Sam Monson at Pro Football Focusreviews the performance of the Seattle Seahawks offensive line against the Rams. This observations match what I see:
“The Seattle offensive line combined to surrender three sacks, one hit and 12 additional hurries, and run blocking was almost as bad. It’s a testament to Marshawn Lynch’s ability that he was able to top 4 yards per carry over his 18 carries, generating 73 rushing yards, 39 of which came after contact. Of Fred Jackson’s 13 rushing yards, 11 came after contact, and the team’s other backs combined for seven rushing yards, five of which came after contact.”
“The Seahawks still scored 31 points in this game, and can rightfully point to the defense as an unusual source of blame, but Russell Wilson was under pressure 19 times in the game and the running backs often found themselves with nowhere to go. Over the course of a game these things can be overcome, but over the course of a season they will start to erode the team’s production.”
The Seahawks traded away their best offensive lineman in Max Unger in order to get tight end Jimmy Graham. The statement was clear – skill position players are more important and harder to find then lineman. The Seahawks are paying for that decision and likely will throughout the year.
Admittedly offensive lines have a tendency to gel and become more cohesive as the year goes on. If they stay healthy. And admittedly this particular offensive line didn’t get much time together during the preseason because the coaching staff spent a good part of it juggling their lineup in an effort to find their best five guys.
But I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Football games are won and lost at the line of scrimmage. The Rams have an outstanding front seven. But so will the teams that the Seahawks will face in January (if they make the playoffs at all). They’re going to face a serious uphill battle if things don’t get a lot better soon.
Hoffman gives a number of reasons for this pick, most particularly associated with apparent rouble handling their success in the offseason. Russell Wilson was front and center with his odd behaviour and his relationship with a pop singer. And, of course, there’s the Kam Chancellor‘s holdout.
But there’s one thing that Hoffman didn’t mention that is the major reason to doubt the Seahawks here. Their offensive line was absolutely putrid in the offseason, starting with trouble replacing center Max Unger, who was traded away in the offseason in a deal for Jimmy Graham. Football games are won and lost at the line of scrimmage. Combine bad offensive line play with one of the best front sevens in the league and you have a recipe for a Seattle loss.
As all of the matchups in the NFC West typically are, this is going to be a rough, physical game that fans aren’t going to want to miss no matter who wins.
These can be as high as third round picks depending upon the nature of the lost free agents the year before. For instance, the Lions could receive a third round pick in 2016 after the loss of Ndamukong Suh. The acquisition on Haloti Ngata after the loss of Suh was by trade and wouldn’t count against them in the formula used to calculate who gets what picks.
It’s easy to dismiss these often low round picks as being unimportant but they’re not. As has been said many times, the draft is a crap shoot and the more rolls of the dice you get, the more likely it is you’ll come up with a good player. The rich get richer in this respect because the good teams tend to be the ones that lose the good players. The Broncos, Chiefs and Seahawks all received four compensatory picks and the Ravens and Texans were awarded three apiece.
Meanwhile the Bears are stuck in what amounts to a catch 22. They have to sign free agents to make up for misses in the draft and they’re more likely to miss in the draft because they don’t have enough picks. Last year the Bears signed a slew of players – defensive ends Jared Allen, Lamarr Houston and Willie Young plus safety Ryan Mundy. This year they’ve already signed linebacker Pernell McPhee, safety Antrel Rolle, guard Vladimir Ducasse and wide receiver Eddie Royal. As Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune points out, they’re likely to sign quite a few more as they bargain hunt in the secondary free agent market:
“One veteran agent described it as a stare-down between clubs and players. Clubs are looking for budget buys with the goal of signing many players to minimum-salary-benefit deals. Players who thought they would be in line for something more are still trying to wrap their minds around the idea of playing for less. Both sides are waiting for the other to blink.”
“The Bears need to add defensive linemen. Jeremiah Ratliff and Ego Ferguson are likely to line up at nose tackle. The options at defensive end are not quite as clear. Coach John Fox said the ideal player for the scheme is a ‘longer three technique.’ Of course, the model for the position is the Texans’ J.J. Watt, but aspiring to find a player with his skill set and actually doing it are two different things.”
The Bears are also said to be interested in center Stefen Wisniewski. They will need to sign a considerable number of other players to fill out the depth chart as well. Some of those signings could come at the league meetings which are currently being conducted – Adam Jahns at the Chicago Sun-Times points out that agents are working the hallways and courtyards of the Arizona Biltmore in Phoenix. All of these signing could count against them.
No one is suggesting that teams aren’t being penalized when they lose a free agent – the compensatory draft pick is never close to the same value as the free agents lost. Nevertheless, the draft is the life blood of every team and those picks can become valuable players acquired for a cheap price. I look forward to the day when the Bears will be getting more chances to hit the lottery in this respect because it means that they will be ranked amongst the elite franchises. The only way that they’re going to get there is to start consistently hitting on the few draft picks they have, alleviating the need to run out and sign free agents to fill holes all over the field. They also have to resist the temptation to make the splash signings that can often look better on paper than on the field. Fortunately general manager Ryan Pace seems to be avoiding the temptation to do that. Again, fro Jahns:
“The win-now pressure that seemed to drive Emery isn’t as prevalent. Pace, who will meet with the Chicago media on Tuesday, is widely regarded in league circles to have a big rebuild on his hands, and the draft is the best way to do that.
Until the Bears are finished rebuilding, fans just have to be patient and wait for success to come their way. Fortunately, this time it looks like it might be the proper way.
Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribunegives the details of the Bears first three free agent signings of 2015. The interested observer will note that each of these contracts is about as front-loaded as you could make them. None has a great deal of guaranteed money past the second year.
These signings look like the type that are meant to allow maximum flexibility once the prospects which they will supposedly be developing come into their own. They’re also meant to spend the 2015 cap space that the Bears have available essentially as quickly as possible. The Bears definitely aren’t looking to buy a championship anymore. At least not this year. Hopefully they’ll leave some room to negotiate an extension with Alshon Jeffery and possibly Matt Forte. I understand the reluctance to extend Forte yet another deal at his age but he’s been very healthy and he’s still the most productive all around player this team has.
“[Eddie] Royal gives [offensive coordinator Adam] Gase a receiver who can run option routes and crossing routes and be an underneath target as part of a combination. He can be in the flat when [Alshon] Jeffery is running a curl or corner route. Royal can be lined up tight to the alignment with Martellus Bennett, who can run high with Royal running low. They are two-level reads for Cutler the Bears didn’t have last year.”
Yeah, sure, I get it. And with a running game you can add play action. Before you know it, you have a big boy NFL offense.
The question is, “do the Bears have the personnel to run one?”. Campbell calls adding a running attack a “quick fix” because the Bears have Forte but I’m thinking the Bears aren’t going to be able to do this without doing some serious shuffling along the offensive line. The one thing former Bears head coach Marc Trestman didn’t do was emphasize things that he didn’t think his players could do. I think they didn’t run the ball more is because he didn’t think they could block it.
The new blocking scheme will add an interesting wrinkle here and its possible that the finesse blockers the Bears have up front will do better with it. We’ll see.
On a related note, Biggs is reporting that the Bears are making a run at Dolphins free agent center Samson Satele. I’m a little iffy on whether this would be a clear upgrade or not. Satele is a smallish center who had a reasonably good start to 2014 but his performance apparently fell off late in the year. Satele is younger than current Bears center Roberto Garza and if the Bears sign him, Garza might move to right guard and kick Kyle Long to the outside at left tackle.
Adam L. Jahns at the Chicago Sun-Timesreports the excitement that Bears head coach John Fox felt when he watched quarterback Jimmy Clausen‘s snaps last year:
“So I’ve seen a guy that’s matured. I watched his one start [and] a lot of preseason snaps that he was involved in, and I’ve seen him grow as a quarterback.”
Whatever else you think of former Bears head coach Marc Trestman, he seems to have been a pretty good quarterbacks coach. You have to wonder if Clausen will regress under new quarterbacks coach Dowell Loggains. Some will recall that Loggains pushed for the Browns to draft Johnny Manziel over Teddy Bridgewater, then coached him to some of the most miserable quarterback play the league has ever seen. The Browns apparently fired him for it.
It’s still a quarterback driven league. I don’t think its a coincidence that the Packers coaching staff is always loaded with former quarterbacks coaches. You have to wonder if the Bears have the support on staff that’s needed to maximize what they can get out of theirs.
Hub Arkush at chicagofootball.com has personal experience with new Bears safety Antrel Rolle and says that we can expect him to be a vocal leader in the locker room that they’ve been missing.
“Jeremiah Ratliff and Ego Ferguson project as nose tackles in the 3-4, so the need to draft Washington’s Danny Shelton, for example, is smaller than how much a top-flight edge-rush prospect could help.
“Jon Bostic stands out as a leading candidate for playing time at inside linebacker, but few others do. And the Bears still are searching for big-bodied 3-4 defensive ends.”
An awful lot of this depends upon what type of 3-4 the Bears decide to play. If its the classic, 2-gap type then I’m not entirely convinced that Ratliff won’t play defensive end. Certainly he’ll play a great deal of outside linebacker but Houston will probably see a great deal of time there. They’ll probably also try Will Sutton there.
In any case, I’m saying that defensive line is one of, if not the top, needs that the Bears have. I’m also going to say that I’d hate to see the Bears pass on Shelton, especially to take an edge rusher where the Bears have all kinds of options. My gut tells me Shelton’s a player with that rare and possibly necessary body type and, especially if Ratliff plays more end, they’re going to want a good nose guard.
“Wallace seemed like a good fit for Norv Turner’s vertical passing game, more so than a 32-year-old Jennings did, but Jennings still was an effective enough slot receiver, a fine route-runner and a trusted adviser for younger wideouts that it looked like he could return in 2015. All that wasn’t worth $11 million in cap space to the Vikings, though, especially when they could save $6 million by releasing him.”
“Wallace is no sure thing, either, after his relationship with the coaching staff fractured in Miami, but he’s three years younger, a few tenths in the 40-yard dash faster and a better schematic match for what the Vikings are doing now. “
No, Wallace certainly isn’t a sure thing. But the odds are that Vikings offensive coordinator Norv Turner will find a better way to use him to his abilities than they did in Miami. On the other hand, Turner had an obvious problem with Jennings, opting to call receiver Charles Johnson the best on the team after the season “by far”. So that’s addition by subtraction there.
Its hard not to like what’s going on in Minnesota right now. You wonder in quarterback Teddy Bridgewater‘s second season if they aren’t going to be ready to contend with the Packers. Again via Goessling:
“‘I think you saw the receivers did some good things last year, but you saw us start evolving in the offense, because it’s the first year in the system, too,’ general manager Rick Spielman said Friday night, after the Vikings treated free-agent defensive end Michael Johnson to dinner. ‘And you saw how much more comfortable Teddy was, especially down the stretch. And they start developing that chemistry. Now, getting another big-play potential threat, as our young guys continue to develop, that’s kind of the direction we wanted to go.’ “
“[A]s I understand it, the relationship between Peterson and the team might not even be the biggest concern at this point. The running back went, in very short order, from being a beloved figure in Minnesota to a pariah, as sponsors retreated and legislators heaped scorn on the Vikings for their initial decision to play Peterson following his indictment for child injury charges. He was stung by a Minneapolis Star Tribune investigation into his past, and claimed it did not take into account Peterson’s steps to clean up both his personal life and financial misappropriations in his charitable foundation. And he certainly heard the people — fans, media members and public figures alike — who called for the Vikings to end their relationship with him. It’s important to note all of these events are down the river from Peterson’s initial actions. His excessive discipline of his son initiated this, and Peterson has expressed regret for his actions in several interviews.”
People are generally the same everywhere but the people of the state of Minnesota tend to be odder birds than most. Its a reasonably liberal state with strong notions of right and wrong. Its easy to believe that they were particularly hard on Peterson. Maybe too hard.
Heaven knows its nice to see a fan base that doesn’t just roll over and forgive every action just because it was perpetrated by a star athlete. But Minnesota may be one of the few areas in the country that will never forgive Peterson no matter how sorry he is. I still think he’ll be back there. But its possible that he’ll eventually conclude that he has to force himself into a friendlier situation.
One of the free agents to keep an eye on in the secondary free agent market is Tramon Williams. The Packers already lost Davon House to Jacksonville and Rob Demovsky at ESPN says that they’d like to have Williams back. But at age 32 there’s a limit to what they’re going to offer him.
Williams is a possibility for the Bears but they’ve probably got their corners set with Tim Jennings on one side and Kyle Fuller on the other. And if they were going to sign a corner of a certain age it might as well be Charles Tillman.
“This time last year, [Jadeveon] Clowney was on top of the world. A college hero, combine wonder and soon-to-be No. 1 overall pick in the NFL draft. Since then there’s been a hernia surgery, concussion and two knee surgeries that have put his career in jeopardy. And now this …
“SportsRadio 610 has learned that Clowney was bitten by teammate D.J. Swearinger‘s pit bull last week. Police records obtained describe a bite to Clowney’s right arm that sent him to a Pearland emergency room. The incident occurred in the early morning of March 4th.”
Hanzus also notes that there were 11 people in the Dolphins photo when Ndamukong Suh signed his contract and none of them was named Joe Philbin. It turned out that Philbin was in the gallery “probably next to some schlub columnist who calls for his firing on a weekly basis. It’s just a matter of time before Joe’s desk is in the basement.”
Mike Reiss at ESPNconsiders the alternatives for New England now that Reggie Bush has signed with San Francisco. I’d worry less about that and more about the potential absence of Vince Wilfork in the middle if I were them. Good nose tackles for that defense don’t grow on trees, something that the Bears might want to remember as they switch to the 3-4.
“Royal getting $10 million guaranteed was a head scratcher. And Pernell McPhee could be the latest Ravens defender to look a lot different away from Baltimore. It’s also hard to get excited about a team that is so openly ambivalent about its starting quarterback.”
This is a decidedly pessimistic view, of course. Technically Cutler’s situation had nothing to do with free agency. And McPhee could just as easily turn out to be Paul Kruger as Dannell Ellerbe.
Royal fills a gap in the offense. Yeah, it was too much guaranteed money. Apparently the Bears think Royal is Danny Amendola. For all we know he might be but we’ll never find out because Cutler isn’t Tom Brady. Anyway all of that guaranteed money is in the first two years. Which means that if he doesn’t work out the Bears could free themselves of that contract without a cap penalty when they’ve developed a draft pick to replace him.
Personally, I would have been disappointed had the Bears been more aggressive than they were the first week of free agency. This team needs to get younger and start developing prospects rather than overspending and selling out to win immediately. If the last couple years taught us anything its that you can’t buy a championship.
Former Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher once again fails to convince me that his contentious exit from the Bears had to do with anything other than his own pride. Via Rich Campbell at the Chicago Tribune
Jared Allen thinks quarterback Jay Cutlertakes too much “crap”. I agree. I think he should go somewhere else so he doesn’t have to take it anymore (but see the “Final Thought” below). From Patrick Finley at the Chicago Sun-Times.
John Mullin at csnchicago.comruns through the lessons that he thinks the Bears need to learn from the Super Bowl. His major take home point was that they need a nose tackle. But I, personally, think that Hub Arkush at chicagofootball.comnailed it on the head with this quote from Tom Brady:
“It’s been a long journey. It’s just a great win. We left it all on the field. The key was mental toughness.”
It certainly was. 10 points down with 10 minutes to go the Patriots dug deep to score two touchdowns to win. The Bears, on the other hand, were called the biggest group of front-runners in football by one opposing assistant coach last year.
The Bears may need a nose tackle. But more than anything they need more mentally tough players at almost every position, starting with the quarterback.
Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribuneconsiders the question of whether wide receiver Brandon Marshall should be brought back.
“The Bears have a similarly big-bodied wide receiver in Alshon Jeffery and the second-round pick from 2012 will enter the final year of his rookie contract eligible for a new deal. Jeffery, 24, had 85 receptions for 1,133 yards and 10 touchdowns last season. What the roster lacks is speed at the position and maybe [GM Ryan] Pace, [head coach John] Fox and [offensive coordinator Adam] Gase will look to mix up the depth chart with some quick and shifty receivers like Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola, who Tom Brady used to lead the Patriots over the Seahawks’ No. 1-ranked defense in Sunday’s Super Bowl.
“The ideal might be to pair a big wide receiver with a faster and quicker receiver like Randall Cobb, Antonio Brown or Emmanuel Sanders, who Fox and Gase used this past season with the Broncos in tandem with Demaryius Thomas, a larger 6-foot-3 target. Sanders is fast and possesses great change of direction, something you can’t say about any Bears receivers.”
If you sign any of those guys you are going to need a quarterback who can and will throw to them and hit them in stride. Cutler’s limitations make those kinds of signings risky propositions. Regardless, assuming he’s recovered from his injuries of 2014 the offense won’t be better without an All-Pro receiver like Marshall.
Odds makers are having fun setting up prop bets surrounding this year’s new head coaches. I find Fox’s placement on some of these lists to be curious. I would say that Fox’s chances of getting fired first are well behind Oakland’s Jack Del Rio and Buffalos Rex Ryan. I would also say that the odds that Fox will get in trouble first for an inappropriate comment are also well behind Del Rio’s and I would also place him below the Jet’s Todd Bowles and Atlanta’s Dan Quinn if for no other reason than they are virtual unknowns in terms of how they will handle the pressure. From David Just at the Chicago Sun-Times.
If you ever wanted to know what is running through the mind of a really well-coached player, Super Bowl hero Malcom Butlergives you a clue by describing what he was looking at before he made his huge, game winning goal line interception. Via Hub Arkush at chicagofootball.com:
“[Receiver Ricardo Lockette] kept his head still and just looked over there, so that gave me a clue, and the stacked receivers. I just knew they were going to throw. My instincts, I just went with it, just went with my mind and made the play.”
Butler is an undrafted rookie.
One Final Thought
Kevin Fishbain at chicagofootball.comgoes over a quarterback free agent class that isn’t quite as bad as I thought. Some of these guys like Brian Hoyer and Matt Moore might do significantly better than in previous stops in a run-oriented offense that has the offensive weapons that the Bears do.
Having said that, the Super Bowl taught me something. By no means would I ever call Russell Wilson a great quarterback but he still managed to get the Seahawks to a Super Bowl. Wilson has considerably more mental toughness than Cutler, which will always severely limit Cutler’s ability to take a team far into the playoffs. But I’m starting to come around on the idea that keeping him around and brining in one or more of these free agents to compete with him might not be a bad idea. This might allow you to start your championship quarterback search and still keep Cutler around as insurance in the (probably likely) event that you don’t find him. Financially, the worst case scenario is that you end up with Cutler as a very expensive back up but recent history shows that he’d likely still have to play at some point in that role. Drafting a quarterback to develop might complete the picture.
“Then, the two coordinators, I was thrilled when I saw that we got those two guys. That’s really the beginnings of a great staff, right there.”
That “we” is significant, I think. Accorsi must have liked the work he did here. He identifies himself with the organization even though technically his job is done. That bodes well for the Bears future with a young GM that will undoubtedly need some advice every once in a while.
This is a great, wide-ranging interview, by the way. A lot can be learned about football from Accorsi’s thought processes. This section on how Bears general manager Ryan Pace came to be on his radar is a good example:
“I always look at who’s making the player personnel decisions on a team, and do they have players they’re getting in the middle rounds they’re winning with? You have to do that today. You only have seven picks, and the draft is still your lifeblood.
“‘And I look at the Steelers — that’s why I think (GM) Kevin Colbert is so good. They have third-, fourth-, fifth-, sixth-round draft choices that they’re winning in the playoffs with every year. And New Orleans rebuilt that team in a hurry, and that’s how they rebuilt it. Listen, (quarterback Drew) Brees was a big pickup and all. That’s fine. But you look all through that line, and you have players playing all through those two lineups that they picked in the middle or lower rounds. So, on paper, I thought, ‘Someone has to be making the right decisions here.'”
“The city of Chicago knows and disagrees with the situation they made. For a guy like Brian Urlacher, probably one of the top three or five names that ever played in Chicago — for his career to end like that, that’s tough.”
I did not disagree with the way that Urlacher exited. Though we were all sad to see him go, he was given a fair offer and turned it down. Notably, no one else signed him and, as far as anyone knows, no one offered him anywhere near what the Bears did.
Having said that, I look back on Hester’s exit with some regret. We’ll never know what kind of receiver he would have made here. He’s not a big “go up and get it” guy and he had a quarterback who was unable or flat out unwilling to throw to him. I think he could speak for the city of Chicago if he said we all wish him well in Atlanta.
These Tribune polls have been around for some time now and I’m rarely surprised at the results. Nor did this one which asks “Should the Bears tell Brandon Marshall not to do ‘Inside the NFL‘ next season?” did. Almost 90% of you said “yes”. There’s no actual direct benefit to Bears fans to Marshall being on. So the logical, selfish response would ordinarily be “yes”.Probably most of the voters assumed Marshall wouldn’t be around in Chicago so it wouldn’t matter anyway. There’s been a ground swell against Marshall since the season ended amongst both fans and media. His locker room outburst early in the season didn’t help but I’m sure most of it is lack of production in what was a miserable season.
Don’t hold your breath thinking that Marshall will be gone. He was playing hurt most of the year and he’s one of the few players on the team that I thought played with the talent, the guts and the desire of a winner. I’m confident that I’m not the only one who knows it and I’m reasonably certain he’ll be back whether he’s on Inside the NFL or not.
“After joining the 49ers following a year at Stanford under Jim Harbaugh, Fangio waited until he saw his players in person after the 2011 lockout to make major decisions with his defense. That meant the plan didn’t unfold until after he had seen them on the practice field beginning in late July. Fangio didn’t want to have his opinion of players potentially shaped from film of them in a different scheme with different coaches. He waited to see the talent personally, plugged in players in the right spots and the 49ers’ defense took off immediately.”
Assuming that we’re looking at a hybrid scheme, it looks like Bears defenders are going to have a lot to learn very quickly this year. Over the last decade, Bears players have basically been asked to play one basic position one way and do it extremely well. This is going to be a lot different. It should be interesting to see how well they adapt.
For those who care the NFL’s full statement Friday about the ongoing “inflate-gate” investigation cane be found here.
Hub Arkush at chicagofootball.comtells you exactly why I dislike Seattle coach Pete Carroll:
“[Bill] Belichick was found to have violated league rules in “Spygate” and was fined $500,000, and the Patriots lost a first-round draft choice. Now he is implicated — although not charged — in the deflated footballs incident, and many are calling him a cheater.
“Carroll built a dynasty at USC and then had it all wiped out by findings of rampant rules violations while he skipped town just ahead of the posse to take the Seattle job.
“Asked about that on media day, Carroll responded he never talks about it because he still thinks the NCAA was wrong. Mmm huh.
“Earlier this season Seattle was fined over $300,000 and docked two 2015 minicamp practices due to Carroll overseeing illegal practices this past summer.
“I guess they’re both cheaters, but only the Patriots coach is being branded with the scarlet C this week. Is that because Belichick has won so much more than Carroll, or because Carroll is so much more media friendly?”
Probably both. But neither excuses it.
One Final Thought
One has to wonder how the Bears expect Cutler to run an offense when this is what happens at home with the kids when Kristin Cavallari is away. Cavallari had apparently just arrived at the airport when this exchange took place:
Jaxon is 2 and Camden is 8 months old.
[Edit 2/1/15: After getting some comments from friends on this post it occurs to me that I need to point out that I am, indeed, joking.
My sister in law was pregnant with twins (they would have been her third and fourth child) and my mother was going on about how much fun it was. My father turned to me and said, “She doesn’t remember. You were three, your brother was two and we had newborn twins. There were evening where all I could do was shut the door, sit on on the bed and put my head in my hands.”
Don’t worry. I don’t like Cutler but I wouldn’t blame him for this.]
“[New Bears head coach John] Fox asserted Monday that one of his biggest attractions to the Bears job was to work for a storied franchise in a city that oozes football passion. And in that vein, he made it clear he intends to soon connect with several Bears icons, singling out Brian Urlacher and Mike Ditka.”
“Said team President Ted Phillips: ‘It says that he understands our history and the tradition and making sure the great players that we’ve had in our past are still important today.'”
Yeah. What it says is that he’s smart enough to know what ownership wants to hear.
“Fox also took note of the franchise’s lone Lombardi Trophy, displayed in the Halas Hall lobby to commemorate the Bears’ 1985 Super Bowl triumph.
“‘That trophy,’ Fox said, ‘is kind of lonely out there.'”
Its notable that George McCaskey actually uses that very phrase to describe the trophy when he takes people on personal tours of the facility.
The McCaskeys take the history of the franchise very seriously and they were pretty close to Urlacher. They probably weren’t happy that Emery managed to anger Urlacher in the way the franchise parted company with him.
“‘Football is a combative, physical game,’ new Bears coach John Fox offered in his plain-spoken manner. ‘It takes combative, physical people.’
“Party’s over. Get tough or get out.”
That fits with what we’ve heard. Looks like the Bears are going to be a lot more physical if Fox has anything to say about it.
With the hiring of Vic Fangio as defensive coordinator, the media has begun speculating about what personnel changes will be needed to run a 3-4 defense. This article from Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune is typical. The Bears don’t’ have much in the way of personnel that match up with a 3-4 scheme. But, as Biggs points out, they needed a lot of defensive personnel anyway. Nevertheless, they’ll be throwing away a number of good defensive linemen like Jared Allen that don’t fit the scheme well. This could lengthen the rebuilding process quite a bit. It will be interesting to hear what the players have to say about the change.Having said that, Fangio has shown himself to be versatile and virtually everyone agrees that even under the best of conditions he’d run a hybrid defense which shows its fair share of 40 fronts. They cold simply run a lot more of those looks the first couple years as they make the necessary personnel changes. That would be my guess as to what we’re in store for.
Via Patrick Finley at the Chicago Sun-Timesthe Bears have hired Josh Lucas as Director of Player Personnel. Lucas spent the last 10 seasons with the Saints, scouting the South region for the last two seasons.I hate to once again be the voice of pessimism here but Pace is going to have to look outside the New Orleans organization at some point to get the best people. He’s worked for one organization his whole career. I’d sure feel better about him if I thought he was better connected.
My understanding is that consultant Ernie Accorsi‘s job was over when Fox was hired. I’d feel better if he was still around advising Pace.
The Colts can only block the Bears from interviewing Rob Chudzinskifor one more week. Via Darin Gantt at profootballtalk.com
Those of you who are considering betting on the Super Bowl should think about this tidbit from Kevin Seifert at ESPN:
“There is one initial tidbit to consider in advance of a Seahawks-Patriots Super Bowl, which will be refereed by Bill Vinovich. (That’s according to multiple reports, including one from ESPN rules analyst Jim Daopoulos.) Since Vinovich returned to the referee role in 2012 after recovering from heart problems, he has been assigned five Seahawks games. Seattle is 5-0 in those games, including three victories by at least 20 points. “
I felt really bad for the Packers defense after their overtime playoff loss to the Seahawks. The Packers flat out outplayed Seattle for 56 minutes of regulation time and the Packer defense in particular played testicles out. They were all in, playing cover-0 for a good part of the game.I actually had the Packers picked to win. I’d heard that the Seahawks were “loose” last week to the point where you wouldn’t even have known they had a conference championship game coming up. They took the Packers lightly and, even though they lost, the Packers gave them all they could handle. The game was a joy to watch.
Michael David Smith at profootballtalk.com passes on the news that Tony Verna, inventor of instant replay, has died:
“It wasn’t easy. Verna told the Pacific Standard in 2013 that prior to that 1963 Army-Navy Game, networks needed about 15 minutes to cue up a film and show a play for a second time. To do it in 15 seconds required an innovative approach that featured some fits and starts and setbacks including vacuum tubes burning out and a replay having to be scrapped because the film they used had previously been used to record an I Love Lucy episode and Lucille Ball’s face could still be seen superimposed over the football field.
“I’ve always been of the (mindset) of understate, overproduce. I’ve never predicted records. If I could do that I’d be at a race track somewhere.”
I’d say that’s the smart play. You could argue that high expectations – those of the fans, media and, especially, the players, were the biggest thing that killed the 2014 Bears. Remember “Cutler for MVP?”. It was a joke.
I think expecting to win is a good thing. But there are too many factors that can derail a team that isn’t as good as it thinks it is to allow such things to get out of hand. The Bears had a Super Bowl or bust mentality last year that was, in retrospect, only appropriate for the Super Bowl runner up. They hadn’t done anything, yet.
I couldn’t agree more with what John Mullin at csnchicago.comwrites here:
“The Seattle Seahawks are going to a second consecutive Super Bowl with a quarterback they didn’t need. The New England Patriots are going to their sixth with one that they didn’t need, either. And therein lies a draft lesson for the Bears, who don’t need a quarterback right now, assuming that GM Ryan Pace, coach John Fox and whoever their new offensive coordinator is decide that a $15.5-million devil you know is better than one you don’t.”
Let’s add that the Packers went to the NFC Championship game with a firt round quarterback that they didn’t need.
If I’m Ryan Pace, I’m not wasting time with quarterback Jay Cutler, the devil I know. I’m starting my search for the right guy now. Even if it’s with a suspect player, its still someone you don’t know isn’t the guy. But even if he doesn’t do that, he should be looking for a quarterback to start in the future for this team in the draft – and not just in the bottom rounds.
Unfortunately I’m not Pace. So I think its more likely that this scenario laid out by Rick Morrissey at the Chicago Sun-Times will play out:
“The guess is here is that there won’t be any takers for Cutler’s fat contract and that he’ll remain a Bear. Fox will rely more on running back Matt Forte and tell Cutler to knock it off with the stupid turnovers. The offense will be geared with that in mind. Cutler will go from the highest-paid quarterback of 2014 to the highest-paid game manager of 2015.”
I dno’t think he’ll exactly be a game manager. Fox acknowledged during his press conference that you won’t win if you can’t pass, especially on third down. But there’s little doubt in my mind that if Cutler stays, he’ll be de-emphasized in the offense. The more the better as far as I’m concerned and I know I’m not alone.
“The Bears that got [former head coach] Lovie Smith fired won 10 games. Would fans – and the organization – view anything less in 2013 as a disappointment? Would missing the playoffs again be more acceptable if noticeable offensive strides are made under Trestman, but a defense facing turnover at certain spots (while generating fewer turnovers) can’t match what it did this year? That would’ve been difficult even if Smith, Rod Marinelli, and that staff remained intact. “
My own answer is “No, it would not be a disappointment if the Bears took a step back” and not because I expect less out of the defense. The truth is the Bears didn’t beat anyone who I thought was really good when they played them. Certainly they showed themselves to be definitively inferior when they played the top teams in the league, including Green Bay, San Francisco and, to an extent, Seattle. A good part of that was and is lack of talent and I don’t consider a quick turnaround to be likely.
Bottom line, it all depends on the circumstances. A lesser record with definitive progress where the Bears play better against the better teams in the league would be more acceptable than a soft 10-6 where its evident that the team was never going to progress into the top echelon of the league.
Here’s a little positivity from an Audible in Pro Football Weekly:
“Marc Trestman is a natural for [general manager] Phil Emery. Phil will appreciate guys who are really intelligent, organized and prepared and very careful with what they say — that is Trestman. He already has a relationship with Jay Cutler. There are a lot of positives about the hire.”
“[Rich] Gannon’s first two Oakland seasons with Trestman were the two most accurate of his career. His two with Trestman in Minnesota were decidedly pedestrian despite having Anthony Carter and Cris Carter as his receivers.
“[Steve] Young’s two seasons with Trestman were very good but neither were as good as the 1994 season before Trestman or 1997 after Trestman. Bernie Kosar had a Pro Bowl 1987 with Cleveland but 1988 was right about Kosar’s career averages for passer rating, completion percentage, etc. as he lost some time to injuries.”
Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune thinks Michigan quarterback turned wide receiver/punt returner Denard Robinsonis an intriguing prospect:
“With offenses becoming more dynamic, it’s all about finding ways to utilize athletic players in space, and that’s what makes Robinson intriguing. Take a player with his skill set and turn him loose.”
“The Bears are keeping Tucker off limits to the media at the Senior Bowl, but word is he will keep the status quo with virtually all facets of the defense. Even though Tucker has experience in both a three- and four-man fronts, he is not expected to make any radical changes in Chicago.
“In fact, a source said he even is retaining Lovie Smith’s terminology, meaning he will have to adjust more than his players.”
There’s a lot of good information in this article. It recommended reading.
As many Bears fans will testify, Carolina quarterback Cam Newton isn’t the only guy who deserves the criticism leveled at him in this Audible from Pro Football Weekly:
“(San Francisco QB) Colin Kaepernick can run faster than any quarterback in the league. He is faster than RG3 [Robert Griffin III] running the ball down the field, and he is a whole lot stronger and more physical. He can take a hit and pop back up. I really liked him when he was coming out. He is a leader. That was the difference between him and Cam Newton. Cam is a frontrunner who is good when things are good. When it’s (bad), he’s part of the reason and will make it worse.”
There are probably a whole lot of Bear fans out there who will agree with this Audible as well:
“You know what I don’t get. There are a lot of smart people around this league. I’m surprised they have not figured it out yet. If you want to have success, why not go get a guy who has done it already and is willing to do what it takes. Why not pay a guy like (Falcons GM) Thomas Dimitroff or (Niners GM) Trent Baalke a little extra money to be your president. It’s happened with a lot of coaches — Mike Holmgren and Bill Parcells. Teams will pay these head coaches $6 (million) or $7 million. Why not go pluck the guys who have done the best job stacking rosters and building the culture in the locker room and finding the right talent? They have proven they can run the ship. You can put a plan in place to delegate authority on the other side of the building. If you can find the right coach and find the right quarterback, you have a chance every year. If I’m an owner looking for someone to run my franchise, I’m looking for the guy who has proven he can fill those roles with the right people. That’s the key to this whole thing.”
“Matt Ryan did not get any further with Tony Gonzalez, Julio Jones and Roddy White than Jay Cutler did with Earl Bennett, Devin Hester and Johnny Knox. When you are guilty of an interception and unforced fumble within 20 minutes of a Super Bowl, it’s not about ‘weapons;’ it’s about the plays you make or don’t make when it matters…”
I’ve been as critical as anyone can be of Lions head coach Jim Schwartz. But I totally agree with him here as he argues against changing his defensive scheme. The Lions defense could have done better, no doubt, but the wide 9 alignment they the problem. This fascination with the 3-4 defense by fans and media puzzles me, especially in a situation like this one where more discipline and better play within the existing scheme is so obviously what’s needed. Via Michael David Smith at profootballtalk.com.
Let’s just say that the NFL Coaches Association might a problem with NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith. Florio quotes NFLCA executive director David Cornwellas he apparently goes on the rampage in response to some implied criticism from Smith:
“‘DeMaurice Smith is the best thing that has happened to NFL owners since they became NFL owners,’ Cornwell said in a statement provided to PFT.
“‘De controlled both the NFLPA and the NFL Coaches Association from 2009 to 2012. During this period, De threw 3 generations of NFL players under the bus in exchange for a photo op with Roger Goodell and Robert Kraft; threw the Washington Redskins and Dallas Cowboys under the bus to conceal from NFL players the truth about the declining salary cap; and, De threw NFL coaches under the bus when he: (1) sat silently as NFL teams unilaterally changed coaches’ retirement benefits; (2) filed an unauthorized legal brief under the NFLCA’s name during the NFL lockout; (3) kicked the NFLCA out of the NFLPA’s offices for challenging the filing of the brief, and he rolled the bus over NFL coaches when he snatched $308,000 in coaches’ dues money and sued the NFLCA because NFL coaches understandably want competent representation.
“‘I intend to address all of the issues that confront all NFL coaches and clean up the mess that De left behind. While I do, perhaps De will answer these questions: When you controlled the NFLCA, did you fight for uniform retirement and health benefits that will follow NFL coaches from team-to-team? Why does the salary cap continue to decline while League revenues and team values continue to increase? If you stand by the CBA that you negotiated, why do you shift money from other player benefits to the salary cap to create the illusion that the salary cap is flat or slightly rising?'”
Patriots head coach Bill Belichick takes finding unknown players and maximizing their talent to a whole new level. From The Onion.
Not many scouting services have released lists of team needs yet this year but as they roll out over the next month or two the bet here is that, if anything, there will be more teams on that list of line needy teams not less. With that in mind, Pompei takes a look at the likely first and second round offensive tackles here. Mullin adds this encouraging thought:
“The Bears added a highly regarded Central Michigan lineman in the 2007 draft but it was defensive end Dan Bazuin, not Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Staley, who went to the 49ers three picks before the Bears chose Greg Olsen. The Bears, coming off a Super Bowl appearance with an offensive line four-fifths free agents, picked Bazuin 62nd overall before Marshal Yanda went to Baltimore 86th and tackle Jermon Bushrod went to New Orleans 125th.”
“[S]econd-guessing is easy, and Jerry Angelo conceded that finding offensive linemen was not a strength of his regime. If anything, the bigger point is that the likes of Yanda and Bushrod, both Pro Bowl selections, were taken in mid rounds of drafts.”
“‘He’s ready. He’s paid his dues,’ Manning told Tom Kensler of the Denver Post. ‘Mike’s a good leader. He’s got some good coaches that have been mentors to him, different coaches that he’s worked with in the NFL that I think he’s incorporated some of their leadership philosophies and his own philosophy.'”
“‘I tell you, he’s a worker,’ Manning said of the 40-year-old McCoy. ‘We spend a lot of hours together — early mornings, late nights — trying to get our game plan in place. There is no substitute for work ethic, and Mike certainly has that. In my opinion, he deserves a shot at one of these head coaching jobs.'”
“He’s really a guy that can set his ego aside and really mold something around the guys that he has. Obviously, he has done a good job of that the last couple years being as different as these offenses have been. He’s willing to listen and take input and stuff like that.”
“‘I learned from Dan Henning a long time ago that if the quarterback doesn’t like something, or he can’t do it, you eliminate that from the game plan. Same with the running game. If there are schemes up front that our offensive line runs better, why try to force feed something else? I always say I don’t care what we want to do, but what can our players do well? That’s where it all starts.'”
“Call [former Packers head coach Mike] Holmgren in Arizona. Find out if the guy who tamed Brett Favre and made him a winner can do the same with the Bears’ version of the early foolish and stubborn Favre.
“Jay Cutler has been compared to Favre in terms of physical talent and gunslinger mentality. Favre, of course, learned. Cutler, so far, has appeared unfazed by coaching. I don’t know if he thinks coaching is beneath him, but it certainly has eluded him.”
“Holmgren made the playoffs seven straight years in Green Bay. He made the playoffs five straight years in Seattle. He has coached 24 postseason games, winning nine in Green Bay and four in Seattle. By comparison, The Bears have won four playoff games since Mike Ditka.
“Oh, and don’t forget one Super Bowl and two NFC titles.
“If Cutler can’t respect that and develop under a coach whose resume includes Favre, Joe Montana, Steve Young and Matt Hasselbeck, then it probably wouldn’t be the fault of the coach. Connect the dots, people. Anyone too dumb to learn from a coach who is that accomplished also is too dumb to quarterback the Bears.”
“Quarterback Josh McCown, a 10-year veteran who has worked with Cutler, Bates and Mike Martz, said it was easy to see the chemistry between Bates and Cutler.
“‘No question,’ McCown said. ‘They have great chemistry, and that’s a credit to [Bates]. He understands what he wants to get accomplished but also players are all individuals, and we’re all different. He knows one guy has to be taught differently than the next guy and so on and so forth. He’s willing to do anything it takes to get the message taught.
“‘Jay responds to [Bates’] teaching style.'”
Cutler’s mechanics generally were considered to have taken a step back this year. He certainly was more inconsistent.
“Cutler has not proven he deserves to be paid like one of the elite quarterbacks in the National Football League in my opinion, but he probably thinks he has. So it might be difficult to reach agreement with him on a long term commitment at this point. If I were in charge of the Bears’ roster, I would probably let him play out the last year of his deal in 2013. If he plays well, they can pay him then. If he plays OK and they don’t have a better option, they can franchise him. If he plays poorly, they can let him walk.”
“[Carimi] can’t be judged on his 2012 season for a couple of reasons. The first is he came into the season after knee surgery and was affected by it, especially early. As his knee came around, it became apparent that both his lower body strength and confidence had suffered. He never did get comfortable. What Carimi needs is time — time to rebuild his physical and mental strength. My bet is he ends up being a very good right tackle in the NFL.”
“If Jones makes a change at coach, here’s how we think it will happen. He’ll line up a successor quietly before firing [head coach Jason] Garrett, like Jones did when he lured Bill Parcells to Dallas while Dave Campo was still the coach.
“The name to watch continues to be Jon Gruden. As mentioned on Monday’s Pro Football Talk, Jones was spotted a few weeks ago in Tampa, where Gruden lives.
“If not Gruden, Mike Holmgren remains a possibility.”
Jay Gruden, Jon’s brother, has been speculated to be a candidate for a number of job. He’s coaching Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton and is apparently doing a pretty good job. Via Vaughn McClure at the Chicago Tribune:
“‘Andy’s a quarterback who makes all the throws and stays alive,’ [Houston safety Danieal] Manning said. ‘And he’s smart, so there’s not much disguising you can really do to him. Last year we were able to disguise a little bit. This year, he’s picking up all the disguises.'”
“The biggest decision Capers has to make is whether to leave Woodson at safety full time or continue to move him into a slot corner position when he goes to the nickel or dime scheme.
“[Casey] Hayward has proved to be an outstanding slot corner with a team-leading six interceptions, and it would be a mistake [not] to use of his cover skills.
“In addition, Woodson hasn’t tackled anybody in 2½ months and [defensive coordinator Dom] Capers probably doesn’t want him constantly at the line of scrimmage in the slot position prepared to take on running back Adrian Peterson. So, he could just keep him at safety and let Hayward play the slot.”
“Running back James Starks (knee) probably won’t play against the Vikings, but he has been helping the cause.
“Starks has lined up as Peterson with the scout team a good portion of the week, hoping to give the defense a reasonable look at what to expect. This is the first step in Starks getting back on the field, but he’ll need the Packers to win to have a shot at playing again this season.”
The only way Starks is really going to help is if he can get them to improve their fundamentals and tackle better. Because from what I saw last week, that is the major problem.
“Some NFL executives have questioned whether or not Chip Kelly’s style of offense will play in the pros. Kelly, however, has been putting this message out through back channels: He would not run the same offense he runs at Oregon if hired by an NFL team. Instead, he would run a pro style offense, but with a faster tempo than most and with a good dose of no huddle. The NFL model for Kelly might be similar to what the Patriots run. Also in question is the way he makes his practices grueling. One NFL front office man said Kelly would have to lighten up the practice pace, especially later in the week, or he would have no players left by the middle of the season.”
Kelly is rumored to basically already have the Cleveland job.
Todd Haley might be a little smarter than I would have given him credit for. From Josh Alper at profootballtalk.com
On a related note, the fact that former Eagles head coach Andy Reid has been hired by Kansas City isn’t going to stop me from posting this from profootballmock.com:
Most of the time, having a coaching search with a wide variety of candidates is considered to be a good thing. But the Eagles head coaching search might a little TOO broad. From The Sports Pickle.
Rex Ryan has an unusual tatoo. I’m’ surprised that she isn’t wearing Sanchez’s shoes. From the New York Daily News.