Buyer Beware

Buyer Beware

Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune answers your questions:

“I’m a bit worried about the way that the Bears are building their team. Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel, Trey Burton, Akiem Hicks, Danny Trevathan as free agents. Now Khalil Mack at a free-agent price plus two first-round picks (minus a couple of one-round upgrades). Didn’t the Redskins show a long time ago that this isn’t the way to build a team? It seems to me like sustained success requires sustained excellence in all areas over a long period of time, not a lot of free-agent signings to cover up previous failures. Am I wrong? — Tom S., Chicago

“Those are legitimate points you make, but the counter is that the Bears were in desperate need to improve at wide receiver and the skill positions and they view Burton as an essential piece to Matt Nagy’s offense. In Mack, the Bears have acquired one of the truly elite edge rushers in the NFL and, considering they would have been unlikely to land a player of a similar impact with the draft picks they unloaded in the deal, it certainly makes sense. I fully understand what you’re saying about the Redskins, and after them the “Dream Team” Eagles were a disaster. But the Jaguars returned to prominence last year with some heavy spending in free agency. There’s no question the Bears have used free agency to cover for some mistakes in the draft, but no one is perfect in the draft and this will be a really competitive team if the quarterback they drafted turns into the player the Bears believe Mitch Trubisky will be.”

I hated to write in with this question because I feel like such a kill joy. Everyone sees good things for this team and I’ll say up front that I, too, am excited to see what happens. But I can’t help feeling uneasy.  This blog is tends to be a long posts that address issues that bother me because when something bothers me, I have to get it out and write about it.  This entry will be no different.

A lot of people will claim that the players that the Bears signed are “different” from those players that the Redskins and Eagles signed. But these players aren’t as different as you might think. The core of the Bears team is made up of free agent signings (and I count Mack as one) that they were willing to sink significant resources into that other teams that knew them better weren’t. They then out bid 30 other teams for his services. Another way of saying “they won” is by saying “they were willing to overpay more”.

Yes, each individual player was his own situation and maybe it will work. I know nothing bad about Robinson or Burton or Gabriel or Mack as people. But the major reason why these things generally don’t work is still there. Even if you cut Mack out of the equation, every free agent the Bears signed this year fits the “buyer beware” label for one reason or another.

I know no one agrees with this now and I totally understand why. It all looks so good on paper. But I still say that history isn’t on the Bears side and I can’t shake the feeling that if they win something by building their team this way, they will have beaten the odds.

Double Digit Interception Goal for Amukamara Is Admirable, Probably Not Realistic

Dan Wiederer at the Chicago Tribune reviews the Bears situation at cornerback:

“Projected on final roster: 6-7.

“Roster locks: Kyle Fuller, Prince Amukamara.

“Good bet: Bryce Callahan.

“On the bubble: Sherrick McManis, Marcus Cooper, Cre’Von LeBlanc, John Franklin.

“Practice squad candidates: Kevin Toliver, Doran Grant, Michael Joseph, Rashard Fant.

“Camp depth: Jonathon Mincy, Nick Orr.”

“Fuller, whose roster spot seemed to be in jeopardy at this time a year ago, turned in an encouraging performance in his contract season. He had 22 passes defensed, second most in the league, and had interceptions off Jimmy Garoppolo in Week 13 and DeShone Kizer three weeks later.

“Fuller’s reward? That hefty four-year contract and the full confidence of his teammates and coaching staff.”

Biggest question: Is Amukamara serious?

“Heading into his eighth NFL season, the 29-year-old veteran has set a lofty individual goal for 2018. Ready for it? “I’m really looking for a 10-pick season,” Amukamara said last month.

“This from a corner who has seven career picks and none since intercepting Kirk Cousins in September 2015. For Amukamara, that was 37 games and two teams ago.”

A couple thoughts here:

  1. If the Bears are keeping 6-7 that means that all of those players who are “on the bubble” could make the squad. Not much in the way of competition at this position, which looks like its going to be the least interesting in training camp when it starts next week.
  2. Amukamara’s goal of getting 10 picks is admirable but not realistic for two reasons.
    1. The Bears play a lot of man coverage. That means Amukamara is playing with his back to the quarterback a lot. Unless the Bears are planning on changing their philosophy, which they almost certainly aren’t, this is going to work against all of the cornerbacks statistically in this area.
    2. Though Dan Durkin at The Athletic calls Fuller the Bears’ “top cover corner”, I’m going to mildly disagree.  Despite the fact that Fuller had what almost everyone thought was an excellent season last year, teams continued to throw at him instead of Amukamara for most of 2017.  Fuller’s 22 passes defensed actually tied for third in the league, not second.  Amukamara’s seven passes defensed wasn’t even in the top 95.

      One of the more interesting things to look for this year is to see if that changes. Most teams find success by rapidly adapting as the season rolls on but I sometimes wonder if ideas about certain players die hard. After 2018 opponents review the 2017 tape in the offseason, Amukamara may see more action on his side of the field this year.

      Having said that, I’m not holding my breath.For most of the year last year

      Amukamara still looked like the better cover corner and one that seems to be vastly under rated by the general public outside of Chicago. If opponents still agree with that, he still isn’t going to get as many balls thrown his way. That respect is well-deserved but it’s going to hurt him statistically.

30 Years Later Loss of the Honey Bears Is No Loss

Another day, another complaint from another set of NFL cheerleaders over working conditions. This time three former cheerleaders filed a class-action lawsuit against the Houston Texans franchise and its director of cheerleading. They allege that team officials forced them to work extra hours without compensation, exposed them to abusive, shaming behavior by the director and failed to protect them from physical abuse from fans.

“Twitter direct messages, which two cheerleaders and their lawyer provided, show examples of cheerleaders being pressured to lose weight themselves or to urge teammates to lose weight. One unnamed plaintiff spoke to on the condition of anonymity. , who goes by her initials in the lawsuit, requested her last name not be used out of fear of retaliation against family members in the industry.

“Paige G. said all Texans cheerleaders had to work hours for which they were not paid. She said she experienced no personal rebuke for her physical appearance and was never physically hurt. But she said she attached herself to the lawsuit and spoke out after growing disillusioned with behavior by Alto Gary, the director of cheerleader programs and cheerleader coach, that she either witnessed or teammates reported to her.

“’I feel like it’s part of my duty as a human being to protect my friends,’ Paige G. said. ’I want to stand up people too afraid to stand up for themselves.’”

Former New Orleans Saints cheerleader Bailey Davis alleged in an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaint that the Saints had discriminated against her. Former Miami Dolphins cheerleader Kristan Ann Ware filed a complaint in April alleging Dolphins officials turned against her after she revealed she was a virgin.

If that wasn’t enough, anonymous former Washington Redskins cheerleaders alleged, first to The New York Times, that they had been forced to pose topless in front of sponsors at a 2013 Costa Rican swimsuit calendar shoot and then serve essentially as dates for suite holders at night on the trip.

For 30 years I’ve heard gumba fans complain about the loss of the Honey Bears in 1986. But I am personally so glad they had the wisdom to not reverse that decision.

These cheerleaders add nothing to the game but a (very) little bit of sexist titilation. You can’t even argue that they compete to see which team can perform the best, as they do in college.

Add that to the fact that they get paid practically nothing and it’s a bad situation waiting to happen, as these complaints show.  It’s time for cheerleading to disappear from the NFL.  Kudos to the Bears for being ahead of the curve.  Way ahead.

No Game Comments: Washington at Chicago 12/24/16

Sorry.  Traveling for Christmas and won’t see this game against the Redskins until Christmas morning at the earliest.

I know a lot of you are pulling for a loss to get a higher draft pick but I’d rather see the team finish on the upswing.  I’m going to go so far as to buck the odds and predict a victory.

Go Bears.




Average Fan Loses in Network Prime Time Choices

Paul Schwartz at the New York Post comments upon the state of the Giants:

“Gee, wonder how happy the NFL and TV network suits are about their decision to flex Sunday’s Giants-Vikings game to the prime time Sunday Night Football stage on NBC? The Giants could be eliminated before they take the field and might be without [Odell] Beckham, their one true superstar, because of a suspension. “

Beckham has been suspended for the game pending appeal after committing an NFL record six personal fouls with some out of control reaction to the physical coverage he was getting from the Carolina Panthers. The Giants could be eliminated before the game if the Redskins clinch the NFC East with a win over the Eagles Saturday night.

Despite that, I doubt that anyone is regretting the decision to move the Giants. First, the Eagles and the Redskins are both miserable football teams and the game should effectively be a coin flip (the Eagles opened as four point favorites). But more to the point, the game involves the Giants which means CBS and the NFL Network get the New York market. The guess here is that only the Chicago market is more lucrative and that only because the Bears are the only team in town. Like every other NFC North team, the Vikings have a national following and barring a complete collapse they are probably playoff bound.

They could probably find a better game but networks don’t care about the quality of the match up. They care about viewers. Sometimes that means the average NFL fan loses.

Bears Playing Better at Outside Linebacker. Still Need Help.

Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune evaluates the situation at outside linebacker.

“[Willie] Young got credit for what looked like a coverage sack  [last Sunday] from my vantage point but he still had to finish the play and he’s been playing solid of late and has a sack in four consecutive games for the first time in his career. Expanded playing time opportunity allowed Lamarr Houston to factor in with a team-high nine tackles, according to press box statistics. Houston was making plays in the run game although some were downfield. Both were coming off major injuries from last season. Both are playing better in the second half of the season. Hard to say what the future holds at outside linebacker for the Bears this offseason but I know they can’t afford to get rid of any players until they’ve replaced them. Maybe Young is playing himself into another season here. His contract is flat. He will earn the same $2.45 million in 2016 as he is this season with a $50,000 workout bonus. That’s club friendly when you talk about a guy with 15 ½ sacks now over the last two seasons.”

I’d say both of these men have a future with the Bears. I’d also say that neither is the playmaker the Bears need at the position. As Biggs points out, most of the sacks Young and Houston have collected have been either coverage sacks or sacks that have come when the offense was in the position at the end of the game where they had to pass. Pass rushers can pin their ears back and go after the quarterback without worrying about the run in the latter situation.

That doesn’t mean that these men aren’t valuable. They are. But the Bears still need help at the position opposite Pernell McPhee if they want to put the kind of pressure on quarterbacks that will be needed to force errors rather than take advantage of good play on the back end.

Quick Game Comments: Redskins at Bears 12/13/15


  1. Washington came out running on first down as they worked their way down the field for their first touchdown. That was the game plan – run on the Bears and wear them down. They were up and down, of course, but generally the Redskins generally executed well.
  2. The Bears looked to me like they played a lot of zone on early downs. It’s possible that they were hoping the Redskins would shoot themselves in the foot if they just kept everything in front of them. It was occasionally effective but it made for a bad look when the redskins executed.
  3. Kirk Cousins generally looked sharp with over 300 yards passing but boy, he lives dangerously. He was accurate. He did a good job reading the blitz and the Redskins did a good job picking it up. But sometimes he loses his mind like on the stupid pass to Matt Jones under pressure late in the game when a turnover would have been a killer. I can see why people knock him. He’s a ticking time bomb waiting to explode.
  4. Tight end Jordan Reed (120 yards and 1 touchdown on 9 receptions) is a load. He was quite a match up problem being too big for the safties and way too quick for the linebackers.
  5. Kyle Fuller took a step back and was well on his way to a miserable game until an interception late in the third quarter deep in Washington territory. That led to a touchdown. Fuller fell down on a big third down conversion early in the first half and lost contain on a Kirk Cousins run for a touchdown.
  6. I thought the Bears did a reasonable job of generating pressure but it was mostly when good coverage forced Cousins to hold the ball.
  7. The Redskins had their share of stupid play. They eventually scored the touchdown but its inexcusable to take a delay of game coming out of a time out as the Redskins did with midway through the third quarter. Washington had to call another time out at the end of the third quarter after failing to get a play into Cousins in a timely manner. Although they moved the ball on the Bears effortlessly when they executed, these aren’t the kinds of mistakes that they can afford. Matt Jones literally threw the ball away before he was touched down on one critical play late in the game. He was lucky it bounced back to him.
  8. Eddie Goldman showed up again this week. So did Willie Young and Lamarr Houston with a sack each.


  1. The Bears came out and tried to run their usual ball control offensive game plan. They struggled, making mistakes and committing penalties, making that kind of game plan tough to execute. The Redskins also dod a good job of stopping the run, holding them to only 87 yards.
  2. The Bears found themselves in third and long far too often. Alshon Jeffery bailed them out on occasion but it was a bad situaiton that the Bears can’t afford to be in.
  3. Jeffery had a good game (107 yards and a touchdown on 6 receptions) after not performing well last week. Like the 49ers, the Redskins put their best corner, Brashaud Breeland, on him but otherwise didn’t do anything special to cover him. He needed a good performance and I thought he did.
  4. Terrance Knighton dominated the interior of the offensive line. Hroniss Grasu looked particularly bad and did not have a good game.
  5. Kyle Long also had a tough day as he gave up two sacks, one of which resulted in a fumble and a turnover. He saw a lot of Ryan Kerrigan, who had a pretty good day.
  6. Jay Cutler was once again, just a little bit erratic, especially deep. He still had 315 yards passing, though.
  7. I’m sure everyone is wondering if Zack Miller’s performance (85 yards on 5 receptions and a touchdown) makes Martellus Bennett is expendable. It doesn’t.


  1. Kenny Albert, Daryl Johnston and Laura Okmin did a good job. As I mentioned last week, I think Johnston does a particularly good job of noticing and immediately commenting on very relevant aspects of play.
  2. Robbie Gould. Again. Wow.
  3. Like last week against the 49ers, the Bears committed far, far, too many penalties. For example, there was a holding Matt Slauson to make it 2nd and 27 midway through the first quarter. Tracy Porter had a damaging pass interference penalty late in the first quarter. Khari Lee had a holding penalty on a kick off return early in the second quarter and I’m starting to wonder what good he’s doing the Bears after they traded a draft pick for him. A Charles Leno hold brought back a long Zack Miller catch and run in Washington territory late in the second quarter. An offensive pass interference on Marc Mariani followed and took them out of field goal range in the first half. Kyle Long had a false start to put the Bears in a hole as they tried to put a field goal on the board before half time.
  4. Both Jeremy Langford and Matt Forte had drops today. It’s now officially a habitual problem with Langford as this is the fourth game in a row he’s had one.
  5. Turnovers played a major role in this game. With the Bears driving in the first half, Kyle Long got clown suited by Tren Murphy who went on almost untouched to hit Jay Cutler, causing a fumble and a recovery. Kyle Fuller got a huge interception that led to a game tying Bears touchdown late in the third quarter.
  6. Similar to last week, this was a frustrating game to watch. This time, at least, I thought the Redskins were the better team but it was still a game that they hung in and it was winnable, But yet again, time after time they shot themselves in the foot with sloppy play, especially penalties.  I’m a bit disappointed that the team hasn’t played a clean game since beating Green Bay.  I thought the second half of this game was a little less sloppy than the first.  So maybe the Bears are on their way back to playing better football.  They’ll have to be if they want to finish on a high note heading into next year.

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.

Redskins Cancel Practice Ahead of Bears Game. Good Idea? I Have My Doubts.

Rich Tandler at reports that the Redskins canceled practice ahead of the Bears game on Sunday:

“‘We’re a little banged up here, obviously, and I thought it was important for our staff to get a good plan together and the players to get an extra day of rest, come back tomorrow with a plan in place and get a good day of practice,’ said [head coach Jay] Gruden.”

On the surface, this sounds like a good idea. But I wonder if it really is.

Most coaches, certainly the recent Bears coaches like Lovie Smith, have preached that injuries are not an excuse for failure. Every team has injuries. The Bears are as banged up as anyone besides the Chargers and yet you hardly ever hear the players even mention it. I have to attribute that in part to Bears head coach John Fox, who undoubtedly let’s it be known that the injuries are irrelevant.

I would argue that Gruden is subconsciously allowing the players to use injuries as an excuse not to succeed in practice. That’s only a very small step from being an excuse not to perform in the games, themselves.  I have to wonder if it’s not best for head coaches to ignore the injuries as they would have the players do.  Indeed, I wonder if it isn’t hypocritical not to.

I’m sure that Gruden is like every other coach and I’m sure he preaches that injuries are no excuse for losing. But action speak louder that words.

The Reality of the Bears Situation

Dan Wiederer at the Chicago Tribune reviews the problems that the Bears have to overcome in order to continue to win football games.

Jay Cutler’s turnover-free night? Well, Quentin Rollins dropped a shoulda-been interception in the first quarter. And Cutler had to make a desperate hustle recovery to avoid disaster on a fumbled fourth-quarter snap.

“That spirited defensive effort? The Bears still are getting pushed around up front and proving way too vulnerable against the run.

“This list could go on for awhile. And it’s why the Bears can’t take their newfound position as favorites against the 49ers and Redskins as a sign that they can exhale. They still have a razor-thin margin for error and haven’t enjoyed a three-game winning streak since September 2013.”

He’s got a good point. In talking to Bears fans around town and around the Internet, there’s considerable optimism about how this team is going to finish the year. What I’m hearing a lot is, “With that schedule? They’re going to the playoffs.” Much though I like what I see, I think fans are setting themselves for disappointment.

Looking ahead, I see San Fransisco, Washington, Minnesota, Tampa Bay, and Detroit. Are those winnable games? You bet. But I feel compelled to point out that those teams are saying the same thing about their game against the 5-6 Bears. And with the exception of the Vikings, all of them are on the upswing, just as the Bears are. And the Vikings were pretty good to begin with.

San Fransisco just limited the Cardinals, possibly the best team in the NFC, to 19 points. Tampa Bay has won three of their last five and is in contention for a playoff spot. Washington has also won three of five and are the favorites to win their division. The Lions just beat the Packers three weeks ago in Lambeau, matching what the Bears just did, and they absolutely destroyed the Eagles on Thanksgiving. And both the Vikings and the Lions beat the Bears earlier in the year.

Could the Bears finish strong and be in contention for the playoffs? No doubt. But much more likely fans will be sitting at the end of the year and be happy that the Bears gradually improved over the course of the season with a bright future ahead of them. But only if they stay grounded in reality.