Football

Welcome back to THE VAULT, the much celebrated weekly history column where I try to remember why I still care about this team in spite of the many heartbreaks they’ve given me. I’m going to spend these next couple weeks while I’m between jobs rewriting Kanye’s magnum opus “808s and Heartbreaks” to make it about the Bears, so look for me in the FFUD “Album of the Week” section crooning over some reverb-drenched synths. My version of “Love Lockdown” is gonna be about Nathan Vasher. Million dollar idea right there.

Potential album titles:
“85 Bears and Tears” (doesn’t rhyme but I’ll make it work)
“Jim Miller is a Homophobic Idiot” (true but not as catchy)
“One Night Stands and Josh Bellamy’s Hands” (there it is)

2003, week 9 of the NFL season. The Bears limped in to this home tilt against the San Diego Chargers at 3-5, and the Chargers somehow hobbled into Soldier Field at 1-7. Bear in mind this Chargers team had Drew Brees at QB and LaDainian Tomlinson in the backfield, with noted PED user and future “Crime in Sports” episode subject David Boston lining up outside next to perennial “undersized with a big heart white WR” Tim Dwight. Tim Dwight was always one of those wideouts that announcers described as “a student of the game/a gym rat/sneaky fast” which for some reason are only superlatives given to white wideouts. Whereas receivers who are nonwhite are always considered “freak athletes.” It’s weird.

Casual racial bias aside, the wildest thing about this game is the fact that DREW FUCKING BREES was benched in this game for DOUG FUCKING FLUTIE, who massively outperformed the QB who would go on to define this generation (screw Tom Brady, he’s just the best system QB of all time- Brees is the GOAT). It’s almost a fever dream to think about a Bears team led by Chris Chandler, Anthony Thomas, and David Terrell sticking it to the Chargers with two future Hall of Famers in their backfield so severely that they thought it prudent to bring in Doug Flutie.

The 2003 Bears were, you guessed it, a fucking mess. The QB carousel featured the aforementioned Chris Chandler coming in to start for Kordell Stewart for his 3rd game in a row. The 2003 Bears had hotshot Rex “Sex Cannon” Grossman on the bench as a rookie, which is kind of like having the opportunity to re-watch a movie knowing how the tragedy is going to unfold. They also drafted useless defensive lineman Michael Haynes in that first round. After that nightmare first round, they picked up Charles Tillman in the 2nd and Lance Briggs in the 3rd, which is almost “Sayers-Butkus” levels of draft success. As much as it sucks to see that the Bears could’ve drafted Troy Polamalu instead of Haynes, at least they didn’t pull a Detroit Lions and draft Charles Rogers with the 2nd overall pick, he of the multiple failed drug tests. Fun Charles Rogers fact: three career failed drug tests, four career receiving touchdowns. Trust me, I’m not trying to shit on a dude that would’ve maybe had a chance in the NFL a few years from now, when players are finally allowed to use marijuana to help with pain relief. I feel bad for those players who can’t medicate with something that isn’t a habit-forming painkiller that actually shortens people’s lives.

The Bears went on to hold off the Flutie-led Chargers 20-7, keeping LT to a measly 82 total yards on 16 carries and four catches. Drew Brees went 7-15 for 49 yards and an interception in this game, with his pick lobbed into the hands of Charles Tillman before Peanut was suplexed to the ground by the aforementioned David Boston, who looks like those cat memes where people sketch in preposterous muscles on pics of napping kitties. Tillman also downed a punt at the 1-yard line, which is always a play that gets me going. His downed punt led to a game-sealing interception of Flutie by Jerry Azumah, a regular here in THE VAULT.

Anthony Thomas led the team with 31 carries (!), 111 yards, and two scores. Honestly, as bad as those teams were, it’s refreshing to watch the old highlight videos of the Bears lining up in the I-Formation and running up the middle with success, instead of watching the offense line up in the shotgun and send the smallest player on the roster up the gut on 1st and 10 when the other team has 36 men in the box. David Terrell and Dez White each had seven catches, which would be a career day for most of the players on the 2019 squad. Bobby Wade, Justin Gage, and even my all-time favorite Bears undersized useless WR Ahmad Merritt caught a pass from Chris Chandler. Man, I miss Ahmad Merritt, who didn’t do anything in the NFL but was a BEAST in NFL Europe, catching 6 TDs for the Berlin Thunder. What a weird fucking sentence.

The Bears in 2003 finished 7-9, before finishing 5-11 in 2004 with what is considered one of the worst offenses in NFL history. Welcome to heartbreak.

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

On Thursday night, the Bears will kick off one of the most anticipated seasons in team history. This game will not only determine who lands the first blow in the NFC North, it will also give us a fairly good idea if Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers are going to make any noise this year. Much like how the Bears defense will ultimately determine the team’s success, the Packers offense will do the same. Mike McCarthy’s high school offense is gone, but I’m not sold on his replacement. Matt LeFleur has called plays for a grand total of one NFL season; and the results were miserable as the Titans finished 26th last year in total offense. But if we are all being honest with each other, do we really believe that anyone other than Aaron Rodgers will be calling plays for the Packers this year? Rodgers has made it very clear that this is his organization moving forward. What the 2018 Titans didn’t have is something the Packers have had for 14 seasons and counting: the greatest quarterback to ever play the game. With a QBR of 103.1, there is not a single player in the history of the league with a higher rating. Not Tom Brady. Not Joe Montana. Not Dan Marino. Not Peyton Manning. Don’t believe me? Look at this:

                                 QBR    Comp. %    Pass YPG    Int %    TD %
Aaron Rogers       103.1   64.8            260.3          1.5        6.2
Tom Brady            97.6    64.0            262.1           1.8        5.5
Joe Montana        92.3    63.2             211.2           2.6        5.1
Dan Marino          86.4    59.4             253.6          3.0        5.0
Peyton Manning 96.5    65.3              270.5          2.7         5.7

As if being really, really, good isn’t enough, Rodgers is especially dangerous against the Bears. In 21 career games, the future Hall of Famer has lit up Chicago to the tune of:
• 17 Wins
• 5 Losses (Including 1 loss where Rodgers was knocked out in the 1st quarter)
• 45 Touchdowns
• 10 Interceptions
• 67% Completion Percentage
• 5,156 Passing Yards
• 105.9 Passer Rating

These are video game numbers that deserve not only your respect, but also your admiration. You are getting a chance to watch the greatest quarterback to ever play. Keep in mind that Rodgers put together a lion’s share of these numbers against guys like Urlacher, Briggs, Tillman, and Brown; who have all individually called A-Rodg the greatest QB they have ever played against. So please take some time off from motherfucking the guy and appreciate his greatness; even if a lot of the highlights came against your team and made you want to kick him in the dick.

While I don’t anticipate Rodgers having a huge game Thursday night, it is extremely nearsighted to think he won’t show up. We are talking about a guy who threw for 25 TDs vs. 2 INTs last season in one of the least creative offensive systems in football. As a comparison, Mitch Trubisky threw two or more INTs in four of his 14 starts last year. Trubisky doesn’t have to be Rodgers for the Bears to win on Thursday night, but he must protect the football like Rodgers. In a season in which defenses will be far more prepared for Matt Nagy’s schemes, ball security from the quarterback position is a major concern.

If you are a Bears fan looking for reasons to be optimistic about Thursday nights opener, keep in mind that the Packers are only 11-11 in primetime games dating back to 2014. They are also 0-5 in their last five primetime road games and 3-10 overall on the road in primetime since 2014. Another reason to be optimistic on Thursday is the fact that the last five Packers coaches have lost their first game against the Bears. Mike McCarthy, Mike Sherman, Ray Rhodes, Mike Holmgren, and Joe Philbin have all took an L. If the Bears can contain Aaron Rodgers Thursday night, David LeFleur will be the latest to add his name to this list.

Football

A new season is upon us, friends. Back to school sales and 90 degree days highlight the end of July and beginning of August, but as a teacher I gotta tell you that the anxiety I get from the end of summer is always easier knowing that football is starting up again.

It’s also the time of the year where the constant search for “Song of the Summer” has really hit it’s groove; we’re all looking for that iconic track that we can play as the days of aimless BBQ and Naturday pounding roll on. So, in an attempt to reconcile these major phenomenon, I’ve made a summer mixtape themed by previous Chicago Bears training camp moments.

1. Miley Cyrus- “Wrecking Ball”: Curtis Enis reports to training camp in 1999 in a Hummer. The only thing that dude could wreck were the hopes and dreams of Shane Matthews asking for decent blitz pickup. Also worth mentioning: that dude can wreck a buffet. The best thing Curtis Enis brought to my life was the time my friend’s dad stitched a “P” on the back of one of his jerseys. My dad’s friend was a Packer fan, so it took me a few years to appreciate his comic genius.

2. Chance the Rapper- “Groceries”: Darnell Autry looks like he can play pro football in 1997. I was 11 and I would’ve bet all the Beanie Babies on Earth that he was going to be a future MVP. Whoops. Two local products, one of which is a globetrotting artist with a Grammy, and one that couldn’t stay in the pros.

3. Meat Wave- “It’s Not Alright”: Mike Glennon touted for his leadership during 2017 training camp. Does this need an explanation?

4. Pelafina- “Significant Weather”: The 2015 shift to a 3-4 defense for the first time in franchise history. The chorus to this song is “this heaven is ours”, and all I can do is picture Roquan Smith and I skipping through a field laughing. Somewhere, Ted Washington and Keith Traylor are upset and hungry. The Bears shifting to a new defensive front 4 years ago has been absolute heaven for me.

5. The Beatles- “Tomorrow Never Knows”: 2007, fresh off a Super Bowl appearance, the Bears move Devin Hester to wide receiver. Did this move ruin the greatest return man in history? Would he have continued his tear as a punt returner if he wasn’t also tasked with learning the offense?

6. Jar’d Loose- “Coming Like a Nightmare”: 2003, the rookie campaigns of both Lance Briggs and Charles Tillman. Fun fact, Jar’d Loose named their band as an homage to the “Peanut Punch” created by Tillman. This one is less training camp based and more of me bragging that I know a metal band named after the greatest Bears defensive back of all time.

7. The Red Army Choir- “National Anthem of the Soviet Union”: Roquan Smith (or any Bear) holds out of training camp because of a salary dispute. Now, I’m not a Communist, but when a player holds out for more money I inherently take their side, because the McCaskey’s sure as hell aren’t taking long term body/brain damage for my entertainment. PAY THE MAN!

8. Any Hatebreed song: Training camp brawls. Look, I don’t want to see fights during training camp, but if you aren’t at least entertained knowing that Kyle Long is ready to demolish anyone by early August, I got nothing for you.

9. Judas Priest- “You Got Another Thing Coming” RE: all the pundits predicting a Green Bay division title in 2019.