Random News of the Day: Punt it away


Random News of the Day: Punt it away

Thursday, Aug. 12, 2010
12:32 PM

By Joe Collins

The lead up to football season kind of reminds me of those chocolate calendars that circulate around the holidays. Anybody ever see those things? As a kid, I remember that I would open up the December 1 tab, and it would always have a ridiculous eyedrop-sized piece of chocolate. And it was usually stale. But hey, it was still chocolate. Day by day, the chocolates would get bigger. The Super Bowl of that chocolate calendar would be opened on December 24th. It was usually a bulky, warped, half dollar-sized chocolate Santa Claus, which looked more like David Crosby than Kris Kringle. It was still stale, but given the fanfare around the holiday it tasted pretty good.

Football training camp would be tantamount to, say, the first week of December of that calendar. We get a little taste of what lies ahead in the preseason, regular season, playoffs and all of the sweetness that makes up the Super Bowl. And even though the chocolate still tastes stale at times, we still eat it up like were at a Vegas buffet. Certain parts of the NFL have become stale, too. I dont want to rock the boat too much, because a bad day with football is usually much better than a good day without it. But there are a few items in the NFL that are facing 4th and long. Its time to drop back and punt a few of these annoyances away:

Just Get Rid Of Two Preseason Games Already: As we know, each team gets four preseason gamesusually two on the road and two at home (or one at a neutral site). NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has already gone on the record in favor of the 18-game schedule, saying by taking one of the home preseason games and converting it into a regular season, youre improving the quality of what youre doing. Thats value. Some critics oppose, saying that an 18-game schedule could open the door to more player injuries and a diminished product later in the year. Pssh. Come on. With all of the new rules, like no horse-collar tackles and other rules that protect the quarterback, I dont buy the injury argument. Players are treated like glass dolls today. Come on, this is football. An 18-game schedule would bring more fan interest, increased ratings, and thus, more moneysomething that the NFL likes to make out with all the time. Get it done.Do What College Football Does About Overtime: We all know that football revolves around big TV ratings, big dollars and big hype. Why not take a page out of college footballs scrapbook and put their overtime procedures in place for the NFL? Each team gets a possession at the 25 yard line. You keep going until one team scores more on their possession than the other. Imagine the hysteria on a Bears-Packers game that is in the 4th OT with the score tied at 55. Heck, you would even draw in the figure skating viewers from other networks. Plus, it eliminates the clammy tie games that gunk up the playoff scenarios towards the end of the season. Stop Giving Raiders-Chiefs Games To Gus Johnson: Im not exactly sure why CBS puts Gus Johnson, one of the most exciting voices in sports, on the fourth-tiered (or lower) game of the week. Seeing Gus Johnson broadcast a game between a couple of 3-10 teams is like listening to a Master Of Puppets-era Metallica play in a mall food court. Sure, its still Metallica, but everything else around it just reeks of bad cheddar. Forget network seniority. Give this man the microphone in a game that means something. Wait, now that I think about it, Gus can make a Raiders-Chiefs game sound like the Super Bowl hopped up on Jolt Cola. Might have to rethink that one a little.Give Coaches A Pulse: The NFL is great, but its getting way too Wal-Mart-like: too much sterility, not enough personality. End zone celebrations are penalized, taunting is penalized and cookie-cutter, cyborg-like personalities are welcomed. And damage control is a core class in the NFL school of higher learning. The majority of NFL head coaches today are far too sensitive in their appearance and demeanor, especially in press conferences. Everything is squeaky clean and by the book. Just once, I would like to see a coach go on a postgame tirade and start throwing chairs like its a Maury Povich show. Then, the camera can follow the coach away from the podium for a during the break reaction. Fun! Best of all, promise the coach that he doesnt have to produce a mundane, forced apology the next day. Wouldnt that be a nice change of pace?The Pro Bowl: Footballs version of an all-star game is like Thanksgiving at your Aunt Sylvias. The sly ones that arent there turned in their get-out-of-jail-free cards weeks in advance. And the ones that are there are mailing it in more than the U.S. Postal Service. We all go through the motions in fake-liking holiday parties. The athletes in the Pro Bowl are no different. But can you blame them? This game is played by junior high football rules (no blitzing, etc). And putting the contest a week before the Super Bowl isnt going to help draw much more interestfrom players and fans alike. Heres a crazy idea: put the Pro Bowl on the same day of the Super Bowl, with the winning Pro Bowl team securing the coin-toss win for their representative team in the Super Bowl. Think about it, your Super Bowl pregame show loses the sappy 11-minute feature stories and gets legitimate interest. Only issue would be that if the site happened to be an outdoor facility, and it were to rain, the field would get ripped to shreds for the real game hours later. Orjust get rid of the Pro Bowl entirely.Look, the NFL is still 98 fun to me. But Piniella-isms aside, a few changes can make the league even sweeter.

It might even taste as good as that chocolate at the end of December. Especially if the Bears win a few games here and there.

Or something like that.

Bears' roster moves create a looming roster hurdle for Kevin White


Bears' roster moves create a looming roster hurdle for Kevin White

Questions have been hanging over Kevin White ever since GM Ryan Pace opted to invest the No. 7 pick of the 2015 draft on a wide receiver with one outstanding college season on his resume. Given Pace’s strike for a quarterback with a roughly similar body of work last draft, this may qualify as a Pace “strategy,” but that’s for another discussion closer to the draft.

But in the wake of signings at wide receiver by Pace and the Bears over the start-up days of free agency, a new and perhaps darker cloud is forming over White. This is beyond the obvious ones visited on the young man by his succession of three season-ending injuries, and by a nagging belief in some quarters that White is a bust irrespective of the injuries.

The point is not that White will never amount to anything in the NFL. Marc Colombo came back from a pair of horrendous leg injuries to have a career as a solid NFL tackle, albeit with the Dallas Cowboys, not the Bears.

The problem facing White now, assuming he comes back able to stay healthy in a competition with Cameron Meredith for the spot opposite Allen Robinson, is whether there is reasonably going to be a roster spot the Bears can use for him.

This would be on top of whether Pace and the organization could bring themselves to cut ties with a quality individual in a move that would amount to admitting a failure in what was supposed to be a defining initial top-10 pick by a regime committed to building through the draft.

White is still under his rookie contract with its $2.7 million guaranteed for this season, so there is little reason to simply give up on him, even assuming an offset if White then signs on somewhere else.

But Robinson and slot receiver Taylor Gabriel account for two of the starting three wideout spots. For the other wide receiver job, Meredith, also coming off season-ending knee surgery, rates an early edge on White based on Meredith’s 66-catch 2016 season.

If White does not start, he then becomes a backup, and backups are expected to contribute on special teams. It’s what has kept Josh Bellamy in the NFL, and what new Bears tight end Trey Burton points to as his ticket to making it through his first years with Philadelphia.

White doesn’t cover kicks, doesn’t return them, doesn’t block them. The Bears have typically expected special-teams participation from their No. 4-5 receivers, although the fact that Meredith and Robinson are coming off knee injuries, and chances that the Bears will keep six wide receivers in the West Coast offense of Matt Nagy, all could tilt a decision in favor of White simply as insurance/depth, even with his own injury history.

It is difficult not to have a spot of rooting-interest in White, a young guy trying so hard to get a career dream off the ground. It’s just also difficult to see a clear fit in the new Bears world that began forming in earnest in the past several days.

Do you realize just how many things have to break right for a Bears 2018 rebound?


Do you realize just how many things have to break right for a Bears 2018 rebound?

Not all that long ago, back in the seemingly promising Dave Wannstedt days, something of an annual narrative began around the Bears. All too frequently since then it has been the refrain of more offseasons than not, including last year’s. And if there is a cause for very, very sobering realism in the wake of the heady wave of free-agency signings in the first days of the new league year, it lies in what has so often transpired to put the lie to that optimism.

The mantra then, and now, has been various iterations of, “If these three (or four, or six, or 12) things work out, the Bears are gonna be good this year.” Because the reality is that all those what-ifs seldom, if ever, all come to pass, whether because of injury, mis-evaluated abilities or whatever.

Look no further than this time last offseason, just considering the offense:

If Kevin White can come back from (another) injury, if Markus Wheaton flashes his Pittsburgh speed, if Dion Sims takes that next step from a promising Miami stint, if Kyle Long is back from his lower-body issues, if Cameron Meredith comes close to those 66 catches again, if Mike Glennon has the upside that led the GM to guarantee him $18.5 million, and hey, Victor Cruz, too, if… and so on.

And exactly zero of those “if’s” came to pass, with the result that John Fox and Dowell Loggains became idiots.

The point is not to a picker of nit or sayer of nay. But the fact is that a lot of the offseason moves and player development ALL need to come down in the plus-column for the Bears to be even as good as they were back in, say, 2015, when the offense had Martellus Bennett at tight end, Alshon Jeffery at wide receiver, Eddie Royal coming in at slot receiver (with 37 catches in an injury-shortened season), Kyle Long at his Pro-Bowl best, and Jay Cutler about to have the best full season of his career. And a new (proven) head coach and defensive coordinator, and an offensive coordinator with head-coaching talent.

All those things “worked” for a team that would wobble to a 6-10 year.

Now consider 2018:

The current top two wide receivers are both – both – coming off season-ending ACL injuries;

The incoming slot receiver has never had a season as reception-productive as the one (Kendall Wright) he is replacing (59) or as many as Royal had in just nine 2015 games (37);

The new tight end has never been a starter and has fewer career catches (63) than Bennett averaged (69) in three supremely disappointing Bears seasons;

The best offensive lineman (Long) is coming off missing essentially half of each of the past two seasons with injuries, and the co-best (Sitton) is gone from an offensive line that was middle of the pack last year and has high hopes for two linemen (Hroniss Grasu, Eric Kush) who’ve been largely backups, and a third (Jordan Morgan) who missed his rookie season with an injury;

And the quarterback (Trubisky) upon whom the franchise rests, who needs to overcome any so-called sophomore jinx and improve from a rookie level (77.8 passer rating) that was barely better than Cutler’s worst NFL season (76.8).

All of which sounds negative, but it really isn’t, just a perspective. Offseasons are about hope, but realism isn’t all bad, either.