caught my attention was the first sentence.  Many players and union representatives have questioned why commissioner Roger Goodell has not shown the players all of the evidence against them.  This comment is probably why.

As I see it, the process of gathering information in the NFL is like going before a federal grand jury.  Prosecuting attorneys in this situation don’t have to show you the evidence against you before you testify and they frequently don’t.  The reason is simple – they want you to tell the whole truth, not just confess to what you know they have you nailed on.  They don’t want you to tailor your confession to the evidence.

If the “people” who are telling Fujita he’s stupid for telling the truth are other players, particularly other players implicated in the scandal, then I think we all know that the NFL is handling this situation the right way.  They’re going to have to force these players to tell them the truth or they’ll never get it.

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  • Also from The Sports Pickle haters finally have the proof they need of Tim Tebow’s hypocrisy:

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One Final Thought

Cowley quotes Forte further:

“Even if Forte and the Bears reach a deal, Forte said the process has left some ‘scars.’

“‘That’s what happens when you get into the business side of sports,’ he said. ‘There’s an easy way to get over those scars, but we’ll see. Everyone looks at it and says, ‘Oh, it’s only about money.’ It’s not only about money. It’s about you going out there and putting your heart and soul on the field, being respected for what you do, and then being rewarded for it.’”

If I had to point to one problem across all sports, especially professional sports, it is the idea that athletes get into their heads that “money equals respect”.  Many if not most of the greatest men and women in history were not rich.  Indeed, I would say that most of the very best were poor.

What Matt Forte is really saying is that this negotiation is about pride, the greatest of the seven deadly sins and the one that is the root of them all.  I’m all for using every point of leverage to negotiate a contract and Forte is well within his rights to do as he has done so far.  But if the negotiation gets to the point where it really hurts himself or the team, I’m going to be very disappointed.

Will the Bears Show More Zone Blitz with New Defensive End McClellin? And Other Points of View.

Bears

“‘Has he been charged with anything?’

“It’s rarely a good sign when the first question for the general manager after announcing a draft pick is about a felony assault charge.”

“They envision him as what [GM Phil] Emery called a ‘move tight end,’ a player who can line up in multiple positions, competently block defensive ends and stretch the field for the Bears’ offense.

“‘What that does to a defense is it forces them to stay in more of their base [defense] instead of bringing in a nickel or sub-package personnel and match up with a straight-seam tight end,’ Emery said. ‘We really believe that Evan provides that for us.’”

This almost certainly is a pick for Mike Tice.  Many Bear fans have bemoaned the loss of former TE Greg Olsen but have failed to realize that Olsen was a glorified WR.  Mike Tice would have never started a TE who couldn’t block any more than former OC Mike Martz would have.

“Say an offensive tackle was trying to reach to my outside,” Emery said. “He instantly has a feel for feeling that block, getting his body in the right leverage position and working off that block to the ball; taking as natural and as quick a path from blocker to ball as possible. Some people possess that at a high level. Some don’t. They get stuck on blocks.”

Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune continues:

“If there is one area that stand out for me as an evaluator and our coaches and our scouts, we all came away from looking at him as having high-level football instincts,” Emery said. “This is a very natural football player. He plays with very low pad level. He finds the ball quickly through blocks, which is a skill in itself, he reads pressure well. He can feel where the ball is going. He has very natural ability to find the right path to the ball.”

  • Lovie Smith debunks the idea that McClellin will play linebacker but does note that they feel he can “drop into coverage”.  Perhaps we’ll see more zone blitz this year.  Smith also mentions that weight is “overrated” when it comes to players like McClellin in schemes like the one the Bears run.

“McClellin will keep the accountability level high at Halas Hall. Players like Quinton Coples or Bruce Irvin might have lowered it.”

‘‘I would say I have a great work ethic,’’ Jeffery said. ‘‘I mean, I’m fast. When I get to Chicago, hopefully you can see for yourself first-hand and the team as well. I’m just ready.’’

I think the fact that Jeffery defines “great work ethic” as being “fast” tells us all we need to know.

“Bears Insider (@bears_insider)
“4/27/12 7:11 PM
“New #Bears WR Alshon Jeffery bench pressed 225 pounds 18 times, which was one fewer than Shea McClellin.”

Note that Hardin worked out at East-West Shrine game as a corner and played an aggressive press style defense at Oregon.  This would make him similar in some respects to seventh round pick Isaiah Frey.  From Biggs:

“Downside: Late-round picks face an uphill battle, and the Bears have a host of veterans in the mix here. Still, this could be a blessing for Frey as they need to develop young players at the position. He needs to transition to playing zone defense as he played almost exclusively man in college.”

The guess here is that one reason the Bears liked Hardin was his ability to play man coverage and match up with tight ends and slot receivers when necessary.  Similarly, Frey maight have to learn to play zone but he’s already got man coverage skills, something whcih the indications are the Bears may covet more now than they did in the past.

Lovie Smith has played a lot more man coverage over the last year or two than he did before that.  Its possible that he was on board with these picks.  On the other hand, as Pompei notes, Phil Emery’s picks this year seem to be more scheme independent.  So if there’s a new head coach next year, he will find at least some personnel who aren’t strictly cover two zone-type players.

“Having lived and worked in Chicago the last 11 years, I know one thing: the media can be very tough.

What makes it hard for Phil Emery in conducting his first draft is that the local media didn’t trust previous GM Jerry Angelo and because of that there is a carryover effect to Emery. They want to believe but aren’t sure if they can.”

“The Bears announced Sunday that they agreed to terms with offensive tackle A.J. Greene of Auburn. Greene turned down an invitation to the NFL scouting combine in February and last month he showed up for his school’s pro day merely as an observer. Greene said he was preparing for a career in the music industry despite teammates and coaches urging him to give the NFL a try.

“‘Some people have criticized me for this, but most of those guys — all they understand is football,’ Greene told the Montgomery Advertiser at the pro day. ‘They can’t grasp the idea of not wanting a life in the NFL. A lot of kids grow up thinking the NFL is the ultimate dream. I just want to make music. I’m not going to pretend I want to play football when I really don’t.’

“Perhaps Greene had a change of heart.”

“‘Devin’s role has not changed,’ Emery said. ‘We see him as a guy that is going to help our receiving corps in a big way. I know that Coach Tice has done a lot of planning. We want to make sure that we have a special plan for Devin, we have the Devin Package, a package of plays as a receiver. You never know where he is going to line up and I don’t want to get too far ahead of that in terms of telling other people what we’re going to do with him.’”

Sounds exciting.  But I’ll be happy if they just line him up in the slot where he belongs every once in a while.

“Wide Receivers (11): Brandon Marshall, Devin Hester, Earl Bennett, Alshon Jeffery, Devin Thomas, Eric Weems, Johnny Knox, Dane Sanzenbacher, Terriun Crump, Brittan Golden, Chris Summers

The Bears will keep five or six wider receivers.  Marshall, Hester, Bennett and Jeffery are locks and Weems probably is, too.  That leaves  Thomas, Knox, and Sanzenbacher competing for the last slot.  That’s if they keep six.

This will be a position to keep an eye on in camp.

Potash also goes through the defensive linemen.  Right now they have 3 reliable DTs in Henry Melton, Stephen Paea, and Matt Toeaina.  They’re fools if they go into the season without at least one more.  The same goes for the linebacker position where they have no reliable personnel outside of starters Brian Urlacher, Lance Briggs and  Nick Roach.

  • Pompei answers your questions:

“The Bears have five games indoors this year, with three of the last four games on the road in domes (Vikings, Lions, and Cardinals). What is the Bears’ record indoors under Lovie Smith? Brian Helser, Thornville, Ohio”

“The Bears are 12-11 in domes since Smith became head coach in 2004.”

When you look back at last season you find that the Bears offensive line was particularly miserable in domes where you can’t hear the snap count.  That’s because those are the situations when you find out how much talent you really have.

All three of those dome teams above are in the NFC and two are in the Bears division.  Assuming nothing else significant  gets done about the offensive line, if the Bears aren’t 9-3 going into the last four games, they’ll have an up hill battle making the playoffs.

Elsewhere

“In many draft rooms, there wasn’t the same kind of enthusiasm over who was chose as there normally is. ‘There were a lot of reaches on the first two days,’ one personnel director said. ‘A lot of teams were not feeling comfortable with their picks, based on my conversations with other personnel people. It wasn’t’ a great year. There are a lot of guys with holes.’”

“In the same SiriusXM Radio interview in which Jenkins said teams who passed on him are ‘gonna pay,’ Jenkins addressed the immediate comparisons that were made between him and the last troubled defensive back drafted by Jeff Fisher, Adam “Pacman” Jones.

“Asked by Adam Schein if Fisher possibly was interested in Jenkins because of similarities to Pacman, Jenkins scoffed.

“‘I mean, no, because I never shot up a strip club or nothing like that,’ Jenkins said.

“This guy is gonna be great for business.”

“What is most interesting about the Packers’ draft is they chose four defensive players who some perceive as better fits for a four-man front than a three-man front. Could the Packers be considering a defensive conversion? Or at least a shift to more 4-3?”

“Defensive coordinator Dom Capers is known as a 3-4 guru, but he did preside over a four-man front with the Jaguars.”

“‘I had no discipline. I had all the talent in the world,’ he said. ‘You know, great body, great genes. But I had no work ethic and I had no discipline. The better you get, the harder you have to work. The better I got, the lazier I got.'”

  • The Sports Pickle asks “Which NFL 1st Round pick was the most puzzling?”  Here’s one answer:

Brandon Weeden to Cleveland — Miami or Arizona would have been a better fit for him, as those are places old people move.”

One Final Thought

Tony Perry and Sam Farmer, writing for the Tribune newspapers, relate this interesting anecdote of deceased linebacker Junior Seau:

“Leaving USC after an All-American junior season, the Chargers made Seau the No. 5 pick in the 1990 draft.

“But Seau did not feel immediately embraced by his teammates. He experienced an attitude shift in the seventh game of his rookie season when he successfully called a defensive huddle. His team was not victorious on that day, but, in a way, Seau was.

“’My dad called me and said, ‘Oh, sorry you didn’t win,’ Seau recalled years later in an interview with the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. “I said, ‘Don’t worry, I won. They huddled for me.’ That is what I would call a turning point in my career.’”

Quick Comments: NFL Draft First Round

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

A Little Knee Bending for Bears Offensive Line? And Other Points of View.

Bears

Devin Thomas has never taken off as a wide receiver in the NFL.

“What are the odds he will with the Chicago Bears? That’s hard to say right now. But the Bears certainly don’t have the kind of depth chart Thomas was up against as a member of the New York Giants. Opportunity could come with his new team.”

“Despite what Dolphins owner Stephen Ross allegedly told a fan, the Dolphins had no intention of cutting Brandon Marshall without getting anything in return for him. It is true, however, that the team was intent on purging Marshall at some point. Marshall was persona non grata in Miami for a number of reasons. He was perceived as a quarterback killer because of his complaining. New coach Joe Philbin was looking for a different style of receiver. Marshall is high maintenance off the field. And the Dolphins needed cap space. However, if the Dolphins couldn’t have traded Marshall in the offseason, it is likely they would have brought him to training camp to see if a trade market might develop for him after teams started losing players to injuries. As it turned out, they received two third round picks from the Bears.”

“Unfortunately, by our numbers, Marshall hasn’t exactly played up to that skill set. Last season, he had a 9.8 percent DVOA, good for 36th in the NFL. (DVOA is Football Outsiders’ defense-adjusted value over average metric, explained here.) That was his best career ranking in DVOA and only the second time he finished a season with a positive score. Despite his eye-popping traditional numbers, Marshall has had just one season with a catch rate above 60 percent. His statistics deserve some slack since Marshall has always been the focal point of his team’s passing game, but when you consider the opportunity cost of two third-rounders and Marshall’s fairly hefty contract, trading for Marshall wasn’t exactly the slam-dunk move many have called it.”

WR Michael Floyd: Notre Dame (6-3, 224)
DE Whitney Mercilus: Illinois (6-4, 265)
OT Jonathan Martin: Stanford (6-6, 304)
DE Quinton Coples: North Carolina (6-6, 285)
WR Kendall Wright: Baylor (5-10, 190)

I’m guessing that there’s no way Floyd, Mercilus or Couples falls that far.  It seems to me like a fantasy but if scouts are right about Coples and he is there, you take him and start doing cart wheels.

Martin is intriguing and could fill a need but a lot would depend on how much OL coach Mike Tice thinks he can coach him.  Most scouts seem to thin he has a pretty low floor and the Bears don’t need to draft a tackle who turns out to actually be an average (at best) guard (*cough* Chris Williams *cough*).

“What do you make of all the attention this week on Kendall Wright? Is it due diligence or real interest by the Bears? I’m sure he is a good football player, but don’t we have enough 5-10 wide receiver experiments? I would preferMichael Floyd and if he is not avail at 19 then Stephen Hill based on speed and frame. Do you think Phil Emery will stick to his comment, which I support 100 percent, about football being for big players? Andrew Los Angeles

“Look, Kendall Wright is a pretty good prospect. You can be 5-10 and be a lot better player than someone who is 6-3. I wouldn’t turn up my nose at him just because he isn’t big. There have been plenty of outstanding receivers who are shy of six feet. The Bears already have a big receiver in Brandon Marshall. If the Bears draft a receiver, they need to draft the best receiver they can find, regardless of how tall he is. Emery likes big players, but he likes good players more. In Kansas City, he drafted 5-foot-8, 170 pound Dexter McCluster.”

Dexter McCluster is a multi-demential player who was drafted as a slot receiver.  Drafting Kendall Wright for the Bears would be like getting another Johnny Knox for the Packers to knock off the line of scrimmage and sit on.  Like McCluster, he’s too small to be anything but a slot receiver and Earl Bennett has that pretty much wrapped up.

  • Pompei, this time writing for the Chicago Tribune, quotes Bears head coach Lovie Smith on Wright:

“‘When I watch video, I don’t want to see all these bad plays,’ he said. ‘If we’re coaching a guy up to his max, OK, what can he be? It’s about the ceiling, always. This is what he’s capable of doing.’”

I found this to be interesting because it clicks together with another quote from Smith via Pompei, this time about his relationship with GM Phil Emery:

“We watched a little tape together. It’s on video what type of guys we like. And it’s constant communication, normal flow of day, going over everything we want at every position. It’s continuing still.”

Hard not to notice that Emery’s emphasis on evidence-based evaluation and watching tape is catching on with Smith.  I like that.

  • On a related not, from Mark Eckle at the Times of Trenton we have this comment on DT Dontari Poe:

“He’ll be overdrafted,” one personnel man said. “He did all of that at the Combine, so some team will take him way higher than he should go. I mean watch him play, just watch. He didn’t do anything. And he wasn’t playing at a very high level, either.

 

“All I know is he had one sack last year and it came against Austin Peay. You probably didn’t even know Austin Peay had a football team.”

 

Poe might be available for the Bears at 19.  If he is it sounds like a good test of GM Phil Emery’s philosophy to judge prospects primarily by seeing what show up on tape.

“Are you as sold as Mike Tice is on J’Marcus Webb as our left tackle? I like him as a person but I think he’s a swing tackle at best in the league. Also, Tice and Lovie Smith need to remember that Webb was a seventh-round pick from a tiny school that nobody had ever heard of. He was never meant to be a starting left tackle in the NFL. I think the Bears should trade up in the early teens of the first round to secure Jonathan Martin, who I’m sure would eliminate the only question mark on our offense now. Jim Lee, Platteville, Wis.

“It’s possible Webb could develop into a starting left tackle you can win with. He has done enough good things for the coaching staff to have faith in him, it’s just that he hasn’t done them consistently enough. He clearly still is a work in progress, as you might expect someone with his background to be going into his third season. There have been Hall of Famers who have come from “tiny schools that nobody ever heard of,” so that is not an issue. What is an issue is Webb allowed 14 sacks, tied for most in the NFL according to Stats, and that he was flagged an NFL-high eight times for false starts and five times for holding. It’s important that everybody, especially his offensive coordinator, understands this isn’t Anthony Munoz. Don’t expect him to be able to handle the best pass rushers in the game one-on-one, and he’ll have a chance. But there is no question he has some serious improving to do in order to be the Bears’ long-term left tackle.”

Elsewhere

  • Former Bears Director of College Scouting, Gabriel Gabriel, on QB Ryan Tannehill for The National Football Post:

“Yes, Tannehill will get drafted high and I know of at least three clubs that are praying that it actually does happen because that drops a good football player to them. It has been my opinion all along that some evaluators and people in the media are ‘creating’ a player just as they did Blaine Gabbert last year and others like him in previous years. Don’t forget, J’Marcus Russell was the first pick of the draft the year he came out.”

  •  And, as if to prove Gabriel right, from Pro Football Weekly’s Whispers column:

“The Vikings continue to hope that the Ryan Tannehill buzz keeps flowing. After his strong pro-day effort, there is more buzz about teams having to trade up ahead of the Browns at No. 4 to get the athletic-but-green quarterback. The Vikings will be all ears — they would love to slide down a handful of spots, pick up additional picks and still get a top-rated player. It would be the ideal situation in their minds.”

 “The union possibly has deferred comment on the situation until it has a chance to obtain more information.  The NFLPA is in a tight situation on this one, balancing its obligation to protect both the alleged participants in the bounty system and the targets of the bounty system.  It’s possible that the union will eventually contend that the players who participated were coerced by their coaches, making both the player-participants and the player-targets the victims.

“Frankly, any other argument would make it hard for the NFLPA to aggressively and properly represent the interests of both ends of the bounty spectrum.”

“Line him up as an H-back. The players who have been most successful as package quarterbacks have been the ones who are on the field in other roles. If a player comes off the sideline only when he’s part of a package, it’s a red flag for defenses.

“And Tebow can play H-back. ‘Look the way he’s built,’ McCarthy said. ‘He’s an athletic, powerful man. He’s bigger than people realize.’”

I don’t know that Tebow will ever be a good QB.  But I’m reasonably certain he’s a player.  He can do a lot of things on the football field.

“You can improve in the offseason not just through free agency.  We’ve improved every year with our offseason program and I believe that’s going to be the case again this year.”

Want to know why the Packers are successful as an organization?  Notice that McCarthy concentrates on what he does best when commenting on how to improve the organization.  Its fairly evident that he never stops coaching while letting GM Ted Thompson do what he does best in evaluating players.

  • Former NFL safety Matt Bowen at The National Football Post provides some coaching points while reviewing tape of North Alabama’s Jenoris Jenkins.
  • Bowen also talks about the importance of adjusting to the ball using Appalachian State’s Brian Quick as an example.
  • Jon Gruden gives QB prospect Andrew Luck a hard time about this play.  It’s really just guess work but watching the film and judging from the way that Luck goes right to the receiver without a glance to the left, I’m guessing that he’s being a good soldier and covering for a poor play call.  Its even posible that Gruden is baiting him in an effort to get him to call the coach out.  To his credit, Luck doesn’t give in to the temptation.
  • Gabriel tells lots of Bear fans what they’d like to hear as he describes the big wide receivers available in the draft.
  • I actually laughed out loud when I read this headline from profootballtalk.com before I even read the article.  Glad to know Donovan McNabb is still good for something.
  • Like most people who have been in this situation, I don’t know whether to laugh at this or cry. From A Factory of Sadness.
  • The Sports Pickle wonders what might have been had Internet commenters been around to ruin great moments in sports history.  Here’s a good example:

One Final Thought

If anyone needs any further evidence as to why Jerry Angelo deserved to be fired, this excerpt from Pro Football Weekly’s Whispers column provides some:

“Packers head coach Mike McCarthy said at the annual NFL meeting that 2011 third-round RB Alex Green is well ahead of schedule in his recovery from the torn ACL that cut his rookie campaign short in Week Seven. McCarthy also said that 2011 first-round OT Derek Sherrod, who also suffered a season-ending injury (broken right leg), has been conscientiously rehabbing on a daily basis at the Packers’ facilities.”

This is the kind of thing that drives Bears fans insane.  The Packers lose thier first round offensive tackle to jury and they nearly go undefeated.  The Bears lose theirs and the whole right side of the line falls apart.

One look at the statistics, as reviewed in this very good article by McCown, tells you what you need to know.  Also taking into account his analysis of Brandon Marshall above, he sums up the Bears offseason moves:

“The Bears did upgrade another area of weakness by signing QB Jason Campbell to back up [Jay] Cutler. But unless they start working to improve their offensive line, the Bears are in for a season much like the past two: one in which good defense and solid quarterback play are undone by an inability to punch the ball into the end zone and in which goal-line sweeps are buried in the backfield due to missed blocks.

But at least there will be one key difference: This time [Michael] Bush gets to be the scapegoat instead of [Matt] Forte.”

But Bears head coach Lovie Smith and, presumably, GM Phil Emery continue to bury thier heads in the sand and state that the Bears are happy with the status quo on the offensive line (Via Sean Jensen at the Chicago Sun-Times).  Florio comments:

“‘There are some things you have to do to help [J’Marcus Webb] out a little bit more at times, which we plan to do,’ Smith said, per Jensen.  ‘So you can make a case and throw out stats on what he did.’

“You can, but not many Bears fans will be willing to do it.  Instead, Bears fans will hope, and perhaps pray, that the stated faith in the team’s offensive line is part of a broader plan to dupe other teams into thinking the Bears won’t be targeting guards and tackles in the draft.”

Amen.

Forte Not Doing Himself Any Favors and Other Points of View

Bears

  • Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune reports on the Bears acquisition of running back Michael Bush.  This was a good signing, I think.  You need two good running backs these days.  Bush has good size but moves well and is almost kind of a slasher.  At minimum, he’ll be a good replacement of Marion Barber and he’ll probably be better in short yardage situations than anyone on the roster.
  • Bush’s signing generated this somewhat petulant response from Bears free agent Matt Forte on Twitter:

“There’s only so many times a man that has done everything he’s been asked to do can be disrespected! Guess the GOOD GUYS do finish last….”

Dan Pompei at the Chicago Tribune has a potential explanation:

“Perhaps the reason Matt Forte is so sensitive to sharing the meeting room, shower area and backfield with Michael Bush is he knows Bush can be more than just his caddie.”

The problem that I have isn’t that Forte feels disrespected. Its just that when someone offers you more money than most people will make in a lifetime, I don’t want to hear you complain about it.

His situation is totally different from yours and mine and I do understand that. I just don’t want to hear him cry about how “good guys finish last” on Twitter as if we’re supposed to be sympathetic.

Forte has an agent who is in charge of negotiating his contract and making public statements when warranted by things like this.  He would be a lot better off dumping Twitter, concentrating on football and letting his agent do his job by catching the flak.

  • Pompei answers this good fan question:

“There were six other NFL teams that finished with the same record as the Chicago Bears. The Arizona Cardinals pick 13th in the upcoming draft and the Bears will select at 19. How was draft order determined, and how badly do you think this will impact the Bear’s ability to get the player they want?”
“— Norb Gecewicz, Deer Park

“The first tiebreaker in the draft for teams with identical records is strength of schedule. Because the Bears played a stronger schedule than the Cardinals, Cowboys, Eagles, Jets, Raiders (their pick now belongs to the Bengals) and Chargers, they pick last among all the 8-8 teams. And picking 19th as opposed to 13th definitely could cost the Bears dearly. If you say the Bears’ biggest need is an edge rusher, the Cardinals, Cowboys, Jets and Chargers all could use one as well (though each of those teams runs a 3-4). If you say the Bears really need an offensive tackle, the Cardinals, Jets and Chargers are threats to take one of them. And if you still want another receiver, the Cardinals, Jets and Bengals all could ruin the Bears’ plans.”

  • For those looking to see the Bears bolster the defensive line, Pompei gives some draft analysis:

“The four best defensive ends in the draft that fit the Bears’ scheme, in alphabetical order, are Melvin Ingram from South Carolina, Whitney Mercilus from Illinois, Nick Perry from Southern Cal and Courtney Upshaw from Alabama. There is a chance the Bears will have their pick of these four, but I really think there is a good chance Mercilus is off the board at 19. I also think there is a good chance Quinton Coples from North Carolina could be off the board, but I don’t see him as the kind of player the Bears will be looking for. Different players will rank these ends in different orders based on their schemes, so we can’t be completely sure how they will come off the board.”

“According to the West Virginian Times, Smith and Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin were both on hand Friday, probably to get a close look at defensive end/outside linebacker Bruce Irvin.”

Despite the fact that he was at the combine for interviews, Biggs says that the Bears will have him in for a visit before the draft.  He may require an extra hard look because of his checker past.  In fact,  after his pro day last week, he was arrested for allegedly damaging a sign outside a Jimmy John’s sandwich shop.  But given the Bears new focus on “on field character”, it probably won’t matter much.

Pompei reports on what scouts think of Irvin for The National Football Post:

“The fear is that at 245 pounds, Irvin isn’t big enough to put his hand in the dirt, and he doesn’t have the understanding of the game to play outside linebacker. Coaches will have a hard time trusting him as an outside linebacker, but it may be the only thing he can do.”

  • Pompei answers another very good fan question:

“With Mike Shanahan looking for weapons for Robert Griffin and the price for [Brandon] Marshall being so reasonable, why do you think the Redskins did not trade for him? Marshall had his most productive games playing for Shanahan. With the trade for RG3 and the signing of Pierre Garcon and Josh Morgan, it’s obvious that draft picks and money are not the issue. Does Shanahan know something we Bears fans don’t? — Mazhar Paliwala, Buffalo Grove

“My sense is Shanahan had his fill of Brandon Marshall, but I could be wrong. In 2009, ESPN’s Chris Mortensen reported that had Shanahan stayed in Denver, he was preparing to cut Marshall because he believed Marshall hurt the Broncos more than he helped them. If Mortensen said it, I believe it. He’s as solid as they come. Then again, the Marshall that Shanahan knew might not be the Marshall that Lovie Smith is going to know, if Marshall is to be believed. Marshall says his treatment for borderline personality disorder has made him a new man. We’ll see. But there is another reason why the Redskins might not have been in the Marshall trade discussions. Even though the compensation requests from the Dolphins were reasonable, the Redskins don’t have much trade ammunition after the RG3 trade. They already are missing a second-round pick this year and first-round picks in 2013 and 2014. They really are not in position to be giving away two more picks.”

“You have to be careful with players who did not produce a lot in college, especially wide receivers. I think he would be a fine pick in the second round, where taking big risks makes more sense.”

  • Pompei also quotes former Redskins GM Vinny Cerato on new Bears QB Jason Campbell:

“He has a big arm, a very good arm.  He’s athletic. He can run. He can make first downs with his legs. He can make all the throws.

“The negatives are he holds the ball too long at times. He fumbled a lot from the pocket. And he has just average anticipation. He gets in trouble some from holding the ball.”

  • ESPN’s NFC North blogger Kevin Seifert delivers some bad news regarding Brian Urlacher:’s late season knee injury.
  • Mark Potash at the Chicago Sun-Times reports that Corey Graham has signed with the Baltimore Ravens, presumably because they promised him a chance to play in the defensive back field.  They promised Brandon Ayenbadajo the same thing.  How’s that working out?
  • Pompei, this time writing for The National Football Post, on former Bears running back Cedric Benson:

“The Bengals’ backfield makeover isn’t about dissatisfaction with Cedric Benson as much as it is about molding the offense to suit Jay Gruden’s offense… The Bengals are looking at backs with speed, receiving skills, and the ability to pass protect.”

So it’s about dissatisfaction with Benson.

Elsewhere

  • Last week I wondered if the Bears might not pursue defensive end Andre Carter.   Ian Rappaport at the Boston Herald provides a pretty good clue as to why they haven’t.
  • Fans wondering why the Bears didn’t pop for Mike Wallace will find thier answer here.  From Matt Barrows at the Sacramento Bee.
  • Mike Florio at profootballtalk.com reports that Jeremy Shockey is seriously considering a law suit against the NFL Network’s Warren Sapp after Sapp reported that he was the snitch who gave information on the Saints bounty program.
  • It looks like the Redskins and Cowboys are also feeling litigious.  They might sue the league over the penalties they incurred for dumping salary in what was theoretically an uncapped year of the last labor contract.  It apparently wasn’t and the teams are now paying for violating a rule that wasn’t a rule even though it was.  If you get my meaning.  Via Mike Florio:

“It’s unknown whether the Redskins and Cowboys are bluffing in order to force a compromise, or whether they indeed truly intend to file suit.  Reducing the allegations to writing necessarily will expose that the league was engaged in collusion in 2010, which could have all sorts of unintended consequences for the entire NFL, including the Redskins and the Cowboys.

“And so the real question is whether the Redskins and Cowboys are angry/crazy enough to drop a grenade into a room they won’t be able to escape.

“The answer very well could be yes.”

  • Cowboys QB Tony Romo takes a lot of heat.  So this statement from a Brownsville Herald interview with Hall of Fame QB Troy Aikman is going to take some people by surprise:

“Herald: Who do you think is the better quarterback, you or Tony Romo?

“Aikman: ‘I think Tony already is a better quarterback than I was. I know how quarterbacks are judged but as far as his play-making ability and the things that he is capable of doing, he is a far more athletic quarterback, capable of making more plays than I ever was able to. He has a good team around him and hopefully, and I believe this will happen, I believe that he will win a Super Bowl before he is done playing.’”

“You know, you can’t … everyone has their opinion.  You go out there and try to help your football team win, and I just happen to play with an edge to me. I never want to hurt the football team, but also want to make big plays and help this football team win and lead this football team.”

Translation:  “Yes”.

“Quinn will now be reunited with coach Romeo Crennel and new offensive coordinator Brian Daboll, both of whom worked with Quinn in Cleveland.  It actually gives Quinn a bit of an edge over incumbent starter Matt Cassel.

“‘You can’t make every decision in life based on money,’ Quinn told the Kansas City Star, via NFL.com.  ‘For me, personally, I had to make the best decision I felt like for me.  And Kansas City was the right choice.’”

  • Former Bears Director of College Scouting Greg Gabriel, now at the National Football Post, doesn’t think much of writers (and bloggers) who think they know more than scouts and general managers about prospects.
  • The NFL is apparently considering making some changes to instant replay.  The proposals call for moving the entire operation to the replay booth without the involvement of officials on the field and expanding the automatic use of replay to all turnovers:  interceptions and fumbles.  The full list of proposed rule changes can be found here.  Via Florio.
  • To ESPN’s great joy, there’s some momentum building for Robert Griffin III as the number one overall pick instead of Andrew LuckMerril Hoge likes RG3 better (vai Florio) and there are certain aspects of his game that Greg Cosell at the NFL Films Blog likes better as well.  On the other hand, the scouts that Pompei trusts aren’t buying it.

Both Cosell and Pompei, who is writing for The National Football Post, agree that Luck is the most NFL ready in terms of his experience in a pro style offense and that Griffin has the stronger arm.  But the differences in opinion are notable:

1)  Cosell believes RG3 shows better ball placement, Pompei’s article disagrees.

2)  Pompei’s people believe that Luck avoids pressure in the pocket better.  But what Cosell says in this regard about RG3 is significant:

“[Griffin impressed me with] his patience and composure in the pocket. He did not move when the bodies started closing it down. He threw effectively out of what we call a “muddied” pocket”. He did not need much functional space to deliver the ball with velocity and distance. Surprisingly, in my 5 game breakdown of Luck, he exhibited a tendency to move too quickly, to leave the pocket too early. The result was often a positive because of his athleticism and ability to throw on the run, but I am very anxious to chart this element of his game in the NFL.”

What sticks out to me about Griffin is his unconventional throwing style.  But its not necessarily a bad thing.  He seems to throw over the top a lot which will keep the ball from being batted down and he his release is reasonably quick as he literally seems to flick the ball out.

I don’t know if I like him better than Luck but I definitely do like him.

“I understood why the Dolphins wanted Peyton Manning, possibly the greatest quarterback of all time. I even understood the pursuit of Matt Flynn as someone who has a potential upside worth exploring. But you have to draw the line somewhere and accept that you’re no longer seeking to upgrade the position, but rather just looking to replace Moore for the sake of it.”

“If you watched Matt Moore last year, you’ll know that the Miami Dolphins really don’t need to. Which begs the question; just what were they watching?”

“So why are the Dolphins having a hard time luring free agents to South Beach?  Steelers safety Ryan Clark has a theory.”

“Clark later says, ‘It’s my honest opinion. Not a good guy making decisions.’

“Here’s referring, presumably, to G.M. Jeff Ireland.”

“If it’s true, the Dolphins need to find a way to fix the situation.  If it’s not true, the Dolphins need to find a way to reverse a false perception.”

I’m not so sure its Ireland that Clark is referring to.  Stephen Ross, the owner of the Dolphins, doesn’t seem to have the sense of integrity that most of the other people around the try to NFL exhibit.  I think his attempt to secretly interview Jim Harbaugh for a position that Tony Sparano still held told us all we need to know about him.

I might add that he didn’t do his trading partner on the Brandon Marshall deal any favors either.  Via Izzy Gould at the South Florida Sun-Sentinel:

“[Miami fan Jason] Lawrence said he asked [Ross] about the decision to trade leading wide receiver Marshall to Chicago for two third-round draft picks. Twice, Lawrence said, Ross would not say if the Dolphins were rebuilding. He told Lawrence moving Marshall was not about money, but more about protecting team morale.

“’[Ross] said they had been shopping [Marshall] for a couple weeks,’ Lawrence said. ‘Nobody would return their phone calls about getting him. If Chicago didn’t take [Marshall] … they would have ended up cutting him very shortly after that, and got nothing.’”

So basically the Bears gave two third round picks for a wide receiver they could have gotten for a lot less because no one else wanted him.  Setting aside what this means for the Bears, the fact that Ross would embarrass the Bears by letting this out speaks volumes for his integrity or lack thereof.

Teams are likely to be very careful about dealing with the Dolphins in the future.

  • Looking at GM Jeff Ireland’s Wikipedia page, some Dolphins fans have apparently chosen to protest the teams recent moves in their own unique way.  Via The Sports Pickle:

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One Final Thought

For those wondering why the Saints got such a severe penalty for carrying on a bounty program, you might want to read the official statement from the NFL.  There was a lot of lying going on, here.

Its fairly evident that head coach Sean Payton was, to say the least, taken by surprise (even though he shouldn’t have been).  Via Florio:

“[Jay Glazer on NFL Network] said, ‘Are you OK?’ And he said, ‘No, I’m not OK.’ He is stunned. He’s going to lose about $8 million. He is beside himself here.’”

Steve Rosenbloom at the Chicago Tribune bottom lines the situation:

“Some people contend that every team has run something like the Saints’ pay-for-pain idea. Maybe, maybe not. But the Saints did it, continued doing it and got caught. So, consider this a tax on the stupid, as well.”

Some Grim Thoughts on Mike Tice and Other Points of View

Bears

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

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

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

“Emery should do well on draft day.

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

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

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

“A general manager is an administrator.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I hope it’s the former.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

Elsewhere

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“How humble and bizarre were the Patriots’ beginnings?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

One Final Thought

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And there lies the rub.

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

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

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

Angelo’s Relationship with Ownership May Have Led to His Demise and Other Points of View

Bears

“An intriguing figure here is Bears receivers coach Darryl Drake.”

“[Drake] has a good relationship with [Mike] Tice, shares a smash-mouth philosophy that involves wideouts blocking (or sitting on the bench) and was part of the Bears managing to have nine different receivers with at least 18 receptions this season, the most since 10 in 1994.”

I hope the Bears look outside of the organization to fill this position.  Specifically I hope they use it to attract a top notch quarterback coach like former Bear coach Greg Olson.  Whether Olson would want to come back to the Bears after experiencing what he undoubtedly felt was a dysfunctional situation at the time is another question.

One of the many reasons why the Green Bay Packers are so successful offensively is that they have two quarterbacks coaches on their staff if you include the head coach.   The Bears don’t have any and arguably didn’t have any worth the name at all last year. Remember that Jay Cutler went outside the organization for coaching in the off season due to the lockout. I’m sure Mike Martz is OK with quarterbacks, especially as the X’s and O’s go.  But I would argue that Cutler probably got a lot more out of his offseason with a real QB coach than from either Martz and Shane Day during the season.

  • On a related note, Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune makes this valid point:

“Cutler might push for Jeremy Bates, who he worked with previously with the Broncos. Bates was out of the NFL this season after one year with the Seahawks. How would [Lovie] Smith perceive him after Bates declined overtures from the Bears for an interview two years ago? Maybe just fine. Sources said [Jerry] Angelo turned off Bates.”

I don’t know that Bates is the best choice.  But whatever else you think of him, at least he’s a quarterback coach who should have some idea of what he’s doing after serving under Mike Shanahan and as offensive coordinator under Pete Carroll.

“April 27, 2008:

“‘We’re in the business of winning football games. We’re not going to prostitute character. We don’t put winning in front of character.'”

“April 2011, on a botched trade with the Ravens:

“’Believe me, I am going into my 31st year in this league. There has been a hell of a lot worse that has been done, believe me, on the clock and there have been things out there documented so let’s not get into judging souls here. If there is something that needs to be done, I trust the league will do their due diligence and so be it.’”

 Angelo’s first quote is laudable and, in fact, I think he generally did his best to live up to it.  That makes it all the more disappointing that he badly failed in this respect by not making good on a botched trade with the Baltimore Ravens by giving them the fourth round pick they should have had in last year’s draft.

  • Dan Pompei  at the Chicago Tribune gives his thoughts on the way the organization is handling the search for a new general manager:

[Ted] Phillips says he is unconcerned [about the search]. ‘There are a lot of candidates out there that would be proud to work with a coach like Lovie Smith,’ he said.

“Certainly, the new GM could do a lot worse than Smith. That’s not the point.

“The point is the coach should be an extension of the man he reports to. And it’s the GM who should decide if Smith can be that extension.”

In principal I agree with Pompei.  But in reality, as I look around the league teams with head coaching openings aren’t waiting to hire new general managers to make offers.  So, right or wrong, the Bears aren’t alone in approaching the situation this way.

  • Having said that, there is reason to question why Smith managed to keep his job.  Again from Pompei:

“Angelo gave the coaches the players they wanted. If he had a failing, it may have been that he gave in to them too much and wasn’t more forceful with his opinions. Angelo was hired because he was a consensus builder; he may have been fired because of it as well.

“So there is culpability on the part of Smith and his assistants for whatever personnel problems the Bears have endured.”

I totally agree.  This is a pretty good summary of what is perhaps the Bears biggest problem.  Smith is a good head coach.  He has managed to compete in the NFC North despite the talent gap that we all accept is there.   The challenge is to hire a GM who takes complete charge of supplying Smith with the players he needs without letting him have undue influence over the process or the decisions which are made.  It will be very interesting to see how the new man manges the situation.

  • Matt Bowen at the Tribune makes the very valid point that almost all of the players at Halas Hall have been put on notice:

“However, with change and new direction at Halas Hall comes the loss of that sense of security for the players.

“Angelo won’t be there to protect “his guys,” and although coach Lovie Smith is coming back for at least one more season, a new decision-maker won’t owe these players anything.

“He didn’t draft them or sign them to an offseason contract. No handshakes or false promises here.

“His job is to replace them with upgrades.”

This sense of discomfort and the extra effort that comes with it might make the Bears better next year.  Sometimes change no matter what it entails can be good.

“What defined this unit was its ability to create pressure and its inability to finish plays. The Bears tied for 19th in the league in sacks despite entering the final week leading the league in hurries, according to STATS.”

  • ESPN’s NFC North blogger Kevin Seifert makes the claim that the trade of tight end Greg Olsen look bad for the Bears now.  I disagree.  Olsen had only 4 more receptions with the Panthers last year than he did during a mediocre 2010 season despite performing in an offense that supposedly fit his skills (though he did have more yards).

Olsen was nothing more than a big, slow wide receiver.  Opponents generally stopped him by simply treated him like one and going into a nickel defense.  He was a liability when run blocking.  If Mike Tice really wants to maximize the receiving potential of the tight end position, the Bears were going to have to find another one anyway.

Elsewhere

“Saturday night’s 45-28 loss to the New Orleans Saints should be the last time the Lions are graded on a curve, cheered for their effort or applauded for an accomplishment other than a victory. It’s true: No one expected them to beat the Saints, who now are 9-0 at home since the start of the regular season. And few if any will have harsh words after the Lions collapsed in the fourth quarter against the NFL’s hottest quarterback.

“But after returning to relevance this season, the Lions have earned themselves big-boy treatment moving forward, both inside the organization and outside.”

Seifert’s got a point.  The Lions have been cut a lot of slack this year as a young team fighting its way out of a losing tradition.

But that has also worked against them.  I think right about week 11, analysts started to seriously underestimate the Lions, giving them little shot to make the playoffs.  Those of us who watched them all year in the the NFC North division knew better.

They played mighty well Saturday night and if they play with discipline from here on out, they’re going to have no trouble living up to the “big-boy treatment”.

“A trend is emerging among NFL teams in that they are seeking young, flexible general managers with strong personnel backgrounds. They want men like Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff and who understand the big picture, are unafraid to make bold moves and are willing and able to deal with media and sponsors as well as agents and coaches. That’s why Eric DeCosta, Les Snead, Marc Ross, Tom Telesco, Ryan Grigson, Jason Licht and their ilk have been popular candidates for openings.”

  • Also from Pompei:

“The problem is not having captains, Rex Ryan.  It’s having the wrong captains.”

and

“The Raiders needed a guy just like Reggie McKenzie. And now they need to let him do his job.”

“APRIL 19 Draft babble reaches fever pitch. Your cubicle neighbor, who spends autumn Saturdays watching VH1 music countdowns and thinks Stanford’s nickname is the Trees, wants you to know that he does not think Andrew Luck is that good.”

“As the 2012 NFL playoffs begin, coaches across the league find themselves in agreement on one fundamental aspect of the game: Punting the ball sucks, because the other team gains possession of the ball.”

“In his final season at Stanford, 28.7 percent of his passes fell uselessly to the ground and cost his team a down while conferring absolutely no benefit whatsoever.”

  • I know its not football related but this clip of Charles Barkley talking about the Weight Watcher’s program during a period where he thinks the camera’s off is still worth posting.  Via The Sports Pickle:

One Final Thought

A couple more interesting quotes from Angelo:

“Dec. 16, 2011, after receiver Sam Hurd‘s drug arrest: ‘When we do our homework on players, we have a very sound and tested mythology that we go about researching all players in college to veteran free agents and it starts in college.’

“Dec. 16, 2011, after being asked whether Hurd’s shocking arrest would impact his future:

‘Whistle Dixie.'”

George McCaskey did his best to separate the family from the decision to fire Angelo.  But if you take a careful look at his words, you will note that he never actually says that the idea to fire Angelo came from team president Ted Phillips.  Via Biggs:

“‘It was Ted’s decision,’ McCaskey said. ‘He asked for my input. I gave it to him. I gave him the input of the rest of ownership, and Ted made the decision, which we fully support.'”

It’s entirely possible that McCaskey “input” was to suggest that Angelo be fired.  I’ve no doubt that he then left the final decision in Phillips hands.  And I’m sure Phillips is smart enough to know what to do in that situation.

Phillips insisted that the decision was made strictly on performance.  But in this respect, Pompei makes the a valid point:

“It’s not like Angelo and Smith put together an inferior team. ‘It can’t be that he was fired for the performance of the team,’ said one AFC  front-office man, who is not a friend of Angelo’s. ‘It has to be something else.'”

Exactly.  And lending credence to the idea that Phillips didn’t plan to see Angelo go before meeting with McCaskey is the fact that he’s only just now doing his “due diligence”.  While the Rams and Colts are interviewing candidates like potential republican presidential nominees, Phillips appears to be just now getting familiar with the landscape.

It’s all speculative because ownership didn’t make it clear.  But the fact that it wasn’t clear seems to me to be suggestive.  And no one who has thought about it would blame the McCaskeys for wanting Angelo’s head.  Let’s be honest.  From the checkbox fiasco right down through the Baltimore trade where the McCaskeys had to personally try to settle down Baltimore owner Steve Bisciotti to the Hurd situation, Angelo’s management of the front office was a frequent source of embarrassment to ownership.  In retrospect, Angelo deserved his fate on that score if for no other reason.