Sunday, September 30, 2007

I think the only true solution to the Bears problem is a new offensive coordinator. They've built a very fast athletic team, but Ron Turner runs a slow vanilla offense at best. He is not the right fit for this roster. However, there's just no way he can be replaced until the offseason, so what can the Bears do? First off they have to change their expectations. I don't think the Bears are a Super Bowl quality team without Mike Brown. Their hopes ended when he was horse-collared by Lorenzo Neal. They are still a playoff caliber team if they can get a running game going and stop fumbling. Personally I think they should get Ricky Williams who becomes eligible tomorrow. The offensive line can't block, so their only hope for any offensive production is misdirection and quick-hitting passes to their speedy receivers, backs not named Cedric and Greg Olsen. Then they can run an occasional traditional run to Benson or over the middle pass to Moose or Clark.
The quarterback situation should be monitored. Griese should have a shorter hook than Grossman. I'd say if he reaches six turnovers before the end of the Home game with Minnesota he's done on that play and he immediately moves to third string behind Orton then Grossman. The way things are the Bears still have a legitimate shot at reaching 4-4. If they fail to achieve this mark I think they should become Orton's team.
I'm going to go sit in the hot tub right now. I hope I don't think much about football until I tune in to torture myself next Sunday night. On the bright side Arsenal are on top of the premership and they have two games this week. At least one of my sporting loves is fun to watch right now!

Ron Turner: Evil Mastermind?

Where is Greg Olsen? Where is Garrett Wolfe? What's wrong with Benson? What's wrong with the offensive line? Why haven't we figured out how to get the ball to Devin Hester? How is it that Brian Griese can come in and essentially replicate Rex Grossman's performance over the past three games? The troubles with the offense are so complete that there's not really any other person to point to except for Ron Turner.

There is only one explanation for his coaching this year, and it is that Ron Turner is on the take from some other team, (possibly Green Bay?) to sabotage the Bears. Either that or the ghost of Brett Favre's father has managed to pick up some new supernatural powers in the years since that famous Monday Night Football game and he used them to make Ron Turner completely retarded (and to convince Brad Childress that Tarvaris Jackson should be a starting quarterback), all so Green Bay would have a clear shot at the playoffs this season.

Actually, no. Ron Turner isn't an evil mastermind. He's just a total idiot. He is the worst offensive coordinator in the league, and he shouldn't have a job. I said he should've been fired after last season along with Rivera, and I've never been less happy to be right about something. Ron Turner is terrible. I hope he does the right thing and steps down to pursue a career as an independent landscaping contractor, or something similarly far away from football, though it would be infinitely more satisfying to hear Lovie Smith call Turner out as unfit for coaching. None of that will happen, though. Ron Turner will just continue to waste a ridiculously good special teams and defense by being hopelessly inept as an offensive coordinator, and he will be paid to do it. Jerk.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

I want Holmes' job! or to at least be on a texting level with him

I found this great Fred Miller quote in a Thursday Sun Times article, "He's going to be able to do some things that Rex can't as far as just having experience out there, It will take a little bit off the offensive line in letting him see those looks and getting us out of bad situations.'' It seems reasonable to me that the biggest loss without TJ is his ability to cover Rex's lack of blitz recognition. I agree with Miller, having Griese behind center will provide the offense with a big boost by simply making sure that they have a play called that has a chance from the start. Rex seems really bad at this, and Turner seems more stubborn than improvisational. From my very limited information, it almost seems like spending so much time with Turner may have held Grossman back. A perfect example is that through three games Hester and Wolfe have yet to touch a ball, the Bears have tried three quick screens to Hester, all batted down or disrupted at the line, and one screen to Wolfe which was horribly intercepted. Wouldn't the best way to get them the ball be on running plays or when they're one of several options? Defenses are obviously going to key on them when they're bit-part players, running plays isolated for them is just a stupid idea. In Turner's perfect world the plays would work because they'd be executed perfectly, unfortunately defenses that know what's coming can stop even perfectly executed plays, and we all know the Bears offense is far from perfect right now.
I trust Griese to understand this, and I really believe that he's going to put on a show against Detroit's shitty D. I just hope the Bears 2nd string D is good enough to give the Special Teams and Offense a chance to win the game. Goddamn it sounds weird saying that!

He Said He Loved the Unknown

So we are officially in Day Two of the Brian Griese era, and, for the second post in a row, the main reason I'm writing this is that I want to direct you to Laurence Holmes's Daily Bears Blog. The last two posts have included the types of humanizing insights you don't normally get from sports writers--at least none that I've been able to find that cover the Bears.

But it is also a weird feeling, now, that I have no idea what to expect out of Brian Griese at quarterback. I honestly don't know if I've ever seen him play a game as the starter of a team. He seems, from the little bit I heard about the press conference he had on Wednesday, like a pretty smart and funny guy. That impression is backed up by the most recent couple of Laurence Holmes's blog posts. As much as Grossman seemed entirely likeable, he never seemed especially smart. I'm willing to believe smart bodes well, at this point.

Other than that, though, not really much would surprise me with Griese. He could come out and suck terribly for the rest of the season, and just be another in a long string of unremarkably boring Bears quarterbacks. Or, he could come out confident and swinging, and turn the Bears offense into the force they seemed to expect it could become at the beginning of the season. The only thing I feel relatively certain of is that he won't turn the ball over at the rate Grossman has been doing. And that, at least, is a plus.

But what I'm more seriously interested in knowing is how long it will take before the Chicago crowd starts chanting "Orton" after every miniscule mistake Griese makes. Is it possible we even make it to week 12 before that happens?

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Once More, with Feeling

The Sun-Times reported it first, and other places have followed suit. It sounds like the Bears will announce tomorrow that Griese will be the starter next Sunday. If that's true, it basically means that Grossman's done.

The most recent post on Laurence Holmes's daily Bears blog (link over there on the left) does a terrific job of bringing up some of the aspects of this decision that effect Grossman's life, not just his job. It's an aspect of football that is woefully undercovered in the mainstream sports press, and even, for the most part, in sports blogs. For guys who are playing in NFL, it's not just about being sports stars: it's also about their actual careers and their actual lives. I thought of that earlier when the Bears suddenly traded Chris Harris. All of a sudden, Harris had to pick up and move to a completely different state, with nothing building up to that moment. Although being a professional athlete is the childhood fantasy of so many people, a fantasy that I myself entertained, there is a lot about being a professional athlete that would be pretty terrible.

And now Rex Grossman's hopes for a NFL career are suddenly far less sure. Although the pure Bears fan part of me agrees that the Grossman experiment has to be concluded, I've always liked the bit of the actual Rex Grossman that I've had access to as a fan, and I feel genuine sympathy for the situation he has likely quite suddenly found himself in. With all sincerity, I'd like to wish him good luck.

Anyway, read Laurence Holmes's post.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Drop Another Dime in the Wishing Well

I am not a superstitious person. But, wow, the bald reality of the Super Bowl Losers' curse is almost enough to make me start avoiding sidewalk cracks for more than just fun. Check out this article about all the injuries the Bears have coming out of the Dallas game.

So, let's see, defensive starters lost for the season: Mike Brown and Dusty Dvoracek.

Defensive starters who will likely miss several games: Tommie Harris, Nathan Vasher.

Defensive starters who are banged up, and may not start the Detroit game: Lance Briggs, Adam Archuleta, Darwin Walker.

That's over half of the defense! I really felt good about our depth going into this season, but it's always stunning how quickly depth can turn into "Holy crap! Who's going to play our games?!"

Not to mention the two offensive line starters who are banged up. I'd be surprised to see them not start, but at this point, who knows?

And we're only three freakin' games into the season! By the time we play Minnesota, we might be a team of backups.

Good Night, Sweet King

If you came home from work expecting there to be a huge headline on reading "REX IS DONE," then you just don't know how Lovie Smith operates. That didn't stop me from expecting that very thing, though. However, here is what Smith did have to say about the quarterback situation, if you haven't seen it by now, which of course you have, but here it is anyway:

"Will Rex Grossman start Sunday? Well, our evaluation process is going on right now," Smith said. "And if you come out to practice Wednesday, you'll have a better idea of who will be starting at all positions."

Based on my own subtle knowledge of Lovie Smith's way with the press, I have to say it sounds like Rex is done. And if Rex still is the starting quarterback next week, it means that the coaches sat down and took a good long look at the quarterback's they have and decided that Griese is terrible. In which case, why not cut him?

Actually, I think the only hesitation on Lovie's part probably is the decision between Griese and Orton.

I'd just like to say, however, contrary to what most people probably think, which is that Lovie is being indecisive here, I think Lovie's carefully guarded statement is more an indication of his decisive nature. By which I mean that Lovie knows, and has known for a while, that once he benches Rex Grossman, that's it. Grossman is done. He will never start another game for the Chicago Bears unless both Griese and Orton get injured. I think Lovie stuck with Grossman for as long as he did both out of the belief that Grossman has appeared to have a tremendous amount of potential and because he wanted any decision to be made about Grossman to be final. If he'd benched Grossman any time last season, there would have been that glimmer of possibility that his badness was just a fluke, and that he could possibly be brought back and turned into the quarterback he sometimes promised to become. So, instead, he kept him as the starter, and he gave him every opportunity to show he could improve: a new quarterback coach, a full off-season as the firm starter, the benefit of an entire preseason without the possibility of losing his job, etc. With all of that, if Grossman didn't show any improvement, well, there couldn't really be any lingering doubt about whether he deserved another chance. If, as I fully expect, the Bears have a new starting quarterback on Wednesday, it will be a permanent move. And Grossman's tenure with the Bears will be completely over.

Which makes me sad. I didn't expect it to be like this. I wasn't expecting great things from Rex this year, but I was expecting improvement, maybe a little more consistency. Instead, we're only three games into the season, and suddenly it feels like the Bears will have to fight tooth and nail to make the playoffs. Call it the benefit of lowered expectations, but, at this point, of the Bears manage to pull off enough wins to earn a playoff spot, I'll be thrilled. I still believe they have the potential to be a great team, and this season is still young enough that it could have a happy ending, but they're going to have to fight way harder to earn it than any of them thought they would. There are no longer any gimme games on their schedule--not even against the Lions this week.

And it still hurts quite a lot.

Sunday, September 23, 2007


That was basically like getting kicked in the nuts. Really hard.

Before this game, I thought the Bears were not only the best team in the NFC, but one of the top few teams in the NFL. Now, I have seen evidence with my own eyes that they're not. The Bears are a team that still has the potential to become one of the best teams in the league. But, at this point, potential is all it is. And it's all because of the offense.

I don't care how many yards the defense gave up in the second half, the fact it, is if the Bears had an offense that was capable of, every time they got the ball, holding onto it for, say, five minutes, they would rarely lose a game. They certainly would not have lost this game. The Bears defense is fast and scary, and they made the Cowboys offense look exactly like I thought they would make them look for the entire first half. The Bears defense is young, and it's loaded with players with incredible talent, many of whom still have their peak years to look forward to.

But the Bears offense, right now, is terrible. They not only didn't look better than they have the past two weeks, but I'm not sure but they might have actually looked worse. And what should have been done about that is that Turner should've gotten fired at the end of last season. Obviously, that can't happen now, so the question is what to do from here. Going forward, as they like say in the business world.

Maybe it's the emotional sucker punch of this game still sinking in, but it's hard to imagine how the first thing to do is not to bench Rex Grossman. No one could possibly argue that he hasn't been given every chance in the world. And though I still do think he has some really exciting talent, so far this year, all he's done is kill this team. I still give Lovie all the props in the world for sticking to Grossman up to this point, but now is, I think, the breaking point. Grossman must never be the starting quarterback for the Chicago Bears again. It was nice while it lasted, and I really mean that, but... I can think of almost no reasons why Rex Grossman should still be our starting quarterback.

Actually, only one reason: who takes his place? I think it should be Orton. I can't explain why I'm not sold on Griese, but I am just not at all. I think in his rookie season Orton showed he was better at staying out of the way of the defense that Grossman ever has been. And now Orton's got the benefit of a real year of studying from the bench in the NFL.

But, probably, it will be Griese. It's the safer bet.

The most depressing thing of it all is that, if the Bears want to have any realistic hope of winning their division, which seemed like an extremely safe bet couple of weeks ago, they have to get really hot. They are 1-2. Green Bay is 3-0, and playing a terrible Minnesota team next week. There is basically no shot that the Bears can regain the NFC North crown when they take on Favre. And that's really sad.

All in all, this was probably the most depressing football game I've watched since the Bears were clobbered by Philadelphia in the 2001 playoffs.

Why Chicago Must Win Tonight

We all know that Chicago has to win to night for their own good. Being 2-1 is not just the opposite of being 1-2, it is also likely the difference between it being possible for the Bears to take the lead in the NFC North again when they play Green Bay in week 5 and that being a pretty long shot. And probably it will have a big effect on confidence and other things like that, which is way more important that most stat geeks will be willing to admit, as well as way less important than your average NFL head coach will try to convince you of. Especially Herm Edwards.

But I'm more interested in the reasons that Chicago must win tonight for the benefit of the world. First of all, there's this poll at Cold Hard Football Facts, which finds that right now, 49% of their voters think Dallas is going to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl. Of course, we know that is not going to happen, because it's going to be Chicago. If the Bears win tonight, especially if they do so convincingly, it would go a long way toward changing the minds of many of those poor folks who are living in the haze of the Dallas hype. It might make some of them start to question the information they get from the media, and wonder just why it is that they've been misled to believe that Dallas is truly awesome. Maybe they'll realize that it's largely because the media thinks its good for America if everyone thinks Dallas is a really good team, because Dallas is America's team. Then they'll wonder, "What else has the media misled me about because they believe it is good for America?" They'll start to think that maybe the media has been doing this sort of thing all along. Maybe that's why that thought it seemed like such a good idea to support Bush in the last election, when it obviously has turned out not to be such a good idea. Maybe they'll think that this is exactly the type of thing the media was doing in the run-up to the Iraq war, when most international analysts believed invading Iraq was a terrible idea, but the American media helped its President convince his people that it was a really swell idea. Maybe they'll then embark on a new life of enlightened questioning of received ideas, they'll realize the two party system is what's bringing this country's political world down, that Dane Cook isn't funny, that global warming is a genuine thing that requires immediate collective action like driving less and when they have to using fuel-efficient cars, that Bud Light is actually just piss in a bottle and there are actual beers out there that are palatable. That is the type of world that Chicago could help bring about if they beat Dallas tonight. So, with even greater than normal enthusiasm, right now in my head I'm chanting, "Bear Dooooooooown, Chicago Bears!"

Friday, September 21, 2007

Tony Romo is Tall

All the coverage and hype about the Cowboys was really starting to get me worried. Is the Cowboys offense really super potent? Will they be able to find enough holes in the Bears defense to score 24 points, as Mike Tanier suggested? Is Tony Romo really everything I started hoping Rex Grossman might be right about the time of the Buffalo game last season?

So I just watched the Cowboys-Miami game, and I have to say: what's the big effing deal?

I mean, first of all, talk about a totally uninspiring football game. Neither team looked especially sharp on either side of the ball, but especially, wow, what terrible defenses. I'm willing to grant that it was hella hot down in Miami that day, but you still gotta be able to tackle a little bit. There were seriously plays when Cowboys ran up to a Miami defender, stopped for a second, almost like they were just saying "Hi" to him, and then they started running again. Plays, as in, it happened more than once. I really don't think I'm exaggerating saying that about a fourth of Dallas's yards on offense came after a Miami defender completely failed at tackling.

On top of that, Romo for the most part faced no threat from Miami's pass rush. He sure is tall and mobile, but there were at least a couple of plays that he made look quite a bit more flashy than they were, just because he started wiggling around in the pocket when there wasn't really any need for him to do so. He's going to have to really be the mobile guy people say he is in order to fare so well against the Bears pass rush on Sunday night; unless I'm totally underestimating the Cowboys' line.

Everyone's talking about Romo, but it really seemed like the running backs were the bigger deal for Dallas. On both of the only two actual drives the Cowboys managed to put together, it was largely the running backs coming up with the real yards. Fortunately, so far it hasn't looked like the Bears need to worry to much about opposing teams' running backs. They completely manhandled LT and LJ in consecutive weeks. I think they should be able to handle Thomas Jones' baby brother and Marion Barber III.

Yeah, that's the other thing: Dallas's offense supposedly showed that they're one of the best in the NFL last Sunday, but they really didn't seem like they were all that in control of the game. Dalls got 14 of their points about about 70 of their yards on two plays that were really absolute breakdowns of Miami's defense. On TO's highlight reel touchdown, TO totally beat his corner, which isn't especially surprising, since, you know, he's TO, but then there were no safeties back to stop him after that point, because it was a 4th and 4 play and Miami's defense was all scrunched up around the line of scrimmage to prevent the first down. Give props to Dallas's offensive coordinator for calling a deep pass on 4th and 4, but that's not a play that scores a touchdown against the Bears defense if you call it a hundred times. The other of the two plays I'm discussing was Marion Barber III's final nail-in-the-coffin running touchdown from a bout thirty-five yards out, and it was a similar problem. The deepest guy back for Miami was some safety guy, all by himself about fifteen yards from the line of scrimmage. He had to have been at least eight yards behind the next farthest back Dolphin. It should have been his responsibility to catch Barber when he broke through the first line of defense, but he just kind of stayed in his spot (on the wrong side of the field!) until Barber was all the way through before then trying to catch him, by which point, of course, he had no hope.

Other than those two plays, Dallas's offense didn't look like much more than a slightly above average offense. Certainly better than KC's, but, even this year, not even close to what San Diego's probably actually is. If the Cowboys are going to beat the Bears defense this Sunday, they're going to have to play at a significantly higher level than they did against Miami.

One other thing. I expect the Bears to get at least three turnovers from the Cowboys offense. Tono Romo is careless with the ball sometimes while he's going all hurky-jerky in the pocket, and the Bears should be able to get at least one fumble from him, and, unless his play in Miami was significantly different than it will be this Sunday, he also makes some pretty dumb throws sometimes. He got really lucky that Miami's defenders all decided to take some Special K before the game and were all playing about ten seconds behind reality, so they're hands didn't come together to catch Romo's gimmes until the ball was harmlessly bouncing away on the infield.

I will be pretty shocked if the Bears lose to this Dallas team.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

That Hopeful Twilight Feeling

Maybe it's because I'm listening to "The Warning," a Hot Chip album that I really like, and that I for some reason stopped listening to just as I was really starting to fall in love with it, and I was just at this part in "And I Was A Boy from School" that is particularly dreamy. Or maybe it's because I just got done watching last season's finale of The Office, which is an incredible little bit of television, especially the end, where Jim finally decides to go ahead and ask Pam out, and she gets all smiley and teary-eyed about it, and if you've been with the show for a little while I imagine you get a little teary-eyed about it, too. And maybe it's because it's just that time of the evening, that time when you you're tired but not too tired, and you're brain stops worrying about what it hasn't got done today and just runs away with all kinds of possibilities for the future, and you really feel like that time when you've finally arrived at a happy life is right there for you to touch it, and waiting patiently for you to make it there. Maybe, yeah, all of that is part of it, but I just this little article from the Tribune about Benson, and how he doesn't feel like he's really played his game since the last game of his college career, and how he's ready to finally turn the corner and get it going here, now, on the Bears (and, awkwardly, on the race track, because he wants to be a race car driver, too, which kind of doesn't fit into my whole mood with this...). And, oh, damn, I lost it... This "Over & Over" track by Hot Chip just makes me want to shake it, not be all nostalgic about something that hasn't happened yet.

Anyway, the main point of this is that I just kind of had this feeling, you know, one of those things that you kind of just know but not really for any reason, that Benson is going to pull something out this week against the Cowboys, and that this Bears offense is really going to start clicking only when Benson himself clicks, and that really becomes the face of the Bears offense. Thomas Jones was good and all, but he just never really became the face of the Bears offense, not in the way that the Bears are supposed to be about their running back. He never even reached Neal Anderson status. I do think that Benson could do it. At least, I fucking hope he can. Because, though Grossman still might be the best Bears quarterback since McMahon, the Bears offense just doesn't work when he's what we're counting on. He has to be a compliment to something. And if that something doesn't turn out to be Benson this year, I think, at least offensively, we're screwed. And it's back to being feeling kind of disappointed every time the offense is on the field because it seems like the defense is actually the half of the team more likely to score.

Here's what I want from Benson: consistent first downs. That's it. Touchdowns, sure, would be nice. But, frankly, kind of unnecessary. We need Benson to be a powerful enough running back that, when the Bears get the ball, you know there going to have the ball for a long time. Which is got with consistent first downs. The Bears offense holding on to the ball for significant portions of the game means that the defense gets to rest, and when the Bears defense is rested they're faster than just about any offense in the league. When the Bears defense is rested--for an entire game--I'd like to see somebody score more than 13 points against them.

So though my initial disappointment with the Bears offense as fully set in, I'm just going to start hoping for a clock-eating offense, instead. That's what we need most, at this point. With a clock-eating offense, as soon as the Bears reach 17 or 19 points, the game is out of reach for the other team. Here's hoping Benson's got what it takes.

Bears on YouTube!

Here's a great find from Rahula Strohl's "Bears Issue at Hand" thing. Apparently the Ayendbadejo bros. are producing a small series of YouTube videos about... Well, about themselves, and being Bears and stuff. And it's actually really entertaining! Check it out!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

An Open Letter to the New England Patriots Roster

Oh, come on. The most annoying thing about what has been called elsewhere "Patriotgate" is not the huge win the Patriots had over the Chargers on Sunday night (though that was pretty annoying), nor is it Bellichick's refusal to answer any questions about it (if anyone says they're surprised about that, they're lying). What I find most disgusting about the whole thing, aside from the actual cheating, as that after the Chargers win all these Patriots came out, from Brady (has he always sounded like doting little boy talking about his daddy when it comes to Bellichick?) to Bruschi, and started talking as if their coach is suddenly beleaguered--and unfairly at that. Like all these people who are upset about their coach cheating are the real bad guys here.

I'm sorry, idiots, but Bellichick is not a victim, and you didn't redeem him with your win. He might be an extremely good coach, but he also tried to cheat, and he broke rules doing it. No one is making that up, and no one is badgering him about something that shouldn't be a story. You can say you don't want to talk about it all you want. That's understandable. But stop acting like he's a fucking victim!

And you should really be thanking your lucky stars that, at least so far, the public backlash hasn't turned against you as players. There are legitimate questions to be answered about how much you knew about--or even participated in!--the cheating. It really appears that you could be a genuinely amazing team this year (which sucks!), but if you cheated, even if it didn't really help you, that is going to tarnish not only a few games, but your entire legacy. One of the saddest things about the whole Shoeless Joe Jackson story is that he was actually a very good player who had his immortal standing in the public eye ruined by the fact that he participated in cheating. Maybe in eighty years Kevin Costner's reanimated body will direct a movie designed to redeem your own ghost.

Bears Geek

I actually hope that Tom Brady wasn't involved in any cheating. I like hating him for no reason. Actually having a reason to hate him would pretty much ruin the whole thing.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Optimism: Because It's Fun

Now fully a year into the Rex Grossman debate, nothing much seems very clear about it. But with every week going by with yet another non-brilliant performance by Grossman, you can practically feel the Grossman bandwagon getting lighter. At this point, I'm not especially interested in trying to find reasons to defend him. I was holding out hope that he would turn out to really be the quarterback we saw for the first six or so games of last season, but it's been a long time since he showed any evidence to support that hope. But what I find especially lame is that all of the Grossman haters are pretty sure at this point that they were right all along, and that who Grossman really is is the quarterback from the Minnesota-New England stretch last year. The thing is, I don't think they're right either. Grossman has not looked especially good this year, but he hasn't looked panicked or clueless, either. He's been really struggling out there for most of the preseason and now for most of the regular season, but the main things he said he wanted to improve on--stepping up in the pocket and not throwing off of his back foot--well, he's really gotten better in both of those areas. Although he hasn't been particularly good at reading the blitz, we haven't had to watch him run backwards for twenty yards before he gets sacked. And the interception on the screen pass intended for Wolfe is the only play I can think of where he threw off of his back foot. All of which means, I think, that he's really working some stuff out, and really working on how he plays the game. That's something that it was obvious was not happening last season, and I'd say the fact that it is happening now is a good thing.

Here's what Rahula Strohl has to say about Grossman this week, "The numbers Grossman put up Sunday looked eerily similar to the numbers Kyle Orton put up in 2005. If Grossman puts up Orton '05 numbers for another week or two, the Bears have to wonder what Orton '07 has to offer."

I have to say I kind of agree with this sentiment. The Bears, as they have for the past two seasons, have a championship-ready defense and special teams, and they really don't need a whole lot from the offense to succeed. It still seems like Grossman should have a pretty high ceiling, but at some point we have to face the fact that it might be a ceiling he's not capable of reaching. There might just be something in his brain that will always hold him back from becoming the type of quarterback he's shown he's capable of being only in flashes. I'm not sure exactly what the best way to handle the situation would be, but you really have to wonder, if Grossman hasn't shown significant progress by mid-season, if there isn't some way to figure out if the team would be better off with Orton as starting quarterback. The only way I see that happening, though, is if the Bears are 4-4 or worse at mid-season, a possibility that makes me kind of nauseated, but that I have to admit seems a whole lot more possible to me now than it did three weeks ago. If that happens, it will be pretty obvious that it's either because of Grossman or Turner. I honestly do think that ultimately the offense's problems are Ron Turner's problems, and that the should've gotten the boot after last season along with Rivera, but there's no way they're ditching Turner midseason. Trying someone else out in Grossman's spot is really the only possibility.

I still think, though, that Grossman has to actually lose a few more games for the Bears before resorting to anything that drastic. So far, Grossman hasn't actually lost any games yet for the Bears this year, so all this conjecture about a future Orton sighting is nothing more than just anxious worry. (yeah, I'm chalking up the Chargers loss to luck, essentially. Grossman didn't do much to win the game, but he did more than any other member of the offense, and he did less to lose it than Benson, Peterson, and Berrian did.)

This was supposed to be about optimism, so here it is: I really don't think any of that's going to be necessary. I think Grossman is going to keep getting better at what he's trying to get better at, and as that stuff becomes more second-nature to him, he's going to start looking more like the guy from the first part of last season, with better fundamentals. Nothing wrong with that.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Just Like the Old Days

Well, I think it's safe to say that the Bears defense is as good as it has ever been, and just as fun to watch. And Devin Hester (along with the rest of the special teams) is just amazing. Both of those aspects of this team are, at least as far as I've seen, the best in the league.

So what's up with the offense? Maybe the better question would be: what was up with the offense for the first half of last season? The last two games, the Bears offense has looked much more like the offense of the 2005 season than last year, except that Grossman's quarterbacking it instead of Orton. It has the exact same inconsistency as that offense. There are the occasional plays made by Berrian and any of the other assortment of backup receivers who every now and then show that they've got the athletic potential to be pretty exciting. But most of the time the offense just stutters into solid field goal range and the hiccups off the field. I really would like to know what's going on with it.

We're two games into the season and Grossman has yet to throw a TD pass to a receiver who doesn't have to be announced as eligible before the play begins. Turner promised to open up the offense this week, but the only time they went deep that I remember was that bomb Grossman through toward the end of the first half, where it looked like Berrian kind of fucked up the route again and it nearly got intercepted. Benson did have a decent game, but it wasn't anything really better than decent. All throughout training camp and the preseason there were all those reports about how exciting the Bears offense looked--one of them even coming from perpetual Bear-hater John Clayton. I just have to wonder what all of that was about?

Is Turner just biding his time until Olsen is back? Was Olsen really that critical to the brand new Bears offense? I still do have faith that the Bears will figure something out and their offense will have figured out something they can count on to come through if they're playing against a rough defense, which is, I think, really all they need to win in the playoffs and the Super Bowl. But they've got a ways to go.

But, like I said, the defense and the special teams are, as they've been for the past couple of seasons, so good that it hardly matters. I would be seriously scared if I were an opposing team with Chicago coming up on their schedule. Most of the defenders are faster than most of your offensive players. And they're hungry.

By the way, the most underreported story of the Bears season, so far, is Bob Babich. It really seems like the defense has stepped it up in aggressiveness this year, compared to the past two years. I mean, both Urlacher and Briggs had sacks. It's nice to see the defense is just going after the other team, every play, for the whole game. And there was also one of the coolest things that I haven't mentioned yet from last week against the Chargers. It came some time during the first half, I think second quarter, when the Bears forced an incomplete pass to chase the Chargers off the field again, and as the ball bounced out of bounds there was this crazy Bears coach jumping out on the field, hopping up and down and screaming, celebrating almost as much as Mike Brown does, and I thought, "Ha! Who the hell's that?" It turned out to be Babich. As much as I love Lovie's stoic squint (and I do love it), it's pretty fun to see one of the Bears coaches throwing celebratory tantrums up and down the sidelines.

And here's my final random thought of the evening: Green Bay plays San Diego next week. I doubt they'll win, which will put them at 2-1. Then they play MN the following week, over whom I'd almost guarantee a victory, 3-1. Next Sunday night the Bears play Dallas, and regardless of how awesome people think Dallas's offense is, I'm sure it's not going to look very good against the Bears defense. Bears 2-1. Followed by a breezy little trip to Ford Field, for a date with the Lions, who are going to be losing for the second week in a row after dropping next week's to Philly. Bears 3-1. Lions 2-2. Packers 3-1. Minnesota 2-2 (yeah, they'll beat KC next week). Which means that when the Bears play the Packers in week 5, on Monday Night Football at Lambeau Field, they'll be playing for first place in the NFC North. And I think that's a pretty sweet thing to look forward to.

Party Like a Rock Star!

Last weeks' loss was about the most disappointed I've been about a Bears loss in a long time. Well, at least since last February... But I wasn't especially disappointed in the team. I thought the Bears played really well; actually both teams played extremely will, with the both defenses outshining both offenses, which, as far as I'm concerned, is how football should be. Despite the score ending up 14-3, I thought it was really just a matter of, in the end, more breaks going San Diego's way than the Bears' way. which is maybe what made it so disappointing: it was the first time in the past couple of seasons that the Bears lost and that they didn't deserve the loss. But, that's how football goes.

There's another disappointing thing about last week's game: the Bears probably won't be involved in as good of a game all season. I still pretty much feel like there are the Bears, the Colts, the Chargers, and the Patriots at the top of the league, and then there's a bunch of teams below them at various levels of mediocrity, ranging from pretty good to kinda bad. And below that mushy pile are the teams who are just horrible. Like today's opponent.

The Bears played a few horrible teams last year, and with the exception of the Cardinals, they absolutely creamed them. That's why, in a way, I feel like this game is more of a measuring stick for the Bears, to see what they are compared to last season. Last year, the Bears would've been up something like 28-0 by half time, and probably the first team offense would've been resting for the fourth quarter. That's essentially what I'm expecting to happen in this game.

Last week's game showed that the Bears offense needs to improve if they're going to be able count on beating teams with defenses as good as San Diego, but it wasn't an indication that the offense has declined since last season (and besides, they may not play a team with a defense as good as San Diego's for the rest of the season). If the offense struggles to put up points against a really bad defense like Kansas City's, then we know there's trouble.

As far as the defense: they proved last week there wasn't any dropoff from last season. They could sleepwalk through this game and probably keep KC under 17 points. All I really want from them this game is no injuries. Please, Bears defensive starters, DON'T GET INJURED!

I got the new Jens Lekman album last night, and I just now finished it. It's spectacular. Now it's time to take a shower and start football day. Sundays during football season are great! Although it's still really weird to me that football starts at 10:00AM here...

Oh, I almost forgot! Here's the Tommie Harris quote from the Daily Herald that inspired this post's title (when asked if he was worried about playing against a vaunted KC offensive line: "What are you talking about?" he said. "I look forward to playing those guys. I don't care about whose line it is. I play football. I missed it for about seven months. I have a chance to go back out there, so I really don't care who's in front of me. I'm just going to have fun and party like a rock star." Go Bears!

Saturday, September 15, 2007


I just got done rewatching the Bears loss last week and what really jumps out at me is that turnovers were the entire story of the game. The Chargers didn't dominate in any way, in fact the Bears were the better team on every level except for fumbles. If the Bears didn't lose all three of those fumbles, if they scored on one of the drives, which looked likely, instead of turning it over they would possibly still have lost, but it would have been a one score game. The defense wouldn't have given up the second touchdown which was obviously a result of fatigue, mostly mental. Turner never opened the game up, which was a big mistake and hopefully gets corrected, but once again without the turnovers he would have looked better. The San Diego D was wearing down before the touchdown and was really bailed out by the Benson and AP fumbles.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

How can you eat your pudding if you haven't had your meat?

Offensive coordinator Ron Turner: "It was the way the game was going. We never got into any kind of rhythm offensively. When you get first downs, you get moving, there's things you want to do, things you set up. We were never able to do that. We will get those guys involved this week. We definitely have a plan and we will definitely get Devin involved offensively early." - From Rahula Strhol's Bears issue at hand.

This is exactly what everyone who watched the game thought Turner was thinking. It's exactly what he was doing in the pathetic Super Bowl last year. And it's the biggest issue standing in the Bears way to a Super Bowl victory. Turner is a great play caller and puts up impressive numbers when he goes against weak defenses and his game plan takes hold right away. But when it isn't working, he just keeps pounding it until it does. Last game against a great San Diego defense it didn't work and thus the Bears offense spent very little time on the field. Meanwhile San Diego's biggest play of the game against an amazing Chicago defense was a trick play. Why can his brother see that if a defense is better than your offense, it takes some trickery and change of pace to beat them, but Ron simply can't fathom opening up the offense until the basics are working. If he doesn't figure it out the Bears are going to lose another Super Bowl. No one in the NFC is good enough to shut the Bears down, but San Diego, Indianapolis, New England, Baltimore and probably Denver are.
Don't wait to establish the offense, get Hester, Bradley, Olsen, and Wolfe in every game early and often. They're what made the offense look exciting in the preseason, not Cedric Benson and AP.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Haugh does he do it?

David Haugh strung together a surprising column-and-a-half of coherent and intelligent material, but by the end of today's column he has returned to his incompetent ways. He did a great job understanding the Bears' ability to cover for the losses of Brown and Dvorachek, and his idea of a competition between Benson and Peterson is well written and sound. At the end of last year, aside from the Super Bowl, Benson clearly looked to be the best back for the Bears. He hasn't however, done anything this year to show that he deserves to be the unquestioned starter and work-horse. With this in mind it makes sense for Benson to be the starter of a two back system in which AP has every chance to take over the more prominent role if he outshines Benson. This I believe is exactly the situation in Chicago right now. Starting AP Sunday would frankly be a stupid decision. Smith , again has it right. A column explaining this would be an excellent idea, one pushing for AP to takeover until Benson blows him away is ridiculous.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007


There's this aspect of being a fan that simply ignores logic and rational thought, which is something that I completely accepted long ago. I think the NFL is pretty close to being evil; I think the Bears organization is run by some pretty petty folks; I think the way team owners milk every last ounce or profit they can out of fans and have no respect for the genuine love fans feel for their teams is disgusting; etc. But deep down, I think the Bears are good, along a very few other teams (Indy, San Francisco... that's it...) and the Vikings and the Patriots are pure evil. But when my actual conception of morality coincides, even just a little bit, with my fan view of things, as has happened with the Patriots' signal-stealing scandal, well, it just makes me feel good. I knew Bellichick was a jerk and cheater! Haha! While I do think "putting an asterisk" next to his Super Bowl victories (whatever that actually means) might be a little much, nothing would make me happier than for every time from now on it's mentioned that Bellichick won three Super Bowls out of the past six (or however many it is...) that along with that mention would come the phrase, "Of course, it was discovered that Bellichick is a cheater." Actually, there are two things that would make me happier: if the word "clown" were to become associated with Ray Lewis (or, better, "murderer"), and if the Vikings never won another game for the rest of my life.

Monday, September 10, 2007

If Only Mike Brown were a Little Children

Ted Phelps has no idea what he's talking about. God doesn't hate fags; He hates Mike Browns. Or at least those Mike Browns that choose to play for the Chicago Bears. This is the third season in Mike Brown's career in which God has smote him, and done so mightily. In fact, this year He was so intent on destroying Mike Brown's knee that He accidentally damaged Greg Olsen's knee while warming up his knee-smiter last week, and this week destroyed Dusty Dvoracek's knee was also taken out as collateral damage. Hopefully, now the Brown's out for the season, God is pouring wine all over Himself in celebration and the rest of the Bears' key players are safe from knee smiting. But even this gloomy-ass cloud has some silver linings.

For Mike Brown: at least you're not Kevin Everett. I'm not even joking. While I feel really bad for Mike Brown, who's amazing to watch on the field and by all reports is a wonderful human being, who does not deserve at all the bad luck he's had the past few years, at least all that's threatened is his athletic career. Kevin Everett might not survive his injury, and if he does he'll likely never walk again. Football's a dangerous sport, and injuries like Kevin Everett's are exactly why the NFLPA should continue their nasty fight to get good strong pensions for ex-NFL players. I have no doubt that there will be someone in the NFL whose job it is to try to do whatever he can to figure out a way for the NFL to pay for as little of Everett's hospitalization as possible, to say nothing of the rest of his life. Frankly, I think the NFL should have to give Everett a big enough pension that he never has to worry about earning money. So, anyway, Mike Brown, you can at least be thankful that your life and full control of your faculties are not in danger.

For the Bears: Danieal Manning replacing Mike Brown does sort of alleviate one of the major concerns about having Brown and Archuleta as the two starting safeties: speed. Neither Archuleta nor Brown are particularly fast, and there was worry that they could be susceptible to being beat. Manning could rival Hester as the fastest member of the Bears, so there's not much chance of him getting beat (at least in a footrace) by a speedy wide receiver. Now, if only they could transfer a little bit of Mike Brown's personality into Manning...

Where Is That Protection That I Needed

I have to admit I'm getting a little sick of waiting around for the Bears offense. Their defense has been totally dominant, championship-ready, for at least the past three seasons, and their special teams is always a bright spot, but every year the offense drags the team down. All the press coverage of the preseason talked as if this was finally going to be the year that the offense came into its own, and that may be true, but it certainly hasn't happened yet.

A young offense struggling the first game of the season against one of the few defenses that even deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as Chicago's is not reason for panic, certainly. But it is a little annoying that the offense didn't manage to make any significant positive plays that weren't canceled out almost immediately by a mistake. What's the problem? Is it Ron Turner? Is it Grossman? Is Benson not meant to be a feature back? Is the offensive line declining?

It almost goes without saying that most fans are going to feel a lot better after watching the offense play against Kansas City next week. But Kansas City's defense is a joke. Chicago needs the offense to be able to put up some points against a good defense. They need an aspect of the offense that can be counted on to do something no matter what the competition. That was supposed to be Benson, but there really hasn't been indication that Benson can be that for them. Even if you don't buy into the "Grossman is the worst quarterback ever" meme, you have to acknowledge that he's not looking like he can be that cornerstone either. Unless Benson finally turns into the running back he's been claiming he is since he was drafted, it seems like Olsen is about the only other possibility out there, but I haven't really seen much of him, and he's injured now.

My biggest questions about the offense after yesterday's game, though, are, "Where was Hester?" and "Where was Wolfe?" The only time I noticed Hester was even on the field was the one time the camera cut to him checking back out after a play. I don't think Wolfe was on the field once. I don't expect either of those guys to become the foundation of the offense by any means, but when there isn't a single part of your straight offense that's working, why do you not try to work in something to Hester or Wolfe? Both players have the potential to break huge plays every time they have the ball, and even if the don't, at least you gave them a shot? That's the biggest thing that I don't understand about Turner's play calling. He just never seems to have any clue what to do when what he wanted to do isn't working.

I fully expect that the Bears offense will look much better than yesterday, and that they'll improve over the season. But how much? For once, I'd like them not to be the limping part that drags the whole team down.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

My Heart Hurts

I'm just home from one of the most heartbreaking losses I've watched the Bears take in a few years. I actually think I feel worse about this loss than about the Super Bowl. At least after the Super Bowl it was easy to point to things the Bears had done wrong. They should've been more aggressive on defense, for instance, and Wade Wilson should no longer be quarterbacks coach. After this game, though, it doesn't look like there's anything really wrong with the Bears. It would've been nice to see Benson get a few more rushing yards, but they were running on a very good defensive team, and they actually did manage to put together a few offensive drives in which the running backs were keys to success. And that's really the only are of the game where it looks like the Bears could've significantly improved over this performance.

What's most frustrating about this game is that the Bears actually outplayed San Diego for pretty much the entire game (or, at the very least, they played just as well as San Diego), but two of the three biggest breaks in the game went San Diego's way, and they both led pretty much directly to San Diego's only points. The three huge breaks were: that fucking punt that bounced off McGowan, Adrian Peterson's fumble, and Tommie Harris not getting called for offsides when he forced the fumble.

Tommie Harris getting away with offsides most likely prevented a field goal, which means it was a +3 points play for the Bears. That terrible punt that bounced off McGowan extended an offensive drive for San Diego about thirty yards, which kept a tiring Bears defense on the field just long enough for San Diego to get their one offensive play that really worked: LT's touchdown pass. That's a -7 swing against the Bears. AP's fumble probably lead the least directly to San Diego points, but it gave San Diego a very short field after giving up the ball pretty recently, and it also ended a Bears drive that was starting to look more promising than any Bears drive that had come before it. So, I'll call that a -6 swing for the Chargers (taking away a possible field goal from the Bears and essentially guaranteeing a field goal for San Diego). Which means the huge breaks in the game led to a -10 swing against the Bears, who lost by 11 points. Would a 7-6 game have been more palatable?

Actually, probably, yes. Slightly. But then there was that interception Grossman through, which was maybe a poor decision by Grossman to throw the ball, but it was also partly Berrian's fault for giving up on the route. That was another sure field goal for the Bears gone. I feel pretty confident saying the Bears deserved to win this game as much as San Diego did, and it was basically just luck that determined the victor.

What makes it hardest to take, though, is that the score 14-3, makes it look like San Diego really outplayed the Bears, and now Bears fans are going to have to sit through all this stupid press for a week talking about how the Bears are a worse team than they were last year.

(Case in point: I just checked out the game recap on, which starts: "Maybe this wouldn't be such a good Super Bowl matchup, after all.

At least not the way the Chicago Bears and San Diego Chargers looked on Sunday.

Sports reporters for ESPN and pretty much everywhere else mistake excellent defensive play for sloppy play. There wasn't really a whole lot of sloppy play here; it's just that both teams' defenses were significantly better than the opposing teams' offenses. Why are sports reporters so distracted by offenses? Ugh.)

Don't believe it. The Bears defense looked legitimately better than they were last year. Tommie Harris looked %100, with and amazing step: he looked like he beat the Chargers into the backfield on more than one play. Dvoracek and Javon Walker looked like immense improvements over Ian Scott and Alfonso Boone and Tank Johnson. Ogunleye finally looked like the player the Bears paid for and Mark Anderson looked like anything but a liability against the run. The Chargers hardly threw the ball in Tillman's direction, and Vasher had a sack. M. Brown had an interception. Archuleta had a few big tackles. Basically, the entire defense made huge plays. I hope Brown's not actually injured again, but even if he is, McGowan looked like he could be pretty huge on defense himself.

The Bears are not in trouble. They're offense will get better, and won't play against a defense as good as San Diego until the playoffs. There's every reason to believe this will be the last loss for quite a few weeks.

But none of that makes it feel any better. I just want to sleep until next week.

The Wait is Finally Over!

I'm so excited that I finally get to watch a meaningful Bears football game tomorrow that I'm not really sure if I'll be able to sleep tonight. But as I was walking toward the Haight tonight to watch Daywatch at the Red Vic, something occurred to me that, if I were a more sane person, probably would have occurred to me much earlier. The Bears might lose this game! I mean, I guess I had been figuring that it was possible the Bears would lose tomorrow and it wouldn't really mean much, since this looks like it could far the hardest game they'll have all season, and it's not like I think there's really any chance of them winning fewer than 10 games. But what I mean is that it suddenly dawned on me that in fewer than 24 hours, the Bears could be 0-1. Which would mean that for the first time in a really long time, they would not be in first place in the NFC North, which is really depressing... What's even scarier is that I think there's just as much of a chance, if not more, that the Vikings will win tomorrow... Which would mean, and the thought of this really makes me almost nauseated, the Vikings would have a better record than the Bears! I don't know if I'm ready to live in a universe yet where that is the case, so I guess the Bears are just going to have to win tomorrow.

Also, there really is every chance in the world that this will be the most difficult game the Bears have all season. We'll see what happens with Denver later on, a team many people think might get dominant again this season, but I don't really expect Denver to be much of a threat. And even if they do turn out to be a better team, by that time, one game against an AFC team will most likely not seem as important. The Bears starting the season with a winning record hinges entirely on this game, and the same is true for San Diego, and their both super talented teams who both expected to win the Super Bowl last year, so both teams are likely going to really badly want to win this game. And they've both had plenty of time to game plan and everything. I expect the game tomorrow to be really intense. I expect both teams will look really tuned, especially both defenses, and someone's going to break the game open in the third quarter.

Actually, I think the biggest advantage the Bears have in tomorrow's game is the coaching. The fact that the Bears are not feeling there way around with a new coaching staff like the Chargers are is probably the least mentioned important aspect of the game tomorrow. I think that fact could be a bigger deal for the Chargers tomorrow than it will be the rest of the season, and the Bears are in a much more secure place with all the coaches and most of the players.

Now it's time for me to lay down for some sweet dreams of a Bears victory...

Friday, September 07, 2007

Let Me Tell You How I Feel

Looking over the various Week 1 prediction sites, and the various matchups for this weekend, I realized that the NFL looks very weird this year. For instance, Minnesota plays Atlanta, and everyone thinks Minnesota is going to be terrible this year, but everyone is picking them over Atlanta, and I can't say I disagree. Kansas City plays Houston, and everyone knows Houston is terrible, but it's a pretty safe pick to take Houston over Kansas City. It's not that the worst teams in the league have gotten better; it's that a few of the solidly mediocre teams from last year look to be godawful this year. And which teams have gotten better? At this point, I think it's hard to point out any teams who seem like they're clearly going to be better than they were last season.

Probably New England, although I don't quite buy into the New England that everyone expects to cruise to a Super Bowl victory this year. The Eagles should be better as long as McNabb manages to make it through the season for the first time in three years. From the looks of last night's game, Indianapolis has improved quite a lot on defense, so they're probably actually a better team than they were last year when I think they were really in kind of a slump (it's just that they got hot in the playoffs and won the big one finally.) And I really do think Chicago's going to be a better team this year than they were last year; they've got a more complete and stacked defense and more weapons on offense. The only other two teams in the league that I think belong in the same category as these four are New Orleans and San Diego, but I don't think either is going to be quite as good as last year. San Diego's got a crappy coach who won't quite be able to keep their talent down but certainly won't raise it at all, and New Orleans is, I think, going to go through a bit of a sophomore slump.

The rest of the league just looks stuck right now. There are coaches who've been allowed to stick around for one year too many (New York Giants, Cleveland, Tampa Bay), rookie coaches who won't start paying dividends until too late in the season to matter (Atlanta, Pittsburgh, Houston, Arizona), and teams who look to be a little better than last season but not enough to really matter yet (Green Bay, San Francisco, St. Louis, NY Jets). Miami, Oakland, Minnesota, and Detroit are all just terrible and will still be terrible at the end of the season. And finally there are the almost pretty good teams who are just kind of coasting right there above mediocre, who I expect will continue to do so all season (Dallas, Seattle, Jacksonville, Cincinnati).

I think I missed some teams, but oh, well. My only real point is that going into the season, there are only about six teams I think really matter at all, and only four of them (Chicago, New England, Indianapolis, Philadelphia) who I think are really Super Bowl contenders this year.

And of course, the Bears are going to win this year, so there's not much reason for those other teams to even bother trying this year.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

It's Time to Take On the Outsiders

I honestly don't think that Lovie Smith and Jerry Angelo have received enough credit for the job they've done in assembling the current Bears roster, especially their defense. At the beginning of last season, there was a lot of obnoxious talk about whether or not the current Bears can rightly be compared to the 1985 Bears. Frankly, I think that's a question better left ignored. The mythos surrounding that 1985 team is such that any discussion of it among people who care enough to even have the discussion in the first place is inevitably going to lead nowhere, and will likely hinge too much on the matter of Super Bowl victories.

But, leaving aside Super Bowls, the fact is that the Bears were a dominate force for several years in the mid-1980s. They could have very easily made it to and won the Super Bowl either on each side of 1985.

The future looks even brighter for this Bears team, though. The defense has elite talent at every spot on the defense. Not only that, but they have elite talent playing backup at many of the positions, and where they may not have that yet, they have young, extremely athletic players, who show as much as promise of developing into elite talent as one could hope.

On top of that, Lovie Smith doesn't seem content to just let the defense rest. He fired Rivera because we can only assume he wanted the defense to become better, and he thought the best way for that to happen was to put Babich in charge. Whether or not that proves to be a good move remains to be seen, but I think Smith's earned the enough of the benefit of the doubt that we can let that question sit for now and simply let his action represent a desire for continued improvement in an area where they were already dominant.

Here's my point: I cannot think of a single reason why the Bears defense should not be at least as good as it was last year. Which would mean the Bears defense will have been dominant for three straight years, a really substantial feat to have accomplished, since even the best defenses tend not to be consistently dominant from year to year. Which brings me to FootballOutsiders.

I bought PFP a few weeks ago, and it really is a great book to have if your an NFL dork like I am. It's absolutely loaded with information, and in general the essays about statistic gathering and measuring and everything are interesting and informative. But, as with their website, the biggest weakness with their work is with their projections. They have a tendency to trust a rather small data sample to be large or important enough to establish a trend, and they then let those trends become established predictors rather easily. In many places, this isn't too much of a problem, because they're always quick to point out where they believe the projection is wacky because of something.

The book predicts that Green Bay will win the NFC North this year, with no disclaimer. I am so positive that this won't happen, such is my total faith that Chicago will win the NFC North for the third straight year, that I'm willing to go on record right here and now: if Green Bay wins the NFC North I will, I swear, in the grand tradition of Werner Herzon, post a link on this website to a youtube video of Werner Herzog eating his shoe. Anyway, why are the FO guys willing to make such a weird prediction? The reason for this is glossed by Aaron Schatz in their website's DVOA projections as follows: "Simply put, the odds they [Chicago] can continue to dominate on defense and special teams are not good, and it seems unlikely that the offense would improve enough to make up for that." Which is basically the explanation put forth in the PFP for their projection of a regression of the Bears defense. I was a little unclear about why Green Bay was predicted to get so much better, and they cleared that up today in a linked article from Slate in which they explain that Green Bay is predicted to win the division simply because Chicago's regression will leave the NFC North open for someone to take over, and Green Bay is much more likely to do that than the Vikings or the Lions. So, essentially, both Green Bay's projected upsurge and Chicago's projected regression hinge on the fact that Chicago's defense and special teams are unlikely to continue to be as good as they were last year.

As I stated at the opening of this post, I can't think of an reason why the Bears defense will be significantly worse this year than it was last year. The Outsiders obviously do think the Bears defense will get worse, but the only reason they seem to have for thinking this is explained most concisely in the PFP as follows: "Only 17 teams since 1996 have had a defensive DVOA of -20% or better. The Bears, who had a defensive DVOA of -21.8% in 2005, are only the third team in the last eleven seasons to reach -20% in consecutive seasons. The other teams to achieve back-to-back seasons at that level were Baltimore and Tampa Bay. [...] On average, teams with a -20% or better defensive DVOA decline by more than 11 percentage points of DVOA the next season." Frankly, the fact that only two teams have achieved back-to-back levels of defensive dominance in the period the Outsiders have stats doesn't really seem like it makes all that strong of a case for a team thus experiencing an unexplained dropoff in the following season. Beyond that, though, the little explanation given isn't entirely accurate. Baltimore's devensive DVOA in 1999 was -21.5%, followed by -30.0% in 2000, followed by -17.2% in 2001. Tampa's DVOA in 1999 was -24.3%, followed by -17.9% in 2000, -20.3% in 2001, -33.6% in 2002, -21.3% in 2003, -7.0% in 2004. Though the drop for Tampa from -30 to -17 is fairly significant, it's not like the Ravens defense suddenly became shmucks the following year. But beyond that, Tampa Bay actually posted -20% or greater defensive DVOA for three straight years, from 2001 to 2003. Their defense peaked in 2002, the year before they won the Super Bowl.

Minor factual quibbles aside, though, what seems really damning about this analysis to me is that in both of those previous cases listed, Baltimore and Tampa Bay, it is easy to see reasons for their decline. Baltimore lost Jamal Lewis and had Elvis Grbac at quarterback, and poor offensive performance can really hurt a defense's capability of playing at a truly dominant level as opposed to just really good. With Tampa Bay, there was a coaching change, and Jon Gruden is an offensive coach. Minus Dungy at the helm, it wasn't especially surprising that Tampa's defense would slowly fall apart after a season or two.

But for the Bears heading into this season, there's nothing that points so clearly to a reason for a regression. The Outsiders are content rely on their two-team "trend," but I can't say it's got me especially worried. That weird part of me that feels personally offended by all of this, though, really hopes they point out at some point during this season, after the Bears have made it through another season of defensive dominance, just what level of historic achievement the Bears have accomplished, Super Bowls or no.

Probably they won't though. They'll probably just keep saying that the Bears won't win a Super Bowl with Rex at quarterback right up until he either does exactly that, or he gets cut or benched. Until then, that's about the level of analysis we can look forward to of the Bears anywhere outside of the Chicago press. Which, really, is so fucking annoying. And it just makes me hate both East divisions even more.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Farewell Leak and James

Annual cut day left few surprises for the Bears this year. Unfortunately Rideau got injured again just as it looked like he was pulling away from Mike Hass, and so he goes the way of Arise Currie and Hass reaps the rewards of a reportedly unbelievable camp.
I had Corey Graham and Michael Okwo on the team already, though Okwo hasn't done anything impressive that I've heard about. The big surprise for me is that Darrell McClover held onto a roster spot as the eighth LB over DT Antonio Garay. There was a lot said about how high the bears were on Garay, but in the end he just had too many people to compete with. McClover's been on the roster since the Seattle game last year with a few appearances and all I've heard about him is that he's a good special teamer. I figured he's holding a spot until Ayanbadejo comes off suspension, but with Okwo going on IR (a typical bears move of the last two seasons, but why hadn't I heard of his injury?) McClover will be around all season.
The other surprise for me is Beekman beating out Oakley on the OL. I'd read good things about Oakley, though all I personally remember seeing is him getting torched one game last preseason. I thought LeVoir looked good of what I saw as well. The Bears may have an old line, but I think Angelo's put together good potential for competition in the next couple seasons. Further evidence that Angelo is a hell of a GM.
My final note is that I'm happy to see Ball on the practice squad. This assures that he'll be around next camp with more experience and the example of Hass to follow. And I'm kinda sad to see two college names in Leak and James go.