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
CSNChicago.com

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.

NFL Scouting Combine represents opportunities — good and bad — for Bears

NFL Scouting Combine represents opportunities — good and bad — for Bears

The NFL Scouting Combine convening this week in Indianapolis isn't really the high point of pre-draft assessing being done by NFL teams. Those evaluations have been going on for many, many months — on college campuses, at bowl games — and will go on with Pro Days and selected visits to team headquarters.
 
But what it does represent is two things: a chance for teams to probe for detailed medical information on some 300 potential draftees, and a case study in savvy brand marketing by the NFL that has become its own hot-stove league on steroids (hopefully not literally for any of the participants).
 
Covering the event 25 years ago, representatives of the three Chicago-area newspapers comprised one of the two largest media contingents (the other being New York's) going about the business of football reporting after the sport had largely moved off the sports-front with the wrap-up of the Super Bowl. No TV, no internet, and the Combine operators really didn't want media around for what was set up as a purely team-centric.
 
Now the NFL has created a media event that keeps it in news prominence at what had always been a dormant calendar nadir for pro football, with not only some 1,000 media members and outlets welcome, but also with fans able to attend events like the 225-pound bench press and 40-yard dashes, whose results were once something that reporters dug around for as news scoops.
 
But beyond the observed events, including group media interviews for the majority of athletes, individual draft stocks will be affected by vertical jumps, cone drills and such. And by interviews with individual teams, which are still private. (For now. Somehow, it's not beyond imagination that someday even those will be televised, in an NFL guise of "transparency" or something, but that's for another time.)
 
Strengths, weaknesses and the QB conundrum
 
One annual refrain are the assessments of the overall draft class, what positions are its deepest, its weakest, an evaluation that carries some weight because invitees to the Combine include underclassmen, which the Senior Bowl does not.
 
But a danger within the process is exactly that — the "weight" assigned to results, particularly the on-field ones. On-field evaluations are the best indicators, but the right on-field ones were there on playing fields and now tape, not inside Lucas Oil Stadium this week.

[RELATED - Which direction will Bears go at pick No. 3?]
 
Combine performance has affected drafts rightly and wrongly over the years.
 
ProFootballTalk.com's Mike Florio has made an excellent case for players declining that test for reasons of confidentiality. And frankly, if teams have a problem with a player declining the test, then teams and the NFL need to do a better job of keeping the results in-house, particularly given that correlations between the Wonderlic and NFL success are questionable at best.
 
But some player or players will move up or slip down on draft boards because of drill work. That may be unfortunate for the player, and for the teams.
 
QB or not QB
 
It is at this point that the Combine becomes increasingly relevant to the Bears, or at least to those trying to discern what realistic chances exist for the Bears to address their well-documented areas of need (quarterback, tight end, cornerback, safety).
 
An inherent problem at this stage is the difficulty in arriving at a right decision, particularly at the paramount position. NFL Network draft expert Mike Mayock did some checking that illustrates the issue.
 
Between 2007-14, teams selected 21 quarterbacks in the first round. Nine of them are no longer even in the league, and only a handful have achieved something close to the coveted "franchise" distinction: Matt Ryan in Atlanta, Matthew Stafford in Detroit, Carolina's Cam Newton, Andrew Luck in Indianapolis and Joe Flacco in Baltimore. Only Flacco has won a Super Bowl.
 
"It gives a pretty good feel for the 'hit' rate of franchise quarterbacks in the first round," Mayock said on Monday.
 
"My message to NFL teams is, 'you've got to keep trying, keep on swinging.'"
 
Whether the Bears take a swing at a franchise quarterback at No. 3 is still many weeks off. But Mayock didn't endorse making that swing at that point.
 
"I don't have any quarterbacks anywhere near the Top 10," Mayock said. "That doesn't mean I think there's no talent there, because I think there are four quarterbacks that have first-round talent. In my order I had for my initial Top 5, it was [DeShone] Kizer, [Deshaun] Watson, [Mitch] Trubisky, [Patrick] Mahomes. All four of them have holes in their games.
 
"I don't think any of them are ready to start Week 1."
 
More to come over the next week. Make that "weeks."

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Bears will not use franchise tag on Alshon Jeffery

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Bears will not use franchise tag on Alshon Jeffery

In this episode of the SportsTalk Live Podcast David Haugh (Chicago Tribune), Nick Friedell (ESPNChicago.com) and Danny Parkins (670 The Score) join David Kaplan on the panel.

NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport reports that the Bears will not use the franchise tag on Alshon Jeffery for the second straight year. Is that the right move? And what will Ryan Pace do with all of his team’s cap space?

The Bulls are winning but their new, young point guard doesn’t know his role. Will anything ever change with the Bulls?

That plus Scott Paddock drops by to recapping a thrilling Daytona 500 finish.

Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below: