Super Bowl lessons

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Super Bowl lessons

Super Bowls finish off the playing portion of the NFL year. They also serve as standards for measuring your team, your players, your coaches, whatever, in terms of where you stand vis--vis the elite in the league, and they point to some things you may need to do to get to that level.

1 - Let-em-score touchdowns just arent a good idea.

The Green Bay Packers and Mike Holmgren lost a Super Bowl when they let the Denver Broncos score a go-ahead touchdown in a fourth quarter in order to give themselves more time for an answering score. That didnt happen.

The New England Patriots appeared to go into a matador mode on Ahmad Bradshaws six-yard run for the winning points Sunday. Bradshaw tried not to go all the way into the end zone, stopping just short of the goal line but falling in when he couldnt stop his momentum.

The Patriots lost this Super Bowl when they, like the Packers, could reply with points to overcome the Bradshaw score.

It seems to make sense at the time. But the teams that have done it in the biggest game of all have lost. Not sure how else to really judge the strategy.

2 - Get a high-impact wideout, no matter what it costs.

New GM Phil Emery said he wont be talking about needs or players but the two teams in Lucas Oil Stadium for Super Bowl XLVI each had wide receivers that decide games, and the Bears simply dont have any at this point.

Not a new assessment but the Bears dont have a Hakeem Nicks (76 catches, 1,192 yards and seven touchdowns. Or a Victor Cruz (82 catches, 1,536 yards, nine touchdowns). Or a Wes Welker (122 catches, 1,569 yards, nine touchdowns). Or a Rob Gronkowski (more on that later).

But a point here is that these types of gamers dont come through one portal. They can cost, however, and Emery and the Bears will need to shop aggressively.

Nicks was a No. 1 draft choice. Cruz was an undrafted free agent nugget (sort of a Dane Sanzenbacher thing) who almost was cut prior to this season. And Welker cost the Patriots second- and seventh-round draft picks in a 2007 trade.

The Bears have the No. 19 pick of this years draft. They have four picks in the first three rounds. And the free-agent receiver market includes Marques Colston, Vincent Jackson and Dwayne Bowe.

Jerry Angelo disliked investing No. 1s in wide receivers. Emery said at his introductory press conference that he and Angelo were different. How different, and how much he thinks an elite wideout is worth, will be a factor in whether the Bears are in a Super Bowl discussion a few months from now.

3 - Just get in the playoffs. Period.

The Giants won this Super Bowl after a 9-7 season. The 9-7 Arizona Cardinals were within a historic Santonio Holmes catch of beating the Pittsburgh Steelers a couple Super Bowls ago. The Packers at 10-6 won Super Bowl XLV after qualifying for the playoffs via tiebreaker.

Coaches and players always say just make the playoffs and anything is possible. Couldnt have said it any better.

4 - This is enough Manning for a while. A couple days, anyhow.

Eli Manning said some months ago that he thought he deserved to be considered among the elite quarterbacks in the game. Well, it aint braggin if you back it up.

Manning won his second Super Bowl MVP award and pulled past brother Peyton in the ring race. And Peyton is a longshot to be contending for one anytime soon if for no other reason than the condition of his neck and nerves in his right arm.

Eli completed 30 of 40 passes for 296 yards and a touchdown, without throwing any interceptions despite being pressured enough for three sacks by the Patriots.

And Eli did this with another fourth-quarter comeback, a true measure of quarterback greatness; talk of that is going to running amok for a long time now.

We played smart, Manning said, refusing to get too into personal buzz from the award. There at the end when we had an opportunity in the fourth, quarter, wed been in those situations and we knew that we had no more time left. We had to go down and score and guys stepped up and made great plays.

A problem now is that Peyton will start up again in his taffy pull with Colts owner Jim Irsay. Theyll meet this coming week about Mannings health and whether the Colts will pay the 28 million Manning is due by Mar. 8 or he becomes a free agent. The heavy leaning is toward his release by the Colts.

In the meantime, Manning elder Archie was not about to buck family tradition and be quiet.

I dont know anything about the Hall of Fame, Archie said when asked about the possibility of being the father of two Hall of Fame QBs. Eli is in his eighth year and I know one thing: He might have said earlier in the year that he belonged with the elite quarterbacks. He will not be saying that he belongs in the Hall of Fame.

Well see on that one.

5 - One play doesnt win or lose a game. Also Period.

Unless its one where a Jay Cutler breaks a thumb, that is.

Welker was near tears talking about the fourth-quarter pass that went off his hands deep in New Yorks end of the field with four minutes to play. Instead of a clinching touchdown or crucial lead-building field goal, the Patriots were forced to punt.

It hit me right in the hands, Welker said. I mean, its a play I never drop, I always make. Most critical situation and I let the team down.

Hell put himself in the Hall of Shame somewhere between Scott Norwood and Jackie Smith in the Goats Gallery, but hell be wrong.

Wes was running down the field, it looked like they messed up the coverage a little bit and I threw it to him and he just couldnt come down with it, said quarterback Tom Brady. Hes a helluva a player. Ill keep throwing the ball to him as long as I possibly can.

One play isnt why we lost today.

Big picture: The Patriots did not score in the second half. That isnt all on Welker.

6 - Chicago should never be without a star tight end.

The modern tight end began with Mike Ditka. The Bears may not ever have a Hall of Famer at the position but they are at without one at an elite level when they are all over the NFL as never before.

The Mike Martz tenure in Chicago may have seen the Bears reach an NFC Championship. But the transformation of the tight end position on his watch set the Bears behind the NFL, helped tie the hands of successor Mike Tice and cost Jerry Angelo, who never wanted him running the offense in the first place.

The work of Aaron Hernandez and Gronkowski for New England has been over-covered. But the Bears had their 6-6, 255 tight end and Martz had no use for him. So Greg Olsens value dropped to the point where he had no future in Chicago and he was dealt to Carolina.

On the flip side, Martz wanting Brandon Manumaleuna cost the Bears millions of wasted dollars, which did Angelo no favors with the accounting department, besides contributing absolutely nothing to the offense. Along with that, Kellen Davis was elevated to a level of expectation that he has never hit before.

Nothing is irreversible but Emery and the Bears will be playing catch-up at a position where they had someone who fit the mold that is working against the type of secondary players that struggle against big tight ends.

Poor play, injuries hint at more changes for struggling Bears

Poor play, injuries hint at more changes for struggling Bears

Injuries have forced the Bears into personnel scrambles through the first three weeks of the season – the defense opened in Dallas with three new starters from the week before. But coming off three largely dismal performances on offense, defense and special teams, more changes may be in the offing and having nothing to do with injuries.

Coach John Fox, whose success in Carolina and Denver was built with a solid foundation in running the football, acknowledged on Monday that the work of offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains was “not good enough. That’s no indictment on Dowell or anybody else. … All our signatures are on it. It’s 0-3.”

Loggains is in no short-term job jeopardy. But the Bears have failed to establish not only a run game, but also any sort of offensive identity or rhythm, not all of which can be laid at the foot of the Bears falling too far behind to keep running. Fox would not be the first Bears head coach to dictate an in-season course correction; Lovie Smith stepped in during the 2010 season and ordered a change in the offense of Mike Martz that was inept and getting quarterback Jay Cutler annihilated in the process.

Lineup changes are a distinct possibility. Examples: Right tackle Bobby Massie has struggled and former Steelers No. 2 pick and sometimes-starter Mike Adams was signed as a viable option. Jonathan Bullard has not shown any degree of dominance on the defensive line, but the rookie end, representing an upgrade to a virtually non-existent pass rush, could edge past Mitch Unrein on a defensive line that allowed nearly 200 rushing yards with zero sacks against the Cowboys.

[MORE BEARS: Jay Cutler remaining Bears starter not assured when he returns from thumb injury]

Injury adjustments are inevitable and will make some decisions for the Bears. With Ka’Deem Carey already inactive due to a hamstring injury, Jeremy Langford went out of the Dallas game with an ankle injury that Adam Schefter at ESPN reported on Monday would keep the second-year running back out 4-6 weeks. Rookie Jordan Howard may have bumped Langford out of the No. 1 slot anyway but Langford’s injury effectively makes the decision for coaches.

Lineup changes wouldn’t be official until next Sunday before the Bears take the field against the Detroit Lions. Fox said Monday that the evaluations were still focused on the Dallas game and health options.

“We’ve got to sort out,” Fox said. “The week’s kind of started, but we’re still talking about pretty much [Sunday]. But as we move forward, we dig in as coaches as far as game-planning for Detroit. And we’ll kind of figure out where we are at the end of tomorrow with our medical people. It’s based on who’s available. That can be tricky, but I think everybody in the league has to deal with it.”

Jay Cutler remaining Bears starter not assured when he returns from thumb injury

Jay Cutler remaining Bears starter not assured when he returns from thumb injury

Lovie Smith was clear: “Rex is our quarterback.”

Phil Emery was clear: Jay Cutler is an “elite” quarterback.

John Fox isn’t so clear: When Jay Cutler is cleared to return from his thumb injury, Cutler is not automatically still the Bears starting quarterback.

"I don't think there are any givens and that's not an indictment on anybody,” Fox said on Monday. “This is a day-to-day, week-to-week, what-have-you-done-for-me-lately league and so we’re just trying to get the best 11 guys out there regardless of the position to where we can play a full 60 minutes and get a victory.”

Tough love is arguably the most effective management style with Cutler. Unlike the contracts and praise heaped on Cutler by prior administrations, current coaches and the organization withheld judgment on him after taking over in 2015. Cutler, who typically played worse after getting contract extensions and gaudy compliments, responded with the best season of his career.

Cutler watched from the sidelines as the Bears were beaten 31-17 by the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday behind Brian Hoyer, who was able to give the Bears some production in the second half for the first time this year, albeit only after the Bears were down 24-3.

“I thought [Hoyer] made good decisions,” Fox said, then qualified, “Not all of them. I think the very first play of the game didn’t go quite as smooth as we’d like. I thought he did some good things. I thought the pass-pro and some of those things helped the situation. I think we did have some explosive runs — we had more explosive plays in this game than we did in the prior two. We’ll evaluate that as we move forward and prepare for Detroit.”

The ultimate question is not whether Brian Hoyer is as good as Jay Cutler.

The evaluation will be whether Hoyer had success because the pass protection and run game worked better, or the bigger question, did those phases of the offense work better because of Hoyer. Offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains has stated that a primary job of a quarterback is to get the other 10 players on the huddle to do theirs well. If the evaluation process, which could include another game next Sunday when the Detroit Lions come to Soldier Field, points to the offense functioning better for Hoyer, the Bears will have a major decision to make.

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Cutler has been benched because of performance only once in Chicago, late in 2014, for one game. He started the following week because Jimmy Clausen sustained a concussion.

Some perspectives on Bears QB switches

Back in 2005, while over at a social event during Super Bowl week in Detroit, a prominent member of the Bears’ defense vented on a decision that in his opinion cost the Bears their season. That decision was to go back to Rex Grossman as quarterback from Kyle Orton, who had been the quintessential game manager as a fourth-round rookie filling in while Grossman worked back from a broken ankle suffered in preseason.

“We’d’ve been here [in the Super Bowl] if we’d’a stayed with Kyle,” the Pro Bowl defender said.

That didn’t happen in the “Rex is our quarterback” phase of Smith’s tenure.

Josh McCown by his own assessment was not as good a player as Cutler in 2013 when the best-chance-to-win decision had to be made between those two. Coaches wanted to stay with McCown, the GM insisted on Cutler; the team stayed on course with Cutler, accelerated that direction actually, letting McCown leave for Tampa Bay and giving Cutler the “Jay is our quarterback” max contract.

But while Smith was invested in Grossman, who did get the Bears to the Super Bowl the next year, and Phil Emery invested in Cutler, who has won just one playoff game in his seven Bears seasons, coach John Fox and GM Ryan Pace have not gone all-in on quarterbacks they inherited. They stayed with Cutler without any real alternative last year, and Fox admitted that Cutler was perhaps one of the biggest positive surprises coming out of last season, when then-coordinator Adam Gase was the loudest voice in the room on that quarterback decision and the organization stayed with the quarterback to whom millions were guaranteed.

Now there is an alternative, who like McCown was vis’a’vis Cutler, is not Cutler’s football equal physically (“Have you seen him throw?” McCown answered one reporter asking what Cutler did that he, McCown, couldn’t).

Whether the Bears take that alternative will play out in practice and possibly a game over the next seven days.