Wednesday, Dec. 22, 2010
By Frankie O
Of course when doing a blog before a holiday, you have to use it for a theme. Dont you?! For me, this one was easy. Although, I could have titled it: WHAT A DIFFERENCE A YEAR MAKES, but wheres the feel of the season with that? You can argue with me later over which is more accurate.
Upon looking at what I wrote at this time last year, besides wincing at the many 5th grade grammatical errors, I noticed a theme: There was utter dismay in this town about the state of the Bears. Actually, thats not enough. There was actual anger in every fan that I talked to at the bar. Three years of not making the playoffs, after a Super Bowl appearance, had ignited the fan base and not in a good way. Add to that the bitter crash of the buzz from Cutlermania from the summer of love in 09, (Liken it to the crash from his sugar and caffeine buzz that Frankie O suffers in the middle of his shift each night!) and that made for a volatile mix for the fan base. Fire Angelo!! Fire Lovie!! Can we trade Jay Cutler back for the neck beard?! O.K., so I didnt hear that third one as much, but you get my point.
Fast forward to now, and a 2010 NFC North title, and how do the three objects of scorn look now?
Jerry Angelo was under fire for his trade for Cutler. He had gambled the future of the organization on the chance to acquire what he felt was a franchise quarterback. 26 interceptions later, some of which were so awful they should have counted for two, the populous were questioning why the general manager had a job. They wanted him stopped so that he could no longer inflict his talent judging acumen on their beloved Monsters of the Midway. At the very least, if he had to stay, he needed to get rid of his choice for coach. So what happened? He kept the coach, and made his best free-agent move: the signing of Julius Peppers. My favorite part of the Peppers signing was that the bonus money was not paid all at once, that the contract could be voided after one year. For a player whose motivation to give his all was sometimes questioned, this would provide the inspiration to have a monster year and he has.
As far as Angelos franchise QB, this has been a different Jay Cutler. His seeming indifference with possession of the football last year infuriated many. His indifference to how everyone felt about his performance infuriated even more. As Ive talked here many times, I dont think that there has been a more scrutinized athlete in this town since Ive been here than Cutler. For many, it is not just about what he does, it is how he does it. That is never going to change. His personality is such that hes going to rub people the wrong way. I think he is starting to understand how his behaviorals are being interpreted, not that I think it matters to him. He understands that the bottom line to him being loved in this town is all about winning. Not throwing 26 picks helps also. His 20-13 TD-INT ratio is acceptable as is his 89.6 passer rating. But more importantly, his 9-4 record and the fact that he is in the playoffs for the first time are going to provide the answer to the question of whether he was worth the kings ransom that was paid to acquire him.
And then there is Lovie Smith. Following in the footsteps of Poppa Bear Halas and Da Coach ensure that the position of coach of the Bears is going to come with ultimate expectations. Not winning it all is not good enough. Being a flashy personality wouldnt hurt either. Well, the last three years had been as excruciating for us as it was for him. Many in this town were baffled as to why he was given another chance to lead this team after three consecutive failures. The most popular conclusion was that the team was too cheap to eat his contract and that we all would have to suffer the consequences. Whether that would be to watch his team or to listen to him describe their performance afterward. What has happened is his best coaching effort since he arrived here, in my opinion, starting with the compilation of his staff. A lot of guys would not feel comfortable with three former head coaches working for them, especially when they knew their head was on the chopping block. But, desperate times call for doing whatever it takes. There is no mistaking the imprint of the coaching staff on this team, from the offensive line play, the play calling and the play of the QB, the additions of the Two Mikes: Martz and Tice, has revitalized offensive football in this town known for just the opposite. Defensively, Rod Marinelli seems more suited to the defensive coordinator position to the guy that was over-matched leading the Detroit Lions. (Whose fault that was is another debate for another day!) Any quality team is going to have a quality leader who is going to do whatever it takes to put every person who is under his charge in a position to succeed. There is no one who has done that better this year than Lovie, and he has an unlikely division title to show for it.
So as we enjoy this holiday season, I say we do so with an eye towards what can happen in the future that is beyond our wildest dreams. Good things can happen in places that we never expected. To prove it we only need to look at the local football team and the three wise men who provided gifts for us all. What a difference a year makes indeed!