The last two Sundays have been a lesson in what the Chicago Bears should have been in 2007. They should have been a team utilizing their myriad of offense weapons. They should have been a team exploting opponents with dominant special teams. They should have been a defense that makes up for its deficiencies with turnover after turnover in big spots. More than any of those things, they should have been a football team that played with intensity and with the passion sorely lacking for almost three months.
But now we'll wait. And we'll know the Bears have a shot to win every football game they play next season because the Bears have Devin Hester and the other teams don't. I can write it over and over again but I could never write it enough: Devin Hester is the most exciting football player to ever play for the Chicago Bears. And folks, it ain't close. Not Sayers. Not Payton. No one. No one comes close.
Build around him. Build for him. Clearly he's shown over this season that he's capable of being an integral part of the offensive system while not losing an ounce as a return man. I didn't support it at season's start but damn if I ain't convinced. The dude just broke HIS OWN record for return touchdowns in his second year. Read that sentence again. Two years. Two records. If he retired tomorrow, who's not voting him into the Hall of Fame?
This is the Devin Hester era of Chicago football. Everyone else is playing the lounge. And if Jerry and Lovie and RT are intelligent human beings, they'll spend the next nine months figuring out how to drain every drop of stink from the Skunk. As for Devin, I want to thank him. He made 2007 a memorable season. This was his year. Now this is his team.
The Bears will have the 14th selection in the NFL Draft come April, almost right in the middle of the pack. We'll have plenty of time to discuss the pick but I thought I'd pass that information along.
As the NFC prepares to send teams like the Giants and Redskins to the postseason, the Bears will clean out their lockers Monday morning. Somehow, some way Lovie and the boys couldn't win half their football games and so their season ends Sundays in the shadows of Soldier Field.
CHICAGO BEARS 23
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS 6
Jeffri Chadiha used to write ignorantly for Sports Illustrated but ESPN couldn't let ignorance like his work for a rival and he's been spewing his nonsense at the Worldwide Leader all season long. JC's most recent column selects an MVP for each of the league's team and his selection for the Chicago Bears was a no-brainer:
Chicago: Lance Briggs, LB. He' s been of the few highlights on a team that has disappointed all season.
Chadiha is meant to be someone paid to watch the NFL's thirty-two teams play football. Now I ask Bears fans a simple question. I ask this of my fellow Bears fans who ACTUALLY watch Bears games. Does Briggs even crack your top five?
Anyway, here is my team MVP (and two runners-up) for this incredibly disappointing 2007 season.
#3 Brian Urlacher
I know what you're all thinking: what an asshole! He's been killing Urlacher all year! And you're right, I have. But in the Bears signature victories of the 2007 season - namely both Green Bay wins - Urlacher was the Urlacher of old. Over these past few weeks, Brian has reminded the world why so many of ussport his #54 in the Soldier Field stands. For those of you who love stats, how about these? 112 tackles, 5 sacks, 2 fumble recoveries and 4 interceptions. If that's his off year, I'll take him as my middle linebacker till he can't play anymore.
#2 Charles "Peanut" Tillman
Thank God for the Nut. Tillman's was the only professional presence in the secondary after Brown and Vasher began their year sabbaticals. He was terrific in coverage and an even better tackler, probably saving ten or twelve touchdowns over the stretch. This guy started with Tru McBride, Danieal Manning, BMac and Archuelta all year! The fact that the Bears remained in games is a testament to his ability.
And now the 2007 Chicago Bears Most Valuable Player...
Like I've said before, I don't want to start writing off-season columns just yet but apparently every newspaper in Chicago does. So here's a look at what they're saying with some thoughts tossed in.
Da Site isn't big on opinion pieces but when they feature such a glowing rave for Jamar Williams, it makes you wonder where Lance Briggs will be playing next year. Briggs takes a beaten by Bob Legere in Daily Herald, who writes:
"As far as addition by subtraction, let someone else overpay for Lance Briggs, who will find out soon enough that he isn't nearly the same player without Brian Urlacher next to him."
The Chicago Tribune is making a plea to immediately extend Devin Hester and how could you disagree? With Hester being all-but-negated in the return game, his explosiveness on offense is essential to this team's offensive growth. The receiving corps is a three-step process: (1) Sign Berrian, who has been brilliant the last month. (2) Extend Hester. (3) Release Muhsin Muhammad - as they should have done immediately after dropping a fourth down touchdown pass Sunday - and bring in a trusty veteran in the offseason.
That's all for this Wednesday.
So there's one game left. One game between the Chicago Bears and a tumultuous offseason of quarterback quandaries and daily draft day directives from combine-fevered fans. One game. And I wanna win it.
There are many people who'll call me crazy. "Why risk losing a top ten draft pick?" they might ask. "Why win such a meaningless game?" Maybe I don't know. But there are some thing I do now. I know I like seeing the boys in navy and burnt win football games. I know I believe that winning a couple down the stretch might give them a jolt of adrenaline to start 2008. I know there was something about Kyle Orton's performance in that wind that made me want to see him again.
But I also know that Sunday the Bears are going to play a football game...and they won't play another one for nine months. That's nine months of other teams in Super Bowls and whoop-dee-doo March Madness. Nine months of pitchers and catchers boring me and TPC at Sawgrass. Nine months of the unwatchable NHL and NBA postseasons. Nine months of passionless sporting events.
No, I'll take my Bears. One last time. At home. To win. I'll take a couple smiles on a cold December Sunday...the last Sunday of 2007. The last Sunday of a terrible 2007 season. But a Sunday nevertheless.
Merry Christmas to everyone! I hope this site made you a little happier this year.
Twas a day or so before Christmas
And in our cold, cold house
Not a person could feel an extremity
Not even a mouse
We'd waited and waited all season with care
In hopes a complete football game soon might be there
We gathered at sports bars, with family and friends
With visions of touchdowns to both our tight ends
Pissed Off in his kerchief, Midway in his cap
Had figured the Bears were ready for their long winter's nap
When out on the field, there arose something odd
I pinched myself twice to see if it be fraud...
And we're moving to...
When what to my wondering eyes should appear
But a quarterback not ending up on his rear
There was a running game, so lively and quick
I thought for a moment, "This must be a trick!"
The play calls were masterful, a real tour-de-force
And who knew AP could become such a horse?
And what of the defense, oh boy did they play
Brian, Peanut, Jamar, Alex, Adewale
You could write a whole column on each of their days
But Brian deserves it in so many ways
As 54 ran the length of the field
Something inside me was suddenly revealed
This man is a legend, a player for the age
And he shall never again be defamed on this page
But what about the others? How people forget?
Has Green Bay punted successfully yet?
Brad was his finest, Robbie was Gould
Blocking a punt, that shit never gets old
And then seeing Favre, the greatest of all
Most live the rise, I dream of the fall
The weather had beat him, the Bears finished him off
And watching him on the sideline, I thought
"Is Brett Favre that soft?"
This was the game we dreamt of all year
I hope it provided with ample Christmas cheer
There won't be a playoffs or Super Bowl crown
To hold over our shoulders in Chicago town
But maybe we saw just how close we can be
To getting on top of this cheap NFC
Maybe its not so many miles away
Maybe we feel slightly better today
Here is the belated Sunday column from our beloved JB:
I read all week about how this game didn't really matter. Then there were the draft board enthusiasts that want us to drop the last two to creep up the board in a disappointing season.
I, among others, think this game mattered. It matters to the fans that if nothing else, enjoy watching our defense return to form with a shell of its opening day roster. It matters to those of us with packer backing friends. It matters to those of us that need some confidence in our team going into a very important offseason. It matters that Adrian Peterson ran the ball hard and effectively with an offensive line that looked like it was composed of actual professional athletes. It matters that we can win next week and avoid a double digit loss season.
I don't know if Kyle Orton is the answer to the future, how to pronounce #75's name, why Peanut Tillman isn't in the Pro Bowl, and if that GB punter will be able to sleep tonight without recurring nightmares. What I do know is that I have a smile on my face for the 6th time this year and that I still love this team.
We may not have a post season, but we beat the cheese twice this year, and that's just enough to hang my hat on. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to everyone. It's been a great experience this season, writing 5 game wrap ups, and I look forward to talking through the off season decisions with all of you in the coming months. May '08 be the year for Chicago.
Dear Chicago Bears,
I know this letter comes a bit too late into the season but I thought I should send it anyways. It'd be easier if you'd answer my phone calls, but I understand. This has been a difficult time for both of us but know that I love you and I will continue to love you until they've bought the box and booked the parlor.
That being said...cut the shit. Go out on the field Sunday and give your devoted fans a day to remember. There's an entire generation of young fans who don't understand the significance of this game. Of this rivalry. Of Bears v. Packers. Show them Sunday by staging the kind of four quarter assault you've so consciously avoided all season long. Show them that this game still matters to you as much as it matters to the city around you. Maybe you could...
CHICAGO BEARS 27
You know what bothers me most about Lovie Smith? His arrogance. For a man of supposed humility, sprung from God-fearing Big Sandy Texas roots, Lovie displays an alarming absence of self-realization. For Lovie the glass is not only always half-full, it's overflowing with an abundance of delicious miracle elixir. If we can simply collect a bit before it hits the ground, these five wins will become twelve before our very eyes.
Mike Mulligan's all-too-revelatory column in the Sun-Times today acknowledges the symptoms of pre-diagnosed ailment. Listen to some of these quotes:
''It's disappointing we are 5-9, but it is not like we are that far away. When we were getting ready to go to the Super Bowl last year, we were close. We had a lot of close games that went with us."
Actually Lovie, that's nowhere near correct. Last year the team was only in five games that were decided by single digits. In the current NFL, that was almost unheard of until this year's Patriots. The Bears were 4-1 but outside of the early game at Minnesota, each of the games was only close due to an abundance of Rex Grossman turnovers - not defensive liabilities and a lack of running game.
''This year, we played close games, but we haven't been able to finish the job. With a new year, we will be able to correct some of those things and get back. So we're closer than our record says right now."
I'm not of the mindset that the Bears need to rebuild but CLOSER TO WHAT? For every blown ten point lead, there was miracle comeback. Blew 10 in Detroit - went 97 in Philadelphia. Blew 11 to the Giants - made up 14 with the Broncos. Doesn't Lovie acknowledge that this team could just as easily have only three wins? This wreaks of self-delusion.
''But this year is a down year for us, so all the ones who have never really been behind what we're doing, they can take their shots right now. But we'll fix it and come back stronger than ever.''
Everyone who loves this team - and I say this with the possible exception of white supremacist Bears fans - are behind winning with you as our coach. To pin the credible criticism on some sort of alterior-attack on your program feels like the last gasps of a dying coach. 5 wins is not close. Last place is not close. Bears fans watched this organization trade away their most viable offensive commodity in the offseason and saw their vaunted running game plummet as a result. They saw the Bears once again mistakenly rely on the health of the NFL's most fragile safety with only a way-past-his-born-on-date Adam Archuelta in the wings. They saw a defense fall from one of the league's best to one of its worst, as your hand-picked buddy seized control. They've seen young players regress and veterans hit their wall as your undeniably talented team continues to lose to less-talented opponents. They've watch good coaches go into the locker room at halftime down double-digit points only to dominate the team we love for the next thirty minutes.
Yes. We blame you. Forgive us Lovie, we know not what we do.
Steven Rosenbloom, who has really established a must-read Tribune blog, thinks Ron Turner is going to be fired in a month. If so, does anyone have faith in the guy Lovie will bring in to replace him? This is the head coach who hired Terry Shea and fired Ron Rivera for Bob Babich, leading to the defense plummeting from the top five to the bottom five in the NFL. The real problem at Halas Hall isn't Turner, it's Lovie Smith, who seems to be overwhelmed and bewildered by the head coaching job.
As for Sunday and the Green Bay Packers, Lovie has to lose the "gives us a best chance to win" attitude and do the following:
I have to admit I'm having some trouble with the whole Packer Week thing this time around. In a season of such tremendous disappointment, can moral victories really be found and would beating the Packers twice provide such a moral victory? I'm not sure.
On one hand, the Chicago Bears have only swept the season series from the Pack once in the Brett Favre era (and only that one time since Mike Ditka stopped being da coach). That was in 2005 where Kyle Orton led the Bears to a 19-7 win. And when I say led, I mean he threw for a mind-boggling 49 yards. A Bears win Sunday might also go a long way to ensuring the Favre and company have to travel to Dallas should that be the matchup in the NFC Championship Game.
On the other hand, who gives a shit? Are any of us going to use the uber-lame "yeah but we beat you twice" defense when confronted by Packers fans about this miserable excuse for a season? I know I'm not. Yes it'd be fun but what would it ultimately mean? About as much as our Week 17 loss to the Pack meant last season. Nothing. Zilch. Nada.
Sure I'd like to win Sunday. I'd like to win every Sunday and especially every Sunday that involves the cheese. But this Sunday the Bears and Packers will be playing just another football game at Soldier Field. They're preparing to make their fun for another Super Bowl title. We're in last place.
LAKE FOREST, IL Ã¢â‚¬â€œ The Chicago Bears had four players selected to the 2008 Pro Bowl this season: LB Lance Briggs, DT Tommie Harris, KR Devin Hester and specials teams selection Brendon Ayanbadejo.
Briggs was chosen to his third consecutive Pro Bowl.
Harris was selected to the Pro Bowl at defensive tackle for the third consecutive year. Harris is the first DT in franchise history to be selected to three straight Pro Bowls.
Hester was selected to his second straight Pro Bowl. Hester is the first player to represent the Bears as a kick returner in two seasons. He is also the first Bears player since Brian Urlacher to be selected to the Pro Bowl in each of his first two seasons in the NFL.
Ayanbadejo was selected to his second consecutive Pro Bowl as the NFCÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s special teams pick. This marks the first time in team history that multiple special teams players made the Pro Bowl in consecutive seasons for the Bears after Hester, Ayanbadejo and K Robbie Gould made the Pro Bowl last season.
The Bears have had at least four players selected to the Pro Bowl roster in each of the last three seasons, the first time the franchise has accomplished that feat since the 1986-88 seasons.
Yes ladies and gents the man who I will forever refer to as Kyle "Horton" is who we thought he was....not a very good QB. I wont pin this loss soley on him. I am not going to be politically correct in this post. I am just going to say this offense sucks. I dont know exactly how to pinpoint it and I dont care to. It just plain sucks for lack of a better term. "Horton" looked exactly like he did in 2005. He didnt make a lot of mistakes but he didnt make anything happen either. He's a caretaker. With Griese we would have had a better shot to win that game and it pains me so much to say it because I cant stand the even the sight of #14 in the huddle.
I wish we could get the defense to play like "Horton" is starting all the time and just sneak a different QB under center. The defense made a lot of plays tonight and gave this pathetic offense every chance they possibly could. In the end its a team game, and the team lost, like they have nine times already with two games to go. I was very pleased to see the face of the Bears franchise and the best player on the team make several plays tonight including two sacks and an interception. #54 is tough as nails and if you think you would rather have Briggs if you could have one guy or if you think he's on the downside of his carrer you are sadly mistaken and he will prove that for years to come.
Tonight and the rest of the season is an evaluation process. Go ahead and start Kyle the rest of the year so you can see what I already have, he's worthy of a number three spot at best on an NFL roster. It always seems to take this staff just a few games too long to figure out the obvious. Its been a pleasure posting after some great games this year. I look forward to bringing you some of my opinions in the offseason and next year.
Jay Mariotti writes another good column in today's Sun-Times (what's he been drinking lately?) bringing up a lot of the off-season issues that have been discussed on this website over the last few weeks. I usually prefer to avoid discussing the off-season until the off-season but with Washington's thumping of the Giants last night, the off-season is officially upon us.
So why am I not depressed? I know the Bears desperately need a professional safety. I know they need help on the offensive line. I know they need a running back and will probably be in the market for a quarterback. I know that Brian Urlacher has played like a shell of his formal self. I know the Bears could lose their best wide receiver and tackler to free agency. So again...why am I not depressed?
Devin Hester. He Gone. The Skunk. Ridiculous. Devin Hester is the most exciting player to wear the navy and burnt since Walter Payton and when Hester's on the field, the Bears have a chance. Hester is a hope for an organization and fan base that desperately needs it. How many NFL teams can boast to have a player that is the greatest ever at what they do? People will argue for Brady and Manning but there's no arguing against Hester. He's the greatest kick returner in the history of the league and he's slowly becoming a dynamic player at wide receiver. No matter what needs the Bears must address in the next nine months, they know that September 2008 they'll be getting the ball at the forty.
Forget Kyle Orton and his 182 passing yards tonight. Forget Hungry Like the Wolfe and his 19 carries for 41 yards. Tonight the story is Hester. Every night the story is Hester as long as he's a Chicago Bear. There's only one positive to the defense being as bad as they are: we get to see more of #23.
As for tonight....
CHICAGO BEARS 20
MINNESOTA VIKINGS 19
There are some whoÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll argue that Kyle OrtonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s presence at quarterback Monday night means about as much to the future of the Chicago Bears as the three-digit bet IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve got on the game (couldnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t let the 9 Ã‚Â½ slide by). There are some whoÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve already decreed Orton nothing more than a space-filler for these final three games; a hapless disaster who lucked his way to a 10-5 rookie record. But Orton is undeniably more in this Ã¢â‚¬â€œ the most disappointing season of the Super Bowl era. HeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s hope. HeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s the play-saving third act, allowing us to walk to the bar down the block from the theatre, telling our friend, Ã¢â‚¬Å“The play sucked but WHAT AN ENDING!Ã¢â‚¬?
2007 may look terrible on paper when things wrap up at Halas Hall around New YearÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s but it certainly wonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t have been a wasted season. It will be the season Devin Hester established himself as the greatest return man in the history of the sport, literally changing the way coaches approach special teams. It will be the season Greg Olsen began his Hall-of-Fame career. OrtonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s start Monday night brings with it an opportunity to quell the Chicago Bears fanÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s greatest thirst: confidence in the quarterback. If he plays well over these final three games against significant opponents Ã¢â‚¬â€œ each with something to play for Ã¢â‚¬â€œ he will allow the front office to focus their off-season attention where that focus belongs. Running. Blocking. Tackling.
Maybe that starts Monday night in Minnesota. Maybe we wake up Tuesday morning and feel a little different about these 2007 Chicago Bears. Far-fetched though it may seem, you can not argue with the presence of the opportunity. The opportunity belongs to #18. And for me, well, that's enough to fire me up for another goddamn football.
Why do the steroids that began plaguing Major League Baseball in the 90s seem to generate a substantially more profound outrage than the same steroids that have a traceable presence in the NFL since the 1970s? I ask this question today, December 13th 2007, as George Mitchell prepares to present his thoroughly-researched, Selig-approved report on the steroids era. Today will be the most embarrassing day for a major sport in this country in my lifetime.
And letÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s be honest: all this report can do is cast more shadows upon an era already blanketed in darkness. We know MLB turned a blind-eye to the problem at a time they were desperate to resurrect from the fan purge, post-'94 strike. We know the PlayerÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Association had no interest in adding in-depth drug testing to the collective bargaining agreement in an organized effort to protect its members from sure humiliation.
The truth is media outrage over steroid use in baseball has caused Selig and co. to take these drastic steps and now that same media is chastising the reportÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s veracity, the reporterÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s ties to the Boston Red Sox and what most believe will be its lack of impact. Then you hear the Charlie Brown question asked over and over again: whyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s everybody always picking on baseball?
Because baseball is for old people, thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s why. And old people care about steroids. (Note: when I say old people, I refer to a dying sports fan mentality, not an age.) BaseballÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s about as much the current national sport of this country as roller hockey and not nearly as much fun as the New Jersey Rockin' Rollers were. By my count, itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s fourth Ã¢â‚¬â€œ behind pro football, college football and Nascar. Baseball clings to its individual statistics in a half-ditched effort to maintain its place in the history of a country that Ã¢â‚¬â€œ while still attending the games en masse Ã¢â‚¬â€œ has lost its passion for its pastime. Baseball has become the Broadway stage: a tourist destination disguised as a relevant endeavor.
The fervency of the NFL fan has never been higher. Last year the man considered the best defensive player in the game Ã¢â‚¬â€œ Shawn Merriman Ã¢â‚¬â€œ was suspended four games andÃ¢â‚¬Â¦nothing. Rodney Harrison missed the first four games of this season for HGH and there was John Madden singing his praises a week or so ago (and he's not even good anymore). We donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t careÃ¢â‚¬Â¦and you know why? Because football's a game where the individual numbers mean about as much to fans as the name of the line judge, even as fantasy football is slowly marking a shift in that ideology toward focus on single-season accomplishments. I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t know a single NFL record outside of the Chicago Bears organization and if you told me, IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢d forget in nine minutes. Football understands what baseball has yet to comprehend: eras can not and should not be compared. Sid Luckman's ability to play quarterback can not be compared with Jim McMahon's. They played different games.
Football is the American bullfighting. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s scary and grotesque and if the combatants would like to risk their lives for fame and fortune, IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll lay down my $6 for over-priced Josie WoodÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s wings. Football isnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t about numbers. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s about winning and losing and on a field of aggression, the football fan forgives the athlete who needs non-natural help to survive the grind. We don't care and why should we? I don't want my athletes to be role-models. I don't care about the "purity" of the game. I want my athletes - and more specifically my Chicago Bears - to do two things and two things only:
1. Care as much as I do.
Other than that, I'm okay with sports players just playing sports.
Monday night the Bears defense will line-up against the best rushing offense in the NFL. They'll do so with a rotation of defensive tackles that includes a hobbled Tommie Harris, an injured Darwin Walker, Israel Idonije, some guy named Babatunde Oshinowo and quite possibly first-round reject Jimmy Kennedy.
Let's not forget the Bears also boast a rotation of the worst tackling safeties perhaps in the history of the NFL, even when Adam Archuleta's not on the field.
With Nashan Vasher apparently (and oddly) returning to game-action in Minnesota, this game may present an option that's been mulled several times here and throughout the Chicago media.
Peanut Tillman at safety?
Here's why I like the move:
1. Tillman is easily the most sound tackler in the secondary.
2. He's at his very best and most aggressive when the ball is in the air.
3. It would enable the Bears to continue developing Tru "Dat" McBride at cornerback.
4. If the move is successful, the Bears have found a solid solution to play beside a hopefully-returning Mike Brown in 2008. If its unsuccessful, Nut returns to corner next season. No harm. No foul.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“I'd like to be back here if I'm wanted back hereÃ¢â‚¬Â¦ I think you're always proving yourself, and I definitely would like to be in a situation anywhere where I'm competing for the starting job and show what I can do, and just kind of improve and take the experience that I've had throughout the last couple years and build upon that.Ã¢â‚¬?
(The headline below this on the ESPN homepage read 5 year-old descendant of Davy Crockett kills bear and is infinitely more interesting. But being that this isnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t dacrockblog.com, IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll stick with Grossman.)
IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m not going to spend the next nine months writing about who should play quarterback for the Bears on opening day 2008. But since Rex made the comments, IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll respond with a quick three-step plan right now to solidify the position for next season and leave the off-season to (unbelievably) more pressing matters:
Step One: Evaluate Orton
If Kyle plays well the next three weeks, he should be given a chance to compete in camp next summer; even if under the assumption heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s going to be in the third slot once again. If Orton isnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t any good, the Bears look to the draft to fill the third quarterback slot as I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t see Matt Ryan, Brian Brohn, Andrew Woodson or Joltin' Joe Flacco being ready to start their first season in the league.
Step Two: Resign Rex (modestly)
Rex should begin the 2008 season as no less than the Bears backup quarterback. Not to sound like a broken record but Rex should be signed to a two or three year deal with incentives based upon his earning the starting role. He might be the best armed quarterback in the teamÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s history and he deserves a chance to develop in navy and burnt.
Step Three: Veteran Competitor
Why not make a trade for Chad Pennington? If youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re looking for the quasi-Rex, itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Chad. He wonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t make the throw down field but heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll do a nice job not turning it over. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢d be a terrific camp battle Ã¢â‚¬â€œ completely different players, different philosophiesÃ¢â‚¬Â¦etc. If not Chad, a repeat of the Griese situation can't happen. The only way a quality veteran will come into Chicago is if theyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re given a chance to compete for the starting job.
And that's all from me on the topic. We'll take a look a look at The Monk, expecting very little and concern ourselves with 2008's quarterback once 2007 is over and done.
NOTE ON PETRINO LEAVING THE FALCONS:
This opens the door - according to Peter King and other sources - for the Falcons to bring in Mike Singletary, the man most believe would have gotten the job if Petrino turned it down. For some of us, that's incredibly disappointing. If Dick Jauron would have let Samurai join his staff (as the great Bear hoped) he may currently be the Bears head coach.
I just want to say quickly that the advocating of losing over winning is never something youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll ever read on this website. What in hell could be gained from losing? According to some of you, two things - both complete nonsense. (1) A higher draft pick. First of all, the Bears will trade this pick if they can and secondly if they donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t, their track record is horrible at the top of the first round. (2) The last place schedule (or the silliest myth in football). The last place schedule involves only two games and next year it would mean getting the Falcons and either the Eagles or Redskins. So IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m supposed to root for the Bears to lose out so they can play the Falcons next year? What big draft pick did the Packers make this offseason to take over the division?
You get sixteen games a year from the football gods. You have to earn the 17th. I cherish all sixteen and I want to win every one.
Onto the fieldÃ¢â‚¬Â¦where Kyle Orton has given Monday Night Football some juice next week.
The Monday press conference was dominated by the news of Kyle OrtonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s ascension the quarterbacking throne of the Chicago Bears. Clips of both Lovie SmithÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s and KOÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s interviews are available on da site and I recommend you both check them out. A few things I found interesting:
Lovie was asked if the move to Orton signals the beginning of an evaluation process and he responded rather authoritatively, Ã¢â‚¬Å“Kyle gives us the best chance to win this week.Ã¢â‚¬? If thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s the truly the case, then Monday officially announced the end of the Good Brian/Bad Brian era for the Chicago Bears. I hoped Griese would provide a stable, veteran presence at a position that desperately needed it. He just made too many mistakes.
In the Orton interview, the first thing youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll notice is that he looks like a Franciscan monk. Either that or he looks like a seventeen year-old boy just cast in his high school production of Luther. He said what was expected until asked if he though heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢d start the rest of the season.
"If I play well against Minnesota, IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll be able to play the next game and the next gameÃ¢â‚¬Â¦and the next gameÃ¢â‚¬Â¦"
That last next game? Opening day 2008. One thing became abundantly clear watching him. The Monk does not believe heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s understudying the lead role. The Monk believes heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s auditioning for the lead role and he seems to believe heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s got the chops. OrtonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s self-abnegation has been astounding, never sounding off to the press, never raising his voice. How can you not root for the guy to succeed?
It was Sunday December 23rd 2000 and Dick Jauron's four win Bears were at Bobby Ross' eight win Lions to end the season. The Bears were heavy underdogs. Nobody gave them a shot. And yet a shot was what they had. All that separated the Chicago Bears from an emotional win that would catapult them into the 13-3 season that followed was a 54 yard field goal by the new kid in town, Paul Edinger.
Crazy as it may sound, its one of the four or five favorite Bears moments of my life and it came during a five win season. That's why the next three games matter, starting with Monday night's matchup at a Minnesota Vikings team that has destiny in its own hands. I want to take that destiny away. They call it "playing for pride" but that's one big pile of football cliche bullshit. You don't play football for pride. You play football to beat the hell out of the guys wearing different colors than you.
If the Bears aren't going to the playoffs, neither are the Vikings. That's how I feel. I just hope that Halas Hall is employing fifty-three men who agree with me.
Addendum: Kyle Orton has been announced as the starting quarterback for Monday night's game.
Jay Mariotti has dismissed the Rex Grossman era as a terrible mistake. That's hard for me to do, considering the Bears have only to been to two Super Bowls and Grossman quarterbacked them to one. In my mind the question must be considered. (1) Do the Bears bring back Rex Grossman? (2) If so, at what cost?
First there is a question of options - both Chicago's and Grossman's. Barring some unforeseen circumstances, I can see three attainable "starting" quarterbacks who might interest the Bears: Donovan McNabb, Chad Pennington, Derek Anderson. Looking around the league, I can see almost no teams who'll show an interest in bringing Rex in to start. (You can make a longshot argument for Baltimore). So unless Jerry "Shouldn't Draft Offense" Angelo and Lovie "Can't Coach Defense" Smith are enamored with one of the aforementioned three, it would seem in the best interest of both parties for Rex to return. He knows the system, can make every throw and is clearly beloved by his teammates. At worst he's a terrific backup.
And I think it can make sense economically. The Bears need to structure an incentive-laden deal that pays Rex a low base salary (somewhere in the 2 - 2.5 million range) and rewards him based on his number of starts. This kind of contract will allow the Bears to show faith in the player without mortgaging the future of the franchise OR the position. Be honest. If you had the choice of bringing in Donovan McNabb or Alan Faneca, who would you rather have?
The real answer might be an open camp battle between big arm like Grossman and a conservative short passer like Pennington, who won't win or more importantly lose games with his arm. Brian Griese's 2007 will be remembered much like Shane Matthews' 2001. He made some plays that you look back at with awe but will never forget his bed-shitting in the Eagle playoff loss. His time in navy and burnt is over now. I hope the same will not be said for Rex.
Addendum: If the Bears are going to draft quarterback, I want Joe Flacco from Delaware. He's 6'6" and has a canon arm. Watching him play Souther Illinois right now and I'm very impressed.
The Bears season ended with a glorious thump last night as Lovie's bumbling band of misfits false started their way into an early offseason. Cris Collinsworth called them unprofessional. Lovie looked lost. Ron Turner called a Ron Turner game, not realizing the effectiveness of a screen pass against the blitz until the final drive when he absolutely couldn't afford to call them.
Forget it. 'Tis done. Wayne, Brian, the Reverend and all the ladies of Josie Woods raised their glasses with me to toast the 2007 Chicago Bears. We called it an Irish wake. Somehow a Super Bowl team fell apart in an off-season. If you can explain it, you're a smarter man than I. When we stop the run, we can't stop the pass. When we stop the pass, they run right through us. Watching the offense has eery similarities to the late 90s.
The next game that matters is September 2008 and the Bears must spend the next three games operating with that mentality. We'll have plenty of time to discuss the issues. Yes, I favor re-signing Bernard Berrian - who is finally starting to play like a #1. Yes, I think they must get a contract extension done with Lance Briggs. But the Bears need a quarterback. And if Grossman's injury is as serious as it looked, its time they discover what they have in Kyle Orton.
They have three games to see. No more Brian Griese. Kyle earned this kind of chance two years ago and Lovie and co. should put him on the field.
The Bears are going to win Thursday night. If you donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t think so, youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re not familiar with the author of the novel youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re currently reading. The Bears are going to win Thursday night and weÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re going to spend the weekend hoping Minnesota, Arizona and Detroit lose. The Cowboys will beat the Lions. The Seahawks will beat the Cardinals. But Minnesota will take care of business against San Francisco and move to 7-6, a game ahead of the 6-7 Bears. Class, who do you think the Bears play next week? (Hint: Minnesota) I say all this completely out of masochism and without a shred (nay a sliver) of optimism.
The season will officially end when Adrian Peterson (theirs not ours) runs for 200 yards a week from Monday in the state formerly run by Jesse Ã¢â‚¬Å“The BodyÃ¢â‚¬? Ventura. Then we can finally rest a laurel beside the coffin at the open casket wake for the 2007 Chicago Bears.
Now the Bears prepare to play a Washington Redskins team Thursday night that has no business playing anyone on Thursday night. They lost a heartbreaker to Buffalo and spent Monday in transit to and from a funeral for a teammate (you might have heard something about that). Their Hall-of-Fame coach doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t know the rules anymore nor does he have any idea what his defensive coordinator is doing on the field. The only thing going for them is that the coach-less Chicago Bears are coming to town, giving them a real shot.
Chicago Bears 4
Washington Redskins 1
I don't like waking up on Tuesday and knowing we have a game in two days. I'm not over the game from two days ago yet. For those of you who'd like to put the mustard on that shit sandwich, check out Steve Rosenbloom's blog on the Trib's website. He basically condemns the coaching staff for the same reasons we've been condemning them: common sense.
Looking ahead there are two ways to approach Thursday night's game with the Washington Redskins. I let the two sides make their arguments.
THE COCK-EYED OPTIMIST
Look...we only get sixteen games a year. That's all NFL teams are entitled to. I love the Chicago Bears and - no matter what their record - sixteen times a year I'm going to cheer my head off for them. Even in this somewhat wasted season, losing can't take away the thrills of the final drive in Philadelphia. Losing can't take away beating the Packers at Lambeau. Losing can't erase the feeling of seeing Bernard Berrian make the biggest Bears catch in an awful long time. Losing can't deny Devin Hester's place in the history of this franchise.
And let's not forget what's happening around the NFC. The sixth playoff spot is still there to be taken and the Bears are only one game behind the three teams at 6-6...with one of those teams still on the Bears schedule. Would the Bears have any shot were they to make the playoffs? No. But would I do anything for them to get that seventeenth game? You bet your ass.
THE NEGATIVE NELLY
I'm over this team. I'm over this coaching staff. And I'm tired.
How many times will the 2007 Chicago Bears fail to the win the game that would make them a relevant presence in their conference? I know they're going to win Thursday night because it would give them another chance next week against the Minnesota Vikings. So my note to the Chicago Bears is this: please lose. Play hard, be in the game but lose. Don't dangle the carrot in front of my face just to yank it away. I don't have it in me anymore.
And while we're on the subject, I'd like Rex Grossman to throw five interceptions or five touchdowns. I don't want middle ground from him either. I'm just tired of guessing what this team's going to be each Sunday.
My game prediction will arrive on a rare Wednesday tomorrow.
I'd like to write that this season has been about the blown opportunities of the Chicago Bears. But for every ten point lead squandered in Detroit, there's been a miraculous drive in Philadelphia. For every Giant second half, there's been a Broncos fourth quarter. The truth about this Bears team is simple: they aren't very good.
What meaning is there to be found in the next month of seemingly meaningless football? That's why I'm here, kids.
Evaluating the Quarterback
Contrary to popular opinion, Grossman has looked like a different player since returning to the starting lineup and over the last four game he's outplayed Philip Rivers and Eli Manning and even the hot-handed Derek Anderson. Sunday Grossman found a rhthym in quick drops and short passes, playing a hurry-up stlye the Bears have thrives in all season. They abandoned that style and in doing so abandoned their chance to make the postseason. Whether Grossman comes back to Chicago will be decided in the next four weeks.
Green Bay Packers
There's still a Packer week on the schedule and that matters. Green Bay is going to playoffs as the #2 seed in the conference and the Bears own them a repeat of 2001, when the Bears only lost three games (two to the Packers). I'll be into it.
The Firing of Somebody
Anyone who has read this site consistently over the last year plus knows I've never been a Lovie Smith fan. Lovie ex-communicated Ron Rivera to San Diego, hired his buddy and watched his beloved defense plummet to the bottom of the NFL. This team stinks and they're not much different than the great team of a year ago. Doesn't someone have to be blamed for that?
Knowing our coaching staff, this will never happen. But there's no excuse for not loading the field with Devin Hester, Greg Olsen, Mark Bradley...etc. The Bears have a month to see what's on this roster and if they instead cling to flimsy playoff hopes, they'll be making an error that may cost them 2008. Even if this team made the playoffs, does anyone believe they could win two straight games on the road (nevermind three)?
Short week this week as we face Washington on Thursday night on NFL Network.
Here are my immediate thoughts on today's shell-shock of a football game with a calm understanding that it would take a miracle for the Bears to find themselves anywhere near the postseason (even though they're still only one game out).
1. The entirety of the coaching staff needs to be let go. I'm not being rash here either. Bob Babich does nothing with a great deal of talent. Ron Turner embarrassed the entire Bears organization today. Lovie is responsible for all of it.
2. The next four games are about the evaluation of Rex Grossman. Right now I want him back. He missed a couple deep balls down the left sideline but his ball protect was much better. When Turner took away the short passing game, the points went away. Rex Grossman has a chance to be a very good quarterback.
3. Why does our defense stink?
4. Why doesn't Greg Olsen play for us anymore?
5. Why can't Robbie Gould kickoff past the ten yard-line?
6. Today was the kind of game where I sat on my couch and literally waited for them to lose. Not once in the second half did I think this coaching staff had the ability to keep this lead.
Midway will be with you tomorrow. We're fixing some glitches.
Great 1:00 endings. Redkins and Eagles lose. Minnesota thrashes Detroit. A Bear win today puts them in a tie for the final wildcard spot. Can you even believe that?
No Vasher today but the weather doesn't look to be letting up. Going to need the run game.
I'll check in at the end of each quarter...game's on here in New York.
Jay Mariotti caps off his finest sportswriting week since I've been reading him with a terrific column on Devin Hester. Mariotti is often despised (especially on this site) but good writing is good writing.
Hester: Most Exciting Act in Sports
by Jay Mariotti
He is draped in his own silhouette, paralyzing all but the sky, a grassy drag strip and opponents who foolishly kick the ball anywhere near the 60605 zip code. Devin Hester has been called ``a nuclear weapon'' by Tony Dungy, ``the best ever'' by Mike Shanahan and a phantasm who should be avoided, according to Rod Marinelli, by simply ``kicking the ball into Lake Michigan and making sure it (sinks) to the bottom,'' which, of course, makes absolutely no sense.
But you get the gist. This is more than a great kick returner, more than a world-class speed merchant, more than a video-game freak brought to life. What we're witnessing is history, one of the most spectacular athletic thrillmakers of our time. Every time The Hesterizer runs back a kick for a touchdown, the earth moves beneath our feet, too.
I have watched Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods and Roger Federer. I have seen Tom Brady, Randy Moss and the Patriots threaten to obliterate record books. And I'm not sure even they've inspired the palpable fear that surrounds The Hester Experience. His next potential victim, the New York Giants, have a placekicker who has yet to launch a kickoff out of the end zone for a touchback. His options today are either to aim his kicks high near the sideline at the Bears' 20-yard line or attempt a ``mortar kick,'' described as the equivalent of a tennis lob. So petrified is the Scottish-born Lawrence Tynes, he's thinking the Lochness Monster is wearing No. 23. He also had a question for the team trainer the other day.
``I asked Ronnie Barnes for Ambien to get some sleep this week,'' Tynes said. ``He's scary. The guy is phenomenal. I've never seen anything like it.''
No longer is Hester merely ``ridiculous,'' the catchword of Bears radio announcer Jeff Joniak. It has reached the point, with 12 returns for touchdowns in only 30 career NFL games, that we must ask if he is the most exciting act going in sports. Brady may be producing the finest quarterbacking play ever, but is he more exciting than Hester? LeBron James is a triple-double machine and Kobe Bryant, the would-be Bull, still is good for 60 on a given night, but are they more exciting than Hester? Alex Rodriguez has a $300 million contract and probably will break the home-run record of Barry Bonds*, but is he more exciting than Hester? Is Woods? Is Federer? Sidney Crosby? Michael Phelps? Beckham and the soccer crowd?
Another superlative, one normally preposterous to associate with a kick returner, is entering my consciousness. At what point should Hester be considered a Most Valuable Player candidate? Know anybody else whose presence has more impact on a game, who causes more consternation in the other team's meeting room? If the Bears return from the ashes and make the playoffs, won't we remember last Sunday as the U-turn? And didn't Hester keep them from fading away against Denver with two touchdowns in the third quarter? Brady will be the MVP because we're conditioned to think about quarterbacks and running backs, but Hester should be in any top-three conversation not just for his numbers but because he dramatically alters coverages and field position.
It really is shocking that any coach even thinks about kicking to him, having watched Shanahan and the Broncos burned by The Hesterizer. Jeff Feagles, the Giants punter, is twice on record that he absolutely, positively won't be punting to him. Just last year in the Meadowlands, Hester caught the Giants napping on a missed 52-yard field goal and returned the ball 108 yards. ``I probably would have downed it if I saw the defenders coming at me full speed," Hester said.
But I've yet to hear Tom Coughlin, the team's embattled coach, definitively say he'll avoid Hester. ``We'll see,'' he said. ``I think everybody knows the quality of the return man, and he's exceptional. It's just a question of whether you want to take it at the 40 by kicking it out of bounds, or what are you going to do? You've got to roll the dice.''
Uh ... ohhhhhh.
``You have to consider everything, with field position being the first,'' Coughlin said. ``Say you give the ball to the guy at the 40 and he makes a first down and then punts it back to you. There is a pretty good chance you might be taking it at the 10 or even inside the 10. It's a tough decision to make. You pick your spots.''
Uh ... ohhhhhh.
The only coach to stare down Hester and win was Oakland's Lane Kiffin -- but only because he had the special-teams personnel to pull it off. The Broncos thought they did, with punter Todd Sauerbrun famously declaring, ``We're not going to play chicken-(poop) ball. We're not going to kick away from him.'' You saw how that worked out.
Hester isn't automatic. He's a human being with emotions like the rest of us. It will be interesting how he responds today after the shooting death of Sean Taylor, his friend and former University of Miami teammate. We shouldn't be surprised if Hester scores a touchdown and dedicates it in Taylor's memory, though he says he won't have a special tribute prepared until the Bears play Thursday night in Washington, where the Redskins are moving on without their late teammate.
``I kind of want to do it when we play Washington. I don't know what I am going to do, but it is going to be something special,'' Hester said. ``This is the first time something like this has happened. I'm just hoping I'll be able to go out there with a clear head and play my game.''
It won't be easy. The first time the world saw Hester return a kick for a touchdown on a high level -- second game, freshman year, Orange Bowl debut -- Taylor was his lead blocker against heated rival Florida. ``All he said was, `Devin, just follow me. I got you,' '' Hester recalled. ``Sure enough, first play of the game, I ran the opening kickoff back just following him.
``Coming from Miami, we treat all our players as brothers. Right now, it's sad.''
Rather than worry if Hester is distracted, I assume he'll be even more motivated today. As a deeply religious soul who often is found reading the Bible when reporters approach, he knows how to best memorialize his friend. Consider it one more reason that Lawrence Tynes should reach for the Ambien.