Moon View: Absent Cutler stealing Super Bowl show

Moon View: Absent Cutler stealing Super Bowl show

Monday, Jan. 31, 2011
9:19 p.m.
By John Mullin

The Bears may not be at this years Super Bowl but at least one of their number is still on the minds of some questioners around the event. And that suggests something.

Speaking to The Dan Patrick Show on Comcast SportsNet on Monday, veteran interviewer Rich Eisen from the NFL Network opined that Jay Cutler was a more in-demand interview this week than either Aaron Rodgers or Ben Roethlisberger.

Not sure I agree as far as Roethlisberger is concerned, since the background issues with him should (I said should) be of greater interest than Cutlers degree of injury or whatever people are making of the NFC Championship game situation.

But theres a touch more here than just the endless fascination or whatever it is with Cutlers departure from his last game. The reality is that the Bears have quietly become a story worth talking about this season, for all of the detractors, doubters, critics and whoever that have dismissed them.

Put another way, if the Bears didnt matter, neither would Cutler.
Check it out

A lot is going to be said and written this week about the zone blitz as practiced by coordinators Dom Capers in Green Bay and Dick LeBeau in Pittsburgh. The NFLs two best scoring defenses both operate out of a 3-4 scheme and colleague Ray Didinger out East at does a great job running thought the particulars of what could be the story of this years Super Bowl.

If youve forgotten (and the Bears would like to), it was a zone blitz variation that dropped Packers nose tackle B.J. Raji into underneath coverage, resulting in Rajis interception and TD return for what would be the winning points in Green Bays win over the Bears in the NFC Championship game.

Just thought Id mention that.

Reason to hope?

It doesnt guarantee a successful end hovering into view in the collective bargaining agreement negotiations, but anytime people are talking, its usually encouraging.

According to a joint statement from the two sides in the process, NFL Players Association Executive Director DeMaurice Smith and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell met Monday in New York to discuss a range of issues related to a new Collective Bargaining Agreement.

As part of a process to intensify negotiations, they agreed to hold a formal bargaining session with both negotiating teams on Saturday in the Dallas area. They also agreed to a series of meetings over the next few weeks, both formal bargaining sessions and smaller group meetings, in an effort to reach a new agreement by early March.

Its been behind the scenes but sources have told me that Goodell and Smith talk at least once a week anyway, just the two of them. If things are moving into the public venue, consider that a good sign.

In play

No surprise that Bears assistant coaches are in demand after a strong season. Special-teams assistant Chris Tabor already has moved on to head up special teams for the Cleveland Browns and now defensive line coach Eric Washington has taken a similar post on Ron Riveras staff with the Carolina Panthers.

The Philadelphia Eagles have asked the Bears for permission to interview defensive backs coach Jon Hoke for the job as defensive coordinator, which became open when the Eagles fired Sean McDermott two weeks ago.

Nice idea

Kudos to the folks at Ascension Lutheran Church in Northfield for a very nice touch on Super Sunday. The congregation is designating next Sunday, Feb. 6, as the day for its Souper Bowl and bringing cans of soup or a little cash or both to services, with the donations going to needy folks in the Chicago area.

Hopefully the forecasted snow doesnt put the plan on ice.

John "Moon" Mullin is's Bears Insider, and appears regularly on Bears Postgame Live and Chicago Tribune Live. Follow Moon on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bears information.

For one writer, Hall of Fame semifinalist selection of Brian Urlacher closes a career circle


For one writer, Hall of Fame semifinalist selection of Brian Urlacher closes a career circle

The news on Tuesday wasn’t really any sort of surprise: Brian Urlacher being selected as a semifinalist for the Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility. Some of the immediate thoughts were, however, for one writer who covered Brian from the day he was drafted on through the unpleasant end of his 13-year career as a Bear.

Good thoughts, though. Definitely good.

The first was a flashback, to a Tuesday in late August 2000 when the ninth-overall pick of the draft, who’d been anointed the starting strong-side linebacker by coach Dick Jauron on draft day, was benched.

It happened up at Halas Hall when Urlacher all of a sudden wasn’t running with the 1’s. Rosie Colvin was in Urlacher’s spot with the starters and would be for a few games into the 2000 season. I caught up with Brian before he walked, in a daze, into Halas Hall after practice and asked about what I’d just seen.

"I'm unhappy with the way I'm playing and I'm sure they are, too," Urlacher said. "I don't think I've been playing very well so that's probably the cause for it right there. I just don't have any technique. I need to work on my technique, hands and feet mostly. I've got to get those down, figure out what I'm doing. I know the defense pretty good now, just don't know how to use my hands and feet."

Urlacher, an All-American safety at New Mexico but MVP of the Senior Bowl in his first game at middle linebacker, had been starting at strong side, over the tight end, because coaches considered it a simpler position for Urlacher to master. But he was not always correctly aligned before the snap, did not use his hands against blockers effectively and occasionally led with his head on tackles. His benching cost him the chance to be the first Bears rookie linebacker since Dick Butkus to start an Opening Day.

It also was the first time in his football life that Urlacher could remember being demoted.

"It's not a good feeling," he said. "I definitely don't like getting demoted but I know why I am. I just have to get better."

Coaches understood what they were really attempting, subsequently acknowledged privately that the SLB experiment was a mistake. While the strong-side slot may have been simpler than the other two principally because of coverage duties, "we're trying to force-feed the kid an elephant," then-defensive coordinator Greg Blache said.

"So you see him gag and what do you do? You give him the Heimlich maneuver, you take some of it out of his mouth, try to chop it up into smaller pieces. He's going to devour it and be a great football player. But he wouldn't be if we choked him to death."

Urlacher didn’t choke and eventually became the starter, not outside, but at middle linebacker when Barry Minter was injured week two at Tampa Bay.

We sometimes don’t fully know the import or significance at the time we’re witnessing something. Urlacher stepping in at middle linebacker was not one of those times – you knew, watching him pick up four tackles in basically just the fourth quarter of a 41-0 blowout by the Bucs.

That was the beginning. Over the years came moments like Urlacher scooping up a Michael Vick fumble in the 2001 Atlanta game and going 90 yards with Vick giving chase but not catching him. Lots of those kinds of moments.

And then cutting to the ending, in 2013, when he and the organization came to an acrimonious parting after GM Phil Emery managed to alienate the face of the franchise both with the one-year contract offer and the way it was handled. Butkus had a nasty separation at the end of his Bears years, too, and Bill George finished his career as a Los Angeles Ram after creating the middle linebacker position as a Bear. Maybe that’s just how Bears and some of their linebackers wind up their relationships.

In any case, while there is no cheering in the pressbox, the hope here is that Brian goes into the Hall in a class with Ray Lewis in their first years of eligibility. Somehow that just seems like it all should close out for that confused kid from New Mexico who lost his first job out of college, but responded to that by becoming one of the all-time greats in his sport.

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Who deserves the most blame for Bears losses?


SportsTalk Live Podcast: Who deserves the most blame for Bears losses?

Mark Potash (Chicago Sun-Times), Ben Finfer (ESPN 1000) and Kevin Fishbain (The Athletic) join Kap on the panel. It’s another losing season for the Bears. So who deserves the most blame: Ryan Pace, John Fox or the players? Plus Mark Schanowski drops by to talk about the Bulls future and if the Celtics will win the East.