Tuesday, June 09, 2009

It's really not that bad.

I am having a recurring thought about the Bears, and this is where I put those: There are two things everyone is saying about the Bears this offseason. 1) This has been the best offseason in team history, & 2) it won't matter if the defense doesn't get much better, because the defense has to improve immensely if the Bears want to be a playoff contender.

I'm fine with number 1, but number 2 makes no sense. Last year the Bears were 9-7, and they weren't a vastly improved defense away from making the playoffs, they were actually a young Atlanta team pulling off the most improbable forty-yard pass with like :11 seconds left in the game away from making the playoffs. The Bears defense was the worst it's been in years, and it should be better given the amount of talent on that side of the ball and the amount of contract money Angelo's given to getting all that talent, but at the same time it wasn't quite as bad is it was perceived as being, and the Bears were a playoff contender last season. Yes, the defense should be better and it will be disappointing if it isn't, but even if the defense performs at essentially the same level, with the improvements made on the other side of the ball it's reasonable to expect the Bears to average nearly a touchdown per game better along with several minutes more of ball control, which last season would have given them a record of at least 12-4, and then nobody would be making weird claims about how the Bears defense needs to get so much better before the team can even think about the playoffs.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Cutler value

Much of the speculation surrounding the Cutler trade hinges on the question of value. "Did the Bears give up too much" to get the best quarterback in their history, the chattering heads are clamoring. Obviously this question of value can be addressed in many ways, but however it breaks down I'm immediately inclined to think 'No.'

First off, according to the trade value chart NFL teams use with draft picks, Chicago ultimately sent Kyle Orton and the 4th overall pick for Jay Cutler. This could mean that the Bears lost out on someone like Michael Crabtree to pair with Orton in order to get Cutler. Or it could mean that they saved some money by passing on Cedric Benson. The trade is actually two mid to late picks instead of one high pick, which I think makes it more likely that the Bears traded two more stabs at potential starting O-linemen. The line is a much easier prospect to solve with free agents than qb. The Bears signed Omiyale, Shaffer and Pace already while no one approaching Cutler's ability has ever seen the open market. A great line with an average qb can keep a good team in games, but after watching Bears-Packers in the 90's, I have to think a great qb with an average line can win games outright.

Which brings us to the question of records. Suddenly it's super important that Kyle Orton went 10-5 with the best defense in the NFL and 11-7 from the end of 2007 on. Sure 21-12 looks great, but he's never played in a playoff game and at the end of the season he failed keep the team on pace after Daniel Manning gave up 14 points single-handedly in the Texans loss. Meanwhile, Jay Cutler has a sub .500 17-20 record in three seasons with an atrocious defense and special teams in Denver. He also failed to keep pace for his team in a final regular season loss on the road last season. Denver however conceded 52 points. On the face of it Orton would appear to be a winner who just finds a way to get it done while Cutler can't get over that hump. This could be a worrying statistic if the two teams were even remotely similar. Fortunately, from the Bear standpoint, Denver had the league's worst defense next to Detroit in every category. Chicago's defense has been widely panned since they lost the Superbowl, but continues to function at a minimum top-half level. Which means that Cutler would have won multiple games in the Motor City last season, while Orton left Ford Field trailing.

The final point that people have been parading about in Denver is that despite racking up the most yards in the league last season, Denver only scored the 16th most points. The argument is that Cutler moves the ball easily but has trouble scoring. In five more trips inside the red zone last year Denver managed two more touchdowns than Chicago and three less field goals for a total of six more empty trips. (55-30-14 vs. 50-28-17) Cutler did however account for six more red zone touchdowns than Oroton. (17 pass, 2 rush vs. 11, 2) This of course could have several mitigating circumstances, notably the lack of a short yardage running game in Denver, and even though Denver had six more empty trips, they actually scored more points and had only one less score. (222, 44 vs. 219, 45) More importantly, Denver's offense accounted for five more total touchdowns, passing touchdowns and field goal attempts than Chicago's. (40-25-34 vs. 35-20-29) Denver led the league in average yards per drive at 38.38 a full 14 higher than Chicago's almost 24; conversely the Bears average starting field position of 33.48 led the league again in 2008 while the Broncos were the worst, starting just shy of the 26. Despite this Denver dwarfed Chicago in points, touchdowns and punts per drive. (2.16, .244, .28 vs. 1.67, .182, .485) The only number comparison from last season that favors Orton is interception percentage per throw and drives per interception. (2.6, .071 vs. 2.9, .110) Again mitigating factors abound, Orton played in a safer system with a stable running game and a team that wasn't playing catch-up and didn't need to out-score too many opponents to win, while Cutler was saddled with an inconsistent running game on a team that was either behind or soon would be without putting up points. Denver also had a more successful and talented offense built around Cutler than Orton could have dreamed of in the Windy City.

In the end, Orton did almost enough of the little he was asked to do. He took care of the ball, handed it off and gave the defense and Hester the chance to win with big plays. With the worst defense and special teams in the NFL, Cutler was asked to pass over all the glaring holes. He too fell short. But when I consider if Cutler will be able to do what is asked of him in Chicago, did the Bears over-pay? Certainly not.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Cutler excitement

When I heard about the Pace and Lucas visits last week I was worried that Angelo was preparing to make a trade for Cutler. Pace would free up this year's first-round pick and Lucas would provide more freedom in trading secondary players. Then Lucas said that he never discussed a contract which made it pretty obvious that his visit was a favor to his agent Bus Cook. Angelo couldn't talk to Cutler, but he could discuss him all he wanted with Cook while Lucas was in town.

Now that the trade has happened and I've had time to bone up on Cutler, I have to give Angelo a ton of credit. Getting Cutler and Pace has added more to this offence than a whole draft could. Basically, Cutler and Pace are the Bears two first-rounders and Orton and a three turned into a five. That is a great turn.

I just watched the NFL Replay of Denver's week 2 win over San Diego. Probably Cutler can't be this good every week, but basically it's ridiculous how much higher his ceiling is than Orton's. Denver hardly ever ran the ball so Cutler won't get as many throwing opportunities as he did last season, but his precision is something I've never seen with regularity, except of course when watching Green Bay march through our defense for years. Orton had a few threaded throws last season, he is capable of it, but Cutler made at least 4 throws in pressure situations in that game that Orton is simply incapable of making. There also was a running play in that game where Cutler outran the back 20 yards down field and threw a block that added 25 yards to the play; Cutler's leadership will not be a question from the moment he puts the "C" on Monday morning.
It is clear that Denver has more talent at the receiver position, but Cutler simply makes the receivers' jobs easier. He has a beautiful spiral with zip and he almost always puts his throws in the perfect place. Furthermore Cutler does this consistently while on the run. Hester and Bennett might not be as good as Marshall and Royal, but the way Cutler throws as long as they can catch the difference will be negligible. And Forte, Olsen and Clark are better than what Denver had to offer.

The Bears upgraded their offense in this deal far beyond what three higher draft picks would have done for them. They also received a fifth-round pick, which is much more of Angelo's money round anyway, and they can still add a receiver with their first selection. I also believe that Pace wouldn't have signed without the Cutler trade. He wants a shot at a ring and protecting Cutler to Hester has to look a lot better in that light.

With the changes already made on offense, and with an entirely new and upgraded defensive coaching staff, and with the draft still to come, it is an amazing off-season in Chicago and it's very exciting to think about watching this team next year.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Gleeful News

Right now this brief post over at Brad Biggs's flipping amazing Inside the Bears blog is all that's up, but he reports that Lovie's just announced what I thought of as one of the best-case options for next years defense, though one I didn't suspect could actually happen: Lovie is going to call the defense. Babich will retain his defensive coordinator title, but he's going to be more of just the LBs coach--I assume he's retaining the title so Lovie can help his friend save a bit of face. Fine with me.

Lovie calling the defense is wonderful news. Not only does he have a ridiculously solid history as a defensive coach, and his years as the defensive coordinator in St. Louis proved him to be one of the best defensive callers in the league, but it's will mean he overall will be taking a much more hands-on approach to the defense. Essentially, Lovie saw what was happening over the last couple years and decided that if you can't find someone else to do the job the way you want it, it's best to just do it yourself. I frankly haven't been this excited about a Bears move since some time before the 2006 season. Our defense, I predict, is going to be back next year--with a vengeance.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009


Courtesy of Biggs, here's the list of free agent QBs:

Unrestricted free agents

Charlie Batch, Pittsburgh Steelers
Kyle Boller, Baltimore Ravens
Brooks Bollinger, Dallas Cowboys
Todd Bouman, Baltimore Ravens
David Carr, New York Giants
Matt Cassel, New England Patriots
Kerry Collins, Tennessee Titans
Ryan Fitzpatrick, Cincinnati Bengals
Charlie Frye, Seattle Seahawks
Jeff Garcia, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Rex Grossman, Bears
Gibran Hamdan, Buffalo Bills
Joey Harrington, New Orleans Saints
Byron Leftwich, Pittsburgh Steelers
J.P. Losman, Buffalo Bills
Jamie Martin, San Francisco 49ers
Luke McCown, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Dan Orlovsky, Detroit Lions
J.T. O'Sullivan, San Francisco 49ers
Patrick Ramsey, Denver Broncos
Chris Simms, Tennessee Titans
Brian St. Pierre, Arizona Cardinals
Marques Tuaisosopo, Oakland Raiders
Kurt Warner, Arizona Cardinals
Anthony Wright, New York Giants

Restricted free agent

Jeff Otis, Oakland Raiders

Boy am I glad that we have Kyle Orton. With the possible exception of Matt Cassell (who's gonna be franchised and won't be worth what it'd take to bring him) I'd take Kyle Orton over any of these guys in a second. If you are a team hoping to find your answer to QB through free agency this year, yr frickin' screwed. Garcia might make a decent veteran backup to bring in, but it's not like anyobody's gonna be really itchin' to bring him in. Honestly, I would be kinda happy to see Orlovsky end up here. Despite making the all-time dumbest NFL play ever, he actually settled in pretty well at QB for the Lions, and if he hadn't gotten injured he might have made them look really dumb for bringing in Culpepper. I'd say that if it's possible to bring him in he'd be a better option than wasting a draft pick on a QB, and he just might actually represent somebody worth taking a look at if Orton disappoints next year.

I'm really anxious to find out about the crop of defensive line free agents and free agent defensive backs, though. The team obviously needs a strong pass rusher--and I also think we're one strong pass rusher away from having a dominant line. We've got enough guys that on our line that have all been extremely good before, that having that one overpowering presence there could really open it up for the rest of them. And maybe Tommie Harris will return to form, too, in which case our line could be downright scary. I want that scary line. And we also need a scary safety. That's just not Mike Brown anymore, unfortunately. I hope he stays and gets to play, but we need to find someone else to be the heart&soul back there--it just is a fact that Brown will not make it through a season and we can't have that kind of dropoff there anymore, plus he never looked like the Mike Brown of '03 or even '06 at any point this year. We need a dominating safety to make the other team afraid.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009


Wow. Carol Slezak, the same lady who tried to character-assassinate Greg Olsen for making a dumb rap song when he was a freshman in college, just wrote an article for the Sun-Times saying the Bears should look into Michael Vick when he gets out of prison. She's not sure if people will be able to "get past the whole dogfighting thing," though it's obvious she thinks they should. What a complete bitch. Why the hell are people like this paid to write about sports? This is just a terrible idea in every way it's possible for an idea to be terrible...

Tuesday, December 30, 2008


Look, I hate the Vikings. But I kind of like to hate the Vikings, and so I also have this weird kind of love for them. Which is why I'm a little bit pissed off to learn this morning that they are having a hard time selling out their playoff game. This is their first divisional title in eight years, and even if it weren't that something of a milestone, it's the fucking playoffs! Sure, your coach is kind of a dumb-ass and he's hitched his wagon once again to the floundering Tarvaris Jackson, but your team is in the playoffs! Selling tickets for that game should not be a problem. Maybe Vikings fans really don't deserve to keep their franchise...