Dan Hampton on Doug Buffone: 'He was bigger than life'


Dan Hampton on Doug Buffone: 'He was bigger than life'

Dan Hampton was a rookie in 1979, coming to the Bears in what would be Doug Buffone’s last year in the NFL. By that time, Buffone was no longer a starting linebacker and Hampton wasn’t seeing Buffone in anything near the latter’s prime.

But Hampton, inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2002, saw the essential Doug Buffone, in more ways than one.

“When I got here in 1979, Doug was ‘The Dos Equis Man,’ Hampton said, laughing. “You know: ‘Stay thirsty, my friend.’ He had the nightclubs, all the stuff, and he was bigger than life.

[MORE: Mike Ditka on Doug Buffone: 'I loved him']

“He was so great to play with. In the [1979] game against the New England Patriots, he was thrust into the starting middle linebacker position because of the illness to Tom Hicks.

“Doug’d been up night, and there he was in the locker room before the game, chain-smoking. He was in his 14th year and you don’t expect to be dropped into the middle-linebacker position all of a sudden.

“And New England had that running back, Sam ‘Bam’ Cunningham, who was a 300-pound running back. Not only did Doug play great – he ran a fake punt as captain of the punt team in that game, and he intercepted two passes, which broke Butkus’ all-time record for linebacker.

[MORE: Moon - There was no one more fun to talk with than Doug Buffone]

“He was the man. He was bigger than life.”

Hampton knew Buffone was dealing with some health concerns over the past couple years and his strongest feelings on Monday centered on those left behind.

“I feel just horrible for [Buffone’s wife] Dana and the kids,” Hampton said. “Doug was a big part of the world of the Chicago Bears.”

[MORE: Doug Buffone a character with character]

Hampton shares the passion that Buffone, Ed O’Bradovich and others feel about their former team. “But with Doug, as much as he loved the Bears, you always knew it wasn’t a condemnation of the Bears,” Hampton said. “It was a desperate plea for them to find a way as a football team. It was never ill will.

“He was a fine, fine human being, and it was a joy to have been able to play even one year with Doug. He will sorely be missed. He was just a fine, fine man. He’s a Chicago icon. We’re all the richer for having known him.”

Anthony Miller is hyped about Nick Foles' knowledge of Bears' offense

Anthony Miller is hyped about Nick Foles' knowledge of Bears' offense

One of the main reasons the Bears targeted Nick Foles in an offseason that was overflowing with quality quarterbacks to challenge Mitch Trubisky for Chicago's starting job is his familiarity with Matt Nagy's offense. The Bears knew what they were getting when they traded a fourth-round pick to the Jaguars for the former Super Bowl MVP, and in the current COVID-19 reality, that knowledge of who Foles is as a quarterback is more valuable than the team could've ever imagined.

So is Foles' comfort with the playbook. 

Unlike traditional offseasons when players have a chance to acclimate themselves with their new city, teammates, coaching staff, and offensive system, the novel coronavirus has thrust the Bears' quarterback competition into a shotgun four-week run that Foles is oddly equipped to handle. He's already made a positive early impression on wide receiver Anthony Miller.

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“You can definitely tell that Nick has been playing this game for a long time, and he knows this offense very well," Miller said Friday during a Zoom call with reporters. "He’s very detailed in practice, you can catch him in the back of an offensive play going through his progressions and he’s not even in, so that’s just the type of player he is, and I can’t wait to see him live action to see what he really can do.”

It feels like the Trubisky vs. Foles showdown has been underway since March, but the reality is it's just getting started. Padded practices begin next week and will give Chicago's coaches and players their first real opportunity to evaluate which quarterback gives the team the best chance to win.

According to Miller, the starting gig is up for grabs.

“This is going to be an interesting competition to see and the best man is going to get the job.”


Super Bowl or bust? Why Bears' championship formula is backward in 2020

Super Bowl or bust? Why Bears' championship formula is backward in 2020

First, the good news: The Bears can win Super Bowl LV.

Why not? It’s August.

If Matt Nagy can find the right quarterback and Ryan Pace’s play to overhaul the tight end room pays off, this offense could be a ton of fun to watch. And if the addition of Robert Quinn gives the Bears the sort of fearsome pass rush we expect it will, this defense should be among the best in the NFL – and more than good enough to win a Super Bowl.

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There’s absolutely no part of me that’s going to tell you the Bears cannot win a Super Bowl before we’ve seen them practice, let alone play a game, in 2020.

“We want to win a Super Bowl,” wide receiver Allen Robinson said. “Every day we come into the facility, all our meetings and things like that, I think that our coaches are doing a really good job for everybody to keep that in mind and that's the main thing.”

Okay, but you’re probably waiting for the bad news. I just didn’t want to start with it. Because while it's not impossible for the Bears to make a Super Bowl run, there's a big reason why it feels unlikely. 

The Bears’ formula for winning in 2020, seemingly, is pairing a good enough offense with an elite defense. It’s what got them to the playoffs in 2018 as NFC North champions. It’s what could get them back to the playoffs again this season.

But an “eh, it’s fine” offense coupled with an awesome defense is not a formula that wins you a Super Bowl in 2021. As the last 10 Super Bowls tell us, it pays to have a great offense – and doesn’t matter if you have a great defense.

The last 20 Super Bowl participants, on average, had the sixth-best offense in a given year as ranked by Football Outsiders’ DVOA. The average ranking of their defenses was about 12th.

It’s been even more pronounced over the last four years. On average, a Super Bowl team in that span ranked fourth in offense and 16th in defense.

Only two teams in the last decade reached a Super Bowl with an offense outside the top 10 in DVOA (Denver in 2015, Baltimore in 2012 – notably, both teams still won). Eleven of the last 20 teams to make a Super Bowl had a defense outside the DVOA top 10, including last year’s Kansas City Chiefs.

MORE: Why you shouldn't worry about Allen Robinson getting a contract extension

So the Bears, as currently constructed, do not appear built to win a Super Bowl. That doesn’t mean it can’t be done – we’re not all that far removed from the 2015 Broncos hoisting the Lombardi Trophy with the No. 25 offense and No. 1 defense – but recent history suggests it’s unlikely.

That is, unless Nagy can find the success his former peers (Doug Pederson, Andy Reid) had with his offensive scheme. Make no mistake: Offense leads Super Bowl runs, with defense a supporting character. Not the other way around. And it feels like the Bears have it the other way around.