Sunday, December 18, 2011

From Hurd to Hanie, Bears Deserve an F

Well, this wasn't a good week for the bosses at Halas Hall. First came news of Sam Hurd's inner-channeling of his best Johnny Depp in Blow impression. And then came the game today - an utterly embarrassing, disgusting, and at the same time, hilariously awful performance that officially marks the end of the Bears 2011 season. It wasn't enough to lose to a Seattle Seahawks team that has been playing so well as of late. No - today was an evisceration of the Bears in every way, an indicator of the threadbare talent at every position on the roster, and proof positive that Jerry Angelo and the rest of the front office class clowns know less about developing a football team than Rick Perry seems to know about running a political campaign.

For starters, it seemed like the defense sort of caved in to the pressure of attempting to carry this lifeless team for the past four weeks. Julius Peppers was his usual self, forcing a strip sack that led to a Bears defensive touchdown from Israel Idonije. Besides the two goal line touchdowns from Marshawn Lynch, he was held to only 42 yards on 20 carries. But the deep flaws that run through the defense were exposed today as well. The secondary as a whole was atrocious. The only consistent play we get from this position group is from Charles Tillman. Most of the players, whether it be Tim Jennings, Craig Steltz, Chris Conte - whoever - are sufficient in run coverage but downright awful in pass coverage. This was the unit that let Tarvaris Jackson (yes, TARVARIS JACKSON) shred the team seemingly at will today.

Hanie at his finest
But the real culprit here was the offense, of course. What could the defense possibly think? I'll give the D a pass merely because they've been on the field for almost the entire game for the past 4 games and are probably just exhausted. Caleb Hanie turned in yet another stinker, with 111 yards and three awful, just atrocious interceptions including one to 333 pound defensive lineman Red Bryant. Thus far this season Hanie has 3 touchdowns and 9 interceptions, with a completion rate that hovers around 50%. And the stats don't even explain what we all see with the eye test every game. Hanie looks lost, clueless, frustrated, and generally incapable of leading the Bears anywhere but out of the playoffs. I thought he made a really nice throw for his only touchdown, a play where he actually looked confident in the pocket and threw a strike to Kahlil Bell for the touchdown. But that was it. And frankly, outside of 2 minute situations when a game is already out of hand, that's all he's done in each of the games since taking over for the injured Jay Cutler. He's destined to hold a clipboard the rest of his life and we asked him to fill Cutler's shoes. Just awful, and makes you really miss Cutler at QB. I liked what I saw out of Bell at running back, making me wonder where the hell his carries have been since Forte went down. Between his burst and multifaceted athleticism and Marion Barber's inability to go out of bounds or hold onto the ball, I have no clue why he didn't get any carries. He couldn't have been any worse than Barber's performances.

But the point behind this entire epic collapse isn't the complete lack of production at nearly every position. It isn't the fact that our offensive line consistently fails to protect the quarterback and that OL coach Mike Tice has to significantly overachieve just to put a piece-meal group out there. It's not the fact that it would be difficult for any of our receivers to crack the rotation of a successful team, like say the Green Bay Packers. Nor is it the fact that we have zero depth at linebacker and our secondary is awful. No, the reason behind the epic collapse lies solely in the dangerous confines of the Bears front office.

New Bears Chairman George McCaskey needs to make some changes
The problem has many angles, but at the core, it's an organizational issue. The Bears simply are not an organization that is dedicated to winning. I repeat these same fundamentals ad nauseum, but the truly consistent winners in all of sports, not just the NFL, are teams that value winning above all else. In the NFL, teams like Pittsburgh, Green Bay, and New England come to mind. The owners and managers of those franchises find people who fit a persona of winning, and let those people do whatever they can to fulfill that overall team goal. Here on the Bears, it starts at the top. George McCaskey, who took over as Bears chairman (read: owner - it's not like Virginia McCaskey has any clue of what's going on) this past year, will have to be the one who primarily changes this going forward, and I think he has the ability to do so. This concept needs to start from the top. It's his job to hire executives who have the ability, will, work ethic, drive, attitude, and desire to win above all else. If they do, those executives will hire people on both the business and football side of things, whether they be coaches or players, who will have the same mentality. After the season McCaskey, if he's serious about changing the mentality the team has had in past years, will clean house and put people in place who will do just that. The first step he must take is getting rid of Jerry Angelo.

Angelo needs to go
Angelo must know he needs to go; rumors of his retirement have been trickling out for weeks. Regardless if he retires or is fired, there needs to be a new General Manager with the Bears next season. Just think about how unprepared the Bears were this year. No offensive line, even though everyone and their mother knew it was necessary. No reliable and productive skilled receiver. No reliable backup in case the franchise quarterback went down, especially considering that Josh McCown, the guy they signed off the street when Cutler went down, threw an immediate interception when he got in the game today. No depth at linebacker. No reliable production at all in the secondary outside Charles Tillman. Angelo knew of the weaknesses of his team and invariably failed to act upon them. That is unacceptable considering the Bears were coming off a NFC Championship appearance last year that was for all intents and purposes done in spite of his shortcomings. Angelo came to Chicago in 2001 with a reputation as a shrewd player personnel executive who made the right moves at the right time. Yet, in the second season after he left Tampa, the Buccaneers won the Super Bowl. Go figure.

Look at his draft record. Yes, he's had steals such as Matt Forte, Lance Briggs, and Devin Hester. Heres the drafts, and notable players from them, that Angelo has had his hand on with the Bears:
  • 2002: Alex Brown
  • 2003: Rex Grossman, Charles Tillman, Lance Briggs
  • 2004: Tommie Harris, Tank Johnson, Bernard Berrian, Nathan Vasher
  • 2005: Cedric Benson, Kyle Orton
  • 2006: Danieal Manning, Devin Hester
  • 2007: Greg Olsen, Garrett Wolfe, Corey Graham
  • 2008: Chris Williams, Matt Forte, Earl Bennett, Craig Steltz, Zack Bowman, Kellen Davis
  • 2009: Henry Melton, D.J. Moore, Johnny Knox, Lance Louis
  • 2010: Major Wright, J'Marcus Webb
  • 2011: Gabe Carimi, Stephen Paea, Chris Conte
Chris Williams and Gabe Carimi are the only 1st Rounders still on the team. That list is really of the players who made an impact too, however big or small. That leaves out the innumerable players who busted after being drafted by Angelo. How is that acceptable? When you take this horrible draft record and combine it with his record in free agency, how does he still have a job? Isn't it his job to assemble players to a team? He's the primary reason the Bears have done so terribly once Cutler and Forte went down. His free agency skills, regardless of the massive Julius Peppers signing, are retched: screwing up deals with Thomas Jones, Olin Kreutz, Greg Olsen, Chester Taylor, and Matt Forte. The Forte one is the killer, with more and more reports saying that Forte will be gone next year. The idea that Forte wouldn't be rewarded for what he contributes is just beyond comprehension. I don't really know what to do with myself as a Bears fan if we let Forte go and keep Angelo.

And that's only part of it. Not only did he screw up free agency deals; he refused to go after others. He pulled off a great trade for Jay Cutler. Awesome. But then he didn't do anything about increasing the protection for the franchise QB. Watching the Bears seem so woefully outmatched today was depressing. The Bears are a proud franchise. They founded the NFL, led it from its infancy to stability, had one of the most compelling team in the NFL's history with the 1985 Super Bowl team, and have a rabid fan base in one of the largest markets in the country. All the Bears are doing now, from the putrid performance on the field to the ghastly performance in the front office, are undermining that great legacy. And if George McCaskey has any respect for that same legacy, the one his grandfather George Halas created, he'll do the right thing and clean house in the front office, starting with Jerry Angelo.