Chicago Sports Inside and Out – The Chicago Sports Maven

Bringing Chicago sports to the world!

Posts Tagged ‘Minnesota Vikings’

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:

Posted in Chicago Bears | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

Chicago Bears Don’t Take Care Of Business Yet Again

Posted by sportsmaven on November 30, 2008

These are the games that kill the Chicago Bears….kill them in so many ways.  The Bears had a prime opportunity to take the drivers seat in the division, establish momentum going into a 3 game homestand, build on a win over the St. Louis Rams, and show a national television audience that your team is for real.  The only thing standing in the way was the Minnesota Vikings, or the Bears themselves.  The Bears played a fairly strong 25 minutes in the first half.  The rest of the game was a unmitigated nightmare.

Chicago Bears Lose to Minnesota Vikings 34-14

Chicago Bears Lose to Minnesota Vikings 34-14 (AP Photo/Jim Mone)

The most upsetting aspect of tonight’s game is the Bears complete lack of fundamentals of the game of football.  Numerous missed tackles, dropped passes, lack of blocking, blown coverages, bad reads by the quarterback, bad playcalling, poor coaching decisions.  If it was bad, the Bears did it, and did it on national television.  These are the games that people remember when asked about their opinion of the Chicago Bears.

Tonight’s game was turned on two plays, the 4th down stop by the Vikings on the 1 yard line and on the ensuing play, the 99 yard touchdown pass from Vikings QB Gus Frerotte to WR Bernard Berrian.  Two plays, game over, on both sides of the ball.  From the Bears performance tonight, there are 5 key takeaways:

1.  If you can’t gain a yard on 4 plays for a touchdown, you don’t deserve to win any games, period.  Any play that takes away touches for Bears RB Matt Forte is a bad play, especially on the goal line.  Take that fullback handoff and put it in the shredder, right now.  Give your best players as many chances as possible to succeed.  So, the right call is Forte three times and if that doesn’t work, if you’re on the road, take the points, always.

2.  It doesn’t matter how fast your players are if they can’t catch the ball or make tackles.  The problem tonight wasn’t getting to Vikings RB Adrian Peterson.  The Bears actually did that very well.  It was getting him down that was the problem.  Peterson was throwing Bears off of him like little rag dolls.

3. Coaching out of fear leads to coaching not to lose games, leads to losing games.  Poor playcalling on the offensive side of the ball leads to pressing and non-confidence.

4.  Bears RB Matt Forte is the MVP of the Chicago Bears and is the only Chicago Bear player that consistently looks ready to play every single week.  For long stretches of the game, Forte was matching Adrian Peterson step for step, with the same toughness.  Forte had 96 yards rushing and another 29 yards receiving with a touchdown, against a Viking team that gives up 70 yards rushing per game.  Forte plays hard, looks prepared and ready to go and is the Bears most consistent and valuable player.  What would the Bears record be without Forte?

5.  The Bears appear to be undersized on both the offensive and defensive lines, not a successful formula for winning football.  Bears C Olin Kreutz is 290 lbs.  G Josh Beekman is listed at a generous 300 lbs. and G Roberto Garza is 300 lbs.  All are listed a 6’2″.  Vikings DT Pat Williams is 6’3″ 317 and DT Kevin Williams is 6’5″ 311.  Bears DT Tommie Harris is 6’2″ 290 up against Vikings DL that weigh more than 315-325 lbs.

Two extra nuggets — Bears QB Kyle Orton was making great progress in becoming more than a serviceable quarterback until his ankle injury against the Detroit Lions 4 weeks ago.  Since the injury, Orton has been shaky at best, missing a game, returning too early for the Green Bay loss, looking very average in the St. Louis game and having his worst game of the season in tonight’s game.  As of tonight, it appears that the injury has put Orton nearly back to square one in his development.  Secondly, another note on the Vikings 99 yard TD,  the Bears have given up the longest TD passes in both Monday Night Football (a 99 yard TD pass from Brett Favre to Robert Brooks of the Green Bay Packers in 1995) history and Sunday Night Football history, auspicious records for a team to hold.

So where do the Bears go from here?  First, the coaching staff needs to better prepare the players.  The one constant is that the Bears don’t seem to be a team that is consistently prepared week to week.  Part of the problem is that the Bears players may not be executing consistently week to week.  If that’s the case, the coaching staff needs to do a better job of identifying the players that make plays and get them more prominiently into the game plan, especially on the offense.  Do more with Matt Forte, WR Devin Hester, and TE Greg Olsen.

On defense, having a physical secondary is worthless when defensive backs never play press coverage.  This has been a glaring weakness that Bears opponents have taken advantage of in their game planning.  When the Bears use the WR screen offensively, its almost never effective because the opposing defensive backs are playing up on the Bears receivers, pressing them and forcing them downfield.  When the Bears play the WR screen defensively, it almost always works for the opposing team because the Bears don’t press opposing receivers, sometimes playing as much as 8 yards off the receiver before the snap.  This was witnessed firsthand tonight, when the Vikings converted two third downs via the WR screen and the 99 yard touchdown was thrown to a WR that was allowed to run free from the snap.

Ultimately, these are coaching decisions that contribute to what has been a very average season to date.  December is the time of the year to begin the work in developing sound game plans and executing them as flawlessy as possible.  December is the time where good teams become great teams and contenders become pretenders.  It’s a time to step up your play to another level and to a man, coaches included, with the exception of Matt Forte, nobody on the Bears has stepped up, and Matt Forte can’t do it all alone.

Posted in Chicago Bears | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

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.

Posted in Chicago Bears | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

What Will The Chicago Bears Do In The 2008 NFL Draft?

Posted by sportsmaven on April 26, 2008

There have been countless mock drafts, endless expert analysis and general watercooler, beer garden, happy hour sports conversations on what exactly the Chicago Bears will do with their draft picks in today’s NFL Draft. The consensus? Nobody knows exactly what the Bears will do…..and that’s exactly the way that Bears GM Jerry Angelo likes it.

ESPN’s expert NFL draft analyst Mel Kiper thinks the Bears will go with a offensive lineman, specifically Vanderbilt OT Chris Williams. Todd McShay from Scouts, Inc is going with Boise State OT Ryan Clady (personally, I think he’ll be long gone by pick 14). Fox Sports analyst Jay Glazer has the Bears picking Illinois standout RB Rashard Mendenhall. And finally, the guru of all mock draft analysts, the most accurate mock draft expert, Rick Gosselin of the Dallas Morning Star has the Bears choosing Virginia OG/OT Branden Albert. Other late circulating rumors have the Bears entertaining trade offers and the possibility of moving down in the draft (which is real, since Jerry Angelo seems to prefer that strategy over all others.)

One thing is certain about this draft: This is a make or break draft for Jerry Angelo. He has to hit big in this draft and he has to hit big with picks on the offensive side of the ball. The Bears have many holes to fill: OT, OG, WR, RB, possibly QB. The Bears need at least 2 starter grade picks out of this draft and and probably 4-5 major contributors in order to compete in the NFC this coming season.

The NFC will be a vastly improved conference this coming season, and in particular, the NFC North Division. The Minnesota Vikings look drastically improved with the addition of WR Bernard Berrian to strengthen the offense and DE Jared Allen to a underrated defense, the Detroit Lions look to make a step up from last season if they play their draft cards correctly and the Green Bay Packers are the reigning division champions, who many feel will drop off after the retirement of QB Brett Farve. (I believe the Packers will be in contention for the division title all season long.) In addition, teams such as the Dallas Cowboys, defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants, the Philadelphia Eagles, and the Seattle Seahawks are bulking up to compete for the NFC crown.

The Bears hold 11 draft picks and 4 of the first 100 picks. The Chicago Tribune ranked the top GM’s in the NFL in terms of draft picks that went on to become starters in the league. The top GM was, surprisingly Arizona Cardinals GM (and former Bears Director of Pro Personnel) Rod Graves. The Bears Jerry Angelo made it into the top 10 at #10, mostly on the strength of his defensive picks. Offense has not been good to Jerry Angelo draft picks, which puts even more pressure on hitting this draft big. The Bears need playmakers, explosive players, football players, not combine gym rat types. Jerry Angelo stated this week that this was a 10 man draft at the top, which is not good if you hold the 14th pick. While I don’t envision Angelo trading up, it wouldn’t surprise me if he traded down. The OL pick in the first round seems to be the majority opinion in mock drafts and analyst opinions. Which means that it’s most likely Chris Williams. 2nd round RB and third round WR/OL. After that, it’s more of a crapshoot, which makes predictions a waste of good time. Good luck, Jerry Angelo……you’re going to need a lot of it.

By the way, some of the players I like in this year’s draft that I would be thrilled to see the Bears pick:

RB – Rashard Mendenhall, James Stewart, Ray Rice, Matt Forte

WR – Mario Manningham, Malcolm Kelly, Eddie Royal, James Hardy, Jordy Nelson

OL – Ryan Clady, Branden Albert, Chilo Rachal, Duane Brown, Anthony Collins, Chris Williams

QB – Chad Henne, Joe Flacco, Dennis Dixon

Safety – Tom Zbikowski

DT – Marcus Harrison, Pat Sims

LB – Jordon Dizon, Xavier Adibi

Posted in Chicago Bears | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

“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.

Posted in Chicago Bears | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »