Posted by sportsmaven on December 29, 2008
The Chicago Bears are not the Detroit Lions, but at the completion of today’s play, they have gotten as far as the Lions did this season, which to say, is out of the playoffs. That comparison is certainly extreme, as the Bears do not have the same amount of holes that the Lions have, but a 9-7 finish that surprised many have clouded severe failures of judgement made by the football leadership of this team.
(AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
Perhaps the most glaring failures are with a Chicago Bears defense that opened the season very motivated in a win over the Indianapolis Colts, but sunk to maddening lows in crushing defeats by the Green Bay Packers and Minnesota Vikings amongst others. Bears head coach Lovie Smith was asked about replacing defensive coordinator Ron Rivera shorly after the Bears loss to the Colts in Super Bowl XLI. This is where Love broke out his now infamous “Trust Me” speech.
“You should trust me as a head football coach to put us in the best position to win football games,” Smith said. “It’s as simple as that.”
And that was Lovie’s reasoning to why he chose to replace Ron Rivera with BFF Bob Babich. Since Rivera was replaced, the Bears defense has plunged to embarassingly low depths in both prestige and performance. In 2006, teams feared and respected the Bears defense. Ask the Arizona Cardinals, despite then-Coach Dennis Green’s post-game rant. Now, teams just run over the Bears defense. Case in point:
- The Houston Texans racked up 455 yards of total offense and 31 points in a Week 17 victory.
- The Packers ran the Bears for 427 yards and 37 points in Week 11 pasting of the Bears.
- The Vikings racked up 439 yards and 41 points in a Week 7 loss to the Bears.
- The Tampa Bay Buccaneers ran up 454 yards and 27 points in a Week 2 Bears debacle.
These are numbers that nearly all Chicago Bears fans find unacceptable. It should be unacceptable to Lovie Smith as well, but somehow, it isn’t, which leads back to the Trust Me speech and the fact that I can no longer trust Lovie Smith to make correct decisions when he has yet to acknowledge that the two biggest staff decisions of his coaching tenure were complete and utter failures (remember the Terry Shea mess?)
Secondly, the Bears personnel decisions and evaluations are skeptical at best and leave even casual fans wondering if the Bears are able to effectively evaluate talent. Consider the players the Bears kept:
- WR/KR Devin Hester signed a $40M contract extension and was made a WR, neutering his return skills (0 TD’s)
- LB Brian Urlacher was given a lucrative contract extension for 88 tackles, no sacks, and no Pro Bowl selection
- DT Tommie Harris signed a large contract extension only to play about a half season due to injury/ineffectiveness
- WR Earl Bennett was drafted to compete for a starting position; he ends up catching 0 passes for the season.
and the players the Bears decided to let go:
The Bears have also missed on numerous players in the draft as well, as noted in past posts. The level of talent on the Bears has receded dramatically since the 2006 Super Bowl season, which means that the Bears braintrust has not made moves in personnel and coaching to build off their success. Now Bob Babich is on the hot seat.
The Bears clearly need to admit that they made severe errors in judgement in replacing Ron Rivera with Bob Babich. They need to admit that they made errors in personnel and they need to correct these errors in the offseason. A 9-7 record is something to build from, but if the failures of judgement are not corrected, this may be the best it will be under Jerry Angelo and Lovie Smith.
Posted in Chicago Bears | Tagged: Arizona Cardinals, Bernard Berrian, Bob Babich, Brian Urlacher, Cedric Benson, Chicago Bears, Cincinnati Bengals, David Haugh, Dennis Green, Detroit Lions, Devin Hester, Earl Bennett, green bay packers, Greg Couch, Houston Texans, Indianapolis Colts, Jerry Angelo, Kansas City Chiefs, Kevin Seifert, Lovie Smith, Mark Bradley, Mike Inrem, Minnesota Vikings, New York Jets, Ron Rivera, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Terry Shea, Thomas Jones, Tom Thayer, Tommie Harris | 5 Comments »
Posted by sportsmaven on September 28, 2007
The Sportsmaven decided to venture into enemy territory two weekends ago, following the Chicago Cubs to new Busch Stadium for the 4 games in 3 days series against the arch rival (literally!) St. Louis Cardinals. Having never been to St. Louis, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from the city, the fans, or from the baseball world in general, but I will have to say that I was pleasantly surprised by how much St. Louis is a small town dressed up as a big city. The downtown area, where the Gateway Arch, our hotel (the Adam’s Mark Hotel, which I highly recommend), and Busch Stadium are located, was very quaint, with all the aforementioned points of interest within walking distance of each other. We started our trip on Friday afternoon at The Feisty Bulldog Bucket Shoppe and Billiards for lunch and a few pre-game beverages and then worked our way to Busch Stadium, via a detour through Mike Shannon’s Steak & Seafood Restaurant, infamous for the bar that supposedly over served Cardinals P Josh Hancock the night that he died in an automobile accident on April 29th of this year. I have never been to old Busch Stadium, but the new Busch is a terrific venue to watch a baseball game.
Friday night, we found ourselves in section 139, on the first base side. Carlos Zambrano was pitching for the Cubs and hurled a great game, the Cubs taking a 5-1 lead into the 9th inning. It was important for the Cubs to set the tone early in this series, and they did just that. Ryan Dempster, in a non-save situation, gave up two homers and a couple of other hits before being relieved by Bobby Howry, who gave up a hit, but secured the 5-3 win for the Cubs.
On Saturday, for the early game of a day/night doubleheader, we had seats in the left centerfield bleachers, near the Cubs bullpen. As our luck would have it, we were sitting a row in front of the two most absolutely obnoxious Cardinals fans. One thing I do want to note about the Cardinals fans, in general is how absolutely wonderful they were to the Cubs fans overall. I was expecting Cardinals fans to be loathesome, some of which we experience in our fan encounters at Wrigley Field. I was very surprised to discover that 99% of the Cardinals fans we met in St. Louis were totally awesome and treated us with respect. They were friendly, considerate, and a great time to hang out with, except for the two jokers in the bleachers. They were obnoxious, insulting loudmouths that wouldn’t shut up. For seven innings, we listened to these guys, as the Cubs were down 2-1, until Alfonso Soriano came to the plate in the 8th inning with a man on base. The obnoxious twins were going at it full bore, jabbing their red foamed fingers into every Cub fan’s face……with one swing, Soriano parked that ball into the left field bleachers and all of a sudden the dynamic duo went silent. Soriano hadn’t even touched home plate when we turned around and discovered two empty seats where the loudmouths were sitting. That was just pure justice for those cretins.
After the day game, we strolled out the front gate of Busch Stadium and made the short stumble to Paddy O’s, a small bar with an outdoor tent right outside Busch Stadium. Paddy O’s had cold beer, vodka cranberry for me, and a cool mixture of Cub and Cardinal fans drinking together in harmony. It was their version of Murphy’s Bleachers, and it was pretty awesome.
The night game found us quickly, as our seats were on the first base side of the stadium again, this time in the Redbird Club section, which by the way, were quite nice. We were definitely the only Cubs fans in our section and felt like Custer facing the indians at Little Big Horn. The seats were padded, the section was awesome (was able to catch parts of the Nebraska-USC game in the Stadium Club) and the Cubs opened an early lead, but with shoddy base running (2 men thrown out at home plate) and fielding (2 errors by Jason Kendall), the Cubs ended up losing the nightcap, 4-3.
Our wakeup call on Sunday morning came early, at 4:45am. We had a 7:30am flight back to Chicago as we needed to get back to town for the Chicago Bears-Kansas City Chiefs football game. The Cubs ended up taking the final game of the series, 4-2 thus winning the series and essentially putting an end to a miserable season for the Cardinals.
So, our experience with the new Busch Stadium is that every seat seems to be a great seat, with a great view. Even the bleachers were a nice seat, not quite Wrigley Field bleachers, but close and pretty fun. For the baseball, we took 3 of 4 from the Cardinals and never looked back. It was a great weekend, we closed the door on the Cardinals, got to experience new Busch Stadium and made it out of town in time to catch the home opener for the Bears. All and all, a great Chicago sports weekend!
Posted in Chicago Cubs | Tagged: Adams Mark Hotel, Alfonso Soriano, Bobby Howry, Busch Stadium, Carlos Zambrano, Chicago Bears, Chicago Cubs, Gateway Arch, Jason Kendall, Josh Hancock, Kansas City Chiefs, Mike Shannon, Ryan Dempster, St. Louis Cardinals, Wrigley Field | 1 Comment »
Posted by sportsmaven on August 20, 2007
For those thinking that tonight’s Chicago Bears - Indianapolis Colts pre-season game on Monday Night Football is any kind of a rematch of Super Bowl XLI, I have news for you…..it’s not. It’s just a pre-season game, nothing more. Thankfully, I haven’t noticed any marketing that suggests otherwise (although I wouldn’t put it past anyone trying to hype a pre-season game in a pre-season that is at least two games too long).
(AP Photo/Dave Einsel)
For the Bears, this is a start of a new season, a season filled with as much promise as last season, maybe even more. The Bears offense may not surprise as it did last season, although it could be remarkable improved with the addition of TE Greg Olsen and another year of experience under the belt of QB Rex Grossman. This Bears team, at least on paper, looks to be even better than last season’s Super Bowl team. The true test of the Bears season begins in San Diego on September 9th against a Chargers team that is a Super Bowl favorite. Then the Kansas City Chiefs and Dallas Cowboys hit town in back to back weeks and finally for the month of September, the Detroit Lions. This is what will define the Bears season. Championships are not won in September, but they certainly can be lost and 3-1 is what is expected in this stretch of the season.
Memo to Chicago Bears fans for tonight: Super Bowl XLI was last year’s news, Super Bowl XLII is this year’s goal. If the Bears play to their potential, they are there. If not, nothing but disappointment and unfulfilled potential.
Posted in Chicago Bears | Tagged: Chargers, Chicago Bears, Dallas Cowboys, Detroit Lions, Greg Olson, Indianapolis Colts, Kansas City Chiefs, Monday Night Football, Rex Grossman, San Diego, Super Bowl XLI, Super Bowl XLII | 2 Comments »
Posted by sportsmaven on August 6, 2007
The Chicago Bears have what seems to be a very interesting problem: too much depth. Now, I know what you’re thinking, how can a team have too much depth? But that’s what the Bears have, so much so that they have traded last year’s starting SS Chris Harris to the Carolina Panthers and are looking to move another, reserve CB and special teams standout Dante Wesley. I will be the first to admit that I was very hard on Bears GM Jerry Angelo in the early days, but the last 3 years, he has proven that he has not only grown into the job, but has been one of the most shrewdest GM’s in the game in that period.
(Tribune photo by Scott Strazzante)
Angelo has wisely locked up core young talent early at a lesser price then they would have commanded in the open market, has drafted very wisely (has any GM drafted better from rounds 4-7? If so, I want to know who that person is) and has built a roster that is arguably the strongest in the NFC from top to bottom.
The Bears are trying to defy recent history by returning to the Super Bowl a year after losing the Big Game, only a return is not the goal. Winning the Super Bowl is the goal and it seems as though Bears head coach Lovie Smith has every man clearly focused on that goal once again. For the Bears, 5 things have to happen in order to have a chance at returning to the Big Game:
1. Avoid injuries at all cost — having the best bench depth in the NFC (and maybe in the league, west of New England) is definitely an asset, but you need your best players playing in top form all season. If LB Brian Urlacher, QB Rex Grossman, RB Cedric Benson, WR Bernard Berrian, KR/PR/WR Devin Hester, DT Tommie Harris, or any one of the starting OL goes down, the next line of talent is thin at these positions.
2. Offense has to make another leap in performance — The surprise of last season’s team was definitely the performance of the offense. Nobody on the planet thought the Bears would be #2 in the NFL in scoring nor that Rex Grossman would throw 20 TD passes and over 3000 yards passing. For the Bears to jump to the next level, Grossman must improve his completion rate. Last season, he was at 54.6%. This season, he has to eclipse 60% and limit his interceptions from 20 to single digits. RB Cedric Benson is on the spot now, and must rush for at least 1,200 yards and 10 TD’s. WR Mark Bradley must avoid the injury bug and establish himself as the #2 receiver, and WR Bernard Berrian must prove that last year wasn’t a fluke.
3. KR/PR/WR Devin Hester must emerge as a multiple options threat — this is probably the most tenuous of all the options. I can’t recall a return man who has excelled on the offensive side of the ball in recent history. The Kansas City Chiefs tried KR Dante Hall at WR and that didn’t work. Devin Hester could be one of the best open field players in NFL history, but not after one record setting season as a KR/PR. Hester must prove that he is a threat regardless of position. He didn’t stand out as a DB. The offensive side of the ball is where he belongs, but yet again, he is very raw and unproven there….
4. Defense can’t have another late season drop off — It was clear that the defense dropped off significantly in the second half of last season. It was still a very good defense, but a dominant defense wins Super Bowl XLI and that wasn’t the case for the Bears. The Indianapolis Colts rushed for 191 yards in the Super Bowl against a defense missing DL Tommie Harris and SS Mike Brown. That defense stepped up against the New Orleans Saints in the NFC Championship Game, but the time for the defense to shine is in December and January. New defensive coordinator Bob Babich must bring more energy to the table then his predecessor, Ron Rivera, otherwise the change may be for naught.
5. Young players must perform well — Of any reason listed above, the performance of young players have been one of the biggest contributors to the recent success the Bears have experienced. KR/PR Devin Hester, SS Danieal Manning, WR Mark Bradley, when healthy, DE Mark Anderson, departed SS Chris Harris, K Robbie Gould are all young players that really turned their games on in their rookie or second years, pushing for playing time and putting high priced veterans on the bubble. The pressure will be on this year’s draft class, particularly TE Greg Olsen, RB Garrett Wolfe, and CB Trumaine McBride to fill key roles. If these rookies shine, expect the Bears to be even more potent.
Opening day in San Diego is right around the corner. The time to play the Chargers might be early in the season, but this is a tough opener. The non-division schedule is tough, with games against the San Diego Chargers, Denver Broncos, Kansas City Chiefs, Dallas Cowboys, New Orleans Saints, Philadelphia Eagles, and the Seattle Seahawks, but to be the best, you have to go through the best. The Bears will definitely have that to deal with this championship season….
Posted in Chicago Bears | Tagged: Bernard Berrian, Bob Babich, Brian Urlacher, Carolina Panthers, Cedric Benson, Chicago Bears, Chris Harris, Dallas Cowboys, Danieal Manning, Dante Hall, Dante Wesley, Denver Broncos, Devin Hester, Garrett Wolfe, Greg Olson, Indianapolis Colts, Jerry Angelo, Kansas City Chiefs, Lovie Smith, Mark Anderson, Mark Bradley, Mike Brown, New Orleans Saints, NFC, NFC Championship, NFL, Philadelphia Eagles, Rex Grossman, Robbie Gould, Ron Rivera, San Diego Chargers, Seattle Seahawks, Super Bowl, Super Bowl XLI, Tommie Harris, Trumaine McBride | 1 Comment »