After an Exhausting 2017 Season, Some Thoughts on Football Media – Chicago & Beyond

| February 19th, 2018

(1) Everything I thought about David Haugh was confirmed when I watched him order a Blue Moon from Marco at The Billy Goat Tavern. Everything.

(2) Jason La Canfora continues to embarrass himself nationally. ESPN has Schefter and Mort. Fox has Glazer. NFL Network has RapSheet. And yet CBS, one of the league’s preeminent partners, continues to march this Human Misinformation Machine onto their New York City set every Sunday to be wrong. When JLC reported the Bears were bringing in Bill Polian last year, my source inside the Bears responded with this text: “Hahahaha.” JLC makes things up. There’s no other way to say it.

(3) For the first time in my twelve years writing DBB, I dabbled in the the “breaking news” game and I have to admit it was a shitload of fun. There is something genuinely thrilling about having information before everybody else, even when that information is as trivial as who the next offensive line coach of the Bears will be.

But sadly, “breaking news cache” seems to be all football fans care about anymore. A decent opinion doesn’t register. A good sentence or two? Fuck that! I’ve been doing the same crap on Twitter for years and I basically doubled my following because I knew Mark Helfrich would be the next offensive coordinator before Brad Biggs. And the sad part is I didn’t do anything for that information outside of have a friend. The sentences are the hard part!

(4) Is Adam Jahns my pal? Yes. But we became friendly (initially) out of mutual respect for each other’s work. Jahns tackles Bears issues with objectivity and intelligence and – most importantly – style. He can write! He is a pleasure to read! He’s the best the Bears beat has to offer day-to-day.

(5) Brad Biggs has lost his fastball. He was the best Bears beat writer for a decade, and his Monday Ten Things was the only must read of the week. Neither of those things is remotely true any more. One thing you should know: the organization hated that Phil Emery leaked so profusely to Biggs. They love that Pace does not. There are people in the building who actively root against Biggs getting stories.

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Audibles From the Long Snapper: Rare Friday Edition!

| December 29th, 2017

No podcast this week, as travel got in the way. We’ll have the 2017 season wrap-up pod in the next week or so if I can get Jahns to answer his cell.

Ted Phillips the Boogeyman!

Ever since Ian Rapoport reported Ted Phillips was “making phone calls” to gauge availability of head coaching candidates, Bears Twitter – including our own Andrew Dannehy – have been obsessed with Phillips’ role in the coaching search. Now Rap’s former bench mate, Albert Breer, had this dandy in his “Black Monday” column:

Chicago Bears: The writing has been on the wall here for a while. The expectation is that John Fox will be gone. What’s less certain is whether or not general manager Ryan Pace gets to pick the next coach, and whether or not the coaches pursued by the Bears dictate Pace’s fate.

(1) Ryan Pace is 100% picking the next head coach.

(2) The NFL sends each organization a list of prospective head coaches. Those coaches don’t always know they’re on that list. What teams do is call agents and ask if their clients are interested in becoming head coaches so that once the decision to fire the head coach is officially made, interviews can be lined up immediately. This is called due diligence. Teams also call agents of college coaches to gauge if they’re interested in coming to the NFL.

(3) Ownership, which Ted represents, can do this reconnaissance work while another coach is under contract. For a GM it is strictly verboten. The GM is a partner with the head coach, especially in an organizational structure where they both report to ownership.

(4) If this story was “George McCaskey is making calls” nobody would have cared. But McCaskey doesn’t make calls. That’s why he pays Ted Phillips and why Phillips is incredibly well-respected in the league.

(5) Do I think the Bears would want to know if Ron Rivera may become available? Of course. They want to know every good coach that is going to be available. But the apple of their eye is Stanford coach David Shaw.

Jahns on Shaheen

From AJ After Dark’s column in the Sun-Times:

But the Bears do feel good about Shaheen’s development. Loggains said he’s had a solid rookie season. Most of Shaheen’s 12 catches were either contested or diving grabs (two for touchdowns).

In time, the team believes that Shaheen will do more. The Bears still only have six packages for him.  All of his catches also have come when he is a prototypical in-line tight end.

“We know that he’s going to be a good, all-around tight end because of his size, speed, his athleticism,” Loggains said. “In the offseason, the biggest jump he is going to have to take is in the run game. But he came in and affected the game in his opportunities in the red area the way we thought he would.”

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Three Thoughts on the Bears Beating the Hell Out of the Bengals

| December 11th, 2017

Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

(1) I simply didn’t see it coming. I pride myself on having a good feel as to how the Bears will play on a week-to-week basis and I thought the stage was set Sunday for an overwhelming Bengals victory. Instead the Bears, with a lame duck coach, undermanned offense and injury-plagued defense, delivered their best performance of the season. They were simply great in all three phases and that is a credit to John Fox.

(2) Trubisky. Cohen. Howard. Shaheen. Whitehair. Jackson. If you want to know why Ryan Pace isn’t going to be fired, watch the tape of this game. The GM is building a young nucleus through the draft; something the Bears have not done in nearly twenty years. This job will be the best open gig in the NFL come January.

(3) Mitch Trubisky’s last two games. 37-47 (79% completed), 373 yards, 2 TDs, 0 INTs and quarterback rating around 115.

Okay, so I’m not going to overreact to these two games. I didn’t overreact to some of his struggles so I’m not going to overreact to his terrific play the last two weeks. But the thing that should excite Bears fans is the number of players on this roster who are quick to tell media, immediately post-game, how great a leader Trubisky is. Folks, that’s not normal. Rookies don’t command huddles very often. Rookies don’t impress veterans with their attitude and composure very often. This kid has all the intangibles of a great quarterback.

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Audibles From the Long Snapper: Jahns, Hoge, Trubisky & Coats!

| October 24th, 2017

A Few Jahns Takeaways

AJ After Dark knocked out his 14 Takeaways Monday afternoon and the final three stood out to me:

12. I also only counted two play-action plays — one being Trubisky’s overturned touchdown run and the other resulting in a sack in the third quarter.

Bears have to throw on early downs. It doesn’t matter how they do it but they can’t keep running into run looks and expecting better results.

13. Running back Tarik Cohen was on the field for only seven offensive snaps. He dropped two passes to go with his 70-yard reception and a 10-yard catch that was negated by a penalty.

If Bears are not going to play Kendall Wright, Cohen has to become the centerpiece of the outside passing game. Treat him like a wide receiver if you must. But keep him on the field.

14. Despite the offensive struggles, there is a positive vibe around the Bears. Players know Trubisky will get better; defense can be special.

I do worry how much Mitch Trubisky will develop and improve if he’s not given a chance to take part the game outside of special occasions.

Gameday Tweet That Cracked Me Up

Trubisky “Embarrassed”?

Adam Hoge of WGN writes about Trubisky’s response to only throwing seven passes, even while the team registered a second straight win:

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Three Thoughts For a Practice-Less Day in Bourbonnais

| August 1st, 2017

Kevin White, Struggling?

Adam Hoge is not an alarmist. So when he opens a column with Kevin White’s early “struggles” there is reason to pay attention.

“He’s not where I want him to be or where we need him to be,” Bears wide receivers coach Zach Azzanni admitted Monday. “He’s a work in progress. He’s had a good three days. Good first day, OK second day, much better today.”

Azzanni was just referring to the three days since pads went on and Sunday’s quiet practice prompted the wide receivers coach to pull out some of White’s tape from West Virginia.

“He forgets about (West Virginia) sometimes because of the battle he’s had the last two years,” Azzanni said. “I wanted him to see how he used to go up and just grab that ball out of the air and he’s starting to do that again. I know he had a drop in one-on-ones the other day. The other thing is, he’s a prideful kid and he lets that beat him up and you cannot do that.”

White needs two things: (a) sustained game action and (b) success. And I’m a believer that achieving a will directly lead to be b. But tentativity from a player like White is understandable when he must be thinking that every cut in the middle of the field could be the one that ends his season. White’s not going to be confident and explosive on Day 3 in Bourbonnais. The Bears need to hope he is both of those things come Week 8 in New Orleans.

The One Throw Column

There’s a new trend developing with camp coverage across the league. Because media is limited to both what they’re allowed to see and what they’re allowed to cover – Pat Finley has resorted to drawing plays on what seems to be napkins – writers are turning in copy wherein they draw major conclusions from minor moments. Rich Campbell did so yesterday in the Trib, writing about singular moments from Glennon and Trubisky.

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Turn the Beat Around: Reactions to the Draft Reactions

| May 1st, 2017

Who Cares About Glennon?

Seriously, who cares? Rich Campbell makes the argument in Monday’s Tribune that the Bears must repair their relationship with the recently-signed QB before the start of the 2017 season. But Thursday night was a concrete, definitive statement from Ryan Pace: Glennon, you’re not the guy. (Thank God)

And I don’t care what Pace and Fox say about Glennon being the starting quarterback. They both know the ideal scenario is Mitch Trubisky winning this job in OTAs and over the summer and making it impossible to keep him off the field. That validates the pick and means the future of the franchise starts now.

Jahns, In a Paragraph

From Sun-Times beat and all-around nice guy Adam Jahns:

My favorite pick …

Make it two: tight end Adam Shaheen and running back Tarik Cohen. Both players face major jumps in competition after playing at small schools. It has seemingly been forgotten that the Bears did have needs on offense. They ranked 28th in scoring last year. They needed more firepower.

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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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Three More Thoughts on Bears v. Lions

| October 4th, 2016

Gave the Bears win against the Lions a second look. Had three thoughts.

#1. Bears have to be optimistic about their young, developing cornerbacks. And a lot of that credit goes to secondary coach Ed Donatell. Bryce Callahan looks like he might be the long-term answer at nickel and Deiondre’ Hall continues to flash on tape. Why Hall wouldn’t be starting now over Glenn is beyond me.

#2.  Adam Hoge Tweeted this: “My highest #Bears grade through the 1st quarter of the season: Josh Sitton. What a huge addition. Easy Pro Bowl selection right now.” Couldn’t agree more, though he’s not getting Pro Bowl votes. Sitton was dominant up front for the Bears on Sunday. While Cody Whitehair is still going through growing pains at center (but is way better than many think), the middle of the Bears offensive line is finding their rhythm.

#3. The biggest disappointment of the first quarter is Willie Young. For those who love the preseason, Young looked poised for a big season as a pass rusher. But he’s been a non-factor. And with Leonard Floyd being used far more in coverage, Lamarr Houston in the hospital and Pernell McPhee out a few more weeks, the Bears need Young to get to the quarterback. He hasn’t been close.

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Turn the Beat Around: Lots of Leonard Floyd Talk & Other Stuff Too!

| September 13th, 2016



Leonard Floyd didn’t have a great day Sunday, expectedly for a raw rookie. But he almost never left the field. Jahns broke down his debut after film study:

“We got a fast, relentless team, guys that can do multiple things in any situations,” linebacker Jerrell Freeman said. “We got [outside linebackers] that can go out there and play seam/flat on some receivers.

“You see the young fella out there playing great.”

But sacks still matter most for Floyd. His takedown of Osweiler in the third quarter was his best play. He didn’t have a quick jump off the snap, but he fought through left tackle Chris Clark, reached the edge and quickly closed on Osweiler.

As Fangio predicted, there were moments when Floyd was overmatched. On Hopkins’ 23-yard touchdown catch in the second quarter, Floyd was stood up by Newton.

Play fakes negated Floyd’s speed at times, but he handled his run assignments well, which included squaring up with tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz. Floyd also was involved in six tackles, but he wasn’t on the field for Fuller’s 18-yard score on a tunnel screen.

“I feel good,” Floyd said. “But I’ve got some improvements to make.”

Adam Hoge had an interesting take on the Bears decision to play Floyd about 80% of the defensive snaps.

This, of course, does not mean that Floyd was the best option to play the most snaps at outside linebacker in Week 1. In fact, I would argue that the Bears coaching staff did not give its team the best chance to win by only playing Houston on 36 percent of the defensive snaps.

But I guess it depends on how you look at it. Which is more important: beating the Texans in Week 1 or getting your raw first round draft pick the most experience possible?

I guess we now know where the Bears stand on that question.

The Bears are committed to developing Floyd. And they are willing to sacrifice early success to do so.

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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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