Way Too Early for Predictions But…

Steve Rosenbloom at the Chicago Tribune comments upon the Super Bowl and points out that both teams were formerly coached by Bears head coach John Fox. That leads him to this statement:

“Fox’s history says he’s a quick-turnaround coach. Fox’s history also suggests someone else will have to win a Super Bowl for the Bears.

“But first, Fox’s Bears must reach the playoffs next season. Must. Period. End of discussion.”

Then he says this:

“[D]efense is the fastest way to respectability, and Fox starts with defense.

“His influence, or maybe I should say his obsession, is seen on the Super Bowl teams. It has been seen here already and will continue to be.

“In Fox’s first season, the Bears defense finished remarkably well considering it needs improvement at almost every position.”

Rosenbloom is setting both himself and other Bears fans up for major disappointment if he expects a playoff berth with that defense. As Rosenbloom says, they have needs literally everywhere on defense and they don’t have a single defensive playmaker to work with. Fox is a good coach with a very good staff. But even good coaches need at least some talent to succeed.

Is it possible that the Bears will make the playoffs next year? If they have a great season and everything falls their way it’s possible. But I wouldn’t expect it. I’d save that for 2017 after the Bears have a couple more drafts to get themselves together.

It’s way too early for this but since Rosenblom brought it up, off hand I’d say 0.500 would be a reasonably good season next year. That’s assuming that Jay Cutler doesn’t pull a disappearing act, they have a reasonably good draft, use free agency to fill a couple holes, and stay reasonably healthy.  We’ll see what happens after that.

EDIT:  I thought this video from Sports Talk Live on CSN Chicago might be interesting as an addendum to this post.

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Bradford to the 49ers? No Way.

Martin Frank at delawareonline.com speculates that the 49ers might be interested in trading for Sam Bradford:

Chip Kelly always liked to use the phrase ‘open competition’ to describe the battle for the starting quarterback when he coached the Eagles, whether it was true or (mostly) not.”

“Wouldn’t it be funny if [Eagles general manager HowieRoseman puts the franchise tag on Bradford, then swings a deal with San Francisco to get back the second-round draft pick that Kelly traded away to get Bradford?

“After all, if the 49ers quarterback job is truly an open competition, then Kelly must not be completely satisfied with what he has. Any ‘football guy’ can see that.”

I can’t believe Frank is serious. Kelly has a good quarterback for his system in Blaine Gabbert already and if Gabbert doesn’t work out, there’s the highly athletic Colin Kaepernick to coach up and compete for the job.

Sure, if Bradford were free on the market and the 49ers could get him for some minimal amount of money, they might give him a shot at the job. But a second round pick for a mediocre quarterback that’s going to cost you $18 million a year? No chance.

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Vernon Adams Is a Name that Bears Fans Should Know Going Into the 2016 NFL Draft

Michael David Smith at profootballtalk.com comments upon the outstanding showing that Orgeon quarterback Vernon Adams put on at the East-West Shrine Bowl:

“Adams has a lot going against him in the eyes of the NFL: He’s only 5-foot-11 and 195 pounds. He played only one season of big-time college football after transferring from Eastern Washington to Oregon, and he got hurt that year. He hasn’t played in a pro-style offense.

“But Adams was outstanding on Saturday, completing six of nine passes for 191 yards and three touchdowns, and also adding two rushes for 24 yards. Former Falcons head coach June Jones, who coached the West team in the Shrine Game, said on NFL Network after the game that he believes Adams has NFL talent.”

“NFL Media’s Mike Mayock believes Adams could be a fit for the 49ers. Although Chip Kelly didn’t coach Adams at Oregon, the Ducks continued to run an offense similar to Kelly’s, and when Adams was healthy he played very well in that offense.”

Sure the 49ers are a possibility. But its the Bears that you need to keep an eye on. When general manager Ryan Pace was with the Saints, they traded for Drew Brees and signed current Kansas City backup Chase Daniel as an undrafted free agent. Both men are 6’0″, only an inch taller than Adams.

If Pace likes what he sees, given that the Saints drafted their quarterback of the future last year with the selection of Garrett Grayson, there isn’t a general manager in the NFL more likely to discount Adams’ size and roll the dice on him.

Posted in Chicago Bears, New Orleans Saints, San Francisco 49ers | 1 Comment

Why Isn’t Greg Olsen Still a Bear?

Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune writes a nice, balanced retrospective on the trade of tight end Greg Olsen to the Panthers. The trade doesn’t look too good in 2016 as Olsen has been a Pro Bowler and is playing today in the NFC Championship game.

“The trade goes on [Jerry] Angelo‘s record as he was the GM, but Olsen doesn’t fault him for how things went down with plenty of distance between the emotions fueling him at the time.

“‘I just think I was pigeonholed,’ Olsen said. ‘They gave one person in the organization ([then offensive coordinator Mike] Martz) a lot of power and control over the direction and unfortunately it wasn’t the head coach.'”

That’s not at all correct and I can’t believe that even after all of these years Olsen doesn’t realize it.

It’s true that it was Martz’s system that put Angelo in a bind. There are two kinds of coaches in the league: those who adapt their system to the players that they have and those who demand players to fit their system. Former offensive coordinator Adam Gase was in the former category. Martz was in the latter. Martz couldn’t understand why you’d want a tight end that couldn’t block and would have rather had a big wide receiver on the field, something that’s not totally unreasonable.

But saying that Olsen got traded because Martz had the power and not former head coach Lovie Smith is way off base. Indeed, though it was never stated explicitly, it was believed at the time that Angelo had wanted Smith to hire another coordinator and it was Smith who insisted that the team bring in yet another coach with whom he has worked in the past rather than (arguably) the best qualified candidate. Smith and Angelo both knew who Martz was and how he would want to run the offense.  There was no place in it for a tight end of Olsen’s talents and with that hire, for better or worse, Smith essentially decided Olsen’s fate with the team.

Ultimately, the head coach hires the coaches and ultimately the buck stops with him. That was particularly true of Smith who demanded and got total control over his coaching staff. Could you argue that Angelo ultimately hired Smith?  You sure could.  But regardless the fact is that in this case Angelo was simply dealing with the consequences of Smith’s decisions.  And that’s why Greg Olsen isn’t a Bear.

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Thoughts on the Five Year Anniversary of the “Open Season on Jay Cutler” Game

Jeff Dickerson at ESPN “celebrates” the fifth anniversary of the Bears playoff loss to the Green Bay Packers. Bears fans will remember the game as much for the Jay Cutler knee injury as for the loss.

Dickerson points out yet again that Cutler was, indeed, legitimately injured. Personally I have never questioned Cutler’s physical toughness. His mental toughness, on the other hand, I think was a legitimate issue as Dickerson also accurately points out what a miserable first half Cutler had as the Bears got dominated and Cutler certainly looked to me like he gave up well before the injury.

But none of that is really why I remember this game. Dickerson comments:

“Because Chicago initially announced Cutler as ‘questionable’ to return, NFL players started to question the severity of the quarterback’s knee injury on Twitter (a rare occurrence at the time).

“‘All I’m saying is that he can finish the game on a hurt knee. … I played the whole season on one,’ former Jacksonville running back Maurice Jones-Drew tweeted.

“Ex-Arizona Cardinals defender Darnell Dockett added: ‘If I’m on Chicago team jay cutler has to wait till me and the team shower get dressed and leave before he comes in the locker room! #FACT'”

Never have I ever seen a player publicly savaged by his peers under those circumstances the way that Cutler was on that day. The guess here is that I never will again. The NFL is a fraternity and almost every player who has ever been injured knows how unfair it can be to question such things. Could you hear some trash talking in the days preceding a game? Sure. But never this.

The most lasting impression that I have of that game is how hated Cutler must have been amongst his peers to evoke these kinds of public comments. You wonder how much of that still lingers even five years later.

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Kiper Regrades the Bears 2015 Draft

Bears 2015 DraftMel Kiper at ESPN regrades the 2015 draft. Not surprisingly, the Bears came out pretty well.

“Post-draft grade: B-plus

“Give the Bears’ front office a lot of credit, because it was a bad break to lose Kevin White for an entire season. They still managed to get some important building blocks out of this class, and they did it while winning more games than the year before. Progress was made, and the draft helped. Eddie Goldman was a good value in Round 2, and Jeremy Langford could take over for Matt Forte if the Bears and Forte part ways. A true steal was Adrian Amos in Round 5. I know I’m supposed to have a soft spot for him since we went to the same high school, but I certainly didn’t pump up his value for that reason and was actually surprised at how well he played. I’d keep the grade the same for now, and it goes up or down based on what White delivers.

“New grade: B-plus”

Though I’m not sure Amos holds onto that starting safety spot as the Bears upgrade their talent and the Bears didn’t draft a quarterback of the future, if White turns out to be a good receiver and Hronis Grasu turns into a good starter, this draft gets a solid ‘A’. Every pick from top to bottom either contributed in 2015 or showed the potential to contribute in the near future. You can’t expect any better than that.

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Coaches Need to Inspire Trust of Only One Particular Kind

Mike Florio at profootballtalk.com interviews former Bears offensive coordinator and new Dolphins head coach Adam Gase on how to get the best out of his quarterbacks:

“‘I think it starts with the group of guys that you’re working with,’ Gase said when asked about his ability to work so well with quarterbacks. ‘I feel like lucky enough to be around some great staffs. The head coaches that I’ve worked for in the past were guys that were very personable and quarterbacks gravitated to as far as creating an environment where they feel like the head coach had their back. And I really think that helps when you’re going through adversity, [with] John Fox being a great example. You always felt like he was always right behind the quarterback. He always made sure that the quarterback knew that no matter what happened he was side by side with them and then when you’re the coordinator or the quarterbacks coach, when you’re head coach has that aspect you know that really helps the confidence. It helps you sustain that fight that you have to have because it’s not always going be good. And as the season progresses you just see guys get more confident.'”

I find it hard to believe that former Bears head coach Marc Trestman didn’t have quarterback Jay Cutler‘s back. He certainly talked about it enough.

Good coaching really comes down to one thing – your ability to help the player succeed. You can be his friend and you can have his back. But there’s really only one kind of trust that you need to get from him – trust that you know what you are doing and can put him in the best position to perform. Looking back on it, its evident that Trestman (and virtually every other offensive coordinator and head coach dating back to Ron Turner) didn’t do that. It’s evident that Fox does. It will be interesting to see if Gase can engender the same kind of trust.

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Bears Will Face Stiff Competition for a Guard in Free Agency

Dave Birkett at the Detroit Free Press thinks the Lions could be big spenders in free agency:

“With a projected cap north of $150 million, and the likelihood they free up more room with cuts or retirements, the Lions have the potential to be significant players in free agency if new general manager Bob Quinn chooses.”

“The Lions have holes on both lines, at linebacker and at receiver this off-season, and their need for a pass catcher could amplify if Calvin Johnson retires, as he’s hinted he might do.

“If Johnson retires, the Lions, who currently have more available cap space than 11 other teams, will gain an additional $11 million in spending room.”

The Lions, like the Bears, might have plenty of cap space but they are one of many, many teams that have needs on the offensive line including playoff teams Minnesota, Seattle and Arizona to name a few. All of these teams will face stiff competition for any offensive lineman who is worth his salt and who hits free agency. That’s going to drive the price up into the stratosphere.

The Bears, at least, are going to have to look for their right guard in the draft. Any team hoping to fill their holes in that area through free agency and is willing to put out the money needed to do it is likely building the foundation of their offense on sand.

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Draft May Lack Linebackers but Other Defensive Positions Look Strong

Eric D. Williams at ESPN comments upon Mel Kiper‘s first mock draft:

“Kiper said he felt cornerback, offensive guard and defensive line — both defensive end and defensive tackles — are deep position groups in this year’s draft.

“Twenty of the 31 players in Kiper’s initial mock draft were defensive players, and 11 of those 20 defensive players were defensive linemen.

“‘Defensive line probably and corner are the strong positions in this draft by a mile,’ Kiper said.”

That’s good news for a Bears team in desperate need of playmakers on the defensive side of the ball. Though, like Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune, I’d prefer a pass rusher and the high end of the draft looks bare of worthy inside linebackers, the Bears have needs at every level of the defense. Especially the defensive line.

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Vic Fangio and The “Head Coach Type”

Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune answers your questions. this one was about why Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio didn’t get an interview for a head coaching position:

“Fangio is 57 but we have seen older coaches get their first crack at a head job recently with Bruce Arians enjoying tremendous success in Arizona. Fangio isn’t a very political guy and I say that not as a positive or a negative but simply as an observation that you get. Every head coach that was hired this offseason was from an offensive background.”

The comparison to Arians might be a good one here in more ways than age. Arians, like Fangio, “isn’t a very political guy”. From the quotes that I have read, he’s a straight shooting guy who will walk in to a room and firmly tell you what he thinks.

That sounds like a good thing in theory and that’s what everyone says that they want to hear. But the reality is something different. Some of the smartest people I know are like this and I’ve found over time that it’s a mistake not to listen to them. But I’ve also noticed that they rarely get asked to work with people in teams on administrative tasks. The truth is that straight shooters often tell it like it is with little tact and sometimes they are so firm that it comes across as an attack. That’s not good and they often impress as uncompromising to administrative types in any business, not just football. You need a guy who can get his point across while still leaving the people around the table certain that he’ll play nicely if things don’t go his way.

If I were to guess as to why Arians didn’t get the job in Chicago when he interviewed in 2013, I’d say that he scared some people off with his forthright attitude, particularly then general manager Phil Emery, who had been dealing with a very stubborn and opinionated Lovie Smith. That was the Bears loss. But it is also understandable.

I’m making some assumptions here but if Fangio is to get his chance at a head coaching job, he’s probably going to have to make sure that everyone he meets knows that he’s a team player no matter what the circumstances. Expressing an opinion is a tone that is calm and reasoned with less emotional baggage usually helps. In fact, it’s usually essential. Otherwise, Bears fans will be happy to have him in Chicago for as long as he wants to be here.

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