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Across The Middle — Week 14

| December 7th, 2016

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The Bears have a 26-year-old quarterback who is playing well but it shouldn’t change any of their offseason plans.

I’ve been as impressed with Matt Barkley as anyone but if the Bears like a quarterback enough to take him in the top five — thus grading him as a franchise quarterback — they shouldn’t let Barkley change their plans.

After seeing Barkley continually complete passes deep down the field to the likes of Deonte Thompson, Cam Meredith and Josh Bellamy in a blizzard, I won’t rule anything out for these last four games. He could very well be the latest star quarterback who was just waiting for his shot. And if he is, he’ll keep his job. If he isn’t, the Bears should have another talented young quarterback waiting in the wings.

The Bears passed on Aaron Rodgers and didn’t try to sign Drew Brees as a free agent because they had Rex Grossman.  They passed on Russell Wilson and Derek Carr because they had Jay Cutler. You can bet the Chargers don’t regret taking Eli Manning — who was later traded for Phillip Rivers — instead of Sean Taylor, Kellen Winslow or Roy Williams solely because they had Drew Brees in 2004. There’s a reason the winningest franchise of this era keeps taking quarterbacks high, even though they have Tom Brady.

If Ryan Pace is on the clock this April with a quarterback who he has graded as a franchise quarterback, he simply has to take him. If Barkley ends up being a star, that’s just a bonus.

The Disconnect

Maybe I’m reading too much into some pretty basic comments but it seems there is a disconnect between the coaching staff and the front office.

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The Callback

| December 5th, 2016

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It almost didn’t happen.

Matt Barkley’s callback was scheduled for noon Sunday but weather conditions were making it unlikely he’d be able to perform. Behind the table we were resigned to waiting another week, for a game in Detroit, to see whether 4th quarter #Barkleytime vs. Tennessee was real or just a figment of our quarterbacking imagination.

Then he arrived. A minute and fifty-six seconds before we broke for lunch, Barkley walked in. New sheet music. Less adventurous than the earlier Being Alive. He handed the pianist a jazzy, cooled up arrangement of Let it Snow.

And he sang it note perfect. Note. Perfect.

     Reader: Hey Jeff.

     Jeff: What’s up?

     Reader: Enough with the metaphor.

     Jeff: Okay.

Matt Barkley has now started two games in the NFL for the Chicago Bears. And if he were a Bears fourth-round pick and not a 26 year-old “journeyman”, fans would be discussing whether Ryan Pace stole a long-term starter in the middle of the draft.

Nobody was more critical of Barkley’a prospects pre-Tennessee than I was. “He can’t play” I wrote time and again. Guess what? I was wrong. He can play. And there’s a chance he can really play.

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Bears Thump Niners & There’s Plenty To Feel Good About

| December 5th, 2016

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You will hear it across Chicago today: “…but the Niners suck.” And there’s no denying that fact. The Niners do, in fact, suck. They are probably the league’s worst team. (I don’t consider Cleveland a team.) But good teams beat sucky teams convincingly. Good teams play meaningless fourth quarters against sucky teams. And the Bears, with their third or fourth-string quarterback, looked an awful lot like a good team yesterday.

Rapid fire…

  • I’ve been using #barkleytime as something of a joke but, you know, I’m starting to think it might not be. As impressive as Barkley was against the Titans a week ago, he was ten times more impressive in the conditions at Soldier Field yesterday. And if het got a little more help from his receivers, he might have been staring down a gaudy stat line. Nevertheless, a near-100 quarterback rating in the slush when the opposing quarterbacks looked like Abbot & Costello Meet the Snow, is exemplary. (More on Barkley coming later today/tomorrow.)
  • I can’t remember seeing a two-win team play with the emotion the Bears played with yesterday. Defensively, offensively, everything. They were fired up from the opening whistle. Seeing that makes me want to slap all the “they should lose” people across their faces.
  • Jordan Howard. That is all. No, that’s not all. His five-yard touchdown run may be my favorite play of the season. The Niners weren’t keeping him out of the end zone with 18 defenders.
  • Say this about Josh Bellamy: he gets open! And I give the Bears coaching staff/QB credit for sticking with him after the second big drop. I would have sat him on the bench and left him there. They didn’t and they were handsomely rewarded for it.
  • Noah Spence is having a terrific year in Tampa and Joey Bosa is terrific but Leonard Floyd may now be the front-runner (as predicted here) for defensive rookie of the year. If Floyd can get his sack total into double digits, I’m not sure they can keep the award away from him.

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DBB Weekend Show – Week 13

| December 1st, 2016

On this longish episode of the Weekend Show:

  • Jeff breaks down the issues the Bears face in finding the “quarterback of the future” this spring, with a little help from his well-placed scout friend.
  • Adam Jahns tells you Pernell McPhee is playing at 60%, Kyle Fuller isn’t doing enough off the field to impress the coaching staff and confirms Jeff’s belief that Jeffery is headed for another tag and Hoyer to the starting lineup.
  • Reverend Dave mails in his sermon on crab racing. (And I mean mails in!)
  • Jeff picks the Bears out of tradition. He really believes the injuries at linebacker and inability to keep contain will lead to Kaepernick running wild Sunday.

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Brandon Marshall Fine Continuing NFL’s Disgraceful Treatment of Mental Illness

| December 1st, 2016

The following piece originally ran on DBB on May 19, 2014. Two years later the NFL is finally allowing players to showcase their personal causes on the field. It’s probably the best thing ever published in this space, non-game related.


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Josh Marks liked to cook. He was good enough at cooking and handsome enough to land a spot on the television program MasterChef. He finished second. At twenty-six years old and with a seemingly limitless future before him, Marks took his own life Friday. In a CNN article Marks’ family recount the young man’s struggles with mental health issues, with the family lawyer going so far as to say “It is overwhelming to think that with proper, intensive treatment, Joshua may still be with us.”

He was found dead by his mother in an alleyway on Chicago’s south side.

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Across The Middle — Week 13

| November 30th, 2016

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The fall guy for the 2016 Chicago Bears is most likely going to be Dowell Loggains and really, it’s too bad.

The Bears are 11 games into a miserable season and next-to-last in points per game, which could tell you the Bears have a terrible offensive coordinator. But I am just not sure that is true. The Bears should’ve won and should’ve scored at least 34 points last week with their JV offense.

This is a results-based industry, I get it. But isn’t there something to be said about having the Bears in the middle of the pack in yards with the majority of their snaps being taken by Matt Barkley and Brian Hoyer? No, they didn’t score with Jay Cutler either. But Cutler has been hurt all season. And, come to think of it, the only coaches who have scored a lot of points with Cutler are Mike Martz and Marc Trestman. Even the great Mike Shanahan never finished better than 16th in scoring with Cutler has his quarterback.

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On the Matt Barkley Audition & the Importance of His Callback

| November 28th, 2016

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For those of you new to DBB, I do most of my “work” in the theatre as a playwright and musical theatre lyricist/librettist. In the last ten years I have been in countless audition rooms, sitting on one side of a long table as a stream of young actors parade in, sing a song, listen to our tepid “thank yous” and walk out. There’s a little secret in the theatre most actors don’t know: we hate the process as much as they do. But since Actor’s Equity requires we do it, we do.

Matt Barkley walked into the room.

Our expectations were he’d get his three and a half minutes and then we’d move on to the next one. He handed his sheet music over the pianist – the boring choice of “Being Alive” from Stephen Sondheim’s Company. It takes a brilliant performance for somebody to stand out with that tune and we don’t expect Barkley to be the one to do it. (Here’s Raul Esparza singing the track. I don’t want to embed the video here.)

          Somebody hold me too close…

          Somebody hurt me too deep…

No emotion. No intensity. Off-key.

          Somebody sit in my chair, and ruin my sleep...

I’ve starting drawing cubes on the back of Barkley’s resume. Three-quarters of the song are over and I’ve not only stopped evaluating the performance, I’ve stopped listening altogether.

Then something happens that occurs in the rarest of auditions. A moment makes your ears perk up. You find yourself suddenly transfixed by the performer. It’s usually the result of the actor’s deep connection to the material and their ability to project that connection across the table. If you’ve never been in the room, you’ll never understand how powerful a moment this can be.

          Somebody crowd me with love…

          Somebody force me to care…

          Somebody let me come through, I’ll always be there…

          As frightened as you, to help us survive…

          Being alive…

          Being alive…

          Being alive!

By the end of Barkley’s song, we’re in tears.

Barkley leaves the room. We look at each other on the other side of the table, perplexed. I turn to the composer and director and ask, “what the fuck just happened?” Nobody has an answer. But one thing is certain.

We’re inviting Barkley back into the room to see if it happens again. Because if it does, a star is born.

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Pathetic Receivers Rob Bears Fans of Memorable Moment: Rapid Fire

| November 28th, 2016

I have never seen anything like it. It didn’t matter which Chicago Bear Matt Barkley threw the football to, the ball was going to be dropped. And with the game there to be won, Barkley delivered not one or two but THREE touchdown passes that went through the hands of his pass “catchers”. Josh Bellamy’s drop on first-and-goal drop will be the poster image for this entire, painful 2016 campaign.

More thoughts:

  • Someone needs to explain to me how Matt Barkley went from looking nervous and unprepared to Pro Bowler in a matter of moments. Was it the coverage? Was it an offensive scheme change? Barkley’s first NFL start should have left us with The Matt Barkley Game, a contest we never forget.
  • The Bears dropped ten passes. Ten. And Barkley still eclipsed 300 yards on the day. What could his numbers have been?
  • Barkley now becomes intriguing next week and moving forward. It’s unlikely he’s going to make Ryan Pace after his draft plans but he may provide the kind of young, affordable backup organizations need.
  • Titans second half possessions: FG, FG, punt, punt. Bears second half possessions: INT, punt, TD, TD, eleven dropped TDs. We’ve complained about second half meltdowns this season. This was second half dominance.

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