Bears

It is alive!

It is alive!

By Frankie O
CSNChicago.com

Coming back from my two-week hiatus, I of course find it appropriate to reference one of my favorite lines from one of my favorite actors. Much to John Wingers chagrin, Sergeant Hulka re-appeared in Italy to help run the EM-50 through its paces. And maybe to some others chagrin, Im returning to your computer screen. Whatever!

While Ive been away a lot has happened locally in the sports world and not all of it good. The Bears fall from 7-1 to out the playoffs and their head coach out of work as you would expect is the main topic.

During their free fall, Lovie Smith and Jay Cutler dominated the conversation. The local faithful were more than done with the Lovie regime. My response to that was: Do you think the McCaskeys would eat the five million left on his contract? Not to mention the money owed to his assistants who were resigned last year?

So needless to say, I was quite surprised that he was sacked after a 10-win season. But again, how many chances do you get to fail? Lovie had as many as Ferris had days missed at school that his parents didnt know about. Nine times? Nine times! Unlike Ferris though, he was not going to get a tenth one to make it count. No worries for him though as he still is owed that 5 mildo and can buy as many red Ferraris as he wants and now has plenty of free time to hang out with Abe Froman.

So along with the new head coach search, the Cutler topic becomes front and center. As Phil Emery approaches the halfway point of his seeming goal of interviewing 50 candidates, (No truth to the rumor that yours truly is on that list. As much as I know, even I would admit that the head job might be a bit of a stretch. But, Andy Reid keeps calling me, and since he hired a fry cook to run his defense in Philly, who knows? Maybe my density is on the sidelines of Kansas City! (Free beer if you get that reference!))

As we discussed last week on CTL, I feel Cutler is at the heart of this coaching decision. Since it is very obvious that Emery feels that Cutler is a franchise quarterback it would figure that his new coach feels the same way. (I guess I am out!!) (Sorry, I had to take that. I apologize to any Cutler apologists that I may have offended!) (Seriously, Im not drinking. I usually dont start until Im halfway through one of these! For those of you doing the math, that right, Im on my way to another 2000 word opus. Hold on!)

So for me, you can take any defensive name out of the mix. For that matter, I cant see anyone with prior NFL head-coaching experience either. Im thinking of an existing NFL offensive coordinator. To be specific, Colts assistant Bruce Arians. Arians is an it guy now for the job he did with the Indianapolis Colts, stepping in for Chuck Pagano as head coach as Pagano fought his inspiring battle against leukemia. The Colts 9-3 record under Arians, for the team with the worst record in the league last year, was nothing short of astounding. Arians is a career coach who has spent nine years in the NFL as an offensive coordinator. He was Peyton Mannings first QB coach in the NFL. (I know this means he served under Manning, but who better to learn from?) He also had a successful 5-year stint in Pittsburgh with Ben Rap, excuse me, I mean Ben Roethlisberger, winning two Super Bowls. His downfield type of attack would fit with Cutlers gunslinger mentality. I also think he is smart enough to understand that Jay needs to roll out more to take advantage of his cannon arm and avoid his sometimes awful pocket throwing mechanics. Maybe its just me, but Jay always seems better on the move. Since his career numbers bear that out, you would think at some point his Bears OC would incorporate that into his repertoire.

For all his experience, and success, you have to wonder why, at 60, that Arians hasnt been offered a head coaching job before. You would also have to think, at 60, that he would be amendable to any parameters put on him. That would include my guess that the Bears hierarchy, read that how you want, would like to maintain the coaches on the defensive side of the ball. That would offer defensive continuity to a unit getting a little long in the tooth, not to mention offset some of the Lovie paid vacation costs. Having a new coach that only has to worry primarily about the offensive side of the ball as a 1st time head coach would seem like a no-brainer. Offering a four-year deal as opposed to a three-year one would be one way to ease the pain of forcing coaches on him.

Naturally, Im probably way off base with my thinking, but we know that wouldnt be a first now would it? At least though, I dont think Ive veered off as far as Brent Musburger did during the national title game on Monday. Or was that an Alabama scrimmage? Anyway, as Im finding out, the older you get, the smaller the filter. I cant wait to hear what he says next. Oh, and buy the way, for all of those who are feigning outrage, they could have heard 20 times worse on just about any other channel on TV at that time, so lighten up Francis.

The other big news is the end of the NHL lockout. What? You didnt know about that? Trust me, youre in the majority. Ive had about two conversations a week about in the bar. What the NHL doesnt understand is that its niche entertainment, kind of like the WWE. If its there, people will watch, but in this day and age there are too many other options to fill the sports fans plate. This is especially true in a world where NFL coverage is 247 during the season. Wake me when its over. It is? OK, Ill watch. Funny, but for the real fan, this might work to the better. With the compressed schedule, playoff style hockey, which is what we all watch for anyway, will come sooner since every game will mean that much more. Were going to get 5 months of games anyway, so what was lost or gained? The owners implement a salary cap and then try to find every way to circumvent it? The problem is that there are too many teams, plain and simple. And these lower rung teams are bringing down the leagues financial stability and product quality. Contract teams and keep the 48-game schedule. Now that would be a product that fans would watch, and miss.

Another thing that we could not miss this week was the baseball Hall of Fame vote, or lack thereof. What a big shock. As Ive written many times the ripple effects of the Selig Steroid Era in Major League Baseball are going to be felt for a long, long time. The point this week is that in addition to the lack of any competent oversight of drug enhancement abuse at the major league level, the same can be said for the criterion of baseball writers making the decisions of who gets in or not. I dont know about you, but I find it ironic that many who turned a blind eye during the career of these abusers are now becoming holier than thou.

One argument that gets me going is the blaming of the union for this mess. Of course they are going to protect their own. Duh. But where they ever really pressed on the issue in any negotiation besides the last one? Was there any mention of this during the 94 lockout? Was there? Do you remember Lenny Dykstra back then? And Im only pulling one guy out of a hat. Tons of guys were juicing. Roids in baseball didnt start with McGwire and Sosa in 98. As always the issue was money, not integrity. If the owners pushed the topic as hard as they did financials, this wouldnt be as bad. But in a management culture that had turned its attention away from amphetamines and cocaine until it absolutely had to deal with it, what did you expect? Bonds and Clemens were players for the ages. Unfortunately, besides being abusers, allegedly,(LOL) they played the role of all-time jerks to the hilt. Its easy to accept them not getting in since most fans dont like them anyway. But that isnt whats being judged. As much as it pains me, if there is no proof beyond the smell-test, how can they be denied? Furthermore, if they can be denied on suspicion or unusable evidence, who should be let in? I know Frank Thomas and Jim Thome would appear as non-abuse guys, but can you say thats 100 true? Who knows? Its doubtful for sure, but isnt our judicial system built on that word? Doubt. When everything a fan hears is that most guys were doing it, wouldnt it stand to reason that guys we would never expect would be among them. I would think that to be very reasonable. So how do you just put those two in when they come up with a clear conscience?

What this leaves us with is one big mess. I dont know that Ive heard one cure-all solution that everyone can feel good about. There should be a fair, equitable solution. But that would take some people in very high places taking a public stance that they dont want to be put in. So they leave it to the writers to decide, and so far they are an apprehensive judge and jury coming from some of the things they are writing and saying. This is a time that again calls for decisive leadership and once again in MLB that seems to be sorely lacking.

Thankfully though, this weekend will bring our focus back to where it should be: The NFL playoffs. Divisional weekend is the best of the year with the potential for four great games. Ive been wrong all year, but Ill still give it a go. Ive been rooting for Peyton Manning all year and the genius of John Elway to get him there. Add to that, my now sports-crazed 10-year-old son just bought a Manning jersey with his own holiday bounty as Im typing this and you can guess who Im picking there. In San Francisco, I know that the Niners man-handled New England a couple of weeks ago in the most impressive road win of the year and pounded the Packers in the season opener in Green Bay, but its hard for me to bet against Aaron Rogers with the way he has been playing lately and in the playoffs for his career. Is this the year that Atlanta finally ends their playoff misery? Nope. Once again they run into this years buzz-saw in the form of the Seattle Seahawks. Trust me, that does not make me happy and for once, I hope Im wrong. And in the finale, your choice is Matt Shaub or Tom Brady at home. Is that a choice? Sorry Houston, hes your problem.

And, to leave on a high note, did you know that there is such a thing as Pinterest? Neither did I, but Sammy Sosa does. Judging from what I saw, hes fine without the HOF after his name and, like his choice of bats, he sometimes also makes mistakes with his sweaters.

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.

How to watch and/or stream the IHSA football state finals this weekend

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How to watch and/or stream the IHSA football state finals this weekend

It's Thanksgiving weekend, which among other things, means the IHSA football state finals are taking place.

NBC Sports Chicago has live coverage of the finals of all eight classes and is streaming every telecast, including surrounding pre/postgame coverage, to be made available to authenticated subscribers on NBCSportsChicago.com/WatchLive and via the NBC Sports app.

Check out the action taking place in Huskie Stadium in DeKalb, beginning at 10 a.m. on Friday with the Class 1A final and concluding Saturday night with the Class 8A final and a special recap edition of High School Lites following the final game. Highlights from each of the games will be available on our website throughout the weekend.

The live streaming service is currently available to customers of Comcast/Xfinity, DIRECTV, DISH Network, AT&T U-verse, Mediacom, RCN, WOW!, Time Warner Cable and Charter among numerous other carriers.  In addition, NBC Sports Chicago is also available on numerous digital streaming services including DIRECTV NOW, Hulu, fuboTV, Sling TV, CenturyLink Stream, PlayStation Vue, and YouTube TV.  For a full list of carriers and more information about NBC Sports Chicago’s live streaming service, viewers are urged to visit nbcsportschicago.com/live-faq.

Here is the full schedule for the weekend's games and broadcast coverage:

Friday, November 24

LIVE NOW: Class 1A: LENA-WINSLOW (Lena) [13-0] vs. TUSCOLA [13-0]

1:00 PM – Class 2A: GIBSON CITY-MELVIN-SIBLEY (Gibson City) [13-0] vs. MAROA-FORSYTH (Maroa) [12-1]

4:00 PM – Class 3A: IC CATHOLIC (Elmhurst) [12-1] vs. PLEASANT PLAINS [10-3]

7:00 PM – Class 4A: MORRIS [11-2] vs. ROCHESTER [13-0] (NOTE: This game will air on NBC Sports Chicago+; please visit our CHANNEL FINDER for the exact channel location in your area)

Saturday, November 25

10:00 AM – Class 5A: PHILLIPS (Chicago) [13-0] vs. DUNLAP [13-0]

1:00 PM – Class 6A: PRAIRIE RIDGE (Crystal Lake) [13-0] vs. NAZARETH ACADEMY (LaGrange Park) [12-1]

4:00 PM – Class 7A: BATAVIA [12-1] vs. LAKE ZURICH [13-0] (NOTE: This game will air on NBC Sports Chicago+; please visit our CHANNEL FINDER for the exact channel location in your area)

7:00 PM – Class 8A: LINCOLN-WAY East (Frankfort) [13-0] vs. LOYOLA ACADEMY (Wilmette) [12-1] (NOTE: This game will air on NBC Sports Chicago+; please visit our CHANNEL FINDER for the exact channel location in your area)

Further information is available at this link. Edgy Tim previewed each of the eight games here and has players to watch for the weekend.