Bears Slide Down the Rankings… and Injuries Pile Up.. the Variability of Football

It is interesting to see the NFL and how much change there has been since the pre-season “power rankings” across conferences to where we are today.  Here were the “top 5″ from one pre-season list – you can see how much the prognosticators were favoring past years and putting faith in programs that seem to stack up long term positive outcomes.

  1. Seattle Seahawks
  2. Denver Broncos
  3. New Orleans Saints
  4. New England Patriots
  5. San Francisco 49ers

But here is a recent “power rankings” list and their top five:

  1. Denver Broncos
  2. Dallas Cowboys
  3. Green Bay Packers
  4. Philadelphia Eagles
  5. Indianapolis Colts

And it isn’t as if those pre-season “top 5″ just slid down a bit… Seattle is at #11, New Orleans is at #20 (lower even than the Bears!), the Patriots are at #9 (still in the hunt), and San Francisco is at #13.

On the flip side – no one saw the Dallas Cowboys coming on, and they are now at #2 (remember that humiliating loss AT HOME to the 49ers where the “home” crowd was mostly 49er fans?).  The Eagles are also coming on strong and I don’t want to talk about the Packers we all know how they are playing right now with Aaron Rogers throwing out of his mind.

The NFL now is a very competitive league and I think that there are few teams (except for Lovie’s woeful Tampa Bay Bucs and the “commitment to excellence” Raiders) that we can seriously count out of even being dangerous on a given weekend.

While people (myself included) were expecting great things out of a suddenly healthy defense and with new draft picks, based on the success of the prior years’ draft class, these things mostly haven’t materialized.  No one expected the random linebackers we picked up off the waiver wire to do so well one game, and then our returning starters to get whipped the following game.  And seeing our #1 pick on defense on the stationary bike was also a killer.

The Dolphins and Bills are much better squads than they have fielded in prior years, and while losing to them seems ridiculous (at home no less), it isn’t so crazy seeing how they’ve played recently.  The play calls of the Dolphins also seemed to be killing us as well (outcoached).

The NFL is almost all injuries now.  If Rogers gets hurt (we only need one cheap shot people, come on) the Packers fall to the middle of the pack instantly.  Don’t forget that the Bears are semi hobbled with both Marshall and Jeffrey and the defense is severely banged up.

These aren’t excuses and they don’t mollify the pain of seeing our home team Bears get beat by middle of the pack squads.  But pretty much everyone was wrong on everything football wise going into this season except for the Broncos, and it isn’t too late for the Broncos to lose it based on one key injury.

I think the NFL seems to be much more competitive top to bottom and it seems like many squads are well coached and dangerous all the time.  The Bears have won some games they had no business winning and they’ve lost some heartbreakers.  They are a middle of the pack team now, and they are subject to the whim of injuries more than ever and none of their competitors can be taken for granted.

Back to Dan’s theme of “tanking” when the season is lost, that seems to be the strategy being employed by the Vikings, which will make them much more dangerous in the future.  Today the Lions stand as difficult foes due to their top QB and WR as well as what might be the best defense in football and we have seen Rogers just slaughter teams like the Bears that don’t lay a hand on him.

I guess one positive is that lots of cities that never thought they had a chance can watch some exciting football, because their teams can be playing down to the wire against teams where previously the outcome seemed to be pre-ordained.  None of this is solace to us Bears’ fans however, as we watch what seemed to be a promising season undone by home losses while our main divisional competitors (Lions and Packers) get stronger every day.

What Is To Be Done?

It appears that there was some locker room angst yesterday after that terrible loss to the Dolphins. I won’t dwell too long on it since nobody will ever really know what happened besides the players and other people who were actually there. But this might not be a bad thing. It better start helping quickly, because we have a road trip to New England this week (a Patriot team that hasn’t looked like all that and a bag of chips, to be frank) before our bye week. Then right after that, we go to Green Bay to visit the absolutely on fire Packers. I am not ready to throw in the towel on the season just yet, but if we lose to the Patriots and Packers, I think that will be pretty much it.

So lets just assume (it is always dumb to do that, but let’s do it anyways) that the Bears go 3-6 and are pretty much doomed. What now? You can’t cut Cutler unless you intentionally plan on tanking 2015. The amount of dead money associated with a Cutler cut is just too big to think otherwise. But this might not be a terrible plan if it comes to it. We have two excellent draft classes under our belts and 2015 could get us some more experience. We could jettison Forte at the end of the year with minimal penalty and/or trade him this year for some more draft choices.

I don’t see how a coaching change would help at this point, either. So what is to be done? Your choices are basically to Fire Everybody and let chaos reign until 2016, or tether Cutler and Trestman to each other, start showing the high priced vets the door via trade and begin grooming a qb via the 2015 draft for 2016. Would the fans care about tanking 2015 to get the cap in order and understand that it had to be done?

These are all tough questions that the Bears front office will have to ask themselves if this season continues to go down the rathole. I am still leaving the glass half full for now, but it looks like rough sledding.

Dolphins at Bears Open Thread

I am just too busy so I am unable to represent at the game today. I think Carl will be there though. Lets make this one unexciting and just pound the fish into the Soldier’s Field’s turf.

Interesting Comment on Illinois Football

One “t. dussault” dropped in a great comment from my post of a while ago “Not Sure if I want It”. It reads:

I attended Illinois in the late 60’s, graduating in 1971. Even started to play.

Its too easy to claim we play straight. That suggests the only way you find wins, is avoiding rules. Baloney. My university just never prioritized its football program. Hard as it is to believe, you can be successful and do it within the rules.

Illinois is bad because it never committed to excellence. What it needs to do is find a name coach who can induce athletes to matriculate. Someone who will immediately make people notice. John Gruden is probably perfect.

Beckman should NEVER have been hired. He has no appeal, is considered a clown, and was that prior to getting the job. It was another testimonial to the brilliant athletic department that hired the new A.D. Another sure fire star.

What is so sad, is that the Illinois endowment could be massive with our having the largest living alumni body in the world, and their contributing if they felt some pride. The program is a joke and the sparse 25,000 fans that go to Memorial Stadium are about the only few left who care. Very sad.

There is a lot of good in this comment, so I want to take it apart a bit and discuss. First, I scoured the Illinois rosters for the time period “t. dussault” mentions, and I didn’t see him. That doesn’t mean that he wasn’t on the team, or that he isn’t using an internet handle, but I thought that should be out there. On to the meat of the comment.

T. Dussault takes me to task by saying that my main point was that we don’t win because we aren’t playing by the rules. I guess this is part true, but part not. If you don’t blatantly flaunt the rules, you will NEVER be a top tier program. But, there is no reason you can’t follow the rules and be successful. Look at Northwestern and Stanford. The key is that you have to define what, to you, is success. Northwestern knows that they will never be a Florida State or Auburn and they are comfortable with that. I would love for Illinois to have a good team and go to a bowl every year. I think that is not unreasonable. But we have to define what we want.

But, I give you Wisconsin. They are on the cusp of being one of the top 15 or 20 programs in the nation and are intentionally putting teams like LSU and Alabama on their schedule. How did this happen? I give you another part of t. dussault’s comment. A commitment to excellence. This all started with Barry Alvarez. And the whole damned state is supportive. Everyone is on the same page. There is no reason this cannot happen at Illinois. As t. dussault mentions, Illinois has a giant alum base all over the world (someone once said wherever you go, there are Illini) and even some modicum of success would be met with new donations and a likely resurgence of pride.

But t. dussault is also right in demanding a coaching change. I have said for a long time that Beckman is a clown, and he is. We have to start all over. Again. Probably a pretty good idea to get rid of the AD too. Whether starting over would be with a certified star like Gruden, or an assistant at a big program like Alverez was, it needs to happen. And we need to define success. Do we want thugs that are terrorizing citizens like Jameis Winston or do we want to do it Northwestern style, and get players who actually go to school and are productive people? With the latter style, we will only go so far. But I would be fine with that.

FanDuel Analysis and Question

Over at my “mothership”, LITGM, I put up a post analyzing FanDuel and give my take on it. Click here if you are interested. Also, I had a thought of starting up some challenges there for us 12 guys that read this website. Probably a $2 entry fee, limit six players, salary cap rules. If we don’t get six, the contest for that week would be cancelled and FanDuel returns the money. Let me know in the comments. And yes, I know fantasy football is dumb.

No wonder I feel Depressed: Sayreville War Memorial High School

The Sayreville War Memorial High School football program has been cancelled.

Seven Sayreville football players have been arrested on charges ranging from aggravated criminal sexual assault to criminal restraint. It is unclear at this time whether the students will be charged as juveniles or as adults.

Hundreds of school supporters attended a rally on Sunday, seeking to promote the community! Some community residents are quoted as saying that there is “anger” over the season being cancelled!  One, a sports reporter, is quoted as saying “Some people say that because only seven people have been charged, why punish the whole team?”

Further, District Superintendent Richard Labbe is represented on ABC news as already saying “[he]… does not believe that the coaching staff was aware of the incidents!”

The team’s head coach, George Najjar, is represented as taking the stance that his future coaching at the school is “unknown!”

It is only after sifting through the comments following the many online stories about this abomination at Sayreville that one comes across opinions such as “I hear parents saying that it’s not fair for the whole team’s schedule to be cancelled, but what about the rights of the children that were sexually assaulted?”; “Didn’t the coaches notice when underclassmen started changing clothes outside of the locker room?”; and “Upperclassmen have described it as a tradition at Sayreville.”

Bears vs. Falcons Open Thread

Damn we are condition critical and NEED this game. The line is Atlanta -3.