Bears

The 'sitzkrieg' of the NFL non-offseason; Now what?

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The 'sitzkrieg' of the NFL non-offseason; Now what?

Monday, March 14, 2011
Posted: 11:00 a.m.
By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com
The NFL non-offseason enters the now what? phase.

I strongly dislike using war in any descriptions of sports situations; nobody ever said to a buddy in a combat foxhole, Man, this is just like football! But the best analogy this history major can come up with is sitzkrieg, the lull in the early months of WWII between the German blitz of Poland and the roll through France:

There was fighting; there will be more fighting. Right now, the whole thing is slouching toward the courts, although more than one source has suggested that the league wants to keep talking, you know the players do as well, and this may not wind up being decided by a judge. Well see.

The NFL and the-union-formerly-known-as-NFLPA did a lot of heavy lifting over the past month. They and mediator George Cohen werent able to close the deal. But it was very clear, if you could read through the sudden unseemly surge of Twitter spitting and claimscounterclaims as the two sides separated, that very real progress had been achieved in a lot of areas, other than that one big bag of cash that is still to be divvied up.

Check out Andrew Brandts excellent Q&A on Courtroom football on the National Football Post. Andrew was in management with the Green Bay Packers and runs through a lot of the questions swirling around all this.

And Sports Illustrateds Peter King goes into great depth with his latest Monday Morning Quarterback, with an overall note of optimism which is worth noting, coming from one of the most insightful pro football observers.

Not taking sides

The obvious question I get is: What do you think? Whos the problem?

Some are going to blast the greedy owners and others are going to trash the players and DeMaurice Smith. Im going to do neither, partly because I dont have a bias for against either side; because as a beat writer, I dont want to take sides and readers should believe that youre at least trying always to provide un-angled reporting; and because it doesnt matter.

But Ill offer two perspectives. One is that pointing fingers at the players and noting that they would have a hard time making comparable money on the outside were it not for football and the owners borders on insulting. Too many players dont walk away from the game; they limp away and on a first-name basis with their orthopedic surgeon.

The other is that for a lot longer than most of us can remember, the league has had the dominant financial high ground. As recently as the 1987 strike, the league was pretty much acknowledged as winning in their taffy pulls with the players. The owners may not have truly loved the 2006 deal that they opted out of but its difficult to see that as a bad deal; it just wasnt as good as they wouldve liked.

George Halas and that first group sitting around a Canton Hupmobile dealership, that was risk. If an owner doesnt make it with the business structure in place now, with virtually fixed guaranteed profit margin based on revenue stream and labor costs, they shouldn't be in the business anyway (see: Modell, Art).

Locally, in a good place

As far as the immediate impact on the Bears from the weekends goings on: not much. Offseason strength and conditioning programs for most teams dont usually start until about this time of March anyway, and the Bears give their players a longer time off than most; they would be starting toward the end of March.

I liked what I heard from Ted Phillips late last week. The Bears president, who has an elite-level sense of finance, sees a deal getting done. He wasnt tossing a cup of gasoline on the fire; he understands financial issues; and he runs one of those NFL franchises that may not have the small-market challenges but is one whose primary and only business is football. And Phillips and the Bears are not trimming staff or salaries. And theyll give refunds for tickets to any canceled games.

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.

View from the Moon: Bears 'siestas' continue, leaving progress difficult to find, but it’s there ... somewhat

View from the Moon: Bears 'siestas' continue, leaving progress difficult to find, but it’s there ... somewhat

Consider this a connect-the-dots exercise, with the end game being to figure out what the overall picture is. Because the Bears’ 27-24 loss to the Detroit Lions was many things, a couple actually very good, but too many of them kinda-to-very bad...

The overarching point of the 2017 season, per senior Bears management, is progress. Not just on the part of rookie quarterback Mitch Trubisky, who had a fourth solid performance in six NFL starts; but on the Bears as a whole. A week after showing anything but, the Bears showed something that could masquerade as progress.

How real is it? The Bears in the past eight days have given few reasons to trust it.

Because while coming close against a respectable Lions (6-4) team counts for something, the Bears are still 3-7 at the end of the day and 3-13 under John Fox against the NFC North – a division winning percentage of .188, which would be lower than that of the Marc Trestman Bears (.250), who managed to win their three NFC North games in two seasons vs. Fox’s three.

As concerning perhaps, the loss left the Bears 3-9 under Fox in games decided by three or fewer points, the hallmark of what simplistically can be ID’d as “losing” teams.

“We’ve had a lot of close games, and it’s just finding a way to close those out,” Trubisky said. “We’re going to work towards that, and figure it out for sure.”

What makes “progress” difficult to see, though, is that the Bears do not play like a team either coached to be or with the proven ability to play at a professional level all the time. Teams with that problem typically make coaching changes at the ends of seasons, since the conclusion usually is that the talent can be there, just that the coach in hand, fair or not, can’t get it out of the roster.

“We’ve shown spurts and moments, like we have for some time now,” Fox summarized. “But we have lulls. We have siestas. We just don’t do it for 60 minutes. ... People have ups and downs. Well, we’re in a stage as a football team where we have those moments in games. We have to do a better job of coaching it and we have to do a better job of executing it in games.”

The Green Bay Packers were one kind of measuring standard last week, and the 3-7 Bears were embarrassed against a foundering team that had been soundly beaten by the Lions the week before the Bears faced them, and buried 23-0 at home Sunday by the Baltimore Ravens.

The Lions were a different kind of quiz, a real offense putting up more than 27 points per game. The Bears allowed the Lions their requisite 27 points (seven of those coming on a touchdown return of a Trubisky fumble), but put up nearly 400 yards and 24 points of their own in a game that ended on a Connor Barth missed field goal from 46 yards, Barth’s fifth miss in 11 attempts from beyond 40 yards.

(Barth’s miss may have been particularly bitter for Fox, after watching Detroit’s Matt Prater win the game from 52 yards – the same Matt Prater who kicked for Fox in Denver in 2011 when Fox’s Broncos beat the Bears in the Marion Barber Game with Prater field goals from 59 yards to tie with 3 seconds left, and from 51 yards to win in OT.)

“All these games in the NFL – they’re hard games – but when you have a game like this that you should win, you just have to win those games,” said wide receiver Kendall Wright. “I think with us, when we win one of those close games, it will help us get over the edge and we’ll start stacking them up on top of each other.”

Then again...

The Bears seemed to lose their compass in the third quarter, with one rushing yard on four attempts. But they finished with 222 yards and the way they amassed them mattered: 125 and a touchdown for Jordan Howard; 53 for Trubisky, a number of them on designed runs; and 44 plus a TD for Tarik Cohen – all combining to average 7.4 yards per carry.

Bigger picture, the Bears were in the position of having at least a chance to tie because Trubisky managed to drive the Bears 55 yards in the final 1:32 from the Chicago 17 to the Detroit 28. This would constitute something shiny lying there in the mud, and make no mistake: This is a big deal.

To put Trubisky in some kind of context: Rookie quarterback Nathan Peterman, the fifth-round pick of the Buffalo Bills, replaced Tyrod Taylor in the Bills starting lineup Sunday, against a Los Angeles Chargers defense allowing opponents to complete more than 64 percent of their passes. Peterman completed 11 of 14 in the first half, about 79 percent. But – five of the Peterman “completions” were to Chargers.

DeShone Kizer has been in and out and back in the starting lineup for the Cleveland Browns, suffering through a rookie season with one of the worst teams arguably in NFL history. But – Kizer, with 12 interceptions vs. four TD passes, is one of the reasons the Browns are in various “worst ever” discussions.

Trubisky threw 30 passes without an interception on Sunday, and 65 without a pick over his past two games. He’s thrown 145 NFL passes with just two interceptions, an INT rate of 1.4 percent that ranks ahead of Aaron Rodgers, Carson Wentz, Deshaun Watson, Matt Ryan and a list of others. Critics of his development can have their points, but the kid has learned ball security at an early NFL age even while averaging 32.4 pass plays per game.

The next step is getting his team over the top, because he is still completing just 53.1 percent of his passes and was missed badly on a number of throws on Sunday. His deft TD pass to tight end Adam Shaheen in the first half was NFL-perfect (where his guy or nobody catches it), but his throw low and behind running back Benny Cunningham at the goal line in the first quarter forced the Bears to settle for a field goal in a game decided ultimately by three points.

Trubisky clearly gets the big picture, too, pointing the thumb and not any fingers. He paused before answering a question about his rookie learning curve:

“I think adversity is a great teacher,” he said. “Overcoming the struggle is a great teacher. There’s no rookie excuse. You don’t get a freebie because you’re a rookie.

“My teammates trust me and they have confidence in me, so I’m preparing as I should. Coaches have me prepared and my teammates have my back. New situations are going to arise every time, but there are no excuses. I’m just looking at these opportunities as chances to overcome, and not dwell on it.”

Under Center Podcast: Alex Brown goes off on Connor Barth

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USA TODAY

Under Center Podcast: Alex Brown goes off on Connor Barth

On the latest Under Center Podcast, Laurence Holmes, Alex Brown and Jim Miller break down the Bears loss to the Lions on Sunday following Conner Barth’s missed field goal in the last seconds of the game and debate whether or not Tarik Cohen should be a part of the Bears two-minute offensive packages.

Plus, if the Bears hope to keep Vic Fangio past 2017, does he need to finish out the season as the Bears interim head coach?

Listen to the full Under Center Podcast right here: