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Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Rick Telander is the Dumbest Man Alive

It's concerning to all Bears fans that Brian Urlacher may not be ready for the season opener. It's possible a knee injury may slow him down all season long. No one, however, has just suggested in any way even the slightest possibility that Urlacher may miss all off the season. That doesn't stop Rick Telander, however, from somehow deciding that the Bears may (and probably should) cut Brian fucking Urlacher. I don't even know where to begin. As usual, he's in italics, I am not.

He didn’t play.

Telander is correct. Brian Urlacher did not play in the Bears most recent preseason game. This is the last factual and sensible thing you'll see in this article.

And the question is: Can he play?

No, Rick. The question is when he will play. Which nearly everyone with any degree of medical knowledge agrees will be sometime within the next month at the latest. I mean the guy was practicing and running around at traning camp less than a few weeks ago. I don't think the surgery somehow made things Worse.

Brian Urlacher may be the heart of the Bears, but if the pump in the middle of the machine is busted, you either fix it or get a new one.

Or if that heart happens to be a future hall of famer with a swollen knee who just had an operation to fix said knee and is projected to be back soon, maybe you just duct tape that shit and wait for the part to get back in operation. You don't chuck him overboard because he may miss some regular season time for just the second time in his 12 year career.

Nick Roach filled in for Urlacher at middle linebacker against the New York Giants — doing what he has been doing this preseason — and was . . . OK.
One play stood out early on. It was a sweep that Giants running back David Wilson took around left end for 15 yards. Roach was blocked to the ground on the play.
Then, early in the second quarter, Roach broke up a pass from Eli Manning to running back Henry Hynoski, and the Giants were forced to punt. Nice job.

Acceptable backup starter played like acceptable backup starter. Thanks, Rick.

But is this what it’s come down to: Nick Roach for Brian Urlacher? Six-one, 234 pounds for 6-4, 258? Good for superior? Steady for Hall of Fame?
What has what come down to? No one but you is trying to make this a decision. Nick Roach is just there until Urlacher gets back. Everyone else but you says he's coming back.  This isn't a choice. This is just a temporary solution, you moron.

Sure, you can say such speculation is premature. Urlacher just needs more time to rehab his injured left knee. He’ll be fine by the season opener, 14 days from now, at Soldier Field against the Indianapolis Colts.

Premature was't the word I had in mind. Asinine? Paranoid? Attention-whoring headline from a hack writer desperate for material? Damn. That's more than one word.

That’s what Urlacher has been saying. That’s what coach Lovie Smith has been saying. That’s what teammates have been saying.
But how do they know?

Probably beacuse they see him daily. Or have access to his medical records. Or to the doctors who've operated on him and given a timetable. You know, people who have actual information as opposed to shit-brained columnists trying to make a stir by playing on the paranoid fears of meatball fans.

They don’t.

You don't know that. You have absolutely no evidence to support this idea that Urlacher is concealing evidence that he'll be unable to play this year. God, I hate you.

And here’s the thing. The Bears have to decide no more than 13 days from now — the Saturday before that opener — if Urlacher is all that he’s supposed to be, all that he once was, or at least a good-enough replica of his eight-time Pro Bowl self that he can hold down his expensive spot in the middle.

That Saturday, Sept. 8, is the last day the Bears could release Urlacher and be off the hook for his $7.5 million 2012 salary. Keep him until Sunday and they owe him everything.

Or you know, whether to decide on starting him week one or waiting until week two. That feels like a far cry from deciding whether or not to toss the best Bears player of the last twenty years beacuse his knee injury might force them to play Nick Roach for a couple of games.

You could say, what’s the harm in just keeping the guy, no matter what? He’s been a great leader, a great representative at the position the Bears are known for, middle linebacker, the position of Bill George, Dick Butkus, Mike Singletary?

Or, instead of keeping him as a symbolic gesture they keep him because the idea that he'll be unable to start all season goes against all of the information they've been given by medical professionals and Urlacher himself, rather than,

And you would have a point.

Thank you. You do not.

But $7.5 million is a lot of cap space. It’s money that can’t go to free agents. It’s money that can’t be used to tie up quarterback Jay Cutler for more years.

It's money they're committed to for just this year. I don't think there are any free agents out there in fucking August that they're going to need 7.5 mildo of cap room to spend on. I also know that Cutler's contract runs through 2013 and an extension would start next year, not this year, so that has absolutely no bearing on the situation. Let's just make shit up at this point, Rick.

People, this is a bottom-line business. If the 34-year-old Urlacher can’t regain his speed and sideline-to-sideline range and his drop-back quickness, he becomes a very nostalgia-laden, shiny-headed cheerleader.

Fair point. But there's no reason to believe, until we see him on the field, and again, EVERY OTHER PERSON WITH ACTUAL INFORMATION SAYS WE WILL, that he can't. He made the goddamn Pro Bowl last year. Cutting him for a slowly-healing knee sprain would be epically stupid even for an organization that had an ironclad grip on worst personnel decisions in their division until Matt Millen bumbled in.

All the secrecy and irritability emanating from questions about Urlacher’s healing knee have made Halas Hall seem like more of a closed camp than usual.

There's no secrecy involved. The irritability comes from conversations like this:

Rick Telander: Will Urlacher be ready for the opener?

Lovie Smith: We hope so. The doctors told us that was a realistic timetable. Nick Roach had a scope done in 2010 and came back in 2 weeks, so there's precedent. This was a minor operation and Brian had been taking part in practice before it happened.

Rick Telander: So you're saying you have no idea whether or not Urlacher will be available at all this season and you're considering cutting him?

Lovie Smith: What the fuck is wrong with you? 

Rick Telander: *eats paste*

Smith is halfway in love with Urlacher, and releasing him would be akin to taking his favorite dog and shooing it off a cliff. Indeed, the very thought of it ending like this for Urlacher in Chicago is painful.

Or cutting the best player on his defense over the last decade because he might miss one, or even two games. The thought of Urlacher's career ending like this is not only painful, but horrifying, as it would mean the front office was run by a bunch of panicked, ill-informed idiots who piss in the face of reliable medical information.

But how is that knee?

We don’t know. 

He's right. The only logical answer is that it can only be horrible and irreperable and we must get rid of him. You didn't come to that conclusion? Would you like to try some of this paste?

The best answer is, not good. Eight months of rehab for a bad sprain? A secret trip overseas to — maybe or maybe not — get blood-cell therapy? Arthroscopic debridement surgery two weeks ago?

Okay. The mysterious trip to Germany is odd, I'll grant you that, but Kobe supposedly had the same operation and missed no time. There's nothing to suggest that that would slow his rehabilitation. And calling a scope by it's full name to make it sound more terrifying doesn't actually make it anything more than the routine operation that football players have all of the time and return from in a matter of weeks. This, again, is a Telander scare tactic.

And then, what, the guy is supposed to come back with barely any team practice and no game time-ups and lead the way?

Barely any team practice? He participated in the first two weeks of camp. He had a full offseason of rehab and workouts. Only Rick Telander would assume that Brian Fucking Urlacher would fall completely out of shape and forget the defense he's played in for nine years in a matter of weeks.

Urlacher will be an unrestricted free agent after this season, which means he could go anywhere he wants for whatever he could wrangle. And he could just continue rehabbing and take his Bears millions this season.

Yes, Urlacher has just one year left on his deal, meaning the team can easily part with him with no hard feelings should he be unable to fully return from his injury this year. That's a good thing. He may come back completely fine within the next few weeks and sign a team friendly extension to end his career in the right place. Instead, just cut him now because they need that money for....well, nothing. Surely they need the roster spot! Oh, they can IR him whenever they want if this should somehow turn into a season ending injury? Only Telander's scenario would result in bad blood and horrible press for the Bears, so of course he, the guy who would be quickest to pounce on them if they followed his own advice, wants them to do it.

Oh, and of course Urlacher would just rehab and swindle money from the Bears so he can focus on his next contract. It's always a good idea to miss an entire season in order to boost your stock in free agency.

Yes, he wants to play. And, yes, he came back from that serious wrist injury three years ago — the one we thought might ruin him — and has been a rock. Indeed, except for that 2009 season, Urlacher has started 96 straight games over seven years.

Always good to throw in points that completely contradict your agument, folks. Take notes.

But so what?

What about this convenient note that completely contradicts my "Brian Urlacher is fragile and used up" narrative? I should never have even put it in here!"

Bottom line, baby.

The bottom line? You mean like the salary cap completely unaffected by money already committed to

In fact, this is a poker hand combined with high-stakes chicken. 

Over here you’ve got Urlacher. Over there you’ve got first-year general manager Phil Emery.

Urlacher’s good at bluffing. Rookie Emery, well, what do you think?
I think Emery probably pays Urlacher's doctor, and knows the actual status of his knee. Only Telander assumes that Urlacher can just say "knee's fine!" and the Bears won't ask to see his medical records or an MRI or anything that would validate or invalidate what he says.

Would you have the stones for your signature move to be releasing the greatest Bears linebacker of the last quarter-century? Would you be soft enough to keep him if he’s done? While realizing nobody will know if you’re right, either way, for months or years?
Or you could just keep him on the roster and find out, since, again, the 7.5 million he's owed has never factored in their plans nor would it. In fact, the floor is now set at 90% of the cap, so the Bears would arguably have to overpay someone else to make up the money from cutting Urlacher. Brilliant!

Imagine No. 54 retiring. Imagine him starring again for the Bears. Imagine him as a Green Bay Packer. Gag at the thought.
Where? What? How?

But anything’s possible when your cards are down and nobody knows what’s in the hole.

I'm willing to bet the Bears know what's going on. The only person here who seems to belong in a dark, miserable hole from which no one should ever emerge is you, Rick. Please, stop playing doctor or writing.

Your 2012 SKO Quarterback Rankings: 21-32

21. Josh Freeman: Oh, what a precipitous fall. It turns out people should have looked at how many potential interceptions Freeman had dropped in 2010 (according to Pro Football Focus, at least 10), and how incredibly weak the Buccaneers schedule that year was. Freeman got into the "elite" category on many lists last year because of his inflated 25:6 ratio that year, since the rest of his stats (61.4%, 3451 yds, 215 YPG, 7.3 YPA) ranged from average to slightly-above average. Last year Freeman had the season he probably should have had the year before, making incremental improvements with his accuracy and total yardage while still turning the ball over a ton (16:22 ratio). While the luster has come off, I still wouldn't give up on Freeman. He's still an impressive player, talent-wise, and he was a project coming out of Kansas State to begin with. His aberration of a 2010 season led us to assume he was a year ahead of schedule, but he could still get there.

22. Carson Palmer: This may be overrating Carson Palmer a bit. Do you have ANY IDEA how much it hurts me to say that it's generous to claim Carson Palmer as the 22nd best passer in the NFL? It's painful. Goddamn, I loved Carson Palmer. Remember this, young athletes, at any given moment Kim Von Oelhoefen or a torn rotator cuff can drop you from the top of the world to the Oakland Raiders real quick. Be grateful for your beautiful armcocks while they're still spitting hot fire before your biggest fans refuse to watch your games because it's too damn depressing to see yet another deep ball die hopelessly in midair like a Russian airliner, when you used to do it with such ease.

23. Matt Cassel: Okay, Matt Cassel fans. Do any of you still exist? Is there anyone out there who is still willing to use his Jamaal Charles induced, red-zone TD inflated, weak schedule-boosted 27:7 TD-INT ratio in 2010 to argue that he's anything more than this generation's Scott Mitchell? No? Okay. Carry on then.

24. Mark Sanchez: Oh, how I wanted to rank Mirerez lower. I have hopes that some of the plebeian passers below him on this list will leapfrog him this year. For now, however, Sanchez's 3474 yards and 26 TD passes last year, however hollow, give him a better resume than anyone below him on the list. That said, if there's anyone left who thinks that a guy who has a weak arm, who has never been accurate enough in college or through three seasons in the NFL to compensate for that weak arm, who turns the ball over at an incredibly alarming rate, and who is nothing more than the product of two massive hype machines (USC, the NYC media) will somehow magically transform into a Pro Bowler on a team with less offensive talent than he's had around him in the past, I'd like to meet you so I can punch you in the face.

25. Sam Bradford: I thought Sam Bradford was an average player coming out of college. I railed against those like Ross Tucker who thought his "good" rookie year justified crowning him as a top 15 quarterback last year. His "good" rookie year was actually just a media overreaction to an 18:15 TD:INT ratio and the usual crap about poise and intangibles. Bradford actually just threw an ungodly amount of short passes and didn't turn the ball over that much (for a rookie). Last year was an unmitigated disaster that can't be entirely blamed on Bradford, but a guy who threw for 6 TD passes in ten starts in his second year doesn't inspire much confidence. That was actually the fewest number of TD passes for any QB with 350 or more attempts in a season since Trent Dilfer threw 4 in his second season. That's not good company, Sam.

26. Jake Locker:  Iggins! and I spent some time trying to project Jake Locker's stat line for the season and decided that something around 55-57% completions, 3300 yds, 22 TDs, and 15-17 INTs would make sense. I love Jake Locker's talent, but it's always hard for me to accept that an inaccurate college passer will become a consistent NFL thrower. I'm guessing his ceiling is somewhere around Joe Flacco while his floor is Rex Grossman with speed. A likely middle ground would be Derek Anderson circa 2007.

27. Christian Ponder: Christian Ponder has the skill set of Chad Pennington without the incredible accuracy and with far more turnovers. That's....well. That's not going to end well. I wouldn't worry, though. He's got all the trademarks of a guy destined to have a long NFL career. With a clipboard.

28. Brandon Weeden: This is probably not justifiable either. The idea that a rookie starter for the goddamn Browns could put up better numbers than four other quarterbacks in the NFL is probably not tenable, but I like Weeden's talent and think he's a better pocket passer than Tannehill and maybe even RGIII. It may have been stupid to invest the franchise in a 29 year old, but that doesn't diminish his on field value. I think he might surprise.

29. John Skelton/Kevin Kolb: If Kolb wins the job, he'll probably be game manger-ish enough to move up a few spots on the ranking. I have no doubt that Skelton is just Derek Anderson all over again. He's the classic case of "fan favorite who got lucky in meaningless games" and will no doubt shit all over that goodwill when he gets an extended chance to start. Skelton hasn't even been Average in a single statistical category in 14 career starts. Besides, their line is atrocious and is going to get both of them killed anyway.

30. Russell Wilson: The list of rookie quarterbacks who were first or second round quarterbacks and had immediate success is short. The list of rookie quarterbacks who came from later rounds and had immediate success is much, much shorter. I've been a huge fan of Wilson since his first year at NC State, and I think it's a sad failure of the NFL scouting system that a guy fell so far simply because he's 5'11'' and not 6'', but to expect anything other than typical rookie struggles from the guy is absurd.

31. Ryan Tannehill: Last year an NFL team took a mediocre Big 12 quarterback solely due to his measurables. Most seasoned experts said he needed to sit a year before he started because his glaring flaws needed time for correction and the team around him lacked the talent to do anything but destroy his confidence. The Jaguars started Gabbert anyway and the result was a crime against the very profession of quarterbacking. This year it's the Dolphins who are pissing into the face of conventional wisdom, and they'll get the reward of watching turnover-prone, happy-footed Tannehill throw to what may be the worst receiver corps in the NFL (thanks for trading Brandon Marshall and taking the Bears out of that conversation, guys!) while his "star" runningback stands idly by following his annual week four injury. Sorry, Tannehill. We barely knew ye.

32. Blaine Gabbert: Oh, and here's Blaine Gabbert. Hell, I'm just going to quote directly from the Football Outsiders almanac:

"Watch Blaine Gabbert's tape last year and you will see a boy playing with men. There were a few minor signs of improvement, and a few nice throws down the stretch, but nothing that would lead you to suggest that he had turned a corner. This is a quarterback that made the vast majority of his throws within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage. This is a quarterback that showed signs of panic even when his pocket was relatively clean—though he did get a bit better at this as the season wore on. What was most galling about watching him was his footwork. He correctly stepped into maybe one of every nine throws, and that absolutely killed his accuracy."

That's pretty much exactly what the book was on Gabbert coming out of college. The guy failed to get 7.0 YPA in a fucking spread offense in the Big 12, where Jim Abbott could throw for 200 yards a game with his Other arm. He has a great arm but no ability to throw a consistent deep ball. He can run, but doesn't do it effectively. He scrambles when he has a pocket and stands frozen when everything goes to Hell around him. The Jaguars have rightly tried to load up on wide receiver talent (although the whole Not Paying MJD thing is kind of unintentionally ratcheting up the pressure on Gabbert), but few of Gabbert's issues had anything to do with his targets. He's. not. good.

That's everyone. I counted only the starting QBs, but if Tebow takes over for Sanchez you can probably slot him somewhere around Weeden. He's easily the worst passer, but his ability to run at least makes him more of a threat than Blaine Fucking Gabbert. Matt Flynn, meanwhile, would probably belong in Matt Cassel territory even though, long-term, Wilson probably is a better option.

 Phew. That was long. I hope at least one of you made it to the end of all three of these.