Random News of the Day: Fixing the Pro Bowl

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Random News of the Day: Fixing the Pro Bowl

Tuesday, Feb. 1, 2011
10:07 a.m.

By Joe Collins
CSNChicago.com

The Pro Bowl is starting to resemble a routine Thanksgiving at Aunt Hildas: nobody really wants to be there (its kind of an unwritten obligation to show up in the first place), the smarter ones phoned in their I cant go excuse weeks ago, the day kindasorta revolves around football, theres a good chance the participants are slightly hung over from the night before and everyone just hopes they can get through the day and leave without getting hurt.

Woo hoo! Pro footballs All-Star Game! Yes!

The Pro Bowl has been the Glass Joe of organized football for quite some time now. OKOKmaybe its more Von Kaiser-like. But still, the game lacks a punch. Its abused even more by the players who dont show up. And it takes even more hits with the country club rules that are enforced (nothing says football like no blitzing). Finally, the game is kicked to the curb with in-game entertainment like(wait for it) The Goo Goo Dolls. Apparently Third Eye Blind and Matchbox 20 were unable to attend.

Sunday night's 55-42 track meet won by the NFC did not resemble football at times. It was like when one of your parents picked up a video game controller for the first time and tried to challenge you in a game of Madden. Im sure you would have put 42 points on the board before halftimejust like the NFC did to the AFC. Players were diving at feet, avoiding direct contact with the opposition and oleing players into the end zone. All-star football? Hardly. It didnt help matters that Peyton Manning, Philip Rivers and Matt Cassel combined to throw five interceptions.

Look, the game is an exhibition. Sports exhibitions are just thatexhibitions of talent, a display. Maybe its supposed to look like flag football at times. I know that the league has already Purrelled itself many times over, sterilizing the celebrations, helmet-to-helmet hitsetc. Maybe the NFL doesnt want to change the status quo and start enforcing real football for players who dont want to get hurt in the first place. I get that. But I think that, with a few tweaks here and there, the Pro Bowl can be put back on the map as a somewhat legitimate football experience. How about

Winners Get Paid, Losers Get Some Lovely Parting Gifts: Money is a great motivator. The members of the winning team currently walk away with 45,000. The losers get 22,500. Why not just combine the two figures and just round it up to 70,000 for each player on the winning team? I mean, just think of the car that could buy. The winners get cash and bragging rights. The losers walk away with a box of Tide.
Trick Plays Man-In-Motion Encouraged: Currently, Pro Bowl offenses have to use tight ends and there can't be any shifting. Hmm. Well, the game is already a showcase of offense (nobodys playing any defense anyway, right?), so why not hit the gas and liven it up a little? Julius Peppers as a man-in-motion? Done. Terrell Suggs in the backfield? Surewhy not. As long as the game doesnt get too gimmicky on offense, lets do it. As for the defense

The No Blitzing Light Has Been Turned Off: The NFL rules are clearly set up to protect the quarterback anyway, so turn the defenders loose. You'd think there would already be a gentlemens agreement or an unwritten rule not to spear the opposing quarterback in an exhibition game. But putting a little pressure on the QB or at least, showing a pulse-- would be nice.
Bonuses for every tackle: If you had a chance to watch the Pro Bowl Sunday night, the Alex Mack touchdown that ended the game looked like a bumper car ride at a county fair, minus the puke bucket. The defense tried to bump instead of tackle-- Mack as he rumbled down the sidelines for a touchdown. If you start throwing 500 incentives for every clean tackle, youd start to see the tomfoolery clean up pretty quick. Coach Bud Kilmer of Varsity Blues would love it. And I know that might sound a little contradictory to the trick plays entry up above, but hey: I'm just looking for equal contributions from both sides of the ball.

The devils advocate in all of this would say leave it alone. The game lit up the ratings nationally, with numbers biting at the heels of what is normally seen in the World Series. The 7.7 rating (12 share) was the highest numbers for the game since 2000. And Im surprised the numbers werent higher, given how the game was up against tumbleweeds on the sports calendar Sunday night. But it wouldnt hurt to boost the product. The NHL had captains picking teams during their All-Star weekend like it was 5th grade gym class. Maybe thats a start. Or maybe they combine elements of the Lingerie Bowl and the Pro Bowl. Talk about ratings, right? Whatever the case, the Pro Bowl needs to avoid turning into Thanksgiving: an event that induces people to pass out on the couch. Its definitely a fixer-upper project, but with a little TLC, it could be another dream house for the NFL.

Either that, or just get rid of it.

Or something like that.

Good or better? Why offseason moves are making 2017 Bears better

Good or better? Why offseason moves are making 2017 Bears better

Improvement typically comes in incremental steps, not leaps. And the Bears of 2017, based on what they have done at a handful of positions, the latest being Thursday’s signing of wide receiver Victor Cruz, fit that template.

The clear organizational commitment is to build through the draft, even if injuries have undermined some otherwise apparent upgrades to starting lineups on both sides of the football. But if there is a “theme” to what GM Ryan Pace is doing to muscle up a sluggish roster, it is that the Bears are willing to take flyers on veteran players – with additions like four veteran wide receivers with injury and issue histories – that arguably point to a win-now mindset while draft picks develop and contribute.

Jaye Howard and John Jenkins. Make the defensive line “better?” Than Jonathan Bullard and Will Sutton, probably. But “good?” Mmmmm…..

The game-one tight ends last year were Zach Miller-Logan Paulsen-Gregg Scruggs. Now they’re Miller-Dion Sims-Adam Shaheen (based on a second-round draft choice). “Good?” Maybe, maybe not. “Better?” Obviously, based on Sims alone.

Mike Glennon-Mark Sanchez-Mitch Trubisky. Bears “better” at quarterback? Than Jay Cutler-Brian Hoyer-Matt Barkley, probably. “Good?” Mmmmmm…..

The decisions to sign Glennon and Sanchez to the quarterback depth chart have sparked their shares of understandable cynical skepticism. But Kirk Cousins and Jimmy Garoppolo were not available in trade, so the Pace decision was to gamble on upside with Glennon over the known quantity of Brian Hoyer (the preference of some coaches) and certainly Jay Cutler, for whom “potential” and “upside” no longer applied.

Add in the aggressive draft of Trubisky and the result was three possibilities of hits on a quarterback (Sanchez and Connor Shaw being combined here as a pair entry in the hit-possibility scenarios). All three were deemed an improvement over Cutler and/or Barkley.

The results may not vault the Bears all the way up to “good” at the pivotal position for any franchise. But “better” is sometimes all you can realistically manage.

Taking a wider-screen look at wide receiver in this context… .

Coach John Fox has cited the need for the Bears to establish the ability to get yardage in bigger chunks. Accordingly, all four of the veteran wideout signings this offseason – Cruz, Rueben Randle, Markus Wheaton, Kendall Wright –  have posted yards-per-catch seasons of 14 or longer.

All four won’t be on the opening-day roster, but all four offer the promise of major impact. Cruz, Randle and Wright have had seasons of 70 or more receptions, and Wheaton topped out at 53 in 2015 with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Randy Moss, Terrell Owens and Jerry Rice weren’t available, so “good” was hard to achieve in an offseason in which Alshon Jeffery and Eddie Royal were expected departures long before their exits. But are Cruz, Randle, Wheaton and Wright, with Kevin White and Cameron Meredith, a “better” starting point than Jeffery, Royal, White, Bellamy, etc. of a year ago?

Obviously. But players with even moderately established NFL “names” (like Cruz, Randle, etal.) are typically available for a reason; teams do not routinely give up on talent. And none of the four come without significant shadows on their NFL resumes, whether for injury or other questions.

Cruz missed most of 2014 and all of the 2015 season, and hasn’t played a full season since his Pro Bowl year of 2012.

Randle was described as a head case by scouts and was so bad that he was let go in the Eagles’ cutdown to 75 last year, followed by disparaging comments from those in and around the organization.

Wheaton flashed promise in his 2014-15 opportunities as a part-time starter but played just three games before a shoulder injury landed him on IR last season.

The Tennessee Titans thought enough of Wright, their 2012 first-round draft choice, to pick up his fifth-year option going into las season. But by week 14 he was benched for tardiness and was a healthy DNP in game 16, announcing after the game that he already knew he was not in the Titans’ plans for 2017.

The prospect of the Bears going from 3-13 to “good” borders on fantasy. But if being among the NFL’s busiest this offseason hasn’t propelled the Bears to that level, the results point to “better.” At this point, that’s something,.

How big of an impact will Victor Cruz have on the Bears?

How big of an impact will Victor Cruz have on the Bears?

The Bears inked Victor Cruz to a one-year deal on Thursday, adding another receiver to an already crowded corps.

But it never hurts to add a veteran one to a young group, especially with a new starting quarterback.

Cruz is 30 years old and isn't the same Pro Bowl-caliber player he was before missing the entire 2015 season with a calf injury, but he surely has a lot left in the tank and can serve as a great mentor for the Bears receivers.

Just how big of an impact will he have on his new team? See what the SportsTalk Live panel had to say in the video above.