“It’s Not Scheme Issue” and Other Points of View
- Chicago Tribune columnists Steve Rosenbloom and Fred Mitchell and sports editor Mike Kellams “talk postgame” with former NFL safety Matt Bowen after the Bears’ loss to the 49ers with .
I loved the comment that Bowen made above when asked if [head coach Lovie]Smith would just skip the film review of a rough game coming on a short week. He said he had one coach who did that and he didn’t last long in the league, going right back to college (where he belonged).
- Mark Potash at the Chicago Sun-Times has this interesting perspective on the Bears as a team at this point:
“Their problem is that they are a well-coached team that loses big games because they get outcoached. And you know what’s coming next: Smith’s steady hand will right the ship. If [quarterback Jay] Cutler returns, the Bears will bounce back against the Vikings, Seahawks, Arizona Cardinals and Detroit Lions. But eventually the Bears are likely to run into Mike McCarthy and Dom Capers, Jim Harbaugh or Tom Coughlin. And the big question will be more clear than ever: Are Smith, [offensive coordinator Mike] Tice and [defensive coordinator Rod] Marinelli up to the challenge?”
- Potash also posed this question:
“How is it that Jacksonville Jaguars backup Chad Henne can come off the bench after not having taken a single snap in practice and — with the lowest-ranked offense in the NFL — torch the Houston Texans for 354 yards, four touchdowns and a 133.8 passer rating?”
The reason is that, like the 49ers, the Texans got up for the Bears game. In fact, you could argue that the 49ers tied the Rams last week because they were actually looking past them to this game.
This leads to some great team performances in prime time. But it also leads to some ups and downs over the course of a season that are going to give you some bad games against teams you should beat. To Lovie Smith’s credit, the Bears avaid these kinds of uneven performances by never getting too high or too low. Unfortunately, it also leads to games like the one Monday night where one team is sky high and the other isn’t.
- I couldn’t help but smile at this passage from Rick Telander‘s column in the Chicago Sun-Times:
“I think it was early in the second quarter of the Bears’ loss to the San Francisco 49ers on Monday night that I started watching the Bears’ offensive line.
“No one ever watches an offensive line. It’s like watching bowling balls getting racked or pigs feeding.”
- Dan Pompei at the Chicago Tribune came through with his best film review of the season. Lots of things I saw. Lots of extra insight into the things I didn’t. This quote doesn’t sound like much but its something I think we’re going to see more and more of:
“This was a game in which the Bears needed [tight end] Matt Spaeth‘s blocking, but he got on the field for only nine offensive snaps. [Offensive tackle] Jonathan Scott played six snaps as a tight end, however.”
- This is a terrible blow. Via Sean Jensen at the Chicago Sun-Times.
- Mike Mulligan at the Chicago Tribune reviews the BEars offensive failures from a bit more of a financial perspective:
“The ultimate blame on offense winds up at the feet of Bears coach Lovie Smith, who is a defensive specialist. But he is responsible for all units, not just the defense. If the offense perpetually lacks vitality and creativity, it’s his job to make the moves to create.”
I’m really starting to wonder if Smith doesn’t need to take more of a personal hand in the offense. It seems to me like a guy who can coax defensive players into the proper mindset to make plays so consistently should have more to contribute to an offense with players who so often fail to do that.
“Jay Cutler is not as good as he was a year ago. His mechanics are really bad this year. There was a reason he clashed with Mike Martz — he pushes his quarterbacks hard. You know Cutler does not like anyone riding him. That’s why they didn’t get along. … He doesn’t have tight ends who can play. They can’t pass protect well, and he’s getting beat like a drum. That’s part of it, too.”
- Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune on Jason Campbell after the loss:
“One issue with upgrading over Caleb Hanie as the backup quarterback is the bar was set low. Jason Campbell has experience and is well-regarded, but some believe athletic backup quarterbacks help because when plays break down, they can make plays with their legs. With the issues the Bears have on the offensive line, that makes even more sense. Jay Cutler has made plenty of plays with his legs this season, which has really aided the offense in some games. Campbell isn’t quite as nimble.”
That’s really not fair. You take Campbell out of that game and put Jay Cutler in and you know what you’ve got? The Green Bay game in week two. Different man, same pressure burying them with nowhere to escape to and no time to do it.
In fairness, Biggs does seem to acknowledge this on some level:
“Given the ugly games Jay Cutler has had in prime time, it’s not a bad thing he missed this messy affair. The presence of Cutler alone would not have shifted the balance. Cutler threw a career-high five interceptions the last time the Bears played in San Francisco in a brutal Thursday night loss. Had he played in this game, it likely would have led to more criticism of him from national commentators. Now pundits can pick on Campbell and Smith’s overrun defense instead.”
- Biggs tells it true here:
“If the previous two games have proved anything, it’s that the first half of the schedule was packed with cupcakes. [General manager Phil] Emery has been out on the road scouting in advance of a big predraft meeting next month. He probably didn’t need to see this wreck to know offensive linemen, plural, must be a priority even over a backup quarterback.”
- Biggs on Josh McCown:
“Don’t be surprised if McCown finishes the season with the team, and not just because there will be elevated concerns about Cutler’s availability once he is medically cleared to return. Some within the organization wanted McCown to stick at the outset of the season but it would not have been a practical decision with three veteran quarterbacks on the 53-man roster. Now that he’s back, it could be a seven-week job for him.
“The coaches like McCown and believe he’s a positive influence in the quarterback room. In a short period of time, he developed a good relationship with Cutler and likes working with the starter.”
- Hmmmm. We have this interesting fact from Jensen:
“Chris Spencer, who started the first two games there, will replace Chilo Rachal, who started the last eight. Rachal had a brutal performance against his former team, the 49ers, giving up one sack and a hurry and getting flagged for two holding penalties. On Wednesday afternoon, the Bears announced that Rachal left the team for “personal reasons” and was put on the reserve/left-squad list.
“According to a league source, the 49ers knew how to “get in his head,” prompting Rachal’s poor performance. The source added that Rachal, in general, is emotional and needs constant positive reinforcement.”
According to Vaughn McClure at the Chicago Tribune Rachal “became extremely upset upon learning of his demotion” and walked out. He has five days to return.
- Biggs points out that with all of the attention on the concussion suffered by Cutler, “the one which first round draft choice Shea McClellin got shouldn’t be forgotten”:
“The topic came up when McClellin was drafted 19th overall and he said he missed one practice after a concussion at Boise State in 2010 and had a minor one the year before. McClellin changed the style of helmet he uses in 2011. There’s no reason to believe this will be a lingering issue for him, but caution is a good idea.”
True enough. But I’m concerned and no one is likely to forget that this was an issue that, it could be argued, should have affected the status of this draft choice. Jerry Angelo certainly took his fiair share of criticism about drafting a guard with a bad back in Chris Williams. You coud argue that a history of concussions should have been even more of a red flag.
- D.J. Moore is going to have a hard time getting out of Smith’s dog house with statements like this one to Adam L. Jahns at the Chicago Sun-Times:
“‘From what [coach Lovie Smith] told me, it was performance-related,’ Moore said. ‘I don’t know. Whatever they tell me to do, I’ll do, and go to work every day, try as hard I can and hopefully get back out there soon.’”
For the record, the correct answer is “It was performance-related” not “they told me its performance-related.” I confess that I don’t know enough to understand exactly what the problem is. But I can say for certain that if Smith believes his performance is sub-par, then it almost certainly was and I can guarantee he’s been told more than once exactly what he’s doing wrong. He won’t get better until he accepts coaching and does what he’s told and he certainly won’t be playing as much as he should until that happens.
- Somewhat to my surprise, Pompei’s early pick is for the Vikings to beat the Bears this week 23-20. If it was at Minnesota, I’d agree. But I think the Bears offensive line will have an easier time handling Jared Allen at home. The Bears need to bounce back and win this game. Perhaps I’m overestimating their intestinal fortitude but I’m leaning their way this week.
“Minnesota has improved about as much as any team from where they were last year. Having a quarterback (Christian Ponder) being able to play for a year helped them a lot and getting the running back (Adrian Peterson) helped them more than anything. Anytime you have Percy Harvin and Peterson on the roster, you’ve got a chance.”
- Speaking of Harvin, Dan Wiedierer and Chris Miller, at the Minneapolis Star Tribune say that it looks like he might be back from a sprained ankle this week.
- Vikings head coach Leslie Frazier thinks Peterson might actually be better than ever this year. From Wiedierer:
“‘[In the past] he’d always look to hit the home run,’ Frazier said. ‘And sometimes that would create negative plays. Now he’s truer to his reads.’”
- Wiedierer thinks that the Vikings will follow the same game plan they did against the last miserable offensive line they faced – Arizona’s:
“The Vikings will devote significant attention to receiver Brandon Marshall — as they did with Larry Fitzgerald in Week 7. They’ll also ask the defensive line to create pressure without needing blitz help.”
The Vikings ate the Cardinals alive with seven sacks.
- The Vikings are handling their personnel along the offensive line in something of an unusual way. Again via Wiedierer:
“Brandon Fusco will make his 11th consecutive start at guard but will again share time with Geoff Schwartz. Meanwhile, at safety, Jamarca Sanford will remain starting alongside Harrison Smith but will also cede playing time in spurts to Mistral Raymond.
The rotation at guard began in Week 6. Fusco has been OK at times but hesitant at others, leaving an opening for Schwartz to step in.”
Rotations at guard aren’t the norm in the NFL where continuity on the line is highly valued.
- Given how unlikely it is that a really good quality left tackle will fall to the Bears (again), one of these guys might be taken first in the next draft instead. From Pompei, this time writing for The National Football Post.
- Mike Florio at profootballtalk.com tells us that the Bears may not have to see Cedric Benson again this year.
- More importantly, they may not have to face Clay Matthews. From Tom Silverstein at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
- I couldn’t help smiling at this Sunday night headline from Darin Gantt at profootballtalk.com
- Former Bears and current Carolina head coach Ron Rivera is under siege in Charlotte as Tom Sorensen at the Charlotte Observer starts his column out with this oddity:
“If I’m a very old woman who struggles to get around, and Carolina Panther coach Ron Rivera and his players offer to lead me across the street, I decline.
“The Panthers would do great getting her off the curb and past the stripe in the middle of the road.
“But 5 feet from the other side, they’d fall or get nervous or forget the woman was there.
“As light turned to dark, she’d be alone in traffic, dodging SUVs, vans and the occasional city bus.
“The Panthers can’t finish. They failed again to finish Sunday. They needed leadership and inspiration and they needed to adjust. They did not.”
- Breaking news for The Onion: “Andy Reid Cuts Several Players From Mustache.”
- I really love these “Quarterbacks on Facebook” posts from profootballmock.com.
- Plaxico Burress had some good news to text to his friends. Here’s his message to Terrell Owens. Also via profootballmock.com:
- And The Sports Pickle brings us John Madden‘s turducken recipe just in time for Thanksgiving:
One Final Thought
Neil Hayes at the Chicago Sun-Times is as off-base in blamming offensive coordinator Mike Tice for the Bears problems as everyone was when they were blaming Mike Martz. Similarly, runningback Matt Forte refuses to admit what is evident to any disinterested observer. Via Biggs:
“‘I don’t believe in that soft schedule, tough schedule crap,’ running back Matt Forte said. ‘It’s the NFL. Everybody is good.
“‘We didn’t expect it to go like that. We didn’t play well across the board. Nobody. You saw the game. We haven’t done anything really. We have to get better at a lot of stuff as an offense. We haven’t proved anything.’”
This is, of course, exactly what you’d expect him to say. But that doesn’t change the reality. Biggs explains in a commentary which to my mind is absolutely spot on:
“It’s not a scheme issue. What the Bears have is a talent deficiency and this is a deep-rooted problem that goes back to the early years of Jerry Angelo’s administration. I’ve written time and time again how the Bears ignored the offensive line in the draft and therefore had no young players in the system. When Angelo made an effort to get one in 2008, he went bust with Chris Williams, now an ex-Bear. This isn’t a new problem and those who want to cast blame on offensive coordinator Mike Tice need to take a long look at the man who bears ultimate responsibility for the offense: Lovie Smith. But ultimately, what the Bears have here is a personnel issue on the offensive line, one that can be a surprise to positively no one, new general manager Phil Emery included. There is no quick solution and that is the answer no one wants to accept. “
The Bears weren’t at their best Monday. But teams that play really badly usually show obvious signs of it that any fan can recognize. Dropped passes, an excessive number of penalties, a lot of turnovers. The Bears had some penalties and a couple turnovers. But none of it was anywhere near what I’d call excessive.
The truth is that the Bears looked exactly like they did for the first nine games of the season. They just got beat by a well-motivated group with more talent that played well – i.e. by a better team. That’s all there is to it.