Rick Stroud at the Tampa Bay Times writes about whether former Bears head coach Lovie Smith is on the hot seat there:
“Contrary to what a few fans may believe, Smith’s coaching seat isn’t getting warm. Not even tepid.
“Why? When you take a quarterback No. 1 overall in the draft and plan to play him right away, you commit to the process as an organization, which is what the Bucs have done.”
“Smith is not blameless. He and general manager Jason Licht have made their share of mistakes in free agency. Some positions in the secondary and on the defensive line still are a revolving door. Any time Smith says the Bucs are 1-3, fans counter that they are 3-17 under Smith.”
Smith is entirely to blame. He’s has been put in charge and is ultimately responsible for all of the personnel decisions that are made in Tampa Bay, something that I pointed out was a grave error when they hired him. Smith is a pretty good head coach. But it’s not a co-incidence that the Bears drafts began to go more and more downhill as he gained more and more influence in the organization.
Despite winning his first ever home game in Tampa Bay on Sunday, Stroud says that Smith isn’t in trouble with ownership because they’re playing with a rookie quarterback and that’s fair enough. But the Tampa Bay problems are also on defense where they are last in the league with 148 points allowed over 5 games. That’s supposed to be Smith’s specialty and most Bears fans know he’s pretty good at it. But his insistence in meddling with player personnel is keeping that side of the ball unsettled. And it may not get better.
In many ways Smith is lucky. Having Jameis Winston is a built in excuse that will buy him time despite poor performance in other areas of his job. But he’s in over his head in Tampa Bay and unless they hire a real general manager with real power over personnel, its likely to stay that way.
Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune on the play of quarterback Jay Cutler:
“I think the best thing about Jay Cutler’s game in this early part of the season has been his pocket presence. He hasn’t been rattled and plays haven’t fallen apart when he’s been pressured. In fact, he’s created extra time for receivers to come free from their man or find a soft spot in the zone on many occasions in pretty much every game. You saw it on multiple occasions here where he moved around in the pocket or stepped up in the pocket to make a connection.”
He’s right. Cutler is doing an excellent job of moving in the pocket, the sign of a mature quarterback who is in a groove. I’ve also noticed that Cutler is starting to throw the ball with just a bit of anticipation to receivers coming out of their breaks, something that’s absolutely necessary with the receiving corp that he’s dealing with.
As Biggs notes, Cutler’s statistics aren’t dazzling and there’s a reason for that, He’s been very inconsistent, pulling some wonderful throws out of his hat, then following them with head scratchingly inaccurate passes. Last Sunday provided a good example as Cutler dropped a wonderful 33 yard bomb to Marquess Wilson for a touchdown, then followed it with a pass at Matt Forte‘s feet on the two point conversion attempt.
Nevertheless, even Cutler’s harshest critics – and I consider myself to be one – would have to acknowledge it. Cutler is on a roll.
As Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune reviews the film from Sunday’s game, he notes the perfomance of “linebacker” Willie Young. Young “had a sack and another strong rush”. Young had 20 snaps on Sunday, playing mostly opposite Pernell McPhee and to my eye, after McPhee, he looked like the strongest pass rusher out there.
Young reportedly asked for a trade after Jared Allen was traded to Carolina. Allen was struggling in the system and Young obviously see himself in the same boat. The difference is that Young has been and is more effective as a pass rusher than the 33 year old Allen. Young is also fighting for playing time with Lamarr Houston (who also had a sack Sunday) and Sam Acho, who probably is the best all around linebacker of the three but who has the worst pass rush skills of the three.
I strongly suspect that the Bears are hesitant to give Young more playing time because of his weakness in pass coverage as a linebacker. But they need to find a way to do it, both to keep him happy and to keep pressure on the quarterback. Perhaps the solution is to play him strictly in nickel situations where the defense plays more of a 4-3 front. If they do that, they need to give him every snap they can.
Mike Florio at profootballtalk.com informs us of a potential disaster in St. Louis near Rams Park as there is an underground fire smoldering in one landfill very close to another landfill which contains radioactive waste:
“Via the Chicago Tribune, a disaster plan discovered this week by KMOX radio in St. Louis, the possibility exists for the release of a smoke plume containing radioactive fallout — and it would ‘most likely occur with little or no advance warning.'”
“The fire is happening at the Bridgeton Landfill. Which sits next to theWest Lake Landfill. Which contains radioactive waste from uranium processing.
“Bridgeton Landfill has become notorious for its pungent odor. As someone who has been to Rams Park in recent years tells PFT, when the wind is blowing toward the team’s facility, the odor is ‘unbearable.’ It’s believed that the Rams check to see whether it’s a downwind-from-the-stink day before bringing free agents to Rams Park. (If they don’t already do that, they probably should.)”
For heaven’s sake, no wonder Rams owner Stan Kroenke can’t wait to get out of the St. Louis. They’re at the intersection of a landfill with a terrible odor and a radioactive waste dump!
St. Louis really blew this. They could have renovated their stadium as called for by their contract with the Rams years ago. Instead they chose to fight it and then, after they were ordered by a court to do it, still refused. Now they’ve taken an awful situation and made it unbearable. I can’t imagine that the Rams aren’t one of the teams that ends up in Los Angeles as soon as next year.
Mike Florio at profootballtalk.com quotes 41 yer old former wide receiver Terrell Owens as he claims that he could still play for the Eagles:
“‘You think that I shouldn’t be playing right now?’ Owens said on the same day his Football Life documentary debuted on NFL Network. ‘I definitely could be playing right now, but based on my character — yeah, people can say, ‘Oh he’s 41.”
“It sounds like Owens wanted to once again claim that the NFL’s lack of interest comes from media-fueled concerns regarding his disruptive locker-room behavior. But he was wise not to shine a light on that topic, what with the voters (all of whom belong to the media) poised to give him a bronze bust in early February.”
“He has a point, and with quarterback Matthew Hasselbeck getting it done at the age of 40, it’s hard not to wonder why someone wouldn’t give Owens a chance. He undoubtedly has grown and matured in five years of not playing, and he’d surely be grateful for getting one last opportunity to play.”
A) Wide receivers are not quarterbacks. B) Even if they were, there’s no way that, after head coach Chip Kelly spent the entire offseason getting rid of the divas on that team, he’s going to invite a locker room disruption like Owens into the mix now.
I understand that it’s hard ot accept. But its time for Owens to accept the fact that on the wrong side of 40, he simply isn’t worth the problems he brings. It’s time ot let it go and enjoy retirement.
Hub Arkush‘s thoughts at chicagofootball.com on safety Adrian Amos mirror my own:
“To start every game your rookie year as a fifth-round draft choice is exceptional in and of itself. That Amos has blended right in and rarely been visible – meaning he is at least doing his job well – is remarkable.”
“Understand that the Bears’ problems at safety over the last seven or eight years have been that the safeties have been the most obvious players on the field, too often getting burned on big plays.
“It’s too early to know if Amos is going to be more than an average guy who won’t kill you or a good football player, but if you think about it, how often have you seen him burned at all?”
I can’t think of a single time. And that’s good.
There’s only one thing that bothers me about Amos. Presumably he’s supposed to be helping the cornerbacks in coverage. Yes, you neer want to notice the safety because usually when you do, it’s because he’s blown a tackle or was out of position on a play. But this is a part of the game where you should notice the safety – coming over the top at the last minute as a cornerback covers a good receiver near the side line. Yet, I’ve rarely noticed Amos on these plays and it often looks like its just the cornerback on an island on these plays. I’m wondering how much help Amos has been in coverage under those circumstances.
Amos is a developing situation that I think all of us will continue to keep an eye on. But, with that one caveat, so far so good.
Steve Rosenbloom at the Chicago Tribune previews the Bears game against the Chiefs:
“Tight end Travis Kelce has 21 catches for 293 yards and two TDs in the first four games. He also leads NFL tight ends in yards after the catch. He’s Rob Gronkowski with fewer viral videos.
“[Shea] McClellin, the wrong linebacker chosen by the wrong general manager, hasn’t made a play in the passing game this season. And now he gets this guy.
“McClellin, who’s playing inside linebacker because there’s no one else to coach, seems perpetually in the trail technique. And now he gets this guy.
“The Chiefs offense will throw the ball between the hash marks. It will create picks and decisions because Andy Reid loves high-low routes, especially crossing patterns. It will teach us about McClellin’s progress, athleticism and instincts.”
Presumably Rosenbloom picks on McClellin because he’s the former first round pick – and I won’t say he’s wrong to do so. But it’s worth pointing out that his teammate inside, Christian Jones hasn’t been much better. Both look lost in coverage.
Having said that, both should get plenty of help this week. The Chiefs have one wide receiver who can catch the ball down field and that’s Jeremy Maclin. The Bears will undoubtedly do what the Bengals did to Maclin last week – roll the safety to his side. Other than that the entire Chiefs offense is short passes and handing the ball off to Jamal Charles and everyone on the defense except cornerback Tracy Porter and safety Adrian Amos will likely be keying on that.
Rosenbloom thinks McClellin is the key to this game but my money is on a patchwork offensive line. The Bengals made that pass rush look pretty ordinary last week and that gives hope that the Bears will do the same. But anyone who watched this team play the Broncos in week 2 knows that they’re ferocious when they’re on their game. And they’re almost certainly licking their chops at the thought of facing a very wounded Bears offense.
Forget McClellin and the Bears defense. The Bears will go as the offensive line goes this week.
Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune thinks that history should provide a lesson for Bears general manager Ryan Pace:
“It’s easy to point to busted draft picks and say that is why [former Bears general manager Jerry] Angelo was dumped after 11 seasons, but trace his problems closely and they were rooted in not maintaining the offensive line.
“In a span of five drafts from 2003-2007, the Bears had 42 total picks with 23 coming in the top four rounds. Only one of those 23 was an offensive lineman and only three linemen were selected overall — one in the sixth round and two in the seventh. The fourth-rounder, Josh Beekman, made 20 starts and didn’t pan out.”
As Biggs points out, Angelo ended up relying too heavily on free agency to stock the line. But in fairness, this isn’t entirely his fault. Offensive line coaches simply have to be able to develop players that are drafted in later rounds or that are found as street free agents. It was former Bears offensive line coach Aaron Kromer‘s specialty and it was what made him so attractive as an offensive coordinator under Marc Trestman.
You can’t rely entirely on late draft picks and rookie free agents. That’s been proven, particularly at left tackle. But putting together a good offensive line is a combination of good drafting and development. If either breaks down, you’re going to fail.
In the case of the current Bears line, I’m encouraged that Charles Leno in particular was able to step in and play so well last week. It’s a very small sample size to be sure but it’s a hopeful sign that offensive line coach Dave Magazu knows what he’s doing and that he can develop talent at the position. Let’s hope it continues. They’re going to need Leno and a whole lot more this Sunday.
Rich Campbell at the Chicago Tribune obliterates some of my pre-conceptions about game planning:
“As is common throughout the league, game-planning duties are spread among the Bears’ offensive assistants as a starting point for meetings on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday nights.”
“Elements of the running game were divided between running backs coach Stan Drayton, offensive line coach Dave Magazu and tight ends coach Frank Smith. Receivers coach Mike Groh handled third down and Dowell Loggains focused on the red zone. Coaches studied video, then collaborated.
“‘It makes it a really nice conversation,’ [offensive coordinator Adam] Gase said.
“‘We’ll say, ‘Who does that really well? If we don’t have anybody who does that really well, we’ll throw it out. You don’t want to try to force a guy to do something he’s not really good at.'”
I always had this notion in my head that offensive game planning consisted of the coordinator sitting alone in his office until 2AM watching film putting it all together. It never occurred to me that all of the coaches might share in the duty.
A couple thoughts on this. First, this means that the offensive coaches better get along pretty well because they’re going to spend a lot of time together. I remember stories of offensive coordinator John Shoop, then under head coach Dick Jauron, throwing wide receivers coach Todd Haley out of meetings because things got so heated. No wonder the offense was such an unmitigated disaster.
I also think its interesting that all of these coaches are basically coordinators in training. It’s one additional explanation for why promoting from within is so common in the NFL, particularly with successful units. You can’t say that anyone on the staff has never put a game plan together before because they all have. And since they’ve all been working even more closely together than I previously thought, breaking up the relationships seems even more foolish than it would have been anyway.