Was Releasing Gould a Mistake? Depends on Your Point of View.

Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune answers more of your questions:

I was baffled when the Bears cut Robbie Gould and felt it would come to haunt them. Now it seems obvious it was a mistake. Your thoughts? — @stewart_errol

Gould has been excellent for the 49ers this season making 17 of his 19 field-goal attempts. Gould missed two extra points in the preseason finale of 2016 for the Bears, one of which was blocked, and you should recall there were some key late-season misses for him in 2015. Connor Barth hasn’t been as good as the Bears would like and we’ll have to see if he can straighten things out in the second half of the season. I’d imagine it’s more or less a week-to-week proposition for him at this point. I’d also say that the Bears have made bigger personnel mistakes than at kicker. They’ve got bigger need-to-fix projects right now than kicker and it’s not like there are necessarily great options on the street. As I pointed out in 10 Thoughts following the Saints game, the kicker to keep an eye on right now is Cairo Santos. Unfortunately, he’s not healthy as he recovers from a groin injury that led the Chiefs to release him.

I’m sure a lot of fans still have this question. From what we could see, Gould was an excellent kicker and no one could possibly look at the situation and say the Bears did the right thing.

But here’s the deal. Fans don’t see everything. In particular, they don’t see what goes on in the locker room. And that might have had a lot to do with Gould not being in Chicago.

Gould was the Bears longest tenured player which probably made him set in his ways, as people who are in the same job for a long period of time are apt to be. To add to that, Gould was definitely opinionated and was not shy about sharing it.

The guess here – and it pure speculation – is that Gould had an attitude and one that special teams coordinator Jeff Rogers didn’t particularly like. The Bears had (and have) a young team and they undoubtedly wanted their players exposed to the right influences.

It’s possible that, for whatever reason, they didn’t deem Gould to be the right guy to have around. In any case fans, who are on the outside looking in, are unlikely to ever find out exactly what that reason was.

Quick Game Comments: 49ers at Bears 12/4/16

Defense

  1. The 49ers came out mixing it up but it was evident form the beginning that they were going to be much better running the ball and before long that’s what they concentrated on. The blocking up front in terms of this aspect of the game was excellent.One of the questions of the day was whether, with Jerrell Freeman and Danny Trevathan out, Nick Kwiatkowski and Jonathan Timu would be able to stop Carlos Hyde and the 49er running game. The answer as far as I could see was “no”. Thought Kwiatkowski made the occasional play, both linebackers were generally were well blocked and they certainly struggled to play downhill and attack the line of scrimmage. Yards per run.
  2. The blocking was not excellent when it came to the pass rush and the Bears got good pressure on Colin Kaepernick. The Bears had 5 sacks and 4 quarterback hits through three quarters on Kaepernick. They had six for the game including the one for a late safety on Blaine Gabbert.
  3. The 49ers had Timu spotted as a weakness in coverage right off the bat and they were targeting him by sending the running backs out wide as receivers. It looked to me like it might have worked better on a day when the passing game was clicking. That might be womething we see other teams do in the future.
  4. Akiem Hicks had 10 tackles and two sacks and was all over the place. He kept the Bears in the game almost single handedly in the first half.
  5. Colin Keapernick has been performing at very high level. It’s hard to say that his performance today was consistent with that. Kaepernick entered the game with 8 TDs compared to just 2 INTs and his passer rating was 96.0.The problem is that neither team threw the ball much in the first half so Kaepernick was largely reduced to a runner. Of course, he’s athletic and he did a decent job of that.

    In the second half when both teams threw the ball more, Kaepernick’s accuracy was pretty awful. He either missed, underthrew or overthrew a number of wide open receivers in the snow and cold weather. I’d say he took a step back. At the end of the third quarter, the 49ers had -21 yards passing and Kaepernick was 1 of 5 for 4 yards. He was replaced by Blaine Gabbert in the fourth quarter.

    The Bears might have won this game doubly by losing if Kaepernick had looked good. Not would it have put them into a position to draft ahead of the 49ers in 2017 but Kaepernick’s performance would have been one more reason for the 49ers to believe that he’s their future answer at quarterback and it would have given them one more reason not to draft one in the early rounds.

    As it is, the question of what the 49ers will do at the quarterback position next year remains up in the air.

  6. There were pre-game reports that Willie Young might not play due to a knee injury. But he did play and, like the rest of the front seven when it came to the pass rush, he played well doing his part to get pressure on Kaepernick. He had a sack.

Offense

  1. Like the 49ers, the Bears came out running the ball against one of the worst run defenses in the league. It seemed evident from the beginning that was the plan.Of course, the problem with that plan, as with the 49ers, is that you have to execute. The Bears were constantly finding themselves in situations where it was third and long due to penalties and mistakes.
  2. There was almost no passing for almost the entire first half. Then the Bears went into the two minute drill and suddenly they come to life, pass their way down the field and take the lead at half time by scoring a touchdown making it 7-6. Apparent this is Matt Barkley’s specialty and they should run the offense like that all the time.
  3. Perhaps the best quality that Barkley possesses is that he seems to know where the ball needs to go and he gets rid of it quickly to the right spot most of the time. Barkley doesn’t hold on to the ball long. It was hard to say after the first half that he showed that again today just because there was so little passing. But where they did throw, especially I the second half, he generally looked like he did when he was at his bet last week.I thought outside linebacker Willie Young’s quote on Barkley was interesting. Young was a seventh round pick and a long shot to be in the league as long as he has been.

    “Guys like me are few and far between. But if we get an opportunity, the only thing we know how to do is take advantage of it. Whatever happens after that, happens. I play on the edge. I honestly feel like [Barkley] played on the edge also.”

    Despite that, I have to believe that Barkley’s physical limitations probably will keep him as a backup in the NFL and my impression is that is what the Bears see him as. But if they have only found a solid back up, at least it puts them one step closer to having a plan for the position as a whole.

  4. After dropping last week’s game winning touchdown and then another easy catch for a big gain early in the second half, you had to wonder if Josh Bellamy was going to collapse under the weight of his own failures. But he didn’t. He came back to make a nice catch on the same drive that he dropped the ball, setting the Bears up on the 49er 11 yard line. He then made several nice catches on the next drive, one of which brought them to the 49 six yard line. Both drives resulted in touchdowns.
  5. Credit the Bears patchwork offensive line for doing a decent job protecting Barkley. He was only sacked once.
  6. One of the younger players that has caught the Bears attention is tight end Daniel Brown, an undrafted free agent with the Ravens last year. Brown is a pass catching tight end who is a converted wide receiver. He had 3 catches for 24 yards last week in place of Zach Miller and 2 catches for 13 yards this week. Perhaps his best play was when he drew a pass interference call in the endzone that set the Bears up on the 49er one yard line near the end of the half. They scored the touchdown.You get the impression that the Bears think they’ve found something in Brown (he played in 54 of the 81 snaps last week) but its too early to tell whether he will pan out. So far so good.

Miscellaneous

  1. Kenny Albert, Daryl Johnston, Laura Okmin were your announcers. I thought that Johnston did a good job of providing insight into what was really a dog game no matter how you look at it. Kudos to this team for not simply phoning it in.
  2. It wasn’t a good game for Bears special teams. It started on the opening kick off where the 49ers returner bobbled the football but still got beyong the 25 yard line and didn’t get better from there.A blocked punt resulted in the 49ers getting the ball on the Bears 4 yard line. Fortunately the 49ers are as undisciplined as the Bears are and an unsportsman-like conduct penalty pushed them back to the 19. The 49ers settled for a field goal. Paul Lasike also dropped a kick off that ended up leaving the Bears deep in their own territory near the end of the first half.
  3. The Bears didn’t do too badly with only 5 penalties.  But the 49ers had far too many with 11 and some, like the pass interference in the end zone that set up the Bears first touchdown, were very damaging
  4. Jordan Howard entered the game leading the league with 7 dropped passes this season. So its good news that he didn’t drop any today that I thought he really should have had. Despite making some good catches as mentioned above, Bellamy still had two bad drops. That really has to stop. The 49ers had some awful drops in the second half as well.
  5. A fumbled kickoff return by Deonte Thompson gave the ball to the 49ers the ball at the Chicago 37 yard line. This was immediately following the blocked punt that handed the 49ers a field goal. So not a good sequence.  Other than that, turnovers weren’t much of a factor this game except that the Bears, one again, didn’t get any.
  6. I thought it was interesting that the 49ers came out “cold” in this game in more than one way. After playing well against the Dolphins last week, head coach Chip Kelly chose to keep them in sunny Orlando where the temperatures were in the 80s to practice all week. Meanwhile, the Bears were practicing in game conditions at Halas Hall. You have to wonder if Kelly’s decision to keep the team in the warm temperatures in Florida factored into the team’s slow start in this game as it was laye din some ugly winter weather.
  7. There were over 13,000 no shows for this game and frankly it looked like it was more than that on television. I guess that’s hardly surprising in cold weather with two of the worst teams in the NFL facing off.I’ve seen it suggested that the Bears don’t care that much about the low attendance because the tickets are already sold. I don’t know what the split is with the Chicago Parks District but I have to believe that the lost revenue from parking and concessions is significant.

    You can bet your life that they care about that.

  8. For those of you who are looking to see if John Fox gets fired after the season is over, you can stop. He and Ryan Pace look to me like they’re joined at the hip. Yes, I know that statistically Marc Trestman’s Bears did better but Trestman lost the locker room and that had more to do with his departure than anything else. All indications are that’s not the case with Fox and unless something changes, he’s not going anywhere.
  9. The Bears are actually a better team than the 49ers when healthy. But you could argue that mediocre teams need seasons like this to get better. With all of the injuries that the Bears have sustained, they are probably going to end up with a higher draft pick than their roster would otherwise dictate. In the end, whether you are elite or not depends on your ability to get impact players. And those are much easier to find at the top of the draft.
  10. I don’t like suggesting it but there were indications that the 49ers flat out gave up late in the third quarter and into the fourth quarter in this game. There were a lot of lapses in concentration, a lot of drops, a lot of bad defense being played out there. You have to wonder how much of the problem with that team is simple lack of heart.Fortunately the young Bears don’t seem to have that problem. They seem to hang in and play hard no matter the situation. In this case it served them well as they played a team that had been playing well in tough weather and played better than they did.

Bradford to the 49ers? No Way.

Martin Frank at delawareonline.com speculates that the 49ers might be interested in trading for Sam Bradford:

Chip Kelly always liked to use the phrase ‘open competition’ to describe the battle for the starting quarterback when he coached the Eagles, whether it was true or (mostly) not.”

“Wouldn’t it be funny if [Eagles general manager HowieRoseman puts the franchise tag on Bradford, then swings a deal with San Francisco to get back the second-round draft pick that Kelly traded away to get Bradford?

“After all, if the 49ers quarterback job is truly an open competition, then Kelly must not be completely satisfied with what he has. Any ‘football guy’ can see that.”

I can’t believe Frank is serious. Kelly has a good quarterback for his system in Blaine Gabbert already and if Gabbert doesn’t work out, there’s the highly athletic Colin Kaepernick to coach up and compete for the job.

Sure, if Bradford were free on the market and the 49ers could get him for some minimal amount of money, they might give him a shot at the job. But a second round pick for a mediocre quarterback that’s going to cost you $18 million a year? No chance.

Vernon Adams Is a Name that Bears Fans Should Know Going Into the 2016 NFL Draft

Michael David Smith at profootballtalk.com comments upon the outstanding showing that Orgeon quarterback Vernon Adams put on at the East-West Shrine Bowl:

“Adams has a lot going against him in the eyes of the NFL: He’s only 5-foot-11 and 195 pounds. He played only one season of big-time college football after transferring from Eastern Washington to Oregon, and he got hurt that year. He hasn’t played in a pro-style offense.

“But Adams was outstanding on Saturday, completing six of nine passes for 191 yards and three touchdowns, and also adding two rushes for 24 yards. Former Falcons head coach June Jones, who coached the West team in the Shrine Game, said on NFL Network after the game that he believes Adams has NFL talent.”

“NFL Media’s Mike Mayock believes Adams could be a fit for the 49ers. Although Chip Kelly didn’t coach Adams at Oregon, the Ducks continued to run an offense similar to Kelly’s, and when Adams was healthy he played very well in that offense.”

Sure the 49ers are a possibility. But its the Bears that you need to keep an eye on. When general manager Ryan Pace was with the Saints, they traded for Drew Brees and signed current Kansas City backup Chase Daniel as an undrafted free agent. Both men are 6’0″, only an inch taller than Adams.

If Pace likes what he sees, given that the Saints drafted their quarterback of the future last year with the selection of Garrett Grayson, there isn’t a general manager in the NFL more likely to discount Adams’ size and roll the dice on him.

Will Trent Baalke Be the Owner, Too?

Anyone wondering what the problem is with the 49ers need wonder no longer. Darin Gantt at profootballtalk.com comments:

Trent Baalke’s apparently doing more than delivering players such as defensive backs Jimmie Ward and Jaquiski Tartt for the 49ers.

“He’s apparently coaching them up, too.

“Though they have a complete and (allegedly) functioning coaching staff, Ward and Tartt say that Baalke’s often on the field during practice giving them tips.”

Here’s Baalke’s employment history from Wikipedia:

“1998–2000 New York Jets
Personnel Scout
2001–2004 Washington Redskins
2001–2003 National Scout
2004 College Scouting Coordinator
2005–present San Francisco 49ers
2005–2007 Western Region Scout
2008–2009 Director of Player Personnel
2010 VP of Player Personnel
2011–present”

Do you see defensive backs coach in there anywhere? Do you see coach of any type in there anywhere? And yet Baalke considers it to be his job to do it.

The problem with teh 49ers isn’t retirements and it isn’t bad luck. It’s Baalke. He’s a megalomaniac, control freak who took one of the best teams in football and tore it apart brick by brick. He’s now undermining the coaching staff full of “Yes men” that he put together to coach the motley crew that’s left.

As a Bears follower I don’t care that much. But as a football fan I’m offended and the sooner this guy finds his way to the unemployment line, the better off we will all be.

Another Challenge for Jay Cutler

Dan Wiederer at the Chicago Tribune takes us through some of the numbers relevant to Sunday’s match up with the Redskins:

“46.6: Jay Cutler’s rating in two career starts against the Redskins, both losses. In 2013, Cutler left a 45-41 loss late in the first half after suffering a torn groin muscle. Cutler also threw a pick six in that game. Three years earlier, he threw four interceptions – all to Redskins cornerback DeAngelo Hall – in a 17-14 loss at Soldier Field. Cutler’s numbers against the Redskins: 29-for-48, 309 yards, one TD pass, five picks.”

This will be another watershed game for Cutler.

Two games ago on Thanksgiving Cutler took advantage of the opportunity to show critics like myself that he’s a different quarterback this year. Similar to that game, Cutler will be able to show that he can perform in situations this year that he has previously collapsed in. It doesn’t help that he’s coming off of his worst game of the year (18 completions of 31 attempts for 202 yards with a passer rating of 64.2). It was one in which he was more than usually erratic, especially on deeper throws.

Like all Bears fans, I wish him good luck in defeating the demons that have haunted him in days gone by.

Wishing for the Return of Eddie Royal

Rich Campbell at the Chicago Tribune addresses the absence of wide receiver Eddie Royal:

“I get the impression that fans are irritable about Royal (knee) missing five straight games, but if you’re hurt you’re hurt. The Bears didn’t do Royal any public relations favors by listing him as questionable for the 49ers games even though he hasn’t practiced since going down in the Vikings game on Nov. 1, but that’s another matter.”

Most of the fans I know aren’t “irritable”. Most aren’t thinking of Royal at all. But having said that, perhaps they should.

Royal’s absence as a source of problems for the Bears is probably being largely under-estimated. This is partly because the Bears were playing him split out wide. One of the things that Royal said in the offseason that he wanted to do was prove that he could play somewhere other than the slot. But it soon became evident that the slot was where he belongs as his production suffered while the Bears were still feeling their way through the beginning of the year to find out what players could and couldn’t do.

Before he was hurt, the Bears moved Royal back into the slot where he belongs and he was reasonably productive before he got hurt. Royal could be a very important future piece in this offense when he’s healthy. Let’s hope he returns soon.

Alshon Jeffery as a True Number One Wide Receiver? It’s Going to Be Interesting to Find Out.

Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune on how the 49ers were handling Bears wide receiver Alshon Jeffery Sunday:

“[San Francisco nickel cornerback Jimmie] Ward said the 49ers didn’t have anything special for Alshon Jeffery in terms of coverage other than the fact that he was to be double teamed in the red zone. Jeffery had 85 yards receiving but caught only four passes.”

Aishon_jeffreySince returning from injury to re-enter the starting lineup, I would call Jeffery productive but not outstanding at 11 catches for 175 yards. This is something to keep an eye on. If Jeffery isn’t dominating despite seeing nothing out of the ordinary in terms of coverage, you have to wonder if he’s really a number one receiver. If you are Jeffery, the worse news is that teams aren’t doing anything special to stop you despite the fact that you are surrounded by mediocre talent at the other wide receiver positions. That means other teams don’t view you as a true number one wide receiver either.

I still claim that the right thing to do is to franchise Jeffery and negotiate for a long-term contract. But I’m starting to wonder what he’s going to get on the open market should he find his way there.

Game Comments: 49ers at Bears 12/6/15

Image-1Defense

  1. The 49ers came out with a conservative offensive game plan with Blaine Gabbert at quarterback. It was mostly dump offs and runs for much of the game with very little downfield until the game winner.
  2. The 49ers had a tough time moving the ball in the first quarter and, in particular, did a poor job of running the ball. They did a better job starting in the second quarter by going up temp and executing a little better. Shaun Draughn did a particularly nice job of running the ball.
  3. The 49er game plan did a particularly good job of taking advantage of the Bears lack of speed at linebacker. Time after time Gabbert would dump the ball off to a back coming out of the backfield that had managed to get good separation from the linebacker who was covering him.
  4. Gabbert wasn’t as accurate as I was led to believe he’s been in previous games. But he did a surprisingly good job of gashing the Bears with his mobility.
  5. As with the Packers game on Thanksgiving, the coverage by the defensive backs was generally excellent today. I thought Kyle Fuller did a particularly good job.
  6. The Bears only rushed four for most of this game and to my eye had a tough time getting pressure on Gabbert. Having said that, Willie Young had a good day with a sack and a half.

Offense

  1. The Bears came out running the ball and generally did a good job of it. The offensive line did a nice job of blocking the 49ers and moving them at the line of scrimmage, especially early. They also recommitted to the running game after halftime with some success. The Bears will always have a good chance if they can run the ball.
  2. Jay Cutler was unusually erratic with his throws downfield today. As usual, he saw some pressure.
  3. The 49ers did some damage with well-timed blitzes against both the run and the pass. The first 49er touchdown on a pick six from Cutler comes to mind immediately. The 49ers tricked Cutler into audibling into a quick pass to the outside by bringing a blitz. It was a very nice job by the 49er defense, which obviously anticipated that Cutler would do this based upon film study.
  4. The Bears game plan for the running backs was interesting. Tehy split both Matt Forte and Jeremy Langford wide and frequently went to an empty set with them on the field. This forced the 49ers to respond with a defensive alignment that respected the run with the Bears in a passing formation. This is something we’ve seen on occasion befor but I don’t remember them ever doing it this much.
  5. Matt Forte had a particularly good game. Sometimes he just wouldn’t go down. His touchdown run early in the second quarter where he literally dragged the defense from the line of scrimmage into the end zone comes to mind as a good example.
  6. Also, let’s give Ka’Deem Carey some love. The guy runs extremely hard.

Miscellaneous

  1. Kenny Albert, Daryl Johnston, and Laura Okmin did a nice job. Johnston, in particular, peppered the game with timely and insightful comments that we don’t see often enough from many other color men around the league outside of prime games.
  2. Robbie Gould missed a 40 yard field goal in the third quarter that the Bears could have really needed with the game tied at 13. It’s worth noting that the game was tied at 13 because the 49ers missed an extra point. Not a great game for the special teams until Deonte Thompson ran the ball back into field goal range with 1:32 remaining in the regulation. And of course, that was followed by another missed field goal. Robbie Gould is having an off year. Part of it may be losing Patrick Mannelly. They had yet another new long snapper this week. On the punt late in the second quarter that eventually went through the back of the endzone, someone will have to explain to me what Tracy Porter thought he was doing when he touched that ball.
  3. The Bears committed far too many penalties in this game (8 badly timed penalties for 75 yards). Time after time they would have a good, productive offensive play only to have it called back for a penalty. They can’t play a ball control offense and set themselves back like this. A hold on LaRoy Reynolds early in the game on a punt return was also particularly egregious as it took a Bryce Callahan touchdown off the board.
  4. Jeremy Langford has had a drop in each of the last three games. He’s got to do better than that, especially with the Bears splitting him out as a wide receiver.
  5. The Bears dominated the first quarter in this game but left the 49ers in it by giving up the pick as noted above under “Offense”. They have a narrow margin for error and need to avoid mistakes of that type more than most teams. Perhaps someone needs to give Cutler more options and/or remind him not to audible to that play so often to keep the defense guessing.
  6. This was a frustrating game to watch. The Bears were the better team on the field as they dominated the time of possession but, for the first time all year, time after time they shot themselves in the foot with sloppy play, especially penalties. Could it have been a let down coming off of the victory at Green Bay followed by a long 11 day break? I don’t know. But I do hope we don’t see this again and that the team gets back to the kind of play that has been their trademark for most of this season.

This Week Will Be All About the Running Game

Dan Wiederer at the Chicago Tribune goes over the six most telling plays from the Bears victory over Green Bay:

“Lacy’s stampede: On the night’s second snap, Packers running back Eddie Lacy busted off his longest run of the season. Zero in on the 29-yard charge and you’ll see the Bears overpowered up front. Defensive tackle Eddie Goldman was swallowed by a double team at the snap and Jarvis Jenkins was driven 5 yards backward and dumped on his tail by [Josh] Sitton. Inside linebacker Jonathan Anderson overran Lacy in the backfield. Pernell McPhee couldn’t get off a block. Shea McClellin was overpowered by JC Tretter. And safety Adrian Amos missed a tackle 5 yards past the line of scrimmage. Off Lacy went, headed toward midfield before Kyle Fuller finally pushed him out of bounds. It wasn’t just a fluky moment either. The Packers had their way in the running game all night, piling up 177 yards on the ground with Lacy averaging 6.2 yards on his 17 carries. Over the past two games, the Bears have allowed 347 rushing yards, dropping to 29th in the league against the run. It’s a troublesome weak spot that the Bears will need to patch up in December to keep their playoff hopes alive.”

This point is well taken.

The Bears haven’t done badly stopping the run this year. They kept both Todd Gurley and Adrian Peterson down without stacking extra players in the box or doing anything special to stop them. But they need to continue to stop the run if they’re going to continue to win games. The lesson apparently hasn’t been lost on the defense. Via Rich Campbell, also at the Chicago Tribune:

“‘It’s about staying gap-sound and playing with great fundamentals,’ linebacker Pernell McPhee said. ‘When it gets late in the season, people tend to lose those tendencies. But we’re doing a great job this week of stressing that, stopping the run. Hopefully when Sunday comes, we’ll be ready.'”

I believe that they will be, too. The game will depend upon it because its going to be all about the running game. Both of these teams have to find it on offense. The 49ers haven’t had a rushing TD since week 5 and haven’t had a 100 yard rusher since Carlos Hyde in week 1. The Bears running game has been stymied the last two weeks in which, not co-incidentally, they have scored only 34 points.

For once, this game is going to be simple. The team that runs the ball better against the opposing defense will win.