The Future is Beautiful in Chicago

jay-cutler-chicago-bears-denver-broncos

I rarely ever write about football trades and free agent signings (the NFL Draft is a different story) because (1) even the most recognizable names on the trade and waiver wires are invariably way past their respective primes, (2) desirable players that are in their primes never get moved since they are either paid so much that they can’t practically be moved due to salary cap issues or are paid so relatively little being on their rookie contracts that they won’t be moved due to how valuable they are in a salary cap world, (3) it’s simply not that much fun to speculate compared to basketball, where one trade can legitimately change the prospects of a franchise (which is why I’m on every viable Bulls trade rumor like white on rice), or baseball, where the lack of salary cap allows for plenty of blockbuster deals both in the offseason and at the trade deadline every year, since adding a single football player outside of a top flight quarterback (who never get traded) is going to be a relatively low impact move when so many other pieces need to be in order for a team (in 99% of the cases, the addition of one football player is a piece that may help but not a cornerstone that single-handedly vaults a team from pretender to contender), and (4) Jerry Angelo and the Bears never seem to be serious players in any type of high impact trade or free agent discussion (in fact, their modus operandi for the past few years has been stockpile draft picks by trading down in the draft or obtain compensatory picks by letting guys like Bernard Berrian move on to other teams).

As a result, I haven’t even bothered to give much thought to the hubbub about Jay Cutler’s apparent fallout with the Broncos’ new head coach, Josh McDaniels. Regardless of how upset Cutler might have been, I couldn’t fathom the prospect of Denver trading away a 25-year quarterback that had already made a Pro Bowl within his first three years – name brand quarterbacks only get traded when they decide to retire, choose to un-retire two months later, and then bitch and moan about not getting his job back when the franchise that has catered to his every whim for nearly two decades decides that it has to move on after being yanked around about retirement plans for over five years. Even if I could have wrapped my mind around the thought that Cutler was truly available, I had absolutely no faith whatsoever that the Bears would offer what it would take to nab a player of that caliber. Early in the morning on April 2nd, I told a co-worker that my feeling was that the Redskins and Daniel Snyder would offer up the team’s first round draft picks for the next ten years (at least the ones that they still have left) plus ownership of any Six Flags theme park in order to get such a huge deal completed and the Bears wouldn’t even bother putting in a viable offer.

So, the fact that the Bears were actually able to nab a 25-year Pro Bowl quarterback was the most shocking transaction that I could ever remember the team (and possibly any franchise in Chicago) completing. After enduring years of that horrific graphic that every television network displayed during every Bears-Packers game with a list of the 87,323 quarterbacks that the Bears have gone through since Brett Favre’s first season with the Packers, there is actually a real quarterback in Chicago. Not only that, this quarterback may very well still be at the helm of this team in 2016 when Chicago hopes to hold the Olympics. (Note that after Mayor Daley spent an enormous amount of time and money to ensure that the visit of the International Olympic Committee evaluators this week would be perfectly coordinated, the news is now dominated by the dual headlines of the Cutler trade and Rod Blagoevich getting indicted.) I’m trying to avoid too much of the Kool-Aid (on the scheme of things, I would still wager that the Bulls landing the rights to draft Derrick Rose last year will end up being the seminal off-the-field Chicago sports moment of this generation), but I continue to be perplexed by that segment of the population that seems to be giving a thumbs down to this trade. Frankly, this reminds of the Bulls fans that began deluding themselves that Tyrus Thomas and Joakim Noah were becoming the frontcourt version of Michael and Scottie where they couldn’t be given up for a multiple-time All-Star big man in his prime averaging 20/9 over the course of his career. While that trade never went through (and Amare Stoudemire almost lost an eyeball a few days after the trade deadline passed), fans that complained for years that the Bulls needed a top-tier frontcourt scorer all of the sudden became scared of “giving up too much” when a top-tier frontcourt scorer was right in front of them. Likewise, Bears fans have been complaining about their quarterback situation since the Sid Luckman era (he retired in 1950, by the way), yet a sizeable segment of the fanbase inexplicably is criticizing this deal for a variety of knee-jerk (and ultimately illogical) reasons. Let’s connect this situation from one of my favorite scenes from ‘Swingers’, where Rob confronts Mike for being been holed up in his apartment for several days since he continued to be paralyzed by the break-up with his girlfriend:

There are a few lessons from that scene for the Bears fans that aren’t quite on board yet with the Cutler deal. At the top, we have to look at the things that we have as opposed to the things that we don’t have. The Bears traded away Kyle Orton, whose most notable achievements in Chicago were a fantastic neckbeard and a legendary penchant for Chi-town ladies and Jack Daniels straight out of the bottle. I’m not exactly sure what has happened over the last couple of months that has convinced some Bears fans that Orton is a guy that will lead the team to a Super Bowl victory (which is the ultimate goal as opposed to just making the playoffs by winning a mediocre division). Kyle Orton and Rex Grossman might have been the most interesting pair of mediocre quarterbacks in the NFL, but the emphasis needs to be on the fact that they were (and are) mediocre. Jay Cutler, on the other hand, has the ability to be a great quarterback – maybe not at the level of Peyton Manning or Tom Brady, but certainly can be in that next category of guys where you can a win a Super Bowl because of him as opposed to in spite of him. In 2008, only Cutler’s third season in the NFL, he passed for 4,526 yards, which is nearly 700 yards more than the Bears all-time single season record. Cutler’s career QB rating of 87.1 (once again, only after three seasons) would rank as the best in Bears history for a career. These are just a couple of the statistical categories where Cutler would already hold Bears all-time records, not to mention that he has already made one Pro Bowl (and I’ll say it once again, this is only after three seasons), which equals the total number of Pro Bowl appearances by Bears quarterbacks since 1963 (the lone appearance being Jim McMahon in 1985).

At the same time, while the Bears gave up a lot in terms of draft picks (first round picks for the next two years and a third round pick this year), there was no chance that any of those draft picks would have yielded a quarterback anywhere near the level of Cutler. This isn’t like the Herschel Walker trade, where the Vikings essentially skipped the NFL Draft for three years straight, or when Mike Ditka traded all of the Saints’ 1999 draft picks for Ricky Williams. A quick look at Bears’ recent and not-too-distant first round draft picks (Cedric Benson, David Terrell, Curtis Enis, Rashaan Salaam, Curtis Conway… urge to kill… rising) should immediately get rid of any hesitancy of Chicago sports fans to skip the first part of draft day this year and next year.

Another area where some Bears fans are bemoaning what they don’t have as opposed looking at what they do have is with respect to the team’s wide receivers (or lack thereof). I’ll agree that the Bears need better wide receivers immediately. However, that doesn’t mean that the Bears shouldn’t have gone out and traded for Cutler. Quite to the contrary, as Dan Bernstein eloquently stated on Friday on WSCR, arguing that the Bears shouldn’t have traded for Cutler because the Bears don’t have good wide receivers is like saying that you don’t want to pick up a million dollars in cash that you’ve won because you don’t own a suitcase. The Bears can still add a competent wide receiver this offseason (either through the use of a second round draft pick or signing a veteran like Torry Holt or Marvin Harrison) and, practically speaking, it’s a whole lot easier (not easy, but easier) trying to find wide receivers than a Pro Bowl quarterback that’s only 25 years old. Don’t forget that the Bears still have Earl Bennett on their roster – last year’s third round draft pick that happened to be Cutler’s favorite wide receiver target in his final year at Vanderbilt. Plus, this “we don’t have wide receivers” lament is suited in the old Bad Rex/Orton world, where the Bears needed wide receivers that could make their quarterbacks better. Now, the Bears actually have a quarterback that can make the team’s wide receivers better (as it should be).

It also seems like some Bears fans have gotten used to the pain of not having a top level quarterback for so long that they can’t handle a living a life without such pain. Every Bears fan under 70 years old (think about that for a second – that’s not hyperbole) has only known a franchise that has had mediocre (at best) or Division I-AA level (Jonathan Quinn, Peter Tom Willis, Moses Moreno, Henry Burris, Will Furrer, Rick Mirer… urge to kill… rising) quarterback play, so I think there’s some of us that will actually miss those Monday mornings after the game where Chicago sports talk radio contains 4 straight hours of censored expletives about the lack of our passing game. So, some of these Bears fans start throwing out some of the aforementioned complaints, or the supposed scarlet letter that “Jay Cutler hasn’t won a playoff game yet” (once again, he’s only been in the league for three seasons). By that short-sighted logic, we should sign Rex Grossman to a lifetime contract since he got us to the Super Bowl. Are we scared of entering a world where we can’t just blame Bears losses on the lack of a QB? Maybe some people can’t handle it, but I’m more than ready to move on.

Finally, this whole situation is absolutely manifest destiny applied to the NFL. Think of the number of crazy events that had to occur in order to set this trade into motion: (1) Tom Brady gets knocked out in the first few minutes of the 2008 season, (2) Matt Cassel steps in cold turkey after being a backup since literally high school (since he got to carry the clipboard behind both Carson Palmer and Matt Leinart at USC) and leads the Patriots to a record that would have landed them in the playoffs almost every other year, (3) Denver doesn’t make the playoffs and Mike Shanahan gets fired after having brought the franchise two Super Bowl victories, (4) the Broncos then hire Josh McDaniels, who coached Cassel as offensive coordinator with the Patriots, (5) Cassel gets the franchise tag placed on him by New England so that he wouldn’t go to free agency and the team could get some value back for him on the trade market, (6) McDaniels does everything other than publicly proclaim Cassel as being perfect for his system and the Broncos try to trade Cutler for him, (7) Cutler really doesn’t like this, (8) Cassel gets traded to the Chiefs, but McDaniels continues to indicate that his special sauce offense is going to be changed around in a way that it goes against all of Cutler’s strengths, (9) Cutler absolutely positively doesn’t like this, (10) Cutler does everything but publicly proclaim that he will never play for McDaniels, (11) for some inexplicable reason, McDaniels doesn’t do everything in his power to calm down a young franchise quarterback that the long-term stability of his coaching job will depend upon, (12) the Broncos are then essentially forced to put Cutler on the trading block, (13) Jerry Angelo has the intestinal fortitude to go against every precedent that his organization has set in terms of high-profile trades and “got in it to win it” as he put it, and (14) the Bears trade for Cutler to get the quarterback that they have never had.

While a number of Bears fans are a bit turned off by Cutler’s apparent negative reaction to criticism (and he’ll certainly need to become thick-skinned immediately to deal with a rabid Chicago media and fan base that can turn on a misguided interception), there aren’t too many good quarterbacks that aren’t prima donnas. I’ll challenge anyone to find a larger prima donna in sports than Brett Favre and, in all probability, the biggest d-bag in your high school class was the quarterback of your football team. It all doesn’t matter if it means legitimate chances to bring the Lombardi Trophy back to Chicago.

If anything else, the Sunday night regular season opener between the Bears and Packers at Lambeau Field is going to be a whole lot more interesting both locally and nationally. Let’s say this again because I still can’t quite believe it: the Bears actually have a real quarterback. The future is beautiful, Bears fans.

(Image from Midwest Sports Fans)

Frank the Tank’s Football Parlay – 10/31/2008

There will be thoughts on the we’re-taking-every-other-week-off Illini, Kyle Orton’s smoking offense, and my continuing man crush on Derrick Rose soon.  In the meantime, here are some quick picks again on a Halloween weekend (home teams in CAPS):

COLLEGE FOOTBALL PARLAY

(1) INDIANA HOOSIERS (-2) over Central Michigan Chippewas
(2) Colorado Buffaloes (+3.5) over TEXAS A&M AGGIES
(3) ILLINOIS FIGHTING ILLINI (-2.5) over Iowa Hawkeyes (We’re on the semi-weekly schedule for Illinois showing up for games, so this ought to be a relatively easy win.  If the Illini lose this game, everyone should be fired.)

Frank the Tank’s College Football Parlay Record
Last Week: 2-1

Illini Games for the Season: 3-4
Overall Season: 15-11-1

NFL FOOTBALL PARLAY

(1) Baltimore Ravens (+1.5) over CLEVELAND BROWNS
(2) DENVER BRONCOS (-3) over Miami Dolphins
(3) Detroit Lions (+12.5) over CHICAGO BEARS (I have a bad feeling about this game, where the Bears should win but the team comes out so flat that they’ll fail to cover.  If the Bears lose this game, everyone should be fired.)

Frank the Tank’s NFL Football Parlay Record
Last Week: 2-1

Bears Games for the Season: 2-41
Overall Season: 11-10-3

(Image from Happy Hour Valley)

Good Things For You and I

Fear not, Chicago baseball fans.  We have two saviors to get us through Saturdays…

… and Sundays (at least when we’re playing Detroit).

Juice and the Neckbeard carpet bombed the Detroit Metro area for a combined total of 765 yards of offense this past weekend, leading the Illini and Bears to thrash Michigan and the Lions by a collective score of 79-27.  With Illinois tossing its Bo Schembechler voodoo doll for the first time since I was a senior in college and the Bears putting together its first complete game since the season opener (granted, the Lions will do that to you with or without Matt Millen), I can’t be too down on the White Sox elimination.  (Cubs fans deserve to be pissed, though.)  More thoughts are coming later this week.

(Images from Chicago Tribune)

That’s the Bears Offense That I Remember and Frank the Tank’s NFL Football Parlay – 9/19/2008

Should anyone be surprised that the Bears would revert right back its old offensive ways against the Panthers?  The only thing that was shocking was that our neckbearded hero Kyle Orton got juiced up and actually overthrew about 10 open receivers as opposed to undercutting them.  It’s also tough for either team to gain any momentum when there was a total of two plays during the entire game where there wasn’t a false start or offsides penalty called.  What a shame that a couple of great special teams plays along with a relatively decent effort by the defense was wasted again (which has been the general story for the past three seasons).  I’m resigned to the fact that this is going to be the case for yet another year, so I’ll just pin my hopes on the fact that if a team is able to play on one side of the ball exceedingly well in today’s NFL, it can at least get into position to make the playoffs (a la 2005).  On to this week’s parlay picks (home teams in CAPS):

(1) Pittsburgh Steelers (+3.5) over PHILADELPHIA EAGLES – I’m not a fan of this week’s lines with every single home team being a favorite with the exception of Dallas at Green Bay (and I have grave reservations about picking against the Packers at Lambeau Field).  The Steelers looked like the prohibitive favorites for the AFC title after week one but were brought back down to Earth with a grindy performance at Cleveland last week.  I’m also not sure what to make of the Monday Night shootout between the Eagles and Cowboys, which was an awful exposure of the once-mighty Philly D.  The Eagles are tough at the Linc, yet I still think that the Steelers are the better team, so it’s worth it to take the points here.

(2) BALTIMORE RAVENS (-2.5) over Cleveland Browns – This year’s Browns are well down the road of being the worst team to ever be featured on the maximum number of national TV appearances during a season, which is a distinction currently held by the 2002 Bears.  This isn’t a good year to own Derek Anderson and Kellen Winslow Jr. on your fantasy team.

/throws laptop across the room

And finally…

(3) CHICAGO BEARS (-3) over Tampa Bay Buccaneers – As a non-Cubs Chicago sports fan, I’m naturally a pessimist, but even I can recognize that the Bears defense ought to be able to hold down a team whose top two wide receivers are Ike Turner Hilliard and Joey Galloway, who happen to be the only two current NFL players that were alive when the Cubs last won the World Series.  Hence, I’m giving the points in this game.

I’ll be at Solider Field on Sunday, so I’m going to be looking for the Bears to do a little better than how the Illini performed when I was in Champaign last weekend.  Go Bears and Go White Sox!

Frank the Tank’s NFL Football Parlay Record
Last Week: 1-1-1

Bears Games for the Season: 0-11
Overall Season: 3-2-1

(Image from Chicago Tribune)

Bearly Excited and Frank the Tank’s NFL Football Parlay – 9/5/2008

What a difference a year makes – at this point last September, I had visions of a Bears team on the ascent to another Super Bowl run while hoping for a Motor City Bowl appearance for Illinois.  It turned out that I got a listless Bears team but an Illini trip to the Rose Bowl.  For the 30th season out of my 30 years on this Earth, the football gods refused to allow me to enjoy both my Saturdays and Sundays in a single year.  With the expectations for my respective football teams suddenly reversed along with a stellar baseball pennant race on both sides of Chicago, it has honestly been tough for me to get geared up for the Bears.  Kyle Orton is the starting quarterback by default, the running back situation is a complete unknown and the offensive line probably can’t open up holes anyway, the defense could be still solid yet Tommie Harris and other starters are either banged up or aging quickly, I’m horrified that Ron Turner is going to have Devin Hester run a slant pattern in the middle of the field that results in our one true scoring threat getting his legs crushed by some random safety looking to make a name for himself… these are issues that are just off the top of my head at this point.  Like the Chicago sucker that I always am, though, I’ll put on my Walter Payton jersey on Sunday and watch every moment of what will likely be a mashing at the hands of the Colts.  Well, at least I’m running three separate fantasy teams this season (yes, I have a gambling problem).  Following the form of the college football parlay, here are my three picks (including the Bears game) on the NFL side this week (home teams in CAPS):

(1) GREEN BAY PACKERS (-2 1/2) over Minnesota Vikings – I saw this line and quite honestly was perplexed with the love that the Vikings seem to be receiving from the football pundit class.  Granted, Adrian Peterson could have a breakout session on Monday Night Football at Lambeau Field the same way Randy Moss did many moons ago (no pun intended).  Still, the Vikings have Tavaris Jackson at quarterback – ’nuff said.  I’ll take the potential suckitude that I don’t know in Aaron Rodgers than the absolute suckitude that I do know on the purple side of the ball, especially when the game is in Green Bay.

(2) PITTSBURGH STEELERS (-6 1/2) over Houston Texans – The Rashard Mendenhall Era begins in the Steel City.  I don’t really care that the Texans are the sexy turnaround pick of the year (I seem to recall that the recent trendy picks of the ’06 Cardinals and ’07 49ers didn’t make anyone forget ’85 Bears).  The Steelers have one of the best home field advantages in the NFL, so my rule is if they are anything less than a touchdown favorite at home (unless they’re playing New England), I’ll give the points all day.

(3) INDIANAPOLIS COLTS (-9 1/2) over Chicago Bears – I hate this, but what can I reasonably do?  Even if Peyton Manning comes out there with a cast set in concrete, the sheer emotion of the Colts opening up a new stadium combined with the general ineptitude of the Bears in nearly all facets of the game of football leads me to no other choice.  I hope that I’m very wrong here, but this feels like a two touchdown loss for the Bears to me.

So, it looks like I’m taking all the points for college football on Saturday and giving all the points for the NFL on Sunday.  Be sure to enjoy a plethora of sports this weekend and especially all of the football.  Go White Sox! Go Illini! Go Bears!

(Image from Chicago Tribune)

The Neckbeard is Our Quarterback

The interweb is aflutter with the buzz of Lovie Smith officially naming Kyle Orton as the Bears starting quarterback. I’m not sure whether it’s more amazing that the Bears didn’t bother looking at any other viable options at the QB position during the offseason or that the sports blogging community now follows the travails of such a mediocre player with a Rachel Nichols-on-Brett Favre-like zeal. This is in direct contrast to the Chicago media, where the general attitude is “Caleb Hanie: Why the fuck not?”

It’s interesting to look back on this post from this blog’s infancy, written at a time when the respective places of Rex Grossman and Kyle Orton in Bears fans’ hearts were completely reversed from where they are today. Of course, it’s maddening that I wrote that post nearly three years ago and barely a thing has changed with the Bears offense. I sent this message to Minneapolis Red Sox a couple of weeks ago: “I’m about 90% sure that I am going to end up writing a rant about the Bears offense after week one and then could copy and paste it for all of the other games for the rest of the season (which would cause me to drive full speed into Lake Michigan by the end of December).” Thinking about this further, the fact of the matter is that I’ve been writing the same rant about the Bears offense for three straight seasons.

As bad as the Bears offense might be with either the Neckbeard or Sexy Rexy, I’ll give Jerry Angelo credit for not heeding to the misguided calls to bring in the recently released Chad Pennington. Any Bears fan that advocated going down that path has obviously not seen him play. I had the unfortunate circumstance of following Pennington as a member of one of my fantasy teams a couple of years ago, where he achieved the dubious feat of scoring fewer points than both my kicker and tight end combined. It would have been more financially prudent for me to take a couple of Benjamins and use them as kindling to make some S’mores than to have paid my league entry fee that year. Essentially, Pennington is a higher rent and more fragile version of Orton, which is to say that Chad is nothing more than Brian Griese’s redneck twin.

So, it’s back to the Neckbeard again. With the Bears offensive line suffering from more pockmarks than Edward James Olmos and Orton having looked a bit more polished at the end of last season compared to his rookie year (which is kind of like saying that Ford just put some airbags into a Pinto to make it safer – that’s nice and all, but airbags don’t do much to prevent you from burning to death), the Jack Daniels-guzzling game manager might not be much of a quarterback, but he’s definitely our quarterback.

(Image from Deadspin)