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Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Lets Toss Cookies at Jerry Angelo!

You really have to love the compliant attitudes of team beat writers, be it Carrie Muskat of the Cubs or Larry Mayer of the Bears. In a segment on in which Mayer gets to ask several questions of Bears general manager Jerry Angelo, Mayer pretty much sets up Angelo for a few meat pitches to hit out of the park, which is a bit frustrating coming from one person with unfettered access to the organization. Mayer's questions in bold, Angelo's answers in italics, my brilliance in neither.

LM: Jay Cutler hasn’t missed a single day of the offseason program since he was acquired by the Bears on April 2. How pleased are you with the attitude and leadership skills he has displayed?

This is a wonderful cookie of a question. Let me translate "Just so we can spare you having to bear any uncomfortable questions about anything else you could have done this offseason, lets start off with a reminder that you've acquired Jay Cutler and just ask, hey man, how awesome is Jay Cutler?"

JA: I’ve been very pleased with his day-to-day attitude, and obviously it’s reflected with his work ethic and how he’s approached things. He’s rolled up his sleeves and he’s gone to work. He’s certainly not resting on any laurels. He’s come in here to prove himself and establish himself. I think we’re all impressed with that—I’m talking about coaches and players—because that’s the right way to do it. He’s got to earn his stripes here, and by showing up and doing the things that he’s doing every day, he’s doing it the right way.

Translation: He is SOOO Awesome.

LM: In a leadership position like quarterback, what kind of message does that send to the rest of the team?

Translation: OMG, like, Seriously, does everyone ELSE on the team totally think Jay Cutler is Awesome??

JA: To me, leadership is based on actions. When you come in, it’s your actions that lead because that’s how you gain people’s respect. It’s what you do every day and obviously it starts with your work ethic. I’ve never seen a leader without a great work ethic. Every leader I’ve ever been around has spoke volumes with his actions. It’s not just words, it’s not hype and it’s not some rah-rah thing that we sometimes equate leadership to. The guy doesn’t say much, and he doesn’t need to say a lot because his actions do his speaking.

Translation: Nobody really likes to talk to the kid because they're not sure how to react to a neckbeard-less quarterback.

LM: Which players have impressed you most in the first four OTA practices?

Translation: Jerry, which one of your unimpressive mid level draft picks expected to fill one of the glaring holes in the secondary or receiver corps would you like to blow smoke about so we forget that Anquan Boldin, TJ Houshmandzadeh, and Torry Holt were all available this offseason and none of them are playing catch with Cutler?

JA: There have been a handful of guys. Jamar Williams has done a nice job. You can see the athlete that he is. It’s his awareness and confidence levels that stand out. Craig Steltz looks like he’s taking a step. I really like the way Earl Bennett is attacking his role as one of the lead receivers. I feel he’s really showing the things that we all saw back in college. Devin Hester looks like he’s learning the little nuances. I’m watching Devin and he’s just not all speed at receiver. He’s doing things like setting up DBs; he’s getting a feel for that. He’s looking more natural as a receiver. Those are just a few guys. I know I’m missing other guys. I’ve seen Zac Bowman do things out there, looking like we saw him in the short time that we had him last year as well. For the most part, we’re seeing a lot of good things. You can throw Kellen Davis in there too. I’m real happy about the guys who are graduating into their second year in particular in what we’ve seen so far.

Jamar Williams? That guy we heard about for a few years as a surefire replacement for Lance Briggs should he depart? The one who showed us his potential by losing a job to Nick Roach? Where is Craig Steltz stepping? Is he backpedalling until he might finally be able to avoid getting beat on a deep post? Thank God Hester's learning the nuances, though I could swear I heard the same line before last season about how "polished" he was becoming.

LM: From what I’ve seen, no one has made more plays on defense in the OTA practices than Jamar Williams. It seemed like everyone was mentioning him as a possible heir apparent to Lance Briggs (before Briggs signed a long-term extension), but then Nick Roach passed Williams on the depth chart last season. Is it just a matter of the light finally going on for Williams?

Or its the fact that Roach made a pedestrian 38 tackles last year without a single sack, tackle for loss, forced fumble, or interception and they realize fans might actually start to want Hunter Hillenmeyer back in that spot, even though we derided him for four and a half seasons as the weakest link on the defense, so its time to make Jamar Williams sound good again.

JA: It’s not so much that the light has gone on. I feel like it’s more about the opportunity. The coaches made a decision between Jamar and Nick and they obviously opted to go with Nick, but to me it was a photo finish. We’ve always liked Jamar. I think he’s a three-down player. He’s bright, he’s athletic, he’s fast and he’s tough. There’s nothing not to like about him. What we’re seeing now is what we saw when he was in college and what we drafted.

Its good that going into his fourth year in the league we're seeing what he showed in college.

LM: Aside from the players you already mentioned, who are you most interested in watching over the final 10 OTA practices?

Seriously? He named like half the team earlier, who else's name are you seeking? This is a really, really weak question.

JA: I’m not necessarily looking at an individual as I am looking at positions. I want to watch the secondary. We have some veterans there as well as some young guys, and I want to see how that’s meshing together. I’ll also watch the receiver position. Much has been said about it, and I’m understanding of that.

Well thank God our GM understands we're a bit concerned about a receiver corps that ranked near dead last in just about every category and a secondary that ranked 30th against the pass. He doesn't seem to get why our fears aren't alleviated by Juaquin Iglesias and Josh Bullocks, however.

LM: There’s been a lot of speculation about the Bears possibly adding a veteran wide receiver before training camp. What is the likelihood of that happening?

Ah yes, an important question! Although I would have phrased it more like "Jerry, our receiving corps is such a joke that the Onion has mocked it, and several talented veterans have been available this offseason, could you please just add one of them?"

JA: I can’t say that it’s 50/50 or anything like that. We plan on going into training camp with what we have right now. I don’t have any visions of grandeur that a No.1 receiver is going to fall out of the sky and onto our doorstep. There aren’t many No. 1 receivers in the NFL. There are probably as few of them as there are special quarterbacks, so it’s a little bit of a misnomer to think that that player is out there and he’s available. We’ll always look at any player that we feel can help our football team, but we do feel good about the cast of players that we have at that position.

Well, that's a lot of words to say "it's not gonna happen."

LM: Tommie Harris has missed the first few OTAs while resting his knee. How concerned are you that his knee will be a long-term issue that affects his play this season and for the rest of his career?

It is a bit terrifying when the 26 year old keystone of your defensive scheme can't seem to stay healthy, so I'm glad this question was asked.

JA: There’s no major concern with him. He’s going to be up and going at some point here in the OTAs. We feel good about where he’s at medically. There’s nothing to be alarmed about. This is the offseason. We want to make sure that we take care of our players to the best of our ability and we’re always going to err on the side of caution in the offseason. He’s got an issue with his knee; we know that. He has to be smart about it, which he is. We’ve got to be smart about it, which we are. Is his knee pristine? No. it’s not. But it’s not something that he can’t perform well with. We’ve been real smart about how to bring Tommie along in terms of his training program. He’s not the only player. There are customized programs for most of our players because we don’t want the wear and tear to happen during the offseason. We just want to be smart about how we bring our players along. We don’t want to waste any mileage that players have in the offseason. The wear and tear comes during the season, not the offseason. The offseason is dedicated to conditioning, strengthening and training our players within our offensive and defensive schemes.

...Nothing about that made me feel better.

I realize this article was particularly bile fueled for someone who is actually optimistic about this season, but its undeniably frustrating to think that Angelo and the organization might just rest on the Jay Cutler acquisition while ignoring the holes that could be easily tweaked in order to vault this team easily to the top of their division. I'd just like to ask Jerry a few questions myself.

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