Posts Tagged ‘Kyle Orton’

Looking Forward to Denver?

August 27, 2009

To be honest I’m not the type of guy to buy into a ton of hype, especially manufactured media hype about a particular game or situation. It’s nice to hear initial news about something, but after the initial pop of the story wears off, unless something else major happens I could honestly care less.

Which brings me to the Denver vs. Chicago pre-season game and the Kyle Orton Jay Cutler hype. I don’t care if Orton or Cutler get booed and I honestly don’t care if one out performs the other in the game. I don’t think Orton will out perform Cutler, if for no other reason the situation he’s in in Denver.

Let me be frank, I wasn’t a big Mike Shannahan fan, but I didn’t let a bias get in the way of respect and admiration for him. Mike Shannahan was and still would be one of the best head coaches in the NFL. The fact that the Broncos fired him boggles my mind, the fact that they did it in favor of Josh McDaniels makes it even more confounding.

All you need to know about Mike Shannahan is that he could take just about ANY running back, plug that back into his system and get production out of him. Very good to great production on a near annual basis, that says it all right there. Yes the Broncos struggled on defense especially in recent years. But none of this takes away from the fact that Shannahan won two Super Bowls and made Jake Plummer look like a good QB in Denver after being horrible in Arizona.

Now beyond Shannahan you break into the Josh McDaniels saga. Going beyond what happened with the whole Cutler fiasco you now get into the Brandon Marshall fiasco and then questionable idea of drafting Knowshon Moreno. Moreno may end up being a great ‘back in this league but prior to this you had Shannahan getting more production out of lesser talents there by putting himself in a better position to address other needs.

To say that the Broncos have other needs may be a complete understatement. Their defense is deplorable and seems to be getting worse. Adding to the pressure Broncos fans and media will never be happy until they find someone that is as good or better than John Elway, which will likely never happen.

With all this in mind I suspect the Broncos will probably be worse off this year than they were last year. They are in for a big shock in Denver and it wouldn’t surprise me to see them battling the Raiders for cellar dweller supremacy in the AFC West. As my thoughts wander towards the Bears’ pre-season game I tend to think this game won’t matter even more than a regular pre-season game.

With a nod towards the cocky side of me, I think the Bears should fully dominate this game. There should be some pretty obvious game planning going on against Kyle Orton. Now on the flip side the Bears should not lose this game and I’ll be pretty disappointed if they do. You might get a pretty awful taste of nastiness if the Bears do in fact lose this game. Because as with tradition most teams get ready for the regular season in their third game of the pre-season and do so by playing their starters for most of three quarters.

I suppose the most interesting aspect of this game will be watching the Bears’ defensive line go up against the starters on the Broncos offensive line. Their offensive line is one of the youngest and best in the NFL. They get the job done in pass protection and I’m assuming they can still run block adequately even without Shannahan’s scheme.

I’d like to believe that Kyle Orton is capable of playing at a high enough level to present a challenge to the Bears’ defense but after some of his most recent pre-season play even that’s questionable.

So what is there to focus in on? Focus in on the Bears playing well, not getting injured showing a good rhythm in the passing game. I’d like to see more from Devin Hester than what we have seen the first two pre-season games. I’d like to see continued improvement from Kevin Jones showing he’s ready to be an ample back up to Forte. All this plus the battle in the trenches should really make this a fun game to watch.

If you can cut through the drama of it all there are things that we should as fans focus on more intently than just the media hype and drama of it all.

What did the Bears give up for Jay Cutler?

April 17, 2009

So I was browsing through the internets, invented by Al Gore and came across something very inspirational for this blog post. Yes friends it’s more Jay Cutler trade analysis and it’s work I didn’t have to do as so much as to google. Charlie Casserly who provide analysis on the NFL Network got me thinking, the insulting comment in one of my blogs from the Jay Cutler trade further motivated me and ask.com gave me the substance. This in turn made me put finger tip to key board and start running off at the mouth yet again on a topic that has likely been blogged about and hammered on since the minute the trade went down.

So the question is what exactly did the Bears give up for Jay Cutler? Simple really, one and a half players based on the statistical odds of first round and third round draft picks making it in the NFL. The percentages extremely favor the Bears and no talking head former jock at ESPN is going to change the facts. So what are the facts? Pretty startling really if you’re a Denver Broncos fan.

Starting with third round draft picks, of which less than 20% succeed in the NFL. Never mind whether or not they start or go on to Pro Bowls or anything in between 80% of will be out of the league during the time frame that Jay Cutler is quarterback of the Chicago Bears.

Moving on to first round draft picks, according to the stats I researched for another blog I’m about to post about 47% have successful NFL careers. Less than half of those selected in the first round play for more than the average career length of five years. So of the two draft picks the Bears forked over to the Broncos, one of those players will have a successful NFL career. Plus the Kyle Orton who may not start for the Broncos and be just a stop gap for a QB they draft this year or next or he may even move on to a different team in his free agency year of 2010.

So realistically the Denver Broncos wound up with one sure fire player who will wind up as good as or on the same level as Jay Cutler. The other two draft picks they received from the Bears will likely flop based on the statistics of flops and failures alone. Which is remarkable in and of itself and truly shows exactly how over valued draft picks are compared to proven players at this point of the season.

The level of hype surrounding the NFL draft right now is so huge that it could easily fill up the largest stadium in the NFL with all of it’s hot air. By proxy most NFL analysts have overvalued the draft picks that the Bears have given up because they are sucked into the hype of it. Sure you have to build your team through the draft, sure the Broncos could wind up with two players from the draft picks the Bears sent over that go on to have long successful NFL careers.

In the end though the odds significantly favor Jerry Angelo. That is why Angelo most likely saved his job in Chicago and most definitely changed his legacy for the better in city of big shoulders.

NFL Network Analysis: Jay Cutler Trade

April 4, 2009

Further reveiwing what league experts are saying about the Jay Cutler deal we come to coverage from the NFL Network. Total Access kicked off two days of essentially round the clock Cutler trade coverage.
Former NFL GM Charlie Casserly steps up to the plate to diagnose the Cutler trade first and give his take on how it benefits the Chicago Bears.

Casserly is most famous for his years with the Washington Redskins where he uncovered two of the original members of the Redskins’ famed offensive line known as “the Hogs”. From there Casserly took over as a GM and sustained Washington’s excellent up to the mid 90s. From there Casserly took over the Houston Texans were he scouted and drafted five future Pro Bowl players. Among them WR Andre Johnson, DE Mario Williams, LB DeMarco Ryans.

Casserly starts out his analysis with how the Bears offered up the best deal with two number one draft picks and the best QB option for the Broncos. His take is that Kyle Orton was a good QB for the first year and he has had some success in the NFL. Casserly says “If I’m the Chicago Bears I’m ecstatic I made this deal if I was Chicago I would have made the deal because it’s hard to get a quarterback at this level in Jay Cutler. A guy who came into the league that’s proven he can play. He’s young, he’s had success in the league, it’s hard to find this guy.”

Mike Mayock then steps up to give his take of the ramifications and impact that Cutler will have on the Bears’ offense and the strategy that takes shape with a QB like Cutler in the fold.

Mayock states “I feel like Jerry Angelo and Lovie Smith were on a short leash, this tells us that the need to win now.” “What I look at is their remaining draft picks and they have 49 and 99th overall selections. The hope is that one of the big time wide receivers slides to them at 49 a Hakeem Nick, Britt or Robiskie. That way they can maybe address the WR position via the draft instead of in free agency. They play some pretty good defense still in Chicago (run defense was one of the best in the league). It’s up to Ron Turner to expand his offense and to take advantage of what this kid does which is get the football down the field vertically.”

Bob Papa interjects with his analysis about the trade saying “When you take a look at this division and you take a look at the problems that Green Bay has from last year, and they’re switching to the 3-4, you still have the quarterback question when it comes the Minnesota Vikings and the Lions they have a lot of work ahead of them. Chicago was right into that playoff race late into the season last year. I think this is something that can put them over the top. The have a good running game they’ve added Orlando Pace they’ve got a talented young tight end that’s gonna help the quarterback pick up the offense, they can do some things with (Greg) Olson. So I think the Chicago Bears if they can tidy up the defense get some help at the safety position can be that gets into the post season by winning their division.”

Mike Mayock states while talking to Deion Sanders (does anyone wants Deion’s take really?) that ” I’m big on franchise quarterbacks and I think Denver was CRAZY to let him go.”

Moving into the second day of the coverage of the biggest trade in the history of the franchise of the Monsters of the Midway.

The NFL Network lines up Bears cam and brings in Jay Cutler for one of his first official interviews after his introduction as the newest member of the Chicago Bears.

Rich Eisen asks for Cutler’s emotions after this big trade:

Cutler says, “It’s been some ups and down for the last three of four weeks. You know (I’m) a little relieved, I’m a little sad to be leaving my teammates in Denver. But it’s a new chapter, I couldn’t be more excited to be in Chicago, and to be a Chicago Bear.”

Eisen adds if you could tell the kid growing up (meaning Cutler) that he was going to be future quarterback of the Chicago Bears.

“I think it would have been a dream come true Cutler adds, I was a little bit shocked that I got the call, because I didn’t really think it was going to be a possibility. You hope it is but you try to be realistic to not put yourself up for that that kind of disappointment (meaning if the trade did not happen) it worked out well for me.”

Cutler goes on to quietly wax poetic about the situation over the last month. He doesn’t really want to go and bad mouth the Broncos by dispelling rumors that surfaced during this whole ordeal. Some people may look at it as dodging a question, but to me if Cutler publicly dispels the rumor he starts a he said they said back and forth which further ignites the controversy. Cutler instead decides to move forward on to his career with the Chicago Bears, rather than explain himself and leave it open to interpretation by the media and fans as to what exactly went down.

Eisen goes on to ask about the “bad publicity” and whether or not Cutler wil have to address it moving forward with the Bears.

“Absolutely I think this city is happy but they’re a little bit wary of what kind of quarterback they got. I’ve gotta earn the respect and trust of my teammates first and foremost and that’s the first thing that’s gotta happen. They have to trust me and what I can do for them as their quarterback they have to believe in me and trust me that I can get the job done as their quarterback.”

Cutler talks about the new teammates that called him, Urlacher called, Earl Bennett called, Greg Olson called and that a lot of his teammates were there at the press conference. They are excited about the possibility of what we can do going forward.”

Brandon Marshall is brought on to talk about Jay Cutler and the trade and one of the key quotes he makes is” Jay Cutler is a great quarterback and a great friend. He was a great locker room guy and I’m sad to see him go.”

The NFL Network then goes to it’s panel that includes Charles Davis, Bob Papa, and Mike Mayock. They always seem to lead off their conversations with Mayock.

“I really believe it’s the perfect storm for both him (Cutler) and the Bears. What they’d like to do in a city where there’s an awful lot of wind and weather is have a big armed quarterback who can get the ball vertically down the field to talented wide receivers like Devin Hester a great tight end like Greg Olson who could emerge as another deep threat.” Then in true Mike Mayock fashion he goes to the coaches tape (the behind the line of scrimmage angle) to show what he liked about Cutler when he was in college and then coaches tape from this season where he’ll compare and contrast the differences in what he like about Cutler.

The play Mayock goes to show is a fourth and 12 play against Arkansas game on the line less than two minutes left, where he stands in the pocket and flat footed (not stepping into the throw) he drives the ball down the field over the head of a linebacker and in between two defenders, while simultaneously getting smacked in the face by an oncoming linebacker. “Fourth and 12 while getting smacked in the face and he knows it, he delivers the football flat footed, I fell in love with that play” Mayock says the octave level in his voice changing with excitement.

“Later on same drive, flat-footed, this guy’s got more hip torque than anybody else since John Elway. They beat a team they should have never beat in Arkansas.”

“This last season on the run look at the accuracy he drops it in over Schefler’s shoulder, big play on the run without a problem. Again he has an awful lot of confidence in his ability, watch him feel pressure up the field eyes down the field, never look down delivers the football touchdown. That’s a huge play very few quarterbacks in the league can make. Again Cutler the vision bracket coverage (four man end-zone defenders) it’s not there right now, eyes down field, feel pressure, step up and again that’s a tight window right there that he threw the football into. This is a third and 12 with two minutes left I don’t think (this route) is open I wouldn’t want him to throw the football there, but somehow he puts it on him (the pass) and the one thing I have to say to be honest in my overview is that he threw the ball up for grabs to often in college and he has a little bit of that gun-slinger attitude in the pros.”

Charles Davis interjects “that that part of holding the ball and not throwing it up for grabs comes with maturity and given that he’s been in the league for only three years, two as a starter he will get better. Weather late in the season with Forte and the running game and this guy with the arm, this is Bears football with the opportunity to make big plays. I think they’ll go out and get another wide receiver somewhere along the lines to take the pressure off of Devin Hester being the number one wide receiver its nothing but an upside for Chicago in the immediate future. I said I don’t think this makes them a Super Bowl team this year, but later on down the line if they keep adding the pieces and with Orlando Pace he doesn’t hurt one bit.”

Bob Papas wraps up the panelist analysis with “Well you know it’s interesting watching Mike’s break down of what he can do physically and you look what the Bears have they don’t have a Brandon Marshall and an Eddie Royal but with what they do have he can make it better get better production out of them. The thing that’s really impressive is that he got all that done all that production last year done with no running game. He’s now going to be with a team that pounds the ball they’re going to be able to control the football. I think the sky is the limit for Jay Cutler.”

That last quote would seem to the quote that makes this the deal of a lifetime for Chicago Bears fans. Cutler has all the tools and by all reports from media people talking to Mike Shannahan to talk to Cutler’s teammates, he is a consummate professional who can be a leader and a franchise quarterback. The important aspect being franchise, because it takes more than a strong arm, great vision, physical talents and pocket awareness, it take the ability to be the face of the franchise. The leader of the team and the organization, cementing his legacy as what could be the greatest quarterback in the history of the Chicago Bears franchise.

Phil Simms talks about the Jay Cutler trade

April 3, 2009

Beginning our extended wall to wall coverage of the Jay Cutler trade and getting expert opinion and analysis on the trade and it’s impact. We’ll gather opinions from around the league and multiple media sources and compile them all into this blog.

The first bit of information we get is from one of the most respected analysts in the league and on TV. Former New York Giants and CBS analyst Phil Simms. If anyone is going to give a fair assessment it will be Simms because he’s covered AFC games for CBS for quite a number of years now. Simms has seen Cutler first hand and dealt with the Broncos and Mike Shannahan .

Simms felt after seeing Cutler at Vanderbilt that he was the best player available in the draft. He still wonders to this day why people even argue this point between Leinart, Young and Cutler, because Cutler clearly had all the tools. Cutler has proven himself behind two QBs who came from two bigger programs and had a ton more respect coming out of college. Not coincidentally though the NFL always has a way of evening things out.

Simms brought up what has been talked about regarding Cutler’s nimbleness in the pocket, his athletic ability to extend the play and then how great he is at throwing on the run. This is one of Cutler’s advantages is that with his arm strength he can still make throws while on the run, he doesn’t need to reset his feet and then throw he can just flick his wrist to a receiver who make deek a CB who has his eyes on Cutler and then get open. This will be specifically beneficial to Devin Hester who will be able to use his speed and elusiveness to get open down the field if Cutler is flushed from the pocket.

Simms talked about how Cutler led a great offense with an awful defense and helped his team be successful. The offense the Broncos had was second in the league and none of that was a result of pure passing. Cutler’s passing helped by the running game was still averaging 4.5 yards a rush. When the Broncos’ defense gave up less than 21 points per game Cutler was 13-1 as the starter, and the Bears defense for all it’s shortcomings gave up less than 21 points eight times last season, translating to what would be eight wins for the Bears. From there that would translate to eight likely victories with Cutler possible pushing the Bears over the top in two to four more games, giving the Bears at least a Wild Card berth.

While Simms has not seen a lot of the Bears’ games (covering the AFC) the game he has seen he felt that the offense usually played well enough to win, but that it was the defense that struggled. Most Bears fans would agree with that assessment about the defense which struggled while on the field in pre-season too.

Simms went on to talk about whether or not his attitude would effect things coming into the Chicago Bears. All the drama coming from Denver to Chicago and the two week long soap opera, and Simms was just as adamant about Cutler’s make up as he was his talent. Simms stated that he was still on the Cutler band wagon and that this was a great trade for the Bears. He didn’t understand why anyone would give up a franchise QB. You draft a guy like Mathew Stafford, in hopes that he BECOMES Jay Cutler. Well with Cutler you already have a proven product, and talent. That proven commodity that you hope you get when you draft. Plus you look at the hit and miss parts of first round draft picks and it really opens your eyes.

Simms brought up his conversations with Mike Shannahan and Shannahan never had anything bad to say about his QB. He never had a private conversation that said something like “well yeah he’s a great talent, great arm, good production, but he’s not a leader or a team guy. None of the coaches in Denver, none of the players ever had anything bad to say about Cutler. He was the type of professional you want your QB to be, a leader who doesn’t flinch in the face of pressure.

Simms then went on to speak of his experience of playing under Bill Parcell’s who said essentially you don’t have to be liked by everyone on the team. You don’t have to get along with everyone, your job is not to be the popular guy on the team and even if you try hard not everyone is going to like you. Your job is to be a leader of men and a leader on the field and Simms feels that Cutler has that.

Beyond the overall trade Simms spoke about the new dimension to the Bears offense Cutler brings. The play calling will change, the play design will change the receivers’ production will improve. Different scenarios will be handled better, and there will be a more open play book for the Bears to run. If the defense gets back to being extraordinary the Bears could go far into the playoffs. He already feels they are a playoff team (they were one game away from the playoffs last year).

Simms was also excited about Jerry Angelo and his statement that “if we were going to get into the Jay Cutler trade talks, we were in it to win it.” Angelo became adamant about getting a deal done and not letting this one pass him by. It’s one of the most unique situations in the history of the league when you have a franchise QB entering the prime of his career likely to be a multi-year Pro Bowl selection. Cutler is a proven QB and Simms felt that it’s going to work out great for the Bears and he didn’t really speak to any negatives coming in this deal.

It’s truly hard to argue with Simms’ assessment and I for one have a lot of respect for Simms as an analyst who does his homework knows his stuff and doesn’t run his mouth for the sake of having an opinion. The most important aspect is there is no guarantee the Bears were going to be able to get a great player from their next two draft picks.

You can find successful players in free agency and in the second to fifth rounds of the draft. Angelo has done this time and time again and has built a successful team around it. Plus with 2010 likely to be a non salary cap year the Bears could really be in a position to add to their franchise and solidify it for the next decade. We can sit here and look back at the first month of free agency (it was exactly a month of free agency before the trade happened) and be critical about Omiyale, Bullocks and Shaffer. But the bottom line is Jerry Angelo just made a move that instantly improves the Chicago Bears. He made a bold move that may go down as the most impressive trade in the history of the league.

Angelo becomes the savior of Chicago, Jay Cutler is a Chicago Bear

April 2, 2009

When no one thought it was possible, no one thought Jerry Angelo had the brass sack to get it done Angelo pulled off a major coup today on April 2nd 2009 and traded for and got QB Jay Cutler. No Bears fans it is not a misprint or a 24 hour late April Fool’s Day joke. Jay Cutler is coming to play for his childhood favorite Chicago Bears.

This is a day that one way or another will go down as an earth shattering moment in the history of the Chicago Bears. For better or worse Jerry Angelo has cemented his legacy in the Windy City. The Bears have their future franchise QB and they are now the toast of the town.

While I can wax on about the negatives, this much is clear the Bears got their man, gave up what they felt necessary to get him and they have my full support. I am on cloud nine with excitement at this move because if you’re a long suffering Bears fan you didn’t think a move like this was possible.

Turns out the move is real and the Bears got their man and according to Jon Clayton of ESPN the Bears become the instant favorite in the race for the NFC North. The Bears are now assured a playoff spot with Cutler and depending how things shape up elsewhere in the league it could be playoff games in Chicago at Soldier Field, where as we know ANYTHING can happen.

In the trade the Bears give up their first round pick #18 overall, their first round pick in 2010 their third round pick this year and QB Kyle Orton. In return the Bears receive Cutler and a fifth round pick from the Denver Broncos.

Cutler instantly becomes one of the best QBs in the NFC based on stats alone and youth and potential ahead of him. He arguably is now the most talented QB with potential to be great because of his rocket arm and his level of production. Regardless of my previous feelings on the matter, I can say that Cutler does have a world of potential and some production to back it up.

Here is hoping that Cutler can be the best quarterback in the history of the Chicago Bears.

Let the hypervenelating begin, Jay Cutler on the trading block

March 31, 2009

It’s official the Denver Broncos are offering up QB Jay Cutler on the open trading market. It’s official Bears fans have reached a new level of excitement typically reserved for possible Super Bowl aspirations.

This just in, the April fool’s joke will be a day early as the Bears will be very unlikely to make a move for Cutler. Shocking to Bears fans everywhere I know but the amount of disgust and disdain Jerry Angelo is about to have heaped upon him even before Cutler is traded to another team and AFTER he is traded to another team will be quite unfair and despicable in it’s scale and deep rooted hatred.

The level of bitterness has already been shown this off-season, even before Cutler was officially on the market. The level of venom spewed Angelo’s way in the next month will be on another level.

But the level of hypocrisy shown by Bears fans will come out as well. Most Bears fans won’t admit that Aaron Rodgers is essentially at the same level of talent as Jay Cutler, nor will they admit their nearly identical seasons.

Comp Att % Att/G Yds AYPC AYPG TDs INTs RTG
A. Rodgers 341 536 63.6 33.5 4,038 7.5 252.4 28 13 93.8
J. Cutler 384 616 62.3 38.5 4,526 7.3 282.9 25 18 89.0

Yet Bears fans would not mortgage their future if Aaron Rodgers were on the trading block. They wither away in disgust with the thought that Aaron Rodgers is somehow a franchise QB, is somehow one of the top QBs in the league. No way do the Packers have a QB capable of yet another largely productive career.

Cutler is a once in a decade QB, on the level of….wait what Scott Mitchell? That couldn’t be possible, or is it? Scott Mitchell had a big arm and a majorly successful season as well. 1995 Mitchell turned in this season with the Detroit Lions.
comp att % yds TDs AYPC AYPG INT
S. Mitchell 346 583 59.3 4338 32 12.5 271 12

So Chicago Bears fans want to mortgage their future for a player that has been as productive as Aaron Rodgers and Scott Mitchell. Trade #18 our second rounder and a third for Cutler? What would you give up to land Cutler?

Me personally I’ll stick with Orton and see how thing pan out for him and then go in a different direction in 2010. Should the Bears shock the world however and trade for and land Cutler, he will have my full support and hope for a multiple Pro-Bowl appearance level career.

Updated: Reports are already surfacing that the Bears are entered in to the Jay Cutler sweepstakes. I support the move by the franchise to make the call and attempt to get a deal done. I ask though at what price? Yes I feel Cutler could make the Chicago Bears a better team, but no I don’t feel like he has the potential to put up a stat line on par with some of the great ones Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Kurt Warner or you could go back to the good to great ones from 80s and 90s. Cutler doesn’t have the mental make up to be on a level with those guys, otherwise he wouldn’t be whining about the current situation, and the Broncos wouldn’t be so willing to cut ties.

We have to ask ourselves many different questions about Cutler, is he more than just a rocket arm and a 4,500 yard passing season? His TDs to INT stats from last year are a cause for concern, his win-loss record is a concern and the way he folds up like a cheap cot in the face of Phillip Rivers and the San Diego Chargers is of even greater concern. To me Cutler could be a good QB maybe on the same level of what Jake Delhomme and Matt Hasselback have been.

But to be that QB that has the mental make up to be great, at this point in time Cutler has not shown even an inkling of that type of intelligence or that type of intangible. He is still an unknown quantity who could come at a very high price.

There is a certain level of buyer beware that you notice upon further examination of Cutler’s resume and credentials.

NFL Total Access: Chicago Bears state of the franchise

March 28, 2009

Just about anytime you have media types talking about the Chicago Bears they’re going to open with questions or comments about the quarterback. This was no different when then NFL Network did it’s team update segment they call the state of the franchise. The focus Friday night was the Chicago Bears and where they are at as a team.

The opening segment was high lights from an interview with Lovie Smith focused on Kyle Orton. Smith went into specificst as to why he has so much current and future confidence in Kyle Orton as the starter for his team, this team, OUR team, the Chicago Bears.

Smith states “Kyle last year of course it was not like there was musical chairs or anything at the quarterback position, he was our guy. Until he had the injury I’d seen a lot of signs from Kyle being able to take that next step. Great leader, great leadership qualities, can throw the football. But I see Kyle leading us to a lot of wins this year.”

Rod Woodson then steps up to give his analysis on Kyle Orton and the Bears franchise stating that while Kyle Orton might be the guy, the Bears should possibly look into bringing in a veteran to push Kyle. Not open up the QB competition to Orton and a veteran, but bring in a player like Byron Leftwhich who has a stronger arm and some big upside. The thought would be to bring in a veteran to put pressure on Kyle Orton with Rex Grossman gone, so that Orton continues to develop.

The next take is on how the wide receivers aren’t really there, how they have a fantastic running back and that the defense is still solid. This from Woodson’s analysis.

My take the defense was solid against the run in 2008, but the lack of a pass rush was evident throughout the year. Apparently this aspect of the Bears’ struggles isn’t as magnified as the QB position’s productivity. It seems the overwhelming theme STILL remains the Bears have one of the best defenses in the league and still struggle mightily to get production from their QB. The fact of the matter is in 2008 it was almost opposite. The production from the QB position was there, but the defense survived purely on reputation alone rather than actual production. Once teams realized the Bears were getting zero pressure in the front four or from a blitz they picked the Bears apart. This happened in four of the first seven games in which the pass defense was deplorable. The Bears were ahead and in a position to beat the Carolina Panthers in the second game of the season, but the pass defense collapsed and Carolina rallied for a win.

Against Tampa Bay in overtime Brian Griese was able to lead the Bucs to a game tying and then comeback victory with zero pressure getting to the QB. Rookie Matt Ryan looked like Dan Marino in the prime of his career, in leading the Falcons to a literal last second victory. The Vikings rang up 41 points and Brad Johnson looked like a savior for them, and the Bears eeked out a win.

Yet somehow on a national media level the defensive reputation seems to remain intact. The fact is before Kyle Orton’s high ankle sprain which is one of the most notoriously non surgical repair related injuries a player can suffer, Orton was on target to be one of the top passers in the league. Without his health Orton’s injury hampered his drive on the ball, hampered his ability to throw the ball and even his accuracy. His mechanics for the rest of the season were completely flawed from an ankle injury.

National media attention though still continues to focus on the lack of Pro Bowl production from the QB position. This will be Orton’s year to get it done, it’s the last year of his contract and even if he doesn’t stay healthy he likely won’t get a break from the front office. One year to be THE GUY and prove that he has what it takes, if not the Bears will likely be in a position to get a Sam Bradford or a Tim Tebow, or Colt McCoy or any one of another top QBs likely to emerge from the draft class of 2010.

The state of the franchise segment then shifted to Devin Hester being the primary big play making option the Bears have had. How his transition from returner to primarily a receiver severely limited his production. They show the stats graphic where Hester went from a punt return average of 14.1 yards per return for two years in the league down to 6.2 yards per return in 2008. From there they focus in on his kick off return average being down from 23.2 yard per return to 21.9 and how he went from 11 punt and kick off returns to ZERO in 2008.

Rod Woodson jumps straight into the topic of Devin Hester’s ability being hurt by saying “Mushing Muhammad said Chicago is a place where receivers go to die.” He then goes on to wax poetic about Hester’s demise in the return and how it’s a direct parallel to him playing WR on offense. Woodson feels as though Hester should not be as much of the focus on offense if it’s going to severely limit his productivity as a return. He does play devils advocate on himself a bit by stating he understands get Hester more touches and making him a bigger threat on offense, but not at the expense of his return abilities.

Diving into the defensive discussion Woodson is questioned about the defense and how far it fell off in 2007 and how it improved somewhat in 2008. Woodson chooses to focus on the CB play and their lack of man to man coverage capabilities. He thinks the defense’s struggles came more from the lack of talent or ability from the CBs. It’s the fault of the secondary more than the lack of a pass rush.

Which goes against what most die-hard Bears fans are aware of. The pass rush was anemic, one of the worst in the league last year and the lack of pressure led directly to losses the kept the Bears from the playoffs. My take likely to stir some debate if the Bears have even a marginal to above average pass rush they likely win the Carolina game, the Tampa Bay game and the Atlanta game. A three game difference in wins and losses which puts the Bears at 12-4, division champs a first round bye and a playoff game at Soldier Field where ANYTHING could have happened. It is hard for most Bears fans to comprehend being THAT close to such a lofty playoff seeding and possible return to the NFC title game scenario.

Where coaches are supposed to put forth a non stop positive face on the franchise and given Lovie Smith’s habit of undying positive outlook this is the thought process Smith undoubtedly uses when he made the statement that stirred up a hornet’s nest of media and fan criticism. Lovie Smith’s famous “we’re close” comment.

Given that football is such a game of inches it is undeniable of just how close the Chicago Bears were to returning to the playoffs, and being in a position to make a serious playoff run. But in the same formula of inches the Bears were equally close in not being a factor at all. Six victories the Bears had in 2008 that were decided by seven points or less. Take away those six victories and the Bears are staring at 3-13 just as easily as they are staring at a deep playoff run.

The 2009 Chicago Bears as they currently are situated with the idea of the season starting tomorrow would be close to disaster just as easily as they are close to that near identical 2006 playoff scenario. The ultimate question is, what is going to happen between now and the start of the season that puts the team in a position where they are closer to success, than they are to near ultimate failure.

Chicago Bears Roundtable Discussion Tribune Live

March 21, 2009

MMI caught the Chicago Bears’ mini-camp wrap up discussion on the Chicago Tribune Live. I must say the host and the moderator David Kaplan of the panel was highly critical of the Bears from the outset. He went along the lines of what most of the message board faithful are ranting about lack of free agency activity and just how bad the team was last year at WR. He spoke in a very condescending tone from beginning to end, making it seem like he is the subject matter expert and the voice of reason. For the most part he took a negative stance with the Bears and their off-season activities and then turned it over for questions.

Kaplan’s stance from the get go, and the lead into the discussion was the Bears did not add a single wide receiver in free agency and our biggest free agency acquisitions are Brett Basanaez and Frank Omiyale. The Bears have no one that can get to the quarterback and they let Mike Brown leave without a replacement. The instant laughter around the panel was that no one got hurt coming out of mini-camp.

Vaughn McClure picked up into the discussion with the Jay Cutler talk stating rather easily that if there is something to look in there that the Bears should at least make the call to see what it would take to land Cutler. McClure followed it up with that he’s not sure that Cutler can be the savior of this team and that he wonders if he has proven himself as a high level high caliber QB. McClure’s early stance is that he’s not confident that one year is enough to judge Cutler by. He’s interrupted by a mention that Cutler was unable to lead Denver to the playoffs even with his monstrous numbers last year.

Kaplan interjects that the Bears he has absolute confidence and faith in Cutler and his statement is that the Bears have an arena league roster of quarterbacks, and that the Bears have never had a big time guy behind the controls. He’s a Pro-Bowler that’s 26-years-old bring him in. Kaplan is then asked what would he give up for him (draft picks player-wise in a trade) and Kaplan says whatever it takes, whatever they want. He’s also talked over when someone says “He’s not Johnny Unitas in his prime” and then is asked would he give up three number ones. Kaplan’s response is that he would give up Orton, Urlacher and a number one for Cutler.

He’s then asked about the three number ones question and Kaplan begins to back track, no he wouldn’t and then, okay your next two number ones (first round picks) and he back tracks again and says no….but is then is called out and said you said whatever it takes. This is why Kaplan is like most fans in that he can’t exactly hold a position when he’s called out on it by someone better than or even on his level in the sports discussion realm.

McClure is hesitant to do the Urlacher Orton and #18 pick for Orton because he states emphatically that Angelo is going to blow the first round pick anyway because the Bears always do blow it. Bob Foltman gets involved in the discussion calling Kaplan a fantasy GM for wanting Chad Johnson, Terrell Owens and Cutler. Kaplan’s response is he wants some personality on this team. As if cancerous team wrecking personality is a good thing for a team to be successful.

Foltman begins to assert himself into the conversation questioning Cutler’s maturity level. Wondering if there are red flag warnings to be wary of given the situation and the stand that Cutler has made. Not every unfamiliar to Bears fans given the Lance Briggs situation from a couple years ago. It sorta boggles the mind that most of these sports caster experts haven’t taken into account the temper tantrum that Briggs through, but how he is now signed to a long-term deal to remain in Chicago.

As an example of just how clown like this Chicago Tribune Live sports show is produced a graphic is flashed on to the screen stating ” Bears look to build on 7-9 season” excuse me? 7 wins and 9 losses in a season? Mr. sports producer the Bears finished 9 and 7 a full two games better than your graphic implies and were one win away from the playoffs. This would be where Lovie Smith said the Bears are close, they were close to making the playoffs and playing in the playoffs anything is possible because the Bears hung with and were with 7 points of beating two of the playoff teams there. Also they beat two of the playoff teams reps on the NFC side of the house in Philadelphia and Minnesota.

Foltman gets his turn on the soap box reasserting that this isn’t like the Joe Montana Steve Young type of controversy. Cutler isn’t an established super star NFL quarterback to be acting this way. The panel wraps up the discussion with Brandon Marshall and Eddie Royal being productive NFL wide receivers, which segue ways into the Bears having no WR talent so who is Cutler going to throw to.

With no WR talent Kaplan gets back on his roll of anger and frustration. He starts off by talking about how the Bears had a suspect O-Line even before the start of free agency and now with John Tait and John St. Clair gone it’s one of the worst lines in the NFL. Apparently the Bears said that “we gotta get John St. Clair re-signed according to Kaplan (the Bears said they would like to have him back never said it was a necessity).

Kaplan more forward into his rant that Lovie Smith stated that Earl Bennett has to continue to develop to which Kaplan then countered you have to play to develop. The panel then emphasized that Bennett stated that he didn’t learn the plays very quickly and that is a major area of concern. It’s unanimous that no one like Bennett and it was a mistake to draft him, as well as Kaplan interjects it was a mistake to draft Chris Williams because he had back problems that caused other teams to not draft him at all. In that same vein nothing was ever established or concrete regarding Williams’ back problems being something he had coming out of college that kept other teams from drafting. So that’s rumor being put out as fact by Kaplan.

The panel wraps up the discussion about the possibility of bringing in Torry Holt to help boost the WR core.

Wow quite the mind-numbing bit of reporting full of inaccuracies, anger and a demand for Jerry Angelo to be more like Dan Snyder of the Redskins and spend wildly and freely to upgrade this team. More opinion versus analysis not a lot of in-depth talk. Didn’t speak to much of what went on at Mini-Camp and ranted about how the Bears should get Jay Cutler. Some of this sounds like what we hear every day on the message boards. When the draft comes and more importantly training camp gets underway we’ll be able to better establish just how good or bad the Bears will be this year. Right now in March with the draft and more free agency yet to come and the season still nearly six months away, it’s not easy to judge this team.

NFL Network puts the Bears on the clock

March 21, 2009

The NFL Network’s Path to the Draft show is essentially a prospect and team preview show that happens every day for half an hour. It’s better than any of the crap on ESPN because it encompasses real analysts who have played the game and gasp a real former GM. So when you’re getting opinion on these players from these guys at least they’ve been there done that or have made a living off of doing it. Instead of the Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay pissing match you get real in-sight and analysis on the players. Plus it’s not a five minute segment that they do on ESPN’s sports center where you have to watch the douche bag commentators on there who are trying to be as witty and funny as Dan Patrick and Keith Olbermann were. Never can beat the original.

So with that in mind they’re addressing the Chicago Bears’ first round team need at O-Line, WR and apparently QB. Until the Bears have a hall of famer under center well the majority opinion is that the Bears will need to draft a QB. There’s a quick mention of the Bears’ last four first round draft picks, Tommie Harris at 14, Cedric Benson at 4, Greg Olsen at 31 and Chris Williams at 14. Benson being the biggest bust of the bunch Angelo made up for it immediately before cutting him by drafting Matt Forte last year.

The analyst brought in to talk about the Bears is Dan Pompei. There’s a major advantage the Bears have in already holding mini-camp, they know how well some of the players have stayed in shape in the off-season. Additionally they know whether or not the players on the roster are serious about football and how it is a year round job. Pompei immediately dives into the Bears’ need at OT. Pompei’s opinion is far different than mine, he seems to have completely bought into the argument that Frank Omiyale was brought in to strictly compete at left guard. That’s pretty funny because Omiyale has never played guard in his career and earned his money based on his ability to play OT for the Carolina Panthers. The media has fallen for the smoke screen that Jerry Angelo put out there regarding Omiyale. Angelo puffed up the smoke screen because he wanted to not publicly apply pressure to John St. Clair that they had already found his replacement. They did find his replacement because after one day at guard, Omiyale moved over to RT immediately upon St. Clair signing.

Omiyale would have likely supplanted a starter and it wouldn’t have been Josh Beekman because Beekman didn’t play as bad as St. Clair did last season. Plus you can be safe in the starting five being what it would have been last year had Chris Williams not been injured. Williams will be an upgrade over St. Clair and Omiyale might be an upgrade over Tait, because Tait aged so fast.

Pompei next has to answer to the column in which he wrote about “If Jay Cutler is available the Bears should pursue him. To which Pompei has to essentially back track on that column with more support towards Kyle Orton than he originally intended to give when he wrote the column. They wax poetic about the Jay Cutler trade, to which the question immediately shifts to, do the Bears take a QB at 18 or a OT. Ummm…the consensus is the Bears need a WR or an OT at 18. Kyle Orton is fine as a QB, his production slipped due to injury. He played five games he likely shouldn’t have because his production in those five games where he was injured was better than what Rex Grossman would have been healthy. That says a lot about Grossman that a hobbled Kyle Orton is better than you.

Pompei not the subject matter expert you would expect here. He says Angelo likes to draft lineman and is pretty good at drafting lineman. Yeah perhaps D-Lineman but certainly not O-Lineman. Angelo has only drafted two OTs in the first round in drafts that he was allegedly a part of in his career (including Tampa Bay and Chicago). One OT had a decent career and is currently a free agent, the other had injury problems forcing the Bears to release him, but now he’s a multi-year starter in Dallas. Angelo’s evaluating strength is on defense rather than offense, let’s be clear on that immediately.

So who would Dan Pompei take at 18 if an OT was available? Eben Britton from Arizona. Pompei’s opinion is that he could man that RT spot immediately because he’s big and strong and help in the run game. Uh Britton was rarely asked to run block the last two years at Arizona. They ran most of their offense out of the Texas Tech passing spread offense. So there wasn’t a lot of creativity with their run plays at the UofA. To say Britton can stick his hand in the dirt and be a run blocker is a bit ignorant when the guy comes out of a pass first pass heavy offense. The same questions arise when people talk about Jason Smith at Baylor because he played in the spread too.

So apparently in this segment Dan Pompei has no clue to which he speaks he talks in generalities and football cliches about players of which he has no clue about what they are like or what system they come from. This is not to say Britton wouldn’t be a good pick at 18, it’s just saying his strengths lie elsewhere beside run blocking. To add to my point the high-lights they show of Britton show him run blocking, albeit out of two point stance. He stands in his two point stance essentially giving the DE the idea that he’s going to pass block, the DE shoots up the field and Britton simply walls him off like it’s a draw play. Britton already has the inside advantage because the play is going to the opposite side of where the defender is attacking, advantage to the blocker.

Sticking your hand in the dirt and firing off the line when it’s a HB-Iso or zone blocking running play is much more important to the Bears than being able to fool the defender by making them think you’re going to pass when in fact it’s a run call. Neither the host of the segment or Pompei has a clue about this little common sense difference between OTs who come from a spread offense and OTs who come from a pro-style offense.

Pompei’s next line of thought as to who the Bears might select at WR if they go that route at 18 is Kenny Britt from Rutgers. He might be a bit of a reach at 18 but I could definitely see him in the second round. Britt is as Pompei says the perfect compliment to Devin Hester, he’s big fast and catches the ball well. If the Bears don’t trade down, but can trade up into the earlier part of the second round to take a WR like Britt after they draft an OT at 18 that’s a good strategy as well.

The next question is why the Bears were not more active in free agency and Pompei is a better subject matter expert on this than most of the Bears related talk we’ve heard to this point. Pompei has spoken to Angelo at length and he essentially stated that this is the worst free agent class he’s ever seen. Why were the Bears not more active, when the GM feels like it’s the worst free agency class ever, there’s your answer. Rightly or wrongly Bears fans Angelo is the GM and is getting paid for his judgment and based on that football knowledge and judgment the Bears didn’t go on a spending spree to add average to marginal level talent. They did add players that are marginal or average, but they did so in a cost effective manner.
History will prove Angelo right or wrong on this call so we’ll see how things go.

So to wrap up the segment of the Bears on the clock with Dan Pompei as the subject matter expert the Bears may look at Eben Britton or Kenny Britt at 18. WR and OT are the most important aspects to this franchise, heading into the draft. Although if I’m making the call it’s a player like Hakeem Nicks at 18 and maybe a Phil Loadholt in the second round.

First Day Impressions of Mini-Camp

March 17, 2009

Reports in from Halas Hall has the Bears pretty excited to be back in camp. Though they only did team drills and seven on seven work today in no pads it’s to have the team focusing in on 2009 at this juncture.

Some of the talk via ESPN 1000 sports radio had bits from Rod Marinelli who is excited to be back out there as a positional coach. This is the area of expertise that Marinelli has and working with the D-Linemen and their technique is stuff you like to hear. Warren Sapp has given a lot of credit to Marinelli for making him the sure fire hall of famer that he is at the DT position. Given Tommie Harris’ level of talent hopefully he can develop him along the same line.

Marinelli talked about how excited he was to be out there and how much he loves football. To him football in general is just a wonderful thing and he looks forward to continuing to work with this group of guys. Having followed Marinelli’s career since his young days at Arizona State there is little doubt in my mind of his enthusiasm and intensity as a coach.

Talk from Marinelli also surrounded how much he loves coaching the D-Lineman. He has a great appreciation for those guys that do battle in the trenches and fight hard week in and week out. To put it simply perhaps no one better understands that the success of the defensive unit as a whole starts with the men up front.

Marinelli has a lot of talent to work with, guys that have had successful careers and guys just cutting their teeth in develop a successful career. Don’t underestimate the type of player DT Marcus Harrison is going to be for this defense. Although he better fits the 3-technique type of player in this scheme, Harrison could see more time with Dusty Dvoracek recovering from his triceps surgery.

Elsewhere on the field today the first reports came in regarding WR Earl Bennett. Bennett caught some balls and worked on some things with Kyle Orton. Not much happened though since it was a little breezy out today. Hester is out there as the self-proclaimed #1 receiver and seems determined to be THE player the Bears need out there. He’ll get every opportunity in mini-camp to prove just that.

Jay Cutler rumors also don’t appear to have effected Kyle Orton’s mentality about being the long term solution at QB. From the NFL Network Orton said “I think I’m going to do everything I can and work as hard as I can and be the guy that stabilizes it (the QB position). I don’ think that say I’m not going to be that guy, I think I am going to be that guy. I think this is my offense and I’m working as hard as I can to show everybody that it’s my job.”

Lovie Smith himself feels confident in Orton as the long term solution given how well he performed the first half of the season. The numbers back up Lovie’s assessment of Orton and given that the Bears will likely bring in a receiver on day one of the draft Orton will have every opportunity to play himself into a long term extension in the final year of his contract. The more weapons surrounding Orton the better off the offense and Orton will be. Orton should only build upon the early success he had in 2008 and will likely have a break out year which causes fans to forget about this Cutler crap.

Elsewhere with the news that John St. Clair is moving on to play with the Cleveland Browns second year man Cody Balough was getting the reps at first team RT. There could be movement on the free agent market to keep an eye on in the coming days with Orlando Pace, Levi Jones, Marvel Smith of three former Pro-Bowlers available in free agency. If the Bears don’t choose the free agent route they could move Frank Omiyale out to RT (he was running 2nd team LG today) or they could draft a solid prospect on day one. For the sake of mini-camp it will be Balough as the “starter”.

When asked if the Bears were still in the market for more offensive lineman Lovie’s answer was more direct in saying “It’s the off-season we keep all our options open.”

Those options could be in free agency or the draft, either way now that St. Clair is in fact gone, the Bears will be upgrading the OT position from last year.