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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 Devin Hester Signs New Extension

Posted by sportsmaven on July 27, 2008

Thank the higher powers above that Devin Hester’s wobbly hamstring healed just enough for him to sign a 4 year extension for a reported $40 million dollars, with a guaranteed $15 million.  The contract also has another $10 million in incentives if Hester develops into a #1 receiver, for which he has the potential to accomplish.

(Scott Strazzante, Chicago Tribune)

(Scott Strazzante, Chicago Tribune)

Word on the street is that the Hester deal has all the I’s dotted and T’s crossed:

  • David Haugh from the Chicago Tribune reports that “Hester becomes the 10th Bears starter and fifth Pro Bowl player the Bears have signed to a contract extension this off-season. It is believed this new contract will make Hester the highest-paid return man in NFL history.”
  • David Haugh also reports that Hester is at the top of the list of recent Chicago Bears re-signed by Chicago Bears GM Jerry Angelo.
  • Brad Biggs of the Chicago Sun-Times reveals that “[Hester’s] extension adds four new years for Hester meaning he is a Bear through 2013. He was under contract through 2009 and he is the first player with a four-year contract for the Bears to get new money after only two seasons.”
  • ESPN reports that “This [contract] was probably the most difficult one we’ve had to do and probably ever will do because we’re not only rewarding a special player,” Bears general manager Jerry Angelo said. “If you look at it as a returner, we blew that [money total] out of the water. It was now looking at him as what he might be or could be as a receiver. That’s where the real difficulties were and a real challenge.”

Any way you look at it, it seems that Devin Hester is happy (and potentially $40M richer) and the Bears are happy (a difficult, challenging, but creative and fair contract).  Hester celebrated by catching a 40-yd pass from QB Rex Grossman in Sunday afternoon’s practice.  Seems as though the hammy is healed.

Other Devin Hester commentary:

  • Windy City Gridiron notes that “[Bears] check another off theirs list” with the Hester signing.
  • Matt Loede from Bearsgab.com notes that “We’ll see now with a lot more cash in his pocket if that hamstring suddenly feels better today”
  • AOL Sports Fanhouse reports that “virtually everyone things [Hester signing] is a good move.”

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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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Mr. Briggs Goes To Traffic Court?

Posted by sportsmaven on August 30, 2007

Chicago Bears linebacker Lance Briggs sure knows how to keep things interesting.  He is perhaps the one person that could give Rex Grossman a breather in the press.  As usual, Mr. Briggs comes through again in the clutch, providing fans the oppotunity for yet another swirling dervish of entertainment straight from the Britney Spears/Lindsay Lohan School of Driving and Public Controversy.

Lance Briggs Gets Franchised by BearsBriggs Lamborghini

Monday morning, 3am, Jet Black 2007 Lamborghini Murcielago valued at $350,000 on the Edens Expressway.  What a recipe for disaster.  Not sure what that Lamborghini did on Monday morning, but I cam imagine based on the skid marks on the scene and the condition of that fat sports car.  While i’m not ready to brand Mr. Briggs as the second coming of Tank Johnson, I can assure you that almost nothing good happens at 3am.

Mr. Briggs, you are one lucky sucker, walking away from that wreck.  I am reminded about the Deion Sanders story about when he played for the Dallas Cowboys, he tried to kill himself by driving off a highway overpass.  His car miraculously landed on all 4 tires with not so much a scratch on his body.  That’s when he found God and changed his life for the good.  Now i’m not expecting Lance Briggs to go Christian on us before our eyes, but if this incident vaults him into another 160 tackles, 4 INT’s and 4 sacks, a Pro Bowl and a Super Bowl victory, then lets call it a wash.

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Super Bowl XLI Rematch? Hardly…

Posted by sportsmaven on August 20, 2007

For those thinking that tonight’s Chicago Bears Indianapolis Colts pre-season game on Monday Night Football is any kind of a rematch of Super Bowl XLI, I have news for you…..it’s not.  It’s just a pre-season game, nothing more.   Thankfully, I haven’t noticed any marketing that suggests otherwise (although I wouldn’t put it past anyone trying to hype a pre-season game in a pre-season that is at least two games too long).

Chicago Bears

(AP Photo/Dave Einsel)

For the Bears, this is a start of a new season, a season filled with as much promise as last season, maybe even more.  The Bears offense may not surprise as it did last season, although it could be remarkable improved with the addition of TE Greg Olsen and another year of experience under the belt of QB Rex Grossman.   This Bears team, at least on paper, looks to be even better than last season’s Super Bowl team.  The true test of the Bears season begins in San Diego on September 9th against a Chargers team that is a Super Bowl favorite.  Then the Kansas City Chiefs and Dallas Cowboys hit town in back to back weeks and finally for the month of September, the Detroit Lions.  This is what will define the Bears season.  Championships are not won in September, but they certainly can be lost and 3-1 is what is expected in this stretch of the season.

Memo to Chicago Bears fans for tonight:  Super Bowl XLI was last year’s news, Super Bowl XLII is this year’s goal.  If the Bears play to their potential, they are there.  If not, nothing but disappointment and unfulfilled potential.

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