Bears

Lovie: Bears have core in place, starting with Cutler

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Lovie: Bears have core in place, starting with Cutler

Friday, Feb. 25, 2011
2:05 p.m.

By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com

INDIANAPOLIS New York Jets coach Rex Ryan on Thursday issued a declaration and a guarantee that the Jets will win the next Super Bowl. That isnt Lovie Smiths style and he wouldnt guarantee much more than max effort from his team and staff.

But he was very, very clear that the core from a team that was within a score of reaching the last Super Bowl is in place.

Theres a couple of areas we need to improve, Smith said, but I think the core is in place, starting with our quarterback, Jay Cutler, leading us. I wouldnt want any other quarterback except for Jay. Im excited about him going into that second year with Mike and seeing those improvements on the offensive side.

READ: Lovie, Bears agree to extension through 2013

The sting of the 21-14 loss to Green Bay in the NFC Championship game has faded a bit by this time. Seven points. That is a deficit Smith is certain that the Bears can make up.

We know that were close, Smith said. We played the Super Bowl champions as well as anyone in the course of the year. And we need to; theyre in our division like some of our other division opponents. We feel like well make ground on them next year.

Position flux?

For all of the travail and shuffling of last season, sources told CSNChicago.com that the Bears quite possibly could open the 2011 season with none of their 2010 offensive line starters in the same places they were. Olin Kreutz is a free agent and the collective bargaining uncertainty has some of those kinds of situations on hold.

But offensive line is an offseason target area. Frank Omiyale is not a lock at left tackle, nor is Chris Williams at left guard, Roberto Garza at right guard or JMarcus Webb at right tackle.

READ: Bears, Packers shouldn't look past the Lions

I dont think you try to just pin yourself down on those things, Smith said. There are a lot of different options. What I like is when you have guys with flexibility. You mentioned Chris Williams. Hes played three different positions. That gives you flexibility. Like our safeties Chris Harris, Danieal Manning, Major Wright. All of those players can play different positions.

Enough about Jay already

A reporter who appeared to not be paying a lot of recent attention wondered if Smith was satisfied with the toughness of his quarterback. There are few things that spark an anger flash in Smith the way questions about Jay Cutlers toughness after his knee injury do.

Just to kind of hit Jay one last time, Smith said, measuring his words.No. Theres no question about Jays toughness or anything like that. For guys to even challenge that or question that dont know what theyre talking about, dont know him. Hes as tough as any quarterback in the league. Really, Ive said enough about him.

Tice talk

The Bears turned down a request from the Tennessee Titans to interview offensive line coach Mike Tice for the Titans post of offensive coordinator under new coach Mike Munchak. It was not a move out of spite; anything but. The team earlier allowed special teams assistant Chris Tabor to go to the Cleveland Browns and permitted defensive backs coach Jon Hoke to interview with the Philadelphia Eagles opening at defensive coordinator. Defensive line assistant Eric Washington also was permitted to interview and leave.

But those moves were some time ago and the vacancies were quickly filled. The Tice situation was deeper into the offseason, to the point where finding a quality assistant would have been virtually impossible.

A lot of things come into play, Smith said. As a general rule I would like to see our guys advance anytime they can. But theres a deadline a little bit there. Its a little late in the game. Mike was OK. Its not like were keeping any secrets or anything. Mikes excited about being on our staff right now. The timing wasnt right for it right then.

But you look at it. We had other coaches going out. Jon Hoke interviewed for the defensive coordinator position a little earlier in the year. We felt like it was a little late in the season and we felt we had to go with looking at whats best for the Chicago Bears.

Ill make a prediction that the guys are going to play as hard as they possibly can each week and I can take the results knowing the football team that we have. I can just guarantee you were going to play the way our players play always. Cant ask for anything more from them. Theres nothing guaranteed. But you look at our history. Weve won more games than weve lost. In our team here, weve won the division championship three times. Weve been to the championship game a couple years. Our staff knows what theyre doing. We have good players. And I like our chances next year.

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.

Bears coaching upheavals portend inevitable stumbles

Bears coaching upheavals portend inevitable stumbles

Call it a small Bears reality check, if not a full wake-up call, then at least a nudge in the night. And this sort of thing should be expected, not just in OTAs, not just in training camp or preseason, but when it all counts.

And it should serve as a lesson of sorts. Because some of the underlying reasons are worth a little highlighting and patient understanding around a team that has spent its offseason and millions of dollars refashioning an offense, beginning with coach Matt Nagy and coordinator Mark Helfrich, and that offense wasn’t particularly good on Wednesday.

In a sport where the operative cliché is “just get better each and every day,” the Bears didn’t, but as far as their coach is concerned, “there’s two ways to look at it,” Nagy said. “Whether you say on our side, on offense, trying to see a bunch of different looks a defense can give you, is it too much or not? It’s good for us. It’ll help us out in the long run. It’s good for our players and they’ve handled it well. There’s going to be mistakes but they have it on tape to be able to look at. “

This is about more than just a few bad reps or missed assignments. It’s part of the good-news-bad-news reality that a sea change brings to a team.

The good news is that the Bears have a new coaching staff on offense.

The bad news is that the Bears have a new coaching staff on offense.

The Bears defense is predictably ahead of the offense, hardly a surprise, given that most of the core of the top-10 unit has remained in place. That said, you do have to like the attitude of the barely-above-rookie No. 1 quarterback challenging that assessment Wednesday, with a “Who says that?”

This while the offense has myriad moving and new parts, and interceptions, blown plays and such were occurring for an offense that, like Halas Hall, is a massive building work in progress.

“Well, today was a bad ‘build,’ but that’s to be expected,” Helfrich acknowledged. “We’re adding a chunk each day, I thought today was the first day where we had somebody do something that just like, ‘wait, OK’ – a few positions here and there, a few new guys, obviously a few veterans here and there that it’s all new to, hit the wall.”

It’s a “wall” that arguably is inevitable with a coaching change.

Not to make excuses, but….

For a sense of perspective, scroll back to Jay Cutler, who went through offensive coordinators perhaps faster than he went through socks: a year with Ron Turner, two with Mike Martz, one with Mike Tice, two with Aaron Kromer, one with Adam Gase, one with Dowell Loggains, who at least was a holdover from the Gase year. (Whether Cutler’s failure to match potential with production was the cause of or because of that turnover, this humble and faithful narrator leaves to you, the reader).

More than a few current Bears can only dream of that kind of “stability.” And because of that, the 2018 pre- and regular seasons may be bumpier than the optimism surrounding the Nagy hire was anticipating.

Guard Kyle Long, still not practicing full-go while he rehabs from surgeries, is on his fifth offensive-line coach in six NFL seasons. Center Cody Whitehair, who has started every game since the Bears drafted him in the 2016 second round, has had three different line coaches in as many seasons: Dave Magazu for 2016, Jeremiah Washburn for 2017 and now Harry Hiestand. Left tackle Charles Leno was drafted in 2014, making Hiestand Leno’s fourth O-line coach.

And this is the offensive line, the unit that most engenders use of the term “continuity.”

“Each coach brings in a little bit, different techniques,” Whitehair said. “There’s a lot of time for us to hone in and get to know what he’s trying to teach us. But in the end it’s still football.”

Kevin White is entering his fourth NFL season. He is on his fourth receivers coach (Mike Groh, Curtis Johnson, Zach Azzanni, Mike Furrey) and third different season-starting quarterback (Jay Cutler, Mike Glennon, Mitch Trubisky), not including offseason battery mates ranging from Jimmy Clausen, Brian Hoyer, David Fales and Connor Shaw, depending on how much rep time he spent with which unit at various times during his training camps.

“It doesn’t matter,” White said. “Roll with the punches, come here and do my job every day.”

Regardless of how many bosses you’ve reported to.

Kevin White, Bears focusing on the present and not his unlucky past or uncertain future

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USA Today Sports Images

Kevin White, Bears focusing on the present and not his unlucky past or uncertain future

Kevin White had little interest in engaging with reporters on Wednesday, the first time he was made available to the media since suffering a season-ending broken scapula in Week 1 of the 2017 season. His answers weren’t combative, but they were short and terse. 

Then again, how was he supposed to handle yet another round of questions — none of which were unfair — about his star-crossed past or his uncertain future? He did offer up this quote-worthy line when asked what he’s learned about himself after all the adversity he’s faced since being drafted with the seventh overall pick in the 2015 Draft:

“Built Ford Tough.”

If White would rather live in the present than in the past or future, that’s fine. It’s actually ideal if the Bears want to get something out of him in the final year of his rookie contract. And it’s also the mindset preached to him by wide receivers coach Mike Furrey, his fourth position coach in four years in the NFL. 

“We sat down from Day 1 and I said listen, I don’t know anything about your past, I don’t want to know anything about your past,” Furrey said. “From here on out it’s just going forward and just doing everything that we can control day in and day out and that’s it. I won’t talk to you anything about tomorrow, I’ll only talk to you about what we’re doing today and how we’re building today.”

If the Bears hope to get anything out of White in 2018 — and if White hopes to revive his career without job security beyond this season — that narrow mindset is a good starting point. It’s even more important during OTAs here in late May, with there still being about two months until the Bears’ first padded practice and two and a half months before preseason play begins. 

The Bears insulated themselves from needing White to produce this year by adding targets for Mitch Trubisky in Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel, Trey Burton and Anthony Miller over the last two months. The spotlight is off White, in a sense, and he’s okay with that — “I don’t need attention,” White said, “I just come here and do my job.”

But in another sense, there’s an immense amount of pressure on White to prove himself worthy of a roster spot not in 2018, but in 2019. Not many receivers with White’s numbers — 21 catches on 40 targets, 193 yards, no touchdowns in five games — are able to hang around the league for long without being a special teams ace (like Josh Bellamy, for instance). Neither the past nor future for White is particularly rosy. 

So that’s why White said he doesn’t have any specific goals for the season: “Doesn’t matter,” he said, “As long as I’m out here.” 

All White can do is show up to Halas Hall and, eventually, Olivet Nazarene University ready to practice with a narrow mindset on that day, and that day only. If he sticks with that approach — and doesn’t suffer another horribly-unlucky injury — eventually, he’ll arrive at Lambeau Field in September for the season opener, finally given the opportunity to prove himself. 

But that’s a long ways away. For now, White’s well within his rights to not want to entertain any thoughts about what happened in the last three years or what lies ahead. 

“I don’t know the past and I don’t want to know the past,” Furrey said. “Everything from here on out is going to be everything in the future. We’ve kind of established that and that kind of allows him to relax a little bit and not be judged and to have all these things said about him — because I don’t know. I don’t want to read it, I don’t want to hear about it, I don’t even want to know. 

“All I want (is for) him to be comfortable and be able to learn a new system and be able to learn it as fast as he can so he can go out there — and everybody sees it, he’s very gifted. He’s very powerful, lower body powerful. He can run, he’s got a great catch radius. He has all those intangibles and that’s exciting, but it’s really what you do with those every day. So we’ll just continue to have the daily routine and hopefully get better every day and then be able to put it together when we gotta go.”