The Bears Aren’t The Problem. Mike Glennon Is.

I haven’t written a blog post since March. I’ve thought about it a bunch of times, and there’s been no shortage of interesting, thought-provoking, and sometimes rage-inducing sports storylines that have certainly caught my attention. But you know how it goes: Real life commitments kick in, you get distracted, and then by the time you get around to actually having time to write about a story it’s pretty much yesterday’s news.

Today is different. Today I’m writing just over an hour after watching the Green Bay Packers dismantle my beloved Chicago Bears yet again, this time 35-14 at Lambeau Field. The Bears were never really in it, not after going down 14-0 in the first quarter following a terrible Mike Glennon strip sack on Chicago’s first offensive play of the game.

And there it is. What has gotten me riled up enough to write again when I probably should be sleeping: Mike Glennon.

I’ve made no secret of the fact that I was and remain a Jay Cutler fan. Regardless of his faults, I thought he was perpetually underrated, and unfairly portrayed in the media. That being said, when it was announced that Jay was out for the remainder of the season after the Giants game last year I knew I’d probably seen him throw his last pass as a Chicago Bear, and I made my peace with it. It was time for both sides to move on.

However, I was flabbergasted when the Bears decided the guy they wanted to move on with was Tampa Bay back-up Mike Glennon. Granted I didn’t know much about Glennon, but the fact that there was absolutely no competition between the Bears and any other organization to sign him didn’t exactly imbue me with a lot of confidence. His meager record as starter was certainly nothing to write home about, either. Still, I had a certain amount of trust in Bears GM Ryan Pace, and was willing to keep an open mind and give Glennon a chance. Same thing when they traded up to draft rookie quarterback Mitchell Trubisky. I was surprised, and at first, not exactly thrilled, but again willing to see how it all played out.

Now after all of training camp, preseason, and four games in the books I feel confident in saying without a doubt one of these quarterbacks is an absolute disaster, and the other might be exactly what the Bears need to get back on track and in winning form.

Trubisky is the future of this franchise, and everything he displayed throughout camp and the preseason makes me think that he could be something special in this league. Now, I’m not crowning him the next Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers, I’m just saying he gives me hope.

Hope.

Something the Bears are utterly lacking every damn time Mike Glennon steps out on the field.

I stayed patient when reports out of training camp suggested Glennon was struggling and being outplayed by both Trubisky and third string QB Mark Sanchez. After all, it takes time to learn a new offense, and growing pains were natural. My first major concern came in the Bears opening preseason game where Glennon threw a pick-six on his second attempt and finished with a 0.0 passer rating. Trubisky, on the other hand, exceeded my expectations. Coming off the bench with a little over two minutes left in the first half he assertively led the Bears down the field and scored a touchdown on his first drive. He was accurate, mobile, and seemed to possess that intangible ability to make something out of nothing. He stayed impressive pretty much every time he stepped out on the field, while Glennon continued to be average at best.

Still, Glennon was playing against mostly first stringers, while Trubisky was slinging it against second and third team guys, many of whom probably weren’t making the final cut. I got it. I wasn’t under the impression that he was some savior ready to lead this team to the playoffs in his rookie season. I understood the rationale behind giving Glennon a shot, and sincerely hoped that once the regular season started, he’d up his game. I wasn’t expecting miraculous play, but I was hoping (as I think the Bears were) that he could put together a 2016-Hoyer-esque performance where he moved the ball efficiently and kept the turnovers to a minimum, giving the Bears’ strong running game and defense a chance to win ballgames.

Four games in, and Mike Glennon has eight (EIGHT!) turnovers to his name, and several more near interceptions that he’s been lucky were dropped. He also can’t seem to effectively throw the ball to save his life. In the Bears lone win against the Pittsburg Steelers Glennon had a total of 101 passing yards. THE ENTIRE GAME. What’s worse? Per WGN’s Adam Hoge only 19 of those yards actually came in the air, and 6 of his 15 passes were completed behind the line of scrimmage. The Bears won that game because they managed to capitalize on several Steelers turnovers, and Pittsburg was unable to contain the Bears run game. They won in spite of Mike Glennon, who after throwing a late 4th quarter interception that gave the Steelers a chance to win the game, was bailed out by the defense, and didn’t have to throw a single pass during the Bears’ game-winning drive in overtime.

In his four starts as a Chicago Bear, Mike Glennon is 1-3, with eight turnovers, four touchdowns, and an average passer rating of 76.2. Imagine if Jay Cutler was still on the team, and opened up the season that way? He would be absolutely massacred in the press, and rightly so. Because the thing is this Bears team isn’t that bad. In fact, they’re actually kind of good. I’m not saying they’re playoff caliber or anything like that, but  give them a different quarterback and the Bears are probably 2-2 right now. Maybe even 3-1. The two blowout losses (Tampa Bay and Green Bay…we should stop playing “Bays”) fall largely on Glennon’s shoulders with seven of his eight turnovers happening in those two games.

He’s not giving his team a chance to win, and it’s damn clear the Bears don’t trust him to do much else other than hand the ball off and throw five yard check downs. Yeah, I know they’re anemic at the wide receiver position, and yes, Glennon’s put a couple of nice balls up there that receivers have just flat out dropped, but that happens to any quarterback. The vast majority of the time when Glennon misses on throws it’s because he puts the ball in a bad spot. His accuracy is weak, his ability to move in and outside the pocket is non-existent, and watching him read through his progressions is like watching football in slow-motion.

He’s bad. He’s a bad quarterback with flashes of mediocrity. Is that worth $18 million a year? Does that earn you a starting position? Is continuing to start Glennon and throwing away an entire season necessary? In my opinion the answer to all these questions is a resounding no. While there’s not much to do about this first one, the other two can be rectified by starting Trubisky Week 5 against the Vikings.

I don’t know for sure if Trubisky is the answer for the Bears offensive woes, but I am positive that Mike Glennon absolutely is not. If Chicago doesn’t think Trubisky is ready, then I say activate Mark Sanchez at this point. Because honestly, when it comes to the quarterback position for the Chicago Bears, right now it can’t get much worse.

(Full disclosure: There were several times while writing this piece I felt legitimately bad for Mike Glennon. He seems like a nice guy. But he’ll be making $18 million this year either way, and I think it’s better for the Bears if he makes the rest of it on the bench.)

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Big Four Round Up: Pre Indian Wells

While not the most blockbuster week for tennis in terms of tournaments played, all members of the “Big Four” were active last week in smaller, lead up tournaments before they begin their Indian Wells bids later this week. Here’s a  rundown as to how they all did, as well as my thoughts on how each might do in Indian Wells (subject to change after the draws come out).

  1. Andy Murray: After a disappointing early exit from the Australian Open, followed by a case of shingles, the world number 1 bounced back quite nicely this week, winning his first tournament of the year in Dubai. Granted, he didn’t have to play either Roger Federer or Stan Wawrinka, who both went down in surprisingly early upsets, but still. After fighting off seven match points in the quarterfinals against Kohlschreiber, Murray went on to win the title rather routinely. He enjoyed the most successful week of any of the Big Four, added to his lead over Djokovic in the rankings, and heads into Indian Wells with definite momentum.

    Prediction for Indian Wells: This is a tough one. Murray has never played particularly well at this tournament, and last year he went out in the 3rd round. It seems likely that he’ll improve upon his results this year, but even at number 1, I don’t know if he goes in as the favorite here. I do expect him to reach at least the semifinals, though, and if ever there was a year where you’d assume he stood the best chance to win, it’s this one.

  2. Rafa Nadal: If Nadal had won the title in Acapulco, it’d be a toss-up between him and Murray for who had the best week. Leading up to his final against Sam Querrey, Rafa probably looked the best out of the four. He didn’t drop a set before losing to Querrey, and he was hitting his forehand clean and early, and moving around the court beautifully. Nadal didn’t play poorly in the final, either. He just happened to come up against an extremely in-form Querrey, who when he’s on, has the type of game that can beat anyone on any given day.

    Prediction for Indian Wells: I think Rafa might be my favorite to win the title (which is something I would’ve scoffed at if you asked me even two months ago). He’s playing well, and after two consecutive finals without a trophy, you know he’ll be highly motivated to win.

    Novak Djokovic: Another tournament, another week that left tennis analysts scratching their heads as to what to make of Djokovic’s tennis at the moment. While there’s no denying that since last year’s French Open, Novak has experienced a decline in his level of play (and perhaps his desire to win), I actually come away feeling more positive about his game than I did after his loss in Australia.  First off, Djokovic had a hell of a draw in Acapulco. Starting with Klizan, than Del Potro, and ending in his quarterfinal loss to Nick Kyrgios all of those opponents are dangerous. Kyrgios especially has perhaps the best raw talent and skill set of any of the younger generation of players, and when he’s motivated to play his best (which he clearly was against Novak) he’s another guy that can beat pretty much anyone. In his match against Djokovic, Kyrgios served 25 aces, hit 41 winners, and made only 14 unforced errors. I’m not sure who beats that. Djokovic played well in this match, too, except for the final game where nerves seemed to get the best of him, and he piled up three quick errors to make it 0-40 and give Kyrgios three match points. Novak was also visibly upset after his loss and post-match press conference, in which he said a total of 12 words. He looked excited to be back on court, and extremely disappointed to be leaving there without a title. Passion has been seemingly missing in Djokovic’s game for a while now, and it appears as though he’s rediscovering it again.

    Prediction for Indian Wells: Djokovic plays well at Indian Wells, and he’s won there the last three years in a row. I don’t know if he wins this year, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he did, either. Regardless, I think he has a good run here, and like Murray, makes it at least to the semi-finals.

  3. Roger Federer: Last week is likely a week Federer plans on forgetting as quickly as possible. His first tournament since his near mythical run in Australia, Federer went down, and went down badly to a qualifier ranked 116, Evgeny Donskoy in three sets. It wasn’t just the loss itself that was bad, but the way in which Federer lost. After taking the first set, he had three match points in the second that he let go. Then he was up 5-2 in the third set, before once again failing to convert, leading to a third set tiebreak where Federer was  up 5-1, before yet again, blowing the lead and allowing Donskoy to win. Federer is one of the best front-runners in the game, so to have him blow a lead not once, not twice, but three times, and fail to close out a match? That’s a bad day at the office.

    Prediction for Indian Wells: Honestly, I have no idea. The good news is that Federer is one of the best in the game at forgetting a bad match and moving on to the next tournament without much residual scar tissue. Like Djokovic, he’s also had great results at this tournament in the past, and was in the final against Novak in 2015. But being ranked 9th in the draw means that Federer will likely come up against stiffer competition earlier in the tournament. This didn’t prove to be a problem at the Australian Open, but that doesn’t mean it won’t pose an added difficulty at Indian Wells. At this point I think it’s just as likely Federer suffers another early exit as it is he wins the whole tournament. I think he will probably make the quarters or even semis, but I just don’t see him winning another big title this soon after Australia. It’s a prediction I’d be happy to be proven wrong on, though.

Brief Thoughts on The Chicago Bears QB Conundrum

I had a partial draft written about this from like a month ago, but got caught up doing real world things, and then by the time I revisited it basically everyone and their mother offered up an opinion on what the Bears should do at quarterback, so I scrapped it. But now here we are, almost a week after the Super Bowl, without much to talk about until the front office starts making some moves, so I figured I might as well add my voice to the cacophony of arm-chair GMs.

  1. I’d keep Jay Cutler, but that’s almost certainly not happening. I know I’m in the minority here, but unless Ryan Pace absolutely believes he has a day one starter waiting for him via trade, free agency, or the draft, I think the best quarterback currently on the roster should stay. Cutler’s contract is nowhere near the monstrous burden many make it out to be, and I think a healthy Jay could do a lot with the solid offensive line and robust defense I expect the Bears to have next year. However, absolutely every indication from every source says that Cutler and the Bears will be parting ways this offseason, and I’ve been going under the assumption that he won’t be in Chicago for a while now. (Also, in this scenario of keeping Jay, I still go out and draft a young QB. In no way do I think Cutler is a longterm solution in Chicago.)
  2. I’ve  boarded the Garoppolo train. I’m not a Jimmy G. super-fan or anything at this point, but again, if the Bears are looking for someone who can be ready to be QB1 the first game of the season, I think they have a much better chance of finding that from a guy who is already in the league. I haven’t seen anyone pop out in the draft class so far that makes me think they wouldn’t need a fair amount of development. Out of all the potential quarterbacks available, Garoppolo would be my first pick. He’s still quite young at 25, and was a top prospect coming out of EIU. Also, while I know lots of players have left New England and had little to no success outside that system, being backup to the greatest quarterback of all time must have taught Garoppolo a thing or two about what it takes to be a championship caliber player in the NFL. Among other options Tony Romo obviously has the most proven talent of any available QB, but it’s hard not to worry that his body can no longer withstand the normal wear and tear of a full NFL season. I also find Kaepernick an intriguing option, but unfortunately I think his politics are too controversial for this Bears team (and probably most of the NFL).
  3. Regarding draft QBs, I think Watson is my favorite. Take this with a grain of salt, and like you would the opinion of someone musing drunkenly at the bar. I’m not a scout, and haven’t watched near enough game tapes on these guys to offer any kind of expert opinion, but from what I have seen of Watson, he beats out Trubisky, Kaaya, and Kizer for me (though Trubisky is probably a close second). His poise during the National Championship impressed me, and I do think he possesses some of those intangible qualities that makes a guy a natural leader. On the other hand, he’s a little on the small side, and his accuracy leaves something to be desired. But like I said, as of right now, no one available in this year’s draft has piqued my interest in any significant way.
  4. I trust Ryan Pace to make a good decision. At the end of the day this decision falls squarely on Ryan Pace’s shoulders. While obviously Bears fans haven’t been happy with the win/loss record the first two seasons of the Pace/Fox era, I think there’s a lot to be optimistic about for next season. Much of that stems from the fact that Pace has made some real quality draft picks and free agency signings. He also appears to have a good eye for what translates a successful college quarterback into a successful professional one, as his evaluation and appreciation for Marcus Mariota was spot on. Pace doesn’t seem like the guy who will reach for a QB just because he feels pressure to do so. I trust he’ll make a thorough, well-thought-out decision about what is best for Chicago at this crucial position.

Some Scattered Pre-Super Bowl Thoughts

With only a few hours until kickoff, here are my main thoughts/feelings/takeaways leading in to Super Bowl LI:

Indifference

This is the second year in a row where I can’t say I really care a whole lot about who actually wins the game. Obviously the Bears are my number one team, but I’m also a Pacific Northwest resident, so I root for the Seahawks as long as doing so in no way hurts the Bears. (This has not been a post-season issue for several years….)

I’d also love to see Detroit win one at some point since my dad is from there, and because they never have before. But after that? Meh.

I do think this matchup will be more exciting than last year though, simply because we’ve got two great quarterbacks at the top of their game, and I’m expecting a lot of explosive offensive plays.

Greatness and History

I don’t actually hate the Patriots. In fact, I sort of like them. This is quite a sacrilegious statement coming from anyone who doesn’t reside in one of the six New England states, I know. I have countless friends and family members who break out into anger-induced hives at the mere mention of Brady, Belichick, or the Pats. (A visceral hatred that’s only grown since the election, which I’ll talk about a bit more below.)

Part of my admiration might stem from the fact that my dad has always been a Brady fan, even from his days at University of Michigan. Before Trump was president, before “Deflategate” was a thing, my dad and I liked watching Tom Brady just because he’s Tom Brady, and he’s a damn good QB. I also just love great football, and the Patriots have been the epitome of greatness for more than a decade. Their success is beyond impressive, and you have to tip your cap to all that they’ve been able to achieve.

With greatness also comes the making and breaking of history. If the Patriots win today Tom Brady will have won his fifth Super Bowl title, breaking the record of four he shares with Joe Montana and Terry Bradshaw, and likely cementing his status as the GOAT. I just watched Roger Federer and Serena Williams further solidify their places as the GOATs of tennis this last weekend at the Australian Open, and it was a cool thing to witness. It might be kind of cool to see Brady do the same.

The Politics of it All

I’m not sure there’s ever been a Super Bowl that’s been so politically charged before. Certainly not in my lifetime. In the last year the Patriots have basically become synonymous with Donald Trump. So much so that some people are of the opinion if you like the Pats you like Trump, or at the very least, are tacitly condoning him in some ill-defined way.

Ever since the election, Belichick, and more often Brady have been asked to explain and expand on their relationship to President Trump (I hate even typing that as a real thing). Both have been characteristically reticent, and Brady specifically doesn’t really want to talk about it. Frankly though, it’s his own damn fault the subject keeps coming up in the first place.

He was the one who decided to prominently display his “Make America Great Again” cap in his locker room, and then comment to the press that it’d be pretty cool if Trump became president because then there’d be a putting green on the White House lawn. (Oh, to be that rich and out of touch!) Granted this was way back during the beginning of the Republican primary, and no one, probably not even Brady, thought Trump had any chance of actually winning the nomination, let alone the presidency. Yet, tragically, here we are.

Since that time, Brady has kept pretty mum on the subject. In fact he hasn’t even come out publicly to say he voted for Trump (though Trump has insisted on multiple occasions that Brady did in fact vote for him, and gave him permission to make that information public, which Brady has also never confirmed).

Regardless, until Brady comes out and actually renounces Trump in any sort of substantial way (the likelihood of him doing so is slim) most people are going to assume he, along with Belichick, and Patriots owner Robert Kraft, are firmly in Trump’s camp. Add to that the fact that the Atlanta Falcons owner, Arthur Blank, is on record as traditionally supporting Democrats, and that Trump recently feuded with Georgia congressman and civil rights hero John Lewis, the Falcons have sort of become an emblem of the democratic resistance to the Patriots’ Trumpian authoritarianism. When you’re not super invested in either team, you look for whatever reason you can to pick a side to root for, and political affiliation is just as good a reason as me rooting for Carolina last year because Ron Rivera was once a Bear. It’s just not something I find personally compelling in this case.

Here’s the thing: I hate that Donald Trump is president. I didn’t vote for him, I don’t support him, and I’m horrified by what he’s doing and what he might do these next four years as our POTUS. I’m disappointed (and frankly bewildered) whenever I hear someone I admire supporting him and/or his policies. That being said, I can’t seem to get myself too worked up over Trump’s Patriot connections. It certainly doesn’t seem like reason enough not to root for them.

The fact is, in a league populated by rich white dudes, I’d wager a significant number of guys involved at every level of each team voted for Trump. Likewise, there are bound to be guys on both teams (like former Bear and current Patriot TE Martellus Bennett) that definitely do NOT support Trump, and feel worried about the future he has in store for our country and our children. If you like football, and you have a favorite team, you’re rooting for at least a few guys who firmly believe Donald Trump is going to Make America Great Again. Hell, Jay Cutler was practically beaming when he talked about his support for Trump the day after the election, and I thought he was an idiot for supporting him. But if the Bears were in the Super Bowl, you best believe I’d be rooting wholeheartedly for that idiot to bring the trophy back to Chicago. Can you really tell me if it was your team you wouldn’t do the same?

Prediction:

38-31 Patriots win.

It’ll be high scoring game of decent caliber, with the Pats ultimately pulling it out and making history. Also, Lady Gaga WILL do something at half-time that will cause Bill O’Reilly to absolutely lose his mind on Monday’s show.

The Australian Open is Experiencing a “Tennis-sance”

*I made the Tennis-sance joke on Twitter last night, but like 12 people follow me so it fell on deaf ears. No one follows me here yet either, but at least I’ve proven to myself that I’m hilarious. Twice.*

Murray and Djokovic. Murray and Djokovic. The number one and two players in the world, respectively, and also the finalists the last two years in a row at the Australian Open. At the start of the tournament, everyone was expecting a three-peat, and the start of what was assuredly going to be a year-long rivalry for the top ranking.

Instead Djokovic, a six-time champion, was bounced in the second round. Two rounds later, Mischa Zverev served and volleyed his way into a four set, fourth round upset of the world number one, Murray.

The change in energy was palpable. Surely with the early absence of the top two players in the world it was finally time for some new blood. Guys like Kei Nishikori and Milos Raonic would finally have their chance to break through.

Not so fast.

Instead, as we enter the tail-end of the tournament three of the four remaining men are all previous grand slam winners. Two of the four are the two greatest players to have ever played the game: Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.

If you like tennis, or even have a passing interest in the sport, these two need no introduction (and if you don’t like tennis you most definitely aren’t going to read this obscure little blog)!

Their rivalry is legendary. Their success in grand slams unparalleled on the men’s tour. Roger is the record holder with 17 grand slams, but he hasn’t won one since 2012. Rafa is close behind at 14, but has struggled the last couple years to even make it to the second week of a slam tournament. Both missed significant time last season due to injuries, and even the most ardent fans were beginning to wonder if either would ever be able to win a grand slam title, again.

We’re now all just one round away from being proven (hopefully) wonderfully wrong.

Let’s face it, unless you’re are a super-fan of and/or related to Grigor Dimitrov or Stan Wawrinka, tennis fans are rooting, nay PLEADING for a Federer vs. Nadal final. That not only guarantees one of these two giants will add to their collection, but it could potentially alter the significance of their rivalry when it comes to each player’s place in history.

I think Andy Roddick said it best when asked about the potential final match up:

“I think it could be the most historically significant match ever. If you think of where they are at in terms of Federer being on 17 Slams and Nadal on 14 Slams, a Nadal win puts him back in the game, back in the conversation, narrowing the gap to 17-15 with the French Open just around the corner. A Federer wins puts him on to 18 and I don’t know that there’s enough time left to make up that difference, and he would sit on that record for a long time. If it happens, tennis will just want to give that match a big hug! In-form, playing well, bit of a throwback, it would be amazing.”

Amazing indeed. Fingers crossed, you guys. Fingers crossed.

My picks to win:

  1. Roger Federer: Once Murray was out of the tournament I threw my whole heart in to rooting for Roger, so part of picking him first may just be emotional. But I also think he’s playing objectively fantastic tennis. After a shaky couple of opening matches, he dismantled Berdych, outplayed Nishikori, and put on a clinic against Zverev. And while I know Nadal dominates their head-to-head, given where both players are at in their game right now, coupled with how fast and low the courts are playing, makes me give Federer the edge.
  2. Stan Wawrinka: If anyone is going to dash my dreams for Federer’s 18th grand slam it’s Wawrinka. Federer’s compatriot, and semi-final opponent, Stan’s proven over the last few years he can out hit anyone towards the tail end of slams.
  3. Rafa Nadal: Honestly, I was of the opinion that Nadal’s best days were behind him. While I always figured he’d remain competitive on clay, I doubted his ability to make deep runs in the other three slams. I’m so happy to say I was wrong. While I still think it’d be an uphill battle for Rafa in a final against either Federer or Wawrinka, Nadal’s heart and competitive spirit are second to no one’s, and might just be enough to push him across the finish line.
  4. Grigor Dimitrov: Dimitrov is off to a great start this season. In fact, with his win in Brisbane coupled with his run here he’s actually undefeated this year. If he keeps playing this way, he’s destined for a great season, but so far he’s only had to play good players. To win this whole thing he’d have to go through two great ones, and I think that’s still too tall an order for Grigor at this stage in his career.

*The women’s semifinals had just started when I began writing today, and I didn’t want to jinx it. Needless to say, I’m thrilled the “tennis-sance” is continuing on that end as well. Great job, Venus!

Leave Aaron Rodgers Alone

Photo Credit: Mike Morebeck/CC BY 2.0

Aaron Rodgers is my nemesis.

OK, that’s an exaggeration. Aaron Rodgers is not my nemesis. He’s simply an amazingly talented QB who (tragically) happens to play for the Chicago Bears’ bitterest rival, the Green Bay Packers.

Rodgers led the Green Bay Packers to a thrilling upset against the #1 ranked Dallas Cowboys yesterday, and he was phenomenal. He has been since Week 10, when the Packers, at 4-6, were on the verge of not making the playoffs, and hot takes that Rodgers was overrated, and past his prime were aplenty.

At the time, Rodgers told fans that Green Bay would be fine. They’d run the table, win out, and make the playoffs once again. Sadly, and like usual, the talented, intelligent bastard was right.

As a Bears fan, Aaron Rodgers’ greatness is simply infuriating. He’s broken my heart a thousand times. I can never root for him to win, though he almost always does.

But even though I can’t root for the guy when he’s playing, I can absolutely call out the media’s bullshit when they pry into his family life for no good reason.

Rodgers was in the news yesterday for more than just Green Bay’s win. After months of speculation surrounding his relationship with his family, Ed Rodgers, Aaron’s father, confirmed that the family hadn’t spoken to Aaron since 2014. Articles detailing the estrangement popped up on Deadspin and The New York Times. When asked about it, Aaron Rodgers replied simply, “I just don’t think it’s appropriate talking about family stuff publicly.”

If only the media would respect that….

This family drama Rodgers is dealing with? It isn’t news. It is gossip. Worse, it’s not even innocuous gossip like who is dating who, or where someone is vacationing in the offseason.

Has it occurred to anyone that maybe Aaron Rodgers has a deeply painful, deeply valid reason for cutting off contact with his family? Maybe it’s what’s best for his mental health. Maybe both parties are at fault, and in time they’ll work it out. Or maybe Rodgers (as several outlets seem to be hinting) is just an arrogant asshole who decided he was too good to talk to his family, anymore.

It doesn’t matter the cause of the estrangement, because unless a law was broken, the reasons for why this family, like many families, are not on good terms is none of the public’s business.

We’re such weird creatures when it comes to celebrities, and what we believe people in the public eye owe us. If they show pictures of their children on Instagram, we feel entitled to harass them for their parenting choices. If they once shared a cute anecdote about their spouse in an interview, we insist on being privy to every detail of their messy divorce. If they pose for photographs in magazines or at awards shows, then we argue they have no room to complain about being hounded by paparazzi when out at the grocery store, or taking their kids to school. And if they complain about any of this, we ridicule them for choosing a life in the public eye. They asked for it, is basically our response, and because they lead such privileged lives they forgo their right to privacy in return.

But Aaron Rodgers, just like every other celebrity, doesn’t owe us anything when it comes to his personal life. If he wants to talk about it, that’s his perogative, but if he doesn’t the media should let it go. Possibly now more than ever we need to evaluate what the idea of celebrity actually means to us, and if we’re bringing attention to issues that are actually important, or merely feasting on the bones of another person’s hidden skeletons.

Tampa Bay Trumps Cutler, Bears in Chicago’s Worst Game of the Season

***Yes, the title is a petty jab at Cutler revealing himself to be a Trump supporter. No, I don’t feel bad about it. I’m emotionally tapped out. Pettiness is what sustains me right now.***

Talk about throwing a bucket of cold water on an already chilly season for the Bears. Despite a 2-6 record, and a rash of injuries that have essentially destroyed any hope for a postseason run, Chicago came into their match up against Tampa Bay with momentum and positivity.

In their last game against the Minnesota Vikings, the Bears, buoyed by the return of Jay Cutler, put on an impressive display of efficiency and discipline, and earned a decisive 20-10 win against a strong defense heading in to their bye week.

The team was energized and even inspired, due in no small part to Cutler’s return and his solid, enthusiastic play against Minnesota. Looking ahead, Chicago fans saw a friendly schedule for the rest of the season, starting this Sunday in Tampa against the mediocre Buccaneers. This was a game the Bears were favored to win, and a game that many predicted Cutler in particular would shine.

Instead, he was flat-out awful.

Look, I like Cutler. Terrible politics aside, I think he is often unfairly maligned and criticized, and that a lot of fans in Chicago irrationally blame him for every misfortune the Bears have suffered since he’s been on the team. I certainly have no illusions that he is an elite QB, but he’s better than he’s given credit for. During the whole Hoyer vs Cutler debacle earlier this season I was stridently pro-Cutty.

But I would’ve pulled Cutler yesterday had Hoyer been available on the bench.

The starting QB turned the ball over four (FOUR!) times against a lackluster defense, including throwing a pick six and fumbling in the Bears’ endzone for a safety. He finished with a 55.1 passer rating, which is actually slightly inflated thanks to a lucky bounce on a 50 yard Hail Mary  pass to Cameron Meredith to end the half. He was incredibly careless with the ball, and on a day where he a clear opportunity to extend some of the goodwill he’d built up in fans and coaches, he turned in possibly his worst performance ever as a Chicago Bear.

That is as unexplainable as it is inexcusable, and no reasonable person can defend his performance. Medical staff took a couple looks at him throughout the game, so maybe his thumb was acting up, but no injury was disclosed, and if something was wrong the coaches and medical staff should have sat him out. I mean, after the safety fumble could Matt Barkley really have made things much worse?

Everyone, even Cutler’s defenders, know that ball security and lapses in judgement are his main flaws. When he can control those, he’s a solid quarterback and a needed playmaker for this offense. When he’s this guy, “Bad Jay” who seems like he has no idea what the game plan is or how to protect a football, he’s infuriating to watch and impossible to defend.

I don’t know what’s going to happen with Cutler after this season, and I don’t think it’s fair to make an absolute declaration based on any one game alone. I do know that if he wants to stand even a small chance of being in Chicago next year, he’s going to need to make sure that for the rest of the season he leaves “Bad Jay” at home.

***Oh, and also Kyle Long is out for the rest of the season and Alshon Jeffery is suspended four games for using perfomance-enhancing substances. So, #BearDown

Cutler Inspirational in Win Against Vikings

Photo credit Jim Larrison/CC BY 2.0

Bears QB ignores the chatter, leads team to a decisive victory on MNF.

Inspiration was the key word on Monday night, when Jay Cutler made his much-anticipated return against the Minnesota Vikings in primetime.

With his future as a Bear in serious doubt, and reports of a team and organization in turmoil, Jay Cutler delivered a rallying speech to his team about finding their inspiration to go out and play ball. And find it they did.

The Bears dominated the now 5-2 Vikings through four quarters of football, out-playing them at every level, and eventually winning 20-10 for their second win of the season.

The defense ripped apart Minnesota’s patchwork offensive line, and the offense had a renewed sense of energy and urgency with Cutler under center. Rookie standout Jordan Howard continued his impressive season with over 200 yards rushing and 1 TD, tight end Zach Miller came up with some big catches for 88 yards, and Alshon Jeffery finally got his first touchdown reception of the year. But the MVP and game ball winner was Jay Cutler.

Looking a little rusty out of the gates, Cutler soon found his rhythm, going 20/31 for 252 yards, 1 TD, no turnovers, and a 100.5 passer rating. He managed the clock well, kept drives alive with his quick footwork and improvisational skills, and lead a strong fourth quarter drive that ate up the clock and ended any hopes Minnesota might have had for a late comeback.

Arguably the most important effect Cutler had was inspiring his teammates to play their best around him. Linebacker Pernell Mcphee said that getting Cutler back brought new life into the team, and Zach Miller told ESPN after the game that he was excited to have Cutler back. “He’s the emotion on the football field. To have him back means a lot. We play well around him.”

Questions remain

The entire week leading up to the game, hell, the entire five weeks Cutler was out with a thumb injury were rife with speculation about his future as the Bears quarterback.

Due in part to backup Brian Hoyer’s above average play, and mostly to coach John Fox’s bizarre desire to remain (at least publicly) noncommittal about the starting quarterback position, fans and media alike began to wonder whether Cutler had played his last snap as a Chicago Bear.

That question was rendered moot when Hoyer went down with a broken arm against the Packers in Week 7, and Cutler was quickly (and to some quite conveniently) cleared by doctors to play against Minnesota.

In his first time speaking to the media since suffering his Week 2 thumb injury, Cutler responded straightforwardly about whether or not he felt he still had Fox’s support as the starting QB.

“He doesn’t have a choice, I guess, at this point.”

Both Cutler and Fox denied any strain in their relationship, with Fox insisting Cutler was always aware that he’d retain his starting position once he got healthy, and refuting media reports that said he had confided in several people that he was “done” with Jay as a player.

Still, that didn’t stop the chatter, with various media reports doubting Fox’s commitment to Cutler, and calling in to question both the quarterback and the head coach’s job security come 2017. There were even reports that the Bears had hired an outside consultant to evaluate the organization from top to bottom, and that Fox could be gone before the Bears face Tampa Bay in Week 10. (This report was also refuted by Fox after Monday’s post game press conference.)

Obviously the win against Minnesota was a huge boost to Cutler, Fox, and the entire Bears organization. For at least a few days people will be talking about their success Monday as opposed to their on and off field struggles. At the same time, one game only changes so much. It remains to be seen what Chicago can put together in the second half of the season, and what decisions lie ahead of them moving forward.

However, if Cutler and the Bears can string together a few more inspirational performances the outlook for both he and the team in 2017 could be very different from what it seemed just a few days ago.

 

 

 

 

Brian Hoyer Is Trying to Keep His Job, Not Win Games

“The No. 1 priority is taking care of the football.”

That was quarterback Brian Hoyer shortly after the Bear’s embarrassing fourth quarter meltdown against, of all teams, the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday.

Before I go any further let me clarify what I mean in the headline. I am in no way saying Brian Hoyer doesn’t care about winning football games. That’s stupid. Of course he does. What I’m saying is that Brian Hoyer is going to avoid taking risks at all costs, even if the cost is ultimately losing the game.

Since taking over for an injured Jay Cutler in Week 2, Hoyer has performed more than admirably. He’s notably thrown for over 300 yards in all four of his starts. He’s getting his passes off efficiently and spreading the ball well to Bears’ receivers.

But perhaps what’s getting the most attention from fans and in the media is that Brian Hoyer has done all of this without turning the ball over once. Impressive, right?

Something less impressive? In those four 300+ yard, turnover free starts, Brian Hoyer is 1-3.

Less impressive still? Two of the three losses came to the Colts and the Jaguars, who are frankly garbage teams with terrible defenses. His lone win? Against the Detroit Lions, who while 3-3, are fairly beatable on any given day.

To take a little more shine off of Hoyer’s sparkling stats, in the Jacksonville Jaguars game he only went 5 for 13 on passes 10 yards or further, and while throwing for 300+ yards each game is an impressive feat, it becomes slightly less impressive when you discover that more than half of those yards came after the receiver has caught the ball.

Lastly, even though the Hoyer led offense is ranked seventh in total yards gained, they are a dismal 31st when it comes to points scored. That’s a huge discrepancy, and perhaps the stat disgruntled Bears fans look to the most when arguing that Jay Cutler should be reinstated as the starter when he’s healthy.

Say what you will about Cutler (and believe me, most Bears fans do), no one can doubt his superior arm strength and athletic ability when comparing him to Hoyer. Cutler has the kind of play-making ability to win games. He’s a difference maker on the field, and the Bear’s 1-5 record this season is making many question whether or not he would’ve been the difference between winning and losing the last two games against the Colts and the Jags.

The obvious downside with Cutler is his career long issue with ball security and costly interceptions, making him, shall we say, a somewhat controversial figure in the city of Chicago. Even with his much-lauded improvement in turnovers last year, it’s still seen as his Achilles’ heel, and the reason why many fans are ready for Chicago to be done with Cutler for good.

Brian Hoyer knows this, and is doing everything possible on the field and in his press conferences to remind fans, the media, and most importantly, coach John Fox that despite his shortcomings, one thing he will not do is turn the ball over.

So far, for Fox, that seems to be enough. Several media reports say that the starting job is Hoyer’s to lose, and Fox, a pretty conservative guy himself, prefers Hoyer’s style of play, seemingly regardless of the team’s actual win or loss record.

In John Fox’s mind it appears that Hoyer’s ball security> Cutler’s dynamic play making abilities.

This is all complicated even more by the fact that Fox and the Bears have provided no real timetable for when Cutler will be healthy enough to play.

Cutler hasn’t seen the field after going down with a right thumb sprain in week 2 against Philadelphia. At the time John Fox said the injury was “day-to-day”, but it’s a month later and he has only officially participated in practice once.

When asked if Cutler would likely be ready to play after the week 9 bye, Fox responded, “That’s like asking what’s the weather going to be like tomorrow.” (For the record, it’s supposed to be mostly cloudy with a high of 53 in Green Bay for the game tomorrow, but perhaps Fox has never heard of the Weather Channel…)

Regardless of Cutler’s uncertain health, and Fox’s preference for conservative ball protection, the Bears are 1-5. They have two huge divisional games coming up versus the Packers and the Vikings, and there is a very real possibility that they go in to their week 9 bye 1-7.

If that’s the case, Hoyer might have a hard time convincing people that he’s still the better option, regardless of how many yards he puts up or how well he protects the ball.

At a certain point the number one priority needs to be winning games, and in that regard Hoyer’s yet to prove he’s the best man for the job.

 

 

 

 

Cool Sportsing Things 8/3/16

Good times all around. (Except for Solo getting booed, but I doubt she cares.)