Bears Need a Head Man Who Can Coach Quarterbacks and Other Points of View

Bears

  • Dan Pompei at the Chicago Tribune and I absolutely see eye-to-eye on his views on the new Bear head coach, whoever that may be:

“You can’t hire a head coach simply because he is a good play caller or quarterback coach. He has to be more than that. But it sure would be ideal if you could get a candidate who is a good play caller and quarterback coach with the ability to lead, administrate, communicate and sell. That’s what the Packers did when they hired Mike McCarthy. It’s what the Saints did when they hired Sean Payton. It’s what the Texans did when they hired Gary Kubiak. It’s what the 49ers did when they hired Jim Harbaugh. But many, many other teams have tried to go down the same path and found they coach they hired wasn’t everything they hoped he would be. Those coaches still get dirt under their nails doing work they did when they were assistants because nothing is more important than a productive quarterback. But they also delegate much of what they used to do to others.”

These are my thoughts exactly. Its not that people like Hub Arkush who are disappointed more defensive coordinators or coaches without a quarterback coaching background like Ken Whisenhunt haven’t been interviewed don’t have a point. They do. Your head coach has to be a leader above all.

But if possible the Bears need a coach who will permanently fix the quarterback position. I’m not just talking about Jay Cutler. That would be too short-sighted. I’m talking about developing future quarterbacks for years beyond that.

If you are counting on hiring an assistant coach like that, you are inevitably going to lose him to another team in search of a head coach. And finding one isn’t a trivial task as Lovie Smith could tell you. Doing it once would be hard. Doing it more than once would be much, much harder.

In my view the ideal model is the Ted Thompson-Mike McCarthy relationship in Green Bay. It’s not an ideal that would be easy to achieve. But I think you need to shoot for it or something similar. That means a head coach who can coach quarterbacks if at all possible.

  • Dan McNeil at the Chicago Tribune makes a fair point about the emotional upheaval surrounding the Bears head coaching search:

“If it’s fair to postpone the evaluation of a draft class for at least two seasons, it also is fair to be open-minded to a veteran assistant coach getting his first crack at serving as headmaster.

“A head coaching search, coupled with the roster overhaul Emery has in front of him, give me ample reasons to be patient with Emery. It would be silly to gnash teeth and wring hands over the virtual unknown who’s going to stand at the lectern answering questions about his new job sometime in the next couple of weeks.

“Somebody will, but it won’t be me. I wanted Jerry Angelo and Lovie Smith jettisoned long ago.

“I have nothing but time and patience for the Bears to keep evolving.”

  • Mike Florio at profootballtalk.com thinks Bruce Arians makes a lot of sense as the next Bears head coach:

“Arians makes plenty of sense for the Bears, given that they have a quarterback who is a bit of a handful in Jay Cutler. Arians has extensive experience dealing with a difficult quarterback. In Pittsburgh, Arians and Ben Roethlisberger didn’t simply coexist; they were close friends.

So when job No. 1 (or close to it) in Chicago is finding a coach who can work well with Cutler, Arians could be the right answer.”

Whether Cutler actually needs a friend as a coach is a legitimate question. But I tend to agree with Florio that Arians is a good candidate for the job.

  • Former NFL head coach Marv Levy makes a good point via Mark Potash at the Chicago Sun-Times:

“‘The general manager of the Alouettes told me that when I went to Canada, I could have 12 men on the [field]. Then I found out the other teams could, too,’ Levy said with a chuckle. ‘The same things win. It isn’t the Wildcat offense or this or that. If you run, throw, block, tackle, catch and kick better than your opponent — the fundamentals.'”

I’m as guilty as anyone of concentrating too much on X’s and O’s and they are a factor. But I think everyone should always keep in mind that the major difference between winning and losing is good fundamental football and, I might point out, making sure the defese played good fundamental football may have been Lovie Smith‘s biggest strength. Let’s hope, whoever the new head coach is, that we don’t see a step back in that area.

  • Sean Jensen at the Chicago Sun-Times reports that Vikings coaches Mike Piefer and former Bears middle linebacker Mike Singletary will interview for the head coaching position.Pompei indicates that Singletary’s inclusion on the list may be at the suggestion of the McCaskey family which wouldn’t be a surprise.

David Haugh at the Chicago Tribune is off base with this assessment:

Singletary’s not a bad candidate. There was a time when I would have done hand springs to see the Bears interview an ex-player. He’s a bright guy and the odds are good he learned a great deal from his failures in San Francisco. Singletary’s got the same problem Dennison has. No experience coaching quarterbacks. But other than that he’s a fine candidate. Pompei put it best:

“‘I think he’s been ready for awhile,’ Kubiak told reporters on Monday. ‘I think Rick is a very smart guy. He’s selective. I’ve been called on him for about three years in a row now, but I think Rick knows what he wants to do with his life and if he’s going to take an opportunity to be a head coach, he’s going to be selective in what he does. He’s got a great background in the National Football League. He’s a 10-year defensive player in the National Football League. He’s been a special teams coach in the National Football League. He’s been an offensive line coach. He’s been an offensive coordinator. There’s nothing this guy hasn’t done.'”

Except be a quarterback coach. And that’s a problem in a quarterback-driven league.

  • Jensen passes along what Cutler said on his weekly radio show. I found Cutler’s phasing when asked about current Denver offensive coordinator and Bears head coaching candidate Mike McCoy interesting to say the least:

“I think we had two meetings together, and then [the Broncos] kicked me out… I liked Mike. Knows a lot about football, very flexible.”

As I remember Cutler wasn’t “kicked out”. He ran away and quit. Interesting how his mind works.

“The good thing is it’s easier to find blockers for a zone scheme than it is blockers for a man scheme because of supply and demand. There are way more teams that use a man scheme. There also is this to consider: NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has made it clear the league is thinking about making chop blocks on running plays illegal. The backside chop is a staple of zone blocking teams, and could affect their running games significantly.”

  • Pompei runs through the long list of players whose fate at least partly depends on who the new head coach is. The most intriguing will be Brian Urlacher. It used to be that cutting Urlacher would be a problem with the fans. But given that Urlacher felt the need to express his true feelings by trashing them in the media late in the season (without an apology), that shouldn’t be a problem now. Hopefully they’ll do what they think is best without making the mistake of thinking this is still a consideration.

“Coming off his first Pro Bowl nod, how good do you think Henry Melton can be ultimately? Better than Tommie Harris before his injuries? Can he be the best defensive tackle in the NFL? Also, he has to be our No 1 priority when it comes to re-signing our own players, right? — Charles Laughton, New London, Conn.

“The thing about Henry Melton that is unusual is he still has considerable room for growth at the age of 26 and four years into his NFL career. So I would expect him to keep getting better. I’m not sure he’ll ever be better than, say, Ndamukong Suh, who is in another league talent wise. But he should remain among the best defensive tackles in the league. As for the comparison to Harris, he was a special, special player before his injuries. It is possible Melton can be that kind of player. Considering he was a fourth round selection, Melton may have been Jerry Angelo‘s best draft pick.”

Melton is good but he will almost certainly never be Tommie Harris. The Bears will never miss Melton the way they missed Harris after he was injured. The defense was never the same after he went down.

  • Biggs points out that special teams coordinator Dave Toub is in demand as he interviews for the same poisiton with the Panthers and Chiefs. That’s fine but, as Biggs points out, Toub is under contract here and I’d say he’s going nowhere unless the new head coach doesn’t want him – and I’m thinking there’s a fair chance that he will.

Elsewhere

  • According to Sam Farmer at the Los Angeles Tribune Saturday’s game against the Packers is being seen as a referendum on 49ers head coach Jm Harbaugh‘s decision to replace quarterback Alex Smith with Colin Kaepernick earlier in the season:

“Harbaugh chose the path of greater resistance, and in the process bumped up the stakes.

“‘If it all blows up on Saturday, that will take a lot of goodwill out of the bank,’ [former 49ers quarerback Steve] Young said. ‘Now, that doesn’t change much. I mean, [Harbaugh] is still going to be around, still going to be a great coach. But it’s a high-risk situation.'”

  • Pompei has the Packers ranked second in his power rankings. I like the Packers but that’s awfully high for a team with a suspect defense. The Packers are going to have to continue to play the kind of good fundamental ball I saw last week against the Vikings before I’ll believe. I think Pompei is right on the button with the first ranked Broncos and, like Pompei, I like the Seahawks a lot better than most people seem to.
  • The schematic Xs and Os that former NFL safety Matt Bowen writes up for the Chicago Tribune are always interesting but I thought this article breaking down the Packers offensive options against the 49ers pressure was particularly good.
  • This Audible from Pro Football Weekly has the ring of truth:

Jon Gruden wants full control. It’s the same as Bill Cowher and Joe Gibbs and Bill Parcells and any established coach worth his salt who is considering coming back. The problem is — there are not a lot of GMs that want to concede that authority. Why do you think Mike Holmgren is backing down and saying he’ll be happy to just coach?”

“A priest administered last rites. Following kidney removal surgery, his football coach told him he would never play again. He was lucky to be alive. He responded by petitioning the school to be allowed to suit up. The player’s name? Mike Shanahan.”

  • Pitty the girlfriends, NFL fans.

One Final Thought

My mother of all people sent me this joke. A little to close to the truth over the last year if you ask me…

The coach had put together the perfect team for the Chicago Bears. The only thing that was missing was a good quarterback. He had scouted all the colleges and even the Canadian and European Leagues, but he couldn’t find a ringer who could ensure a Super Bowl win.

Then one night while watching CNN he saw a war-zone scene in Afghanistan. In one corner of the background, he spotted a young Afghan Muslim soldier with a truly incredible arm. He threw a hand-grenade straight into a 15th story window 100 yards away.

KABOOM!

He threw another hand-grenade 75 yards away, right into a chimney.

KA-BLOOEY!

Then he threw another at a passing car going 90 mph.

BULLS-EYE!

“I’ve got to get this guy!” Coach said to himself. “He has the perfect arm!”

So, he brings him to the States, teaches him the great game of football and the Bears go on to win the Super Bowl.

The young Afghan is hailed as the great hero of football, and when the coach asks him what he wants, all the young man wants is to call his mother.

“Mom,” he says into the phone, “I just won the Super Bowl!”

“I don’t want to talk to you, says the old Muslim woman.”You are not my son!”

“I don’t think you understand, Mother,” the young man pleads. “I’ve won the greatest sporting event in the world. I’m here among thousands of adoring fans.”

“No! Let me tell you!” his mother retorts. “At this very moment, there are gunshots all around us. The neighborhood is a pile of rubble. Your two brothers were beaten within an inch of their lives last week, and I have to keep your sister in the house so she doesn’t get raped!” The old lady pauses, and then tearfully says,

“I will never forgive you for making us move to Chicago!!!!”

 

All Gabe Carimi Needs is Time and Other Points of View

Bears

“‘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.'”

But its Denver left guard Zan Beatles who probably said what Emery wants to hear. Via Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune:

“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.”

McCoy. himself, confirms this with a quote via Dan Pompei at the Chicago Tribune:

“‘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.”

Oo the other hand we have this from Pompei:

“As for Holmgren, he was a special coach in his prime. Whether he still would be one at the age of 65 and after four years away from coaching would have to be determined.”

“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.”

“Now what becomes important is, do I feel like Shea’s got the motor, the athletic ability, the savvy to be a good starting player in the NFL? Yes, I do.”

What he doesn’t have is the size. It will be interesting to see what happens to his body in the offseason.

Elsewhere

“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.

Columnist Gary Meyers comments:

“The tattoo does make sense in one regard. In expressing last week that the Jets are the only team he wants to coach, Ryan said, ‘Let’s face it. I wear Jets stuff every single day, every day.’

“Clearly, he was not kidding.”

 

One Final Thought

And The Sports Pickle brings us this video under the headline “Drunk Packers’ Fan Cheers, Dies”:

What the Pro Bowl Roster Tells Us and Other Points of View

Bears

  • Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune stresses that the reception gap between Brandon Marshall and the rest of the receivers isn’t good for the team. This passage might be a telling one:

“The Bears sorely miss a presence in the middle of the field as tight end Kellen Davis has not met expectations. Asked why the Bears can’t get other wide receivers more involved, [quarterback Jay] Cutler quietly said, ‘Don’t know,’ perhaps a reflection he’s not happy in the system.”

  • Sean Jensen at the Chicago Sun-Times suggests that the return of Johnny Knox next year might be the solution to the Bears problems finding a second wide receiver opposite Brandon Marshall (he’s not).

“Is there a big difference in what side a lineman plays besides stance? Obviously, left tackle is the all-important blind-side protector but what about left vs. right guard? Chris Spencer seems to play better the last two years at right vs. left. Joe B., Oxford, Conn.

“There are some differences, depending on the system and the specific game plans. Some teams like to put their most physical guard on the right side, and their most athletic on the left. Some players are more comfortable in a particular stance. But generally speaking, if a guard’s play drops off considerably on one side, he’s probably not a very good guard. There isn’t that much of a difference between left guard and right guard.”

I’ve listened to host Ross Tucker on ESPN‘s Football Today podcast repeatedly say that he thinks right guard is the tougher position to play. Teams are typically “left handed” meaning they slant their blocking schemes to the left. The right guard takes the left defensive end leaving the right guard on an island with no help more often than the left guard.

“How do you see Bears addressing o-line? Draft first two rounds, free agency or both? @jimsammons, from Twitter

“It’s early to say, but my hunch is they will sign a mid-level free-agent offensive lineman, probably a guard, and then go for an offensive tackle in the first two rounds of the draft. At this point, I don’t think they could afford to use their first two picks on offensive linemen, given the needs they have on defense and at other positions. That would mean they would come out of the top three rounds with no defensive help.”

  • I love Brandon Marshall but I think his tendency to shoot his mouth off, natural in a good wide receiver, is rubbing off on his teammates as he takes more and more of a leadership role. This time its Henry Melton. Via Adam L. Jahns at the Chicago Sun-Times. Lions center Dominic Raiola‘s response was predictable.
  • And then there’s this comment from Major Wright via Dave Birkett at the Detroit Free Press:

“‘You’ve got Matthew Stafford; he’s definitely having an OK season,’ Wright said. ‘He can make any throw on that field, so you have to be aware of putting pressure on him because you put a little pressure on him, he kind of folds.'”

I cannot express how much I dislike this kind of thing. According to Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune, some of Melton’s teammates agree with me privately criticizing him for his comments. Its totally unnecessary and, given the way its being reported in Detroit, there’s every reason to believe its going to provide extra motivation for a talented team that has little to play for otherwise.

“‘More than just [head coach] Lovie [Smith]’ Briggs said. ‘You want to win it for us. If you’ve enjoyed your time here in Chicago and the way Lovie has treated you and us together and this camaraderie that we have, then win it for that. If Lovie is not here, that goes with him.

“‘I’ve enjoyed every moment of being here in Chicago and I don’t intend on that changing. So, it’s time to go out and beat Detroit.'”

If those sentiments help the Bears perform well on Sunday, that’s great. But if the Bears lose there will be a lot of us reading those comments and others like them who will be left wondering if the players aren’t just a tad too comfortable under Smith…

 

  • A comment from this article on potential forthcoming Black Monday changes by Don Banks at Sports Illustrated struck me as odd:

Frankly, Banks couldn’t be more off base. The Bears are amazingly consistent. They’re probably the only team in the league that actually beat all of the teams they should beat. If they don’t win them all its simply because they aren’t good enough to win them all not because they aren’t consistent.

and on [quarterback Jay] Cutler‘s failure to show up in big games:

Smith and Cutler have a prime opportunity to prove both Rosenbloom and me wrong in the next one or more games. Now, with the pressure on and the odds stacked against them, is the time to show up and prove they can compete, some day, for a Super Bowl. Perhaps more than any other time as a Bears fan, I would love to see this team come alive offensively. It’s probably because more than any time in many years, I’m convinced they can’t.

  • Smith might be wearing a new piece of head gear if the Bears manage to beat the Lions Sunday. From the Chicago Sun-Times

 

Lions

Schwartz denies the report.

“‘Shoot, they were able to high/low on the outside of the field,’ he said of the zone coverage. ‘So, we can’t just stay on the outside. We have to move around a little bit more and use all parts of the field.'”

  • Former Lions tackle Lomas Brown says he purposely missed a block to get quarterback Scott Mitchell knocked out of a game. Via the Chicago Tribune:

“Brown, now an NFL analyst, told ESPN: ‘We were playing Green Bay in Milwaukee. We were getting beat (24-0) at that time and (Mitchell) just stunk up the place. He’s throwing interceptions, just everything. So I looked at Kevin Glover, our All-Pro center, and I said, ‘Glove, that is it.’ I said, ‘I’m getting him out the game.’ … So I got the gator arms on the guy at the last minute, he got around me, he hit Scott Mitchell, he did something to his finger … and he came out the game. Dave Krieg came in the game.'”

I can only agree with Mitchell’s comment that this was reprehensible. I’ll be interested to hear what Glover has to say. Mitchell obviously doesn’t think he was involved. This time via James Jahnke at the Detroit Free Press:

“‘I hope Kevin Glover wasn’t involved in this, because he’s one of my favorite teammates of all time. I remember when (Lions linebacker) Reggie Brown was seriously injured on the field (spinal cord contusion), and Kevin Glover ran the length of the field and through the tunnel to get the ambulance. I don’t even want to think that he was involved in any way.'”

Mike Florio at profootballtalk.com chimes in with the disturbing thought on many minds:

“…it’s hard not to wonder whether other offensive players have done similar things over the years, either because the quarterback was struggling or because they simply didn’t like him. Still, it’s something that should never happen.

“‘It’s like a fire department going on a call and the captain saying, ‘Hey, let that guy go in the building and burn because we really don’t like him. He’s not holding the hose enough,’’ Mitchell said Wednesday. ‘People get seriously hurt in this game, and it’s hard enough to play and to stay healthy when all things are equal, but for someone to just lay down like that, it’s just unacceptable.'”

One more interesting note: Andy Barall at The New York Times went back and looked at the tape. What it shows conflicts with Brown’s version of events.

 

Elsewhere

  • Although his absence from the list of candidates is an egregious error, this excerpt from Banks’ column is good news for Bears special teams coach Dave Toub:

“‘When you’ve got some guys who are in different places mentally and athletically, you try to play to their strength,’ Rodgers said.

“For instance, he doesn’t want to call on the back to pick up a blitzing linebacker if the 5-foot-7, 203-pound [DuJuan] Harris is in the game, just as he wouldn’t want to check to an outside zone play better-suited for [Alex] Green than for Grant. He may be comfortable having Grant chip on a defensive end, but if he knows he’s going to have to dump the ball over the middle, [John] Kuhn would be a better choice.

“If he switches to a play where he’s going to swing the ball out to his back, it’s better to have the speedy Green or Harris carry it out than Kuhn or [Ryan] Grant.”

 

One Final Thought

It seems odd to me that the Bears have five Pro Bowlers and Green Bay has only three. In fact, Kevin Seifert at ESPN doesn’t even think Packers center Jeff Saturday should be on the list.

Perhaps this fact more than any other points to the realization that its Green Bay’s depth that sets them apart from the rest of the division. Either that or its coaching…

Not the Most Likable Bunch and Other Points of View

Bears

“‘Uh, the route I ran was the route I was supposed to run. It was just …’ Hester said, pausing. ‘We just weren’t on the same page.'”

I’m not to thrilled with that statement. Cutler’s been covering for Hester all year. I think he could have handled that answer better.

“‘You know, I keep getting something in my neck. I just told Jason Campbell to be ready, because I don’t know what’s going to happen.'”

“On getting the team back on track:

“‘Basically, (we need to) stop making mistakes we’ve been making the past five/six weeks. When we have a chance to get a first down and its third and medium – third and short – don’t get penalties. Backing us up makes it harder to get a first down. When we’re on the goal line, (we need to score) seven points, instead of three. (We need to) stop doing turnovers. Basically, we’ve been shooting ourselves in the foot every time we move the ball the last six/seven weeks.'”

 

 

“On his third offensive coordinator in four seasons and fourth overall, it’s fair to wonder if the team will ever get that side of the ball right under [head coach Lovie] Smith. It’s also worth wondering if chairman of the board George McCaskey will play a central role in end-of-season decisions. It may come down to candid discussions about whether Smith and his staff or a flawed roster are more to blame for a painful free fall.”

Hopefully, they’ll correctly conclude that its both. I’m still waiting to see if Smith can motivate this team and if they’re still listening to him. They lost to a definitively better team Sunday. They should beat the Cardinals. For me, a lot will come down to the Lions game. To be honest, I don’t have much hope that Smith will rally this team to a decent performance. As Bob LeGere at the Daily Herald put it:

“Dead men walking.

“That’s what the Bears looked like as they left the field Sunday following their fifth loss in six games overall and their sixth straight loss to the Packers, who clinched the NFC North title with a 21-13 victory at Soldier Field.”

  • There’s a lot of truth in this Audible from Pro Football Weekly:

“The Bears went from 7-1 to out of the playoffs and there is plenty of blame for everybody. They need a total housecleaning, including (team president) Ted Phillips. It’s two years in a row it fell apart like this. It runs a lot deeper than just the head coach.”

“Maybe Emery’s greatest mistake thus far is a common one in the NFL. He tried to add to the Bears depth by signing backup players. Despite some big money going to Campbell and Michael Bush, the only real starter brought in was Brandon Marshall via trade.

“The way to do it is to sign starters, improve the roster from the top down and wind up with former starters as backups. That’s what real depth is in the NFL.”

 

Cardinals

  • Tell me this column from Paola Boivin at the Arizona Replublic doesn’t sound very familiar:

“Something is askew in the personnel hierarchy.

“How do you go two years without drafting an offensive lineman and five years without taking one above the fifth round?

“How do you allow a quarterback carousel to spin so out of control that merely watching it requires an air-sickness bag?

“It is not about money with the Cardinals anymore.

“It is not even that much about coaching.

“It is about talent evaluation.”

“The Cardinals have a gifted defense, one that leads the NFL in interceptions. They could be battling for a playoff spot if they had even an average offensive attack. A stellar defense can mask a lot of wounds.

“But no one imagined these wounds would be so deep and the organization’s bones would be so broken.”

  • How emotional was the Cardinals’ victory over the Lions last week? According to Kent Somers at the Arizona Republic veteran safety Adrian Wilson actually wept.

There are no guarantees, of course. But I’ll bet my hat this team is going to let down badly against the Bears this Sunday.

 

Elsewhere

  • Does Packer’s kicker Mason Crosby have incriminating pictures of head coach Mike McCarthy? Becasue that’s the only explanation I can think of for this.
  • Biggs quotes a national scout on Manti Te’o, who some believe might be available for the Bears to draft as a middle linbacker.

“‘The kid is a productive player,’ the scout said. ‘Is he better than some of the other guys that came out the last couple years? A couple of them. He’s in the mix to be a mid-round pick. He does what you ask. He is a three-down linebacker. There are not many times you get a chance to get a three-down linebacker. When you do, you better draft them in the first round. Does (Brian) Urlacher ever come off the field? Does (Lance) Briggs ever come off the field? There you go.

“‘When you get a three-down backer you have added value. I never would have drafted (Brandon) Spikes in the first round. I would have drafted him in the second round because he is not a three-down linebacker. People may say he can’t run and this and that. I saw that. He plays on the third downs. He must be able to run a little bit or he wouldn’t be playing on third downs. Listen, between now and the draft people are going to poke holes in every player. That’s just the way it is.'”

  • RGIII and Kirk Cousins are singing duets, also on profootballmock.com.

 

One Final Thought

I haven’t paid much attention to Brian Urlacher’s stupid comments about the fans Sunday night. But I thought the take of Rick Morrissey at the Chicago Sun-Times was interesting:

“So before we jump all over Urlacher, let’s understand that he’s a product of the professional environment he was brought up in here. Sunday’s comments simply open the window to that environment a little wider.

“The franchise’s paranoid attitude has been there all along. And friendliness? Well, Colin Montgomerie has nothing on the Bears.

“In his nine years as coach, Smith couldn’t have been more dismissive of the media. He has never cared that, by doing so, he was also deeming fans as unworthy of his valuable time and deep well of football knowledge. He has made a career out of saying nothing — not out of having nothing to say, but out of sheer disregard for his audience.

“He’s not alone.

Phil Emery rarely talks with the media. He is the general manager of an NFL team. Amazing.

Virginia McCaskey, the owner of the team, makes herself available to reporters about as often as white smoke wafts from the Sistine Chapel.

“You can count on one or two fingers the times chairman George McCaskey, her son, has sat down with the media as a group this year.”

First of all I’m going to let the McCaskeys off the hook. They’re mostly just trying to stay out of the way, something I appreciate. I wouldn’t mind hearing more from them but not if its going to interfere with the football people doing their jobs.

And franky I don’t want to hear from Emery, yet, either. I want to hear from him after the season when decisions need to be made about coaching staff and personnel but right now I think letting Smith run the team is the right thing to do. You don’t need the players hearing multiple voices during the season.

But the rest? That’s a different story. In particular, Lovie Smith has revealed so little of himself in the nine years that he’s been here that few fans are really going to miss him if he goes. He’s had a great deal more success than, for instance, Dick Jauron, and he’s a better head coach. But I was a lot sorrier to see Jauron go than I will be Smith whenever that happens. The players apparently love Smith, as Urlacher’s comments indicate. But from a fan perspective he’s a hard man to like. Perhaps it’s something for the people associated with the franchise to think about.

No Guts, No Glory and Other Points of View

Bears

Alshon Jeffery hurt the Bears as much as he helped them. A savvy route runner would not have been on the ground on that first-quarter play in which [quarterback Jay] Cutler was picked off.

“Then in the third quarter he dropped what should have been a 39-yard touchdown pass.

“But his second-quarter touchdown catch was very nice. He swam past Josh Robinson to free himself and made an over-the-shoulder catch that a lot of receivers struggle with. In the fourth quarter he pulled in a back-shoulder throw for 30 yards with Robinson all over him.”

Jeffery looks like a guy with a bright future in the league. As Pompei implies, he’s going to have to learn to be more consistent. He’s also going to have to stay out of the training room. But, like most wide receivers in particular, I think we can look forward to him being better his second year. This looks to me like a win for general manager Phil Emery.

  • Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune points out the need for offensive linemen but defends (a little) Emery with this comment:

“Drafting a playmaking tight end would be the best option, but the Bears’ needs on offense surely will begin with the line. It’s probably best the team passed on John Carlson in free agency last spring. He signed a $25 million, five-year contract with the Vikings and has been a bust.”

Its probably worth noting at this point that guard David DeCastro, who I really, deep down thought the Bears should have drafted, spent a good portion of his first season injured. So you could argue that Emery dodged a couple bullets.

“‘No, no, no, no,’ he said. ‘We’re just trying to win games right now and put the best five out there. That’s way too far in the future. The big thing to for him is he didn’t have an offseason coming off the (knee) surgery. He’s going to be living in the weight room. He’s going to get bigger and do more leg work and all that stuff. Whatever position he is going to be at, he’s going to have to get more lower-body work.'”

 

“What has to be bothersome for [head coach Lovie] Smith is his defense could not prevail despite an anemic effort from the Vikings’ Christian Ponder, as bad a starting quarterback as there is in the league. But Ponder managed to pull off an elaborate engagement proposal to his girlfriend during the week with Christmas lights and then beat the once-vaunted Bears defense despite completing only 11 of 17 passes for 91 yards. “

I’m not any kind of a Christian Ponder fan by any means. Certainly statistically those aren’t numbers that jump out at you. And Ponder does have a reputation for making some bad decisions. But I saw very little of it in this game. There weren’t many errant passes, either. To my eye, Ponder isn’t exactly surrounded by great talent at wide receiver or on the offensive line. It looks to me like the Vikings habit of trying to combine heavy reliance on the running game with penalties and undisciplined play is really more the problem than anything else. But whatever problems the Vikings offense had Sunday, Ponder wasn’t one of the big ones. He won’t win you many games. But when he plays like he did this week, he won’t lose you many either.

 

  • Biggs quotes special teams coach Kevin O’Dea on how he fixed Adam Podlesh‘s mechanics:

“‘We just changed one thing,’ O’Dea said. ‘When you deal with punting there are a lot of moving parts so the simpler you can keep it, the better. All we did was just change where his eyes focus to and aligned it better with where his leg and his hip are. That’s all we did. I am talking about the drop. So, we just put the drop back in line with where he can use maximum power. Now, he can use his leg in his swing to get maximum power into the ball.

“‘It’s his eyes as he drops the ball. We have a specific spot what he’s looking at for him. And everyone is different. It’s just like golf. Everybody has a little bit different sequence and where their swing is and how they line up and where their hips are and everything. So, all we did was study where his hips are, where his eyes are. Now, we just moved it a little bit. And right now it seemed to get him back in line. Now, he’s getting back in rhythm. Hopefully, it stays that way.'”

“Lovie Smith has to go.

“Now.

“If I’m Phil Emery, I wouldn’t have let him on the plane home after that 21-14 disaster in Minnesota.”

Rick Morrissey at the Chicago Sun-Times adds his two cents:

“Since George Halas retired for good, every Bears coach who has been fired failed in his last opportunity to beat the Packers. No pressure, Lovie.”

It is, of course, the time of year for this kind of speculation but this year it feels a lot more serious than usual. Mike Mulligan at the Chicago Tribune makes the case that its best for everyone if the Bears can keep Smith as head coach:

“Smith is miles away the most qualified person for the job he holds. Does anybody believe the Bears would get in a bidding war for Jon Gruden, rumored to be on the way back, or be interested in coaxing Bill Cowher out of retirement?”

No. But I didn’t think they’d sign Julius Peppers, either. And I didn’t think they’d fire Jerry Angelo.

There’s only one thing I’ll say about this. I don’t think Smith is a bad head coach. The could – and just might – do a lot worse particularly if there isn’t a definite plan and swift action on hiring a new one byt Emery (or Bears president Ted Phillips depending on who you think will actually do it).

But Simth has been here a long time and it doesn’t look to me like they’re going to get back to another Super Bowl with him at the helm. Too often it looks to me like the Bears are being out schemed in games. Smith is a master at handling players – arguably the biggest part of his job. And I don’t think they’ve stopped listening to him. But And there’s no denying that once the season is over, the Bears will have likely have faded very badly down the stretch two years in a row. And its now evident that X’s and O’s aren’t Smith’s strong point, nor is it the strong point of the coaches he’s hired.

There is one other factor here. Smith is a defensive coach in an offensive league. It may be time to get someone in here who can coach offense and, more importantly, who can judge talent on that side of the ball. It’s hard to watch the juggling act that’s taking place on the offensive line without thinking that something isn’t right about how things are being handled there. It’s the kind of misjudgment that we’ve seen all too often with coaches and players under Smith.

I acknowledge all of Mulligan’s points as being valid. But at some point you have to draw a line and take a chance or you’ll never get better. No guts, no glory. We may be at that point.



Packers

“The Packers (9-4) have won seven of their last eight games. The Bears (8-5) have lost four of their last five. Further complicating matters is the fact that while the Bears are losing players, the Packers are gaining them.

Pompei continues the (admittedly in this case inadvertant) comparison:

“In many ways, this has been a disastrous year for the Packers.

“There have been enough injuries to justify opening their own green and gold hospital. Thirteen starters have missed 66 games with injuries, and 10 players are on injured reserve.

“They are down to their third-string right tackle, their third-string running back and their third-string inside linebacker.

“There were two games that were all but in the win column before strange occurrences turned them into losses.

“And there have been a couple of butt whippings, the kind the Mike McCarthy Packers have not been accustomed to.

“And where has this left the Packers as the NFL season barrels down the stretch?

“More dangerous, and maybe better, than ever. Adversity has toughened this team.”

Morrissey elaborates:

“The Packers were down 14-0 Sunday to the Lions, and against all odds, reason, disease, pestilence and God’s will, they somehow came back to win.

“That’s apparently what it takes to overcome a two-touchdown deficit.

“We know this because the Bears trailed the Vikings 14-0 and treated it like an ascent of Mount Everest in sandals and swimwear.”

Good teams who deserve to be in the playoffs finish strong. Those that don’t, don’t.

“Cornerback Charles Woodson (broken collarbone), guard T.J. Lang (ankle) and linebacker Clay Matthews (hamstring) could return this week. Wide receiver Jordy Nelson (hamstring) is less likely to play.”

  • Pompei writes a pretty good column covering what teams have been doing to the Packers. It should be familiar to Bears fans:

“Although the Bears have failed repeatedly to hold down the Packers, the rest of the league believes the Bears know how to do it.

“So this season, almost every Packers opponent has borrowed the Cover-2 pages from the Bears’ playbook. It might not be Star Wars defense exactly in terms of complexity, but it has resulted in the deflections and interceptions of numerous Packers missiles.

“‘Our offense is not as flashy as last year,’ Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers told the Tribune. ‘It’s tough especially when teams are going to play you very soft the majority of the game, which we’ve seen this year. It has been 80 percent split safety.”

“The best way to get a defense out of a two-safety high look is to gash them with the running game. The Packers struggled to do that early, starting three running backs and failing to reach 110 rushing yards in eight of their first 10 games.

“But as the temperatures have dipped, their running game has warmed up. In their last two games they have run for 152 and 140 yards respectively.”

Elsewhere

“In the Pistol, the quarterback lines up about four yards behind center, or three yards closer than he would in shotgun. If one back is in the game, he lines up directly behind the quarterback instead of next to him. This is an advantage for the running game because the back can go left or right easily.

“The beauty of the Pistol, as the Redskins and Robert Griffin are showing, is you can combine a spread passing game with a power run game.”

“‘You have to contain it, you can’t let it get on the edge,’ the NFC coach said. ‘You have to make the quarterback cut back inside to pursuit. If he pitches it, you have to get outside and contain. If they want to run an inside zone, fine, that’s where the core of the defense is. Defensive backs have to be disciplined, throw off timing, jam, reroute, and not allow the receivers to get a good release.'”



One Final Thought

Before the Vikings game I commented that, with 4 games left against decent to very good teams, the Bears were going to have to win on drive and want-to. With that in mind, Haugh describes this exchange with Smith after the Bears loss to the Vikings Sunday:

“‘That opening drive really put us on our heels, and we never really recovered,’ Smith said.

“I asked Smith why the Bears never recovered, what with 56 minutes left in an NFL game after [Vikings runningback Adrian]Peterson‘s touchdown.

“‘You tell me,’ Smith snapped. ‘How do you answer a question like that? If I knew that, we would have done a little bit more about it.'”

I can tell Smith why.

 

It’s About Character and Other Points of View

Bears

  • I’m not too sure about this comment from Bears offensive coordinator Mike Tice on the return of wide receiver Alshon Jeffery to the lineup. Via Mark Potash at the Chicago Sun-Times:

“So that really helps us because when they try to key on Brandon [Marshall], we really have two go-to guys on the field at the same time.”

Jeffery is a step above the other receivers, no doubt. But he’s hardly a “go-to guy” (yet).

  • On a related not, Sean Jensen at the Chicago Sun-Times points out that, whether its being done on purpose or not, the “Randy Ratio” is back.

“We’re going back to the fundamentals — what we were doing earlier in the season. We just have to do that to be successful.”

That sounds like a pretty good idea and not just for the defensive linemen. Part of the problem last week was that the Seahawks are a good team that played reasonably well. But the Bears didn’t help with some serious fundamental breakdowns in things like gap discipline. They play their best when they’re playing fundamentally sound.

“Whether or not Brian Urlacher returns from a hamstring injury this year, he’ll be a Bear next season. That comes from highly placed sources inside my head.”

“It’s not so much his straight-line speed that has suffered since injuring his knee in last year’s season finale. He proved he could still run when he chased down Golden Tate from behind after Tate’s 49-yard gain in the second quarter of Sunday’s game. It’s brakes that he lacks. He struggles to plant his feet and re-direct himself. It has looked like he has been playing on ice all season.

“Never before in a season have we seen Urlacher overrun plays he used to make routinely.”

Whether Urlacher has lost some quickness is a debatable issue. But, like most of the players in Lovie Smith‘s aggressive cover two defense, Urlacher has been over running plays on occasion his entire career.

“Moore has excellent ball awareness and ball skills for a corner. But I think coaches were disappointed in the fact that he was not playing more physically. [Kelvin] Hayden is a bigger, stronger defender and better tackler.”

Moore will likely start this week with Hayden replacing the injured Tim Jennings in the lineup.

Vikings

  • Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune is dead on with this comment:

“The idea has been thrown out there that the Bears could seek retribution on Vikings defensive end Jared Allen for the illegal hit that ended the season of right guard Lance Louis, who suffered a torn ACL in the teams’ first meeting. But it’s football and not a street fight. The Bears’ line needs to be concerned about blocking Allen, who whipped left tackle J’Marcus Webb for 3-1/2 sacks in the meeting at Minnesota last season, not taking him out. The second they divert their attention from blocking Allen will be the moment he turns the corner and zeros in on quarterback Jay Cutler, still not a month removed from a concussion.”

“Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder became engaged this week after he proposed to ESPN personality Samantha Steele with an elaborate setup in which he spelled ‘Marry Me’ using Christmas lights. Sound like a second-year player with his mind fully on the game? Not really. Ponder doesn’t have a lot of help on the outside and that problem is made worse with the absence of Percy Harvin. He possesses a deer-in-the-headlights look too often in the pocket and struggles making plays downfield. At least things are going swimmingly for him off the field.”

  • Pompei gives a scout’s report on Viking safety Harrison Smith: “Opponents should use play action and try to take advantage of Smith’s aggressiveness to get receivers open in the middle of the field.”
  • Matt Bowen at the Chicago Tribune points out that with Brian Urlacher out and with Adrian Peterson likely to be the Vikings main threat, its a perfect situation to use plays like this one to attack middle linebacker Nick Roach with tight end Kyle Rudolph. I’d expect a lot of this at crucial times.

Elsewhere

  • One of the things that head coach Lovie Smith‘s Bears teams are noted for is consistency. They usually beat the teams they should beat because, like their head coach, they never get too high or too low. Most of us consider this to be a good thing. However, its hard not to see that teams who do get up for the Bears usually end up winning because the Bears have not been mentally prepared to rise to the challenge. With that in mind, Judy Batista at the New York Times answers a fan question about the inconsistency of the Giants under head coach Tom Coughlin:

“I don’t think the Giants’ problems are ones of effort – they don’t quit, do they? – I think they are one of execution. Nine penalties is not because they are not trying, it’s because they are sloppy and perhaps not focused enough. The Giants have undoubtedly had a recent history of going up and down. I don’t have any idea how they would be with another coach, but ask yourself this: Would you exchange Tom Coughlin’s results with the Giants for anybody else’s? I’d take the inconsistency in the regular season in exchange for getting on a roll late in the season and into the playoffs any day.”

So would I. I guess the question is, would Bears general president Ted Phillips?

  • Toni Monkovic at The New York Times debates whether the gun control comments from Bob Costas at halftime of the Cowboys-Eagles game was appropriate. The quickest way to get me to change the channel for any sports show, radio or television, is to start talking politics, race or religion. But even I would have to admit that the appropriateness if this topic is debatable given Jovan Belcher‘s murder-suicide.
  • Stuart Miller, again at The New York Times addresses the issue of replacing more injured players on the roster, particularly with the new concussion rules. It appears to me like the idea of a developmental league may be gaining a little steam.

“2011: Robert Griffin, III, QB, Baylor
RG3 is the greatest young quarterback ever.

“2010: Cam Newton, QB, Auburn

“Cam Newton works as a professional quarterback in the NFL and is the former greatest young quarterback ever.”

One Final Thought

Here’s another curious comment, this time from David Haugh at the Chicago Tribune:

“If the Ravens can go 4-2 without Ray Lewis, then the Bears should finish 3-1 without Urlacher against a favorable schedule.”

“Favorable”? You’ve got to be kidding. Yes, Arizona is a game the Bears should win but two dome games against a decent team in Minnesota and a team with more talent, if less discipline, in Detroit? And the Packers who have both talent and discipline?

I know everyone wants the Bears to be a sure playoff team but let’s cut them a break and be realistic. That’s a darned tough schedule and I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see the Bears go 1-3 during that stretch with or without Urlacher.

Having said that, Potash takes the opposite approach and addresses the doomsday scenario with the Bears losing all four of their final games. He says they can still make the playoffs at 8-8. I consider both that and the possibility that they Bears will actually lose all of those games to be highly unlikely. I’ll be very surprised if they lose to Arizona and, though the other games are tough, they do have a reasonable chance to surprise me and pull them out. It isn’t like the Vikings and Lions aren’t perfectly capable of playing poorly enough to lose.

I think this quote from wide receiver Brandon Marshall pretty much bottom lines the situation via Haugh:

“Championship teams start to separate themselves in the month of December. Right now it’s about character, want-to and passion and who wants to get it done.”

I don’t think the Bears have the talent to get to 10-6 and a certain playoff berth. But the difference between winning and losing in the NFL isn’t that big and I definitely do believe that they can overcome that deficiency by simply playing better than thier opponents. We’re about to find out what this team is made of.

On Avoiding the Ups and Downs and Other Points of View

Bears

“Coaching, or perhaps a front office NFL job, could be in McCown’s future. In fact, the Bears gave him some feelers when they released him in training camp. But for now, maybe for a few years even, the 33-year-old wants to play. And he wants to play in Chicago.”

“Marshall said the biggest difference between Cutler and Campbell is that Cutler ‘likes to run around a lot,’ while ‘Jason is more of a pocket guy.'”

That is true. But the one difference that became very apparent early in the third quarter of the Texan’s game was the fact that Campbell is much more of a “timing” quarterback. Where Cutler is more likely to hold the ball, look around, see who is open and deliver, recievers were getting the ball from Campbell immediately as they turned out of thier breaks last week.

In many ways, Campbell would have been the perfect quarterback for former Bears offensive coordinator Mike Martz, who has made a living teaching quarterbacks to do this. As it is, the receivers need to adjust to the new style, something which they did well last week.

“The 49ers will lean on their Tank personnel (one wide receiver, two tight ends, two backs) to establish the run and set up their play-action passing game. Look for schemes that will target the Bears’ eight-man defensive fronts Monday night and test the eye discipline of the secondary.”

I couldn’t agree more. The Texans also successfully drew an eighth Bears defender up into the box by showing run personnel. They then frequently passed out of the formation hoping to get favorable matchups. I expect the 49ers to do the same thing, probably more effectively.

49ers

“‘He definitely has emphasized it, just based on how many times (the 49ers) run the ball. Especially coming off Houston last week. Houston was more of a stretch scheme. This week is more of a downhill, smash mouth football.'”

“Had Monday night’s opponent been a passing team, the Bears would have considered activating pass-rusher Cheta Ozougwu. But Amobi Okoye is 37 pounds heavier than Ozougwu and gives the Bears more flexibility against the run.”

  • In the wake of the news that 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh had to be treated for an irregular heart beat last week, Kevin Lynch at the San Franscisco Chronicle quotes former NFL head coach Brian Billick on the stress associated with the job:

“‘It will kill you,’ he said. ‘If not, it’s going to shorten your life.’

“However, trying to be less intense has it’s ramifications as well according to Billick.

“‘Part of the problem is, the longer you are in it, to keep your priorities right and hold off the devastating lows when you lose, also means you are keeping an even keel and not enjoying the wins as much as you should,’ he said. ‘You end up in that gray twilight of not enjoying the wins and not showing too much in defeat.'”

Elsewhere


“Head coaches do not necessarily need players to like them but do need their respect and trust. The coach has to have the players’ backs. Andy Reid, the coach, certainly does. However, Reid is also in the less friendly role of general manager, signing off on all roster and financial decisions regarding players.”

“This is the major flaw of the coach/general manager model. Although Bill Belichick has been able to achieve sustained success, he has done so with cold and impersonal detachment, often not even responding to player discontent about roles or contracts, further infuriating players and agents. Reid, although a flat-liner with the media, cares deeply about his relationship with his players.”


One Final Thought

Pompei, this time writing for The National Football Post points out that the NFL owners around the league seem to be taking a more heavy handed role in managing their franchises. I, also, have taken note of this and, like Pompei I think there may be a number of explanations for it. But if I were to pick the one biggest reason, I’d say it is encapulated in this statement:’

“Some of the aging owners such as [Bud] Adams [of the Titans] and Jerry Richardson of the Panthers, who fired his general manager midseason, may be less patient than ever.”

I think a lot of these owners are getting older and they want to win one more before they go. I have, in fact, sensed a certain degree of urgency from the Bears dating back to the Julius Peppers signing, which at the time I considered to be uncharacteristic. I love Virginia McCaskey and I hope she lives a long, long time. But the family must ba acutely aware that she isn’t getting younger.

Fundamentals Are the Key and Other Points of View And Other Points of View

Bears

  • Chase Stuart at The New York Times thinks history indicates that this will be a Bears team that once again comes up short:

“For Chicago, 2012 feels a lot like 2001 or 2005 or 2006 or 2010, only more so. The defense is as dominant as ever and the special teams have been outstanding. But whether Chicago can finally win another Super Bowl may depend on how the offense operates. With Matt Forte, Chicago has its most effective offensive weapon during this stretch, but in 2012, success in the passing game is paramount. According to ESPN’s Total QBR, Jay Cutler ranked as the 20th-best quarterback before Monday night’s game. Even worse, Cutler is averaging just 5.7 net yards per pass attempt, placing him 26th in the N.F.L. Even though the Bears have a dominant defense, to defeat the Giants, Packers, Falcons and 49ers, the Bears can’t afford to have Jay Cutler play like the 26th-best quarterback in the league.”

“(on how he was able to get into a rhythm in today’s game)

“‘It took a little bit of time. I think we shortened up some of our routes, just tried to get the ball out quicker, get it in the receivers hands and get some rhythm that way. Then when they came up we hit that bomb with B (Brandon Marshall), so it came throughout the game.'”

and Cutler again on his fumble:

“(on his conversation with quarterbacks coach Jeremy Bates after his fumble)

“‘It was a good exchange. You know, I just tried to do too much and I think he was just trying to emphasize that point — to play within the play, trying to get B (Brandon Marshall) the ball. We had single coverage with him, but timing wise that play didn’t allow for the time I needed. We just have to play within the play, and we just have to limit that stuff, especially down in the red zone.”

Cutler has been saying a lot of the right things lately. I’ll be more impressed if he keeps it up when things aren’t going well for the team. But for now, its still notable.

  • Vaughn McClure at the Chicago Tribune says that Alshon Jeffery returned to practice Friday as the Bears try to force the Texans to prepare for him. Jeffery had no comment after practice, probably because he didn’t want to lie and say there was a possibility he will go. He’s doubtful for the game.

“‘Right now we’re talking an awful lot about our defense,’ Smith said at his Monday press conference at Halas Hall. ‘But before this season is over — hopefully this week — it’s going to shift, where we’re going to be talking an awful lot about the weapons we have and the offensive plays that we’re making.'”

Bold talk. Here’s hoping it’s more than just wind.

“When do you think Chris Conte‘s cheap shots and Brandon Marshall‘s push-offs are going to cost the Bears a game? — Marc, Downers Grove

“I don’t consider Conte a cheap-shot safety. I think he’s smart for making receivers think twice about coming over the middle, and I don’t think he did anything wrong to draw a penalty and fine against the Panthers two weeks ago. Titans coach Mike Munchak appeared to be upset about Conte knocking down wide receiver Nate Washington after a third quarter touchdown. Conte probably could have avoided Washington, but really all he did was run into him and put his hands out. If he really wanted to lay him out, he could have. He chose not to. As for Marshall, he has been penalized once all year, for a false start. Marshall pushing off has not been a problem for the Bears. I think he does it very well and knows what he can and can’t get away with.”

“UNSUNG HERO

Stephen Paea, NT: Paea very quietly — and very productively — has gone about his business since winning the starting job in Week 2. By eating double-teams and plugging holes, Paea (five quarterback pressures, 11/2 sacks, two tackles for loss) is a big reason for the Bears’ success against the run.”

  • Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune reports that D.J. Moore lost the nickel back job Sunday. Its notable because he’s pretty good at generating turnovers. But he’s not as reliable as [Kelvin] Hayden will be in coverage and you get the feeling the coaches have been trying to find a spot for him since camp. It will be interesting to see how this affects Moore. His comments were professional but inside he must be pretty angry.

Lance Briggs can still play and he’s playing his (butt) off, but Brian Urlacher is beaten up and just getting by. I don’t think he has played well at all this year, and he’s really starting to wear down. If we were to play them, I’m running it right at him every time.”

“The Bears thought they could get pressure up the middle because in their preparation they noticed personal protector Jordan Babineuax released early to get downfield and cover. That is exactly what he did. Steltz ran a stunt in the middle of the line and the Bears figured he or maybe [Corey] Wootton could get pressure on punter Brett Kern. It turned out [Sherrick] McManis was unblocked off the edge, allowing him to pick the ball off Kern’s right foot. Wootton scooped it up and carried Kern into the end zone.

“‘Normally, we are more of a return team but we saw something that we could exploit them on,’ Wootton said. ‘We went after it. Sherrick wasn’t even supposed to be the guy that comes free. That is why you always rush hard.'”

“The viability of the Bears special teams genius as a head coach becomes a story every year, so, why wait?”

“… Toub’s name and accomplishments will come up Sunday night. You watch, Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth will talk about Toub’s magic touch and perhaps get to his candidacy to run a team.”

It’s really only a matter of time. Toub has proven over a number of years that he can get the best out of a variety of types of players on a unit which, by its nature, has a large turnover every year. I can’t think of a way to better train to take over a team as a head coach.

  • Pompei, this time writing for The National Football Post, asks the question: “Is the executive of the year in the NFL going to be Phil Emery? Or Jerry Angelo?”
  • Sometimes I wonder if there aren’t hero worshiping Bear fans out there who are willing to believe this. From ProFootballMock.com

Titans

  • This article by Andy Benoit at Football Outsiders is strongly recommended reading for anyone who wants the small details of the Bears-Texans Matchup and the way they’ll likely approach the game. The article is so good, I can’t quote from it because I’d end up putting the whole thing up.

“The Bears play a gap-control defense and when everyone fills his assignment, a runner has no place to go. But they are so fast up front and pursue to the ball so hard that sometimes cutback lanes open up. When that happens, it’s 10 or 15 yards before a safety must make a play in the open field.

“The Texans have plenty of weak and strong leads in their playbook, and Foster’s patience is what sets him apart. With coach Gary Kubiak coming from the Broncos, it’s similar to what helped Terrell Davis and Clinton Portis have terrific seasons.”

“[Defensive coordinator Rod] Marinelli says the Texans like to start running outside zone plays to stretch a defense and widen lanes then hit leads, attacking the middle of the defense.”

“The most challenging aspect for the Bears’ defense Sunday might be staying disciplined against a team that relies heavily on play-action-to-bootleg plays. Last week, Schaub had the Bills swerving every which direction with such plays and one resulted in a 39-yard touchdown hookup with tight end Owen Daniels, a Naperville Central product.”

“‘We (will) double cover [Marshall] every play,’ [Texans defensive coordinator Wade] Phillips said [Thursday] in his press conference in Houston. ‘That’s our plan. We’re going to double cover him every play, so see what happens.'”

“[Offensive coordinator Mike Tice said,] ‘We just need to put a couple of drives together. We need to get that rhythm.’

“Cutler never found it against the Packers and their 3-4 scheme, which is very similar to the Texans’ defense.

“‘[The Texans] present a lot of challenges,’ Cutler said.

“The Packers were able to neutralize wide receiver Brandon Marshall by using ‘two-man’ coverage.

“Essentially, they had two safeties over the top while underneath man-to-man coverage was employed using a trail technique.”

“The Bears believe they do well against ‘single-high’ man-to-man coverage (one safety over the middle). The Texans used that against the Packers at times and were burned.”

Single high or two high, the only guy is is going to consistently get open against man underneath is Marshall. Bennett will help.

Having said that, the key to me isn’t so much the coverage as pressuring Cutler while keeping him in the pocket at the same time. If the Texans’ do that, their defense will do well. If they let Cutler escape, he’s got the talent to burn them both with the run and by buying time and space for the pass.

“All things considered, it’s difficult to imagine anything other than the kind of brawl that’s decided by who makes the fewest mistakes.

“In that case, it’s easier for me to trust Matt Schaub, who’s more of a big-armed game manager, than it is Jay Cutler. And that’s bothersome.”

Yes, it is bothersome. McNeil is probably worried more about interceptions but Cutler’s recent penchant for fumbling the ball could cost the Bears more here.

But I really don’t think Cutler is what everyone should worry about. Its the stack of penalties of all kinds which the Bears offense and special teams both have been committing the last few games. If that happens Sunday night, the Bears are going to constantly be in third and long and they will have an up hill battle beating a good team like this one.

Elsewhere

“You want to know what the difference is between winning and losing in the NFL? The margin of error is so small. It can come down to one player — hitting on one draft pick no one expects or finding a gem after the draft or in free agency — that can be the difference between making the playoffs and sitting at home. It can be the difference between keeping your job and losing it. It’s not easy to swallow, but that’s the cold, hard truth.”

  • This injury is a new one on me. From The Sports Pickle.
  • And finally, the NFL mid-season logos have officially arrived. Also from The Sports Pickle:

One Final Thought

“‘I think the thing that eliminates most of (the rules disadvantages) for us is we play hard,’ Urlacher said. ‘We get 11 guys to the football. The ball’s coming out. We’ve got guys stripping the football. And usually when they come out, unless they go out of bounds, we get them because we have so many guys going to the football.'”

I’m going to mildly disagree. I think a lot of defenses play hard. I think what set the Bears defense and other good defenses around the league apart is the very good fundamentals they display. I’m no expert but I know bad tackling when I see it. I don’t see it much with the Bears. They usually play with discipline and its a good thing because when they don’t, they look very average (or worse) no matter how hard they play.

New NFL Products Hit the Shelves Just in Time for the Christmas Shopping Season And Other Points of View

Bears

“[Tribune columnist David] Haugh argued that Angelo was done in by the lousy performance of backup quarterback Caleb Hanie, who was 0-4 in Cutler’s absence before he was relieved by Josh McCown. He submits that someone had to pay for the failures of Hanie when the Bears stumbled to an 8-8 finish and Angelo was chosen to be that guy over Lovie Smith. It’s a compelling argument.

I believe Angelo’s demise was draft-related. Team president Ted Phillips said, when he announced the move, that there was a talent deficiency on the roster and the gap needed to be closed with division rivals Green Bay and Detroit.”

“That being said, Angelo’s fingerprints are all over this roster and many of the moves he made are still helping the team and will for seasons to come.”

This is all true but it neglects what I think was another major reason – perhaps the major reason – for Angelo’s departure. He was probably the worst general manager in the NFL when it came to administration. It all culminated in the personal embarrassment suffered by ownership over the failed trade with Baltimore in the 2011 NFL draft where Angelo stupidly told two people to do the same job and neither did it thinking the other one did.

There’s a reason why Bears president Philips is now unofficially taking on more of an hands on administrative role with the club. Bears ownership doesn’t want any more personal calls from fellow owners like the Raven’s Steve Biscotti asking them what they think they’re doing.

  • I was personally glad to read from Biggs that former center Olin Kreutz was at the last game. I always wondered if Kreutz might not make a good coach and I’m glad to see there isn’t an apparent rift with the organization that might prevent him from coming.
  • Dan Pompei at the Chicago Tribune notes in his film review that both Brandon Marshall and Earl Bennett blocked well down field. Every good fundamental football team I’ve ever seen had this underrated characteristic.

“Cutler and Brandon Marshall completely outdueled Matthew Stafford and [Lions wide receiver Calvin] Johnson. Marshall finished with six receptions for 81 yards and a 7-yard touchdown reception to cap the game’s opening drive. Cutler completed 16 of 31 passes for 150 yards and was sacked five times but did not turn the ball over.”

You could argue that the difference in this game was Bears cornerback Charles Tillman. He shadowed Johnson all over the field. On the other hand the Lions already poor secondary was depleted and they had no one to cover Marshall.

“Not only did the Bears have cornerback Charles Tillman shadow Johnson with Pro Bowl persistence, but Smith tweaked his nickel personnel by adding a package in which Kelvin Hayden replaced D.J. Moore.

The rationale: In certain offensive formations, the Lions lined up Johnson in the slot — a mismatch for Moore. Instead of having Moore play cornerback, where his smallish size invited mismatch opportunities, the Bears used the 6-foot, 195-pound Hayden on the perimeter against the Lions’ smaller receivers.

“‘The different packages made (Stafford) kind of confused, kind of rattled,’ cornerback Tim Jennings said. “We wanted to mix it up.'”

“Why couldn’t the Bears get some type of return of a low draft pick for Chris Williams considering the shortage of quality linemen to even be backups? If he was not valuable enough to bring a draft choice then there may be others out there who may be an option for the Bears? It needs to be one way or the other. — Ross Scanio, Wheaton

“It’s hard to find a trade partner for a backup offensive lineman who is under contract only through the end of the year. If Williams had another year on his deal, my bet is the Bears would have been able to trade him for a late round draft pick. There clearly was interest in him, judging by the fact that he visited multiple teams and signed with the Rams for more than the NFL minimum. If the Bears thought there was an offensive tackle available better than Williams or Jonathan Scott, who is the player who replaced Williams, they would have signed him.

“Dan, I recall reading that if the Bears let Chris Williams walk after the end of the season they would be rewarded a compensatory selection. Is that correct? Is it worth losing a draft pick by releasing Williams now? — Tim L, San Antonio, Texas

“It is possible that if the Bears retained Williams until the end of the season and then he signed with another team, the Bears would have been awarded a compensatory selection in the 2014 draft, not the 2013 draft. Compensatory selections are determined by a complicated formula that encompasses not only the player or players lost, but also the players the team signs who were unrestricted free agents. Best case scenario is the Bears would have received a 2014 sixth round pick for Williams. More likely is it would have been a seventh rounder, but they might not have been awarded anything if they sign some premium free agents. Given the chance for a compensatory pick and the fact that Williams can play four positions on the line, I thought it would have made more sense to release another player.”

“Has the ghost of Frank Omiyale somehow seeped into Gabe Carimi‘s body? This is two weeks in a row with multiple penalties and sub-par play. If it happens again against Carolina, he has to be replaced by Jonathan Scott, right? — Bob Van Horne, Waco, Texas

Carimi is not going to be replaced anytime soon. Nor should he be. Remember, he was a first-round draft pick that this coaching staff has invested in. He’s going to be on a much longer leash than, say, Chris Spencer was. He also is one of the most talented linemen on the team. But he is basically still a rookie. We should expect some inconsistencies while he learns and grows. He has shown some good things too. Carimi does have to pick it up though.”

Its worth adding that I don’t think Carimi’s knee is completely heeled. His problems aren’t of a recent nature. He hasn’t looked right all year. Basically, I think he’s being left alone at right tackle in part because the team knows they are developing him to be a healthy, experienced lineman with experience next year.


Panthers

“One pro scouting director said from a coverage perspective, opponents have focused on taking away receiver Steve Smith, who has yet to score a touchdown. They are pressing Smith at the line, rolling coverage toward him and forcing Newton to go through his progressions.

“This is a defensive advantage in two ways. Other than tight end Greg Olsen, the Panthers don’t have any receiving options about whom defenses are very concerned. And Newton has not developed the patience and vision to find alternative targets consistently when Smith is covered.”

“Defensive fronts have adjusted to Newton’s sometimes spectacular running ability too.

“Scouts say defensive coordinators are having linemen two-gapping more and they are not trying to get upfield as much. They also are sometimes assigning a linebacker to “spy” Newton.

“Defensive coordinators aren’t trying to force him into making a mistake as much as they are encouraging him to run into the teeth of a disciplined, well populated and prepared front.”

Just one quick note on this. There’s been a lot of talk about who Cam Newton should be compared to lately because former NFL quarterback Warren Moon thinks Newton is too often being compared to black quarterbacks. Too bad because I’m going to do it anyway.

Last year when the Bears played the Panthers it wasn’t Newton’s mobility and athleticism that surprised me. It was his size and strength. Defensive linemen were hitting him in the pocket and literally bouncing off. The last guy I got to see play on a regular basis who could do that was Dante Culpepper. He was built like a linebacker and extremely tough to bring down. Here’s hoping the Bears do a better job on Newton this time around.

“Last year in the Bears’ wild 34-29 victory, that plan included having Jennings, while often not in strictly man-to-man coverage, lining up frequently over Smith. While not exactly divulging what he and defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli have in the works for Sunday, Smith did say, ‘It should be a lot of fun watching them.'”

“‘We kind of mix up a whole lot of coverages,’ Jennings said. ‘It’s not so matching one-on-ones or anything like that. It’s we want to give him different looks.

“’You’ve got to be able to compete with him, just kind of slow him down at the line of scrimmage and disrupt the timing between him and the quarterback.'”

Its fairly obvious to me, especially in light of the comments from Pompei’s article above this one, that the Bears are going to concentrate hard on Smith this time around. As well they should. This is what I said last year immediately after the game and I still think I was right:

“For some reason I don’t understand the Bears were giving Steve Smith no apparent extra attention. Its fairly obvious that Cam Newton depends heavily on him. I had flash backs to Wes Welker last year.”

I’d better not have that “Welker feeling” again or its going to have been a long afternoon for the Bears.

In any case it will, indeed, be a lot of fun to watch.

“‘It’s such a tough deal, but I also believe God doesn’t give anybody more than they can handle,’ Smith said. ‘What makes a person isn’t necessarily what he’s made of or what he goes through. It’s also the people around him.

“‘As teammates, what we try to do is help him in whatever shape or form. I can’t imagine going through some of the things that he’s going through and then going through them alone.'”

Elsewhere

  • The Dolphins and the Jets renew their annual soap opera this week. Benjamin Hoffman at The New York Times puts it in perspective:

“The Dolphins and the Jets have engaged in one of those adorable rivalries where they fight like school children, unaware that their squabbles are seen as largely irrelevant by others around them.”


  • Sneaky. Also from ProFootballMock.com.

One Final Thought

Fred Mitchell at the Chicago Tribune writes about the sense of humor of offensive coordinator Mike Tice. But the quote that stands out is the one about this week’s game:

“‘We need to be 6-1. Have you looked at our schedule coming up? We need to be 6-1 and we need to take care of our business.’

“No joke.”

Gabe Carimi Is Not Quite Back Up to Snuff and Other Points of View

Bears

  • Sean Jensen at the Chicago Sun-Times quotes a scout on offensive tackle Gabe Carimi for the Bears Extra section:

“He just doesn’t look strong enough. Maybe part of that is the injury. He plays like he’s a 34-year-old.”

I would agree that Carimi hasn’t looked right and he’s been struggling. I don’t think its his strength so much as his quickness. He looks to me like he’s having a hard time keeping up with speed rushes to the outside. Like the scout, I suspect that the knee injury from last year hasn’t fully healed.

“Asked why quarterbacks no longer call their own plays, Tice said, ‘Because they don’t sit in meetings on Monday and Tuesday night and put the game plan in.’ But without hesitating, he added, ‘We did have some no-huddle [against Jacksonville] where we gave Jay some really, really good chances to do ‘either/or,’ and I thought he did a great job with the no-huddle. It was the most extensive that we had. It was another drive that stalled when we had something going, but we’re going to do more of that. We like him managing the no-huddle.’”

Using the no huddle does, of course, make sense. But other than that, expecting modern quarterbacks in the heat of battle to call plays with longer term planning and goals in mind is too much to ask. Most Bear fans will remember that former Bears offensive coordinator John Shoop couldn’t even do it just while standing on the side lines.

  • Potash does make a good point that the way the play calling is handled now leads to delays.

“The complicated nature of play-calling in the NFL that prevents Cutler from calling his own plays also causes its own problems. Offensive coordinator Mike Tice, a first-year play-caller, relays his call to quarterbacks coach Jeremy Bates, who gives the play to Cutler. If it gets there too late, it’s a problem. How many times have we seen an irritated Cutler walking back to the sideline after calling timeout because the play clock was running down?”

Passing plays through the quarterback coach made sense when Mike Martz was the coordinator because he spent his time in the booth. But with Tice on the sidelines, this makes less sense. My suggestion for cutting out the middle man would be cutting out Bates.

  • Potash can’t let go of the idea that Shea McClellin belongs at linebacker.
  • Dan Pompei at the Chicago Tribune suggests adjustments for the season after the bye. Here are a couple that I was in particular agreement with:

“I would not suggest that Brandon Marshall has been thrown to too frequently, because throwing to him has almost always been a good thing.

“But other Bears — [Devin] Hester, Earl Bennett and Matt Forte especially — are going to have to do more than they have as receivers at various points of the season.”

Good teams (like the Packers) are going to find ways to take Marshall away. That’s when the other guys have to get open against single coverage.

“Up until last week, the Bears relied heavily on Cover-2. They broke out a little bit against the Jaguars in an attempt to get eight men in the box.

“For their defense to be all it can be, it will have to be able to play more than Cover-2. It will have to be able to keep offenses off balance by blitzing, mixing in man-to-man, single high, quarters and man free.

“Whether the Bears can be more diverse will depend on how cornerbacks Charles Tillman, Tim Jennings and D.J. Moore and safeties Major Wright and Chris Conte hold up when given assignments that may be a bit out of their comfort zone.”

This is critical. Every team in the league knows the cover two beaters. Bear fans have seen them so often we dream them in our sleep. It works well against bad teams (or good teams playing badly) because they fail to execute. Against a good team on its game, though, its not going to fly. Not only do the Bears need to diversify their coverages in those situations but they have to do a good job of disguising them as well.

Lions

“The Lions, over their last 16 games (not counting pre-season, or exhibition, as it used to be called) are a 6-10 team. Is that an accurate predictor of this season? Can it be worse or will they get better?–Stephen, Windsor, Ontario

“I really expected them to be better, honestly. They have a great young quarterback and maybe the best receiver in football. Their defense should be awesome, certainly not 26th in points allowed. Certainly I didn’t see the rise of the Vikings, either, so that explains one loss – but to lose to the Titans, who are struggling, too?

“It’s not going to get any easier with the Eagles this week in Philadelphia and then the Bears in Chicago. And they still have both games against the Packers, who will be equally desperate, Houston and Atlanta. Unless the defense starts producing some turnovers – they have zero interceptions – I don’t see how things improve much against a very tough schedule.”

  • Of course the Lions beat the Eagles so that’s step one. Watching that game last weekend was a slow form of torture, especially in the first half. You would be hard pressed to find two sloppier teams. The Eagles were constantly bitten by negative plays and turnovers. The Lions consistently failed to take advantage as they were constantly killing themselves with penalties and undisciplined play. Both teams are an incredible waste of talent.
  • The lack of discipline on the part of the Lions was particularly evident along the defensive line. They got a lot of pressure on Michael Vick and they look like they are every bit as good as they were last year if not better. But they were rushing the passer like a blind dog in a meat house with many personal fouls and offsides penalties.
  • Having said that, beware the Lions in the fourth quarter. They woke up and starting moving the ball literally right when the quarter began as if they were just edging up to the starting line before that. Quarterback Matthew Stafford, who was inconsistent despite being under very little pressure all afternoon, suddenly woke up and started finding wide receiver Calvin Johnson underneath. The next week against the Bears could be very interesting, particularly if the Lions somehow manage to clean up their act for such an important divisional game.
  • Pompei, this time writing for The National Football Post writes about the “Wide 9” defensive philosophy where the defensive ends in a 4-3 sceme line up far to the outside. The Lions play it and the Vikings dabble in it.

“There are two primary benefits to the Wide 9. One is it makes it difficult for offenses to run outside. But the real reason teams use it is it gives the defensive ends excellent angles to get to the quarterback.

“‘It puts the fear of God into the offensive tackles if you have guys like Jason Babin, Jared Allen, Tamba Hali, Cliff Avril, Kyle Vanden Bosch, Lawrence Jackson and Willie Young,” [Lions defensive coordinator Gunther] Cunningham told me. ‘All these guys were some of the top speed guys coming into the draft and when you align wide, the OTs have to double kick on pass protection to block the edge. The double kick went out a few years back and now everyone is straight line dropping in the pass, meaning the OTs are holding space to stop the three technique, so the DEs that are wide have a straight line to the 7 ½ yard spot for the QB’s five step drop.'”

“The knock on the Wide 9 is it can leave a defense vulnerable to the inside run. In order for the Wide 9 to work, a defense needs a solid Mike linebacker and a good strong safety, because those two players often are going to be responsible for the B, C and D gaps. That’s why the Lions went after Stephen Tulloch last year, and why the Eagles traded for DeMeco Ryans this year.”

Elsewhere

“Can the officiating and broadcast crews keep up with Patriots when they play their accelerated no-huddle offense? If defenses are instructed to obstruct offense players after the whistle, will the refs call penalties?–Rufus T. Woodrow, New England

A.
I’m sure the broadcast crews were struggling – there’s certainly no time to show replays – because I was struggling. I would look down to jot down a note about the previous play and I’d miss the next one. I can only imagine what the defenses must feel like. Good question about the defenses obstructing players to slow things down – I would guess the officials will keep a close eye on that. That’s not supposed to happen, but it certainly does. Also wonder, as the no-huddle spreads around the league, if you’ll see players faking injuries to stop the clock.”

“How would you list the N.F.L.’s top ten coaches?–Frankly32

“Do I really have to? This is a minefield. This is in no particular order, but here are a few: [Tom] Coughlin, [Bill] Belichick, both Harbaughs [John and Jim], [Mike] Tomlin, Sean Payton, Jeff Fisher, [Andy] Reid, Mike McCarthy, and then some mix of [Mike] Shanahan/Mike Smith/Gary Kubiak – Shanahan has had great success but that was a while ago and he hasn’t had a quarterback until now to be in the same league with Elway, and I want to see Atlanta and Houston make deep playoff runs before elevating Smith and/or Kubiak despite their recent regular-season success.”

I like Batista and she’s one of the reasons I read the Times. And she does say she doesn’t want to do it. But suggesting “some mix of Shanahan/Mike Smith/Gary Kubiak” over Lovie Smith?

One Final Thought

I realize that this is only high school football but it really is amazing.