NFL Combine: Bears looking at another Eagle?


NFL Combine: Bears looking at another Eagle?

Thursday, Feb. 24, 2011
Posted 8:56 a.m. Updated 1:53 p.m.

By John Mullin

If the Bears somehow find Anthony Castonzo still on the draft board when their turn comes at No. 29 (and that is highly unlikely), the 6-7, 305-pound tackle could become the fourth offensive linemen from Boston College taken in the last 15 Bears drafts.

That would suit the Hawthorn Woods native just fine, having declared that he will be a Bears fan "til I die."

The Bears already have interviewed Castonzo and shown interest, although "all the teams are just playing it easy right now," Castonzo said. "No teams are really saying, 'You're our guy' They've showed interest but not more than anyone else right now."

A couple did-ja-know's on Castonzo:

His left foot is an inch-and-a-half bigger than his right one. Growing up he wore two different size shoes "but now I just wear 18's."

The Bears have drafted Marc Colombo (2002), Josh Beekman (2007) and Evan Pilgrim (1995) out of Boston College. Castonzo didn't overlap with Beekman "but I do know him and was training for the Combine when I came into B.C.

"I think the mantra at B.C. is 'when you go into the NFL, be a tough guy, just work and be that blue-collar kind of guy. I want to take the reins that they've laid out for me and just be that next guy;'"

Castonzo went to Fork Union Military after attending Lake Zurich High School because "I had zero scholarship offers coming out of high school. I was a 6-7, 220-pound drink of water and every school I talked to said, 'We don't think you're going to get big enough.' So I went to Fork Union Military Academy and got big enough."

But there's this Badger, see.. colleague Tom Curran reports that Wisconsin tackle Gabe Carimi is
pretty direct: Carimi is the best tackle in the draft, according to Carimi.

"That's his opinion," Castonzo volunteered.

From a cred perspective, Carimi has some history on his side. Cleveland's Joe Thomas already is playing at a Pro Bowl level and if the Bears could get from Carimi what they got from Dennis Lick (the eighth-overall pick of the '76 draft) before his injuries, when he helped Walter Payton at a time when the Bears had nothing else on their offense, they'd be pleased.

Q'ing up

New Denver Broncos coach John Fox apparently needs to get out more. Or at least watch a little more TV. Doesnt he know how hes coaching a legend (at least a marketing one) in Tim Tebow?

He must not, because on Thursday he showed he has a little Lovie Smith in him, not declaring that Rex is our quarterback as much as Kyle is our quarterback. The No. 1 quarterback job in Denver again appears to be ex-Bear Kyle Ortons to lose.

Tebow made a bit of a hyper-hyped splash as a 2010 rookie but right now, I think Kyle Orton's our starter, Fox said. We've got a very young guy, a high draft pick in Tim Tebow who got his feet wet last year toward the end of the season. He did an outstanding job. He's got some of the intangibles you're looking for.

And then, shoot, Brady Quinn I'm looking forward to seeing play. I've watched him play a little bit in Cleveland. He's a young guy that's got about 13 starts under his belt. So we'll see. But all three I think, I'm excited about.''

Orton has been talked about as possible trade material (and on member of the Bears hierarchy was adamant that Orton would be your ideal No. 2). But I think it'd be pretty hard to be both starter and on the market, Fox said. But as far as I'm concerned, he's under contract, and he's our starting quarterback for the Denver Broncos.''

Draft changes

A loose business plan for the NFL is to address needs first in free agency (see: Chicago Bears 2010 Peppers, Julius) or trade (see: Bears 2009 Cutler, Jay) with an eye toward making additional fills in the draft. That business model is gone this year, with free agency a huge unknown hostage of CBA negotiations and no trades permissible under the lockout scenario.

So teams have deep issues to confront.

You dont even know what the free-agent situations going to be this year, NFL Network draft maven Mike Mayock said on a pre-Combine conference call. Is there going to be free agency? Is there gonna be a four-year guy? A six-year guy? How are they going to deal with that whole thing?

And if you dont have those answers, I think what you have to do is go into your draft room and draft like you always do every year. You have to look at the big picture, and not just, Uh oh! If we dont have training camp, do we need a guy thats ready to play today? I think if you start trying to answer questions with draft picks on the short term, youre going to get beat on the long term. So I think the best thing you can do is take a step back and say, Were going to do what we always do. Were going to draft the best football players that fit our scheme, because we cant worry about things we cant control right now.

Encouraginga little

The impasse in negotiations between NFL owners and players has not been bridged yet. But the two sides ended their stretch of talks with mediator George S. Cohen Thursday with the intention of resuming next Tues. Mar. 1. Cohens statement, the first real comments to come out of the sessions, made it clear that the sides are being civil but significant issues do remain.

Help from Dave Wannstedt

For Ron Rivera, this is the best of times and it is the worst of times.

The new head coach of the Carolina Panthers was a teammate of Dave Duerson, who shot himself to death last week in Miami.

This was the 25th anniversary of the Super Bowl XX team and with Richard Dent getting into the Hall of Fame, and then this, Rivera said Thursday. Were celebrating the life of another one. Its a very sad situation, for his teammates, his friends, family.

Dave Wannstedt was the one who cut Rivera in 1993, the end of Chicos playing career. Wannstedt also was the one who gave Rivera his coaching break, as a defensive quality coach in 1997-98. Wannstedt and good friend Jimmy Johnson saw the head coaching in Rivera back then and had some sage advice.

Johnson told Rivera, Dave told me youre going to be a head coach someday. Dont ever forget who you are and dont forget what you do best. Be around that side of the ball.

So I will be around the defensive side, Rivera said, then smiled. But every now and then pop in to keep the offensive guys honest.

Submit a NFL Combine question to John Mullin

Chico knocked at more than a half-dozen NFL head coaching doors in the past and was turned away every time. But if there was any bitterness at the snubs of the past, some in favor of since-failed coaches, it was not evident Thursday.

It may be overdue but the biggest thing to understand is the opportunity and fit are right, Rivera said. The opportunity came with us not being in the playoffs and the fit being that they were looking for a defensive coach.

Reid let Rivera write game plans and mentored Rivera. The biggest thing was responsibility, Rivera said. Andy assigns every coach specific duties within the team. Youre responsible for certain things.

And heres something for your reading list. Reid gave Rivera a number of book selections but the one Chico cited: The Winning Edge by Bill Walsh.

Thats somebody who should know.

The envelope, please...

The Carolina Panthers hold the No. 1-overall pick in this years draft. Ron Rivera was asked Thursday by ESPNs Chris Mortensen: So, who ya gonna draft?

Rivera was an NFL linebacker. But that doesnt mean he didnt pick up some deft moves and feints. Thats what were here to find out, he said, laughing.

Harbaugh look-alike?

Nice to connect with Jim Harbaugh, the new head coach of the San Francisco 49ers and the Bears quarterback when I came on the beat once upon a Mike Ditka time.

READ: Complete NFL Combine coverage from CSN's Insiders

It was the first chance I had to tell him that my wife Kathleen, who joined me for the Commissioners Party at the San Diego Super Bowl in 2002 and met Harbs, thought he looked like Dennis Quaid.

Ill take that, Jim said, laughing. Ive been called worse.

What would Harbaugh have done?

Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck arguably would have been the No. 1 overall pick of the 2011 draft or close to it. But he opted to return to Stanford for a final season.

Harbaugh, however, left for the 49ers and a deal worth 5 million per season. And he supports the decision of his former quarterback.

Andrew made the best decision for his family and himself, Harbaugh said. Wed talked about it and I knew thats what he was going to do, so I wasnt surprised. Its just a personal decision each of these young men make.

Harbaugh himself was a first-round pick in 1987. Would he have made the same decision in his day?

Hypotheticals are never real good, Harbaugh said, laughing. I was never as talented as Andrew is. But its going to work out great. Hed have been a top pick this year and he will be next year.

Combine more than just numbers

The NFL Scouting Combine begins in earnest Thursday with its inevitable blizzard of numbers, appraisals, information and more. A veteran NFL personnel expert gave a key prism with which to view some of the numerical results that will come out of various tests.

Dont pay too much attention with the fast times or power numbers. But immediately put a big red flag on the bad ones.

Is that fair? Absolutely.

First, the Combine and its 40-yard-dash times, cone drills, vertical jumps and bench presses are less revealing than many of the face-to-face interviews anyway. And those take place out of sight from the general media public; each team has its own.

Also, results in shorts and T-shirts do not translate directly to NFL on-field success. Common knowledge there.

More to the point, however, is that agents and others have invested thousands of dollars to train specifically for the Combine. So those fast times and reps benching 225 pounds should be outstanding.

But, as this NFL vet explained, when a guy cant nail it under pressure after all that preparation, not only should the guy demand his money back from the speed coaches and the rest. Red flags also should go up because it means that all that extra attention, coaching, etc. produced nothing.

So Ill be more intrigued by the prospect who runs a 40 time well below his norm than by one who was billed as having 4.4 speed and runs a 4.28. Besides, if he runs a lot of 40-yard dashes in an NFL uniform, hell be the next Devin Hester.

Well be checking in throughout every day with updates both from head coaches as well as players. Check back as the sessions go along.

Hope floating?

What is believed to be an unprecedented meeting of its kind will bring together a GM, head coach and one other representative from each NFL team for a briefing on various offseason issues involved in the looming lockout, as reported by ESPNs Adam Schefter. What can and cant be done, whats allowed and not allowed with respect to players those kinds of topics will be detailed, with good reason, since this is a potential first for the league.

Figure it also to give some measure of information on the state of the mediated talks between the owners and players that have been going on daily for going on a week. The information embargo has held for the most part and I agree with ProFootballTalk.coms Mike Florio that even without public utterances or substantive revelations, the fact that neither side is leaving voluntary sessions, which they are indeed free to do, has to be considered a positive at this point.

John "Moon" Mullin is'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.

Finding the 'It Factor' – Teams pondering draft mega-deals need to study Bears’ hits, misses trading No. 1’s


Finding the 'It Factor' – Teams pondering draft mega-deals need to study Bears’ hits, misses trading No. 1’s

At some point of Thursday’s first night of the draft, history says that some team will push a big pile of draft chips over in front of another team at the NFL table in return for the latter’s pick. Some of those will work out; others will be considerably less than successful.

Just ask the Bears. Ask them why some of those mega-deals work and others don’t.

Last year it was Arizona trading up from No. 15 to Oakland’s spot at No. 10, taking quarterback Josh Rosen. The deal netted little, unless you believe that the NFL’s worst record and this year’s No. 1-overall pick count for something.

In 2017 it was the Bears going all-in for a one-spot move and Mitchell Trubisky. The Bears at least cashed one playoff check. Kansas City traded two No. 1’s and a 3 to move from 27 to 10 for Patrick Mahomes. Two slots later Houston traded two No. 1’s to move from No. 25 to 12 for Deshaun Watson.

The Bears, Chiefs and Texans all cashed playoff checks last offseason.

In 2016 the Rams traded up from 15 to No. 1 overall for Jared Goff. Philadelphia jumped from No. 8 to No. 2 for Carson Wentz. Both teams were in the 2017 and 2018 postseason, the Rams in the last Super Bowl.

In the might’ve-been category, Bears general manager Ryan Pace pondered a move from No. 7 to No. 2 in 2015 in a quest for Marcus Mariota but judged the price too steep.

The Cardinals’ Rosen gamble and the Bears’ for Trubisky – plus three other Bears mega-deals – offer case studies on the do’s and don’t’s of blockbuster trades involving top draft picks.

Three times in the past decade, and once 10-plus years before that, the Bears rocked the NFL with franchise-altering trades for what they hoped would be franchise-defining talents. Twice they appear to have gotten what they bargained for; twice, not so much, for intriguingly similar reasons.

These deals form a collective object lesson for teams (Oakland? Arizona?) contemplating the kinds of trades this week that the Bears made that brought them Jay Cutler, Khalil Mack, Rick Mirer and Mitchell Trubisky. Only the Bears-49ers deal that secured Trubisky represented a specifically draft-weekend trade; Cutler happened 10 years ago, ahead of the 2009 draft, Mirer was moved in February 1997 for a Bears No. 1 and Mack was a late-preseason deal.

But the four together serve as a collective trail of breadcrumbs regarding what is typically the difference between those kinds of blockbusters working out vs. blowing up on the acquiring team, in those cases the Bears, this draft, someone else.

Finding “It”

The critical element is, pure and simple, football character. It’s not talent. It’s the “It Factor.”

“The competitiveness, a guy playing with, we call it ‘dog’ or energy or swagger, those kinds of things,” Pace said. “There's more specific things I don't want to get to, but I would just say you can feel a guy's football character on tape and we're really strong on that.”

Mack and Trubisky have that essential football character, the “It Factor;” Cutler and Mirer didn’t. And the results reflected it.

The Cleveland Browns snagged “undersized” quarterback but leadership-heavy Baker Mayfield and improved by seven wins last season and by four prime-time games going into this one. Irrespective of any trade situations here, the Browns, like the Bears, can vouch for what happens without “It” – Johnny Manziel, Brandon Weeden, Brady Quinn.

Cutler, Mirer: leadership-lite

If there is a jolting difference that sticks out, it is that Pace very clearly has made football character a priority (Mike Glennon notwithstanding). Others haven’t.

Those inside Halas Hall at the time recall the personnel staff asking for evaluations of Cutler by the coaching staff. Those were done and included prescient, serious reservations about Cutler’s leadership and personality.

Those were disregarded by the dealmakers as not significant. They were. Cutler's Chicago teammates said all the right things about him, even as he was shoving one offensive lineman coming off the field, told another to shut up and play his own position at another point and was telling one position coach, on the practice field, to back off his fundamentals.

Cutler took a Lovie Smith team that reached the 2005 postseason behind Kyle Orton and the 2006 Super Bowl with Rex Grossman, and missed the playoffs four of his five Smith years, then in both of his Marc Trestman years and both of his John Fox years. Grossman and Orton were a combined 40-24 in Chicago. Cutler was 51-51.

Cutler simply wasn’t worth what the Bears gave up for him. It seemed obvious at the time (certain commentators who will remain nameless here were roasted for saying so at the time) and it proved out. He was in Chicago exactly what he’d been in Denver. He was the same middling quarterback with suspect “weapons” as he was with Pro Bowl’ers Martellus Bennett, Matt Forte, Alshon Jeffery and Brandon Marshall, behind an offensive line that included Jermon Bushrod and Kyle Long, both Pro Bowl players.

Mirer was a disaster after the Bears chose to ignore his dismal four years with the Seattle Seahawks and give away. Mirer seemed perceptibly overmatched by the game when he was given three starts in ’97, all losses. He had no confidence and, worse, inspired none.

On the other hand, Mack and Trubisky… 

A rookie Trubisky told veteran Pro Bowl guard Josh Sitton to shut up in a 2017 huddle (no one is supposed to talk in there except the quarterback), which Sitton respected and recounted. Not the same thing as embarrassing or disrespecting. Head coach Matt Nagy on more than one occasion last season made mention of Trubisky’s reactions to adversity and mistakes.

Football character. There is something to be said about a rookie quarterback who earns a complimentary nickname – “Pretty Boy Assassin" – from the defense for what he was doing to them running scout team. The defense’s nickname for Cutler doesn’t clear NBC censorship standards.

Mack brought with him from Oakland not only sacks, but also a mindset that took root in and resonated with an already-strong defensive unit.

“When you bring a guy like Khalil in,” Pace said, “I think the longer you’re around him, it’s not just the player, it’s his work ethic and it’s his professionalism and it’s everything he is as a person. And to have your best player be absolutely one of your harder workers is a great thing to have as a franchise.”

Football character.

The unfortunate reality is that character is harder to assess than talent. But as a handful of Bears transactions involving all-important high-round draft choices (and quarterbacks) have repeatedly demonstrated, arm strength, size, 40-times, all that stuff, don’t make up for a missing “It” factor if that targeted player doesn’t have “It.”

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SportsTalk Live Podcast: Robbie Gould continues to toy with Bears fans... is a potential deal in sight?


SportsTalk Live Podcast: Robbie Gould continues to toy with Bears fans... is a potential deal in sight?

0:00 - The Cubs crush the Dodgers as El Mago puts on another show at Wrigley. Meanwhile, is the bullpen the biggest reason why they are above .500?

5:00 - One day away from the NFL Draft. Is Kyler Murray a lock to be the #1 pick. Will the Bears move up to the 2nd round?

8:00 - Robbie Gould continues to dominate the conversation with Bears fans. Hub gives his insight on a potential deal.

10:00 - Frank Thomas and Chuck Garfien join the panel to talk White Sox. They discuss when the top prospects should get called up and if now is the time for the Southsiders to add veterans like Craig Kimbrel or Dallas Keuchel.

Listen to the entire podcast here or in the embedded player below.

Sports Talk Live Podcast


Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of the Bears.