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Tuesday, October 30, 2012

People I Hate: Hub Arkush

In case you all don't remember, last offseason I was bored and started a feature called "People I Hate" to kill time in the offseason. It basically added up to three rants about Dave Wannstedt, Trent Dilfer, and Brian Griese before I forgot about it and moved on.

Today I'm bringing it back for a very special reason: I can't f*&king stand Hub Arkush. In the past I've always found him a minor irritation, but now that the Bears are 6-1 he can't wait to stand in front of the crowd and scream that they're a bunch of frauds. I've decided to tell you why you (and everyone else) have no reason to listen to a damn thing Hub Arkush has to say.

For those unfamiliar with Hub, let me run down a typical radio appearance by Hub:

Chicago Sports Talk Show Host: Hub, what did you think of the Bears on Sunday?

Hub: Well I think a narrow win over a team that had been 1-5 showed you all of the Bears flaws and why they aren't an elite team.

Chicago Sports Talk Show Host: Who would you consider elite?

Hub: Green Bay, New York, San Francisco, Houston, even though all of them could have the exact same arguments about inconsistent offenses, close wins over mediocre teams, or poor scheduling that I'll use against the Bears. The Bears are a "good team" (be sure to say this in the most condescending manner possible) but they're not elite.

(Chicago Sports Talk Show Host If Any of Them Had Balls: So you had the 9-7 Giants who were outscored in the regular season winning the Superbowl last year? Hey, didn't you pick the Chiefs to go to the superbowl this year?)

Chicago Sports Talk Show Host In Real Life: Great points, Hub. All of them. This is why you're our Bears expert.

Now that you're caught up to speed, let's run down the reasons why Hub is as big of a fraud as he'd like you to think the Bears are:

1) He's not an expert at anything. 

If you look at Hub's record you'll see that he's never worked in an NFL front office, never played football at a high level, and was actually fired as Bears color commentator, which is a remarkable accomplishment considering the ineptitude they put up with every year from Jeff Joniak. Hub got the job in the first place because his dad founded Pro Football Weekly, an NFL magazine that projected Blaine Gabbert as a better player than Cam Newton and generally ranks among the least accurate of all magazines in preseason predictions. Basically, Hub's credentials boil down to the fact that he was paid to watch a lot of Bears games from 1987-2004. I know plenty of people who did that for free and don't get to appear on seven radio shows a week for it. You know why you shouldn't take a fired color commentator too seriously? If you do, you get Matt Millen.

2) He was FIRED by the Bears, and no one ever seems to notice that this might influence his judgement. 

Sure, his "contract wasn't renewed" or whatever they used to make it sound mutual, but this was a man who obviously has reasons to harbor bitterness at the organization, and it's never even considered worth mentioning by the people who take him as gospel on all things Bears.

3) He's never changed his opinion on anything, and any wrong predictions he's made are rarely brought up. 

Earlier this year he said it was "too early" to give up on Blaine Gabbert while trashing Shea McClellin as a guy playing out of position. McClellin racked up another 2 hurries on Sunday, making him roughly 1000x more productive in his career to this point than a guy like Blaine Gabbert, but oh well, Hub says McClellin's a 3-4 backer and LOL at the Bears for thinking otherwise. When people ask why Hub's opinion of McClellin is so low, he says "watch the tape," as though no one else but him has access to NFL game film and others who do (like Pro Football Focus, a stats side used by actual front offices in decision-making, something I guarantee you no one's ever looked at Pro Football Weekly for, who consider Shea a plus pass rusher so far this year) completely disagree with his observations. His condescension for you, average Joe fan who CLEARLY hasn't seen THE TAPE (even if the All-22 package is available to guys like, oh, I don't know, me) is never-ending.

Point three brings me to the real reason Hub set me off today, which is

4) What the fuck is an elite team, Hub, and why should I trust your evaluation? 

I went over this a lot in 2010 when people said the Bears don't "seem" elite. At least in 2010 the Bears almost always won close games and had a relatively low point differential. The 2012 Bears are top ten in scoring, top two in scoring defense, top two in point and turnover differential, tops in takeaways, top ten in rushing, and top ten in total yardage allowed on defense. Their ranking in passing yardage is shitty, but can you honestly tell me there are that many teams out there who can claim that kind of resume to this point in the season?

This, of course, will lead to Hub's claim that the Bears haven't beaten anybody. Nevermind the fact it isn't like this team has come out of nowhere this year. They're  25-9 in their last 34 games with Cutler at quarterback and we're STILL supposed to believe a weak schedule is the only cause? Besides that, as other's have noted, the Bears, with one win over a team with a winning record (the Colts), aren't that far from the Giants (one win over a team with a winning record), the Falcons (one win), the Packers (two wins), the 49ers (two wins), the Texans (two wins) or any of the other teams just presumed to be elite. We'll put this question to rest in a few weeks anyway, but it's absurd to continue to act like the Bears are the only contender cruising through a soft schedule

All of this, is, again, besides my main point that the elite team argument is stupid almost every year. The average record of the last five Superbowl winners is 11-5. Very few of those teams were deemed to be "elite" in the middle of the regular season when history continually shows that simply gaining entrance to the postseason alone is all that matters.

Lastly, and I cannot emphasize this enough, Hub picked the fucking Chiefs to be the AFC's Superbowl representative this year. Are we really supposed to smile and nod along when he points out how the Bears are clearly a flawed contender? After That? Hell no.

So please, Chicago fans, radio hosts, weekly sports talk shows, and every one else, just know that every time I hear a sentence start with "well Hub Arkush said...." that you're basically saying "Here comes a healthy dose of old school, unquantifiable cliched bullshit with a strong, butthurted anti-Bears tinge."

Eat shit, Hub.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Insults for the Hearing Impaired: The Jay Cutler Story

 Another week, another hack writer shitting out a pointless column about Cutler’s performance on the sideline. This week, it’s Newberry-award winning author Dan Bernstein of CBS Chicago, though there’s a pretty awful Morrissey article I might get to later this week if I’m not too busy.

You know how we do, he’s in italics.

The “f—ing fans” sure sound different when the scoreboard changes, don’t they, Jay?

Usually, yeah. That’s kind of the point of the game, to change the scoreboard. If they sounded the same whether it changed or not, there’d either be total silence for 60 minutes or they’d all shout their lungs out.

Amazing how that happens in an NFL stadium, right? They boo you and your sloppy teammates after an inexcusable half of uninspired slop against an over-matched opponent, then cheer when you actually perform as if you know what you’re doing.

Teenage-girl sarcasm and overuse of the word “slop” aside, is there a point to this rambling, Dan? We know they had a bad first half. Cutler not only said the team had a bad first half, but took the blame for it. “It starts with me,” was the exact phrase he used. They won the game, and Cutler looked pretty Goddamn impressive when it counted the most.

Are you new to this whole idea?

We’re now 67 words into this column, which in total runs just under 600 words. Which means that a full tenth of this article has been Dan Bernstein attacking Jay cutler with the savagery only a stalwart LiveJournal user can bring to bear.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Bears 23, Panthers 22-- Holy Sh*t

In 2010 the Bears won a bunch of close games and every single week someone would utter that they "didn't deserve to win." It's become a running joke around these parts that the Bears are always 0-16 in the deserved to win standings. I've never accepted that. This is the NFL. Not all offensive and defensive schemes are built the same, and yardage totals, etc. are insignifcant. In this case...well, damn. The Panthers dominated the Bears in all three phases for 3 1/2 quarters and lost. Tough luck, guys. But once again, this is the NFL. No one's going to have sympathy for you.

The Bears were bloodied and bruised for most of the game. The offensive line couldn't pass-block against the most basic four man rushes for the entire first half. Jay looked hesitant, underthrew an interception, and held the ball too long on back-to-back sacks, including a fumble that set up Carolina's first touchdown. The receivers dropped five passes, including one absolutely brutal one by Spaeth that nearly killed me. The defense struggled to contain Newton and allowed the big plays for the first time all year. No one should act like aren't some reasons for concern, but....

...the Bears came back to win. They stopped allowing sacks. Mike Tice discovered the quick slant. Even when Carolina finally shut down the Bears run game (without Mike Tice shutting it down himself, of course, more on that later), they still found a way to move the ball. Cutler and Marshall hooked up several times on a game winning drive that left me thinking "man, this drive would have been 4 & out with forced passes to Johnny Knox and Devin Hester." Jay Cutler, a week after he should have silenced all of the bullshit about his lack of toughness once and for all, added to his reputation with three great late drives to win the game (sure, Robbie missed, but it was still a good drive). The defense finally made the kind of play we just expect them to make now, with Tim Jennings getting the franchise record 6th pick six of the year. When you look at the numbers and do the math, you'll be hard-pressed to figure out how the Bears won, but they did, and here they are at 6-1 on their way to Tennessee.

The Good:

Red Zone Defense: Hard to single out any member of the defense for consistently good play, since the Panthers moved the ball better than anyone has against this team so far, but the red zone defense kept the Bears in this game. Carolina had multiple opportunities to score the game-clinching touchdown and the defense stopped them every single time.

Tim Jennings: Added two interceptions for a career high six, and gave the Bears the lead late with his pick six. Love this guy. 

Jay Cutler: Everything was a disaster in the first half. Jay was hit (and yes, the interception is on him and so were 2 of the sacks, including the fumble) and sacked 6 times. He was just 4 of 9 in the first two quarters. Jay, however, bounced back. He overcame the sacks. He overcame the drops (five of them. Again. Five). In the final 17 minutes of the game he was 14/16 for 141 yds and a TD. He is, as Erik noted, the best 4th quarter passer in the league right now, and he won the game for the Bears.

Matt Forte: He had 61 yards on 8 carries in the first half. The problem with that is that he got EIGHT CARRIES IN THE FIRST HALF. Goddammit, Tice. Either way, Matt now has over 400 yards in his last three games against the Panthers.

The Bad:

Offensive Line: I'm not even sure who gets the blame for all of these. I've already put two of them on Cutler, and I believe Webb got beat for at least one sack in the first half. This kind of effort is just plain terrifying, since the offensive line seemed to be progressing really well before 11 sacks allowed in the last two weeks. Get it together.

Defensive Line: They got just two sacks and allowed Cam Newton to get outside several times. Not the kind of effort they needed to have to keep this offense in Check.

Mike Tice: What the hell, Mike? What the hell? Matt Forte was shredding the Panthers and Tice couldn't be bothered to run it more than twice in a row. If you want to have a truly great running game you have to commit to it, and you have to be willing to keep at it even on 2nd and 8. You certainly don't go empty backfield on second down when there's years of statistics showing that that formation is death under all circumstances for this team. Also, if you want to mix runs and passes, why the hell do you wait until the fourth quarter to throw in some goddamn slant passes? I know the drops aren't your fault and that broke up the rhythm, but if you didn't try to throw it downfield on every pass you might be more effective at moving the chains.

Drops: Again, five drops. Spaeth's was definitely the most brutal, but Hester's was terrible as well. Marshall made up his two with some huge catches late. The rest of you need to think about what you've done.

The Ugly:

Ron Rivera: why so serious? Who has watched Devin Hester this year and decided they need to be scared of him that you hand the Bears the ball at midfield on nearly every possession? Poor call, Ron.

Cam Newton's Critics: Oh man. Really? You're going to light into him for not running down to celebrate with Louis Murphy on a play where he actually was hurt? How stupid. Cam wasn't great today. He racked up a lot of yards downfield but his accuracy was spotty when it mattered and he had two bad interceptions, but he's clearly not the problem on this team.

That's all for now. Next week the Bears have to go down and face a not-terrible Titans squad on the road. They'll need to get it cleaned up and start playing four quarters of offensive football. They're certainly going to need it in the second half of the season. This is their chance to build that momentum.

Go Bears.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Prognostication Bukakke, NCAA Week 9

NC State @ North Carolina
Iggins!: This is the most ACC matchup yet. NC State just tried to lose to Maryland and UNC lost to Duke, made them bowl-eligible, and tore a hole in time-space. I’ll take North Carolina to win, because lord knows the ACC requires teams who lost to Duke to beat a decent ACC team the next week.

Code Red: I don’t want to pick UNC again. They’ve cost me a lot this year. Oh, dammit. UNC wins.

Mrs. Code Red: UNC wins.

#2 Florida vs. #10 Georgia
Code Red: Florida has gotten me this far. Their defense is very good. Maybe every bit as good as Alabama’s….but that offense. When I saw they beat South Carolina 44-11 I thought “good, finally some offense”...but they had 182 total yards, and SC just imploded with turnovers. Not sure they can score enough to win this one…but they haven’t failed me yet. Florida wins.

Iggins!: Florida wins are almost entirely responsible for how far back I am right now, but… man, if Georgia wins this game they have no competition left in the East. Their remaining games are jokes. I’ll take Georgia to win because I had them winning the East to start the year.

Mrs. Code Red: Georgia wins.

#14 Texas Tech @ #3 Kansas State
Iggins!: Tommy Tuberville has this thing where he beats top 5 teams. It actually seems to be the one thing he’s good at. But I’ll take the old warlock’s magic over Tuberville’s any day. K-State wins.

Code Red: It is, indeed, part of his dark arsenal. But I’m done betting against K-State. K-State wins.

Mrs. Code Red: Kansas State.

#9 USC @ Arizona
Code Red: Seems like every week we get the Arizona or the Arizona State game in here and neither of ‘em ever wins. USC wins.

Iggins!: Yeah, but they’re both top 35 teams, so they keep being in the discussion. USC wins.

Mrs. Code Red: USC wins. 

Ohio State @ Penn State
Iggins!: So, this is the first time these two have played since 1996, AMIRIGHT?! Hehe… anyway. How sad is it that these are two of the remaining unbeaten teams in B1G play and neither will go to the title game? So sad. Penn State wins because Braxton got run over by the Madden ambulance and OSU has no defense.

Code Red: So much hatred. Ohio State wins.

Mrs. Code Red: Are you sure I can't pick “neither?” It doesn't matter anyway, right? Ohio State.

Baylor @ Iowa State
Code Red: Iowa State, as usual, put up a valiant fight in OK State before losing. But Baylor is coming on strong with that offense. Baylor wins.

Iggins!: I think iowa State is favored in this game. That is never good for ISU. Baylor wins.

Mrs. Code Red: I'll roll with Iowa State. 

#5 Notre Dame @ #8 Oklahoma
Iggins!: Notre Dame is winning games like 2001 OSU. They keep almost losing over and over again. Also, Oklahoma likes to look really great for a few weeks then get stomped. I’ll take Notre Dame to win.

Code Red: You mean 2002 Ohio State, but close enough. It ends here. Oklahoma wins.

Iggins!: …yes. Yes I did.

Mrs. Code Red: Gonna go with Notre Dame. Because I'm Catholic? (ignores all of the previous times she picked against Notre Dame).

#22 Michigan @ Nebraska
Code Red: Oh God. Don’t do it. Don’t pick Nebraska in a huge game again….Nebraska.

Iggins!: On the other side of the coin, the only reason I’m still close this year is because you can’t stop picking UNC and Nebraska. Michigan wins.

Mrs. Code Red: Michigan, although I'm getting concerned about how often I'm aligning with that loser Iggins! this week. 

#11 Mississippi State @ #1 Alabama
Iggins!: I want so badly to take MSU. But until they beat Bama or LSU, I can’t do it. Alabama wins.

Code Red: I’m not picking against Saban. That is a fool’s errand. Alabama wins.

Mrs. Code Red: Bama. Roll tide.

#7 Oregon State @ Washington
Code Red: Oregon State is just a damn good team. Mike Riley can coach. Oregon State wins.

Iggins!: Yup. The Civil War is going to be huge this year. Oregon State wins.

Mrs. Code Red: Step 1) Pick Oregon State. 2)?????? 3) Profit. Oregon State wins.

Prognostication Bukakke, NFL Week 8

Mrs. Code Red: 46-24
Code Red: 45-25
Iggins!: 43-27

Code Red: 64-39
Mrs. Code Red: 62-41
Iggins!: 59-44

Code Red: 109-64
Mrs. Code Red: 108-65
Iggins!: 102-71

Buccaneers @ Vikings
Code Red: The Buccaneers just haven’t impressed against any defense with a pulse. Vikings win, but winter is coming.

Iggins!: Stomping the Chiefs is a tad irrelevant. Vikings win.

Mrs. Code Red: I feel like I should pick the Buccaneers, but I can't. Vikings win.

Redskins @ Steelers
Iggins!: Steelers are bad, and though the Washington secondary is garbage I think RG3 scores enough to take this one. I mean… the Titans and Raiders beat Pittsburgh. Redskins win.

Code Red: Just can’t buy that the Steelers defense won’t be just that little ounce better than Washington’s necessary to win this game. Steelers win.

Mrs. Code Red: I don't want the Steelers to win. I hate them because they played the Patriots in the AFC Championship in 1996. I'm not even a Patriots fan anymore (my fathah is), but, you know, old hatreds die hard. Redskins win.

Seahawks @ Lions
Code Red: In Detroit? Lions win.

Iggins!: I’ll take the Lions to win, but this seems like another loss to me. Just playing it safe with Seattle away from home.

Mrs. Code Red: Lions win.

Panthers @ Bears
Iggins!: The Panthers have nothing of anything that can stop the Bears on either side of the ball, except for Cam, and a lone QB does not a good team make. Bears get that shutout, 34-0.

Code Red: The Bears defense is light years better than it was when these teams met up last year. The Bears offense is also much better. I’m hoping Cutler can make some big plays off of play-action this week. I’ll say Bears 30, Panthers 17.

Mrs. Code Red: Duh, Bears 30, Panthers 10.

Falcons @ Eagles
Code Red: Eagles are not great, but I feel like the Falcons have to drop sometime, and that Eagles secondary seems capable of giving them a bad day. Eagles win.

Iggins!: The Falcons look like they’re going to lose, then win. The Eagles look like they’re going to win, then lose. PUZZLE PIECES… CONNECT! Falcons win.

Mrs. Code Red: Michael Vick is in an abysmal spiral. Falcons win.

Patriots @ Rams
Iggins!: Upset special. New England is getting run through by NFC West teams, their defense is bleh, and the Ram defense is good enough to hold them to 21 or 24 points. Rams win.

Code Red: Well, I’ll be. Patriots win.

Mrs. Code Red: Patriots win. I don't hate them, you know.

Colts @ Titans
Code Red: Titans are actually coming around a little bit. Colts don’t travel well. Titans win.

Iggins!: Man, you’re just going to keep losing points picking against Indy, aren’t you? Colts win.

Mrs. Code Red: Frikkin' Colts. Not sure why I felt the need for such emphasis.

Chargers @ Browns
Iggins!: Norv finally seems to understand he needs to run Matthews a lot, and that should be enough, despite a fading Rivers, to beat Cleveland. Chargers win.

Code Red: But Brandon Weeden will once again be valiant in defeat! GODDAMMIT, GORDON. YOU DROPPED THE TD PASS THAT WOULD HAVE GIVEN ME MY UPSET LAST WEEK. Chargers win.

Mrs. Code Red: It's sad that I'm actually taking a moment to think about this. Chargers win.

Dolphins @ Jets
Code Red: Tough call. At home I’ll take the Jets.

Iggins!: Dolphins to take some revenge. The Jets got extremely lucky last go-around. Dolphins win.

Mrs. Code Red: Jets.

Jaguars @ Packers
Iggins!: Yeah… yeah. Packers win.

Code Red: The Packers defense is decimated by injuries right now and it’s just not going to matter. Packers win.

Mrs. Code Red: Guh. Packers.

Raiders @ Chiefs
Code Red: Rhymes with Lady now officially the starter. Chiefs fans hoping that it’s Matt Barkley next year. Raiders win.

Iggins!: Whatever the equivalent of “Suck for Luck” is for Barkley, that’s the Chief strategy right now. Raiders win.

Code Red: “Take a Steaming Shat for Matt”?

Mrs. Code Red: God. Raiders?

Giants @ Cowboys
Iggins!: The Giants should be trying to save some face here since they got beat pretty good in week 1. Giants win.

Code Red: Cowboys actually tend to play really shitty at home. Giants are better on the road. Giants win.

Mrs. Code Red: Giants. I just don't like Tony Romo.

Code Red: I don't know. Given the way he played against the Bears I f*&king love the guy.

Saints @ Broncos
Code Red: Oh damn. This should be fun to watch, but you can’t bet on the Saints secondary to suck less than Denver’s. Broncos win.

Iggins!: Something tells me Breesus is going to pull this one out, but the comeback monster known as Peyton Manning tells me otherwise. Broncos win.

Mrs. Code Red: Broncos, most definitely.

49ers @ Cardinals
Iggins!: ESPN will try to tell you this is a game between two good teams. It is not. 49ers win.

Code Red: Based on what I gather from the general feeling, power-rankings wise, from around the internets: the 49ers, despite Alex Smith and their offense disappearing for long stretches and a defense that’s been less impressive than the Bears’ this year, are still better because they beat Green Bay in week one and losses to the Vikings and a 26-3 dismantling at home by the Giants are to be ignored. Otherwise they looked super-good dismantling the Bills. Meanwhile, the Bears basically have yet to be forgiven for losing a 13 pt game against Green Bay IN LAMBEAU. Guh. 49ers win.

Mrs. Code Red: If Kevin Kolb was healthy I might have been tempted to take the Cardinals. But he's not so I won't. 49ers win.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

What a Horrible Night for a Curse: Week 7 Review

Every so often, generally at night, and generally during some kind of cosmic shift, Red and I become something... unholy. Something wrong. We succumb to our basest instinct and turn into... meatheads. What follows is a horrifying conversation we had after far too much Nyquil and a marathon 24 hour session of ESPNNEWS.

49ers 13, Seahawks 6

Code Red: You talk about defense! Discipline! Smashmouth football! Is this the best division in football (despite the rapidly sinking Cardinals, the Seahawks inability to win games on the road or score 20 points against Non-Patriot defenses, or the fact the Rams can only beat other teams that don’t have offenses)? DEFENSE

Iggins!: I been so used to you damn kid’s “spreads” and “zone-reads” and hippity-flippity that I thought my NFL died with America’s manhood! But here we have two teams willing to run the ball right into the teeth of the defense, fail to achieve point totals higher than many baseball games, and generally look incompetent. THAS FOOTBAW.

Packers 30, Rams 20

Code Red: Clearly the Packers have re-established themselves as the dominant team in all of football.

Iggins!: I have to disagree here, y’see that Packer offense is too gattdamned gimmicky to win anything. Thirty points?! This ain’t basketball, Packers! I’ll take the mediocre offense and strong defense of the Rams any day! Even when they lose!

Colts 17, Browns 13

Code Red: Boy, this Andrew Luck. You see him running it. You see him throwing it. Might as well slap his name on that rookie of the year trophy now!

Iggins!: Too flashy! 53.6% completion percentage? Stop showing off, son! I’ll take Trent Richardson’s 3.4 yards per attempt this year any day! WORKMANLIKE.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

For the Record: Week 7 Review, Jay's Delicious Ribs, and the Abomination that is Weekday Football Edition


This damnable bye week drags on for a few more hours of hellish torture. The skies darken and swell with the tears of the Gods as we await the return of Bears football. Why, cruel schedule makers? Whyyyyyyyy??

Lots of things happened this weekend. STUFF. Let's get to it:

-NFL first. The Packers predictably let the Rams get a bit close for comfort but Rodgers was patient and shredded the second dominant secondary in as many weeks. The Packers still have a weak defense, but... man they're scary when Rodgers is doing his thing. Hopefully he can't sustain his current level of play for the rest of the year. The Vikings rode AP to a win and Ponder had a terrible, terrible game against a good secondary. They'll probably get into the playoffs by picking off every bad team on their schedule and losing to the good ones. The Bengals are last year's Bucs, and they want you to remember that. The Steelers still suck. The Patriots are... mediocre. That's odd. They really should address that whole pass defense thing. I can foresee Miami @ New England for the AFC East in Week 17. How sad is that? The Ravens would like you to remember that yes, they are the Ravens, so PASSPASSPASS ignore Ray Rice Joe Flacco is so great isn't he? The Giants are still the Giants, the 49ers are kind of lame... if Chicago gets a good win tonight they have to be the team to beat in the NFC.

-NCAA second. Why, Iowa, would you not at least try to bench Vandenberg? He is clearly awful now. It's inexplicable, yes, but it is how it is. He will never be as good as he was last year again. I'm not saying Rudock or Sokol would be better. I have no idea if they would or wouldn't. But at least they'd be different! They need to try something. In other news, South Carolina hates road games, Alabama is to this season what Kentucky basketball was to last season: we'll keep thinking up new potential challengers so we have something to talk about, but we all know it's inevitable. Kansas State is pretty damn good. What else happened? Nothing really seems important in NCAA football after watching Bama.

I see literally no reason to believe the Packers are any different than they were last year. The only difference is that their defense hasn’t generated the absurdly high total of interceptions that it did last year, so instead of turnover differential getting them to 15-1 they’ve actually let a few teams hang with them this year. This is both bad and good news. Bad, because oh hey they’re still really good and frightening and will probably beat almost everyone left on their schedule (really hoping they lose @Giants, @Bears, and maybe one more upset to at least put them on the bubble) but good because they have clearly defined weaknesses that hopefully someone will exploit (and maybe the Bears someday if they ever go into one Green Bay game with the idea of running the ball until Green Bay actually proves they can stop it).

I’m still incredibly unimpressed by the Vikings. I’ve done the math time and again and I think their best case scenario is 8-8. It’s going to be a long hard fall. I don’t know that the Bengals are as bad as last year’s Bucs, but we knew they wouldn’t repeat as a playoff team. Then again, the Ravens are sinking fast so it’s not unthinkable in the conference where clearly 9-7 will get you in. And yeah, that Joe Flacco….I’m sure people accuse us of being hypocrites for criticizing Flacco when he’s posted similar numbers to Cutler over his career, but Flacco’s been given everything he could ever want for his entire career and just never goes anywhere with it.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Hey, David Haugh Gets Paid by the Word, Alright?

Today, I plan to carry on a proud SKO tradition by mocking a Chicago Tribune reporter’s outright idiocy in debate form. For my first foray into this territory, I’ve chosen my personal least favorite, noted scribe David Haugh.

In his column, “In the Wake of the News,” on Thursday, Haugh took on the futile and seemingly unnecessary task of defending Jerry Angelo’s tenure as GM for the Bears. The most outstanding question about this, in my opinion, is “why bother?” but that’s beside the point.

 As is custom, Haugh is in italics, I’m in regular font.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Bears 13, Lions 7- These ARE Your Father's Lions

The box score will tell you this game was close, but it really wasn't. The Lions never stood a chance of winning this game, no matter how many unnecessary roughness penalties they racked up (2), or how badly they tried to knock Cutler out of the game. This Bears defense proved once again tonight that they'll shut down anyone, anywhere, and they will punch your balls out repeatedly.

The Bears move to 5-1, maintaining control of the division, while the probably-fucked Lions dropped to 2-4, proving that, hey, Detroit is still Detroit after all. I mean, there was a time in the 90s when the Lions weren't consistently awful. They were just awful the year after meaningless playoff appearances. Welcome back:

Onto the specifics:


Jay Cutler: The numbers weren't there, but anyone who saw the game will know why he's up here first. I've certainly argued against the "Jay Cutler is a wuss" crowd in the past, but even if it wasn't already the dumbest fucking thing I've ever heard before tonight, after tonight I hope to never hear it again. As long as #6 is the quarterback of the Bears, I'll be happy, because he's a bad-ass mother fucker.

Matt Forte/Michael Bush: 28 rushes, 132 yds, 4.7 ypc. This combo works, and I'm glad they committed to it, even if they forgot it at the goal line (more on that later).

Julius Peppers: He had another sack, but disrupted the Lions on many plays, including Stafford's game-clinching interception. He's got more help than ever now, but he's still the star of the show.

The Rest of the D-Line: They finished with three sacks, but Stafford was hurried and harassed most of the night, and it showed. Shea McClellin had a half a sack, because fuck Hub Arkush.

Charles Tillman: He blanketed Megatron again, holding him to just 34 yards receiving. He broke up a touchdown pass right before a turnover that kept Detroit off the board. He punched a ball out (even if the fumble went out of bounds) because Charles Tillman is very good at football.


Gabe Carimi: I'm getting really tired of putting him here. At some point you've got to be able to block SOMEBODY in pass protection, Gabe. Please don't be Gabe Colombo.

Stupid Penalties: Several of them killed drives, drove starting field position back to the shadow of the endzone, and made the f*&king Lions look disciplined. Unacceptable.

Mike Tice: Christ, Mike. We've been over this. His name is Michael Bush. He's a fucking battering ram. Detroit showed no interest in stopping him at all tonight. Just give him the ball when you're at the fucking 3 yard line and it's 17-0 Bears and Jay can rest his ribs for an extra quarter.

Ndamukong Suh: Okay. That hit may not have been illegal, but fuck you. Overrated sack of shit.

Matthew Stafford: Stafford was seconds away from picking a fight with DJ Moore's back all night, as he was clearly flustered and frustrated that P'Nut once again took away his favorite toy. Nice turf-face, Bitchford.

That's all for now. Others will say "it wasn't pretty." Maybe you think so if you don't enjoy watching Lovie's defense rack up takeaways at an absolutely epic rate. I, personally, thought it was fucking beautiful.

Go Bears.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Why Do They Hate Jay Cutler?

Good morning everyone. Or afternoon depending on your time zone, I suppose, but as I just woke up I'm calling it morning. Those of you who frequent the Shoutbox know me as Erik, because that's my name and I'm the kind of guy who posts under his real name. So keep that in mind when you go to make death threats.

The good folks here at SKO have invited me to contribute to the site occasionally, so I'll be popping up now and again with cutting insight into just why the sports media is so stupid (and sometimes other things). I'm a writer by trade, so forgive me if I tend to rant. I'm doing it now, aren't I? Damn. Well, without further ado, enjoy or despise my first attempt at matching SKO's quality:

Why Do They Hate Jay Cutler?

After their most recent attempt to bait Jay Cutler into saying something outrageous, it’s become clear that, as tired as everybody else is of hearing about it, the sports media world is sticking to their guns on the “Jay Cutler is an asshole” thing.

For those too lazy to click the link, basically what it boils down to is this. Phil Simms recently said something to the effect of “I like Jay Cutler. He’s got a strong arm and he gets mean. Being mean is an important part of being a good NFL quarterback.”

Reporters at a press conference Wednesday asked Jay what he thought of Simms saying he was mean. To his credit, Jay responded by telling them to stop taking things out of context, but they’ve clearly crossed the line from stringing a narrative together to actively writing it.

In a column he wrote on October 9th, poet laureate David Haugh wrote about Lovie Smith’s success in Chicago. One of the things he pointed out was Lovie getting rid of Martz and transitioning to Tice, a move pretty much everyone agreed with because Martz was never going to run an offense that worked with the talent he had on the field and Tice will. What Haugh said instead of that, though, was that Tice’s “flexibility and affability made him ideally suited to run an offense impetuous quarterback Jay Cutler leads.”

Why did he need to bring Jay into it at all? The problem with Martz wasn’t Cutler’s attitude, and Tice hasn’t had a whole lot to say about his “impetuous quarterback.” So why is it that even the home team feels the need to tear Jay down at every opportunity? Well, as a journalist and a rabid Cutler supporter, I may have a few answers.

1) He doesn’t need them
As a writer, it can be one of the most frustrating things in the world to have an uncooperative interviewee. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve wanted to write “The police officer who responded to the call was unavailable for comment because he’s a big sack of dicks,” but that’s not being professional.

Sportswriters, however, are the big pampered babies of the journalistic world. They have regular access to some of the biggest celebrities in the country, and they’re used to those celebrities taking every opportunity they can to please the crowd and, indirectly, the writer.

They’re used to Tom Brady, who puts on a handsome smiley face and laughs for the camera, but calls his teammates “fucking bitches” on the sideline when they settle for a field goal. The idea that a quarterback not only doesn’t want to talk to them, but actively resists presenting a media-friendly image is unconscionable to them.

So instead, they tear him down. They turn him into a media pariah and have a feeding frenzy every time he looks grumpy on the sideline so that, someday, he’ll come back to them looking to revamp his image and they’ll get what they wanted in the first place.

2) He doesn’t fit their model
This one is more applicable to the Chicago crowd (Haugh, Telander, Morrissey) than ESPN as a whole, but it’s ESPN’s fault in the first place. They started the “elite quarterback” conversation that has made it so hard for a number of young QB’s to get the recognition they deserve.

When it comes to “elite quarterbacks,” writers tend to cherry-pick their stats to fit that image. Take Eli Manning, who has okay-to-bad first halves all the time and looks like he’s about to crash, but turns into the Incredible Hulk in the fourth quarter and brings it back. That’s his story, right? That’s what makes him elite.

Well then, would it surprise you to know that Jay Cutler is the best 4th-quarter QB in the league right now?

But he doesn’t have a ring, and that’s become one of the defining characteristics of the elite QB, so nobody talks about it. Five years ago, Eli was “the other Manning.” I’m not necessarily saying that Jay is better than Eli, just that the sports media will actively rewrite the story on the field if the person throwing the ball has won a Super Bowl.

Want a better example? How about Brett Favre, a man whose every flaw was on painfully public display for literally his entire career. But once he got a ring, his attitude and his inconsistencies became part of the legend. The “gunslinger attitude” people criticize Cutler for was Favre’s signature “greatness.” Not only did the commentators praise him for it while he was winning, they’re still praising him for it today.

They’ve convinced themselves that not having a top-5 quarterback makes you a bad team, even though 27 teams have to play without a top-5 quarterback every year. The 49ers and the Texans are the toast of the NFL this year, and neither of their QBs is even close to the top 5. But until he wins a Super Bowl, Cutler will never be able to break into that club and have his flaws forgiven by a fawning Chris Collinsworth. 

3) LeBron James
Now, you might say, “What?” And you’d be right to do so, but bear with me.

In 2010, LeBron James made a big show of doing something dozens of people do every year: entering free agency and going to another team. While he was a big dick about it, at its core it was a roster move.

The media ripped him to pieces over it. He became the biggest villain the NBA has ever seen; it was like something out of professional wrestling. Commentators went on and on about how Jordan and Bird would never do such a thing, and how LeBron was ruining the game of basketball. The owner of the Cavaliers made a brash, untenable promise (in Comic Sans, no less) that Cleveland will win a championship not in spite of, but because of LeBron’s betrayal. The mayor of Cleveland made the team that beat LeBron for the championship honorary citizens of his city.

And that Christmas Day, the Lakers-Heat game had a 45% ratings increase from the previous year.  People were discussing nothing but the NBA in fucking July. It was the biggest story and most compelling narrative we’ve seen in basketball since Michael Jordan retired, and all it took was a villain.

For an NFL-related example, Favre’s return to Green Bay in a Vikings jersey drew more viewers than game 4 of the World Series, which aired the same night. It was the most-watched Sunday Night Football game in 14 years. I doubt the Packers’ or Vikings’ fan bases expanded appreciably that year. It was the chance to see a man who had deceived and betrayed the town that loved him (even though that’s not what really happened) beaten by his successors in front of the home audience.

And that’s why the media needs Jay Cutler to be an asshole, and will rewrite history to make him look like one. If he has a B+ game and afterward says “Yeah it was okay. We won, and I had a pretty okay night,” the story ends there. We don’t talk about it. We don’t click through to more stories and keep refreshing to see if he’s retorted yet.

But if he grumps at Mike Tice when they fail on 3rd and long, the whole sports world is talking about Jay Cutler, whether they’re cursing him or defending him. And we have that conversation in their papers, on their web pages. They sell more issues, get more pageviews and more advertising dollars, get higher ratings for every segment of SportsCenter that talks about his “outburst.”

They need a story, so they pick somebody with a grumpy face and try to turn him into a monster. And who wouldn’t believe, when you only get a 10-second view of one sideline incident, that a guy with a face like Jay’s was mean to his teammates?

None of this excuses their behavior, but at least it helps to understand why, regardless of what he does, it’s not going to stop until he wins a championship. Once he gets that ring, the “elite QB” thing will go away, and the people who spontaneously ejaculate when an ’85 Bear speaks will have to quit mocking him the same way they had to glorify Jim McMahon.

No doubt, they would say he’ll lose that game on purpose just to spite them.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Prognostication Bukakke, NCAA Week 8

#3 Oregon @ Arizona State
Iggins!: DIE TODD GRAHAM DIE. Oregon wins.

Code Red: Why do you hate him so much? Man just wanted a better job. This is America, commie. Oregon wins.

Iggins!: Which is understandable, but when your resignation affects the lives of an entire class of students you brought in based on your lies about being fully committed, then all you give them is a text when you leave? You're a fuck.

Mrs. Code Red: Oregon.

Virginia Tech @ #19 Clemson
Code Red: Going to hope that Clemson's got all of the Clemson out of their system for the year. Clemson wins.

Iggins!: Have to take Clemson to win.

Mrs. Code Red: Clemson wins.

#24 Iowa State @ Oklahoma State
Iggins!: So many reasons ISU won’t win this game. 1) They’re ranked. Not sure why. Because they beat TCU? 2) They hate winning games they’re favored in. 3) Oklahoma State probably remembers the whole “You kept us out of the National Title Game” thing. Oklahoma State wins.

Code Red: 4) They're probably a vastly superior program to Iowa right now. Has no relevance on this game. Just like saying it to you. Oklahoma State wins, because Stillwater is a rough place for a team like Iowa State to win on the road.

Iggins!: Nuh-uh!... oh wait... shit.

Mrs. Code Red: Iowa State wins. 

#6 LSU @ #18 Texas A&M
Code Red: That Texas A&M defense may very well make LSU's offense look average. LSU wins.

Iggins!: Just setting up another Alabama versus other SEC team title game here, nothing to see. LSU wins.

Mrs. Code Red: LSU wins.

#17 Texas Tech @ #23 TCU
Iggins!: Seems like a good spot for Texas Tech to lose after that big win against WVU. TCU wins.

Code Red: Sigh. Hate picking Tuberville, but can't help meself. Texas Tech wins.
Mrs. Code Red: Religion over science, I guess. TCU wins.

#7 South Carolina @ #2 Florida
Code Red: Have to continue to ride the horse that got me here, but I'd nay be surprised if Spurrier came out on top here. Florida.

Iggins!: Picking against Florida has caused me nothing but pain this year, and South Carolina isn't the same on the road. Florida wins.

Mrs. Code Red: South Carolina wins.

Nebraska @ Northwestern
Iggins!: Nebraska hasn’t looked great. Of course, neither has Northwestern, but they have looked at least as good, and they managed to beat Nebraska last season. Hoping the curse has transferred. Northwestern wins.

Code Red: I turn my back on you, Nebraska. I do it myself. Northwestern wins.

Mrs. Code Red: Uhh...Nebraska?

#4 Kansas State @ #13 West Virginia
Code Red: Please, Holgo. Right the ship! America needs you to keep your title hopes alive! WVU wins.

Iggins!: Kansas State is good. Their defense is great and their offense can put up enough to keep up with WVU. Sadly, I'll take Kansas State here.

Mrs. Code Red: Kansas State.

#1 Alabama @ Tennessee
Iggins!: This was a fun game last year, and Tennessee almost ruined everything for Bama (which means Tennessee is the reason for that awful title game last year… goddamn you Tennessee). Tennessee gon Tennessee. Alabama wins.

Code Red: Saban hasn't forgotten that, and this is definitely going to be a slaughter. Bama wins.

Mrs. Code Red: Alabama.

#14 Florida State @ Miami (FL)
Code Red: FSU has also hopefully gotten the FSU out of their system. FSU wins.

Iggins!: Florida State on the road against a mediocre ACC team? Sounds like a recipe for disaster. But I'm playing it safe. Florida State wins.

Mrs. Code Red: Florida State, because my good friend Abby goes there, and it'd be ludicrous to roll with G-reg's boys in this one.