Bears

Should Bears rest starters if game is meaningless?

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Should Bears rest starters if game is meaningless?

Thursday, Dec. 30, 2010
10:53 AM

By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com

Hopped on The Danny Mac Show on WSCR-AM 670 as I do every Thursday but this morning it was Matt Abbatacola sitting in for Mac and Spiegs. Matt had some things on his Bears mind:

Should the Bears give starters this weekend off?

Matt was on board with a lot of his listeners who favor resting keystarters if the game in Green Bay is meaningless. I disagree.

The prime directive is to do whatever advances you toward being betterin the playoffs. You shouldnt play starters so people hit statisticalgoals (Matt Fortes 22 rushing yards for 1,000, Johnny Knoxs 40 receiving yards for 1,000). Thats idiotic.

You dont structure your lineup based on winning or losing in order toget another team into or out of the playoffs. Your team is the only onethat matters, not whether you think you match up better against GreenBay, New York or anyone else.

And you dont rest players just to preserve them. If someone like Pisa Tinoisamoahas a knee that would benefit significantly from a game off, sit him.But no one is 100-percent healthy this time of year so the only fullweekends off should go to the true health risks.

That said, I dont have a problem with treating this like a thirdpreseason game where your starters play into the second half at least.But Cutler, his receivers, the offensive line and pretty much theentire (suddenly vulnerable) defense dont need two full weeks andSundays without games. That gets no one ready for anything.

Going into this season, did I expect this Bears team to be what and where they are?

As I said (and was harangued for) before the year, I thought this team would be 10-6 or better. The reasons lay in the number of elite players (Lance Briggs, Julius Peppers, Brian Urlacher) on defense, plus very strong second-tier guys in Charles Tillman, Chris Harris and others. Put another way, I did not see how this team was going to be bad. I wasnt sure how good they would be but Ive covered bad over the years and this didnt smell like bad.

Besides, the Bears went 7-9 with Jay Cutler being terrible for the most part. If he had been simply bad, the Bears are 8-8 or better. And with Mike Martz coming in, the prospects of Cutler and the offense being exponentially better were very good. How Martzs offense played out has been a little different from even what it was in the first quarter of the season, but if the had not been improvement, that wouldve been the surprise, not that the offense turned out to be overall pretty decent, apart from statistical specifics.

Speaking of valued players, how much has Matt Forte advanced in 2010?

Forte has gone from a solid, serviceable back in years 1 and 2 (his 3.9-yard average as a rookie wasnt special) to flirting with elite status. Not as a pure runner, not as a pure receiver, but as an all-around back, and that is what the Chicago offense craves even more than any specialist.

Forte in 2011 is heading into the final year of his rookie contract and a surprise (and big mistake) will be if the Bears don't get an extension done with him prior to next training camp. Forte ranks ahead of Lovie Smith on the need-to-extend list, if only because Smiths value already has been set in the upper echelon of his job grade. Forte will cost the Bears proportionately far more if he gets anywhere close to free agency and bidding from teams like Green Bay that may have uncertain current situations at running back and could have a franchise answer in Forte, whose arrow is pointing decidedly up.

How much credit does Mike Martz deserve for his flexibility with the in-season adjustments he made in his offense?

Martz deserves tremendous credit for redirecting himself and his offense once it was apparent that the personnel was not yet at the point of being able to cash the checks he was asking them to cover.

All of the credit doesnt go to Martz, however. The change directive marks one of Lovie Smiths coaching milestones, with support from Jerry Angelo and others on the staff. If there was a surprise it was that Smith did not dictate major changes sooner than the off week but maybe it just took those three losses in four games to establish definitively what wasnt going to work.

All in all, a good visit. I usually only see Matt during training camp so it was good to check in with him. Well do it again next week after Packers Week has played out.

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.

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Is the Robbie Gould Bears reunion realistic?

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Is the Robbie Gould Bears reunion realistic?

David Haugh, Ben Finfer and JJ Stankevitz join David Kaplan on the panel.

0:00- Robbie Gould wants the 49ers to trade him. Will the dream of Bears fans come true? David Haugh thinks his departure three years ago might make a reunion difficult.

12:30- Tony Andracki joins Kap from Wrigley to preview the Cubs-Dodgers series opener. They discuss Jose Quintana's recent success, the need to keep Jason Heyward in the every day lineup and talk about Kris Bryant's struggles.

17:30- The panel discusses the Cubs' lineup for Game 1 with the Dodgers and if Pedro Strop is one of the three greatest relievers in Cubs history.

Listen to the full episode in the embedded player below:

As NFL Draft looms, anything is possible for Ryan Pace and the Bears

As NFL Draft looms, anything is possible for Ryan Pace and the Bears

Ryan Pace’s pre-draft press conference began with the Bears’ general manager dryly referring to it as “always fun,” which elicited a round of chuckles from the assembled media at Halas Hall. Two days before the NFL Draft commences in Nashville, there’s no chance Pace is going to publicly tip his hand for what he’s planning to do later in the week. Fun, right?

Pace did tip one thing, though: When the 24th pick comes around — the first of the two first-round picks the Bears shipped to the Raiders last Labor Day weekend — he’ll pull up highlights of Khalil Mack in Halas Hall’s high-tech new draft room. Consider it a welcome reminder of why Pace doesn't have a first-round pick and might as well hook a Nintendo 64 up to the digital draft board and challenge anyone in the building to MarioKart on Thursday night (if this is possible, Toad on Koopa Troopa Beach is always a winner). 

While the Bears won’t be on the clock until pick No. 87 in the third round (last year’s trade to move back into the second round to draft Anthony Miller is also why), Pace said the pressure on him remains the same as it was the last four years, when he made four selections in the first nine picks of those drafts. So that’s one aspect of this year’s draft that won’t change. 

Another: The Bears aren’t going to switch their philosophy to drafting for the few needs a 12-4 team coming off a division title has. For Pace, the reasoning is twofold: First, he’s always been a best-player-available guy; second, he doesn’t see any truly glaring needs on his roster. 

“We feel fortunate with our roster right now,” Pace said. “This press conference feels a little different in that there's no pressing, huge needs. We can honestly select the best players. That's a great spot to be in.”

That’s not to say the Bears don’t have any needs. Another running back, a reserve receiver, a backup tight end, cornerbacks and safeties for the future — those are all needs. Teams can never have too many offensive linemen, defensive linemen and edge rushers. 

Of those, though, the only position with a path to a starting/prominent role on offense or defense may be running back. Even then, Pace said Mike Davis — who the Bears signed in March — is “built to handle a lot of carries,” so if a running back is drafted the expectation will be for him to be part of a rotation, not necessarily a true No. 1 starter-type. 

“Right now, I know running back's been talked about a lot, but we feel good about that position,” Pace said. “We feel good about Tarik (Cohen), we feel really good about Mike Davis, we feel good about Ryan Nall and we feel good about Cordarrelle Patterson and the things he can do out of the backfield.

“… I think there's probably always a storyline with every draft. I understand why it's that way, but I don't feel like we go into this draft saying, 'Man, we have to take this position or we're in trouble.' We're in good shape.”

So consider this another intentionally-murky statement by Pace in this pre-draft press conference. The Bears probably need to take a running back, but he’s not going to say that and tip his hand or paint himself into a corner three days before he actually gets to make a pick. 

(That Pace mentioned Nall, a 2018 undrafted free agent who spent last year on the practice squad, by name was at least interest-piquing.)

So as Pace took questions on Tuesday, most of the answers were some variation of “sure, it’s possible.” Trading down? Sure, it’s possible. Trading up? Sure, it’s possible — though not into the first round. Drafting a quarterback? Sure, it’s possible. A kicker? Sure, it’s possible. Not drafting a running back? Sure, it’s possible. 

We’ll have a complete picture of what Pace was actually thinking come Saturday evening. But while he didn’t reveal much on Tuesday, and doesn’t have much draft capital with which to work, this draft is important. The Bears can find players for the present and future — when their roster will be more expensive — starting on Friday night. And hitting on a few of these picks will be critical for keeping the Bears’ window to win open as long as possible. 

“If we take a player where we happen to have a lot of depth right now, but it’s a good player, that’s okay,” Pace said. “I think it’s short-sighted to say, ‘well, this guy might be able to play a little bit quicker so let’s take him.’ Let’s just take the best player. If that means it takes a little bit longer for him to play, let’s just make sure we take the best guy.”