Thou shalt not speak ill of the Bears.
Devin Hester did something incredibly stupid the other day. He was asked a question and he answered it honestly. That type of willful insurrection will not be tolerated at Halas Hall. RICK MORRISSEY (Sun Times) takes a look at how “Veritas vos liberabit” is not a phrase heard mumbled by Lovie Gump (TM).
Plenty of unacceptable things are acceptable at Halas Hall. Penalties are OK. Dumb coaching decisions are OK. Interceptions, missed tackles, 3 yards per carry—yes, yes and yes. Even Tank Johnson’s antics were OK, to a point.
But a player giving honest answers to the media? That is very much not OK in Lovie Smith’s world, a numbed, Stepford world where evil is not seen, heard, spoken or transmitted telepathically. But now Devin Hester has gone and stated the obvious, that changes will be coming to the Bears after three seasons of mediocrity.
Gee, ya think?
Whatever Hester said was far less important than the fact that he uttered something resembling the truth. It is further evidence that the season has come apart at the seams for Smith and the organization.
If there’s one thing the Bears head coach has done well during his stay here, it’s keeping everyone on the same page. It might be a blank page, but they’ve all been on it together. The team that’s mum together stays together, Smith believes. We could have a long debate about whether the approach has any positive effect—the outspoken ‘85 Bears would say it doesn’t—but Lovie has managed to impress on his players that the truth is lined with asbestos.
The Bears now will become the first team not to make it back to the playoffs for three straight years after a Superbowl appearance. That is not the kind of record fans wanted the team to set. But,when added to the stats that show a Bears offense that is plummeting from week to week (currently down to 24th) and a defense that gets run over by little old ladies, you kind of have to expect the records the team sets to reflect the realities that surround them.
I truly believe that Hester wasn’t trying to start any controversy. He is a quiet guy who seems to try and do the best he can with what he is dealt. That is why the media caught on to what he said so quickly. They know that too. Rick digs a little deeper to find something nice to say. He comes up empty, but it is a fun read anyway.
His words were an indication that beneath the veneer of total faith in Smith lies doubt about where this ship is headed. And there should be grumbling among the players. From awful personnel decisions to bad play to ineffective leadership on and off the field, nothing is going right.
Bears president Ted Phillips said earlier this season that what stands out about Smith as a coach is his ability to avoid losing streaks. His teams always seemed to get back on track quickly, Phillips insisted. The team executive did his insisting before the Bears had lost seven of nine games.
No, the thing Smith does best is making sure his players drink from the fountain of true belief.
Which would be a bigger sin in Lovie’s world:
1) A player publicly criticizing the below-average play of superstar-in-hiding Jay Cutler?
2) A player in jail for assault?
I’ll go with Door No. 1, Monty. Can you imagine anyone on the team talking about what a disappointment the quarterback has been? No. It would be a death sentence for the person who said it.
Okay, scroll back up and read Ted Phillips comment about Lovie. What good is lauding “his ability to avoid losing streaks”? This is a team that has won nothing in three years and the best we get is that we should be excited that they haven’t lost more? If that is the mentality at Halas Hall, then we may as well watch midget ice ballet on Sundays.
If Virginia McCaskey (Yes, Virginia, you can be Santa Claus) wants to give Bears fans a Holiday present this year, she will simply announce that everyone from Pep to Ted is gone and start from there.
There is a lot happening today. First off, our condolences to the family of CHRIS HENRY who passed away this morning after an argument with his fiancé turned ugly. In other familial news, El Woods appears to be looking at the best possible options for divorcing Tiger. Hopefully her solution will not involve the methods used by Mr. Miller’s fiancé.
On to better news. The Hawks pulled off a rare feat by pulling back to back shut outs with different goalies. LEN ZIEHM (Sun Times) tells us how cool that was.
The Huet-Niemi accomplishment is even more special than that. The Hawks haven’t had back-to-back shutouts by two goaltenders since Tony Esposito and Murray Bannerman provided the saves in 1983.
‘’The nicest thing is that it was with two different guys,’’ said defenseman Brian Campbell, who delivered one of the goals—his first since Oct. 3. ‘’We can keep rolling every night. We have a lot of confidence.’’
Niemi has three shutouts in seven starts this season, and Huet has two in 25.
Elsewhere in the Madhouse on Madison, the Bulls have decided that the key to winning is better living through chemistry. Both Rose and Noah got cortisone shots to play through pain. K. C. JOHNSON (Tribune) reports on this wonderful development.
The Bulls finally found something they might lead the league in—cortisone shots.
Both Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah revealed Wednesday they recently received shots to play through, respectively, a strained right rib cage muscle and rotator cuff tendinitis.
That means Kobe Bryant wasn’t the only one playing through pain Tuesday night.
“If (player development coach Randy Brown) wasn’t back (in the training room), I wasn’t going to get the shots,” Rose said. “I was just going to play hurt. They had to put an ice pack on my back and freeze and numb my skin. And I still felt it. They lied and told me I was only going to get one. But I felt two pinches.
“Randy told me one of his sob veteran stories about how he had to get at least 100 shots like that during his NBA career. So I was like, ‘I can get one.’ ... It was very sore (Wednesday) morning.”
Rose aggravated his injury while scoring on a fast break against the Lakers. He returned midway through the second quarter after receiving his shots.
Noah has produced consistently even as he quietly has battled the injury in his left shoulder.
“I hurt it a couple of weeks ago,” Noah said. “It’s sore and I feel like I’m not getting the right extension on my hook shots. But if I can help the team at all, I’m going to be out there.”
Both will play Thursday night against the Knicks.
I have to admit that I am somewhat used to football players doing this, but this is the first I have heard of them being used in the NBA. I am sure it happens, but two star starters at the same time seems to be a little on the unusual side.
This just in, Tiger claims he flew a doctor in from Canada, who just coincidentally happens to have been arrested for dealing performance enhancing drugs, because he needed to burn off some frequent flyer miles and not because he didn’t trust the Miami doctors who perform the same procedure he claimed he had. Oh, and the Miami doctors do it cheaper. But, hey, I am sure that there is nothing suspicious there at all. So, let’s move on.
Getting back to “family issues”, Devin Hester (wittingly or not) tossed Ron Turner under a bus and then backed up over the warm body just to be sure. MARK POTASH (Sun Times) takes a gander at the steaming pile.
Simmering speculation that coordinator Ron Turner and other offensive assistant coaches will be the fall guys for the Bears’ disappointing season was turned up to a full boil Wednesday.
Wide receiver Devin Hester said he expected changes in both personnel and the coaching staff after the season.
‘’Just from being around this league for a little while, when things are going bad, someone you least expect is the one that’s gone,’’ Hester said. ‘’I don’t know how it’s going to turn out.
‘’I think there will be [personnel changes]. This is what—three seasons like this? It’s tough. There will be a lot of changes; I know that for a fact. And I hope it’s for the better.’’
That turned the subject to the coaching staff.
‘’I talk to coach Drake a lot,’’ Hester said, referring to wide receivers coach Darryl Drake. ‘’He says, ‘We all know that. Things are going to change. New people are going to come in; old people are going to leave.’ We just have to hope for the best and make sure you do your part.’’
Jay Cutler has admitted that he likes Turner as a person. I am not sure how that translates into support for the coaches. But, at least someone has publicly admitted that they like Turner.
In all seriousness, Hester has raised valid points. The Bears offense fools no one and impresses even fewer. No matter what you think about Hester as a receiver he, at least, had the courage of his convictions.
Okay, and then on the advice of his press agent he backpedaled faster than one of those cool Cirque du Soleil clowns. But, even with his backpedal, all he admitted was that the press made it a big deal and that wasn’t what he intended. Okay then, what did he intend? Blast the play calling on offense in the middle of a crap season and watch the media say “Golly, thanks, Devin. This might be interesting, but we are going to run a nationwide story about Gary Coleman’s cookie recipes. His snickerdoodles are to die for.”
Not on this planet or in this reality. And especially not in Chicago when the story involves the Bears. Hell, even Neil Armstrong made the papers and he made Lovie Gump (TM) look like a genius.
Well, that’s enough stuff thrown against the wall for one day.
Thanks to ELLIOT HARRIS for the title of today’s blog. Juan Pierre has joined the White Sox to become their lead off hitter, new left fielder and all around fun guy for 2010. Pierre has wanted to play for Ozzie over the last three years. He has even joked about being “in the witness protection program” over that time while he was with the Dodgers. But, you never get the impression that he was angry or upset or about to say an unkind word. He had good things to say about his former team and his new one. He also noted that the managing styles of Joe Torre and Ozzie Guillen are slightly different. By that I mean, polar opposites. But, what does all of this mean in the grand scheme of things? DAVE VAN DYCK (Tribune) notes that Pierre is “Juan Happy Camper.”
Last time he played in Chicago, Juan Pierre left with a fortune, signing for $44 million over five years with the Dodgers.
This time—on the South Side not the North—Pierre will try to overcome his reputation as being overpaid and under-talented.
His time away did little but make Pierre rich and clearly money could not buy him happiness. So he was overjoyed Tuesday when the White Sox traded two minor league pitchers to be named later to make him what could be the final piece of the puzzle for 2010.
Exactly what does the trade mean for the Sox? Let’s take a look:
--No more Scott Podsednik. One of the heroes from the 2005 World Series championship and an unexpected catalyst in his second go-round in 2009 is now history, a victim of his own demands.
Podsednik, 34 in March, hit .304 with 30 stolen bases in 43 attempts last season. Pierre, 32, hit .308 with 30 steals in 42 tries.
“It really isn’t about apples and apples because I don’t know if we were ever close to signing Scott,” general manager Ken Williams said.
The Sox will pay Pierre $3 million in 2010 and $5 million in 2011 (the Dodgers will pay for their mistake by adding $10.5 million). They weren’t willing to give Podsednik a multiyear deal, even though he would have come cheaper.
Truth is, Pierre has proven to be a better leadoff hitter (despite a .348 on-base percentage, he rarely strikes out), a far better bunter, a much better baserunner, a slightly better outfielder and certainly a better fit for manager Ozzie Guillen, who became an admirer as a coach when both were with the world champion Marlins in 2003, when Pierre stole a career-high and NL-best 65 bases.
This is what Williams said about Pierre’s value that he never said about Podsednik: “I love the guy’s work ethic, his intensity; he adds a lot more than what he does on the field (although) what he does on the field is pretty special.”
Okay, so what we got is now a pretty fast team with some very solid defense and an incredible front five on the mound. The middle of the line up may not be Murderer’s Row, but it has the potential to move a lot of players around the base paths on a regular basis. Is that enough? JOE COWLEY (Sun Times), for Juan, thinks not.
But will quicker be better?
By adding Andruw Jones, Omar Vizquel, reliever J.J. Putz and now Pierre, the Sox would seem to be penciled in for a postseason spot—if this was, say, 2003, or even the junior varsity that is the National League. But the bar in the American League is set high—New York Yankee high. The World Series champs have speed, power, pitching and defense (and now a sad, empty seat in the stands that has ‘’Alex loves Kate’’ carved in it).
Are the Sox better than they were in 2009? Yes. Are they Yankee better? No.
There’s no question they’ve taken strides toward being Central Division favorites. If that’s the end game, then Williams sleeps well tonight.
The wild card is Guillen. We’ll find out just how good a manager he is because this is a team tailored to fit.
‘’We have a more athletic ballclub and can do a lot of things,’’ Guillen said. ‘’And I was looking for the challenge to see how good I can be, moving the pieces the way I like to move them.’’
He’d better like challenges because 2005 is starting to seem like a long time ago.
1908 is even longer Joe. Even so, clearly the Sox are putting the pressure on themselves to go deeper into the post-season. As any baseball fan knows, the trick is to get there first and then see what happens. We have seen clear examples of what happens to teams that build for the post-season only (left handed bat, anyone?) and do not plan for the 162 games preceding. They tend to stay home in October.
Nevertheless, it is good to read about a trade involving a guy who wanted to be here and has wanted to be for a while. I’ll leave all the bad news for the forums. I am in a happy mood and you are going to be forced to live with it.
Juan of our very own Ambassador’s of Happiness, Tyrone Briggs, has started a thread so CLICK HERE TO FEEL THE JOY!
I don’t want to write about Lovie Smith. His rambling monotone monologues say nothing and inspire less. He is focused on next week, not next year and will do what he has to do to give his team the best chance to win. I think we all already know how well that is working out. Time to move on.
I don’t want to write about Tiger Woods. He has nothing to do with Chicago, outside of one match a year, and his foibles and peccadilloes are already well documented. And, if that isn’t enough for you, our site’s namesake manages to ladle rumor after unsubstantiated rumor into the swirling cauldron. Naturally, he* is heedless of things like facts, confirmation or anything silly like that. You will get more coherent commentary from a drunk on the street.
I don’t want to write about the White Sox either. Not because I am no longer a fan, far from it. It is just that since they signed Putz K-Dub has managed to slide below the radar (which is where he likes to be) and there is simply nothing to report.
God knows I am tired of writing about Malignant Milty. As it sits right now, it is becoming apparent that the new owners have laid down the law; “Trade him if you can, but we are not eating that contract. Better to have him back.” The only way the Cubs can move him at all is to take on another player with a bloated contract who would be useless to the Cubs. I guess, in their case, it is becoming ‘better to deal with the devil they know.’
I don’t want to write about the Bulls. I have no idea why Salmons has forgotten where that orange round thing goes or why the team is so injury prone this season or why Luol Deng seems to be pushing for that honorary “player to be named later” status.
I don’t want to write about the Hawks. But that is mostly because when I do they go on a skid. I don’t need that kind of guilt. Besides, we have much better hockey minds than mine up here and deferring to them is a wiser move for all.
But, that doesn’t really leave me a lot to write about, does it?
Especially since, today, I thought I would try and find some good news. Thanks to TONI GINNETTI (Sun Times) I found some. No matter which baseball team you root for in this town, only the most troglodyte among us dislike Ron Santo. As a player and, later, a broadcaster he has come to represent courage, strength, dignity and honor. Having heard some rumors about his health recently, I had to admit that I was fearing the end of an era. Fortunately though, that is not the case. Santo has inked a three year extension to his broadcasting contract.
Ron Santo has had to learn to deal with mechanical problems as well as health problems since wearing prosthetic legs as a result of diabetes. But the popular former Cubs third baseman has taken care of one other deal, his contract with WGN-AM (720) to continue as color analyst on Cubs broadcasts.
Santo has signed a three-year contract that continues his 20-year career in the booth and gives him leeway to take time off if his health requires it.
‘’There are a lot of perks because of my legs,’’ said Santo, a double amputee because of his 50-year struggle with diabetes. ‘’I go nuts when I can’t be at the games, but I have to think about my family and my health. So if I’m not feeling well or get wiped out, I’ll take certain days off, and they [WGN] have no problem with that.’’
Santo, 69, had some health problems last season and took some road trips off. The new contract continues to allow for those situations.
Santo and play-by-play partner Pat Hughes have teamed for the last 14 years and remain extremely popular, even when the team has played poorly on the field. Hughes’ contract extends through the 2010 season.
Santo had a problem in November when one of his artificial legs malfunctioned, but said he otherwise is feeling well.
While I am not a Cubs’ fan, listening to Santo’s impassioned calls makes each game a bit of a thrill ride. He bleeds Cubbie blue with everyone else. You know what he is feeling at every point in the game. If that makes him a homer, and it does, so be it. In an era of bland sportscasters and pablum fueled updates, he is a treasure to be admired. Not buried.
Our very own Tyrone Briggs has started a thread, so CLICK HERE TO HELP GET SANTO IN THE H.O.F.
The Bears played a little more than 2 quarters of inspired football. Pity the game lasts 4. As I sat watching the Bears cling to a one point lead I wondered if, miracle of miracles, they might pull out a win. Then my brain kicked in and I decided to see just how they would eventually lose. After all, on the first offensive play of the game by the Packers, they ran 62 yards for a touchdown. The gaping wound they cut into the Bears’ defensive line was large enough that my 48 year old frame with only one biological kneecap could have gotten at least 40 on that play. It didn’t help that the Fox broadcasters, including the ones in LA, kept referring to the Bears’ defense as average (at best). I hate when they puff stuff up like that. But, aspirations of mediocrity aside, there wasn’t really much else to root for.
RICK TELANDER (Sun Times) takes look at the carnage.
I think a reasonable person could look at this 21-14 come-from-ahead Bears loss and say it wasn’t the quarterback’s fault.
Jay Cutler screwed up a lot, don’t get me wrong.
The Bears were ahead of the Packers 14-13 in the third quarter, and you’d like to think a quality helmsman could protect even that dinky lead.
But I had Cutler down for a potential five interceptions, though he only threw two official ones. Packers cornerback Charles Woodson alone caught one Cutler ball and dropped two others, the last of which, the game-ender, nearly drilled a hole in No. 21’s chest.
Still, the loss seemed to be Cutler’s fault the way a garage fire is the fireman’s fault.
The new quarterback for the Bears (how does Denver look now, my friend?) is talented, and he’s trying to stop the flames.
His biggest flaw may be that he can’t adjust to lesser souls being around him. That, and the fact that like your old iPod, he sometimes goes haywire for no reason.
His ugly first-quarter pass to receiver Devin Aromashodu, which Woodson snared as easily as an errantly thrown Nerf ball, for instance—what was that all about?
Consider that Cutler now has 22 interceptions for the season to go with 19 touchdowns. Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, by comparison, has 25 passing TDs and only nine pickoffs.
Not that stats tell it all.
After all, the big-handed Rodgers threw no touchdowns in this game, passed for only 180 yards and fumbled the ball twice into midair on a single play.
But stats tell you something.
In Cutler’s case, it seems they tell you this guy is either badly out of place or badly wasted on a lame team.
Cutler just went over the 3,000-yard passing mark—3,023 total with three games to play—a Grail-like quest for the always-quarterback-challenged Bears.
But so what? Allen Iverson scored a lot of points, and his legacy will not be that of a winner.
‘’There are a lot of things that are frustrating,’’ Cutler said after the game. ‘’We have a whole list of them.’’
Penalties, for instance.
Penalties. Lots and lots of penalties. At the end of the game they had given up over 100 yards in penalties. I understand that from a team of rookies, like the Packers. But, for a team that has alleged veterans on it, it is entirely unacceptable. I grant that Williams was new to his position yesterday, but it is supposed to be his natural position. He is, after all, the left tackle of the future. And, sadly for him and us, that future is now. Anyway, Rick takes a look at some of the other wonderful things that can and have gone wrong.
The gunslinger, 26, was brought in as a savior. General manager Jerry Angelo tagged him as such, and we all agreed. It was hard not to, considering Erik Kramer still is the Bears’ record-holder for season passing yards (3,838) and career passer rating (80.7).
At the rostrum, Cutler fairly described football at this level as a chess game, dependent upon adjustments.
The moves the Bears need to think about are ones for the future, since this season is in the dumpster and hooked to the cab.
Most pointedly, how did bringing in Cutler make everything go to hell? Did somebody—hello, GM—forget about the offensive line, the wideouts, the coaching positions, the run stoppers?
If Cutler is not the problem, then wasting him this way is reason for just about everyone at Halas Hall to send out resumes.
Again, this is to assume failure is not Cutler’s fault. And in this game, you have to surmise, it wasn’t. That’s reasonable.
New wide receiver Aromashodu—hereafter to be referred to in this column as A-du—stood at his locker after the loss, clad in a long, dark-blue towel, pondering Cutler.
A tall, muscular, untattooed receiver, A-du had a terrific game—eight catches for 76 yards, including a sweet 10-yard TD snag that corkscrewed Woodson—and he thinks Cutler is uniquely gifted.
‘’He definitely is accurate,’’ A-du said. ‘’He can get into a groove that is amazing. Toward the middle of that game, that’s what he was doing.’’
For Cutler, then, and the Bears organization as a whole, it’s the ending that’s in question.
The one fun part of the game was the post game interview with Aromashodu. After having name butchered several times the announcers simply asked him how to say it. Oddly enough getting it right when they asked. If nothing else, I found a reason to smile. It also let me know that something as simple as how to pronounce a player’s name is far beyond the capabilities of the Bears PR department to share with the media. As I said on a thread inside, the Bears need to dump everyone from Pep Hamilton to Ted Phillips, and they need to do it yesterday.
Otherwise, Bears fans may find themselves spending their Sundays watching midget ice skating or one of those electric dog polisher infomercials.