Of Jay Cutler and Cam Newton. And Other Points of View.

Bears

  • This article from ESPN.com‘s Pat Yasinskas is really about Carolina quarterback Cam Newton. But the whole time I read it, I couldn’t stop thinking about Bears quarterback Jay Cutler.
  • Its hard not to contrast Cutler’s reaction to his incident on the sidelines with offensive coordinator Mike Tice (total denial) last Monday night with Tice’s. Via Sean Jensen at the Chicago Sun-Times:

“Asked if he was surprised that Cutler walked away, Tice laughed and said, ‘He probably had enough of me telling him why the play didn’t work.

“‘I get enough of me sometimes, too. I can talk a little bit, as you guys know. The heat of the battle, it’s tough. A lot of things happen on the sideline. A lot of things happen over the course of a game. I was really angry about the fact that we didn’t make that third-and-one. I was in his ear from the time he came off the field to the time he went over and put his helmet down. At a certain point, probably enough’s enough.'”

“Smith rightfully gets top billing as the Bears’ coach, but Tice is the rock star on the staff. And not because he’s Mr. Entertainment or Vince Lombardi, but because he sees the same game we do.”

  • I thought Jensen, who had a lot of experience covering Tice with the Vikings, had an interesting take on the incident:

“Cutler seems resistant to his reality, but he needs to begin to accept it.

“There wasn’t a hint of frustration or anger from Tice on Wednesday as he heaped praise on Cutler.

“‘Jay and I are good,’ Tice said. ‘I really admire his play the other night. I really admire how he’s prepared himself right now. I really admire how he’s bought in.’

“But Tice isn’t anyone’s pushover. So as their relationship moves forward, Cutler had better treat him with respect.”

  • Dan Pompei at the Chicago Tribune asks a question that most Cutler apologists will parrot:

“Romo carried himself like the pro he is. But he didn’t win.

Anything else you want to know?”

Yeah. Why is it too much to ask that Cutler do both?

In any case, Rick Morrissey at the Chicago Sun-Times provides some perspective for the average fan who is stuck personally disliking arguably his team’s most talented player:

“At some point — now would be good — we’re going to have to give up on the idea that Cutler can be rehabilitated. Personality transplants are not on the medical horizon. The name is Jay, not Joy, Cutler.”

In other words, “Yeah, he’s a punk. But he’s out punk. Like it or not, that’s the way it is.

That’s fine. As long as everyone also recognizes on some level that its also wrong.

In that respect, I was actually getting ready to write a full post on the Cutler situation and the total denial of most fans I know about the situation when Steve Rosenbloom at the Chicago Tribune said virtually everything I wanted to say. So I’ll just link to his article and let you watch the video and say it all goes double for me:

  • Many people will look at the final score of the Cowboys game and conclude that the offense was a dominant force. But Devin Hester got it right when he made this comment. Via Jensen:

“‘To me, this was a defensive victory,’ he said. ‘When you come up with five turnovers and 14 points, you pretty much won the game. They had an amazing night.'”

This team has that personality trait and it probably will for a long time. Its the defense that leads them and everything else follows on that. If they don’t make big plays first, they won’t happen on offense. Don’t look for it to be the other way around. They don’t have that kind of character. Haugh does a good job of making that point in his column here.

“‘The way that offensive line is blocking, it’s making it easy for me,’ Cutler said. ‘That was the best rhythm we have had offensively, in and out of the huddle, all year. We’ve just got to take that momentum and keep it rolling.'”

I did my best to concentrate on the offensive line during the game and my impression was that it wasn’t that simple. They got a lot of help and most of the time, Cutler was getting the ball out quickly to Brandon Marshall over the middle. When the tackles were one-on-one, most of the time one or the other struggled. But they did just enough to allow Cutler to get the ball off and occasionally they really did well.

By the way, its getting almost no notice but right guard Lance Lewis is a Pro Bowler. He’s been outstanding. Left guard Chilo Rachal and center Roberto Garza also had solid games with no noticeable gaffs as far as I could tell.

Besides being on the road and on short rest, the Bears also will have to adjust to the Jacksonville heat Sunday. The predicted high is 90 degrees.

The Bears have not played in a game with a kickoff temperature above 76 degrees since Oct. 10, 2010, when they beat the Carolina Panthers 23-6 in Charlotte.

The Bears got off to a fast start in that game — 17 points and 280 all-purpose yards (21.5 yards per play) in the first quarter — but petered out. In the final three quarters, they scored six points and had 168 all-purpose yards (2.9 per play).

“The Bears said they wanted more consistency this season from defensive tackle Henry Melton, who acknowledged that was a goal. At the quarter post of the season, it’s fair to say Melton is delivering. He sacked Tony Romo in the first quarter and has four for the season, just the way he wanted to begin a contract season. He also forced the play on Lance Briggs‘ 74-yard interception return in the third quarter. Teams pay for sacks, and Melton knows it. Could the franchise tag enter the discussion?”

As a serious Melton doubter before the season began, I can say that his play thus far has been a wonderful surprise. He’s been taking favorable match ups inside and capitalizing on them.

  • Its also hard to under estimate the importance of Lance Briggs to the defense. And yet I somehow always manage to do it. Fortunately Biggs doesn’t share that fault.
  • I’m not too thrilled seeing Julius Peppers have to sit out a half nor is it good to see Earl Bennett inactive due to injury. The Bears are going to need both of these guys. From McClure.
  • Pompei noticed something in his film study last week that I’d like to see more of:

“[Bears defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli had another wrinkle for the Cowboys too. The Bears lined up in a 3-4 defense twice, with Shea McClellin playing stand-up linebacker. Both times, he dropped and covered running back DeMarco Murray.”

  • This is unfortunate when you are a fan of a team in need of a left tackle. But its also hardly surprising. From Biggs:

“Some have already suggested the 2013 draft could be solid for offensive linemen, so I asked the national scout that exact question.

“‘Within the first two rounds,’ he said. ‘There are some big-time guards and some good tackles but not premier tackles. There are not premier lefts out there right now unless I have missed out on some juniors. Now, there are some big-time guards and some really good right tackles out there.

“‘There could be two to maybe three guards go in the first round, which is pretty out of the norm because usually it is just one. Usually those are back-end first-round guys if they are at that good. There are some good right tackles and there are a couple juniors out there that could be overdrafted (if they forego their senior season) but are there any Joe Thomases out there? Heck no. There is not. Numbers-wise on the offensive line, maybe the first two, two-and-a-half rounds might be strong. After that, it kind of falls off.'”

“One thing that could help is the Bears will face a 4-3 defense after playing three 3-4 fronts in four weeks.

“‘It’s a total technique change across the board, so it’s going to be a little edgy at times and not as clean as it could be when you’re playing against an over front or a team you work on every day,’ Tice said.

“‘If we played against a 3-4 team every day in practice we’d be a little better against it, but each game I felt we got a little bit better.'”

“A year after rushing for 2,000 yards, the Bears have yet to find their groove on the ground. Matt Forte hasn’t been fully healthy. The offensive line has been revamped. Don’t forget all of the new passing toys that arrived too. Offensive coordinator Mike Tice made a concerted effort in training camp to make sure the passing game was installed and operating efficiently. An inordinate amount of time was spent throwing the football in Bourbonnais. That meant less attention to the ground attack, but that should change this week against the Jaguars, who enter 30th in the NFL against the run.”

In fairness, the passing game seems to me to be much harder to coordinate (as the Cowboys can attest). Personally, I’d rather see the Bears spending and inordinate amount of time throwing the ball in camp. As a fan, its not easy to see your team get beat. But when you are watching on a Monday night with 24 hours with no sleep, seeing them beat themselves by running the wrong routes would be agony.

  • Vaughn McClure at the Chicago Tribune talks about the brewing feud between ESPN‘s Steven A. Smith and Marshall:

“‘I’m saying if you have old incidents dating from Oct. 31, 2004, to March 11, 2012 — if you have eight years of a track record of transgressions, I need to see more than a few months of a transformation,’ Smith said.

“Marshall apparently responded to Smith’s rant with this tweet: “Yellow journalism is a type of journalism that presents little or no legitimate well-researched news to sell papers or create controversy.”

This is what worries me about Marshall. Suggest something critical about his past that is nothing more than the truth and he calls it “yellow journalism”. I can’t help but think that, no matter what he says or how it looks on the outside, he’s still in denial.

  • Fred Mitchell at the Chicago Tribune quotes Cutler on how teams are trying to handle the Bears passing attack.

“‘I think week by week, teams are going to try to take ‘B’ [Marshall] away and make those other guys make plays,’ Cutler said Wednesday at Halas Hall. ‘I think that’s going to be the philosophy behind that.

“They’re going to bet that defensively they can cover those other guys and not let ‘B’ beat them. That’s what we’re seeing a lot of. But we have a lot of belief in our guys — Kellen (Davis) and Alshon (Jeffery) and (Devin Hester) and Matt Forte … all those guys we believe can make plays.””

I’m glad Cutler believes in them. Because other than Forte, I surely don’t. Like the Bears opponents, I’ll believe it when I see it.

“With Matt Forte starting to get pretty worn down, would he still demand a good price on the trade market? Trading him would leave the Bears with a solid player in Michael Bush and then the option to take a guy like Marcus Lattimore in the draft. — Joe Devine, Saskatoon, Canada

“I don’t know why the Bears would want to get rid of a player they just signed and a player who clearly helps them win games. But to answer your question, I think the Bears could get something of value in return for Forte. They probably couldn’t make a killing because he is soon to be 27-years old and he has some miles on him. The days of receiving five players and eight draft picks (including three first rounders), as the Cowboys did for Herschel Walker, are over. It’s unusual to see a star running back traded anymore. The Seahawks got Marshawn Lynch for fourth and fifth round picks two years ago, but he wasn’t in Forte’s class at the time of the trade. The Redskins gave up Champ Bailey and a second round pick for Clinton Portis in 2004, but Portis was younger than Forte at the time, and he had been more productive. So what could Forte bring in a trade? I would say if they found the right partner, the Bears probably could get a good starter at another position or a second round draft pick.”

I’m always of the opinion that the fans are under-estimated by people associated with the NFL. I’m a fan of the fans and I think they often see more than the professionals who are too close to what’s going on to see the forest for the trees. But questions like this about Forte seem to pop up in columns every week and I’ll never understand why anyone would want to trade Forte. Forte said during the offseason he thought he was being disrespected by the Bears organization during a contract dispute. But in my view its nothing compared to the disrespect of some fans who see to think the Bears would be better off without him. He’s not appreciated like he should be and that’s a shame.

“I just don’t understand why the Bears don’t at least try Gabe Carimi at LT. OK his ceiling maybe isn’t as high as J’Marcus Webb‘s, but he does not have the low downside either. Carimi went up against a lot better competition in college too and always performed well. Why not put him there and let him deal with those great pass rushing DEs. I have to believe he would perform better then what Webb has showed. Plus doesn’t Mike Tice say he is the best OL they have? If that is the case why isn’t your best OL playing the most important position on the line? — Peter, Wausau, Wis.

“If the Bears move Carimi to left tackle and he is just an average left tackle, which many suspect would be the case, you might have an average left tackle and a below average right tackle. Does that make them better? Carimi can be an above average right tackle. You don’t want to create one problem by solving another. I don’t recall Tice saying Carimi is the best offensive lineman on the team, but Tice clearly is high on Carimi. And even if a player is the best lineman on the team does not mean he could play any position.”

  • Many of us wondered what happened with Al Afalava, a promising young safety for the Bears who had a good rookie year in 2009 but was cut in 2010. Now we know. From McClure:

“Now, Afalava plays special teams for the Titans, and he regrets how things unfolded with the Bears.

“‘I learned that being on the sideline ain’t going to get you a job in the NFL,’ Afalava said Thursday. ‘I didn’t come in prepared my second year.

“‘Before my second year, I went home to Hawaii and put on weight that I wasn’t supposed to. I was close to 240 pounds after playing as rookie at 212. I was just living the life back home. Hawaii has good food.'”

Jacksonville

  • Looks like the Bears defense will get a shot against yet another bad offensive line. The odds are good that, like the Cowboys, their best chance to beat the Bears will be to run the ball. From Pompei.
  • You can couple that with this grim assessment of the Jaguars defense at the quarter pole mark from Ryan O’Halloran at the Florida Times-Union:

“The Jaguars can’t stop the run to force a third-and-long, and when they do, don’t have the pass rush to pressure the quarterback.

“So what are the Jaguars options? They rushed six or more players five times against the Bengals, who blocked it up with extra protection.

“The element of surprise — more zone blitzes, corners and safeties coming off the edges, etc. — should be next up.”

“Although the Jaguars remain 30th in rush defense for the second straight week, linebacker Paul Posluszny sees improvement. The Bengals rushed for 138 yards, but 48 came on a fake punt.

“‘Early on [the struggles] were a huge surprise,’ Posluszny said. ‘Each week, we’re getting better and better. Last week, we were successful and the fake punt skews the number. We’re tackling better and we’re more disciplined. We started out rough and now we’re making that ground up.’

“Not counting the fake punt, the Jaguars allowed only one rush of longer than 12 yards to Cincinnati.”

  • It’s apparently not all bad for the offensive line, as well. Also from O’Halloran:

“Along with center Brad Meester, left tackle Eugene Monroe is the only Jaguars offensive starter to play every snap this year. He’s been consistent in pass protection and occasionally dominant. Monroe has one penalty (a false start) and controlled Minnesota’s Jared Allen in Week 1.

“Helping Monroe’s performance is who he hasn’t faced. Houston moved J.J. Watt from right end to left end to go against reserve right tackle Guy Whimper and Indianapolis moved pass rusher Robert Mathis around so he wouldn’t get a steady diet of Monroe.”

I think you can count on Lovie Smith and Rod Marinelli to do the same with Peppers.

  • One match up to look at will be left guard Eben Britton against the Bears defensive tackles. Britton was benched at half time last game. From O’Halloran:

“‘He’s very prideful,’ [Jaguars head coach Mike] Mularkey said. ‘He came in here with a great attitude. A lot of guys would have sulked, but he didn’t do that. He works hard all the time, but you could tell it’s important to him. With another week, he’ll probably be better health-wise.'”

“One bright spot for the Jaguars is that Blaine Gabbert hasn’t been horrible under pressure. He’s middle of the pack with a 62.9 Accuracy Percentage when pressured and has yet to throw an interception. However, he takes a sack on 21.8% of those plays, the 10th-highest rate in the NFL.”

  • Maney continues with this interesting tid bit to look for:

“Gabbert will likely target slot corner DJ Moore, who’s given up 18 catches on 24 targets this season, two of them going for scores. Of 108 passes this season, Gabbert has thrown just eight longer than 20 yards in the air and 17 at intermediate distance (between 10 and 20 yards). Of those 25 passes over 10 yards in the air, just three have gone to the left side of the field and he didn’t attempt a single pass there against the Bengals. In fact, on passes beyond the line of scrimmage, he’s thrown just 18% to the left side of the field, compared to roughly 32% to the right and 50% to the middle of the field. He’ll want to throw left more often and stay away from the right side against the Bears, where [cornerback Tim] Jennings spends an overwhelming majority of snaps.”

  • Who will cover Marshall seems to be a major question in Jacksonville this week. As it should be. My advise is that whoever it is should get significant help. Form Gene Frenette at the Florida Times-Union.

Elsewhere

  • I got a lot of flack about a game comment I put up last week. I said that I thought Tony Romo‘s accuracy and touch are impressive. Bears fans thought that a QB who threw five interceptions shouldn’t be getting those kinds of compliments. So I was glad to see Andy Benoit at The New York Times come to Romo’s defense as well and do it in a much more thorough way than I could:

“So what about the five interceptions? Three, maybe four of them weren’t Romo’s fault. On the first pick, Dez Bryant ran the wrong route. On the second pick, Kevin Ogletree had a perfectly thrown ball bounce off his chest. The third pick probably should have been ruled a fumble, because the ball squeezed out of Romo’s hands after he was corralled by Henry Melton. Romo tried to escape the pocket on that play, but Melton had spectacular closing speed. Nevertheless, Melton shouldn’t have been able to break down Dallas’s protection so quickly. The fourth interception may have been Romo’s fault, though the intended receiver, Miles Austin, ran a very poor route, failing to cross the face of cornerback D.J. Moore.

I might add that, bad decision though it might have been, this pass was a laser beam that was right on target. Benoit continues:

As for the fifth interception….that was Romo’s fault, but in a lot of ways, it was his most impressive play of the night. The Cowboys were trailing by 24 late. Their only chance at a win was via a sports version of a miracle. So Romo went for it and threw into coverage. How many quarterbacks in that situation would have checked down to avoid risking a five-turnover game? Romo showed selflessness and character on that play. He showed those same traits in the postgame interviews, too, when he protected his teammates and accepted the unwarranted blame for his team’s sloppy showing.

This isn’t to say that Romo shouldn’t be scrutinized. He has played extremely well this season but hasn’t gotten much help from his supporting cast. It’s fair to point out, though, that receivers who play with Tom Brady and Peyton Manning never seem to get way off their quarterback’s page. You don’t see Brady’s targets drop passes in bunches. So why are Romo’s teammates so inconsistent at times?

There isn’t a single right answer to this question. But this is the question sportswriters should be exploring. It’s not as easy or fun as exploring why “Tony Romo stinks,” but it’s a lot smarter and fairer.”

  • Ben Stockwell at Pro Football Focus more or less tells it like it is as he reviews the Cowboys-Bears game film:

“At this point Cowboy fans, coaches and players must simply be tearing their hair out. In spite of consistency in personnel at key positions, the hallmark of this offense continues to be miscommunications and disconnects between players. At some point you have to wonder when this will be picked up on as a recurring problem to the extent that it costs someone their job.”

I’ve got to figure that if things keep going like this, there will be changes at the end of the year in Dallas.

  • Dan Pompei, this time writing for The National Football Post, highlights the new trend in the NFL – the “rat race offense”.
  • The Bears aren’t the only ones with an aging defense. And the one in Pittsburgh may not be aging as gracefully as Steelers coach Mike Tomlin faces some tough choices. From Alex Marvez at FOX Sports:

“‘It is a natural evolution of this business,’ Tomlin told FOXSports.com when the subject was broached after Wednesday’s practice. ‘Any of us that are in (the NFL) have to accept it on one level or another whether it’s coaches or players. That’s the mentality I have regarding it.'”

“‘We’re not trying to strike a balance (with age). We’re going with the guys who are capable of playing. We’ve got some veteran guys who are still good players. As long as they remain that, they’ll continue to play. We’ve got some young guys with some promise who are working. When they’re good enough to play, they’ll be in there.'”

  • Michael Vick swears this one’s just for sparring. From Mike Florio at profootballtalk.com.
  • The Sports Pickle asks “Which NFL quarterback should be benched?” My answer:

Mark Sanchez — he needs to be benched so he can clear his head and be ready to start again when Tim Tebow gets benched.”

One Final Thought

“As he trudges through the snow on his way to the Champaign County YMCA, where he would stay that night for $2, his shoes fall apart.

“‘I’ll never forget that feeling where the sole comes off your shoe, snow seeps in, your socks gets full of that cold, wet moisture,” he said. “But it was the greatest thing that happened to me. It gave me perspective. Those are the life-defining moments. They hard-wire you. When you meet challenges in life later on, you say, ‘This is nothing.'”

The Qualities of Leadership and Other Points of View

Bears

  • Despite the absence of running back Matt Forte I think you should expect the Bears to get off the bus running this week. The Rams apparently would agree. Jim Thomas at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch quotes linebacker James Laurinaitis:

“‘We have a lot of respect for their ability to run it,’ Laurinaitis said. ‘They’re going to come out running the ball. It’s fun to get back to kind of a normal offense this week. This first week (Detroit) it was a lot of spread-out throwing, and then last week (Washington) a lot of college stuff mixed in.'”

  • Here’s a surprise from Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune :

“Typically, teams that are rooted in the Cover-2 scheme like
the Bears do not invest heavily in cornerbacks, choosing to pour money
into the front seven. But one source said the Bears were involved with
Cortland Finnegan until talks went above $9 million per season.”

I’ve claimed for a while that the Bears need corners who can play at least adequate man coverage. Apparently they agree.

“(Bears rookie DE Shea) McClellin is a high-(sic) effort guy. He has short arms and lacks explosiveness. There is a ceiling for guys like that. He is going to be like the kid in Washington last year (Ryan Kerrigan). He’ll start off playing hot, and as the year goes by, he’ll wear down and go quiet. That’s what happened to Kerrigan last year. All of a sudden his body is not fresh and all that hustle does not get as much. (McClellin) does not have enough in his body. Hustle guys wear down.”

“‘We talked about putting players in position to make plays,’ said Tice, the Bears’ first-year offensive coordinator. ‘We’ve got to do a better job of that, and we will. At the same time, it’s very important that you win the individual battles, and we didn’t win enough of those.'”

Translation: “Now that the [feces] has hit the fan, after a summer of talking about how it was all going to be OK because I was going to compensate for it with my scheme, I finally have come to the realization that we actually need talent to work with on the offensive line. My apologies to Mike Martz.”

“Everybody says great things about Mike Tice and his great coaching of the offensive line. Since he was hired three seasons ago our offensive line has been anything but great. It seems to me he’s not all that. What gives? Gary M., North Highlands, Calif.

“Trust me when I tell you Tice is an outstanding offensive line tutor. He gets the best out of his blockers. Sometimes, the best he gets out of them isn’t good enough.”

“The Bears aren’t waiting for the light to come on and stay on with [left tackle J’Marcus] Webb. Offensive coordinator Mike Tice made that clear when he was asked if his confidence in Webb has waned.

“‘We have seven players who suit up every week and those seven players all get reps with the ones,” Tice said. “And we’re going to try to make sure and make the proper decision of the five guys we’re going to put in there who can protect our quarterback and help us run the ball.’

“Translated, newcomer Jonathan Scott has been getting some work at left tackle with the starters. He was signed Sept. 10 and missed nearly all of training camp with the Lions because of a knee injury. It’s not an ideal situation, but when is it on the Bears’ line?”

“Offensive line coach Tim Holt dissected the tape from the meltdown in Green Bay and came to one simple conclusion about why Webb’s play declined from Week 1.

“‘He just has to use his hands better,’ Holt said. ‘He let (Matthews) get into him a little bit. If he gets his hands on people, he wins.'”

I think the problem goes well beyond that by now. Webb knows to use his hands and I’m sure he’s been coached heavily to do so. That fact that he isn’t doing it indicates that the problem is mental. The physical tools are there and he’s intelligent I’m sure. But He obviously doesn’t have the concentration to play consistently against good opponents for a full three hours ball game.

The Bears have to find another answer. It might not be this year but they’re going to have to do it if they want to comete at the top of the NFL. Becasue Webb’s not going to cut it.

  “But [Webb’s] presence underlines a major problem for the Bears: When you
struggle with pass protection, it is difficult to rally from a deficit. The Bears
need to score early and often and play from a lead. [Bears quarterback Jay] Cutler is too careless with
the ball and the guys in front of him too shaky to pull off many comebacks.

“The Bears under coach Lovie Smith always have been front-runners, often
because they struggled at quarterback. Smith has a 51-10 record when
leading at halftime and a 13-42 mark when trailing. Since gunslinger Cutler’s
arrival they’re 19-4 and 5-18. Sounds like bad news for the Rams.”

“I am wondering if the answer to the Bears offensive line problem is to just ignore max protection and maybe do just the opposite. If they were in a max-attack-type offense I think Cutler would be able to find the open receiver and/or communicate with Brandon Marshall/Earl Bennett for hot reads. It seems too often when they only had two receivers in patterns Cutler was waiting too long for them to get open. Some of Cutler’s best games were when he has had options to throw to, he can slide or even jump up to get the ball out to the open man. What do you think? Grant M.

“I think what you suggest can be a part of the Bears offense, and it has been to a degree. But the Bears would not be able to make a living playing empty backfield with four or five wide receivers running routes. Part of the beauty of the Bears’ personnel and schemes is the offense is somewhat unpredictable. To beat a good defensive coordinator like Dom Capers, you need to be able to do a number of things well, and do them at times when he isn’t expecting you to do them. Playing the type of personnel groups and formations you suggest would make them highly predictable. It also would be a high risk approach. It would probably result in more big plays, but also more interceptions and more sacks.”

  • Sean Jensen at the Chicago Sun-Times is saying that the Rams have a “suspect offensive line”. But I watched them last week and they looked OK to me. Admittedly they were at home but still, Soldier Field isn’t like the Super Dome in New Orleans.
  • Much of this disapproval of Jay Cutler from the media is new. But not from Pompei as he’s been pretty critical from the beginning. He contiunes that here:

“I must be the minority here, but I didn’t mind at all that Jay Cutler bumped J’Marcus Webb on the sidelines. I want my team leader to be fired up and get in guy’s faces. What bothered me about Cutler is how he crumbled after that, throwing up prayers and seemingly not able to adjust to the Packers defense. This seems to be a bigger indictment of lack of leadership, would you agree? Rik, Chicago

“True leadership isn’t about what you say. It’s about what you do. Show me a quarterback who gets the ball in the end zone, overcomes big odds and steps up in the clutch and I’ll show you a leader.”

True enough. But I think if you want to be a really good leader, it goes beyond that. Many people defend Cutler’s actions by saying something to the effect of “Sometimes you have to kick a few butts to get things done.” But is that what the Bears needed as a team at that point?

I would contend that a true team leader would have seen a struggling offense and, instead of yelling “Do better!” would have gotten everyone together, settled them down and guided them by telling them what to do. Instead, Cutler showed his frustration and made things worse. Instead of acting the part of a calming influence, a leader who had things under control and had confidence that the team would come back and do better, Cutler showed his lack of confidence in his teammates and cranked up fears of failure even higher.

Most of the time “leadership” requires the ability to step outside of yourself and give the group what they need to succeed rather than selfishly thinking of your own. Cutler will never be a true leader, no matter how well he performs on the field, because he’ll always lack the ability to do that. He’s far too self-centered.

  • What is constantly a shock to me no matter how often I see it, is how savagely Cutler is attacked whenever possible, not by fans and media, but by his peers and ex-peers. In his article on how to motivate people and whether being tough is always the way to go about it, I think Phil Rosenthal at the Chicago Tribune provides an answer to the question by quoting Bob Sutton, a Stanford University professor and author of “The No (A-word) Rule” and “Good Boss, Bad Boss.”:

“‘If you (act like a jerk) you’ve got to be really competent,’ Sutton said. ‘If you consistently leave people feeling demeaned and de-energized, that’s the point where enemies are lying in wait.'”

Or, as Steve Rosenbloom at the Chicago Tribune succinctly put it as he compared Cutler to Douglas Neidermeyer in the movie Animal House:

“Neidermeyer’s epilog in the movie was ‘killed by his own troops in Vietnam.'”


Video from the Chicago Tribune.

“Cutler’s defenders will point out, accurately, that he has not benefited from
system stability, Pro Bowl wide receivers and consistent pass protection —
especially consistent pass protection.

“But he isn’t the only quarterback who needs to spend some time in the
whirlpool on Mondays.

“Since 2009, [Green Bay quarterback Aaron] Rodgers has been sacked six times more than Cutler in
regular-season games. Ben Roethlisberger has been sacked 11 more, and his
rate of one sack per 12.2 dropbacks is higher than Cutler’s rate of 12.4.

“That has not prevented Roethlisberger from making it to a Pro Bowl and a
Super Bowl in that time span.”

  • Sometimes I think its a shame that even after acquiring Jay Cutler, the Bears’ quarterback situation is still a national joke. But… might as well role with it. From Sports Views:


Elsewhere

  • There is apparently some concern about the performance of quarterback Matthew Stafford in Detroit so far this season. From Justin Rogers at mlive.com:

“Through two games, Stafford has thrown twice as many interceptions, four, as touchdowns, and there has been a general lack of accuracy on many of his throws, including some of his completions.”

“The whole idea is to get the defense moving laterally so the offensive linemen can throw cut blocks that drop big defensive linemen on their faces. Think Gilbert Brown in Super Bowl XXXII.”

“‘You have to be smart,’ [defensive line coach Mike] Trgovac said. ‘I faced this scheme several years in a row in Atlanta when I was at Carolina. They just look for that one guy to cut, that one weak link.

“‘That’s what we worked real hard on, make sure everybody stays in their gap. The more you fly off the ball the easier it is for them to cut you.'”

“One front office man said his team is fine with 5-10 corners as long as the player has long arms. Having long arms enable a cornerback to play taller than he is. ‘They can reach for balls downfield, reach for balls coming back and compete better for contested balls,’ [Seahawks general manager John] Schneider said.

“Long arms help a corner in press coverage too. It’s difficult for a short-armed corner to get a good jam and then turn and run because he has to get too close to the receiver.”

“If the Jets are trying to dispel the notion of a circus, they have a funny way of going about it.”

“That said, Sunday’s biggest headline from Foxboro was the ankle injury to Aaron Hernandez. The third-year tight end is out at least six weeks.”

“Take a look at this statistic from ESPN: “The Patriots used two tight ends on just 20 of 77 offensive plays (Sunday), averaging 3.0 yards per play with two tight ends on the field. The Patriots used two or more tight ends on all 66 plays in Week 1 against the Titans, averaging 5.9 yards per play. Since the start of the 2011 season, the Patriots lead the N.F.L. with 80.1 percent of their offensive plays (926 of 1149) involving at least two tight ends.”

“The Patriots can find a way to win without Hernandez, but it will require rewriting most of their playbook.”

Kellen Winslow can give the Patriots some of the things Aaron Hernandez gives them, but not all of the things. Front office men who have evaluated Winslow recently say he has lost some speed and can’t get downfield the way he used to, or the way Hernandez can. But Winslow still has the ability to separate in a short area, as Hernandez does. If his knee holds up, Winslow can give Bill Belichick another chess piece.”

“If any OL coach says he needs more contact to coach better, I call b.s. Offensive linemen can go out in shorts. It all starts with mental prep — knowing who to block — and technique and footwork. It’s so funny though — you get three OL coaches and you can hear three different reasons for why their line is struggling, and usually, only one of them is right.”

“Indy’s final drive [last week] provided a perfect snapshot for where their rookie quarterback [Andrew Luck] is.”

“What was most revealing on the drive was when [Adam] Vinatieri trotted on the field. There were still 12 seconds left. And his field-goal attempt was a 53-yarder. If it had been, say, Peyton Manning under center – or any star veteran quarterback – the Colts almost certainly would have ran one, maybe two more plays near the sidelines in hopes of getting Vinatieri a few yards closer. But with no timeouts left, Coach Chuck Pagano decided not to push his Luck. That’s fine, it worked out. But let’s all realize that the Colts seem to believe their young quarterback still has a long way to go.”

“Colts’ ‘Suck For Luck’ Strategy Enters Second Season”

  • As someone who doesn’t usually get as upset as he used to when the Bears lose, my first thought as I laughed at this video was “Who does this guy think he’s screaming at.” Then I looked at the number of hits and I realized that its about 20,000 people. Someone must like it.


Stephen A. Smith Thinking Son Is Finally Ready For The Sex Argument”

  • In light of the Buccaneers decision to maul the Giants as they were trying to run out the clock with a kneel down, The Sports Pickle gives us the NFL’s 25 most unwritten rules. This one was one of my favorites:

“5. Take as much HGH as you possibly can before the NFL starts testing for it.”

One Final Thought

I thought this point from the Friday Buzz feature at The National Football Post was interesting:

“If Jon Gruden comes back to the NFL as many suspect, there might not be a long line of established personnel men wanting to work with him. Gruden frustrated people he worked with. He sometimes would set up workouts with players without consulting the front office and operated independently. His negativity also wore on co-workers.”

I always thought Jon Gruden was one of the best head coaches the NFL has seen in recent years. This comment explains a lot about why he’s no longer coaching. One of the worst faults you can have as the leader of a large organization of people is failure to communicate. You leave people in the dark in terms of what’s going on and they resent it. Even when it’s things you don’t think everyone needs to know, leave co-workers in the dark and they begin to wonder what else of a more important nature you didn’t tell them.

Gruden undoubtedly was a control freak who was used to getting his own way as a head coach. He was king of his domain. But when he was put in a situation where input from a large group of front office people was required, he failed to make the proper adjustments. Even for a coach as talented as Gruden, that’s death.

 

A Dash of Optimism and Other Points of View

Bears

Its a funny world. I spent most of the offseason trying to talk the Bears down while the rest of Bears fandom was sky high over thier prospects this season. Now that they lost in embarrassing fashion in front of a national audience against the first quality opponent they played, thier biggest rival no less, I find myself with this deep-seated optimistic feeling. It’s absolutely sick but there it is.

So now that everyone has settled down, the first thing I’m going to do today is talk some people off the ledge by giving you three positive points from Thursday’s game.

  1. Our first ray of sunshine, as noted by Dan Pompei at the Chicago Tribune in his film review, was the play of the cornerbacks which I thought was outstanding.
  2. Our next point may not seem to be so positive but “Bear” with me as Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune quotes quarterback Jay Cutler on what the Packers did to beat the Bear offense:

“‘They played two-man 90 percent of the game, so we have to get other guys involved and get them out of it,’ Cutler said. ‘We never challenged them in that and they never had to get out of it, so it was an easy game for them.’

“What is the solution?”

You run the ball, that’s what you do. And it surely does seem to me like the Bears are very capable of that after two games. Both Matt Forte and Michael Bush gained good yardage Thursday night. And even without Forte, Bush looks very capable of carrying on to me. He’s much more nimble with better vision than I thought he was going to have going into the season.

Having said that, if you are going to base your offense on the run you have to play mistake free football. The Bears didn’t do that. Penalties, critical drops, turnovers. You can’t have that if you are going to work your way down the field on the ground. That’s where the Bears need to show improvement next week. And I’m confident they will.

  1. My last point is this one highlighted by Biggs:
  2. “Rush hour: Bears players will review game film Saturday at Halas Hall, and the defense should grade out fairly well, particularly the line that generated five sacks of Aaron Rodgers. First-round draft pick Shea McClellin had 1 1/2.”

    Getting a good four man rush is far and away the most important aspect of the Bears defensive scheme. Regular readers of this blog will know that I have had serious doubts about their ability to generate pressure outside of Julius Peppers. I’d like to see it in a few more games and against better offensive lines but I think we should all be feeling better about it now.

    I know everyone is depressed about the performance of the offense but long term, this really is an encouraging sign for the future this season. Indeed, I would argue that its probably more important than every single other isolated problem that you could name.

“‘You go through college and sometimes you develop bad habits just because you can get away with that in college,’ Wootton said. ‘But coming to this next level, your pad level has to be down. Your footwork and your hands have to be on point.

“‘Every now and then, pad level is definitely a concern for me. You just have to focus. That’s what Coach [Rod] (Marinelli) teaches us to work on every day in practice: pad level and take off.'”

 

“‘I just have to learn that when it’s close to the play being over like that, and you don’t hear the whistle, you just let off,'” Carimi said. ‘I wasn’t trying to be dirty or anything. I was just trying to finish my guy'”

What a lot of bunk. How disappointing is it that Carimi should come off the field and expect us to believe that he didn’t retaliate for a late shove, as the camera clearly showed. This is what I’ve come to call Ndamukong Suh syndrome. The tendency to believe that just because you feed a bunch of feces to the media and the fans, that they’ll swallow it. It came back to bite Suh with his no famous Thanksgiving day stomp and the explanation that it was an accident. Eventually its going to bite Carimi if he doesn’t lose it fast.

In fairness, Carimi apparently did have second thoughts because Biggs reports that he later owned up to the mistake.

  • Mark Potash at the Chicago Sun-Times puts his finger on some major problems the Bears had Thursday. This one was the one that harmonized with my own feeling the most:

“What happened to the idea that if opponents take Brandon Marshall out of the game, it will open things up for the other receivers? Through three quarters, Marshall was targeted one time and had no receptions — yet Earl Bennett (1-10) and Alshon Jeffery (1-7) were the only other receivers to make a catch.”

“[Offensive coordinator Mike] Tice didn’t leave Webb alone with [Packers outside linebacker, Clay] Matthews too frequently after Matthews beat him one-on-one early. But help only goes so far. At some point, the linemen have to step up and make blocks on their own.

“What’s more, keeping extra players in compromises the offense. One of the reasons the passing game clicked so well against the Colts is the Bears often had four players running pass routes. When you have three, the quarterback’s options are limited, and all of them become easier to take away.”

I can only strongly agree with this. Tice made it sound so simple over the summer and people swallowed it hook line and sinker. But the number of people Tice has been holding in to help in protection has always made me very uneasy. It will be OK against the Indianapolises of the league. But its going to cripple the offense against good teams in adverse situations all year.

Biggs would seem to agree as he wrote this about the Bears upcoming schedule:

“It is alarming because the shift in the offensive philosophy was supposed to make the line better. Now, you have to wonder if against a defense with an elite pass rusher the Bears are going to be in for a rough ride. They host the St. Louis Rams at Soldier Field on Sept. 23 and then they are back in the prime-time spotlight at Dallas on ESPN’s ‘Monday Night Football’ on Oct. 1. Cowboys outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware is a more accomplished pass rusher than Matthews and Dallas utilizes a 3-4 scheme. Could the Bears be headed for another disaster there? You can’t discount the possibility.”

  • Biggs points out that Thursday night’s game drew a record 6.3 overnight rating for the NFL Network. This is why we’ll probably never see another Sunday noon Packers game. And I hate night games. And given the way the Bears seem to lay an egg against them in prime time so often, it makes me hate them even more.
  • Biggs asks former NFL quarterback Trent Green about the offense and how it fits Cutler:
  • “‘From what I have seen, this really fits Jay better,’ Green said. ‘[Former offensive coordinator Mike] Martz’s system is about timing. It’s about putting the ball in the spot. It’s about receivers being very defined in their routes, being right in the right spot. I don’t know if that necessarily meshed well with Jay. He is a little more backyard, drop back … he is not real disciplined in his drops. He likes to sit there – bounce, bounce – and then fire it in there.'”

    “’From what I have seen, Jay likes to see the receiver come open and he then fire it. He’s got a big enough arm, like a Daunte Culpepper, where he can do that.'”

  • Much has been said about Cutler since Thursday night but instead of focusing on his leadership skills, we should be more worried about this. From Dan McNeil at the Chicago Tribune.
  • “It has been easy to forget who Jay Cutler is. I’m guilty of it. Thursday’s Cutler catastrophe served as reminder that the pouty quarterback wilts when the lights are their brightest.”

    “The Bears have “MNF” dates with Dallas, Detroit and San Francisco. They host Houston in an NBC Sunday nighter in Week 10.”

  • But of course, we can’t leave Cutler alone without taking the obligatory shots fron The Sports Pickle:



“Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler treated all five of his linemen to $19 Casio wristwatches Thursday night after his teammates managed to get him through an entire game against the Packers without him getting killed.”

  • But I would say that this picture is more to the point:

Image via The Sports Pickle.

  • Here’s another bad sign. From Potash:
  • The game Sunday against the Rams (1-1) at Soldier Field might be a bigger challenge than expected after quarterback Sam Bradford led them to a 31-28 victory Sunday against the Washington Redskins. Bradford, whose passer rating dropped from 76.5 as a rookie in 2010 to 70.5 last season, has had back-to-back 100-plus games against the Lions (105.1) and Redskins (117.6).

    With the Rams missing starting center Scott Wells (broken foot) and starting left tackle Rodger Saffold (neck), Bradford was 26-for-35 for 310 yards, three touchdowns and one interception against the Redskins.

  • If only the Bears had read this before the game. From The Onion:



Elsewhere

  • What really astounds me in watching the Eagles play is the incredible amount of talent they have on that team and how carelessly they waste it with stupid play. They’re extremely lucky to be 2-0.
  • The Lions were better but not a lot better. They played a tough opponent in the 49ers and moved the ball well. But when they got into the red zone they stalled time after time. There was also some bad tackling out there. From what I saw their discipline on the field isn’t a lot better than it was last year.
  • The 49ers provided a blue print for beating the Lions defense. They handled their front four pretty well and attacked the edges and the defensive backs. Of course, the Bears will have to execute like the 49ers do. Not an easy task.
  • Speaking of the 49ers, I’ve got to agree with this sentiment. From Sports Views:



One Final Thought

From Ben Shpigel at The New York Times:

“‘Yes, I’ve watched it. And no, I couldn’t detach myself. Give me a couple more years.’

“MIKE PETTINE, the Jets’ defensive coordinator, when asked [before Sunday’s rematch] if it had been difficult watching film of the Jets’ last game in Pittsburgh, a 24-19 loss in the A.F.C. championship game in January, 2011.”

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

Bears

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

Elsewhere

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

One Final Thought

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Amen.

No One Seems to Knows How Much Cap Space the Bears Actually Have. And Other POints of View.

Bears

The problem appears to be in the league office where they are still trying to figure out how to handle the cap numbers under the new collective bargaining agreement.  Its one of those rare times when the league doesn’t seem to have its act together.  Here’s hoping they won’t be making a habit of it.

“Over time, Emery’s style and ­approach will become more clear.

“The only thing he’s delineated is his desire to continue to be on the road, getting an up-close look at college players during the season. He said he plans to watch college games on Thursdays and Saturdays and be around the Bears on Sunday through Wednesday.”

Jensen continues the characterization in another article:

“After his news conference last month, Emery provided insight on his philosophy for evaluating players. He said he’s careful about ‘pre-judging an athlete’ because he has seen so many ‘do amazing things that people didn’t think they could do.’

“‘We call it in the scouting business, ‘Instant evaluation,’ ‘ Emery said. ‘ ‘Boy, he’s not going to do this.’ Watch the whole picture. Make sure you’re right. Watch the extra tape. Watch two extra tapes.

“‘If you see something, try to find out if he can do it again. Sometimes, that was an anomaly. But if a guy shows you he can make a spectacular catch or a great run, hone in on why that happened. What are the traits that allowed that to happen?’”

  • Bears pro scout Dennard Wilson is expected to join the Rams as a defensive assistant coach.  Dan Pompei at the Chicago Tribune describes the problem:

“Wilson’s anticipated departure would leave the Bears thin in pro scouts leading up to free agency, as assistant director of pro personnel Kevin Turks and pro scout James Kirkland are the only men at Halas Hall who have been committed to studying NFL personnel.

“Former director of player personnel Tim Ruskell had spearheaded the pro scouting department, and he has not been replaced.  Former general manager Jerry Angelo also spent a good deal of time on the pro side.”

“It is likely Emery will lean on the Bears coaches, as well as Turks and Kirkland, to help him through his first free agent period.”

“Smith said while the Bears blocked secondary coach Jon Hoke from interviewing with the Minnesota Vikings for their defensive coordinator job, Hoke was allowed to talk to Greg Schiano about that position on his new staff with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.” 

  • Very few people would argue that Smith knows the defensive side of the ball.  But its evident that he’s reached a critical juncture in terms of his tenure as head coach primarily because of the decisions he’s made associated with the offense.  Biggs comments:

“It’s worth wondering if Smith is on his last offensive coordinator — if [Mike] Tice will be the final man he’s allowed to hire for the Bears. It’s easy to blame Angelo for failing to produce with offensive draft picks. Last season, [Matt] Forte became the first offensive player drafted by Angelo to make the Pro Bowl since 2002. But Smith shares some of the responsibility.

“Smith didn’t talk about any sweeping changes on offense, and Tice has said much will stay the same, including the verbiage and the running game. Smith fell back to an easy goal when talking about offense — scoring more points — and acknowledged the Bears have to be better in the passing game. That starts with improved protection, something Tice should deliver. Then it comes down to upgrading [Jay] Cutler‘s targets.”

  • Cutler appears to have some strong opinions about what the Bears should do at wide receiver.  Via ESPN:

“Appearing Monday morning on ESPN 1000 , Cutler sung the praises of his friend and former teammate Brandon Marshall, currently a member of the Miami Dolphins, but said: ‘Anyone really over 6-2 at this point is going to look good.’”

I can only agree.

“’Chemistry in the room often is a problem, and chemistry with the quarterback too,’ said an NFC general manager. ‘That position can mess with a team more than any other. They are the biggest chicks on the team. They often have a very high opinion of themselves. As a rule, they don’t approach their jobs with the same degree of professionalism players at other positions do.’” 

  • Phil Emery sounds like he had interest in Dwayne Bowe.  Biggs says that he met with Bowe’s agent Todd France at the combine.  France doesn’t represent any of the Bears’ free agents.  Unfortunately, Bowe was franchised by the Chiefsso he won’t be available.
  • Michael Floyd may have solidfied his position as the second best wide receiver in the draft after running an outstanding forty yard dash at the combine.  However, Pompei reads my mind as he comments further:

“Sober scouts will point out that even though Michael Floyd was fast on the track, he may not play as fast as he timed.”

Something tells me that Emery is unlikely to make the mistake of over looking this.  He seems like a guy who is going to rely heavily on game tape to evaluate prospects.

“A lot of pre-draft boards have the Bears taking Michael Floyd at No. 19. If Courtney Upshaw fell to that spot, would you take him? — David Comiskey, Chicago

“I would rather use that first-round pick on a defensive end than a wide receiver if all things were equal. The foundation of most great football teams usually is big men. And linemen tend to be safer picks than wide receivers. Upshaw might not be a bad pick, but I think Whitney Mercilus or Nick Perry would be better ones.”

“When he was asked which teams had shown interest in him, Mercilus listed the ‘‘Bears, Chargers, also the Bills’’ — in that order. Ourlads.com, a well-respected scouting website, projects the Bears to select Mercilus with the 19th pick in the first round.

‘‘’Mercilus is a speed rusher with excellent athletic ability,’ one NFL scout said. ‘The question [is], will he be a one-year wonder or an up-and-comer? He could be productive as a 3-4 outside linebacker or a 4-3 edge guy.’’’

“Whoever signs Williams probably is going to have to make him the highest paid defender in the NFL. For the Bears, that would likely mean having to forgo signing a No. 1 receiver. But if adding Williams were a possibility, some sacrifices elsewhere would be well worth it.”

“Cornerback is one of the needs on defense this off-season for the Bears. Wouldn’t Brandon Carr be a good fit with the Bears? He has good size and Phil Emery has to be familiar with him considering the KC Chiefs background. — Matt, Montreal

“Carr is a fine player and would be an upgrade for the Bears. But it’s going to take mucho dinero to sign him. The Bears have more pressing priorities, I believe. And if you look at their history with Lovie Smith‘s defense, they have never gone after big money cornerbacks, or even drafted one in the top two rounds. The belief is you can get by in the Tampa Two without a premium corner.”

I’ve a sneaking suspicion that this philosophy may no longer completely apply.  I agree that the Bears will never pay premium prices for cornerbacks but I think Lovie Smith is beginning to recognize that they need corners who can do more than play the cover two.  That means they’re going to have to invest more in the position.

“’[Special teams coordinator Dave] Toub re-signing with the Bears doesn’t really factor in much with my decision unless there are no teams out there interested in me on defense,’ Graham said. ‘If all the teams are only interested in me on special teams, then I would love to come back and play for Toub.

“’But if any teams are interested in what I can do on defense, then Toub re-signing means very little because even after three interceptions in very limited plays this year, the Bears coaching staff still doesn’t see me as a defensive player.’”

It doesn’t sound like he’s gong to be resigning.  Even the dumbest teams are going to tell Graham he will have a “chance to compete” on defense without making any promises.  Graham has a good idea of how he stands with the Bears so even that will be an improvement for him.

Elsewhere

  • Another week, another NFL concussion law suit brought be former players.
  • On a peripherally related note, the NFL caused a storm of media coverage by stating that they were investigating allegations that former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams helped put bounties on the heads of opposing offensive players.  Players were paid for knocking opponents out of games.  From the full press release:

“‘The payments here are particularly troubling because they involved not just payments for ‘performance,’ but also for injuring opposing players,’ Commissioner [Roger] Goodell said. ‘The bounty rule promotes two key elements of NFL football: player safety and competitive integrity.’”

  • Of course, this generated the usual calls from fans to sports talk radio all over the country about putting skirts on players.  David Haugh at the Chicago Tribune explains why they’re wrong.

“The Saints bounty issue isn’t a referendum on violence in pro football. This is the NFL rightly reacting to one team’s formal plan encouraging dirty play as the league tried curbing it in the midst of the concussion-awareness era. This isn’t further emasculation of the NFL. This is necessary league intervention to remind teams where the line exists between the hard hitting that traditionally makes the game great and hired thuggery.”

There’s only one reason why Benson would continue to support Loomis despite the fact that he supposedly disobeyed his direct order to have the bounty system in New Orleans stopped.  Its because he didn’t.  Loomis is undoubted covering for Benson, who is one of the lowest class owners in the league and who is just the kind of guy who would allow a bounty system of this type to continue.

The Sports Pickle asks how the league should punish the teams who used a bounty system.  Here’s an interesting option:

“- fine the organization a large sum and send a message to other teams in the league by also fining James Harrison an even larger sum”

“#5 – Photo-Sharing

“There are several good photo-sharing services that work with Twitter: TwitPic, Lockerz and yfrog among many others. However, if you have photos that need to be enhanced in any way — such as for size — you may want to look into signing up for Instagram.”

One Final Thought

David Kamp at The New York Times puts things in perspective as he looks back on his life as a football fan:

“One of the few aphorisms I have committed to memory is a Nick Hornby line from ‘Fever Pitch’: ‘The natural state of the football fan is bitter disappointment, no matter what the score.’”

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.

 

 

 

 

 

Should Gabe Carimi Start Monday? And Other Points of View

Bears

  • Mark Potash at the Chicago Sun-Times quotes Lovie Smith on the possibility that Gabe Carimi might start at right tackle Monday:

‘‘’We don’t have to make any of those decisions yet,’ coach Lovie Smith said. ‘We’ll let him tell us exactly how far he’s come along. [He] looked good today, looked good last week. I assume we’ll have him available, and we love making those kinds of choices later in the week.’”

Smith might claim to not have to make that decision he technically right.  But that’s deceptive since someone has to be designated to take the first team reps this week.

Current right tackle Lance Louis seems to block with an attitude and he looks pretty good in pass protection. But Carimi looks like a bigger and better run blocker. I doubt that the noise level at Lincoln Financial will match that in that domes in Detroit or New Orleans, where I’d hate to put a guy in his first game back.  Given that to be the case, I’d start a healthy Carimi at right tackle and move Louis back to guard.

“As always, the game will come down to how well the Bears can play on defense and special teams. The Eagles want to score on big plays and make teams throw against their pass rush. The Bears need to counter by taking the ball away. Michael Vick has been a fumbling machine and stellar running back LeSean McCoy also keeps the ball away from his body.

“‘That is something we have noticed,’ cornerback Tim Jennings said. “That’s the style they run and (McCoy) feels comfortable when he gets hit, he’s tucking it. He’s not fumbling, but it’s out there. It’s out there so we are going to take our shots.”’

“‘He’ll be surprised when I hit him,’ Conte said with a laugh.”

“Since the NFL expanded to eight divisions in 2002, there have been three playoff teams from the same division only three times. Most recently, in 2007, theEagles, Giants and Redskins made the postseason from the NFC East and the Colts, Jaguars and Titans did likewise from the AFC South.”

“With long runs from [MattForte (22 and 32 yards) and Marion Barber (29 yards), the Bears had touchdown drives of 81 and 79 yards against the Buccaneers. That gave them six touchdown drives of 79 yards or longer this season. In 2010, they had four all season.”

Elsewhere

“Since October 17, 2010, when a rash of illegal hits by defensive players on defenseless offensive players forced the league to enforce the rules more aggressively, players have been expressing confusion, disagreement, and/or outright defiance regarding rules that, frankly, aren’t that hard to understand.  Teams — and, specifically, coaches — are in position to tell the players in no uncertain terms what is and isn’t allowed.

“But it’s not in a coach’s interests to risk neutering players, especially when coaches aren’t fined for the illegal hits.  So coaches could be subtly manipulating their players, privately expressing confusion, disagreement, and/or outright defiance with the rules, which results in players publicly doing the same.  More important for the interests of the coaches, the players continue to play aggressively on defense, which helps the coaches’ teams win more games.  Which helps the coaches remain employed and, for the coaches that succeed, get paid a lot of money to do so.” 

  • According to multiple media reports, Minnesota governor Mark Dayton along with key members of the legislature have concluded that there’s going to have to be a referendum on the sales tax needed to build a new stadium there.  The local officials concerned had already approved the new tax.The earliest date for such a vote would be November, 2012.  The Vikings lease is up on January 1 and they have indicated that they will not sign a new one without the promise of a stadium.  Florio comments:

“And so, when it’s time to write the story of why the Vikings left Minnesota, point to the legislature’s decision not to allow a community whose leadership is willing to embrace a sales tax for the privilege of hosting the stadium. All that’s left to figure out is whether the logos and the colors and the name and the records will be put into mothballs when owner Zygi Wilf moves the team to Los Angeles in 2012, where they’d play at the Rose Bowl or the Coliseum while waiting for a stadium to be built downtown or at Grand Crossing in the City of Industry.”

I can only agree.  I understand the difficulties of raising revenue for such a project in the current environment.  But this almost certainly dooms the chances that the Vikings will stay in Minnesota.

  •  How underrated was Buffalo running back Fred Jackson before the season?  He couldn’t even get any respect in his own house.  Jackson’s wife Danielle took Michael Vick in the first round and even took running back Michael Turner before finally drafting her husband.  Via the Buffalo News:

“‘[I told her] I’m not going to continue to sit here if you’re skipping over me in these rounds. If you don’t take me, I’m going to call your brother and tell him to pick me up,’ Jackson said.”

  • Former NFL safety Matt Bowen takes us inside of a key play from the Steelers-Patriots matchup for the National Football Post.The Patriots were playing cover two on this play as they did throughout the game.  Poor tackling while allowing conversion of third and long after third and long doomed the Patriots in the first half as they failed to hold the Steelers to field goals.  It was interesting to see this team trying to adjust their defensive philosophy to match the Bears when most Bear fans would just as soon see the team abandon the scheme.
  • Former Bears head of college scouting Greg Gabriel, now at the National Football Post, rips into former Tribune columnist Skip Bayless, who is currently masquerading as a television personality at ESPN.  The only thing I’ll say about him is that he’s better at that than he was here in Chicago.  He is the only writer in America whose name tells you what to do with his columns.

One Final Thought

Kenny Mayne at ESPN instructs Nate Buleson and Calvin Johnson on the definition of a catch.

How about this? If you get up off the ground, turn around and hand the ball to the referee like Walter Payton did every game of his life, its definitely a catch.

End of story.

Corey Wootton Talk and Other Points of View

Bears

  • ESPN NFC North blogger Kevin Seifert doesn’t think the Hall of Fame game is going to happen if an agreement isn’t reached until July 21 (as has been reported).  It says here that its a nationally televised game with a lot of money at stake for both the players and the owners.  I’m betting they’ll find a way to play it.
  • Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune quotes offensive coordinator Mike Martz as saying that the team could be ready in one day to play the Hall of Fame game.  Maybe the coaching staff could be ready but I doubt the players would be.
  • Steve Rosenbloom at the Chicago Tribune gives his unique take on the NFL lockout:

“Me, I’m rooting for the lawyers in this one. If you are a Bears fan, a Bears player or a Bears wonk, I suggest you do the same, and here’s why:

“If the NFL and the players can’t strike a deal to end the lockout by July 21, then it would be almost impossible for Jay Cutler to be forced to run for his life in the Hall of Fame Game.”

  • Biggs also interviews Corey Wootton.  The Bears are depending upon Wooton to step up in the role of situational pass rusher this year.  I didn’t seen much in his play his first year to indicate he’s likely to do that and I’ve been pretty down on him.  However one thing guys like me tend to under-estimate is how much a year in an NFL training program can do to improve an athlete’s performance:

“’I’m a lot leaner now and I have more strength on me,’ Wootton said. ‘I went up in all my lifts significantly. I’m feeling really strong, really explosive. I really feel like I am at a point where I am past where I was in college. With coach (Rod) Marinelli, it’s all about speed and quickness.’”

Michael C. Wright at ESPNChicago.com agrees but thinks the loss of the offseason workout program might be an issue as he gives an interesting assessment of Wootton:

“Wootton, meanwhile, is still very raw. One of the biggest knocks on Wootton is his tendency to play with his pad level too high. Well, that’s something preached at the earliest stages of football, and something Wootton still has to master before he can seriously challenge for the starting job. In addition to his speed and quickness, one thing Wootton has on his side is intensity. But he still has to harness the fundamentals before he can fully unleash it. A year in an official offseason program would have really helped Wootton.”

  • Robert O’Neill at The Bleacher Report suggests 10 wide receivers that the Bears should be looking at in free agency.  Though I don’t agree with some (e.g. Randy Moss), there are also some good possibilities on this list (e.g. Mike Sims-Walker).
  • Plaxico Burress would love to be in Chicago but according to the Sun-Times the Bears aren’t likely to reciprocate.  There was a time when the Bears were interested in Burress and rumor had it they were going to draft him.  But I would agree that Burress doesn’t fit the current offense nor does his personality fit the organization.
  • Vaughn McClure at the Chicago Tribune talks to Devin Hester.  Hester thinks the Bears should sign Santana Moss.  Since “Hester” and “think” should never appear in the same sentence, let’s go straight to Lovie Smith (from the same article):

“If Moss is available and the Bears pursue him, some might question why Jerry Angelo, Lovie Smith and crew would want to add a 5-foot-10-inch receiver to a mix that already includes the 5-11 Hester and 6-footers Johnny Knox and Earl Bennett.

“’That small stuff is overrated,’ Smith said this offseason. ‘You look for receivers who can catch the ball and move the chains.’”

To an extent, Smith has a point.  Its not the size they need so much as someone who can get off the line of scrimmage against press coverage.  They could also use another receiver around the goal line.  Size helps with those things but if Moss can do them (especially the first), its not relevant.

“Chicago Bears
“Cap status: About $37 million under

“Comment: If anything, the Bears will have to spend significantly in order to exceed the cap “floor,” or the minimum expenditure required. Regardless, all indications have been that the Bears are prepared to be active in free agency. At least one starting-caliber offensive lineman should be on their shopping list.“

Elsewhere

  • The boys at Kissing Suzy Kolber have gotten a hold of the transcript from Jon Gruden’s latest interview with Terrelle Pryor.  Here’s an excerpt:

“Jon Gruden: Terrelle Pryor! You kiddin’ me? This guy! This guy’s a football player! No way no how! Get out of here! I’m tellin’ ya!

Terrelle Pryor: Thank you for having me. That’ll be $85.”

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One Final Thought

Brandon at the ACME Packing Company (a Packers blog) disagrees with Ben Fawkes at ESPN (a grim assessment of the Bears chances to make the playoffs this year).  He thinks the Bears will be just as good next season:

Julius Peppers was a perfect fit for their defense last season, and they should return next season with a similar starting cast. Defense can be inconsistent from year-to-year, and last season their defense only allowed 286 points (4th best in the NFL), so they could have a problem if they allow 375 points (as they did in 2009). While I don’t see any reason why their defense should be notably worse next season, the only reason they fall out of playoff contention next season is if their defense takes a step back.”

A big part of the success of the Bears defense was thier amazing health last year.  I can’t imagine it happening again.  Though Brandon makes a good point, I find myself in the odd position of agreeing with Fawkes and disagreeing with a Packer fan who has nice things to say about the Bears.  Hell freezing over in three…  two…  one…

Lambeau Should Be a Nice, Family Place This Year and Other Points of View

Bears

“‘[Jay Cutler] was one of the first guys who texted me and told me that they were throwing,’ Enderle said. ‘He was very helpful. He said I could stay with him if I didn’t have a place to stay. Everything he’s done has been very helpful to me.’”

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  • Dan Pompei, also at the Chicago Tribune, wrote an interesting column on the lasting impact of the 1987 NFL player’s strike.  No surprise that Mike Ditka has no regrets about the way he handled the situation.  But pretty much everyone else would say that he couldn’t have done it much worse.
  • Skip Bayless, the only newspaper man in the business whose name tells you what to do with his column, picks Julius Peppers as his number one defensive player in the league in this ESPN video.

“With a (possible) franchise quarterback in Jay Cutler and a perpetually strong defense, expectations are high in Chicago for this coming season. But should they be?

“In reality, the Bears are a deeply-flawed team and last season’s success — including five games won by five points or fewer — masked Chicago’s true deficiencies. This year they will be hard-pressed to duplicate last season, and make it back to the playoffs.

“There are several reasons. But they boil down to the Bears’ offensive line issues, a lack of offensive playmakers and several intangibles working against them.”

This article is spot on, pointing to most of the issues we’re aware of and adding the difficulty of the schedule which I hadn’t thought of.  It’s worth a read if you have Insider access.

Elsewhere

“Before we get into the actual routes, we need to know when the WR is going to break. And outside of the 3-step game (Slant, Flat), every route breaks at a depth of 12-15 yards. Why is that important? Double moves. If you are playing defensive back and see the WR stutter his feet at a depth of 8-yards, expect him to get vertical up the field—because there isn’t a route that breaks at 8-yards. However, remember one very important detail: if the WR doesn’t break his route between a depth of 12-15 yards, you better open your hips and run. Because he is running straight down the field.”

“Michael Huff leaves something to be desired,” Sapp said. “I watched Huff for two years, not pick a pass off in practice. I seen him make a couple plays, lately. I’d really be interested to see his tape and watch his last couple of years because his first two make you want to throw up watching him practice.”

Huff is a free agent and work ethic is an issue with him.

“[Redskins Head coach Mike] Shanahan’s decision to trade for McNabb was the worst of his career. Then Shanahan and his son, Kyle, Washington’s offensive coordinator, compounded the error while clumsily all but removing the six-time Pro Bowler from a 6-10 team.”

“The Shanahans did so much to devalue McNabb that the Redskins should not expect to receive much in exchange for a player beginning his 13th season. Also, teams are expected to ask McNabb to rework his contract to facilitate a trade, so the Redskins will need his cooperation, limiting potential trading partners.”

There’s little doubt it was a huge mistake.  In my opinion McNabb never fit the offense and Shanahan was far too stubborn to adjust it to make it fit.  And I’ve always thought McNabb was overrated, anyway.  But a conditional sixth round pick?  He’s better than that.  It says here they get a fourth rounder from someone desperate for a veteran quarterback.

  • Many NFL rookies come with a little baggage in the form of an asault charge or a failed drug test here and there.  But the case of New York Jets third round pick Kendrick Ellis may be a little extreme:

“Ellis was indicted a month before the April draft on the charge of malicious wounding, a Class 3 felony in Virginia. If convicted, he faces up to 20 years in prison.

 

A potential complication is that Ellis is not a U.S. citizen, ESPNNewYork.com has learned. Ellis, a native of Jamaica who moved to Florida at the age of 11, has “permanent resident” status. A permanent resident convicted of an aggravated felony is deportable, according to immigration law.”

  • At least one un-named league executive isn’t convinced that Jon Gruden’s glowing assessment of Terrelle Pryor is the end of that story.  Via Evan Silva at ProFootballTalk.com:

“’He’s not a well-liked kid,’ the unnamed exec told John Keim of the Washington Examiner. ‘Very self-absorbed. He doesn’t have the leadership you want in a quarterback. I’ve got more issues with that than his arm.’

“The executive did acknowledge that Pryor has NFL-caliber physical tools.”

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One Final Thought

Liquor, guns and football.  Good luck with that, Wisconsin.

Ben Roethlisberger Really Does Do All of HIs Thinking Below the Waist. And Other Points of View.

Bears

“Quality Fits:

“Chris Conte, Chicago Bears: Conte played cornerback for the first three years of his career at Cal, so when he made the switch to free safety as a senior, he flew a bit under the radar for most. However, while Moore earned most of the attention in the Pac-10, Conte was the more reliable tackler and coverage defender despite his limited experience. The Bears have experimented with undersized safeties for years under Lovie Smith, but in the 6-2, 197 pound Conte, they get a rangy center fielder with a legitimate combination of size and speed. The learning curve will be steep considering his lack of experience at the position, but Conte will prove a starting caliber free safety early in his NFL career.”

“I don’t understand why more kids don’t go to schools like Rice, Northwestern, Stanford and Vanderbilt.”

“Chicago (B-)
“Pro Bowlers: 5 (t-21st)
“Draftees Active in 2010: 38 (t-20th)
“Players with 50+ Career AV: 4 (t-6th)
“Players with 20+ Career AV: 21 (t-4th)
“Best Pick: LB Lance Briggs (3rd round, 2003)
“Worst Pick: WR David Terrell (No. 8 overall, 2001)

“Summary: The Bears have found a lot of later-round gems, but have really struggled to hit on their first-rounders. Only Tommie Harris was a true success, with Marc Colombo and Cedric Benson not finding their niches until the Bears gave up on them (apparently too early). The second round has been their forte (no pun intended), where they’ve gotten Matt Forte, Devin Hester, Charles Tillman, Tank Johnson and Danieal Manning.”

“A 4-3 one-gap team does not trade up, which the Bears did, for a nose tackle. It trades up for a three-technique.”

I’d agree and add that the Bears already have an adequate player that fits inside to sign and fill out the lineup in Adams. If not him , then there are a number of other options. But if they put Paea there, what will they do at the three technique? I think its obvious what the plan was when the drafted him.

“The father of Chicago Bears defensive end Julius Peppers has lost his law enforcement job after being charged in North Carolina with felony possession of cocaine.”

George Thomas Kurney was a sheriff’s deputy.

“What are the chances of Andy Fantuz starting for the Bears at WR? Brandon, Wisconsin

“He has an excellent chance of starting — if Johnny Knox breaks his leg, Devin Hester retires, Earl Bennett blows out his knee, and whoever the Bears sign as a free agent breaks his arm. Otherwise, he doesn’t have much of a chance.”

Elsewhere

“Last season, the NFC West became the first division in the modern era to send a losing team to the playoffs. The Seahawks made it at 7-9.

“So, Larry, seeing as three teams have uncertain quarterback situations, is the NFC West the league’s most fluid division?

“‘Yes,’ he said. ‘Fluidly bad.'”

  • For those who still listen to his blather, Mike Ditka basically tells the Detroit Free Press that he thinks referees should ignore the rules. On the positive side he also gives the Lions the kiss of death by joining the crowd of experts who love them this year.
  • The Lions haven’t won anything yet but head coach Jim Schwartz has already dubbed his defensive line the “Silver Crush”.
  • Pompei also answers your questions:

“What are the chances the Bears go after Nnamdi Asomugha? Mike, St. Charles

“If the Bears go after Asomugha, it will be completely out of character for them. Given the defensive scheme they run, they have not prioritized high-priced, shutdown cornerbacks. They need physical corners who can tackle and who have ball skills. I don’t see that changing now.”

The Bears are almost certainly not on the list of teams that are going to be on the phone to Asomugha. But it seem like they’re one of the few that aren’t. Asomugha is almost certainly the number one free agent this offseason. His telephone is going to be mighty busy about five seconds after free agency opens. Three teams in the NFC East, Washington, Philadelphia and Dallas, would seem to be right at the top of the list. It going to be fascinating to see where he goes and for how much.

“If Andy Reid thought Kevin Kolb was so good, why would he be trading him? He knows quarterbacks. Good quarterbacks don’t get traded when they are young by good coaches.”

“Bee Master: You are wrong. Next speller. Ben Roethlisberger?
“Roethlisberger: Hit me.
“Bee Master: Your word is ‘no’.
“Roethlisberger: No. Y-E-S. No.”

One Final Thought

The boys at The Onion take us through the ins and outs of player-led workouts. Here’s a typical drill for the Bears:

“Defensive players practiced their team fundamentals by having linebacker Lance Briggs hit the tackling dummies while linebacker Brian Urlacher got all the credit.”