Bears

Separated at birth: Bill Belichick and Lovie Smith?

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Separated at birth: Bill Belichick and Lovie Smith?

Thursday, Dec. 9, 2010
5:39 PM
By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com

Fresh from his sold-out run at Zanies, the Bears coach paused from watching horror films starring Tom Brady just long enough Thursday to have fun with a question about similarities between himself and the New England Patriots head coach.

Just looking at me, you see quite a few, don't you? Smith said with a slight smile.

That Smith can manage humor in the days before going against the No. 1 scoring offense in the NFL and a three-time Super Bowl champion coach may speak to both Smith's and his team's state of mind.

With Smith down in their pre-practice drills, defensive backs were delivering loud whoops every time one of their number intercepted a lollypop practice pass.

When the subject was brought up about his healthy competition with fellow linebacker Brian Urlacher for the team lead in tackles, Lance Briggs made sure to point out his two missed games with an ankle injury: You have to remember, since we're talking about a healthy competition: I've missed two games, two games, so for me that'll always be in the back of the mind, if people say, Lance, why didn't you have more tackles?

For his part, Urlacher ran through the requisite superlatives about Brady, then added a subtle reference to an embarrassing feint Brady put on him during the Patriots' 2006 win over the Bears. And he runs fast, too, Urlacher deadpanned, then laughed. I remember he's really fast. Good runner.

If the Bears were feeling any tension facing the Patriots, it has been nowhere to be found this week, perhaps a carryover from the collective mood after the Detroit game: It's starting to get fun for us, quarterback Jay Cutler said of his offense but might have been speaking for his entire team.

On the mend

Linebacker Nick Roach (hip) was able to practice on a limited basis Thursday but starter Pisa Tinoisamoa (knee), after dressing and going through some early drills, was not able to practice. The Bears have ruled neither player in or out for Sunday.

Running back Chester Taylor (knee) returned to practice but was also limited in certain sessions. The Bears were also without defensive tackle Marcus Harrison, excused from practice because of illness.

Brady continues to be limited in practice by shoulder and foot injuries and nose tackle Myron Pryor by back problems. Safety Patrick Chung and linebacker Brandon Spikes did not practice for non-football issues. Cornerback Jonathan Wilhite (hip) also was out.

Bear weather?

The Bear weather mystique is a questionable asset for the home team. Frigid temperatures have been in no way a guarantee of success on the lakefront. Far from it.

The Bears are 8-4 in games with the wind chill at zero or below. They bagged their 1963 NFL championship in minus-3 conditions and they smacked around the New York Giants in the 1985 playoffs with wind chill at zero. (In case you're wondering, the following week was the 24-0 annihilation of the Los Angeles Rams in the snow, temperature at a balmy 39, wind chill 28).

But the Ditka Bears twice saw dream seasons die in the cold: against Washington after the 14-2 season of 1986, and against San Francisco in the 1988 NFC Championship game.

(Thanks to Bears media relations for some superb digging on the numbers.)

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.

NFL Mock Draft: Bears add pass-catching TE in 2nd round

NFL Mock Draft: Bears add pass-catching TE in 2nd round

Get used to the Bears being connected to just about all of the top tight end prospects in the 2020 NFL Draft as the mock-draft season kicks into high gear.

The latest mock draft from the Draft Wire is no exception. In this two-rounder, the Bears snag Washington tight end Hunter Bryant at No. 43 overall.

Here's how Bryant's game profiles, via The Draft Network's scouting report:

Hunter Bryant should be a dynamic receiving threat at the NFL level. Bryant brings excellent quickness, run after catch skills and versatility to a flex tight end role. Plugging Bryant into a traditional inline role will water down his receiving skills — he's best working off the LOS or as a flexed slot receiver who can serve as a H/W/S mismatch for opposing defenders. If Bryant it put in such a flex role, look for early production and long-term starter status in the pros. 

Sure sounds like the kind of player the Bears could use in the passing game, where the entire tight end depth chart combined for just 44 catches last season. Trey Burton led the way with 14. It was a brutal year at the position.

Naturally, adding a playmaker who can expand Matt Nagy's playcalling toolbox is a critical 'must' for Ryan Pace this offseason, and a prospect like Bryant could be an ideal fit.

In Round 2 of this mock draft, the Bears add Ohio State linebacker Malik Harrison. Like tight end, linebacker will be an area of need depending on what happens with free agents Danny Trevathan and Nick Kwiatkoski. It's likely that one of them will return, but even with Trevathan or Kwiatkoski back in the fold, the Bears have to add depth behind the starters. Will they address that need as early as the second round? Probably not, especially with pressing needs along the offensive line and in the defensive backfield.

If, however, Harrison does end up being the pick, the Bears would be getting a strong run defender who doesn't project as an every-down player at this point in his evaluation. He's likely to slide into the third round, if not later.

Should the NFL’s playoff changes mean the Bears should be more aggressive in a quarterback trade or free agent signing?

Should the NFL’s playoff changes mean the Bears should be more aggressive in a quarterback trade or free agent signing?

If the NFL’s proposed collective bargaining agreement is ratified, seven teams from each conference will make the playoffs in 2020— a change that will immediately alter the league's player movement landscape in the coming weeks and months.

Under the proposed structure, the Los Angeles Rams would’ve been the NFC’s No. 7 seed in 2019, with the 8-8 Bears finishing one game out of a playoff spot (really, two games, given they lost to the Rams). But as the Tennessee Titans showed last year, just getting into the dance can spark an underdog run to a conference title game. The vast majority of the NFL — those not in full-on tank mode — should view the potential for a seventh playoff spot as a license to be more aggressive in the free agent and trade market as soon as a few weeks from now.

So, should the Bears look at this new CBA as reason to be more aggressive in pushing to acquire one of the big-name quarterbacks who will, or could, be available this year? After all, merely slightly better quarterback play could’ve leapfrogged the Bears past the Rams and into the playoffs a year ago.

The prospect of Teddy Bridgewater or Derek Carr or Andy Dalton representing that upgrade feels tantalizing on the surface, right?

But the CBA’s addition of a seventh playoff team does not, as far as we know, also include an addition of significantly more cap space available to teams in 2020, even if the salary cap has increased 40 percent over the last five years. An extra $25 million is not walking through that door to add to the roughly $14 million the Bears currently have in cap space, per the NFLPA’s public salary cap report.

So that means every reason we laid out why the Bears should not make a splash move at quarterback remains valid, even with the NFL lowering its postseason barrier to entry.

The Bears’ best bet in 2020 remains signing a cheaper quarterback like Case Keenum or Marcus Mariota (who shares an agent with Mitch Trubisky, potentially complicating things) and banking on roster improvements being the thing that gets them back into the playoffs. Adding a quarterback for $17 million — Dalton’s price — or more would hamstring the Bears’ ability to address critical needs at tight end, right guard, inside linebacker and safety, thus giving the Bears a worse roster around a quarterback who’s no sure bet to be good enough to cover for the holes his cap hit would create.

Does it feel like a good bet? No, and maybe feels worse if it’s easier to get in the playoffs in 2020. But a Trubisky-Keenum pairing, complete with a new starting right guard to help the run game and more than just Demetrius Harris to upgrade the tight end room, is a better bet than Dalton or Bridgewater and a worse roster around them.

Also: This new playoff structure will tilt the balance of power significantly toward the No. 1 seeds in each conference. The last time a team made the Super Bowl without the benefit of a first-round bye was after the 2012 season, when the No. 4 seed Baltimore Ravens won the title. Otherwise, every Super Bowl participant since hasn't played on wild card weekend. 

So while the Bears may become closer to the playoffs if the new CBA is ratified, they won’t be closer to getting a No. 1 seed. And that holds true even if they were to find a way to sign Tom Brady.

Getting in the playoffs can spark something special. But the Bears’ best path back to meaningful January football still involves an inexpensive approach to addressing their blaring need for better quarterback play. 
Is it ideal? No.

But it’s far less ideal to be in this situation three years after taking the first quarterback off the board with 2017’s No. 2 overall pick. 

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