Chicago Football Madness: Walter Payton earns No. 1 seed in 1985 region

Chicago Football Madness: Walter Payton earns No. 1 seed in 1985 region

Excitement for the Bears are at an all-time high, so while March Madness and the NCAA Tournament begin, we still have Bears on the mind. So we've created Chicago Bears Football Madness, pitting players from the three best Bears teams and legends head-to-head. This is the 1985 region.

1    Walter Payton
16  Kevin Butler

Payton: The greatest Bear of all, does all things well. Can be stopped, just not until a later round, but even then not by less than a max best effort. Makes everyone else better, unless you’re trying to tackle him. Beware of getting an early lead and thinking the game is over; it isn’t. Threat to run, catch, throw or dance.

Butler: He’s good but he’s no Cody Parkey. Still, can be dangerous anytime he gets within range. Too much of a one-trick pony, though, to win a matchup if the opponent has multi-weapons. Can be dangerous if he gets within range, best kept outside the arc and forced into a long-distance shoot-out.

By John "Moon" Mullin

8    Steve McMichael                                        
9    William Perry  

McMichael: The sometimes-overlooked fourth member of one of history’s great Front Four’s is a load in the trenches as well as the wrestling ring, making him the eighth-seed nobody really wants to face. Didn’t miss a game over his final 13 years so capable of wearing rival down and winning late. Go-to guy if Wrestlemania breaks out at midcourt.

Perry: One of the ‘faces’ of the 1985 Bears is arguably an underachiever, with the ability to dominate when he put his mind to it. Capable of taking down a No. 1 seed or falling in an upset. Conditioning always suspect so likely struggles against opponent with speed. Will go for pancake block on his way to the hoop.

By John "Moon" Mullin

5     Jim McMahon                                         
12   Gary Fencik

McMahon: A winner with the ability to play above his ability and get others to do the same. The question is always injuries, though, and now whether he can stay healthy through a tournament run. Best guess is that stringing together W’s will be tough physically and not the most mobile against speed. May moon officials if unhappy with calls.

Fencik: Savvy 12-seed will not go out easy. A safety with total command of the overall will play physical to get opponent off his game but disguise traps to exploit weaknesses and tendencies. Bears all-time INT leader will convert steals and turnovers into points that can produce upsets. Gets sartorial edge with turtlenecks.

By John "Moon" Mullin

4     Richard Dent                                            
13   Leslie Frazier

Dent: Hall of Fame Sackman will bring pressure “D” start to finish, and double-teaming may not be enough. Produces best games in biggest moments, may struggle against lesser opponents if he’s not feeling motivated, but knows how to pace himself and get stronger against better ones. Can be aggravated by calling him “Robert.”

Frazier: The quiet assassin is a sleeper who can win on defense outright but among best strategists in the field. Threat as a point guard able to command overall offense and scheme swarming defense built around attacking in front court and cherry-picking in back.

By John "Moon" Mullin

6     Dan Hampton                                        
11   Jay Hilgenberg

Hampto: Wasn’t happy with his seeding and plays with a chip on the shoulder anyway. Has size to dominate and can win from multiple positions – end, tackle, on the nose in ‘46’ package. Will be difficult matchup physically because of length. Musical ability on bass guitar a secret strength and plays with a lot of mean. “Danimal” more than a nickname; it’s a state of mind.

Hilgenberg: Among grittiest in the field, undrafted center who made a mission out of upsetting No. 1’s and should be in the HOF. Undersized who plays above his size, may be toughest matchup for higher seeds. Overlook at your own peril: Reggie White rated Hilgy one of five greatest O-linemen the Minister of Defense ever faced. Matchup nightmare, able to win running golf course or doing pregame shows.

By John "Moon" Mullin

3    Mike Singletary                                                 
14  Otis Wilson

Singletary: Cerebral leader with complete mastery of own systems and study of opponent’s. Able to take advantage of own lack of height to gain leverage on bigger foes. Able to double as coach in case of ejection, simply does not make enough mental mistakes to allow opponent to gain edges. Eyes see all, impossible to defeat with subterfuge.

Wilson: Among most physical in the field, can win on raw talent alone if he gets hot and builds runaway momentum. No. 2 “Super Bowl Shuffle” dancer after Willie Gault, able to break down and win on moves or pure attacking style. Capable of playing any style opponent’s game and winning with speed or power. Answers to “Mama’s Boy Otis” from Shuffle days, but don’t push it

By John "Moon" Mullin

7     Buddy Ryan                                         
10   Wilber Marshall

Buddy: The master motivator, able to win with mental dominance and breaking concentration with insults and impish smack-talk. Fond of bringing one more attacker than opponent has defenders; may have scheme to bring six or seven coming out of timeouts and attack while opponent still in timeout-huddle.

Marshall: Deadly mix of brains and attack-dog mindset, considered by multiple peers to be best single talent on great 1985 defense. Most dangerous when loose ball bouncing around, particularly in snow; effective at scoop-and-score technique as well as generating own takeaways. Can struggle defending pure speed in Monday night games.

By John "Moon" Mullin

2    Mike Ditka
15  A Hurricane

Mike Ditka - Not sure how anyone can pick against Da Coach. He brought the Bears their lone Super Bowl. He oversaw arguably the NFL's greatest team. He played half of his Hall of Fame career with the NFL's charter franchise. The depiction of Chicago football. He's the #2 seed with the greatest case to be a #1. 

A Hurricane - Much like most #15 seeds the Hurricane doesn't stand much of a chance. It needs the perfect storm to overtake it's opponent. Fans of this #15 seed better hope the name of the Hurricane is Hurricane Ditka

By Matt Rooney

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Eddie Jackson’s pitch for the Bears hits home with Ha Ha Clinton-Dix: ‘It’s just like Bama’

Eddie Jackson’s pitch for the Bears hits home with Ha Ha Clinton-Dix: ‘It’s just like Bama’

Six years ago, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix recruited a three-star wide receiver recruit named Eddie Jackson to play his college ball at Alabama (Jackson, of course, played for Nick Saban as a safety). In March, it was Jackson who was recruiting Clinton-Dix, this time to play for the Bears. 

He did so with a simple message: “It’s just like ‘Bama.”

And from there, “I was ready to sign,” Clinton-Dix said. 

The friendship between Jackson and Clinton-Dix developed in Tuscaloosa and continued after Clinton-Dix became a first-round pick of the Green Bay Packers in 2014. But Clinton-Dix didn’t decide to sign with the Bears — on a cheap one-year prove-it deal — just because of the opportunity to team up with one of his friends. 

Jackson and quarterback Mitch Trubisky chatted with Clinton-Dix on his visit to Halas Hall back in March and offered another critical pitch centered around coach Matt Nagy. 

“I told him coach Nagy is one of those coaches, he lets us be us, go out there and have fun with swag,” Jackson said. “But he knew it. He was like man, I know, I’m a fan of y’all, I’ve been watching. He was on board.”

Jackson and Clinton-Dix combined for 14 interceptions since the beginning of the 2017 season, though Clinton-Dix left the Green Bay Packers via a midseason trade last year with a reputation for missing tackles (for what it’s worth, Clinton-Dix missed one fewer tackle than Adrian Amos did in 2018, per Pro Football Focus). The Bears see Clinton-Dix’s one-year deal as a win-win for all parties: The Bears get a starting safety with proven past production and playoff experience, while Clinton-Dix slides into one of the league’s most talented defenses with an excellent opportunity to rebuild his value on the free agent market in 2020. 

“I always like to focus on the positives guys have,” safeties coach Sean Desai said. “He’s shown that he’s a highly instinctual player, he’s shown that he’s got good ball skills and good range and those are traits that we’re going to develop.” 

Jackson and Amos forged a strong relationship on the back end of the Bears’ defense the last two years, with good communication between the two helping accentuate each player’s strengths. A thought here is replacing Amos with Clinton-Dix will help ease the transition for Jackson, given his friendship with his new safety mate. But there’s more that goes into a good safety pairing than a strong friendship. 

“They gotta build that communication,” Desai said. “It’s different to speak a personal language off the field and then a football language on the field. So that’s what we’re all building.”

Still, a good off-the-field relationship with Jackson got Clinton-Dix in the door at Halas Hall. And the Bears hope it can be an important part of the league’s best defense in 2018 holding on to that title in 2019. 

“I’m just glad to be on the back end with him, man,” Clinton-Dix said. “This is a special defense and I’m glad to be a part of these guys.” 

Reworking his fundamentals might be the key to unlocking Leonard Floyd's potential

Reworking his fundamentals might be the key to unlocking Leonard Floyd's potential

If new outside linebackers coach Ted Monachino was looking to make a strong impression during his first media availability on Wednesday afternoon, he certainly hit his mark. 

“I think Leonard [Floyd] as a pure, natural pass-rusher has a bigger tool box than anybody else I’m coaching right now,” Monachino said. “I want everybody to understand what I just said. The better rusher right now is [Khalil Mack] but the natural pass-rush ability, the pass-rush gene? 94 has it.” 

Comparisons to Mack aside, it’s easy to see Monachino’s point. Since being drafted out of the University of Georgia 9th overall in 2016, coaches in Halas Hall have spoken with a sense of wonder about Floyd’s athleticism. He did, after all, have the 5th-best 40-time (4.60) among OLBs at the 2016 combine. Not to mention the 3rd-best broad jump (10’7”). And the 2nd-best vertical jump (39.5). 

“His length and his explosiveness in a short space, those things negate all other disadvantages,” Monachino added. “As a power rusher at the top of the pocket, I don’t think he’s going to have any problem. I don’t think he’s ever been groomed that way.” 

OTAs are about as laid back as team-sanctioned activities get in the NFL; it’s slow-paced and conceptual by nature. Basically, it’s the perfect environment for a player who’s looking to strengthen fundamentals. For every Floyd conversation that’s started with his raw athleticism, there’s one that’s ended with his lack of production. 

“I’ve been focusing on getting better at what I’ve been bad at last year, so I’ve just been grinding,” Floyd said. “I just wanted to just really get back and learn the fundamentals. I’ve just been practicing them and trying to elevate my game.

“It’ll help me when we start in Training Camp. Just really working on my hands, playing with good technique, and learning the new defense. I’m trying to elevate myself by learning as much as I can about that.” 

It’s important to note that injuries have played a major role, as he’s missed time in each season with a concussion (2016), MCL tear (2017), and hand fracture (2018). Still, Floyd has yet to record more than 7 sacks, and that came in his rookie season. Since then, he’s had 4 and 4.5. 

“I think the sacks will come...” Monachino said. “... As he gets better at one or two things, his numbers will go up. The thing that may happen first are the effective rushes. He may affect the quarterback, he may affect the launch point, he may move a guy off the spot. The more those come on, the more productive rushes he’s going to have.” 

The Bears are banking on Floyd finding those effective rushes, quite literally. At their end-of-season press conference, GM Ryan Pace announced that they intended to pick up Floyd’s 5th-year option in 2020. They officially did so in March, and are now on the hook for for paying him $13.2 million that year. Good pass rushing doesn’t come cheap, but the Bears will be expecting more out of Floyd from here on out. He’s certainly expecting it out of himself. 

“It’s exciting, me and coach were talking about it,” he said, when asked about getting closer to his ceiling this season. “ I’ve just got to come in every day and keep working hard and it’ll payoff. So I’m coming in every day focused and trying to help the team.”