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Five Things I Wish the 2016 Bears Had (#1)

| September 2nd, 2016

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#1 – A Shutdown Corner

Charles Tillman was a shut down corner.

Does that mean he shut down every receiver he faced in his Hall of Fame worthy Bears career? Of course not. In the modern NFL, with rules skewing more and more towards offensive football, it’ll be rare to see a defensive back opponents don’t have some modicum of success against.

No, in today’s league, a “shutdown corner” is less a corner who shuts down the opponent 100% of the time and more a corner the coaching staff feels comfortable lining up opposite a top receiver each and every down, confident he’ll win a majority of the one-on-one battles.

Having one of those guys makes playing defense in this league so much easier.

The Bears don’t have one. They don’t have anything close.

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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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Audibles From the Long Snapper: Around the League We Go!

| December 8th, 2015

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(1) Giants have lost 3 games this season (Cowboys, Falcons, Jets) due to egregious mismanagement. I love Tom Coughlin but barring a substantial run over the next two months he can’t be their head coach in 2016.

(2) Spend a few minutes and read some of the love poems the national writers wrote about Dan Quinn in September. Atlanta has fallen off a cliff. Peter King was the leader of the QuinnLove Movement.

(3) Carolina should put Charles Tillman on the shelf until the postseason. Let him get healthy. And then let me root harder for a non-Bears team than I ever have before.

(4) Atlanta was the first paper tiger to fall. The second? Minnesota. That team has feasted on poor opponents. They may still make the playoffs but they might be the 10th best team in the conference when they do.

(5) If I were running all of the franchises, these jobs would join Miami and Tennessee on the market this January:

  • Cleveland. Too much change can be a bad thing but I have no idea what Mike Pettine brings to an organization.
  • New York Giants. Have a press conference. Put Tom Coughlin in the ring of honor. And then get thirty years younger at the head coaching spot.
  • New Orleans. It’s over. Move on.
  • San Diego. And don’t be surprised if John Fox brings Mike McCoy to take over the Bears offense should Adam Gase find a head coaching gig.
  • Detroit. I’m not sure why Jim Cadwell is still the coach. Once he admitted to not playing for the Hail Mary, I wouldn’t have let him back into his office.
  • St. Louis. I’ve been a fan of Jeff Fisher for a long time but that team is far too talented to get blown out each and every week. Fisher doesn’t have it anymore.

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Position-by-Position at the Bye: Linebackers & Secondary

| October 30th, 2014

NFL: Chicago Bears at Atlanta Falcons

The following is part of a series of position-by-position breakdowns at the halftime point of the 2014 season.

Shea McClellin had a breakout game and broke his hand in practice the following week.

Jon Bostic had a breakout game and his back decided it had enough.

Darryl Sharpton had a breakout game and has been relegated to situational defense since for some reason.

Lance Briggs can’t stay on the field. D.J. Williams is a useful if unspectacular player in the middle. Khaseem Greene struggles as the Bears can’t find a position for him and the sample size is far too small to evaluate Christian Jones.

The unit as a whole deserves credit for helping to improve last year’s porous run defense and some blame for their struggles in coverage. But when a team has found themselves starting their fourth, fifth and sixth linebackers in a game how fair an evaluation can one actually provide?

Grade: Incomplete

Note: The Bears won’t do this but they should go full youth movement at the position over the second half of the season. Sit D.J. Williams. Sit Lance Briggs. Find out what you have in a combination of Sharpton, Bostic, Jones. Move McClellin around and see where, if anywhere, he can be most productive. Bears have eight games to learn what they have at linebacker for the next several years. To misuse that time would be a terrible mistake.

Keep reading to learn how bad the secondary has been!

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Three Thoughts After Two Games

| September 16th, 2014

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Thought 1

The Bears are 1-1 through two games. Exactly where everyone thought they’d be. But if they had achieved this record in the conventional manner – beating Buffalo at home and losing to San Fran on the road – the team would currently be shrouded in questions regarding their status as contenders. Instead they endured a media storm of criticism and responded by playing their most complete half of football in the Jay Cutler era. Now they are being showered with praise on the pages of the dailies and on radio airwaves. They should be 1-1 after two games, no question, but how they’ve reached that mark should inspire them through this difficult stretch of the 2014 schedule

Thought 2

I have often stated Charles “Peanut” Tillman is my favorite Chicago Bear of the modern era. And I can’t remember a more difficult-to-watch sequence in my football viewing than Tillman, tears pouring down his cheeks on a Santa Clara sideline, coming to the brutal realization a second consecutive season and perhaps career had been ended by a flukish injury.

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Three Thoughts as Free Agency Slows Down…

| March 21st, 2014

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If you follow DaBearsBlog on Twitter, you know that I’m going to win a billion dollars soon. So…I got that going for me. Which is nice. In the meantime I’ll continue living my life among the not-so-rich.

Three thoughts…

  1. Everyone spent a month telling me that Lovie Smith was going to purge the Bears roster of all their talented players. Everyone spent a month telling me the allure of Lovie Smith would be too great for them. Corey Wootton. Minnesota. Henry Melton. Dallas. Julius Peppers. Green Bay. Charles Tillman. Home. Devin Hester. Atlanta. Major Wright. Mutual of Omaha. The only player Lovie pulled off the Bears roster was a man who owes his career renaissance to the man replacing Lovie. Is that ironic? It might be. I’m actually not sure.
  2. I don’t understand fan reaction to players leaving their favorite team. There is no reason to root against Josh McCown or Devin Hester or Henry Melton now that they’re no longer a Chicago Bear. If there was no salary cap, all of these men would remain in the navy blue and orange for years to come but running a modern organization is about making difficult decisions without the luxury of sentiment. I hope Devin Hester breaks the record Week One for Atlanta, as long as the Bears don’t open the season there. Because nobody will remember him returning kicks for the Falcons. They’ll remember him returning kicks on the Drive.
  3. A majority of the Tweets and emails I receive ask one question, “Who do you see the Bears drafting with the fourteenth pick?” Here is my answer: I don’t know. But one thing I truly believe is that no position on the defensive side of the ball is off the table. Yes there are pressing needs at DT and safety but if Emery identifies a potentially game-changing pass rusher, he’s taking him. If he identifies a potential shutdown corner, he’s taking him. I don’t think any of the moves made in free agency actually influence the draft approach, despite what Emery said in his press conference. As a matter of fact, I think Emery’s press conference statement that free agency will clue the media in to his draft approach is an old fashioned, transparent smokescreen.

Enjoy the weekend, poor people.

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Reactions to Day One of Free Agency

| March 12th, 2014

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ON LAMARR HOUSTON…

Of the three high profile defensive ends on the open NFL market, Lamarr Houston was the best fit for the Chicago Bears. Neither he nor the two Michaels (Bennett, Johnson) are elite edge rushers who’ll draw double teams on every down. But Houston is smart, gets off blocks and displays tremendous discipline; he is one of the best run-stopping defensive ends in the game.

The Bears could fix their pass rush all they wanted. It wouldn’t matter if they continued being one of the worst run defenses in the history of recorded time.

From Brad Biggs:

…Houston plays the run very well, he’s durable (hasn’t missed a game in four seasons) and has the flexibility to shift around on the line. There is a good chance the Bears will slide him inside in the nickel package, which is probably what the plan was for Bennett. He’s athletic enough to see time at the three technique tackle position, if needed.

Versatility is great but production is better and that is what Emery is counting on. The reality is Houston, who will turn 27 in June, offers more bang for the buck than a 34-year-old Peppers and probably more than Jared Allen or DeMarcus Ware, both soon to turn 32.

Remember this, desperate Bears fans: it ain’t all getting fixed in twenty-four hours. Houston doesn’t solve their woes along the defensive line. But he solves one of them.

THREE ADDITIONAL THOUGHTS

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Audibles From the Long Snapper: Sam Comes Out, Peppers Decision, Peanut Acceptance Speech

| February 10th, 2014

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CONGRATS TO MICHAEL SAM

Michael Sam coming out as gay prior to the NFL Combine and NFL Draft is a rare moment of human courage that deserves to be celebrated. If you don’t believe Sam’s decision will impact his draft status, you’re living on Mars. A large contingent of individuals inside NFL locker rooms – many of whom are greatly influenced by religious beliefs – deplore homosexuality. Teams will avoid drafting Sam to avoid the “drama” associated with his presence in the locker room. The young man does not have an easy road but heroism is rarely easy.

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Audibles From the Long Snapper: McCown, Peanut’s Payton Award, Longsnapper.com & More

| January 20th, 2014

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PFT: McCown Set to Play in 2014

From Florio at Pro Football Talk:

It’s unclear whether McCown will return to Chicago.  Because he signed a one-year deal under the minimum-salary benefit in 2013, the Bears can’t sign him until he actually becomes a free agent on March 11.  That now follows a three-day period during which McCown’s agent can engage in discussions with other teams.

With the Bears devoting $22.5 million in cap space to Cutler for the coming year, the Bears likely won’t have much in the budget for McCown.  Any team that views him as a potential starter would surely outbid the Bears.

Josh McCown is a different kind of guy and I don’t see him jumping to a terrible team for a few extra million dollars. Does he really want to be the caretaker quarterback in a place like Jacksonville or Minnesota, tutoring a rookie and waiting to be replaced? I think McCown has found a home in Chicago, in that quarterback room. And I also think he knows there’s a good chance he’s going to see the field in 2014 with a contender if he sticks around.

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