Bears

Boyle: Where did Angelo go wrong?

622830.png

Boyle: Where did Angelo go wrong?

By Pat Boyle
CSNChicago.com

Jay is our quarterback, but everything else is up for grabs.

You never really know the true value of a player until you watch his replacement. Wherever Jay Cutler was on your chart five weeks ago, I'm sure he has sky rocketed to a lofty spot now.

While I had Matt Forte as a top five back in this league before his injury, his value dipped a little in the last few weeks after watching what Kahlil Bell and Marion Barber-Denver debacle included-have done during Forte's absence.

We all realize that to hoist the Lombardi trophy, you must have a difference making quarterback. Cutler is that guy, but you also need a "game managing" back-up quarterback to get you through a game or two during the season.

Let's face it, you lose your "elite" QB for any significant time, your season is pretty much over.

Josh McCown appeared like a competent back-up versus Green Bay, but many said the same thing about Caleb Hanie after "HIS" TD, two INT performance vs. the Packers in the NFC Championship last season.

This is where you need a well run organization, that isn't afraid to make a tough decision, as long as it's in the team's best interest.

Like what the Bears did with Olin Kreutz before the season began. Jerry Angelo took a lot of flack for not holding on to the locker room leader, over what seemed at the time to be NFL walk around money.

Jerry was right in the case of Kreutz. As it turned out, he offered him a lot more than anyone else did and the Bears realized his skills were nearing the end. Roberto Garza made you forget the whole Kreutz debate. Tough call, unpopular, but the right move for the good of the franchise.

I wish Angelo & company handled all personnel issues in the same manner. There was clearly a disconnect on Hanie's ability last season. That's why he was 3rd in line behind Todd Collins.

That is also why they drafted Nathan Enderle. Having two young quarterbacks with zero NFL starts behind Cutler was the Bears fatal mistake.

Mike Martz wasn't the Bears first or even second choice as the Offensive Coordinator two years ago.

The same reservations they had at that time, are the same issues that constantly surfaced for Martz here in Chicago.

If Martz & co. weren't comfortable with Hanie last January when they were one win away from the Super Bowl, why would he be plan B to the most sacked quarterback in the league coming into this year?

We can ask similar questions about the decisions made at safety, wide receiver and defensive tackle. To be fair, every team in the playoffs right now(including Green Bay) has weak spots on their roster. The Bears just have more holes and bigger gaps in talent between players.

I feel bad for guys like Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs who played at Pro Bowl levels all year and realize serious runs at the Super Bowl don't come very often. They made an average defense good enough to reach the playoffs. The problem was the offense never held up their end of the deal once Cutler went down.

Maybe the 7-3 start to at best an 8-8 season will cause some change at Halas Hall. It won't be any easy decision for George McCaskey, but it is one that has to be made if your goal is a Super Bowl.

Angelo has had plenty of time and some success over the past decade plus with the Bears. Unfortunately, much like his roster, Angelo has too many holes in his game and he hasn't been the difference making leader this franchise desperately needs.

Take a look back at the Bears Postgame Live Rewind below:

As the Bears begin to form an identity, special teams need to catch up

10-19michaelcampanaro.jpg
USA Today

As the Bears begin to form an identity, special teams need to catch up

If you squint, you can start to see the Bears forming an identity. The offense, at its best, will control the game with Jordan Howard and an offensive line that’s improving with cohesion over the last few weeks. The defense will stop the run, rarely blow assignments and — at least last week — force a few turnovers. 

Those can be the makings of a team that's at least competitive on a week-to-week basis. But they also leave out a critical segment of this group: Special teams. And that unit is obscuring whatever vision of an identity that may be coming into focus. 

Jeff Rodgers’ special teams unit ranks 29th in Football Outsiders’ DVOA ratings, and is below average in all five categories the advanced statistics site tracks: field goals/extra points, kickoffs, kickoff returns, punts and punt returns. 

Had the Bears’ just merely "fine," for lack of a better term, on special teams Sunday, they would’ve controlled a win over the Baltimore Ravens from start to finish. But a 96-yard kickoff return (after the Bears went up 17-3) and a 77-yard punt return (which, after a two-point conversion, tied the game in the fourth quarter) were the Ravens’ only touchdowns of the game; they otherwise managed three field goals. 

Rodgers didn’t find much fault with the way the Bears covered Bobby Rainey’s kickoff return — he would’ve been down at the 23-yard line had the officiating crew ruled that Josh Bellamy got a hand on him as he was tumbling over. But the Bears players on the field (and, it should be said, a number of Ravens) stopped after Rainey hit the turf; he got up and dashed into the end zone for a momentum-shifting score. 

“A lot of our players stopped, all their players stopped,” Rodgers said. “There were players from both teams who came on to the field from the sideline. So there’s a lot of people on that particular play who thought the play was over.”

That return touchdown could be chalked up to an officiating-aided fluke, but Michael Campanaro’s punt return score was inexcusable given the situation of the game (up eight with just under two minutes left). The Bears checked into a max protect formation, and no players were able to wriggle free and get downfield toward Campanaro (Cre’von LeBlanc, who replaced an injured Sherrick McManis, was knocked to the turf). Rodgers said O’Donnell’s booming punt wasn’t the issue — it didn’t need to be directed out of bounds, he said — and instead pointed to a lack of execution by the other 10 players on the field. And not having McManis isn’t an excuse here. 

“We expect everybody to play at the standard at which that position plays,” Rodgers said. “I don’t put that touchdown on one guy getting hurt, but you’d always like to have your best players on the field.”

In isolation, the special teams mistakes the Bears have made this year can be explained — beyond these two returns, Marcus Cooper slowing up before the end zone was baffling, yet sort of fluky. But while the Bears’ arrow is pointing up on defense and, at the least, isn’t pointing down on offense, these special teams mistakes collective form a bad narrative. 

“We take those players, we practice it, and like all mistakes, you admit them and then you fix them,” coach John Fox said, “and then hope to God you don’t do it again.”

Even in a controlled gameplan, Mitchell Trubisky's playmaking ability shines through

Even in a controlled gameplan, Mitchell Trubisky's playmaking ability shines through

While the Bears praised Mitchell Trubisky’s operation of a controlled gameplan in his second NFL start, they’re not losing sight of the special kind of athleticism and playmaking ability the rookie quarterback possesses. Two plays in particular stand out — plays that led to anywhere from a five-to-10 point swing in the game. 

Trubisky’s 18-yard third down completion to Kendall Wright in overtime seems to looks better every time you watch it on film. Trubisky was pressured by two Baltimore Ravens pass rushers, but managed to wriggle free and slide to his right, only to find linebacker C.J. Mosley waiting in front of him. The blend of athleticism and aggressiveness Trubisky displayed in firing high over the middle toward Wright — who made a specular play of his own — is one of the many reasons why the Bears are so excited about him. 

“To be able to throw that ball with both hands in the air and changing your arm angle – that’s why you draft a kid second,” offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains said. “Because of things like that.”

But there was another instinctual, athletic play Trubisky made that was just as impressive, and just as important. Cody Whitehair’s snapping issues cropped up at the Bears’ 13-yard line, with the center sailing a snap over Trubisky’s head and toward the end zone. 

If Baltimore recovered that ball, it would’ve tied the game; had Trubisky simply fell on the ball, it very well could’ve led to a safety that would’ve brought the Ravens within five points about a minute after the Bears took a 17-3 lead. Instead, Trubisky picked up the ball, scrambled to his right and threw the ball away — one of six throwaways he had on Sunday. 

“(That) was a critical, critical play at that time,” Loggains said. 

This isn't to say that two plays — only one of which gained yards — are enough to say the Bears' offense is in a good place. It's still a group that necessitates a controlled gameplan, similar to the one they used with Mike Glennon. But the difference: Trubisky can make plays. 

Briefly, on Whitehair

Since we’re on the subject of another poor snap by Whitehair, here’s what Loggains had to say on that topic: 

“He’s gotten better. We still had one too many. The thing and point I want to make with Cody Whitehair is, obviously wants to talk about the snap, but you’re talking about two weeks in a row of completely dominating. We’re an outside zone team that ran 25 snaps of inside zone because of what they were playing. It changed our game plan and Cody’s a big part of that. The last two weeks we’ve been able to move those guys inside. He’s a really good football player. 

“We’re going to battle through these snap issues. We’re cutting them down. He’s more accurate. He did have the one that obviously is unacceptable and no one owns that more than Cody Whitehair does. But he is a really good football player and let’s not lose sight of the 79 snaps where he really helped the team run the football and you can’t do that without a Cody Whitehair at center.”

Loggains has a point here — if Whitehair were struggling in the run game, against the defensive looks the Ravens were showing, the Bears wouldn’t have been able to run the ball 50 times with the kind of success they had. But the poor snaps nonetheless are ugly and have to be eliminated — imagine the uproar over them if Trubisky didn’t make that play in Baltimore. The Bears' offense won't always be good enough to overcome those kind of self-inflicted mistakes. 

Loggains and coach John Fox have praised Whitehair’s attention to the problem, and as long as Hroniss Grasu is still limited with a hand injury, Whitehair will have some time to work through these issues. One final thought: Who would’ve expected, back in May, that Whitehair would have the problems with snaps, and not Trubisky?