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Monday, August 31, 2009

Bears/Broncos Notes

Walkin' away from Denver again..
So after the Bears impressive 27-17 victory over the Broncos (or the Spurned Lovers, as Al Michaels would call them), here's just a few thoughts on the good, the bad, the ugly:

The Good:

-Jay Cutler. I saved him for last last week, but I'm gonna put him up front where he belongs this week. After a slow start where it was fairly obvious he was nervous (and being, you know, bottled up in his own end zone both drives didn't exactly help), he rebounded to put together some nice scoring drives, topping off with a 98 yard touchdown drive to end the first half, where he went 7-10 for 85 yards and a touchdown. This week the line was struggling to give him the time needed to look downfield, so he did a great job of finding the tight ends (including a throw down the seam to Greg Olsen that was just zipped) for 5 catches and 77 yards. He also did a great job putting the touchdown throw to Forte right where Matt was the only one who had a shot at it.

What really impressed me, however, was Jay's two plays to avoid safeties early in the first quarter. Was anyone else so conditioned by the parade of quarterbacks the Bears have had who completely lacked anything resembling pocket presence (sorry, Rex), flinching every time you saw a rusher coming at him from behind? Both times Jay stepped up into the pocket and got the ball out to Forte. It was nice to see a quarterback without much of a pants-shitting complex.

-Greg Olsen and Desmond Clark. The wide receiver corps has actually looked somewhere around adequate the last two preseason games, but these two will still be the focus of the passing game, at least for a while, and both looked good tonight outside of one drop by Clark. Olsen's really mastered the seam route, which is the most important one for any tight end to run.

-Earl Bennett. The guy made a couple great catches in traffic, and definitely seems to have good hands. I didn't put much stock into the "they played together at Vanderbilt four years ago, so they've gotta click this year!" line when training camp began, but I'm starting to.

-The defense. The run defense was absolutely stellar in the first half, limiting the Broncos to just 9 yards on 8 carries. This forced the Broncos into plenty of long yardage situations, and the defensive backs were able to play off the ball and prevent the Broncos passing game from gaining first downs with the short stuff. The Broncos were forced to punt on 5 of their 7 first half possessions. It'll be good to see how the defense looks once Tillman and Bowman are back in the lineup at corner. One thing that was also reassuring was to see Tommie Harris get significant playing time and see him get some penetration in the backfield on a few of the running plays. If they can keep playing that well against the run, they're going to win plenty of ball games.

The Bad

-Devin Hester. He continued his incosistent preseason. One the one hand, his kick ass punt return was classic Hester, and he made a couple catches and didn't seem to have any communication issues with Cutler this week. On the other hand, he really screwed the team's field position on his first few punt returns. He fair caught one that he definitely should have let go, he let go several that he should have caught, and he put the team in awful starting position.

-Orlando Pace. I'm not going to be too rough on the big guy, since he's played well in the first two preseason games, but last night the much smaller and faster Elvis Dumervil beat him badly on several plays. Fortunately most of the defensive ends and linebackers in the NFL are grown up size, so hopefully he'll match up better against them. If not, Kevin Shaffer is a reliable insurance plan.

The Ugly-

-Denver fans' Bitterness. Let it go, people. It was hysterical following the liveblogs and comment threads around the internet as Denver fans guaranteed a Cutler interception or safety every time the Bears were buried deep in their territory, and to hear them explain how Cutler just isn't a winner (and its not the defense's fault, either, they mave have allowed 374 yards and 28 ppg last year, but that was all because Cutler turned the ball over, which he did mostly after they'd already given up the lead so I just don't see...whatever). The people wearing the Cutler jerseys with the diapers and the binkies were awesome, too. I hope their asses froze to the seats.

-Kyle Orton. God damnit, Josh McDaniels. I know Orton isn't a deep ball thrower (which I still maintain has Less to do with his arm strength than it does his release, as he has too much of a wind-up on the deep ball), but the man can throw it at least ten yards. I've know watched every snap Orton's taken in three preseason games with Denver and can't honestly remember seeing him attempt a pass Beyond the first down marker on a 1st and 10 or 2nd and 10. I wasn't hoping he'd play that well against the Bears, obviously, but it'd be nice if I didn't have to go back to constantly defending the Patron Saint's arm strength.

To summarize: Cutler looked great under pressure and god I hope the first team defense we've seen the last two games isn't a preseason mirage, because this team looks like a god damn winner right now.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Safeties and Wideouts

See, Rashied? Catch the ball, secure it against the body, like Devin here.

Coming into training camp, the Bears announced that Danieal Manning would line up with the starting unit at free safety. When the Bears switched the nickel package, Manning would move to nickelback (where he actually seemed comfortable last year), and Craig Steltz of all people would line up at free safety. Manning was performing well at FS before suffering a hamstring injury that left him out of much of camp. Who stepped up in Manning's absense? Obviously not Craig Steltz, because that guy blows and everyone knows it. Instead, Kevin Payne shifted from strong safety to free safety, where he's performed well both in camp and in the preseason (especially Saturday night against the Giants where he made a couple great tackles and had a beautiful pass deflection), and rookie 7th round draft pick Al Afalava of Oregon State came in and has impressed most observers at strong safety, where at least one writer compared his skillset to that of Mike Brown (who was good when he was healthy, if you can even remember that far back).

All throughout his absence, Lovie Smith has stated that free safety still belongs to Manning, but most people watching the situation would agree that Afalava and Payne have definitely made things interesting. All told, it could be that a position seen as the team's biggest weakness going into camp may look a little stronger, with three deserving candidates competing for time.

At wide receiver the two starters are Devin Hester and Earl Bennett, and after the Giants game, people seem to have shut up about Earl Bennett and the fact that he didn't catch a pass in his rookie year. That leaves three or four spots open at wide receiver, since no one is quite sure whether Bears will carry five or six wideouts into the season. Those three or four wide receivers have to come out of a pool of Devin Aromashadu, Brandon Rideau, third round pick Juaquin Iglesias, fifth round pick Johnny Knox, seventh round pick Derek Kinder, and, of course, Rashied Davis.

I said last week thought I didn't see the Bears cutting either Iglesias or Knox, since Iglesias is far too high of a pick to cut and Knox, with his 4.34 40 yard dash time would never make it through waivers in order to reach the practice squad (as some of suggested the Bears do with him). Kinder will probably be cut, as he was a 7th round flier and hasn't really progressed as much as the others. That leaves either one or two out of the group of Brandon Rideau, Devin Aromashadu, and Rashied Davis. I figured the smart money was on Rashied Davis getting cut, but Larry Mayer of said he figured Rashied to be a lock based on his work on special teams, which I find absolutely fucking ridiculous. Rashied is the most expensive of the three, he's the only one of the three to have finished a season tied for 14th in the NFL in dropped passes, and if you'll notice based on the stats:

# Name/Team/Drops/Receptions/Yds/TDS
1 Braylon Edwards/Cle/16/55 rec/873 yds/3 tds
2 Dwayne Bowe /KC/13/86 rec/1022 yds/7 tds
3 Brandon Marshall/Den/12/104 rec/1265 yds/6 tds
4 Terrell Owens/Dal/10/69 rec/1052 yds/10 tds
5t Calvin Johnson/Det/9/78 rec/1331 yds/12 tds
5t Roddy White/Atl/9/88 rec/1382 yds/7 tds
7t Laveranues Coles/NYJ/8/70 rec/850 yds/7 tds
7t Marques Colston/NO/8/47 rec/760 yds/7 tds
7t Greg Jennings/GB/8/80 rec/1292 yds/9 tds
7t Marcedes Lewis/Jac/8/41 rec/489 yds/2 tds
7t Marshawn Lynch/Buf/8/47 rec/300 yds/1 tds
7t Santana Moss/Was/8/79 rec/1044 yds/6 tds
7t Muhsin Muhammad/Car/8/65 rec/923 yds/5 tds
14t Bernard Berrian/Min/7/48 rec/964 tds/7 tds
14t Dallas Clark/Ind/7/77 rec/848 yds/6 rds
14t Rashied Davis/Chi/7/35 rec/445 yds/2 tds

If you look, Rashied Davis has by far the fewest receptions and yards of any of the wide receivers on that list. It's not so damaging for Greg Jennings to drop 8 passes when he's probably targeted over 100 times. It's pretty bad for Rashied Davis to drop 7 passes when he's probably targeted 50 times. My point? Rashied Davis sucks, and it can't really be that hard to train someone as fast as Knox to be a returner or gunner on special teams, whatever it is that Rashied does, and cut his ass. Then I'd cut Rideau and keep Aromashadu, because Devin seems to be a better route runner than Rideau, has better chemistry with Cutler, and he certainly impressed with his technique when he caught that fade from Cutler against the Giants.

So my depth chart at wide receiver would go Hester/Bennett/Aromashadu/Iglesias/Knox.

Either way, I still hate Rashied Davis.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

In Which I Reveal my Magnum Opus..

I spent my entire week of work completing this (the server that contains all the data I usually work on was down, so I had nothing to do), so I expect you all to appreciate this. In honor of Cutler's debut at Soldier Field, and the hope (realistic this time!) that the Bears have finally locked down the most important position on the field, I have compiled this PowerPoint (there was an Excel spreadsheet preceding the PowerPoint, because I'm scientific like that) of all Bears starting quarterbacks from Luckman to Cutler. Be careful if you just ate, because some of this shit will make you want to vomit:

The slides are in chronological order, based on when each quarterback made his first start for the Bears. The results are fairly brutal, but I guess thats what you expect from an organization so quarterback deficient that Shane Matthews is its franchise leader in completion % (61.1%).

Let me know what you think, or if it even works for you all, since this is the first time I've used authorSTREAM to upload a PowerPoint.

Easy Folks, It's Just the Second Preseason Game

I mean, after the offense laid a giant turd in last week's game, I ranted and railed against those overreacting and predicting DOOM for all things Bears, so it would certainly be wrong of me to say things like HOLY SHIT! THAT WAS F&%KING AWESOME! DO YOU SEE THE ARM ON THAT CUTLER GUY?? HE CAN THROW THAT BALL OVER A MOUNTAIN! FORTE IS FAST! THE OFFENSIVE LINE OPENED HOLES I COULD HAVE WADDLED MY FAT ASS THROUGH! THIS TEAM IS CLEARLY SUPERBOWL BOUND!

But it's the preseason. So I Won't say those things. No matter how awesome it looked. But by God, did it look awesome. A breakdown:

1. The line. The old cliché is that it all starts up front, and last night it was definitely true. Cutler was barely pressured all night, and never sacked (and that Giants defensive line is kinda good, I hear), and that hole Frank Omiyale opened up to spring Forte on his touchdown run was big enough to be visible from space. Anytime your starters rack up over 220 yds on three possessions, you Know the line's playing well.

2. Matt Forte. Any concerns over how he'd be affected by the limited reps he got in training camp and being held out of last week's game should have been answered last night. He hit holes hard and fast, and he even bounced it outside on a nice 18 yard runs. This kid really is the total package. He's got better vision than any Bears runningback I've watched (especially since I only caught the last few years of old, slow Neal Anderson), and his mix of power and speed is even better than that of Thomas Jones, and he figures to get better as he goes on. He also had a really nice catch and made a nice move to move upfield. I wouldn't be surprised if Forte has fewer receptions this year than the 63 he had last year, but it also wouldn't surprise me that with Cutler actually hitting him in stride and giving him room to run, that he could surpass his 477 receiving yards from last year.

3. Earl Bennett and Devin Aromashadu. While there's bound to be some slight concern over the two incidents of miscommunication between Cutler and Hester (Hester broke in on a pattern where Cutler thought he'd break out, leading to an overthrow, and Hester slowed down and misjudged a GLORIOUS deep ball from Jay, leading to another overthrow), its also comforting to see Bennett show off some nice moves and a good rapport with Cutler (he had 2 catches for 42 yards), and I'd be real surprised, after the strong camp he's had and his great diving catch last night, if Devin Aromashadu Isn't the slot receiver against Green Bay on September 13th. All in all it was a pretty solid night from the receiver corps.

4. The defensive line. These guys looked truly spectacular last night. They put in the kind of aggressive work effort we haven't seen from them since 2006. They had five sacks on the night, with the starters contributing two of those. Ogunleye and Brown got to Manning on two consecutive third downs, with Brown forcing the fumble. Mark Anderson later shot off like a bullet and did a nice job blowing up a screen pass, and Dusty Dvoracek also contributed with a nice sack of David Carr later in the game.

5. The defensive backs. Last night was a good example of what I've been trying to say about the defensive backs and the Tampa 2 defensive scheme for a long time. Everyone moaned last year when Lovie tried preaching that "slants don't beat you," and last night was a good example of how the short stuff doesn't beat you if you play the scheme well. Manning completed 7 of 10 for 62 yards, but the Giants still failed to move the ball because the defensive line forced him into taking shorter passes and the defensive backs did a great job of moving up and making plays on the receivers before they could reach the first down marker. The one time Manning did try to throw it upfield, Kevin Payne made a beautiful play to knock it away. He's a player I really think could make some big strides this year, and right now he's locked in a three way battle with Danieal Manning ( who looks to be the starting FS despite his recent hamstring problems) and Al Afalava.

6. Caleb Hanie. I have to give this guy a shout out whenever possible, because he's a real promising prospect. The numbers don't look spectacular for him last night (10/18(55.6%), 120 yds, 6.7 ypa, 0 tds, 0 ints, 76.2 rating), but he overcame some poor play from the back up offensive line (two sacks and one drive where back to back false starts moved it from a 3rd and Inches to a 3rd and 11) and put in a pretty solid effort. His touchdown run was called back by a hold, but the mobility he has is impressive nonetheless. I like where his future is headed. Perhaps some day if he gets a regular season game or two to flash his ability (though here's hoping any injuries Cutler may suffer in his decade long, title filled run in Chicago will be minor), he could bring a Matt Schaub like return in a trade (Schaub, who had only started 2 games for the Falcons, was traded from the Falcons to the Texans in exchange for a swap of first round picks and two 2nd round picks).

7. Jay Cutler. Finally, I reach the big guy, and I'm not really sure what to say. Bears fans have acted this year like they've never seen a strong arm before, and I disagree. Grossman had an arm. Kramer had an arm. But my God, Cutler has an ARM, and he knows how to use it. The two passes he made on roll outs were ones no Bears quarterback has been capable of, at least not regularly. The throw to Earl Bennett (who was on his knees) was just muscled in there, and the bomb to Hester (which, by the way, BOTH sides took the blame for, Rick Morrissey), while on the run was simply mind blowing. Other than one poor decision he made on a slant to Bennett that was nearly intercepted, every decision he made and damn near every throw was perfect. Add onto that his 12 yard scamper for a first down, and you get a good idea of everything this guy brings to the table...and it's all just. freakin'. awesome.

So yeah, a lot of positives to take out of last night. Granted, they could lay an egg in Denver next weekend and the sportswriters will all run out to pen articles about how Cutler can't take the pressure of facing his old team, but I just don't see them looking like they did against Buffalo very often in the future. They probably won't score on every possession like they did last night, but there's really no reason Not to be excited for what's to come.

Go Bears.

Friday, August 21, 2009

So Training Camp is Now Over..

Thank you for bein' a friend...

The Bears broke camp at Bourbonnais yesterday with a final practice where, as is their tradition, the players swapped jerseys (ZOMG! URLACHER AND CUTLER SWITCHED JERSEYS! BFFS 4 LIFE!). Next up for the team is a preseason game against the Giants, where the starters should play most, if not all, of the first half. Forte and Olsen are both expected to play this game, so we should get a much better look at the first team offense (though, please, and I realize I'm barking in vain, try not to read too much into Anything that happens out there). So basically here's a summarization of camp:

-The team arrives and Marcus Harrison brings a spare tire with him.

-Charles Tillman out with back surgery. Not a problem, given the standout nature of the Bears secondary.

-Zack Bowman basically won a starting job, then got hurt and missed the last two weeks of camp, leaving an opportunity for Nathan Vasher to reclaim his starting job and...

-Vasher sucked. I hate to say it, because I loved Nate, but the injuries have really robbed him of his speed and he just looks awful in coverage. There's a strong possibility he may be cut before the season, as he's due to make far too much money for a back up.

-Danieal Manning was declared the starting free safety, but then he pulled a hamstring, and Kevin Payne was shifted to safety with rookie Al Afalava moving to strong safety. The Bears insist that Manning is still in the lead for the FS job, but they're really impressed with Afalava. Does that make Payne the odd man out?

-Tommie Harris has been handled with care, although he may see some action against the Giants. As long as he's ready to go on opening day, I'm not too worried about him missing the preseason.

-Frank Omiyale seems to have locked down the starting left guard job, as expected, although the team says the competition is still going on. Josh Beekman has seen some reps at center, and many feel he could be Olin Kreutz' heir apparent.

-Pisa Tinoisamoa has pretty much been the starter at the strong side linebacker position since the day he arrived, but Jamar Williams has had a great offseason, so it's not entirely inconceivable he could come on strong and make something happen the last three preseason games.

-Jay Cutler did a lot of things, said some things that have been blown way out of proportion, was the subject of a Bobby Wade concoction about an Urlacher-Cutler spat (BUT THEY WORE EACH OTHER'S JERSEYS), but made a hell of a lot of good throws and has impressed even many of his doubters. Except Rick Morrissey.

-The wide receiver situation still has yet to shake out. Hester and Bennett will start, but the 3-5? 6? spots are still wide open. Someone's going to have to go between Devin Aromashadu, Rashied Davis, and Brandon Rideau, because I don't see the Bears cutting either 3rd round pick Juaquin Iglesias (I mean c'mon, he ain't Bob Sapp), or 5th round pick Johnny Knox (who has impressed with his 4.3ish speed and may work his way into that slot role this year), and I don't see the team keeping 7 wide receivers (8 if you count 7th round pick Derek Kinder, but I haven't heard a thing about him and I doubt he'll be around that much longer). My money's on Rashied getting the axe.

-No one's quite sure how the runningback/fullback situation will shake out either. Obviously Forte, Kevin Jones, and Jason McKie will make it, but Garrett Wolfe, Adrian Peterson, Jason Davis, and Will Ta'ufo'ou are all in competition for the remaining halfback spots. Will the Bears keep four halfbacks like they did last year? If they only keep three, look for Wolfe to win the 3rd spot as the Bears attempt to justify his high draft status. Will they keep one or two fullback? My guess is they'll just keep McKie, and then keep all four of their tight ends (Olsen and Clark, of course, and probably Kellen Davis and Michael Gaines), since Gaines is more of an H-Back anyways.

All in all, it was by most accounts an excellent camp, and besides the quickly ended Cutler-Urlacher rumor, and the Cutler-Hester mix-up, there were no incidents, unless you count Marcus Harrison being too fat (which he fixed, and he may still start next to Harris).

With all that said, things seem pretty well in place for the Giants game, and hopefully Bowman, Tillman, and Manning will all be along shortly so they can be ready to go with some practice reps before the opener in Green Bay.

Go Bears.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

God Damnit, Rick Morrissey

At it again, are we? In his retarded piece on Brett Favre, entitled "All Brett Favre Questions Have the Same Answer: He Makes Vikings Better" (which I won't fisk line by line, since that would be talking about Favre too much, and I'm tired of doing that), he manages to take a thinly veiled shot at Jay Cutler....again-

"Question: If you're a Bears fan and want to win games (not fantasy leagues) this season, would you rather have Favre, Adrian Peterson and Bernard Berrian on your team or Jay Cutler, Matt Forte and Devin Hester?

Answer: Despite the declarations of undying love for Cutler in these parts, you would be insane not to go with Favre, et al. "

Other than the fact that Cutler is 13 years younger, has a stronger arm, Doesn't have a torn rotator cuff or surgically repaired arm, threw for more yards the last two years (8023 to 7622), a higher yards per attempt average (7.4 to 7.2), fewer interceptions (32 to 37), and had a higher rating last year, Favre's absolutely a better quarterback. Adrian Peterson is the greatest runningback in the NFL, and maybe on his way to the Hall of Fame if he stays healthy and keeps up his torrid pace, but his total yards from scrimmage last year (1885) and total TDs (10) weren't all that much better than what Matt Forte managed as a rookie (1715 and 12 tds). You could argue that Favre will make Peterson better, but you can also argue that Cutler will make Forte better. So while I'd rather have Peterson, Forte's skills as a receiver make him one of the top backs in the league nonetheless. Berrian may be better than Hester at this point, but as Bears fans know, he drops a lot of passes and has yet to have a 1,000 yd receiving season, and we'll see exactly what Hester is worth this year after he's been catching passes from Cutler.

It's really going to be fun this year to see Cutler put up great numbers and watch Morrissey try to act like he didn't spend the entire offseason ranting and raving rather than admitting he was wrong in saying the Bears shouldn't trade for Jay.

Go to Hell, Rick Morrissey.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Okay..So the Perspective Thing is Out the Window

....Again. Why in God's name does this happen every year? Is it because people are so desparate for football that when it finally appears in some form we have to overanalyze every little thing? Sigh...A couple points from Saturday night.

-Yes, Cutler threw an interception. Yes, he suggested that Hester could have done a better job fighting for the ball, and didn't seem to take too much of the blame for throwing off his back foot. David Haugh, has a point though when he notes that Cutler had a valid point. Watch the tape and you'll notice Hester barely made the effort for that pass. Oh well. It'll get there. It was the first time those two have ever taken the field together. Haugh makes a good point, again, when he says that this isn't exactly a team cancer taking a shot at a teammate. It's the difference between a franchise quarterback and whatever the hell we've had in the past. Cutler's a damn good quarterback, and he knows what needs to be done out there. Don't forget Peyton Manning once complained about "protection issues" after a bad game against the Chargers. Also, can the second most popular response on the poll in this article seriously be "Give Me Back Kyle Orton"? God knows I love the Patron Saint, people, but did you not see HIS preseason debut?

- The defense is concerning, as always, but I don't think anything should be taken from the 10-10 passing performance by Trent Edwards. In the preseason this team plays the most vanilla of vanilla base defenses, with no stunts, rips, blitz packages, disguised coverages, zone blitzes, or any of the little wrinkles one typically uses to stop a no huddle offense like the one the Bills ran. If you want anything good to take from it, the first team defense only gave up 3 points and got two sacks.

-Caleb Hanie looked pretty good, shaking off 3 sacks allowed by the back up offensive line in order to go 8-11 for 87 yards and a TD.

That's really all thats worth noting, other than Al Afalava looking pretty good as he tries to lock down the starting strong safety job, which would send Kevin Payne over to free safety (an...interesting option), and keep Danieal Manning at nickel, where he plays best.

The next game is Saturday, at home against the Giants. The starters should play the whole first half, and hopefully Cutler will play well enough to shut everyone up, because its going to be an even longer wait until September 13th if I have to keep screaming "its preseason!" every week. Much like I did in 2006 as Grossman and the team struggled in the preseason. It's not like they went to the Superbowl that year or anything.

-Oh, and one last note on the Kyle Orton front. I was able to catch the replay of the Denver-San Francisco game late last night on NFL Network, and it doesn't look great. Preseason numbers are meaningless, but on all three of his interceptions Kyle just plain Stared down his receiver and threw it straight into the hands of a waiting defensive back. Its a concerning sign, possibly one meaning that he's not yet comfortable enough in McDaniels' complicated offense, and he hasn't quite mastered his progressions. God knows Kyle needs a better effort in game two than Cutler does. Having already booed him in practice, and on Saturday night, the Denver crowd is already calling for his benching in favor of Chris Simms. Good luck, Kyle. We shall place a shot of Jack Daniels at the sacrificial altar of the SKO Kyle Orton Shrine in hopes of your success.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Bears @ Bills, Preseason Game One, Saturday, August 14th.

So I realize its the preseason, but I still enjoy it. For once you'll get to actually See Cutler line up and throw to somebody and you can expect the Bears fan base to lose any perspective whatsoever. Remember the 2006 preseason? When Grossman struggled and Griese looked like Joe Montana against the third string defenses? Everyone wanted Grossman benched before the regular season even started, then Rex went out and won offensive player of the month in September. So just remember, whatever happens, as long as nobody gets injured the preseason doesn't matter. That said, it's still football. So, WOOO! MOTHERFUCKING FOOTBALL!!!! WOOO!!!

Buffalo Bills
Last Year 7-9
Head Coach: Dick Jauron (21-27 in Buffalo, 56-72 Career)
Yes, our old friend Dick has somehow managed to survive the axe after three consecutive 7-9 seasons for a team that hasn't seen the playoffs since Kevin Dyson and Frank Wycheck ruined their shit back in 1999. Dick is (most Buffalo fans hope) finally entering a make or break year with the Bills, and they responded by desparately signing the 35 year old Terrell Owens. We shall see.

Players to Watch:
Quarterback Trent Edwards- Edwards, a 3rd round pick in 2007, probably would have been a first round pick that year had he not spent his college career losing game after game at Stanford. Physically he's a very talent quarterback and has made big strides in his first year and a half as a starter, completing 65% of his passes last year. Even an older Owens should improve his receiving corps, so Edwards should have a big year.

Wide Receiver Terrell Owens- Duh.

Linebacker Paul Pozlusny- 'Cuz I love the big lug.

Chicago Bears
Last Year 9-7
Head Coach: Lovie Smith (45-35 in Chicago, 45-35 Overall)

Players to Watch:

Quarterback Jay Cutler- Naturally. The starters should play into the second quarter, so hopefully Jay will get at least 3 or 4 possessions to throw the football.

Left Guards Josh Beekman/Frank Omiyale- While it may be difficult to watch a battle at left guard, just try and pay attention on a few plays to see if either one of them seems to be getting beat more than the other. Right now Beekman leads the competition, but Lovie claims Frank is close behind

Cornerbacks- Any of them. Any of them at all. Throw the safeties in there too. I'm not even sure who is going to line up at all four starting spots, but probably Vasher and McBride at corner, Danieal Manning at Free Safety, and Kevin Payne at Strong Safety. It's preseason, but it would still be nice if they looked good covering Lee Evans and Terrell Owens.

Defensive Line- They haven't said yet if they'll play Tommie Harris, but if they do obviously all eyes will be on him. Next pay close attention to Ogunleye and Mark Anderson. Both are in contract years and Anderson is pushing hard for Ogunleye's job.

SAM Linebacker- Pisa Tinoisamoa/Nick Roach/Jamar Williams.
Pisa's been lining up with the first team most of the time, despite the team claiming its an open competition, so I assume he'll start, but keep an eye out to see which of the three makes the most plays.

So, yeah. FOOTBALL! I don't know if I'll even be able to catch it tomorrow night, as I'm in Des Moines and don't know if any of the local stations will pick it up, but I'm sure I'll catch it later in the week on NFL Network when I'm back at home. Go Bears.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Rick Morrissey, Don't You Get the Feeling We're Just Destined to Do this Forever?

My favorite hack is back today, once more beating the "I said I didn't want Cutler back before the Bears traded for him when I thought I was safe because there was no chance in hell that Angelo would actually make the deal, and now I can't take it back because that would mean admitting I, the great Rick Morrissey, was wrong" drum. Is he attacking Cutler for a future meltdown again? Nay. This time he's going straight after the fans and media.

In this piece of crap, entitled "Jay Cutler Hype Over the Top," Morrissey tries and fails to dampen enthusiasm over Cutler. His words in italics:

BOURBONNAIS -- Rain fell Friday afternoon, and it was almost perfect.It gave the Bears' training camp at Olivet Nazarene even more of a Woodstock feel. If the rain had come down harder, a photographer might have gotten an iconic shot of mud-streaked fans grooving to the hissing sound of a Jay Cutler pass.

Yes, because nothing is more reminiscent of a three day orgy of hippies, rock, and drugs than a towering meathead wearing an undersized Brian Urlacher jersey while watching Caleb Hanie throw to Devin Aromashadu.

This is the Summer of Love, or the Summer of Jay, whichever you prefer. I have been in this line of work for more than 25 years and I never have seen anything quite like the ado over the Bears' new quarterback. And I covered John Elway for eight seasons.

Is that your problem then? Are you, like many Broncos fans, never satisfied because Jay Cutler somehow doesn't measure up to a guy that retired over a decade ago?

Such unconditional love for Cutler! But enough about the media coverage.

Yeah! Take that, rest of the media. Rick's showing off his professionalism. While you're all being upbeat and optimistic about a quarterback showing up for the first time in your lifetime, Rick's being professional enough to attack without reason any sign of hope in order to salvage some half assed proclamation he made back in March that the Bears were better off without Cutler.

To be fair, I was not in Denver for Elway's rookie season, when one newspaper ran a regular update that included what he ate each meal during training camp. I'm afraid I've just given sports editors in Chicago a new idea: J.C.'s Daily Bread.

So you weren't in Denver when they treated their new franchise quarterback the same way Bears fans are now treating Cutler, but you feel the need to rail against the fanbase like they're the first ones to ever act this way over a new quarterback?

Everybody seems to be giddy about Cutler. Radio interviews with him have turned into giggle-fests. Questions to other players about the quarterback start with, "How amazed are you by ..." I wish an athlete just once would respond to that sort of query with, "I'm about a half of 1 percent amazed" or "Not amazed at all; I've seen better."

Except they haven't.

The reason for the enthusiasm surrounding Cutler is obvious. The Bears haven't had a good quarterback in a long time. And his arm seems to be fitted with a hydraulic slingshot. But if I might be the fly in the Kool-Aid, let's see what this guy can do in, you know, a real game before we crown him the next Peyton Manning.

I love this part. "Let's see what he can do in a real game." Cutler isn't Matthew Stafford. Hell, he's not even Rex Grossman before 2006. He's got 2 1/2 full seasons of experience where he's PROVEN he can play in the NFL. Also- Manning through his first 37 starts-

782 comp./1315 att., 59.5% Comp., 9,475 yds, 7.2 ypa, 63 tds, 50 ints, 81.7 Rating.

Cutler through his first 37 starts-

762 comp./1220 att., 62.5% Comp., 9,024 yds, 7.4 ypa, 54 tds, 37 ints, 87.1 Rating.

Hmm. Interesting. Cutler has a better comp. %, better yards per attempt, and a better TD-Int Ratio. Not to say that Jay will Be the next Peyton Manning, but it does seem like a reasonable comparison.

"It's real exciting," wide receiver Brandon Rideau said. "We have a Pro Bowl quarterback in, so everybody in town is excited about it. We're excited. We just want to make sure we can come in and live up to what we expect of ourselves."

Over and over again, players, fans and media members have referred to Cutler as a Pro Bowl quarterback. If by saying he's a Pro Bowl quarterback you mean he has gone to one Pro Bowl, then, yes, he's a Pro Bowl quarterback. That makes Marty Booker a Pro Bowl wide receiver because he was selected for the game in 2002.

That's exactly what we mean by saying he's a Pro Bowl quarterback. We'd sure look like idiots if he Hadn't gone to one, wouldn't we? Also, there's a statute of limitations on this shit, Rick. I'm quite sure I distinctly remember hearing Marty Booker referred to in 2003 as a "Pro Bowl Wide Receiver." If Jay doesn't go this year, or hasn't gone in 7 years, we won't still call him that, now will we? My God, could you be any more of a pessimistic little shit?

Thousands of fans stood in the rain Friday and oohed and aahed as Cutler completed passes to receivers who were running routes without defenders. When the defense did get on the field, Rideau made some nice catches. That immediately raised his stock to somewhere in the Jerry Rice stratus.

Oh yeah, because I've heard plenty of Bears fans salivating over Rideau. Maybe their just salivating over the fact that they have a quarterback who can get the ball to anybody who has got two hands. If he does that enough times, the yards will come, no matter who is back there.

The assumption, apparently, is that Cutler is so good he's going to make all the receivers around him good too. That must have been general manager Jerry Angelo's thinking because he didn't land any veteran wide receivers in the off-season.

Sigh. We went over this last time, Rick:

"Like I pointed out in my Cutler article, there are plenty of precedents for team's that can make the playoffs without great wide receivers, so long as there are options like tight ends or runningbacks."

Unless Cutler cures cancer and gets "Jon & Kate Plus 8" canceled, I don't see how he possibly can live up to the hype.

Or gives the team a consistent and effective passing game for the first time since Truman was in office. Or takes the team deep into the playoffs. Or someday wins a Superbowl. I hate when guys like Morrissey act like Cutler's a one year acquisition and Bears fans will riot if they don't win the Superbowl THIS YEAR. What I'M excited about is the fact that he's 26 fucking years old and should be firing touchdowns for a decade.

Some of the gushing is because of the inevitable excitement that comes with change. We have seen it before with coaching changes. The new coach is the breath of fresh air who invigorates everything. The former coach could siphon the fun out of a grammar-school snow day. That's how it works. Thus, Cutler now is the embodiment of all that is good in the world, at least in Chicago.

And Rick Morrissey is the embodiment of everything wrong with sportswriting today.

And he has gotten into the comparison game, telling WMVP-AM last week that Bears fans are better than Broncos fans.

"It's a lot [different]," he said. "Denver's like a 6 and Chicago's like a 9. It's quite a bit different. Just the fans and how passionate they are, that's probably the biggest difference."

Somebody needs to put an arm around Cutler and tell him that, according to the Broncos' Web site, the waiting list for their season tickets has 28,000 names on it and that the estimated wait is 13 to 15 years.

I'm thinking Cutler was more referring to the fact that 11,000 fans have been showing up per day to Bears training camp, and the Broncos can't even accomodate more than 6,000. And yes, nice job, Broncos season ticket holders. You're a brilliant contrast to the vacant, empty Soldier Field we see on Sundays every year.

The Broncos struggled down the stretch last season, losing their last three games when all they needed was one victory to earn a playoff berth. Cutler did not play well in those games. But that was last year, and Da Coach said living in the past is for cowards, gang.

True, Cutler played fairly mediocre, albeit not awful, in those three games. Not that it mattered, however, when their defense gave up a whopping 37 ppg in those three contests. But way to leave that part out and try to heap all of the blame on Cutler, you disingenuous prick.

The present, at least here in Bourbonnais, is so shiny, it's hardly recognizable. Caught up as I am in Cutler Mania, I have the Bears improving by one victory to 10-6 this year. But wait a second. Some experts are picking them to go 8-8. Does this make me Mr. Positive? I think it does.

Yep. And the year the Bears went to the Superbowl in 2006, SI had them going 9-7 and finishing second while the Dolphins and the Panthers played in the Superbowl. My point? The national media's predictions about the Bears are usually pointless, but just to contradict Mr. Morrissey, Football Outsiders and Athlon Sports are just two of the more comprehensive, stat based groups that have predicted the Bears to win the North.

In any case, Bears players are excited too.

How dare they not quake in fear of Morrissey's prophecies of DOOM?!

"He's an amazing quarterback," center Olin Kreutz said. "He opens up the offense. ... The defense doesn't know where the ball is going. Sometimes we don't know where the ball is going."

Odd. He wasn't even set up by a giggly sports personality to say that.

We don't know where the hype is going either.

Wherever it goes, can you just go somewhere else? Somewhere far, far away?

Go to hell, Rick Morrissey.

Monday, August 10, 2009

The Roster of Broken Dreams, Bears Edition- The Defense!

Following the offense on Friday, here are the defensive players for our All Bears Draft Bust Team-

Defensive End- It all starts up front for this defense, with the edge rushers. The great Bears teams of the 1980s, and the two Lovie Smith playoffs teams of 2005 and 2006 were all built around pressure from the front four. The Bears have still had some whopping busts on the line, including our three man rotation at defensive end-

Right Defensive End- Alonzo Spellman. The last first round pick of the Ditka regime was Ohio State sack artist Alonzo Spellman, with the 22nd pick in 1992. Spellman was drafted to replace the aging Richard Dent. Spellman failed to ever even come Close to the numbers Dent put up in his time in Chicago, never registering more than 8.5 sacks in one season (and even in that career year he did much of his damage in just one game, with three sacks against Philadelphia). Spellman would often disappear for stretches at a time, often going months without a sack before reeling off a good game or two. After suffering from injuries and ineffectiveness during the 1997 season, Spellman was released by the Bears. After sitting out the 1998 season, he played three more seasons with the Cowboys and Lions before being released in 2001. Spellman has become known more for his erratic personality and bipolar disorder than his career as a football player, some excerpts (straight from ol' Wikipedia):

"Spellman exhibited erratic behavior during his time with the Bears. The first incident in which this behavior became public was in March 1998, in which Spellman became enraged when a doctor was late for an appointment, pulling a telephone off of a wall and threatening suicide. Complicating matters, Spellman had access to alcohol and a firearm and by this time weighed in the neighborhood of 300 lbs (136 kg). Authorities were called in, and friend and former teammate Mike Singletary helped get Spellman to check into a hospital, but Spellman later wandered out of the hospital.[1]"

"Spellman was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, but refused to take medication, instead becoming increasingly reliant on drugs and alcohol. This led to even more erratic behavior and run-ins with the law. These problems, along with his refusal to undergo arthroscopic surgery on his injured shoulder, led to Spellman's release by the Bears."

"Most notably, he had a manic episode on July 23, 2002 in which he disrupted a flight from Cincinnati to Philadelphia. Spellman initially suggested that the flight was going to crash, then became verbally abusive to other passengers and threatened members of the flight crew.[1] The plane was forced to make an emergency landing. Spellman was released, but then destroyed some property at his brother's home and was taken to a psychiatric hospital. He was later arrested on charges of interference with a flight crew.[3] Although doctors confirmed that he had bipolar disorder, Spellman was determined to be legally sane and spent 18 months in federal prison."

"Spellman was arrested again[5] on January 29, 2008 after leading authorities on a pursuit after being involved in an apparent altercation at a Tulsa, Oklahoma convenience store. The chase ended after three of the tires on Spellman's car were deflated by stop sticks and pepper-spray pellets were fired after Spellman refused to get out of the vehicle."

Since leaving the NFL Spellman has played in the Arena Football League and has also participated in Mixed Martial Arts.

Left Defensive End- John Thierry. The man who was intended to be Spellman's long term book end is indeed his companion on this team. With the 11th overall pick in the 1994 Draft, Dave Wannstedt snagged linebacker John Thierry from 1-AA Alcorn State, with the intention of turning him into a defensive end. Wannstedt claimed that Thierry could be "the next Charles Haley." I'm going to link to Charles Haley's numbers here. Click on Thierry's namelink, then on the Haley link. Go ahead and compare the stats. I'll wait. Back yet? Hurts, don't it? Instead of become a pass rushing force with 6 seasons of double digit sacks like Haley, Thierry became a monumental bust, who never cracked the starting lineup for more than 9 games in a season or registered more than 4.0 sacks as a Bear. After finally being chased out of town with his hair-lipped head coach following the 1998 season, Thierry wound up in Cleveland, then Green Bay, where he posted better numbers in both cities than he ever did in Chicago. Asshole.

2nd String- Dan Bazuin. You'll notice, if you click the link, that a search for Dan Bazuin on the all-knowing returns no answers. That's because Bazuin, the Bears 2nd round pick in the 2007 draft out of Central Michigan, never played a single down in the NFL. After registering 33.5 sacks in his highly productive college career, Bazuin injured his knee during his first NFL preseason. When the injury required a second surgery, Bazuin was released by the Bears. After failing to make it as a practice squad member of the Houston Texans, Bazuin was informed by doctors that he'd never be able to play football again, and he promptly retired.

Defensive Tackle- Just as important as the defensive ends, the Bears have had some great success drafting either spectacular or solid defensive tackles in my lifetime, players like Tommie Harris, Chris Zorich, and Jim Flanigan. That doesn't excuse them of a few of the mistakes they've made, however.

Nose Guard- Tank Johnson. Johnson, of course, makes this list more for his off-field than on field activities. Drafted in the 2nd round of the 2004 draft, Johnson was supposed to pair with that year's first round pick, Tommie Harris, and provide the Bears with an unstoppable duo of tackles for years to come. At first Tank's greatest challenge was cracking the starting lineup, which he failed to do consistently until an injury to Tommie Harris in 2006. Then Johnson suffered his series of run ins with the law, culminating in a house arrest that required Johnson to get a special dispensation so that he could participate in the Superbowl in Miami. The full details of Johnson's troubles with the law are compiled here, and it would take up far too much room to copy and paste. If you're not willing to read all that, here's a brief synopsis: he was arrested for illegal firearms, assault, resisting arrest, reckless driving, and driving while intoxicated, his house was searched and found to full of loaded, illegal weapons (there were children in the house), his friend and bodyguard was found in the house and arrested for pot. That same bodyguard then got shot and killed. Then after the 2006 Tank was arrested once more and finally released by the Bears, having played just three seasons for the team. He started just 15 games during that span, and record just 9 sacks. After being cut by the Bears, he spent 2007 and 2008 as a back up with the Cowboys before joining fellow bust Cedric Benson with the Bengals this offseason.

Nose Tackle-Michael Haynes. The other half of the Bear's two picks in the first round of the 2003 draft (Haynes went 14th overall, Grossman went 22nd) also makes this list. Haynes, a defensive end out of Penn State, was a one year wonder who racked up 15 sacks his senior year. After being taken by the Bears he failed to start a single game his rookie year or challenge Alex Brown for playing time. When Lovie Smith brought the Tampa 2 defense with him to Chicago, Haynes found himself a poor fit for the scheme. The Bears moved Haynes to defensive tackle (which is why he occupies this spot on the list), but he still failed to make a significant impact. He was traded to the Saints after the 2005 season after starting just 4 games and registering only 5.5 sacks in three years. The Saints released him after just one game, and he's been out of football since 2007.

Linebacker- At linebacker the Bears have hit on some great picks over the last few decades, from Rosevelt Colvin and Warrick Holdman to Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs. But they've made their fair share of mistakes at this position, and the defenses throughout much of the 1990s suffered because of two of three picks that make this team.

SLB- Ron Cox. A 2nd round pick in the 1990 draft, Cox spend 5 of his 7 seasons in Chicago in a reserve role, and never started more than 13 games in a season, made more than 56 tackles, had more than 3 sacks, and recorded only 1 career interception.

MLB- Dante Jones. The Bears second round pick in the 1988 draft, Jones spent his first five seasons riding the bench behind Hall of Famer Mike Singletary. Jones stepped finally stepped into the starting spot in 1993, and had a monster season, with 189 tackles, 4 interceptions, and a sack. Too bad he was a one year wonder and dropped to just 61 tackles with no sacks or interceptions before being benched in 1994. He was released after that season.

WLB-Michael Okwo. Much like his fellow 2007 draft pick, Dan Bazuin, a search for Dan Bazuin returns no results, because Okwo has also never played a single NFL down. The '07 third round pick from Stanford was also injured during his first preseason, required multiple surgeries, and was cut by the Bears before the 2008 season. He's currently a free agent.

Corner- The Bears have only drafted two first round corners since 1988 (Donnell Woolford and Walt Harris), and while neither one was spectacular, both were quality players, so there haven't been any Major draft whiffs at this position in my lifetime. They've even gotten good value from the corners they've drafted in the 2nd round in that time (Tillman and Hester, although Hester has obviously made his mark somewhere Other than corner). So that makes the two "busts" at this position merely two mediocre players-

LCB- Roosevelt Williams. A third round pick out of Tuskegee in 2002, Williams played in just 13 games (2 starts) for the Bears in 2002 with 9 tackles, 0 interceptions, and no pass deflections before being released after the 2002 season.

RCB- Jeremy Lincoln. A third round pick out of Tennessee in 1992, Lincoln started for just 2 1/2 seasons and was mostly pedestrian in pass coverage, recording only 5 interceptions in 47 games. He was cut before the 1996 season.

Safety- The Bears have drafted fairly well at the safety position the last two decades, drafting a couple Pro Bowlers (Mark Carrier, Mike Brown) and several guys who were at least of starting quality (Tony Parrish, Mike Green, and Chris Harris). The jury is still out on guys like Kevin Payne, and thus I'm forced to make some tough decisions at safety. Including...

FS- Danieal Manning. Drafted as a free safety out of Abilene Christian in 2006 (2nd round), Manning supplanted the aforementioned Chris Harris as the starter during the 2006 season. He was inconsistent at best (and a poor tackler), and he was moved to corner, then nickel, where's he's been inconsistent at best (and a poor tackler), with just 5 interceptions and 17 pass deflections in 46 career games. This year he's expected to start at free safety again (but play nickelback in passing situations). Hopefully he'll play his way off this list by being more consistent (and learning how to tackle. Did I mention he's a really bad tackler?).

SS- Todd Johnson. A 4th round pick out of Florida in the 2003 draft, Johnson was a prodigious hitter, but a poor fundamental player who missed as many tackles as he made and hasn't recorded a single interception in his 5 year career (3 years in Chicago, 2 in St. Louis). He was cut after the 2006 season.

Special Teams-

Punter- Todd Sauerbrun. You do not draft punters. If you do, don't draft them in the second round. To illustrate my point, in the entire 20 year time span that this covers, there have been only 16 punters drafted in the 4th round or higher. Only One of those was taken as high as the second round, and that was Todd. Apparently deciding the Bears had no greater needs (hint: they did), Dave Wannstedt in all his brilliance decided to spend the 56th overall pick in the 1995 draft on Todd Sauerbrun. It doesn't really matter what Sauerbrun has done with his long career (except that time in 2007 when he kicked it straight to Devin Hester twice and Hester ran it back both times for touchdowns), no punter is worthy of a second round pick. Not even Ray Guy. Nevermind spending it on asshole so selfish that during his time in Carolina he refused to step in as the emergency placekicker for the injured John Kasay unless the Panthers rescinded fines they had slapped on him earlier in the year for being overweight. Sauerbrun definitely belongs.

Kicker- Carlos Huerta. Huerta wasn't technically drafted, as most kickers aren't, but he belongs on here since he was a Bears rookie whom Dave Wannstedt decided was more worthy of the kicking job then veteran Kevin Butler. Huerta promptly missed three of his first seven field goals and was cut midseason in 1996.

Returner- Bobby Wade. Wade, a 5th round pick in 2003, was too low of a pick to make it as a wide receiver (nevertheless, he sucked), but he does make it as a returner. Wade was handed the punt-returner job in 2005 and fumbled a whopping 10 times. He was cut late that season and landed with Titans, then the Vikings, where he was most notable for mouthing off recently over comments Brian Urlacher may have made about Jay Cutler. Bobby is apparently unaware of the famous "don't talk unless you can back it up" aspect of smack-talking, since no one's trembling in fear of his career average 355 yards a year receiving skills.

Coaching Staff-

Head Coach- Dave Wannstedt. Who else did you expect to coach this roster of fail, considering he drafted, acquired (Mirer, Huerta), or re-signed (Spellman) most of it? Hired from the Dallas Cowboys before the 1993 season, Wannstedt refused to take the job unless promised control of personnel. Wannstedt was given control, VP Bill Tobin resigned, and the reign of terror began. After starting 32-32 with playoff appearance in his first four years, the rotting foundation that Wannstedt had built finally collapsed into an 8-24 finish in 1997 and 1998. Wannstedt's final career record in Chicago was a bumbling 40-56. After getting canned by the Bears, Wannstedt took over the Dolphins, where he made a few playoff appearances with the team Jimmy Johnson built before he slowly ground that team into the hell it's been in recently. He resigned in 2004 after starting 1-8, and the Dolphins have yet to recover, going 30-41 since his resignation. Most infuriating is Wannstedt's refusal to accept blame for the failure in Chicago, as he claims that the Mirer trade wasn't solely his idea, and that he had the roster set up for a Superbowl run in 1996 had the Bears not lost Erik Kramer to a neck injury (apparently he just overlooks that the team had started 1-3 With Kramer). Congratulations, Dave. This is where you belong.

Offensive Coordinator- John Shoop. This should be no surprise to anyone, even though Gary Crowton gave a strong argument, since Shoop was possibly the most ridiculed coach in Bears history Other than Wannstedt. Fond of wide receiver screens, dive plays, and three yard outs on 3rd and 10, Shoop managed the most schematically incompetent offense in Bears history. In his three years at the helm the Bears finished 26th, 29th, and 28th in offense. He was booed so vociferously that he was moved from the sidelines to the booth for his own protection. He too, belongs.

Defensive Coordinator- Gregg Blache. Blache, the genius known for uttering his most famous phrase "sacks really aren't important," commanded a Bears defense from 1999-2003 that finished an average of 20th in the league. His defense, built around giant, run stuffing defensive tackles that freed up the linebackers to make plays, worked for just one year, in 2001, a year most Bears fans will admit was a fluke. The only time the defense worked, in 2001, it was because of an absurdly high number of turnovers (37). In its other four years under Blache's tutelage, the Bears defense averaged just 25 turnovers a season, and managed an average rank of 21st in yards allowed and 22nd in points allowed. Blache has somehow managed to maintain a good reputation in the league, and is now the defensive coordinator for the Redskins, where he had to promise free agent Albert Haynesworth that he wouldn't force him to be a fat, gap plugging roadblock in his moronic scheme in order to get him to sign.

So there you have it, folks. We've now completed the entire roster of BearsFAIL, with a quick depth chart of-

HC- Wannstedt


DC- Blache








C- Zawatson

RG- Spears

RT- Colombo



DT- Haynes








SS- Johnson

P- Sauerbrun

K- Huerta

Returner- Wade.

Let me know what you think. Would they go 0-16? 2-14? Could they beat the Lions? Could they beat the University of Indiana?

Friday, August 7, 2009

The Roster of Broken Dreams, Bears Edition- The Offense!

Last year (with great help from the scholars at Hire Jim Essian!) I compiled a list of the worst pitchers and position players developed by the Cubs in my lifetime. This year I've decided to do the same for the Chicago Bears (once more with help from the HJE regulars). So here are the greatest Bears draft busts at every position taken during my lifetime (1988-onward)

Quarterback- As most football fans now, quarterback is where the Bears have struggled greatly to find stability for the last half century (hopefully that problem is now over with Cutler under center), and many draft picks have been wasted on the most important position on the field, the greatest three mistakes make up the team's depth chart-

1st String-Cade McNown. My feelings on McNown are well known. The weak armed, cocksure McNown was drafted out of UCLA with the 12th overall pick in the 1999 draft. The Bears chose to overlook his weak arm and somewhat questionable attitude because they felt that, as a four year starter, he was "NFL ready," and with his decent mobility they believed he could be a Jake Plummer type quarterback for them (why they thought that was a good thing I'll never know). Instead what they got was the single most despicable player in Bears history, one who alienated fans, teammates, coaches, and the media. He blamed his receivers' fatigue when he over threw them on deep routes. He blamed the offensive line when he failed to call the right protection. He told the fans to stay home if they wanted to boo him. He was, without a doubt, the worst Bears quarterback of many, and that's why he's right here at number one.

2nd String- Rick Mirer. While not a draft choice of the Bears, Mirer makes into onto this list because of the 1997 first round pick that the Bears traded to Seattle in order to obtain him. Why the Wannstedt Brain Trust ever decided that Mirer had what it took to be an NFL starter after having over 1500 passes worth of evidence to the contrary I'll never know. Mirer arrived in Chicago, failed to learn the offense quickly or push Erik Kramer out of the starting job, and failed miserably after being handed the job starting with the fourth game of the season. Mirer went 0-3 in 3 starts with a 37.7 rating, 0 tds, and 6 ints. The Bears were outscored 78-23 with Rick at the helm.

3rd String- Rex Grossman. This one sucks to put here, because I still, after everything, like Rex Grossman. I've never seen a player so brutally attacked by fans and hte media for so long and never lash out or break down. When he was on he was the best we've ever seen under center. When he was off, which sadly became the norm towards the end, he was absolutely brutal. I wish him luck in Houston, but there's no denying that at the end he was a bust.

Runningback- The Bears have a great history of runningbacks. Red Grange, Bronco Nagurski, Rick Casares, Gale Sayers, Walter Payton, Neal Anderson, and even Thomas Jones were all either solid or spectacular players. Anthony Thomas provided some quality yardage during the Jauron years. Matt Forte looks to be the real deal. But all of that greatness doesn't excuse three colossal busts at halfback-

1st string- Curtis Enis. A former Parade All American, Ohio Mr. Football, and two year starter at Penn State (where he rushed for 3,256 yards and 36 tds in roughly 2 1/2 seasons of work), Enis was who the Bears tabbed with the 5th overall pick in the 1998 draft. The Bears had been considering Marshall wide receiver Randy Moss, but decided that his attitude problems made him too much of a risk. The Bears initially tried to trade up in the draft to select either Ryan Leaf or Andre Wadsworth (so no matter which of the three they wound up with, all would have been busts), then refused offers from Jacksonville (which had two first round picks that year), New England (also had two first round picks), and St. Louis to trade down in the round so that they could have a crack at Enis. Enis then held out for a large contract for much of training camp in 1998. Head Coach Dave Wannstedt punished him by keeping him as a back up. Enis was finally given a start in the 9th game of the season, and promptly tore his ACL. He started 12 games in 1999 and rushed for 916 yards, but with a paltry 3.3 ypc average. By 2000 he had been shifted to fullback, and after that year was out of the league despite a comeback attempt with the Browns.

2nd String- Cedric Benson. I think I covered Benson enough the other day.

3rd String- Rashaan Salaam. It's more or less a toss up over whether Benson or Salaam was more disappointing. I give the victory to Benson because he was taken higher in the draft (4th overall vs. 21st), he pissed me off recently, and Salaam's 1995 season (1,074 yds, 10 tds) was actually pretty solid. Salaam, the 1994 Heisman winner, was he 21st pick in the 1995 draft out of Colorado. In Ron Turner's record breaking 1995 offense he was solid as a rookie, even if his fumbling habit (9 in 16 games) was a bit disturbing. After 1995 things went downhill for Salaam. He fumbled even more often, broke his leg, admitted to smoking a great deal of weed during his rehab and never managed to get back on track. He was released after the 1997 season, leading the Bears to draft Curtis Enis. And thus fail led to fail.

Fullback- The blocking back in most pro offenses isn't usually a position taken high in the draft, which usually means fullbacks are unlikely to show up on draft bust lists. However, the Bears did spend a first round pick (the 23rd overall) in 1988 on fullback Brad Muster.

Brad Muster-Muster was drafted to replace Walter Payton's backfield mate, Matt Suhey. While Muster's career statistics look good, he was often injured and never earned the respect or admiration that had been granted to Suhey. Most felt that he never earned his first round status, as it was likely that the Bears could have used that pick on a different position and still acquired a fullback in a later round. (Special thanks to HJE's Mike D. for the Muster description, as I'm a wee bit too young to remember him).

Wide Receiver- The Bears have never really had a standout wide receiver, despite occasional fluke seasons like Marcus Robinson's 1999 (1400 yds, 9 tds) and Marty Booker's solid 2001 and 2002 seasons. So it should be no surprise they've had their fair share of draft day wiffs at wideout.

WR #1- David Terrell. Terrell, a record setting wide receiver for Tom Brady and Drew Henson at Michigan, was the 8th overall pick in the 2001 draft. Terrell failed to pick up the offense, complained about his role in it, often suffered a case of the dropsies, and started just 14 games in his first three seasons for the Bears. In 2004 he had his first 100 yard receiving game in the season opener, then disappeared after the injury to Rex Grossman. He drew several penalties throughout the course of the season and quickly made his way onto Lovie Smith's shit list. He was released after the '04 season, spent on year with the Broncos, and has failed to catch on anywhere else since (including an attempt to make the Chiefs just last week).

WR #2- Mark Bradley. The man drafted in the 2nd round to replace Terrell started 4 games in his rookie season of 2005 before tearing his ACL. In his absence Bernard Berrian stole his job, and Bradley never started another game in 2006 or 2007. He too wound up on Lovie Smith's shit list for reasons unexplained. He was released in 2008 and now plays for the Chiefs.

Tight End- The Bears had struggled for many decades to replace Mike Ditka's production at tight end before signing Desmond Clark in 2003 and drafting Greg Olsen in 2007. Along the way they wasted a few draft picks on the pass-catching linemen, the most prominent being:

TE- John Allred. The Bears made Allred their first pick (2nd round) in the 1997 draft, making the first two rounds of that draft a complete waste including the pick sent to Seattle for Rick Mirer. The USC product started just 30 games in four seasons for the Bears and never had more than 109 receiving yards or 1 td in any of those years.

Offensive Line- The Bears have spent three first round picks on offensive tackles in my lifetime. Two of them have made this list. The third (Chris Williams) will be the starting right tackle this year. Here's hoping he doesn't supplant either of these two on This team. At guard they've had their fair share of whiffs, although fortunately guard isn't often a 1st round position:

Left Tackle- Stan Thomas. A pick that then head coach Mike Ditka thoroughly opposed, Thomas was the brain child of idiotic former Bears president Michael McCaskey. The 22nd overall pick in the 1991 draft, Thomas started just 7 games his rookie year, zero his second year, and was released by the Bears and washed out of the NFL by year three.

Left Guard- Bob Sapp. A third round pick by Wannstedt in 1997, Sapp was cut by new VP Mark Hatley BEFORE the 1997 season even started, and never appeared in a game in a Chicago Bears uniform. He started one game for the Vikings that year before leaving football in order to become an MMA fighter in Japan known as Bob "The Beast" Sapp. He also made a cameo in the remake of "The Longest Yard."

Center- Dave Zawatson. The Bears have drafted just two centers in my lifetime, one being an unimportant 9th round pick, and the other being Olin Kreutz, so no real busts at this position. Therefore I'm forced to take Dave Zawatson, a guard drafted in the 2nd round of the 1989 draft, and shift him to the middle. Zawatson played in just four games with zero starts his rookie year before being released.

(No Pic Available)

Right Guard -Marcus Spears. A 2nd round pick in the 1994 draft, Spears failed to crack the starting lineup in any of his three years in Chicago, and only made it into 9 games total, all in his third year. He was released after the '96 season and spent 8 years as a back up in Kansas City and Houston before retiring in 2003.
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Right Tackle- Marc Colombo. The Bears first round pick in 2002 (29th overall), Colombo got off to a promising start his rookie year before shredding his knee in the turf at St. Louis. Colombo then missed all of the 2003 season and most of the '04 season before returning. After appearing in just 9 games (2 starts) for the Bears in 2004 and 2005, Colombo was released and caught on with the Cowboys. He's started every game for Dallas the last three years, making him a contemptible bastard unworthy of his mother's love.

That wraps up the offensive half of the football for this team of failure. The defensive and special teams will be revealed on Monday.

You Don't Deserve Him!

Watch out, Denver fans. You mess with Kyle, you're messing with me.
Shrug it off, champ.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Why I'll Miss the Arena Football League

Won't Anyone think of Sonny Cumbie?

The Arena League, which had suspended the 2009 season in hopes of reorganizing for 2010, is now suspended indefinitely (meaning its dead). This news depresses me.

I realize the league never really gained a lot of popularity, but it did survive for 20 years. A lot of people didn't care at all for the games being shown on NBC or ESPN, but I did, and I'll tell you why:

It was fucking FOOTBALL, PEOPLE.

Don't look a god damn gift horse in the mouth. An entire league was willing to give us some form of football each spring/summer, and people let it die. Okay, so you couldn't grasp the 8 men teams, the "box", the MAC/JAC linebackers, the forward motion, the 50 yard field, who the hell cares? It wasn't the NFL. It didn't try to be. But it was televised football. What did you want to watch during that time period anyways? The NBA? Bullshit, I say.

You know why else the Arena League was great? Because it kicked ass when you could turn on a game between the Kansas City Brigade and the Colorado Crush and see Jonathan Quinn holding a clipboard. Yes, I loved watching NFL flameouts or college superstars lacking the right "tools" for the NFL wind up in the AFL. It's the reason I watch Canadian Football and the reason I'll watch the UFL this fall. I loved hearing about Alonzo Spellman trying to piece together all of his crazy and play for the Las Vegas Gladiators. It was good to see guys like Sonny Cumbie, who, like Graham Harrell couldn't even get an invite to training camp despite his big numbers at Texas Tech, get a chance to keep playing some form of football. Hell, the league did give us Kurt Warner, even if we couldn't stand his wife. Hopefully the UFL will pick up many of these guys, as will Arena Football 2 (which now becomes just AFL maybe? I don't know), which intends to keep playing this season (which is good because I was a season ticket holder for the Quad City Steamwheelers).

I don't care if it qualified somewhere south of real, professional football. It was football nonetheless, and I'll miss it. Goodbye, AFL.

Go UFL? (They have JP Losman AND Koren Robinson AND Simeon Rice. They can't fail!)

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Cedric Benson Sees Cedric Benson A Little Differently Than We See Cedric Benson

Oh Yeah, I miss this fucker

Let me take you back to draft day in 2005. Since I was about ten or eleven its been fun for me to try and make up my own mock draft and try to beat Mel Kiper. Several years I've been successful. Well, in 2005 I had my fantasy scenario drawn up for the Bears. I ignored the rumors that the Bears were looking at Texas runningback Cedric Benson, given that the only effective player on the offense in 2004 had been Thomas Jones. I decided that with a healthy Rex Grossman coming back (little did I know his preseason 2005 injury would lead to the rise of our hero, Mr. Orton), a healthy John Tait, Ruben Brown, and the free agent signing of Fred Miller all upgrading the offensive line, and Jones in the backfield, the Bears would actually be better off trading Down out of the fourth overall pick and picking up UAB wide receiver Roddy White, who I felt was far better than the buzz generated at the time for Mike Williams, Matt Jones, or Troy Williamson (I was right).

Alas, that was not to be, as the Bears stood pat and selected Cedric Benson, and I erupted with the fury of a thousand burning suns. What followed was three years of fail culminating in Benson's release (I'll fully recap his career with the Bears later in the article).

The Bears drafted Matt Forte, he quickly became one of the best backs in the league, Benson wound up in football purgatory (Cincinnatti), and all was well.

But wait! Mr. Benson apparently believes someone made a mistake!

Quoth the slow footed one: "I'm sure they know they made a mistake [releasing me], after the way I finished last season. But I'm not worried about them. It's in the past and I've moved on. I had a career-high in touches and yards in a little more than half a season, more than I ever had in Chicago. That tells you the story right there."

What story, exactly, does that tell? That you were a horribly ineffective back in Chicago and you improved in Cincinnatti, Cedric? Let's look:

Cedric Benson Career with Bears
2005- 9 G, 1 GS, 67 rush, 272 yards, 0 tds, 4.1 ypa, 1 rec., 3 yds, 0 tds.
2006-15 G, 0 GS, 157 rush, 647 yards, 6 tds, 4.1 ypa, 8 rec., 54 yds, 0 tds.
2007- 11 G, 11 GS, 196 rush, 674 yards, 4 tds, 3.4 ypa, 17 rec., 123 yds, 0 tds

The most important line you'll want to look at is 2007, when Benson was finally the starter, because he more or less implies later that he was never given a chance by the team.

Now, shall we look at Cedric's 2008, the one in which his vast improvement has stung the Bears with pangs of regret?

2008- 12 G, 10 GS, 214 rush, 747 yards, 2 tds, 3.5 ypa, 20 rec., 185 yds, 0 tds.

Holy shit! He's morphed into Barry Sanders overnight! He's averaging a whopping tenth of a yard more per carry! Heck he managed to average a whole yard more per game as a Bengal than he did as a Bear in 2007 (62.3 vs 61.3)! Just for the sake of comparison, lets compare the pitiful numbers Matt Forte posted last year which made us long for Anthony Thomas the Lesser:

2008: 16 G, 16 GS, 316 rush, 1,238 yards, 8 tds, 3.9 ypa, 63 rec, 477 yds, 4 tds

Hmm. That's odd. It's almost as though Forte was better in every single category than Benson's excellent 2008 campaign. That can't be! This was a mistake!

My favorite comment, however, is when Benson implies that the Bears organization never game him a chance with this : "I think the only person that wanted me there was Lovie [Smith],'' Benson said. "The Bengals sure hit the jackpot.''

First off, if the only person that wants you there is the head coach, congratufuckinglations, because he only decides WHO GETS TO FUCKING PLAY, YOU STRAIGHT LINE RUNNING BASTARD WHO COULDN'T EVEN OUT RUSH RASHAAN SALAAM! But alas, Jerry Angelo must also have wanted you, given his control over personnel. But just to examine Mr. Benson's implication the organization didn't give Him his opportunity, lets look at his career:

2005- Determined to work their new "power runningback" into the offense, the Bears declare an open competition for the starting job during training camp. Thomas Jones wins, because he was actually In training camp, unlike Benson, who MISSED THE ENTIRE CAMP WHILE HE WAS HOLDING OUT FOR MORE MONEY. Undaunted, Benson declares that he'll win the starting job by the third game of the season. He doesn't, as Thomas Jones has a far more effective season than Benson has had in his entire career, rushing for 1,335 yards and 9 tds with a 4.3 ypa average. Benson gets one start that year, against the 49ers, and leaves before half time with an injury.

2006- Upset that the Bears still seem determined to replace him after his outstanding year, Thomas Jones holds out of minicamps and is benched during training camp. The Bears are ready to hand the job to Benson before he gets hurt and misses most of the rest of training camp and the preseason, leaving the job in Jones's hands, who again goes out and has a better year than Benson's ever dreamed of, rushing for 1,210 yds and 6 tds. Benson actually plays effectively as the second back, averaging 4.1 ypc. During the Superbowl, however, Benson once more gets injured early and sits out the rest of the game.

2007- The Bears, determined to rid themselves of a highly productive runningback, for whatever reason, trade Thomas Jones to the New York Jets and annoint Benson the starter for the 2007 season. Benson responds with a 3.4 ypc average, and despite playing behind a subpar line (still, more or less the same line that Jones and Forte have had to work with), he still gets his fair share of the blame for his indecisiveness, inability to hit the hole, and complete lack of agility. Benson gets injured AGAIN against the Broncos and misses the last five games of the season.

During the 2007 offseason the Bears remain adamant that Benson will be in the mix for the starting runningback job, and they draft Matt Forte to push him in training camp. The Bears were forced by Benson's own hand to release him, however, when he got arrested twice in two weeks for alcohol related incidents (making it four times that he'd been arrested since college).

Benson than was picked up off the scrap heap by Cincinnatti, and he put up the great numbers he mentioned. Benson actually had three 100 yard games for the Bengals, (104 vs. the Jaguars, the league's 13th ranked run defense, 171 vs. the Browns, the league's 28th ranked run defense, and 111 vs. Kansas City, the league's 30th ranked run defense), but in the other 9 games he averaged just 40.1 ypg and 2.8 ypa. (For comparison, Forte also had just three 100 yard games, but in his other 13 averaged 65 ypg and 3.4 ypa)

So what this all adds up to is the fact that if you were paid $35 fucking million to be a feature back, and prove to be a brittle, whiny, slow moving bastard, don't try and blame the team for your failures.

Go to hell, Cedric. See you week 7. I can't wait to be on the other end of one of your patented 20 rush, 50 yd games.