- The signing of new outside linebacker/defensive lineman Pernell McPhee reminded me ominously of the Lamarr Houston. The description of the versatility of each was so similar it was chilling. But Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune put me more at ease as he describes the history of previous Baltimore rejects:
“Former Ravens Arthur Jones (Colts), Paul Kruger (Browns) and Dannell Ellerbe (Dolphins) all left for big paydays elsewhere the last two years. Total it up and they signed for $108.5 million with $43 million guaranteed on the way out of Baltimore. Ellerbe will reportedly be released in Miami. Jones was a solid player up front for the Colts last year and Kruger followed 41/2 sacks in 2013 with 11 this past season in Cleveland.”
“Kruger was more than a system player for the Ravens and McPhee, who has terrific size at 6-foot-3, 280 pounds, is a better pass rusher. Kruger can’t put his hand in the dirt and rush like McPhee.”
Rich Campbell at the Chicago Tribune comforts me a bit as well on this signing by quoting general manager Ryan Pace:
“‘I don’t think it’s a scheme thing where he’s getting this production — he’s beating his man one on one,’ Pace said at Halas Hall. ‘What’s exciting about him is it might be a tackle, it might be a guard, it might be a center. He’s all over the place winning one-on-one matchups.'”
We have to hope that he’s more Kruger than Ellerbe. But at least there’s a history of singing these free agents with success and Pace’s reasoning seems sound.
- Biggs reports that the Bears appear to be playing it smart in free agency, looking for moderately priced bargains. These guys won’t be play makers but they’ll fill holes until the draft can replenish their young talent.
- Mark Potash at the Chicago Sun-Times when asked if the Bears are rebuilding:
“They’re rebuilding on the fly, which means they’re reconstructing their defense from the ground up, but still could contend if they stay healthy. Their offense was second in the NFL in points in 2013. They’re missing Brandon Marshall from that equation. But if he’s truly addition by subtraction, the Bears at least have the chance to contend in an NFL where almost every team’s expectations are fluid.”
I disagree. There’s no way the Bears will contend for anything while transitioning to a 3-4 defense. They have square pegs fitting round holes all over the place and you can’t sign enough free agents to fill all the holes.
The Bears built false hope amongst the fan base last year that they had a team that could go to the Super Bowl. Here’s hoping this regime is smart enough to control expectations. This team belongs near the bottom of the division next year.
- Adam L. Jahns at the Chicago Sun-Times responds to “The Bears will fail in free agency if” with this surprising answer:
“A quality receiver isn’t signed. Brandon Marshall’s production may be overblown, but the Bears still need help at the position. Pace wants to address needs in free agency to allow for taking the best player available in the draft. So it’s best to find a receiver, too, while still addressing the defense.”
With needs all over the defense, I didn’t expect Jahns to push for an offensive player. But he’s got a point. You could argue that the Bears need two receivers and the odds are that they couldn’t take more than one in the draft.
- Jeff Dickerson at ESPN passes on the rumor that the Bears have serious interest in Terrance Knighton. Knighton is a classic 2-gap, space eating nose tackle and such a signing would be an indication of what kind of 3-4 defense the Bears plan to run.
- Rich Campbell at the Chicago Tribune indicates that the bears are in the bidding for center Sefen Wisniewski. Signing him might mean moving Roberto Garza to right guard, Kyle Long to left tackle and Jermon Bushrod to right tackle. That’s a shuffle that will make a lot of Bears fans who have been calling for the Long move happy.
One Final Thought
David Haugh at the Chicago Tribune didn’t think much of the rumor that the Bears were interested in trading Jay Cutler for 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick
“Kaepernick drove the Niners crazy with the same inconsistency and inaccuracy that defined Cutler’s season. Kaepernick’s contract contains more outs than Cutler’s, but would a team give up draft picks for a starting quarterback without making a commensurate financial commitment? A younger quarterback prone to similar poor judgment would represent change merely for the sake of change, not to mention the draft picks the Bears likely would have to give up in any package for Kaepernick.”
The difference is, of course, that Kaepernick has the mental attitude of a winner and Cutler is the text book definition of a loser.
People in the media defending Cutler over a weak free agent crop is understandable. I don’t agree with it but its understandable. But defending him over a proven winner like Kaepernick is insane.
I think Rick Morrissey at the Chicago Sun-Times probably has the best handle on the situation:
“My head has told me for years that Cutler isn’t the answer for the Bears. My head told me that they should have cut ties with him this week. The argument we’ve been hearing for years – ‘Who are you going to find who’s better than Jay?’’ — isn’t an argument at all. It’s a capitulation. It’s defeatist thinking. It’s spinning your wheels and convincing yourself that you’re getting somewhere.
“If your job is to evaluate football players for a living and you’re confident in your abilities, you should be able to come to two conclusions after putting Cutler on a microscope slide:
“I can’t win with this guy.”
Having said that, Steve Rosenbloom at the Chicago Tribune at least makes me feel a little better about the current regime at Halas Hall, if not about the decision to stick with Cutler in 2015:
“[As] many times as we’ve lived this news conference, the thing that came through this time was the lack of love for Cutler from Pace and Fox.
“That’s a welcome change if they weren’t going to change quarterbacks.
“Past regimes cast Cutler as a franchise quarterback. They marveled at the physical skills and his knowledge of the game. They dreamed big dreams.
“And they got a nightmare.
“A nightmare that will continue with the quarterback who led the NFL in turnovers.
“Pace and [head coach John] Fox, however, sounded more like they were stuck with the $126.7 million quarterback than they won the lottery.”
I’m entering the stage of acceptance over this. The biggest problem is that, if you’re a fan that has any hope at all that the team can quickly turn it around this year, your season is already over in March. It’s not that the Bears can’t win games with Cutler at quarterback – they can. But I think it’s well established now that, for instance, they aren’t going to win a playoff game. Effectively the success of the team will always be capped as long as Cutler is here.
So now it’s all about watching the team develop. Development of the new schemes on offense and defense. Development and evaluation of new players and old. It’s about learning more and more about the nuances of the game.
Vince Lombardi once said, “Winning isn’t everything. It’s the only thing.” For the Bears, it’s not really too much about winning anymore.