Of History, Star Wars and the 2015 Chicago Bears

694px-Star_Wars_Logo.svgHub Arkush at chicagofootball.com damps down fans’ expectations for the Bears playoffs hopes while suggesting what the Bears need to do in the future:

Muhammad Wilkerson is arguably the second-best five technique in the NFL right now – there is only one J.J. Watt – he will be a free agent, and with Sheldon Richardson and Leonard Williams under contract, it is unlikely the Jets can keep him.

“Sign Wilkerson, draft more pass rush, find inside linebackers in free agency and the draft, get [Pernell] McPhee healthy, keep pushing [Lamarr] Houston and [Willie] Young to their ceilings, and next year about this time Bears Nation just might have something legitimate to really cheer about.”

I think there’s plenty to legitimately cheer about now. To understand why, I’ll offer a little perspective on a completely different topic.

With the new Star Wars movie due out for the Christmas season, many of my friends and acquaintances are re-watching the first six movies. Here’s what one friend had to say on Twitter about them:

When trying to understand why people love Episode 4, the first Star Wars movie, so much, you have to try to look at where it came from.

In 1977 when I was a kid, my best friend’s father worked at McDonald Douglas. In other words, he was a geeky engineer/scientist who worked with other geeky engineers/scientists. One day he approached us and said he’d heard about this movie at work. He said he’d pay for us to go if we’d go with him to see it because, “that way if it’s not any good, you won’t be out any money.”

Can you imagine? He paid for us to see Star Wars because he was afraid it wouldn’t be any good.

Here’s this movie. It comes out of nowhere. No budget. No advertising. It opened in 32 theaters nation-wide. But it was something new and different that grew into a national phenomenon. It’s something that grew from nothing on a scale that we’ll never, ever see happen again. Certainly not in my lifetime. Can you imagine watching the movie from that perspective – without ever having seen any of the other episodes of the epic?

In terms of the movie, itself, it’s likely that I like it exactly for some of the reasons that my friend doesn’t. The first movie has a light quality that the others don’t. It doesn’t take itself anywhere near as seriously as, for instance, Empire does. It certainly didn’t have the eye toward marketing by creating cute little stuffed animals that make good action figures.

Though I didn’t at the time, I understand now why Empire and the other movies had to be what they were. These movies had to develop the necessary gravitas to carry an epic, six episode series detailing the environmentally friendly family history where that cute little kid gradually descends into darkness to become Darth Vader, only to be redeemed in the end. But I’ll always miss the light spontaneity of that first film that I saw as a kid. It was historic, impossible to reproduce and now it lives on only in the splinter of my mind’s eye.

I don’t expect to have changed my friend’s mind on this. But understand that this goes beyond the bounds of taste. It certainly goes beyond the bounds of “nostalgia”. It’s a question of art and history and perspective in the moment that goes beyond all that.

Why did I tell this story? Because there’s a lot to be said about the current Bears season in a similar vein. What’s happening is one of the most unbelievable coaching jobs I’ve ever seen. Certainly in Chicago. We have a gutsy group of no name players with nowhere near as much talent as the majority of teams in the league, especially on defense. And yet they continue to astound us by winning games no one thought that they could in spite of it. They play smart, tough football and they’ve bought entirely into the team concept body and soul. They’re a wonderful example of what can be done when that is the case, one that we can carry away with us and remember forever.

People respond to some of my posts and claim that I’m being negative by pointing out how slim the Bears hopes were/are of making the playoffs. But can’t you see, at least for this year, that it doesn’t matter? Can’t you sit back and appreciate what you are seeing as it happens on an entirely different – and much more important – scale?

As Hub suggests, the Bears might eventually get a lot better than they are now. They might make the playoffs for years to come, win multiple Super Bowls and achieve heights we could never have imagined this time last year. But some of us will always remember the feeling we have right now as we watch this team maximize it’s talent and achieve more than most of us thought was possible. For some of us, no matter what the future brings, this will always be our favorite team. And that, indeed, is worth cheering about. It’s worth a lifetime of it.

Game Comments: 49ers at Bears 12/6/15


  1. The 49ers came out with a conservative offensive game plan with Blaine Gabbert at quarterback. It was mostly dump offs and runs for much of the game with very little downfield until the game winner.
  2. The 49ers had a tough time moving the ball in the first quarter and, in particular, did a poor job of running the ball. They did a better job starting in the second quarter by going up temp and executing a little better. Shaun Draughn did a particularly nice job of running the ball.
  3. The 49er game plan did a particularly good job of taking advantage of the Bears lack of speed at linebacker. Time after time Gabbert would dump the ball off to a back coming out of the backfield that had managed to get good separation from the linebacker who was covering him.
  4. Gabbert wasn’t as accurate as I was led to believe he’s been in previous games. But he did a surprisingly good job of gashing the Bears with his mobility.
  5. As with the Packers game on Thanksgiving, the coverage by the defensive backs was generally excellent today. I thought Kyle Fuller did a particularly good job.
  6. The Bears only rushed four for most of this game and to my eye had a tough time getting pressure on Gabbert. Having said that, Willie Young had a good day with a sack and a half.


  1. The Bears came out running the ball and generally did a good job of it. The offensive line did a nice job of blocking the 49ers and moving them at the line of scrimmage, especially early. They also recommitted to the running game after halftime with some success. The Bears will always have a good chance if they can run the ball.
  2. Jay Cutler was unusually erratic with his throws downfield today. As usual, he saw some pressure.
  3. The 49ers did some damage with well-timed blitzes against both the run and the pass. The first 49er touchdown on a pick six from Cutler comes to mind immediately. The 49ers tricked Cutler into audibling into a quick pass to the outside by bringing a blitz. It was a very nice job by the 49er defense, which obviously anticipated that Cutler would do this based upon film study.
  4. The Bears game plan for the running backs was interesting. Tehy split both Matt Forte and Jeremy Langford wide and frequently went to an empty set with them on the field. This forced the 49ers to respond with a defensive alignment that respected the run with the Bears in a passing formation. This is something we’ve seen on occasion befor but I don’t remember them ever doing it this much.
  5. Matt Forte had a particularly good game. Sometimes he just wouldn’t go down. His touchdown run early in the second quarter where he literally dragged the defense from the line of scrimmage into the end zone comes to mind as a good example.
  6. Also, let’s give Ka’Deem Carey some love. The guy runs extremely hard.


  1. Kenny Albert, Daryl Johnston, and Laura Okmin did a nice job. Johnston, in particular, peppered the game with timely and insightful comments that we don’t see often enough from many other color men around the league outside of prime games.
  2. Robbie Gould missed a 40 yard field goal in the third quarter that the Bears could have really needed with the game tied at 13. It’s worth noting that the game was tied at 13 because the 49ers missed an extra point. Not a great game for the special teams until Deonte Thompson ran the ball back into field goal range with 1:32 remaining in the regulation. And of course, that was followed by another missed field goal. Robbie Gould is having an off year. Part of it may be losing Patrick Mannelly. They had yet another new long snapper this week. On the punt late in the second quarter that eventually went through the back of the endzone, someone will have to explain to me what Tracy Porter thought he was doing when he touched that ball.
  3. The Bears committed far too many penalties in this game (8 badly timed penalties for 75 yards). Time after time they would have a good, productive offensive play only to have it called back for a penalty. They can’t play a ball control offense and set themselves back like this. A hold on LaRoy Reynolds early in the game on a punt return was also particularly egregious as it took a Bryce Callahan touchdown off the board.
  4. Jeremy Langford has had a drop in each of the last three games. He’s got to do better than that, especially with the Bears splitting him out as a wide receiver.
  5. The Bears dominated the first quarter in this game but left the 49ers in it by giving up the pick as noted above under “Offense”. They have a narrow margin for error and need to avoid mistakes of that type more than most teams. Perhaps someone needs to give Cutler more options and/or remind him not to audible to that play so often to keep the defense guessing.
  6. This was a frustrating game to watch. The Bears were the better team on the field as they dominated the time of possession but, for the first time all year, time after time they shot themselves in the foot with sloppy play, especially penalties. Could it have been a let down coming off of the victory at Green Bay followed by a long 11 day break? I don’t know. But I do hope we don’t see this again and that the team gets back to the kind of play that has been their trademark for most of this season.

Bears Need to Evaluate the Plan at the Linebacker Position

Hub Arkush at chicagofootball.com answers you questions:

“From @BFlores44: Can Christian Jones develop into anything other than an average linebacker?

“Based on on what we’ve seen so far it’s looking more doubtful each week. Jones certainly has the size, athleticism and body type to be a very good one. But after 11 starts this year we’re not seeing any of the instincts and playmaking the position requires.”

Christian Jones isn’t even average. From what I can tell based upon performance, the Bears have a pretty big need at inside linebacker (like pretty much everywhere else on defense). It appears to me that the team actually does like Shea McClellin, probably because he’s show the ability to hold up a bit better inside against the run than any of us thought he could. Arkush’s opinion is even lower than mine:

“Shea is not the athlete Jones is and unlike Jones, McClellin has clearly learned the position, is usually in the right place at the right time on the field and is well past being a prospect. McClellin just doesn’t make plays and when he does they are usually chasing the ball from behind or getting dragged after initial contact.”

Both of the starting linebackers are liabilities in coverage and both are slow reacting to the ball, making the Bears more than usually vulnerable to the run-play action pass game.

The Bears need better play at this position if they are to become truly competitive with the best teams in the league. I can’t imagine Jones being on the team much beyond this season.