Cutler Trade Good for Almost Everybody. Almost. And Other Points of View.

Bears

  • Elliot Harrison at nfl.com constructs his all-under 25 team. Guess how many Bears are on it?
  • Rob Demovsky, Green Bay blogger at ESPN, thinks the Bears signing of Pernell McPhee was the worst NFC North free agent move to date. Ben Goessling in Minnesota thought it was the Eddie Royal signing. Michael Rothstein in Detroit thought it was Ray McDonald. Clearly the Bears are making a great impression around the division.
  • Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune sets a fan who continues to make excuses for quarterback Jay Cutler straight as he answers your questions:

    “Will the Bears use more rollouts and bootlegs? It’s certainly a possibility. But the idea that the Bears didn’t do that under Marc Trestman, Mike Tice, Mike Martz and Ron Turner is flat out wrong. Everyone runs the boot game.”

    “To expect Cutler to change dramatically as a player with more bootlegs in the offensive scheme would be a miscalculation in my opinion. Look at how many offensive coaches he’s already worked with. Do you think every offensive coach the Bears have hired as been inept and incapable of coaching offensive football? The answer to that is no. Cutler is going to be who he’s been. If he can cut down on the number of turnovers, he has a chance to remain on the field.”

    I continue to be amazed by the number of fans who continue to make excuses for Cutler after six years of up and down play. Cutler was surrounded by about as much offensive talent as any quarterback in the NFL could reasonably expect to have. He had a head coach who believed in him at the beginning of the year and was as easy and as accommodating as any he’ll find to work with. He’ll never be any better than he was last year.

  • Hub Arkush at chicagofootball.com likes Missouri defensive end/outside linebacker Shane Ray better than I do.
  • Arkush also sings the praises of Bears general manager Ryan Pace‘s free agency moves but wisely ends the article with the critical question: “Now, can Pace draft better than his predecessors?” Pace is using free agency to set up the draft but the draft is where you really have to execute.
  • I’m not entirely sure why Jeff Dickerson at ESPN thinks that Bears safety Brock Vereen doesn’t fit the “aggressive, hard-hitting mold that new defensive coordinator Vic Fangio and secondary coach Ed Donatell are known to prefer in safeties”.
  • Rich Campbell at the Chicago Tribune gets a little more information about the blocking scheme that the Broncos ran on the offensive line last year from new center Will Montgomery. It sounds like a little bit of everything depending on the situation.

Elsewhere

One Final Thought

Chase Goodbread at nfl.com points out that the Bears trade for Cutler apparently benefited teams all over the league – seemingly everyone but the Bears.

Skipping Bayless and Other Points of View

Bears

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

    Slow news day.

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

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

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

Elsewhere

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

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

    Sound familiar Bears fans?

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

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

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

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

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

One Final Thought

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

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

Skip-Bayless

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

Chip Kelly: Beauty or Beast?

One of the most interesting off season stories has been head coach Chip Kelly‘s of the Philadelphia Eagles. Kelly (below) has made a flurry of moves including trading star runningback LeSean McCoy for linebacker Kiko Alanso and quarterback Nick Foles for the oft injured Rams quarterback Sam Bradford.

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Many have questioned Kelly’s moves with some justification. But Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll says that Eagles fans should place their trust in Kelly. Via csnphilly.com:

“‘I think the people in Philadelphia should be very excited about the changes that are coming,’ Carroll said this week at the owners meetings. ‘Maybe they can’t see it — the vision is not clear to them. Chip knows what he’s doing. It’s going to be interesting to see.'”

“‘His record and his history has proven that he knows what he’s doing and that he has his act together,'”

Kelly’s style is an interesting contrast to what the Bears are apparently doing in their transformation to the 3-4. The Bears are looking for players with good traits. To some extent, that search will be nonspecific. If you are a difference maker, they’ll adjust the scheme to use you.

Kelly is building his team more in the way that former Bears head coach Lovie Smith built his defense. Smith was a cover two discipline and looked for players with specific traits to play his scheme. Kelly is acting similarly, looking for players to fit his offense. McCoy, for instance, is a Pro Bowl runningback. But he danced around too much behind the line of scrimmage rather than hitting the hole hard and quickly the way that Kelly wanted him to. So he was traded and replaced by runningbacks DeMarco Murray and Ryan Matthews.

I’m going to be fascinated to see how things work out in Philedelphia. It’s obvious that Kelly knows what he wants and I admire the guts that he’s shown in going out to get it. He going to be the next Bill Belichick. Whether it’s Belichick with the Patriots or Belichick with the Browns has yet to be determined.

Of Jared Allen, Willie Young and the “Big Nickel”

Michael C. Wright at ESPN answers your questions:

“@mikecwright: Thanks for the question. The way it looks right now, there’s definitely going to be a logjam at outside linebacker because the plan is to play Jared Allen, Willie Young, Lamarr Houston and Pernell McPhee at outside linebacker. Both head coach John Fox and general manager Ryan Pace have said as much recently. I’d encourage you to take a step back, take a big-picture perspective and match up that with what you know about new defensive coordinator Vic Fangio. Fangio is a creative schemer, and if all those guys stick on the roster (which I anticipate happening), he’ll find a way to incorporate all of them. The Bears plan to play base defense out of a three-man front. But when the team goes into substitution packages, which will likely be more than 50 percent of the time, it will probably execute out of four-man fronts designed to get the team’s best four pass-rushers on the field at the same time. We don’t yet know which players Fangio plans to deploy in those positions because he doesn’t know, and won’t know until the team gets out on the field for practice. Fox said that once the guys start working out, they’ll define their roles through their play.”

I’d like to emphasize Wright’s second point in this response – the fact that the Bears will likely play a four man line in substitution packages. As Wright points out, you could reasonably expect the Bears to play in these packages up to 60% of the time. If the Bears play what’s being called the “Big Nickel” package where the fifth defensive back is a safety instead of a corner, it could be more than that. Such a defense allows for better pass coverage than the conventional 3-4 alignment with four linebackers while doing a better job of hedging against the run.  The Rams have been particularly effective playing this formation and it’s possible that they will actually make this their base defense at some point.  The Giants are aligned in a 4-2-5 version of this package, similar to what the Bears could play, below:

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The Bears don’t have the safety depth to play the “big nickel” right now.  They don’t even have the cornerback depth to play the conventional nickel at this point. At this point anything is possible.  It’s worth noting that Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio liked to use the big nickel with Jimmy Ward as the third safety.  Some will remember that Bears safety Brock Vereen played in a similar type of role in college.  Though at 5-11, 199 he’s a bit small to do it in the NFL at this point, its not impossible that the Bears could use him in such a scheme, especially if he bulked up.  Indeed, this may have been what former Bears general manager Phil Emery, a former strength and conditioning coach, had in mind when he drafted Vereen.

chi-jared-allen-misses-bears-practice-20140804-001

In any case,big of conventional nickel, its important to remember that Allen (above)  and Young have a major role to play in this defense even if they don’t work out as outside linebackers. Whether you change the scheme to 3-4 or not, pass rush from a four man line is going to be a major part of the defense. In that respect its important that Allen, in particular, shows better in 2015 after an off year last season. He won’t like standing on the sideline for half of the snaps but he’ll be 33 at the beginning of next season and it could be the best thing for him. He’s a high motor player and I think getting that kind of rest could only make him better.

The Bears Reasonable Approach to Free Agency and Other Points of View

Bears

  • Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune gives the details of the Bears first three free agent signings of 2015. The interested observer will note that each of these contracts is about as front-loaded as you could make them. None has a great deal of guaranteed money past the second year.

These signings look like the type that are meant to allow maximum flexibility once the prospects which they will supposedly be developing come into their own. They’re also meant to spend the 2015 cap space that the Bears have available essentially as quickly as possible. The Bears definitely aren’t looking to buy a championship anymore. At least not this year. Hopefully they’ll leave some room to negotiate an extension with Alshon Jeffery and possibly Matt Forte. I understand the reluctance to extend Forte yet another deal at his age but he’s been very healthy and he’s still the most productive all around player this team has.

  • Speaking of Forte, Rich Campbell at the Chicago Tribune asks (and answers) the following question:

    “Now that Jay Cutler has been named the starter, how can the Bears prop him up?

    “Pace and new coach John Fox have hammered the importance of a strong running game and good defense.”

    Continuing the theme of how the offense is changing, Biggs makes some good points:

    “[Eddie] Royal gives [offensive coordinator Adam] Gase a receiver who can run option routes and crossing routes and be an underneath target as part of a combination. He can be in the flat when [Alshon] Jeffery is running a curl or corner route. Royal can be lined up tight to the alignment with Martellus Bennett, who can run high with Royal running low. They are two-level reads for Cutler the Bears didn’t have last year.”

    Yeah, sure, I get it. And with a running game you can add play action. Before you know it, you have a big boy NFL offense.

    The question is, “do the Bears have the personnel to run one?”. Campbell calls adding a running attack a “quick fix” because the Bears have Forte but I’m thinking the Bears aren’t going to be able to do this without doing some serious shuffling along the offensive line. The one thing former Bears head coach Marc Trestman didn’t do was emphasize things that he didn’t think his players could do. I think they didn’t run the ball more is because he didn’t think they could block it.

    The new blocking scheme will add an interesting wrinkle here and its possible that the finesse blockers the Bears have up front will do better with it. We’ll see.

  • On a related note, Biggs is reporting that the Bears are making a run at Dolphins free agent center Samson Satele. I’m a little iffy on whether this would be a clear upgrade or not. Satele is a smallish center who had a reasonably good start to 2014 but his performance apparently fell off late in the year. Satele is younger than current Bears center Roberto Garza and if the Bears sign him, Garza might move to right guard and kick Kyle Long to the outside at left tackle.

Center Stefen Wisniewski is being considered by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Seahawks per Kevin Patra at NFL.com. I thought maybe the Bears would make a run at him but there’s no apparent interest.

  • Adam L. Jahns at the Chicago Sun-Times reports the excitement that Bears head coach John Fox felt when he watched quarterback Jimmy Clausen‘s snaps last year:

    “So I’ve seen a guy that’s matured. I watched his one start [and] a lot of preseason snaps that he was involved in, and I’ve seen him grow as a quarterback.”

    Whatever else you think of former Bears head coach Marc Trestman, he seems to have been a pretty good quarterbacks coach. You have to wonder if Clausen will regress under new quarterbacks coach Dowell Loggains. Some will recall that Loggains pushed for the Browns to draft Johnny Manziel over Teddy Bridgewater, then coached him to some of the most miserable quarterback play the league has ever seen. The Browns apparently fired him for it.

    It’s still a quarterback driven league. I don’t think its a coincidence that the Packers coaching staff is always loaded with former quarterbacks coaches. You have to wonder if the Bears have the support on staff that’s needed to maximize what they can get out of theirs.

  • Hub Arkush at chicagofootball.com has personal experience with new Bears safety Antrel Rolle and says that we can expect him to be a vocal leader in the locker room that they’ve been missing.
  • Campbell continues to speculate about where the pieces are going to fit on defense:

    Jeremiah Ratliff and Ego Ferguson project as nose tackles in the 3-4, so the need to draft Washington’s Danny Shelton, for example, is smaller than how much a top-flight edge-rush prospect could help.

    Jon Bostic stands out as a leading candidate for playing time at inside linebacker, but few others do. And the Bears still are searching for big-bodied 3-4 defensive ends.”

    An awful lot of this depends upon what type of 3-4 the Bears decide to play. If its the classic, 2-gap type then I’m not entirely convinced that Ratliff won’t play defensive end. Certainly he’ll play a great deal of outside linebacker but Houston will probably see a great deal of time there. They’ll probably also try Will Sutton there.

    In any case, I’m saying that defensive line is one of, if not the top, needs that the Bears have. I’m also going to say that I’d hate to see the Bears pass on Shelton, especially to take an edge rusher where the Bears have all kinds of options. My gut tells me Shelton’s a player with that rare and possibly necessary body type and, especially if Ratliff plays more end, they’re going to want a good nose guard.

Elsewhere

  • Ben Goessling at ESPN on the Vikings acquisition of wide receiver Mike Wallace and the release of Greg Jennings:

    “Wallace seemed like a good fit for Norv Turner’s vertical passing game, more so than a 32-year-old Jennings did, but Jennings still was an effective enough slot receiver, a fine route-runner and a trusted adviser for younger wideouts that it looked like he could return in 2015. All that wasn’t worth $11 million in cap space to the Vikings, though, especially when they could save $6 million by releasing him.”

    “Wallace is no sure thing, either, after his relationship with the coaching staff fractured in Miami, but he’s three years younger, a few tenths in the 40-yard dash faster and a better schematic match for what the Vikings are doing now. “

    No, Wallace certainly isn’t a sure thing. But the odds are that Vikings offensive coordinator Norv Turner will find a better way to use him to his abilities than they did in Miami. On the other hand, Turner had an obvious problem with Jennings, opting to call receiver Charles Johnson the best on the team after the season “by far”. So that’s addition by subtraction there.

    Its hard not to like what’s going on in Minnesota right now. You wonder in quarterback Teddy Bridgewater‘s second season if they aren’t going to be ready to contend with the Packers. Again via Goessling:

    “‘I think you saw the receivers did some good things last year, but you saw us start evolving in the offense, because it’s the first year in the system, too,’ general manager Rick Spielman said Friday night, after the Vikings treated free-agent defensive end Michael Johnson to dinner. ‘And you saw how much more comfortable Teddy was, especially down the stretch. And they start developing that chemistry. Now, getting another big-play potential threat, as our young guys continue to develop, that’s kind of the direction we wanted to go.’ “

    Bottom line, the Vikings are worth watching.

  • Goessling also comments on the Adrian Peterson situation:

    “[A]s I understand it, the relationship between Peterson and the team might not even be the biggest concern at this point. The running back went, in very short order, from being a beloved figure in Minnesota to a pariah, as sponsors retreated and legislators heaped scorn on the Vikings for their initial decision to play Peterson following his indictment for child injury charges. He was stung by a Minneapolis Star Tribune investigation into his past, and claimed it did not take into account Peterson’s steps to clean up both his personal life and financial misappropriations in his charitable foundation. And he certainly heard the people — fans, media members and public figures alike — who called for the Vikings to end their relationship with him. It’s important to note all of these events are down the river from Peterson’s initial actions. His excessive discipline of his son initiated this, and Peterson has expressed regret for his actions in several interviews.”

    People are generally the same everywhere but the people of the state of Minnesota tend to be odder birds than most. Its a reasonably liberal state with strong notions of right and wrong. Its easy to believe that they were particularly hard on Peterson. Maybe too hard.

    Heaven knows its nice to see a fan base that doesn’t just roll over and forgive every action just because it was perpetrated by a star athlete. But Minnesota may be one of the few areas in the country that will never forgive Peterson no matter how sorry he is. I still think he’ll be back there. But its possible that he’ll eventually conclude that he has to force himself into a friendlier situation.

  • One of the free agents to keep an eye on in the secondary free agent market is Tramon Williams. The Packers already lost Davon House to Jacksonville and Rob Demovsky at ESPN says that they’d like to have Williams back. But at age 32 there’s a limit to what they’re going to offer him.

Williams is a possibility for the Bears but they’ve probably got their corners set with Tim Jennings on one side and Kyle Fuller on the other. And if they were going to sign a corner of a certain age it might as well be Charles Tillman.

  • Dan Hanzus at NFL.com points out that when it rains, it pours:

    “This time last year, [Jadeveon] Clowney was on top of the world. A college hero, combine wonder and soon-to-be No. 1 overall pick in the NFL draft. Since then there’s been a hernia surgery, concussion and two knee surgeries that have put his career in jeopardy. And now this

    “SportsRadio 610 has learned that Clowney was bitten by teammate D.J. Swearinger‘s pit bull last week. Police records obtained describe a bite to Clowney’s right arm that sent him to a Pearland emergency room. The incident occurred in the early morning of March 4th.”

  • Hanzus also notes that there were 11 people in the Dolphins photo when Ndamukong Suh signed his contract and none of them was named Joe Philbin. It turned out that Philbin was in the gallery “probably next to some schlub columnist who calls for his firing on a weekly basis. It’s just a matter of time before Joe’s desk is in the basement.”
  • According to Michael Rothstein at ESPN there’s a distinct possibility that the Lions will be moving to the 3-4 defense this year. Even with new defensive tackle Haloti Ngata (who might fit a 304 better) the Lions are desperately short of tackles on the roster who are signed for 2015.
  • The more I read about Colorado State quarterback Garrett Grayson, the more I wonder if he’s the guy the Bears (or someone else) trades back into the first round to get. From Sharon Katz at ESPN.
  • TMZ is claiming to have video of Seattle runningback Marshawn Lynch in a scuffle outside of a San Francisco bar.
  • Rumors persist that Chip Kelly acquired Sam Bradford as a bargaining chip to get to a position to draft Marcus Mariota. This time its Josina Anderson at ESPN doing the reporting:

    I still don’t think he can make it high enough into the draft order to pull it off (if he actually is trying at all).

  • The Giants are getting desperate for safety help now that Rolle has signed with the Bears. There isn’t much out there. Via Josh Alper at profootballtalk.com.
  • Mike Reiss at ESPN considers the alternatives for New England now that Reggie Bush has signed with San Francisco. I’d worry less about that and more about the potential absence of Vince Wilfork in the middle if I were them. Good nose tackles for that defense don’t grow on trees, something that the Bears might want to remember as they switch to the 3-4.

One Final Thought

Gregg Rosenthall at NFL.com considers the Bears to be one of free agency’s losers so far:

“Royal getting $10 million guaranteed was a head scratcher. And Pernell McPhee could be the latest Ravens defender to look a lot different away from Baltimore. It’s also hard to get excited about a team that is so openly ambivalent about its starting quarterback.”

This is a decidedly pessimistic view, of course. Technically Cutler’s situation had nothing to do with free agency. And McPhee could just as easily turn out to be Paul Kruger as Dannell Ellerbe.

Royal fills a gap in the offense. Yeah, it was too much guaranteed money. Apparently the Bears think Royal is Danny Amendola. For all we know he might be but we’ll never find out because Cutler isn’t Tom Brady. Anyway all of that guaranteed money is in the first two years. Which means that if he doesn’t work out the Bears could free themselves of that contract without a cap penalty when they’ve developed a draft pick to replace him.

Personally, I would have been disappointed had the Bears been more aggressive than they were the first week of free agency. This team needs to get younger and start developing prospects rather than overspending and selling out to win immediately. If the last couple years taught us anything its that you can’t buy a championship.

Being of Two Minds and Other Points of View

Bears

  • David Haugh at the Chicago Tribune petty much sums up why Brandon Marshall isn’t a Bear:

    “The Bears questioned where Marshall’s focus was, or he never would have been dealt. According to [Bears head coach John] Fox‘s football glossary, Marshall qualifies as Pro Bowler more than Super Bowler, a point underscored when the wide receiver wondered in his first meeting with Fox and general manager Ryan Pace whether he could work for Showtime again on Tuesdays during the season. A Super Bowler would have volunteered to quit his part-time TV job and established himself as a team-first, me-second guy. That never happened because that’s not Marshall.”

    I’m still not totally convinced that Marshall couldn’t have simply been told, “No. No Showtime. I expect your Fall to be God, family and football 24 hours a day, seven days a week.” But I can’t hardly blame Fox and Bears general manager Ryan Pace for wanting players who don’t need to be told that. In fact, you could argue that if you need to be told, your commitment will never be completely there anyway.

    There’s a good part of me that does’t care much for this trade. The Bears are going to miss Marshall’s talent on the field. He certainly played like a warrior right down to the very end of a miserable season and, unlike some of the players on this team, he’s one guy that no one could accuse of lacking heart. The locker room tirades weren’t good but at least they were rooted in a desire to win.

  • Anyway Marshall won’t have to fly to New York on Tuesdays now. Marshall never really understood what the problem was with doing the show even as his own statements danced around the real issue. Via Patrick Finley at the Chicago Sun-Times:

    “‘What’s more detrimental: a guy that goes out Friday night, smokes, drinks, do all that stuff, out ’til 4, 5 in the morning?’ Marshall said last month. ‘Or a guy on his day off flying to New York, an hour and a half flight, talking a little football and coming back?’

    “The hardest part, he said, was the show’s ‘tough questions’ surrounding the Bears’ 5-11 season.

    “‘How do you answer those questions?’ he said. ‘How do you keep those boundaries between, ‘Hey, I’m on television,’ but the No. 1 priority is to keep the team first.'”

    It’s true that spending what was probably more like four or five hours on a plane every Tuesday wasn’t a big deal. What Marshall either didn’t understand or didn’t acknowledge is the distraction that his appearances undoubtedly were for him the rest of the week. The bet here is that if Marshall was honest with himself he’d realize that a part of his mind all week was thinking about how he was going to answer those “tough questions” on Tuesday. That’s a part that wasn’t concentrating on football.

  • Steve Rosenbloom at the Chicago Tribune characterizes Marshall on the way out the door as a “loser”. It’s a message that resonates with me if for no other reason than it’s something I’ve said in my criticism of of quarterback Jay Cutler many times. The Bears are reportedly talking to former Bears coaches and staff about Cutler. Here’s hoping they were as frank as their evaluation as they apparently were with Michael C. Wright at ESPN.com:

    “At least 10 former Chicago Bears staffers from the Lovie Smith and Marc Trestman regimes said recently they believe the team can’t consistently compete for championships as long as it fields a lineup with Jay Cutler under center.”

    “Two teammates, who also asked to remain anonymous for this story, characterized Cutler as a divisive figure with whom they’d rather not continue to play.”

    “One more former staffer said the Bears could win with Cutler as long as the coaches handcuff him to the system.

    “But that’s precisely what the staff did when Mike Martz served as offensive coordinator during the 2010 and ’11 seasons, according to another former coach, and Cutler and Martz were often at odds”

    “One staffer said that while Cutler was injured and Josh McCown was flourishing as the replacement in 2013, there was a significant faction in the locker room that believed the latter should’ve remained the starter. Another coach said that fairly early in the 2014 season, it was apparent the team had made two mistakes: (1) not re-signing McCown, and (2) continuing to stand behind Cutler after it was clear he was not going to consistently operate within the confines of Trestman’s offense.”

    “[E]very one of the former staffers interviewed from the Smith and Trestman regimes pointed out similar flaws in the quarterback. Two ‘R’ words — ‘renegade’ and ‘rogue’ — were often used by the former staffers when asked about Cutler’s ability to play within the confines of an offensive system.”

    This is just about the most damning article about Cutler I’ve ever seen. The only think that could make it worse is if the sources gave their names. Most of it confirms what I always thought except that I believe that Cutler not only refuses to operate within the confines of the offense, I’m pretty sure he’s simply not capable of it.

    Given that, as Wright also points out, general manager Ryan Pace is close to former offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer, who I think we can safely say did not have a high opinion of Cutler, I’ll believe Cutler will be back next year when I see it.

  • Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune wonders if a Cutler trade won’t follow on the heels of the Marshall deal:

    “One NFL source said the Titans are the only realistic destination in terms of a trade for Cutler. It would be something if Pace could move Cutler and his guaranteed salary of $15.5 million for 2015. The solution isn’t to start Jimmy Clausen, re-signed to a one-year contract Friday, or David Fales. But the Bears might believe the sooner they shed Cutler and begin the process of searching for their next quarterback, the better. They might desire as clean of a slate as possible, and moving on from Cutler after trading Marshall would sure accomplish that.”

    As anyone who reads this blog knows, it’s been my feeling for a long time now that this is exactly what the Bears should do. Despite Biggs statement about the Titans there’s a part of me that wonders if Eagles head coach Chip Kelly isn’t clearing cap space to be used in part for Cutler. He’s not ideal but he’s a better fit for that offense than the guys he currently has.  Admittedly that’s a long shot.

    However, it’s also possible that the Marshall trade was simply a message to Cutler – the two ‘R’ words used in the previous item to describe Cutler won’t be tolerated under the current regime. We’ll see how it all works out.

  • Take this report of the Bears interest in quarterback Marcus Mariota for what its worth.
  • John Mullin at csnchicago.com reviews the list of the Bears own free agents and one name popped up that I’d forgotten about: long snapper Jeremy Cain. The Bears might want to get Cain re-signed. I don’t think you want to be caught out without a reliable long snapper and to my eye, Cain made the grade last year.

One Final Thought

Former Bears safety Anthony Walters :

“‘Part of you loves when pain is inflicted on you,’ Walters said. ‘It’s a grown man’s sport. I remember if I got hit so hard or if I hit somebody so hard where there may have been a moment of wariness, I’m like, ‘Wow, that was exhilarating.’

“‘It’s almost a rush and it’s hard to explain that. That’s what we grow up loving.'”

Points of View, April 25, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Life, the Universe and a Head Coaching Change and Other Points of View

Bears

  • I thought former 49ers quarterback Steve Young‘s comments on Trestman via Mark Potash at the Chicago Sun-Times were interesting:

“Can he work his magic with [quarterback Jay] Cutler, who despite his athletic ability has been a tough nut to crack for NFL coaches.

“‘There’s no question about that,’ Young said. ‘That’s why I’m so happy they’re looking at Marc, for many reasons. Marc’s capable of doing much more, but one of the things that he can really do is break down the quarterback and build him back up.

“Now the real question is, do you have a willing participant? Because there’s a lot of great athletes in the NFL and one of the things that keeps them from I think getting to their full potential is this idea that, ‘I’m such a great athlete that I just go out and play. I’m that good.’

“‘And some of them are that good, but they never reach their full potential unless they go to school. And especially at quarterback. So if you have a willing participant in Jay Cutler and Marc Trestman, you could make some good music.'”

  • On a related note, I’d say these comments from former Raider quarterback Rich Gannon, who also played under Trestman, bode well. Via Brad Biggs and Dan Pompei at the Chicago Tribune:

“‘One thing about him that is a strength is his ability to listen,’ Gannon said. ‘He takes feedback. Marc has always been the type of guy who can sit down with you and talk about things. What do you like about this? What don’t you like? His feedback is excellent. And he has an ability to be honest with you. Somebody needs to be honest with Jay Cutler.'”

“In the CFL, players are also only allowed to be at work for four hours a day, so Wolfe said Trestman has learned to be much more efficient. He ‘had to maximize every bit of time. So his time management will be amazing.'”

  • You can search everywhere on the Internet and never find more insight into people like Trestman than you’ll find right here in Chicago from Dan Pompei. We’re lucky to have him. This was an outstanding profile on Trstman.

Not to worry. Zynser hated almost all of the other ones as well.

    • Barry Rozner at the Daily Herald doesn’t believe general manager Phil Emery should have been rushed through the coaching interview process. I agree. Frankly, I think the people who were critical of Emery here are idiots. The only valid point to be made is that you generally don’t fire a guy unless you know you have someone better already in mind to replace him, in which case you go get that guy immediately. Its entirely possible that he had his guy(s) in mind but was doing what scouts do – being extremely thorough and exploring all avenues before making a decision, as suggested by this tweet from ESPN‘s Adam Schefter:

“Two HC candidates that interviewed with Chicago said they never have interviewed with anyone as prepared and detailed as Bears GM Phil Emery”

In line with that, here’s what former Bears special team coordinator Dave Toub said about his interview for the job via Biggs::

“Toub described his interview with Emery for the head job as ‘intense.’ He was appreciative to be considered.

“‘It was very thorough,’ he said. ‘He is what everyone thinks he is. He is a very thorough information gatherer. I know I was in there for three hours with him. It was pretty much straight through. We took a five-minute break. It was him and I question-and-answer for three hours and it went by quick. By the time we were done, I said, ‘Wow.’ It was impressive. Very thorough. Covered everything. There wasn’t anything we didn’t cover.'”

And who the heck has a problem with that?

 

“How did an offense that gave Cutler a lot of what he wanted end up worse than ever?

“Cutler not only gained old friend [Jeremy] Bates as a personal quarterback wrangler, but also escaped the seeming death march of offensive coordinator Mike Martz and was reunited with Pro Bowl receiver Brandon Marshall.

“And the Bears offense scored three touchdowns in a game once in the last two months of the season.”

“Maybe that was the big question in the interview process and maybe Trestman answered it better than Bruce Arians and Darell Bevell.

“Even if it wasn’t asked and answered, that in fact is the big question. The only question.

“Why did the Bears offense get worse?”

“Running a team and calling plays at the NFL level are two different things. I get it. You should to. But what the Bears have right now in Trestman is a start to developing a big boy offense around their quarterback.

“That sells in January.”

“What separates him from Martz is his flexibility. Having passed the Florida bar in 1983, he is a lawyer, a mediator. He won’t shoehorn Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall into an offense just because it’s what he knows best. He found ways for slow-footed Bernie Kosar, uber-athletic Steve Young and aging Rich Gannon to succeed despite their divergent skill sets.”

Pompei continues:

“This is what Trestman is going to do.

“He is going to break down Cutler, take him back to the beginning. Strip all the layers of paint. Sandpaper away the roughness.

“Then he is going to build him back up again, one fundamental at a time.”

“We’ve seen this approach with Cutler before. It was taken by Mike Martz, another outstanding quarterbacks coach and offensive mind. Trestman reminds me of him in some ways.

“But there are some differences. Trestman is more flexible in his approach. And he is more likely to demand that his protections make his quarterbacks look good as opposed to vice versa.

“From where we sit now, we can say Martz and Cutler never were a good match. Martz’s system calls for his quarterback get rid of the ball quickly and on time and that he do precisely what the play sent in from the sideline calls for him to do.

“That’s not Cutler. Or at least it has not been Cutler.

“Trestman probably cannot make Cutler something he never has been, but he can minimize his weaknesses and accentuate his strengths.”

Which brings us to Steve Rosenbloom and his comments on the Bears offense under Trestman:

“Moving right along, there is one more reason for Cutler to buy in to Trestman’s ideas — one more reason that ought to be part of Trestman’s sales pitch:

“You don’t need a great offensive line if the ball comes out quickly.”

As Pompei points out, that’s not even a question. The question is whether Cutler is capable of getting it out quickly. He’s hasn’t shown the ability to do that and he probbly never will (though trust in his receivers would certainly help).

What we may be about to witness is a facinating tug of war between Trestman’s ideals and Cutler’s ability to meet them. Pompei suggests that Cutler can’t and I tend to agree. But has Marc Trestman come to that conclusion? I would suggest that he has.

According to Potash the Alouettes improved from a CFL-worst 68 sacks allowed to a CFL-best 22 with the same offensive line in 2008, Trestman’s first year as head coach. But he did that by having quarterback Anthony Calvillo go to the short passing game, getting the ball out quicker. Indications are he’s taking a different tack with the Bears as he has stressed that the Bears offensive line has to get better. From Biggs:

“Often described as a quarterback guru, Trestman laid out his goals to make Cutler an efficient passer and was emphatic that can happen only if he has adequate protection.”

Bottom line, I think that Trestman has a good idea of what he’s dealing with in Cutler. Its encouraging that he still thinks he can use his skill set to get the best ou t of him. Here’s hoping Emery manages to put together a line that can rise to the occasion and allow that to happen.

  • Trestman on whether Cutler is a franchise quarterback:

“‘Jay Cutler is a guy who loves football. Jay Cutler is a guy who’s willing to learn,’ Trestman said. ‘Jay Cutler, to me in my very short time with him, wants to do everything he can to help this franchise and please our amazing fans.

“‘That’s where we’re going to start. We’re going to work one day at a time in a proactive way with a sense of urgency to get him to be the guy that he wants to be and we want him to be.'”

That’s not a “yes”.

  • Trestman was asked whether he would promote defensive backs coach Jon Hoke to defensive coordinator. It’s not that Trestman was a lot more informative than former head coach Lovie Smith. But straight forward answers like this explaining why he’s not being more informative will get him pretty far. Via Jahns:

“‘I’m going to go in here and sit down with [general manager] Phil [Emery] and talk about where we are with our staff,’ Trestman said. ‘Things could have changed over the last few days. I’m willing to talk about that a little bit down the road. But I don’t want to put myself or our organization’s position [out there] until we sit down and discuss where the coaching situation is, because things change so fast in the National Football League at this time of year.'”

 

 

Elsewhere

  • Pompei’s weekly power rankings look about right to me. I’d love a 49ers-Patriots Super Bowl and I’ve a sneaking suspicion that’s what we’re going to get.
  • Bowen explains at least one big key to the Falcons if they want to beat the 49ers:

“Both defensive ends, John Abraham (RE) and Kroy Biermann (LE), must rush with contain principles to keep [quarterback Colin] Kaepernick in the pocket. If the Falcons allow Kaepernick to escape the pocket, or step through open rush lanes, the quarterback has the open-field ability to pick up an explosive gain on the ground.”

  • Here’s an Audible from Pro Football Weekly that has the ring of truth:

“If you think back to all the New England teams that won Super Bowls, the trademark was vigilante leadership. It was Mike Vrabel, Tom Brady, Rodney Harrison, Larry Izzo, Richard Seymour. They did not have the most talented teams when they were winning Super Bowls early on — but if there were any issues or problems that came up in the locker room, they were policed on their own. It is such a key ingredient to winning football.”

  • Former Bears and current Ravens safety Corey Graham probably didn’t mean this as a swipe at former Bears head coach Lovie Smith. But it is. Via Sean Jensen at the Chicago Sun-Times:

“Coach [John] Harbaugh gives guys a chance to come out and play. He told me before I signed here that if I deserved to play I would. He is a man of his word. He has given me the opportunity to play and that is all I’ve asked for.'”

  • I’d say this quote via the Chicago Tribune pretty much tells the story of the 49ers-Packers game:

“Put simply by Packers receiver Greg Jennings: ‘We lost to a better team today.'”

Just as the Packers were simply the better team when they played the Bears this season. The Bears have a long way to go.

Having said that, I think ESPN‘s NFC North blogger Kevin Seifert had an interesting point of view on this game:

“In the end, I’m not sure whether there would have been a schematic solution to counter [49ers quarterback Colin] Kaepernick on this night. We saw a breakout performance on a national scale. But by most accounts, the Packers didn’t look hard enough for an answer. The Packers played as if they were waiting for their game plan to kick in rather than trashing it once it became clear it had failed.

“Several players implied as much in the postgame locker room, and no one was more blunt than defensive back Charles Woodson.

“‘We didn’t make any adjustments,’ said Woodson, who later added: ‘I just think when the game is going the way it is, you’ve got to try something different. It’s hard to just continue to do the same thing over and over again, and continue to get burned. … We need to figure out: Could we have done something differently as far as our game plan was concerned?’ “

“Woodson said the Packers are playing ‘the right defense’ but consistently qualified his comments by noting a lack of adjustments. At halftime, Woodson said, the Packers talked only about ‘trying to execute the defense we were running.’ In the end, Woodson said, ‘If it works, then it works. If it doesn’t, then maybe you change.’ “

I’m going to cut defensive coordinator Dom Capers a little bit of slack on this one. A spy helps but the key to beating a mobile quarterback has always seemed to me to be a disciplined pass rush that leaves him no running lanes to escape. Admittedly the Packers aren’t built that way and admittedly you have to be well-coached to do it so to some extent it does still come back to Capers. But having said that, Xs and Os-wise doing the same thing better may not have been the wrong answer here.

“As good as the 49ers have been this season, they have not won three in a row. They will need to win a third straight game to get to the Super Bowl.”

Lovie Smith took a lot of heat as Bears head coach as well he should. But his even manner led to an amazing degree of consistency in the performance of his team. Fortyniners head coach Jim Harbaugh, on the other hand, is very emotional leading to up and down performances from the 49ers. The 49ers are, in my opinion, the best team left in the playoffs. But can a guy like Harbaugh keep a team high enough to put together enough victories to win a Super Bowl? We’re about to find out…

  • Vikings runningback Adrian Peterson has taken a unique approach to the coming 2013 season. From The Onion.

 

One Final Thought

I thought the fact that Trestman’s teams in the CFL made the playoffs all five years he was there was impressive. Then I read this from the Chicago Tribune:

“There are eight teams in the CFL, divided into two divisions. Six teams make the playoffs.”

Way to kill my buzz, man.

That aside, there was a lot of talk about Trestman as an intellectual before he was hired. I heard him compared to guys like former Bears head coach Dick Jauron and, in some quarters, even Smith and Patriots head coach Bill Belichick. In listening to his press conference, I can say that Trestman doesn’t sound anything like any of those guys. I distinctly remember Jauron looking nervous and afraid to even open his lips at his introductory press conference. Belichick and Smith never say anything if they can help it.

No, Trestman is a talker. Not that he actually said all that much but its evident that he’s not at all afraid to show his enthusiasm for the game and for the process of getting better to compete in it. Indeed, the person that Trestman most reminded me of was Phil Emery. Which is probably why he was hired. Mike Mulligan at the Chicago Tribune would seem to agree:

“[L]istening to Emery during a surprisingly introspective introduction of Trestman at Thursday’s news conference, one thing became immediately clear: The general manager sees something of himself in his new coach.”

I don’t know if that’s a good thing or not because I don’t know enough about Emery yet to make that judgment, much less Trestman.

Only one thing is certain. A new era has definitely started around here and I’m both excited and grateful. I suppose its an indication of my maturity as a fan when I say that I’m not too worried about whether it works or not. The important thing is that my life – all of our lives – just got a lot more interesting.

I can’t wait to see what happens.

All Gabe Carimi Needs is Time and Other Points of View

Bears

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oo the other hand we have this from Pompei:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Elsewhere

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kelly is rumored to basically already have the Cleveland job.

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


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

Columnist Gary Meyers comments:

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

“Clearly, he was not kidding.”

 

One Final Thought

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

Now That’s How a Press Conference is Supposed to Be Handled and Other Points of View

Bears

“How much more does Phil Emery need to see?

“On Sunday, the Bears general manager saw a miserable Bears offense, a problem that has dogged Smith for one fired offensive coordinator after another. Even in beating the Lions 26-24 to keep alive their playoffs hopes that the Vikings killed with an upset of Green Bay, the Bears’ offense was a whole lot of miserable with several slices of brutal.”

“The players should get some blame, as well, and maybe they couldn’t reach the playoffs under any coach, but they didn’t reach the playoffs under Smith.

“Again.

“How could Emery look at this situation and think it will be all better under Smith when it’s only getting worse?

“He can’t.”

And he didn’t. Its been nine years. Smith couldn’t seem to identify or attract good offensive coordinators. And he can’t or won’t coach offensive talent.

I finally lost faith. The Bears were never going have a decent offense under Smith. And the NFL is an offensive – specifically a passing – league. I hate to see any man fired. But it really was time to move on.

“Left unsaid was something that was said in a Soldier Field locker room in December of 1981.

“The Bears had just won their final game of that season but finished with a 6-10 record. A starting offensive lineman was asked whether he thought head coach Neill Armstrong should be fired.

“‘No,’ he said emphatically. ‘We might get somebody like Dick Vermeil in here.’

“The Eagles coach was a winner but difficult on his players. He was demanding and unafraid to call out players who didn’t meet his demands.

“In contrast, Armstrong was as, well, as nice a person as ever coached in the NFL.

“The offensive lineman in question’s worst fears were realized. The Bears hired Mike Ditka, who as a head coach made even Vermeil seem more like Armstrong.”

I suggested before the Lions game that the players might be a little too comfortable under Smith. Like Imrem, I’ve got a feeling this might be a good shake up in that respect.

  • Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune on the lousy way the Bears handled the head coaching situation:

“…Smith really is being fired at the wrong time. He won 10 games and all six losses came to playoff teams, most of which the Bears ran into when they were hot.

“The time to fire Smith was a year ago when [former general manager Jerry] Angelo was pushed out the door. But team president Ted Phillips said all sorts of glowing stuff about Smith and said he based his decision on the consistency he brought to the job. In a lot of positive ways, he has been consistent. His offenses also have consistently struggled and then there is the whole not-making-the playoffs thing again. More than likely, Smith was paired with Emery because the Bears didn’t want to pay Smith for two seasons not to coach the club.

“The time to fire Smith was after the 2009 season when the Bears started 3-1 and then lost eight of their next 10 games before ultimately finishing 7-9. The offense was jumbled and Smith’s defense got run over at times. But the Bears did not want to fire Smith – who had two years remaining on his contract – and risk paying two coaches not to coach the club in 2011 when ownership knew there would be a lockout. So, Smith was allowed to can half of his offensive staff, including coordinator Ron Turner, and a messy replacement search began and ultimately ended with his friend Mike Martz. Smith then got the team to shell out maximum dollars in free agency for pass rusher Julius Peppers to fix his defense.

“Smith guided the Bears to the NFC Championship Game the following year and earned a contract extension.”

What I find most frustrating is that the problem goes back before even this. Jerry Angelo was saddled with Dick Jauron for a year after he was hired and forced to keep him on after that when Jauron mustered a decent record. The team made the same mistake twice, saddling a general manager with a coach not of his own choosing.

For what its worth, Emery predictably denies that the year was a problem:

“‘Absolutely not,’ he said. ‘No. 1, coach Smith is an excellent person, I’ve learned a lot from him, I’ve learned a great deal about our coaches. I like a lot of our coaches, I think we have a fine group, some of them may end up back here so that was very valuable.'”

“Asked about the offensive line, Emery said he used the NFL’s STATS, Inc. and Pro Football Focus to get an unbiased evaluation of the line.

“”I went to STATS Inc., went through all the numbers. Went to Pro Football Focus, did all the numbers,” Emery said. ”I’m familiar with STATS Inc. We’re one of their contracted teams. Spent quite a bit of time with their people, not only their programmers but went to their offices, watched how they grade tape, how they triple check all their facts.

“”So I trust all their data, that’s it’s unbiased, that it doesn’t have my hands in it, that it doesn’t have our coach’s or scout’s hands in it, or anybody else in the league. They are simply reporting fact. Some ways to look at it is in a very Money Ball way, crunching the numbers.”

“The numbers revealed that the Bears were 26th in the NFL in pass protection, ”which tells me we’ve got to get better,” he said. But he added that three teams ranked below the Bears were in the playoffs and the 49ers were 25th. ”So I can’t absolutely say it’s the offensive line that’s going to determine our success or not.””

He also said that he didn’t look at run blocking because its so subjective.

It’s a good idea to use statistics as a tool but, as Emery noted when he looked at the evaluation of the 49ers offensive line, they are limited. Its good that he seems to know that.

  • I’m going to have to think a little more about his explanation for why the offensive line wasn’t improved last offseason (via Sean Jensen at the Chicago Sun-Times). I understand that the opportunities were limited and I totally agree on that score:

“My though process was, before we went into the draft, to analyze with our coaches and with our staff, we’ve got two tackles and we had determined that was our greatest need. We felt good about our guard, our interior play. We felt good about Roberto Garza going into the season and looking at the STATS Inc. stuff, the guy had a solid season. We felt good about Lance Louis. He had a solid season before he got hurt. We felt that for the left guard, we had a number of candidates. We had a bunch of guys that had a number of starts. We certainly had enough in reserve, between starters and backups, for the interior play. So for us, it was a tackle question. What’s the age of the two guys that we have? 24. Is there a young tackle in this draft that, at the end of this fall, is going to clearly be better than the two young 24-year-old tackles that we have? That’s the question I had to ask myself.”

The only critical comment I have here is that Emery kind of blew off the left guard position in his explanation. Saying that you had guys who had started before in the league and a lot of back ups to cover the position isn’t the same thing as saying that it couldn’t have been improved. Personally, I think it could have been. I’m not sure it should have been under the circumstances. Everything you do there means you can’t do something somewhere else. But I think it could have been improved had they decided to do that, something I’m not sure you could have reasonably expected at the other positions.

“A month after being hired as the Packers’ general manager in 1991, Ron Wolf fired Lindy Infante with one coach in mind as his replacement: larger-than-life Bill Parcells, then in hiatus as an analyst for NBC.

“Wolf had casual discussions with Parcells about the Packers job. But after he interviewed 49ers offensive coordinator Mike Holmgren, Wolf knew he had his man.

“‘Very briefly into the interview, I knew there wasn’t any sense to go further,’’ Wolf said at the time. ‘‘I felt like I had known Mike all my life.’

“That was about as far as that coaching search went. Holmgren was hired on Jan. 11, 1992, and the rest is Packers history.

“‘That’s the synergy I’m looking for,’ Bears general manager Phil Emery said Tuesday. ‘I want that person to grab me. I want to see it. I want to hear it. I want to walk away from it and know that that’s our guy.’

“In need of a home run after firing the beloved and respected Lovie Smith following a 10-6 season, it would make sense that Emery’s next move would be to make Jon Gruden or Bill Cowher an offer he couldn’t refuse. Instead, it appears he’s more intent on using his football intuition to find the right guy.”

“‘Ah, there’s a lot of good candidates out there,’ Gruden told me. ‘I’m just focused on the Outback Bowl.'”

That’s not a “No”…

  • Cowboys special teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis has been identified by Jay Glazer at FOX Sports as a Bears coaching candidate. That comes as this excerpt appeared in Pro Football Weekly‘s Whispers column:

” Cowboys special-teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis is receiving attention for soon-to-be vacant head-coaching positions. For years, he has been regarded as a future head coach, whether on the college or pro level, and this could be his first serious crack at getting interviews.”

  • Mike Holmgren says he’d like to coach somewhere next year. He’s intriguing. I wonder if his offense would mesh with Cutler, though. Is he the kind of adaptable coach Emery is looking for? It’s worth thinking about.

“There is no need for Phil Emery to be locked into hiring a head coach with an offensive background.

“But there is an overwhelming need for him to be locked into hiring someone who has foolproof answers on how to fix the offense.

“And that probably means the Bears should hire an offensive guy.”

“His first question for those candidates [without an offensive background] should be: Who is your offensive coordinator going to be?

“If the answer is a young offensive coordinator who could get a head coaching job if he has success, that candidate can’t be valued as highly as someone who would have a longer-lasting offensive solution.

“If a candidate without an offensive background were to guarantee he could bring along someone like Norv Turner or Chan Gailey as his offensive coordinator, he would be worth listening to. Turner and Gailey have had offensive success and are not likely to become head coaches again.”

 

  • How’s this for an odd quote from quarterback Jay Cutler on the firing of Smith? Via Biggs:

“‘We have a lot of good pieces offensively personnel wise and hope we get a good coordinator and play caller to make it work,’ he said.”

For heaven’s sake, Jay, why don’t you tell us what you really think?

“‘I think the important thing is that we continue to build around him,’ Emery said. ‘When I look at our team in the past and the team that I watched on tape and the team that I watched this fall, we’ve got to get better at the midfield area of making plays. Whether that is involving Matt Forte more and again I am going to be frank: Matt was brought back and I was excited about his signing because a big part of that is him as a pass receiver. For whatever reason, whether it was protection or whether it was utilization or whether it was catching, we didn’t utilize Matt or he didn’t have the opportunity to be fully utilized.'”

“‘It’s very important that that person either himself or staff wise has the right person to help Jay develop, but it’s also very important that they help everyone develop,’ Emery said.”

It’s critical that Cutler get a coach who can help him. One that he respects and will listen to. Personally, I think the best way to ensure that is to hire the offensive mind behind the team as the head coach and to make sure that coach has a sucessful background coaching quarterbacks. But however its done, its probably the most important part of the process.

“Of the last 10 Super Bowl winners, only one had a starting left tackle that was a first-round pick.”

“Guess who started for the Steelers at left tackle against the Packers two years ago? Jonathan Scott. He started seven games for the Bears at right tackle and it would not be surprising if they consider bringing him back into the fold.”

  • Adam L. Jahns at the Chicago Sun-Times quotes a delusional Henry Melton after the Bears beat the 4-12 Lions by 2 only points after being handed four turnovers:

“‘I feel we’re definitely a Super Bowl-caliber team,’ he said. ‘And for us not to get in is going to be heart-breaking.'”

“Emery doesn’t have a preference for a 4-3 or a 3-4 defense but said the team’s personnel is geared for a 4-3 and that the new coach would have to do a great job of convincing him the team could make the transition to a 3-4 with the players currently in the mix.

“‘I think it’s really important to find the person that has the knowledge and feel to make things fit with the talent that they have,’ Emery said. ‘That’s the mark of excellence that I’m looking for. Somebody that has adapted to the role or has the flexibility and the skill set to make the players that we have fit toward making a run for the championship.'”

Technically this isn’t true. Emery said the Bears didn’t have the personnel to run a “true 3-4” meaning a two gap scheme with three large linemen. The one gap schemes like the one Houston defensive coordinator Wade Phillips uses would presumably require less adjustment.

“Part of the appeal of a special teams coach is he is the only coach other than the head coach that works with nearly the entire roster. Emery, a strength and conditioning coach in college, has a similar background as an assistant who works with all players. In that way, he shares a common background with [Bears special teams coordinator Dave] Toub, who was a strength coach for 15 seasons at Missouri and UTEP.”

“‘When I was in Minnesota and they did this drill called long stride, short stride … before, I used to just run and then shoot my gun and the guy would step to the side. But when I got up there we did a thing called long stride, short stride, which long stride you are running and running and then right when you get to the point of attack you go to short strides and then accelerate through. That has helped me out a lot.’

“Bears special teams coordinator Dave Toub said he’s going to look into the drill Bowman describes during the offseason and consider implementing it and borrowing from Vikings special teams coach Mike Priefer.

“‘He is having a great year. He’s been consistent,’ Toub said of Bowman. ‘He’s better than he was before. No question. They definitely taught him some things at Minnesota. It has definitely made a difference for him. There’s something to it.'”

 

“Before #Bears left locker room I asked long snapper Pat Mannelly if he was nervous watching GB-Minn game. ‘My kid is not playing in it.'”

Elsewhere

  • No surprise that the Cardinals are already mishandling their hiring process. Someone, preumably from the organization, is saying the chances are 95% that Andy Reid will take the job. Perhaps it would be better to interview him first, don’t you think? From the Chicago Tribune.
  • An interesting Audible from Pro Football Weekly with some truth and which peripherally mentions the Bears:

“Missing on two drafts two years in a row does not hurt San Diego (for) those two years. It hits 3-4 years down the road when those (draft picks) are supposed to be good starters and depth players. The draft-heavy teams like San Diego and Chicago that really don’t like dipping into free agency or the waiver wire — when they realize they don’t have six or eight positions that they can play with, it forces you to jump in (to free agency). San Diego got involved with free agency the last two years and they missed on (the players they signed). It put them behind the 8-ball, to where they are reacting instead of acting. The bad drafts caught up to them. That’s how you fall off.”

  • You wouldn’t think a huge network like ESPN would be this insecure. Via Mike Florio at profootballtalk.com.

“[L]eague sources say that even during the playoff season, the Fords were disturbed by a number of incidents that fell under Schwartz’s domain. Schwartz’s occasional gruff management personality also has come under scrutiny and will be addressed by ownership if Schwartz is back in 2013.”

Kevin Seifert, also at ESPN, comments:

“[I] question whether firing Schwartz would repair the ‘tattered team culture’ Mortensen identified in his report. To be fair to him, Schwartz is one-third of the Lions’ leadership team. Is he solely to blame for the Lions’ culture? Don’t general manager Martin Mayhew and team president Tom Lewand contribute to that as well? “

They do. But every team to some extent reflects the personality of its head coach and there can be little doubt that the Lions’ lack of discipline reflects that of Schwartz.

“(419):

“Could have had sex with an ex NFL kicker last night.

“(206):

“That would’ve been embarrassing.”

 

One Final Thought

I could not agree more with Potash’s assessment of Emery’s press conference:

“But the only bizarre aspect of Phil Emery’s press conference on the firing of Lovie Smith was how un-Bear-like it was. How un-Lovie-like it was. How rational it was. It was like a real press conference — with substantive, detailed answers to legitimate questions. Instead of being insulted by a question about the offensive line and making us feel stupid for asking about it, Emery provided a step-by-step analysis of the line’s performance and why he did not address it in last year’s draft — the only thing missing were charts and graphs. He gave us more information we didn’t know in one 10-minute answer than Lovie Smith did in nine years. I was tempted to ask Emery ‘What time is it?’ just so I could learn how to build a watch.”

Emery taught me a lot about the team yesterday in one 54 minute press conference and I deeply appreciate that. I also noticed that it started exactly on time for once. He was as straight forward and transparent as you could reasonably expect. It was a pleasure to watch.

Its been less than a year and I already like him better than I ever liked Smith in nine. Let’s hope that feeling lasts.