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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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Chicago Bears GM Jerry Angelo Is Officially On The Hot Seat

Posted by sportsmaven on September 5, 2008

The Chicago Bears season opener is roughly 67 hours away, which is about the time that Bears GM Jerry Angelo’s tenure on the hot seat is about to officially begin.  If you are one of the few that haven’t questioned the performance of Angelo to date, by kickoff on Sunday night in a nationally televised opener against Super Bowl XLI nemesis, the Indianapolis Colts, you may have second thoughts.  By getting to the Super Bowl two years ago, the Bears have bought some time for the newly embattled GM, but the clock is ticking under the weight of very questionable draft picks and lack of player development on the offensive side of the ball.

Jerry Angelo was named GM of the Chicago Bears on June 12, 2001.  During his tenure, the Bears have drafted the following players in the following rounds:

2008

Rd Player Position School

1 Chris Williams OT Vanderbilt

2 Matt Forte RB Tulane

3 Earl Bennett WR Vanderbilt

3 Marcus Harrison DT Arkansas

4 Craig Steltz SAF Louisiana State

5 Zack Bowman CB Nebraska

5 Kellen Davis TE Michigan State

7 Ervin Baldwin DE Michigan State

7 Chester Adams G Georgia

7 Joey LaRocque LB Oregon State

7 Kirk Barton T Ohio State

7 Marcus Monk WR Arkansas

2007

Rd Player Position School

1 Greg Olsen TE Miami (Fla.)

2 Dan Bazuin DE Central Michigan

3 Garrett Wolfe RB Northern Illinois

3 Michael Okwo LB Stanford

4 Josh Beekman G Boston College

5 Kevin Payne SAF Louisiana-Monroe

5 Corey Graham CB New Hampshire

7 Trumaine McBride CB Mississippi

7 Aaron Brant T Iowa State

2006

Rd Player Position School

2 Danieal Manning FS Abilene Christian

2 Devin Hester DB Miami (Fla.)

3 Dusty Dvoracek DT Oklahoma

4 Jamar Williams LB Arizona State

5 Mark Anderson DE Alabama

6 J.D. Runnels RB Oklahoma

6 Tyler Reed G Penn State

2005

Rd Player Position School

1 Cedric Benson RB Texas

2 Mark Bradley WR Oklahoma

4 Kyle Orton QB Purdue

5 Airese Currie WR Clemson

6 Chris Harris FS Louisiana-Monroe

7 Rod Wilson LB South Carolina

2004

Rd Player Position School

1 Tommie Harris DT Oklahoma

2 Tank Johnson DT Washington

3 Bernard Berrian WR Fresno State

4 Nathan Vasher CB Texas

4 Leon Joe LB Maryland

5 Claude Harriott DE Pittsburgh

5 Craig Krenzel QB Ohio State

7 Alfonso Marshall CB Miami (Fla.)

2003

Rd Player Position School

1 Michael Haynes DE Penn State

1 Rex Grossman QB Florida

2 Charles Tillman CB Louisiana-Lafayette

3 Lance Briggs OLB Arizona

4 Todd Johnson DB Florida

4 Ian Scott DT Florida

5 Bobby Wade WR Arizona

5 Justin Gage WR Missouri

5 Tron LaFavor DT Florida

6 Joe Odom LB Purdue

6 Brock Forsey RB Boise State

7 Bryan Anderson G Pittsburgh

2002

Rd Player Position School

1 Marc Colombo T Boston College

3 Roe Williams CB Tuskegee

3 Terrence Metcalf G Mississippi

4 Alex Brown DE Florida

5 Bobby Gray DB Louisiana Tech

5 Bryan Knight DE Pittsburgh

6 Adrian Peterson RB Georgia Southern

6 Jamin Elliott WR Delaware

6 Bryan Fletcher TE UCLA

In total, 63 players have been drafted by Jerry Angelo since 2002, his first draft as GM of the Bears.  Of the 63 players, 28 (44%) are still with the Bears.  Of the 63 total, 29 (46%)  were offensive players, 34 (54%) were defensive players.

Angelo has been particularly questionable at the top of the draft, the first 3 picks. His misses: Marc Columbo (1st round 2002), Roosevelt Williams (3rd round 2002), Terrence Metcalf (3rd round 2002), Michael Haynes (1st round 2003), Rex Grossman (1st round 2003), Tank Johnson (2nd round 2004), Cedric Benson (1st round 2005), Mark Bradley (2nd round 2005), Dan Bazuin (2nd round 2007), Michael Okwo (3rd round 2007).  Of Angelo’s 7 first round draft picks since 2002, he has completely whiffed on 4 (Columbo, Haynes, Grossman, and Benson), hit it big with one (Tommie Harris) and jury still out on two (Greg Olsen and Chris Williams).

One position that has been completely neglected is offensive line. After picking T Marc Columbo #1 in 2002, Angelo doesn’t even sniff a top OL pick until 2008 with #1 pick T Chris Williams. In fact, in 7 total drafts, Angelo drafted a total of 8 offensive lineman (2 in the 1st round, one in the 3rd round, one in the 6th round and 4 in the 7th round) Of those lineman, only 3 are still with the Bears. The injury to Williams is the icing on the sketchy cake for Angelo’s lack of high round draft pick success.

Hits in the top 3 rounds include: Charles Tillman (2nd round 2003), Lance Briggs (3rd round 2003), Tommy Harris (1st round 2004), Bernard Berrian (3rd round 2004), Devin Hester (2nd Round 2006) and arguably Greg Olsen (1st round 2007), twice as many misses than hits in the first three rounds.  Of all Angelo picks, only 4 made it to the Pro Bowl (Hester, Harris, Briggs, and Vasher).

On the other end in player development, the Bears have been less than satisfactory on the offensive side of the ball, most glaringly at QB.  Since 2002, the Bears have had the following QB’s on their roster who played at least one game: Jim Miller, Chris Chandler, Henry Burris, Cory Sauter, Kordell Stewart, Jonathan Quinn, Craig Krenzel, Chad Hutchinson, Jeff Blake, Kyle Orton, Rex Grossman, and Brian Griese.  Those are a lot of mediocre football players at the most important offensive position.  At WR, the Bears developed Bernard Berrian only to watch him sign with the Minnesota Vikings.  Justin Gage was a bust for the Bears, but emerged last season playing for the Tennessee Titans.

At RB, Cedric Benson will forever be linked to Jerry Angelo’s futility, seeing as the Bears best RB on the roster in 2007 (Thomas Jones) was traded to accomodate Benson, who rushed for 200 more yards in his entire career to date as Thomas Jones did in the 2006 Super Bowl season.  With draft and development failures as those listed above, it is no wonder that most analysts pick the Bears to finish 3rd or 4th in the NFC North this season.

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Chicago Bears Open Training Camp One Man Down

Posted by sportsmaven on July 23, 2008

The Chicago Bears have reporting to training camp in Bourbonnais with new hope, many question marks, and apparently down one man, as of 12:45am CST.  Bears first round draft pick OT Chris Williams, the man who in his first press conference as a Chicago Bear vowed not to be a camp holdout, is dangerously coming close to being the only camp holdout this season.

The Bears begin their first practice today at 3pm CST with or without their 6’6″ 315-pound tackle from Vanderbilt. With all the new faces on offense, arguably, the person that can least afford to miss any time in camp is Williams, but barring any last minute signings, it appears that Williams is on track to begin his Bears career in the same fashion as infamous Bears such as Rashaan Salaam, Curtis Enis, Cade McNown, and Cedric Benson.  All were camp holdouts at one time, all are now ex-Chicago Bears, serious blips on the radar of underachievers and malcontents.

Now I am willing to give Williams and his agents Pat Dye, Jr. and Bill Johnson the benefit of time in reaching an agreement with the Bears before that 3pm CST practice, but if that time arrives and there is no sight of Chris Williams, all bets are off.  The Bears were already facing an uphill battle with everyone in camp, but with one of their anticipated key contributors missing any camp time, this really sets the Bears offense back, not just one step, but two steps.  With no set WR rotation, a top RB that has yet to take a snap in the NFL, no clear cut starting QB and now a OL missing their top draft pick, the Bears offense is already in disarray before the first whistle of training camp is blown.

The Bears need to get off the bus running this season — for a successful running game will take the pressure off the question marks of QB’s and WR’s.  An unsettled line from day one hurts the running game.  It hurts the passing game.  It puts pressure on the QB’s and WR’s to make plays.  It adds pressure to the RB’s to make plays with uncertain blocking.   The OL is the key to the success of the Chicago Bears offense, and to the Bears season……somebody please explain this to Chris Williams before 3pm CST.

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“Sober” Chicago Bears Force The Rest Of Us To Drink

Posted by sportsmaven on March 5, 2008

The Chicago Bears entered this off-season with a clear goal of making the offense the #1 priority. Bears GM Jerry Angelo stressed his intentions in his season ending press conference, but the actions of the Chicago Bears to date, suggest a series of miscues that make it nearly impossible to believe that the Bears offense will be better than last season, much less believing it to be the #1 priority of this off-season.

Lance Briggs Re-signs with Chicago Bears

(AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh, File)

If improving the offense is, indeed, the #1 priority, I would have thought the Bears would have invested in an approach similar to the following:

1. Franchise WR Bernard Berrian — using the same strategy of maintaining defensive consistency by retaining LB Lance Briggs this past season, the Bears could have began by locking up their game breaker, Berrian for one season with the franchise tag. This would serve the purpose of maintaining consistency in the offense, keeping the strength of an already suspect WR corps intact, buy some valuable time in attempting to sign Berrian long term deal, and finally, taking pressure off the remaining receivers to develop immediately.

2. Pick up a stud OL OR RB in free agency — the need for free agency to shore up one of these positions is paramount in getting the offense back on track. The Bears have an aging, ineffective OL, the oldest in the NFL in average age last season. The current RB situation is dire, with RB Cedric Benson ineffective and injured with a broken ankle that doctors say may affect his speed. If you took care of one in free agency, the other would be resolved in the draft and the offense is in much better shape. Both positions are thin in free agency and abundant in the draft, with the OL standing out as a little stronger in this year’s draft, so signing a RB such as Michael Turner would be a logical choice, sending a strong message that the Bears were serious about improving an anemic running game and making offense a #1 priority.

3. Invest in improving the long term outlook at QB — the Bears QB situation is not horrible, but it’s not great either. QB Rex Grossman led the Bears to the Super Bowl in the 2006 season and took way more criticism that his performance warranted. He still has potential to be a very good QB in the league and the open competition with Kyle Orton could be a decent challenge. I am more confident about the QB situation if the first two points are adequetely addressed.

So what have the Bears done so far this off-season?

1. The Bears release OT Fred Miller, OG Ruben Brown, WR Muhsin Muhammad, trade QB Brian Griese, extend the contract of DE Alex Brown, re-sign LB Lance Briggs, re-sign QB Rex Grossman, extend the contract of QB Kyle Orton, sign WR Marty Booker, cut ties with special teams standout Brendon Ayanbadejo, lose WR Bernard Berrian to division-rival Minnesota Vikings, and lose TE John Gilmore to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Bears come out slightly ahead on defense, as the Briggs contract was very reasonable, they break even on the released players, trading Muhammad for Booker is even or a slight upgrade, but the one player they could least afford to lose on the offense was Bernard Berrian. Losing Berrian to a division rival is a double hit, weakening the Bears while strengthening the Vikings.

2. San Diego Chargers RB Michael Turner never made it to Chicago, amidst reports that he was interested in Chicago but didn’t get a sniff of interest from the Bears. Turner signed a contract (similar to what Lance Briggs signed for) to be the feature back for the Atlanta Falcons. With most of the top free agent guards and tackles off the board by this time, and no other stud RB’s left in free agency, the Bears are now forced to look at lesser free agents, or try to fill both holes in the draft.

3. The QB position is now weakened by removing Grossman/Orton’s most reliable, game breaking talent. That, combined with the lack of a game breaking RB, and a solid OL exposes the very weaknesses of both QB’s and adds further pressure to the development of Devin Hester as a WR. Hester as a WR either has the potential of diminishing his effectiveness as a kick/punt returner, or removing him from that responsibility completely. Combined with the loss of Ayanbadejo, the cascade effect of the Bears off season decisions weakens the special teams unit as well.

The remaining free agent class lacks players with the caliber to improve the Bears offense enough to call it a marked improvement on last year’s squad. This puts huge pressure on the Bears football leadership to come through in drafting immediate impact players and difference makers for the offense in the April 26-27th NFL Draft. This is an extremely tall order, given the Bears recent history of drafting ineffective offensive talent. Chicago Sun-Times columnist Jay Mariotti had it right in his article, suggesting that the Bears needed to get drunk and spend. With an estimated $30M under the salary cap (amidst a rise in ticket prices for the 2008 season), spending to fill holes and improve would seem more than reasonable.

The Bears did manage to stay “sober” in this year’s free agent market , but the potential of a 12-4 season is quickly being replaced with the potential of a 4-12 season, with the Super Bowl fading further and further away in the rear view mirror.

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Chicago Bears Find An Offense?

Posted by sportsmaven on August 14, 2007

Was it just me, or did the Chicago Bears bring out a semblance of an offense to their pre-season opener against the Houston Texans?  Bears QB Rex Grossman completed his first 8 passes and finished his night with an 8-10, 50 yard performance.  That’s right, an 80% completion rate.  My post from August 6th listed 5 things that the Bears must do to succeed in 2007:

1. 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.

Rex Grossman Leads Chicago Bears over Houston Texans
(AP Photo/Dave Einsel)

Grossman has looked sharp in training camp and looked sharp on Saturday night in Houston.  He checked down when his primary receivers were covered and did that well.  Rex actually looked like a quarterback on Saturday night.  The running game, led by Cedric Benson dished out some hits, but showed a sever drop off when Benson was replaced by Adrian Peterson and Garrett Wolfe.

The Bears defense looked dominant, stopping the run, the pass, basically anything that got in front of them.  I thought that the Bears special teams needed quite a bit of work, especially on the kick coverage teams.

Could the Bears actually lead the league in scoring this season?  What a thought that would be….

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