Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Chattin' Up Bears Football

I'm going to do this just like the Cubs post, where I discuss the past, present, and future of the team.


If I had a dime for every time the Chicago Bears reminded me of the Chicago Cubs, I'd be a billionaire by now. The Bears, like the Cubs, have a long history, and are one of only 2 teams remaining from the inception of the NFL. They have won 9 NFL championships (pre-merger) and 1 Super Bowl. So, like the Cubs, they had a great amount of success in the early part of the 20th century. But the ties between the Cubs and Bears run deeper than most realize. 

George Halas was originally a managing partner of the team (along with A.E. Staley who owned the team and Edward Sternaman). He would go on to purchase the team, and it has been in his family ever since. Originally, he planned to have his son George Halas, Jr. run the franchise, but he died of a massive heart attack in 1979, and upon George Sr.'s death in 1983, the ownership passed to his eldest daughter, Virginia, who had married Ed McCaskey. Ed became Chairman of the Board upon George's death, but it was their decision to place their son Michael as president of the team thatwould go down as one of the worst moves in franchise history. In 1999, after a botched head coach hiring, Virginia would end up firing her own son and "promoting" (though it was seen as a demotion) him to chairman of the board. One can only wonder what the franchise could've become if George Jr. had survived. It's eerily similar to the Cubs when William Wrigley passed away, and left the franchise to his son, P.K. Wrigley, who proceeded to destroy the franchise and their reputation as winners.

Another connection to the Cubs would be their name. As was the custom with most football teams at the time, they derived their name from the baseball team in their city. Thus, Bears-Cubs are forever linked in namesake (and unfortunately the ineptitude of management). The Bears also played from 1922-1971 at Wrigley Field, until they outgrew it, and moved permanently to Soldier Field. 

Despite having some of the game's most recognizable talent in Dick Butkus, Gale Sayers, Mike Ditka, Brian Urlacher, and pretty much the entire 1985 Super Bowl team, the Bears only have one Super Bowl title to show for it, and have only appeared in the game just 2 times. As was the case with the Cubs, one of the biggest problems with the Bears in recent history has been quality coaching and management, but also continuity in the two departments. This has led to a lack of direction and vision towards the future. 


Yet another similarity with the Bears is their insistence on rewarding coaches/players based on a small sample size of success versus sustained success. In football, this is more understandable with players, especially since their careers are short-lived. But one could certainly question the amount of guaranteed money the Bears have doled out to guys like Tommie Harris, and blindly committing to a failed experiment with Rex Grossman as their QB, and trying to create a patchwork offensive line to protect their new franchise QB Jay Cutler rather than investing the money necessary to give him enough time to release the ball.

I watched all of the Bears games the past 2 seasons, and I have never seen a QB run for his life more than Jay Cutler did. There were times where he literally had 2 seconds to get rid of the ball. I don't know what Bears management was thinking when they made such a large investment (in trade with draft picks) and money (Cutler's extension), but neglected to give him enough solid protection on the offensive line. The primary reason Cutler reached Pro Bowl levels in Denver was because his offensive line actually gave him more than 2 seconds to get rid of the ball.

I don't know what the future will hold, but the Bears have a window of about 2 years with Peppers, Urlacher, Briggs, and Tillman, to win a championship. Those 4 are the anchors of the defense, and they're all in their 30's. The Bears are running out of time. They either must commit to youth, or continue to fill holes with veterans. Given the fact veterans often succumb to injury, I'd much prefer the youth route, but that does not appear to be in the cards anymore with Jerry Angelo calling the shots.

The bottom line is, the Bears need to start planning for the future without those stalwarts on the defense, and they need to look for the offense with Cutler to really carry the team while they rebuild the defense...which brings me to the next subject....


As mentioned, the Bears need to get younger all around, and they need to do it quickly, or it could be disastrous in years to come. Here is a list of Bears players over the age of 30:
Maynard-P 37 *will likely not be back, as the Bears signed a 27 yr old Richmond McGee to a 2 yr deal recently
Clark-TE 33 *will likely not be back
Kreutz-C 33
Urlacher-MLB 32
Garza-G 31
Rashied Davis-WR 31
Taylor-RB 31 *might be released
Manumaleuna-TE 31
Peppers-DE 31
Adams-DT 30
Briggs-LB 30
Idonije-DE 30
Tillman-CB 30

That means, look for the Bears to either sign young free agents or draft guys at CB, DE, LB, DT, DE, WR, RB, and OL. In case you didn't notice, that's just about every position, other than QB, K, P, FS, and SS. That's quite a lot of positions that need attention, don't you think?

If you're wondering what free agents the Bears might be looking at this year (provided there's no lock-out), here's a good list for you:

Leon Washington-RB/KR Seahawks
Marcus Spears-DE Cowboys
Mathias Kiwanuka-DE Giants
James Jones-WR Packers
Malcolm Floyd-WR Chargers 6'5"
Roman Harper-S Saints
Barrett Ruud-LB Bucs
Dawan Landry-S Ravens
Matt Light-OT Patriots
Braylon Edwards-WR Jets
Tyson Clabo-OT Falcons
Paul Posluszny-LB Bills
Nnamdi Asomugha-CB Raiders
Sidney Rice-WR Vikings

As for the draft, I've seen varying reports of who they will target in the first round, but the consensus is that it'll either be an OT or a DT.

If I'm the Angelo, I'm looking at 2 guys from the Nebraska program for DB in Eric Hagg and DeJon Gomes, who should be available in later rounds. Both are ballhawks that come from a Huskers program under Pelini that has produced some very good talent at the safety and cornerback positions in the last few years. Obviously Amukamara will be selected in the high first round, otherwise I'd look to him as a future replacement for Tillman.

As for OT in the first round, it has been rumored the Bears will look at Carimi from Wisconsin, Costanzo from Boston College, Ijalana from Villanova,  or Sherrod from Mississippi State, and for DT Liuget from Illinois, Taylor from Baylor, and Austin of UNC.

Anything after that is really a crapshoot, although, I can tell you an excellent TE that could spread the field along with Olsen in a 2 TE set is Mike McNeill of Nebraska, who doubled as a WR this year. But above all else, if I were the Bears, I'd go after Colin Kaepernick a 6'6" dual-threat QB out of Nevada, who played huge this year. I can't stress enough how much I hope they go after this guy. I believe even with the breakdowns on the O-Line with the Bears, Kaepernick would actually thrive in the system as the pocket collapses and he's forced to move out. It's also the reason why I believe Michael Vick would thrive on the Bears, because teams would have to stop rushing 5 guys at a time, keeping the defense honest, and opening up both the running game and passing game. Kaepernick ran a 4.53 40 yard dash, which is outstanding for a QB. If you put Caleb Hanie and Kaepernick as the back-ups, I wouldn't be very worried if Cutler went down with injury again. Obviously, I wouldn't want him to get hurt, but those guys would be more than capable of carrying the team while he's out.

The other guys I'd consider would be DeMarco Murray who was a RB/WR for Oklahoma. Yes, most RB can be used as a WR in some patterns, but the Sooners actually lined him up as a WR on several occasions. I'd also consider the following: Christian Ponder-QB FSU, DeAndre Brown-WR Southern Miss. (6'6", 4.59 40 time), Mike Pouncey-C/G Florida, Jurrell Casey-DE USC, Casey Matthews-LB Oregon, Sam Acho-DE Texas, Kelvin Sheppard-MLB LSU, Martez Wilson-MLB Illinois (reminds me a LOT of Urlacher's size and speed 6'4", 250 lbs, 4.49 40 time), Shareece Wright-CB USC, Curtis Brown-CB Texas, Ras-I Dowling-CB Virginia, Jimmy Smith-CB Colorado, Jerrod Johnson-QB Texas A&M

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