(Not) seeing stars

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(Not) seeing stars

Losing four straight and falling from a No. 5 playoff seed at 7-3 to an also-ran can do bad things to your star power.

Other than Devin Hester as the NFC kick returner, no Bear ranks as the top vote-getter at any position in Pro Bowl fan voting according to NFL.com. Players and coaches will vote over the next couple of days and best guess is that Julius Peppers, if not passing up Jared Allen as the top defensive end, will at least join him as a starter for the NFC defense.

Fans love sacks (and the Dallas Cowboys), so not surprisingly perhaps, Demarcus Ware is the leading vote-getter at outside linebacker. Lance Briggs has been to six straight Pro Bowls is a far better all-around outside linebacker than Ware, whose sole role is as a pass rusher.

Brian Urlacher to an eighth Pro Bowl? Hell have a climb to get past Patrick Willis given the way the San Francisco 49ers are playing defense this year.

And Philadelphias LeSean McCoy is the top vote-getter at running back, followed by Minnesotas Adrian Peterson, both in the top 10 for the entire NFL. Matt Forte? Next year.

Get to know Bears rookie Jordan Howard

Get to know Bears rookie Jordan Howard

Meet Jordan Howard.

Selected by the Chicago Bears in the fifth round of the 2016 NFL draft, the 6-foot, 230-pound running back out of Indiana rushed for 1,213 yards and nine touchdowns on 196 carries for the Hoosiers in 2015.

Howard is a physical offensive weapon who is sure to give Jeremy Langford and Ka'Deem Carey a run for their money come training camp in August. But before the rookie suits up in Bourbonnais, get the chance to know what he's all about off of the field. 

Howard is featured in the final segment of "Meet the Rookies," a four-part series on ChicagoBears.com that chronicles the inspirational stories of the team's newest additions. The other rookies featured in the series are outside linebacker Leonard Floyd, wide receiver Daniel Braverman and tight end Ben Braunecker.
 
Catch Howard's segment of "Meet the Rookies" here.
 

Buddy Ryan changed the NFL game forever – and more than once

Buddy Ryan changed the NFL game forever – and more than once

One very distinguished voter for Pro Football Hall of Fame inclusion once explained a criterion of his for inclusion in the league’s most hallowed circle: If you wrote the history of football, would you have to include this individual?

Buddy Ryan is not in the Pro Football Hall of Fame; he should be, but that’s for another discussion, another time. Because the simple fact is that if you were indeed writing a history of the National Football League, that history would be incomplete without Buddy Ryan.

“I think Buddy changed the game of football,” said Mike Ditka, Bears head coach with Ryan as his first, albeit inherited, defensive coordinator. “He is the reason why teams started going to all these three- and four-receiver sets.

“He never let offenses do what they wanted. The game of football is what it is today because of Buddy.”

Ryan did not create great defense. That had been done wholly or in parts by others – Bill George, George Allen, Dick Butkus, and so on. But what Buddy Ryan did echoes down through the history of the NFL, in more a few of its defining moments.

Super Bowl III is always remembered as Joe Namath’s day. Obscured by all that Namath and the New York Jets’ offense did was what the defensive line of Buddy Ryan was doing to the Baltimore Colts, specifically holding them to exactly seven points, on a late afterthought touchdown, a team that was coached by Don Shula and included John Mackey, Jimmy Orr and averaging nearly 29 points per game.

Super Bowl III was beyond cataclysmic for the growth of the modern NFL. And all that was long before Super Bowl XX.

Maybe the best measure of how truly great a coach Ryan was lay in the fact that he managed to turn OFFENSIVE players into fire-breathers.

“He’d say to the offensive line, ‘you fatasses can’t block anybody in practice, how you gonna do it in a game?’” recalled Hall of Famer Dan Hampton. “And [left tackle Jimbo] Covert and [left guard Mark] Bortz would just turn into animals.”

Ryan loved his players. But it was tough love, affection that had to be earned, and once earned, was something they treasured.

At the end of Otis Wilson’s rookie (1980) season, No. 55 may have been the team’s first-round pick, but Ryan was publicly blunt.

“We did OK, but that ‘55’ killed us," Ryan said after one game. 

Wilson turned the humiliation into something, becoming a student of the game, his craft, even to the point of cramming for Ryan’s legendary written tests.

“'I’m out of school, Buddy,'" Wilson said he wailed. “'Why you givin’ me these exams?'"

“You need to understand the total package,” Ryan ordered. “I want you to know what everybody’s doing.”

Today that sounds almost quaint; everybody’s supposed to know everybody else’s assignments. But never lose sight of the originator, who beat that concept into every head on his defense.

In the end, Ryan belonged to more than Chicago. He was a Jet. He was a Viking. He was Bear. He was an Eagle. And finally a Cardinal.

He belonged to the NFL, which, exactly as Ditka said, was changed forever by him.

Mike Ditka on Buddy Ryan: 'We never were as good separately as we were together'

Mike Ditka on Buddy Ryan: 'We never were as good separately as we were together'

They feuded, on the practice fields, on the sidelines, in locker rooms, even in showers. Yet Mike Ditka and Buddy Ryan were joined in football history in one of the great “whole is greater than the sum of the parts” in all of sports.

“We had a helluva run,” Ditka told CSNChicago.com. “Buddy had a helluva run. Was it always as smooth as it might have been? Noooo. But I don’t think Buddy would’ve wanted it any other way.

“We accomplished so much together and we were never as good separately as we were together.”

Ditka saw Ryan about eight months ago.

“I knew he wasn’t doing real well. But you know, he was always a tough guy, right to the end.”

Ryan was Ditka’s defensive coordinator, inherited by Ditka when Ditka was hired by George Halas in 1982 to restore the lost passion to one of the NFL’s charter franchises. Ryan’s players convinced Halas to keep Ryan as defensive coordinator even as head coach Neill Armstrong was dismissed.

Ryan refused to run the Dallas Cowboys’ “flex” defense that Ditka wanted, bluntly declaring that Halas had hired him, Ditka didn’t. Ditka ran the offense, Ryan the defense, and the fire was never far from the surface.

Ryan didn’t care if his defensive players went hard in practice to the point of blowing up Ditka’s offense.

“He’d get those guys going, and I remember yelling at him, ‘Check the schedule. We’re not playing the Chicago Bears this week,’” Ditka said. “But he made us a great offense.

“He attacked you. Always attacked you. All the time. He made you – made every offense – adjust to what he was doing.

“He changed the game of football forever.”