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Finding A Quarterback: The Roster

| January 10th, 2017

When Ryan Pace was asked what he was looking for in a quarterback he might as well have said “not Jay Cutler.”

We’ve come a long way since last season’s season-ending press conference when Pace talked about building around Cutler. The best quarterback in the history of the franchise missed 11 games and was their least productive quarterback last season. Pace made it pretty clear that his days with the team are numbered.

When asked what attributes he looks for in a quarterback, the young Bears GM specified availability and ball security, Cutler’s two biggest weaknesses. Cutler was intercepted on 3.6 percent of his passes last year and his career average of 3.3 percent is worse than everyone on earth but Ryan Fitzpatrick. Cutler has also missed 23 games due to injury over the last six years. The fact that he missed so much time this season, with separate injuries, at 33 years old, doesn’t work in his favor.

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Audibles From the Long Snapper: Five Guys In Need of a Solid Sunday

| December 29th, 2016

In only four days, it ends.

WHO COULD USE A SOLID SUNDAY?

  • Matt Barkley. #Barkleytime has something. Call it moxie. Call it guts. Call it chutzpah. Does he have the physical tools of an Aaron Rodgers or Jay Cutler? No. But he’s certainly shown over his first five starts that he has enough to make it as a quarterback in the NFL. Barkley can go a long way towards cementing his inarguably successful 2016 by rebounding from his poor performance a week ago. And it would be hard to see him not playing a prominent role in Bourbonnais if he played well Sunday in Minnesota.
  • John Fox. Don’t think there’s any chance of his being fired because injuries (especially at QB) and suspensions (to 2 of the Bears 5 best players) will give him a free pass into 2017. But neither Fox nor Ryan Pace want to see the head coach finish this season being walloped twice. While not winning, the Bears fought almost every single week and kept most games close. Fox needs to show his team still, even as the season concludes, wants to fight for him.
  • Jonathan Bullard. Let’s be honest, Bullard has had a nothing rookie season. When the coaching staff is playing Mitch Unrein instead of you, it probably means you’re Mitch Ungood. But Bullard flashed against Washington – his first flashes all year – and a second consecutive decent performance could help the rookie’s confidence as he heads into a pivotal offseason for his development.
  • Charles Leno. The Bears starting left tackle received a glowing endorsement from Pace last offseason and has performed well overall in 2016. But he had unquestionably his worst performance of the season against Washington, allowing Preston Smith to walk around him as he carved the man’s bust for Canton. If Leno wants to hold onto his starting role in 2017 he might not want to leave Pace with the taste of two howlers to close out the campaign.
  • Adrian Amos. Injuries have been the biggest disappointment of 2016. Amos is the runner-up. The safety was never expected to display dominant ball skills but his struggles in run support (poor angling, inefficient tackling…etc.) have left many believing the Bears need two new players at the position in 2017 to become an elite defensive unit.

Enjoy!

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Across The Middle — Week 17

| December 28th, 2016

After two seasons and a combined eight wins, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers looked out for the best interest of their franchise and the development of quarterback Jameis Winston by firing Lovie Smith and replacing him with offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter. A year later, the Bears are in a similar position as the most important thing going forward is the ability to find and develop their next quarterback.

I made the case against John Fox last week. Even without looking at his win-loss record without Peyton Manning the last eight years, it’s hard to trust him to develop whoever the next QB is going to be. Dowell Loggains is a good offensive coordinator, who could easily succeed with a rookie quarterback. But, if he does the Bears will lose him to another franchise. While Fox has hired a number of good offensive coaches, he’s never been a part of a team that developed a quarterback.

But, who else are you going to get? As simple as my criteria may be, it isn’t so easy to fill.

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Is Anything Worth Watching Sunday?

| December 26th, 2016

While the nation’s drinking amateurs battle their New Year’s Eve hangovers, many of us with saddle up our favorite barstool to watch the last Chicago Bears game of this depressing, injury-plagued 2016 campaign. But is the experience anything more than a mere formality?

Many will argue no. They will say nothing happening on the field in Minnesota will have any bearing on the future of this football team. And, honestly, it’s a point well-taken. But my job is to find meaning. So I’m doing my job. Here’s three things worth paying attention to when it comes to the finale.

The Barkley Rebound

#Barkleytime is coming off his first clunker of 2016 and it would be easy for fans to expect the sailing passes and poor decision making from his effort against Washington to continue. Sunday’s Barkley was the one many us expected and were shocked not to see through his first four starts.

Another dud and the bloom comes entirely off the rose. But a solid, mistake-free start could make it easy for Ryan Pace to keep Barkley in the fold moving forward. He’s shown tremendous rebound within game, often shaking off a poor three quarters to deliver a brilliant fourth. Can he rebound with a week of negativity between starts?

The Run Defense

A coach once told me “run defense is all about want to”. If that’s true the Bears haven’t wanted to in a fortnight.

Both Green Bay and Washington out-muscled the the middle of the Bears defense and took advantage of their lack of discipline on the outside. Yes, there are injuries playing a role in these struggles. But injuries don’t excuse McPhee letting Cousins around the edge, Amos taking bad angles or Hicks disappearing after a dominant period mid-season.

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Got A Christmas Present? Better Unwrappid Fire!

| December 25th, 2016

Merry Christmas and Happy Chanukah to you all. Thanks for another wonderful year at DBB. I hope I can keep improving this place for years to come.


Bad game yesterday. Very bad. Here are some quick thoughts.

  • That was a full meltdown from Matt Barkley and quite frankly, I half expected it. I knew yesterday was not going to be an “on the bubble” performance. It was going to be definitive. How Barkley responds next week, on the road, at a division rival, will have a huge say in his role with the organization moving forward.
  • Bombs to Josh Bellamy when he’s triple covered?
  • Would I pay Alshon Jeffery $17 million a year? No. will anybody in the league pay him that? I don’t think so. Bears need to get a deal done, even if they slightly overpay this guy. Jeffery may not be a weekly ten-catch guy but he is always capable of the spectacular and there’s distinct value to that.
  • Cam Meredith is going to be the third receiver next season.
  • Don’t want to get ahead of myself here but Jordan Howard is starting to look like one of the best Bears draft picks ever. If they held the 2016 draft today, Howard is going in the middle of the first round.

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Across The Middle — Week 16

| December 21st, 2016

It’s been a long time since I’ve allowed the Bears to piss me off as much as they did on Sunday, but there I was angry as hell and less confident in the direction the team is headed than I’ve ever been. I don’t think John Fox is a bad coach. But if the Bears are ever going to compete in a division with Aaron Rodgers, they need more than a coach who isn’t bad.

I understand the limitations Fox has with this roster. The Bears have more players on injured reserve than any other team. They were without their starting nose tackle, both starting inside linebackers and were down to their fifth cornerback. And that’s just the defense. (But Fox also brought in his own training staff, one he insisted limit the soft-tissue injuries.)

They have been in every game — which absolutely is a credit to Fox — but they are not able to win because of the same mental mistakes every week. At a certain point you have to wonder how much of it is an issue with the players and how much is an issue with preparation.

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Why This Matt Barkley Shit is Upsetting People

| December 20th, 2016

Since creating America’s favorite hashtag – #Barkleytime – nearly a month ago, the conversation surrounding the future of the Bears at quarterback has changed. Punches have been thrown. Followers have been blocked on Twitter. Marriages have ended up in front of a mediator.

The framed, autographed Dick Butkus jersey…?

He can have that.

Matt Barkley arrived at Soldier Field.

He played three quarters against the Tennessee Titans that left fans clamoring for the days of Jonathan Quinn, Medicine Woman and CFL legend Henry Burris. He looked ill suited to the speed and difficulty level of the league. He was every bit the non-professional folks like me said he would be.

Then, something changed. Barkley put together a dynamic and rousing fourth quarter. He threw the ball effortlessly through the Titans zone and when the Titans left zone, relatively quickly, he required little more effort.

Three more games have been played and aside from the start of the third quarter against Green Bay this past Sunday, Barkley has looked every bit like an NFL starter. So why, why, why are fans and media types so reluctant to acknowledge what is happening on the field? Why has Barkley’s performance caused so much debate in Bears circles?

The answers are not simple.

Answer #1. “He’s Matt Barkley. We Know What He Is.”

Problem is, we don’t. Nobody does. John Fox: “He’s probably turned a lot of peoples heads.”

Barkley was drafted by Chip Kelly at Philadelphia, in the fourth round, into a system he had zero chance of fitting. Chip canned. Barkley gone after seeing a few mop-up snaps in losing efforts.

Bruce Arians brought Barkley to Arizona and Barkley struggled to find consistency in the preseason. Arians, this summer:

Have you seen progression with Barkley?

“Up and down. He’s like a yo-yo.”

Arians is not a young coach and the Cardinals (with someone else around here) believed they were title contenders this season. He was never carrying three QBs on Sundays and Drew Stanton is one of the game’a most reliable backups.

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Seven Quick Thoughts on Bears Loss to Packers

| December 19th, 2016

Travel day. Not a lot of time to write. But here are my quick thoughts.

  • Matt Barkley looks every bit an NFL quarterback. And this makes 3 of his 4 starts where he took the team down the field with the game on the line and made plays to win or tie em. If Barkley’s teammates were better, he’d be a main story in Chicago.
  • Guy in Billy Goat yesterday: “Barkley’a good but he can’t throw the long ball.” Amazing what people believe despite their own eyes.
  • Bears secondary never had a chance against Aaron Rodgers but – on the final play – why does a safety even have a decision to make? There should be two guys standing 25 yards off the line of scrimmage.
  • Packers had a massive third quarter because of Bears mistakes. Bears had a massive fourth quarter because they dominated the line of scrimmage.
  • Jordan Howard is a star.
  • Love Alshon Jeffery’a post game passion,  expressed in this column by Adam Jahns. This is what the team needs: desire to win. They are fighters. What separates fighters from winners? Talent.

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Audibles From the Long Snapper: Salaam’s Passing, Fangio Rumors & More

| December 8th, 2016

You know you wanted it!

You know you missed it!

Here it comes!

The return of Audibles!

A Salaam Story

On April 22nd 1995, the day Rashaan Salaam was drafted by the Chicago Bears, I was playing Little League baseball in Kearny, New Jersey. For younger readers, the draft did not used to be a prime time affair. It was a two-day, all weekend long, NFL fanatic binge experience the likes of which the league has never duplicated. It was amazing.

There were four Bears fans in Kearny. Me. Anthony Aiello. Phil Caputo. John Cali. Yes, I grew up in a place that had a few Italians. It’s also the town where about 75% of The Sopranos was shot. (My mother did the real estate deal with HBO for the property that became Satriale’s.) Three of the four of us were at a place called Gunnell Oval – a large park area with six baseball fields – when Salaam became a Bear.

You know that scene in That Thing You Do! where the members of The Oneders run through the streets of town at the shear excitement of hearing their track on the radio? That’s what the Salaam pick was like in Kearny. We thought, none of us older than 17 at the time, this pick was going to change the franchise. We thought a Super Bowl was near.

It didn’t come to pass but I like to think I’m still that 13 year-old kid down the Oval, endlessly believing greatness is just one draft pick away.

Rashaan Salaam died of an apparent suicide at the age of forty-two. Our love goes out to his family and all the people in his life. Too many young men who’ve played this game we love have left the world too soon.

The Fangio Rumor

Mike Mulligan, not known to make shit up, shocked many Bears fans with a bit of a bombshell late Tuesday:

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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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