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Friday Audibles: Response to Data, Aerobics Video, Title Game Picks & More!

| January 18th, 2019

Data Entries: A Response

Data has done a tremendous job over the past two days breaking down the cap situation facing the Bears this off-season. But I disagree with some of his conclusions, primarily a single point.

The Bears had the best defense in the NFL in 2018 and exited the playoffs on Wildcard Weekend. There’s no doubt in my mind they can return to Wildcard Weekend without Adrian Amos and Bryce Callahan on the roster. (The Eagles just made it a weekend further with Cre’von LeBlanc as their BEST corner.)

The immediate focus should be Bobby Massie. Is the right tackle one of the best in the league? Probably not. But he’s a very good starter and a solid veteran presence on the offensive line. Couple that with the great unknown beside him at right guard and it would seem pivotal for the Bears to not enter the 2019 season with the right side of their OL being a question mark. The offense has to make a jump in Year Two of Nagy. Continuity will be key.

Sign Massie.


Kareem Hunt

The Hunt situation is a delicate one. So next week both Emily and I will be writing full-length columns on the prospects of the Bears bringing him to Chicago.  I thought it was imperative to present a female perspective. But I also thought it was imperative to present an opinion with an historical, football-based context. We’ll do both.


The Mannelly Award

We’ve had fun with Pat Mannelly over the years, specifically naming this column space after his crazy decision in that Packers. But he’s one of the best long snappers in NFL history and now he’s trying to pave the way for the next generation of specialists. It’s very, very cool.

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Commentary on & Criticism of the Year-End Pace/Nagy Press Conference

| January 14th, 2019

Thoughts Before the Press Conference

  • Nobody should expect to hear Pace or Nagy address Cody Parkey’s future or the Today Show appearance. But both questions must be asked. What absolutely cannot be said today is “Parkey is our kicker next season.” This organization can no longer show blind, ignorant loyalty to an inadequate player.
  • It’ll be interesting to hear how each man discusses Chuck Pagano’s addition. I suspect neither was thrilled with the game Vic Fangio called against the Eagles so it won’t be surprising for them to signal what Pagano will change on that side of the ball.
  • The Kareem Hunt conversation is going to get started soon enough. Wonder if it is today. Reclamation projects are very possible in this league (See: Hill, Tyreek) and it is unlikely Hunt won’t be in the NFL next season. Unlike Ray Rice – whose career was already essentially over at the time of his incident – Hunt will only be 25 years old when the 2019 season kicks off.

Thoughts During & After

  • The tone was established with Pace’s opening remarks. “Proud of what we accomplished but not satisfied” and “stay on the right track” were clearly what the GM wanted to communicate.
  • Pagano. Pace made it clear the hiring was made by Nagy, not him. Nagy used the two words I expected to here: attacking and aggressive.
  • Parkey was brought up almost immediately. Two things: (1) Pace sounded like Parkey was going somewhere else. (2) Nagy said Parkey didn’t mention Today Show appearance in their exit interview, and seemed displeased with the whole ordeal. He made it clear it was a “me” gesture not a “we” one. Parkey is gone.

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ATM: Pace Deserves Blame

| January 8th, 2019

Tomorrow is guaranteed to no one and Super Bowl contenders don’t come around often, especially in Chicago. And the Bears are home because Ryan Pace ignored what everyone else knew was a fatal flaw and kept Cody Parkey at kicker.

The fact that the last second kick was officially changed to a block doesn’t really matter. That tells us Parkey didn’t get enough air on what should’ve been an easy kick. A 43-yard kick shouldn’t have to be a line drive and it shouldn’t be blocked at the line of scrimmage. That’s just as bad as missing it outright.

Blame Parkey all you want, but did anybody think he was going to make it? If you let a toddler poor milk into his cereal, he’s going to spill the milk. If a cat sees a pen on the counter, he’s going to knock that fucking pen OFF THE COUNTER. If a bad kicker has a shot at a big kick, he’s going to miss.

These are commonly known facts. Why didn’t Pace know them?

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Five Thoughts on 2018’s Final Game From Inside the Building

| January 7th, 2019

Sunday’s loss to the Eagles is going to be discussed for a long time and Cody Parkey will remain the centerpiece of that conversation. But here are five (I think) unique observations from inside the building.

  • The crowd wanted to be the loudest and most intense crowd at Soldier Field in thirty years. But oddly, the defense deflated them constantly. The Eagles converted way too many third downs, and converted them with relative ease, with Foles throwing to wide open receivers under little pressure. Third down is when the lakefront faithful reached fever pitch. Building back up to that level, on a cold windy night, was not easy.
  • There was a distinct change in Mitch Trubisky after completing the 3rd-and-11 late. His confidence seemed shaken. His receivers were not winning on the outside. He wasn’t able to create with his legs because he was clearly nursing an injury. But after he completed that pass, he took control of the game. He was brilliant down the stretch and would have been the story of the game if…well, you know.
  • When the Bears spread the Eagles out, the Eagles had no answer. I wrote last week this was not a game the Bears should plan to win on the ground. That’s a great Eagles front. When Nagy spread them out, Trubisky had open receivers everywhere. Why didn’t the Bears change their approach in the second half? Why didn’t they recognize those mismatches? This was not a banner day for the coaching staff on either side of the ball.

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Wildcard Weekend Diary: Bears Lose to Eagles

| January 6th, 2019

Saturday January 5th – 12:19 PM 

I love the Drake Hotel. It’s old. It’s beautiful. The Coq D’or is my favorite hotel bar in the world. (Go there just to have the Bookbinder soup.) When I come through those doors on Walton Street, I feel like I’m stepping into the history of Chicago. It doesn’t have the amenities of a newer hotel. But it has character. A ton of it.

This morning I decided to order breakfast to the room. Two eggs, over easy. Home fries well done. Bacon. English muffin. Orange juice. Pot of coffee. Room service at a good hotel is one of life’s delights, especially for someone who has spent years crafting an existence centered around the avoidance of pants.

I rented a movie. I hadn’t seen Can You Ever Forgive Me. $20 too steep? Probably, for a movie that I’ll be able to rent for $6 in a week or two. But I’ve been dying to see it. (You too should see it. It’s brilliant. And Melissa McCarthy gives the performance of the year.)

I did all this because Noah isn’t getting to town until the afternoon and I can’t be trusted to wander the streets and not end up in a saloon. With the great football coming later, I didn’t want to be asleep at 6:30 pm. (It would not be the first time.)

Why am I telling you all this?

Because I decided Monday’s column  (what you’re currently reading) won’t be the standard bullet-point recap of Sunday’s game with the Eagles. I’ll be in the building and I find it hard to get the full context of a game in that environment. Plus, I’ll inevitably miss stuff waiting to take a piss. And with a playoff game, there will be so much coverage for you to wade through. Why not create something different?

Instead I’m going to write a little now. Write a little more tomorrow morning. Then write something Sunday night/Monday morning. Walk you, the reader, through this experience. Emotionally, mostly. And right now my emotions are steady. I’m confident. Here’s why:

  • The Bears are the better team. They’re just better at almost every single element of the game, outside of the kicker position.
  • The Bears are a dominant defense with a dominant home field advantage. Those almost always hold up in the postseason.
  • I’m expecting an insane crowd. Unlike most games I’ve attended in Chicago, the town is not covered with Bears gear. The hotel lobby and elevators aren’t laden with fans here to see the team. Partly because the tickets are expensive, I’m sure, but mostly I think it’s because people plan trips around those Bears games during the season and they would only have had a week to prep for this. This is going to be a local crowd.
  • Nick Foles has never thrived in an environment like he’ll face tomorrow.

Let’s see how I feel in the morning. But right now, I expect great things from the Bears.

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No Ugly Victories: Bears Beat Jets, Re-Take First Place in the NFC North

| October 29th, 2018

Very strange game. The Jets didn’t have anywhere near the weapons to move the ball consistently. The Bears were just error-prone enough to keep the game competitive for three quarters. But it’s a win they absolutely needed. And unlike many recent vintages of the Chicago Bears, they got it. Rapid fire…


  • Conditions were brutal for the passing game. But the Bears made the plays they needed to make. The Cohen screen set the tone for the entire afternoon but Trubisky’s brilliant throw and Miller’s brilliant catch put this game away. It was so good, I’m going to show it to you again.

  • In conditions like this, Matt Nagy has to rely upon his ground attack and he seemed to figure that out as the game went on. But Trubisky also has to learn that the deep shots aren’t worth it when the wind is howling north of 25 MPH. When the first down is there, just get it, whether that means him tucking-and-running or accepting the check down option. That’ll come with experience.
  • Folks can complain about Trubisky all they want, but through seven games Mitch is completing 64.6% of his passes for 1,814 yards, 15 touchdowns, 6 interceptions and a rating of 97.8. He’s also got nearly 300 yards rushing. This kind of production, and this position, simply doesn’t happen in this town. And it’s about time fans start appreciating it.
  • Great, great job by the fans at Soldier Field. All of those pre-snap penalties go into the fan column.
  • Jordan Howard is not complicated. You give him 20+ carries, you get big time production. No, they numbers weren’t gaudy but he single-handedly put this game on ice in the fourth quarter. He’s not been a focal point of this offense so far. He should be.
  • Khalil Mack was the most dominant defender in football through four games. And now we’re seeing what this defense would have looked like if Ryan Pace didn’t make the franchise-altering trade on September 1st. They’re a toothless pass rush. Leonard Floyd is invisible. Opponents can double Hicks inside. Without Mack, this secondary is going to be under a lot of pressure when instead of Sam Darnold it’s Aaron Rodgers or Kirk Cousins or Matt Stafford taking the snaps for the other side.

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Turnovers, Defensive Collapse Drop the Bears to 3-2 in Miami

| October 15th, 2018

Each week I spend a considerable amount of time assembling a game preview. Last week, other than my top ten for The Office, that time was wasted because nothing that happened Sunday in Miami made much sense.

I simply didn’t see any of it coming. And you won’t see this coming! Rapid fire!


  • Heat was the story of the game, on both sides. There were 7 points scored in the first half of this game and 49 scored in the second half. That wasn’t just adjustments. That was two defenses running on fumes.
  • Frank Gore averaged 6.7 yards per carry against what was the league’s best rush defense. With that Miami OL the question is…how?
  • Allowing an Adam Gase offense to gain huge chunks of yards and even score touchdowns on bubble screens is the equivalent of sending a cocaine addict to a rehab facility in the Pacific department of Nariño, Colombia. Stopping bubble screens is all about pursuit and tackling. Bears did neither.


  • Howard fumble. Cohen fumble. Trubisky pick in the end zone. Any of those three plays don’t happen and the Bears win this game. Simple as that.
  • Trubisky’s stats on the season UPDATED: 70.2% completion. 1,261 yards. 11 TDs. 4 INTS. 105.6 rating. Those project out to the bet season by a Bears quarterback in franchise history.
  • Trubisky still throws 2-3 passes a game he can’t throw. He’s doing what many young QBs in the league do: trying to create something out of nothing when the prudent play is to either tuck the ball and get what you can on the ground or launch the football into the seventh row.
  • But I love that he’s sliding. Trubisky is doing something few young QBs do at this level: avoiding contact at all times. Availability trumps all things.

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Three More Thoughts on Bears v. Packers, or No Podcast This Week

| September 7th, 2018

The podcast is not going to be a weekly occurrence this season. There will be around 8-10 episodes during the regular season, beginning next week with The Return of Adam Jahns. (I think Jahnsy and Ryan Pace are giggling on a seesaw in Niles right now.) In the meantime, some thoughts…


Thought #1

When Mike Pettine was working with Rex Ryan in New Jersey the team had a hellish time dealing with tight ends. (A lot of this was the result of over-blitzing to pressure the quarterback.) And while Allen Robinson and Taylor Gabriel have been recovering from/dealing with injuries this summer, Trey Burton and Mitch Trubisky have developed a rapport that’s going to drive defenses crazy. Pettine will empty the kitchen cabinets Sunday night and Trubisky will use his security blanket to move the chains. Big opener for Burton.


Thought #2

Brian Urlacher told Dan Patrick on Wednesday that under Lovie Smith the Bears once ran cover-2 against Aaron Rodgers on 46 of 47 plays in the second half. And won the game. (Sounds like a bit of a stretch but I’m not about to do the research.) Vic Fangio should be able to generate more than enough pass rush with his front. Why not go to some Cover-2 looks Sunday night and try to limit Rodgers’ ability to beat the defense over the top? These aren’t great pass catchers in Green Bay. If they have to make 10-12 plays to get into the end zone, against this Bears defense, they’ll make a mistake (or be forced into one) before they put seven on the board.


Thought #3

Cody Parkey had a so-so summer. While I’m told he’s been lights out in non-public practices, the team has some concern as to whether the Jupiter, Florida native (and I assume golfer because that’s what you do down there) is ready for the bright lights of Bears football. You can miss kicks in Miami. Nobody goes to those games. You miss kicks in Bears v. Packers, it gets noticed. Everyone in the organization will breathe a massive sigh of relief if Parkey posts a clean sheet Sunday night.

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The Positional Quick 3: Special Teams

| June 29th, 2018

I’m traveling in Dingle, Ireland years ago and I’m exhausted. This was my first day ever in Europe and I couldn’t keep my eyes open at 4:30 in the afternoon. My uncle turns to me and says, “Have a quick three. You’ll be fine.” I drank three Guinness in the span of a half hour. Seven hours later I’m dancing to a shitty Irish house DJ with Jenny Pye, a local lass who dreamed of being an EMT in New York City.

I’m very tired of this 2018 off-season. And incredibly eager for the season to begin. So I’m taking the quick three approach to each position group as we head into the summer. Not grading the groups or anything. Just making some points.


Specials

  • One could argue – with relative ease – that Ryan Pace has not botched any position on the roster worse than kicker. The Bears did not just jettison Robbie Gould too early. They WANTED Connor Barth, a player who has never been any good. Credit Pace for acknowledging that mistake and targeting kicker this off-season. Cody Parkey is a damn good kicker.
  • I’ve given Pat O’Donnell every opportunity to wow me but the fact is he’s not a great punter and never will be. Here’s hoping the Bears give Ryan Winslow, the rookie out of Pitt, every opportunity to win the starting job this summer.
  • It would be surprising if the Bears used anybody but Tarik Cohen on returns this season. Matt Nagy and Mark Helfrich will find interesting ways to involve him on offense but returns are guaranteed ways to get the ball in his hands. They won’t pass that up.

Thank you.

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Tweets From the Legal Tampering Period

| March 14th, 2018

(Jake Roth – USA TODAY Sports)


The “legal tampering period” is another work of staggering genius by Roger Goodell. Instead of having an exciting start to the league year this afternoon, with six hours of team-changing moves, we now have this three-day, amorphous blob of leakage featuring the newest bullshit phrase “intend to”.

Nothing in the NFL improves under Uncle Rog but the television revenues. His contract extension proved nothing else matters to these owners.

Twitter is the place to be on days like yesterday, as the news comes flying in from every direction. (True story. I’m currently starting a theatre company and for some reason scheduled ALL my legal meetings for yesterday. Forgot to check the NFL calendar.) So here are the Tweets telling the story of the Bears newest signings.



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