Stunt Men and the Art of Flight Control

Former Dodgers manager, Tommie Lasorda once said,  “Managing is like holding a dove in your hand.  Squeeze too hard and you kill it.  Not hard enough and it flies away.”  Ask any parent how true that is of raising children.  Indeed, any competent office manager faces the same problem.  They have to delegate but how much is a problem that’s practically impossible to solve.  There are times when you are going to be wrong and you just have to hope that the damage is limited when that happens.

Fans are stating to notice the stunts that the Bears are running on the defensive line to bring pressure on the quarterback.  Its the kind of thing that’s easy to over do and allowing the players the latitude to do so is all a part of the teaching process.

In a different way, Dan Pompei at the Chicago Tribune teaches us about the line stunts that the Beas have been running.  First he points out when stunts should be run and be effective:

“Stunts are used primarily on passing downs because running plays can be very effective against them if a gap is created.

“The Bears had seven situations Monday when the Vikings were facing a third down with between four and 10 yards to go. The Bears ran a twist on each of the seven.”

The points are well taken.  I’ve been noticing that the Bears have been running a lot of these stunts since the beginning of the year.  I’ve also been wondering when teams were going to start taking advantage of them.  The Vikings did just that.  Pompei didn’t mention it but the Vikings began running at the ends in an effort to catch the Bears stunting the defensive ends inside.  They did it and it was effective.  This will be something to keep an eye on.  The Bears may not want to as often or as consistently as they have been at what I would call intermediate distances on third down.

And who will be making the decisions regarding whether that will happen?   It turns out its the players who call the stunts on the field:

“On game day, the Bears have designated players who are responsible for deciding when to stunt just before the snap.

“‘This gives them complete ownership as pass rushers,’ (defensive coordinator, Rod) Marinelli said. ‘I’ve always found that keeps guys interested, active and alert.'”

I think this is a wonderful example of good coaching.  Marinelli isn’t just squeezing every bit of physical talent out of the players.  From the necessary film study to making the decision on the field calling the stunts, the players are involved in every step and, ultimately, they are in charge on the spot.  I’d be willing to bet that a few coaches will come out of this organization in the years to come with this kind of attitude.

There are so many benefits to doing this but you have to wonder how many coaches actually give up so much of the decision making process.  Some control has to be maintained if the players aren’t going to over do it and get caught for a long run in the wrong situation.  Its a delicate balance that has to be maintained.

Marinelli has given the Bears defensive players a lot of rope.  There’s always the chance that they will hang themselves with it.  But its a chance you have to take to achieve long-term success.

Points of View, December 24, 2010


“Some players felt that ‘‘Monday Night Football’’ analysts Ron Jaworski and Jon Gruden were too tough on Cutler during the broadcast after they likely heard about it from friends and family.

‘‘’It doesn’t make sense,’’ veteran center Olin Kreutz said. ‘’In the booth, you’ve got two guys who are supposedly quarterback experts, and they’re going to try to criticize Jay. We don’t worry about those guys. Everybody hears the criticisms, but what can you do? It doesn’t make sense.’’’

I admit that I’m only listening to the broadcast with half an ear most of the time.  But having said that, I’d suggest that if the players are really interested, they should watch it themselves before commenting.  They wouldn’t be doing their jobs if there wasn’t some criticism but I can say that both Jaworski and Gruden repeatedly gushed about Cutler’s ability and both talked about how much they loved him.  I din’t think the broadcast was particularly imbalanced.

  • Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune asks a key question:  Is Corey Wootton the real deal?  I’m on record as doubting it.  But I hope I’m wrong.  The Bears have drafted heavily on the defensive line in recent years with little to show for it.  Henry Melton‘s been showing up every once in a while, as well.  They need good, consistent play from these draft picks and they need it sooner rather than later.  I can guarantee that this great health the Bears have enjoyed won’t last forever.
  • Biggs also has this from Dave Toub, Bears special teams coach, on the possibility of his assistant, Chris Tabor, getting a job as a special teams coordinator:

“‘He is so ready,’ Toub said. ‘I’ve been in that role, same as him three years as an assistant when I was in Philly. This is his third year and I know how he feels. He’s needs to get his own spot. He has the system, he can motivate, he’s a great teacher. The guys respect him. It’s time.'”

The same could be said of Toub.  If there was any justice, he’d be a head coach somewhere soon.

“(Head coach Rex) Ryan says the Jets plan to kick away from Devin Hester. Lovie Smith said the Bears plan to kick away from Sal Alosi. Ba-bum-chuh.”


“Far be it from us to sniff out a conspiracy on the part of Ryan and the Jets to divert the flood of attention on Ryan’s “personal matter” by putting an overly dramatic spin on Sanchez’ status, but …

“From offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer to the offensive players who were on the field in practice, they all thought Sanchez, who took most of the reps, looked fine.

“‘Watching him throw, I thought he looked very good,’ Schottenheimer said.”

“If this is only about some home movies, then it is a personal matter, absolutely, it’s Rex Ryan’s business and his wife’s business and nobody else’s and please leave me out of it. But that is only if you think the videos posted themselves.”

  • With a five game suspension hanging over him starting next year, scouts have begun commenting upon Ohio State’s Terrelle Pryor as an NFL prospect.  Former NFL scout Dave Razzano gives his evaluation to Pete Thamel at the The New York Times: “I wouldn’t touch him with a 10-foot pole.”

I can only agree.  I was never impressed by Pryor and I always thought that it was presumptuous of him to choose Ohio State because he thought the offense would prepare him better for being a professional.  When you are already thinking about going to the NFL coming out of high school, I have to believe that winning football games is probably too far down your list of priorities and what I’ve read since has not made me think better of him.  Bottom line, I think he’s got a lot of growing up to do.

  • Gregg Rosenthal at comments on Omar Kelly‘s report that former 49er head coach and current Miami defensive coordinator Mike Nolan regrets not replacing 49er quarterback Alex Smith with current Lion Shaun Hill sooner:

“’I always thought [Hill] was good,’ Nolan said via the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.   ‘I would admit to making a mistake not making him a starter at the end. The last year I was there I should have [switched QBs] because he’s a baller.  . . . He checks it down. But he’s a guy the players trust will lead them to the end zone. That’s a huge factor.’

“(Translation: Alex Smith is not one of those guys.  Or a baller.)”

Current Bears offensive coordinator Mike Martz was the 49er offensive coordinator at the time.

  • Mike Florio at comments upon the theory that the Redskins are starting former Bears Rex Grossman in an effort to tank the season and get a better draft pick.  I don’t doubt that the Redskins want to win and I don’t doubt that they want to see what Grossman can do.  But if a good quarterback fell into their laps in the draft at the same time, I’m sure it wouldn’t break their hearts.  One has to wonder if Grossman would be starting if the Redskins had 8 wins and still had a shot at the playoffs.
  • Despite getting a contract extension with $8.1 million guaranteed, former Bears quarterback Kyle Orton is less that thrilled about being benched for Tim Tebow (from Jeff Legwold at the Denver Post via  He’s likely to be traded.

Despite proving repeatedly that he can perform in the league, Orton can’t seem to catch a break as team after team looks for reasons to replace him.  I’ll never quite understand it.

  • The Dolphins still run the Wildcat formation more than any other team.  But Chris McCosky at The Detroit News points out the key statistic illustrating why teams no longer fear it like they did:

“Of the 55 plays the Dolphins have run out of the Wildcat, 52 have been runs. All three passes were incomplete. None of that, however, eases Cunningham’s worries or lessens the preparation this week.”

“‘People make it more complicated than it is,’ said Lions middle linebacker DeAndre Levy. ‘All you do is take the quarterback out and it’s pretty much the same run plays. You just can’t get tripped up by all the window dressing.'”

“‘Ricky Williams, I want him to know this, if he hits one of our defensive backs in the back on a crack-back block, I am coming on the field,’ Cunningham said. ‘He’s had a couple of knockouts, but they’ve not been legal.’

“Dolphins coach Tony Sparano, when asked for a response, told the media in Miami Thursday, ‘I don’t know what you are talking about.'”

Cunningham’s attitude is both a blessing and a curse in that I can actually see him doing that if provoked.

  • Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel thinks that Matt Flynn could carry on the Green Bay tradition of developing quarterbacks by becoming a valuable commodity for the Packers after his solid start against the Patriots.
  • Silverstein covers the league “by the numbers” with this telling statistic:  “24 Difference in the amount of sacks the Minnesota Vikings defense had in 2009 (48) and this year (24).”  The Viking defensive ends in particular just aren’t what they were last year though I really can’t tell why.
  • Brian Murphy at the Pioneer Press points out that the Vikings’ Adrian Peterson hasn’t had a fumble this year.
  • Bob Sansevere, also at the Pioneer Press, gets an interesting comment from Vikings linebacker Ben Leber on whether a player can try “extra hard” in an effort to get Leslie Frazier the head coaching job (the post is short and I didn’t want to quote the whole thing).
  • Vikings defensive coordinator Darrell Bevell didn’t exactly rule out the possibility that Brett Favre could start this weak in an interview with Sansevere:

“BS: Are the chances remote that Favre will play?

“DB: Last week was miraculous (when Favre started despite a sprained shoulder). I don’t even know how that happened. It was amazing. Concussions are different. There are all the protocols you have to pass, and I don’t think he has passed those yet.

“BS: So right now, you’re planning on Joe Webb being your starter?

“DB: Right now, yes.”

One Final Thought

More from Rosenbloom:

“Cutler said he has seen a different side of Bears coach Lovie Smith this season:  ‘(He’s) more assertive. He knows what he’s doing, he’s leading us.’ He was coaching to keep his job, hel-lo. He finally held people accountable based on play, not pay, hel-lo. Amazing how productive a win-or-go threat can be, huh?”