Chicago Bears

Mullin: No way 9-3 Bears are just lucky

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Mullin: No way 9-3 Bears are just lucky

Monday, Dec. 6, 2010
Posted: 5:00 p.m.

By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com

Mmmm, maybe not

I don't have a rooting interest one way or the other but I'm not sure I'm buying this.

SI.com's Andrew Perloff, in a segment folded into Peter King's always-enjoyable (if a little heavy on Steelers-Ravens this week) "Monday Morning Quarterback," opines that the Packers will win the NFC North and simply are a better team than the Bears, which Andrew still sees making the playoff and being "dangerous," he said.

Andrew's reasoning: The Packers "have that explosiveness on offense," whereas the Bears are "not making the plays like the Packers are."

He appears to be more fascinated by highlight play like Aaron Rodgers' memorable game-tying pass to Jordy Nelson to force a recent overtime against Atlanta. Andrew sees the "new" Bears as more balanced offensively with the combination of Jay Cutler's passing and Matt Forte's running.

But "when it comes down to it," he concluded, "Rodgers is the MVP and Cutler is just a good player."

You who know me know I am a reporter first and that I had no vested or rooting interest when I pointed out the night of the DenverCutler trade that a restrained reaction might be the call since Cutler had never had a winning season as a starting quarterback since high school.

But right now, he is a very good player, which he was not last season or through the first half of this one aside from isolated situations. I would be concerned about the number of hits Cutler is taking (48 in the last five games, between sacks, QB hits and runs he's made).

But the fact that Cutler is being called a "game manager" (usually a diss of a quarterback) should -- and I think is -- sending a tiny shiver through at least the NFC North. As long as he was just a thrower, even a passer, he could be counted on to error away the moment.

Not any more. The Packers could well win the division but my guess is that it'll be by tiebreaker, in which the Bears, who'll make good my "10 wins or better" prediction for the season, will be the wild-card team absolutely nobody wants to play.

Loud Lovie?
As he has on a number of occasions in the past when he's unhappy with the play of his guys, Lovie Smith let them know about it at halftime Sunday. The particular target was the defense, which was coming in after allowing a third-string quarterback to direct the Detroit offense to 253 first-half yards.

Clipboards did not hit walls, fists did not hit lockers, and players like Julius Peppers seemed to be more stunned by the poor play of the defense than by the Smith equivalent of a hissing match.

But just as players once spoke of "The Look" they dreaded getting from Dick Jauron, they don't like to hear Smith deviate from his fairly constant volume and venom levels.

"He was still mild-mannered but maybe instead of talking at a '5' he's talking at a '9,'" said safety Chris Harris. "Lovie is not a guy who swears. He's still a mild-mannered guy. But when he's angry you know he's angry. His point comes across and gets across to the players the way it should."

Smith's reaction to his reaction was, well, mild-mannered, naturally.

"We weren't happy with how we played the first half," Smith explained. "Guys realized that. As far as the '9,' you media guys know me. I'm a '5' most of the time. I try to be."

Huh?

I'm still amused by some who view the Bears' 2010 results (12 games of them at this point) as "lucky" or "getting the breaks." It calls to mind former Mets and White Sox pitcher Jerry Koosman dismissing former teammate and Hall of Famer Tom Seaver as just "lucky."

"Seaver was just lucky," Koosman said, "because he was always pitching on the day when the other team wasn't hitting."

A few other observations on the whole "lucky" nonsense:

Bear Bryant's legendary proclamation the "Luck follows speed" definitely applies to the Bears, who are a universally fast team.

And my favorite James Bond assessment comes into play: "Once is chance; twice is coincidence; three times is enemy action." Lucky is once; oh-come-on is twice; 9-3 is not lucky.

Lez chat

I'll be on the Comcast SportsNet set for Chicago Tribune Live at 5:30 p.m. (and later rebroadcasts) but then I'll be on CSNChicago.com from 7-8 p.m. for our weekly online chat. Always fun (well, mostly) to noodle over what just happened the day before.

And absolutely, I'll have the Pats-Jets on at the same time.

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.

Mark Sanchez on fast food runs, shutting up and policing a QB controversy

Mark Sanchez on fast food runs, shutting up and policing a QB controversy

When the Bears signed Mark Sanchez March 24, some fans panicked that it meant Ryan Pace would avoid selecting a quarterback for a third straight draft. And when Pace boldly (or, stupidly, to some) traded up a spot to second overall to secure Mitch Trubisky for the future, those critics emerged, too. 

Sanchez signed as Mike Glennon's backup, and according to Pace Wednesday, that's still what he is. For the former fifth overall pick of the Jets, starting would be great. But he's only done that ten times over the past four years after starting all but two games in his first four seasons under the media microscope in New York.

"I thought this team was on an upper trend and it'd be great to help somebody like Mike," Sanchez said Thursday in his first interview with Chicago reporters. "I know they went through a serious injury bug last year and a lot of guys would be getting healthy."

The man is only 30, and things were never better professionally than in his fresh-faced, first two NFL seasons, helping the Jets win two playoff road games in both 2009 and 2010 (including one at New England) before getting knocked out in AFC Championship games on the road. Now, he's not considered a starter, unless it's an emergency.

"It has been a different role, and adjusting your perspective is not always easy, but that's the mental side of this game and that's why I love playing it, no matter what," Sanchez said. "I wanna be competing my butt off in practice, and then pushing the starter as much as I can."

With Tony Romo hurt yet again in Dallas last year, Sanchez was picked up as insurance by the Cowboys after the Broncos decided to go with two other young quarterbacks, Trevor Siemian and Paxton Lynch, following Peyton Manning's retirement. But fourth-round rookie Dak Prescott's performance kept him on the field and Sanchez in a mentor role. Just as he will be with Glennon and Trubisky.

"Whatever it takes to win," Sanchez said. "And if that means getting him ready to play, and if that's what the role is, which is what it looks like here, then I'll push Mike, get ready to play myself and make sure he's ready to go in. It's been exciting working with him, because he can really play. I think he's a special player. He's decisive, he's got great feet for a big guy, and he can make all the throws so I'm excited to see how well he does."

Sanchez was Prescott in 2009, being chosen as a rookie over veteran options on a contending team.

"I had Kellen Clemens, Kevin O'Connell and Mark Brunell," Sanchez said of his NFL baptism under fire. "And all three of them, my first couple years, were amazing guys. Whether it was body language, footwork, where to live, where to eat, anything, you name it. We got so close. That kind of stuff transcends football when you get close off the field like we did those first couple of years, things take off. That kind of stuff I learned right away. We're still building that here."

There's no telling the degree of influence Sanchez may have had on Prescott's success. He arrived in Dallas late (after opening last preseason with a long touchdown pass to Demaryious Thomas at Soldier Field), too. But he hopes the NFL life lessons he'd been through, from winning, to butt-fumbling, to being cut, will help Glennon and Trubisky as he hope it did with Dak.

"That was a heckuva run," he said. "When you look at these teams, especially heading into year nine, you know from the first practice what you have, what you're searching for, what guys lead, what guys follow. You can feel it right away.

"It's a young team, but the emphasis is for the veterans to help push guys. Speaking from a number two role, I have to push Mike with everything I see. I had the conversation with Dak last year, 'Hey, I'll tell you everything I know, I'll push you as hard as a I can. But if at any point, you need me to turn it off, I'll do that. I'll shut up and won't say a word.' That's the same relationship I have with Mike and I'm pushing him hard, helping him compete, and I think he's gonna do really well.

"The best compliment you can give a rookie is not have to tell him to shut up," the USC product said of the seniority pecking order. "Just keep your head down and work, and that's really been his mentality. That's huge. And that's not easy, especially coming from where (Trubisky's) come from. The status you build as a college player... then a team trades up to get you, all those things, you start to believe all that.

"I remember getting ready to fly to divisional games, championship games, and two hours before the plane takes off I'm going to like, three different places. Popeyes Chicken, Quiznos, and I'm thinking, 'Geez, this is crazy.' But there's Brunell and Kellen Clemens saying, 'Just keep your mouth shut.  Do it or it'll be worse.' But (Trubisky's) done a great job. He's worked hard, doesn't say much and doesn't need to. Just keep working, keep learning, playing hard."

And despite his own desire to play, he won't fan the flames for change when Glennon has a bad practice, series or game. All four quarterbacks (including Connor Shaw) are ready to accept and follow the gameplan that's in place for the most scrutinized position in sports.

"There's no chance that happens here," Sanchez said of a divided room. "It's been defined clearly, and that's what you need. It's already been addressed by Ryan Pace, by Coach (John Fox), and you can't say it enough. You guys (the media) have a job to do, and I totally understand how papers sell, and some don't. Certain quotes, certain headlines, I've been around a bit, so I know. But we're not gonna have that issue because Mike's gonna play his butt off. If anything happens, I'll be ready. Mitch is gonna be ready. We have a great room so, I like where we're at and I like where we're headed."

Kevin White is starting small to answer the big question: Can he break out in 2017?

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USA TODAY

Kevin White is starting small to answer the big question: Can he break out in 2017?

BOURBONNAIS, Ill. — Kevin White isn’t taking his ability to play football for granted anymore, not after missing 28 of the Bears’ 32 games since he was drafted seventh overall in 2015. This is supposed to be fun, White said, even though these last two years couldn’t have been much fun for him.  

So with training camp underway at Olivet Nazarene University, White isn’t putting any added pressure on himself in a year that could determine whether or not he gets labeled a bust. 

“I don’t look at this as a job,” White said. “I think it takes the fun away from it. So I would just look at it as it’s a game. I love to play it, just getting paid to do it. But it was fun to be back out there with the guys and rallying together and going out there to compete.”

White looked solid in the Bears’ first training camp practice of 2017, which was a promising start for the 6-foot-3, 216 pound West Virginia product. But that’s a small step that won’t hold much significance unless White can string a few good practices together, and then eventually turn those practices into productive games. 

The good news is the Bears don’t have any restrictions on White and aren’t planning on giving him any additional rest days during training camp.

“He’s ready to go,” general manager Ryan Pace said. “He’s had a great summer, a great offseason, so he’s ready to go. You can just feel his confidence gaining, knowledge of the offense and just being comfortable with his body. He’s pretty much unleashed.”

The bad news is until White proves he can play a full season, questions will remain about his durability. Since being drafted, White has dealt with a fractured left tibia and a severe ankle sprain that resulted in a spiral fracture of his fibula. Those two severe injuries mean we don’t really know what White can do — the four games he played last year were perhaps nothing more than an incomplete glimpse. 

White had the third-lowest average yards per target (5.19) among receivers with at least 35 targets last year, which couldn’t have been what the Bears envisioned when they invested a top-10 pick in him. This is a guy who had 1,447 yards and 10 touchdowns in his final year at West Virginia, after all. 

The Bears still believe White can be a go-to target opposite the budding Cam Meredith and in conjunction with the trio of veterans (Markus Wheaton, Kendall Wright, Victor Cruz) they signed in the spring. 

“We all can do whatever the coaches put us in position to do,” White said. “I do have a lot of confidence (in) us.”

But from a larger view, the Bears need White succeed so they won’t have to re-draft a player at his position, or at least be tempted to deviate from their best-player-available strategy. Doing so would be a blow to Pace’s efforts to build through the draft, a process that’s also, notably, seen the additions of Cody Whitehair, Jordan Howard, Mitch Trubisky and Adam Shaheen on offense. 

For White to fulfill those big-picture hopes, though, he’ll have to start small — like with Thursday’s practice. Saturday’s practice will be the first time White will take contact since Week 4 of the 2016 season, and the Aug. 10 preseason opener will be his first game action since then, too. 

“It’s hard to get better at something if you don’t practice it,” coach John Fox said. “So getting a string of practices, getting him out there and developing his skill set. He’s got plenty of athletic ability. That’s why he was picked where he was. Now it’s just getting out there and improving (his) skillset.”

White’s love of the game wasn’t marred by the frustration of his first two years in Chicago, though. In fact, the opposite happened. 

“You get something taken away from you a little bit, you enjoy it more,” White said.