Saturday, January 29, 2011

As I See It: Chicago's Top 5 Positions To Improve On..

  In this segment of "As I See It," I will break down Chicago's professional sports franchise's and compose a list of the top 5 positions that need the most improvement. To everybody's satisfaction I have included front office positions as well in my evaluations. "Bear" with me, my grieving is still fresh, so through careful research and evaluation I completed the list for you.. Feel free to express your opinion as well.... I will! 

( Note that as an original, "As I See It" will be in order from 1 to 5, being that all these changes are of equal importance. Some just are more upsetting than others.)

So here is my list of the Top 5 Positions Chicago needs to improve on. Enjoy!
image courtesy of The Pigskin Doctors
  1. Offensive TackleChicago Bears

      Due to the untimely exit of the Chicago Bears in the NFC Championship, I have now the obligation (self entitled) to critique the 2010-11 roster. You would have had to lived underneath a rock for the last 18 weeks to not know the biggest glaring flaw in the Bears roster. Offensive tackle. There are many stats you could look at that directly link the line to poor production and injuries. Starting with 52 sacks in 16 games, leading all other quarterbacks by at least 12 sacks, the concussion of Jay Cutler that lead to the Todd Collins debacle in New York and Carolina where the line allowed 9 sacks in one game.  

      Mike Tice and Jerry Angelo would be the excrement on top of the hill and Roberto Garza, Chris Williams, Frank Omiyale, and Brandon Manamelaeuma are those in which it rolls downhill upon. To say that with a better echelon of talent on the line, the Bears would have made it to the Super Bowl is a bit absurd, but an interesting enough statement that it must be entertained. Front office officials have tried many ways to upgrade the talent on the line, but to no significant avail. Last year they brought in veteran future Hall of Famer Orlando Pace to bring some experience to the line, but all we got in return was a veteran lineman with Alzheimer's. Deja-vu' Todd Collins. 
      As I See It, the only way to improve this upcoming off-season is through the draft and free agency. By drafting good young talent that can develop and instill a trust factor with Cutler is only beneficial to the continuity of the Bears offense. Jerry Angelo & Co. should try to trade up in the draft for superior talent that can manifest immediately. Also with the impending lockout looming and many front offices unsure of what to do with expiring contracts on marquee players. That could work out to the Bears advantage. 
     Using fear and uncertainty Chicago could quite possibly land the likes of a Nick Mangold purely because teams are afraid to commit to contracts that might not be fully satisfied. Fortunately for the Bears, we will take 2 of 3 years of good play instead of none. To say the least the O-line "IS the weakest link". Goodbye...

    2. General ManagerChicago Cubs

      The Chicago Cubs have been in desperate need of alot of things over the past decade, but none more important than the general manager position. Currently held by Jim Hendry, the Cubs have saw both peaks and valleys during Hendry's 9yr tenure. Mostly valleys... Jim Hendry was promoted to Cubs General Manager on July 5, 2002. Since taking over the helm, the Cubs have had mixed results. In 2003, the club came as close to a World Series as any Cubs team since 1945, but after the fall of 2003, the club struggled for several seasons with a worse record in each successive season until the end of 2006. 

      However, after not renewing manager Dusty Baker's contract, the resignation of long-time team President Andy MacPhail, and the significant increase in player budgets, the Cubs went from last to first in 2007. Through mid-June in 2008, the Cubs had the best record in baseball. 
      Hendry has made some splashes in the market from time to time. He managed the first of several 'remarkable' trades during his tenure. Hendry traded unpopular catcher Todd Hundley to the Los Angeles Dodgers in return for Eric Karros and Mark Grudzielanek. Thought of as a salary swap at the time, Karros and Grudzielanek played major roles in the Cubs playoff success. He would also strike gold again trading Bobby Hill and Jose Hernandez for Pirate third baseman Aramis Ramirez, Kenny Lofton, and Randall Simon to shore up the bench. 

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      On the last weekend of the 2003 season, the Cubs clinched the NL Central Division title, their first division title in 14 years. And, as the Cubs entered game 5 of the NLCS with a 3-1 series lead over the Florida Marlins, it appeared that the Cubs were on the verge of their first World Series appearance in 58 years. However, the Cubs dropped three straight and were eliminated from the post-season. Some say it was Bartman, I say it was the Cubs choking. Just a REAL fan's perspective. 

      After the disappointing end of the 2004 season, Hendry addressed his roster again. He traded disappointing prospect Hee Seop Choi to the Marlins in exchange for Derrek Lee, and later sent catcher Damian Miller to the Oakland Athletics for Michael Barrett. On the free agent market, Hendry signed veterans Todd Walker and Greg Maddux.

      That is about as good as it gets for the rest of the 'still being written' story of the one they call "Jim". Since 2003, it has been nothing but overpayment's and rush judgments. After Acquiring Derrick Lee it is very safe to say Jim Hendry has given up more talent than he has spent money on. The short list of players that have been given up for nothing is: Ricky Nolasco, Matt Lawton, Greg Maddux, Todd Hollandsworth, Phil Nevin, Scott Williamson, Todd Walker, and Neifi Perez. His mishandling of contracts is without a doubt what put him in bad graces with the fans of Chicago extending the contracts of Carlos Zambrano, Alphonso Soriano, and Koske Fukudome. 

      Most notably in recent years is his free agent acquisition of hot-head Milton Bradley. Undoubtedly, the worst move in his entire career with the Cubs; Bradley did not finish an entire season and was a constant distraction to the team. 

      I am not sure how long it will take to make my beloved Chicago Cubs the "loveable winners", but I do know that while Jim Hendry is GM, we will be on "Year __". I offer no solutions for this one, only problems.

       3. Shooting GuardChicago Bulls

      A self explanatory name for a position could not get more clear cut than this. Shooting Guard. Kind of like a point guard but scores points, or shoots the ball often. This is not the case in Chicago, whose starting SG Keith Bogans isn't giving the position much luster.. 

      Bogans, averaging just 3.4 points per game is statistically the worst starting shooting guard in the NBA. His backup, Ronnie Brewer is averaging just over 6 points per game and is statistically better in almost every category; even minutes. With a combined total of over 9 ppg, the guard combo pales in comparison to the talented roster of Derrick Rose (24.6ppg, 8.1 apg), Carlos Boozer (19ppg, 10 rpg), and Luol Deng (17ppg, 6rpg), on a team that has been touted as the youngest, most dangerous team in the East to threaten the NBA Championship. The Chicago Bulls are now in immediate need to find adequate scoring from the position that desires it the most. 

     Some possibilities to fill the position are:
    1. Rip Hamilton - Detroit Pistons 
    2. O.J. Mayo - Memphis Grizzlies
    3. Carmelo Anthony - Denver Nuggets (SG would come from either Denver (J.R. Smith) or third team)
    4. Stephen Curry - Golden State Warrior
    5. Courtney Lee - Houston Rockets
    6. Jason Terry - Dallas Mavericks

      The Chicago Bulls are in a great position. Fighting 13 games ahead of Cleveland in the Central Division without having 2 of their best players on the floor. Upgrading the shooting guard position does nothing but improve their chances of going deep into the playoffs and possibly challenging for the NBA Championship. Derrick Rose wont let us down, lets get somebody to help him get it done consistently. Even Micheal Jordan had Scottie Pippen ( Hint, hint, John Paxson...).  

   4.   GoalieChicago Blackhawks

  I know, I know, this can be chalked up to Stan Bowman. The one man championship constuctor and destructor. Bowman played an integral part in acquiring the talent that brought the Stanley Cup to Chicago in 2010, including the signings of Marian Hossa, Tomas Kopecky and Brian Campbell, as well as weighing in on the decisions that brought players such as Patrick Sharp to the club winning the first Cup title in almost fifty years. The aftermath has been a bit more uneventful... 

  The fear of exceeding salary cap, and the gut that developing talent and drafting would work again, the front office decided to dump significant talent on the roster, clearing space to keep higher profile talent such as Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews. To date the Blackhawks have a 26-20-4 record, scathing to get a respectable seed in the playoffs and unsure of what the current roster of talent can contribute to repeat a Stanley Cup Championship. Corey Crawford has had a very good season to this point, but there have been some cracks lately. Pucks are getting by him that haven't before. More than likely it’s a slump, but with all the pressure on his shoulders, the Hawks will need significant offensive production to help, or Marty Turco could show signs of getting hot himself.

 The way the Hawks are playing, and Turco to this point, if Crawford takes a rookie step back, the season looks as bleak as the first month after the parade. You remember, when most of the players had their "day with the cup" while budgeting moving company prices to their respective trade or free agent signing destination. 

  Also, check back for the post-season Top 5 to see if anyone from the Blackhawks front office makes the list...


   5. Wide ReceiverChicago Bears

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  The Chicago Bears round out the top 5 in my evaluation of Chicago's top positions in need of a change. The wide receiver position has been one of crucial importance since the signing of Jay Cutler last season. The combination of lack of stability on the offensive line, Cutler's poor decision making and lack of talent at the receiver spot proved to be a recipe for disaster in the final ticks of the season. Devin Hester, Johnny Knox and Earl Bennett were the core nucleus of a mediocre roster. Greg Olsen, a tight end lead the team in receptions the last two seasons. Johnny Knox fell short from 1,000 yards receiving, a well deserved miss. Devin Hester proved that to be elite he needs less snaps at receiver and more opportunities in the return game. 

  Earl Bennett proved to be the only consistent receiver on the team, with his 3rd down efficiency and knack for catching the ball anywhere it is thrown. Familiarity and trust were among the many positives between Cutler and Bennett, but one guy can only do so much. With the Bears having legitimate draft picks and a few expiring contracts to free up cap space. 
  I have a feeling that with the proven success of going out and getting super free agent Julius Peppers and Chester Taylor, Jerry Angelo will follow that same mold and pick up a good "big time" receiver that Cutler can make his primary target. Now it is obvious that Cutler does not trust his teammates or his line, reaching the NFC Championship with that kind of instability says alot. Think of what the Bears can do if they spend a little more than half as much as they did with Julius Peppers....

 These are great times to be a Chicago sports fan. Hard work and best efforts are expected, winning is status quo. Be proud of your city sports. But be objective, a successful season is a championship season. Ask a champion.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

As I See It: There IS Always Next Year!

  Unless you live under the Millennium Park Bean, you know by now that the Chicago Bears lost to the Green Bay Packers in a initially lop-sided game 21-14. In a rather speechless afterglow I reflect now on the season past and look to the future for hope and optimism.

  The good thing about the end of one season, is the beginning of another. Free agency, the NFL Draft..., trades and resigning. Most importantly of all these events might just be the hiring and long overdue firings. I know with every fiber of my being that Lovie Smith & Co. (Jerry Angelo) stay. The coaching staff could be downsized by the lure of head coaching or more "lucrative" assistant coaching jobs. Word on the street as well, is that Devin Hester and Danieal Manning are the two top players that might be expendable via trade to beef up the receiver position. The belief with Manning is that Major Wright will quickly be able to adapt to the Cover 2 concept and will breathe younger life into the defense. The Devin Hester rumor is just a head scratcher. As all of these scenarios play out in the offseason, I lead you into the my Bears crystal ball and give you a take on some of my offseason moves.."As I See It".

  •   Todd Collins undoubtedly should be the first head on the offseason chopping block. For him to be the second string quarterback in the NFL has to piss off some MVP Arena league quarterback. Sixteen years in the NFL and what I saw was that of "Young Frankenstein Makes The Team". Every time he takes the field its a disaster and he was actually promoted to 2nd string ( See: Jerry Angelo, Mike Martz ). Collins did not throw a touchdown pass the entire season, and actually almost threw as many interceptions as he did attempts. To say that he was a 2nd string, or even a actual current NFL quarterback is a stretch. That was a bad move from top to bottom.
  •   Discounting Devin Hester and Earl Bennett, the entire Bears receiving roster is expendable. Devin Hester is a primary return man and should not see much time at the receiver position moving forward. He is too much of a weapon and a game changer at that position. Something which the football world has never seen. Teams must gameplan their entire games strategy off the possibility of Hester creating good field position. Devin Aromashadu has obviously lost the trust of the coaching staff.  Let him go and try and help another team and stop wasting what talent he does have on the inactive list. Rashied Davis has not worked out, due to the lack of opportunities and blown one's once presented. He is a big reciever; something that the Bears need, but can't get it done when it counts and is not trusted to do so anyway. Johnny Knox is not a bust, just not adapting to the nuance's of the NFL offense's and defense's to the rate that the organization needs him to. His size is a problem and it shows with lost fights against defensive backs for under thrown balls and when pressed at the line by corners.  He is not a one or two on 75 percent of the teams in the league. The threat of a lockout is imminent, so who really knows what kind of cash or confidence the front office has or wants to issue going forward into the unknown. Knox would be better spent in a trade package for a big time offensive weapon that Jay Cutler can trust.
  •   The offensive must be made over, maybe even starting with its coach Mike Tice. Tice may undoubtedly be more stubborn than Mike Martz, in his reluctance to adapt to complex defensive schemes. At times appearing to be mystified and lost, Tice did not coach or assemble the proper rotation of players the entire season. Outside of a few Jay Cutler bad decisions, the offensive line single handedly put Jay Cutler at risk week in and week out. Ultimately, putting Jay out in the most pivotal game of the season. During the beating Jay took during the regular season via sacks (52), the O-line was under constant scrutiny about the lack of protection for their quarterback. There was not a single game anyone can point out that the line held its own during the entire season. Unfortunately, the Mike Tice can't block for Cutler, so the hefty portion of the blame goes to the players themselves. Frank Omiyale and J'Marcus Webb keep... Everybody else goes. 
  •   This may be the death of the Cover 2. It is either the personell or the scheme. The NFL without a doubt is now a quarterback league. Passing is key to success and effectively running the ball is key to winning. No team in recent history has had truely dominant rushing and won the Super Bowl. Teams are no longer using the Cover 2 as a base defense, it might be time for us to hang it up as well... Just thoughts. When the Cover 2 faces a great quaterback, the bend but don't break philosophy only goes so far when the quaterback doesn't break. It appears now more than ever that in the current state of the NLF, the Cover 2 gives up more than just gaudy passing statistics. It gives up games. 
  No matter how this all plays out in the next few months, savor the feeling we all had on this ride. Savor the haters saying we wouldn't even make it to this point. It hurts when you have something to prove. It hurts more when you really want it. It hurts the worst though, when you don't even make it... Bear Down! Let's get em' next year!

Friday, January 21, 2011

As I See It: I May Be Eating My Words

  It takes a real man/woman to admit when he/she is wrong. I can do that, and I may have to. To much regret, but  not to my circumvention, Keith Bogans is playing commendable basketball right now for the Chicago Bulls. In a case such as this, eating crow is bittersweet. His production only further helps the Bulls. I just have my doubts from what I have seen thus far.

 In the past five games, the Bulls are 4-1. With the only loss suffered in the absence of both Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah. In those games, Bogans shot 6 for 13 from the 3-point line with 11 rebounds and 20 points. Not a glaring statistic being as though that only yields a 4 points per game average. But on the contrary, his increase in 3-point percentage and rebounds takes the load off of Derrick Rose and compensates for the lack of consistency from Kyle Korver; now shooting 4 of 14 from 3-point range. Outside of a 6-10 3-point shooting effort for 22 points, Korver's streaky shooting has been a Page 2 problem during Bogans apparent 'hot' streak.
   To put things in perspective, Bogans is starting to look up. In the absence of both Jo' and Boozer, Bogans hasn't been as productive as he has been these recent weeks since a period dating back to Oct. 8. Bogans scored 41 points in a a five game span and hasn't scored more than 25 points in a span of five games since. Five games is not the litmus test for streaks of production, but it is a fair one to go on. So for right, now I will eat some Brandon Lee. I hope I eat it all season.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

As I See It: Jay Cutler Is Getting His Middle Finger Ready...

   I guess if you just try to sleep the days away until the NFC Championship game Sunday.... It still takes just as long.. It is now THURSDAY, January, 20th 2011. Like pulling teeth these days are. So grueling that even though Derrick Rose and the Bulls pulled out a tough game against the Dallas Mavericks at home without Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah (the other 2 of Chicago's Big 3). And D. Rose also further pads his MVP campaign demo tape, I cant help but constantly think about the game. You know the one where the ______ Packers get bragging rights forever revoked in front of the highest rated viewing public probably in NFL history. Aghh.... So as you can see my dilemma runs deep. So deep that now I have joined my frienemy Rick Reilly in giving my buddy Jay Cutler the ol' Dr. Phil. I have thought about opinions about him from both sides, reasonable or not. I have implemented my opinion and have come to a very Stark reality. Jay Cutler isn't like every one of us, for that matter everybody's different. Not everybody feels comfortable in front of the media, not every one deals with diabetes while doing it. I know first hand what it is like to know someone personal to you dealing with diabetes. It is not fun. Being a professional athlete and dealing with diabetes I can't imagine being any better.

   So the way I see it, Jay Cutler is misunderstood. In statistics and in character. For someone who isn't 'trusted' in big game situations, Cutler is 15 for 28 with a 111.3 passer rating. In the past 3 games leading into the playoffs he has a TD to interception rating of 5-3. Yielding a 2-1 record, also elevating them to the NFC Championship game.  What also should be noted that two of those interceptions were against the Packers, in which Jay Cutler threw no touchdowns.. So to all doubters that say we cant trust him not throw away games, he hasn't yet when it counted. In fact, he threw a touchdown on his first pass play as a quarterback in the playoffs.

   "Jay Cutler is color blind" says retired Future Hall of Fame defensive end Micheal Strahan. Not against Dallas, Minnesota, Philadelphia, and the New York Football Jets (whom they might play in the Super Bowl), which he threw for 3 or more touchdowns. Also noted, out of those four teams the Jets are still alive. Which also goes to say he is undefeated when throwing 3 or more touchdowns. A lot of pundits are against him, everyone needs a bad guy. But the numbers don't lie, and neither do the wins. Jay Cutler is 22-0 in the regular season when he has a quarterback rating of 100.0 or higher. They said he sat down with John Elway for lunch so John could drop some knowledge, he barely looked up and was texting most the time. Maybe he was taking notes... He said he never looked up to any quarterback's growing up. Maybe that's because as it has even been reported his last postseason appearing he was playing safety for Santa Claus IHSAA State Championship. Think about it. Maybe he doesn't do reporters homework for them.  He also unbelievably caught slack for going to a kid's hospital without the media and camera's and spent time with children, hanging out and making it about them. Pardon him for being a punk about it.

   If the Bears win Sunday, no matter Jay Cutler's quarterback rating or touchdown to interception ratio. He will still be undefeated in the playoffs, and playing for the Vince Lombardi Trophy in Dallas, TX. Oh by the way, isn't almost half of the Bears team from Texas?

  One startling statistic going into Sundays game is the 9 sacks against Cutler in his two meetings against Green Bay this season. A stat which can almost be directly associated with his 1-3 touchdown to interception ratio. Too much pressure... way too much pressure. We know Charles Woodson will blitz, this is fact. We know they will disguise his blitz. The quarterback with the most rushing touchdowns might be the one that goes to the Super Bowl in this matchup. Three touchdowns for 54 yards in the past three games rushing will dispel any red zone issues for a quarterback in the playoffs. So fix one hand for the number one sign, and the other for the fact that your flying a bird to Dallas, TX to everyone that gave you "no respect". The only thing that matters to measure a professional player is waiting for you.

Monday, January 17, 2011

As I See It: It's. About. To Go. Down...

   Well if poetic justice could not be any sweeter. The Chicago Bears can earn the right to play for the 45th Super Bowl title by playing the(wait for it.......) Green Bay Packers at Soldier Field. If you would have told me in the beginning of the season that this would be the way it plays out, I would have not believed you but still secretly started to save money for the now $550 average 400-level seat ticket. Maybe when I start to get paid for these blogs I can actually cover from the game. But for right now my couch and ridiculously cheaper beer than Soldier Field will suffice! Although I am totally drinking Da Bear Kool-Aide. As I See It splitting the season 1-1 and Lovie Smith intentionally playing his starting squad in the final game of  what appeared at the time to be a meaningless game vs. the Packers has built all the hype one can handle for a NFC Title Rivalry Game. That's right I officially have marqueed this matchup with that title. Feel free to use that one around as you gush in Bears hysteria and bash the heads'. Even though this is one of the oldest rivalries in the modern NFL(and pre-modern).  Its hard to not have any respect for a team that is clearly a true competitor and in the 1-1 split owns the score with 27-23. So the hatred comes from the fact that we refuse to believe that our most touted competitor/arch-nemesis will stop us from reaching the promised land. Dallas. That's why this matchup is so special. Although the teams have played one another a record most in the NFL, they have only played in the playoffs once. That game was a tiebreaker matchup. So this game my friends is for all the marbles. As I look at this upcoming matchup, I look at the past two meetings and see what trended and what did not, and As I See It the game shakes up like this....

  • James Starks was and will be a non-factor. The Bears defense should focus a good deal of attention to Aaron Rogers and stay true to the Base Cover-2 philosophy. Let the front four create pressure and that should diffuse the run game enough to force Rogers to pass his way up field. I also vehemently believe that Mike McCarthy WILL NOT get off the bus running. In the past 3 games dating back to the most recent meeting Chicago and Green Bay, the Packers ran the ball a total of 86 times. One of the most out of the playoff teams. But the two games they ran the most in was against one of the two worst running defenses in the playoffs, the Falcons and the Eagles. The Bears limited the Packers to a total of 123 total rushing yards in the teams two meetings this season. Aaron Rogers attributed 41 yards and 1 rushing TD and James Starks rushed for 20 total yards and no touchdowns on 4 rushing attempts. The Bears must bring enough pressure to force Rogers into quick throws and not allow him to create outside the pocket with improvisation and using his feet to gather first downs. Respect Starks recent rushing efforts, but punish him for trying it on the 2nd ranked rushing defense in the NFL... Aaron Rogers is public enemy number 1. If the Bears defense can sack him more times than Green Bay's defense gets to Cutler, than that can be a key statistic to ensuring a place as the NFC representative in the Super Bowl. Green Bay has out sacked the Bears 9-3 in the past two meetings. Aaron Rogers alone has contributed 18 of the Packers 27 points against the Bears in there meetings. If the Bears can stop him they are a huge favorite to win this game, because he is the reason the Packers are playing in this game and are in the playoffs to begin with.
Chester Taylor and Tommie Harris just might be the x-factor to the Chicago Bears defeating the Packers this weekend. Both Taylor and Harris made plays against Seattle to help Chicago win, but in they both will have to have even more of a collective effort for their respective sides of the ball for the Bears to be complete enough to compete with a Green Bay Packers team that is talented top to bottom in the roster.

   Tommie Harris who did not participate in the 2006 Super Bowl run, is looking for a redemption run in this years playoffs. Tommie Harris has earned 3 sacks in the past 2 games after accounting for only 1.5 sacks the entire season. A number attributing to a couple game time inactive calls and other players stepping up and producing in his own 3-technique position. With a hefty amount of the veterans on the defense who either played on the 2006 Super Bowl team or have played in a Super Bowl in their career, Tommie is not short of places to look for motivation and inspiration to make his mark, and quite possibly end his career on the highest of notes as being the catalyst to Lombardi glory. I look for T.Harris to account for 4.5 tackles and 1.5 sacks against the Packers(willing that pesky knee keeps up. Reports are that despite weakness earlier in the season, Tommie is feeling his best of the entire season and even asked to be reinserted in the starting lineup). Bear Down.
      Chester Taylor was signed this recent off season purely to compliment Mike Martz offensive system. Taylor is undoubtedly a smart pick up for the Bears with his remarkable receiving ability coming out of the backfield and incredible field vision blocking and picking up zones. Also giving Matt Forte a reasonable breather and the defense a different look to have to adjust to ,and compromise a nickle or linebacker. The problem seems to be with Martz using him as a primary rushing back and not using him in the receiving game as a hot read or dump option. Now understandably at the running back position he needs to posses the strength and agility to be able to convert those 3rd and 3, 3rd and 4 situations. But to not utilize Chester to his strengths or use Matt Forte to pound out those critical yards is in my humble opinion, doing an extreme disservice to an offense that can undoubtedly flourish in a Mike Martz system in the seasons to come and most particularly these 2010-11 NFL Playoffs. As I See It, Mike Martz should spread out the Green Bay defense and force Dom Capers to reduce the amount of times he blitzes Charles Woodson, by sending Chester Taylor out as a hot read or underneath route to play off the safety. By keeping the Packers blitzer's honest and a good pass block effort by the O-Line should allow Cutler enough time read through his 2nd and 3rd progressions and spark a big play that Mike Martz loves so much. I look for Chester Taylor to account for 30 rushing yards, 30 receiving yards and receiving touchdown. Bear Down.

  • Three phases will be necessary for the Bears to win the NFC. Devin Hester will need to continue to put the offense in great field position and threaten opponents with the scare of a one on one with the kicker. Dave Toub will need to contain Packer returner James Starks who has been a key spark in the Packers playoff dominance and might look to break a big play in the return game as well. If the Bears plan to use Devin Hester on both kick and punt duties, I do not believe they will need to have to reel in his receiver duties to do so. It is do or die and I believe Devin wants to make a mark on both phases and prove that not only is he a the biggest offensive threat in the NFL. But also that he is a champion receiver, returner and make his mark once again in Chicago Bear and NFL history. He would truly make Mr. Halas proud. 
  • Do not be fooled with the offensive production. This is after all a Mike Martz offense, they will score. The Bears have posted a 40 and 38 point game this season. As well as posting 6 23-31 point victories, all in wins. As long as Jay Cutler has a passer rating of 100. or higher he is undefeated in his career. So as they go, so does the Bears. Martz did it in STL, he did it San Francisco and he has already done it here in one season and we have yet to even see it 50% close to its full potential with the talent we have on the roster. That is something to look forward to. Johnny Knox, Earl Bennett, Rashied Davis, Devin Aromashadu, and Devin Hester all have potential to really step up and make big plays as long as Jay trusts them and they run the routes they are supposed to and use good field IQ to read Jay and the defense to their advantage.
     So call off work, call over some buddies and family or tailgate and get in all your Bears gear and paraphernalia. This is going to be a historic NFC Championship game and one for bragging right for a very, very long time. Let a bitter rival be the stepping stone into football immortality. Live the '85 dream and remember the '06 lesson. Cut the cheese heads, the whole city is behind you!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

As I See It: Re-Living The Past....

    Hello everyone! Thank you for your patience and consideration for another installment of "As I See It". This week en lieu of next weeks re-battle with the NFC West Champion Seattle Seahawks(laughing hysterically on the floor!!!but not to be taken lightly) I revisit the old archive with an article I wrote about the identity(or lack thereof) of the Chicago Bears going into the game against the Seahawks. Oddly enough there are more similarities between these two games than there are contrasts. With the only one truly being injuries with Lance Briggs participating for the Chicago Bears. Well lets all take a look Back to The Future! Enjoy.(and apologize for any run-ons).    

    Asking for more Devin Hester on offense, is the same as asking Jay Cutler is his head ok? OK—maybe a little tasteless but it’s at least better than a post-game Lovie Smith press conference. The Bears offense has found a way to win 5 games but in the same stretch, also managed to find its way to a “No ID” label. What’s in a name really? We know the Steelers are a hard nosed football team with attention to the ground and pound. We also know that they don’t get off the bus running; they get off on defense….. We know that the 3-time Super Bowl champions New England Patriots are a “well-rounded” football team that was at its peak before it acquired Randy Moss (note that they haven’t won a Super Bowl since the acquisition and recent departure). And to round it out, we know that the New Orleans Saints can shoot out the Colts who can shoot out everybody else and everybody else is fifty/fifty. So why do we torture ourselves so much over what the Bears do well when its everything else?
    Even Zen-master Lovie Smith has preached since he arrived at Halas Hall that 3 phases wins the game and that’s exactly what the Bears do. Not pretty, wont get a lot of BCS nudges for margin of victory over teams they should beat (note the Detroit Loins). But with any improvement in the spots that have continually plagued the Bears in years past improves, then the Bears sit atop the NFC as one of the best teams to gear up for another magical playoff run. The passing game appears to look better when Jay Cutler doesn’t get his back blown out, or has to run for his life instead of dropping back and letting the fastest and most explosive but unexposed duos in the league with Devin Hester and Johnny Knox. Given time this Pro-Bowl combo can prove to be just enough ammo to put secondary’s on their heels and open up the run game for a more balanced attack. Add resident outcast blue chip Devin Aromashadu and Earl Bennett and the Bears are deep! Mix that up in a pot, and then the Chicago Bears would be…. Every other team in the NFL!
   Identities are overrated. Julius Peppers isn’t though. Anyone who thinks that an addition of that magnitude to mix it up with Lance Briggs, Brian Urlacher, Tommie Harris (respectively) and veteran leader Peanut Tillman wasn’t going to be ugly if the rest of the pieces fit don’t watch much Bears football. So far, so good on the defense restoring fear in opposing offenses with a turnover mentality, and not letting teams break for big plays attaining any momentum. The addition of Rod Marinelli and the reinstatement of a TRUE Cover-2 defense, with a good enough front four to cause constant pressure and let the linebackers make intelligent plays, has made this current Bears defense flash glimpses of the dominant 2006 D’ that carried the team to the Super Bowl. It must feel good for one of the biggest questions on this Bears defense is if Tommie Harris can join the party and play like the Tommie Harris we grew to love and pay handily. An old lady told me on the El the other morning that ‘the bears are the Detroit Lions with more wins, a lot of talent trying to figure out how to win’! Now that lady must be friends with Mrs. McCaskey!


Saturday, January 8, 2011

As I See It: Before Boston

Welcome again everyone, I figure I wont let this gear rust so how's about I touch on one more topic before I enjoy todays festivities.

  Lets say the Chicago Bulls had Carlos Boozer instead of Brad Miller in that epic first round battle against the Boston Celtics. Would we have pulled off the series win? Think about it for a second, from what you see right now do you trust they can even beat Boston once in the regular season? I know, I know, they beat L.A.... at home. I know that they have handed and below .500 team or two a well deserved beat down. But I DO NOT for one second believe that the Bulls are ready to make a splash in the playoffs, better yet make it out of the first round.
Not yet at least.
   However,  I am also not sure what or if a trade for a scoring SG would do for the Bulls offensively given what is currently available in the market or that illustrious "Who for Carmelo?" question. No matter how that one plays out, the Bulls would lose a crucial intangible. So we go with what we know. The Bulls are averaging 99.5 PPG on the season and starting SG Keith Bogans is only attributing 3.5 of them.
Not a very appealing statistic. Now for what it is worth, I hope that Coach Thibs isn't playing the pride role by not pulling Bogans out of the starting lineup for Brewer. When it is clear right now he is playing with much more intensity and offensive effeciency.
  It is very evident that Joakim Noah is of extreme importance to this franchise for more than just what he contributes statistically. The intensity that the Bulls play with while he is on the floor I have yet to see since he went under the knife after the Toronto game a month back. Unfortunately, Derrick Rose's play alone cannot spark a flame in an offense(and defense too as of recent) that is stagnant at best with its Lead Warrior out in cast. So I took it upon myself to propose a variety of scenarios in the format of, of course As I See It! And they are as follows:
  1. Start Kyle Korver, it remains a mystery to me why the best shooter on the team rides the pine to start games. Imagine a world where one of the NBA's best 3-pt shooters can try to eclipse Ray Allens single game 3-pt record...against him! I know that his defense is a bit suspect but well.... Carlos Boozer is also a starter. Not to mention the fact that in the summer I thought that Gar Forman and John Paxson were LITERALLY trying to build an East Coast Utah Jazz with the acquisition of Ronnie Brewer, Kyle Korver, and Carlos Boozer. Not to mention Coach Thibs and Jerry Sloan do mirror the same philosiphy built on defensive intensity and pick & roll play. So how about we start them all and see how familiar athletes play off one another. Hey it couldnt hurt, and maybe Carlos will remember the days where the thought of Jerry Sloan staring you down from the sideline was enough to put in a good help side slide effort(I know, enough all ready on the Boozer diss). Its not like I am anti-Boozer, I am anti-Boozer not playing a lick of legitimate aggresive D'
  2. Let Omir Asik loose. Asik appears to be catching on the style of NBA play well. A little more commitment to the defensive end and you have a legit back up center. Coming from Turkey where bigs come with outside weapons, he could potentially spread the defense out by making them play honest at about 17ft. Giving Derrick Rose a better opportunity to dribble enter and create as he has been doing so well this season.
  3. Reel in Loul Deng on the offensive end. I read a blogger comment the other day that was not only hilarious but true. It read " Whoever told Luol Deng that SF stood for Shooting Forward should themselves be shot". Now legally that is a threat but the underlying point remains the same. There is not in fact, a such thing as a "shooting forward" so why does he find it neccesary to pull the trigger so early and often in possesions. I feel that by Coach Thibs allowing the team to play more loosely than most NBA coaches would, in return for more intensity on the defensive end could be detrimental to any type of stability the team could gather through playing without structure throughout the regular season. Run through the offense and allow Derrick Rose to conduct who scores and when. Its his job. 
  So currently as I see it, the Chicago Bulls are in a good position with the best record in the Central Division today before facing the Boston Celtics. But before the play the Celts, think about a few things. Can THIS team beat Boston in 7, Miami in 7, Orlando in 7, New York in 7?....... On that note GO BULLS!

As I See It: I'm Over It...

Hello everyone! I would like to thank you for viewing my very first blog. I have been writing my thoughts on Chicago Sports for quite some time and well...... It's kinda creepy unless you let others read it. So without further ado I present to you... As I See It: Chicago Sports in the eyes of Curtis Shaw Flagg. Enjoy!:

   I am over it. Totally done and over with being upset with Jim Hendry, and his decision to let go a good crop of corn(prospects, you will get used to the verbiage!) for Tampa Bay pitcher Matt Garza. Now let me be the first to admit that this is not the first Jim Hendry decision I have not agreed with(For an ENTIRELY different blog). But it remains the same, I wasn't quite sure if the ends justified the means. Chris Archer(our touted No.1 farm system prospect), Hak--Ju Lee, Brandon Guyer, Robinson Chirinos, and fan favorite Sam Fuld were handed tickets for Southeast Florida without hesitation as the Cubbies added more depth to their starting rotation. Now lets weigh the pros and cons:
  • We never really got any real substance out of Sam Fuld who showed sound baseball fundamentals and a hard hat and lunch pail approach to playing with hustle, a lot of why he was a fan favorite playing opposite Soriano. But with a .143 Batting Average and no significant contributions to the offense he was expendable, although his defensive play should not go without notice. It will be missed.
  • Chris Archer was touted as the second coming of Kerry Wood in our farm system. Posting record highs in strikeouts, but compiling a hefty walk total as well. At this point in juncture in Chicago, it is time for the prospects to prospect and even with winning the minor league Pitcher of the Year award, posting 15 wins in both single and double-A, and pitching for Team USA in the Pan American Games the Cubs brass felt as if Archer wasn't ready to produce this season in the Majors(Hendry decision). As for the rest of the prospects, only time will tell. We have seen how Jim Hendry prospects have faired for other teams... Pretty good.