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.’”

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.

Giving Thanks for Bears Ownership. And Other Points of View.

Bears

  • Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune reviews the playing time of all of the NFL players.  Here are some of relevant points he extracts:

1)  Five of Dave Toub’s eight top special teams tacklers are free agents.  It could be another tough coaching job ahead.

2)  “Roy Williams led all wide receivers with 600 snaps, though he fell short of a predicted 70 to 80 catches. He tied Johnny Knox for the team-lead with 37 receptions.”

3)  [Chauncy] Davis played more than any of the other third ends last season with 104 snaps.”

Honestly, I’d almost forgotten Davis was on the team.  He was that unremarkable despite playing opposite Julius Peppers.  The Bears need a third defensive end badly.

4)  [Lance] Briggs was on the field for all 1,081 defensive snaps and Urlacher missed only 14.

“The question isn’t so much about age. It’s rather: How long can they continue to perform at an elite level?” 

“He’s become such an icon at middle linebacker that people forget Urlacher played a sort of hybrid safety in Rocky Long‘s system at New Mexico, and that he actually got his initial reps at outside linebacker. Suffice to say, the move to the middle worked out. Urlacher is still playing at a high level but will be 34 this spring, and Chicago would be wise to add some depth at linebacker in the upcoming draft. I think they can wait a few rounds, however; I’d like to see them find a wideout (preferably with some size), another solid offensive lineman and a corner first.”

“Phil (Chicago):

“Is Michael Floyd‘s draft stock tumbling due to his lack of participation at the senior bowl? What does he need to do at the combine to solidify himself as a mid-first round type guy?

“Mel Kiper  (1:17 PM):

“No, I don’t think that’s something that will make him plummet. I think he’s the kind of guy that had a good year, a productive year. He caught some passes. You want to see him show some more aggressiveness. You want him to be the guy that wants to take over the game. He’s in the top 25 on the Big Board. He’s a mid to later first round pick.”

I think Kiper hit this one right on the nose.  Really great NFL receivers have a look in their eye and often seem to make tough catches by sheer will.  Floyd could be elite but there were times when you wondered if he had the “want to” necessary to make it big.

“Darth Ditka (Sunny Florida)

“Should the Bears trade up for Kendall Wright or stay put at #19?

“Mel Kiper  (1:06 PM)

“You look at their needs and it’s WR, OT, CB, things like that. They could look at Wright, who could be there when they pick at 19. If not, Mike Adams at OT.”

Here’s what Kiper has to say about Adams, an offensive tackle from Ohio State who is number 20 on his Big Board.

“Makes his mark as a pass-rusher, with good feet, length and quickness to wall off defenders. Awareness could be improved, and he’s dealt with plenty of injuries. But stock is on the way up.”

It would be really nice to get a good left tackle with that first round pick.

“An under the radar player who is expected to be a very hot free agent is 49ers receiver Josh Morgan. Teams are buzzing about the possibility of acquiring Morgan, who is considered a very good talent who should be available at a lesser price than the receivers on the top rung. The 49ers have been enthralled with Morgan for four years, but he never really had a breakout because of health issues and offensive ineptitude in previous seasons. A broken leg limited him to five games in 2011. But front office men see Morgan as someone with decent size, speed, toughness and playmaking ability.”

The Bears could consider Morgan.  But his height is 6’ even.  It isn’t everything but I really think they acquire someone bigger.

“(Bears offensive coordinator) Mike Tice is an excellent coach. The Bears will be a lot better on offense next year. He played a long time in the league. He understands the big picture. He is a very underrated coach.”

Ron Turner was a good coach, too.  But, like Turner, Tice isn’t a guy who is going to use X’s and O’s to overcome deficiencies in the roster.  He’s not going to be able to get many good match ups from a group that lacks talent.  Here’s hoping I’m wrong.

Jeff Fisher‘s dream job was with the Bears. It’s where he played. It’s a serious football town. They play his brand of football ­— a tough, physical style. He would have been a great hire (in Chicago).”

I would have loved to have Fisher here.  But you couldn’t justifiably fire Smith.  The current problem with the team isn’t due to his coaching.  I think Fisher would have wanted too much control over personnel as well.

Elsewhere

  • I spent a good part of my morning catching up on the Audibles.  So there are a lot of them in the post.  And another one:

“When I look at the way Leslie Frazier is running the Vikings, I think of Tony Dungy. I would think Tony might have had something to do with the hires they just made (at defensive coordinator). The problem with that (Tampa-2) defense — if you don’t have six or seven Pro Bowlers on the field, it is not going to work. … When you don’t disguise your coverages, it’s like taking candy from a baby.”

We’re pretty fortunate in Chicago in that Lovie Smith came to this conclusion at least two years ago.  The Bears have done much more in the way of disguising coverages ever since.  Frazier is eventually going to have to make this adjustment.

Jim Mora (Sr.) had it right. Michael Vick is a coach killer. The Eagles made a mistake signing him long-term. I can tell you right now — he was a machine the first half of 2010, and then he … started turning the ball over. You cannot win a Super Bowl with a guy that is that inconsistent. They said he was hurt. I’m not sure they didn’t bench him after he started 3-8 going back to last year (counting Vick’s two season-ending losses a year ago). If I’m Andy Reid, I’m looking hard at Matt Flynn right now.”

“The most underrated cog in Green Bay is (QB coach) Tom Clements. He is the one who has worked with (Aaron) Rodgers and (Matt) Flynn the most closely. The head coach calls the plays. Sure, Joe Philbin was a part of it, but I will be interested to see how much he can get done on his own (in Miami). (GM) Jeff Ireland has been involved with the hiring of two coaches — Tony Sparano and Philbin. Neither would have been on my short list, but we’ll see how it works this time around. They have two years to get it done, and then it’s clean-out time.”

I also have my doubts about the Philbin hire.  Philbin’s really an offensive line coach.  Its clear to me that Mike McCarthy is the guy running that offense and he’s the guy coaching the quarterbacks.  What you are actually doing is hiring someone who you hope has learned something from him.  But if you think you are getting a guy who was heavily involved in the way the offense runs, I think you may be fooling yourself.

“Come the beginning of April, every wart on every draft prospect is going to get bigger and bigger. There will be a group of guys that find flaws on every player and will focus on them and concentrate on them instead of the positive traits. They will be talking about how Andrew Luck does not have John Elway‘s arm. It was like Cam Newton last year. Everyone was ripping the kid until the final three days before the draft when it became clear that (Panthers GM) Marty (Hurney) really was going to take him. “

“The folks should be able to see the god—- games on television,” he said. “Playoff games. Playoffs — all playoff games should be available.”

A year later, Congress passed a law to make sure they were.

  • Steve Breaston, who played under former Bears wide receivers coach Todd Haley in Arizona and Kansas City thinks Haley, the new Steeler’s offensive coordinator is “not always a butt hole”.  Via Florio.
  • One word: “genius”.

New York Giants Fan 2 Story Fall During Super Bowl Parade from MediaNiche on Vimeo.


Eli Manning Asks Dad If He Can Stop Playing Football Now

  • The NFC and AFC Seasons in review are now available on DVD from the NFL.  Here are the sales pitches for the NFC South.  From The Sports Pickle:

 

One Final Thought

 

And one more Audible from Pro Football Weekly:

 

Jim Irsay is taking on the persona of Jerry Jones. He wants to be the acting GM. He’s doing interviews. He wants to be the face of the franchise. That’s a big part of the reason (Bill) Polian is gone. It’s the Jim Irsay show now.”

 

There are a lot of days that I’m thankful that the McCaskey’s own the Bears.  I read things like this and today becomes one of them.  The family takes a lot of heat.  But generally speaking they stay out of the way and let people do their jobs.

 

People love to give the McCaskey’s trouble because they see them as distant.  I personally don’t believe that and I’ve implied that I think they were more involved in the Jerry Angelo firing than anyone is letting on.  But setting that aside, the alternative to “distant” is Jim Irsay.  Think about it.

 

 

 

 

 

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.

The Bottom Line on the Bears Problems and Other Points of View

Bears

“It is possible a veteran quarterback might have been able to prevent Barber from committing his illegal formation penalty by verbally communicating with him when he saw him lined up incorrectly. I’m not sure the quarterback could have done anything about Barber running too close to the sidelines.”

[Caleb] Hanie’s Passer rating on the seven drop-backs he was blitzed? 2.5. No, I did not miss a digit.

“During the Patriots-Redskins game, Tom Brady was caught cursing at his offensive coordinator on the sideline after an interception. This is no different, if worse, than what Cutler did a few weeks ago in the game against Minnesota. Just because Brady has better credentials than Cutler doesn’t justify it any more. I find it strange that you haven’t come out and questioned Brady’s leadership and/or respectability. — Shaun Canady; Victorville, Calif.

“I didn’t have to question what Brady did because Brady owned up to being wrong. He and offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien hugged it out on the sideline after the exchange. Then, Brady admitted to the media after the game that he was out of line. And he was.”

“There are a lot of ways the Bears can go with their first round pick, and it’s too early to zero in on needs because we don’t know what will happen in free agency in terms of additions and losses. As it stands now, you could see needs at receiver and cornerback, as you suggest, and linebacker, defensive line and offensive line. If all things are equal, I always lean towards going big. And I think the defense really needs a young player to build around. So put me down for a defensive end.”

The only thing I’d add is that the best available in the first round is almost always the way to go. And the Bears have enough needs (at the moment) that they can probably do that.

    1. guards/centers
    2. big wide receivers without top end speed.
    3. strong side linebackers.

All three could be argued to be Bears needs – depending on the definition of “without top end speed”: they don’t need a possession guy. None of them tends to be in demand in the first round but if there’s a really good one and the Bears are sitting at about #18, they might consider it. Otherwise these are spots to look for in rounds two and 3.

“The corners weren’t exactly playing against a group of all-star receivers, and they made a few significant mistakes.

Tim Jennings whiffed on a jam attempt of Ben Obomanu, then was run by for a 43-yard completion. He later got grabby with Golden Tate and gave up 16 yards on a pass-interference penalty.

“Earlier, Jennings had his arms around Tate after a catch and Charles Tillman came barreling in with his head down and arms at his side. He knocked off Jennings, allowing Tate to run an additional 18 yards.”

The Bears decided to go with a lot of single coverage against the Seahawks, not the current group’s strength. I agree that sometimes this kind of coverage is called for. But if they’re going to execute it, they need at least one corner who is better at it.

  • I’ve debated with many people about where the problem with the Bears really lies. I’m a Lovie Smith guy and I think the team has over achieved for well over a year before the current losing streak but there are a number of people out there who think its the coaching staff. Mike Mulligan at the Chicago Tribunesummarizes my answer:

“The Bears will start just eight of their draft picks Sunday night, including Brian Urlacher, who was selected before general manager Jerry Angelo joined the team.

“With Gabe Carimi and Chris Williams injured and out for the season, Urlacher is the only former first-round pick currently on the Bears roster that was drafted by the team.

“He was selected in 2000.”

Case closed.

Elsewhere

  • Here’s another of those stories about out of control Packer fans after losses. In this case, an angry woman was arrested after trying to choke her daughter after the Packers lost to the Chiefs on Sunday.

I wouldn’t dare be dumb enough to suggest that this problem is limited to Packer fans. But I will say this. I’ve met a number of Packer fans and most are really nice. But many of the ones who have spent most of their lives in Wisconsin are a different breed. Playful banter isn’t something they engage in. Most give you a look like you insulted their mothers and I’ve basically stopped talking to them about football.

I love the Bears and follow them pretty religiously. I write a blog for heaven’s sake. But even I think some of these people need to get more of a life outside of football. Its a game not a world war.

  • Some might see some value to the Bears in this quote from the Audibles section at Pro Football Weekly:

“The reason Miami is winning right now is because they are healthier than everyone else. Give Bill Parcells credit — if there is one thing he understands, it is that you make the playoffs by what you do in November and December. He built a big team that plays big and they have weathered the storm. Outside of the quarterback, whom have they lost. When the rest of the league is rested, they will still have the same problems they did early.”

  • I’m not sure what this Audible means for the Matt Forte talks:

“You look at Buffalo’s decision to extend (QB Ryan) Fitzpatrick. It was kind of like buying a stock. His stock went through the roof, and Buffalo said — I am going to buy it. The next thing you know, the price cuts in half. What happens if the Bills start negotiating now — would they have paid what they did? You never negotiate when a guy has all the leverage.”

“If anyone thinks (Tim) Tebow is going to continue to win playing the way he has, they are nuts. You’ve got to be able to throw from the pocket to win in this league. Eventually, you have to make plays with your arm. I’m talking about making accurate throws with (defenders) covering. He has done a helluva job — they are running the ball, playing good defense and not screwing it up. Tebow is not turning it over at all — give him a lot of credit there. But he is going to have a hard time consistently winning if he cannot make throws in the pocket.”

The first thing that struck me about this comment was the parallel to Caleb Hanie and the question of how the Bears could have failed to realize this about him a long time ago. Its likely that offensive coordinator Mike Martz did. the second thing I’ll say is this: Tebow is making rapid progress. Long delivery aside, there’s nothing in my mind that says he won’t become a decent pocket passer with good coaching.

“Give (Chiefs GM) Scott Pioli credit — it’s Scott’s way. Whatever he does from here, whether he crashes or succeeds ­— it definitely is his way.”

“Bill Cowher is very smart and calculating. He knows what it takes to win. He’s not going somewhere just to take a paycheck like the Tuna (Bill Parcells) did in Miami. The worst thing that might have happened to Miami — they started winning games. They may not have a shot at a quarterback in the draft — and it’s going to make it more difficult to attract a (big-)name (head coach) capable of flipping it quickly.”

I admit that I haven’t seen him much. But from what I have seen of Matt Moore, they may already have the answer at quarterback in Miami.

  • Michael David Smith at profootballtalk.com highlights the fact that Juan Castillo isn’t looking like such a bad defensive coordinator in Philedelphia anymore.
  • Tom Pelissaro at 1500ESPN.com begins the process of scapegoating in Minnesota with some comments about Donovan McNabb that those who wanted him for the Bears might find interesting:

“For players familiar with Brett Favre’s precision and encyclopedic knowledge of Xs and Os, the contrast was stark. Coupled with some atrocious practice performances, questionable conditioning and a seemingly cavalier approach to correcting mistakes, McNabb had teammates wary even before he suited up for a regular-season game.”

Mike Florio at profootballtalk.com highlights this article and wonders if the coaching staff shouldn’t bear most of the blame. But I’m wondering when someone isn’t going to take a good hard look at Vice President of Player Personnel Rick Spielman.

  • Judy Batista at The New York Times writes a nice profile of Chief’s interim head coach Romeo Crennel. There’s strong sentiment around the league that he should succeed Todd Haley permanently. This excerpt reminds me of Lovie Smith:

“That Crennel is held in high regard by players should not be construed as his being soft as a coach. During halftime of the Chiefs’ game against Indianapolis this season — when the Chiefs had allowed the hapless Colts to score 24 points in the first two quarters and were trailing by a touchdown — Crennel lit into his defense, questioning the players’ professionalism and toughness. It left players, and even Haley, at a loss for words. But it is now viewed within the organization as a turning point in the season. The Chiefs shut out the Colts in the second half, shut out the Raiders in the next game and then beat the Chargers.”

  • These guys need to get a room. Via The Sports Pickle.
  • I’m guessing it had something to so with this. Via The Onion.
  • And The Sports Pickle also asks the question “Are the Packers still the favorite to win the Super Bowl?”. Here’s my choice:

“Maybe — they have serious problems on the offensive line and defense, but 50-50 Roger Goodell bans blocking and tackling by the playoffs, so they might be fine”

One Final Thought

Josh McCown begins the process of making excuses while denying he’s making excuses. Via Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune:

“Everybody expects you just to play well, and that’s the expectation for myself also.  If I keep looking back and saying, ‘I only got here six weeks ago,’ then it becomes an excuse and you leave an area for you not to play well because you’re leaving something to fall back on. I’m trying to refuse to do that and just say, ‘You have to play well. The team’s depending on you.'”

They’re screwed.

Blaming the Play Caller Is the Easy Way Out and Other Points of View

Bears

  • Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune give his perspective on the state of Caleb Hanie by drawing this interesting comparison:

You can count on Lovie Smith to say one thing at the start of the preseason and the regular season: A team usually makes its biggest improvements from Game 1 to Game 2. The Bears will be taking that approach into Sunday’s game against the Chiefs, hoping Caleb Hanie will make strides after completing 50 percent of his passes and being intercepted three times.

End Chauncey Davis, added two weeks ago, got into the mix and likely made an impression with four tackles. That third end position is wide open for someone who wants to grab it, and as this loss showed, the Bears aren’t good enough on defense just yet to overcome errors on offense.

The guess here is [Kyle] Orton will be the man. Kansas City (4-7) claimed him for a reason and the Chiefs don’t have any margin for error now that they are three games behind the Raiders.

  • When the Bears let Jake Laptad go as the long snapper after not one practice, I assumed he must have been really bad. Not so according to Biggs:

“There weren’t any snaps bounced back to holder Adam Podlesh in practice. Laptad didn’t sail any snaps over the head of Podlesh on punts in practice. It just wasn’t what special teams coordinator Dave Toub, who had worked with Laptad during a two-week stint on the practice squad in October, wanted.”

“Why was Laptad let go?

“’Off the mark,’ Toub said. ‘He snaps so fast, he has such zip on the ball if it’s off the mark and it gets by you, you’re in trouble. He’s got a lot of talent. He’s just not ready. If he really wants to work at it and get better, he could be a snapper in the NFL. But he’s got to improve.'”

  • I finished reading this article on the Oakland game from Dan Pompei at the Chicago Tribune and I wondered if the Bears had actually lost.
  • Vaughn McClure at the Chicago Tribune makes a good point:

“[Defensive coordinator Rod] Marinelli also simplified the game by not using as many stunts.

“‘It was all about lining up and just beating the man across from you,’ [defensive end Israel] Idonije said. ‘We just went out there and got after it.'”

I thought they simplified the game plan in all aspects, not just with the lack of stunts.  The Bears played a surprising vanilla cover two a good portion of the game.  I’m not sure how I feel about that.  On the one hand it worked.  ON the other hand I don’t think its always going to work.  the Bears need to disguise their coverages every once in a while and I think it was a noticeable improvement when they started to do it last year.

“Quick, someone tell Hanie that late, high and wide over the middle is no way to go through the NFL.”

I think Hanie can and probably will improve everything else.  But I’m not sure how much his accuracy is going to improve this week.

  • On what I would say is a note related to the Ndamukong Suh incident Thursday, we have this from Pro Football Weekly‘s Audibles:

“If you look at what happened to the Lions against the Bears, the crazy thing about it is — the Lions moved the ball. They had a good plan. They just turned it over too much. And the wind was a major factor. I was wondering how the Bears could be so good — the defense did some good things, but watch the ball hang on the interception returns. Even the kick to (Devin) Hester that was returned, the wind took that ball right into his hands.”

Lovie (Smith) has not been a good coach for the Chicago Bears; he has been a great coach — just the way he handles the team. He has the ability to get players to play hard for him. They trust him. It’s hard to put a finger on exactly why, but they do.”

“(Bears DE Israel) Idonije is a beast. The Bears’ defense is so good, they run the football well — they can get by without a star at quarterback.”

Elsewhere

“[Eagles head coach] Andy Reid has such a mess on his hands. People are talking about him being fired? I want to know — is he going to walk away? I know Juan Castillo was not his first choice as defensive coordinator. I look at the players they have signed. I don’t know if Andy has enough support right now. It looks to me like he is doing everything. I know this — he is one of the best football coaches in the NFL.”

“[DeSeanJackson — the once dynamic wide receiver who showed flashes of becoming one of the franchise’s greatest at that position — has turned into perhaps the most unreliable target on offense. He dropped a handful of passes [on Sunday] and shied away from contact against the Patriots. His worst offense came when he short-armed a sure-thing touchdown catch because he heard footsteps.

“Amid a contract dispute, Jackson said concern about his health was a factor in his style of play.

“‘Always. Always got to keep your head on a swivel,’ he said.

“Was he worried about his health on that play?

“‘What’d you think?’ he said as he walked away from reporters.”

Sounds like Bernard Berrian syndrome to me.  If I were a GM, I wouldn’t touch this guy with a ten foot pole.  But someone will.  And regret it.

“For their part, [Lion’s head coach JimSchwartz and the Lions should have said more [about Suh’s questionable play], sooner, too.

“Schwartz said after the game he didn’t see the incident but that Suh ‘can’t leave any gray area and can’t give an official any reason to’ penalize him or eject him from the game. Suh’s stomp gave the Packers an automatic first down after they had been stopped on third-and-goal, and John Kuhn scored two plays later on a 1-yard run to break open a close game.

“And while he won’t meet with local reporters until Tuesday, Schwartz had an opportunity to denounce the stomp in a Sirius/XM radio interview Friday but chose to talk around it instead, saying ‘if there’s discipline involved in a case like that it will come from the NFL’ and that Suh can’t lose his composure and ‘put his teammates in a bad position.’

“No one is saying Schwartz condones Suh’s stomp. As competitive as he is, that’s never been what Schwartz is about.”

Really?  Then why doesn’t he say so? Why hasn’t he said so already?  Birkett points out that Schwartz “happened to be” the Titan’s defensive coordinator when Albert Haynesworth stomped on the head of Cowboy’s center Andre Gurrode five years ago, implying that its just a coincidence. But by condemning the penalty and not the act itself, despite being given multiple opportunities to do otherwise, Schwartz’s message is the same now as it apparently was then: “Do what you want. Just don’t get caught.”

  • On a related note, we have this Audible from Pro Football Weekly:

“(Lions DT) Ndamukong Suh is so full of (crap). He’s living off where he got drafted. People that think he has played well are scouting off ESPN and watching too many highlights. Yeah, he looks great in flashes against weak sisters. I wouldn’t want him over either one of the guys we have. He is a coward.”

“Someone needs to call out Jon Gruden for hyping all of Bob LaMonte‘s clients. If they are repped by his (own) agent, they are great. Andy Reid is a genius. Mike Martz invented football. Enough is enough. When I watch football on television, I want to hear about the technical aspect — tell me about why the extra tackle is overloaded to one side and how the play was designed. If it didn’t work, call it out. Gruden pumps so much sunshine it’s become unbearable to watch.”

“Coaches hate scouts just like offensive coaches hate defensive coaches. It’s like the Army and the Marines — they are in competition with each other.”

One Final Thought

Fred Mitchell at the Tribune quotes Lovie Smith on the heavily criticized Mike Martz call that resulted in an Oakland interception near the goal line Sunday:

“Asked again if the call was too risky, especially for a young quarterback making his first NFL start, Smith replied:

“’Maybe from (the media) it is. It didn’t work, so of course you are going to get criticized when something doesn’t work. But next time it will.’”

Smith has a point.  Most fans and media members can’t tell you much about the nuts and bolts of playing defensive back or offensive guard.  But almost anyone one with an butt hole and an opinion thinks on some level he’s capable of judging what kind of play should or shouldn’t be called from the comfort of his living room couch.

Sure, looking back on it, the play call doesn’t look great.  And yes, I wish the Bears had run the ball more.  I’ve heard constantly since Sunday about how Martz didn’t protect Hanie.  But its not like Hanie is a rookie.  He’s a veteran back up.  Hindsight is 20-20 but if you put yourself up in the booth and you see the Raiders constantly stacking the box against the run, do you really think Martz asked Hanie to do anything he shouldn’t have been capable of doing?

That’s one of the reasons you ordinarily won’t catch me being too critical of the play calling of an offensive coordinator.  It’s just too easy blame that rather than the execution that we really don’t completely understand.

The Exact Moment Jay Cutler Was Injured and Other Points of View

Bears

“The Oakland Raiders’ defense doesn’t distinguish itself in many statistical categories. It’s ranked 24th overall, 25th against the run and 20th against the pass.

“But the Raiders are tied for sixth in the NFL with 28 sacks and feature one of the faster defenses in the league.”

  • Bears runningback Matt Forte had an interesting take on what needs to be done against the Raiders, who will undoubtedly be expecting a heavy dose of the running game. Via Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune:

“‘It always has been on my shoulders,’ said Forte, who rushed for more than 100 yards in four of five games before his recent slump. ‘I don’t think it’s anything new. I just want to continue to be successful and get some more passes out of the backfield. Then they can’t stack the box and we can get the ball out in space.'”

“The protagonist in the book is a legendary sportswriter who uncovered that his home town team’s coach has orchestrated a massive cheating plan to get his team to win the Super Bowl. Well, can he divulge it? Will it fly? Is his evidence right? Will he be sued for libel? And he agonizes over it.

I’m thinking of written a book, too. Its about a legendary writer who blogs in his underwear from his mom’s basement investigates a huge cheerleading scandal. Really, really huge. Like Kelley Brook huge. He’s very dedicated that way.

Right now, Graham ranks fourth in fan voting for the Pro Bowl, causing him to wonder what happened to the Chicago machine.

“They always talk about Chicago is one of the biggest markets but we can’t tell. They ain’t voting for me,” he said. “I have to give them something to vote for. If I go out and make a lot of plays, more people will vote.”

I’m ashamed to say that until I read this quote I had not voted. I did with a ballot at nfl.com. Other notable Bears to con side include Brian Urlacher, Lance Briggs, Charles Tillman, Julius Peppers, Jay Cutler, and Matt Forte. I also voted for a few more who were, let’s just day, questionable choices for people voting without a Bear bias.

“It was a hot topic around the league Friday although the Bears didn’t want to share any strong opinions, less than two weeks after Suh ripped the helmet off quarterback Jay Cutler and avoided discipline.”

“When the play was described to Smith, he shrugged.

“‘Oh really,’ he said. ‘Oh man, I’m sure the league will have something to say about that.’

“A reporter then piped up that’s not always the case with Suh.

“‘Next question,’ Smith responded.”

“If Tice has any regrets about his assistant coach experience, it was his being denied the chance to interview for the Titans offensive coordinator position in the offseason.

“‘You’re always disappointed when you don’t have a chance to better yourself, professionally, and that’s what the interview process is all about,’ he said. “I wanted to do that interview.'”

And I continue to believe that the right thing to do for the Bears would have been to allow it.

  • With the Bears Jay Cutler injured, special teams will have to continue to be strong for the Bears. On that note, every Bear fan can give thanks on this day for arrogance and overconfidence. Again, via Biggs.
  • I’m not always Roy Williams‘ biggest fan. But he certainly is quick with a quote. McClure gets him here on new Bears quarterback Josh McCown, who played with Williams on the Lions:

“Shoot, the most athletic white boy I’ve ever seen in my life.

  • David Haugh at the Chicago Tribune writes a nice article on the things every back up quarterback thrown into the starting role needs to know:

“‘That’s a subtlety a good head coach will manage well,’ [Jim McMahon backup Steve] Fuller recalled over the phone. ‘They didn’t drastically alter the whole system to make me feel like, ‘Oh, God, they’re frightened I’m in there.’ You strike a balance between putting in wrinkles versus completely scaring the crap out of the guy by putting in stuff completely different that would be panicking.'”

“We didn’t blitz much last week, and that could help. There are little things we will have to improve, and we will. The pass rush, it just hasn’t been consistent. You just keep working at it”

I thought the Bears did blitz a lot last week. The problem is that the ball was coming out so fast there was no chance to get to Philip Rivers. If they’re planning on blitzing even more this could be an interesting game.

“Jay Cutler has taken some criticism for not playing through injuries in the past, which is why he should consider wearing a protective walking boot on his thumb.”

Apparently they don’t think much of the Bears chances with Hanie at quarterback:

Elsewhere

“Our current national delusion is the belief that a quarterback whose team scores 17 points (7 as the result of defensive or special teams play) against a New York opponent, but who leads a grinding fourth-quarter game-winning drive, has done something truly exceptional. So there’s a (yawn) quarterback controversy brewing in Philadelphia, the City of Backup Quarterback-ly Love. If Michael Vick (ribs) is healthy, he will start over Vince Young, though locals are clamoring for Young, whose three early-game interceptions were apparently not signs of ineptitude but his flair for the dramatic. Meanwhile, DeSean Jackson’s self-promoting behavior has become so erratic and counterproductive that he is one step from renaming the rest of his season the Torpedo of Touchdowns Tour.”

“The Rex Ryan Experience has always had a risky side. If promises aren’t delivered, words become hollow and credibility suffers. It doesn’t seem to be an act for the long term. When Ryan is gone, sports journalists may miss him most. Dullness is an enemy, particularly on deadline. Fans around New York would miss him, too — if not at first, eventually. But they would never see another like him. You can’t re-create a football coach with his bluster, joy and joshing.”

“Dear Steve Weatherford,
“It has come to my attention that you sometimes punt the football straight into the arms of the league’s most dangerous return men, forcing me to constrict and temporarily hinder blood flow to the brain. This week, you will be facing Darren Sproles, who has five total return touchdowns in his career. Please be advised that if he scores a touchdown as a direct result of one of your punts, I will shut down, then leap through the esophagus to strangle you, leaving you breathless and unemployed faster than you can say ‘Matt Dodge.’
“Sincerely,
Tom Coughlin’s Pulmonary Artery.”

  • The Sports Pickle gives us visual evidence that Ndamukong Suh might be a dirty player:

One Final Thought

Shortly after I putting up my own post connecting the behavior of the Lions as a team with that of head coach Jim Schwartz, this article from Jason Cole at Yahoo! Sports came to my attention:

“This all comes back to Schwartz. He has done much to turn the Lions around, starting with the excitement of a 5-0 start. However, in the moments after Detroit’s first loss on Oct. 16 against San Francisco at home, Schwartz also lost his cool. After a bad exchange with counterpart Jim Harbaugh, Schwartz lost control and chased Harbaugh down the field.

“In some respects, it was comical. At the same time, it probably warranted a fine. Now, weeks later, the Lions are playing like a team that doesn’t know how to handle tough situations. What a shocker. Players take their cues from the people in charge.”

The whole article is worth a read.

The “Lions organization” has released a statement condemning Suh’s actions. But as Michael David Smith at profootballtalk.com points out no one really knows who that means. Specifically, its notable that two days after the incident other than a weak “I haven’t seen the replay but we can’t afford the penalty” we’ve heard nothing from Schwartz, whose constant and vehement defense of Suh over the course of the season in the face of such dirty play enabled the behavior to the point that Thursday’s incident was inevitable. If Schwartz doesn’t come out and strongly put his foot down on Suh this time, the statement from the “organization” will be virtually meaningless.

Lovie Smith: Doing More with Less. And Other Points of View

Bears

  • Mike Mulligan at the Chicago Tribune credits defensive backs coach Jon Hoke for disguising coverages more with the Bears.  I’m not sure that this was so much Hoke’s doing as it is a general recognition by Lovie Smith and Rod Marinelli that they needed to change things up every once in a while.  The transformation started last year and it was a much needed improvement. Though the Bears are still relatively vanilla in that they still concentrate on doing their core formations well, keeping an offense from getting comfortable by introducing that little bit of doubt can be very effective. Perhaps more important, sometimes big plays come from the element of surprise.
  • Most of us assume that Mike Martz has adjusted his play calling based upon what he thinks the Bears offensive personnel can handle.  But John Mullin at csnchicago.com wrote this interesting column about how the Bears are game planning offensively based in large part upon what they think the Bears defense can do.
  • David Haugh at the Chicago Tribune and Kevin Cross at CSNChicago.com are both singing the praises of head coach Lovie Smith.  Judging by the fans I heard on the Mully and Hanley Show last week, I’d say the fans are on board for once.  Many of us recognize that Smith is a pretty good coach but the most vocal fans usually aren’t expressing that opinion.  The revelations that Smith played the respect card against the Eagles, for example, and that he demanded more from players like Henry Melton and Anthony Adams have revealed a little of the activity that most of us assume goes on less publicly most weeks to many fans.  It doesn’t hurt that his assistants (most notably Mike Martz, Mike Tice, Jon Hoke and Rod Marinelli) are getting recent praise for their coaching, as well.  It will all go away the next time they lose a game, of course, but for now, its nice to see Smith getting a little well deserved credit.
  • Think I’m giving Smith too much credit for doing more with less?  Check out this comment from Pro Football Weekly‘s Audibles section:
 “That the Bears are even winning surprises me. They have no O-line. Their receiving corps is average. They have a good back, but only one, and a quarterback that was paid a lot, but then not surrounded with anything. They have a couple of solid guys on the D-line, but it’s an unspectacular group overall. The linebackers are aging. The secondary is (bad). Can you argue with  anything I just said? I think they have done a poor job of putting a team together.”

“If you just look at the numbers, Lovie Smith should be mentioned with the best NFL coaches but you never hear his name nationally. Why? Jermaine Jones from Twitter

“It’s a good question. The only active coaches who have won 70 games faster than Smith are Andy Reid and Mike Shanahan. I agree that Smith doesn’t seem to be respected as much as he should be. Some of it might be that Smith doesn’t do a very good job of promoting himself. Some of it may be that he is perceived as a “system” coach, as opposed to an innovator or creative thinker. And some of it may be that hardly any coaches are very well respected anymore. Reid is under fire in Philadelphia. Shanahan is in trouble in Washington. Even Bill Belichick, who widely is regarded as the best coach in the NFL, has been criticized recently for his personnel moves. It seems as if every NFL coach is just one bad streak away from being unemployed. Smith not being respected much may be more of a reflection of where the league is, and our society, than the job Smith has done.”

First of all, Belichick is doing a good job with personnel.  He’s being criticized for letting go good of defensive backs but that’s what you do when you are converting your scheme away from something that’s man heavy to something thats more like wha the Bears run.  You cut the defensive backs and sink your money in elsewhere.  Assuming they make it, my guess is that they’ll be fine defensively by playoff time.

But back to the point.  What Pompei says is all true.  But what Smith really excels at is something no one ever gives any coach credit for even though its undoubtedly the mod important part of the job – he obviously handles people really well.  The Bears players have come out unprepared before but its very rare – maybe once a season.  The vast majority of the time they are ready mentally and emotionally to get the job done.  Even given the excellent leadership exhibited by Brian Urlacher and, up to this season, Olin Kreutz, accomplishing that can’t be easy.  As with all forms of leadership, it requires just the right touch for each individual.  Judging from the results, few people we have seen or will ever see coach the Bears again, do it better than Smith.

“Some people in the front office were pushing for Edwin Williams to have a starting job coming out of preseason and now the 24-year-old will replace Chris Williams at left guard.”

Since when do front office people push to decide who plays? Front office people identify and bring in talent and coaches take it from there.  Everyone has a defined role.  The Bears blur the lines and make a mess of it, probably because deep down inside, GM Jerry Angelo is a frustrated head coach and he can’t keep his nose out of it and Lovie Smith thinks he can do a better job of judging talent for two months than scouts can do all year.  The end result is poor drafting as compromises are forced on everyone involved.

  • Pompei thinks that Lance Louis‘ future is probably not at tackle:

“An offensive tackle has to block too many different kinds of pass rushers to be able to get by without good height and long arms. A short pass rusher is particularly compromised against speed rushers because it becomes difficult for smaller blockers to reach fast pass rushers who take a wide angle to the quarterback.”

Elsewhere

  • Andrew Brandt at The National Football Post clarifies the franchise tag rules under the new collective bargaining agreement. He points out that the franchise tag is no longer, as many of us assumed, the average of the salaries of the top five players at a position. Its the average salary of the top player each year over the last five years at any position. This has caused the franchise salary numbers to drop significantly in 2012.
  • For those who are thinking maybe the Bears should take a chance on Albert Haynesworth, we have this article from Greg Bedard at the Boston Globe where he claims that Haynesworth essentially gave up against the Giants last week before his release:

“But against the Giants, after he drew a holding call with 14:10 left in the second quarter, Haynesworth put together three of the worst plays you will see out of an NFL defensive tackle.

“With 14:01 left, Haynesworth was easily thrown to the ground by Giants guard Chris Snee with one arm.

“With 13:59 left, Snee easily pancaked Haynesworth when he stopped moving his feet — a cardinal sin for a defensive lineman.

“And then on third down, Haynesworth was again thrown to the ground after he stopped moving his feet, this time by left guard David Diehl, who other Patriots regularly beat in that game.”

“’On the ground three-straight times and didn’t seem at all to mind!’ one [NFL personnel man] said. ‘Just stopped moving his feet on each play.'”

“‘They have some young ballers on this team. They have a lot of talent.’

Harris quickly clarified.

“‘We have a lot of talent.”’

“The Raiders better get (a GM) in place quick or Hue Jackson is going to (mess) that roster up. I don’t like any move he has made yet. Aaron Curry is not a pass rusher, and he does not have the instincts to play inside. He is a “Sam” linebacker in a 4-3 defense only. Those are dime-a-dozen guys.  They come off the field in nickel and dime. It’s a death position. You can’t pay it. … No one was willing to give up anything near what (Jackson) gave for Carson Palmer. He is trading the future (and) trying to do everything he can to win now. It’s such a short-sighted approach — that’s why very few head coaches can handle personnel. They are too emotionally-vested. If I’m Amy Trask, I’m not waiting until after the season.”
  • Another Audible that gives us something to consider with the San Diego game coming up:
“I think Philip Rivers’ sternum is bothering him. He can’t throw the deep ball. He is feeling the rush. He is 31 years old. I always thought he was a Bernie Kosar-type. People forget — Kosar was done at 29. He played another eight or nine years longer, but if you look at when it went south for him, it was before he turned 30. Rivers is smart, tough and gives you everything he’s got. But he’s not a great athlete. His mechanics are not how you would teach your kids. He’s worked hard to get where he is. Factor the potential sternum (injury), shaky mechanics and not having any speed at receiver to get open — he’s shaking back there. I don’t know if he will ever get it back.”
“You can always have a discussion with a guy who watches tape. You can discuss what you see and why things are happening and maybe come together in areas where one person did not have knowledge. If one watches tape and the other does not, you are having an argument. That’s what happens in a lot of places when it comes to personnel.”

One Final Thought

A number of people noted that I failed to put up game comments for the Lions game.  It almost never happens but fate put me in Orlando for the weekend where I had a business meeting which was scheduled during the broadcast.  I’m told these are held on Sunday because its cheaper to fly in on Saturday evening.  I think its because no one wants to miss the Smurfs on Saturday morning.

Not that it mattered.  The game wasn’t on there because apparently there are enough old, retired farts from New York in Florida to make the Giants a more attractive option.  And by more attractive, I mean even in comparison to the Buccaneers, who were blacked out.

Fortunately this appeared to be the one to miss.  If you are ever going to spend your time sitting in a room in the dark trying to surreptitiously hit the button on your phone to re-load ESPN’s Gamecast every 30 seconds so you won’t miss the three words describing every play, you want it to be a blowout so you can relax and ignore whoever is talking in peace.

I’ll be in Chicago for the San Diego game and the next week, heaven willing, the Bears will be on in St. Louis where I’ll be visiting my family over Thanksgiving.  Most people would rather burn out their eyes by looking at Roseanne Barr naked than watch the Rams right now anyway.  If the Bears game isn’t on, I’ll watch it in a bar and post comments about how many dropped but still perfectly edible peanuts there are down here the Oakland game.

Quick Game Comments: Bears at Eagles

Offense

  1. The Eagles started the game playing seven in the box.  The Bears came out running effectively against it.  To their credit, it didn’t take the Eagles long to start dropping the safety into the box to try to stop the run after that.  The Bears kept running into it on first down anyway.  Its obvious that you have to make the Bears beat you in the air.  The fact that the Eagles didn’t do that in the second half was probably the difference in the game.
  2. The Bears almost always ran on first down.  The Eagles weren’t bringing that eighth guy down on second down.  I wonder if they couldn’t have run more often on that down as well.
  3. The Eagles were aggressive with a fair amount of blitzing on passing downs.  They seemed to be trying to pressure the inside of the Bears offensive line in particular.  The Bears are keeping lots of guys in to block.  Generally speaking they did a credible job.
  4. Though I thought Cutler got pretty good protection, I also thought he had to do a good job of avoiding the rush, just as he has the last couple games.
  5. The wild cat on second and 17 in the second quarter?  That’s your call?  Really?
  6. You’d think the Eagles would start to look for the ball to go to Earl Bennett on third down.  He was getting open too easily, I thought.  You can bet the Lions noticed.
  7. The Bears were completely discombobulated at the end of the second half.  Cutler in particular just seemed to come apart.  They have to handle that situation on the road better then that.
  8. Who wants to bet Lovie Smith ran down the sideline to call timeout to tell Martz to call the run that eventually resulted in a touchdown at the end of the half.  Its probably not a coincidence that they came out running in the second half.

Defense

  1. The Bears came out with eight in the box on first down and generally kept a lot of guys near the line of scrimmage for much of the game.  One of those guys (Lance Briggs?) was probably spying Michael Vick.
  2. The ball was coming out quick on many of the Eagles most effective throws.  They run well after the catch.
  3. Eventually the Bears started to get pressure on Vick.  I give him credit.  He hung in there well against the blitz.
  4. It looked like the Bears were playing more than the usual amount of man coverage to me.
  5. The Eagles ran very effectively on the Bears defense.  They were winning the line of scrimmage on those plays.  LeSean McCoy seems to be really shifty and I think he was getting some guys out of their gaps.  Delaying the handoffs and getting the Bears rushing Vick also worked well.
  6. The Eagles also run the screen pass really well.  McCoy is devastating in space.  They also like little quick outs to their tight ends.  Apparently they like the matchup out there with them.
  7. The Bears had their share of problems with tackling tonight.  But give them credit for dealing out some tough hits.

Miscellaneous

  1. Jon Gruden, Ron Jaworski, and Mike Tirico did their usual nice job.
  2. Major Wright interception was nice but the Bears also missed a couple that really should have been caught.  The Bears turnover for 6 points right before half was just a killer.  So was the Matt Forte fumble in the third quarter in Bear territory.  There won’t be a lot of days when this team gets away with that.
  3. Twelve men in the huddle?  How does that happen?
  4. I’m getting really tired of watching Roy Williams drop passes.  He isn’t the only offender but he’s the worst.  Good teams simply do not do this.
  5. The Eagles chose to kick to Devin Hester on the opening kick off.  That was a surprise.  Generally they tried those high puns on him but they still kicked to him.
  6. Before this game I couldn’t understand how the the Eagles lost 4 times.  They’ve got a wonderful roster with threats everywhere.  They have receivers that the Bears would love to have.  They have LeSean McCoy who is probably the best running back I’ve seen all year with the possible exception of Forte.  First, frankly, they don’t look well coached at times.  Second they make mistakes at critical times.  But by far the biggest problem is that they don’t execute.  Consider this:  the Bears practically gave that team 14 points and still won.  Bottom line, you can have a team full of individuals who are outstanding on their own.  But if they don’t perform to their potential and, in particular, if they don’t perform as a team, its all just wasted talent.

Lance Briggs Continues to Act As If He Has a Choice And Other Points of View

Bears

“On the business side, if the organization and management says that they’re not willing to talk about my deal or willing to deal with my deal now or during the season or during the end of the season or next year, then I know that my days here are numbered.’’

I’m sure that I’m like everyone else when I ask exactly what he means by “my days here are numbered”.  My gut feeling is that Briggs estimates his value to be considerably higher than the Bears (and many of their fans) do.  As Mike Florio at profootballtalk.com points out, Briggs would likely be forced to return a portion of his signing bonus is he did held out, meaning he’d be losing  money he’s likely already spent.  Right or wrong, I’m pretty sure the Bears will let him do so and pay him nothing if that’s what he and his many dependents prefer.

Of concern was the fact that runningback Marion Barber didn’t return meaning his calf injury might be more serious than the team (publicly) thought.  As expected, Corey Wooton also wasn’t ready to practice yet.

  • How much immediate help new Bears safety Brandon Meriweather will provide is an open question.  He’ll need to learn how the Bears play defense.  The Chicago Sun-Times quotes Chris Harris:

‘‘As a safety you have to learn ­everything that’s going on.  A corner doesn’t have to learn the entire ­defense. As a safety, you need to know what this linebacker’s doing because of run gaps. You need to know what this linebacker’s doing because of pass coverage or what this corner’s doing or what the other safety’s doing.”

But I doubt Meriweather will have much trouble.  Via Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune:

“We do things differently, we call things differently,’ [head coach Lovie] Smith said. ‘But once you kind of get by some of the different terminology, most coverages are pretty much the same. Most defenses are pretty much gap control. When the ball’s in the air, you go get it. When a guy’s running with the ball, you go tackle him. There will be some challenges, but when you have a veteran like that they normally pick it up pretty quick.’” 

 

  • You have to wonder how much the signing of Meriweather has to do with the paucity of turnovers the Bears have generated in the preseason.  Meriweather is a risk taker who can give up big plays but he’ll also make big plays.
  • Much to my surprise, the Bears chose to waive cornerback Joshua Moore rather than one of the many undrafted free agents they left on the roster (again, from McClure).  Moore, who was essentially redshirted in 2010, isn’t particularly big at 5’11” but the Bears knew that when they drafted him.  Apparently he didn’t show enough in terms of making plays in camp.
  • Pro Football Focus asks four NFC North questions of four analysts.  I don’t have a last name for “Ben” but I like his thinking in this excerpt.

“Who is the one player from this division you see having a breakout year?”

Ben: With Pisa Tinoisamoa gone from the Bears the door is open for Nick Roach to really make an impression this season. Roach has impressed in limited action at both MLB and SLB in the last two seasons and with a full time starting spot now apparently his, even as a two-down linebacker, this is the year that the Bears re-discover a strong linebacking trio. Brian Iwuh could get a chance to make a similar impression if Lance Briggs’ injury and contract issues continue to be an concern through the season.”

  • Scouts Inc.  previews every NFC team.  Here’s what they had to say about the defense of the Bears first opponent, the Atlanta Falcons:

“Pass Defense:
“Atlanta’s conservative 4-3 scheme is especially vanilla in the secondary. Without an elite cover group, it plays assignment-oriented football. That shifts pressure onto the front four to generate a rush, but the Falcons had only 31 sacks last season, 13 coming from DE John Abraham.

“Rush Defense:
“The goal of the D-line is to eat up blockers while the back seven fly to the ball. But the Falcons gave up 4.6 YPC last year, so a healthy Curtis Lofton must be a game changer at LB.”

Schematically this sounds like an ideal defense for the Martz offense to attack, especially in the first game when a confusing mix of blitzes might be disastrous for an inexperienced offensive line.

Elsewhere

  • The penalty from the StarCaps case has finally come downKevin Williams and Will Smith are paying big time for the delay.  each is suspended two games but they are being fined four game checks.  According to Mike Florio at profootballtalk.com had they taken the penalty in 2008, they would have each paid roughly one-fourth of what they are paying now given their current salaries.  Add in the legal fees and your talking big money.

 The only winner in the deal was Pat Williams who, as we all know, was simply delaying the penalty until his career was over so he wouldn’t have to pay.

  • William C. Rhoden at The New York Times writes about the “Dream Team” Philadelphia EaglesVince Young stupidly put a target on their backs when he used the term to characterize the team which will always be over rated as long as he and the inconsistent Michael Vick are playing quarterback.

This team has set itself and its fans up for some serious disappointment.

“Fans in every NFL city think the Super Bowl host jinx is just a myth until it lands on their town. But there’s a variety of reasons why no team that has provided the stadium for the big game has ever played in it. And at the rate they’re piling up reasons, the Colts — host of February’s title game — might be the first knocked out of the running even before the regular season kicks off.”

  • Rafael Vela at the Cowboys Nation blog takes an interesting look at a couple of the blitzes that the Cowboys will see tomorrow night against the Jets.
  • Omar Kelly at the South Florida Sun-Sentinel points out the dangers of carrying two quarterbacks.  This is becoming a more common practice throughout the league but it could be a particular problem for the Dolphins.  Why?  Because they’ve gone from the starter to the third QB in a game twice in the last two years.  Not a good trend…

One Final Thought

Bengals runningback Cedric Benson is happy to be out of jail.  Via Joe Reedy at the Cincinnati Enquirer:

“I didn’t want to spend my bye week sitting in jail and wanted to get it behind me and focus on football,” Benson said.  “I’m not fit for jail. No one is. When you experience that you realize how much you don’t want to experience it again. It was a nice little wake up call so to speak and it was nice to taste that and hopefully never have to do it again.

hopefully”? “have to do it”?  Like its not avoidable and there might be another time when you have to do it?

I’ve got the under on whatever the length of time it will take Benson to stupidly get in trouble again.