View from the Moon: Happy Chico landing

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View from the Moon: Happy Chico landing

Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2011
3:26 PM

By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com

Ron Riveras sometimes-discouraging search for a job as a head coach finally is coming to a happy ending as the former Bears linebacker succeeds John Fox as head coach of the Carolina Panthers.

Rivera was let go by Lovie Smith in 2006 after a successful stint as defensive coordinator and he had interviewed over the intervening years for top jobs in Dallas, Arizona and elsewhere.

Rivera worked as San Diego Chargers linebackers coach in 2007 and moved up to defensive coordinator in 2008, answering any questions about whether a 4-3 linebacker and coach could work with a 3-4 scheme.

The kind of coach Chico is and will be is pretty much out there on the record. Everywhere hes played and coached, hes won. Period.

But theres always been one snapshot of Chico that has stayed with me.

Back in 1993 when Dave Wannstedt was coming in as Bears coach, changes were obviously coming. One day out in the back of old Halas Hall, sometime in late June when nobody was around after a conditioning session, Chico was there late, snapping balls to a ball boy standing 13 yards away.

What are you doing? I asked Ron.

Learning a new trade, he said, laughing. New regime, you gotta do what you gotta do.

Chico never became a long snapper. What he did do, however, was do what he had to do. He worked in as an analyst for WGN, then he worked as an unpaid quality control coach for the Bears, just to get experience around coaching.

The Eagles took a chance on him in 1999 and the late Jim Johnson hired him to coach linebackers. Philly went to three straight NFC Championship games and eventually Rivera landed on Lovie Smiths staff in 2004 as coordinator.

It really wasnt Smiths first choice; that was Rod Marinelli, whom the Tampa Bay Buccaneers wouldnt free up. Pro Personnel chief Bobby DePaul knew Chico from Philadelphia, which helped get Rivera in the door and he ran with the opportunity.

Hes still running with it. Good for a good guy who was always willing to do what he gotta do.

New kids

Teams are best served when they dont look past the game in front of them but the Bears front office doesnt have that luxury.

An early analysis is that the Bears will address, among other positions, defensive tackle in the coming offseason. Accordingly they signed Tank Tyler to a reservefutures contract Monday, picking up a veteran with 19 starts and 47 NFL games between 2007, when he was a third-round pick of the Kansas City Chiefs.

Also signed was wide receiver Onrea Jones, an undrafted free agent out of Hampton College who made the Houston Texans practice squad in 2007 and has been with San Diego, Green Bay, Indianapolis Colts, Washington Redskins and Arizona Cardinals

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.

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: