'Kick it, Mitch' -- HOF for Fred


'Kick it, Mitch' -- HOF for Fred

The American Football Kicking Hall of Fame, which includes the likes of Kevin Butler, Lou Groza, Jan Stenerud and Jim Thorpe, has added friend and former colleague Fred Mitchell with its class of 2013.

Fred was the nations top collegiate kicker during his career at Wittenberg University, which welcomed him into its Hall of Fame in 1995. Fred set the NCAA college division kick-scoring mark and the Fred Mitchell Award was established to honor the nations top collegiate placekicker from among its 750 FCS, Division II, III, NAIA and NJCAA football programs.

We met in 1992 when Fred was covering the Bears for the Tribune and yes, he did in fact keep an old square-toe kicking shoe (hes old school) in the trunk of his car. (And yes, Fred has issues hes a kicker, after all.)

He said one of the best parts of this honor, which was presented at the Legends Club just across the street from Augusta National, was being able to share the news with his 82-year-old high school coach and thank him for getting Freds kicking career started.

It was great to see Fred and wife Kim on Thursday night at the 25th Comcast March of Dimes Awards. Im really, really pleased for Fred, one of the very good guys and a pros pro as well.

Oh, and the Kick it, Mitch in the headline? Fred told me that was the standard directive from his Wittenberg coach. And if this award and others are any indication, he did that very, very well.

Vikings handling of Sam Bradford offers object lesson for Bears transition to next QB

Vikings handling of Sam Bradford offers object lesson for Bears transition to next QB

Call it variations on a theme. The Bears on Monday night will face not only the Minnesota Vikings, but also Sam Bradford, the latest quarterback opponent that hints at possibilities in the Bears’ own future far beyond what was once the norm.

That norm is what can reasonably be expected from a new quarterback, one coming into a new system, new environment, even a new league, and having near-immediate success. Quarterback changes can involve upheaval of staff, personnel and even franchise identity, as the Bears can confirm based on their last eight years with Jay Cutler.

The experiences in Dallas, Minnesota and Philadelphia point to the kinds of quarterback transitions the Bears may be in search of after the 2016 season.

Bradford arrived in Minnesota via trade just eight days before the season opener, yet has proceeded to post the best results of his career: for completion percentage (67.5), interception percentage (0.6 percent; 7 TD’s vs. 1 INT), yards per attempt (7.4) and rating (100.3, vs. a previous best of 90.9).

More important, without the Vikings’ starting left tackle (Matt Kalil) and running back (Adrian Peterson), Bradford has the Vikings leading the NFC North and tied for the NFC lead at 5-1.

“[The Vikings] had the misfortune of losing their quarterback, they go out and make a bold move to get him and they haven’t missed a beat offensively,” said Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio. “He’s been getting better and better.”

This all holds particular relevance for the Bears, who saw Brian Hoyer step in and deliver four straight 300-yard passing games, something he’d never done in his career and no quarterback in Bears franchise history had done. Cutler’s personal best was two straight, for purposes of comparison.

The Bears are expected to have a new quarterback in some form or other next year. In the meantime they have been victimized by two rookie quarterbacks already this season (Carson Wentz, Philadelphia, and Dak Prescott, Dallas). The experience of Bradford, Prescott and Wentz, all new in 2017 to their situations, suggests chances of dramatic improvement over the Bears’ recent history with Cutler, for example.

“A good quarterback can influence the guys and make guys around him better,” Wentz said. “So it’s one of those things where the quarterback usually gets too much credit and too much of the blame as well. It’s just kind of the nature of the position.”

Prescott and Wentz were 2016 draft choices and had offseasons and training camps with their respective teams. Bradford had none of that, yet began his year throwing 130 passes without an interception.

[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]

How that happens may be illustrative for the 2017 Bears. The Vikings traded for Bradford, a one-time starter for the Rams and Eagles. But because of the late-offseason timing of the deal, necessitated by the season-ending leg injury for Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, Bradford had to be eased into the new offense.

“I think that’s honestly one of the bonuses of coming during the regular season,” Bradford said on Thursday. “Obviously it would’ve been nice to have some practices in training camp. But once you get into the regular season, it’s not like you have the whole playbook in each game plan. Each game plan is very specific for that week’s opponent, so it’s considerably less than would be in your training-camp installs.

“So I think that helped a little bit. But as far as it being cut down, the volume wasn’t so much cut down as how the plays were called, naming some concepts with some things I was familiar with. That really helped me.”

Bears Talk Podcast: Jay Cutler returns against one of NFL's best defenses


Bears Talk Podcast: Jay Cutler returns against one of NFL's best defenses

Jim Miller joins Pat Boyle as they discuss the return of Jay Cutler as he gets ready to face one of the toughest defense’s in football. Plus, the key to a Bears win on Halloween night.

Listen to the latest Bears Talk Podcast here: