Random News: A Bears season about nothing?

Random News: A Bears season about nothing?

Tuesday, Jan. 25, 2011
12:51 p.m.

By Joe Collins

Moments after the last episode of Seinfeld aired on May 14, 1998, critics blasted the performance. TV and entertainment pundits labeled it as a shabby, weak performance that wasted a lot of potential. The living room onlookers thought the same, saying that it never came close to meeting expectations. My reaction was the same.

But every time that I have watched that final episode in syndicated rerun form, I have come to respect it a little more. No, not because the episode was funny (it's still lukewarm compared to, say, any episode from the '94-'95 season), but because of what it represented: an unexpected smash hit that had sustained success for quite some time -- much longer than anyone, including their competitors, had predicted.

You know, kind of like this Bears season.

People didn't take Seinfeld seriously until the fourth season, and even that wasn't saying much because the show barely dented the top 30 in Nielsen's weekly rankings that year. In the fifth season (midseason in football terms, if you will), the show took off. The Bears had a somewhat similar fate. Their season began as "a show about nothing," more or less. Vegas gave them a 401 chance on winning the Super Bowl. Not exactly a lot of expectations right off the bat. Then the Bears got a season-opening win against the Lions thanks to a fluke call. The 3-0 start didn't do much to get people excited, especially after a crushing defeat in New York the week after. Two losses going into the bye week didn't help either. Then the Bears took off: five straight wins, including a convincing victory over the Eagles. A first place title in the NFC North followed, followed by a home playoff victory against Seattle.

Then all hell broke loose. The Bears lost their starting quarterback, lost the game, lost the shot at the Super Bowland some fans lost their minds in the process -- especially when Todd Collins started taking snaps. Talk about entering the bizarro world, you know? Jay Cutler immediately took the role of Newman (fair or not) and 20 hours of injury PR damage control ensued. Tweets and Facebook status updates blew up at several points during the game:
The Bears (stink)! We are who they thought they were!"That bike won't get you to Dallas, Jay!"You guys are ruining it for Chicago and everybody else south of Wisconsin!"Put Moses Moreno in!Epic failurethanks for choking!

The Bears stink? Seriously? An epic failure? Really? Im not sure if I buy all that. Based on the social network updates, you would have thought the Bears were 1-15. The Twitterverse was also on fire just after video surfaced of Jay Cutlers jersey getting, ahem, torched. Have we all lost our minds?

We have become a society that is so reactionary, so irritable, so -- pardon the pun -- knee-jerk when it comes to the way we respond to certain stimuli in the sports world. Lets face it: the Bears, a great team, were beaten by the an even better one on Sunday. No question about it. Tip your hat and salute our northern neighbors. Did we forget that the Bears were playing with house money since the first game this season? It is said that, sometimes it is better to be lucky than good. Yes, the Bears were goodgreat even. The offensive line rebounded after a horrendous start. The running game was solid and the passing game eventually found rhythm. The defense dominated at times. The special teams unit was nothing short of elite. But how many strokes of luck did they get this year? 10? 20? How many times can a team claim they went up against threethreethird string quarterbacks? And even if Cutler hadnt injured his knee, do you think he could have carried the already-wounded Bears to the promised land? Im not so sureespecially the way the Packers Ginsued their way through the Bears defense in the first half. The Bears could have easily been down 21-0 or worseheading into halftime.

The Bears had a great season. It was a nice run. The last game was a stink bomb. And I know that the exit from the playoffs was a painful one, especially given the opponent. The hype was tremendous and the loss was nothing short of ulcer-causing. But we need to realize that the Bears had a great season that completely surpassed expectations. When you were watching the Bears stagger through a winless preseason, did you envision them in the NFC Championship? When you saw Cutler get squeegeed by the Giants defense in the Meadowlands, did you think the Bears would be a late drive (or two) away from a ticket to Dallas?

One can only hope the Bears answer the call next year. The pressure to win will be enormous. Anything less than an NFC Championship would be considered a failure. But if this Bears team has shown us anything, its resiliency and the power to overcome any kind of adversityespecially from us in the media that sunk the team at 6-10 before they took one regular season snap. We should look back at this season, not with anger at the finale, but with joy on a run that few thought possible. I know that's easier said than done today, especially with Bears fans questioning the leadership of the starring role behind center. The Bears -- and especially Cutler -- can and should rebound. Let's hope, anyway.

Maybe they will start off with a few wins next year andyada yada yadatheyre in the Super Bowl.

Stay tuned.

Or something like that.

Kyle Fuller heads to injured reserve as Bears make other roster moves

Kyle Fuller heads to injured reserve as Bears make other roster moves

The upheaval that has afflicted the 2016 Bears roster ratcheted up a notch late Tuesday when the Bears placed cornerback Kyle Fuller on injured reserve due to a knee injury and shuffled the depth chart elsewhere.

The Bears waived tight end Greg Scruggs, who was making the switch to offense from the defensive line, and linebacker Jonathan Anderson, while moving linebacker John Timu from the practice squad to the 53-man roster. To fortify the defensive line, where nose tackle Eddie Goldman is down indefinitely with an ankle injury, the Bears signed CJ Wilson, a 2010 draft pick of the Green Bay Packers who has played for the Packers, Oakland Raiders and Detroit Lions, starting 19 of 78 career games played.

Fuller, the 14th-overall pick of the 2014 draft and once identified as a building block of the Bears defense, underwent knee surgery Aug. 15 while the team went to New England for practices and a preseason game with the Patriots. He had been making significant strides in recovery as far as straight-ahead running but was still hampered with change-of-direction.

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Coach John Fox on Monday said simply that Fuller “has a sore knee. It has some medical things that kind of restrict you. When we get that healed up, he’ll go.”

The IR designation does not necessarily end Fuller’s season. Beginning in 2013, under an agreement between the NFL and Players Association, one player per team may be placed on injured reserve and later be brought back to the active roster. That player must sit out six weeks and cannot be activated for an additional two weeks.

With inside linebacker Danny Trevathan out following surgery on his thumb, Anderson had been expected to see additional playing time, possibly with the No. 1 unit. But rookie Nick Kwiatkoski started Sunday at Dallas in the base 3-4 and Christian Jones cycled in with sub packages.

Three starting points for the Bears to salvage their 2016 season

Three starting points for the Bears to salvage their 2016 season

As the noted philosopher once intoned, the past is for cowards and losers. Applied to the 2016 Bears, the latter already applies, though not wanting to look at the recent past shouldn’t be taken as evidence of cowardice, just not wanting to revisit pain.

Looking to the future is the obvious only option for an 0-3 football team.

“You’ve just got to go into every week like it’s a new week,” said linebacker Jerrell Freeman, one of the few encouraging parts of an injury-speckled defense, whose 34 tackles are approaching twice those of No. 2 Jacoby Glenn (19), with four tackles for loss vs. no one else with more than two.

“Every week is a new season regardless of whether you’re winning or losing. You can’t look back, you always have to look forward. Because if not, you won’t give the next team the respect they deserve and have another bad result.”

But the fan base can be excused for expecting a next bad result simply because the Bears have given zero indications that the future will be any better than the immediate past.

That is the signal concern: Who turns this around or, for that matter, even slows the rate of descent?

No Bears team has made the playoffs in a season that began with three straight losses. The 1932 team was winless in its first three, but those at least were scoreless ties. So postseason isn’t a relevant concept anymore except possibly as some sort of punchline.

But one vintage NFL axiom is that things from a game are seldom as bad upon later review than you thought they were at the time (they’re also never as good, either, but good hasn’t shown up yet). And turnarounds do happen.

But those do have to start somewhere. Any Bears season course correction for 2016 has three possible starting points:

A defensive 'village'

The Bears do not have elite talent on defense, meaning that the solution can come only from a marshaling of forces that makes the whole greater than the sum of the parts.

John Fox teams are built on defense, and consensus had the Bears as potentially a top-10 defense before the successive miseries vs. Houston, Philadelphia and Dallas. The Bears have zero defensive star power at this point, which is a problem, by way of understatement.

Fox’s 2011 Denver team started 1-4, then reversed itself and made the playoffs at 8-8 with Tim Tebow as quarterback. (It also had Marion Barber stepping out of bounds and later fumbling away the Bears game, but never mind that for now.) But that team had Elvis Dumervil and a rookie Von Miller combining for 21 sacks. The Bears have a total of four sacks, and players representing 1.5 of those (Eddie Goldman, Danny Trevathan) are out indefinitely with injuries.

But linebacker Willie Young cut to the chase: “We have to control the running game before we can have fun in the backfield,” he said after the debacle in Dallas with the Cowboys rushing for 200 yards. “I don’t know what was going on. All I could do is ask the guys to give me all you got. One play at a time, just give me all you’ve got.”

That would be a place to start.

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Remember the 'Run and Shoop' offense?

John Shoop might have been the object of ridicule as Bears offensive coordinator. But when he took over after the defection of Gary Crowton to coach BYU, the Bears won two of their last three by running to the point of tackle James “Big Cat” Williams, nicknaming the offense the “Run and Shoop” offense. The linemen loved it initially because Shoop simply loaded up and ran the football and, most important, stayed with the plan.

The point is not to become plodding, which Shoop’s offense ultimately became. But the Bears abandoned the run at Dallas when they trailed 24-3 at halftime, even though they had the ball to start the third quarter and with one defensive stop after a touchdown could have been working to get within one score.

“It could have flipped quickly,” guard Kyle Long said. “One drive, it turns into a seven-point game, and that’s the NFL.”

The need for the Bears to run the football isn’t really worth spending time on. Obvious. The offensive line was built for running the football. But for various reasons coordinator Dowell Loggains has not had success with what was supposed to be the foundation of the offense. The Bears cannot win by being a pass-based team, regardless of whether Jay Cutler or Brian Hoyer or Matt Barkley is doing the throwing.

The Bears will not be blowing out many, if any, teams. Their best option is to wear opponents down in first halves, live with Jordan Howard/Joique Bell/whomever netting 50 to 60 yards in a first half, then turning the two- to three-yard runs of the first half into four- to six-yarders in the second.

Shoop would like that.

Get one win

Playoff chances mean nothing. How good or bad the Bears are means nothing. All that matters is winning, not games, but one game. The next game. As Fox and other players have said, the Bears have not put together one complete game yet. That is not going to happen automatically, but one play, one quarter, one half at a time.

And they know it. “You want to win games,” Freeman said. “There’s no panic. There’s a sense of urgency, that’s for sure. We’ve got to put out this fire and put it out quick, like yesterday or the day before.”