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Friday, December 28, 2012

Why the 49ers won't get to the Super Bowl

An interesting comment got me to writing a rather long response, so instead of posting it there, I though "Why not just make a post?", and so here it is: the reason the 49ers are morons for supplanting Alex Smith when they did and also why Matt Forte is a top 5 RB.

Let me be abundantly clear here: the comment I made about the 49ers had very little to do with Kaepernick's potential as an NFL QB, or even Kaepernick at all. I personally don't think he'll be a good NFL starter, but I've been wrong enough to know it is completely possible. What I was really talking about when I said the 49ers "never should have committed to" Kaepernick was their timing. They replaced Alex Smith in game 10 of the regular season. There are a few ways a first-time starting QB can go in his first full year, and unless you're Cam Newton or Andrew Luck (Who is simply having too strange of a year statistically to categorize) you will have one of a few kinds of years. For Kaepernick, he started hot then came back to Earth a bit against St. Louis and Seattle. That means he is taking one of two paths:

Up-Down-Up: The QB will do surprisingly well initially (this is probably because he brings something extra to the table, like speed, or because his coach is gameplanning him so as to hide his weaknesses... think Roethlisberger's first year) then fall on his ass once teams have film on him. Finally, due to overwhelming talent or good strategy, the QB will rise again, adjust to the adjustment, and finish strong, capping a good rookie year. This is RG3.
Up-Down: The same as above, but the initial defensive adjustment is too much for the QB, it exposes his inherent flaws, the QB cannot adjust, and the QB becomes a career backup. Ahem, Rex Grossman.

The big issue here is that Kaepernick will almost assuredly struggle at the exact wrong time. His seventh game will be against Arizona, his eighth a playoff game. For perspective, RG3 was great for four games, then did poorly for four of his next five games. Cam Newton did great for 4 games then struggled in six of his next seven before righting the ship. Rex Grossman was dynamite for 4 of his first 5 games before sputtering and crashing into oblivion. Kaepernick has been good or great in 4 of his first 5 games... and now he got beat up by Seattle. If the trend holds? He'll hit his struggle section right when the 49ers need him most. So, to reiterate, I don't disagree that Alex Smith is not a long-term answer. I disagree with the timing of his benching.

Moving on to Forte. I agree Arian, Purple Jesus, and Ray Rice are all better than Forte. Jamaal Charles is great, but he has a tendency to disappear from games occasionally and is a complete non-factor in the passing game. Marshawn Lynch has had a great run recently, so he might be #4. Who else is there to challenge Forte? Lesean McCoy just up and dsappeared this year, Reggie Bush was wildly inconsistent, Frank Gore is nearly as beat up as Michael Turner... just because Forte doesn't get used to his full potential doesn't mean he is worth less. His YPC are right there with everyone else I've mentioned and he is one of the three best pass catching RBs in the NFL (Sproles and Ray Rice). Even if we put JC ahead of him he is still #6. Seems trite to argue him being a top 5 RB on that kind of technicality.

This Sunday and its Meaning

This is going to be the biggest Sunday of football in recent Bear history. It's true: they went to a Super Bowl not long ago. And even more recently the Bears played the Packers in an NFC title game. But it's hard to say that either of those two games had quite the impact this weekend will have. Rex Grossman wasn't winning a Super Bowl. The Packer game only served to humiliate the Bears for letting the Packers fall ass-backwards into the playoffs. But this Sunday could change the entire trajectory of an organization that has largely looked exactly the same for eight to nine years.

If the Bears win and the Vikings lose (Thank God Green Bay actually has something to play for), the Bears get a weakened 49er team with a quarterback they never should have committed to. If the Bears win that game, Lovie is safe and the Cutler-Smith experiment will continue.

But let's be honest with ourselves, Bear fans. I probably don't even have to tell you that: we're Chicago sports fans! We're oftentimes a bit TOO pessimistic about what is going to happen to our sports teams. And really, pessimism is simply realism here. The reasoned observer will say that the Bears have a good chance of making the playoffs and getting blown to pieces by the 49ers. There's a good chance Lovie gets fired even if he DOES get to 10-6 and the playoffs in that case. The Bear fan in all of us, of course, is pretty damn sure they'll lose to Detroit this weekend while we also watch Minnesota lose by 30.

And in that scenario, well, everything changes. The head coach we've known since 2004 will be fired, Mike Tice will be gone, Marinelli too (mostly because new HCs want their own coordinators). Most likely so will the 4-3 Cover 2, Brian Urlacher, Devin Hester, and maybe even Jay Cutler. The entire face of this organization will change with that loss. And consider this: the Bears will have one of the best defenses in the league, two Pro Bowl starting corners, a potentially Hall of Fame linebacker (Briggs), a Hall of Fame DE, Henry Melton, the second or third best WR in the game, a top 5 RB, and a team that went 9-7. That sounds like a damn good job opportunity to me.

The coaching options are numerous, but I guarantee the top 2 names on the Bear's list will be Sean Payton and Rex Ryan (Yes, Rex Ryan just got run out of New York. But he has strong Bear ties, he made it to two AFC championship games with defense alone, and he has a very "Bear" mentality. Just enough reason for the Bear organization to put him at the top of a small list, whether the fans agree with it or not.). Rex represents a slightly more conservative approach to change. The defense will become a 3-4, which is entirely foreign to Bear fans, but the Bears actually have the pieces to run that defense right now with very little transition. Shea would be a great 3-4 OLB, Henry Melton is exactly what you want for the middle of your 3-4 line, and Peppers will be great doing anything. The non-change here would be the offense. Rex likes running the ball and occasionally slinging shit deep. Sound like a Cutler offense to you? Yeah. Rex almost fits too perfectly.

But before the Bears call him, they will certainly call the most coveted HC on the open market, Sean Payton. Through a very strange loophole, the Saint HC got released from his contract in part because of the year-long suspension from bounty-gate. I personally believe he's just going to leverage the Cowboy's and Bear's interest against the Saints in order to get a bigger deal, but what if he doesn't? The Bears job is by far the best of the three. It'll give Payton a defense for the first time in his career, one of the best receivers in the game, and a gun-slinging QB who he can either trade for someone he covets or give a one year tryout. Of course, Payton would change the defense AND the offense, and the last time the Bears ran something looking like a spread... well, Cutler still has bruises.

The league is changing. Will the Bears change with it? This team has never been anything but defense-first, run the ball, rinse, repeat, and the one season we tried becoming pass-centric Jay Cutler almost died at the hands of Mike Martz. The last few seasons Lovie has been awkwardly hiring new OCs, trying to turn this offense into something new and, well, good. But his results have been mediocre at best, and occasionally painful and even dangerous. It is, and I say this with love in my heart for Lovie, very clear he has no idea what to do on offense in today's NFL. But one thing is clear; he thinks he needs to change. This is why, if Lovie goes, the Bears will almost assuredly grab a coach that will change the very fabric of the team. I'm not here to argue whether changing is good or not. But the Bears may look at the list of Super Bowl champs and realize the last time a team won with their current mentality was 2003. And that was when the Bucs beat the Raiders in possibly the worst Super Bowl ever.

It is very rare that you get to watch something understanding the full weight and context of the situation you are seeing. Nobody knew the Bulls would trip and fall into the #1 pick to get D. Rose. Nobody knew Bartman was coming. Make no mistake. This Sunday means more to the Bear's organization than either of those two events. It could mean changing the entire identity of a team that has remained constant for so long. So tune in this Sunday and watch as a man fights for his job, and maybe more importantly, a team decides its trajectory for the next ten years.

Monday, December 17, 2012

University of Cincinnati Surprised to Find Itself In Classic Horror Movie Situation

CINCINNATI, OHIO (AP) The University of Cincinnati released a statement today, on behalf of its leadership and basketball program, pleading for help from other institutions, or at least some explanation as to their current, rather surreal circumstances.

"Is anybody else seeing this?!" reads the statement, "We keep going out the door of Conference USA, but... jesus it just leads right back inside! How is this possible?!"

Cincinnati left C-USA in 2005 for the Big East, a league with BCS ties and a proud basketball tradition.

"Just a few months back we were waking up to say Hi to Syracuse, Pitt, and Rutgers to throw the ol' pigskin around... then they were just gone! I mean, we thought it was strange, but then it got even weirder!"

"One day a week ago we were playing some NBA 2K13 with Villanova, then... jesus they just disappeared! We looked all over for them, but... they were gone! When we went to tell Georgetown, well, they were gone too! So was St. John's! God almost everyone was gone!"

But the worst was yet to come, apparently, as the letter's tone takes a turn for the desperate and clearly delusional.

"Then we noticed even our old buddies from C-USA, Marquette, were gone. That's when we noticed it... the Big East sign above the door... it was all beat up from what the ACC did to it when they came by a while back... but now it looked strange... warped...

it looked like it said C-USA."

Cincinnati is probably confused because the Big East has recently lost all but one of its founding members, leaving the conference with UConn, Cincinnati, and several former members of C-USA.

The letter continues, "We turned from the sign, frightened... and standing there was Tulane. Jesus it was TULANE. We thought we got away from them forever! When Louisville, Marquette, and us got out of that hellhole in '05 we thought it was over! But there it was! So we ran.

We ran for the door, through the foyer... and there they were. Houston! SMU! UCF! Memphis! Oh God they were all there. So we ran out the front door... and came right back in the back door."

The letter trails off from there, devolving into random pleas for help; "Found UConn. Can't escape. We keep trying to leave through the side door into the ACC house... but it's no use. We talked about it, and we think this is our hell. We keep reaching for an ACC hand to save us... but it never comes. Have to sign off now. Boise State made lasagna. I hear Navy will be here soon. Someone says maybe UMass too. God help us. We'll take any help. Even the Big 12! GOD SAVE US SOMEBODY PLEASE AGHHHHH!!!"

The letter devolves into random scribbling and pictures of centaurs after that. When asked for comment, all the ACC would say is "Meh" and "Once the B1G takes North Carolina and Virginia we'll probably take em both. I mean, I guess."


The Bear's Playoff Chances

Well, I wanted to use this morning to stare at my dominant fantasy football win over Erik (and forget that my wife put up back to back weeks of 149+ points to beat me in a different league) but Red had to get all moody like he does, so I figured I should temper his and Fro Dog's enthusiasm over a Bear loss to Green Bay. Yeah, we looked awful. And yes, once more the defense gave up a respectable number of points to a great offense and Cutler screwed it up. ON THE OTHER HAND, the Bears are still 8-6 and have, with the 'skins, the easiest remaining two games on their schedule. Let's break down the NFC playoff hopefuls in order of playoff likelihood:

Washington Redskins
Remaining Games: @Philadelphia, vs.Dallas

So yeah, the Redskins pulled a Kirk Cousins out of their ass and beat Cleveland in Cleveland to nearly secure the NFC East. All they have to do is beat Philly (easy) and beat Dallas, a game they play at home. The only thing stopping them from hitting 10-6 and winning the East is the health of RG3, who is said to be recovering very nicely and on track to start at Philadelphia. So expect Washington to take the NFC East.

Chicago Bears
Remaining Games: @Arizona, @Detroit

Yes, the Bears are next in line in order of ease of schedule for getting to 10-6 and a playoff spot. Remember that as far back as 5 weeks ago we were anticipating a loss to the Packers but two wins at these two teams and a playoff birth. Well, now it's crunch time. Neither of these teams should be able to beat the Bears. One loss here will mean Lovie's job and potentially Cutler's as well (Emery has proven to be more willing to actually do things. Don't be surprised, if the Bears miss the playoffs, if he tries to throw Cutler to a team in position to draft Geno Smith or Matt Barkley.). All that said, it's pretty likely the Bears win out, go 10-6, and make the playoffs. That's because...

New York Giants
Remaining Games: @Baltimore, vs. Philadelphia

The Giants just got destroyed by Atlanta, so kudos to the Falcons for hitting on all cylinders right when they need to. The Giants are, of course, the Giants, so don't count them out here, but I'd expect a loss at Baltimore and a win at home vs. Philly to put them at 9-7. They might still make the playoffs though, because the Bears will lose the conference record tiebreaker if they finish tied with New York. In other words, Bear fans, Eli Manning is right there, and, wait, how did you get a baseball bat in your hand? No, don't do that!... okay maybe just his legs...

Dallas Cowboys
Remaining Games: vs.New Orleans, @Washington

That looks like 8-8 to me. Anybody see what Brees did to Tampa last week? Not only that, the Saints-Cowboys game is like the Sean Payton bowl, and I'm sure Drew has something to say about where his coach should end up. @Washington to end the year doesn't exactly inspire much confidence either. I can't imagine a scenario in which this team gets into the playoffs.

Minnesota Vikings
Remaining Games: @Houston, vs.Green Bay

That ALSO looks like 8-8 to me. The Texans need one more win to clinch home field throughout, so they'll be playing this game. The Packers will also have a shot, most likely, at a first round bye in week 17 (not to mention a shot at putting Minnesota down for good). The Vikings just don't have the firepower to take on either of these teams.

In Summary:
Considering one of those NFC East teams has to take the division, the Bears are basically facing down the Giants. Though that be a frightening proposition, all the Bears need is for Baltimore to take care of business this upcoming week and to win out against Arizona and Detroit. The tiebreaker goes to New York, yes, so the Giants or Redskins will need to lose a game. But I still think this team will fall into the #6 seed.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Packers 21, Bears 13- With a Whimper

The collapse is more or less complete. The Bears could win their last two and get some help and still make the playoffs, but that seems incredibly unlikely. It doesn't matter anyways. This is not a good football team. It's hard to believe it ever was. They were failures in every possible phase today, and they let the division title that was in their hands for half a season go to Green Bay on their home turf.

There will be hard decisions in the future. The end of this season has gone about as badly as you could have ever imagined for the two individuals who have the most control over the team's fate: Jay Cutler and Lovie Smith.

I don't want to say goodbye to either of them, myself. The sinking feeling in my stomach tells me this franchise would be no closer to a title without them than it is with them, but there's also little that can be said to defend either one of them right now. There are plenty of excuses. There always are in a team sport where so many variables play into wins and losses, but the blame for this collapse will fall on the shoulders of these two, and it'll be truly interesting to see whether the axe will come out, and where it will land.

I don't much have the heart for a breakdown, frankly. The only good I saw was in the pass rush early on, and a run game that reappeared for just a few moments. After that it was all bad. The officiating was undeniably bad, but the Bears have no one to blame but themselves for being incapable of scoring points against any defense with a pulse. That Green Bay Packers squad that carried away the division championship today is clearly the worst unit that Rodgers has led since his first year as a starter, and the Bears weren't even close to them in either game. Think about that. Or don't. I won't blame you.

I haven't got the faintest idea where everything will be once the dust settles. I can only assume that I'll be as unhappy as I am right now.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Vikings 21, Bears 14: There Goes the Neighborhood

As SKO was actually at the game, he’s asked me to step in and do the recap today. I was hoping it would be a good game. As you all saw, I was very very wrong. The Bears fall to 8-5, still leading the wild card race, but it was not an encouraging game.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Seahawks 23, Bears 17: Take the Points You Jackass

I'm a big defender of Lovie Smith. Have been for years. Very little of the stuff he gets blamed for is actually his fault, but this game....oh this game, Lovie f*&ked up royally. You do not go for it in field goal range (TO DETERMINE A TWO SCORE GAME, MIND YOU) on 4th down in the first fucking quarter. You do not pucker up and play prevent offense AND defense with a four point lead against a scrambling QB. You do not continually play two deep safety when your team CANNOT stop a running QB or the runningback. They were f&king running goddamn stunts to collapse the middle against a QB who WANTS to get outside the pocket! HE'S A F*&KING MIDGET ROOKIE FOR F*&K'S SAKE.

Sorry, that one's on Lovie. Tice called a brilliant game up till they got the 14-10 lead and then he puckered. The defense puckered all game long. It was obvious the front four wasn't getting any penetration and Lovie/Marinelli didn't dial up anything extra, and they continually gave Wilson the edge as though Urlacher could run him down like he would have seven years ago. Just pathetic.

The Packers now move back into first place at 8-4, with the head to head tiebreaker, and I don't see the New York Giants coming along to knock them back down. You had a rookie QB at his own 1 yard line at home in December, and you couldn't make a fucking play. There's very little reason to think this team's going to be able to contain Kaepernick, Wilson, RGIII, or Rodgers at this point. This was a costly one, folks, far more than the Texans or 49ers games. Utterly pathetic.

The Good:

Brandon Marshall: If it weren't for him this game would've been over before it started. He kept the chains moving, came up with the miracle ball to send it to overtime, and was generally the only receiver who did more damage against the Seahawks than the Bears.

Jay Cutler: He was utterly amazing today against one of the NFL's best pass defenses, and he couldn't find anyone other than Marshall to help him out. Earl Bennett dropped what may have been the best throw of Jay's career, and the game went away from them after that.

The Offensive Line: Cutler was untouched all game long, and they eventually got the run game going late. Terrible to see an effort like this wasted.

The Bad:

Lovie Smith: You do not pass on a double-digit lead at home over one of the NFL's best defenses. YOU DON'T DO IT. F*&KING FUCK, LOVIE. I just can't add anything more. I realize that there were numerous opportunities afterward, and that nothing in the first quarter "loses" a game, but you don't take points off the board. It's that simple. If you're at the 34 yard line and go for it, you're showing faith in both your offense and your defense. If you're already in chip shot range, you're just letting fucking emotion cloud your judgement.

Brian Urlacher: He was old, slow, and exposed the entire fourth quarter. I hate to say it, but Cam Newton, Kaepernick, and now Wilson should have it drilled into their heads by now that the "don't worry, Brian will run them down" approach to mobile QBs needs to go.

Earl Bennett: I'm aware that he had a TD and it sucks that he left with a concussion, but you can't drop that ball. Inexcusable. Absolutely pathetic that no one outside of Brandon Marshall can step up. This entire receiving corps has regressed from last year outside of Marshall, and they were shitty to begin with.

That's it for now. Another one where the meatballs can have their day, because every overblown, overrated meatball explanation for Lovie Smith being a bad head coach showed up today, and while it doesn't define a career, it fucked his team hard today.