Football

The Cowboys Are The Maple Leafs Are The Mexican National Team – No matter what happens in the rest of your life, you can be sure the Cowboys will suck up the most amount of press coverage, perhaps just behind the Patriots but possibly even more. I suppose that’s what happens when you’re the center of a deluded state that’s also bigger than most countries and only thinks about football and guns and cheerleader tits. But unlike the Patriots, the Cowboys have earned exactly none of it.

You may think the Bears have been a pretty futile organization this lifetime, and you wouldn’t necessarily be wrong. But the Cowboys have been completely useless, completely irrelevant, and completely backwards and yet they’re always front and center. They have the unearned arrogance of their shithead, made-of-plastic owner who has always had too much money for anyone to tell him he doesn’t know shit and should shut the fuck up. And he always will. And it’s why he gets to be the GM and coach of this team for the past 25 years, drive it into the ground, and no one’s going to stop him. He also happens to be commissioner of the entire league in reality, and I’m sure has made Roger Gooddell piss himself in front of all 31 owners at least twice.

The Cowboys haven’t seen an NFC championship game in 25 years. The Bears have managed at least two in that time. So have the Falcons. The fucking Cardinals have even done better, and you once again forgot they existed until you just read their name.  The only other team that’s been this pathetic for this long is owned by Jerrah’s even more balloon handed mini-me in Daniel Snyder. Or the Lions. That’s what we’re talking about here.

All they’ve got is their middle-finger-to-god stadium and a bunch of nitwits to tell me that Shiner Bock isn’t actually piss before whooping “How about them Cowboys?!” without bothering to notice the score. I saw some ‘Boys fans roll up to the bar I was in last night not too far from Soldier Field well before the end of the game, bundled up like they were in the middle of the Iditarod even though it was like 37. And in that moment, you could get just a glimpse in their eyes that they know they’re worthless, the team they follow will never be anything and what they’d really prefer is to just slink off back into the shadows. But there are no shadows in Texas, thanks to the heat death all their oil tycoons are soon to bring us. They’ll never admit it, but you could see it. It was there.

They are the Maple Leafs. They are Mexico at a World Cup. We never stop hearing about them and they swagger into every new opportunity like they own the place and “this time it will be different!” banners and then they never do shit. It was ever thus.

Maybe Growth Isn’t Linear? – Three games is hardly a definitive statement. And neither will be the next three games, or likely won’t be. And I’m as guilty as anyone of this. We all want to believe that a young player, and team, takes sequential steps. They come in, they flash but struggle, then they flash more and struggle less, then they become consistent, then they become special, and everyone wins. We’re conditioned to that here in town. Kane and Toews arrived in 2007. And they as players and the Hawks as a team took those sequential steps: from promise, to exciting, to contender, to champ. The Cubs did the same from ’14 to ’16 essentially. Fun and exciting, playoff run that portended to more, champ.

But it’s not always that way. I don’t know if Mitch Trubisky can save his career in these last six games. I would be hesitant to base an entire franchise’s fortunes on not even half of a season. But he’s had a weird career, and maybe his growth isn’t linear. He was drafted onto a team that was going to fire its coach for whom he was never really supposed to play for. He essentially had to start over in his second year, and on the other side of the ball a championship-caliber defense had to be kept up with. His coach tried to rush the cycle to keep up with that defense and not miss the opportunities presented, even if it wasn’t to Mitch’s strengths.

The Bears as a whole ended up in championship discussion far quicker than they could have imagined. The defense cycled up way quicker than the offense. But unlike last year it’s dealing with major injury problems. It’s carrying an offense that wasn’t ready to run with it. Everyone was trying to learn and expand at the same time, both at a lightning pace that just about no one can keep up. Which is why you get the massive confusion and blank looks we’ve seen most of the season.

Maybe it’ll always be mismatched. Maybe this is just a tease. Or perhaps these things just don’t always work on a steady arc up. Maybe the first half of the season was their stumble or downturn. There may be another yet. We won’t know until next season for sure. But it’s rarely as simple as we’d like it, and we’re spoiled by seeing it be that simple a couple times locally.

Ryan Pace Can Construct A Bottom Of A Roster – At least defensively. Injuries to Akiem Hicks, Danny Trevathan, and now Roquan Smith should probably cripple a team, especially with Prince Amukamara on the sidelines as well. But we’ve seen Robertson-Harris or Nick Williams or last night Kevin Pierre-Louis or Kevin Toliver make just enough plays to keep the Bears defense humming. On offense, Javon Wims has filled in admirably for Taylor Gabriel, while the offensive line seems to have evened out after losing Kyle Long and dealing without Bobby Massie.

You can’t live like this forever. Getting Hicks back should help, but what he’s capable of no one can tell you right now. But hey, the games still mean something after all the Bears have been through. For right now, we’ll take it.

Football

Tony: Are the Bears cursed?

It’s a funny question, I know. Obviously sports curses aren’t real, except for the very real Curse of Colonel Sanders placed upon the Hanshin Tigers in (creepily) 1985. Yet every Bears team that has come close to the ’85 Bears have fallen short, for myriad reasons: QB injuries in the NFC Championship game, Danieal Manning forgetting that Peyton Manning can throw deep, the double doink… I could go on but I won’t. Could curses be real, and is the Bears franchise carrying some demons that need to be exorcised?

Today’s Matchup is going to look at the way the Chicago Bears franchise is haunted by the ghosts of the ’85 team, and why it’s time we forget those ghosts and stopped holding the current team up to that legendary group every year.

Every new coach says on day one that they need to beat the Packers first and foremost, a cute little throwback to the era before free agency when players stayed with one organization for their entire career and developed a passionate hatred for their division rivals, and not necessarily what I want to hear from a new coach. I will defend to my grave that if the Bears went 14-2 and won a Super Bowl but lost both games to the Packers, I’d be just as thrilled. This is totally a throwback to those 80s Bears/Packers bloodbaths that I wasn’t even alive for, so just drop it! I hate the Packers, sure, but I’d rather see the Bears win a Super Bowl.

The Bears franchise narrative has been rooted in the identity of the ’85 team for my entire life (I was born in ’86). They are supposed to have a handful of things, regardless of anything else:

-Bad QB play

-A stud RB

-Great defense

-Fantasy football irrelevance

As crazy as it sounds, I feel like the front office drafts to this identity either consciously or not. Mitchell Trubisky is the highest the Bears have taken a QB since 1951 when they took Bob Williams (and also in 1939 when they drafted the QB that most consider the best in Bears history- Sid Luckman). Considering they passed on two other signal callers who have much more success in the league thus far, it’s an interesting thought that maybe this was a concerted effort to trade up and explicitly break the narrative. However, Mitch is, well, Mitch, and the Bears are like the Weedians walking through the desert on the cover of Sleep’s “Dopesmoker,” wandering in a haze forever on a permanent search for the franchise’s first amazing QB.

Shitty QB play isn’t the be all end all: Tampa Bay, Baltimore (twice!), and the Giants (also twice!) have won with 1uarterbacks that are at or below The Dalton Line. It’s the defensive side of the ball that has to consistently be held up to the ’85 team in a totally unfair way. Offenses in 1985 were way more run-heavy: only two teams had over 4000 passing yards on the season, whereas 14 teams threw for over 4000 in 2018 (with two teams breaking 5000 yards). Buddy Ryan was a genius and that defense was stacked, but given the way the league was at the time, you could stack the box and force the issue like the 46 did. One of the two teams that threw for over 4000 yards that year was Miami, who as you surely know were the only team to beat the 46.

Let it be said that the current year and a half run of the Bears defense should be considered the best this team has ever looked. We are blessed, but nobody is going to do anything but compare this team to ’85, and the current defense is so much better. Over the last 28 games, they have totally dominated and are easily the best defense in the league. Argue with me about stats on this team all you want, but they haven’t gotten to play with a significant lead very often and usually spend 65% of their time on the field after multiple three-and-outs by the offense. The ’85 team used talent and a revolutionary scheme to field an absolute monster, but this incarnation of the defense beats an offense simply by being better. They might be better if Vic stayed, but they can still get after people.

Are Bears fans destined to spend the next 20 years making up “Buddy Ryan’s Curse” theories until the team finally wins a championship? Fuck, that’s depressing. The Bears need to win a Super Bowl soon, but I’ll be looking forward to it so we can forget 1985.

 

Wes: I can’t think that the Cowboys or any of their fans would say they’re cursed, but they definitely have the ghost of lofty expectations haunting them. 

Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith, Michael Irvin and Jimmy Johnson made up the NFL dynasty of the 1990’s in Big D and crazy asshole Jerrah Jones has been chasing that dragon for nearly 30 years. Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott and Jason Garrett are the most recent trifecta looking to succeed where so many others have failed…but their window is closing quicker than Jones pal Papa John’s decline. 

While Chicago chases one title from over 30 years ago, Dallas is looking for a fix of 5+ years of dominance and three straight Super Bowl Titles from 1992-94. We could take it back to the 70’s too when the Cowboys went to five Super Bowls and won two with QB Roger Staubach and Legendary Head Coach Tom Landry. Cowboys fans were used to success, even if that success was every other decade. 

Well, the ‘boys are staring at 25 years since their last NFL title and almost as long since they appeared in the NFC Championship. Jones has burned through coaches like Bill Parcells and Wade Philips and quarterbacks like Tony Romo and…umm…Jon Kitna, winning plenty of Division titles, but watching the Giants and Eagles come out of the NFC East and win NFL titles (and do it over the current and possibly best NFL dynasty in history in the evil empire of the New England Patriots). 

Dallas and Chicago have actually had a sort of similar run since the late 90s, with Chicago arguably seeing better success having made it to a Super Bowl and a handful of deep runs through the NFC playoffs…albeit not recently. Similar QB issues, similar coaching issues, similar disappointed fans. 

Dak, Zeke and Garrett are the latest to take a stab at conquering the NFL and bringing glory back to big D, with Garrett currently holding on as one of the longest tenured HCs in the league despite a scant 2-3 record on three playoff appearances since 2010. Nine seasons, three NFC East titles and three playoff flame outs (including the infamous Dez Bryant non-TD catch being reversed on replay in Green Bay back in 2014). He’s probably gotten such a long leash because he took over a dumpster fire – points if you remember the Stephen McGee days – in 2010 and is working on a fourth NFC East title in six years. Garrett’s seat is seemingly forever hot, though, with Jones as a boss. He’s routinely discussed as finally losing his job, and failing to win a very disappointing 2019 NFC East and surprising in the playoffs will probably see his run come to an end. Maybe a fitting way to end the decade?

Dak Prescott rose from relative mediocrity as a mid-round draft pick to surprise as a very capable NFL QB, much like Romo before him, but even with Zeke and now Amari Cooper to help on offense the Cowboys haven’t been able to put enough competent performances together this season to make anyone believe they can upset the NFC hierarchy come January. Elliott has been good but not great on the ground; games the defense shows up the offense seems to lose it’s way and vice versa. Dallas has beaten every sub-.500 team on the schedule, save for a shameful loss at the Jets, but also haven’t been able to beat any team over .500. Sound like any team you’re used to seeing, dear reader?

Matching 6-6 records and an oddly similar two decade stretch culminates in a TNF matchup of mediocrity. Dallas has the luxury of still being very much alive regardless of the outcome, but in the grand scheme they’re still stuck in the NFL purgatory the Bears find themselves in. The NFL is so widely popular because worst to first is doable with a solid draft and some good signings and hires…but they don’t ever talk about how worst to first and back to worst is just as easily attainable. 

Chicago and Dallas are great examples of the latter, without either reaching the heights of the ghosts they’re stuck chasing.