Chicago Sports Inside and Out – The Chicago Sports Maven

Bringing Chicago sports to the world!

Posts Tagged ‘New Orleans Saints’

“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 »

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….

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

Chicago Bears Trade Thomas Jones…Is Lance Briggs Next?

Posted by sportsmaven on March 5, 2007

The Chicago Bears continue their offseason overhaul by trading top RB Thomas Jones and their second round pick (#63 in the draft) to the New York Jets for the Jets 2nd round pick (#37). My buddy Stu in New York is estatic, actually called me on the phone tonight to let me know how happy he was. The Jets got a great deal, they picked up a starting quality RB and only gave up a few spots of draft order in the 2nd round of this year’s draft. Not sure if the Bears received good value on this trade, as I believe we could have also gotten a mid to late round pick as well if you just asked. In my opinion, this is a trade mainly for two reasons: first, to get a potential problem out of the locker room, and second, to serve as an example of making the hard decision not to overpay for talent that is available in other outlets.

Thomas Jones Traded to the Jets
(AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)

John Clayton from ESPN provides another tke on evaluating the Bears trade of  Jones:

Bears moving up: If you are trying to figure out the Thomas Jones trade, it’s pretty simple. The Bears moved up 26 spots in the second round, getting a Jets pick at No. 37. That’s a prime position to get a borderline rookie starter or a quality prospect. Why would the Bears have to give up a second-round pick and Jones to get a second-round pick? The answer is simple. The market for veteran running backs is at best a third-round pick. The Bears wanted to get a second-round pick alone but they couldn’t. If you look at the draft value charts, the Bears gave up 280 points. That’s the equivalent of one of the final choices of the second round or a top choice in the third round. In other words, they got the best value possible for a 28-year-old running back.

My feeling on this trade or any other proposed trade is at this point, it really only benefits the Bears, especially in the situation with Jones. Thomas Jones is a good back. Is he great? Not at all, but very good, solid. The days of the single dominant RB’s are dwindling as more teams are starting to share the load with 2 solid RB’s. Worked very well for the Bears last season. Also worked well for the Indianapolis Colts, New England Patriots, New Orleans Saints, and Dallas Cowboys. By the way, all these teams were also playoff teams. So renegotiating Thomas Jones contract and meeting his needs were clearly out of the picture. Jones’ agent Drew Rosenhaus (who also happens to be Lance Briggs’ agent) is notorious for trying to get teams to renegotiate and it has worked well for him in the past. Sometimes not for his players, in terms of moving to teams that are far away from Super Bowl contention, but he does get his players paid.

Speaking of Lance Briggs, I know he is unhappy with the franchise tag, but that is the NFL. He blames the Bears and he states that he doesn’t want to play for this team anymore since they will not give him a long term deal (which hasn’t been fully played out yet). He is a victim of the Collective Bargaining Agreement signed by both the owners and Players Association. If you want to be mad, direct your anger to Gene Upshaw. The Bears are playing within the rules of the CBA. Lance Briggs was on ESPN Radio 1000 and WSCR 60 Chicago today making his case that it’s not about the money, but rather the respect. I think Lance Briggs just negotiated himself out of anything good happening in his favor out of this situation with his public radio comments.

Lance Briggs Gets Franchised by Bears
(AP Photo)

The Bears have a unique chance as one of the favorites to go to the Super Bowl again next season. Lance is headed towards Todd Bell and Al Harris territory with this stance. If you are not about the money, but winning the Super Bowl, take the guaranteed $7.2M and play to win. This Chicago Bears team becomes a bit more uncertain after next season. Lance, we are not naive….we know it’s about nothing about the money. If you don’t want to be here in Chicago to win, fine. I think the Bears should trade you. You take your risks on that one. Maybe the Bears trade you to the Oakland Raiders, what do you think about that? You gonna sign that deal with that team? Maybe the Bears don’t trade you and you decide to sit out a season, then what? Do you do it all again next season with another potential franchise tag? Do you think the Bears are gonna trade you to the Colts, Patriots, Cowboys, or any other team that may contend for the Super Bowl? Unless they are bowled over with an offer, probably not.

This one might get even more ugly than it is now, and Lance, I’m afraid you are not negotiating from a position of strength. If I were the Bears, I would do exactly nothing in this situation. No trade, no release. Play for the $7.2M this season. Hold out of all OTA’s, hold out of all training camp if you like. Hold out the season. Who is the big loser in this scenario? Lance Briggs, that’s who. No play, no pay. Hold out a season, kiss a $12-14M signing bonus goodbye. Kiss $50M contract goodbye. And guess what, Lance? The Bears can franchise you again next season and we can do it all over again…..and for Drew Rosenhaus? He will be working on a new contract for Bears DT Tommie Harris, so he is not likely to get into any kind of long term pissing match with the Bears and risk losing a payday for another client who may be potentially even better than Lance Briggs. It appears it looks like a long two years for Mr. Briggs……

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

Chicago Bears and Indianapolis Colts Do Media Day At The Super Bowl

Posted by sportsmaven on January 31, 2007

Today was Super Bowl XLI Media Day and I found it to be quite an amusing and fun day. The day began with the Chicago Bears taking the interview podiums first (12 podiums lined end zone to end zone on one sideline of the playing field in Dolphins Stadium) for one hour followed by the Indianapolis Colts.

Bears Media Day 1

When the day began, the media mavens rushed down the aisles of the stadium towards the players on the field like shoppers rushing the Wal-Mart at 5am the day after Thanksgiving

Bears Media Day 2

The Indianapolis Colts were 10 minutes late to today’s media session, keeping up a trend which the media finds quite disturbing. The big name players got the podiums (names such as Rex Grossman, Brian Urlacher, Bernard Berrian, and Muhsin Muhammad for the Bears, Peyton Manning, Adam Vinatieri, Marvin Harrison, and Reggie Wayne). The topics were varied.

Bears Media Day 3

Bears Media Day 4

Some of the highlights of today’s media session:

– Bernard Berrian was asked what kind of syrup he liked on his pancakes (he likes maple)
– An unnamed Bears player was asked his preference, Levitra or Viagra.
– Peyton Manning admits he was pulling for the New Orleans Saints in the NFC Championship Game (obvious, as he is from New Orleans)
– Reggie Wayne being asked what it was like to receive a pass from Peyton Manning.
– Adam Vinatieri asked if he is related to Evel Knievel by Steve Mariucci from the NFL Network (he is) and asked to say hi to NFL fans in Japan.
– Tank Johnson asked about 100 questions on his pending gun charges and murder of his bodyguard.
– American Idol rejects (hired by Jimmy Kimmel) trying to get Bears and Colts players to sing.

All and all, it was a good day. Seemed like the Bears embraced media day while the Colts endured it. Deion Sanders from the NFL Network stated that he thought the Bears were exciting and provacative in their sessions (no mention of what the Colts did for Deion).

Another note on routine and adaptability: Plenty has been made on the Bears showing up to Miami early Sunday and the Colts choosing to come later on Monday. The Colts wanted to maintain as much routine as possible, which is a fine goal, BUT THIS IS THE SUPER BOWL, the biggest stange in the world. There is absolutely NOTHING routine about the Super Bowl, where everything is super sized and done to the max, so sticking to as much routine as possible throughout this circus environment may prove to be an exercise in futility. Routine is good for preparation, but too much stock can be put into routine. My belief is not that the team who sticks closest to their weekly routine has the edge, but rather the team that is most adaptable and adapts to the demands of the bright lights the quickest has the advantage. Right now, I feel the Bears have been that more adaptable team, giving them my edge in the chess match known as the Super Bowl…..

Posted in Chicago Bears | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Perception Is Reality For The Chicago Bears

Posted by sportsmaven on January 27, 2007

Chicago Bears mania has totally engulfed the city of Chicago. I had arrived home from my business trip to Washington, DC and the cab driver that was driving me home begins talking about the Bears. He then changed the subject to something unrelated to sports, mainly my flight home and how we both like big planes over little planes because we feel safer in large planes. At this point, we both agreed that we didn’t know why we felt that way, for there is really no difference between a big plane and small plane. We PERCEIVE it to be safer, thus our perceptions become our reality.

The same thing can be said about the Bears being underdogs to the Indianapolis Colts and their perception that they are underdogs, their perception that nobody believes they can win, thier perception that the Bears get no respect, their perception is that Peyton Manning is a much better QB than Rex Grossman (well, maybe that one isn’t too far from reality) My point is at this juncture of the season, teams are looking for any edge to help them gain an advantage to help them win the game. The Bears did it superbly last week against the New Orleans Saints and it looks like this week and next, the media and all the pundits are lining up the Bears to feed off the underdog/no respect card once again.

The gap between perception and reality doesn’t have to be large, it just has to be sellable to motivate one team over the other. The media is making that gap larger and Lovie Smith and the Bears are using it to build one of the Bears most successful playoff season mottos: “Play Angry”. I like that and I like the Bears. Play with a chip on your shoulder and FINISH.

By the way, after the Colts won the AFC Championship in the biggest comeback in AFC Championship history, guess who was on the cover of this week’s issue of Sports Illustrated:

peytonmanning-1-26-07.jpg

The Saints last week and now the Colts? If this doesn’t bode well for the Bears, I don’t know what will……

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