Bears

Draft, minicamps suggest what Fox, Pace think of Bears roster

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Draft, minicamps suggest what Fox, Pace think of Bears roster

Minicamps – veteran, rookie or otherwise – aren’t typically occasions for gaining rich insight into NFL teams. But after one veteran and one rookie camp, with a combined camp a month from now, one light conclusion has been distilled about what certain key individuals appear to think about their team.

Ryan Pace and, by extension, John Fox don’t consider the 2015 Bears, particularly the offense, the candidate for federal disaster relief that many do. Not that either would project the Bears into a playoff run (Fox’s mindset: under-predict, then over-deliver). But Fox at age 60 had other options besides one that would involve a massive and lengthy makeover. And he took over his first two NFL teams coming off worse win totals than the 5-11 Bears of 2014, so he has more than a passing grasp of what turnarounds involve.

[MORE BEARS: Bears need more from '4’s' in drafts after recent misses]

More notably, the Pace draft targeted only two Week 1 starters – wide receiver Kevin White, nose tackle Eddie Goldman – and did not involve take-anything or trading down just to add picks, the way a desperate-for-talent new GM would do. And at No. 7 of each round, Pace could have dipped into the trade pool.

Third-round pick Hroniss Grasu probably is the center of the future, the way 1998 third-rounder Olin Kreutz once was. But Pace was consistent about the organization sticking to its draft-board evaluations.

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Why that is striking is because, as Pace explained, if two players are close in grades, he takes the need position. Wide receiver was a clear need; White also was the runaway grade winner at No. 7. Nose tackle was a need, and there was Goldman. Beyond that, not even quarterback was deemed enough of a need to cause the Bears and Pace to alter course. Pace acknowledged that No. 2 running back was a need and took Jeremy Langford in the fourth round.

But the fact that the Bears went with players targeted because of their grades rather than simply their position – i.e., need – suggests that their GM and coach don’t see the disaster-in-waiting that many outsiders do.

Bears' wild-card chances eroding after Week 14's results

Bears' wild-card chances eroding after Week 14's results

The Bears did their part to keep hope alive for a playoff berth in Week 14, defeating the Dallas Cowboys on Thursday night and moving to 7-6 on the season. Unfortunately, they didn't get the help they needed around the league to enter Week 15's game against the Green Bay Packers with legitimate post-season juice.

The Minnesota Vikings, who currently hold the final NFC wild card that the Bears are chasing, handled their business against the Detroit Lions with their 20-7 victory in a game that was never close. Now 9-4, the Vikings' have a two-game lead over the Bears with one head-to-head matchup remaining in Week 17. Chicago needs to defeat Minnesota in the season finale and hope the Vikings lose one of their other two remaining games against the Chargers and Packers. Otherwise, it's on to 2020.

The bigger blow to the Bears' playoff hopes came in Los Angeles, where the Rams moved to 8-5 with their 28-12 victory over the Seattle Seahawks. This was a game Chicago needed the Rams to lose, considering they hold the head-to-head tie-breaker and play only one more game on their schedule that seems like a likely loss (49ers in Week 16). Los Angeles' other two games are against the struggling Cowboys and lowly Cardinals, and if they win both and end the year with the same record as the Bears, they'll have the advantage because of Chicago's loss in Week 11.

So what does all this mean? Week 14's results have the Bears' chances to make the playoffs at just 2%, according to FiveThirtyEight.  Essentially, nothing's changed, even after a win. Football Insiders is a little more optimistic; they have Chicago's chances at 4.4%.

Sunday's game against the Packers has meaning. The Bears are still alive, and a victory in Green Bay coupled with some upset losses by the Vikings and Rams could change the playoff picture quite a bit. If both Minnesota and Los Angeles lose, Chicago's playoff chances jump to 14%, per the New York Times' playoff predictor.

One game at a time. It's a mantra that's worked for the Bears over the last month of the season, and one they'll continue to preach until there's nothing left to play for.

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Devin Hester is on NFL 100 All-Time Team, now only the Hall of Fame awaits

Devin Hester is on NFL 100 All-Time Team, now only the Hall of Fame awaits

Football lists usually leave me feeling a bit cringey.

I don’t like being asked to rank players of different eras because of our collective historical ignorance and quite frankly my own. Even if we take a look at statistics or happen upon film of the player, it’s hard to compare.

I don’t like being asked my opinion on these matters because slighting someone who deserves praise is inevitable. The Bears 100 list was an excruciating exercise for all involved. Watching the reveal of the list was difficult. As hard as Don Pierson and Dan Pompei tried to be measured and fair in their assessments, worthy players were left out.

Our own Alex Brown felt obliged to defend his life’s work. Watching him go through that, quite honestly felt icky. For the record, A.B. ranks in the top 5 all-time in Bears history in sacks. The fact that he isn’t on the list is a shame, but I digress.

As football continues to celebrate its 100-year anniversary, I’ve been intrigued at the way the NFL Network has devised their ranking system and put together their “All-Time Team” of 100.

Now comes the part in the column where you can ignore almost every bit that comes before this sentence: I’m really happy that Devin Hester is on this list. It literally made me smile that his inclusion on the team was without any real debate.

Hester came along in my third full year covering the Bears beat. He was this quiet, shy kid who let his play do the talking. Watching him that first year was mesmerizing. In the ‘06 season he had five return touchdowns (three punts, two on kickoffs).

The most famous, until the Super Bowl, was his role in the Monday Night comeback against Arizona. What we were all watching was impossible. It’s a game that will live on in not just Bears history, but NFL history because the team somehow overcame Rex Grossman’s six, yes SIX, turnovers to win a game.

It was a win that prompted one of the most famous post-game rants in 100 years of the NFL.

Hester’s return in the Arizona game and his return to kick off Super Bowl 41 are both iconic moments. What I remember most about Hester is a bit more abstract.

I imagine that any Bears fan of a certain age can relate, but when the steel drums of Soulja Boy’s: “Crank That” start, it was an event. Hester adopted that song as his kickoff theme and the energy that would overtake Soldier Field before each kickoff was intoxicating. It was a call to arms for the 61,500 fans packed into the stadium.

There was Hester in the end zone-unaffected, dancing, waiting for a chance to make a play. You had to take notice because there was the opportunity to see something special, something you’d never seen before.

On top of hating lists, I hate Hall of Fame debates, but allow me to contradict myself once more. Hester’s inclusion on the All-Time Team list will go a long way towards his induction into Canton.

He shouldn’t have to beg or wait for his gold jacket. Everyone knows what they saw and what they saw was the greatest returner in the history of this league. This list affirms that.

The Hall of Fame is a museum, right? Well, how can a football museum keep out the Basquiat of returns?

Oh and A.B. should be on that Bears top 100 list. If we’re keepin’ it 100.

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