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Friday, May 27, 2011

Killin' Time: My 20 Favorite College Football Players, #10-1

Part two of the list starts with...

#10 Ndamukong Suh, DT, Nebraska 2005-2009
I can't even pretend to dislike Ndamukong Suh. I know he made some pretty malicious hits last year (including the forearm shiver to Cutler that WAS a penalty, dammit, but not the reason the Lions lost the game, since it gave the Bears a wopping 7 yards on 2nd and short), and I know he will be holy terror for a shaky Bears offensive line once again next year. But frankly, he's an amazing player and, barring injury, probably a future hall of famer. I think he's just as, if not more, talented than a young Warren Sapp. Mancrushes are hard to break, and my mancrush on Suh dates back to 2007, because that was the first time I found out that his name means "House of Spears."

In 2008 and 2009 Suh absolutely destroyed the Big 12, with 161 tackles (AS A DEFENSIVE LINEMAN), 43 tackles for a loss, 19 1/2 sacks, 13 pass breakups, 3 interceptions, a forced fumble, and 2 defensive touchdowns in two full seasons as a starter. Those aren't mind blowing numbers for a defensive tackle. Those are pants-shitting, mind-blowing, uncontrollable flop sweat for an opposing center kinda numbers. I won't go over his rookie NFL numbers since that's a whole different story, but if you don't piss a wee bit every time you think of Nick Fairley and Suh side-by-side next year, well, you're a man without fear, sir.

We all know the game that cemented Suh in the hearts of college football fan's everywhere, when he had 4 1/2 sacks in the Big 12 Title game that ended in a 13-12 loss to Texas after the officials remembered that the league would lose millions if Texas Didn't go to the national title game (yeah, I went there). That performance that night (which earned him MVP honors in a losing effort)was damn near superhuman. So for that, I'm willing to overlook his current enemy status in favor of the sheer awesome that was his college career.

#9 Antwaan Randle El, QB, Indiana 1998-2001
There was a time, actually, when Indiana football was even more hapless than it is now. The late 90s was the absolute dark ages for Indiana football, and they went 18-37 in the Cam Cameron (failed head coach of the Dolphins, current OC for the Ravens) Era. The one thing Indiana had going for it during that time period, however, was one of the most electrifying QBs the Big 10+2 has ever had. Sure, Denard Robinson had an outstanding year this year (and he'll probably regress under new coach Brady Hoke) and rewrote the record books, but before that the last truly dynamic dual threat QB (sorry Troy Smith, Brad Banks, and Juice Williams) was Antwaan Randle El, who shattered records so fiercely during his freshman year that the Freshman of the Year award in the Big 4x3 is now named after him.

In his first ever game at Indiana, Randle had 467 total yards from scrimmage. That year, Randle El racked up 1745 yards passing and 873 yards rushing, to go along with 16 total TDs. He improved each year and finished his career with 7,469 yards and 46 TDs in the air to go along with 3,885 yards and 44 TDs on the ground. That doesn't sound as impressive as it used to in a world that's seen the likes of Vince Young, Tim Tebow, Cam Newton, and Denard Robinson, but bear in mind that this was over 10 years ago, before spread had truly taken hold, and in a conference that still doesn't like it much and ran out Rich Rodriguez as fast as it possibly could. What Randle El did in making Indiana at least respectable for a few years was a truly impressive feat, and he was fun as hell to watch. That's Top Ten stuff.

#8 Jared Zabransky, QB, Boise State 2003-2006
Jared Zabransky makes this list for three reasons: 1) He looked like he had just wandered in from a trailer park and decided to play football:
2) He led Boise State back before it was all "cool" to root for the Broncos #footballhipster 3)He led the most awesome comeback in the most exciting finish to a college football game I've ever seen, the 2007 Fiesta Bowl. Nevermind that on the two incredibly exciting plays that finished the game (the tight end reverse pass for the TD and the Statue of Liberty 2 pt conversion) he just handed the ball off or pitched it. I will always fondly remember him for his effort in that game.

Also, he's now a journeyman quarterback in the Canadian Football League, which, as you know, scores points with me.

#7 Kyle Orton, QB, Purdue, 2001-2004
You had to know he'd make this list at some point. He actually doesn't rank as high as his God-like Boilermaker predecessor (spoiler alert), but at the time I thought Kyle was the balls. I've got some family ties to the Purdue University that have given me more than a casual rooting interest in them, and I was pulling hard for them in the last three years of the Orton Era (since Ron Turner was busy tanking Illinois into the depths of the sea). Orton was a full-time starter for his last three years and completed over 60% of his passes with a nearly 3-1 TD:INT ratio in that time. Even then, however, his game manager limitations were apparent if anyone cared to look. His sophomore and junior years he threw just 13 and 15 touchdown passes, respectively. He averaged a relatively mediocre (for a spread QB) 7.0 YPA those two years, and he had a tendency to fade down the stretch against tough conference opponents. However, I mostly watched him shredding the cheesecake defenses of the Illini, so I thought he was awesome. I still like the guy, even after the last couple years have made me take shots at him more than I'd like. So here's one more post reminding us why we liked him in the first place. Thanks, Kyle. Purdue's sucked since you left.

#6. Steve Slaton/Pat White, QB & RB, West Virginia 2005-2007
This may be cheating, but it's my list, so what the hell. For three years Steve Slaton and Pat White were uttered in the same sentence as one two-headed monster that ran roughshod through the Big East and put Rich Rodriguez's run-heavy Spread Option on the map. It's pretty safe to say that without Pat White there'd absolutely be no Denard Robinson and there probably wouldn't be a Cam Newton since Arkansas may not have taken a chance on Guz Malzahn's similar offensive scheme.

In the three years that Slaton and White were together for the Mountaineers (I'll ignore Pat's solo effort in 2008), West Virginia was 33-5 and won 3 Bowl games (2 BCS). White averaged 2,571 yards total yards of offense during those three years (despite only starting midway through his freshman year thanks to an injury) and had 74 total touchdowns in that time period. Slaton averaged 1300 yards rushing a year, had 50 rushing touchdowns, and also had 805 receiving yards and 5 receiving TDs in that time. They were a lethal combination that was both must-see TV and fun as hell to play as in NCAA Football videogames. Dave F*&king Wannstedt ruined their national title hopes with a 13-9 upset win in the last game of the regular season in 2007, but that's the only black mark on one of the more impressive three-year runs in college history.

#5. Jared Lorenzen, QB, Kentucky 2000-2003
I shouldn't even have to explain it. Hell besides his pretty excellent stats, I'm just going to explain why Jared Lorenzen cracks the top five in images:

If you never saw Jared Lorenzen chugging his way through a hapless defender on a five yard bootleg, I can only say that you live in a world of such profound sadness that I have nothing but the utmost pity for you. God he was awesome.

#4. Rex Grossman,QB, Florida 2000-2002
I've mentioned this before, but the reason I had such an incredibly difficult time joining the bench Grossman bandwagon was because I absolutely loved watching him in college. Steve Spurrier will always be one of my favorite figures in all of sports just because he's an ornery dick and his drawing-plays-in-the-sand style of game managing baffled and confused everybody. He was Mike Leach before there was a Mike Leach, and he got great results out of noodle-armed QBs like Shane Matthews and Danny Wuerffel. Grossman, however, was the first QB Spurrier had who could go deep on anybody and everybody, and the results were incredible. As we learned in Chicago, Rex had no ability whatsoever to fit balls into tight spots, make difficult reads, or throw intermediate passes with any regularity. That didn't matter at Florida, because Spurrier and Rex went deep all the god damn time, and that was all that mattered. Hell, Rex never shook the mentality that Spurrier instilled in him, because in 2000 and 2001 it made him one of the best QBs that the SEC has ever seen.

Rex took over for Jesse Palmer (the guy from the Bachelor who know dumbs up ESPN's college football coverage) as a redshirt freshman in 2000 and completed over 60% of his passes for 21 touchdowns (against just 7 interceptions) and had a rating of 161.8(109.5 on the NFL scale) in just about half a season as a starter.

2001, though, was when Rex cemented my mancrush. Throwing deep on nearly every play, he set every single season passing record Florida had while completing 65.6% of his passes for 3896 yards, 34 TDs, 12 INTs, and a 170.8 rating (113.9 NFL). He got absolutely jobbed of the 2001 Heisman trophy in the closest race ever (sorry, but Eric Crouch, with all of his running ability, didn't even come close to Rex in total yardage or touchdowns). Rex averaged a ludicrous 9.9 yards per attempt that year.

Of course, we know how the story ends. Spurrier leaves, Ron Zook comes in, Rex declines majorly in a whole new system, he jumps to the NFL and quickly learns that a quarterback needs a hell of a lot more than the ability to throw the ball downfield in order to be successful. But damn, can you really blame me for thinking he was going to be awesome?

#3 Rashard Mendenhall, RB, Illinois 2005-2007
The second Illini on the list, Rashard Mendenhall makes it despite being woefully underutilized by Ron Zook his first two years on campus. I know Pierre Thomas was there and he was awesome, but there's no excuse for Mendenhall only having 126 carries before 2007, especially when he 6.8 yards per rush on those carries.

Mendenhall was unleashed in 2007 and showed off a combination of size, speed, athleticism, and receiving skills that probably will never be matched by another Illini, despite Mikel LeShoure's incredibly similar season last year. Mendenhall was so close to the platonic ideal of a runningback that I may never get over him. Too bad he decided not to enter the draft and has never taken an NFL snap* His 2007 season was beyond awesome as he racked up 1,681 yards rushing and 17 touchdowns on the ground along with 318 yards and 2 TDs through the air. He came up one yard shy of 2,000 yards from scrimmage. After that he was gone, giving Ron Zook a valuable lesson that you should ride your studs for the three years that you have them before they jet off to the NFL (what's that? He didn't learn and Mikel LeShoure had just 143 carries in two years before his junior year? F*&k). But no ineptitude on Zook's part can erase any of the memories of Rashard's total ownage that year.

#2 Drew Brees, QB, Purdue, 1997-2000Oh, no, my Drew Brees bandwagon didn't begin last year when I rode the Saints to a Superbowl win. It began all the way back in 1998, when the undersized Breesus first burst onto the scene with 39 touchdown passes for a Purdue team that rode his arm to a 9 win season. Breesus followed that year up taking Purdue to bowls in both 1999 and 2000, including the Rose Bowl, and racking up two more first team All Big Ten Honors, winning Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year, finishing 4th in the balloting for the 2000 Heisman Trophy, and just kicking major ass in every possible way. He finished his career 116 total TDs (90 passing, 14 rushing, 2 receiving) and nearly 12,000 yards passing. Then, much to my dismay, he was snagged by the Chargers in the 2nd round, who totally didn't appreciate him like I do. We all know what he's done since then. Man, Breesus is so f*&king awesome.

1. Kurt Kittner, QB, Illinois 1998If someone claims to be a fan of the Illini sports and doesn't know who Kurt Kittner is, that person should be shot. Kurt Kittner was a four year starter for Ron Turner's Illini and was the only reason Ron wasn't fired about four years before he was. In Kittner's two healthy seasons as the full-time starter (1998) the Illini were 18-6, and they narrowly missed a bowl game in 2000 after they lost their final game when Kittner sat out with a concussion. In the 1999 MicronPC Bowl (now the Champs Sports Bowl) Kittner led Illinois to a 63-21 demolishing of Virginia. In that game Kittner threw for 254 yards and 2 TDs, added a rushing TD, and hit the trifecta when he caught a 30 yard touchdown pass from Brandon Lloyd. Kittner was named the game MVP after the most impressive individual performance by any Illinois player not named Red Grange.

Kittner's senior season was the finest season the Illini have had in my lifetime, however, and it is that which makes him my all time favorite. Illinois went 10-2 in 2001 and won the first (and so far only) Big Ten title they've won in my lifetime. Kittner that year threw for 2994 yards on 374 attempts (for a nifty 8.0 ypa) with 23 TDs and a 135.9 rating (85.7 NFL). Kittner finished his career with a career line of 668/1229 (54.4%), 8,460 yards, 66 TDs, 33 INTs, 6.9 YPA, and a 124.5 rating (82.8). The numbers are pretty good, but they don't do Kurt justice, because the main reason I will always love Kurt Kittner is that Illinois was actually above average with him at QB. That's a pretty mighty accomplishment.

Kurt went on to start a few games for the Falcons after Michael Vick broke his leg in 2003, and he sucked. Then he was cut by a billion other teams before winning the last NFL Europe World Bowl with Jarrett Payton as his runningback. All of that just makes me love him more.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Killin' Time: My 20 Favorite College Football Players, #20-11

I've spent the last couple weeks wasting some time by railing against Brian F*&king Griese and Trent Dilfer. Sure, the vitriol was exciting and cathartic, but today I've decided to make a brief departure from rants and focus on a topic that brings me great joy: College football.

Now, this is a football blog, and I touch on college football frequently, although to nowhere near the extent that I focus on the NFL and the Bears. You've probably picked up that I'm a fan of the Fighting Illini. One of the things I love about college football, however, is that I'm nowhere near as attached to Illinois as I am to the Bears. Whereas Illinois is certainly my favorite team and I've followed them even in the darkest of days, I can actually flip to a more interesting game when Illinois is getting destroyed, something I can rarely make myself do in the case of the Bears. This has allowed me to watch hours upon hours of college football from all different conferences and teams, and in my lifetime I've had a few players that I've truly enjoyed watching, all for different reasons. So, since this intro is taking long enough already, here are the first batch of my #20 favorite college football players of my life, with the reasons why I love them:

#20: Reggie Ball, QB, Georgia Tech 2003-2006
I'll begin right here by saying that not all of the players on this list were actually good players. Part of the reason why college football is so awesome is that it's not as monolithic and as personality-less as the NFL, and players aren't all held to the same standard. Terrible players will sometimes stick around for a long time, even though no one knows why. Reggie Ball was one of those guys. I love Reggie Ball for a number of reasons. 1) He's still the reason I laugh whenever someone says Chan Gailey is a "Quarterback Guru," 2) He was the worst four year starter at QB in the history of the sport. 3) He was an idiot.

Reggie started out great at Georgia Tech, throwing for nearly 2000 yards as a freshman and winning ACC Rookie of the Year in 2003. Then the next three years happened, where he never again completed even half of his passes (49.7, 48.0, 44.4), had just one year with more TDs than interceptions, lost to rival Georgia four straight times, and yet he was never even remotely challenged for the starting job. He was like the college version of the NFL version of Rick Mirer (yeah, that makes sense) and just kept getting opportunities and regressing every step of the way.

The best Reggie Ball moment? Well, if it wasn't him finishing his career by losing to Georgia for the fourth time, losing the ACC Championship game, and getting suspended for his final collegiate bowl game, it was the 2004 Georgia game, where Reggie earned the nickname "5th Down Reggie" by intentionally throwing the ball out of bounds to stop the clock...on 4th down.

So Reggie Ball, you make the list because you continued to play QB and ambush some pretty talented GT teams when everyone in the country but Chan Gailey knew you should have been converted into a wide receiver your sophomore year. You're the reason I laugh when I realize that Chan Gailey is an NFL head coach. You were awful, and yet awesome because of it.

#19. Jehuu Caulcrick, RB, Michigan State 2004-2007
This one's going to be short and sweet. I love Jehuu Caulcrick because he was enormous, his name sounded like a Lovecraftian Old One, he was always underutilized by the mono-digit IQ'd John L. Smith, and he led to one of my favorite lines in one of my favorite rants of all-time, this guy, losing his shit on the radio after Michigan State blew a big lead and lost to Notre Dame in 2006:

If you have the time, I strongly encourage listening to both parts of this epic rant. If you don't just start playing part 2 as he screams that "JEHUU CAULCRICK WAS A GOD DAMN BOWLING BALL" and complains about Smith giving carries to Javon Ringer while he emphatically states "NOTRE DAME WANTED NO PART OF JEHUU CAULCRICK". Excellent stuff.

Yeah...that's the kind of stuff that'll get you on this list.

#18. Ron Dayne, RB, Wisconsin 1996-1999
There are all kinds of quarterbacks who get derided in the draft as being "system" guys. Mostly spread QBs. Their numbers are hollow because of the system and the number of attempts and the kinds of throws blahblah. I love Ron Dayne because Ron Dayne finally gave runningbacks the equivalent to a system QB. We know now that Ron Dayne was just the first fatass in a long line of bowling balls to gain huge yardage behind the beefy Wisconsin O-lines built by Barry Alvarez and Brett Bielema (see P.J. Hill and John Clay), but then? My God, he was amazing.

Dayne finished his career as the all-time leading rusher in NCAA history after gaining 6,397 yards rushing as a four year starter (along with 63 (!) career rushing TDs) and closing it out with the 1999 Heisman Trophy. He was a monster. I used to love watching undersized college safeties try to tackle him. Plus, this was back when Wisconsin had only recently stopped sucking all the time, so you rooted for them since they weren't Ohio State and Michigan. I thought for sure that Ron Dayne would win 4-5 rushing titles with the Giants and would send that baldheaded freak Tiki Barber to Canada. That didn't happen, sadly, because it turns out he was just fat and slow and ran behind an offensive line that could propel a one-legged geriatric to at least 500 yards rushing. But I'll never forget the way you thrilled the nation once, Ron Dayne.

17. Chris Weinke, QB, Florida State, 2000
I liked Chris Weinke because he was a 28 year old senior who had failed as a minor league pitcher, had a drastically receding hair line, emerged for one year and absolutely destroyed college football. Despite my hatred of Bobby Bowden, it was hilarious and awesome to watch a guy pushing 30 as he threw for 33 TDs and 4000+ yards on his way to being the oldest Heisman and national title-winning QB ever. The fact that he went to the NFL, won his first game as a 29 year old rookie, and then lost his next 17 straight starts over the next five years made it even more hilarious. Oh, Chris. You were one of the great absurdities of college football, and I'll always appreciate that.

16. Timmy Chang, QB, Hawaii, 2000-2004
Timmy Chang was great because he was an Asian Ty Detmer, and apparently there was a need for one of those. Timmy broke almost all of Detmer's passing records in June Jones' Run'n'Shoot offense at Hawaii (yeah, June Jones is Still running the Run'N'Shoot) despite having no certifiable talent at throwing the football (much like Ty Detmer, actually). Chang ended up with 17,072 career passing yards on a whopping 2436 attempts. The best part? The only other NCAA record Chang set was his 80 career interceptions, since his senior year was the only one where didn't throw at least 20. His TD totals for his four full seasons (he had an injury-shortened redshirt sophomore year) were pretty pedestrian for a guy with as many attempts as he had (19, 25, 29, and finally 38). He didn't even receive so much as a look as a third quarterback in the NFL, as the Cardinals, Lions, and Eagles all cut him in training camp. He went on to post some incredibly mediocre numbers as a starter in the now-defunct NFL Europe and in the CFL. Simply put, he set a bunch of records solely because he was there and June Jones was going to have somebody throw it 600 times a year. The fact that half the people reading this article could have done exactly what Timmy did is the very reason why he's on this list.

15. Rocky Harvey, RB, Illinois 1998-2001
The first Illini to make this list, Rocky was a speedster who may have underperformed somewhat based on the high expectations generated from his first game as a freshman (he rushed for 215 yards vs. Middle Tennessee), but was always the speedy half of a platoon with Steve Havard and then Antoineo Harris and was a home run threat every time he touched the ball. He finished his career with over 3200 yards from scrimmage and 22 career touchdowns. Illinois has had some great bruising runningbacks in my day (Harris, Mendenhall, and LeShoure especially), but Harvey was one of the few burners that I remember watching excitedly every time he touched the ball. Also, his name sounded like a detective from a 1930s noire film, so I hope he's doing well in his post-football career as a vigilante.

14. The Texas Tech QBs of the Mike Leach Era, 2000-2009
This is the spot I'd actually give to Mike Leach if he were a player, but his interchangeable parts at QB will have to do. Mike Leach was one of, if not the, foremost minds behind the spread offense and his particular brand, the Air Raid, made Tim Couch into a star at Kentucky, won a national title for Oklahoma, and then revitalized the Texas Tech program. Whereas I can rightfully crtique Mike Martz for abandoning the run in the NFL, the wide open nature of the college game means that it's nothing short of badass when Leach racks up a 69-3 pass-to-run ratio in a game (yes, it happened, although the box score eludes me) and is still throwing deep up 52-21. Yarr. Craig James managed to get Leach fired by complaining about Leach's treatment of his son (who by all accounts is a royal asshole who is lying through his teeth and actually had fewer receptions and yards under Leach's replacement), but I'll never forget the way he could plug in a totally different warm body at QB and lead the nation in passing, which he did with Kliff Kingsbury (2002), B.J. Symons (2003), Sonny Cumbie (2004), and Graham Harrell (2007-2008). Two of the top three leaders in career passing attempts in NCAA history are Leach players. Six of the top ten passing attempts in a season are Texas Tech QBs (Symons (719), Harrell (713), and Kingsbury (712) are #1,2,3). Mike Leach, I miss you, you crazy sonofabitch. Someone will give you a shot, and I will be watching.

13. J Leman, LB, Illinois, 2004-2007
J Leman was a tackling machine for the Illini who had over 130 tackles in each of his last two seasons, to go along with 8 1/2 career sacks and 6 career forced fumbles. He was too slow for the NFL and hasn't managed to escape the practice squad, but he was an All-American and the heart and soul of the 2007 Illini squad that went to the Rose Bowl. During the Illini upset of Ohio State that year, ABC played a video from an interview with J Leman in which he called himself "king of the jungle" and explained that the Illini defense's mentality could be compared to a "pack of 11 hyenas." He had big hair and big personality, and for all of his lack of talent, he was far more productive than the five-star one year wonder that was Martez Wilson. He's also an American hero.

12. Darren McFadden, RB, Arkansas, 2005-2007
This one's self-explanatory if you ever watched him at Arkansas. Darren shredded SEC defenses to the tune of 4,590 yards and 41 touchdowns rushing in three years despite splitting carries with Felix Jones. He also added 365 yards and 2 TDs receiving and he threw for SEVEN touchdowns while completing 14 of 22 career pass attempts in the WildHog. He threw a very mediocre Arkansas team on his back and dragged them all the way to the SEC Title Game, all while attempting to save Houston Nutt's job despite Houston's refusal to help himself. Darren's finally healthy and finally living up to the hype in Oakland, but I'd remember his dominance in Fayetteville regardless.

11. Tim Couch, QB, Kentucky, 1996-1998.
My love for Mike Leach actually began with Tim Couch's reign at Kentucky. Of course, back then we had no idea that it was system that was so great, we just thought Couch was amazing and that they threw the ball 500+ times a year because of that fact. Couch was awesome for his last two years at Kentucky. He dragged an absolutely moribund Kentucky football program out of the depths and took them to their first bowl game in years. He shattered SEC records that weren't topped until Tim Tebow came along. He seemed to be the prototype of everything you could want in a quarterback. I still remember watching him and Peyton Manning trade blows in the 1997 Kentucky-Tennessee game as they racked up a combined 999 yards passing and 8 TD passes. Tennessee pulled a way late to make it a 59-31 blowout, but the game was much closer and much more exciting than the score indicated for much of the afternoon. Tim left early to be the #1 pick in the 1999 NFL draft, and we all know how that ended up, but his Kentucky tenure introduced us all to an offense that would revolutionize football and was exciting as hell to watch, even if we misdirected the credit.

Oh, and if you want my passionate defense of Tim Couch's NFL career, go here.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

In Review- The Defensive Line

The journey continues. My offseason review of each unit on the 2010 Bears now arrives at Rod Marinelli's beloved "Rush Men." Without further ado, we start with:

#71 Israel Idonije, Defensive End/Tackle
There are always players who excel in bit roles that become fan favorites, resulting in fans calling for them to receive more playing time. Most of the time the players tend to disappear when they earn more playing time, since (loathe as we are to admit it) coaches tend to know the players on their own roster best and they knew better than to make the guy a starter. Izzy's one of those guys, however, that was finally given a chance to start (after he solidly whipped Mark Anderson's ass in the offseason) and played extremely well, with 8 sacks, 3 forced fumbles, 1 pass defensed, and a ton of pressures, mostly from the left defensive end spot.

Now, I'm aware that Izzy also benefitted greatly from the attention given to Julius Peppers, but that's not an excuse to entirely dismiss his production. Not everybody that plays on the opposite end of a star can take advantage like Izzy did. If you want proof, look at Mark Anderson himself, both in his brief appearances as a Bear this year and his longer stint as the bookend to Mario Williams in Houston. Anderson had just 4 sacks in 15 games. Idonije's also valuable in that his size still gives him the versatility to move inside in pure passing situations, allowing the team to bring in another pure pass rusher like Corey Wootton in those spots. I'd expect nothing but the same next year from Israel, although he may have to split more time with Wootton, but not through any fault of his own.

#98 Corey Wootton, Defensive End
When Corey was drafted in the fourth round last year, we were told he was a first round talent that had fallen to the fourth due to injury. That smelled like bullshit when he didn't dress for the first ten games of the season, but he was activated late once he was 100% and he made an impact throughout the last part of the season. He has only 5 tackles and 1 sack to show for the limited work he got in the last 6 games, but he was coming on strong and even had a tackle for a loss in the playoff game against Seattle. No one's asking much of Corey other than to give a breather to Peppers and Idonije, so the upside he has is a major plus for the job he's asked to do. I'd expect him to earn more playing time next year and maybe even be the pass-rush specialist that Mark Anderson was in 2006, with Idonije doing most of the grunt work like Alex Brown.

Oh yeah, that one sack of Corey's ended Brett Favre's career. He's a f*&king God.

Is it bad that 'erotic' is the word I use to describe that video? It's bad, isn't it?

#69 Henry Melton, Defensive End/Tackle

I was pretty skeptical when the Bears spent a fourth round pick on a fat runningback from Texas to be a defensive lineman, especially when the need seemed too pressing to waste a draft pick on a project, but this year Henry really proved his worth. Henry played in all 16 games and produced 16 tackles, 3 sacks, a forced fumble, and a pass breakup. Not bad for a guy who was new to the position and spent most of the year in a six man rotation with Idonije, Tommie Harris, Matt Toeaina, Marcus Harrison, and Anthony Adams. Henry, like Izzy, can play both end and tackle and my guess next year is that Melton and Toeaina will begin the year as the starters, but I would assume that Paea will work his way in soon and the three will end the year with a similar number of snaps.

#75 Matt Toeaina, Defensive Tackle
Matt was another great practice squad find by Lovie and Jerry (I actually mean that. If there's one position where they've found some value on the waiver wire, it's defensive tackle) similar to Anthony Adams, which is interesting, since he'll probably be the reason why Anthony won't be back this year. Toeaina's not a star, but he's a badass Polynesian (soon NFL rules will require that all offensive and defensive lines shall be at least 40% Polynesian)and he's a workhorse that will give quality reps as part of the rotation Lovie likes to use at that position. For the year he made it into all 16 games, with 24 tackles, 2 sacks, and 2 pass breakups. Again, I look forward to seeing Matt, Melton, and Paea next year as their youth and energy should keep teams from neutralizing Julius Peppers. The Bears appear to have regained the depth in the middle that they had back in the 05-06 heyday, when Tommie Harris, Ian Scott, Tank Johnson, and Idonije would just overwhelm opponents and stifle the run game. This is good news, since...

#91 Tommie Harris, Defensive Tackle
Is gone, and he ain't comin' back. I mean that both in the literal sense, since he's a free agent and won't be re-signed, and figuratively, since the Tommie Harris that we'd all been hoping to see return is gone forever and has been since the end of 2007. I appreciate Tommie for the beast that he once was, and, while I hope Paea can replace some of that production, I'm well aware we're not likely to see a tackle of the caliber that Tommie used to be any time soon. That's the past, though, and I applaud Lovie and Jerry for actually managing to let go of sentiment when they benched and deactivated Tommie this year not out of any disciplinary reason, but simply because it made the Bears a better football team. I wish Tommie well, but I'm quite confident the Bears won't regret letting him go.

#95 Anthony Adams, Defensive Tackle
I said above that I don't think Anthony will be re-signed, even though Urlacher stated recently that they need him. I think the Bears will probably let him test the market and will only bring him back at their price, not his. Anthony's 31, but he is a workhorse and, while his numbers won't wow you for a veteran starter (4 sacks and 2forced fumbles in the last two years) he'd be an upgrade for someone. I'd be happy if the Bears did manage to bring him back (especially since the alternative is giving Marcus Harrison another shot at trying to avoid eating his way out of the NFL), but I think it's unlikely.

#99 Marcus Harrison, Defensive Tackle
The thing most people know about Marcus (if they know anything about him at all) is that he was practically handed a starting job before training camp in 2009 and he showed up completely overweight. Hell, I'd be shocked if he's even at the 312 lbs he's listed at right now (and that's already the heaviest listed weight of any Bears d-lineman). He's a waste of talent and an even bigger waste of space, but I'm not sure if Lovie's entirely soured on him yet, even though he was active for just five games last year and completely flopped when given increased reps in Tommie's place. Hopefully, if the Bears Do let Adams walk, Harrison will finally motivated to put down the fork. I doubt it, though.

#90 Julius Peppers, Defensive End
It's hard to overstate just how awesome Julius Peppers is. I have a tendency to roll my eyes whenever I hear someone say something like "____ just does so many things for a team that don't show up on a stat sheet..." but Julius gives me pause. Every offense the Bears faced this year had to account for Julius Peppers on every single play. I can't remember the last time the Bears had a pass rusher that you could say that about. Ogunleye was alright when he had Tommie making it easy for him, but he disappeared about the same time Tommie did without any injury as an excuse. Peppers is just an absolute wrecking machine.

I'm not going to give him complete credit for turning around the Bears defense, as about half of that credit goes to a healthy trio of Urlacher/Briggs/Tinoisamoa giving the Bears their best linebacking corps since Urlacher/Holdman/Colvin in 2001 and improved safety play from Manning and Chris Harris, but the other half is Peppers by himself. You can't run around him, you have to devote at least two blockers to him on every play, you can't even throw it Over him most of the time, and you sure as hell can't escape him once he breaks free. He deserved his place on the All Pro team, even with just 8 sacks to his name (along with 43 tackles, 2 interceptions, 9 pass breakups, and 3 forced fumbles, of course). He gets my vote for Team MVP. I'd expect an even better season out of him next year, even at age 31, thanks to the relief I hope he'll get from the presence of Stephen Paea. I'd settle for more of the same, though.

Julius Peppers is the balls.

The Most Brilliant Way to Waste 90 Minutes Known to Man

So I did the Puckcast with the guys over at Hockeenight last night. You should go have a listen if you want to actually Hear me make obscure references to former Bears players (and by that you all know I mean Henry Burris) whilst supposedly trying to discuss hockey and the NFL lockout. Most importantly, go if you just wanna have fun.

Friday, May 20, 2011

How to Go Out In Style, SKO-Style, That Is.

If you haven't heard, the world is ending tomorrow. Now, I'm a pretty open-minded individual (ask anybody, if there's one thing I'm known for it is total respect for the views and opinions of others) so I'm willing to believe this is true. Now, reports I'm hearing are either 5 or 6 PM tomorrow, depending on whether Jesus comes back on Eastern or Central time. So i figure to be safe I need to wrap up all of the debauchery I have planned by 4 so that I can get in a quick repentance and be all ready when he comes in. Someone tried saying "well what if he comes at like, 6 PM middle eastern time, since that's where he lived and all," but we all know Jesus will work on American time because he's the finest American that ever lived (for those who say Jesus wasn't American, I can only ask this: Why is my Bible written in English, smart guy?)

So that leaves me from the time I get off work today at 11 till about 4 tomorrow to get in everything I need to do before the world ends. Now, this isn't a concrete list, and, out of respect for the ladies, we'll ignore any debauchery of the co-ed kind (I think this is a PG-13 blog, anyway), so let's just focus on what we do best: drinking, football, unmitigated rage. Anywho, onto the list:

- Charge three or four bottles of this stuff to my credit card, consume as much as humanly possible:

God I love a good, peaty single-malt scotch. The more fossil fuel you have in your scotch, the more worthy you are to be standing proud at the end of time. Fact.

-Fly to California, find Cade McNown. Tie him up, force him to read my rant against him (if he hasn't already, and let's face it: he probably has), then release him to sit in gloom and think about what he's done until the apocalypse comes.

-While in California, head to the Skywalker Ranch and pistol whip George Lucas soundly with the butt of Han Solo's blaster until he apologizes for everything he's done since he started the damn Special Editions of the original trilogy of Star Wars (assuming I can get through the crowd of people who probably have the same idea).

-Find Brian F*&king Griese. Challenge him to a duel and take advantage of his lack of knowledge regarding dueling etiquette (Brian is very stupid, folks) and name broadswords as my weapon of choice. Once I have cleaved him in twain I shall finally have peace.

-Find out the best Indian restaurant in the country, go there and eat their Saag Paneer. It may not sound like much, but that stuff is more addicting than heroin.

-Hold a gun to Rick Morrissey's head and force him to confess that he's only trashed every thing Jay Cutler's done for two years because he wrote that the Bears shouldn't trade for him back when he thought there was no chance of it happening and that he's just too stubborn to say he was wrong. Point out to everyone his uncontrollable, panicked urination.

-Shots of Jeppson's Malort with the fellas over at

-Finally feel safe to admit that I've never even watched Conan O'Brien.

-Slap and tickle with Jay Cutler. I really think we'd be best friends.

-Skydiving. Naked. Oh yeah.

-Challenge John Shoop to a staring contest.

-Shoot a man in Reno. Watch him die.


-Ride a grizzly bear.

-Pull off complicated, Hollywood-style bank heist with team of close friends, complete with fiery shootout with SWAT team.

-Spend last few hours with fiancee and family and whatnot. Act really sorry about some stuff. Chill for the rest of eternity.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Hater's Guide to Jay Cutler's Offseason

If there's one thing I know with absolute certainty, it's that the Jay Cutler detractors aren't a very bright bunch. Instead of railing against them as I normally do, however, today I'm going to lend them a hand. Let's review Jay's offseason and tell them exactly How to frame their arguments against him, that way they have to think even less than usual.

January 23rd: Cutler has the gall to take the stairs at a restaurant the very same night after exiting the game.

Hater's Response: Nevermind that we saw him walking at the stadium or that he even went into the game and attempted to play a series on the bad knee, I FORGET THAT EVIDENCE IN LIEU OF THE FACT THAT ANYBODY WHO HAS SUFFERED A KNEE INJURY IS UNABLE TO WALK, DAMMIT. THIS IS THE SMOKING GUN, JAY.

January 27th: Cutler walks around Los Angeles with then-girlfriend (now fiancee) Kristin Cavallari.


March 11th: In order to block lockout, NFL players, led by Drew Brees, Peyton Manning, and Tom Brady, file an antitrust lawsuit against the league.


April 26th: Jay Cutler proposes to Kristin Cavallari.


April 30th: Bears draft Nathan Enderle, QB from Idaho, in the 5th round.

Hater's Response: EVEN MIKE MARTZ KNOWS THAT CUTLER SUCKS/conveniently ignore that Bears drafted Dan LeFevour in the 6th last year.

May 14th: Caleb Hanie says that Cutler and Bears haven't organized any player workouts, like illustrious QBs like Jason Campbell have done.


May 16th: Cutler tells Sean Jensen of the Sun Times that Bears were "locked and loaded" and offensive players would work out "soon," but wouldn't say when or where.


That should bring us up to date. I can't help but notice that this lockout is still going on. I'm not saying Jay Cutler is responsible BUT IT SURE WOULD MAKE SENSE NOW, WOULDN'T IT?

Actually, if you need any more reasons why you should totally hate Jay Cutler, just watch this guy:

I mean, he's clearly got it. Who wouldn't want to be on his side of this debate?

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Killin' Time- People I Hate: Trent Dilfer

Before I start this incendiary rant against my least favorite of the many jackasses that feature heavily on ESPN's football coverage as part of my new offseason time waster, I'm going to state that more than anyone else right now I loathe the bastards keeping this lockout going on. I still think something will work out in time to not only save the season, but training camp, since that's what really matters as OTAs and mini-camps are highly overrated, but for now, damn you all for keeping me from my beloved flurry of free agent and trade activity.

Anywho, onto installment #2 of People I Hate: Trent Dilfer.

If you don't contemplate horrifying acts of violence upon seeing that face, well, congrats. You are not a man.

There's a lot of reasons to hate Trent Dilfer. I mean A LOT of reasons. I had a hard time narrowing it down, but let's hope you're happy with the points I've chosen to highlight:

1. He was a godawful football player.
I know lots of great coaches were bad former players. I know some QB coaches weren't particularly good QBs when they played. That's all well and good, but there's something absolutely wrong with having Trent Dilfer and his 70.2 career passer rating out there in front of the world trying to say anything ever about any other quarterback's performance. Hell, that simple passer rating (which is an often skewed stat, anyway) doesn't really tell anywhere near the whole story of Trent's ineptitude. Let's look at his Advanced Statistics (as compiled by the always awesome Pro Football, which assess a person vs. the league average.

Trent Dilfer's Career QB Rating+: 88 (100 is league average)
Trent Dilfer's Career YPA+: 94
Trent Dilfer's Adjusted YPA+ (adjusted YPA means bonus points for TDs, minus points for interceptions): 89
Trent Dilfer's Completion %+: 91
Trent Dilfer's TD %+: 91
Trent Dilfer's Int %+: 86

Yes, folks, in every single important statistic for a QB, Trent Dilfer isn't even within 5 points of an average QB. Hell, Cade McNown's QB Rate+ was 87, just one point behind Trent, and somehow Trent enjoyed a 13 year career.

2. The 2000 Ravens Created a Myth That Rankles Me to my Soul
The Ravens didn't invent the "caretaker" quarterback, but they certainly solidified it into an ironclad axiom. The basic storyline goes something like this: The Ravens had one of history's great defenses, but they were losing games because mean old Tony Banks was turning the ball over too goddamn much, so in comes Trent Dilfer, who "manages the game," avoids turnovers, lets the defense control the game, and the Ravens reel off a winning streak that culminates in a championship. Score one for the underrated QBs and every coach who'd rather see three yards and a cloud of dust than some glory boy quarterback slingin' the rock around like he's all that.

The truth? Trent Dilfer was lucky as shit, because he turned the ball over a hell of a lot more than Tony Banks.

Banks started 8 games for the Ravens in 2000. He threw 8 interceptions in those games. He also had 5 fumbles, but all five were recovered by the Ravens, so the he had just 8 turnovers in 8 games. The Ravens were 5-3 when he started. Don't get me wrong, he sucked at throwing the football, but he wasn't the turnover machine he's remembered as. His interception %+ that year was a 106, meaning he turned the ball over far less than a league average QB.

Trent Dilfer? He actually Was a turnover machine. Trent also started 8 games for the Ravens that year. He threw 11 interceptions that year and lost 2 fumbles, for a total of 13 turnovers in half a season's work. His interception %+ was 75, meaning that Trent Dilfer, poster boy for the caretaker quarterback, turned the ball over at a higher rate than almost every other quarterback in the NFL that year.

So what happened? Why did Trent go on to glory while Tony Banks became the goat? Statistically, there's barely a difference between them, except that Banks turned the ball over less. Banks went 5-3 while Dilfer went 7-1. The problem is that the Ravens offense was struggling, so Brian Billick lost patience and went with Dilfer. At that point the Ravens played...well, exactly the same as they did before and just managed to go back to winning the exact same way they had won five of their first six games. The fact of the matter is that a trained monkey truly could have won the Superbowl with a defense behind him that allowed 10 f*&king points per game. Tony Banks was one 2 game losing streak away from having an undeserved Superbowl title that would have inexplicably extended His career for another decade. Guh.

But, thanks to Trent's ability to somehow "look" like he wasn't turning the ball over a ton, I've had to argue with a bunch of mouthbreathers every time a quarterback like Jay Cutler leads a team with a stout defense into the playoffs. " Dey just need somebody like Dilfer to let dem run da ball and let da defense win." Fuck that. You just need somebody who can put up more points than the opposing team. The answer to that problem is NEVER somebody like Trent F*&king Dilfer. You want to know something Really funny? Rex Grossman in 2006 had an interception %+ that was eight points HIGHER than Trent Dilfer in 2000. That's right, the guy who was often held up as the polar opposite of Rex and the very reason why Rex should have been benched actually turned the ball over a much higher rate than even Rexy dreamed of. Myth. Fucking. Busted.

#3. He is everything that is wrong with analysts today
I'm not going to center this rant just on Trent Dilfer's hatred of Jay Cutler. Sure, he's practically the figurehead for the whole movement, seeking to denigrate Jay whenever possible, but in general, Trent is just everything wrong with sports coverage. He's an extremely mediocre player who would be laughed out of the room if he had tried coaching, so he goes into the media, where he's welcomed with open arms because he doesn't actually have enough credibility as a player to make the non-former player talking heads feel intimidated. He repeats nothing but garbled cliches about "footwork" and "chemistry" and validates the ESPN storyline because he "was There." If he knows so much about "footwork" and "mechanics" that he can criticize guys like Jay Cutler and Peyton Manning, why the hell was his career interception % higher than either of those guys by a mile (4.1 % for Trent, 3.6% for Jay, 2.7% for Peyton)?

Now, that may seem like me shooting myself in the foot, since I'm a blogger who has never even played professional football and I take potshots at players all the time, but I'd argue that it's a much more egregious crime because Trent has been there, knows that he's spewing total horseshit, and is happy to do so. I mean watch this crap:

This is Trent, with the information in front of him that Jay Cutler WAS injured, arguing that Cutler should have thrown a gigantic hissy fit in order to get back in the game before being forced out...all for What, exactly? What the fuck does that do for the team? Here's an 'expert analyst' arguing that Jay Cutler should go into a bunch of theatrics because somehow that's better than doing the same behind the scenes and going to the bench with what is ultimately the same result. That's Trent Dilfer, folks. Whatever you do, just make sure you do it on camera. That's what a good football player does, I guess. Not that Trent would know, since he was never even close to being one.

Get fucked, Trent.

Monday, May 16, 2011

In Review- The Offensive Line

As part of my ongoing (and slow-moving) offseason unit-by-unit review, today we reach the offensive line. This one's naturally going to take awhile, as the Bear's offensive line was absolutely incompetent by any statistical measure. Even more impressive is the fact the offensive line is the only unit on the entire team without a single player that had something resembling a "good" year. I'll just start with the numbers, which are probably not even as horrifying to look at as the memories that will forever be seared into our brains, like the New York Giants gang-raping Jay, or Chester Taylor having the lowest YPC average of any back with 100 carries since the NFL merger (granted, he contributed quite a bit to that dubious distinction himself), or ultimately the constant barrage in the NFC Championship game that knocked Jay out and opened up the gates of hell. One quick note before I begin: obviously the Bears have addressed the problem somewhat by drafting Gabe Carimi, who will obviously not be in this review. Anywho, numbers (with NFL ranking):

Sacks allowed: 56 (32nd)
QB Hits allowed: 92 (24th)
Rushing Yards Per Game: 101 (22nd)
YPC: 3.9 (23rd)
Total Offensive YPG: 289.4 (30th)
Total Offensive PPG: 20.9 (21st)
18 False Starts, 19 Holding Calls.

They also had 53 running plays that resulted in negative yardage, which is really shitty as well, although I'm too lazy to add up all of those numbers for every team in order to give you a ranking, but just know that it's Bad. Really bad.

So, with numbers like that I don't know who you'd expect me to praise, which is good, because I'm not praising anybody, especially not....

#68 Frank Omiyale, Left Tackle
I despise Frank Omiyale. The guy got a huge contract despite failing to crack the Carolina Panthers' starting lineup solely because he Looks like he should be a good offensive lineman. That may seem like an oversimplification, but I'm convinced the only reason Frank still has a job is because Jerry Angelo had himself convinced that Frank was some kind of hidden jewel and Jerry would look like a genius if he panned out. So far he's been a disaster at left guard and right tackle and a very mediocre option at left tackle.

My biggest beef with Frank is his penalties, actually. Frank had SIX goddamn false starts this year, an astonishing total for a single offensive lineman, as a point of reference, noted flagrant false starter Flozell Adams committed three this season, and the NFL's most egregious offender, Alex Barron, averaged 8 over the last five years. Omiyale added a holding penalty onto that total, giving him 7 penalties for the year, which, when paired with the team-leading 13 sacks he allowed, paint a pretty terrible picture. I don't think we've seen the last of Frank, sadly, but I do believe Gabe Carimi will move him to the bench, as J'Marcus Webb is younger, has more upside, and is a favorite of Mike Tice's. That's good news for Bears fans.

#74 Chris Williams, Left Guard
It's hard to describe Chris Williams as anything more than a disappointment at this point. The Bears seem pretty convinced that he's not going to pan out as a tackle, and the reviews for him at left guard have been mixed at best. Considering the cloud of controversy that surrounded him when Jerry Angelo drafted him Knowing he had back problems, well, it's easy to say that Chris is facing a make or break season next year. I think he actually improved down the stretch last year at left guard, and the Bears gained 40 first downs and had 28 rushes of 10 or more yards to the left vs. 29 and 17 to the right. If this damnable lockout ever ends and Williams can continue to work with Tice and gain experience as a guard, I'm confident that he can improve on the 4.5 sacks he allowed this year. Chris has the size and the athleticism he needs to be a successful guard in this system he just needs to put it together. I'd have to say I like his outlook a lot better than many of the others on this unit.

#57 Olin Kreutz, Center
Am I the only one who never really thought Olin was that good to begin with? I think Olin's a tough sonofabitch. I think he was great when he was younger at pulling and swinging out and making some highlight reel blocks. Hell, the block Olin threw on Forte's 89 yard touchdown catch in the opener against the Lions should be on a poster somewhere.

The problem, however, is that Olin's not really that big and he's not all that great at pushing back interior defensive linemen, and that's a problem. Statistically, Olin was the least egregious offender of the bunch since he comitted just one false start and allowed only one sack (had four holding penalties though, which is a lot for an interior offensive lineman), but interior linemen are naturally going to have lower sack totals. Anyone that really watches Olin with an objective eye can tell that he isn't blowing anybody off the ball. The Bears managed to pick up just 7 rushing first downs up the middle this year and had 9 runs up the middle that resulted in negative yardage. Of the 6 games the Bears lost in the regular and postseasont his year, four of them (Redskins, Packers, @GB, GB playoffs) came against teams that have 3-4 defenses and large nose guards that absolutely destroyed Olin. If you want to see why the Bears were so miserable at gaining one damn yard in short yardage situations all year, go back to the Redskins game and watch Olin's miserable job of blocking a disinterested Albert Haynesworth on the Cutler goalline fumble. Guh.

Unfortunately, the Bears appear content to let another offseason go by without addressing Olin's aging. They'll probably re-sign him to a 2-3 year deal and continue to ignore his decline. The arrow's only pointing down on this one, folks.

#63 Roberto Garza, Right Guard
Then again, Kreutz's slow decline is certainly preferable to the outright implosion of Robert Garza. As recently as 2008 Garza was actually, according to FootballOutsiders, one of the NFL's best guards. He was certainly one of the few competent performers on last year's squad, but this year he absolutely exploded. Part of this can be blamed on the knee injury that required him to miss a few games following surgery, but nothing good can be said about an interior linemen who allowed 7.5 sacks in just 14 games, and who also committed two false starts and four holding penalties. I think it's very likely that we'll see Roberto facing stiff competition from Lance Louis in training camp, since Lance showed a lot of potential by allowing just one sack and committing no penalties in his brief four game stint at LG before the great shakeup that led to the Omiyale-Williams-Kreutz-Garza-Webb lineup that finished the season.

#73 J'Marcus Webb, Right Tackle
I can see why Mike Tice loves J'Marcus. The talent he has is undeniable. For one, his 6'7'', 310 frame is ideal for a left tackle and a huge plus at right. He's a mauler that can really take his man out of the game when he manages to get ahold of him. The problem, of course, is that J'Marcus is inexperienced and also not particularly bright (considering he had to leave Texas and attend West Texas A&M for academic reasons) and is easily fooled by experienced defensive ends. I can't say for sure how many times Webb just plain whiffed on a block, but it was enought that he allowed 10.5 sacks in just 12 starts. He also committed 6 penalties (2 false starts, 4 holding). I can see reasons for optimism, though. I'm not buying the company line that he's got prototypical skills and will someday be an outstanding left tackle, but I did see enough in him that I'm willing to hope that Tice can make him into a serviceable starter at right next year. The smart money should be on Carimi lining up on Cutler's blindside, however, regardless of the offseason smoke about Webb possibly shifting over.

The Bench:

#78 Kevin Shaffer, Tackle- He sucked and he's gone.

#60 Lance Louis, Guard- Easily the most promising young interior linemen the Bears have. He only lost his job thanks to a numbers game, as Omiyale was a better option (gulp) than Williams at left and Williams had to start somewhere thanks to his draft status. He'll be gunning for Roberto Garza's job and I wouldn't be surprised if he got it.

#62 Johan Asiata, Guard- We only saw Johan in 2 games, both in short yardage packages that gained nothing. Make of that what you will.

#70 Edwin Williams, Center/Guard- He wasn't awful when he was filling in for Garza, but he wasn't particularly impressive either. I don't think he should be considered Kreutz's heir apparent.

#67 Herman Johnson, Guard- Fat Herman was a pickup from the Cardinals practice squad who didn't play and has flirted with eating himself out of the NFL. I'd be shocked if he turned out to be anything more than a camp body next year.

All told, this is a unit that performed miserably in the first half, mostly below par in the second half, and finally was probably the biggest reason why the team came up short against Green Bay. I don't know how things will shake out once free agency actually begins, but I'd be shocked if the Bears didn't add at least one veteran to throw into the competition at guard. To their credit, I don't think the coaches intend to just give Williams the job at left guard next year. I think Carimi, Kreutz, and Webb are locks, but Louis, Garza, Williams, and Unknown Free Agent Guard will have one hell of a battle for it. Frank Omiyale should be, at worst a swing tackle and at best starting somewhere in the NFL. I'd have to say this unit should be the most improved on the team next year, if only because I'd hate to imagine how it could be worse.

Please Jebus, don't let it get worse.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

In Review- The Tight Ends

Given the fact that it appears likely-ish that there Will possibly be football next year, I have decided to resume my unit-by-unit evaluations of the 2010 Bears. I covered the QBs, RBs, and WRs earlier in the offseason so you can look back to find them if you care. Today: the tight ends.

#82 Greg Olsen.
I've never really hidden the fact that I've never cared for Greg Olsen. Usually I vacillate between downright hatred and begrudging apathy toward him. I thought the Bears should have traded down from #31 in 2007 and picked up any number of the valuable players that went in the 2nd round that year (Ryan Kalil, perhaps? Nah. Let's just keep pretending that Olin Kreutz hasn't been mediocre at best since 2005!). Desmond Clark had a few years of production left in him, and then Mike Martz came around to make the position mostly irrelevant. Basically, I never wanted Greg Olsen in the first place and he's done very little to warm his way into my heart.

With that said, I think Greg had his best year as a Bear this year. He was more productive as a blocker than he's ever been (mostly since he had to be if he was ever going to see the field), he cut down on his mistakes, and he made some big catches on 3rd down and in the red zone even though his overall receiving numbers were down from his last two years. His playoff game against the Seahawks was absolutely outstanding and showed that he can still be a force in this scheme when he needs to be. Like I've said before, Kansas City ran a very similar offense under Vermeil and Al Saunders and utilized Tony Gonzalez, so Martz is capable of making Greg a major part of his scheme. That made Greg's disappearance against Green Bay all the more frustrating, although I don't know if that was Martz's fault, Greg's fault, or Cutler/Hanie's fault.

I predict a bigger year for Olsen next year, as an improved offensive line will hopefully keep him from staying in to block so often and allow him to be the matchup problem on offense that he was brought in to be.

#87 Kellen Davis
It's hard not to like Kellen. He's a good blocker (better than Olsen, at least) and 4 of his 10 career catches have been touchdowns. He's a perfect example of why I think Olsen was a wasted first round pick, since he'd be a more than adequate starter and could have at least matched Desmond Clark's production despite entering the league as a fifth round pick. There's really not much else to say here, other than he's certainly a useful player to have as a back up tight end.

#86 Brandon Manumaleuna
I can't imagine what the hell made Jerry Angelo think that Manumaleuna was worth a 5 year, $15 million contract. I hardly doubt that that was really the market value for a tight end that's solely a blocking specialist, especially when he needed a knee surgery that limited his usefulness in that department in a big way. Manu was used more as a fullback than a tight end this year and he was a serious downgrade from the eminently mediocre Jason McKie in that department. Hopefully Manu will be better this year after he's fully recovered from the surgery, but I highly doubt he'll ever be worth the money. At least he had that one touchdown against the Lions. That gave us all a good laugh.

#88 Desmond Clark
We've finally reached the end of Desmond's long tenure as a Bear (2003-2010), and I'm grateful for everything he did. He was one of the best signings of Angelo's career, and while he suffered from the absolutely atrocious parade of shit the Bears had at QB during his first three years in Chicago (averaged just 314 yards and 1 TD during the Kordell Stewart/Chris Chandler/Rookie Grossman/Jon Quinn/Craig Krenzel/Chad Hutchinson/Rookie Orton nightmare), he was very effective from 06-08 and, for all Olsen's potential, he was a much better all-around tight end during that stretch than Greg has ever been.

With all due respect to his prior career in Chicago, Clark was a nonfactor in 2010 for good reason. His decline was apparent last year and, at this point, Kellen Davis offers more value for less money. His only notable appearance last year was a dropped TD pass on 4th down in the first game against Green Bay, and he finished the year with just 1 catch for 12 yards in just five games. He'll probably end up somewhere else next year and offer average production for a few years, but it's definitely time to let him go. Good luck, Dez.

For all of the fuss about Mike Martz not using his tight ends, the Bears' unit got mixed results. They had just 478 yards receiving as a group, down from 832 the year before, but they had a respectable 7 touchdown receptions and were more of a factor in the second half than the first. Overall, though, the tight ends did what was asked of them (outside of Manumaleuna, unless he was asked to be fat, slow, and terrible at blocking) and this is a unit that should remain mostly intact and should improve next year.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Killin' Time: People I Hate - Brian F*&king Griese

I'm an angry individual. People who read this site will not be surprised by this fact. On multiple occasions I've threatened all kinds of gruesome injuries upon everyone from Rick Morrissey to Todd McShay. Vitriol is what I have and I'm not afraid to use it in a meangingless blog post that will catch the eyes of maybe ten to twenty people on a good day. Hell, my most popular post, to this very day, is a a longwinded rant about Cade McNown that I penned four years ago. This is why people fear me. Some of you, however, may not understand why I hate so many people, or who I hate the most. Since it's the offseason, it's time I tie up some loose ends and explain, in detail, why the hell I hate certain people. Today I start off with public enemy number one, Brian F*&king Griese.

Why do I hate Brian F*&king Griese, let us count the reasons:

1. His stupid f*&king face:

Look at that vacant, droopy-eyed, neanderthalish gaze. That wild, untamed mess of chest hair worthy of a Greek olive merchant. A forehead so big that Shanahan used to diagram plays on it at halftime for the rest of the Broncos offense. The faint traces of unibrow that he hasn't bothered to pluck. This, folks, is one disgusting individual.

2. His total inability to push the ball down the field.
Brian Griese offered an alternative to Rex Grossman during his two years on the Bears bench, and everyone assumed, regardless of the actual information at hand, that he was some kind of Ortonian game manager who would make safe, efficient throws and allow the defense to win games. This was really just a myth that ignored Griese's own proclivity toward turning the ball over and tried to portray his lack of arm strength in a positive light. "He can't even Throw shitty pop flies like Rex can, so he's automatically better!" or something. I don't know. All I know is Brian Griese threw one deep ball in his entire Bears career, an 81 yarder to Devin Hester that required him to dip his shoulder all the way into the bowels of hell in order to get enough loft on it for it to find Devin. For the most part, however, Captain Checkdown was awesome at throwing interceptions to guys who were within his 5-15 yard comfort zone.

3. He couldn't solve the Detroit Lions. The Goddamn Detroit Lions.
The Detroit Lions are an awful waste of a franchise and managed to win just ten games in the two years that Brian Griese was a Chicago Bear. Two of those ten wins came against Griese, though. From 06-07 the Lions were 2-0 against teams with Brian Griese at starting QB and 8-21 against everyone else. Splendid. Let's look at Griese's first start as a Bear, on September 30th, 2007 in Detroit. Rex Grossman had been benched after a three interception game against the Cowboys, and dumbasses all over the world thought Griese would right the ship. Griese did the following:

34/52 (65.4%), 286 YDs, 2 TDs, 3 INTs, 5.5 YPA, 68.3 rating.

All three of Griese's interceptions came in the red zone as the Bears allowed a 13-3 fourth quarter lead to turn into a 37-27 loss. Start Kyle Orton was founded on that very evening.

But hey, it was his first start since the middle of 2005 and the guy was probably rusty. He managed to put up some decent, if misleading, statistics while going 2-1 against the Packers, Eagles, and Vikings. He even managed a nifty 90+ yard touchdown drive with no timeouts left in the final minute against Philadelphia. Kudos, Brian.

No, wait. That was all just a set up for the next nutpunch. Brian's "heroics" had gave the Bears a 3-4 record with the Lions coming into town on October 28th. Surely the Bears would notch a win and get themselves back to .500 and in the thick of the playoff race. Or....

Brian F*&king Griese would throw his fourth, fifth, sixth, and seventh interceptions to the GODDAMN DETROIT LIONS. Yes, that's right, Brian followed up a 3 interception game in his first match with Detroit by throwing four more in round two at home in Soldier Field. For the season, Brian's numbers against Detroit resulted in a ghastly 3-7 TD:INT ratio, a measly 5.3 YPA, and an appalling 54.3 rating.

Maybe the Lions just had a great pass defense that year? Let's look:

2007 Lions Pass Defense: 422/602 (70.1%), 4387 yds, 32 TDs, 17 INTs, 7.1 YPA, 274.2 YPG, 96.8 rating.

If you take out Griese's 2 performances, the passer rating of Lions opponents that year goes all the way up to 102.0.

That's the Iron Curtain that stopped Brian F*&king Griese cold, folks.

3. His "Revenge":
The Bears sent Griese back to Tampa Bay after the 2007 season. Jon Gruden wanted him because he has an addiction to stockpiling mediocre quarterbacks in hopes that one of them will someday have a magical, Rich Gannon-like transformation into someone who doesn't suck. Griese had managed to overtake Jeff Garcia (no one knows how, or why) by week three when Tampa came to Soldier Field. The Bears absolutely pathetic pass rush allowed Griese to drop back 67 times without getting sacked. Griese completed barely half of those passed (38 of 67) for 407 yards, which sounds impressive until you do the math and realize that that's just 6 yards per attempt. He also threw more interceptions (3) than TDs (2) and yet the Buccaneers won the game after the Bears blew a 24-14 fourth quarter lead and gave up a field goal in OT after a Charles Tillman personal foul sustained Tampa's game winning drive. Griese then went on and talked about how much the win meant to him, like he did anything in the game that proved to the Bears that he wasn't a shitty quarterback or that they were wrong to get rid of him. Dan Orlovsky torched the Bears that year, Brian. Get over yourself.

4. He represented the end of the Bears superbowl hopes.
No, I'm not blaming Brian F*&king Griese alone for turning the 13-3, NFC Championship 2006 Bears into the 7-9, last place 2007 Chicago Bears (although they lost the tiebreaker for last place to the 7-9 Lions thanks to Brian F*&king Griese's two defeats at the hands of the Goddamn Detroit Lions), but Griese taking over for Rex Grossman meant the writing was on the wall for that team. The defense couldn't overcome the injuries it had taken, and the only hope for salvation was with a quarterback that could actually put up points consistently. Brian Griese would never be that guy.

Lots of people have asked me why I hate Brian F*&king Griese so much. He was, admittedly, nowhere near the worst QB they've had, at least according to statistics. He wasn't the total shithead or disaster that Cade McNown and Rick Mirer were. Brian F*&king Griese, however, is more than just a man. He's a symbol. He's the emblem of everything that is wrong with the "game manager" myth that's been perpetuated by morons like Trent Dilfer and every guy who loses his shit everytime Jay Cutler throws an interception. He forced me to accept that Rex Grossman had finally gone completely bust. Mostly, it was the fact that I knew from the second he took the field that I wasn't going to see a return to the Superbowl. All that matters, however, is that I hate Brian F*&king Griese, and I want you all to hate him too.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

The Draft- It Didn't Suck

I wasn't able to catch much of the draft live, sadly. Only the last 10 picks or so of the 1st round and then about half of the 2nd/3rd rounds. It was interesting television, however. Especially if you watch NFL Network. If you watch ESPN, well, God have mercy on you. I left that place when we got NFLN about 4 years ago and I've never looked back. Some general observations:

- I, too, was surprised by the QB flurry at the beginning of the draft:

I think this year was one of the worst years Ever to have the top pick, and I'm disappointed in Ron Rivera that he apparently thought Cam Newton was the best there was for him to build his franchise around. I don't hate Cam for his personality or the scandal around him. Those that have read this blog for any length of time know I don't put an ounce of worth into personality. I have never, however, seen anything in Cam Newton that makes me think he's capable of running an NFL offense. Gus Malzahn's offense is as far from a pro scheme as you can possibly get. I love it as a college offense because of its ability to make the simple look incredibly complex, but the fact is it's a run-heavy spread offense based on a scheme that doesn't really have a playbook so much as a pamphlet of basic concepts. I don't think Cam will adjust to the NFL fast enough to justify a #1 pick, especially when they could have drafted someone at another position of need and used the year of low expectations to angle for a high pick again next year that might put them in position for Andrew Luck.

I don't really blame the Titans for liking Jake Locker more than Blaine Gabbert or Christian Ponder, but that still doesn't make him worth a top ten pick. I've heard excuse makers say things about the quality of his receivers but I watched Alot of Jake Locker over the last couple of years and outside of his upsets against the porous defense of Lane Kiffin's USC, he didn't put together any complete games that merit where he was taken. You can try to do little things to improve his accuracy, but I don't ever see him being the 60% passer that an NFL offense needs.

Gabbert was probably the most sensible pick of the four QBs taken, but I still don't like him much. He might make a serviceable starter someday, but I don't see why they'd spend a high pick on a guy who might put up numbers similar to the guy they already have.

Christian Ponder at #12? Really? The guy might end up being the next Chad Pennington. If that's what you want, well, low standards never hurt anybody, I guess.

-I thought Mark Ingram was a fucking steal for the Saints at 28.

-Why yes, I am already suffering from uncontrollable flop sweat at the thought of Nick Fairley and Ndamukong Suh facing off against whatever interior line combination the Bears can throw at them next year. Thanks for asking.

- I do find it odd that Detroit's next two picks were Mikel LeShoure and Titus Young. They must have forgotten that they have a god awful secondary. Then again, maybe no one will have time to throw against the Fairley/Suh duo of death.

-Character and mobility issues dropped ARMCOCK Mallett into the third round, but right into the arms of the Patriots, virtually ensuring that someday he'll be the jewel of this QB class.

And with that, onto the Bears

-Gabe Carimi was an absolutely fantastic pick. I'm beyond ecstatic that he was available at 29. Jerry Angelo apparently thought he'd be gone at 26 and nearly gave away a fourth round pick trade up and get him, but fortune intervened and he was saved from his own stupidity. Carimi will probably struggle early in pass protection, but he'll be an instant upgrade for the running game. Having seen the progress that Tice made with J'marcus Webb last year, I think he can straighten out Carimi's footwork and upgrade his pass protection before too long. This pick exceeded my wildest expectations for what is usually a draft slot full of slim pickings.

-Stephen Paea addressed the biggest need on the defense- Tommie Harris' replacement. Considering they've needed a replacement for Tommie since 2007, this was a great move. Paea benched like an animal at the combine and he was an All American and Pac 10 Defensive Player of the Year last year. I won't lie and say that I've seen Alot of him, but what I have seen is good. He can be a DT capable of drawing consistent double teams, which means good things for Peppers and Idonijie. At the very least a rotation of Paea, Melton and Anthony Adams will probably pack a greater punch than last year. Anything that can keep teams from taking away Julius Peppers is a great move.

- I don't know a damn thing about Chris Conte. God knows the draft can't go by without Lovie's requisite mid-round safety pick. The unfortunate thing about this pick isn't Conte himself. It's the fact that it probably means that Danieal Manning has made up his mind and won't sign at a price the Bears can afford. That sucks, because Danieal finally had a year worthy of his potential and the Manning-Harris-Wright rotation was pretty effective. If Danieal's gone, we've learned by now that the Bears need a never-ending supply of bodies at that position so Conte probably wasn't a bad pick. But I wish Danieal wasn't leaving.

- The fourth round pick that the Ravens wanted ended up going to the Redskins to allow the team to draft Paea, so that was probably worth it.

- Nate Enderle is a pretty decent QB to find in the 5th round. Why the hell the Bears needed a QB in the fifth round, I don't know. This was a draft thin on interiot linemen so I'm not necessarily mad that they missed out on a guard like a lot of people are, but I don't understand why Martz can't seem to sell himself on Hanie.

- I don't know a damn thing about JT Thomas either. But the Bears have had luck with later round OLB's before, so hopefully he'll add depth with Tinoisamoa, Urlacher, and Briggs all getting up there.

All in all, Carimi and Paea make this one of the better drafts the Bears have had in years. There are some people out there ranting that the Bears should have done something nonsensical and just offensive linemen, but there were just 23 offensive linemen taken total after the 3rd round. This was a top heavy draft and those would have been wasted picks. Carimi is a guy that will be ready to start (well, he'll start) right away, with Webb (who showed a lot of potential as last season went on) sliding to the left. Chris Williams is going to start somewhere, and he started to look like a pretty good run-blocker, at least, at left guard down the stretch. Omiyale will head to the bench (Thank you, Deityofyourchoice), leaving the declining skills of Kreutz and Garza as the biggest question marks, surprisingly. I'm not sure how free agency will eventually shake out, but I assume Angelo will find at least one interior lineman to throw into the competition next year. Either way, I have faith, for once, that next year's line will be better than the year before. If that line reaches the point where Cutler and Martz can actually open up the playbook this team will be a much more consistent contender. Paea upgrades the most important unit on the defense, which should keep them in the top ten range.

My "grade"? Probably an A for rounds 1 and 2, and a C for the rest. I think this draft actually improved the state of the Chicago Bears. Its sad that I have to say that, since that's the whole Point of the draft, but there have been many times in recent memory where I wouldn't have ventured out on that limb.

Go Bears.