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Posts Tagged ‘Bob Babich’

Lovie Smith Puts His Chicago Bears Legacy Directly In The Crosshairs

Posted by sportsmaven on January 29, 2009

Change had to come. You knew it, the guy next to you knew it too.  If you’ve watched the Chicago Bears all season, especially on the defensive side of the ball, there was an air of change swirling, rustling the leaves, blowing wildly in the wind.  The offense was an early and pleasant surprise that slowly morphed into what we all thought it would be, but the cornerstone unit of this franchise, the defense, was like the two year recession of the American economy.  Something had to change.

Bears head coach Lovie Smith takes over Chicago Bears defense

Bears head coach Lovie Smith takes over Chicago Bears defense

The media’s favorite fall guy was Bears defensive coordinator Bob Babich, but he was just a front man.  The real finger pointing started the day Bears head coach Lovie Smith announced the departure of then defensive coordinator Ron Rivera and naming linebackers coach Babich his replacement.  Smith followed that up with a plea for people to trust him when it comes to the welfare of his Chicago Bears football team.  When the argument resorts to pulling a “Trust Me” card, that’s was a sure sign to run away, don’t buy it, red-flag warning.

Something had to change after two years of sub-par performance of a unit paid like the elite, but performed very unordinary and uninspired.   Just like the legacy of President Barack Obama, who will forever live on his phrases of more accountability, “Yes, we can” and personal responsibility, Lovie Smith’s legacy will live on his most memorable words too, “Trust Me”.

His legacy will also be square in the crosshairs of his decisions concerning the coaching staff, bringing in former Lions head coach Rod Marinelli to coach the defensive line (and take the title of Asst. Head Coach), moving Babich back to linebackers coach (retaining the defensive coordinator title in name only), where he actually experienced great success with LB’s Lance Briggs and Brian Urlacher garnering regular Pro Bowl appearances under his tutelage, and hiring veteran defensive backs coach and ex-Chicago Bear defensive back Jon Hoke to coach the secondary for the Bears.  The biggest move, however, is the announcement that Smith, himself, will be calling the defensive plays next season.

Smith was arguably one of the best defensive coodinators in the NFL, leading a defense that took the St. Louis Rams to Super Bowl XXXVI in 2002.  Smith’s defense was known for being an aggressive defense, forcing 38 turnovers and 4 defensive TD’s.  Smith taking over primary play calling duties from Bob Babich is seen as a strong positive move for restoring the bite in the Bears defense.  One way or another, it definitely will be the move that cements his Chicago Bears legacy, for good or bad.

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Chicago Bears 9-7 Season Clouds Failures In Judgement

Posted by sportsmaven on December 29, 2008

The Chicago Bears are not the Detroit Lions, but at the completion of today’s play, they have gotten as far as the Lions did this season, which to say, is out of the playoffs.  That comparison is certainly extreme, as the Bears do not have the same amount of holes that the Lions have, but a 9-7 finish that surprised many have clouded severe failures of judgement made by the football leadership of this team.

(AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

(AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

Perhaps the most glaring failures are with a Chicago Bears defense that opened the season very motivated in a win over the Indianapolis Colts, but sunk to maddening lows in crushing defeats by the Green Bay Packers and Minnesota Vikings amongst others.  Bears head coach Lovie Smith was asked about replacing defensive coordinator Ron Rivera shorly after the Bears loss to the Colts in Super Bowl XLI.  This is where Love broke out his now infamous “Trust Me” speech.

“You should trust me as a head football coach to put us in the best position to win football games,” Smith said. “It’s as simple as that.”

And that was Lovie’s reasoning to why he chose to replace Ron Rivera with BFF Bob Babich.  Since Rivera was replaced, the Bears defense has plunged to embarassingly low depths in both prestige and performance.  In 2006, teams feared and respected the Bears defense.  Ask the Arizona Cardinals, despite then-Coach Dennis Green’s post-game rant.  Now, teams just run over the Bears defense.  Case in point:

  • The Houston Texans racked up 455 yards of total offense and 31 points in a Week 17 victory.
  • The Packers ran the Bears for 427 yards and 37 points in Week 11 pasting of the Bears.
  • The Vikings racked up 439 yards and 41 points in a Week 7 loss to the Bears.
  • The Tampa Bay Buccaneers ran up 454 yards and 27 points  in a Week 2 Bears debacle.

These are numbers that nearly all Chicago Bears fans find unacceptable.  It should be unacceptable to Lovie Smith as well, but somehow, it isn’t, which leads back to the Trust Me speech and the fact that I can no longer trust Lovie Smith to make correct decisions when he has yet to acknowledge that the two biggest staff decisions of his coaching tenure were complete and utter failures (remember the Terry Shea mess?)

Secondly, the Bears personnel decisions and evaluations are skeptical at best and leave even casual fans wondering if the Bears are able to effectively evaluate talent.  Consider the players the Bears kept:

  • WR/KR Devin Hester signed a $40M contract extension and was made a WR, neutering his return skills (0 TD’s)
  • LB Brian Urlacher was given a lucrative contract extension for 88 tackles, no sacks, and no Pro Bowl selection
  • DT Tommie Harris signed a large contract extension only to play about a half season due to injury/ineffectiveness
  • WR Earl Bennett was drafted to compete for a starting position; he ends up catching 0 passes for the season.

and the players the Bears decided to let go:

The Bears have also missed on numerous players in the draft as well, as noted in past posts.  The level of talent on the Bears has receded dramatically since the 2006 Super Bowl season, which means that the Bears braintrust has not made moves in personnel and coaching to build off their success.  Now Bob Babich is on the hot seat.

The Bears clearly need to admit that they made severe errors in judgement in replacing Ron Rivera with Bob Babich.  They need to admit that they made errors in personnel and they need to correct these errors in the offseason.  A 9-7 record is something to build from, but if the failures of judgement are not corrected, this may be the best it will be under Jerry Angelo and Lovie Smith.

Extras:

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Top 5 Reasons Why The Chicago Bears Lose Football Games

Posted by sportsmaven on September 22, 2008

The Chicago Bears have lost yet another game in this young season that they should have won.  Today’s loss makes two in a row, where the Bears have enjoyed statistical dominance, only to be trounced by late and furious comebacks by teams that are arguably average teams from the NFC South, in a weak National Football Conference.  Why are the Bears losing games to average teams that they should have closed out and put away?  There are 5 main reasons to explain the malaise this Bears team is facing after a very solid opening performance against the Indianapolis Colts to start the season:

(AP Photo/M. Spencer Green)

(AP Photo/M. Spencer Green)

1. Bears team unable to close out games – two weeks in a row, the Bears have lead games going into the second half.  Two weeks in a row, the Bears offense has chances to extend drives to put games away and don’t execute.  Two weeks in a row, the Bears defense has let teams come back to score the points that cost the Bears victories.  The 4th and 1 play against the Carolina Panthers last week, the 3rd and 2 play in today’s game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, both situations and lack of execution on those plays highlight the Bears inability to close out games.  Then the tired Bears defense gets steamrolled by comebacks two weeks in a row.

The Bears need to develop some killer instinct and execution to put teams away, especially at the end of games.  The Bears should be 3-0 after this week, but instead they are 1-2 and play a very tough Philadelphia Eagles team this coming Sunday night.

2.  Too many mistakes and execution errors/lack of discipline – 22 penalties for 166 yards (average of 7 penalties for 55 yards per game), 4 key turnovers in the last two games.  Missed blocks, missed tackles, untimely penalties wiping out big offensive gains.  CB Charles Tillman’s unsportsmanlike conduct penalty in the OT was a gamebreaker today.  In today’s game, LB Hunter Hillenmeyer makes a key mistake on the TD by Bucs TE Jerramy Stevens by not taking away the inside route.  The same mistake was made on the TD pass to WR Ike Hilliard earlier in the game.  TE Greg Olsen fumbling the only 2 balls he touches in the Carolina game, both because he failed to tuck the ball properly after making the reception.  These mistakes were minimized or hardly apparent in the opener against the Colts, but have been glaring the last two games, costing the Bears two victories against key NFC opponents.

3.  Questionable play calling and coaching – when Special Teams coordinator Dave Toub is calling more effective plays than your offensive coordinator, that could be a  sign that your team could be in trouble.  When Toub bailed out Ron Turner on yet another failed 3rd and 1 call this afternoon with the fake punt, 38 yard run by RB Garrett Wolfe, he did two things that Turner has yet to master this season: he called a play to pick up the yard, and he figured out a way to get Garrett Wolfe into the game.   RB Matt Forte is quickly emerging as a star.  Forte touched the ball on 46% of the offensive plays in the Buccaneers game, but on a crucial 3rd down and 2, he was nowhere to be found.  San Diego puts the ball in RB LaDanian Tomlinson’s hands in that position.  Minnesota gives it to RB Adrian Peterson when they absolutely need 1 yard to extend an offensive series.  Ten times out of ten, Turner needs to put the ball in Forte’s hands in that position.  Two weeks in a row, he has failed to make the correct call.

Lovie Smith failed to challenge the Darrell McClover strip in the Tampa Bay game.  Smith has had difficulties managing the challenge process and today was a glaring example of that difficulty.  Defensive coordinator Bob Babich made virtually no adjustments at halftime, particularly in stopping the Tampa Bay slant plays.  Buccaneers QB Brian Griese threw that slant for at least 15 completions today, mostly on 3rd and long situations.  The Bears have yet to stop that play.  The high marks the Bears staff received in preparation for the Colts game has been virtually wiped out by the Bears performance the last two weeks.  Of course, it is way easier to be prepared with you have six weeks to prepare for that first game.

4.  Inability to get key playmakers more touches – The Bears have 3 playmakers on the offensive side of the ball, WR Devin Hester, Forte and now WR Brandon LloydQB Kyle Orton may or may not be a playmaker, but that can’t be determined because the play calling has yet to establish Orton as a playmaker.  Until the second half of today’s game against the Buccaneers, the Bears have done a poor job of getting Lloyd more touches.  The Bears have also neglected to get Forte into more touches in key moments of the games, moments that would put games away.  Hester has yet to be a significant part of the weekly offensive gameplan and now he is injured.  Again, Turner has weapons that can be devastating with a little applied creativity.  Hester should get about 15-20 touches a game, and not just as an outside receiver.  The Bears need to use Hester like they use Forte – lineup in the backfield, receiver screen, slot receiver, on the end of the line at TE.  They need to make defenses have to game plan to stop the perception that Hester might be used.  This is a HUGE missed opportunity that needs to be exploited more going forward for the Bears offense to have any chance of winning.  Turner needs to unleash Orton more often.  The interception that Orton threw in the end zone of today’s game was actually not bad; it was nice to see Orton actually throw the ball down field.  Turner needs to move Orton around, roll him out a bit more, get the moving pocket working.  Orton took three sacks today, standing up as a statue in the pocket.  His best moments were in the 3 and 5 step drops where he can move the ball quickly.  The Green Bay Packers move QB Aaron Rodgers around all the time, with great success so far.  Give Orton a chance to make some plays.  I hate that the Bears set him up to “manage” football games.  That has to change if the Bears are going to move the offense to the next level.

5.  Lack of a NFL caliber offense – this is perhaps the biggest reason of all reasons that the Chicago Bears lose football games.  The offense is too bland, too conservative when it needs to be more dynamic.  The lack of playmakers is evident in the skill positions.  The most dynamic WR on the team is Hester, who also is the WR with the least amount of touches.  The most dynamic playmaker on the offense is Forte, but the Turner fails to get Forte the ball in key short yardage situations and on the goal line in consecutive weeks. The defense put the offense in great position on the first two series of the game, only for the offense to crawl into it’s conservative shell of bland, uninspiring playcalling, settling for two field goals when we really needed touchdowns, particularly on that first possession.  Comcast Sports Chicago pulled an interesting statistic today regarding the TD reception by Forte.  It was the first receiving touchdown the Bears have intentionally thrown to a RB in the last 116 games!  Turner has proven to be conservative to a fault precisely at the times where more dynamic touch is necessary. The Bears offense seems very predictable, with virtually no deep game to keep defenses honest.  This allows defenses to pick up tendencies before they happen, and with no deep game, defenses stack the line and box, forcing the Bears offense to work much harder for lesser output.  This explains how the Bears are so challenged at times to gain a yard on 4th and 1 situations.

The Bears have lots of work to do to reverse the disturbing trends of the last two weeks.  The big fear the Bears faced was losing the hard earned respect by the league that was garnered by the Colts win.  The Bears could either prove they were for real with a 3-0 record, but with every loss, the Colts victory becomes more of a fluke rather than the decisive victory that signaled that the Monsters of the Midway are back.

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Top 5 Issues for Chicago Bears Success This Season

Posted by sportsmaven on August 6, 2007

The Chicago Bears have what seems to be a very interesting problem:  too much depth.  Now, I know what you’re thinking, how can a team have too much depth?  But that’s what the Bears have, so much so that they have traded last year’s starting SS Chris Harris to the Carolina Panthers and are looking to move another, reserve CB and special teams standout Dante Wesley.  I will be the first to admit that I was very hard on Bears GM Jerry Angelo in the early days, but the last 3 years, he has proven that he has not only grown into the job, but has been one of the most shrewdest GM’s in the game in that period.

Cedric Benson at Bears training camp

(Tribune photo by Scott Strazzante)

Angelo has wisely locked up core young talent early at a lesser price then they would have commanded in the open market, has drafted very wisely (has any GM drafted better from rounds 4-7?  If so, I want to know who that person is) and has built a roster that is arguably the strongest in the NFC from top to bottom.

The Bears are trying to defy recent history by returning to the Super Bowl a year after losing the Big Game, only a return is not the goal.  Winning the Super Bowl is the goal and it seems as though Bears head coach Lovie Smith has every man clearly focused on that goal once again.  For the Bears, 5 things have to happen in order to have a chance at returning to the Big Game:

1.  Avoid injuries at all cost — having the best bench depth in the NFC (and maybe in the league, west of New England) is definitely an asset, but you need your best players playing in top form all season.  If LB Brian Urlacher, QB Rex Grossman, RB Cedric Benson, WR Bernard Berrian, KR/PR/WR Devin Hester, DT Tommie Harris, or any one of the starting OL goes down, the next line of talent is thin at these positions.

2.  Offense has to make another leap in performance — The surprise of last season’s team was definitely the performance of the offense.  Nobody on the planet thought the Bears would be #2 in the NFL in scoring nor that Rex Grossman would throw 20 TD passes and over 3000 yards passing.  For the Bears to jump to the next level, Grossman must improve his completion rate.  Last season, he was at 54.6%.  This season, he has to eclipse 60% and limit his interceptions from 20 to single digits.  RB Cedric Benson is on the spot now, and must rush for at least 1,200 yards and 10 TD’s.  WR Mark Bradley must avoid the injury bug and establish himself as the #2 receiver, and WR Bernard Berrian must prove that last year wasn’t a fluke.

3.  KR/PR/WR Devin Hester must emerge as a multiple options threat — this is probably the most tenuous of all the options.  I can’t recall a return man who has excelled on the offensive side of the ball in recent history.  The Kansas City Chiefs tried KR Dante Hall at WR and that didn’t work.  Devin Hester could be one of the best open field players in NFL history, but not after one record setting season as a KR/PR.  Hester must prove that he is a threat regardless of position.  He didn’t stand out as a DB.  The offensive side of the ball is where he belongs, but yet again, he is very raw and unproven there….

4.  Defense can’t have another late season drop off — It was clear that the defense dropped off significantly in the second half of last season.  It was still a very good defense, but a dominant defense wins Super Bowl XLI and that wasn’t the case for the Bears.  The Indianapolis Colts rushed for 191 yards in the Super Bowl against a defense missing DL Tommie Harris and SS Mike Brown.  That defense stepped up against the New Orleans Saints in the NFC Championship Game, but the time for the defense to shine is in December and January.  New defensive coordinator Bob Babich must bring more energy to the table then his predecessor, Ron Rivera, otherwise the change may be for naught.

5. Young players must perform well — Of any reason listed above, the performance of young players have been one of the biggest contributors to the recent success the Bears have experienced.  KR/PR Devin Hester, SS Danieal Manning, WR Mark Bradley, when healthy, DE Mark Anderson, departed SS Chris Harris, K Robbie Gould are all young players that really turned their games on in their rookie or second years, pushing for playing time and putting high priced veterans on the bubble.  The pressure will be on this year’s draft class, particularly TE Greg Olsen, RB Garrett Wolfe, and CB Trumaine McBride to fill key roles.  If these rookies shine, expect the Bears to be even more potent.

Opening day in San Diego is right around the corner.  The time to play the Chargers might be early in the season, but this is a tough opener.  The non-division schedule is tough, with games against the San Diego Chargers, Denver Broncos, Kansas City Chiefs, Dallas Cowboys, New Orleans Saints, Philadelphia Eagles, and the Seattle Seahawks, but to be the best, you have to go through the best.  The Bears will definitely have that to deal with this championship season….

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