Keeping score: Forte, coordinators and 'Dance in the Desert'

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Keeping score: Forte, coordinators and 'Dance in the Desert'

Always fun to visit Thursdays at 10 a.m. with Danny Mac and Spiegs on The McNeil and Spiegel Show on WSCR-AM 670 The Score and today was no exception.

Maybe fun isnt exactly the right word, considering the down state of matters at Halas Hall. Mac was sputtering at how Mike Tices offense continues to ignore the receiving talents of Matt Forte and Spiegs wondered if this offense and the way it blocks is really a fit for Forte.

My thought on using Forte as a receiver is that it actually has changed of late; Forte caught six passes at Minnesota and five against the Packers, which is more than one-third of his entire receiving total (30) to that point of the season.

But the bigger point, as I discussed in a previous look at how Cutler is in fact very involved in game planning, is that this is absolutely not all on Tice. Cutler, and assistant Jeremy Bates, are involved in the game plans and then Cutler also has the option of audibles, which Tice gave him.

If Forte is not getting the ball, a major part of that rests with Cutler simply by virtue of the offenses structure.

And maybe Forte works better in a scheme like the zone-blocking system that works so well for Arian Foster, as Spiegs noted. Unfortunately thats not going to happen in Chicago unless there is a complete offensive overhaul. A key for Forte is staying with his one-cut strength and get away from the jump-stop-cut that James Allen once epitomized in the Bears offense of a year ago.

Spiegs also mused on what the Bears in fact could do for an offensive coordinator if Lovie Smith is retained. Smith with one year remaining on his contract will have a tough time selling the O-coordinator job, as Dick Jauron once did and had to promote from within in the person of John Shoop.

The options could be to hunker down and live with Tice, who certainly was a positive influence on the offense under Martz, or promoting Bates from quarterback coach to coordinator. Have to think about that one.

That led into thoughts of whether the Bears can or will win the final two games, and Mac was spot-on in sensing that the conventional thinking that Detroit will be the rougher one may be off base. This will not be a dance by any means, was his observation. That would be a yes.

The Cardinals are a better defense than the Lions, and with the state of the Bears offense right now, Chicago scoring is difficult to envision.

Well see. Curious to see where things stand next Thursday after the Arizona game has been played and Detroit remains.

Follow in-game with me on BearsTalk BearsPulse at CSNChicago.com. Ill be doing the game coverage via Twitter (@CSNMoonMullin) with added info and well have other coverage folded in as well.

Michal Rozsival, Jordin Tootoo extensions give Blackhawks flexibility at expansion draft

Michal Rozsival, Jordin Tootoo extensions give Blackhawks flexibility at expansion draft

The Blackhawks agreed to one-year contract extensions with defenseman Michal Rozsival and forward Jordin Tootoo, the team announced Tuesday.

Rozsival's deal is worth $650,000 while Tootoo's deal carries a $700,000 cap hit, according to ESPN's Pierre LeBrun.

The move gives the Blackhawks two players eligible to be exposed during this summer's expansion draft.

NHL teams must expose two forwards and one defenseman that have played at least 40 games in 2015-16 or more than 70 in 2016-17, and they must be under contract in 2017-18.

[MORE: The Blackhawks' 9-1 February by the numbers]

Rozsival and Tootoo meet those requirements, which means the Blackhawks can now protect Ryan Hartman, who is also eligible.

They are allowed to protect seven forwards, three defensemen and one goaltender or eight skaters (regardless of position) and one goaltender. 

Rozsival, 38, has one goal and one assist in 16 games this season, often serving as the team's extra defenseman. Tootoo, 34, has no points in 36 games.

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."