Separated at birth: Bill Belichick and Lovie Smith?

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Separated at birth: Bill Belichick and Lovie Smith?

Thursday, Dec. 9, 2010
5:39 PM
By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com

Fresh from his sold-out run at Zanies, the Bears coach paused from watching horror films starring Tom Brady just long enough Thursday to have fun with a question about similarities between himself and the New England Patriots head coach.

Just looking at me, you see quite a few, don't you? Smith said with a slight smile.

That Smith can manage humor in the days before going against the No. 1 scoring offense in the NFL and a three-time Super Bowl champion coach may speak to both Smith's and his team's state of mind.

With Smith down in their pre-practice drills, defensive backs were delivering loud whoops every time one of their number intercepted a lollypop practice pass.

When the subject was brought up about his healthy competition with fellow linebacker Brian Urlacher for the team lead in tackles, Lance Briggs made sure to point out his two missed games with an ankle injury: You have to remember, since we're talking about a healthy competition: I've missed two games, two games, so for me that'll always be in the back of the mind, if people say, Lance, why didn't you have more tackles?

For his part, Urlacher ran through the requisite superlatives about Brady, then added a subtle reference to an embarrassing feint Brady put on him during the Patriots' 2006 win over the Bears. And he runs fast, too, Urlacher deadpanned, then laughed. I remember he's really fast. Good runner.

If the Bears were feeling any tension facing the Patriots, it has been nowhere to be found this week, perhaps a carryover from the collective mood after the Detroit game: It's starting to get fun for us, quarterback Jay Cutler said of his offense but might have been speaking for his entire team.

On the mend

Linebacker Nick Roach (hip) was able to practice on a limited basis Thursday but starter Pisa Tinoisamoa (knee), after dressing and going through some early drills, was not able to practice. The Bears have ruled neither player in or out for Sunday.

Running back Chester Taylor (knee) returned to practice but was also limited in certain sessions. The Bears were also without defensive tackle Marcus Harrison, excused from practice because of illness.

Brady continues to be limited in practice by shoulder and foot injuries and nose tackle Myron Pryor by back problems. Safety Patrick Chung and linebacker Brandon Spikes did not practice for non-football issues. Cornerback Jonathan Wilhite (hip) also was out.

Bear weather?

The Bear weather mystique is a questionable asset for the home team. Frigid temperatures have been in no way a guarantee of success on the lakefront. Far from it.

The Bears are 8-4 in games with the wind chill at zero or below. They bagged their 1963 NFL championship in minus-3 conditions and they smacked around the New York Giants in the 1985 playoffs with wind chill at zero. (In case you're wondering, the following week was the 24-0 annihilation of the Los Angeles Rams in the snow, temperature at a balmy 39, wind chill 28).

But the Ditka Bears twice saw dream seasons die in the cold: against Washington after the 14-2 season of 1986, and against San Francisco in the 1988 NFC Championship game.

(Thanks to Bears media relations for some superb digging on the numbers.)

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.

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.