Moon View: Packers title bad news for Bears

381716.jpg

Moon View: Packers title bad news for Bears

Sunday, Feb. 6, 2011
Posted: 5:41 p.m. Updated: 9:29 p.m.

By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com

Bears coach Lovie Smith very methodically stresses the value of takeaways (he would, being a defensive coach n all). He felt the sting of them when his 2006 Bears team lost a Super Bowl after an interception of a Rex Grossman pass was returned for a touchdown, and he was able to see it come to pass in Super Bowl XLV.

And it helps explain why the Bears are expected this offseason and draft to strengthen a defense that already is among the NFLs best but which the organization wants to raise even to a higher level.

Green Bay put 21 points on an elite Pittsburgh defense off turnovers -- 14 from interceptions, seven after a Rashard Mendenhall fumble. The Packers were a combined 7-0 when they held a positive turnover ratio. The Bears threw three interceptions vs. Green Bay, one for a TD to D-tackle B.J. Raji, or it would have been the Bears playing for the Lombardi Trophy instead of the Packers. The Bears were 7-0 in 2010 when they held a positive turnover ratio. ...

The Bears are likely to be looking up at the Green Bay Packers for the foreseeable future, because Green Bay accomplished far more in its significant draft positions than the Bears. The Packers passing game also proved good enough to get the better of the NFLs elite defenses, without the benefit of run-pass balance. So unless Greg Jennings, Donald Driver, Jordy Nelson and James Jones are leaving anytime soon, which theyre not, the Bears have won their last NFC North division title for a few years. ...

Add to the overall worry about the Packers ascendancy the fact that they won a Super Bowl as a No. 6 seed, meaning that they won three road games to reach the Super Bowl, then put 31 points on the NFLs No. 1 scoring defense to win a Super Bowl. This may have been the end of the 2010 season but the future is in the Green Bay youth as well as its cohesion. The Green Bay quarterback and offensive line get running back Ryan Grant back in 2011 and this is significantly bad news for the Bears. ...

If the Packers won a Super Bowl with 14 players going on IR and the reigning defensive player of the year (Charles Woodson) going out with a shoulder injury for the second half, what will they be like when they lose six offensive starters for the year?

QB legends

Aaron Rodgers played exactly the way he did all postseason, specifically, better even than he did in the regular season. As good as Bart Starr and Brett Favre were, Rodgers plays his best in the biggest games and the shock will be if he does not have his teams in Super Bowls or in conference championship games with the regularity that the Joe Montana, Steve Young, Terry Bradshaw and the other greats did.

Rodgers was the MVP of the Super Bowl and somehow it was a pick you could have made with reasonable assuredness before the game was even played.
Hurtin' Pack
When two great defensive teams get together, the chances of turnovers deciding the game increase exponentially. So it has been for the Green Bay Packers, who turned 2 interceptions into 14 points in the first half.

Ironically perhaps, Green Bays two defensive linchpins (Clay Matthews, Charles Woodson) did not figure prominently into either takeaway. The growing problem for the Packers, however, is the quietly increasing number of injuries, between wide receiver Donald Driver, DB Sam Shields and DB Woodson.

Good call

Lovie Smith was criticized after the NFC Championship game for deferring after winning the coin toss, giving the Packers the ball to start the game. The criticism was ill-informed, because the fact is that Aaron Rodgers produces far fewer points on opening drives of first halves than in the ones to start a second half.

Notably perhaps, then, the Packers won the toss and also chose to defer. They know Rodgers is better after a half.

No losers

Israel Idonije was a finalist for the Walter Payton Man of the Year award but Minnesotas Madieu Williams was accorded the honor. There are no losers for this award, though. The world is a better place for all of the honorees.

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.

Fast Break Morning Update: White Sox, Cubs both win; Bears finish draft

Fast Break Morning Update: White Sox, Cubs both win; Bears finish draft

Here are some of Saturday's top stories in Chicago sports:

Jose Abreu homers twice as White Sox beat Tigers for sixth straight win

Cubs bash three homers in come-from-behind win over Red Sox

Dwyane Wade would like clarity on Bulls' direction before making decision

View from the Moon: Rift among Bears brass? Not based on what Ryan Pace, John Fox showed

After trading Scott Darling, can the Blackhawks find another reliable backup goalie?

Trust the tape: Bears feel confident in Division II draft picks Adam Shaheen, Jordan Morgan

Dax McCarty tallies assist against former team, but Fire still lose to Red Bulls

Eddie Jackson healthy, ready to bring center fielder range to Bears' secondary

Why Scott Darling is a perfect fit for Hurricanes

Watch: This is why new Bears running back Tarik Cohen is nicknamed 'The Human Joystick'

 

View from the Moon: Rift among Bears brass? Not based on what Ryan Pace, John Fox showed

View from the Moon: Rift among Bears brass? Not based on what Ryan Pace, John Fox showed

Trying to sort through some Halas Hall draft mysteries…. well, one big one, anyway.

Now that it’s all done: Were GM Ryan Pace and the personnel staff really in phase with John Fox and the coaching staff? Because that really is the franchise-grade question and one with the broadest possible ramifications.

The gut feeling is, yes. That’s really based just on watching the two of them together Saturday during the post-draft debriefing. If there was tension, frustration or a fracture in the relationship, the two were as good at masking it as they were concealing their draft plans.

Which they could be. Maybe reading John Fox’s face is no easier than Jay Cutler’s. They wouldn’t be the first to put up a fraud façade or public face.

But regardless of any taffy pulls or disagreements that may have played out during the draft, the jokes, asides and other responses to queries suggested otherwise. It wasn’t just what they said; it was how they said it.

“How would you grade your draft?” the pair was asked.

“I’ll tell you in three years,” Pace said.

“I’m sure we’ll get some ‘input,” Fox said, laughing, for a media corps that will provide more than a little of that “input.”

This was their third draft together. Fox has worked with myriad personnel guys and draft rooms, so how has Pace changed? Gotten bossier?

“He’s been the same guy,” Fox said. “We talk about that in this building, whether that be players, coaches or personnel people. I think he has done a terrific job and he’s got great people skills. You listen, but then you have to go with your gut, too… . After three years, every year you have convictions on players and everyone kind of keeps track of that. We have been in this spot three straight years and we’ve even been in this spot with high picks. I think he’s done a terrific job.”

Beneath all of the analyses of whether Mitch Trubisky is really the franchise quarterback the Bears have sought since Jim McMahon couldn’t stay healthy 30 years ago, or whether lesser-fete’d college programs (Ashland, Kutztown, North Carolina A&T) will produced NFL-grade talent for the Bears, lurks the deeper and arguably more significant assessment of what the 2017 draft means for the futures of Pace and Fox, jointly and individually.

The vulnerabilities are obvious; a combined 9-23 record in their two Bears seasons puts a lot of jobs over a “vulnerable” trap door in an organization that has never retained a coach after three straight losing seasons – even if the last thing Chairman George McCaskey wants on his watch is a situation in such steep decline that it even continues to lose even after a regime change, as it did after three-season-losers Jim Dooley, Abe Gibron and Dave Wannstedt.

Irrespective of specific 2017 draft choices, the surest course toward cataclysm would be a divide between coach and GM, which some want to believe has begun, fueled if by nothing else but Chris Mortensen’s report Thursday that Fox only found out about the decision to pursue and make the Trubisky deal a short time before Pace made it. Mort walked back from the claim, and Pace ripped it as “so false” later on Friday.

Pace was adamant that he and Fox were in lock step on the move for a quarterback who ideally doesn’t see the field a lot this season. As a first-rounder the Bears do have him for as much as five years if they elect to pick up the option for the fifth year of his rookie contract.

Would Fox have wanted a defensive force? Probably. But he went 3-13 last season in no small part because he had to use three different quarterbacks and two of them were bad.

“I think the quarterback position was obviously a need position as well,” Fox said. “That became pretty clear as we went out in free agency and got Mike Glennon. I think you're always trying to add depth at every position.

“Unlike what some people think, quarterback is key, too. If you look back at a year ago, we went through three quarterbacks, due to injuries, so I think building depth is really important. I think Mitch is a quality, quality player. I think if you did research and we need to do that, I'm going to say that a lot of people had him ranked very high, and us no different.”

[MORE BEARS DRAFT COVERAGE: Trust the tape: Bears feel confident in Division II draft picks Adam Shaheen, Jordan Morgan]

One cynical view making some rounds is that Pace has set Fox up to fail specifically by not giving him defensive help that would translate into win-now prospects for a coach who obviously needs to. But that doesn’t quite square somehow.

Pace and the draft powers were promising Fox a real shot at something even better than a quarterback. All they needed was for Cleveland to opt for Trubisky, which was in discussion over in Ohio until not long before the draft. Then the Bears, who’d talked over scenarios with San Francisco GM John Lynch over recent weeks, would have made that trade, but for Myles Garrett.

The Bears at No. 3 had tabbed three possible options for themselves, but with every intention of trading up unless the 49ers were blown away by a trade offer the Bears couldn’t match.

“I would say there were probably two of the three that we’d be willing to go up for,” Pace said, with a sly smile but without naming Garrett.

Which makes it reasonable to conclude that Fox knew the GM would get him the projected best edge rusher in the draft, unless their projected best quarterback was there. Which is what happened.

“We knew [Trubisky], obviously, was our top quarterback,” Pace said. “At one point in time – you don’t know what to believe – but up until the last second, there was speculation that Mitch could go 1. So then there’s even talks: ‘Wow, if he goes 1, and Myles goes to 2, what are we going to do?’

“And so all these scenarios are being played out. And there’s just so many of them. And we talk them all out. But the idea of ‘If Mitch is there at 2, and it’s realistic for us to go get him,’ that was something we discussed.”

The Bears were expected to prioritize the secondary, even as high as LSU’s Jamal Adams in some first-round scenarios. They didn’t get draft help for one of the poorest takeaway secondaries in NFL history until well into the fourth round. Was Pace undercutting his defense-based head coach and a staff boasting some of the top mentors in their areas?

Really?

Pace guaranteed $20 million of Bears money to cornerbacks Prince Amukamara ($7 million) and Marcus Cooper ($8 million) and safety Quintin Demps ($5 million). To have then used a high pick for a defensive back could conceivably have had McCaskey calling over and asking just exactly how Pace figured he needed to give his coaches a viable secondary. In the final analysis, Pace’s view of upgrading the secondary was more than draft-centric.

“We added a lot in free agency, so that was the plan,” Pace said. “We signed three corners in free agency and a safety and now we just drafted a safety. Part of our free agency plan was to attack the secondary and we accomplished it there. And that kind of allowed us to draft best player available when this moment came.”

If Fox had a problem with any of that, it was not apparent Saturday night after their third draft together.