Football

Welcome back to THE VAULT, my weekly sacrifice to the Dark Lord of Bears fandom. Through a combination of a shrine to Josh Bellamy and a woven idol made entirely of Bobby Engram’s discarded trash, I hope to write 750 words and pay tribute to the fans before me so that one day during my darkest hour the spirits of men in mustaches and sweater vests whisk me to safety. Also if this blog blows up and I make this my full time job, I hope to one day be in the position to insult Jay Mariotti to his stupid face.

Speaking of Jay’s that I’ll never be cool enough to even insult, Jay Cutler’s 2015 Bears were a John Fox led 6-10 dumpster fire that shares an uncomfortable level of talent with Mitch Trubisky and Matt Nagy’s 2019 eventual 7-9 shitshow. Let it be noted once again, if prime Jay Cutler was under center for this team, they’d be playing a lot better until he inevitably got hurt and the Bears had to turn to one of their menagerie of garbage backups (the 2015 season being highlighted by Jimmy Clausen’s outstanding performance against Seattle- a game that might not look out of place this year).

The Bears were 3-5 going up against the then 4-4 St. Louis Rams, in a game won handily by the good guys, 37-13. Not only did Jeremy Langford out perform Todd Gurley in every statistical category, Ka’Deem Carey also gained more yards on the ground than Gurley. Langford caught a screen pass and took it EIGHTY THREE (shouts out to Clark from Des Plaines) yards to paydirt. Hell, even Zach Miller scored from over eighty yards out, grabbing 5 balls for 107 and 2 touchdowns. Zach Miller was the last capable Bears tight end and that’s sad because he was literally a journeyman though he played way above his pay grade in his time in Chicago.

It’s always been a testament to the various Bears offensive lines that so many mid-round, ostensibly just average running backs have found success in the blue and orange. Jeremy Langford got 537 of his career 762 rushing yards his rookie year despite backing up Matt Forte for more than half the season, and was then replaced by Jordan Howard three games into the next year. Jordan Howard is a beast and should be on an NFL roster, but he is about a league average running back depending on his situation. The John Fox-led Bears was the perfect situation for a relatively slow, grinding running back that gets more effective as the game goes on.

Jeremy Langford, Alshon Jeffery, and Marty Bennett are the Bears players on the offensive side of the ball for this team that the Bears turned loose for one reason or another, and the only one I really think could’ve stayed and made a difference on the field was Marty. Notable castoffs on defense are Adrian Amos, Bryce Callahan, and of course a now retired Willie Young. Goddamn I loved Willie Young.

You can see some of the building blocks of last year’s NFC Champion Rams on this 2015 trash heap football team, mainly Gurley and Aaron Donald. Sure, Jared Goff is just blonde Mitch, but he had a core intact that made Sean McVay look pretty damn smart for a year. Sounds familiar, somehow. Also, we have a Big Dick Nick sighting, as America’s favorite cocksman was the godawful Rams QB of the week!

Also, James Laurinaitis was on this team! The son of BIG JOHNNY himself! This game took place years after the John Laurinaitis/CM Punk feud, but I’d still like to think the Bears won this one for Phil Brooks as well as themselves. Even though CM Punk ignored me when I yelled “HEY YOU’RE CM PUNK” while reeking of weed walking down North Avenue last spring, I still believe in CM Punk, and I think Zach Miller knew in his heart that breaking two tackles and racing down the field to score was basically hitting a Go To Sleep in the heart of one disappointed father.

It’s narratives like that, ones that I’ve just totally made up, that provide the much needed subtext to make this game between two shitty teams mean something to you in 2019. Zach Miller, CM Punk, John Fox, what does it mean? Well, for one, it means the Bears aren’t winning jack shit anytime soon.

We’ve already seen Todd Gurley break down, and the 2018 Rams lost all their momentum near the end of the regular season. The then red-hot Bears exposed the weaknesses Goff and friends had on primetime, and Sean McVay no longer looks like the greatest coach in the history of coaching. It’s entirely fatalistic and somewhat reasonable to suggest that Matt and Mitch are already at 2019 levels of McVay/Goff regression, with less to put on their resumes. It’s eerie to look at these two teams in 2015 and see foreshadowing somehow, but it’s there and it’s hideous.

Football

Sunday at 3:25, our beloved and disappointing Chicago Bears travel to Mile High Stadium to face the Denver Broncos. The Broncos are one of those teams that seem like the boring background noise of the NFL at the moment, being roughly about as interesting as the Tennessee Titans, Cincinnati Bengals, and that Washington team. The Broncos don’t even have the luxury of being a flaming dumpster fire (Miami, the Giants), they just come out and play. Truth be told, if they weren’t on the late slate so often on Red Zone I’d forget they exist. Luckily, I got a chance to scout them on Monday and then promptly fell asleep on my couch at halftime.

However, I rewatched their loss against the Raiders and did a little bit of research on my own, so I’ll spend this article letting you know all you need to know about the Broncos so you can impress everyone at your watch party.

First off: this team does not pass the eye test. They have budding stars at WR (Courtland Sutton) and RB (Phillip Lindsay), with solid veterans to compliment them in Emmanuel Sanders and the also young but uninspiring Royce Freeman, respectively. So they go and invest in… Joe Flacco and Vic Fangio. Fangio is a brilliant defensive mind, and since Denver went defensive when selecting their head coach, they hopped on the new trend in the NFL and picked someone who once ripped bongs with Sean McVay in college to run the offense. Imagine being Rich Scangarello and getting a chance to FINALLY have an offense of your own and being gifted Joe fucking Flacco to run it. Oof.

The Defense is great on paper. Von Miller is going to be a problem and demand extra help almost no matter what, and Chris Harris Jr is an outstanding defensive back. Bradley Chubb is also a beast. Kareem Jackson is a decent corner, and it looks right now like Bryce Callahan might not play, which is a bummer. I hope nothing but good health for that dude because he is as close to a shutdown slot corner as there is in the NFL, and Bears fans appreciate good defense if for no other reason because we’ve been conditioned to expect defenders to be better than the offense. Unfortunately for this “wonderful” defense, they played terribly against Oakland. The Raiders went 10-14 on 3rd down last week and those defensive numbers don’t look good, no matter if you’re playing backyard football or in the NFL.

As for what to expect, look for a lot of slants, quick reads, and plays designed to get the ball out of Flacco’s hands as quickly as possible, he’s about as mobile as my Grandpa who candidly has never won a Super Bowl but did fight in World War II. Be on the lookout for 60/40 split between Lindsay and Freeman, for some stupid reason. Courtland Sutton will pop on screen when you watch, he’s dynamic. The Broncos sucked in the red zone last week and there has been a lot of talk about opening up the playbook, so we will see stuff we haven’t seen yet. Expect Flacco to air it out a few times, and for Vic to try to confuse Mitch into bad throws and poor reads. When the Bears offense is on the field, we’ll see exactly how much new creativity Matt Nagy has put into the playbook in the offseason, and it should be an entertaining chess match to say the least.

If the Bears are legit, games like this shouldn’t be close and we can all breathe calmly when we reflect on the what happened on Monday morning. If the Bears are truly hitting the regression button, this game could be a surprise loss. As of Wednesday the line is Bears by 3, and while my heart says that’s a good bet, recent data implies this game might be too close for comfort.

Football

Do you hear anything? No? Me either. No noise. No torches and pitchforks. No jobs on the line (yet). It’s pretty boring around here.

Usually in late July we’re all too eager here in Chicago to begin HOT TAKE SZN surrounding the Bears and the NFL. This July, though, feels different. Is everyone just happy to banter about the Cubs division chase and Sox future potential? No, we’ve been doing that every July since 2015. The NBA had a pretty big summer, but the Bulls largely sat that out and everyone is just content they MIGHT make a surprise run at the 8-seed in the East. Hawks prospect camp and convention?? OK, I’m done.

So with nothing new or exciting going on in major sports around the city, why is this late July so different? The Bears, coming off their first playoff appearance since 2010 and second in the last 13 years, have had the quietest offseason in about as long. No new head coach/GM/Front Office personnel. No major signings/high draft picks. Hardly any turnover on the roster/staff, and no real starting positions up for the taking. GM Ryan Pace didn’t even get to make a draft pick until the third day, and there’s been little discussion about the his team or the impending camp since.

The biggest offseason story? Kickers. Cody Parkey long fired into the sun, the talk of both mini-camp and now training camp is the kicking sideshow. Each day’s camp breakdown thus far has started with the accuracy for that day’s kicker; Elliot Fry is 17 of 20 so far! He’s hit from 60 and banged in from 48 and 51 in the driving rain! Eddie Pineiro hit from 63 after doing his best 80s macho movie hunk routine – after his coaches asked him to try from 60 he replied “nah, how ’bout 63”! Suh gnarly, broseph.

The crowds are another HOT story coming out of Bourbonnais. Attendance day one? OVER 8,000!!! Videos tweeted of fans LIGHTLY JOGGING to get front row standing room to see the Midway Monsters strap on the pads and paw at each other! Whoa, did you see that 50-yard bomb from Mitch to Gabriel?? Kahlil Mack and Eddie Jackson are sooooo goood OMFG!!!! I mean, it’s great to see the guys you want to excel succeed in practice, but that’s the bar here, no? To be as good as advertised?

This shit is BORING. But boring doesn’t really mean bad. Consider:

-There was one major coaching change in the offseason, but not the normal refrain of a deficiency in some area. Vic Fangio left to go be the head coach in Denver because his defense was so amazing (while the rest of the team was total ass for most of his tenure). The ensuing hire? Chuck Pagano, a highly regarded defensive mind in his own right that mostly just needs to keep the ship on course. There also are no ‘hot’ seats to speak of at the moment. Weird.

-The players lost to free agency were seen as priced out of their worth at Halas Hall and nary a tear was shed for Adrian Amos or Bryce Callahan. The replacements and other new signings were mostly budget buys met with a collective “meh”.  HaHa Clinton-Dix and Buster Skine swap in for Amos and Callahan. Mike Davis and Cordarrelle Patterson are here to do something in the backfield. Great, fine. I bet you didn’t even know they signed Ted Larson, again, for O-Line depth or Marvin Hall and Peter Williams. Only one of those guys is made up, but I’m guessing you have to look it up to tell me which one.

-The draft was pretty uneventful as well, unless you count trading up 14 or so spots in the 3rd round “eventful”. Sure, they got their GUY at running back in David Montgomery, or so they’ll tell anything with ears. Even he hasn’t generated much buzz since the draft, a soft spoken type that just does his work and stays quiet off the field. Booooooring. The rest of the draft was all lottery tickets and undrafted free agents because Pace only had five picks to work with. They got a Ridley? No, not the one from Alabama.

-There aren’t any big injuries to get all worked up about, either. Adam Shaheen hasn’t practiced in two days, but that’s basically his whole bag of tricks since being wildly overdrafted three years ago. Someone named Emmanuel Hall is recovering from groin surgery. HaHa is on the PUP list, rehabbing a lower body injury but expected back before too long. Whatever.

So this late July, the start to camp is boring. Embrace the boring, it means that most of us are looking forward to September and could give a shit about what happens between now and then. We don’t even get another open practice for a few days; the team has a shorter, closed practice today and is off Wednesday. There’s a preseason game a week after that, so maybe by the weekend we’ll start to get some real battles for the edge of the roster. Those are the positions that help to define serious championship contending NFL teams from the dregs they beat up.

Boring kinda sucks, but we’ll take it after the last decade worth of summers overstuffed with tough questions. Wait and see how these jokers fighting for their NFL lives fair in game reps in a week or so. If you need your fix the rest of this first week, keep refreshing that twitter account of your favorite beat writer to see where Steady Eddie P tells coach he’s spotting his next kick. HOOOOO BABYYYYY!

@WFrenchman on Twitter