Posts Tagged ‘Chicago Bears’

There is a significant difference between doing what is honest and doing what is right.  Significant may be a stretch, so between you and me, we can probably agree that some circumstances may lead to the separation of those two ideas: honesty and moral right.  My generation of football witnessed the death of an illusion, the end of an era of looking the other way, the conclusion of what some would suggest “the greatest good” winning in the end.  Football’s celebrated violence is now incredibly controversial, with concussions leading the way as the poster child for our beloved, barbaric sport.  For whatever reason, this usually splits casual observers and fans into two camps: pro-players or pro-league.  The pro-players stance is really simple: players make BILLIONS of dollars for the league and should be supported more; owners and particularly Roger Goodell (because people cannot figure out he represents the owners) should support players better with health care and make the league safer.  On the contrary, the pro-league stance suggests players do not HAVE to play football and if they do they should play it safely.  The NFL places no restrictions on if players can use “safer” helmets and if they really cared about safety they would wear all of their equipment (which they don’t), wear safer equipment (which they don’t), and should listen to team doctors upon injury.  Brian Urlacher says eff that!   One thing that is missing from this conversation is the potential avalanche created by fear, not fear of losing money or permanent injury but both.  It’s the fear of replacement.

This takes us to the Monday Night Football extravaganze between Da Bears and the 49ers featuring Colin Kaepernick and Jason Campbell.  Somewhat surprisingly, Kaepernick played phenomenally against a very good Bears defense and dominated from beginning to end.  Inevitably this one game success leads to a quarterback controversy in the media.  “I usually tend to go with the guy that has the hot hand and we have two quarterbacks that have a hot hand,” Harbaugh said after Monday’s 32-7 victory.  WOAH!  That’s not the media, that’s the head coach!  Legit quarterback controversy after one game!  That seems a bit rushed especially since Alex Smith has been…very good in his last two starts (25-27, 304yds, 4TDs/0INTs – injured in the second game) and good all season.

Loss of job from injury + what have you done for me lately.  That’s a huge blow for someone who was built up from mediocrity/instability in the organization.  Thoughts of Smith’s playoff win over the Saints and his carving up the Green Bay defense this season seem like years ago.  How does this all relate to concussions?  Last week, prior to being taken out the game, Smith stayed in the game SIX MORE PLAYS after being concussed and experiencing blurred vision.  He threw a touchdown pass to Michael Crabtree on his final play of that game without being able to see straight.  I am far short of being a medical doctor but I cannot imagine the injury risk of being hit again after already suffering a concussion.

What drives players is competition, especially those who are not comfortable in their situations.  Who knew that the world would spin so quickly for the fourth rated passer in the NFL and all the talk of supporting Alex Smith who fade after Kaepernicks’s first completed 10-yard out route against the Bears.  Harbaugh unnecessarily brought drama on the NFL’s best team and it remains to be seen if Kaepernick can sustain this success. (Remember Vick coming in for Kevin Kolb against the Packers a couple of years ago and lighting the world on fire?  Or how about giving $10 million guaranteed to Matt Flynn after one great game?)

What remains true is that players will continue to put themselves in harm’s way because tomorrow cannot be guaranteed.  Shameful really but the sport is also a business, and business is just business.

Advertisements

If asked seven weeks ago whether or not Jay Cutler was a franchise quarterback, I would have responded in the negative. Despite the fact that he played behind a porous offensive line, threw to below average wide receivers, and had to cope with archaic and stubborn play calling, I refused to believe that Cutler was a true franchise quarterback because he was still apart of the problems that plagued the Chicago Bears’ offense. Many times since his arrival in 2009, I watched Cutler make questionable throws, hold on to the ball too long, and exhibit a lack of pocket presence.

Seven weeks later, things have changed. Examine only Cutler’s statistics (60.6%, 226.5 yds/game, and a 9-3 TD-Int ratio) in the recent seven weeks and you will conclude that he remains the same maddening quarterback. Delve deeper than the statistical surface and a poised, much-improved player is revealed.

Cutler less frequently makes poor decisions, gets the ball out of his hand quickly, and has become adept at avoiding the rush by sliding and sidestepping would-be tacklers while keeping his eyes downfield. The offensive line and the wide receiver group are still bereft of ProBowl talent and the offensive coordinator will occasionally call a play that leaves you perplexed but no longer is Cutler apart of the problem. He is now firmly apart of the solution and has improved his play to the point that he makes the players around him better.

Now that is the mark of a true franchise quarterback.

Who is Caleb Hanie?

With the regular season ending injury to Cutler, Caleb Hanie is expected to lead the Bears to the playoffs. Fortunately, the Bears have a relatively soft schedule as four out of the six remaining teams on their schedule have below .500 records. It goes without saying that down the stretch, their running game must be emphasized and effective but also, the defense and the special teams must maintain their high level of play in order for the Bears to reach the playoffs.

I spoke with Hanie’s head football coach, Sonny Lubick, while Hanie played football at Colorado State University from 2004-2007 to get a better sense of the type of person and the type of player that we will see in the coming weeks.

How would you describe Caleb Hanie?

“He is a young man who loves football. He basically worked hard to make himself a good player when he was in college. He wanted to be good. He worked hard to improve. He was very, very good at throwing the long ball. Plus, he is a tough young man. He is very tough. He has a lot of great support from his family. His mom, dad, sisters, as well as his wife.”

What is Hanie’s best football skill?

“He is smart. He does have the ability like he did in college, it might be a touch different in the NFL, but he did have the ability to make a few a plays with his feet. Nothing spectacular but he could avoid the rush for a little bit, rush for 6-7 yards. He keeps moving. But I think that he is very intelligent. I think he knows where he is supposed to go with the football.”

How would you describe his learning curve?

“I would say extremely intelligent. He would have no problem, especially being in the meeting rooms everyday and listening to coaches talk to Jay Cutler. He will absorb everything.”

How did he deal with adversity? Was his response favorable?

“Very favorable. He had a share of ups and downs here at Colorado State. I know that all the players have a lot of respect for him. He will never point fingers. He’ll just go on to put it on his shoulders and he will work hard to correct whatever happens. He will not get down. He will just prove that he can help bring the team along. He’ll help bring them to be better and to victory.”

Do you think that Hanie will play well? 

“That is hard to say. I was pleasantly surprised at how well in he played in the championship game last year. To come in there under very adverse circumstances, under spur of the moment, the cold, the snow. He went in there and played very well and probably a little excitable. He had that interception that really hurt but he made more good plays than he had bad plays. I think that he’ll play pretty well.”