'Kick it, Mitch' -- HOF for Fred

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'Kick it, Mitch' -- HOF for Fred

The American Football Kicking Hall of Fame, which includes the likes of Kevin Butler, Lou Groza, Jan Stenerud and Jim Thorpe, has added friend and former colleague Fred Mitchell with its class of 2013.

Fred was the nations top collegiate kicker during his career at Wittenberg University, which welcomed him into its Hall of Fame in 1995. Fred set the NCAA college division kick-scoring mark and the Fred Mitchell Award was established to honor the nations top collegiate placekicker from among its 750 FCS, Division II, III, NAIA and NJCAA football programs.

We met in 1992 when Fred was covering the Bears for the Tribune and yes, he did in fact keep an old square-toe kicking shoe (hes old school) in the trunk of his car. (And yes, Fred has issues hes a kicker, after all.)

He said one of the best parts of this honor, which was presented at the Legends Club just across the street from Augusta National, was being able to share the news with his 82-year-old high school coach and thank him for getting Freds kicking career started.

It was great to see Fred and wife Kim on Thursday night at the 25th Comcast March of Dimes Awards. Im really, really pleased for Fred, one of the very good guys and a pros pro as well.

Oh, and the Kick it, Mitch in the headline? Fred told me that was the standard directive from his Wittenberg coach. And if this award and others are any indication, he did that very, very well.

Bears mix of QB Jay Cutler with OC Dowell Loggains still a critical work in progress

Bears mix of QB Jay Cutler with OC Dowell Loggains still a critical work in progress

Back in January, before the Bears promoted Dowell Loggains from quarterbacks coach to offensive coordinator, CSNChicago.com took an advance look at Loggains and how he might fit with Jay Cutler were the Bears to make Loggains yet another in the long list of coordinators for Cutler. With the start of training camp at hand, a longer look at this pivotal coach-player situation comes into focus.

No change made by the Bears this offseason carries the weight of the one moving Dowell Loggains to offensive coordinator to replaced departed Adam Gase. Quarterback Jay Cutler is coming off the best statistical season of his career, founded on the ball-security foundation instilled by Gase and Loggains. The Gase-to-Loggains succession plan projects to catapult Cutler, and with him the offense, to a next level.

Not necessarily.

For now, as they were when Mike Martz, Aaron Kromer and others took the Chicago O.C. job, all the right things are being said:

From Loggains on Cutler’s improvement under Gase and himself: “I don’t think Adam or I should take the credit,” Loggains said. “I think Jay made the choice to improve and work on the things that we asked him to work on. And I hope that process continues.”

From Cutler: “I’ve known Dowell like I’ve known Adam, for a long time… . The backbone of this offense is still the same. Even if Adam was here I think we still would have changed some stuff and got better in certain areas. So we’re just kind of continuing down that road.”

But Cutler having a positive relationship with an incoming coach means…nothing.

Indeed, his history is not encouraging, even with coaches he ostensibly thought highly of coming in, even ones already on staff or had worked with him previously.

Mike Tice was promoted from offensive line coach to coordinator when Mike Martz was fired after the 2011 season, Cutler’s previous best for avoiding interceptions. Tice had been instrumental in balancing the offense in 2010 when Martz’s schemes and protections were getting Cutler annihilated.

But by mid-2012, Cutler’s relationship and communications with Tice had deteriorated to the point of backup Josh McCown needing to serve as go-between.

Notably, the 2012 friction was developing even as the Bears were on their way to a 10-6 season, and with Jeremy Bates having been hired as quarterbacks coach. That was based in part on Bates’ relationships with Cutler from a 2006-08 overlapping stint with the Denver Broncos. Cutler’s relationship with Tice was toxic, and Bates went down along with Tice and the rest of Lovie Smith’s staff after that season.

The Bears have added Dave Ragone, a member of the Tennessee Titans staff with Loggains and having played two NFL games in 2003. But the Bears’ offense will turn on the Cutler-Loggains axis and it relationship elements, both football and inter-personal.

“There’s definitely some honesty there,” Cutler said, smiling. “He’s not afraid to tell me when I’m completely wrong and rightfully so. I like to tell him whenever I think we’re not doing things right or we need to change things.

“I think at the core of that we kind of cut through some stuff and we get things done a little bit quicker… .No one’s really sensitive. We just try to get it done.”

When Gase talked, Cutler listened. Will Cutler’s receptors stay open when something goes wrong, as something invariably will sometime in an NFL season? That is on Cutler, and his openness to yet another coordinator was at the root of his improvement to a career-best passer rating of 92.3.

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Loggains has been notably vocal during open practices, with more than Cutler alone. That is a departure from Gase’s demeanor, although Gase was more than capable of tough love when anyone on his side of the football needed it.

“I think it’s a mutual respect,” Loggains said of his Cutler relationship. “I think I respect him and he respects me. I think that when you have that mutual respect then all dialogue is legal. So whatever I say to him, he knows where it’s coming from and vice versa.”

Cred issues?

Some questions hanging over Loggains have less to do with Loggains himself, but rather his background.

Gase came to the Bears from two years as offensive coordinator for the Denver Broncos under John Fox. Gase, quarterbacks coach for the preceding two seasons, moved into that job when Mike McCoy was hired to coach the San Diego Chargers.

The Denver gig included three seasons working with Peyton Manning. While Manning needed scant coaching at that point in his career, the point was less how much Gase coached Manning as much as what Gase brought with him from his time with Manning. Gase knew from up close what a Hall of Fame quarterback looked like.

Loggains’ NFL career stops have accorded him time with no one approaching Manning’s stature. Not surprisingly, in time with three different teams, Loggains has not been involved with an offense that ranked in the top half of the league:

Year Team Job Offense results
2015 Bears QB 21st ydg, 21st pass, 23rd pts.
2014 Browns QB 27th pass, 27th pts.
2013 Titans O.C. 21st ydg, 21st pass, 19th pts.
2012 Titans QB/O.C. 26th ydg, 22nd pass, 23rd pts.
2011 Titans QB 17th ydg, 15th pass, 21st pts.

The Tennessee Titans’ quarterbacks during Loggains’ years there were Ryan Fitzpatrick, Matt Hasselbeck and Jake Locker. The 2014 Browns put up the seventh-highest passing yardage in franchise history, with Brian Hoyer, Connor Shaw and Johnny Manziel as their quarterbacks.

No slight of any of the quarterbacks, but a point around Loggains might be not how little the offenses achieved in his time with them, but rather, how much.

“I think that I’ve had an opportunity working with Kyle Shanahan in Cleveland and Adam Gase this last year, obviously there’s stuff I’ve taken from both of them,” Loggains said. “Going back in the quarterback room, I think it was good for me. It was a good experience. Things you obviously change are, ‘hey, in Tennessee I like the way we did this and we’ll bring that here. In Cleveland, I like the way we did whatever.’. So it’s gaining knowledge from being around other people and being in different situations.”

Bears OL Nate Chandler has retired

Bears OL Nate Chandler has retired

Less than two months after Nate Chandler signed with the Bears, the team announced on Saturday that the offensive lineman has retired.

Chandler, 27, signed with the Bears on June 2. He is the second offensive linemen the Bears have signed this offseason that has retired. Manny Ramirez retired in June after signing in March.

Chandler was expected to push Charles Leno for playing time at left tackle. 

Amini Silatolu was signed by the Bears earlier this week to add more depth to the offensive line, but was thought to be more of a replacement for Ramirez at guard.

Chandler played collegiately at UCLA. He went undrafted, but signed with the Carolina Panthers and played in 37 games, with 19 starts, from 2012-2014. Due to a knee injury he was placed on injured reserve in 2015 and did not play.

Bears release Omar Bolden, sign Charles Tillman to one-day contract

Bears release Omar Bolden, sign Charles Tillman to one-day contract

The Bears released a player who was expected to be a special teams contributor next season and signed a player who officially retired from the NFL on Friday.

After signing Charles Tillman to a one-day contract to retire as a member of the Bears, the team terminated the contract of defensive back Omar Bolden.

Bolden originally signed a one-year deal with the Bears last March after spending the first four seasons of his career with the Denver Broncos, including the first three years under current Bears head coach John Fox and special teams coordinator Jeff Rodgers.

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The 27-year-old Bolden, who won a Super Bowl with the Broncos in 2015, has amassed 27 special teams tackles and 24 defensive tackles in 56 career games. Bolden has also added 1,085 yards on 44 kickoff returns and 123 yards and a touchdown on five punt returns.

The Bears 90-man roster currently sits at 89.