Bears

Mullin: Offseason moves, the Plaxico issue

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Mullin: Offseason moves, the Plaxico issue

Thursday, Jan. 27, 2011
11:14 p.m.

By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com

Football season never really ends in Chicago, which means its always good to visit with Dan and Spiegs on The Danny Mac Show on The Score AM 670, as we did this morning. Not a lot yet as far as Super Bowl chat (Im a longtime Pittsburgh guy my Dad took me to Games 6 and 7 of the 60 World Series, as you know) but thats next week.

Listen to John Mullin's "The Danny Mac Show" appearance

What is still worth looking at is where the Bears go this offseason, because even though they spent massively last year with Julius Peppers, Brandon Manumaleuna and Chester Taylor, I dont see the Bears standing pat and say, Well play these.

The draft subject is percolating already, as I wrote Wednesday, and best guess is that the Bears stay on the lines with the No. 29 pick and possibly even their second as well, whether offense or defense. Spiegs is intent on doing something at wide receiver and I see the Bears upgrading there, just not with a high pick. The bust factor with high wideouts spooks Jerry Angelo, as it should for a lot of people.

Danny and Spiegs both felt, and I agree, that the Bears are in the spot of having enough legitimate need areas that they can take the best player available at one of several spots. To get a top offensive lineman at No. 29 may be a stretch but New England got guard Logan Mankins at No. 32 and the New York Jets got center Nick Mangold at No. 29, and Marc Colombo was not a bust, just unlucky with knee injuries at No. 29.

The Plaxico issue

The most intriguing solution at wide receiver is Plaxico Burress, who is scheduled to be released from prison this June after serving his sentence from the bizarre self-inflicted-gunshot incident. Burress will be 34 and at one time was considered a character question. He wont be in NFL condition when he comes out and possibly not even through this season.

READ: Jumping into the draft

But as I mentioned with the guys, what I saw of Burress on Inside the NFL Wednesday night was not the same Burress I spent time with during his Halas Hall visit prior to the 2000 draft. That guy had a bad vibe all over him and the Bears werent sorry that Bill Cowher and the Steelers took him at No. 8 and left Brian Urlacher for Chicago.

It was only TV but this individual sounded far, far more mature and reflective than he once was. Michael Vick opened the door for second chances and were a nation of second chances for the right people. Burress wont be what he was when he was catching the winning touchdown in a Super Bowl, but hes still 6-5 and has forgotten more about the position than a lot of the young Bears know at this point.

And with Devin Aromashodu not going to be on the roster next season, the Bears would have no wideout taller than 6 feet. Thats a need.

Coming or going?

But we talked about more than wideout and one question over the coming weeks will be which Bears are coming and which are going. Thoughts on some of these:
Anthony Adams: I dont see how the Bears can let him go. Their best, most consistent defensive tackle over the past two seasons.

Olin Kreutz: The succession plan broke down when Josh Beekman was a bust. A short-term deal is a win-win for Kreutz and the Bears, and agent Mark Bartlestein is a savvy Chicago guy who gets deals done.

Todd Collins: Trick question?

Corey Graham: Special teamers are a unique market unto themselves. This is 50-50 for me; hes a quality coverage guy and the Bears will make an offer. What could get him out of town is a promised legitimate chance to play cornerback, which he wont have in Chicago.

What we didnt talk about

The organization got little real production out of running back Chester Taylor beyond a couple of short touchdown runs and few downs off for Matt Forte. Expect the Bears to cut their losses and Taylors 1.3 million for 2011.

Forte could not have picked a better year to have a career year, both in terms of health and production. Ive written previously about the Bears expected to do a new deal with Forte rather than let him play out his fourth year and hit the market, whatever that proves to be.

Whether the Bears move on without Manumaleuna, a one-trick pony who was regularly fined for failing to make weight this season and did little to earn the money tied up in him, well see.

John "Moon" Mullin is CSNChicago.com'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.

Can Cairo Santos be the kicker the Bears need?

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USA Today

Can Cairo Santos be the kicker the Bears need?

Since the Bears inserted Mitchell Trubisky as their starting quarterback, they've had 12 drives end with a field goal — an average of two per game. Connor Barth hit nine of those dozen kicks, which had an average distance of 38.4 yards, but all three of Barth’s misses came from 45 yards or longer. 

Barth’s missed game-tying 46-yarder in the final seconds Sunday against the Detroit Lions was the last straw for someone who hadn’t been consistent in his one and a half years in Chicago. So enter Cairo Santos, who made 89 of 105 field goals (85 percent) from 2014-2017 with the Kansas City Chiefs. More importantly: Santos has made 73 percent of his career field goals from 40 or more yards; Barth made 52 percent of his kicks from the same distance with the Bears. 

(73 percent from long range isn’t bad, but it’s not great, either: Philadelphia Eagles kicker and Lyons Township High School alum Jake Elliott has made 88 percent of his 40-plus-yard kicks; Harrison Butker, who replaced Santos in Kansas City, has made 90 percent of his kicks from that distance. Both players are rookies who were drafted and cut prior to the season.)

Santos was released by the Chiefs in late September after a groin injury landed him on injured reserve (he played in three games prior to being released). The injury wasn’t expected to be season-ending, and Santos said he’s felt 100 percent for about two weeks before joining the Bears on Monday. 

“It was a long and difficult battle, but I was confident that it wasn’t going to be a serious injury, I just needed time,” Santos said. “I dealt with it in training camp, I was kicking really well, I was the only kicker in KC, and I didn’t have the appropriate time to heal. I tried to play the first three games and it got worse, so my main goal was to get 100 percent. I’ve been kicking for about a month now and finally the last week been able to come here and visit with the Bears. The muscle is in good shape to come and take a full load of a week’s practice and games, so thankful the opportunity worked out.”

For Santos, these next six weeks can be an audition for him to stick in Chicago next year. If the Bears can look optimistically at the improvements made by the Philadelphia Eagles and Los Angeles Rams with second-year top-drafted quarterbacks, they’ll need to figure out their kicking situation sooner rather than later. Bringing in Santos provides a good opportunity for that down the stretch. 

“He’s kicked in Kansas City, which is a similar climate,” special teams coordinator Jeff Rodgers said. “Their field is similar to Soldier Field. He’s played in some big games, played in some important situations and he’s, by and large, been successful in those situations.”

Looking deeper to understand how John Fox still commands Bears trust through bad times

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USA TODAY

Looking deeper to understand how John Fox still commands Bears trust through bad times

I’ve always placed great stock in the drama tenet, “Action is character.” What an actor/person does in significant part defines their character, or lack of same.

Conversely, in some situations, what someone doesn’t do can be equally defining or revealing. A couple of those involving the Bears are worth noting, because they suggest things about John Fox and and his staff, and perhaps a bit of what players think of them.

Nothing stunning, just a case of when you pull the camera back for a little wider angle, a broader picture forms out of seemingly separate or isolated incidents. Fox has never lost his teams through three generally miserable seasons, those teams consistently played hard through bad times. A handful of specific situations offer some insight into perhaps why:

The Cohen conundrum

Fox and offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains came in for scalding criticism for their recent seeming under-utilization of running back Tarik Cohen. The closest either came to laying out the real reason was a reference to concerns about the rookie’s pass-protection capabilities, no small issue against Green Bay and coordinator Dom Capers’ blitz proclivities; coaches want to see Mitch Trubisky wearing a Bears uniform, not Clay Matthews.

Cohen may be the Bears’ leading receiver, but if a back can’t present the viable option of pass protection, the offense is limited even more than it already is anyway with a rookie quarterback.

Come forward a week: Overlooked in the aftermath of the loss to Detroit, in which Cohen was not part of the hurry-up offense driving for a winning or tying score, was the fact that Cohen simply didn’t know the plays well enough in that situation. Fox didn’t say so. Neither did Loggains.

Cohen did.

Asked afterwards what he wasn’t solid with, Cohen owned it: "Probably the hurry-up plays at those positions. I know certain plays at those positions, but to open up the whole playbook with me, I’ll have to learn all of those plays.”

Should he have been up to a faster speed in week 10? That’s another discussion. But like it or not, his coaches were not going to be the ones to out him.

The Howard hassle

Jordan Howard finished 2016 second to only Dallas’ Ezekiel Elliott in rushing yardage. He began the year inactive for game one and lightly used in games two and three. The reason Loggains gave from the podium was that coaches didn’t really know what they had in Howard.

Yes. They did. But Loggains didn’t cite Howard for not being in shape to carry the load the offense needed. Neither did Fox.

Howard did.

“I should’ve been in better shape,” Howard said at the outset of training camp last July. “I should’ve been playing earlier if I would’ve handled what I had to do.”

Some very effective coaches have used public embarrassment for motivation; Mike Ditka assessed that he wasn’t sure Donnell Woolford could cover anybody, and Buddy Ryan summarized that “No. 55 [Otis Wilson] killed us,” for instance.

Fox and his staff don’t do that and they’ve have taken the heat for their players, which does frustrate those tasked with accurately reporting sometimes hard information.

Medical restraint

Fox’s tenure has been awash in major injuries to pivotal players. He has made points in his locker room by shielding those players and their issues whether outsiders like it or not.

That started back with Kevin White and the infamous stress fracture that Fox was accused of knowing about and lying that he didn’t. The real situation was that medical opinions (and the Bears had gotten a bunch) were divided to the point where the Bears opted against surgery until it was conclusive that the shadow on an x-ray was indeed a fracture. Fox refused to call the injury a stress fracture with the doctors so divided, and he was pilloried for it. But not in his locker room.

The organization very much needed Pro Bowl lineman Kyle Long this season for an offense that certainly wasn’t going to live on the arm of Mike Glennon. Long was testy and combative during training camp, and “honestly I’ve been champing at the bit to get back,” he conceded, “but they’ve done a good job of pulling the reins a little bit and making sure that I understand that it’s a long season.”

Small things, not necessarily connected, but as Fox’s third season winds down, what his team shows will factor into decisions on his future. The Bears right now, after the Green Bay and Detroit losses effectively ended the “hope” part of their season, are entering that dreary phase of a year when effort will be critiqued as critically as performance.

The on-field results now will say something about character, Fox’s own and the collective one he has worked to instill since January 2015.