30 Years Later Loss of the Honey Bears Is No Loss

Another day, another complaint from another set of NFL cheerleaders over working conditions. This time three former cheerleaders filed a class-action lawsuit against the Houston Texans franchise and its director of cheerleading. They allege that team officials forced them to work extra hours without compensation, exposed them to abusive, shaming behavior by the director and failed to protect them from physical abuse from fans.

“Twitter direct messages, which two cheerleaders and their lawyer provided, show examples of cheerleaders being pressured to lose weight themselves or to urge teammates to lose weight. One unnamed plaintiff spoke to on the condition of anonymity. , who goes by her initials in the lawsuit, requested her last name not be used out of fear of retaliation against family members in the industry.

“Paige G. said all Texans cheerleaders had to work hours for which they were not paid. She said she experienced no personal rebuke for her physical appearance and was never physically hurt. But she said she attached herself to the lawsuit and spoke out after growing disillusioned with behavior by Alto Gary, the director of cheerleader programs and cheerleader coach, that she either witnessed or teammates reported to her.

“’I feel like it’s part of my duty as a human being to protect my friends,’ Paige G. said. ’I want to stand up people too afraid to stand up for themselves.’”

Former New Orleans Saints cheerleader Bailey Davis alleged in an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaint that the Saints had discriminated against her. Former Miami Dolphins cheerleader Kristan Ann Ware filed a complaint in April alleging Dolphins officials turned against her after she revealed she was a virgin.

If that wasn’t enough, anonymous former Washington Redskins cheerleaders alleged, first to The New York Times, that they had been forced to pose topless in front of sponsors at a 2013 Costa Rican swimsuit calendar shoot and then serve essentially as dates for suite holders at night on the trip.

For 30 years I’ve heard gumba fans complain about the loss of the Honey Bears in 1986. But I am personally so glad they had the wisdom to not reverse that decision.

These cheerleaders add nothing to the game but a (very) little bit of sexist titilation. You can’t even argue that they compete to see which team can perform the best, as they do in college.

Add that to the fact that they get paid practically nothing and it’s a bad situation waiting to happen, as these complaints show.  It’s time for cheerleading to disappear from the NFL.  Kudos to the Bears for being ahead of the curve.  Way ahead.

Is the NFC North the Toughest Division in Football?

Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune answers your questions:

“Best case scenario if everything goes right and the Bears stay healthy this year … what does that look like and translate into around wins and playoffs? — @illini_loyalty

“The over/under on victories for the Bears opened at 6.5 in Las Vegas, meaning the oddsmakers aren’t as bullish about the new Bears as many fans. Certainly I see a chance for the Bears to hit the over and, yes, they will probably need better fortune when it comes to injuries. They’re going to have to be significantly better than 6.5 to play in January when you figure it generally takes 10 wins to get in. The first thing to focus on is how many teams the Bears can pass in the division. They’ve been terrible in the NFC North, and getting better in the division is the first hurdle to clear. Is there a division foe that is due to backslide? Are there two division foes due to backslide? It’s going to be interesting.”

First of all, lets get this out of the way, first: Unless Mitch Trubisky turns out to be Peyton Manning – and I mean every bit that good – there’s no way the Bears smell the playoffs.

Having said that, the reason is three fold. Though they are getting better in both areas, the first two are obvious. First, they lack impact players. Second, they lack depth.

The third is a bit of a surprise, at least to me: they play in the toughest division in football. You wouldn’t actually think so. For one thing, the Bears are in it. For another, the Lions are in it. Both teams were bad enough to have switched head coaches at the end of last year and both now have rookie head coaches who are learning on the job.

But here’s the thing: the people who are actually in the business of predicting these things don’t agree with me. The over-unders for win totals for each team is in the table below along with the average for each division.

The NFC North leads the pack with the NFC South a close second. No one else is within half a game.

So I suppose the next time we point out that the Bears were (cough are cough) winless in the division, we should remember what division they’re in and cut them a little slack. A very little slack.

Will Bears Have a Pro Bowler? It Will Take More Than Being Popular to Accomplish It.

Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune answers your questions:

“Will the Bears finally have a Pro Bowl player this year? Seems like there are some defensive guys who could make it. If the offense performs better, I think that also helps the defense become a top-five defense. — @mdprice79

“Pro Bowl voting is done by fans, players and coaches, with all counting one-third in the process. Players on winning teams generally fare much better in balloting. Players on winning teams get more exposure. They’re talked about more. They do better at the polls. If the Bears can reverse their pattern of losing, they will likely have some more popular players when it comes to the Pro Bowl.”

This is, of course, quite true, especially in the fan balloting. But as Biggs knows, this isn’t the whole story.  It’s just that only cynical bloggers attack football organizations during the optimistic, rainbows and roses months like May.

The Bears once again this year have not a single player in the NFL Network’s top 100. This is based strictly upon player voting and though I’m sure being on a winning team helps, you can’t tell me that if you are on one of the 13 teams that studied and played the Bears that its going to influence you that much. If there’s a player that you are game planning around during the season and he’s not a total jerk, he’s going to make your list.

The last Bears player to make this list was Matt Forte in 2016 coming in at a lack luster #90. Since 2015 when he arrived not a single Ryan Pace draft pick or free agent signing has made the list.  Like this year, no one at all made it last year.

That’s not just lack of popularity, my friends. That’s flat out lack of talent and no matter how you cut it, the responsibility lies squarely in Pace’s lap.

The More I Think of Daniels at Guard the More I Like It

New Bears rookie offensive lineman James Daniels talks about why it may be better for him to play guard this year:

“’(Guard) is hard, but you don’t have to make the calls and you don’t have to snap, which are two things centers do that people don’t realize how hard it is,’ Daniels said. ’So I’m not saying (guard) is easier, but it’s just different from playing center.

“’(Friday), I barely knew the calls myself, so I could find the Mike (linebacker), but that’s about it. I couldn’t make any of the blocking combos or anything like that.”’

My first instinct was to assume that this move to guard for Daniels was permanent. And maybe it still will be if he turns out to be really good there. But even if that isn’t the case, the reasons why putting him at guard is a smart move are becoming clear.

I like the way the new Bears coaching staff is thinking these things through.

Who Will Enter Camp as the Starting Wide Receivers?

Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune answers your questions:

“Who do you project to be the Bears’ starting three receivers Week 1 vs. Green Bay? Personally, I see Allen Robinson and Kevin White starting on the outside, Anthony Miller in the slot and a separate package designed for Taylor Gabriel. — @jjlaplanteeee

“Provided he is healthy, and there is no reason to believe he will not be, Robinson will be starting. After that, the Bears have a whole lot of time to sort through their options at the position. Gabriel’s four-year contract is for $26 million with $14 million guaranteed, and to me that means a greater role than being a gadget player or having a separate package. To me, that kind of money means he has a big role in the scheme. I think Gabriel will be able to play the slot and inside and Miller will have a chance to work into the mix as well. Let’s see how things come together over the summer.”

First I agree with Biggs about Gabriel. There’s too much money involved here. He’s going to be the slot receiver entering training camp.

Second I note that Biggs tactfully didn’t address the assertion that White will start. We’d all like to see this happen. He’s big and he’s ideally suited to a role on the outside opposite Robinson. But my advice is to not hold your breath.

The reports indicating that White is working hard in the offseason are encouraging but the truth is that White didn’t look good in training camp last year even before he was injured. The Bears aren’t counting on him for anything at this point.

Lastly, the fan has a point about Miller starting in the slot. Miller isn’t very big at 5’11” and I’m not a huge fan small receivers on the outside. I like what the Packers did in the offseason, drafting a group of trees to set up mismatches against smaller cornerbacks, a lot better.

Having said that, Antonio Brown is 5’10”. So it isn’t like Miller can’t start and do a good job on the outside or like he can’t be schemed to play to his strengths to excel. It will be interesting to see how he does.

Lamar Jackson Could Be Great. But Don’t Hold Your Breath.

Mike Florio at profootballtalk.com comments on Ravens first round draft pick Lamar Jackson:

“Before the draft, the NFL’s media company pushed this opinion from an unnamed offensive coordinator regarding quarterback Lamar Jackson: ’He will not be able to play [quarterback] in this league — mark my words. When he throws, he hopes.”’

“One guy who may already be ready to unmark the words of the unnamed assistant coach is Ravens coach John Harbaugh, who praised Jackson’s throwing skills nine days after making him a first-round draft pick.

“’The thing that I was really impressed with is I thought he was accurate,’ Harbaugh told reporters on Saturday. ’You read the reports and stuff like that but he’s a naturally talented thrower. He’s got natural arm talent. And that’s something that I think people were questioning. So to see him out here throwing the ball naturally and very accurately I thought was a big plus.”’

There are a lot of people in the NFL media who are very openly rooting for Jackson. Part of this is that with his mobility he could make for an exciting player to watch. Part of it is almost certainly also the deep suspicion that despite all evidence to the contrary, the NFL is resistant to the idea of a black quarterback.

In watching the league over the past decade or so, I don’t think the latter of these factors affects NFL scouts all that much anymore. Scouts simply report the facts and they report what they see. Is it completely unbiased? No. If you let those biases take you too far out of line, you lose both your games and your job.

And here are the facts. Yes, Jackson’s accuracy is a concern. But the biggest problem he faces is that he combines that with a lack of arm strength. Jackson’s ball velocity was tied for dead last among all quarterbacks when measured at the NFL Combine. That’s below a whole host of quarterbacks that weren’t drafted and, indeed, will not even have the whiff of a hope of making an NFL roster.

This is a fact. It isn’t just an impression or some kind of fluffy quote from a coach who has no reason to be anything but positive after a guy’s first practice. It’s a measurement.

Lamar Jackson wasn’t asked to workout as a wide receiver because he’s black or because of some inherent remaining bias in the NFL. It’s because there are real doubts about whether he can make all of the throws. Whether he can get the ball outside the numbers throwing from a dead stand still without hanging it up like a weather balloon. And these doubts are rooted in cold, hard facts.

One of these days, one of these mobile quarterbacks is going to drop back and show that he can throw the ball all over the field consistently and accurately from the pocket. When it happens he’s going to change the game. If Jackson is that guy, more power to him. We can all hope that’s the case.

But don’t hold your breath.