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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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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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Three Easy Ways to Watch the Bears Finish Their Painful 2016 Campaign

| November 25th, 2016

Even with news breaking that Jay Cutler’s shoulder injury may not be season ending, he still isn’t playing football in the next few weeks. This means the Bears have two options at QB: Matt Barkley and David Fales. (It’s gotten so bad there was drama surrounding their attempt to sign Jake Rudock off the Lions practice squad.)

So how should you watch? I’ll tell you.

DON’T GET TOO INTO THE RESULTS

Fans seem to lose context over the duration of a football game. Third string quarterback playing? WHY DON’T THEY RUN THE BALL MORE? Defense on the field for 48 minutes? WHY CAN’T THEY STOP EM ON THIRD DOWN?

I know my opinion that the Bears are only guaranteed sixteen games a season so I always root for them to win is not popular. It’s easier for fans to say, “Fuck it, I hope they lose” because it removes any emotional investment from the proceedings and allows many to cling to the Dream of The Franchise-Changing Draft Pick.

But in the case of the next six games, I’m encouraging fans to root without emotion. Because the results of these next six games no longer have much to do with the future of the Chicago Bears. With these kids at quarterback, winning just ain’t gonna happen.

FOCUS OFF THE BALL

You don’t need to be a professional scout to understand the complexities of an NFL play. But you often have to ignore where the football is going.

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