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Thursday, March 27, 2014

Draft Day is the Single Dumbest Football Movie You Will Ever See (Spoilers)

Generally speaking, I don't like football movies. They tend to over-emphasize exactly the kind of rah-rah cliche laden macho bullshit that is my least favorite aspect of the sport. Sadly no one has yet to make a truly interesting movie focusing on the X's and O's of Bill Walsh's offense or told the story of Mike Leach living in a rat infested trailer park on $3,000 a year as he and Hal Mumme built the Air Raid offense at third rate college programs in Iowa. Those are the movies I'd like to see, but alas, not much interest there.

When I first heard about Draft Day, I had some hope. A behind the scenes look at the NFL draft and the way front offices approach it? Maybe it could be the football equivalent of the movie Moneyball. Once the trailers rolled out and it was obvious that the film revolved around an absolutely implausible (little did I know HOW implausible) draft day trade that Sonny Weaver, Jr. (Kevin Costner) pulls off while also dealing with his romantic and totally not at all creepy and unprofessional relationship with his much younger capologist, Jennifer Garner, I quickly lost any positive feelings I had towards the movie. But, my wife managed to get us free tickets to a pre-release screening and oh my God was this film amazing in all of the wrong ways. I'll just cover a few here:

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Jared Allen is A Bear, I was Wrong

I am, as all of you know, the world's foremost authority on most things Bears related. This is an undisputed fact according to the gremlins in my brain thing that handle such matters. However, Erik pointed out that in my last article I may have shot down the possibility of Phil Emery signing Jared Allen by saying the following:

Is Phil also probably aware that even with the new guys added and the guy's re-signed from last year (Jay Ratliff, Nate Collins, DJ Williams, Charles Tillman) the defense, while undoubtedly better, is still probably far from good? Sure. Are there more bearded, real tree camo loving band-aids out there who could get this defense in better shape for 2014 alone out there? Absolutely. He's not going to go down that road, for several reasons:

Okay. I can see how some people have interpreted me saying the Bears wouldn't sign Jared Allen as me saying the Bears wouldn't sign Jared Allen. This is not unlike the people in December who were happy to point out that me saying "There's no way Aaron Rodgers will start against the Bears in week 17" might possibly be construed as indicating that Aaron Rodgers wouldn't start the last game of the season. I could see where, from a certain point of view, it would appear I have been wrong before.

Here's where I'm not wrong: This signing is a good thing. Four years, $32 million is a scary number for a 31 year old defensive end, but as anyone with a brain has noted, in reality this is a 2 year deal worth $15.5 million. Is that still more than Jared Allen in a perfect world is probably worth? Sure, but Emery has placed himself in a pretty good position that enabled him to spend some extra dough on a player who will actually be asked to do Less in Chicago than he was in Minnesota. The Bears found two starting caliber DEs in Lamarr Houston and Willie Young, and they'd probably be able to field a decent DL with Nate Collins, Jeremiah Ratliff, and Stephen Paea at DT. Allen wasn't a true "need", but Phil scraped together the money to make a push for him without breaking the bank or handicapping their long term future. The cap is set to go up even more next year and Allen's hit will be easily absorbed.

By adding Allen, Phil immediately upgraded this defensive line (and hopefully the entire defense by extension) from capable to downright dangerous. The Bears have talked all offseason long about their desire to be "multiple" on defense, and Allen as the 3rd DE allows them to do just that. In a base 4-3 they can rotate Allen, Houston, and Young at end and Collins, Paea, and Ratliff at either tackle position. In passing situations or 3rd down they can move Houston inside and put Allen, Houston, Ratliff, and Young, all proven pass-rushers, on the line. If they want to give a 3-4 look I can easily picture Allen in a two point stance across from Shea McClellin while Houston is more than big enough to set the edge as a five technique DE and Ratliff has proven himself in a 3-4 in the past. That's the kind of flexibility a defensive coordinator dreams of.

I don't expect Allen to step into Chicago and plow his way to 13 sacks next year. Odds are he has lost a step at 31, but in Chicago he's merely a piece of the puzzle, likely to play far fewer snaps than he did last year, and he can focus even more on being the pass-rush specialist he has always been at heart. Emery knew that Allen was a luxury, and he waited for the price to drop accordingly while he took care of the defense's other needs. Once he had his ducks in a row and could afford to splurge, well, he made his play and gave us all another reason to be excited for 2014. Go Bears.

Also, this:

Suck it, Cutler haters.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

The Long Road Back: Phil Emery and Bears Free Agency So Far

The free agency period is one of my favorite things about football, and it's also one of the worst. I love it, because after the Superbowl a dark period completely absent of any remotely relevant football news kills my soul, and free agency comes along to allow me to play armchair GM and ruthlessly scour twitter for news about player movements. Then comes the dark side. The breathless waiting, the anger over inactivity, the despair over watching players you had pegged as potential franchise-savers move on to other teams, and worst of all, the criticism of pretty much everything but fans and sports-writers.

If your team engages in a spending spree they'll be acclaimed a dream team by fans and some writers while having others tut tut and point out that "offseason champs" rarely win real Superbowls. If your team doesn't spend you'll have plenty of people asking why they are sitting idle.

The fact of the matter is that NFL Free Agency is neither the fool's gold some writers and organizations view it as nor the quick path to success that the Redskins and Cowboys desperately wish to believe it is. Like everything else it's a useful tool that has to be carefully managed and scrutinized. People will praise the Seahawks largely home-built roster till the cows come home and rightfully so,  but it's hard to picture them hoisting that trophy without the contributions of Michael Bennett, Cliff Avril, and Marshawn Lynch, all key cogs acquired from other teams. Likewise, the Broncos got to the game thanks to their free agent QB, guard, DT, and CB, but these things will be forgotten the next time someone wants to make a point as to why free agency is pointless.

In the NFL free agency boils down to the same thing it does in every sport: pay for future performance, not past performance. At the truly elite positions, this is hard to do in the NFL. Most teams aren't going to let those players escape in their primes. If you're seeking a double-digit sack guy, a franchise QB, or an all-Pro wideout, well, you're screwed, and you're going to spend way too much money for their closest passable imitation on the market and end up disappointed anyway.

But if you're content to just add good players, if you look for guys you can build around, even if they aren't the cornerstones, and you pay them accordingly, there's some good stuff to be had. I believe that's what Phil has done so far.

I like Lamarr Houston. He's not likely to suddenly morph into double-digit sack guy, like some fans have tried to project, nor does he need to justify the deal he was given like some sports-writers have suggested. Phil Emery's neither stupid or dishonest. He knows what Lamarr Houston is, he's said what Lamarr Houston is, and he paid Lamarr Houston fair market value for exactly what he offers: downright elite run defense and average pass rush. He's not a player that needs to come off the field in passing situations. He'll make quarterbacks uncomfortable, and he'll open up opportunities for other guys to do more than that. It's a good signing.

Willie Young's also a good signing. Like, Houston (26), and unlike many other free agents, he's still under 30 (28) and is entering the prime years of his career. Last year was his first where he got starter's reps, and he turned in a very solid season as a pass rusher (60 total QB pressures, even if he had just 4 sacks). The deal pays Willie Young like the solid rotational player he is at worst (3 years, 9 million) and could end up being a steal if he, not Houston, develops into the ten sack guy people think he's capable of being.

Ryan Mundy is a guy who probably won't embarrass himself if forced to start. Fortunately for us, that's light years above last year's contributor at the strong safety position, Major Wright, who finished dead f*&king last in PFF's safety rankings. That's really all I've got there.

As for the rest of the back end of the roster guys the Bears have added (MD Jennings, other shitty safeties likely to only be special teamers, Domenik Hixon), well, snooze. If you're panicking and screaming that MD Jennings isn't starter material, well, relax. Emery's not thinking that either, and Jennings' pay check spells that out.

I don't think Emery is done yet. There are bargains still to be had out there, and Phil did a good job last year in scouring the secondary market to bring in guys like Slauson and DJ Williams. I'm sure there's potentially another DB and a DL that he'll add, but only at his price. I, too, would like Chris Clemons at free safety, Bears fan on Twitter, and I'm sure Phil Emery would too, but I doubt he's willing to pay him big money he's probably not worth under any objective evaluation and have the opportunity cost be the chance to draft a potentially elite safety in the first round or possibly even make a run at a top tier safety in free agency Next year.

Is Phil also probably aware that even with the new guys added and the guy's re-signed from last year (Jay Ratliff, Nate Collins, DJ Williams, Charles Tillman) the defense, while undoubtedly better, is still probably far from good? Sure. Are there more bearded, real tree camo loving band-aids out there who could get this defense in better shape for 2014 alone out there? Absolutely. He's not going to go down that road, for several reasons:

1) That approach is a large reason why we're in the mess we're in in the first place, and it only gets worse down the road.

The 2013 Bears defense was based on a hope that the 2012 defense, long in the tooth and overpriced as it was, could handle one more trip around the sun without a total collapse, giving Emery time to pick and choose where he needed to infuse the roster with younger talent. That didn't happen, injuries and age wiped out the costliest and most important players on the roster, and there were no experienced reinforcements ready to step in, largely thanks to the fact that, as many have pointed out with the departure of Henry Melton, there's not a single damn player left on the roster from Jerry Angelo's 2004-2010 drafts other than Matt Forte. That's damn hard to overcome. It actually says a lot about Emery and even Angelo too that the team's managed to be competitive and avoid a Cowboys or Skins like cap hell while still having to rely largely on players developed by other organizations, but the day of reckoning came. The fanbase is going to have to accept, as Emery seemingly has, that the best case scenario for the defense in 2014 may just be "strive for mediocrity" while Phil loads up in the draft and keeps the cap clear to target top young defensive talent in free agency next year.

2) They don't need to be the 2012 Bears Defense to Win

This is important. This team won 8 games last year despite a defense that was historically bad. If the run defense alone had been competent (something that seems the only safe assumption about the 2014 Bears given that Young, Houston, Ratliff, Collins, Briggs, and Tillman are all better run defenders than their predecessors/the people filling in for them while were hurt last year) they probably prevent the upset losses they suffered at the hands of the Rams and Vikings and earn themselves a playoff berth. Next year the offense should be capable of carrying a mediocre defense, and if that's the one year solution the team needs to accept in order to position themselves for a true rebuild of the defense going forward, I can accept that.

In short, I like the moves the Bears have made so far, and I understand the ones they haven't made to this point. I think they'll be better, even if the defense will likely be far from great. The path to greatness isn't paved with whatever is left in free agency anyway. Hopefully Phil can buck recent trends on defense and find that route in the draft. Go Bears.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Seriously, Steve, another one?

I come at these columns pretty hard. I use a lot of words, and most of them are derogatory. But only Steve Rosenbloom has ever actually made me physically angry in a column before. And he's managed to do it twice in one week.

Now there are a lot of dumb things that get said about this football team by a lot of different people. Steve, though, is just an asshole. He's petty and mean, and when he can't find facts that justify that attitude he just plain invents fantasy scenarios to get angry about. Because he is a bad writer, he can't come up with 1,000 uninterrupted words that anyone would willingly read unless he's made them irrationally angry, whether it's at the team or at Steve himself.

I won't feign resignation this time, as soon as I read the headline I wanted to rip this pathetic pail of putrid and possibly plagued poop to pieces.

That alliteration is the last happy thing that will happen in this post. All the other pictures are of heads exploding.

Monday, March 10, 2014

This is just sad, even for the offseason.

Ahh the offseason. What's a football columnist to do without any football happenings? Make a total ass of himself. That's the answer.

This column by the Tribune's Steve Rosenbloom started from a reasonable enough standpoint for the kind of obvious waffle that fills up the time between the Super Bowl and free agency. Shea McClellin was a bust at DE, and now the best he can hope for is to compete to maybe earn snaps at linebacker.

But you can't write 1,000 incensed words about that at this point, so Steve had to try to take it a step further. Clearly, the lack of success on Shea's part is indicative of some horrible failure on Phil Emery's. Let me tell you, the result is not pretty. Usually I just kind of surf the Chicago newspapers until something catches my eye, but we actually got requests that I put this loathsome piece of shit out of its misery. And so, with a heavy heart, I dug out my italics.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

The Best to Ever Do It

Devin Hester told the world today what most of us had assumed for a while: he won't be back as a Bear next year. The greatest kick returner in NFL history will wear another uniform next year, and, well, that's OK.

When these things happen people tend to take extreme positions. There will be those who will react to Devin's departure the same way they reacted to Olin Kreutz or maybe even Urlacher's. There'll be some talk about loyalty and disrespect and the rest. Others will completely write off Devin and his contribution, will say he has nothing left to offer, that it was right to move on.

I obviously fall more into the latter group. Devin, despite some pretty impressive returns last year including the TD against Washington, obviously isn't the guy that he used to be. That's not really an insult, because it's kind of hard for anyone to be the greatest goddamn kick returner in the history of the game forever. I'd still take him over just about any kick returner in the league, but I understand and agree with the team realizing they have more important places to spend their money than a specialist.

But damn, he was really something for awhile, wasn't he? Even now, after the touchdowns and the return average started to decline, you never really felt like you could take your eyes off the screen when the ball was in the air and headed towards him, did you? The Bears have been a lot of things in my lifetime, but up until this year's offense, I can't really say they had anyone other than Devin who was  truly electrifying.

In a way, Devin was the victim of his own success. A guy that dominant on special teams, with that kind of speed, can't just be left alone. The Bears owed it to Devin and to themselves to see if he could be something more. Of course, we know that experiment was largely a failure. It's pretty sad that after he played the position full-time for five seasons, you can think of far more exciting moments of Devin Hester, Kick Returner, than Devin Hester, receiver. His failures at one led us to sometimes downplay his successes at the other, and that's ludicrous. We owed him more than that. His career shouldn't really be followed with a "yeah, but he couldn't do More." He deserves to be remembered the way he said it himself:

"I am a kick and punt returner, but at the same time, I'm the best to ever do it."

It's a shame we ever thought that wasn't enough. It was, Devin. Good luck. Thanks for the memories.