Nothing about this recent string of victories – and yes, two wins is considered a string – has been convincing. Nothing that has transpired in either game leads me to believe the 2014 Chicago Bears can line up against a good opponent and win. So…
Why do I like the Chicago Bears this week?
I always like the Chicago Bears.
I don’t like the match-up for the Bears offensive line, which has played poorly of late. Detroit simply has too many good players along their defensive front for the Bears to block with any consistency. The only way to counter this mismatch would seem to be the Bears committing to the run game* against the best rush defense in the sport. (As you can tell I am not expecting many points from the Bears this week.)
*Not how I’d do it. See the next words.
Spread them out and chuck it.
Committing to the run early will put the Bears off-sequence in the passing game. Tom Brady and the Patriots ran the ball a total of six times in the first half against Detroit and went into the locker room with a 24-6 lead. And when they threw the ball, they threw it quickly. The Lions defense is still suspect in the secondary and if ever there was a game for Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery to assert their size and strength, this is it.
Here is something I don’t want to hear. Or read. Or listen to. Or find in my fortune cookie.
Bears should lose games for a better draft pick.
Research project for those espousing this ideology.
Prove that the number 8 selection in the NFL Draft has more success historically than the number 18 selection. Prove that number 5 selection has more success historically than the number 25 selection. Unless you are in the market for generational talents, specifically at the quarterback and pass rush positions, draft position has little to do with an organization’s success in the draft. You know what does matter? Talent evaluation.
Do you think Chance Warmack and DJ Fluker and Jonathan Cooper would still be taken before Kyle Long? Do you think Trent Richardson would be taken before Doug Martin? Do you think Matt Kalil would go a round earlier than Cordy Glenn? Would Dee Milliner or Morris Claiborne get drafted? Go look at the horror show that is the top of 2013 draft. Go look at the 13-17th selections in the 2014 draft.
And isn’t it odd how certain franchises retain their positions at the top of the sport? New England, Green Bay, Baltimore, New Orleans…etc. continue to be in contention for postseason berths every year while none of them ever select in the top ten come April. How is that possible? Oh, that’s right. They choose the right players when they are on the clock.
I know why fans act the way they do. Fans invest emotionally in a team they believe can make the postseason or win a championship. That emotional investment means feeling pain should the team lose. Nobody wants to feel pain. Pain kinda stinks. Once a fan can check out, or at least say they’ve checked out, they can divest emotionally from the occurrences over the three hours of their favorite team’s game. “Lose for draft picks” is another way of saying “if I expect or hell, even WANT, my team to lose I will not feel sad about them losing”. These fans are what doctors commonly refer to as full of shit.
Going into halftime I was fully prepared to write a “Marc Trestman Must Be Relieved of His Duties Today” column. That’s how lifeless the Bears were for thirty minutes. How thoroughly unmotivated they seemed. They would have enraged a surprisingly large and vocal crowd but the Soldier Field faithful were too bored to express anger.
Then they went into the locker room. Then they came out of the locker room.
I don’t know what Marc Trestman said to his football team. I don’t know the contents of Martellus Bennett’s MLK-inspired halftime tirade. But I do know Trestman had a tangible opportunity to display leadership. He had a chance to show the entire organization he was not only a capable leader of men but a capable leader of these specific men, in this specific locker room. And in Lovie Smith’s old locker room, Trestman delivered. If the Bears had played two second halves yesterday they would have beaten Tampa by 35 points.
Do these two wins mean a lot for the Chicago Bears? No. But they were the first essential destination on the Trestman road map to remaining the Chicago Bears head coach. Now the Bears play a month of games against NFC playoff teams (even though I don’t believe the Lions will ultimately make the postseason). Now the results are measuring sticks. Now the results matter.
More thoughts on Sunday’s win over the Bucs…
Like Grantland, except without all that Disney money.
Reverend Dave does not like ranting anymore. So stepping in for him again this week is yours truly. Today’s discussion: how tomorrow can set the stage for “meaning” from the 2014 season and how – in context – the Patriots and Packers blowouts might not look so terrible come Super Bowl Sunday.
They won a game. My lord of lords, they have won a game. Did they beat a rookie quarterback playing in frozen conditions for the first time in his entire existence? Maybe. Do the Buccaneers come to town with a head coach and quarterback desperate to show the Soldier Field faithful and Halas Hall hierarchy what they’re missing? Absolutely. So…
Why do I like the Chicago Bears this week?
I always like the Chicago Bears.
The Bears victory over the Minnesota Vikings means nothing if they lose Sunday. These two games, the first destination on Marc Trestman’s road map to retain his job, are a package deal.
Winning both enables the Bears to play a game with at least some meaning on Thanksgiving Day in Detroit. You might argue the stench of back-to-back embarrassments against arguably the league’s two best teams is too overwhelming to overcome no matter what happens against lower level competition. That’s a fair argument but I think a misguided one. The Bears returning to national television with an opportunity to even their record at 6-6 is a significant step for an organization left for dead two weeks ago. From 6-6, with 3 of their final 4 at home, Trestman and company can begin selling a run of the table to the locker room. Whether they achieve that goal or not is relatively unimportant. Believing there is a goal to be achieved means the players will be severely motivated in December.
Losing Sunday to the Bucs, one of the league’s worst teams, will hurt Trestman terribly in Chicago. If this offense can not find motivation against their former coach they will never find motivation. And if they can’t beat the two-win Bucs at home there will be nothing the coaching staff can say in the locker room to convince players this season has any possible reward.
If you have not read Adam Jahns’ excellent piece in the Sun-Times on Lovie Smith’s impact on the Chicago Bears defense, CLICK HERE AND GO READ IT NOW. An excerpt:
For Tillman, Smith motivated through positive reinforcement. He referred to Tillman as an All-Pro cornerback in defensive meetings even though he wasn’t at that point in his career. It happened whenever the Bears faced the Detroit Lions and star receiver Calvin Johnson.
‘‘He’d be like, ‘They got their best player. We got our best player. I got all the confidence in the world in Peanut,’ ” Tillman said. ‘‘It was the confidence that he had in his players. You really felt it.
‘‘I believe in speaking words into existence. Part of being a coach is motivating your players, and it definitely got me going. My confidence was that much higher.’’
There’s even better stuff in the piece. Part of me wishes something like this had been written while Lovie was still the coach.
So Adam Schefter reports the Bears can save some money by trading Jay Cutler this spring and the football world goes into a tizzy. Would the Bears do it? Who are the possible trade partners?? Jets? Bills? Rams? Rochester Jeffersons? Where will Camden go to school? How will Kristin cope with a city change? How many people will turn up for Waddle & Silvy remotes with Jimmy Clausen?
Take a breath. Two things.
First, I don’t believe for a second the Bears have interest in trading Jay Cutler. Phil Emery has displayed loyalty to Shea McClellin, his first draft pick, in the face of a city-wide firing squad against the former Boise State star. You really believe he would excommunicate a quarterback he just guaranteed $54 million?
Second, if the Bears traded Jay Cutler it would be pure, unadulterated stupidity; a short-sighted, cave-to-the-crowd mistake by an organization that has completely lost direction.
Tweeting in-game is growing on me. Not only do I enjoy expressing joy and frustration in the moment but going back and looking at those Tweets can often tell the emotional story of a football game. Here is a Tweet from well-into the Bears victory over the Minnesota Vikings:
This offense means nothing to Cutler. He makes no plays in rhythm. Idea that changing offense will impact him is fallacy.
I don’t remember the play that spawned this comment but, quite honestly, couldn’t it have been all of them? Many individuals, including myself, have argued the Bears changing the head coach at the end of the season would be a detriment to Jay Cutler because it would be yet another system change for a player whose career has been marred by a lack of consistency in the playbook and on the field. But watching the Bears offense, even when it is performing well like Sunday, left me asking a singular question: what is the Bears offense everyone is so passionate about not changing?
I know what it’s not.