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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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Lance Briggs Digs Deeper Holes

Posted by sportsmaven on March 14, 2007

I was flipping the channels on the television this morning and stopped on ESPN to see Suzy Kolber interviewing Chicago Bears linebacker Lance Briggs. Funny how all of a sudden, Lance Briggs is everywhere on television, on the radio, making his case to the fans as to how the Bears don’t respect him, that they never intended to sign him to a long term deal, that he will hold out and not play this season. That’s right, he will stare $7.2M guaranteed, in the eye and not blink.

Lance Briggs Won’t Play For The Bears
(AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

John Clayton of ESPN says that this is the only thing that Lance Briggs can do at this point. He states in his column on ESPN.com:

The Lance Briggs situation in Chicago continues to get more interesting by the day, but it’s not going to change the outcome. Briggs will remain property of the Chicago Bears this season. Even though the Bears dealt halfback Thomas Jones after he asked to be traded, Briggs is too talented to let go. The Bears franchised him with the idea of keeping the linebacker for this season. He’s the Derrick Brooks of the Bears defense, but it’s Brian Urlacher’s unit so they can’t pay him more than Urlacher.

Briggs vows to sit out the season, but at worst, he’ll stay out until the final six weeks of the season. If he comes back for the final six weeks, he can get a year of vesting and at least let the franchise tag run its course for this season. Sitting out the whole year would still keep the tag on him for next year, plus he loses $7.2 million.

All Briggs can do is make the fuss as public as possible. Clearly, he’s not getting a long-term deal with the Bears. Clearly, he is holding out until at least the first week of the regular season, missing all of training camp. If you believe him, he will hold out into the season.

I beg to differ with Mr. Clayton as I think there is one thing that Lance Briggs can do and that’s shut up and play. Go to training camp and get yourself ready, get in shape and game speed, so you lessen the chance of getting hurt and you get ready for the season. Help take the Chicago Bears to the Super Bowl, work a deal with the Bears to not franchise you next season, but it is tough to negotiate when you keep opening your mouth and inserting your foot. With each scathing interviewing slamming Bears management, you lessen the likelihood of a positive outcome for yourself, as well as paint the Bears in a deep corner which will be difficult to get out from.

The Bears may have been able to work a trade for you if you had just kept quiet and went about your business, but now it will be nearly impossible for the Bears to get any kind of value in any trade scenario. At this point, the best the Bears can do is leave the franchise tag on you and let you sit out the season and then franchise you again next year. This is how the game is played, like it or not. I heard one unnamed analyst on ESPN say that the Bears are not using the franchise tag within the spirit of good faith in working to a long term agreement. That’s mularkey, a load of crap. The franchise tag is there to allow teams to designate one player as a franchise player, too valuable to let into the open market, not to work on a long term agreement or contract. The agreement is a typical byproduct of the franchise tag. Again, I think the Bears are playing it right and smart by applying the tag and not saying a word to anyone in the media or otherwise. Why say a word when Senior Lance Briggs is doing all your dirty work for you.

The other thing that Lance fails to recognize is that most players that sit out a season don’t come back to the game at the same level. Ask Todd Bell and Al Harris about that. They are the poster children of ill-timed holdouts, missing what turned out to be a once in a lifetime (or career, anyway) Super Bowl championship season, the same thing Lance Briggs is now risking by threatening to sit out this season. Well, John Clayton says that Lance Briggs can sit out all of training camp, and every regular season game through Game 10 and come back to play the last 6 games. That might be the biggest risk of them all. Talk about the risk of being injured, that is a potential injury waiting to happen. And you won’t even get the full $7.2M on top of that. THINK, Lance Briggs, THINK. I had a math teacher in high school that said that the toughest thing we’ll ever have to do in life is THINK. I never knew how right he was until now. Lance Briggs might NEVER know how right my math teacher was….EVER.

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Chicago Bears Handling Jones and Briggs Situations Perfectly

Posted by sportsmaven on March 7, 2007

I was reading Steve Rosenbloom’s blog this morning about the Thomas Jones trade and the Lance Briggs franchise issue and the more dissentious opinions I read in the media, the better I feel about the Bears approach with both situations. With Thomas Jones situation, the trade was inevitable when Cedric Benson started getting more carries and confidence in the second half of the Bears season. Benson has guaranteed money, is younger, and produced the same output as Jones with the exception of yards (only because he had half the carries.) The right move was to keep a promise to Jones by moving him. The Bears were not going to sign him to a long term deal. The talent levels are similar, in my opinion, with Benson having more upside (mainly because he is younger and bigger). Thomas Jones is a good back, but the NFL is a league full of good backs with more good backs coming from the college ranks.

Thomas Jones Traded to the Jets

I am actually excited to see if Adrian Peterson can step up and be the second back for the Bears. I think he can, he showed he can on the few drives he had this season (4.1 YPC and 2 TD’s) In the meantime, the Bears moved from the bottom of the second round to the top of the second round, where the talent level is much greater and saved $2.25M for next year’s salary cap to use elsewhere (the savings from Thomas Jones’ contract)

With Lance Briggs, the Bears are managing that to the letter of what the Collective Bargaining Agreement allows and managing to the best interest of the team. Briggs was reportedly offered a 6 year, $33M contract with $16M guaranteed before this season, but he declined with the full knowledge that the Bears have a franchise tag that they can use on him. The Bears indicated as such in those negotiations and followed through when the contract remained unsigned. Briggs’ strategy was to then attack Bears management and making statements that he will not play for the Bears next season, with the net effect of killing any trade hopes the Bears may have had from him this season. The phone at Halas Hall is not as much as ringing for a Lance Briggs trade, according to Brad Biggs article in today’s Chicago Sun-Times:

Briggs lambasted the organization Monday and said he has no desire to return under the franchise tag, which would pay him $7.206 million in 2007 — 10 times his salary from last season. Tough, was the general message Angelo sent back in Briggs’ direction. The Bears can’t actively seek to trade him under the terms of the franchise tag, but they can listen to overtures from other clubs. Angelo said no one has called.

I’m not sure which of the two paths that Briggs pursued is the worst. They are both bad, both incredibly stupid. What Briggs has essentially done with those two actions is GUARANTEE that he will be playing for the franchise salary of $7.2M next season unless he decides to complete the idiot troika of decisions and decides to sit out the 2007 season in protest. (This is a pure example of chasing bad decisions with more bad decisions). Finally, Briggs all about killed himself PR wise with his comments that this is not about money, but respect. It’s as if the fans he’s talking to on the radio are complete blithering idiots (which a lot of fans are) and don’t understand that it’s ALL about the money. If I were Lance Briggs, I would take a lesson from my ex-teammate and fellow Drew Rosenhaus client, Thomas Jones and follow his path. Play the year, play it well. The Bears may franchise you again next season, but may decide not to do that. Then you are free to go. Or you may sign a long term deal with the Bears.

Either way, I believe the Bears handled both situations perfectly, and for what they were. They didn’t panic and didn’t give in and just start spending unwise money (unlike the Atlanta Falcons, who are still a mess 8 years after their Super Bowl loss.)

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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……

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Lots Of Lovie In Chicago Tonight (And A Little Bit Of Angelo Too)

Posted by sportsmaven on March 1, 2007

Lovie and Jerry. Jerry and Lovie. Together the pair will be synonymous with the new Chicago Bears football landscape — for better or worse. Like the marriage it portrays, both Lovie Smith and Jerry Angelo signed long term contracts to remain with the Chicago Bears in their current capacities. My collegues at Da’ Bears Blog said it best — short, sweet, and concise. Glad all is well at Halas Hall now. The dysfunctional family is fixed, the non-believers or conformers have been swept aside and the those who want to be Chicago Bears, at least on the coaching staff, are now Chicago Bears. (gotta work on the players now)

Lovie Smith and Jerry Angelo
(Getty Images/chicagobears.com)

Lovie and Jerry, Jerry and Lovie, when you signed your names on the dotted lines the expectations heaped upon you have become enormous. In case you can’t see the Lake Forest for the trees, let me say it again, ENORMOUS. Anything short of a Super Bowl victory next season is complete failure. No time to let Rex Grossman develop on the job, no time to let a dominant defense collapse when it’s most needed. No more excuses for an inconsistent offense, or a whining Cedric Benson, or an underappreciated Thomas Jones. The stakes just went up. You played hardball with your salary negotiations and now you will need to play that same hardball on the tough personnel and roster decisions that need to be made between now and training camp. Super Bowl victory next season, because I can tell you right now, there are 61,500 + people that will be financing your shiny new raises and we will expect nothing less for next year and beyond.

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