Football

Welcome back to THE VAULT, fellow travelers on the cosmic highway that is Bears fandom. Today I’m gonna torture you by recapping a game that is in my opinion the “Worst Game of Football Ever Played.” Now, I’m not counting those 1930s slug-fests between teams named goofy things like the West Aurora Kings or the Providence Beavers; this title goes to a modern game. I’ve seen 2019 Bengals games that were inherently more watchable than this, shit I’ve seen Despicable Me 2 as a summer camp counselor and I’d rather watch it back to back with kids aged 5-11 in a rec room with mats that smell like pee than watch this again.

I’ve written about the 2011 Bears several times in this column, because I’m a hack and that team was a beautiful trainwreck that was 7-3 before the injury to Jay Cutler against San Diego, and went to 7-5 after this shitshow where they lost Matt Forte. The 7-3 Bears ended up 8-8, that’s the type of legendary implosion that accompanies the loss of the best Bears QB in franchise history to injury. Yes, I said Jay Cutler is the best Bears QB in the history of the franchise, please @ me because I love talking shit on Twitter.

The Bears came into this abomination at 7-4 with a real chance to right the ship against a Chiefs team led by Tyler fucking Palko, in for an injured Matt fucking Cassel. Kyle fucking Orton came in for Palko in this game because he was playing so bad, threw a flea flicker that was 10 yards underthrown, and got hurt on that play and was taken out for Palko again. That’s the most depressing carousel I’ve ever seen, and I’ve gone to Kiddyland with a drunk father who got into it with someone at concessions. Can you imagine that QB room? I’m fucking bored just thinking about it, like they’re all gonna sit there and talk about tax write-offs and complain about the mayo on the sandwiches in the practice facility being too spicy.

I had to drink an energy drink just to get through the highlights, and it’s gonna fuck up my sleep schedule. I can’t believe this shit-ass game from 2011 is going to fuck up my life for a day in 2019. Fels, you need to pay me more dude because this is an exercise in masochism. Forte got hurt in the first quarter and Marion Barber and Khalil Bell picked up the slack in the most boring, shitty way possible. They combined for 18 carries and 78 yards, 41 of those coming on two runs. Think about that, outside of two carries that were 41 yards, two NFL RBs rushed for 37 combined yards on 16 carries. Caleb Hanie went 11-24 for 133 and three interceptions, and was sacked seven times. Some of these numbers don’t even feel real, like there was talent on this team! Hester, Knox, Earl Bennett… those dudes are all at least replacement-level players at their position, but this was a Mike Martz offense so you know that the playbook looked like a Necronomicon with the spirit of Greg Olsen flying out every time you open it. Marion Barber caught a wide open pass on the goal line for the Bears but it was called back via penalty because he wasn’t set, and the Bears got their only three points of the day.

The Bears defense played good enough to win (sound familiar?), but the Chiefs pulled out a win despite Thomas Jones rushing for 36 yards on 16 carries, somehow even worse than Barber and Bell combined. Dexter McCluster had himself the only good game on the ledger: nine carries, 61 yards, four catches for 46 yards, and the game’s only touchdown, a hail mary he brought in off a Brian Urlacher tip right before the half. How many times have we seen something similar: a hail mary caught when a player does what they’re trained to do: knock it down? I say catch that shit or bat it as far away as you can, but I’m literally sitting here in sweatpants thinking about ordering takeout so take that with a grain of salt.

Dwayne Bowe had zero catches on nine targets, Steve Breaston had zero catches on seven targets. For the Bears, Knox went 0-for-8 and Hester went 0-for-4. Despite all of this absolute garbage, the Bears were in position to score with four minutes left when a Caleb Hanie pass hit Roy Williams in the chest on a slant route on about the twoyard line. The ball, as it tends to do around Roy Williams, bounced out and was batted around before an ugly interception ended this ugly ass game.

 

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

Ali/Frazier. Jordan/Bird. Brees/Orton. Some match-ups loom larger than the game itself, as two titans of the sport go head to head in a winner take all showdown. It was week 17 of the 2007 season, with both teams eliminated from playoff contention a mere 12 months removed from their previous encounter in  the NFC Championship. Both games were won by the Bears, which in January of that year took them to the Super Bowl, and in December it dropped them two spots in the next years draft, and it would’ve been sweet if Ryan Clady was the Bears pick instead of *checks notes* uhhhh Chris Williams? Jay Cutler would’ve been much better as a Bear if they had Clady, so I’m retroactively blaming the lack of success of the next few years from an offensive line standpoint on this Week 17 Bears game.

This Bears team has a lot of the holdovers from the Super Bowl squad from the year before. You know all the big names, but it’s always the middle of the pack dudes that I love remembering, so let’s reminisce and see how these hidden gems performed that cold December afternoon.

My Favorite Forgotten Bears from 2007 (in no order):

5. Rashied Davis- (1 Kickoff Return, 5 Yards): I have a soft spot for special teams wide recievers (I might be the only person in Chicagoland that misses Josh Bellamy), and Davis was exactly that. Earl Bennett without the flash, somehow.

4. Garrett Wolfe- (4 Carries, 7 Yards, 1 Catch, 32 Yards): I was at NIU when Wolfe all of a sudden played NCAA Football on Rookie mode, and he was electric. I had no idea that I was hoping for him to be Tarik Cohen until I saw Tarik Cohen. Turns out he wasn’t very good and I was so bummed. Fun fact: this was his longest career catch. Bonus fun fact: I drafted Garrett Wolfe in my fantasy league that year, and there’s a harsh noise/grindcore band called Garrett Wolfe and no they aren’t football fans.

3. Israel Idonije- (1 Tackle): Izzy is a guy that nobody outside of Bears fans from this era remember, but those of us that do will always remember how much of a team player Izzy was. He did everything he was asked and played pretty much every spot on the defensive line, while also always being on the punt return teams. There are so many Devin Hester highlights where you can see a huge dude with a 71 on his jersey throwing a key block or escorting Devin to the endzone.

2. Mark Bradley- (1 Catch, 19 Yards) Give me all the special teams wideouts, please. All things considered, Bradley was a bust as a second round pick in the 2005 Draft, but when I looked at the other picks in the 2005 NFL Draft’s second round, they didn’t miss out on anyone that would’ve made sense. 92 career catches and 9TDs in 57 career games is not remarkable, but like I said, dude could block and he just looked the part. I’m also super biased because I crushed Madden 2006 with Mark Bradley, my favorite Bears WR in Madden after Kevin White in Madden 17.

1. Adrian Peterson- (1/1- 9 Yards, 1 Passing TD, 21 Carries 91 Yards, 1 Catch 9 Yards) The OTHER Adrian Peterson. You know, the one that’s lawful good as compared to the lawful evil Hall of Fame running back of the same name. The biggest difference between the two is the talent, but Good Peterson played with the Bears for his entire 8 year career and sure if he was starting you knew someone was hurt, but oh man he gave his all. You’d see him come in on a random 3rd and 18 and catch a 7 yard pass and then cover the punt (since he was always the punt team QB), return to the sideline only to be seen again the next time the special teams was on the field. It’s surreal to think that if your fantasy league played through week 17 that Adrian Peterson would’ve been an RB 2 that week and won your league. If this Adrian Peterson helped you win your Fantasy League in 2007 you should probably Venmo him ten bucks or something. Not because he needs it, but for the principle of the thing. He had the second most receptions on the team that year. Wow that’s ugly.

Anyways, this game was won by the Bears, with Devin Hester scoring twice, once on a long pass and another on a punt return. This was one of those Hester returns where he already has a giant hole to run through and isn’t even touched on his way to the endzone. Before I sound like I’m being critical of the Windy City Flyer or whatever his nickname was, I should establish that he is the greatest returner of all time and absolutely should be in the Hall of Fame.

That said, if you go back and watch his touchdown returns from this era, he is untouched on about half of them. I think a big reason why I have a soft spot for so many of the dudes that anchored the Bears special teams in that era is because the team kept a core together for that purpose and that purpose only and it paid dividends. Bradley, Peterson, Izzy, Brendon Ayanbadejo… those dudes opened up some massive lanes for Devin to take advantage of.

Watching these old highlight reels makes me miss having a solid special teams core like the Bears of that era. The Ryan Pace era has been an improvement in so many ways than the GMs before him, but I do miss the commitment to a group of backups simply because of what they brought to that part of the team.

I hope at some point between now and Sunday’s kickoff, you take a moment and really think about your mid to late aughts Bears players. Sit back and think about Brandon McGowan, won’t you?

Everything Else Football

Content Warning: Self-Harm

I got a text at 11:45pm this last Monday from my main football watching homie that just said “I can’t do it anymore, thank you for always being real. Love ya.”

I wake up at 5am for work so I was asleep and therefore missed it, but as soon as I saw it I messaged him until he woke up. Turns out he was drunk and sad and lonely and in a very very dark place, and had no recollection of sending me that text message. I told him if he ever tried to hurt himself I would beat him to death with my own hands.

My guy has been there for me since I was 17, so pretty much exactly half my life. We’ve lived together and helped each other out, and if I had a “real” wedding, he’d be the best man for sure. Football is a big part of that bond, as I’m sure it is for a lot of the people reading this and their friends. It takes a special kind of friendship to be able to sit there in silence for hours except for the occasional snarky comment or mention of how awful your fantasy team is looking this week.

You know the old adage: “If horseracing is the sport of kings, then surely football is… a very good sport as well.” What makes sports so great for me, my buddy, you reading this: the escape. Fuck your dead-end job or your overdue car payment, and that term paper can wait until Sunday night, because it’s Bears football. The thing you grew up watching. The team that means so much to you even though there’s no logical reason to explain why.

That Sunday time is a sort of collective unwinding time for those of us lucky to not be at work, leaving us (hopefully) recharged for the next week of new or repeating nightmares. It’s for that reason that I stopped being so emotionally invested in the outcome of Bears games and just love the experience of watching “My Team” play on Sundays, regardless of what the final score reflects.

Writing “The Vault” has become one of my favorite assignments during the week, because as I’m looking at box scores and game notes and trying to remember how to spell player names, I’m also going back to old memories. I can remember where I was when so many of these games happened, from the couch I sat on to what I ate to how it felt watching Johnny Knox damn near break in half.

My friend was there for so many of those afternoons or nights. The amazing second half comeback against Arizona in 2006. The entire Super Bowl run, when we looked at each other after Devin Hester’s opening kickoff touchdown and knew this was the year without saying a word. We were horribly wrong and smoked the saddest blunt when we got home.

I knew he was lonely and depressed, but one of the hardest things to break out of is the mask of masculinity that we all wear, especially when a lot of the time you spend with someone is spent watching hours of the most bro sport in existence.

Sometimes it doesn’t get any deeper than “what should we get for lunch?”, but I need to do a better job. We all need to do a better job. Maybe it isn’t a good time to ask if someone is doing okay emotionally when the Broncos go ahead late with a 2-point conversion, but football brings us closer together and I hope we can use the bonds we’re strengthening with every yell at the television to notice when our football friends aren’t acting like we’re used to. Prince Amukamara posted the picture and caption on Instagram that I used for the banner image this week, presumably to let his friend Roquan Smith know that he has his back no matter what, and that, combined with my friend’s scary text on Monday really changed how I wanted to do this piece today.

As I sat down to write this, I looked back at the 2015 Bears/Raiders game, and I watched highlight videos. I looked up how to spell Sebastian Janikowski, I looked at how open Marty Bennett got for a Jay Cutler pass, and I got sad. All I could think about is how hard it would be to reminisce on these games if I lost the friend that I spent so many weekends watching them with. So I hope you’ll understand if today’s Vault is more of a reflection on why it is that Bears football means so much to me, and also a plea to you, the reader: check in with your friends, because okay doesn’t always mean okay.

Football

Welcome back to The Vault, a weekly series where I dust the THC cobwebs off my brain and try my best to remember how to spell player names, information that is surely replacing things like “how to change a flat tire” or “my home address” in my limited memory bank. Catch me on the shoulder of the Eisenhower at 5pm looking at a flat and mentally spelling out “Brandon Manumaleuna” over and over again whilst in tears.

Let’s set the scene for this throwback recap: it’s late 2009, the 11-3 Vikings arrive in Soldier Field for a Monday Night Football tilt against our beloved 5-9 squad. The Bears sucked that year. This was year one of the Jay Cutler experience, and the acid hadn’t kicked in yet. Their first pick was Jarron freaking Gilbert, a player I had to look up on Monday night when a friend and I were trying to remember the guy the Bears drafted because there was a Youtube video of him jumping out of a pool and landing on his feet. He had 1 career tackle, and is cousins with NBA ICON Javale McGee. That pool video is cool as fuck though, not gonna lie to you. You can’t coach those kind of pool-jumping skills.

I watched this game at a local restaurant/bar, which is rare for me. I hate going to bars to watch games, mainly because you can’t smoke pot there and food is way cheaper at home. This bar, however, had one of those free halftime buffet deals and I was going back to college, so I took my Rodney Dangerfield lookin-ass down to this bar in the dead of winter to watch the 2009 Chicago Bears. Woof.

The game itself was a classic: a 36-30 overtime shootout that found the local boys victorious. The Bears jumped out to a 16-0 halftime lead behind the leg of Robbie Gould and a Jay Cutler to Greg Olsen TD pass.The free halftime buffet was destroyed before I even got up there, but hey no big deal, as long as the game is good, right? (about here is when I started going outside to chainsmoke instead of paying for bar food)

Even with a two score lead, any Bears fan could’ve told you Brett Favre was going to make the game uncomfortable. He left his training crocs in the locker room (probably to creep out any female staff members), and mounted a comeback that turned the fourth quarter into a legendary shootout. Each team scored a touchdown in the final 5 minutes. Look at some of the names of the players that drew pistols in this duel: Favre. Cutler. Peterson. Shiancoe. Bennett.

Side Note: Earl Bennett never got the recognition he was due. Not only was he a starting-caliber punt returner that didn’t get to do it since Devin Hester was there, but he was the best Bears possession WR of the last 10 years. His stats don’t do him justice, and if Jay stayed healthy all those years he might have made a Pro Bowl as a slot WR.

…okay maybe Pro Bowl is a bit of a stretch.

Despite these heavy hitters, it was Devin Aromashodu that truly drew first blood, in the sense that he won the game in overtime after a clutch Adrian Peterson fumble gave the Bears the ball with a chance to win it. Win it, he did.

Being a Bears fan means holding permanent grudges towards people you’ll never meet, for things that happened so long ago that they don’t even matter anymore. Brett Favre is one of those people that I will ALWAYS, ALWAYS resent. Yes, he was a creep and was sending the most awkward dick pics to team staff when he was in New York. Acts like that are unequivocally gross and should condemn anyone’s reputation. Yet any Bears fan could’ve told you he was suspect as fuck judging by the way he always dismantled the local boys. It always seemed like he took perverse pleasure in ruining my childhood Sundays. Beating Brett that night was great, and gave me a completely unearned sense of smug self-satisfaction the entire solo walk home back to my apartment with a margarita buzz on.

Fuck Brett Favre.

Football

Today we’re going to look at another moment in timeless Bears lore, and since I’m a sadist AND a masochist, we’re going to flash back to one of the most depressing games I’ve ever seen: Bears-Broncos 2011. Week 14, each team coming in at 7-5 with playoff aspirations. Well, maybe that’s saying too much since the Bears were starting our recurring Vault QB Caleb Hanie. When I watched the NFL Throwback video of the game, a majority of the offensive starters were a who’s who of players I never want to think about again: Hanie, Roy Williams, Lance Louis, Kahlil Bell. It’s amazing that this lineup had any juice left at this point. I missed Jay Cutler a lot, don’t fucking @ me. He broke his thumb trying to tackle a DB on an interception return, and I blame all the meatball fans who called him soft from the NFC Championship the year prior (last week’s Vault). Jay had to MAN UP and tackle a streaking Antoine Cason even though the Bears had an 11-point lead in the 4th quarter and Matt Forte was also rushing back to knock him out of bounds, which he eventually ended up doing anyways.

Maaaaaan lemme tell you: 2011 was a heady time. I was seeing this really nice lady at the time, but she was not even trying to pretend to be interested in football so I went to watch the game with some friends at an apartment in downtown DeKalb, Illinois. I drank like three Thai iced teas and probably took too much adderall and talked through the entire game. I had finally found some friends in the local DIY scene who liked sports and weed just as much as I did, so while I’m not 100% sure of it I could reasonably assume we were all listening to Replacements records during commercial breaks and trying NOT to complain about our dads. Like I said, it was 2011. I tied an onion to my belt, which was the style at the time.

Anyways, this game happened during Tebowmania, which is like Linsanity but mixed with Russell Wilson levels of Jesus-infused comeback wins in improbable fashions. Seriously though, he had five comeback wins in less than two months! The Chicago one would be his last in the regular season, and the last of his heroics until he would torch Pittsburgh with one decently thrown slant in the Wild Card round that season. Imagine being Eric Decker or Demaryius Thomas and having to catch passes from this goober, who scrambled around like he was being controlled by an 11-year-old playing Madden.

As a natural-born edgelord, I HATED Tebowmania. Why was it that he could beat a defense featuring all those 2000s Bears icons (Urlacher, Briggs, Tillman, Peppers), but would go 0-21 with eight picks if the other side just read Richard Dawkins books instead of hitting or covering? I was all about keeping religion out of football, because for some reason I cared what this dude believed in like it affected me in any way at all.

Naturally for me, I’ll always remember this as the Marion Meltdown. Marion Barber was thrust into the starting role when Matt Forte got injured the week before against Kansas City (which was the actual worst game of Bears football I’ve ever seen in my life), and Marion the Barbarian carried the ball TWENTY SEVEN times that day. He was a beast and I was so glad that the Bears had him as an insurance policy when Forte went down, until the Broncos game. The Bears were up 10-0 with 2:08 in the 4th and lost this game in overtime, no thanks to Marion Barber running out of bounds during the Bears last possession of regulation and as a result keeping precious seconds on the clock for Tebow’s miracle comeback.

Oh yeah, and the Bears get the ball to start overtime and actually drive down the field. On a 3rd and 7 on Denver’s 38 yard line, Marion gets a handoff and has a lane open up the size of a Texas megachurch. For one beautiful second, there was nothing stopping the Bears from winning this game and holding on hope that they could stay relevant until Jay returned. As he breaks through the line, green grass and a victory opening up before him, Wesley Woodyard’s right hand comes out and rips the ball out of Barber’s hands, and since the lord works in mysterious ways it lands right in front of Elvis Dumervil. Denver ball, Zack Bowman gets worked by Demaryius Thomas, Matt Prater is good from 51. The Broncos win, and Tebowmania hits its zenith. Seriously, watch any highlights from those weeks and Rich Eisen sounds like a preacher. It’s embarrassing.

2011 sucked. Fuck 2011.

 

Football

Welcome to a new FFUD staple: The Vault. Here in The Vault, we talk about a game from the past between the Bears and this week’s opponent. Also, technically this isn’t a staple of FFUD yet since it got a lukewarm reception when I pitched it to the brass, so I gotta work super hard to promote this new idea since the Chicago sports blogosphere is about RESULTS and I need at least 200 shares on Twitter if I’m ever gonna marry into the Arkush family.

Today’s vault: Bears vs Packers, NFC Championship 1/23/2011

Final Score: Packers 21, Bears 14
Fun Fact: January 23rd, 2011 was the 89th anniversary of the first time Insulin was used. Coincidence?

The Game: We all remember this one, right? The collective dagger in the hearts of fans who, like me, were too young to remember the ’85 team and lived our formative years watching the likes of Steve Stenstrom, Shane Matthews, and Cade McNown lead this legendary franchise. We thought this was it, that this time it was real. Mike Martz was (only) kind of an asshole at this point, but the offense looked okay sometimes and the defense was as good as it was in ’05 so there was a chance for sure. Johnny Knox was still playing! God, I miss Johnny Knox.

So after the Bears easily beat Seattle, they got the opportunity to get into the Super Bowl by serving it up to Green Bay. How sweet it was, baby! I ordered roughly $45 in Little Caesar’s and was fine with what that meant for my digestive system. Little did I know the Bears would do to my heart what that greasy pizza would do to my digestive system. These two events happened concurrently.

To put it poetically: shit hit the fan. Aside from Matt Forte putting up dominant numbers in that boring mid 90s/early 2000s way (17 rushes for 70 yards, 10 catches for 90 yards, no touchdowns), everyone else sucked. Rodgers faced no pressure all game, and the crucial mistake he did make didn’t end up costing him, as he managed to tackle Brian Urlacher on his interception return that would’ve been the equalizer, instead leading to another three-and-out. Aside from getting juked by Tom Brady, that is the one play I bet Brian still thinks about between Restore billboard photo shoots.

Olin Kreutz got hurt and played the whole game, but the narrative was all about Jay getting hurt and not returning to the field. Honestly, I know how shitty this sounds but I still take Jay’s side. You gotta believe if he could have played he would’ve been out there, and its not like dusty old bones Todd Collins and future Hall of Famer Caleb Hanie did much better. Plus, the field itself has always been so terrible that there’s always colossal potential for re-injury. However, it wasn’t limited to the QB; the offense was a dumpster fire that day, asking quarterbacks to consistently take 7-step drops and get pummeled. BJ Raji picked off Caleb Hanie and it sucked. Sam Shields picked off Caleb Hanie and it sucked even more, and the sun set on the season with the Packers heading to the Super Bowl. Oof.

Why pick this heartbreaker to kick off the Bears 100 campaign? Simple: hope. Just like 24-year-old me gorging on awful pizza and crazy bread, 33-year-old me is gorging on frozen pizza and drinking flavored water with a strong sense of hope in the Bears. I’ve been so conditioned to expect the Bears to suck at worst, or be a middling team at best that I actually thought they could be champions when they got the smallest taste of playoff success. We haven’t watched a meaningful snap yet, but this season is going to be the most exciting one I can remember as a Bears fan. I’m feeling that same hope about this team that I did back then. I can’t even find it in me to be jaded, fuck it. I’m ready for you to hurt me again, Bears. I’m finally all-in, not expecting it to all go wrong. I’m going full Randy Quaid from the last half hour of the first Major League film.

2019 is gonna rule for the Bears, y’all. Let’s have some fun. FTP.

 

 

Football

Who is the greatest QB to ever play for the Chicago Bears? This is tough question because, over the last 100 years, the options have been very, very slim. So, here’s a quick exercise: I am going to provide you some QB statistics, but without the years, names, or numbers. You are the GM and you get to decide who is the best player to lead your team at the quarterback position.

Career Stats

Games     Record     Comp %     TD %     INT %     QBR     Pass Yards/Game
Player A      119            67-30       58               3.9          3.5           78.2      152.5
Player B      153            74-79       62               4.6          3.3           85.3      229.6
Player C      26              15-11        63.5            4.1          2.5           87.7       208.3
Player D      128            NA           51.8            7.9          7.6           75          114.7

Career with Bears

Games      Record     Comp %     TD %      INT %     QBR      Pass Yards/Game
Player A     119             67-30 58 3.9 3.5 78.2 152.5
Player B     153             74-79 62 4.6 3.3 85.3 229.6
Player C     26              15-11 63.5 4.1 2.5 87.7 208.3
Player D     128            NA 51.8 7.9 7.6 75 114.7

Career Stats with One Team:
Games Record Comp % TD % INT % QBR Pass Yards/Game
Player A 66 46-15 57.8 4.4 3.7 80.4 169.7
Player B 102 51-51 61.8 4.7 3.3 85.2 229.8
Player C 26 15-11 63.5 4.1 2.5 87.7 208.3
Player D 128 NA 51.8 7.9 7.6 75 114.7

Best Single Season Stats:
Games Record Comp % TD % INT % QBR Pass Yards/Game
Player A 13 11-0 56.9 4.8 3.5 97.8 184
Player B 15 6-9 64.4 4.3 2.3 92.3 243.9
Player C 14 11-3 66.6 5.5 2.8 95.4 230.2
Player D 10 NA 54.5 13.9 5.9 107.5 219.4

Based on these numbers, each player would receive the following overall adjusted performance grades: (Note that Games Played and Records are not figured into the performance grades.)
Plus Minus Overall
Player A 0 3 -3
Player B 4 2 +2
Player C 7 1 +6
Player D 4 9 -5

Unfortunately for all old school Bears fans who don’t want to look at actual statistics, Player D is none other than Sid Luckman. And before you talk about Luckman’s rushing prowess taking away from his passing yards/game, you must recognize that QBR considers rushing yards into the equation. Sid Luckman is somehow in the Hall of Fame; which is an entirely different argument. Because, really, his numbers do not exactly ooze Canton-worthy. It probably didn’t hurt that the Halas family basically ran the league back then and they got whatever they wanted. Sid Luckman in the Hall of Fame is akin to Harold Baines in the Hall of Fame – the comps are just not there. Finally, I have never seen a single down that Sid Luckman has ever played, either live or on tape. This is because I have no interest in watching him play against guys who moonlighted as professional football players when they had some off time from their jobs as stone masons and iron workers. Sid Luckman was a good player is his era, but he probably would be a D3 player in this age.

Next up on chopping black is Player A. This is going to hurt a lot of die-hard Bears fan because this guy was basically a mascot for the fans – the problem is he was never really that good. Player A is Jimmy McMahon. Never in the history of the league has a QB benefitting more from a great defense and a great running back. McMahon’s job was never to win a game, it was simply not to lose it; which reminds me of someone else; (see Player C.) Bears superfans (who are probably the worst fans in all of sports) will argue about McMahon’s record. But let’s be honest, very few NFL quarterbacks could have fucked that team up. Shit, that defense made Steve Fuller a serviceable player; which is a testament to how great they were. So sorry Jim, you made a career and a life for yourself as the starting QB of a Super Bowl champion, the problem is, you just weren’t that good.

The next QB listed currently stands as the greatest signal caller in Bears history. Player B is the guy that an entire city loved to hate, Jay Cutler. Cutler’s Bears career was perfectly average if you look at his record, but to win 51 games with the type of coaches, receivers, and linemen he had is truly remarkable. His skill set is far and away the best the Bears have ever had and rivals some of the best QBs in this current NFL era. His physical attributes were at the top of his class; but you can’t make chicken salad out of chicken shit, and entire organization was exactly that, shit. Years from now, I think Cutty will finally be appreciated for his on the field contributions. Forget what you think you know about him off the field, the guy was as athletically gifted and as tough as any quarterback to ever wear the Bears uniform…and it’s not even close.

Present day Bears fans dicks will get even harder knowing that Player C is the chosen one to resurrect the franchise. Although only a sample size, Mitch Trubisky’s numbers, when projected over an entire career, show that the Monsters offense is in pretty good hands. That said, this organization, for a plethora of reasons, has somehow never had a great QB; you’d think over the course of 100 years, you’d get lucky once or twice, however, this hasn’t occurred. The truth is this, the Bears only need Trubisky to be as good as Cutler. If Jay had this defense and this offensive scheme and these receivers and this line, the Bears would have been perennial playoff contenders, but they didn’t have this current teams supporting cast, so they were really fucking hard to watch. Regardless, if Trubisky continues to improve at the rate he is currently on, he will ultimately sign a long-term deal and the Bears will finally have a franchise quarterback.

You deserve this Bears fans, and even if Mitch ends up being more Shane Stafford than Aaron Rodgers, you will still be fortunate enough to watch him in his prime, playing for your team.

Football

Regardless of how great the 2019 Bears defense is supposed to be, the success of the team will ultimately rely on the play of third-year quarterback Mitch Trubisky. This could be a problem if Trubisky’s advanced metrics from the 2018 season are any indication of future performance. To be clear, I am convinced #10 for the Bears will be markedly better this season, however, an advanced look into his stats for the 2018 season do not paint the prettiest picture for an organization that has never truly had an elite passer under center.

So, before you make your Super Bowl reservations, I took a deep dive inside some numbers from last season that go way beyond your layman QB stats:

Deep Ball Accuracy

  • Despite ranking #8 in all of the NFL in Deep Ball Attempts, Trubisky ranked #29 in Deep Ball Completion rate at 29.6%. This number shows Matt Nagy’s confidence in his QB and his own system, the problem is that the coaches’ confidence is not being rewarded by the signal caller. Deep balls are most often first read throws, which further makes this statistic problematic. I don’t anticipate the number on attempts changing much this season, so the accuracy on these throws must be better if the Bears are to return to the playoffs and make a deep run.

True Passer Rating

  • This rating is essentially a QBR without unpressured throwaways and dropped passes. Trubisky ranked #26 last season in True Passer Rating – ouch. The vast difference in Trubisky’s QBR (72.8) vs. True Passer Rating (84.3) is mostly related to the amount of passes dropped by his receivers, a number in which the Bear pass catching corps was the 5th best in the league. For years, people would blame Jay Cutler’s lack of success on his lack of talented pass catchers – which was a fair point – the same cannot be said for Mitch.

True Completion Percentage

  • The Bears QB was ranked 25th league-wide with a True Completion Percentage of 68.5%. Much like the True Passer Rating above, this advanced stat shows you just how good the Bears receivers were last year and just where Trubisky really ranked amongst the entire league.

Accuracy Rating

  • This stat grades a QB’s accuracy for each throw on a scale of 1-4. Mitch Trubisky ranked #17 overall in this category with a rating of 2.9. As a reference, a rating above 3.0 is considered highly accurate. As such, this is a very promising number; and one that I think will increase this year based not only on Mitch’s continued improvement, but also the health and improvement of the receiving unit and finally, the addition by subtraction of Jordan Howard.

Using the above mentioned advanced stats, as well as many, many more, two intriguing conclusions have been made:

  1. Mitch Trubisky’s career currently compares most favorably to…wait for it…Touchdown Teddy Bridgewater.
  2. Trubisky’s overall production, based on advanced metrics, places him as the equivalent of a late 4th round draft pick.

In sports, you are who your stats say you are, but I cannot believe there is any way I would want Bridgewater as the quarterback of this team instead of Trubisky. In fact, I wouldn’t even want a healthy 2015 version of Bridgewater over the Bears #10 right now.

Moreover, drafting Trubisky in the late 4th round would be the steal of the 2017 draft and probably most other drafts. Keep in mind that this projection is based only on the previous years’ stats and do not provide a career projection.

After digesting numerous advanced metrics and trying to make sense of it all, I am at the same place I was before I started, I’m just more certain now – Mitch Trubisky’s accuracy will be the key to a successful 2019 season for the Chicago Bears.