Cre’Von LeBlanc And the Problem With Rooting for a bad team

| June 7th, 2017

The Bears have been a bad team for most of my life. I have fallen victim to the same spell Cre’Von LeBlanc currently has cast upon so many Bears fans. The “he’s good” spell.

Remember Jeff’s “Joe Anderson Boner”? In that instance, fans exaggerated the okay camp performance of a complete mediocrity. Fans often convince themselves a bad player is good simply because he isn’t literally shitting his pants on the field.

LeBlanc was bad last year. Was he as bad as Bausby or Glenn? No. He wasn’t even as bad as Tracy Porter was during his mailed-in last few games. But, make no mistake, he was still bad!

In recent weeks, a number of fans have taken to Pro Football Focus to convince themselves this wasn’t true. PFF uses opponent passer rating and other metrics to try and tell us that what we saw with our eyes was not reality. LeBlanc was actually good.

The problem with those numbers is there are plays in which LeBlanc was beaten badly, but didn’t get assigned blame because the receiver didn’t finish the play.

Plays like this:

Or this:

When you consider the sample size (LeBlanc played about 65% of the team’s snaps last year), these two shoulda-been-touchdowns alone could really turn his passer rating stat upside down. And that’s just from one game. There are plenty more examples.

It didn’t really matter if he was in the slot or outside. He was largely responsible for the best game of Randall Cobb’s season and for one of Jordy Nelson’s best later. Cobb and Nelson are good players, but LeBlanc was sent to the bench against Minnesota because he was torched by Cordarrelle Patterson.

What LeBlanc does get credit for with those numbers, however, is a couple of passes that were thrown pretty much right to him; he happened to intercept them. Don’t get me wrong, he deserves some credit for those interceptions. He had the awareness to know the ball was coming and attack it. We’ve seen a lot of cornerbacks who had no idea when the ball was coming right to them over the years.

The problem is that you can’t use statistics, even when they’re paired down this far to truly evaluate performance. You have to actually watch the games. The Bears had the worst secondary in the NFL and LeBlanc was one of their biggest problems.

While PFF can say what they want and fans can believe what they want, I have reason to believe the Bears coaches are with me on this. When the season was winding down and the Bears had so many injuries they were forced to turn to street free agents at cornerback, LeBlanc wasn’t on the field. In Week 17, LeBlanc got the start because Porter was suspended for the first series. When Porter returned, LeBlanc was on the bench behind Johnathan Banks (not to be confused with Mike Ehrmantraut) and Demontre Hurst, a player they cut three times a year.

The Patriots, a team known for finding good defensive backs, had LeBlanc and let him go. What does that tell you?

In a way, I don’t blame fans. I’ve fallen victim to the same spell so many times, I can’t even name them all. Remember Robert Chancey? How about Mike Wells? Or D’Wayne Bates? Hell, Jim Miller probably counts as one. As fans, we want to believe they’ve uncovered a secret gem because, dammit, we need something positive to believe in.

Maybe LeBlanc can put in the work and become a good player. We should never say a young player can’t become good. But he wasn’t good last year and we shouldn’t bet on that changing.

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