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.
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 Howie] Roseman 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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.”
Since 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.
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.