Chicago Bears

Belichick Coach of the Year; Lovie gets one vote

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Belichick Coach of the Year; Lovie gets one vote

Thursday, Feb. 3, 2011
Posted 11:45 a.m.By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com

Maybe it shouldnt have been a surprise but it was when Bill Belichick copped his third Coach of the Year honor. Belichicks New England Patriots finished 14-2 and pretty much had their way with virtually every opponent over the second half of the season before running afoul of the New York Jets in the playoffs (where Belichick arguably was out-coached by Rex Ryan, but voting is done before the postseason so never mind).

The head-shaker was that Belichick received 30 of the possible 50 votes to finish ahead of Raheem Morris, who guided the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to an 11-5 turnaround from 3-13.

Both were certainly impressive jobs. But Belichick was given credit for retooling the Patriots. Now, this is a team that has won no fewer than 10 games in a season since 2002 besides winning a Super Bowl in 2001. Retooling somehow doesnt work when youre starting with Tom Brady in his prime.

Morris is a reasonable part of the discussion, particularly after his team was tasked with an early season schedule that included Cleveland, Carolina, Cincinnati, St. Louis and Arizona among its first seven games, and Carolina, San Francisco and Detroit over a later six-game stretch (and Lovie Smith was getting doubts because of the Bears schedule?).

Todd Haley finished third, which isnt a bad consolation prize for losing three of your last five games.

But Smith (the Chicago one, the one who engineered a turnaround from 7-9 to 11-5), Mike Smith in Atlanta, Andy Reid in Philadelphia (who actually did retool his team in the post-Donovan McNabb era) and Steve Spagnulo (who came within a last-game loss of reaching the playoffs with a rookie quarterback after being 1-15 in 2009) each getting exactly one vote each wow.

Experience counts

Former Pittsburgh Steeler great Jerome Bettis dropped by Thursday on The Dan Patrick Show on Comcast SportsNet with a perspective worth watching for on Sunday in the Super Bowl.

Bettis was a teammate of a young Ben Roethlisberger when the Steelers were on the way to winning the 2005 Super Bowl over Seattle. Bettis recalled Roethlisberger getting upset with himself was he wasnt playing well in the game, and Bettis helped calm him down, with winning results.

Patrick asked Bettis if that experience was perhaps key in Roethlisberger being superbly under control in the game-winning drive in the 2008 Super Bowl, a drive which ended with Roethlisbergers pinpoint throw and epic catch by Santonio Holmes.

Bettis said immediately that it absolutely was crucial because Roethlisberger had learned that perfection on every play wasnt going to happen and wasnt the point anyway, that playing past a gaffe or poor play.

That may turn out to be a tipping point for the Green Bay Packers, who have Aaron Rodgers in his first Super Bowl in an offense that is exponentially more dependent on him playing well than the Steelers offenses have always been with Roethlisberger.

The Steelers led the NFL in sacks (48, one more than Green Bay), meaning there will be enormous pressure brought to bear on Rodgers. The Steelers also ranked No. 2 in takeaways, meaning there will be turnovers.

The key for Green Bay may be less the number of great plays that Rodgers makes than how he responds to the bad ones when they come. And they will.

John "Moon" Mullin is CSNChicago.com's Bears Insider, and appears regularly on Bears Postgame Live and Chicago Tribune Live. Follow Moon on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bears information.

Can Markus Wheaton fix what ails the Bears’ offense?

Can Markus Wheaton fix what ails the Bears’ offense?

Markus Wheaton was a full participant in practice on Wednesday and wasn’t on the Bears’ injury report Thursday, signaling that the 5-foot-11, 189 pound speedster will make his Bears debut Sunday against his former team, the Pittsburgh Steelers. He’s not the solution for the Bears’ offense, but he could be part of it. 

For an offense that’s woefully lacked someone who can reliably stretch the field, Wheaton can at least provide the threat of going deep. Two years ago, while with the Pittsburgh Steelers, Wheaton averaged 17 yards per reception. Mike Glennon’s longest completion this year went for 22 yards. 

“It definitely adds another dimension,” Glennon said. “It’ll be great having Markus back.”

But Wheaton only played in three games last season (four catches, 51 yards) and, at his best, averaged 48 catches, 696 yards and four touchdowns a year from 2014-2015. Is it fair to expect Wheaton to be a big part of the Bears' offensive solution given he hasn't played much recently, and was limited to only a handful of reps in training camp and preseason practices due to a pair of freak ailments?

Maybe not, but with the Bears 0-2, he's the best hope they have at a skill position. 

Wheaton needed an emergency appendectomy the first weekend the Bears were in Bourbonnais — “I thought I had to poop,” Wheaton said, maybe providing too much information, before realizing the excruiating pain in which he was in was something worse. Shortly after returning to the practice fields at Olivet Nazarene University, Wheaton fractured his pinkie finger in gruesome fashion (he said the bone was sticking out) when he was awkwardly grabbed while trying to catch a pass. 

That Wheaton broke a finger wasn’t only significant for his ability to catch passes. Consider what his former quarterback — Ben Roethlisberger — had to say about what makes Wheaton an effective deep threat:

“He’s got a very good ability of using his hands,” Roethlisberger said. “When you’re trying to stretch the field, you’ve gotta have some little techniques to help you get open because DBs can run as much as receivers can. So you gotta be able to use your hands to swim, kinda, get some swiping, get the hands off, I thought that he really had some good technique when it came to the deep ball and getting away from DBs.”

Roethlisberger and Wheaton shared a good rapport in Pittsburgh, with the quarterback clearly communicating to the receiver what he expected timing-wise in his routes. It’s been a challenge to develop something similar with Glennon given the lack of practice time, but Wheaton said putting in extra work after practice has helped. 

If Wheaton and Glennon can get on the same page, perhaps that can lead to at least some deep ball attempts. The Bears have to find a way to prevent opposing defenses from stacking the box and focusing on stopping Jordan Howard, who only has 59 yards on 22 carries this year. 

“We're going to face overpopulated boxes, we know that,” offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains said. “There's going to be seven, eight guys in the box every time and we have to execute better and it comes down to that.”

According to NFL’s Next Gen Stats, only three of Glennon’s 85 pass attempts have traveled 20 or more yards beyond the line of scrimmage. The only completion of those was Sunday’s garbage-time touchdown to Deonte Thompson, which was caught near the back of the end zone. 

The threat of Wheaton going deep won’t be enough, though. Glennon still has prove he can complete those deep balls — the last time he completed a pass of 25 or more yards was on Nov. 2, 2014 (though he’s only attempted 96 passes since that date). 

But Wheaton feels ready to go and is confident he can do his job — which, in turn, could, in a best-case scenario, help his other 10 teammates on offense do their jobs, too. 

“It’s been a long time coming,” Wheaton said. “I’m excited and hopefully this is the week.”

Kris Bryant is all aboard the Mitch Trubisky bandwagon

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AP

Kris Bryant is all aboard the Mitch Trubisky bandwagon

Count Kris Bryant among the Chicagoans who are calling for Mitch Trubisky to start at quarterback for the Bears.

OK, that may be a bit extreme as Bryant simply said he would supporting giving Trubisky a "shot", but still:

After a rough game for incumbent starting QB Mike Glennon last week, most of Chicago has been clamoring for the No. 2 overall pick to get some snaps under center.

Why wouldn't the crown prince of Chicago baseball get in on the noise?