New GM means new draft strategies

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New GM means new draft strategies

A leading cause of the Bears firing of general manager Jerry Angelo was failure to draft top-level talent. The decision on Angelos successor is still some time away but with whoever it is can be expected to bring with him some significant changes in draft philosophies.

This is potentially a huge factor as the Bears tilt toward building an offense around Jay Cutler rather than on Jay Cutler.

Angelo was a believer in a floor philosophy with top picks, meaning that great attention was given to establishing the worst a pick could possibly be. Maybe that stems from mistakes like Keith McCants or Eric Curry in Tampa Bay or something else, but the result logically meant few outright busts but also fewer home runs.

So there were going to be more safe, reasonable-quality picks (Marc Colombo, Chris Williams come to mind) where at the least you would have a serviceable player. The quirk here is that Angelo would have taken a Dan Bazuin in a second round; the floor there was in the basement.

But that also led to a reluctance to draft wide receivers high, for example, a true high-riskhigh-reward impact position. Angelo was right; the bust quotient is higher with wideouts than most other positions.

Receivers and offensive line changes?

The Bears first target in free agency is a wide receiver and Angelo was prepared for a major first-strike on or above the scale of his grab of Muhsin Muhammad in 2005. Assume that and cornerback will remain targets 1-2, with pass rusher and linebacker in the offseason equation.

Angelos highest draft slot for a wideout was second round and it was a bust Mark Bradley. Look for that to change with a general manager bringing a different philosophy.

Angelo drafted tackles but rarely after the first round (Colombo, Williams, Gabe Carimi). He took Terrence Metcalf in the third round of 2002 and Josh Beekman in the fourth of 2007, but both were disappointments and Angelo never took a lineman higher than the seventh round.

Lance Louis and JMarcus Webb are gems as seventh-rounders go. But pipelines are stocked with O-line hits other than first-round picks.

Green Bay example

The Packers landed tackle Chad Clifton in the second round. Guard Daryn Colledge was a 2. Guard T.J. Lang was a 4. So was guard Josh Sitton. Guard Jason Spitz was a 3. The Bears only made the Beekman and Metcalf picks in those rounds under Angelo.

Bradley was Angelos lone wide receiver pick higher than round 3. Green Bay secured Greg Jennings in the second round. And Jordy Nelson. James Jones was a 3.

Ruskell patterns

It does not work in Tim Ruskells favor that he and Angelo share both draft philosophies and history together. Ruskell was brought in by Angelo as director of player personnel and his draft patterns are near-overlays of Angelos.

He took centerguard Chris Spencer in Seattle. He was the 26th pick of the 2005 draft (Colombo and Carimi were 29s). In the next four drafts during Ruskells tenure the Seahawks took defensive players with their first picks.

Angelo and Ruskell took wide receivers in just two first rounds in all their years at Tampa Bay Reidel Anthony and Lamar Thomas. Both had decent floors and were serviceable players but neither were sustained high-impact

Ruskell will continue overseeing the Bears college scouting for the time being. And he has not been ruled out as a GM candidate. But if the Bears were not satisfied with the draft directions and results of Angelo, Ruskells resume suggests he will be a fallback candidate at best.

Bears guard Josh Sitton named as injury replacement in Pro Bowl

Bears guard Josh Sitton named as injury replacement in Pro Bowl

The Bears have another Pro Bowler.

After initially getting shut out on the Pro Bowl roster, the Bears have since had two players named as injury replacements with guard Josh Sitton now joining running back Jordan Howard.

Sitton was named as an injury replacement Monday afternoon for Packers guard T.J. Lang, who left Sunday's NFC Championship game early.

This will be Sitton's third straight Pro Bowl and fourth career honor.

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The 30-year-old offensive lineman signed with the Bears before 2016 after the Packers released him.

Sitton played in 13 of the Bears' 16 games including 12 starts, helping to anchor the Bears' line when healthy.

Howard replaced Cardinals running back David Johnson on the NFC Pro Bowl roster earlier this month.

Bad blood fueled Bears-Vikings playoff bout profiled in 'Bears Classics: Eclipsing Moon'

Bad blood fueled Bears-Vikings playoff bout profiled in 'Bears Classics: Eclipsing Moon'

From the high ground of hindsight, what unfolded in the Metrodome that day in 1995 was actually quite a big deal. But not for reasons that you could have really understood at the time watching the Bears stun the Minnesota Vikings 35-18 in the wild card round of the 1994 playoffs.

It was not so much the game alone. It was the overall context of the time for the Bears, before and after.

Though the 1995 season would get off to a 6-2 start for the Bears before their near-historic collapse, the Minnesota game would prove to be the high-water mark for the coaching tenure of Dave Wannstedt. This was the postseason, and the Bears looked to be going where then-president Mike McCaskey envisioned when he made the play to beat the New York Giants in securing Wannstedt, who was unquestionably the hot coaching prospect coming out of the Dallas Super Bowl pantheon after the 1992 season.

To fully grasp the situation, you need to understand the undercurrent of venom that had developed between the Bears and Vikings. Bears-Packers might have been the glitzy rivalry, but what had grown between the Bears and Vikings was true hostility, with little of the respect that the Bears and Packers had managed. The Vikings carried grudges for Pro Bowl slights going back almost to the Bears' Super Bowl win. One Bears defensive lineman remarked that his most hated opponent was Minnesota right tackle Tim Irwin, adding, "He's a guy that, if I ran over him with a car, I'd back up over him to make sure I got him." Dwayne Rudd's backpedaling taunt after an interception came a couple years later, but you get the idea.

What's easily forgotten looking back through the mists of time was the epic decision made by Wannstedt to make a quarterback change, from a quarterback he wanted in free agency to one he knew well from their time together at the University of Miami. That was every bit the turning point of the season and the real reason the playoff trip and win ever happened.

The Bears had been annihilated in their first game against the Vikings in the 1994 season — 42-14 — and something was really, really wrong, which become glaringly more evident just a few weeks later, even though the Bears were reaching a 4-2 mark under quarterback Erik Kramer, the centerpiece of an aggressive offseason foray into free agency. But the Bears then lost — badly — to the Lions and Packers, with Kramer throwing three interceptions against Detroit and two against Green Bay, the latter in only 10 pass attempts.

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I talked privately to Kramer after the Green Bay game, specifically about why it was that he was playing his absolute worst against Detroit, Green Bay and Minnesota, all teams with which he was intimately familiar. My thought: You know those defenses and where their people are going to be.

Kramer shook his head: "The 'other guys' I know. It's my own guys. I don't know where they're supposed to be."

It wasn't a comment on his receivers whatsoever. It was Kramer admitting bluntly that he was not getting the West Coast scheme of coordinator Ron Turner and its timing element.

Wannstedt knew it wasn't working and made the change to Steve Walsh, who'd been the Hurricanes' quarterback under Jimmy Johnson when Wannstedt was the defensive coordinator.

That was the tipping point, and Walsh and Wannstedt are among the principals of "Bears Classics: Eclipsing Moon," airing on Monday at 8 p.m. on CSN.

Anyone with any time spent in or around the NFL knows that beating a team three times in a season is incredibly difficult. The Bears had been blown out in the first Minnesota game but had pushed the Vikings to overtime in the second and would have won had Kevin Butler not missed a 40-yard field goal try.

The playoff meeting was No. 3, and after the Vikings put up a field goal in the first quarter, the Bears scored with a Lewis Tillman touchdown in the second and just pulled steadily away from the winner of the only NFL division that produced four teams with winning records.

From there it would be another decade-plus — 2006 season — before the Bears would win a playoff game.