One could spend hours dissecting mistake after mistake that Phil Emery made as general manager of the Bears. It would be days had he been around as long as Jerry Angelo was, but in just three years, Emery took a middling team on the brink of the playoffs and slammed the organization straight into the septic tank.
The Bears are the worst team in the NFL because of multiple, consecutive, failed drafts. Nearly a decade's worth of players drafted with such high expectations are either on another team or gone from football completely. Ryan Pace knew this coming in, and he's doing whatever he possibly can to turn the page.
Yesterday afternoon, the Bears dealt free agent bust Jared Allen and second-round flop Jon Bostic, to Carolina and New England respectively, for a pair of sixth-round picks. Both are 4-3 players trying to fake it in a 3-4 scheme (or, if you're Bostic, just trying to actually participate in a football game), and the Bears should be thrilled to get anything for them.
The worst kept secret in Chicago was revealed when the Bears lined up in pregame warmups against the Packers last Sunday. Instead of being sandwiched between Will Montgomery and Charles Leno, All-Pro right guard Kyle Long slid out to play right tackle in an effort to solidify a spot that has plagued the Bears' offensive line the last two seasons.
With Jordan Mills cut and Leno struggling mightily, John Fox was mum on Long's role the entire week leading into the Bears opener. Though the coach probably thought keeping the lineup card a secret would afford his team some minimal advantage, he was grossly mistaken. Taking the best player on your team and moving him to a position he's never played in live action before is more damaging than tricking the opponent.
Three games into the 2014 regular season, everyone thought the Bears were on track to having a Pro Bowl cornerback. Kyle Fuller was playing fast and instinctive, and making former GM Phil Emery look brilliant for scoring big in the first round of two consecutive drafts. Unfortunately, the level of play Fuller showed against San Francisco and New York didn't last.
Over the remainder of the season, Fuller struggled mightily. Pro Football Focus graded him positively in just two games following his magnificent weeks two and three, and those came against and Atlanta team that dropped a ton of passes, and a Minnesota team that lacked anything resembling a playmaker at wide receiver. Fuller finished as the second-worst corner in the NFL.
Did you know the Bears open up their preseason on Thursday against Miami? Me neither.
Outside of the "OH MY GOD WHAT'S WRONG WITH KEVIN WHITE" story lines at Bears camp, it's been pretty low key. The offensive unit is almost entirely the same minus loudmouth Brandon Marshall spread out wide, and the defense is loaded with players that either sucked in the 4-3 defense a season ago, or a new guy whose name you don't know.
That means it's time to reacclimate yourself with Bears football. Marc Trestman is gone, replaced by the universally respected John Fox, who's been to the Super Bowl on a few occasions, but has yet to bring home the Lombardi Trophy as the head honcho. Don't expect that to change anytime soon.
Picking a coach was the biggest decision Ryan Pace had to make in his professional life. This was his one and only shot to be a general manager in the NFL. If he fails here, there will be no second chance. That's why when a veteran coach with a long history of success and respect became available, Pace didn't hesitate.
In John Fox, Pace gets a guy that he knows won't be a complete embarrassment. That's already a step ahead of his predecessor, and is a great way for Pace to ensure that he won't get fired in a couple years for making a terrible mistake at such an important spot. Is it the best the Bears could do? Obviously that question can't be answered right now, but it's probably safe to say they could've done better.
Pace was rushed immediately into the Todd Bowles interview with the ink barely dry on his own contract with the Bears. Maybe if he had more time to prepare, or came back around a second time to discuss the job, Bowles might be the coach. It's also possible that Pace didn't want to risk his own backside with someone who had no prior experience. Can you blame him after taking a look at the dumpster fire he inherited?
The youngest general manager in football is the leading football man for the Chicago Bears. A fact like that, or anything you've read about the history of 37-year-old Ryan Pace, shouldn't invoke massive amounts of excitement or despair. The only things we truly know about him are the bullet points on his résumé.
You may be impressed by his stoic look, his deep voice, and his command of a press conference, but you shouldn't be. You don't get one of the 32 NFL GM jobs without having an interview presence. Phil Emery looked and sounded impressive his first day too -- preaching the same gospel of Bears football that everyone who sat in the chair before him did.
You may be upset that he lacks previous experience in the role he's taking over, the checkered history of decisions he's been involved in, or his youth in general, but you shouldn't be. General managers who fail in their first job rarely get a second crack at it. The best GMs in the league grow old with the team that hires them because there is no incentive to move elsewhere. And since he lacked the power of making the final call on players in New Orleans, we have no idea what decisions he agreed or disagreed with. There's no data on which to judge him.
It was 28 days before Virginia Halas's 18th birthday, and her father, Bears owner and head coach George Halas, was about to lead his team onto the frigid field of Griffith Stadium in the nation's capital to battle Washington for the league title. The country was at a tipping point and about a year away from entering another World War, while the economic decline of the previous 10 years that crippled so many families was slowly beginning to reverse.
The world was a little different back then, but with the exception of leather helmets and god knows what other flimsy protective equipment was available on the gridiron 75 years ago, the game of football still remains the same today: 11 men on each side of the ball, trying to cross the pigskin across the goal line for six points, all within the span of 60 minutes. That and a little trash talking.
The Bears were 8-3 and already had three world titles under their belt from 1921, 1932 and 1933. Washington was 9-2 and previously had beaten the Bears earlier in the regular season by the final of 7-3. Redskins owner George Preston Marshall made the mistake of running his mouth after the game, calling Halas's crew a bunch of whiners and crybabies. What happened next is captured perfectly in Lew Freedman's new book, 73-0! Bears Over Redskins: The NFL's Greatest Massacre.
The fans made their voices heard by not showing up. More than 6,000 tickets remained unused for each of the last four Bears home games, with the number topping out just shy of 11,000 in their penultimate Soldier Field game against the Saints. George McCaskey and the McCaskey family heard the boos from the few fans who did attend, and responded to those who were too fed up to watch the misery live by firing general manager Phil Emery, head coach Marc Trestman and offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer yesterday morning.
Don't worry, Mel Tucker and Joe DeCamillis will be gone in due time too, but they're still under contract and were coordinators who didn't drive a bus over the team's highest paid player. I doubt the Bears will stop them from interviewing for positions elsewhere.
"As long as Jay is healthy, he'll be playing quarterback for us."
That was Marc Trestman 10 days ago. He was fully behind his much-maligned quarterback, who as the highest-paid player in the NFL this season, had back-breaking expectations. After another terrible performance against the Saints following a week where his offensive coordinator ripped him anonymously, and then admitted to it without any repercussions, Trestman decided to turn his starting quarterback into a scapegoat by benching him for Jimmy Clausen.
Don't get me wrong, Cutler has been terrible this season. He leads the league in turnovers. Among QB's who have played at least 50 percent of their team's snaps, Cutler ranks 23rd out of 29 according to Pro Football Focus. They don't take into account whether he's checking into or out of plays correctly because they have no clue. They simply rate each play based on his accuracy, decision-making (throwing to the correct/open receiver), and results. It's as bad on paper as it's looked on the field.
I was wrong about Marc Trestman. When he was introduced as the successor to Lovie Smith, I was blinded by the fact the Bears were bringing in an offensive mind -- someone who could bring the organization into the 21st Century when it comes to moving the ball. He was completely opposite of Smith, as most new NFL coaches are. The next Bears leader will undoubtedly be straight out of the hard ass, disciplinary school of coaching. I'll be more skeptical this time around.
The numbers looked shiny. Trestman had won two titles in the CFL, and had coordinated some of the best offenses in the NFL during the '90s and '00s. But I ignored cautionary words from Hall of Famer Jerry Rice, who stated, "Marc Trestman is a very smart coach and I got along well with him, but I think some of the guys are going to challenge him. How he responds to that will play a very important role in future and the future of that team."
I hate it when the Bears play on Thanksgiving. In general, I like the idea of pro football being on television throughout the turkey-filled holiday, but I also enjoy not caring about the games that are on so I can worry about the food I'm consuming. Oh yeah, I like talking to my family, too.
When the schedule originally came out, I saw the Bears' Thanksgiving game and immediately began trying to figure out how I was going to watch it. A divisional matchup at 11:30am on a day where my wife and I have a massive lunch with my family, followed by a two-hour drive and supper with her family, was something I had to plan in advance for.
My dad has a three-and-a-half inch battery powered television that he used to take with him the one day a year he'd sell tickets at the county fair, but that's been rendered obsolete now that all stations broadcast digital signals only. I could probably stream the game on my tablet, but that would require a strong wireless internet connection at the church we have our lunch at. No such luck.
When a new coach is hired, you go out of your way to like them. Regime change optimism is a good feeling to have. It provides hope that the future of the franchise can be better than the near past. But like any good drug, its side effects can be nasty.
We were blinded by a coach that oozed charisma and honesty during his first few months. Losing does bad things to good people, and though he seems like a really nice guy, those characteristics that we loved early on are gone. Marc Trestman is now dodgy in press conferences, and can't be honest about the play of his two best offensive players because he fears what could happen if he calls them out in front of the assembled media.
Everyone's focus when Trestman was hired centered around how his offenses made immediate leaps forward. They scored points in bunches despite learning a new system, and he got the reputation as being a Quarterback Whisperer. Just look at the improvements (or keeping the status quo in San Francisco) when Trestman became offensive coordinator:
The Vikings are a really bad team. Three of their four wins this season came against the other three bottom-feeding teams in the NFC: Washington, Tampa Bay and St. Louis -- and their other victory was against the NFC South leading Atlanta Falcons -- who are 4-6 themselves.
To give any indications that the Bears were back, they needed a decisive victory. Something along the lines of a 20-point margin might bring some semblance of confidence back to the fanbase, even though more than 6,000 people left their seats empty at Sunday's home game. A 38-14 type of score would've brought people back for the Lovie Smith bowl this weekend and maybe the games beyond.
But that didn't happen. Instead, another sluggish start to the game, another Marc Trestman time-management boner before halftime, and more drive killing or opponent enabling penalties than you can shake a stick at. Don't forget the fake punt that ended up netting Minnesota a touchdown.
The focus for the Bears has to be on the future. A second consecutive embarrassing loss in which they gave up more than 50 points has ended any playoff consideration in an NFC that would even see the Packers miss the postseason if it started today.
Losing to Green Bay like the Bears did on Sunday Night Football should have made heads roll -- though maybe not Marc Trestman's because there isn't an obvious replacement in the house. Mel Tucker should've been let go in his own right, and Joe DeCamallis hasn't earned any sort of interim promotion either. Aaron Kromer was 2-4 with a loaded Saints team in 2004, and it would probably cause problems if you jumped quarterback coach Matt Cavanaugh up ahead of Kromer.
If the coaches aren't going to change, then the players should. No, Jay Cutler isn't getting benched. He's played terrible football this season because of numerous factors, a major one being questionable coaching and play calling. An example: the Bears have dialed up just 68 play action passes this season, good for 20th in the NFL. This is despite having one of the best running backs in the league. Of those 68 dropbacks, Cutler has been able to throw 67 passes, meaning he's been sacked or scrambled just once on those plays. Miss those quick slants that moved the ball quickly and efficiently last year? Me too, but Cutler's financially linked to the Bears for two more full seasons. That boat has already set sail.
If you're only a fan of football and the Bears, I'd believe you. I would understand that you still care about this team at this particular time. But if you're a fan of other Chicago sports -- the Hawks, Bulls, Cubs, White Sox -- it's hard to give a damn about the Bears right now.
Watching pathetic performance after pathetic performance has left people frustrated and angry. The team was coming into its second year with Marc Trestman running a high-scoring offense and made significant upgrades along the defensive front to improve one of the NFL's worst defenses from 2013. There were expectations; big ones.
And instead of looking at the back half of the season loaded with home games as a celebration and an opportunity to make a statement before the playoffs, we're instead talking about getting new coaches, begging for team leaders, and trying to think of any way not to get blown out by the Packers at Lambeau Field on Sunday. The only thing anyone has come up with is to knock Aaron Rodgers out of the game again. Good luck with that.
The bye week press conference is essentially a mid-season state of the team address. The general manager and coach step up to the podium, and tell everyone that the timing couldn't be more perfect. Players are always injured, and a two-week stretch without playing football anytime during the season is a welcome sight.
The Bears are in a state of turmoil. 3-5 in the first half of a season with Super Bowl aspirations is an absolute nightmare considering they've had a healthy starting quarterback who happens to be the highest paid player this year. They've won games they should've lost, lost games they should've won, and capped that off by getting utterly embarrassed by Tom Brady and the Patriots on Sunday.
A lot was said during yesterday's presser. Some of it was still coach speak, but there were a few admissions of guilt after weeks of saying nothing is wrong. To get a sense of it all, here are tweets from the beat writers in attendance (in chronological order), along with a breakdown of what it all means.
Tom Brady in New England, bye week, and Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay -- that's what the Bears are staring at on the schedule over the next three weeks.
Losing both games would end any hope of a successful season. Though the Bears play five of their final seven games at Soldier Field, ripping off seven straight wins in the NFL is wildly improbable. It's especially difficult when considering the Bears don't have much of a home field advantage.
Grass gremlins and turf monsters keep popping up all over the place at Soldier Field, leaving piles of players lying on the field with massive globs of mud within arms reach. From the high cameras, the field looks to be in great shape, but it's nowhere close when NFL players plant and change direction at full speed.
It's very difficult for a starter to get supplanted in-season. There typically has to be an injury involved, lack of improvement, solid play by replacements or some combination of all three.
The Bears have dealt with each of those this year. A season-ending injury to Charles Tillman forced rookie Kyle Fuller into playing every down instead of just the nickel packages. The nickel corner is essentially a starter in today's three-receiver NFL, which meant that Isaiah Frey was the next man up. Frey didn't play well in the three games he subbed in, and showed no improvement from his full season of play last year. The Bears had depth behind him in Sherrick McManis, Demontre Hurst, and Al Louis-Jean, so Frey got cut and Hurst stepped in. McManis might end up as the nickel once he's healthy, but it was one of the rare occurrences where the starter got the axe.
That's not the only spot where there's been injuries, starter struggles, and successful backups though. Some folks have called for new blood at a few positions, and there are a few legitimate arguments to be made. Here's a breakdown of those debates, and what the Bears should consider doing.
NFL head coaches don't always evolve. Sometimes they're too stubborn, or too stupid, or simply get fired before they ever get the opportunity to grow.
Marc Trestman has evolved in a few ways. He's learned that you can't stop Brandon Marshall from doing what he wants, so your best course of action is to encourage him and don't direct any blame his direction. Trestman has learned that if a player isn't catching on after months of practice, that it's time to cut bait; they wouldn't have released Isaiah Frey a year ago because that's not what Phil Emery and Trestman did with a struggling player -- but they do now. The Bears stuck Willie Young on the field for 71 percent of the plays last Sunday, a stark increase from his breakout season average.
Then there was an event that happened just before the opening kickoff on Sunday that spoke volumes: the Bears won the toss and elected to receive. It's the first time that's happened in the Trestman era. He's said it many times, and he's right, that by deferring when you win the toss, you're far more likely to get an extra possession during the course of the game because of the way you can control the clock before halftime. But many have questioned why the Bears don't elect to receive, especially last season, when the defense was horrid. The idea around taking the ball is that you have a chance to score twice while the opponent can only score once in the first three possessions, and if everything breaks right, you could go up 14-0 while easing the pressure off your bloodied defense. Electing to receive against the Falcons was a great way to try and minimize the strain on three new starting linebackers. Though it didn't end up working, the decision was sound.
Prior to the season, the Bears ranked ninth in Bleacher Report's wide receiver depth chart list, primarily because they were ultra-thin, with unknown Marquess Wilson playing the slot, and a line of nobodies behind him. It was a legitimate concern that was magnified by Wilson's long-term injury, along with Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery playing hurt in a few games this season.
When you're talking about the best receiving duos in football, however, the discussion typically comes down to Chicago and Atlanta. Julio Jones is probably the best out of the four, and Roddy White is easily fourth in the group. So would you rather have the Falcons tandem, or the Bears? The two guys from the Windy City answered that question with an exclamation point during yesterday's victory.
With all 11 starters returning, a former Pro Bowl quarterback in his second year under someone nicknamed "The Quarterback Whisperer," two Pro Bowl receivers, a Pro Bowl running back and a dynamic tight end, the biggest question for the 2-3 Bears revolves around why the offense is struggling. The second-highest scoring unit in the NFL from 2013 has slipped all the way to 16th this year.
Sure, injuries have played more of a role this season, with Roberto Garza and Matt Slauson missing significant time, but that doesn't totally explain it because their backups have performed just as well as the starters. Brandon Marshall, who said he was supposed to miss four weeks with his leg injury, and Alshon Jeffery have been nicked up, but neither has missed more than a few series of snaps here and there. Jay Cutler missed significant time last year, and the team didn't miss a beat.
The answer may lie 20 or more yards down the field.
Thirty-seven plays. Of the 66 times the Bears defense lined up against Cam Newton, Willie Young was on the field for just 37 of them, or 56 percent of the time. Pro Football Focus has him rated as third worst Bears defender when it comes to pass rushing, but he has five sacks, while the rest of the team combines for six more. He forced a fumble on Sunday and blocked a field goal against the Packers, yet he ranks ninth on the defense in snaps played.
Few can argue against the fact that he's been one of the best free agency bargains in the NFL. At three years and $9 million, Young's production is far exceeding his contract through the first five games. Though PFF has him graded quite low in his pass rushing, he leads the Bears when it comes to his run defense. Five sacks and the best run stopping defensive linemen sounds exactly like a stat line the team was hoping to get out of Lamarr Houston (five years, $35 million) or Jared Allen (four years, $32 million).
Injuries happen all the time in the NFL. It would be wonderful if every team could run their best players out on the field on a weekly basis, but it's just not feasible in a game predicated on collisions. Playing teams at the right time during the year can have a drastic effect on the standings.
Last night's game between the Packers and the Vikings is a perfect example (of my point, and also that football on Thursday night after both teams played the previous Sunday is abhorrent). With Matt Cassel and Teddy Bridgewater both sidelined with injuries, the Vikings were forced to go with third-stringer Christian Ponder, who doesn't belong on a professional football field any longer. The Packers took advantage of Ponder's plentiful mistakes, and left the Vikings in the dust before the first half was over. If Bridgewater were starting at quarterback, the game could've played out completely different.
The Bears are a team on the mend, for the most part. With the exceptions of Jermon Bushrod (injured knee in practice) and Jeremiah Ratliff (concussion setback), the team saw a lot of guys recover enough to practice this week. Brandon Marshall was a full participant, while Jared Allen, Roberto Garza, Matt Slauson and Sherrick McManis all returned on a limited basis. Slauson or Garza being able to play Sunday becomes even more important for the Bears with Bushrod's mysterious injury that could force Michael Ola to start at left tackle.
In the second season of the Marc Trestman era, we expected the offense to make a leap forward. The second-highest scoring team in the NFL from last year finally had an offensive genius that would be with the team for consecutive seasons, and all 11 starters were returning. But the growth is nowhere to be found four weeks into 2014.
Brandon Marshall hasn't talked to the media after his victim blaming, 40-plus minute tirade took place a few weeks back. Since then, he's been nearly invisible against the Jets and Packers, and was the reason why the second interception happened last Sunday. Trestman backtracked on Monday saying there was miscommunication between Jay Cutler and Marshall, but that's an even worse problem than just Marshall going rogue. These guys have played together seven years, and in the second year of having the same offensive coordinator, shouldn't be making these silly mistakes.
When an NFL team is ravaged by injuries like the Bears have been early this year, the bottom of the roster becomes an unsafe place if you're a player that resides there. Perfectly good and healthy guys get cut all the time because a team may have more of a need at another position. Sometimes, those decisions are made late enough in the week that the Bears end up paying game checks out to more guys than the roster maximum available on Sundays.
Some of those players added mid-week have even seen game action due to regulars and backups getting hurt in-game -- even playing some of the most important downs that have keyed the Bears 2-1 start. Here are the guys that have been added to the roster since the season began, how they've done, and what their future holds.
When Phil Emery was tasked with upgrading the bad half of his team during the offseason, the defensive line was obviously the place to start. With injuries crippling the Bears in 2013, he needed to throw money and draft picks at a problem area directly responsible for the worst run defense in franchise history.
Lamarr Houston and Willie Young were the top targets for the Bears, and the reasons are were obvious. Both players ranked in the top 15 among of 4-3 defensive ends last season according to Pro Football Focus (a website the Bears subscribe to for unbiased individual grades), and while Houston is the better run defender, and Young is the better pass rusher, neither are slouches when it comes to the other duties. The only critique from Bears fans were about their sack numbers. Despite being ranked so highly, the pair combined for ten total sacks in 2013 -- two less than the outgoing end combo of Julius Peppers and Shea McClellin.
Portfolio diversification is important when it comes to managing risk with your investments. Launched in 2013, Fantex, Inc. is a company that allows you an opportunity buy and sell stock of an individual player -- legally. And Alshon Jeffery is their newest client. Fantex has reportedly agreed to buy 13 percent of Jeffery's "brand value" for a price of $8 million, appraising the talented third-year wide receiver around $61 million total.
The deal works like this: Jeffery gets the $8 million up front, which is nearly double the amount he's making from his four-year, $4.55 rookie contract with the Bears that isn't even fully guaranteed. In return, 13 percent of all future earnings, including contracts, sponsorships, paid appearances, or any other football-related money he receives during and after his NFL career has ended, goes to Fantex (including things like post-NFL television work related to football, etc).
Phil Emery's job two summers ago was to fix the offense. He did so by bringing in four new linemen, Martellus Bennett, and getting a breakout season from his 2012 second-round pick in Alshon Jeffery.
After watching the defense get annihilated throughout the 2013 season, Emery had to transform the defense in the same way. Willie Young, one of the Bears' top free agent targets has had two monster games so far, but draft picks are the key to the team's present and future. First-round picks in the NFL are expected to produce immediately, and Kyle Fuller has done just that.
"We knew it since day one," Jay Cutler said. "Day one he came out there and was manning up B [Brandon Marshall] and Alshon."
After the injuries to Lance Briggs, Charles Tillman and a few of their teammates along the defensive line, the way to beat the Bears in 2013 was simple. Snap the ball, and have the quarterback turn around to hand it to the running back. The back would stuff it down the Bears' throat, and the game would end 60 minutes later.
Phil Emery did a nice job acquiring talent along the defensive front in free agency, but he failed to make any significant upgrades in the linebacker and safety cores. Though the defense appears to be better physically in 2014, the discipline breakdowns that plagued the Bears last year are just as bad.
When Buffalo played from under center, or threw the ball from the shotgun, the Bears did a fairly good job containing their Week 1 opponent. But when Buffalo ran plays that required multiple Bears defenders to stick to their gaps and corral one of the best rushing teams in football, all hell broke loose.
After two possessions, Bears fans were on top of the world. The revamped defensive line had stuffed two runs on the Bills opening drive, and the Bears responded with a four-play touchdown drive that featured a perfect deep ball from Jay Cutler along with the use of the team's top four offensive weapons. Too bad they don't give out Super Bowl trophies after four minutes.
The sped-up pace Marc Trestman wanted the offense to have was on full display. Plays were being called in quickly after the whistle, and Cutler had plenty of time to look over the defensive alignment before deciding exactly where he wanted to attack. The plan was a good one, but the execution from the guy under center left a lot to be desired.
The focus leading into Sunday's season opener has been all about the Bears defense. Can they stop the run like they did at the beginning of last year? Can they get the Bills into third-and-long situations so the revamped defensive line can pin their ears back? Are the linebackers not named Lance Briggs prepared to make plays? Does the team have any starting-caliber safeties?
All great questions, but none of them really matter in Week 1 if the Bears offense does what we expect it to do in the second year under Marc Trestman. All 11 starters return, and though Kyle Long missed the start of camp, and Jordan Mills missed everything, the cohesiveness of the unit and the time they've had to develop and improve the second-highest scoring offense from 2013 should be enough to prevail in Week 1. At the very least, it would buy some time for the defense to come up with answers.
Everyone has a Bears story -- everyone. It doesn't matter which generation you're from or how far away you've previously lived before moving here to take that improv class. Odds are, you have a Bears story.
It's also likely you've read a book or two about the Bears somewhere down the line, written by someone who also shares the same memories you have about our beloved Monsters of the Midway. Certainly a lot has been said of this iconic franchise by those who have witnessed the highs and lows from the press box, but not often do we read the accounts from the men themselves. We Are the Bears!: The Oral History of the Chicago Bears offers just that.
It's taken a full training camp and four excruciating preseason games, but the time has finally come to lock in the roster and prepare for real football starting next Sunday. Per NFL rules, teams must make their final cuts and get down to the mandatory 53 players by Saturday at 3 p.m. Most teams don't wait that long, however, and will likely start giving players their walking papers before meetings and practice today to give them a head start on trying to find work elsewhere.
The Bears are a little unique in the way they treat their final preseason game, in which no starters or primary backups wear pads, followed by other roster locks suiting up only in case third stringers get hurt. It does give us major insight on what the team is thinking roster-wise, but also raises some questions on why young players aren't getting valuable reps.
Here's what the Bears roster will most likely look like after final cuts are made:
The final preseason game is always a difficult one to watch for most fans. Very few starters take so much as one snap for either team, and the entire spectacle feels like the NFL in slow motion. A dress rehearsal is the perfect comparison.
But there are still guys at the bottom of the rosters that are trying to make the 53-man roster or the 10-man practice squad. The game means everything to their future livelihood. The roster currently sits at 75 players, and the last 22 cuts have to be made by Saturday at noon. Here's a position-by-position breakdown of the battles that will be the central focus of tonight's action.
Though he had a rough game last Thursday against the Jaguars, one bad preseason performance for an established veteran like Eric Weems typically isn't enough to merit a release. But that's precisely what the Bears did, cutting ties with the diminutive veteran and bringing in Santonio Holmes for what is essentially a two-week tryout.
With Marquess Wilson sidelined for a couple of months, the Bears had multiple wide receiver spots open, and guys that contributed positively on special teams would likely get the first nod. The kick return fumble last Thursday was a terrible start for Weems. On the non-fumbled returns, he showed very little burst and speed, failing to reach the 20-yard line on every attempt. Though he did contribute a fantastic down-field block for a teammate on offense, he also had some sort of miscommunication with Jay Cutler on one play that infuriated the QB, and in hindsight of his release, was likely Weems' fault.
Weems had been a part of Bears special teams unit that was wildly successful under former coordinator Dave Toub, with Devin Hester as the feature star in the return game. In that system, Weems could focus on blocking, covering kicks, and fielding a kick or two during the games opposing coaches decided to pooch it to one of the other ten players on the kick return team. With both Toub and Hester now gone, Joe DeCamillis was relying on Weems to shoulder the load. He simply couldn't do it, and the team was obviously fed up.
The main focus for tuned-in fans in last night's preseason tilt against Jacksonville was most likely the performances of the backup quarterbacks on the offensive side, and the linebackers from the defense. But focusing on just those two positions feels like beating a dead horse, and leaves out other battles that are just as compelling, though admittedly not as sexy.
Here's how each positional group fared in week two of the preseason:
Jay Cutler's numbers against the Eagles last week were fantastic, but his footwork was brutal in the re-watch. He cleaned all that up this week, and had a dynamite performance aside from a miscommunication with Eric Weems and missing a wide open receiver on third down in the first possession. His touchdown pass to Brandon Marshall was downright dirty, drawing defenders the wrong way with his feet and eyes, and drilling an off balance strike to the back of the endzone.
After a disastrous season from the defense, Bears general manager Phil Emery knew he'd have to rebuild the unit on the fly. The second highest scoring offense in the NFL isn't young enough to wait multiple years while the other side of the roster is constructed from scratch.
The GM brought back his Pro Bowl-caliber corners in Tim Jennings and Charles Tillman along with drafting Kyle Fuller in the first round as the long-term heir. And though he didn't spend much money at safety, the Bears will more than likely start the season with three new players out of the four they typically roster on game day. Adrian Wilson and Ryan Mundy have been solid in camp (and in Friday's preseason tilt), and rookie fourth rounder Brock Vereen has made a few plays as well.
In an effort to fix the defense by upgrading a pair of positional groups, Emery went after some of the best defensive linemen on the market. A unit marred by injuries and ineffectiveness in 2013, the Bears spent most of the post-Cutler money on veterans who can get to the quarterback. Lamarr Houston, Willie Young, and Jared Allen all fit that bill, and are also dependable in the run game. The front office didn't stop there, though. In the second and third rounds of the draft, the team added Ego Ferguson and Will Sutton to mix. Though you hope injuries never happen, the Bears should be able to withstand a pulled muscle or two up front this year without falling off a cliff talent-wise.
In terms of talent in the starting core, you could argue the Falcons might be slightly ahead of the Bears with Julio Jones and Roddy White. And any team with Calvin Johnson on it should be in the conversation as the best receiving duo even if a manikin is lined up on the other side.
While scrolling through the article, the Bears and Falcons rank right next to each other -- at eighth and ninth respectively. Shocking? Not particularly, when you remember that these rankings take the entire receiving core into account and not just the starters. That's where the problem lies with the Bears.
Rounds 2-7 of the NFL draft on Friday and Saturday saw the Bears make selections that made a ton of sense, along with a couple surprises sprinkled in. Here's a full breakdown on the players they picked, and what the team has in store for them.
This pick was immediately billed as a reach by the Bears, as the talking heads on ESPN had him rated as a fourth or fifth round pick. Then when you remember that the Bears gave up 29,000 yards on the ground last season (that number might be a slight exaggeration, but it felt like that many), it's probably a good idea to add a 300 pound nose tackle that can stuff the run. That's exactly what this pick was about.
Ferguson is inconsistent and won't overtake anyone's spot on the defensive line at the start. He doesn't add much in the pass rush department, so he'll most likely make his name playing on first and second downs when teams are more likely to run in between the tackles. He talked with Bears defensive line Paul Pasqualoni a lot about playing a 2-technique position, which eludes to the Bears plan of doing a lot of different things defensively this season. We'll see where he eventually lines up come training camp. Stephen Paea will have major competition this summer.
There wasn't the run of quarterbacks Phil Emery hoped for in the top half of the first round, but the dominoes fell almost perfectly otherwise, with three of Emery's mystery six still on the board when the Bears came up at 14 around 8:30pm last night.
Fans were teased well into the Bears' time on the clock because the announcements of each pick were incredibly slow on television. Aaron Donald, the favorite choice of just about everyone not named Hub Arkush, was still there when the Rams were up at 13, and the consensus was the Bears would take him if the Rams passed. They didn't, taking the three-technique defensive tackle out of Pittsburgh right at the footsteps of Halas Hall.
Bears fans have sat through round one the past two drafts with a list of roughly six to eight players the team might be targeting. Phil Emery, a.k.a. Phil Night Shyamalan (a great moniker 670thescore.com's Laurence Holmes came up with), has added a twist to each of those evenings with the selections of defensive end (now linebacker) Shea McClellin and guard Kyle Long. Each left Bears fans scrambling to look up their names, and Hub Arkush to throw his pen and exclaim (after Long was announced), "Phil Emery just blew that pick." Arkush later apologized, and was almost immediately proven wrong with Long making the Pro Bowl as a rookie.
Despite getting new life at a new position, I don't ever see McClellin panning out as even an average player in the league, and the hope is that Emery learned from past mistakes. Sometimes the consensus choice is the best one (Chandler Jones or Whitney Mercilus instead of McClellin in 2012). Nonetheless, Emery's draft prowess after McClellin is trending upward -- hopefully taking the inverse course of Shyamalan's career.
During an offseason in which the Chicago Bears gave starting quarterback Jay Cutler $54 million of guaranteed money, who would've thought quarterback would be so paramount to the Bears in the first round of Thursday's NFL Draft. No, it's not because the Bears are planning on picking one -- they most certainly won't. But if they plan on getting an impactful defensive player who is high on their board, they need help from the other teams above them.
Despite being one of the most talented draft classes in years, there is very little agreement when it comes to mock drafts. Some have Louisville QB Teddy Bridgewater going in the top three overall, while others have him falling all the way out of the first round. The only guys that seem to be guaranteed in the top seven picks are South Carolina DE Jadeveon Clowney, Buffalo LB Khalil Mack, and Clemson WR Sammy Watkins. A few extra weeks tacked onto the draft process hasn't helped clear the muddy waters.
The best defenses in the NFL come at you on every down with fresh players. In a league that keeps seeing offenses evolve by taking less time between snaps, depth is an integral part of an organization.
But as of last week, the Bears were basically out of money. After cutting Julius Peppers loose, while signing Lamarr Houston and Willie Young to man the defensive end spots, it seemed like they were set at defensive end too.
Though most of Phil Emery's work in free agency has been in locking up his team's own talent, he's moved quickly in the open negotiating period, and landed starters at need positions while adding much needed depth at key spots across the roster.
Since Tuesday's barrage of movement, the Bears have continued a quest to improve the defense all in one offseason, similar to what they did with the other side of the ball last winter and spring. The most important part of that rebuild won't come until May's draft, but the steps taken should solidify a unit that was decimated by injuries in 2013.
Make that three years in a row that Phil Emery has made his presence known in the early hours of free agency. He started with the Brandon Marshall trade for a pair of third round picks to give Jay Cutler the premier receiver that all quarterbacks love throwing to, and followed that up last year with another weapon and a backside protector in Martellus Bennett and Jermon Bushrod on the opening day of the league year.
With free agency set to begin one week from today, the salary cap situation of every team is under scrutiny from fans and agents alike looking to cash in on the most sought after players. An unprecedented jump in funds available to every team is expected to make this season's talent grab one of the wildest.
All season long, many front office folks were figuring a small jump from $123 million last year to something around $126-127 million this season. Predicting future year cap figures is important for front offices so they can construct contracts that leave them flexible in future years. Instead, swirling rumors early last week were confirmed by the NFL: the salary cap was rising to $133 million in 2014, and is now projected to make an even more significant jump next year.
Julius Peppers came to Chicago via a massive contract in 2010. His role was simple for someone with his athleticism and skill: wreak havoc on the opposing quarterback. It came easy to the (at the time) 30-year-old, who, despite being questioned early in his career as a guy who didn't play hard on every down, delivered with a season that garnered him a spot as a First-Team All-Pro.
He was exactly what that Bears team needed to make a run at the Super Bowl, and they were a half away from getting there. Lovie Smith's defenses were built around the front four getting to the quarterback without blitz help, and Peppers produced at the level he was paid.
Since then, the sack numbers have been there, but the consistency has tapered off. He recorded 11 and 11.5 QB takedowns in 2011 and 2012 respectively, but one stat doesn't tell the whole story. According to Pro Football Focus, after grading third in the NFL at 4-3 defensive end in 2010 (39.2), he dropped to 21.7 in 2011 and a meager 9.9 (18th ranked at 4-3 DE) in 2012 that required a massive run in the final four weeks to put him into the positives.
Comparing contracts between players at the same position in the NFL, especially at quarterback, can be a silly exercise. In terms of pure dollars, Eli Manning was the highest paid quarterback in 2013 (yikes). In 2014, Tony Romo was scheduled to take throne as the highest paid. That is, until Jay Cutler got rich via the Chicago Bears.
With Sunday's season ending loss to the Packers in the books, the time has come for the Bears to decide what direction to go as a franchise. They've got a general manager in Phil Emery who has been excellent in the free agency and trade markets while struggling to rack up large quantities of startable players from the draft. They've got Marc Trestman at the helm, who has turned the offensive into a scoring juggernaut, finishing second in the NFL in points scored despite some questionable clock management scenarios in many end of half/game scenarios. The combination is far from perfect, but each is still quite green when it comes to their respective positions.
Their biggest challenge -- one that will likely define the career of each -- is what to do with Jay Cutler, who will be 31 years old when he takes his first snap of the 2014 season. Should they let him walk and go another direction? Should they put the franchise tag on him and buy another year of evaluation? Or should the Bears ink him to a long-term deal like many franchises have done with their known quantity quarterbacks in the past few years. Before they can make any other offseason decisions and moves, they need to have a plan at the most difficult position in all of sports.
The answer is incredibly complex, taking into account the salary cap, relationships, draft prospects, surrounding talent, coaching, and much, much more. It's potentially a large financial commitment, and it requires looking at the situation from every angle imaginable to come up with an answer that isn't necessarily right or wrong. One thing is certain, the decisions made will have repercussions on the franchise for years to come, so it's more than worth the time to analyze the situation all the way through.
The season has been a tumultuous one for the Bears and Packers. Injuries have ravaged both squads, and have sidelined each team's starting quarterback for an extended period of time. The Packers have barely survived life without Aaron Rodgers, while the stunning play of Josh McCown has done nothing but raise more questions about the future of Jay Cutler in Chicago.
Sunday's game won't answer any of the long term questions the Bears face as a franchise. If Cutler struggles, it doesn't automatically mean an imminent departure. If he succeeds, a contract extension worth $18 million a year won't be sitting on his kitchen table Monday morning. Marc Trestman and Phil Emery have long said the evaluation of their franchise quarterback is a long-term process. A loss accelerates the queries, a victory only pushes them off.
Editors Note: Before diving into the wonderful world of Bears football, I'd first like to wish everyone a Happy Holidays. Regardless of the days you celebrate, I truly wish that all of you got a chance to spend some quality time with your family. Some don't get that opportunity during this hectic time of year, and it's important to remember that, and truly appreciate it if you are so lucky to see the ones you love.
The Bears defense in 2013 has been historically bad. Over 1,600 rushing yards allowed over an eight game stretch has never happened in the history of the NFL. And it's all just one year and few lineup changes removed from a squad that nearly scored enough points to drag the lackluster offense into the playoffs during Lovie Smith's final campaign.
Mel Tucker took control of a unit with high expectations, and many gave little thought to the defense clearing the bar with ease. The talk around Chicago coming into the season was entirely focused on the offense. Could Trestman bring 21st century playcalling and coordination to a team that has struggled to score consistently for as long as any Bears fan can remember? Could he help Jay Cutler turn the corner?
Depending on your ratio of sports intake at the national and local levels, you can get very differing angles on the Bears' quarterback situation. Frankly, if you don't listen to or read anything locally, your opinion of Jay Cutler is likely to be hate filled. In Chicago, most writers and talk show hosts understand and agree that Cutler is the most talented quarterback on the roster, and needs to be starting to not only give the Bears the best chance to win now, but to audition for the future as well.
The national sports media, for whatever reason, disagrees, and despises him.
Did he force his way out of Denver when Mike Shanahan got canned? Sure. But then the world somehow forgets that new coach Josh McDaniels turned out to be a bigger prick than Cutler could ever dream of being, and didn't want anything to do with him in the first place. But if it doesn't fit the narrative of Cutler being a terrible teammate and a horrible person, then it doesn't deserve column space.
The day after a Bears game is the time you're most likely to see a player out and about during the season. It's their off day during non-bye weeks, and often guys can be found doing marketing, branding or charity events.
Following the frigid victory over Dallas on Monday night, Lance Briggs turned up at a local Best Buy on Tuesday, conducting interviews and signing autographs at one of the eight regional events for the Ultimate Gamers Showdown. Madden experts from across the area gathered for a shot to win a $1,000 Best Buy gift card, along with a trip to Dallas next week to compete for the championship.
Garfield Park native Chris Smith headed to Best Buy at 1000 W. North Ave. on Monday in search of the new Playstation 4. As is typical with the most popular system in a new console cycle, they're nearly impossible to track down. When a store gets them in stock, they typically sell out within a matter of minutes (thanks, Twitter). Try to buy them online, and the only way to secure one is to purchase a bundle of items that jacks the overall price up a few hundred dollars. Nonetheless, Smith was determined to find one.
The "Blue Shirts" at Best Buy told him they didn't have any in stock, but that they were hosting a Madden 25 tournament as part of the Ultimate Gamers Showdown on Tuesday, with promotional giveaways during the event that included multiple $50 gift cards, televisions, and best of all, a new XBox One along with a pair of Playstation 4s.
Smith has played Madden for the last six years, but he hadn't gotten a chance to play it on the new console just yet. He also hadn't participated in a tournament ever before. "My friends always told me I should enter one of these," he said. "I came here today hoping that at the least I'd get lucky and win one of the Playstations they were giving away."
Yes, McCown has been fantastic. A 109.8 QB rating will attest to that. Look at it contextually, though, and the picture becomes clearer as to why a 34-year-old journeymen QB who the Bears nabbed from the assistant coaching ranks at a high school in North Carolina.
Back in another life (high school and college), I was a competitive Madden player. Most sports-loving guys my age can probably make that claim as well. Its popularity was at an all-time high just a few years ago when the additions they made year over year added incredible realism to the experience. It's plateaued the last few seasons, but still sells quite well.
I never went on the road to play in tournaments, but when it came to playing against friends and online, I lost nine times in over 200 games. I finished second in a campus-wide tournament at a school of more than 13,000 undergrads -- and I would've won it all if I had five more minutes of game time (my opponent found a game glitch he could use to get Tommie Harris into the QB's face in less than two seconds on every play, and it took me three quarters to figure out how to neutralize it). I'm not bitter about that game or anything...
Why is this all important? Because mastering game management skills is imperative to play Madden at the highest level. Five minute quarters and fast game play makes every decision involving points and the clock magnified to the nth degree. It's also the one ability trait that actually translates from video game-play to the real life game.
Monday press conferences with Marc Trestman have been a joy for the most part. He doesn't screw around with non-answers like his predecessor did, he gives explanations for decision-making processes (successful or not), and hasn't made an attempt to misdirect the media.
Trestman has been a revelation offensively. With new weapons across the offensive line and at the skill positions, he's taken a Bears team that had trouble scoring for decades, and turned it into one of the most potent units in the NFL (despite some struggles near the goalline).
The Bears have been hammered with injuries this season, and weirdly, it's been all on the defensive side of the football sans Jay Cutler. At last check (since it's not out of the question that someone gets randomly added to the infirmary report later today), the team has lost five defensive starters for the season due to injury, along with Lance Briggs.
The biggest of those losses: Henry Melton, playing what is considered the most important position in the Cover-2 scheme.
Melton was voted to the Pro Bowl last season for his role playing the three-technique defensive tackle spot. Two of Lovie Smith's best Bears defenses (2012 and 2006 Super Bowl loss team) came when the team got a star performance from someone playing that position. Last year it was Melton. In 2006, it was Tommie Harris.
Despite winning Sunday's mess of a football game, Trestman had answering to do. Why the punt on 4th and 1 at the Ravens 44 with five minutes remaining in the game when he's gone for it in similar situations many times before? Why wasn't he calling timeouts during the Ravens final drive in regulation to preserve some clock? Why pass the ball five times on six plays inside the seven yard line? Trestman went into his typical Monday presser like the narrator in the old Radio Shack commercials.
The news of Charles Tillman's arm injury that would shelve him for the remainder of the 2013 was sobering for Bears fans. The quiet leader of the defensive backs that hasn't missed more than one game in a season since 2006 might've played his last game with the only NFL team he's ever known.
Even Tillman admitted it might've been the last time he suited up in the home locker room at Soldier Field. A free agent at the end of the year, there's no guarantee the soon-to-be 33-year-old will be back with the team in 2014. Many thought he'd be offered an extension during last offseason coming off another Pro Bowl campaign, but the decision to let things play out appears to have worked out in favor of the Bears -- as it typically does in a collision league.
Ask any Bears fan within a 50-mile radius of the 312 area code to expound upon their favorite memory he or she has about the Monsters of the Midway, and chances are they'll mention any one of the 100 items listed in Kent McDill's new book, "100 Things Bears Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die."
It's all in there, listed numerically in the contents section, seemingly ranked from most significant (#1. Papa Bear) to least (#100. Punters) and everything in between that everyone already should know, but, heck, should take the time to re-read and swell with emotion like a plumped-up brat sizzling away at a tailgate.
McDill, who covered the Bears from 1999 to 2007 for the Daily Herald, brings on Bears' radio play-by-play commentator Jeff Joniak to write the Foreword and mentions that the passion some 4.6 million Chicagoans feel for this team is a "generational bond, handed down from one decade to the next." To dig a little deeper into the psyche of the team-and-fanbase cohesive bond, the makeup of the Bears throughout the years embodies the hardworking, blue-collar approach that mirrors the day-in, day-out "Grabowskis" in the stands or at home watching and cheering along. We all are "Superfans" and this book is our reference point.
Blocking in the NFL is a thankless art. The successes and failures of an offense stem from how well they can block, but the guy with the ball is always the one featured. The offensive line is obviously the biggest factor (sure, why not, pun intended), but receivers also play a substantial role, especially on outside runs.
The Bears possess three of the best blocking wide receivers in the NFL. According to Pro Football Focus, Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery and Earl Bennett all rank in the top 12 in the NFL when it comes to run blocking. Marshall, by a wide margin, is ranked number one. You have to watch closely on edge rushes and longer runs by Matt Forte to notice what they're doing, but it's incredibly effective and wildly fun to watch. It takes a mix of technique, footwork, and passion for your team to be successful at blocking from the wide receiver position. Here are a few examples from the Packers game alone of the work Marshall, Jeffery and Bennett provided.
Bears fans woke up across the country this morning, pinching themselves to make sure this is real life. A win in Green Bay didn't seem conceivable until the much maligned Shea McClellin, drove Aaron Rodgers's non-throwing shoulder into the ground for a season-changing sack. In that instant, the Packers became vulnerable. Marc Trestman and the Bears offense took it from there.
On a night where the run defense couldn't make a stop to save their lives (including laughably bad plays from Chris Conte and Major Wright that should send them to the bench), and the special teams was ill-prepared on multiple occasions, it was the calming influence of Trestman and backup quarterback Josh McCown that put the Bears back in first place. Yes, you read that sentence right.
In a perfect world, every draft pick would take the place of departed or ineffective veterans and have an instant, positive impact. But a utopian arena is also a fictitious one, especially in the NFL.
In tonight's tilt against Green Bay, the Bears will start their top four picks from April's 2013 draft class. Kyle Long (RG, first round), Jon Bostic (MLB, second round), Khaseem Greene (WLB, fourth round), and Jordan Mills (RT, fifth round) will be largely responsible for the team's success or failure against one of the toughest teams to scheme against in the NFL.
We've seen Long and Mills from the start of the season, but Bostic and Greene are seeing expanded roles due to injuries to starters. Here's how they've performed to this point and what to watch for from the Bears rookies tonight.
No matter how much you wish them to be, rivalries at the professional level are not everlasting. They don't withstand the test of time, and don't endure the changing atmosphere of sports culture. Especially in football.
Free agency, trades, and yearly seven round drafts create so much roster turnover that looking at team photos from year-to-year is like comparing a list of camp counselors from one summer to the next. Some of them will return, but the ones who don't are either too old, were poor at their job, or found greener grass on the other side and aren't looking back.
The term rivalry, "competition for the same objective or for superiority in the same field," can't even be used to describe Bears/Packers games by pure definition. Is their any question about superiority between the two teams since the arrival of Aaron Rodgers? At least when Brett Favre was around, you knew he'd throw you the ball a few times each season to keep things interesting. Sound familiar?
Just 12 days ago, the discussion in this space was the options the Bears had if the organization chose to add talent on the defensive line. After a difficult, high-scoring loss that involved a couple of devastating injuries to Jay Cutler and Lance Briggs, a legitimate question now is whether or not the Bears might actually trade someone away and play for the future. Oh how one week in the NFL can change minds so drastically.
The question of trades came up at Phil Emery's 'State of the Bears' press conference yesterday. His response: "We'll make trades as long as they're of equal value." He didn't rule anything out, but as I mentioned last week, trades are highly unlikely. The Bears have had conversations with other teams, but there's very little chance that anything will happen. Even though their defense has been horrendous (and now missing its best player), and Cutler is out for an extended period of time, the playoffs are still in play -- albeit, a long shot now.
If the Bears were to trade anyone away, they'd obviously be looking for draft picks in return -- considering they only have 28 guys under contract for next season. The cap hit would have to be minimal, the trading partner would need to possess the assets to make the deal (picks + cap space), and they'd want a quality player in return (sorry, nobody wants Major Wright, Chris Conte, etc). Here are guys that the Bears will definitely have conversations about (again, this doesn't mean I'm advocating a trade, just that these will be guys discussed):
Scoring 41 points and losing rarely happens in the NFL. It just seemed inevitable the way the yesterday's game played out.
The Bears defense was gashed again -- nothing new there. But the injury luck they've had the past few years has quickly regressed, bloodying the team to a point where guys that were on the street just two months ago are playing significant snaps during the regular season. The Bye week couldn't come at a more opportune time.
Charles Tillman and Lance Briggs were both forced out early due to knee and shoulder injuries, respectively. Despite being labeled as 'probable to return,' both Pro Bowlers stood on the sideline without helmets and their hands tucked into shoulder pads, watching a defense that could only make a stop if Washington beat itself.
Let me preface this by saying that it's always smarter to bet on trades not happening in the NFL. The complexities of the sport in terms of learning a team's schematics and salary cap structure make in-season trading nearly non-existent. If a deal happens, it's more than likely to make a team more flexible rather than having a substantial impact.
The Bears are in a perfect (dire?) situation for an addition to take place. The defensive line has been ravaged with season-ending injuries to Henry Melton and Nate Collins, along with ineffectiveness from guys like Julius Peppers and Shea McClellin (not to mention Sedrick Ellis totally screwing the team by not showing up to camp). The late-round picks, rookie free agents, and guys off the street have played exactly how you'd expect them to — leaving the squad ridiculously thin with talent up front.
Since the Bears play just one game in the next 24 days (extra rest after a Thursday game plus the bye week after next Sunday's game against Washington), it would be a perfect time to add a defensive linemen to the mix. The newbie could remain inactive next week to allow more time to get acclimated to the defensive system (though D-Line is probably the easiest position to learn the playbook at). Monday would be the earliest one could take place because the Bears have already played this week.
When an NFL head coach gets fired, it's rare for any of the other assistants to stay on with the new regime. Of course the guy running the show is the most important position to worry about, but losing quality coordinators can have a deep impact as well.
Exhibit A: the Bears special teams unit. When Lovie Smith was hired in 2004, he brought in Dave Toub, who at the time had only coached defensive line at the University of Missouri for three years, and a quality control coach in Philadelphia for another three. The hiring was a revelation for the squad. Talk radio callers would wail about the ineptitude of the Bears offensive coordinator, or not enough blitzing in Smith's Cover 2 scheme, but never about the third phase.
Ranking special teams units against each other is fairly difficult because so much of the value is tied up in the kicker (Robbie Gould is third all time in accuracy -- good) and punter (Brad Maynard in 2006 is the only time a Bears P has averaged more than 43 yards per punt in this century -- bad). Where a coach can really shine is by minimizing mistakes and setting up returners for big gains.
The National Football League has become such a massive, multi-billion dollar marketing freight train over the last decade that none of the other stateside major sports come close. According to CNNMoney, the league is tops in revenue, tipping the scale at a modest $9.5 billion last year, all while showcasing household names like Cutler, Suh and Brady.
It's the sport mom never wanted you to play, worried that her little man would get dinged in the ear hole on a sweep to the right, all while trying to make the cut by making a name for himself. If you took a hard hit and lumbered toward the sideline, you were asked to "shake off the cobwebs" and to get back in the game.
As time went by and science began to catch up with the sport, many surrounding the game discovered that merely shaking off the cobwebs wasn't a cure that could be defined by the New England Journal of Medicine, and instead meant something was very, very wrong with the athlete who suddenly didn't know where he was. Tragically, some of those athletes never recovered after multiple blows to the head and ended up hurting themselves and the ones they loved. Dave Duerson was one of those former athletes.
Jay Cutler had a bad game; no doubt about it. His three interceptions and fumble were all on him (one bad decision, two terrible throws, and one cup of tea in the pocket), and he was consistently off target all day. Sure, there were a couple of dropped passes, but the accuracy of Cutler's throws was erratic because of bad mechanics. Marc Trestman was quoted as saying Cutler was "extremely accurate," (he ranked as the worst Bears offensive player according to Pro Football Focus) but I think he'll recant that after watching tape.
A lot of focus will be on Cutler and how they'll stop Bad Jay from appearing again. But the real issue with this team is the defense. If they aren't forcing a turnover, they're getting demolished with big plays. The team currently ranks 27th in the NFL in points allowed at 114 per game - including 20+ numbers against bad offenses in Cincinnati and Minnesota.
Julius Peppers was the lone bright spot for Mel Tucker's unit yesterday, causing major disruptions in the pass game and on the occasions where the Lions were dumb enough to run the ball in his direction. The problematic players were nearly everyone else that suited up on defense.
It's been a storyline after each of the first three games so far in 2013. Despite scoring a trio of victories, the Bears front four haven't gotten enough pressure. The response by defensive coordinator Mel Tucker, rightly so, has been to send blitzes from every direction. Charles Tillman, D.J. Williams, Lance Briggs, Chris Conte, and Isaiah Frey have all attacked the quarterback a multitude of times; a fan's dream. Not so for a coach.
Defensive coordinator Mel Tucker is probably blitzing a little more than he's comfortable with, but he's done whatever the game has called for to get the win. If that means sending extra guys, so be it.
The problem with that strategy this week is that you can't leave Megatron (a.k.a. Calvin Johnson) alone on the outside with a hobbled Charles Tillman, hoping you can get to the quarterback in time. Making matter worse, Henry Melton, the Bears' franchise defensive tackle, was lost for the year due to a torn ACL. Bad news for a defensive front already struggling to get to the quarterback. Even more so considering he plays the demanding three-technique spot in the Cover 2 defense.
3-0 is nothing to sneeze at in the NFL. Just six teams tout that record on the standings page, with a seventh (Broncos) likely to join the party later tonight. Out of those seven, the Bears are one of three that reside in what many considered to be a far more powerful NFC, and are joined by just two other teams with a winning record.
Yes, the Bears defense has been timely, forcing turnovers and scoring touchdowns at their frenetic and regression-worthy rate. But the Bears don't possess a winning record without their star performer. One could argue that they might be winless without him.
Take last night for example. After vaulting to a 24-3, the Bears started leaking on both sides of the ball. Blitzes were failing to get home on defense, and Dick LeBeau's mixture of pressure schemes were attacking the Bears young line from a number of unexpected angles. Before you knew it, the scoreboard read 27-23, and the duo of Jay Cutler and Marc Trestman had to find a way to put points on the board. And that they did.
Devin Hester will get strong consideration for the Hall of Fame once his career is over. He's the career leader in punt returns for touchdowns (12) along with combined return touchdowns (18, which includes five kick returns and a field goal return), and his direct impact on games used to strike fear in minds of countless coaches.
But that was the old NFL -- back when strict concussion policies and penalties for hitting defenseless receivers and blindsiding quarterbacks were turned into "Jacked Up" video montages on ESPN. Now the league is doing everything it can short of flat-out eliminating the kickoff return. All in the name of player safety.
With kickoffs moved up to the 35-yard-line, the number of touchbacks has skyrocketed in the NFL to the point of near extinction for a return specialist. Spots on the 53-man roster (and 45-man gameday roster) are incredibly valuable, and if your only contribution is returning kicks and punts, you better create a sense of danger to the opposition.
Week 2 of the NFL season, and the Bears are once again completely healthy when it comes to the injury report. Charles Tillman and Julius Peppers each missed a day of practice due to being sick, but both are fully expected to be a go on Sunday against the Vikings.
As for the game - it should be simple. Stop Adrian Peterson from consistently doing stuff like this, and everything should be fine.
So instead of digging up a weird angle on what should be a straightforward game, I asked the wonderful people I know on Facebook to come up with questions they wanted answered. The results were, uhhhh, let's call them interesting.
If the only thing you saw from the Bears game yesterday was the box score, you'd probably think the logos got swapped somehow. Timeouts getting burned up because there were too many or too few players on the field, silly penalties that turned into easy points or extended drives, and a number of turnovers are typically the signs of a team with a rookie head coach at the helm. Instead, those stats came courtesy of Marvin Lewis's team -- the second-longest tenured head coach in the NFL.
The Bears were courtesy three-point favorites from a betting perspective, a number given to the home team when Vegas sees an even matchup. Talent-wise, that number is right where it should be, as each team is a solid pick to make a run at the playoffs. But when taking into account that the Bears have a new head coach, a new offensive system, a new play-caller on defense in the booth and on the field, not to mention an almost totally revamped offensive line and linebacking corp, it was going to be an incredibly difficult game for the home team.
Thankfully, this isn't the team that we all painfully remember. From all accounts, Ted Phillips made the right hire by going with Phil Emery as his general manager. His free agent decisions and collegiate talent scouting have been game changers for the Bears the past two years. They especially showed on Sunday.
I've been a Bears fan for as long as I can remember. I have a love/hate relationship with the team on a play-by-play basis. Whether it's Good Jay or Bad Jay, I'm screaming at the television. And I can't stand watching the Bears on DVR because millions of people would know the outcome before me.
I hate it when fans list off their 'credentials', but I find it necessary to give them because after being to numerous games at Soldier Field, I have absolutely no interest in attending another Bears game there ever again. I'll still see them live from time to time when they play on the road, but it would take an incredibly sweet deal to get me to go back.
Sitting through TV timeouts in the stadium is grueling, there's little to no access or information on other games happening at the same time (because everybody and their sister is trying to look up the same info on their phones as me), and video replays are almost non-existent at Soldier Field. The Jacksonville Jaguars are trying something interesting by displaying the Red Zone Channel on one of their big screens this year -- a fantastic concept -- but still wouldn't be enough to get me to Soldier. And the main reason why isn't due to anything above. The problem is getting there and then back home.
It may seem counterintuitive to rest players when many of the Bears young bucks (especially the ones that will be starting) could've used last night's preseason finale to get more reps. Marc Trestman decided that his team's health was far more important than a quarter or a half of play -- and he's probably right.
Many Bears players that were thought to be competing for jobs against the Browns received a DNP (Did Not Play) in the scorebook, to the surprise of many onlookers. That might seem like the kiss of death in some circles, but it was a case of preservation for the Bears. If Henry Melton, Earl Bennett, and DJ Williams are healthy enough to play next Sunday against the Bengals, it means the Bears will have made it through the four warmup games with everyone on their two-deep intact. That's something that few NFL teams can claim.
With many of the roster decisions made prior to the game last night, the matchup against the Browns came down to a few of the final positions on the 53-man roster. Here's how everything should shake out by the end of the day:
The Bears should be a playoff contender once again in 2013. Though the defense might not play up to the all-world standards that fans have become used to, the hope is that the rebuilt offensive line combined with a quick release, West Coast style offense brought in by Marc Trestman will improve the offense enough to balance out the team. Playing football in mid-January is certainly not a guarantee to the degree that a team like the Packers making the playoffs is, but the Bears can do it.
Once you make the playoffs, the cards have to go your way. It's sad, but that's what it comes down to in the one and done business of the NFL. The Ravens wouldn't have made it to the AFC Championship game had Broncos safety Rahim Moore not blown the coverage on a 70-yard touchdown with 38 seconds remaining to tie the game 38-38 in the Divisional round. You don't need 'something special' to win a Super Bowl. You need to be lucky.
With those words in mind, Phil Emery had to be sitting in a luxury box last night with a big grin beaming throughout the room.
After the usual charade of Good Jay, Bad Jay in the first three series for the Bears offense, the rookies began to make their presence known. After a completion to Brandon Marshall to open the fourth drive, first-round guard Kyle Long and fifth-round tackle Jordan Mills kept getting run plays called right behind them. A defensive penalty and three rushes later, Matt Forte was standing alone in the endzone.
Polarizing is the perfect term to describe Jay Cutler. There's no need to break out the Merriam-Webster pocket thesaurus to look for another word, or weave a sentence with beautiful prose. It's much simpler than that. You either love him, or hate him.
Regardless of your opinion, there's no disputing the fact that he's the best Bears quarterback since Sid Luckman in the 1940s. Assuming Cutler stays healthy, he'll surpass Luckman as the franchise leader in passing yards by year's end, and already has the title for most completions, completion percentage (min. 15 games started), and yards per game. The only major stat that will remain Luckman's once the season comes to an end is touchdowns, where he holds a 55 score lead.
If Cutler stays in Chicago after this year, the title of greatest Bears quarterback will basically be his by default. He'll snare the touchdowns title from Luckman, and will be a championship short of cementing his legacy. He'll deserve it too, considering that he's been sacked a ridiculous 148 times in the 56 regular season games he's suited up for.
Under the relentless heat of late July, 2,880 players make their way to NFL training camps across the country, each being able to call themselves professional players for the short time before roster cuts slash the total to just under 1,700 before the season begins. With that many players fighting all out for the few available jobs, injuries are bound to happen; a few of those being serious and potentially season ending.
The Bears have been one of the luckiest teams in the league when it comes to health in the last few years, getting a high majority of their starts from the men that top the depth chart at each position. They've dodged long term injuries to starters so far in camp, unlike teams like Philadelphia (Jeremy Maclin) and Baltimore (Dennis PItta), but they've suffered some crippling injuries when it comes to depth.
Earl Bennett has struggled with injuries throughout much of his Bears career. He missed four games in 2012 and five in 2011 due to various ailments, and has seen his production drop in each of the last four seasons. Despite that, he's still seen as an important part of the offense due the fact that he can play in the slot, and has a long history with Jay Cutler dating back to their college days. If only he could stay on the field.
The Chicago sports landscape is a vast space, reaching as far as the Quad Cities to Nashville, with legions of fans who stick with their teams through thick and thin. And much like that landscape in the middle of February, it is often dark and cold for what seems like an eternity, with no hope in sight. But once every so often, a beam of light shines through, melting away the ice and once again restoring hope for athletics in the Second City.
With so much drama and so many teams in the country's third-largest market, it became necessary for news outlets to canvas the city's north, south and west sides with sports writers, just as they crammed the courts and morgues with beat writers as early as they dawn of the newspaper.
Lance Briggs stood between the sliding doors of an eighth-floor bedroom deck, which overlooked the beautiful Streeterville neighborhood landscape. Camera lights fixated on his iron jaw, which sported a thin layer of five o'clock shadow, and his wedge-like frame which gave off the illusion that he was holding up the downtown high-rise.
A production team frantically works behind Briggs to set up the next shot for the New Era Cap ad campaign, while the now-veteran linebacker focuses on how he would run through the next scene. Watching Briggs mentally prepare for a scene is almost as intense as watching him prepare for the next down on the field.
Gabe Carimi made it clear that he didn't want to be back with the Bears this season by skipping voluntary OTA's (Organized Team Activities) a few weeks back. Sure, they're "technically" voluntary, but when a new coaching staff is hired, it's standard operating procedure to take part in an effort to learn the system and terminology alongside your teammates. Instead, Carimi chose to work out on his own in Arizona, but did plan on attending the mandatory workouts this week at Halas Hall.
That won't be happening, as he'll be boarding a plane this morning en route to Tampa Bay in exchange for a sixth round pick in next year's draft. Carimi was the 29th overall pick in former general manager Jerry Angelo's final draft with the Bears, and he was the only remaining first round pick from the previous regime to still be on the team. Now there are none.
After an awkward departure just a few months ago from the only team he's ever played for, Urlacher let the world know via Twitter that he had played his final game in the NFL -- opting to spend more time with his family and not working out every day to prepare his 34-year-old body for another brutalizing season. The Bears had offered him a one-year contract to return, but it would be on their terms, and not his. He tested the market, and found that it wasn't ripe for an aging veteran coming off multiple leg injuries who didn't jump off the screen the previous two seasons.
Mother's Day is one of those holidays that reminds us of that special lady we once puked on after eating too much cake, bled on after skinning our knee on the pavement, and cried on after striking out in a ballgame or in a relationship. No matter the situation or subject matter, good ol' mom was there to clean up the mess, crack out the Bactine, and wipe away the tears.
On Sunday, millions of Chicagoans will pick up the phone and put in a call to mom to wish her the happiest of Mother's Days and ask if she liked the bouquet of Gerbera Daisies sent express that morning. Many other men and women will wake up a little earlier in the morning to mix pancake batter with their child/children in an effort to serve mom breakfast in bed. A standard pastime, which is accompanied with a cup of Joe, fresh OJ, a flower and a smile.
Then there will be many Chicagoans who will spend their time remembering their mother, harking back to a time when she was still with us - maybe a visit to her grave with a poem, a flower and a tear. Once our time here is finished on earth, there's hope one day we'll be reunited with those we've loved, even in the most tragic of cases where it's the child who leaves mom behind.
The experts and fans at home thought the draft board set up beautifully for the Bears. Tight end Tyler Eifert, linebackers Manti Te'o (though nobody in the fanbase wanted to hear his name) and Alec Ogletree, defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd, and corners Desmond Trufant and Xavier Rhodes were all there to be had. All of them would fill a position of need and everyone assumed that one of those players had to top the big board at Halas Hall.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell returned to the podium and said, "With the 20th pick in the 2013 NFL Draft, the Chicago Bears select... Kyle Long, guard, Oregon."
Brian Urlacher played as a combo safety/linebacker in college at the University of New Mexico. But when he was entering the draft back in 2000, the Bears saw him as a game changing middle linebacker.
And that he was. Urlacher was voted the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year, NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 2005, made eight Pro Bowl teams and five All-Pro squads during his 13 seasons in Chicago. That's a fantastic resume if you're angling for a bust in Canton. If you're looking for a job in the salary capped NFL though, all a team cares about is what you're going to do, instead of what you've already done.
The Bears didn't make the biggest signing on the opening day of free agency (Mike Wallace: Dolphins), but they made the most noise in the early hours of the new league year.
Tight end Martellus Bennett (four years, $20 million) and left tackle Jermon Bushrod (five years, $36 million) were top names at their respective positions, but nobody was quite sure how much cash the Bears had available. Reports had them anywhere between three and seven million dollars under the salary cap, and the $12 million they just doled out annually to the new Bears means more roster trimming is on the way.
The cap numbers for those players is probably lessened in the first year to make sure they fit into the Bears salary structure, but it surely will lead to the cutting of Kellen Davis ($2.5 million savings) and quite possibly Devin Hester ($2.1 million savings) to make room. It also means that this is probably the last season the Bears can afford Julius Peppers. With the contracts of Bennett and Bushrod likely to hit the cap harder in future seasons, along with the probability that Jay Cutler re-signs for big money, the $17 million dollar All-Pro defensive end will likely be a luxury the team simply can't afford next season.
Super Bowl XLVII capped off another multi-billion dollar year for the National Football League, in which commissioner Roger Goodell dealt not only with record ratings, but also the sixth former or current player taking his own life in the last two years.
The most recent incident involved Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher, who not only committed suicide in front of his coach and general manager back in December, but also shot and killed his girlfriend before doing so.
Fans question how athletes, who seem to have it all (fame, fortune, success), would want to end it all with a bullet. The same question was asked about former Chicago Bears safety Dave Duerson, after he fatally shot himself in the chest back on Feb. 17, 2011, leaving behind his family, business, friends and legions of fans asking, "Why?"
A new e-book about Duerson's life, Duerson: Triumph, Trauma and Tragedy in the NFL, as told through articles from the Chicago Tribune, examines the two-time Super Bowl champion's career as a football player (Bears, New York Giants and Arizona Cardinals), his passion to compete, his business life, the troubles he ran into, and his unfortunate suicide.
If you're a fan of Aaron Sorkin, Tom Hanks, or Philip Seymour Hoffman, then you'll recognize the following exchange (courtesy of IMDB) from Charlie Wilson's War, where Hoffman (Gust Avrakotos) tries to explain to Hanks (Charlie Wilson) that he needs more money to rebuild infrastructure in Afghanistan to prevent future problems for Americans following the 'covert' war the United States waged against the Soviet Union.
Gust Avrakotos: There's a little boy and on his 14th birthday he gets a horse... and everybody in the village says, "How wonderful. The boy got a horse." And the Zen master says, "We'll see." Two years later, the boy falls off the horse, breaks his leg, and everyone in the village says, "How terrible." And the Zen master says, "We'll see." Then, a war breaks out and all the young men have to go off and fight... except the boy can't cause his leg's all messed up, and everybody in the village says, "How wonderful."
Charlie Wilson: Now the Zen master says, "We'll see."
Most Bears fans were excited that Lovie Smith got fired after failing to make the postseason for the fifth time in six years. My reaction was more tempered. Hiring a head coach in the NFL is the epitome of "one extreme or the other." It only ends two ways. A Super Bowl, or a pink slip.
By week's end, the Bears will have a new head coach. Reports last night had the team shaving the search down to three finalists after firing a shotgun into the air and interviewing anyone that flinched. The new lead dog will likely make his presence known with massive roster changes (mostly at the GMs doing, but the coach typically signs off). Here are five Bears starters that will likely have a new home.
With a tip of the hat to Dick Butkus and Mike Singletary, Brian Urlacher is the best linebacker in the history of the franchise. Along with Ray Lewis (who's the best of all time), Urlacher redefined the middle linebacker position with his rare combination of size and speed that changed the way defenses could be played. He hit like linebackers had in the past, but covered the middle of the field better than most free safeties in zone coverage.
With GM Phil Emery firing Lovie Smith, rest assured the roster will have at least 40 percent turnover going into 2013. By my count, at least 26 guys should be safe with the new regime (with a few more roster fillers staying around as well). Here's 26 words or less on each guy: OFFENSE Jay Cutler - He's not elite, but he's no lower than 12th at the most difficult position in the sporting world; tough to complain about that.
Brandon Marshall - He set the single-season franchise records in receptions (118) and yards (1508), yet left multiple plays and touchdowns on the field -- scary.
Finishing 10-6 and failing to make the playoffs is the most unsatisfying end to a season filled with more questions than answers. It was just good enough to be in the upper-echelon of the NFL, but not good enough to be a serious Super Bowl contender.
Did he deserve to go? That answer is questionable, but in Emery's eyes, it was a clear 'yes.' His defense has been in the top half in points per game in every season he's been in Chicago, and the takeaway totals during his tenure is mind boggling (310). Not very many coaches in the league have reached a Super Bowl and also made another Championship game, but in a league that is all about "what have you done for me lately," one playoff appearance in the last six years simply isn't good enough.
If you keep checking the scenarios to see what has to happen for the Bears to make the playoffs, just stop. It's worthless. The only thing that you should be focusing on is Bears/Cardinals on Sunday afternoon.
The late season collapse has left the team in a win-or-your-out situation. Don't even think for a second that a 9-7 team from the NFC North is going to make the playoffs. It simply won't happen. The Bears have backed themselves into the proverbial corner, and are now left with a one game playoff in Week 16. It's not an ideal scenario, but it's the hand they were dealt, and by no means are they out of it yet.
The lowly Cardinals are one of two NFL teams (Jets being the other) where there is little fear that the other team's quarterback is going to beat you. Whether it's been Kevin Kolb, John Skelton, or some hack named Ryan Lindley, the Cardinals have amazingly fielded a worse quarterback situation than the Mark Sanchez/Tim Tebow/Greg McElroy debauchery that's happening in New York right now. If you aren't relishing in the fact that we should see a Bears defense circa Week 9, then you should be.
If I were Phil Emery, I wouldn't fire Lovie. With one year left on his contract, let him play it out next year. If you want a new offensive coordinator, go right ahead. The problem is it would be Cutler's fourth coordinator in five years with the Bears. And who would want the gig with Lovie's job status in question?
The Bears were in the same situation before the 2010 season, and ended up being the team without a chair when the music stopped. Hello, Mike Martz. Though the Bears were in the NFC Championship 10 months later, it's not a sound strategy to repeat. An offensive coordinator wouldn't be an automatic fix either. The key to a successful offense is good blocking for a good quarterback. The Bears are four linemen short of that. It's also good to remember that Lovie got the Bears to the Super Bowl with by far the worst quarterback (Rex Grossman) to make it since Chris Chandler with the '98 Falcons.
Games are defined by moments. An inch one way or the other drastically affects the outcome of contests. Take Marquez vs. Pacquiao this weekend. If Marquez's punch lands one second later, or if Pacquiao's right hand connects squarely just milliseconds before he takes the deciding blow, the fight continues. The outcome potentially changes.
It's hard not to look at Sunday's loss to the Vikings with a sense that opportunities were lost. It was the second easiest game remaining for the Bears (with the Cardinals game being the runaway favorite), and despite falling behind early, the win was there for the taking. What if Alshon Jeffery caught that TD pass late in the third quarter that would've tied the game? What if Devin Hester catches the sure TD with over four minutes left in the fourth quarter to cut the lead to seven? The result might have been different, sure, but the problems remain the same.
Out of his eight first round draft pick between 2001 and 2010 four are out of the NFL, and four play for other teams -- with only one being a current starter (Greg Olsen).
It's simply amazing that Angelo lasted as long as he did (a Super Bowl trip and second NFC Championship game helped). He scored big on lower-round selections like Charles Tillman, Lance Briggs, Devin Hester, and Matt Forte, but missing so consistently at the top of the draft inevitably kills teams in the grand scheme. Some lower round guys should turn into solid starters, while others become roster fillers. The number one picks should be playmakers. The Bears have lacked that pipeline.
The defense didn't get it done. That part was obvious. And the blueprint to beating the Bears has now been tried and tested. The recipe can be broken down into two simple ingredients.
The dominant ground game comes first. Running the football effectively against the Bears makes it nearly impossible for the linebackers and safeties to sit back in the Cover 2 defense they're so comfortable running in the second half of games. It forces the playmakers to continuously make decisions, and can wear out a defense that, let's be honest, isn't young.
The second ingredient is a competent quarterback. One that has patience, minimizes mistakes, and can handle his business outside the pocket. A guy that isn't fazed by the names Peppers, Briggs, or Tillman (I'm leaving Urlacher off there -- it's become abundantly clear his career is on the rails).
Six starters suffered injuries that will make Halas Hall press conferences appointment listening this week. Lovie Smith is terribly coy when it comes to injury updates too, giving the least possible information and doing only what the league mandates. Don't play a drinking game where you take a shot every time Smith says "getting better," because you'll end up in a coma before the end of the week.
Charles Tillman (ankle) and Lance Briggs (lower leg) both suffered injuries during the course of the game. The defense might be able to survive a week sans Tillman with not-so-scary Seattle passing game coming to town, but Briggs missing any time would be devastating. The Bears have had enough trouble stopping the run the past three weeks, and the loss of their best run stuffer could make them incredibly vulnerable in an area they're typically stout.
Following two consecutivelosses where the Bears offense was handily beaten, and the normally stout defense was gashed by impressive running attacks, Lovie Smith and the rest of the coaching staff had just five days to get the ship righted. A loss to the Vikings on Sunday would drop the Bears to third in the division, just three short weeks after being in the running for the best record in the NFC.
Missing the playoffs, especially after a 7-1 start, more than likely won't be tolerated. When Bears GM Phil Emery was hired in January, it included one stipulation: that Smith remains the head coach for the 2012 season. After that, it's all up to Emery. If the Bears fail to reach the postseason, it'll mean just one appearance (2010) since the team went to the Super Bowl in the 2006 season. I doubt Emery would offer Smith a new contract in that scenario.
Rumors have been floated about in each direction. Terry Boers, afternoon host on 670 The Score, had sources in early October saying the team was quietly working on a two-year extension with Smith. But the drafting of Shea McClellin in April, who was considered a hybrid 3-4 outside linebacker or 4-3 defensive end (with more considering him the former), was seen as a sign Emery wanted to move to the 3-4 defense in the near future. That future wouldn't include Smith and his trademark Cover-2 scheme.
It was a pretty good bet the Bears offense would struggle against the second best defense in the NFL with Jay Cutler sidelined. They didn't let down on that assumption a bit. Nobody predicted, however, that 49ers backup Colin Kaepernick would carve up the Bears defense like a Thanksgiving turkey.
Who should take blame for the utter awfulness that was the Bears defense? Is it Lance Briggs for consistently getting beat by Vernon Davis? Is it Brian Urlacher and every member of the secondary for missing countless tackles? What about the defensive line losing gap integrity and getting wham blocked on nearly every successful running play by the fullbacks and linemen for San Francisco?
It all went wrong. Everything. Alex Smith is one of the highest rated passer in the NFL, and he would've been the best option to pick apart the Bears base defensive sets. Kaepernick getting the starting nod because of Smith's concussion was supposed to be a blessing. The backup has had plenty of snaps this season, but mostly running college and trick formations to confuse defenses and take advantage of his athleticism.
It was all that was talked about on SportsCenter back in 2002. That year Vikings management tried to keep their mercurial wideout Randy Moss happy by devising a plan to throw 40% of their passes to him. Whether it was a good plan or not, it was came off as a ridiculous scheme. Not only did it confirm that Moss was a prima donna who would mentally and physically check-out if he didn't get attention, but it also was dumb in that the Vikings had no problem announcing this to the league. Hey, here's our gameplan.
Moss had a great year in 2002, but as you can see, he wasn't other-worldly. And while Minnesota's offense put up good numbers, they were only moderately efficient. The Vikes' defense was shoddy, and they went 6-10 that year. The Randy Ratio was scrapped for 2003.
What does this have to do with anything? The Bears are running their own version of the Randy Ratio with Brandon Marshall. The first-year Bear has been targeted on 37% of passes this year, and he is third in the league in looks his way.
On a night when the Bears offensive line surprisingly did a fine job (with some help from the skill players I might add) against a defense led by Defensive Player of the Year candidate J.J. Watt, Jay Cutler gets hurt. It wasn't even on a sack (since the Bears didn't give up any). Instead, it was on a play that resulted in offsetting penalties (though it should've been a completion to get the Bears in scoring position) and has put the Bears season in peril. Somebody get Josh McCown on the phone...
Without Cutler, you saw what the Bears offense becomes. Instead of a mix of running and taking shots down the field, you have a quarterback in Jason Campbell that doesn't want to make the big mistake, and instead, chooses to check it down (with Cris Collinswoth begging the Bears to throw it to Matt Forte more). Don't get me wrong, the Bears can win games with Campbell under center (and I'm happy the Bears spent money on him), but the team becomes a mirror image of what you see in Houston and San Francisco (opponents, ironically, last night and next Monday). They become a team that can't come back from a two score deficit.
The Bears/Texans tilt was a series of missed opportunities and poor play by a few select players. Cutler played badly. Brandon Marshall dropped a touchdown pass (though he deserves credit for his play otherwise). Brian Urlacher missed numerous tackles (including one on the final drive that shortened the field goal from 46 to 42 yards) and failed to shed blocks and fill holes on Houston's only touchdown drive. Michael Bush fumbled and missed a block that nearly turned into a pick six. And then there's Kellen Davis.
Any conversation about the Bears these days begins with gushing over their dominant and flat out ridiculous ability to force turnovers. This week specifically, the discussion may drift toward Charles 'Peanut' Tillman, and whether or not he should potentially miss a game for the birth of his child (if she's in labor, he shouldn't play, and you're a dolt if you think otherwise. Family comes first, regardless of profession).
After a few minutes of love spewing about Tillman, Julius Peppers, Lance Briggs, and Brian Urlacher, along with some sort of comparison involving the '85 Bears (please, just stop already), the chat quickly shifts to the offensive line's inability to protect the team's greatest asset: Jay Cutler (no, I'm not saying he's the best player, but he's the most important).
The talent on the offensive line has been an issue for the Bears for years. Since John Tait's retirement in 2008, left tackle in Chicago has been one of the biggest non-quarterback positional black holes in the NFL. But would it surprise you that the Bears don't have the worst line in football? The first hint: After Chris Williams release, he received multiple contract offers from other teams around the league.
Hopefully you took pleasure from the joy ride while it lasted. The forced fumbles, the interceptions, the blocked punts, the touchdown returns (see previous links), all of it. Hopefully you relished every moment, because it's all downhill from here.
Despite the terribly erratic offense and the sometimes maligned special teams, watching this Bears defense demolish and demoralize opponents over the first eight weeks of the season has been truly special. Sure, this may be one of the weirdest and shakiest 7-1 teams you've ever seen, but it is what it is. The offense will always have problems as long as Gabe Carimi and J'Marcus Webb bookend the line, and the defense will be relied upon to pick up the slack -- even in the scoring department.
Charles Tillman is still going to force a fumble here and there, but he's not going to punch the ball out four times in his career ever again. He may not even pop it out that many times through the final eight games of the season when you look at the opponents the Bears play. But Brian Billick wasn't kidding about Tillman becoming an MVP candidate after that performance. With 37 tackles, seven forced fumbles, and two interceptions returned for touchdowns, his name jumped onto the short list.
The NFL announced the Players of the Month for October yesterday, and not surprisingly selected Charles Tillman the winner in the NFC on the defensive side of the ball. According to the league, it is the first time in the award's history that it's been given to cornerbacks from the same team in consecutive months (Bears teammate Tim Jennings won it in September).
At the beginning of the 2011 season, Tillman was one of the top defenders on the Bears, but still hadn't been voted to the Pro Bowl. Jennings was fighting for a starting spot with Zack Bowman, and the coaching staff was down on him because he had difficulty finishing plays (tipping and knocking down balls Lovie Smith thought he should intercept).
Essentially, the Bears had one guy they were supremely confident in, but wasn't getting the mainstream recognition (Tillman), and another that they weren't sure was going to pan out, since he didn't with the Indianapolis Colts, previously (Jennings). Times have certainly changed.
The door was open to gain a game in the NFC North. With the shellacking the Vikings took on Thursday Night Football, all the Bears had to do was dispatch of the woefully underachieving (some might say, bad) Panthers at home on a windy Sunday afternoon. Easy, right?
Not if your receivers drop multiple passes that would've resulted in first downs. Not if your offensive line allows six sacks in the first half. Not if your defense can't get off the field on third downs despite being the best in the NFL at it coming into the game. Not if your kicker, who's the fifth most accurate in the history of the sport, misses a field goal in a situation where he shouldn't have kicked it.
Yet despite all the mistakes, half of which I haven't even mentioned, the Bears escaped victorious after Jay Cutler led the team on a pair of fourth quarter scoring drives, sandwiching a pick-six from Tim Jennings and the defense that just can't help but to score in games these days.
The only time the third phase of the game gets press is when it's either incredibly good, or absolutely appalling. The Bears haven't been either, but that's the problem: they normally are outstanding. They haven't scored any touchdowns, and only gave up one on a beautifully executed fake field goal from the Packers. In fact, the unit is seventh in the average kick return yards allowed, and second in punt return yards.
Devin Hester who? The potential Hall of Famer has looked lost in the return game, which is unusual considering his workload on offense has been much lighter than in recent years. Heavy usage on offense has often been the cause of poor returns by Hester in previous seasons. This year, he just can't find a groove. It's not just running after the catch either. Hester has struggled tracking the ball in the air, and has waived off a number of punts to let them bounce, resulting in worse field position for the Bears.
Phil Emery is smiling today. No, not because the team he took over a mere nine months ago sits atop the NFC North with a 5-1 record. It's because the four highest profile additions he made have all been rousing successes.
There's his first round pick Shea McClellin. A lot of people questionedthe selection at the time. Was he an 3-4 outside linebacker? Can he play with his hand on the ground as a 4-3 defensive end? The Bears weren't looking for an MVP in his rookie season. They simply wanted someone that could contribute to the defensive line rotation, and speed rush on third downs. McClellin pressured Lions QB Matt Stafford on a number of occasions last night, and scored a half of a sack among the three the Bears recorded.
Then there's Michael Bush. Matt Forte needed another contributing force in the run game so he could stay refreshed throughout. He also needed someone to get first downs on third and short situations, an area he struggled in mightily. Bush has delivered (political entendre alert!). He had 36 yards on six carries last night, and has given the Bears a new dimension to the running game the team hasn't seen since Cedric Benson was a pup. The $14 million deal has paid off in spades so far.
"You guys seem to talk about the (offensive) line much more than we do." —Lovie Smith
There's a reason for that, Lovie. Sometimes the coaching staff is afraid to admit weaknesses on the team. Morale purposes, competitive purposes, whatever the reason, we get it. But that's not a reason to serve up a smart alec comment to a reporter. It's also a flat out lie. I'm sure the offensive line is a hot topic internally on a weekly basis.
Asking questions about the offensive line is legitimate at any time during the season. Even more so after the team cut backup tackle Chris Williams, the 14th overall pick in the 2008 draft. Williams struggled with injuries, inconsistent play, constant position changes and general ineffectiveness in four-plus years with the Bears.
The loss isn't a major one considering Williams had barely played this season. He was even inactive for the last two games, ceding his backup spot to veteran Jonathon Scott. It was time for a change of scenery, and the Bears needed to acquire depth elsewhere - signing former cornerback Zack Bowman to chip in on special teams. Don't worry about Williams though. He'll undoubtedly find work somewhere in a league that is starving for any semblance of offensive line talent.
When Brian Urlacher was asked earlier this week on the Waddle and Silvy Show whether or not this year's defense is the best he's ever played on, he replied, "I've said it all season, the talent on this defense is better than any team I have been on from position to position."
In the political landscape were in right now, let's fact check the Bears legend on his claim. Since it would be unfair to evaluate defenses with different philosophies, we'll keep the comparison with another top defense in the Lovie Smith era: the 2006 Super Bowl team.
Defensive End - Then: Adewale Ogunleye and Alex Brown. Now: Julius Peppers and Israel Idonije.
If the Bears lined me up opposite of Peppers, the defensive ends now would beat out the Ogunleye/Brown combo in 2006. That's not a knock on those guys either. Both were above average NFL players, but Peppers will probably be Canton-bound one day. Watch a Bears game today, and you'll witness an incredible amount of scheming that offensive coordinators go through just to account for number 90.
If you weren't able to catch the 41-3 shellacking of the Jaguars, but happened to have the Cowboys game from last week still on your DVR, just watch from the second quarter on, and it will pretty much mimic the second half of yesterday's game.
Charles Tillman and Lance Briggs became the first teammates in NFL history to record interception returns for touchdowns in consecutive games, and Brandon Marshall caught another touchdown pass amid his 12 snags to lead the Bears. The postgame was filled with sentences that started with "This is the first time since..." They did what they were supposed to against a less talented team.
The first half was a different story altogether though. Stalled drives, questionable play calling, and lack of pressure by the defensive line were the reasons why the word "upset" was being whispered. If you let an inferior team hang around at home like the Bears did, there is a good chance the game could get stolen away at the end. But the offense didn't let that happen (along with the suffocating defense), scoring all four times they touched the ball after the break.
I was honestly surprised when I checked the weekly lines, and found the Bears were only four and a half point favorites. Sure, it's a road game, and as former coach Brian Billick can be quoted as saying every single week, 'there's nothing harder than winning on the road in the NFL,' but this doesn't feel like a contest the Bears are going to lose.
This game most definitely qualifies as the dreaded 'letdown' game in betting circles (a game against a weak opponent that you may look past after coming off a big victory), but the Bears haven't lost any of those games since Jay Cutler came to Chicago. The last time the Bears were favored and lost with Cutler behind center was back in Week 7 of the 2010 season, when Cutler threw a fourth quarter pick-six in a 17-14 loss to the Donovan McNabb led Washington Redskins. But it didn't qualify as a letdown game because the Bears had lost their previous two to the Seahawks and Giants.
To make matters worse for the Jaguars, the last time a Cutler-led Bears team lost to a quarterback outside the division under the age of 25 (Blaine Gabbert qualifies at 22-years-old) was back on December 20, 2009 when Joe Flacco pounded the Bears with a four touchdown performance during a 31-7 rout.
Thank you cards can be sent to Dez Bryant, c/o Jerry Jones, to the right of the giant video board, Arlington, TX. Without him, the Bears Monday Night Football beatdown of the Cowboys would've been a whole lot closer than the 34-18 final.
Bryant dropped three third down passes he should've caught, resulting in punts during the first and second quarters (the drop during the opening drive of the second quarter would've put the Cowboys inside the Bears 10-yard line) along with a field goal instead of the continuation of a drive in the third quarter that left the Bears with a 14 point lead. Not to mention his ill-timed miscommunication with quarterback Tony Romo on a hot read that resulted in a Charles Tillman pick-six.
Romo can't be blamed for the first three interceptions, as he was either vilified by his receivers or his offensive line that couldn't stop the Bears front four for the majority of the game. Henry Melton might get the game ball defensively, wreaking havoc in the middle with an early sack and forcing the play that resulted in Lance Briggs' interception (which should be reclassified as a fumble) return for a touchdown.
16 years of officiating experience at the games highest level. 11 years of college football work before that. I've never been so happy to see you before, Walt Anderson, who will be leading the zebra crew for Chicago's Monday Night Football visit to Dallas.
After the disaster that was the Packers/Seahawks game, I was afraid if the real refs didn't return, the NFL would turn into the WWE Royal Rumble this weekend. Sure, everyone south of the border loved seeing the Packers take a kick to the twins at the end of the game, but imagine how infuriated you'd be if something similar happened to the Bears. This is the type of crap I worried about incessantly throughout the games the scab crews officiated.
With the return of the referees post-lockout, you still have the right to complain about bad calls, but the reason will no longer be because the official making it is grossly unqualified. The real crews are back, and I can once again say that officiating doesn't affect wins or losses without gagging.
That win was so Bears. Think about it. Solid special teams, scuffling offense with issues at quarterback, offensive line, and receiver, and a defense that got bent to hell but never broke while scoring a TD themselves - that's a 23-6 victory we've seen from the Soldier Field tenants on a number of occasions during the Lovie Smith era.
The six points the defense surrendered were hard earned by the Rams too. Rookie kicker Greg Zuerlien drilled a 56-yard field goal at the end of the first half, along with knocking down a 46-yarder in the second half to pull the Rams to within four. That's a close as it ever got. The Bears defense was suffocating throughout, and once again had to carry a sputtering offense.
Tim Jennings is fast becoming the Bears defensive player of the year and a possible All-Pro selection with his fourth interception to go along with two pass deflections that turned into picks (the Major Wright TD in this game being one). But don't overlook the play of Lance Briggs and the defensive line yesterday. Briggs almost single-handedly stymied the Rams running game (holding them to 59 yards), and the linemen racked up six sacks (2.5 for Israel Idonije) thanks to superb play from Amobi Okoye and Stephen Paea in the middle.
I can almost guarantee Cutler will have a bounce back game on Sunday. The Bears are at home against an inferior opponent, the gameplan will refocus on running the football, and Cutler will step into the high majority of this throws. It alwaysseems to happen after the Chicken Little game he has everyseason.
Michael Bush will be the workhorse running back with Matt Forte most likely missing the game with an injured ankle. How injured? Nobody except the coaching staff and trainers knows. In a hat tip to the locked out NHL players, Lovie Smith explained the ailment like hockey coaches typically do, almost going as far as using the term "lower body" injury like his counterpart Joel Quennville.
As if enough wasn't going wrong for the Bears last night: from terrible quarterbacking, to an awful offensive line, to clueless receivers, not to mention a horrible offensive gameplan, then you have CSN/WGN's David Kaplan inciting the crazies by tweeting about the lack of yelling from Lovie Smith:
@thekapman: Mike McCarthy is showing great emotion on GB sideline. C'mon Lovie....need some fire out of you!
Apparently the only way you can beat a team employing a coach that goes postal every time a call goes against his team, or flips out at any and all mistakes made by one of his players, is by countering with the same moronic behavior.
Smith showing "fire" (which I assume means screaming at the world at the first sign of complication) has less to do with the outcome of a football game than how many hours of sleep Jay Cutler gets at night with a new baby. It's simply ludicrous.
Four Jay Cutler interceptions (three of them his fault, one Earl Bennett's), an incorrect 12 men on the field penalty, a dropped pick by Lance Briggs, a dropped touchdown by Brandon Marshall (not to mention him forgetting to turn around for another sure TD), the list is endless.
Don't think the coaches don't deserve blame too. The offensive game plan throughout the first half was perplexing considering the 49ers dismantled the Packers defense just four days prior by running the football with multiple tight end formations, then progressing to play action passes to move down the field consistently. The Bears dialed up run plays on just two first downs in the opening half, leading to an average of 16 yards to go on third downs.
I can't put it any simpler than this: NFL football on Thursday night sucks.
I'm not talking about the games played on Thanksgiving afternoon and evening. Those games are the country's reward for winning the battle over grandma's turkey and stuffing during dinner. They're the American Dream of football.
Then Roger Goodell and the powers that be in the league office decided Thursday night football should become an every week tradition instead of just a few weeks late in the season. Sure, it's great for the people with ADD that can't wait five and a half days between Monday Night Football and the noon kicks the following Sunday, but it's awful for any football fan that wants to have a life. It's also terrible for anyone in competitive (re: pay) fantasy leagues. Having to lock in players on Thursday is brutal if you have a questionable star player you'd rather activate on Sunday, but can't risk passing up a sure starter. And don't even get me started on the games being on the NFL Network...
But those reasons are nothing compared to players and coaches hating it. Thursday games provide little time to recover, prepare, and travel if you happen to be the away team (re: Bears). Lovie Smith couldn't allow his players to have Monday off like they typically get after wins because the team couldn't afford to lose one of its three prep days. Charles Tillman and Brian Urlacher, who would normally have a couple of practice days remaining to get ready for a Sunday game are questionable for tonight, though they'll probably both play.
The most exciting fact for the Bears after yesterday's games should be how their division rivals played. Sure, the Bears looked dominant at times during a 41-21 trouncing of the visiting Indianapolis Colts, but that outcome was anticipated.
The outcome could've ended up a whole lot different if the sequence of events that took place during the first two offensive series continued throughout the game. A sack on a missed block by Kellen Davis, a false start by Gabe Carimi, a short run by Matt Forte on 2nd and 24, and a shotgun snap that rolled to Jay Cutler on third down made for an awful first drive. But it was nothing compared to the ill-advised throw Cutler made to start the second possession that ended up being a pick six.
To accurately analyze and pass judgment on a football team, you have to watch games a particular way. Very few people do it, and it's admittedly difficult to do consistently.
The eye is naturally drawn to the ball. It's the vehicle for scoring in nearly every sport, and the best players typically possess it the longest. It's tough to look away because you're afraid of missing something -- which is a legitimate worry with guys like LeBron James and Lionel Messi.
I'm here to tell you not to worry about that. If you want to talk about the Bears (or any team) intelligently when the conversation comes up at your nearby water cooler on Monday morning, there's a certain progression to look at for every play. Here's how to do it, with Bears players thrown into the mix for reference, and since the proper way to watch each team varies slightly based on personnel.
The major storyline of the Bears' fourth and final preseason game, a 28-20 win in Cleveland, was who would get the third-string running back slot. Both Lorenzo Booker and Armando Allen battled for the position, splitting carries and sharing the workload the entire game.
Yeah, you can probably tell that if that was the biggest story of the game, none of the Bears that get regular playing time saw the field on Thursday.
Nobody got hurt. The 20-17 win is meaningless in the grand scheme of a season, so you look at the injury report to make sure it didn't get longer a week after losing a pair of safeties (one for the season) and a starting special teams ace.
Rookie punter Ryan Quigley, believe it or not, was the number one focus for the Bears in what's typically the most scrutinized preseason game due to the extended playing time the 'ones' receive. With starter Adam Podlesh sidelined (for what is sounding like an indeterminate amount of time) with a hip flexor, a major piece of the special teams unit was a question mark. And as much as a punter can rise to the occasion, Quigley did.
Despite getting one of his kicks blocked (not his fault), the Boston College product booted seven balls at an average of 43.6 with a net of just a yard less. His punts hanged in the air for what seemed like forever, allowing the coverage unit plenty of time to fly to the returner. He also has done a great job holding on field goals - which is a totally thankless job until you show up in the lowlights for fumbling a snap.
It took just one offensive play on Saturday night for Bears fans to realize the potential that an elite receiver has when paired with a great quarterback. The pass was a beautiful spiral in the face of oncoming pressure to a guy that broke press coverage with no safety helping over the top to the tune of a 41-yard gain. Welcome to Chicago, Brandon Marshall.
The first team offense and defense clicked on all cylinders through 25 minutes of play, and spotted the Bears to a 17-3 lead before ceding to the reserves. Despite a late barrage of touchdowns from Michigan State product Kirk Cousins to give the Redskins the lead, the Bears managed to pull out a victory behind a 57-yard line drive field goal from Robbie Gould in the closing minute.
With the starters appearing ready, the only reason the Bears are happy to have two more weeks of preseason action is to allow for some key players time to recover.
Some of my friends call me a pessimist when it comes to sports. I always correct them, saying I'm a realist that doesn't buy into the rah-rah crap everyone else spews. I try to look at the aspects of the game without the rose-colored glasses of hope that most fans employ, mainly so I don't feel as let down when plans go off the script (this is sports, after all). Let's agree on this -- the glass, neither half empty nor half full, has something in it.
Why did I explain that to you? Simple -- I don't want you to feel like I'm blowing smoke where the sun doesn't shine when I say this: the Chicago Bears are Super Bowl contenders. But that statement comes with a caveat as well: only if Brian Urlacher and Julius Peppers are healthy all season.
The Bears were a team to be reckoned with in 2011. Despite an offensive line that could barely be defined as patchwork to go along with a slew of receivers with an array of deficiencies, the team was in contention before injuries to Jay Cutler and Matt Forte ended hope of a playoff run.
Last night's 31-3 loss to the Denver Broncos was the epitome of a preseason opener. Some players looked utterly lost, the (replacement) referees marked off 10 yards for a defensive holding penalty instead of five (this is pro football fellas), and Fox Chicago decided to go to commercial out of nowhere -- until we later found out it was the two-minute warning.
But most everyone deserves a pass on the first night of true football, especially when accounting for the fact that Lovie Smith sat Jay Cutler (baby daddy), Julius Peppers (field conditions), Matt Forte (that paper he signed was expensive), and Brian Urlacher (personal reasons, which means knee injury -- or he and Jenny McCarthy are fighting). Despite the lack of impact talent, plenty of players were being looked at closely, with special attention being paid to top draft picks.
Shea McClellin was a surprising first-round pick for the Bears back in April. Most scouts saw him as an outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense, but general manager Phil Emery thought he could grow and excel as a defensive end and weak-side linebacker in the Bears 4-3 scheme (or it's a precursor to a new coach next year, but that's for another day). Early camp reports, however, weren't so kind to the rookie from Boise State, as he was reportedly spending much of his time lying on his back.
Breaking news: NFL Draft grades are in! And the Bears draft was... good? Bad? Just okay?
The grades ran the gamut of possibilities. At one end of the spectrum, The Sporting News' Vinnie Iyer gave Chicago an A-, citing key selections like defensive end Shea McClellin, wide reciever Alshon Jeffery, and tight end Evan Rodriguez. Iyer simply wrote for the Bears that "these are the kind of complementary players to their veteran stars who can push them back into the postseason."
The Bears grabbed Shea McClellin with the 19th pick in Thursday's first round of the NFL Draft. Yay!
I totally had McClellin going in the number 19 slot to Chicago in six of my nine updated mock drafts over the last four months. In the others, I had the Bears reaching on OLB Bruce Irvin (instead of Seattle), pegging 28-year old Brandon Weeden as their new third-string QB (because he is sure to be much more mature than old back-up Caleb Hanie), and taking Robert Griffin III after 18 other teams overreacted to a neither-here-nor-there scouting report.
But I nailed the pick. As for the Bears? It looks good... but we'll see.
Pros: Tall, strong, works well with Jay Cutler Cons: Temperamental, stone-mitten hands
Lacking anyone who could even convincingly dress up as a No. 1 receiver for Halloween, the Bears made the first big move of the NFL off-season this week by trading for Miami Dolphins receiver Brandon Marshall. The three-time Pro Bowler comes relatively cheap, with Chicago giving up its third-round draft picks this year and next.
I'm a Dolphins fan by birth, so let me be the first to warn you: Have fun!
Watching Marshall week to week over the past two seasons has been a roller coaster, but not necessarily a fun one. Despite his obvious physical talents, and the consistent yardage (five 1,000-yard seasons in a row), he's never been a receiver I trusted in the clutch.
The wise and powerful Octophant, Phineas X. Jones, has seen fit to bestow upon us a series of gorgeous designs for every corner of the Chicago sports world. Feast your eyes on our new icons for the Bulls, Bears, Blackhawks, Cubs, Sox, Fire and derby demons.
SBNation's Jon Bois pulled together his selections of the 50 greatest animated sports GIFs of 2011 last week. By statistical probability alone, Chicago teams were sure to be included, and they were -- though not always in the way you'd expect. So rather than force you to flip through the 11 pages of Bois' post, here are the Chicago highlights. I've preserved the original titles, but arranged them according to their Chicago-related awesomeness (Bois' original ranking is in parentheses, with a link to the original post page.) Some of these gifs are massive, so forgive the slow load times.
Even famous people do weird things in the stands at Bulls games, apparently. Bois guessed that the sound Bird was making was sort of a croak. I think it looks like a ...actually, I don't know what it looks like. A stifled yawn? Considering the Pacers were in the lead, could Bird have been that bored?
Also, what's that guy in the pink shirt describing that came out of his mouth and grew as big as his head?
Not to go on a rant here, but I think Mike Martz is the most overrated coach in any sport ever. I have no idea why he has been labeled as an offensive genius over the years and I won't miss him at all as Bears offensive coordinator.
I'll go as far as to say most of his career is based on good timing, because who knows where he is now if he's not a coach with the Rams when they have four future hall of famers in Kurt Warner, Marshall Faulk, Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce. Since then he hasn't done anything: before the Bears he was with Detroit and San Francisco (no playoff appearances with them, and I don't recall any dynamic offenses from them), yet he always escapes blame, keeps landing other jobs, and always gets shown on the telecast during a game, with the announcers saying "There's Mike Martz, well known for being a maestro of the offense."
George Halas and the Bears after the 1940 title game / Tribune file photo
Bears fans all remember Super Bowl XX as an uncommonly one-sided win. But what about a 73-0 rout in a championship game?
Seventy-one years ago, the Bears beat the Washington Redskins by that score in the 1940 NFL Championship Game. It is the biggest margin of victory in NFL history, ranked by ESPN.com a few years ago as the third-biggest beatdown in sports history:
The Bears had 501 yards of offense, intercepted eight passes and officials had to ask Bears coach George Halas to run or pass for the PAT on the team's final two scores because so many balls had been kicked into the stands.
The ball is adorned by the signatures of several future Hall of Famers, including the Bears' legendary co-founder and coach, George Halas.
Of course, more than just this famous pigskin will be featured. The Unexpected Chicago collection contains over 22 million artifacts, and the costume section alone has over 50,000 objects, including clothing and accessories.
The Chicago History Museum is located at 1601 N. Clark Street, with $14 admission for adults, $12 for seniors and students, and free for children under 12. More information at ChicagoHistory.org.
This week, the Bears parted ways with general manager Jerry Angelo and offensive coordinator Mike Martz.
Martz was a relatively recent arrival who made his name elsewhere; his departure after two uneven seasons was celebrated by many Chicago fans. But that reaction was nothing compared to the excitement voiced about the departure of Angelo, who been Bears GM since 2001.
It's been a rocky 10 years.
Sure, there were the good times, like building the 2006 NFC champions and drafting cornerstone players like Lance Briggs, Matt Forte and Devin Hester. Angelo brought in talented quarterback Jay Cutler without giving up too much. There even were times when the Bears appeared to be the most dominant team in the NFL.
But then there are the negative marks against him. And there are quite a few.
Quick show of hands: How many people cared about the Bears game on Sunday night after that thrilling Bulls victory not but 30 minutes earlier?
Another show of hands: How many people actually watched the game? After all, it was Christmas, and there probably were better things to do than watch a reeling Bears team take on the dominant Packers in Green Bay.
If you didn't catch the game, you didn't miss much. Aaron Rodgers threw five touchdowns and the Packers rolled 35-21. After a defensive touchdown early in the third quarter, Chicago only trailed by four, but then the Packers scored three straight touchdowns (including one a minute later to reverse momentum) to jump out to a 35-10 lead. Two late scores made the final margin respectable.
The Bears were forced to start Josh McCown, who wasn't terrible: 242 yards with a TD (and two interceptions). Kahlil Bell rushed for a game-high 121 yards. But other than that, it was all Green Bay.
The loss officially eliminated the Bears from the postseason. The five consecutive losses will be remembered for the injuries to Jay Cutler and Matt Forte, bad play from Caleb Hanie, bad luck (Janikowski drilling six field goals, the Chiefs connecting on a Hail Mary) and serious mental lapses (Marion Barber running out of bounds).
Although there is still one more game left in the season, next Sunday in Minnesota, the Bears can look forward to a long offseason.
When Caleb Hanie took over for an injured Jay Cutler in the NFC championship game last season and was leading the Bears on a late fourth quarter drive to tie the game, it was like something out of a movie. Here's this young QB, from nowhere, rallying his team and marching them down the field for a trip to the Super Bowl.
Alas, it wasn't meant to be. It would have been too astounding.
Fast forward 11 months. With the report that the legendary Josh McCown will start instead of the struggling Hanie on Sunday in Green Bay, the Bears' season is -- barring a miracle -- over. One loss will finish them for good; a road game against the 13-1 Packers while starting a quarterback who has only thrown eight passes since 2007 is a big mountain to climb.
If this season was being played out by me in Madden 12, I would have either reset the game, or cheated by turning the injuries off and altering game sliders. (Change Roy Williams speed and catch rating to 99? Yes sir!) And if I would have played it out legit, I probably would have broken a controller in a fit of rage ("How did Janikowski make 6 field goals?!?!?!?!") and screamed my lungs out at the TV.
It's been a tough year for the Bears. What made it so bad is that the team really looked fantastic during the middle of the season.
The most telling play of the Bears' 38-14 loss to Seattle on Sunday happened in the fourth quarter with just over five minutes remaining, when Pete Carroll decided to go for it on fourth-and-7 from Chicago's 30-yard line, leading by 17 points.
He basically said, "You know what? Rather than kick a field goal and risk the chance of Devin Hester returning a kick for a touchdown, we'll let Caleb Hanie beat us if we don't get the first."
The Bears took over after Tarvaris Jackson missed a wide-open receiver, but on the next snap, Hanie threw a pick-six to Brandon Browner. The game was now 100% over.
Hanie really struggled, passing 10-of-23 for only 111 yards, and finished with a 33.3 QB rating. Even worse, he threw two picks for touchdowns.
Hanie was terribly inaccurate, overthrowing receivers and flat-out missing guys. Bad decisions plagued the day, such as his first interception return, when he tried to dump the ball off before getting sacked. Instead, he threw it right into the chest of defensive tackle Red Bryant, who walked the ball into the end zone.
The Bears issued the statement, "We are aware of Sam's arrest and are continuing to gather details surrounding it. We are disappointed whenever these circumstances arise. We will deal with them appropriately once we have all the information." Coach Lovie Smith said at practice today that Hurd remains a member of the team. I imagine the Feds have a big say in for how much longer.
It's unfair to blame Marion Barber for the Bears' 13-10 loss in Denver on Sunday. But ... yeah, he had the two biggest gaffes late in the game.
As has been repeated ad nauseum, football is a team sport. Just what happened to the Bears?
With a little under six minutes remaining, the Bears forced their eighth punt of the game. Chicago was leading 10-0, and Tim Tebow was 8-of-22 for only 86 yards. Running back Willis McGahee had 33 yards on 16 attempts. The defense had forced two turnovers and seven three-and-outs.
Although the Bears had to punt on their first seven possessions, they were still able to muster a Barber touchdown and a Robbie Gould field goal. The Bears took over at their own 17 with 5:41 left in the game. From here, the collapse begins.
Let's look at the tape (literally, because I recorded the game on VHS) and see what went wrong.
Caleb Hanie must have broken a mirror or walked under a ladder, because every break went against him and the Bears in Sunday's 10-3 home loss to Kansas City.
Here is a full list of the bad luck that plagued the young quarterback in his second career start:
• He lost his best offensive teammate, Matt Forte, early in the first quarter. Forte sprained his right knee and did not return to the game.
• His line failed to protect him, giving up seven sacks and forcing him to roll out on what felt like every pass play.
• On the one drive where the blocking was perfect, he made several nice throws to get the Bears into Kansas City territory, but Roy Williams couldn't hold onto a pass that would have brought Chicago near the goal line. And not only that, but the ball was bobbled around and intercepted.
• In the second quarter, he threw a touchdown pass to a wide open Marion Barber - except Barber wasn't lined up on the line of scrimmage, and the Bears were flagged for illegal formation. They had to settle for a field goal.
• He drove the offense down to the Kansas City 7-yard line late in the third quarter, but two sacks brought them out to the 23. Then, Robbie Gould, who is normally automatic on kicks under 50 yards, missed a 41-yarder.
• Devin Hester had only one good punt return, mostly just waving for fair catches.
• The worst break for Hanie and the Bears? The Chiefs got their only touchdown on a Hail Mary pass before halftime. Tyler Palko chucked it toward the end zone, and Brian Urlacher and Chris Conte batted it down ... right into the hands of Dexter McCluster.
Of course, teams create their own luck to an extent.
The Raiders won because of a commitment to excellence on special teams, and the Bears' new quarterback, Caleb Hanie, couldn't spike the ball correctly.
It was an odd Sunday afternoon in Oakland.
The Raiders won 25-20, ending the Bears' five-game win streak and dropping them to 7-4. The atypical score was due to the bionic left foot of Sebastian Janikowski, who put 19 points on the board (six field goals, one extra point), and the bionic right foot of Shane Lechler, who boomed one punt 80 yards and downed three others inside the 20.
As for Chicago, Hanie looked a bit rusty and inexperienced in his first career start, filling in for the injured Jay Cutler. He overthrew some receivers, and made a bad cross-field throw that was intercepted. That pass killed a drive before the half and led to three points for Oakland.
The craziest play in this game was the last one of the game: the Bears, with the clock ticking, lined up to spike the ball with a few seconds left to try a Hail Mary. Only Hanie faked the spike, hesitated, looked at his confused receivers, saw the Oakland rush, and then finally spiked the ball. He was flagged for intentional grounding, and with the 10-second runoff, the game ended. Not his best decision.
The penalty ended a day of growing pains. But Hanie did look good at times out there, throwing for two touchdowns. On his first, a 29-yard pass to Johnny Knox, Hanie read the six-man blitz early and hit a slanting Knox, who shed a tackle and raced in for the score. His second was a nine-yard throw to Kellen Davis.
Like the Bears after five straight wins, Pesci's character in Goodfellas was living the high life, with everything going his way. He thought he was going to be a made man. Instead, he got shot in the back of the head.
For the Bears, the wound might not be fatal, but it's a serious blow after a month in which they had climbed into the ranks of serious NFL contenders.
Cutler hurt his thumb while trying to tackle the Chargers' Antoine Cason after an interception in the fourth quarter. He finished out the 31-20 win, completing both of his final two passes, but Cutler will need surgery soon.
Reports say Cutler might miss six to eight weeks, but head coach Lovie Smith is saying he will return before the end of the season.
Chicago will turn to Caleb Hanie, who relieved Cutler in last year's NFC championship game. Hanie had a solid, if not spectacular game, leading the Bears downfield twice for scores.
Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford unleashed one of the worst passes in NFL history on Sunday, and the Bears were the beneficiaries.
Stafford dropped back, took one look to his left and saw Tony Scheffler seemingly open in the flat. Stafford threw it, but it looked like a Frisbee, hanging in the air, slowly drifting towards its target. Bears cornerback Major Wright, reading the play all the way from the snap, caught the ball in stride and jogged it into the end zone untouched.
That was the theme of Sunday's 37-13 win: a revved-up defense throttling the opponent and making it look easy. Chicago put together their most dominant win of the season. They beat up the Lions from the opening snap, forcing six turnovers and five punts, while only allowing 13 points.
It wasn't just Sunday. Over the last four games, the Bears (6-3) have been playing wildly effective football, moving into position for a wild-card playoff spot. And they've been doing it with what they do best: an elite special teams, a ballhawking defense, and a hungry running back. Big-time passing game? Who needs that?
Well, it's hard to know how much to make of a 39-10 home win against Minnesota. I mean, really, the Vikings are flat-out awful and Donovan McNabb looks worse every week.
That said, the Bears were firing on all cylinders last weekend, doing all the things they do at their best (hello, Devin Hester!) and even a few things we have seen rarely if ever this season (hello ... solid pass protection?).
It was a necessary corrective after three losses in four games and an unconvincing win against Carolina, nicely setting the stage for Sunday's game against Tampa Bay across the pond in London's Wembley Stadium. The Bears will have a bye week to rest and recover; let's see if they can build on their most impressive win so far.
Is it safe yet? Has the cloud of national embarrassment dissipated over Chicago after the Bears' putrid showing in Detroit on Monday Night Football?
I've been in hiding for four days, but I've recovered enough from that deceptively narrow 24-13 loss to poke my head out as we approach Sunday night's -- oh no, not another national TV game! -- visit from Minnesota.
We heard Detroit's pass rushers were fast, and they were hellaciously so. We knew this was terrible news for Chicago's wildly mediocre offensive tackles, J'Marcus Webb and Frank Omiyale.
Jay Cutler spent another game running for his life, providing yet more evidence that "toughness" and "heart" are the least of his problems. I mean, he played four years for some terrible Vanderbilt teams, and this season has been a constant onslaught. As Joe Cowley put it, Cutler in Detroit was "basically standing with a lightning rod in a thunderstorm on every pass play."
I'm not impressed by Frank Omiyale, but it's not his fault he's a thoroughly average NFL lineman. The fault, dear readers, lies with a Bears front office that can barely find 22 good starters, let alone construct the kind of team-wide roster depth that every team needs to survive the rigors (read: bodily destruction) of a full season.
The challenge of assessing these Chicago Bears is holding two ideas simultaneously in your head:
a) This is not a great team; and
b) In today's NFL, that doesn't necessarily matter.
En route to a poetically ambivalent 2-2 record, the Bears have announced themselves as a decent team, beating Atlanta in the opener and Carolina on Sunday while losing to top contenders Green Bay and New Orleans.
They don't play consistently well, but there's enough good in there with the bad and the mediocre to win a few games. Lots of opponents can't do anything to stop Matt Forte, who ran 25 times for 205 yards Sunday, or stop Devin Hester, who scored on a 69-yard punt return and set up another score with a 73-yard kickoff return. That duo, plus big-play defenders like Brian Urlacher, Lance Briggs and Charles Tillman, can spark Chicago to victory when the rest of the team is merely treading water.
Yet for all their knack for big plays, at some point don't you have to win the small battles on a down-by-down basis? I watch the Bears squeeze out a 34-29 home win against the rebuilding Panthers and wonder if there is a future here that includes this team beating really good teams to win important games.
Fortunately, there aren't that many really good teams out there.
The Bears didn't look great Sunday afternoon, but after last week's charade in New Orleans, they met my minimum standard of competence, hanging with the defending Super Bowl champions for most of a 27-17 loss.
We all knew the Packers were the superior team; is there much to bemoan in the confirmation of that fact? References to last year's NFC Championship Game, as if the Bears were truly playing on a level field with their rivals from Cheese Country, always rang a bit hollow, and they sounded even worse as Jay Cutler once again sprayed the ball all over the yard and the Chicago running game disappeared entirely.
Ah yes, the running game. The Internet, at least the local tubes, is up in figurative arms about the running game.
The Bears, our beloved Monsters of the Midway, run less than any other team in the NFL and are among the worst in the league when they do. They throw more passes per game than all but seven teams ... and have been sacked as much as anyone.
And even worse, Mike Martz's pass-happy scheme is unpalatable for generations of Bears fans raised on smashmouth football. At the first sign of failure, confusion and anxiousness turn to anger and frustration -- and we are well past the first signs.
There was a point somewhere in the second half of Sunday's 30-13 loss when Joe Buck and Troy Aikman, those sages of the gridiron, remarked in alarm at the fact that Jay Cutler had already been sacked five times by the Saints.
I was surprised. I could have sworn it was about 25 at that point.
Tearing all sunshine-and-rainbows memories of that delightful opening romp from our happy skulls, the Bears found frightening depths to plumb in New Orleans, largely by finding zero answers for the vexing question of how to keep their quarterback upright for more than two seconds each time they snapped him the football.
It was competitive for a time, yes, but then the Saints discovered they could maul Cutler on every play. Gabe Carimi, the rookie right tackle, dislocated his troublesome right knee, giving way to Frank Omiyale, a deposed starter who spun like a top when he wasn't standing, totem-like, as opposing defenders tore past him with murder in their eyes.
Left tackle J'Marcus Webb and tight end Kellen Davis, my favorite player last week, had similar problems, dooming Cutler to six sacks and leaving Matt Forte (166 yards on 20 touches) as the Bears' lone offensive bright spot.
If you're keeping score at home, Chicago's injured list now includes Carimi, Roy Williams, Chris Harris and Marion Barber. But please, dear baby Jesus, before you go whining about the Injuries That Have Unjustly Befallen our hometown team, take a look around the NFL.
This is a violent, possibly immoral gladiator sport that inflicts immense bodily harm on the men who play it, and as such, nearly every team is (already!) missing key players. Just ask the Colts (Peyton Manning) and Chiefs (Jamaal Charles) and Packers (Nick Collins) and Texans (Arian Foster). Tony Romo is quarterbacking the Cowboys with a broken rib and a punctured lung!
The question for the Bears, as it is most years, is whether they have accumulated the organizational depth to withstand the inevitable (except last year) player absences.
Most years, the answer is no. But we'll see if anything has changed Sunday when the defending champions come down from Green Bay.
Near the end of training camp, the Bears picked up safety Brandon Meriweather, waived by New England after Bill Belichick decided the recent Pro Bowler no longer fit with the Patriots' defensive plans.
Getting released isn't the kiss of death for a player, but when a three-time Super Bowl-winning coach has no use for you, it raises more than a few eyebrows.
The criticism of Meriweather is akin to similar criticism lobbed at the off-season signing of former Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Roy Williams. Like Williams, big things are expected of Meriweather, but some Chicago sports writers and Bears fans are skeptical. If Belichick thinks he's no good, maybe it's true.
One game is a little too early to decide about Meriweather's performance here, especially after he missed training camp. This means that Meriweather will have to rely on the daily practices to build a rapport with his new teammates and learn the intricacies of a new defense.
You couldn't often say that about Bears wins last season, even the big ones, but Sunday's 30-12 win against Atlanta was among the best performances submitted by any team during what the NFL has insistently branded "Kickoff Weekend."
While Chicago got something from just about everyone -- always a good sign -- it was hard to miss the big players making big plays:
Brian Urlacher had one of the most athletic interceptions you'll see a linebacker make, and also returned a fumble for a touchdown. Julius Peppers caused that fumble and had two of Chicago's five sacks. Matt Forte and Devin Hester each had a catch-and-run explosion of 50-plus yards, scoring and setting up, respectively, the team's two offensive touchdowns.
The defense, frankly, was terrifying nearly to the point of logical infallibility: If the Bears can continue to get pressure just with four pass rushers, freeing them to drop seven men into Cover 2 coverage (including two deep safeties), what exactly are opposing quarterbacks supposed to do? It was an equation Matt Ryan, one of the top 10 or 12 quarterbacks in the league, struggled to solve all afternoon.
On the other hand, don't be fooled in any way by Jay Cutler's passing numbers (22 of 32 for 312 yards, 2 touchdowns and 1 interception). He was nothing more serviceable, making a few nice throws but also two awful decisions (one in the red zone) that should have been intercepted.
In 2008, at age 25, Cutler was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. Doctors informed him that he would need daily insulin shots and would have to alter his lifestyle to accommodate the disease.
So rather than indulge in self-pity, Cutler faced the disease and was determined not to let it interfere with his football career. In the midst of his struggle, he realized that his life was comparatively better off than the children affected with diabetes.
Lance Briggs before the 2011 NFC title game / Tribune photo: José M. Osorio
Linebacker Lance Briggs is the latest in a line of Bears who want their contracts restructured.
Briggs has three years left on his current contract. This season, Briggs will earn $3.65 million. In 2012, he is scheduled to earn $3.75 million and in his last year, $6.25 million.
He signed this contract back in 2008. And if Briggs' desires aren't accepted by the Bears, he says he will demand a trade. Briggs and his agent, Drew Rosenhaus, are hoping for a new contract that's equivalent to those bestowed on other highly paid linebackers throughout the league.
Briggs is a top-100 player and the 10th best linebacker in the league, according to an NFL.com feature, and he has been to the past six Pro Bowls, but he is No. 20 among the highest-paid linebackers.
Williams is probably the only major upgrade you're going to see at wideout. It ain't much. He's, by many standards, past his prime and his prime wasn't anything that sick and twisted to begin with. Still, it gives Cutler a decent (if not all speedy) downfield threat and maybe the Bears will snag something else? Plaxico? Which is also not much of anything, but the Bears don't have too much to offer right now.
Sam Hurd, former Northern Illinois Husky, is joining up with the Bears aside his former Dallas Cowboy teammate, Roy Williams. Think of Hurd as a taller, younger, better Rashied Davis. He'll easily supplant Davis' role on special teams and in the receiving corps.
More good news for Bears fans, Gabe Carimi, the UW-Madison left tackle/mountain of man, signed today. Meaning? All five of the Bears rookies will be in training camp tomorrow for the first, full day of hitting the pads (though, actually, it'll be no contact). Rejoice, Bears fans, Carimi could evolve into an actual offensive line stalwart and protect Cutler's fragile, egg-like skull!
Well, well, well, look who's come crawling out of hibernation just in time for training camp. No, dear reader, I refer not to Albert Haynesworth, nor Reggie Bush, but to myself. Yes, your sloven, hack NFL blogger has returned to discuss (ridicule) the Chicago Bears and to relish (relish) in the NFL's impending 2011 season.
I know, I know, it's only the preseason, but there's already so much to discuss! Spoiler: I defend the Greg Olsen trade, and by proxy, Mike Martz ("The dirt's not coming off!"); applaud not re-signing Rashied Davis; ridicule Kristin Cavallari; feel indifferent about signing Jacksonville's punter --Note: this will change; and speculate about what else the Bears will do before their Week One (9/11, Never Forget) match with the Dirty Birds from ATL.
You've already met first-round pick Gabe "The Bear Jew" Carimi, and following quick on his oversized heels is Stephen Paea, the Oregon State defensive tackle Chicago drafted in the second round. At 6-1, 303 pounds, he was the strongest player at the NFL Combine. He bench-pressed the standard 225 pounds 49 times, which might or might not be a combine record but is undoubtedly insanely impressive.
Here he is pressing that weight 44 times last year:
It's a move sure to please Big Ten fans who watched the Outland Trophy winner in the trenches the past four years -- or really, anyone who watched the Bears offensive line last season. That group allowed a league-high 56 sacks, ranking 29th among 32 NFL teams in adjusted sack rate, and produced only 3.9 yards per carry, which ranked 23rd in the league.
Carimi (6-7, 314) should help immediately. The smart money has him taking over for journeyman Frank Omiyale in a starting tandem with J'Marcus Webb. Left tackle? Right tackle? We will have to see, though Aaron Schatz had a good take on it last night at FootballOutsiders.com:
I wonder if the Bears will play Carimi at LT. Most people think he's a natural RT, but they've got an old guy at LT and the seventh-rounder from last year, Webb, at RT. ... Wait, Mike Mayock thinks that the Bears will put last year's seventh-rounder at LT? Really? He was a seventh-rounder for a reason.
ChicagoBears.com promises they're not just pleased with the pick, but flat-out "ecstatic." Windy City Gridiron called it "the steal of the first round." Carimi isn't a finished product just yet, but he should step in nicely at the NFL level.
From the team release:
Carimi performed well in Big Ten action against three defensive ends who were also selected in the first-round Thursday night: Purdue's Ryan Kerrigan, Iowa's Adrian Clayborn and Ohio State's Cameron Heyward. In addition, Carimi honed his skills in practice versus another first-round pick, Wisconsin's J.J. Watt.
"I think the kid is a plug-and-play right tackle," NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock wrote before the draft. "Throw him in there and he's a starter on Day 1. And he's a starter for the next 10 years. He's got a little attitude and there's something tough about him. He's a good football player."
Angelo said that the Bears did a lot of work on Carimi and "we feel we know as much as you can know about this player." Veteran offensive line coach Mike Tice, whose son Nate also plays at Wisconsin, has been very high on Carimi throughout the draft process.
"Mike has spent a lot of time up there at Wisconsin talking to their coaches," Angelo said. "We've had their offensive line coach visit us and really we've had their staff visit us. So we really feel like we know this player very well and he really does fit the profile that we were looking for."
The annual exercise in televised bureaucracy -- seriously, this is hours of corporate hiring decisions -- resumes tonight at 5 CT with the second and third rounds and concludes tomorrow with all the guys whose contributions, failing some Brady-like rise to stardom, will go largely unnoticed by most NFL fans.
The year-long extravaganza known as the NFL Draft climaxes tonight (and tomorrow and Saturday), and given that we only really noticed yesterday that Carolina has the first pick, we won't be larding your brain with psychic projections of who the Bears will or won't be selecting at No. 29.
Oh, we'll sift through the aftermath, but The Draft, while not unimportant, is largely an overlong television event that's nowhere near as important for NFL teams as you'd think from its new position as our fourth major American sport. And all this for a league that isn't even operating right now.
It looks for all the world that Dave Duerson, the former Bears safety who killed himself Thursday, might have been among the growing number of American football players bludgeoned into brain damage. At the very least, he worried he might be, telling his family to donate his brain to ongoing research about football players and chronic traumatic encephalopathy.
Joakim Noah will be back in the lineup when the Bulls return from the all-star break Wednesday at Toronto, coach Tom Thibodeau said today. If you had any doubt how important that is, ESPN.com had a great piece over the weekend about Chicago's team defense, as explained by Taj Gibson:
Twenty-eight years ago, there were no beers being passed around at 8 a.m. on fall Sundays. The wafting smell of brats and burgers was conspicuously absent from Lake Shore Drive. And diehard football fans were left twiddling their fingers as local economies suffered the brunt of the NFL's labor stoppage.
History, it seems, is bound to repeat itself.
The 2010 season that concludes this weekend is the NFL's last under its current collective bargaining agreement with the NFL Players Association. Unless they reach a new agreement, the league's owners are poised to lock out the players, creating a tidal wave effect that could have significant ramifications on more than the fans tailgating in the parking lot before kickoff.
Hub Arkush, publisher of the Riverwoods-based national publication Pro Football Weekly, said that while a lockout would certainly be a test of the NFL's resilience, the real effect would be seen at a local level.
"I think [the local economy is] the part that not enough people pay attention to," said Arkush, who estimated that there is a 75 percent to 90 percent chance of a lockout of some length. "It's not just the team and the players that get hurt. On the 10 game days -- you include the preseason games -- restaurants, bars and hotels would all lose revenue and you're talking about millions of dollars that would be pulled out of the economy."
Hundreds of millions, actually. The New Orleans Saints, for instance, pumped $402 million into the Louisiana economy in 2002, according to a University of New Orleans study.
Others argue that the money likely would be spent elsewhere. "[N]o statistically significant effect on taxable sales is found from the sudden absence of professional sports due to strikes and lockouts," argued one 2006 study (PDF) by economists at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass. They pointed out that in a large metropolitan area such as Chicago or Los Angeles that amount of money would be a minimal part of the annual personal income, but Arkush said it's money that ends up coming out of someone's pocket.
Jarrett Payton, football player/analyst and son of the late, great Walter Payton, had to get a few things off his chest tonight about Jay Cutler and the Bears:
In the past 24 hours, I have replayed yesterday's Packers vs. Bears game over and over in my head. The one thing that keeps jumping out is that in football you win and lose as a team. It has also shown me that one storyline can truly tarnish six months of hard work. Instead of tipping our hats to the Bears, we are worrying about MRI results! Today will go down as the BIGGEST doctor's appointment in Chicago history, with people thinking or saying Jay Cutler better really be hurt. People keep asking me how I feel about the situation. Hold on, let me take second.
OK, I'm back and level-headed. Just thinking about the game gets me fired back up.
I think it's very unfair to question someone's toughness. Especially to question this man, who was sacked a league-leading 52 times during the regular season. Some of the shots he took I thought to myself, "he can't get up from that one" but he did over and over. The past two years he has been on his back more than upright.
I feel as fans of the game sometimes we look at pro football players as super heroes. With that being said we, yes, I'm including myself, are spoiled. For 13 years we had a player who wore No. 34 with Payton across the back of his jersey. Walter Payton played through everything. He was the exception to the rule, but the one thing I know for sure is pain affects everyone differently.
The pain Maurice Jones-Drew can play with is different than what Jay can play with, although I've seen Jay take some harder hits than Mo. Myself, I was born into a family and raised by a man who said sometimes you have to play hurt, but even my dad would recognize that "hurt" means something different for everyone. My dad had the "Never Die Easy" mentality his entire life -- it was instilled in him as a young child.
Could Jay have played? I don't know. Do I blame him? NO WAY. But somewhere down the line in Jay's football career someone might have let him do whatever he wanted. Someone might have said, "No, son, it's OK take whatever steps you want in your five-step drop." Someone might have said, "No, you don't have to work out, just get your lift in another time."
Those things I just mentioned will scar a person for life. People say the game of football is half physical and half mental, something I truly believe. I'm not bashing Jay, I'm not upset with Jay, I just want Jay to be the best for himself, and our hometown Chicago Bears.
He is a great talent. I believe in him and the sky is the limit for this young man. I'm a part of the Bears family so that means he's a brother of mine. Instead of waiting for the MRI results to come in, this city should have had his back. I want his place in history to be as one of the best QBs to ever grace this city, not as the guy who made Chicago's biggest doctor's appointment.
Jarrett Payton played in the NFL and CFL and now plays for the Chicago Slaughter of the Indoor Football League. He also hosts "The Jarrett Payton Show" on Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 10 a.m. to noon at ChicagolandSportsRadio.com. Follow him on Twitter at @PaytonSun.
That certainly was a letdown. Packers, 21-14. And like that the Bears season has ended. Thanks for playing, last one leaving Soldier Field hit the lights. Odd, ugly game with not odd (but ugly, for the Bears fan) results. Green Bay methodically stopped all avenues of offense for the Bears and simply overwhelmed the Bears defense at every turn. This Bears team -- so blessed with luck for so much of the season -- had all of its good fortune evaporate in the heat of the NFC Championship Game and is now left to answer some very difficult questions in the off-season. (We'll be addressing a lot of those issues later this week with a Bears autopsy.)
There's a lot more I could add about this one: Did the Bears defense forget how to tackle? That's kind of an important tenet of defenses. Jay Cutler, HA! Et cetera, but why bother? We'll cover it later in the week, Bears fans. I'll even be nice about a lot of it. For now, try to forget the hurting and focus on this miraculous run of a season.
Whatever blustery and hyperbolic rhetoric may have been spat by sports pundits across the nation this week will have been forgotten by Sunday evening. The new trajectory of fate will have set its course for both the Bears and Packers. One sinking to the bitterness of an off season starting a game too soon and the other rocketing towards the Footballic Ragnarok. The table is set, Soldier Field's abysmal sod isn't getting any better and the cold, steely winds of Michigan are waiting to chill fan and player alike.
The Chicago Bears are hosting their hated rival from the north, the Green Bay Packers. Both teams looked dominant for the majority of their respective games. The Bears from the opening gun had the Seattle Seahawks in an absolute headlock. Defensively, offensively, all facets of the game, Chicago was not taking any guff from the "Just Happy To Be Here" 'Hawks. But, and I'm being frank here, there's not a whole lot to glean from that game. I took a nap during the fourth quarter (I was hungover, sorry?) and still won't begrudge the Bears getting sloppy and allowing 21 points in the final quarter. The dogs had been called off at that point. It happens. Prior to the Olindo Mare field goal with 4:04 to go in the third, the Bears had forced Seattle into eight! straight punts on eight! straight possessions.
I have no idea what to expect. Honestly. For all of the bashingI loveto dole out on the Bears, this team has evolved and improved, but so have the Seahawks. Both teams are incredibly fluky [Insight! -Ed.] So let's explore and try to figure this out. Onward.
With Green Bay's upset in Philadelphia ousting the Eagles from the playoffs and sending the Packers to Atlanta next weekend, da' Bears will now be facing the Seattle Seahawks at Soldier Field on Sunday. While the Ursa Chicagoans had the weekend off to recover from injuries -- and, I don't know, return Christmas gifts? -- the Seahawks hosted the defending Super Bowl champs, New Orleans, and gave that battered defense a thorough smacking about. The thoroughly maligned Seahawks (they are, even after defeating N'awlins, still not at .500 for the season) are cresting at the precise time of year that you want to be if you're an NFL team. [Baltimore too appears to be peaking -Ed.] Which on its face is a concerning fact for the Bears.
In 1985, this sweater vest was one of the most recognizable articles of clothing in the country -- and in Chicago you'd still get smiles, high fives and other kudos if you sported one. And now you can. The aptly named ditkasweatervest.com offers Da Coach's iconic sweater vest for just $69.99 including shipping. Just in time for the playoffs!
Very weird game to cap the regular season for the Bears (it was sorta weird for the Packers as well) as Chicago dropped a tooth-nail-club game in frosty Green Bay yesterday. 10-3 finals are typically a "win" for the Bears, circa 2006. Chicago's defense held court --kept the Packers scoreless for nearly 3 quarters, no small feat considering how good GB offense is-- but at the end of the day there are some fairly major questions to be answered for the Bears as they head into their bye. And like it or not, the most pressing questions are aimed directly at the Bears on-off, on-off offense.
The Bears offense was humming on all cylinders against a purportedly dominant New York defense and yet the defense --typically, so steady and suffocating-- fell apart against of all teams, the Jets? Snuh? In any case, through the snow, the wind and the doubters, the Bears rolled up another win, 38-34. Standing between the Ursa Chicagoans and a first-round bye? The glowering and grim -faced Green Bay Packers. Through the smoke and rumblings of 15 games, these two teams have been keeping an eye on one another, knowing Week 17 was yet to come. For the Packers? A win and they're in the playoffs. For the Bears? Win and they get the bye. A loss? They likely will be facing the Packers again the following week at Soldier Field.
Congrats to the 2010 NFC North Divisional Champion Chicago Bears. I did not see this coming at all. I was wrong, dear readers. Dead. Wrong. I predicted 6-10. I predicted Lovie Smith being fired mid-season. I predicted the secondary being destroyed. I predicted Jay Cutler being injured before Week Six --okay, I was right on that one. I predicted the offensive line being horrible and the running game being a joke, sorta right there too. Still, the Bears have duct taped together one of the flukiest and bizarro seasons of success in recent memory.
Their 2006 Super Bowl squad? In possession of a galaxy-consuming, stormtrooper efficient defense of murderous convicts cryogenically frozen from when Australia was a penal colony. [What?! -Ed.]
After earlier forecasts were suggesting gametime temperatures hovering just above 0-degrees Fahrenheit, the notion of temps being in the teens is downright pleasant. Still, let's take a moment to ponder the worthlessness and weakness of man in the face of elemental fury. Seventeen inches of snow collapsed the Metrodome and its repair is now on permanent hiatus until the snow melts or conditions are deemed safe for workers to continue repairs. And now TCF Bank Stadium is being prepped and removed (albeit at a snow's snail's pace) of the drifts and drifts of accumulated snow that is officially a gajillion pounds of the white.
The Bears will be playing the Minnesota Vikings on Monday night under the lights and out in the downright polar elements of a starry December night in Minneapolis. With this past weekend's dumping of snow on the Twin Cities causing the dome of the Metro-not-so-dome to collapse. Vikings execs announced today that the next (and final) Vikings home game of the season will be at the University of Minnesota's TCF Bank Stadium.
FYI: Tonight as of 10:02 pm, CST the temperature in Minneapolis is a balmy 8º Fahrenheit. Extended forecasts have Monday reaching a downright stifling daytime high of 22º before cooling to a bearable overnight low of 4º. I will personally give any Bears fan a cool $100.00 if they have the fortitude/suicidal determination to attend the game in nothing more than a thong. Uhh, yes, I expect full video and photographic documentation of your stupidity.
[Edit: Want to help shovel out the stadium? The Vikings are accepting volunteers.]
The wind wasn't the only thing that was blowing on Sunday afternoon at Soldier Field. No, the Bears also blew and were utterly dismantled by the New England Patriots. Concerning? Yes. Very. The Bears have faced two or three truly exceptional teams (New York Giants, Pats and, yes, the Green Bay Packers) and have been obliterated in two of those matches, whilst in the third they snuck out the back door with the win. The Bears have three regular-season games left: Monday at wherever Minnesota will be calling home; hosting the Jets on Boxing Day and dogsledding to the frozen steppe that will be Lambeau Field on January 2, 2011. I see one win out of those three games, so, yeah, have fun Bears fans. Keep on drinking the orange and blue Kool-Aid and holding out hope that this team isn't the most fraudulent 9-4 outfit since ever.
If you were on the fence about seeing "A Christmas Carol" this year at the Goodman Theatre, delay no longer! Tuesday's 7:30 show will feature a one-night cameo by Blackhawks legend Bobby Hull, probably just milling around the background in period costume and joining in the big "We Wish You a Merry Christmas" finale.
A small role, but a nice gesture in partnership with the Make-a-Wish Foundation. He'll meet-and-greet in the lobby after the show -- and of course, sell a few copies of his new book.
Christmas tidings aside, check out the above (1970s?) clip of Hull and Bobby Orr ... chatting poolside in Jamaica ... in swim trunks.
Let's talk about the Bears' insanely good defense. The Bears victory on Sunday against Detroit was only the fourth time this season that an opposing offense has scored over 20 points on Chicago. Dallas, Seattle, Philadelphia and now the Lions are the only teams to have crossed that barrier on Da Bears dis year.
More remarkable is the fact that the Bears are only ranked third in scoring defense behind the low, low, low averages of Green Bay (an astounding 15.2 points per game) and Pittsburgh (another shockingly low average of 15.9 ppg). Yep, even though the Bears are having their statistically most dominant performance since that 2006 season (you know, the Grossman-helmed Super Bowl team), Chicago is only the third-best defense out there and the second-best defense in its own division. Rough time to be an NFC North quarterback, I suppose.
Lovie's boys head east to that forgotten metropolis of Detroit. Yes the home of RoboCop and Megatron hosts the Chicago Bears in a divisional match that the Bears need to win to keep the lurking Green Bay Packers at bay. So what can you expect? Will Megatron have his revenge? Will Jay Cutler be frowning? Will Mike Martz present another very balanced offensive game plan? Read on.
By all measures, Chicago's on-field demolition of Philadelphia was a cause for celebration for Bears fans across Chicagoland. However, before we get to the breakdown of the game, there must be the reflection and acknowledgement of Stuart Haverty's passing. That skull-faced specter, Death, appeared at, of all places, Soldier Field and a 23-year-old was left to shrug off the mortal coil. Death is never maudlin and the fact that someone so young, died at something so commonly associated with communal revelry is shocking and disheartening. By most accounts the event is being reported as a most-unfortunate accident and an isolated incident. Cold comfort and of little solace to Haverty's family to be certain. Tailgate's thoughts are with Stuart Haverty and his family today.
Bears (of all colors) are omnivores in the wild. Yes, they love to feast on sick and injured bison in the early, early spring after a long hibernation; and, of course, they'll fatten themselves on Mother Nature's bountiful harvest of berries in fall; but really they're omnivores. As such, bears are rather opportunistic and are never, ever, unwilling to turn down a delicious -if not slightly ripe (I mean dead)- hors d'oeuvre. Enter the Miami Dolphins a 5-4 team walking around with the stench of death like they were trying to fit in with a bunch of zombies. However, in this case, the 'Phins are the walking dead and not just humans impersonating the walking dead. Down to their third string QB Tyler Thigpen and their second string center, the Dolphins are in trouble on offense.
Okay, please, please, please, people a) from a public safety advocate standpoint, refrain from climbing the Field Museum's dinosaurs. Ever. b) please, if you know who this guy is, contact me. I'd love to interview him. Email: email@example.com or Twitter: @GBTailgate
Jay Cutler has certainly had his troubles reading opposing defenses this season. Between the countless sacks -- OK, it's actually at 28 sacks through eight games and counting -- and the myriad of turnovers: four fumbles and seven interceptions. But it turns out his reality "star" girlfriend Kristin Cavallari is even worse at displaying judgement than Cutler is at taking care of the pigskin (or his spongy, concussable brain.) Cavallari, the 23-year-old tart/star of such hits as Laguna Beach, "The Hills" and the direct-to-DVD Green Flash, waltzed into the Magnificent Mile Guess store with Cutler in tow and asked the store manager "if there was any chance she could get anything for free?" Smooth. Real. Smooth. But it gets better! Following the manager's refusal, Cavallari pulled a full "diva" and tossed out the always hilariously volatile, "You don't know who I am? Are you serious?"
Here Kristin, let me be serious. Just because you're from a modestly rich family and are some sort of contemporary quasi-celebrity does not mean you get things for free. If anything you, of all people, should actually pay for things and not ask for handouts. You desperately need to start realizing that, in fact, Chicago is not the set of a reality show and that Chicago does not suffer the nonsense of talentless hacks. Particularly not undernourished, pushy, tone-deaf, talentless hacks whose boyfriend is having a terrible season and whose team will not be in the playoffs. Your money may afford you the opportunity to buy lots of things and even (in this bizarre age) allow you to ask for things for free but you'll never be able to buy nor afford class. Do us all a favor and get a life (and maybe a few wins for your boyfriend.)
Jesus. Horrible game. Go to hell, Bears. I had to deal with filing a police report until 7:00 in the morning on Sunday and then I wake up and watch you jerks screw everything up. Games like Sunday's are exactly why I predicted you losers to go 6-10 this season.
Here's a bulleted list of people on the Bears that need to put a few quarters in "The Don't Jar."
Oh Lovie, I really was hoping you'd be fired by now and set the Bears fans free. Sadly, for both you and I, you're still here. I include you, because, well, you look miserable and even more confused than normal on the sideline. Can I ask you (okay, not you but hypothetical internet you) a question? Why on earth did you challenge the spot for a first and goal vs the receiver crossing the goal line and then on THE. VERY. NEXT. PLAY. Cutler clearly crossed the goal line and then fumbles and you don't challenge? Are you stupid? Without balls? Both? I'm saying both.
Oh Martz. You dumb, folly-filled bastard of an offensive coordinator. Did you not notice how easily your running backs were having it on Sunday? 13 carries between the duo of Forte and Taylor. All game. A total of 13 carries. That's ridiculous Martz. You and your maniacal ego are now a parody of your celebrated "Greatest Show On Turf" offense from the early '00s.
That's all I'm saying on this Bears game. I could go on, but there will be ample opportunities for me to bitch and moan about how awful this team is down the road. Bears have the always tricky bye week up next, then a trip North of the Border to play Buffalo in Toronto. I'll have a few pieces up between now and the T.O. game. Comments, as always, are very welcome.
A week after the horrible threats and visions of those oh-so-burnable Bears secondaries of seasons past returned against the flaccid Seattle passing game. Gulp. The mighty Donovan McNabb comes to Soldier Field eager to pick apart a suddenly susceptible secondary in the Second City. The good news? Lance Briggs is back. Better news? Washington is tied for fourth-most sacks allowed in the league. More bad news? The Bears are numero uno in sacks allowed. What I'm trying to say is expect a lot of bruised and battered quarterbacks trying to find cracks in the opposition's secondary.
Two weeks removed from the classic children's book "Jay Cutler and the Very Painful, Concussion-Inducing First Half from Hell" and Cutler is reaching for the Tylenol again. Six sacks and no pass protection for the Petulant One whom -in spite of the revolving door o-line- came thru for a very okay passing game. The only problem was the lack of touchdowns. Cutler and the receivers weren't spectacular by any means, but the complete abandonment of the running game, the defense breaking down and Robbie Gould and Brad Maynard both having uncharacteristically bad days are the real culprits this week. Let's discuss, shall we.
Two teams that should both be about 2-2, and while only the Seattle Seahawks are actually .500, the Bears have been very, very, luck thus far. But as I was reminded by a Bears backing friend of mine this week, "Hey, what's so wrong with being lucky?" True that, friend. So here we go, predictions and "analysis" or ramblings. Whatever. Go.
Cutler is back in the saddle. The Bears have been juggling their o-line some more this week to find a semblance of pass protection and I'm expecting Cutler to get hit and sacked too much (again.) The Seahawks actually are sporting a fairly excellent run defense this season: 72.8 yards per game, which is a spot higher than the exceptional Bears rush D. Granted, it's been against very weak competition -San Francisco, Denver, San Diego and St. Louis aint exactly "battering ram" offenses. Still don't expect another statistically freakish explosion of rush offense ala, last week at Carolina. But let's face it, the 'Hawks pass defense is atrocious. If Cutler Bot 5000 returns from his concussion and his targeting systems are online, he'll find his receivers.
Chicago wide receiver Rashied Davis along with Chicago Public Schools CEO Ron Huberman were in attendance at Williams Preparatory Academy to kick off the "Keep Gym In School" initiative in the Second City yesterday. As part of the initiative Williams Prep was awarded a $50,000 grant that was used to refurbish the physical education facilities at the school. The money went towards new cardio equipment, weights and other gear designed to allow students, faculty members and community members more access to exercise. Following the dedication of the new digs, Davis and the NFL Network's Solomon Wilcots hosted a pep rally for the students and ran them thru their very own mini-camp on the school's playground.
"Keep Gym In School" is part of the NFL's larger initiative "Play 60" which encourages children of all ages to go out and get sixty minutes of exercise, five days a week to help combat rising obesity rates and other health risks in America's youth.
After the jump peep a video of Rashied Davis talking not only about his favorite sports to play as a kid growing up, but also his take on the Bears offensively-challenged win in Carolina from Sunday.
This was an epically awful game between two terrible quarterbacks. Seriously, historians will remember this as the start of the downfall of Western civilization if 2012 really occurs. Sheesh. OMG. Et cetera. Still, and this is always difficult to admit, there were some good things the Bears did. Making Carolina's quarterbacks look as bad as Todd Collins and Caleb Hanie (well, almost as bad) for one. We'll cover both the good and bad, people. Onward!
First things first, congratulations to the Bears ground game which scored not only one but two! rushing touchdowns. This marks the first time since Week 8 of last season that the Ursa Chicagoans had scored a running touchdown. Also, it's the first rushing touchdown in an away game for the Bears since a two-yard Kyle Orton scamper for paydirt at Houston in Week 17 of the '08 season. Not necessarily worthwhile stats, just odd, odd miscellanea from Lovie's "running off the bus" philosophy.
So that happened and now the Bears and their fans are left to discover what's next. Cutler -after being concussed into the Stone Age- will be on the bench this weekend in Charlotte as the Bears take on Julius Peppers' former employer. The zombiefied husk of humanity known as Todd Collins (who, remember, hasn't started a game in over three years) will be taking the snaps from behind center and we all should be curious to know the bounty for his head in Carolina's locker room. With Cutler as QB the problem was the same as it will be with Collins as quarterback: Why Can't the Offensive Line Block? It's been the same problem for the better part of three season and, no, it hasn't gotten any better in spite of early results.
The good news is that Carolina's defense isn't particularly great at pressuring the quarterback (Panthers have a mere four sacks thru four games) but, y'know, the Bears are just as horrible (if not more so) at protecting the passer. Really, it's a fascinating battle of village idiot vs dullard from the next town over. They're armed with Sporks. It's fun. [Shaking head no. Forlorn look on face.]
Yes, count along with The Count. Nine times, Cutler Bot 5000 was sacked (ah. ah. ah.)
This game was awful. Just. Awful. Cutler knocked out --be it by actual concussion or shame and bruised ego, who is to say. The petulant Cutler would not at all surprise me by feigning a concussion merely for the sake of his delicate psychological self. 9 sacks of Cutler. 10 sacks of Chicago quarterbacks. "Todd Collins, we hardly knew ye."
Two Knocked Out Quarterbacks
Six! Six! First Downs!!
0-fer on Third-Down Conversions.
110 Total Yards of Offense for the Bears
2.1 Yards Per Play for the Bears Offense
2.2 Yards Per Carry for Matt Forte
26 Rushing Yards for Matt Forte on 12 Carries
13 Weeks Since Chicago Had a Rushing Touchdown
Cower Sons of Chicago. This is your plight and your doom when a defense comes equipped to handle your porous and pathetic offensive line. This is what happens when Cutler has no escape. Concussions, fear and losses.
Apologies for the lateness and brevity of this preview. Sickness and work and excuses have me a little behind the eight ball. The Giants have been tough to figure out thus far, spanking Carolina, getting handled by the juggernaut that is Indianapolis and dropping a fairly decisive match to Tennessee last weekend. I'm not sold that this squad is great or even average and the Bears are showing a lot of tendencies that suggest they'll beat the teams they should be, ie: this Giants team. In any case, the Bears should handle the Giants. I know, new stadium, road game, Giants are due, et cetera. Still, the Giants weaknesses are so ripe for exploitation by this Bears team:
Applesauce soft offensive line means Julius Peppers will spear Eli Manning with his helmet.
Applesauce NY secondary means Cutler Bot 5000 continues his season of rebooted excellence.
Matt Forte/Chester Taylor will likely score a rushing touchdown to get the Bears off the schneid for the first time since the middle of last season.
Again apologies for the brief, brief preview. I promise a more than adequate review at some point on Monday. Happy weekend and leave some comments for crying out loud.
Very breaking news but numerous local/national news outlets are reporting that Green Bay safety Nick Collins and an unidentified Bears fan got into it following the Bears last-second win. Collins reportedly spat his mouthpiece at the fan who allegedly hurled racial slurs at Collins. Unsportsmanlike conduct on both parties. Be nice, people.
The Bears are going to be better than my predicted 6-10 record. How much better? I can't say. Playoffs? No, probably not, but hey, three wins in three attempts gets you somewhere. If Minnesota falters anymore and Brett Favre gets decapitated then opportunity will be knocking. The Packers are still going to win the NFC North and wow, wasn't the Monday Nighter a weird game? Bears fans surely will even concede that, yes? The Bears were outgained by a net 103 yards, which means nothing when you consider Green Bay's comical 18 penalties for a whopping 152 yards, which really is grounds for an LOLCat or something: "I IS IN YR BACKFIELD BEFORE THE SNAP" "Chuckle, chuckle, guffaw!"
But really how much longer can this wacky good fortune continue for the Monsters of the Midway? There's of course the flukey Detroit win wherein "there but for the grace of obscure rules and miasmic interpretation of said rules go the Bears." Then was the thorough handling of the Dallas Cowboys, who may be the most schizo team thus far in this nascent NFL season.
As the war drums of Halas pound and as the faithful line up for joyous reward, a dark, smoldering cloud of glowering fury descends from the NORTH. Caution, Bears faithful. Here be the dragon that is Green Bay. The hated green and gold nemesis that has spurned the Ursa Chicagoans into fits of fury over losses and conniptions of delirium upon winged victory, is once again clawing at the gates of Soldier Field, demanding challenge and expecting no quarter. The Sturm und Drang accompanying this match is unequivocal for Bears fans. A win? Pandemonium. Bragging rights. A game up in the divisional race. A loss? Depression. Bitter pills. A glomming sense of doom that the 2-0 start was a mirage. To say nothing of the fact that this is the 180th meeting of the two squads.
It pains me to say this but Jay Cutler is looking really great this far into the NFL season. Two games, 5 touchdowns, one pick and an insanely efficient completion percentage of 68.8. In no way, shape, nor form did I expect to see this from the heralded Cutler-Bot 5000 --whose, to be honest, mainframe and processor had been bludgeoned into the Stone Age last season. The offensive line is still a tear-inducing, hair-pulling experience for the Bears faithful, yet, somehow Cutler has managed to largely avoid the pressure and find his open receivers who --gasp-- have been catching the ball. A concept that even a scant month ago seemed highly unlikely. Now after two weeks, Cutler is looking the part of a Japanese chef behind center, paring, slicing and dicing opposing secondaries with Ginsu-inspired sharpness and accuracy.
You're Charles Tillman. World-reknown athlete, Chicago Bears football player, man of charisma and a million anecdotes (if you meet him, ask him about his triathlon experience); but what you really wanna do is just be an excellent chef at an esteemed restaurant in downtown Chicago. Mission accomplished, Peanut. Tillman and some of his Bears teammates will be donning the various roles of servers, hosts and chefs at Morton's The Steakhouse this coming Monday as part of the Celebrity Servers Dinner. All proceeds go to The Charles Tillman Cornerstone Foundation which benefits children and families afflicted with rare medical conditions.
Tillman spoke with Tailgate at a press event in downtown yesterday after cooking up a few lamb chops and steaks with a big assist from Morton's head chef, Chris. Peanut's thoughts about playing the Cowboys and more after the jump...
The Detroit Lions --a team that has won exactly two games in the past twoseasons-- defeated the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field on a late touchdown strike from backup QB Shaun Hill to Calvin Johnson. The electric Johnson, aka: Megatron, leapt over the pedestrian Bears covermen and maintained full control and possession of the ball while placing two feet firmly within the end zone before landing on his bottom with certainty and a degree of panache with the ball still in hand. Bedlam ensued before the refereeing crew restored order by making a decisive and logic-based decision upon Johnson's reception to stick with the original ruling on the field of the play being called a "touchdown."
The Bears faithful are in for an extremely painful and bleak fall. The Chicago Bears will only win 6 games and Footballic Ramblings has already busted out the self-hurt razors and delicious bourbon to help us forget about how awful this season will be. Now, as always, Footballic Ramblings is not a column written about the Chicago Bears for Chicago Bears fans. No, instead this column is an incredibly fun exercise in realism and fact about the ineptitude of the Bears and the blind optimism (some might use the word "clinical insanity") that their fans do possess. In any case, the Bears are going 6-10. That's it. No playoffs (again) and Lovie Smith will likely be fired mid-season if the Bears do not come out like gangbusters in the first quarter of the schedule (which they won't do).
Not sure how this hasn't happened sooner BUT it's happening in June so get ready: "Da Bears Movie Dat Wasn't" will be making its stage debut at the Just For Laughs comedy festival over the weekend of June 15-19. George Wendt, Robert Smigel, Joe Mantegna and Bob Odenkirk will be starring; with special guest appearances by Richard Roeper (as the narrator) and Ditka starring as Ditka.
Smigel, originally a New Yorker, had the idea for the Super Fans sketches after moving to the Windy City and witnessing firsthand the fervor of Chicago sports fandom. The stage production (which was a screenplay in the '90s) follows the Super Fans efforts to stop the sale of the Bears and the conversion of Soldier Field.
This is video of new Chicago Bear, Chester Taylor, singing "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" a few days ago at Wrigley Field. On behalf of good taste: Dear Chester, DO NOT quit your day job. (HT @ Yahoo! Sports)
Still five months away from NFL regular season time (aka: "Honey, I love you, but, y'know, football is on") however, Commish Goodell and his cronies have dropped the NFL 2010 schedule today as a salve for the football starved amongst us. Who do the Bears play? Well, they'll (as always) be playing Minnesota twice, Green Bay twice and Detroit twice. Who else besides those NFC North foes? The Bears will be playing the entire AFC East and NFC East divisions and will be hosting the Seattle Seahawks and traveling to Julius Peppers' home state for a date with the Carolina Panthers. Bears will be playing their very first game not in the United States when they travel to Toronto, Canada on November 7 for a game with the Buffalo Bills.
Additionally, the Bears will be rockin' 1940s era throwbacks in commemoration of the "Monsters of the Midway" Bears. Older readers will, of course, recall the "Monster era of the NFL" when --prior to a 1951 rules change-- monsters were allowed to play football. The specific games for the jerseys being worn have not been announced yet, but Tailgate is gonna say (off pure conjecture and intuition) that the Monday Nighter against Green Bay and the home game with Washington will be the two games wherein the throwbacks are featured.
Sunday, September 12: Home Opener at Soldier Field.
Bears' first Opening Day home opener in six years, bang! Detroit Lions with a healthy Matt Stafford and MegaTron (Calvin Johnson) duo against the always vulnerable Bears secondary. Conversely, Jay Cutler and his cast of wideouts will be equally as eager to torch Detroit's suspect secondary. I smell a shootout...no, wait, that's just burned cornerbacks.
Sunday, September 19: @ Dallas, aka: "JerryWorld."
Not sure if this is all that intriguing of a matchup, but Cutler vs Romo is decent enough and you and your buddies can always bet on which QB will toss more picks. Additionally, this is da Bears first look at the new, cavernous, glitzy, gaudy, tacky, etc. Cowboys Stadium.
The Chicago Bears have made over the past two offseasons some remarkable (and huevos-y) personnel moves. In the spring of '09 it was, of course, the Jay Cutler for Kyle Orton and our draft picks trade. Thus far this year, the Bears have cracked the treasure chest and tossed out heaping sacks of Spanish doubloons to standout defensive end Julius Peppers and dynamo running back Chester Taylor, but it's not as if this squad still isn't rife with holes. The Bears offensive line is still a huge question mark, the secondary is still a joke and maybe most pressing to keeping an occasionally moody but very talented quarterback content, the wide receivers are still not even "okay".
The Bears need some better receiving threats for Cutler to pass to, this has been apparent since the day the trade went thru. Devin Hester has proven himself to not be the solution, while Johnny Knox and Devin Aromashodu are burgeoning stars that may very well burn out if burdened with the assignment of "No. 1 receiver."
Friday the Chicago Bears went out and made some very large splashes in the free agency pool. Lovie Smith flew down to North Carolina to award Julius Peppers a $91.5 million dollar check, ala, Ed McMahon on a Publisher's Clearinghouse commercial; meanwhile back at the Halas BatCave, Jerry Angelo and his faithful manservant, Alfred signed Chester Taylor and the fun to say Brandon Manumaleuna to smaller but still "paid and now we pop the Cris," sized paychecks. In any case, with all things Bears the fans are in an uproar. "Yay! Finally the Bears did something.", some proclaim, while others claim "Nay! They did not do enough." With that in mind, Tailgate presents: "Half Full or Half Empty."
The defensive line at multiple points during last season resembled a World War One triage tent, signing Peppers immediately provides added depth and skill at a position that even in the war of attrition NFL game, gets hit heavily and often with casualties. Peppers has missed a total of four regular season games over the past seven seasons. He's the gridiron equivalent to "Old Ironsides." History, kids, education is fundamental.
More good news on the Peppers front? He's no faith-healer and Tommie Harris' knee still is the consistency of pulled pork, but if Harris and his knee can get back to being on speaking terms, Peppers and Harris will form an impressive duo that NFC North qbs should be wary of.
If you are a Bears fan you should look at this article and rinse your eyes out with sulfuric acid to forget the wordy-nightmare that said article suggests. No, no, no, no, no, no! The Bears do not want anything to do with LaDainian Tomlinson, the former all-world running back for the San Diego Chargers.
LDT is ancient. He'll be 31 by the time training camp rolls around and, lest ye forget, dear reader, NFL running backs age at a pace akin to "dog years." 31? No thanks. His production fell off the continental shelf and into a benthic trench last season and that was with a "decent" offensive line in San Diego. Chicago's o-line is in a state of rebuilding, hell, the entire offense is in a state of flux (new offensive coordinator, Jay Cutler's "growing pains," Matt Forte's stalled development/recovery from surgery) and the last thing the offensive unit needs is to be saddled with the bloated expectations of a former star trying to prove he's got something left in the tank. Pass, Bears fans. Have some hope that Forte comes back and forget the inane chatter of "Tomlinson to the Bears."
Following a thorough and extended search the Chicago Bears have named Mike Martz the team's offensive coordinator. For all intents and purposes the hunt for Ron Turner's replacement had turned into something of a farce with a number of worthy candidates balking at the opportunity to turn the Jay Cutler-led offense into a flourishing machine. With Martz's hiring that opportunity should present itself early and often with Martz earning his stripes as the offensive coordinator that turned Kurt Warner into a household name during the 1999-2000 offensive assault on the record books known as "The Greatest Show on Turf." Martz went from the OC for that St. Louis Rams team into the head coach who led the squad into another Super Bowl berth in the 2001 postseason. Known as much for his abrasive clashes with upper management and coaches as for his offensive genius, watching the events unfold off the field should be half the intrigue with Martz, Cutler, Lovie, et al next season. Two potential clashes that seem ready made for a soap opera? The "claimed beef" that Martz and current Bears defensive line coach, Rod Marinneli had while working together in Detroit. The second is the elephant in the room that Lovie Smith's teams are, in his own words, "a running off the bus team." Martz is very much a pass first, pass second, pass always coach, time will tell...
Chicagocentric sports news that isn't necessarily late-breaking, more like irreverent or just as good the next day, like Thai leftovers...
Rose and Gibson Headed to Dallas
Second year point guard, Derrick Rose and rookie forward, Taj Gibson will be representing the Bulls in Dallas at the 2010 All-Star Weekend next month. They will be going head-to-head in the Rookie/Sophomore Challenge on Friday night as Rose quarterbacks the Sophomores against Gibson and the rest of his rookie running mates. Rose is joined by such standouts as Brook Lopez (New Jersey, center), Russell Westbrook (Oklahoma City, guard) and Kevin Love (Minnesota, forward); while Gibson will be playing alongside first year standouts such as Brandon Jennings (Milwaukee, guard), Tyreke Evans (Sacramento, guard) and DeJuan Blair (San Antonio, forward/center).
Bears Knox Selected as Pro Bowler
Johnny Knox contributed immediately as a player for the Bears in his rookie season, he made Jay Cutler's first year in Chicago slighty more bearable (sorry) with his penchant for getting open and catching the ball, but Knox a Pro Bowler? Knox will be filling in for Percy Harvin this coming Sunday as a replacement kickoff specialist for the NFC Pro Bowl team which, well, good for Knox. Still the Pro Bowl has always been the most superfluous of all-star games and a replacement kickoff specialist? Knox should make it as wideout (hopefully with the Bears) in a few more seasons.
It was 24 years ago today. A plus-sized, rookie lineman and part-time running back named William "The Refrigerator" Perry rumbled into Bears history when he scored a touchdown in the team's only Super Bowl victory, the now-legendary 46-10 win over the New England Patriots. Sure, there were a cast of other characters who made that (rare) championship so memorable for Chicagoans...Jim McMahon, Richard Dent, and of course Walter Payton. But it the amiable Fridge holds a special place.The quality of the clip below isn't great, but if you were around at the time, it's probably etched into your brain's hard drive anyway. Enjoy.
Chicago Bears defensive end, Gaines Adams died Sunday morning at Self Regional Hospital in Greenwood County South Carolina. An autopsy has been ordered. He was 26. Much more information will be provided as it comes available.
*****UPDATE***** Reports are now stating that Adams died from a heart attack brought on by an enlarged heart. Tragic news.
With the management in Halas Hall still bunkered down and courting numerous potential offensive coordinators and potential tight end coaches, the plundering ranks of big money college football might be eyeing up one Lovie Smith. I'm gonna go ahead and file that story under "spurious rumor" for now, but --Lovie's pleasantly plump and owed contract for the next two years aside-- the deal does make some sense: Smith worked in Knoxville in the 90s, he's been maligned by the media and fans for a few seasons now, there will be more "seasoning" and "lessons learned" next season whilst the new OC and DC implement new schemes leaving the squad and fans to wonder if "transition season numero dos" is coming up. Lovie's not going anywhere with the money he's owed by the team and this rumor smacks more of the desperate straits the University of Tennessee is in after Lane Kiffin jumped ship, still, Lovie is a "hot" commodity? Go figure.
It's bad enough for some Bears and Bulls that they had or are having a less-than-stellar season. Seems as if they can't win outside of the playing arena either. Two Chicago athletes have taken a bit of a bath when it comes to the housing market. The Bulls Kirk Henrich took a more than $200,000 hit when he recently sold his Deerfield home, while Bears kicker Robbie Gould missed the uprights when he sold his Gurnee home for $100,000 less than he paid for it in 2006.
These are important things to know if you care about, you know, athletes and their housing conditions.
Ron Turner's tenure as Chicago Bears offensive coordinator has come to a quiet and whimpering end. Turner, who had been the OC for the past five years, had been on the hot seat all season as the Bears offense continued to stall and Jay Cutler's debut season as the Bears signal caller was blemished with dropped passes, interceptions, sacks and generally "uninspired" and "lacking" play calling. Further compounding the issue of Turner's job security was the icy relationship that Cutler and he shared, in addition to the dismal performance of the Bears running game. The search is on for a replacement and a name sure to be at the top of the list is one: Mike Martz, a smart and innovative offensive coach who has floundered when burdened with head coaching duties.
In another not-so-surprising move out of Halas Hall, Lovie Smith, the Bears embattled head coach, has been assured of at least one more season as Chicago's main man. More and more scuttlebutts are leaking about Lovie being asked to cede his position as defensive coordinator and signs are pointing to Rod Marinelli as a potential full time d-coordinator.
In a mildly surprising move, the Bears did can tight ends coach, Rob Boras. Boras, who had coached ends Greg Olsen and Desmond Clark to a combined 95 receptions in 2008, a team record at the position.
The Bears rang in the new year with a thorough braining of NFC North doormat, Detroit. Closing the season with their second 7-9 record in the past three seasons, Chicago hasn't won double figure games since the 2006 Super Bowl run, that team was helmed by Rex Grossman and powered by a mighty defense that has now slowed down with the corroding and diminishing effect/biological process known as "aging". So with yet another disappointing season, all the more disappointing by Jay Cutler's dismal debut year, where to do the Bears go from here? They have very few draft options for this coming year (thanks to the Cutler deal), they have a rapidly aging defense loaded with players on the wrong side of 30 with millions still to be paid on their contracts, the offensive line is in shambles (fingers crossed that Chris Williams keeps the starting left tackle job heading into next year), the receiving corps is still a huge question mark.
After sending minor tremors across the NFL-verse and making pundits and fans alike wonder how good the Minnesota Vikings really are, the Bears close out the 2009 season with a trip to Detroit for the Week 17 finale. Since the Week 4 win at Soldier Field over Detroit the Bears have won all of 3 games and the Lions have won all of one game. Granted, this season has not been the astounding failure of 2008, still, 2-13 is not where the Lions wanted to be at this point in the season. Cursed with injuries to their starting rookie quarterback, Matthew Stafford for a majority of the season, their starting running back, Kevin Smith, and their electrifying wideout, Calvin Johnson, hasn't helped but the MoTown Leos have been terrible for the, seemingly, 100th year in a row. Seriously, it has been 10 years since the Lions were even in the playoffs. The Lions haven't won a playoff game since 1991! Ouch.
Meanwhile, all Chicago sports fans should be familiar enough with the tragi-comedy of the Bears 2009 season. Promising Start. Awful stretch of losses. Win over Cleveland. Awful losses. Beat Minnesota. End. So the Bears and Lions are both coming in from the cold looking like two bedraggled winos hoping only to drink enough to forget this awful year. Great. Let's take a closer look.
It was a little late to be deemed a "Christmas Miracle!" in the spirit of those hokey Yuletide cartoons, but the Bears did pull off an improbable and inspired victory against the divisional overlords, the Minnesota Vikings. Season-saving? No. Coach-saving? Still, no, we can fully expect that Ron Turner is shown the exit door, tout de suite, following the Bears last game next weekend in Detroit. But did it feel good for one frosty night to witness what Jay Cutler can do when he has an iota of protection and receivers that are ready to play? Hell and yes. Did it feel good to watch an aggressive defensive line shut down the Vikings much-mythologized Brett Favre and watch him get sacked on successive plays in overtime to give Cutler another chance to win the game, again, Hell and yes.
98 Passing Yards (combined between Cutler and Hanie)
220 Yards of Total Offense (vs Baltimore's Passing Yardage: 222 yards) Yeah, that's EPICFAIL
Cutler threw 0 touchdowns, three interceptions, completed a total of 10 passes on 32 attempts and had a QB rating of 7.9! I wish that last number was a typo, but, nope, we're talking comically awful, "Grossman-esque" numbers. At this point Cutler seems to have regressed and thanks to the complete lack of a consistent or capable offensive line, there has been no help from the running game. Speaking of which...
Matt Forte had 69 yards on 20 carries for a 3.1 YPC. ouch.
There's not a lot more to add that's NEW about the Bears woeful season. Punchless offense with no semblance of an offensive line, frustrated quarterback that's forcing too many errors, stalled running game. Defensively? Burnable secondary is still in place...ugh, the Bears have some serious personnel issues to look at this offseason. Footballic Ramblings will start its autopsy report next week, try to have a Merry Christmas, Bears fans.
At the end of last month, Tailgate was honored with the amazing opportunity to talk to former Chicago Bears coach and multi-Super Bowl Champ, Mike Ditka. Ditka, whose presence is most reminiscent of a paternal grandfather/lordly grizzly bear (no pun intended) surveying over his domain, was amazing, incredibly accommodating and very eager to discuss the hot-button topic of the 2009 season, concussions.
"Iron Mike" holds court, in this great Q 'n A, on matters pertaining to the informative, independent and criminally under-publicized "Blood Equity", which spotlights the problems of concussions and brain trauma wrought from the NFL. Ditka, who is a founding father of the Gridiron Greats Assistance Fund, is his typical opinionated and aware self. Additionally, the living legend gets down with the issues plaguing the 2009 Bears season. Ditka, who, seriously, is an old pro at the sit-downs, was nothing but pleasant, informative and bluntly honest when prompted with issues pertaining to the documentary (which most NFL fans will enjoy) and dissecting what exactly is wrong and should be changed with the Monsters of the Midway. Sit down, enjoy and feed at the fount of wisdom that is Mike Ditka untapped, video after the jump!
On this date in 1933, the Bears won their first NFL championship, a 23-21 victory over the New York Giants. The Bears score the winning touchdown on a 36-yard play that starts with a short pass from Bronko Nagurski to Bill Hewitt, who then laterals to Bill Kerr for the score.
Feel free to compare and contrast to present day events.
Ah, you gotta love athletes. Even in this era of videotape, digital recordings and the internet, they still cling to the hope that when they say something stupid or controversial, the public will buy it when they claim they were "misquoted" or "taken out of context".
Devin Hester finds himself the latest Chicago Bear to try to stuff the words back into his mouth after telling a gaggle of reporters that he expects some changes on the team's roster after their dismal season. To wit:
"It's been what, three seasons like this? It's tough. There will be a lot of changes, I know that for a fact, and I hope it's for the better. ... Everybody sees it. There are going to be a lot of new players in probably, and some other things change around here.''
OK. Nothing wrong with that statement. Every team makes changes in the offseason, be they minor or major and the Bears are no exception. Sure, maybe Hester doesn't know it for "a fact", but anyone who's seen the Bears play this season is 97.5 percent sure they won't go into next season with the same roster on or off the field. But for some reason, when those words hit the harsh light of day, Hester had second thoughts about his frankness. So much so that he felt the need to Tweet his non-retraction retraction.
"I feel like the media blew my interview out of proportion and that everything I said was reworded or taken the wrong way,'' he said. "When I am asked, 'Will there be changes?' my answer is 'yes.' What I mean is; there will always be new guys (rookies, trades or coaches). . . . After reading current articles I feel like the press tried to make me seem like I had inside information on the future of coaches or players."
Note to Hester: When you include a phrase like, "I know that for a fact", then, yeah, it's going to seem like you are privvy to information that the regular press doesn't have. Unless you were seriously misquoted ("I know that for a fact that cheetahs can reach speeds of up to 70 mph."), key words were omitted ("I DON'T know that for a fact.") or the sentence was completely made up, the MEDIA didn't make it seem like you had the skinny, you did.
For a moment there, I thought we had that rarest of creatures, the refreshingly honest athlete. But like his kick returning of late, Hester is becoming timid when he should be plowing straight ahead.
These are just a few of the things you can do now that your Sundays are (or should be) free following yet another dismal loss by the Bears, this time a 21-14 defeat at the hands of the Green Bay Packers yesterday, a defeat that officially knocked them out of the playoffs. Leave the reamining three games for the sports geeks who will obsess over seeing if the Bears offense attempts anything different now that the shackles of trying to make the playoffs are over, or watching to see if the team rests Jay Cutler and gives Caleb Hanie a shot. You've now got better things to do than watch another run similar to the 62-yard TD scamper by the Packers' Ryan Grant to start the game, or see Cutler throw yet another interception to add to his league-leading 22, a total bolstered by the two he threw yesterday.
Peek in every now and then if you must, but only the truly masochistic will actually sit down for the next game to see them stumble against the Baltimore Ravens next Sunday, get pantsed on national television by the Minnesota Vikings on Monday night football on Dec. 28 or struggle against the lowly Detroit Lions on Jan. 3. Consider yourself free, Bears fans, free to learn the guitar solo from "Free Bird, finish painting the family room, learn conversational Urdu...
The mercury is stuck in single digits for now, but with the Green Bay Packers rolling into Chicago on Sunday, the Bears blood will be heated up at the prospect of spoiling the Pack's playoff hopes. For the most part I don't really buy into pro sports and rivalries. Particularly contemporary "rivals" such as the New England Patriots and Indianapolis Colts? Really? Lots of cultural relevance and competition between Boston and the nouveau riche (and trailer park-tastic) Indianapolis? Uhh, no. Ditto for inter-league baseball rivalries, LA Dodgers v Anaheim Angels of Los Angeles? Not a rivalry, just a trumped up for ratings' sake regular season MLB match up. However, let's take a minute to appreciate the real and true rivals. Rivals that, like a fine bottle of wine, have had years to age and blossom into full-grown blood feuds (with an oaky finish, natch.)
Chicago Bears versus Green Bay Packers is one of those classic rivalries, where fans of each team would love nothing more than to watch their conquering heros sip a fine mead from the many skulls of their vanquished foe.
The No Fun League strikes again. Chastized by fans and the press for their apparent lack of humor or desire to rid their league of all personality, the NFL struck again Monday when they shot down a planned series of commercials to cross promote the Bears and the Blackhawks.
The commercials, funded by the Blackhawks, were set to feature Bears players interacting with the young Hawks, a advertising venture desire to life the profile of the new breed hockey stars to an even higher level in the city. The series were to involve Bears Jay Cutler, Devin Hester, Greg Olsen, Robbie Gould and Lance Briggs to be paired, respectively, with Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Brian Campbell, Patrick Sharp and Brent Seabrook.
Well, all of that is for naught as the NFL but the brakes on the venture, citing a rule prohibits use of team marks and logos in connection with the promotion of other sports except by a three-quarters vote of the league's 32 clubs.
The ads, already shot, will now gather dust somewhere, becoming yet another sad note on a pretty sad Bears season.
That was probably the most painful and awful Bears game this season. 4-13 on 3rd down conversions; 248 yards of total offense, against the Rams 233 yard of offense --note: New Orleans quarterback/demi-god of offense, Drew Brees, passed for 419 yards against the Washington Redskins. That's a mere 62 yards fewer than the Bears and Rams combined for in yards of total offense, combined! Again, this game was ugly and horrible to watch. In any case, the predicted "festival of tears" was all that more. The defenses --almost as a daring challenge to the offenses ineptitude-- didn't even raise a charcoal briquette, let alone "HELL" against the opposition. Even the typically burn-worthy Bears secondary was spared humiliation thanks to St. Louis ghastly passing offense.
Regardless of the outcome of today's Bears-St. Louis Rams game (one the Bears should win handily, but if they don't, don't tell us about it), it's the general consensus that the Bears have had a pretty dismal season, one that started with such high hopes. To that end, the Chicago Tribune has taken it upon itself to write an apology to Bears fans on behalf of team president Ted Phillips and a vow to turn things around. Not sure how this apology-by-proxy stuff works, but it sounds good to us.
***Injury Update*** Tommie Harris is doubtful, Tillman is doubtful and Steven Jackson is doubtful. Wow. Ugly just got upgraded to First-Class Ugly. Thanks, injuries.
The staggering and numbing assault on Chicago Bears fans known as the "2009 season" gets a slight reprieve this week as the comically inept St. Louis Rams roll into the City of Broad Shoulders for a Sunday afternoon tilt between two woeful teams. Granted --because with the Bears there are always caveats and "force majeurs" to steel oneself against-- this week Lance Briggs joins Brian Urlacher and the rolling cast of injured Bears. So the comically depleted Bears defense will be facing light-footed rhino/Rams running back, Steven Jackson* on their own, sans Briggs, the world is sad and hard, Bears fans. Meanwhile, the "works better in theory than in practice" secondary will be doing their best to shut down Donnie Avery, who has caught every single one of Marc Bulger's touchdowns this season (five). Yeah, five touchdowns for a starting NFL quarterback in Week 13, again, the Rams are not good. This game has the stench of carrion and only the most-dedicated of CHI and STL fans should be tuning in.
And Chicago's Sexiest Athlete is...no, not Orlando Pace (although, hey, some may go for that Barry White-build). It's the Bulls' Derrick Rose, who topped voting conducted by Victoria's Secret. Rose beat out (among others) the Bears' Brian Urlacher. Which may explain his sudden outburst concerning the team's play this season. There's always next year, Brian.
...and a new offensive coordinator and possibly a new GM, is what some Bears fans might be singing after yet another butt-ugly outiing by their team, this time a 36-10 drubbing at the hands of the Brett Favre-led Minnesota Vikings that wasn't as close as even that score indicates. A "complete embarrassment" is how ESPN termed it and few people could argue as Favre picked apart the Bears defense for 392 yards and three touchdowns. Five Vikings receivers totaled 51 yards or more with Percy Harvin racking up 101 yards and one TD. The Bears' offense, meanwhile, struggled behind Jay Cutler who passed for 147 yards, one TD and (yes) two more interceptions. Their virtually non-existent rushing game compiled 43 yards on only carries. The defense started strong, holding Minnesota scoreless through the first quarter, but began falling apart as the game more on.
The Bears after a promising, if not hollow, 3-1 start to the season with wins over Pittsburgh, Seattle and Detroit to its credit are now doing their best impersonation of the "Edmund Fitzgerald." The team has steered headlong into the teeth of a brutal scheduling storm and find themselves facing down the very slim prospects of a playoff berth particularly when you look at the next month of games starting with Sunday's tilt against the playoff-craving Philadelphia Eagles.
Donovan McNabb, celebrated Chicago-reared quarterback/"tough guy who always gets hurt and then bounces back to throw ungodly numbers," will be looking to torch the Bears still very flammable secondary [Don't let the "Alex Smith" adjusted San Fran passing stats fool you, Bears fans --Ed.] Sorta filed under "good scenario/bad scenario" is the fact that Philly's Swiss Army Knife running back, Brian Westbrook will not play thanks to a concussion suffered in Washington.* Of course this is filed under "good/bad" and not just good because instead of the defensive front seven of Chicago getting pounded into dust, the secondary is that much more likely to be burned by the be-dreadnaughted artillery fire of Donovan The Cannon-Armed and his cadre of speedy receivers.
Thanks to a relatively minor blurb by Tribune columnist/blogger Steve Rosenbloom, national sports blog Deadspin has the rest of the nation convinced that Bears fans want to run quarterback Jay Cutler out of town on a rail. Now, of course we're not happy with the early results of Cutler's first season here (a 4-5 record, 17 interceptions by Cutler), but we're don't think people have washed their hands of him so soon. Most Bears fans seem to have varying opinions of where the problems lie: offensive line, receiving, the running game, offensive play calling, head coaching, general manager and/or all of the above. But Cutler as the sole souce of the ire? We're going to have to call bull...er, hockey on that one.
Yesterday when I previewed this game I predicted points galore, that both offenses would make mincemeat of the defenses, albeit in different ways: San Fran on the ground and Chicago through the air. I was wrong, dear readers, dead wrong. That over/under of 43? That was comically generous for a game featuring a grand total of 16 points and 31 first downs! Hell, the Bears had as many first downs via the pass (12) as the 49ers had total and still lost. But why and how did this tragedy occur? And make no mistake this was an Oedipus-level tragedy. Peep the box score and tell me this wasn't some other level ancient Greek downer of a game?
How did it happen? Mistakes on so many levels by so many players on both teams. And who made the most mistakes? None other than San Francisco Team MVP, Jay Cutler! What's that? You thought Cutler was the Bears quarterback? Sure is, but he threw 5ive!!! interceptions (two in the red zone) which definitely qualifies him for 49ers Team MVP.
The struggling Bears travel tonight to San Francisco to take on the equally as woeful 49ers in an intriguing match up of teams that both raced out of the gates to 3-1 starts but are now sitting on the outside of the playoff picture and looking in. The Thursday night tilt is spiced up a little more with the fact that San Francisco's head coach, Mike Singletary, spent 12 seasons prowling the turf of Soldier Field as one of Chicago's most fearsome linebackers, winning a Super Bowl title with the 1985 Bears. For the Hall of Famer this will be his first time facing his former team. What can you, the modestly-intrigued NFL watcher, expect tonight? Points. Lots of 'em. The over/under is 43 and I can see both teams approaching 30+ considering, for both offenses, it's strength versus weakness.
Both the Bears and Niners defenses rank in the bottom half of the league in total defense, so, really, pick your poison, defensive coordinators? For Chicago, yes, Frank Gore (SF's mighty buffalo/running back of doom) will be gashing the Bears pilowy-soft defense for yards, yards, yards!
Jerry Azumah is multi-tasking! Not only is the former Bear giving his analysis of his ex-team's debacle at the hands of the Arizona Cardinals over at Vocalo, but he also joins the crowd in wondering what the heck is happening to Sammy Sosa's skin. You can check out the interview here.
This game got ugly. Fast. How fast? Oh about 65 seconds into the game, I'd say:
"You stay classy, Chicago."
Following the amateur pugilist's ejection, the bloodbath was sooooo on! Cardinal quarterback/testament to clean living and Bible reading, Kurt Warner, got his Old Testament wrath of God on against the infidels in Chicago's secondary, peep the stats: 5!! touchdowns, 261 yards, 22 of 32 and a robust rating of 132.9 (a perfect rating is 158.3) As overwhelming as the aerial assault from Warner, the Cardinals offense managed a startlingly balanced attack with Tim Hightower and Chris Wells leading a two-headed ground game that was good for 186 yards on 31 carries against a very depleted Bears defense (sans Harris thanks to stupidity and sans others thanks to various injuries).
Are you a scarecrow? Do you like to play with fire? Then by all means, please, take the Bears as three point favorites to the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday. Of course, to expect that to pan out is to forget a) Vegas oddsmakers know people are suckers and b) the Bears defense is still "beary, beary bad." Yes, the Bears held Cleveland to six points and forced five turnovers but let's also remember that Cleveland is a terrible team and mired in utter disrepair; and that prior to the battering they dispensed to the Browns, the Bears defense had been roundly abused by the capable offense of Cincinnati. Which brings us to this Sunday. Hey, the Bears are facing another capable offense in the Arizona Cardinals with, arguably, an even better defense than the Bengals, so let's cut to the chase and say, "No, the Bears won't be winning this game."
Granted, Chicago's good for at least one win per year against a much better team (see, the Week One win last year against Indianapolis) but that win already happened this season, Week Two against the Steelers.
Some NFL players collect cars. Others collect guns (hello, Tank Johnson). Still others seem to collect celebrity girlfriends.
The Bears' Lance Briggs? Comic books.
Don't laugh (at least to his face). Briggs is a pretty big comic book geek it turns out, actually hosting his own blog on the subject and creating a series of YouTube videos documenting his love of the superhero genre. Below is an example of him in fullblown fanboy mode.
On a day when the Bears were sporting their "Halloween" jerseys, with the spirit and memories of "Sweetness" buzzing throughout Soldier Field, the Bears defense took charge of the game and brutalized an awful Cleveland offense, forcing five turnovers on the day and scoring one touchdown. Granted, the Browns are not an NFL-caliber team this season [I'm thinking middle-of-pack Big Ten team --Ed.] still, the win still counts and for the Bears it was a step in the right direction after dropping two rather resounding decisions to the Falcons and Bengals.
If only the Bears could play a team like the Browns every Sunday. The Bears defense was forcing turnovers and pressuring Derek Anderson all game long (though they only managed one sack). On the other side of the ball, Jay Cutler found five different receivers against the hapless Browns secondary, while Matt Forte and Garret Wolfe, whilst channeling their inner-Walter Payton, got serious about this "run game" against one of the league's most rush friendly defenses.
Happy Halloweekend to all of you out in Internetvania. Your hometown Chicago Bears are clashing with the laughingstock of the AFC North, the Cleveland Browns on Sunday. And I just wanted to get a few things out of the way before we dive into the Footballic Ramblings "Trick or Treats" report. First off: The Browns run defense is absolutely awful, if the Bears (I'm looking at you: Forte!) can't get their ground game going this week cross yourself, fans, cuz the rest of the season's gonna be bumpy. Secondly: The Browns passing defense isn't much better than their run defense, so expect Jay-Bot 5000 and his motley crew of receivers to pick apart the Browns and find the endzone . . . mmm, let's say . . . 2 times? Derek Anderson is the starting "quarterback" for the Browns and the Browns passing game is averaging 143.6 yards per game and has already given up 18!!! sacks this season. So yeah, Bears have no excuses in not dismembering the living dead that collectively the Browns are, on Dia de Los Muertos!
Onward to Tricks and Treats of the NFL season thus far!
Wow! Spooky, eerie things are occurring in Nashville, how else do you explain a team that went 13-3 last season stumbling to an 0-6 start and the promotion of that wacky Vince Young to starting QB? No matter the cause or reason (let's face it, the Titans weren't going to win 13 games this year, but this?) an 0-6 start and an absolutely atrocious defense is a trick for fans and haters alike.
This past April, the Bears and the Denver Broncos consummated the biggest trade of the off-season by shipping the talented and discontented Jay Cutler east to Chicago for Bears qb/neck beard sporting/whiskey drankin', Kyle Orton, and a first round pick in the 2009 and 2010 drafts. At the time Footballic Ramblings wholly endorsed the move, six months later and halfway thru the 2009 NFL season? We still stand by that notion, oh, but there are caveats. Lord, are there caveats! Onward!
When the trade went down most of Chicago's pundits, journos, bloggers (and yes, we're lumping ourselves in this pile of Cutler-love), tweeters, men on the street, were sporting orange and blue-shaded glasses, lauding the trade and stamping the Bears ticket for, at the very least, the playoffs, blissfully ignoring the fact that Chicago's NFL team still had major issues. Issues such as: a very old defense, a piecemeal-ed offensive line, no clear-cut "star" receiver and, oh yes, an enfeebled defensive secondary. Conversely, the Broncos were a team that for the first 3/4 of the 2008 NFL season had looked like a potential darkhorse Super Bowl contender out of the wooly and wild AFC West.
The stench still lingers, like a skunk in the middle of the road after losing a battle with a semi. A day after their embarrassing 45-10 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals, the Bears may still be trying to wash the stench of this one out of their clothes.
Post-game reports might have you believe that this debacle was primarily the work of the grudge-holding running back Cedric Benson and, true, the former Bears back with the substantial chip on his shoulder did his share of damage to the Bears, rushing for 189 yards and a touchdown. And other accounts will point to name-chameleon Chad Ochocinqo, who looked as if he were playing a game of catch with quarterback Carson Palmer en route to 118 yards receiving and two touchdowns.
But in truth, the blame for this game belonged squarely on the shoulders of the Bears, who failed at every aspect of the game. They couldn't seem to be bothered to cover a receiver or make a tackle on defense, or block and separate themselves from the Bengal secondary on offense.
And the coaching staff, who created that dog of a gameplan? Said head coach Lovie Smith: "I didn't have my team ready to go this week." Words to be fired by.
The Bears face the Cleveland Browns next Sunday at Soldier Field. If they don't want to go 0-for-Ohio, they'll come up with a better plan of attack that the one they utilized this past Sunday. Sometimes that smell is difficult to get rid of. (Chicago Tribune Photo)
Cedric Benson, the justifiably maligned former Bears running back, is back in a big way this season. Currently the heretofore crap-tacular Bears bust is second in the AFC and third in all of the NFL in rushing behind only Chris Johnson of Tennessee --quite literally the only bright spot for the Titans following the 59-0 bloodening they suffered at the hands of a now functioning and operational New England offense-- and the indomitable Adrian Peterson of Minnesota --heads up, Mr All Day has a dinged up ankle, just sayin' fantasy owners. But we digress. Benson is third in the NFL in rushing, I'm sorry, but does Hell have icicles now, too? Have pigs sprouted wings and now passenger jets need to worry about swines in the jet turbines? [Hamburgers are now eating people? -Ed.] Benson being good at professional football, the mind, it boggles and folds under the own pressures and illogical forces it's struggling to comprehend.
Want some good news, Bears fans? Pisa Tinoisamoa, you know, the guy who forced a fumble against Atlanta on Sunday night and had four tackles? His knee a'sploded in the game last night and . . .gulp. . . might have significant cartilage damage in that crucial joint known as the knee. From the Trib's Bears blog "Huddle Up":
Tinoisamoa left the game with 10 minutes, 6 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter of Sunday's 21-14 loss to the Falcons. He was scheduled to undergo an MRI Monday afternoon after having severe swelling and soreness in the knee.
Great, just great! The Bears triage is filling up faster every week and rumors out of Halas Hall have Lovie and crew checking out scout videos of Air Bud. (rimshot!)
Congrats, Bears! I don't know how you did it, but you've somehow managed to crap the bed in successive seasons, against the same team, in the same stadium, yet in utterly disparate ways. This sort of artistic expression in the name of losing is commendable if not misguided, to wit:
(starting around the 2:18 mark:) "The plain-faced existential anguish is so evident in this second fumble in as many plays at the goal line. It's reminiscent of Munch's finer works while not being derivative, my hat off to the artiste, Matt Forte."
Throw in Forte's anemic 1.5 yards per carry average and his 60 yards of total offense and you truly have a "piece de resistance" of offensive ineptitude. Yet, Monsieur Forte was not alone in his creative expression of failure. No, even the mighty Jay-Bot 5000 got in the on the arts and crafts at football's expense extravaganza, too. [He is a competitor, after all-Ed.] Cutler, seeing Forte's ineptitude in the running game, decided to raise his running back a pair of interceptions (two beautiful and hand-crafted dying quails that the Atlanta secondary just had to have).
Meanwhile, the post-Modern secondary of the Bears continued their assault on good taste and bourgeois notions of "defending the other team's receivers" by affording the willing Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez to score touchdowns of 40 and 10 yards, respectively.
Tampa Bay defensive end Gaines Adams was traded to the Chicago Bears tonight for a second-round draft choice in next spring's NFL draft. It was not immediately clear if Adams would start on Sunday night in Atlanta, however the Bears will have to waive someone from the 53 man roster to make room for the 6'5" Clemson product.
Chicago, charitably, has been struck with the injury bug [Injury hammer? -Ed.] this season and have been inserting different lineman in jury-rigged alignments to compensate for their depleted ranks. For the Bears, who have been connected all week to rumors that would send Terrell Owens to the Second City, the move is almost necessity considering the triage-esque state their d-line is in: Israel Idonije, Anthony Adams and Tommie Harris are all questionable for Sunday's game (knee injuries), while Alex Brown was nursing a wonky and sprained ankle earlier this season.
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