Mike Tice Makes Nice and Other News


  • Packers nickel back Sam Shields insists he’ll play Sunday but he currently can run on a knee which has a mystery injury (via Tom Silverstein and Gary D’Amato of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel).  Safety Atari Bigby has been ruled out for the game.
  • The Bears can probably expect a steady dose of full back John Kuhn this week.  Kuhn was the subject of this interesting feature from the AP.  Kuhn has been coming on since Ryan Grant went down for the Packers and, as Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune has pointed out, the Bears typically struggle with bigger, more physical backs.
  • It appears that the Bears are going to have to deal with more than the pass rush of outside linebacker Clay Mathews.  Mathews comments via Pete Dougherty at the Green Bay Press Gazette:

“[Packers nose tackle] B.J. [Raji] is really starting to come into his own now. Sacks are like a drug, you want more. B.J.’s starting to get a taste of it, so he’s turning into a pretty good pass rusher.”

Add the currently injured Cullen Jenkins to the mix when the playoffs start and the Packers are going to be even more of a hand full.  Jenkins is unlikely to start the Beas game but he hasn’t been ruled out.

  • Matt Bowen at the National Football Post gives his opinion on how much the Bears starters should play from the point of view of an ex-player.
  • Despite cries of “no respect” from players and fans, the Bears improvement on offense is starting to get some national attention.  Gregg Rosenthal at profootballtalk.com had some good things to say.
  • Biggs points out this interesting fact:

“Veterans Chris Harris and Danieal Manning are expected to start Sunday at Lambeau Field and mark the first time the Bears have had safeties paired for an entire season since Tony Parrish and Mike Brown in 2001.”


In fairness to the Packers fans, the negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement adds uncertainty to pretty much all off-season activities this year.

  • Greg Bishop at the New York Times emphasizes a dilemma that the Jets face which Bear fans will certainly recognize.
  • Vikings defensive tackle Pat Williams gave his always unique take on the movement of the Eagles game from Sunday to Tuesday to Tom Powers at the Pioneer Press:

“‘This was the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever seen in my life,’ Pat Williams said. ‘It was b.s. Play the damn game. We should have played on Sunday.’

“Pat was getting agitated. He’s spent the past four days eating Philly cheesesteaks and hanging around the team hotel.

“‘Fan safety. Fan safety!’ he said. ‘The fans all left. They ain’t no good, anyway.'”

“It starts with the head coach, as Andy Reid likes to say. That is more than boilerplate this time around. The Eagles came out being too cute by half — a shovel pass to DeSean Jackson, really? — against a team they should have been able to dispatch without resorting to such chicanery.”

Easy to see who former Vikings head coach Brad Childress learned to formulate his offensive game plans from.

“We’ve said for weeks that it’s dangerous to just throw away Kubiak’s effective offense when it has so much continuity.  Phillips may not be a great head coach, but he brings a lot to the table as a defensive play-caller.”

I couldn’t gee more.  Some guys just aren’t cut out to be head coaches.  In truth, Kubiac may be one of them, too.  But he’ll be giving himself a better chance with Phillips being in charge of the defense.

One Final Thought

For the first time I can remember, maybe the first time ever, Mike Tice has something nice to say publicly about pass-happy Bears offensive coordinator Mike Martz.  From Neil Hayes at the Chicago Sun-Times:

“A lot of credit goes to Mike to be able to adjust on the go and call the game a little differently [since the bye week]. He’s done a great, great job. He’s really helped us get to where we are.”

Its snowing in hell.

Rookie Cap Proposal Needs Tweaking

Mike Florio writes an interesting commentary on the state of the negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement.  He focuses upon a proposed rookie wage scale.  He runs the numbers and comes to this conclusion:

“Thus, the truly big money will be paid out not in the first contract but in the second contract.  As a result, the goal will become to get to the second contract.  And to get to the second contract, a player will need to get into the league and start proving his worth.”

His point is that the new system will cause more rookies to leave college early:

“As one league source explained it to PFT on Thursday, more underclassmen will choose to leave, since improving their draft stock via an extra year of college football won’t translate into the big money that a big bump up the ladder would have triggered in the past.  The big money will now come once free agency approaches, and free agency won’t approach if the player opts for another year of play-for-no-pay.”

This is a legitimate issue and one which the league would be well advised to avoid.  How?

If the goal is to get to the second contract, then higher round picks should be signed to shorter rookie deals.  That gets them to free agency quicker and provides the player with the needed incentive to stay in school and improve his draft stock.  A player might “play-for-no-pay” for an extra year but, effectively, it could still count as progress towards free agency and, given the extra skill level acquired, could make sticking around at a university worthwhile.

Will the owners actually do this?  Very doubtful.  The current system allows teams that draft well to have sustained success and, in theory, allows better organizations to compete effectively under a cap.  Organizations that draft well are going to want to be able to continue to keep those players under their rookie contract.  Even with restricted free agency there’s a good chance that such a team could lose an impact player.

But the league can’t have its cake and eat it, too.  If its serious about making sure that its money only goes to players that have shown they can earn it, its going to have to give in on something.  This might be the only answer.

What’s Really Scary about the New England Patriots? They’re Actually “Rebuilding”.

As good as the NFC North is going to be next year, the Bears should be grateful they aren’t in a division with the New England Patriots, a team who won a tough AFC East division and are dominating the NFL while rebuildingKristian R. Dyer comments at The New York Times:

“In its two-deep, New England counts 6 starters and 21 players total with fewer than three years in the N.F.L. This makes them the youngest A.F.C. team in this year’s playoffs.”

This a result of an interesting apparent philosophy:

Dave Shonka, a former scout with the Eagles, Redskins and Chiefs, said: ‘Quality depth management is a Patriot technical term for throwing spaghetti on the wall to see what sticks. With misses like first- and second-rounders such as Laurence Maroney and Chad Jackson, playing the numbers game is less expensive. Of course, all this roster management would not be possible without a sixth-round pick in the 2000 draft named Tom Brady –- he was a noodle that stuck on the wall.’”

But that’s not all:

“The future for the Patriots looks awfully bright. They hold six picks in the first three rounds of the draft; the Jets hold two in those rounds. With nine picks next April, New England is poised to add even more young talent.”

I’m really proud of what the Bears coaching staff has accomplished this year, especially Mike Tice who has apparently done an incredible job with a young offensive line.  If the staff stays together, it bodes well for the future.

But these guys have got nothing on Bill Belichick.  The current state of the New England Patriots is nothing short of amazing.  The Bears are eventually going to suffer.  Many of their impact players are aging and they simply haven’t drafted well enough to guarantee sustain success.  It’s hard to do.

In contrast, I’ve never seen a healthier franchise than the Patriots, who dominated the Bears three weeks ago and who have been generally dominating everyone this season.  We truly are witnessing one of the rarest things in sports – the beginnings of a true dynasty.  Thank goodness the Bears don’t have to play them twice a year.

Bears Players Talk Turf – Serenity Now!

The Alcoholics Anonymous Serenity Prayer contains a message that can apply to anyone as they deal with problems thought life.  It goes like this:

“God grant us the serenity to accept the things we cannot change, courage to change the things we can, and wisdom to know the difference.”

Its a valuable message and one which the Bears players probably need to be able to apply when it comes to the turf at Soldier Field.  First quarterback Jay Cutler, now linebacker Brian Urlacher.  Urlacher cut loose on the Soldier Field footing yesterday (via Vaughn McClure at the Chicago Tribune):

“I don’t know about the beat-up part, but the footing at Soldier Field has been horrible,” Urlacher said. “We’ve all seen that. If you watch us on film, our D-line slipped.

“We’re a fast team and when you get us on a surface like that, it takes a little bit of our speed. Health-wise I think we’re OK if we’re playing fast. But the field has been so bad we haven’t been able to do what we normally do.”

I’m pretty tired of hearing about this.  As Urlacher points out, both teams play on the surface.  The Bears players just have to be quiet and deal with it.  I find it to be disturbing that they are letting the state of the their own stadium’s turf get into their heads to distract them from the task at hand.

More interesting to me is finding a solution to the problem.  In this respect, the varied statements we get from through the media don’t help.

As I blogged at the time, he Chicago Sun-Times said this just a few weeks ago:

“Nobody is expecting changes at Soldier Field any time soon. Team president Ted Phillips has said he’s awaiting ongoing studies on player safety before making any decisions. The park district maintains the stadium as a multipurpose venue, and other events require grass fields.”

“Hybrid surfaces such as the one at Lambeau Field aren’t practical at such a busy venue, which means the status quo may be the best — and only — alternative.”

But Brad Biggs, writing for the National Football Post, said something different yesterday:

“The park district would like to install an artificial surface because it would save money quickly and be able to do much more with the stadium. The Bears, for the time being at least, prefer a natural grass surface. Not all of the players are in favor of that, though.”

Dan Pompei, also at the Tribune, seemed to agree in May:

“The Park District is all for a change to an infill surface — it’s the Bears who are not on board. The Park District could get around the soccer issue by have a grass field rolled over the infill for special events. This is done in some stadiums. You are correct in that the Park District does make money on concerts at Soldier Field, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t want to make more money from soccer events.”

but then he also wrote this about the latest hybrid surfaces:

“The Eagles and Steelers tried (the hybrid surface used at Lambeau), had problems and had to go back to natural grass. The problem with this type of surface at Soldier Field is it might not hold up to the wear and tear–especially when you consider the stadium, unlike Lambeau Field, also stages events other than Bears games. And if you have problems with it, there is no way to re-sod. You’d have to replace the entire field. As for whether or not the surface is more safe than any other surface, the real answer is no one knows.”

So which is it?  Does the Park District want artificial turf or doesn’t it?  Does the Park District even know what it wants?

For that matter, though the Bears have been consistent in saying they are awaiting the results of studies being conducted, I’m not sure how useful those studies are going to be.  Turf is improving all the time and whatever the studies conclude, there almost certainly won’t be enough of it about hybrid surfaces like the one at Lambeau in Green Bay.  And even if there was could the park district even use it?  Pompei obviously doesn’t think so.

So when we look at the complaints of the players and at the reasons why this has been allowed to become a distraction, part of the problem might be that the players haven’t gotten a firm message from the organization or the city about what can be done, should be done or will be done.  As the Serenity Prayer above implies, people who have their heads on straight tend to turn their minds to the task at hand once they realize that a decision has been made and the situation is out of their hands.  Instead, the players think that by talking about it, they can influence the situation.  And in talking about it, they continue to think about it.

I understand that this is a multifaceted story.  Clearly player safety has to come first.  But in the absence of clear data on the subject and in the likelihood of its  continued absence, what’s best for the venue long term comes next on the list.  A logical, consistent message from the powers involved might really help the fans, not to mention the players, sort out where everyone stands on the issue.

Bears Defense Must Get Back to Fundamentals

Sean Jensen at the Chicago Sun-Times addresses the Bears defensive problems the last few games:

“The defense was ranked third overall, third in first downs allowed and tied for the league lead in fewest points permitted. But in the five games since, the Bears have allowed 26 points per game, and the defense has dropped to 10th overall and 11th in first downs allowed.”

The Bears players seem to agree:

“When he reviewed film of the game against the Jets, Briggs was disappointed in what he saw from the defense. And if the Bears are going to make a Super Bowl push, he said, he and his defensive teammates need to step it up.

“’It was poor,’ he said. ‘You look at the film, and usually it’s better than you think it is. This definitely wasn’t. It wasn’t the type of football we need to play to win in the postseason.'”

I couldn’t agree more.  The Bears defense hasn’t played with much discipline lately.  Even without reviewing film the average fan can see that the Bears are giving up big plays.  Safeties are biting on short routes.  Linebackers are out of their gaps.  There’s a lot of over pursuit.

Fortunately the solution, or at least a big part of it isn’t tough to figure out:

“’We just have to get back to our fundamentals because we were playing fundamentally good football consistently [earlier] in the year,’ linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa said. ‘So to get back to that would be the goal.

“'[Recent games have] definitely made us more aware — more conscious — of our deficiencies.’”

Better now than in the playoffs.  So in that respect it’s not a bad thing.  As long as they get a handle on it soon.

Packers Will Avoid Hester – If Possible

Rob Reischel, writing for the Chicago Tribune, addresses whether the Packers will kick to Devin Hester:

“Packers coach Mike McCarthy called it ‘top secret.’ Several other Packers refused to show their hands.

“Packers special teams standout Jarrett Bush was far more forthcoming. According to Bush, the Packers will do everything they can Sunday to make sure Bears return ace Devin Hester doesn’t touch the football.

“‘I don’t think so,’ Bush said when asked if the Packers would kick to Hester. ‘If he does, it’s going to be an accident.'”

I don’t think so either.

The Packers will, of course, try to punt away from Devin Hester.  But as Bush implies, that doesn’t mean Hester won’t see his chances.  Rob Demovsky writes about the difficulties for the Green Bay Press Gazette:

“Punting isn’t that exact of a science and in the Packers’ locker room on Monday, [Green Bay punter Tim] Masthay explained why. Using a pen and paper, he gave a geometry lesson on angles and explained why a 40-yard punt out of bounds is more than just a 40-yard punt.

“’If you want to hit a 40-yard punt out of bounds, it’s longer than hitting it straight up the field,’ Masthay said. ‘You have to hit like a 47-yard punt, and it’s very hard to hit it exactly where you want to hit it. It’s very easy to hit it (a lot shorter and out of bounds). And that’s why you don’t see guys do it or game plan that way very often.’”

This is the difficulty that the player who McCarthy called, “the best player on thier football team” and its probably one reason why he did.  Hester is an example of why directional punters have become the norm in the NFL.  Getting the ball where you want it is a skill without much room for error and in Hester’s case it like dancing on a razor’s edge.

The Bears “Best Player” and Other News


“Word around the league is that the Bears aren’t in a hurry to spend more money on Smith. In fact, they may want to trim some salary off the coaching staff. That could be a lot easier to do after next season than this one.

“Phillips negotiated a bad contract with Smith the last time out because his timing was awful. No need to blow it again when you already have the guy for an extra year.”

  • Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune believes that leaving Corey Graham off of the Pro Bowl roster was a snub.  I agree.
  • Biggs also reports that the Bears brought in four punts for a look.  Current punter Brad Maynard will be an unrestricted free agent.  He’s been consistent but he’s also 36 and he’s had health problems.
  • Neil Hayes at the Chicago Sun-Times has this quote about Devin Hester from Green Bay head coach Mike McCarthy:

“He’s the best player on their football team.  They have a lot of fine football players, too. No disrespect to [Julius] Peppers, [Lance] Briggs and the rest of those guys. He’s having probably his finest year there.”

I guess its not exactly the same thing but I tend to think in terms of who the Bears could least afford to lose when asked this question.  Hester wouldn’t be at the top of the list.  I think I’d at least put Peppers, Jay Cutler and probably Brian Urlacher ahead of him.

  • The Bears are talking big about taking this game seriously and I’m sure they’ll try to.  But actions speak louder than words and the fact that Olin Kreutz got a veterans day off indicates that – to an extent – they aren’t treating the practices as seriously as they otherwise would (Via Vaughn McClure at the Tribune).  This seems to be consistent with this statement from Smith is Dan Pompei’s column at the Tribune:

“Most of you reported that we pulled our guys (in the finale in 2005). Even for this game, if there’s someone that’s a little banged up, we’re not going to put him at risk then.”

  • Speaking of Pompei’s column, he gives a well-reasoned opinion of what the Bears will actually do against the Packers Sunday.

In his last eight games, Cutler has a 96.9 quarterback rating on third down. His 54.7 percent conversion rate is the highest in the NFL during that span.

The defense is ranked second in forcing three and outs, are third best at stopping the run and are second in opponent passer rating.

The Bears had a lot of trouble with third down last year and early this year.

The Bears have forced 33 turnovers this season while the Packers have turned it over just 18 times. “Zero giveaways will be an important statistic this week,” McCarthy said


  • Sam Farmer at the LA Times (via the Chicago Tribune) highlights the fact that if Seattle beats the Rams Sunday night they will be the first ever team with a losing record to make the NFL playoffs.
  • Barak Obama‘s statement commending the Philadelphia Eagles for giving him a second chance is causing an over blown storm of controversy.

I’m not in the habit of making political or social commentary.  But I’m going to make an exception here.

Obama’s statement doesn’t bother me.  The fact that people don’t like it doesn’t bother me.  What bothered me about this article is that of all the organizations to go to for comment the writer went to PETA.

PETA is not just an organization of animal lovers.  They are fringe extremists who, though welcome to their opinion, should not be sought for comment in an informed publication of any kind.  To do so only furthers their agenda and gives them an air of legitimacy that they in  no way deserve.

  • Michael Salfino at the The Wall Street Journal points out via benmaller.com that Michael Vick is 36% worse in cold weather, something Bear fans already know from his visits here.  This may be one of many reasons why head coach Andy Reid hesitated at first to make Vick the starter earlier in the season.  The Eagles won’t do it but they should reconsider their starting options if their road to the Super Bowl goes through Green Bay of Chicago.
  • Dominic Raiola may find himself in some hot water for this graphic suggestion (mlive.com via benmaller.com).
  • Cedric Benson further devalues the Ed Block Courage Award.  Via profootballtalk.com.
  • Green Bay offensive line coach James Campen on how to avoid a letdown similar to the one the Packers had against the Bears in their first game where they had 18 penalties.  Via Gary D’Amato at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

“You have to maintain good and the only way to do that is to strive to be great.”

  • Manish Mehta at the New York Daily News quoted this interesting statistic when talking about the difference between a Jet loss this Sunday, leaving the 10-6 and a Jet win:

When you look at recent Super Bowl history, 11 is the magic number. In the past 10 Super Bowls, 18 of the 20 teams had at least 11 regular-season wins.

  • According to the AP the Bears’ win over the Jets led the way to the highest preliminary television rating for the single-game window in the 13 seasons of the current AFC package with CBS.  Its nice to see CBS get a return on the Bears after televising the miserable contest against the Patriots where they had to switch away to a more competitive game in most markets.
  • Leave it to the Daily News to generate this headline:  “Rex Ryan is yet to put his foot down on issue of Mark Sanchez starting Sunday against the Bills”
  • Donovan McNabb continues to want to have his cake and eat it, too, according to the AP:

“Donovan McNabb sees ‘nothing wrong’ with an inflammatory statement in which his agent attacked Washington Redskins coach Mike Shanahan and offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan.

“Yet McNabb also tried to distance himself from that statement Tuesday in his weekly radio appearance on ESPN980. McNabb said he wasn’t aware that his agent was planning to release the statement before it came out last week.

“‘He put his thoughts into the whole deal, not Donovan’s thoughts,’ McNabb said.”

“No, I want to say, ‘F- you.’ And I mean that in the most professional way.”

  • If the Packers qualify for the playoffs they will be bucking a serious trend to make the Super Bowl.  According to Mike Vandermause at the Green Bay Press Gazette no NFC 6 seed has ever made it.
  • Via the AP we have Fox analyst Tucker Carlson who said Vick “should have been executed” for his role in a dogfighting ring.  Execution?  I mean really…

Can we do it on television?

One Final Thought

Thanks to George Vecsey at The New York Times for highlighting this spoof that could in actuality be of any of 95% of all NFL coaches.

How Will the Packers Play It Against the Bears Offense? Probably Loose.

Sean Jensen at the Chicago Sun-Times addresses the similarity between the Jets defense and the Packers defense:

“The New York Jets did Sunday what every other Bears opponent would not: They attacked the speedy receivers at the line of scrimmage, and they dared quarterback Jay Cutler to beat single coverage by arguably the league’s best group of cornerbacks, headlined by Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie.”

Its all about the pass rush.  But unlike the Bears who built their defense around getting pressure from the front four, the Jets defense starts with the corners.  They allow them to bring extra pressure from all directions on the quarterback.

“According to an NFC personnel director, there isn’t another team in the conference that plays defense like the Jets. But the Green Bay Packers, the Bears’ opponent Sunday in the regular-season finale, are one team capable of playing that brand, and they’ve done so more in recent games.”

Jensen mentions that the Packers played a lot of cover two against the Bears the first time around.  But the Bears aren’t’ the same team offensively that they were then.  For one thing a lot will depend upon their ability to stop the Bears running game in it, something they are going to find a lot more difficult now than they did then.

And the Packers do always like to be aggressive and they may need to be this game.  The offensive line is better, at least in the second half of games, and Green Bay is going to have a tougher time getting pressure on Cutler if they aren’t a bit more aggressive, than they were the first time around, I think.

The guess here is that Green Bay will still try to sit back in the zone again and wait for Cutler to get impatient or react badly to pressure and make a mistake.  But I think they know that they’re going to have to be more flexible than usual and ready to change depending upon how things are working.  They know the Bears a lot better than the Jets did.  They know their weaknesses and they’ll exploit them.  For instance, I think we can count on occasionally seeing them mix it up, coming out of the defense to bring that corner that Cutler has a bad habit of not seeing coming off the edge.

In any case how watching to see what they do and how successful they will be is just one more thing that makes this a fascinating matchup.

A Guess As to What Lovie Smith Will Do This Sunday

Let the debate begin.  With the Eagles loss last night the Bears have clinched a first round bye in the playoffs.  They still have a shot at the number 1 seed and home field advantage throughout the playoffs but it is remote.  Should they rest their starters?

I’m going to make a guess here and say that as long as there is something to play for, Lovie Smith won’t do this.  The Falcons and the Saints both play at noon.  If either of them wins, the Bears have no chance at improving their seed and the backups play most of the contest.  Otherwise we may have a legitimate game to watch.

Some Respect for the Packers

Dan Pompei contrasts the state of the Packers with the Bears going into the game at Green Bay.  He goes through some of the reasons why the Packers have survived through an incredible number of injuries to still have a shot at the playoffs:

“(head coach Mike) McCarthy, who has done an outstanding job with this team, is a candidate for coach of the year.”

“If you do things the right way, you stay true to your processes, your training, your fundamentals, you will have an opportunity to win every game,’ he said. ‘I think we’ve done that this year. We’ve played at a pretty consistent level regardless of all the challenges. I believe in the program. I have an excellent coaching staff.”

“The Packers had an easier time overcoming some of their adversity because they have quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who McCarthy calls the best player on the team and one of the best in the league.”

Good coaching, good talent and depth.  These are really important.  But McCarthy in my opinion leaves the best reason for last:

“(We have) a very healthy locker room as far as character and work ethic.”

Nothing happens in the NFL or anywhere else without character.  The Packers fought like lions against the odds all year to scratch their way to the opportunity that presents itself this weekend.  Collectively they’ve got as much in the way of pure guts as any team in the league and the deserve all of the credit and respect that a Bear fan can give.