Peanut Belongs In The Hall of Fame

| July 20th, 2016

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Administrative Note: This will be the first of 300 columns with the same headline.

When the 2021 NFL Hall of Fame Class is announced, Charles Tillman’s name should be on the list.

It’s not going to happen. Tillman spent his career being thought of as just a local hero even though he played in a major media market on a team that regularly had one of the best defenses in the NFL. While Tillman was one of the best players in the NFL, he was never really recognized for it.

Charles Woodson is a lock to be on that list. Tillman was a better player.

Woodson was most known for his ability to take the ball away, but he wasn’t necessarily better at that than Tillman. Woodson had a combined 98 interceptions and forced fumbles in 254 games. Peanut had 82 in 168 games. If you were to average that out to a 16 game season, Tillman would’ve averaged nearly eight per season, compared to around six for Woodson.

Woodson had more interceptions, but even there the difference isn’t great. Woodson averaged 4.1 interceptions per 16 games, while Tillman was at 3.6. While he could take the ball away, Woodson wasn’t nearly as good in coverage as Tillman was (the Packers typically put Tramon Williams on the other team’s best receiver).

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Adam Hoge’s Charles Tillman Story

| July 19th, 2016

From Adam’s Facebook page, located HERE:

I haven’t shared this story publicly, but with the news of Charles Tillman’s retirement, it seems like the right time:

My son, James, has a couple congenital heart defects that will eventually require surgery. We first learned about these defects in 2014 when James was born prematurely and spent two months in the hospital. The fall of 2014 was stressful not only because of what was going on at home, but also because the Bears were going through a drama-filled season and it seemed like something crazy was happening every day at work. As if that wasn’t enough, 87.7 The Game suddenly folded in November, creating a tumultous (and awkward) final month and a half of the season.

Meanwhile, Charles Tillman was going through his own personal hardship after suffering a season-ending triceps injury for the second year in a row. But in the middle all the chaos, Tillman got word of what was going on with James from former PR guru Mike Corbo and pulled me aside at Halas Hall to talk to me about what was going on. As you may know, one of Tillman’s daughters needed a heart transplant when she was just three-months-old, so he could relate to the fear we were experiencing after hearing doctors put the words “heart” and “surgery” in the same sentence.

It was a small gesture, but one that meant a lot to both my wife and me. The fact that Corbo took the time to set that up and Tillman took the time to talk to me about everything won’t be forgotten.

I tend to be very skeptical when I hear people say that a particular athlete is “a good guy” or even “a bad guy” because the truth is that (for the most part) we don’t really know them that well. In Tillman’s case, I think the work he does with The Cornerstone Foundation speaks for itself, but there are also many other stories like this one that show the type of character he displayed on and off the field during his career.

The 2014 season seemingly got uglier and uglier every day, but Tillman didn’t go anywhere. He was hurt and likely knew it was his last season as a Bear, but he was right there on the field every day trying to coach up his teammates, when many players would have collected their money and watched from home. From time-to-time when I saw him, Tillman checked in with me on James and that continued even after the season when he was no longer with the organization.

I’ve said this before, but watching Tillman go one-on-one with Calvin Johnson twice a year was a highlight of my time covering football. And the “Peanut Punch” was an important contribution to the game. Congrats to Charles Tillman on retirement. A great player, a great Bear and a great person.

Special thanks to Hoge for allowing me to share this.

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One Day in Nashville

| July 19th, 2016


I sat with Noah in Nashville and watched as a man who changed the game was delivering his signature performance. Charles “Peanut” Tillman – having taken the act of dislodging the football from opponents to near artistic levels – forced four fumbles with his patented Peanut Punch.

Postgame on Da Site:

“I don’t think it’s difficult,” Tillman said after the Bears extended their winning streak to six. “It’s always on my mind. I’m very conscious of it. I speak it, I believe it, I practice it, and it happens.”

Charles Tillman never received the credit he deserved. Never. Swept up in the misnomers of “system guy” and “cover-2 corner”, Peanut found himself struggling for accolades even while dominating the league’s best receivers. They said Lovie Smith “preached turnovers”, a not-so-subtle insinuation that Tillman was more the finest pupil of a distinguished instructor than master of a skill nobody else in the league seemed to possess at even 1/100 of his level.

But it was Tillman who made Lovie. And in doing so made a mark on the cornerback position that will be remembered in Bears history with the likes of George, Butkus, the 46, Buddy Ryan and Urlacher.

Tillman wasn’t just one of the best Bears ever. He was my favorite. And I got into this gig because I love the Bears not because I’m interested in them. I still care about this team. Perhaps too much at times. For that, I can place a lot of the blame at Peanut’s feet.

There will be time to further extol the virtues of Peanut on and off the field. There will be months and months spent arguing his place in Canton. There will even be moments in late October / early November when sentimental bloggin types (cough) will call for the Bears to fill a hole at corner by reaching out to the old codger wearing #33.

But those times aren’t now.

Now I simply say thank you. Thank you, Peanut. Because on one beautiful Sunday afternoon in Nashville I got to see the best at his best. What wasnt difficult to Tillman is the lithograph I hang on the wall of my memory.

And I’ve got that forever.

To see Tillman’s retirement video, CLICK HERE.

To see Tillman shut down Randy Moss, CLICK HERE.

To see Tillman receive his Man of the Year award with a lovely speech, CLICK HERE.

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Four Thoughts on Alshon Jeffery Not Signing an Extension

| July 18th, 2016

The deadline has come and gone. Alshon Jeffery will play 2016 on the franchise tag. What does it mean?

#1. An argument simply cannot be made the Bears front office values AJ as a top tier wide receiver. If they did this contract gets done in fifteen minutes. They’d pick a player with similar numbers and mimic that deal. Bears are willing to risk playing with AJ on the tag because they aren’t overly concerned about losing him.

#2. Jeffery has displayed the right attitude. And if he can’t find the motivation to deliver a career year with big money on the line he’ll never find it. Motivation, passion, the desire to give 100% on every down is something the Bears hierarchy (and quarterback) want to see from AJ on a consistent basis. They are far more worried about this element of his game than his health.

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Ka’Deem Carey Enters Camp as the Ultimate Wildcard

| July 13th, 2016


Ka’Deem Carey is entering his third training camp with the Bears. And he has just as good a chance to start as he has to be cut.

While neither of those outcomes are particularly likely, they are realistic. There aren’t that many players in the league facing similar circumstances. Two years into his career, it’s impossible to know what Carey’s role will be.

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Data: Numbers Prove Pairing Cutler with Top Defense Will Yield Winning Team

| July 11th, 2016

Another guest column from the artist known as Data.

Every offseason (and throughout most seasons) there’s a lot of talk amongst Bears fans about whether or not the Bears can win with Jay Cutler as their quarterback. Today I’m going to attempt to answer that question by looking at Cutler’s peers around the league.

I identified five players who are, statistically speaking, Cutler’s peers: Carson Palmer, Matthew Stafford, Eli Manning, Joe Flacco, and Alex Smith. Including Cutler, these six quarterbacks all have started at least 90 games, thrown at least 3500 passes, and posted passer ratings between 83.5 and 88.1.

Basically, they’ve all been around for a while performing, as a whole, at an average to above average level.

Cutler is smack dab in the middle of the group with 134 starts (3rd), 4354 passes (3rd), and an 86.0 passer rating (2nd).

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Bears Need Improved OL Play to Reach Potential

| July 6th, 2016


The Bears have plenty of weapons at the skill positions and a terrific quarterback, but their offense won’t take a big step if their offensive line isn’t better than it was a year ago.

On paper, the Bears line should be significantly better. They lost Matt Slauson, but Kyle Long moving back to guard, combined with Cody Whitehair or Ted Larsen have to be better than Vlad Ducasse and whoever else they played last year. At his worst Bobby Massie was as good as Long was at tackle last year and, over the last 10 games last year, he was actually pretty good. Charles Leno Jr. and Hroniss Grasu should be better with experience.

But outside of Long, who should be expected to return to his stellar form at guard, there’s the possibility it all goes the other way.

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2016 Bears Defense Could Make Buddy Proud

| July 1st, 2016

CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 1: Pernell McPhee #92 of the Chicago Bears celebrates after a sack during a game against the Minnesota Vikings at Soldier Field on November 1, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. The Vikings defeated the Bears 23-20. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

“QB’s are over-paid, over-rated, pompous bastards and must be punished.”-Buddy Ryan.

For the first time in a number of years, the Bears have a chance to have the kind of defense that would make Buddy Ryan proud. They finally have a number of players who can, and should, get to the quarterback.

The Bears’ sack totals since they stopped running Ryan’s defense are a bit depressing. They’ve finished last in the league in sacks more than they’ve finished first and haven’t topped 50 sacks in a season since 1987. This year, however, they have a legitimate chance to top that mark and punish opposing quarterbacks.

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Buddy Ryan, I Owe Ya

| June 29th, 2016

When Buddy Ryan told his players he was leaving Chicago for Philadelphia, they didn’t take it so well. Years earlier these men had written a desperate letter to George Halas begging for their leader to remain their leader. This was more than a football coach for the likes of Dan Hampton and Steve McMichael. This was a man. This was a father.

Buddy didn’t have steakhouses in town or high profile guest spots on local radio shows. He wasn’t on the cover of cigar magazines or idol worshipped on Saturday Night Live. His life – seemingly all 82 years of it – was about the game he loved. His legacy is left on a Soldier Field whiteboard featuring the numbers “4” and “6” and in the work of two sons genetically enhanced with his voluptuous personality and hunger for hitting quarterbacks.

Pete Prisco Tweeted yesterday, “Ryan’s defenses in Chicago were as nasty as any we’ve seen. They never played scared. Attacked.” And that demeanor, the anger, the ferocity, made Ryan’s defenses the rightful heir to the thrones of Bill George and Dick Butkus. Can anybody really list something Mike Ditka left behind from a strategic perspective? With Buddy, that list requires a second page of the notebook.

Lovie Smith had successful defenses in Chicago too but they never found their way into the city’s blood stream. They had a soft side, bending but not breaking, in the shell of the Tampa 2 (which was affectionately referred to here as the Lovie Deuce). They were successful without ever being intimidating. Individuals emerged as stars (Urlacher, Peanut) but the collective never did.

With Buddy it was all about the defensive machine and the machine had one goal: make the other team scared to play their game. Buddy’s defenses, specifically in 1985, played offense.

And his coaching job that season is the finest performance by any assistant coach in the history of any sport ever played in this country. Your initial reaction to that comment may be that’s it’s hyperbolic. But it’s not. What grants Ryan this status is the autonomy with which he acted. Every other assistant’s performance one could name falls under the umbrella of the head coach. Not Ryan. Ditka rarely addressed the defensive locker room, let alone tell them what to do. The ’85 Bears defense were authored by a single, steady hand: Ryan.

I owe Buddy Ryan. My love of the Chicago Bears is based on his creation. My success with this dopey site and my yearly trips to Chicago with all the fucking joy they entail are direct results of his work. I can never pay that back. Never.

So rest in peace, Buddy. And thank you.


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