Featured

Reid ‘Em & Weep (2.4)

There has been so much going on in the sports world recently that I haven’t had much time to write about it. I’m too busy watching it and reading about it. Let’s quick-fire some topics around the wide world of sports.

NBA: The Bulls Stink!

I don’t want to spend much time writing about this lousy team right now. I’ll get back to this subject later this spring toward the end of the season. I’d at least like to recap how crappy the Chicago Bulls year was, from the front office all the way down to the last players on the bench. What a miserable team! From Gar Forman and Coach Hoiberg down to Dwyane Wade and Cameron Payne, it’s been a TOTAL disaster. Have you ever noticed how much time Wade spends on the floor? He literally is always diving and falling, getting knocked down, complaining and whining. It’s maddening to watch. This Bulls team is as dysfunctional as any I can remember in recent memory. As Charles Barkley would say, “Simply terrible & horrible. Michael Jordan must be rollin’ over in his grave.” Orlando Woolridge and Granville Waiters are rolling over in their graves too. Woolridge is literally rolling over in his grave. He died in 2012. Waiters…..

Dwyane Wade injured

NHL: The Blackhawks are Dominating…..As Usual

Are the Hawks ready to contend once again for the Stanley Cup? I’d like to think so. They have played so wonderfully lately that it’s hard to imagine them losing earlier than the Western Conference Finals. Having said that, hockey is hockey. It’s a strange game. Crazy bounces of a frozen puck on ice that leak between the goalies legs cause much consternation for players, coaches, and fans alike. What the Hawks have already done over the past 7 years is amazing. Now going for their 4th Championship in 8 years (2010, 2013, 2015), Coach Quenneville has this squad primed for another taste of champagne from the beloved Cup on its journey around the World. What’s going great? Everything! The veterans (Toews, Kane, Keith, Artemi Panarin, Richard Panik, etc.), the rookies and youth (Ryan Hartman, Nick Schmaltz, Vinnie Hinestroza, Trevor van Riemsdyk, Dennis Rasmussen, John Hayden, Michal Kempny, etc.), the goalies (Crawford AND Darling), the Minnesota Wild. What’s that? The Wild have finally begun to lose some games, giving the Hawks a 6 point cushion (100 to 94) in the Campbell Conference (check that, NHL Western Conference) standings. Rookies like Schmaltz and Ryan Hartman are getting better as the year progresses. Once the Captain Jonathan Toews regained his scoring touch toward late January, this club has not looked back. Let’s keep it rollin’ guys! Commit to the Indian! Cold Steel on Ice! The Kids Can Play!…..oh wait, I think that was a young White Sox team’s slogan in 2000. Oh well, it works for this Hawks team just as much…..”The Kids Can Play!” You know what, I don’t want to steal from Brooks Boyer so let’s go back to the savvy one, Dennis Savard’s favorite, “Commit to the Indian!”

Blackhawks group.jpeg

College Basketball: Fighting Illini Hired Brad Underwood

Brad Underwood2

ECSTATIC! That’s the best word to describe how I feel about Illinois Athletic Director Josh Whitman’s hiring of former Oklahoma St. Cowboys head basketball coach Brad Underwood….ECSTATIC! I didn’t always feel this way. On Saturday afternoon when it was first announced, I must admit I shrugged my shoulders and yelled out to no one in particular, “Who???” But then I did the research. Brad Underwood is a great coach. He’s an excellent hire for the Fighting Illini. This downtrodden program needed a shot in the arm and Underwood will provide the needle. Win or lose, this guy will be exciting. Underwood’s teams average a ton of points using his “Pitch-Post” offense. Last year in his one and only year in Stillwater, Oklahoma, Underwood coached the ‘Boys to 85.5 points per game which was 8th highest in the nation out of 351 teams. Out of Power 5 schools, OSU was 3rd in points behind only UCLA and Kentucky who just happen to play each other Friday in the Sweet 16. Underwood’s philosophy is to shoot in the first 7 seconds of each possession. He’s been preaching his offense as an assistant coach to his head coaches for years at outposts such as Western Illinois, Kansas St., and South Carolina. When he finally was promoted to Head Coach at Stephen F. Austin after the 2013 season, he destroyed his competition. He went 89-14 overall at SFA, 53-1 in the Southland Conference. 53-1 over 3 seasons!!! He won 2 NCAA Tournament games in 3 appearances. They won as a #12 seed over #5 seed VCU in 2014. Then in 2016, as a #14 seed they upset #3 seed West Virginia in the 2016 Tournament. Remember that SFA dude named Thomas Walkup? He rocked!

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-First Round-West Virginia vs Stephen F. Austin

If Underwood did that at Stephen F. Austin, you know his system worked. He then moved up the coaching ranks, moving from the Southland Conference to the Big 12 Conference, taking the Oklahoma St. job just one year ago. He improved the Cowboys from 12-20 (3-15 conference) to 20-13 (9-9). Before Underwood, OSU was 10th in Big 12 scoring at 66.5 ppg. They vaulted to 1st in scoring at 85.5. Underwood believes in more than just quick shooting. He believes in creating more possessions for his team by creating turnovers and corralling offensive rebounds. His system works! So what we know is that Underwood wins with the players he’s given. What we don’t know is whether he can recruit. We DO know he can coach. If Underwood recruits as well as he coaches offense, watch out! Illinois will return to Big Ten dominance. Even if Underwood doesn’t recruit as well as a Bill Self, he might win anyway. But how much will he win? In the B1G, he’ll need to recruit at least decently to become the program he and us want in Champaign. Will Assembly Hall (State Farm Center) get an energy boost? Will the home court advantage return with the “House of ‘Paign?” I think so, but I also thought John Groce was going to be great. Nonetheless, I firmly believe that Brad Underwood is the right man at the right time for the Illini. Believe me. We Will Win! I’m through the roof right now about Underwood! Buy your Orange Krush shirts!  #WeWillWin

Illinois House of Paign

NCAA Basketball – March Madness

I watched a ton of games last weekend as you’d imagine. I must say that I think the 2017 Tournament has been sub par so far. Most games have been blowouts or those 7-8 point differences that require constant fouling in the last minute. The games have been dragging. Where are the buzzer beaters? I’m not sure I’ve witnessed any. Where are the overtime games? There hasn’t been one OT game yet! Let’s hope the Madness returns to March starting tonight with the Sweet Sixteen matchups. Here are my predictions:

Midwest Region

  • #7 Michigan (26-11) over #3 Oregon (31-5) – I love the Pac 12 this year but Michigan is on a roll!
  • #1 Kansas (30-4) over #4 Purdue (27-7) – Kansas is just too good, Bill Self just too experienced.

West Region

  • #1 Gonzaga (34-1) over #4 West Virginia (28-8) – As a Gonzaga Zags fan, I’m scared of WVU’s full court press. There’s a reason they call them “Press” Virginia. Of course, there’s a reason Gonzaga is 34-1 too. They’re incredible! In retrospect, I should’ve picked Gonzaga as my National Champion. However, I felt I had to stay loyal to Villanova this year after winning big money with ‘Nova last year. But how many teams repeat? I figured they wouldn’t but loyalty won out. From here on out in’17, I’m a Zags fan!
  • #2 Arizona (32-4) over #11 Xavier (23-13) – ‘Zona is just too good. I watched the Pac 12 top tier teams plenty this year and I believe strongly in Arizona and UCLA. Xavier got lucky last weekend but tonight should be a different story. 13 losses? Make it 14.

East Region

  • #4 Florida (26-8) over #8 Wisconsin (27-9) – Go Gators! In the name of Tim Tebow I will strongly support the Gators on Friday night in New York. Wisconsin bugs me to no end. How good is Nigel Hayes though! He’s a physical beast down low under the glass.
  • #7 South Carolina (24-10) over #3 Baylor (27-7) – I don’t really dig on Baylor’s squad. But South Carolina’s Gamecocks? Sign me up! These boys are tough, physical, and confident. They play like their Head Coach Frank Martin. Did you see their victory over Duke the other night? Impressive!

South Region

  • #4 Butler (25-8) over #1 North Carolina (29-7) – This will take a gargantuan effort from the Butler Bulldogs but why not? I love Butler. What’s not to like? They consistently overachieve in the NCAA Tourney with little hype. UNC gets McDonald’s All Americans every year. Butler gets to eat McDonald’s as a pre-game meal once per year…..and they appreciate it! Butler will at least give them a good game Friday night. Mark it down!
  • #3 UCLA (31-4) over #2 Kentucky (31-5) – Kentucky barely got by Wichita State on Sunday. It was a travesty that Wichita earned a 10 seed, but this South Region was easily the toughest region from the start. Cincinnati was a 6 with only 4 losses. A very good Dayton team was a 7 seed and had to play a 30-4 Wichita team in the 1st Round. What a joke by the committee! I liked what Shockers coach Gregg Marshall said, “When are we (mid-majors) going to get some respect? We perform year after year and still get a 10 seed.”  I heard somebody the other day suggest that the Selection Committee should be transferred to the Las Vegas experts from the major gambling companies. Great idea. Why hasn’t this happened already? They know more than anyone about the favorites, the point spreads, etc. If they drew up the brackets where would Wichita have been seeded? #4? #5? Would Providence have made it over Illinois St.?

That’s all for now. Next week the Dutch Lion will go deep on baseball including the World Baseball Classic, which was indeed, classic. And oh yeah! The Dutch Lion has friends. Who do they cheer for? Check it out in next week’s “Reid ‘Em & Weep”.

Illinois State Farm Center

Featured

Reid ‘Em & Weep (2.3)

The sports world is so busy right now that I’m gonna write two articles this week. First of all, let’s get to the NFL and review the free agency madness. Big time moves this week by the Chicago Bears along with the rest of the NFL. So far, here’s a recap of the Bears moves:

Resigned (Staying)CB Johnthan Banks (I don’t know enough about him), K Connor Barth (I’m ok with him), C/G Eric Kush (I like him)

Free agents signed (Coming): CB Prince Amukamara (Jaguars) (I love this former Nebraska Husker!), OT Tom Compton (Falcons) (Never heard of him), CB Marcus Cooper (Cardinals) (Never heard of him), S Quintin Demps (Texans) (He’s good but he’s 32 years old and has been with 5 other teams already? Sounds like a journeyman), QB Mike Glennon (Buccaneers) (I don’t think he’s the long-term answer but the Bears are gonna draft a QB anyway. Glennon might only have one year if he’s worse than average or two max if he’s mediocre or better. Of course his future depends on the draft picks probably more than his own play.), TE Dion Sims (Dolphins), WR Markus Wheaton (Steelers), WR Kendall Wright (Titans) (I like this former Baylor Bear).

They Gone! (Going): QB Matt Barkley (49ers) (I liked him but turnover prone as he tried forcing it to make plays for a lousy team), QB Jay Cutler (released) (I’ve always been a big Cutler backer despite his faults. I’ve been preaching for too many years that it’s not all Cutler’s fault. In fact, it’s everybody else’s fault more than his. He’s not without fault though either. Overall, I think Cutler was/is unfairly criticized but we all know it’s time to move on), QB Brian Hoyer (49ers) (Too conservative with short throws, I’m fine with him leaving), WR Alshon Jeffery (Eagles) (I used to love him but he’s overrated and proved to be unreliable once Brandon Marshall left. He’s not a #1 WR.), G/C Ted Larsen (Dolphins) (Good but the Bears are overloaded at C/G), TE Logan Paulsen (49ers) (If you read my Football Nation columns, you know I hate this guy. He stinks!…like a skunk), DE Cornelius Washington (Lions) (Never did much, not a good fit for a 3-4 defense).

I know what you’re thinking……Logan “The Skunk” Paulsen is gone! Can you believe the 49ers signed him? What were they thinking? They must not have read my columns last season. Meanwhile, the quarterback carousel is officially underway as Jay Cutler, Brian Hoyer, and Matt Barkley are out on the curb, either waiting for the garbage man or already at the landfill dump in the cases of both Hoyer and Barkley (they signed with San Francisco). Man those 49ers….are they tanking? They must be trying to lose. It’s hard to believe they were really impressed by Chicago’s 2 QB’s and Paulsen when they lost at Soldier Field in December. Who knows? Maybe this is proof of why they have fallen to the bottom of the NFL so quickly. During the Jim Harbaugh years, they were awesome. Then it all fell apart so quickly. Strange, but that’s the modern NFL.

NCAA March Madness

Regarding the NCAA Tournament Selection Show, CBS did a decent job announcing the pairings, outside of Clark Kellogg’s suit……”Oh Gawd…..she is so gordo!” The show was an hour and a half long on CBS from 4:30 to 6pm central time. The field was completely revealed by 5:10pm so it took only about 40 minutes to reveal all the teams, which I guess wasn’t too bad. For more of the “Dutch Lion’s” thoughts on the Tournament, check out my column from a year ago when I founded this blog: Too Much of a Good Thing…..

Illinois St. got hosed by the NCAA Tournament! ISU had a 27-6 overall record, 17-1 in the Missouri Valley Conference, with a 33 RPI ranking. I feel bad for our Redbird friends. They lost to Wichita St. in the MVC Championship game but had beaten Wichita earlier in the season. That’s too bad for Bloomington, IL. Sad!

Meanwhile, congratulations to Northwestern for finally making the Tournament. Can you believe they’ve NEVER made the Tourney before? Hey, they’ve only been doing the Tourney for 78 years. Anyone can have a bad century. Just ask your North Side friends from Clark and Addison. LOL! It’s hard to believe, except when you think about it, they’ve always completely stunk. But times they are a changin’. Coach Chris Collins is awesome. How long until he leaves for a better job? I’m sure he’s eyeing that Duke job should Coach K ever retire. You’d also think Duke must be thinking the same thing about their future. Coach K has been there for about 40 years now. He won’t last forever. Who’s at the top of their list? I’m betting Chris Collins is #1. Which brings me to other coaching news……

Illinois Fighting Illini Chief Logo

The beloved Fighting Illini fired Coach John Groce on Saturday. The “Dutch Lion” is sad. I’m not sad because of the firing as much as I’m just sad that it didn’t work out with Groce. He seems like such a great guy. He’s always been more than professional. He’s energetic. He succeeded at Ohio. Why wasn’t he successful in Champaign? It’s hard to put a finger on it exactly. It was many things such as the lack of a great player(s), the inconsistent rotation of players, the lack of discipline over the years such as Kendrick Nunn’s dismissal, and the recruiting success or lack thereof. What is the identity of Groce’s teams? What is his offense? I’ve been trying to figure it out for the last 5 years and I can’t figure it out. Maybe I’m just stupid but it feels like it’s typically an offense driven by a dynamic point guard who Groce hopes will create for himself and the team. That’s why the recruiting misses on Jalen Brunson in ’15 (now a SOPH at #1 Villanova) and Quentin Snider in ’14 (now a JR at Louisville) really hurt the Illini immensely. Groce gives a lot of on-court freedom to his players, but these guys were never able to figure it out for themselves. It didn’t help that PG Tracy Abrams missed those two seasons in a row (2015 and ’16) with brutal season ending injuries. Like many of you, I was pumped going into this year when I realized Abrams was actually going to play. It turned out he wasn’t as good as he used to be. It seemed he never fully recovered from the ACL and the Achilles injuries. It’s too bad what happened to him. Why did Groce keep going to Jaylon Tate in his stead? I think everyone EXCEPT Groce knew Tate stunk. I’m sorry but just because you’re from Simeon doesn’t mean you’re good. I honestly think I was as good as Tate, and I wasn’t very good. Finally when it was too late, Groce stopped playing Tate 8 games ago (he only played in one of the last eight games for 7 minutes). Overall it was a mix of bad luck, bad timing, and poor execution of an offense that NEEDS a dynamic point guard. Of course, Groce finally recruited an excellent class to Champaign this year (#11 in the NCAA and #1 in the Big Ten) that he’ll never get to coach. Life is weird, no?

John Groce sad face.jpg

Oh the shenanigans! During what will be known as the Groce Era (2013-’17), you could just sense that there was something wrong. The lack of consistency was maddening to diehard Illini fans like myself. Many times over the last five years it seemed like Illinois was so close to getting it all together, but they just never did. So now Groce is gone. Who’s up next?

The early candidates according to the Chicago Tribune are:

  1. Cuonzo Martin (California)
  2. Kevin Keatts (UNC Wilmington)
  3. Archie Miller (Dayton)
  4. Gregg Marshall (Wichita St.).

Out of those, I like Martin and Marshall. Thinking outside of that quad, how about Chris Collins? Is he worth a call? If I’m AD Josh Whitman, I’ll make a collect call to Evanston to gauge Collins’ interest. Is it awkward that Groce beat Collins head to head this year, not once but twice?!

Why not give a call to Lawrence, Kansas (the U of I can afford and should budget for this one) and see if Coach Bill Self wants to make news with a huge comeback to Champaign? Now THAT would be a story! BREAKING NEWS: “I’m tired and bored of winning Big 12 Championships in Kansas and want a new challenge by taking on an old and unfinished challenge by journeying back to Champaign, IL” – Bill Self reveals his true ‘Self’ an hour before #1 seed Kansas NCAA Tourney opener on Friday. (Hahaha LOL!)

Or better yet, Self could wait until Saturday (March 18) and send an “I’m Back” fax to Champaign media 22 years to the day after Michael Jordan’s March 18, 1995 comeback with the Bulls. That would be….ironic…..and INCREDIBLY AWESOME! Check out J.A. Adande’s ESPN.com article about Jordan’s fax. Good stuff.

Michael Jordan's fax2.jpeg

That’s enough comedy for today. Later this week, the “Dutch Lion” attacks the Bulls, reveals his plans for the Bears top pick in the NFL Draft, and writes a special feature on the “Lion’s” friends. See ya later this week!

Dutch Lion2

Featured

“Kids in the Hall”……the Dutch Lion goes deeper into the Hall of Fame controversies in “Reid ‘Em & Weep 2.2”

Pro Football Hall of Fame

Last week I wrote about the 2017 Baseball Hall of Fame inductions that took place in January. This week, I still have more to write regarding not only the Baseball HOF but also the Pro Football Hall of Fame. I love both of these Halls of Fame but like most people wonder why certain players are either inducted or mysteriously left out from achieving the highest honor in their respective sports. I know there is no perfect way to conduct these inductions. There are so many problems but I want to point out a couple of things that have always bothered me.

Why don’t certain players make it to the HOF when we all know they were one of the greatest athletes in their field? They don’t make it for various reasons. Sometimes the sportswriters that vote on these guys simply don’t like the player. For example, it took Brooklyn Dodgers great Duke Snider 11 years to get enough votes to enter the Hall. Originally eligible in 1970, “The Duke of Flatbush” was finally inducted in 1980. As Warren Jacobs wrote on Snider’s SABR (Society of American Baseball Research) profile about his 1970 eligibility, “perhaps because of his difficult relationship with the writers, or because there was a sense that Duke failed to reach his potential, he garnered only 17 percent of the vote that year”. (http://sabr.org/bioproj/person/be697e90)

Snider was a phenomenal player that put up amazing numbers for a perennial contender. He made 8 All-Star teams. He hit for a .295 career average with 407 HR. He played in 6 World Series and won 2 World Series championship rings with the cherry on top being his 11 World Series home runs which is 4th all time behind Ruth, Mantle, and Berra. When it came time to acknowledge his greatness, the writers wouldn’t budge because they didn’t like him! He was “difficult” and didn’t give the sportswriters good quotes for their “Dodgers bits” section of the New York Post. Who cares!?! He was a great hitter, and that’s all that should matter, right? But that’s just my opinion. What’s yours? Do you care if he was a nice person, a mean guy, a bad interview?

Baseball Hall of Fame

A year or two ago I saw Brian Kenny on MLB Network talking about a “Short peak” Hall of Fame during a segment. I pretty much agree with Kenny. In essence, he was arguing that a guy’s numbers shouldn’t qualify or disqualify him necessarily. I couldn’t agree more. To me, if a guy was the best player in his field, at his position, in his league for any length of time, a year, two years, 4 years, whatever…..he deserves a right to at least be given a chance. I don’t care what his numbers are. Likewise, just because a guy puts up the “magic” numbers over 20 years doesn’t necessarily mean he deserves to be in the Hall. Yet the writers, specifically the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) have imposed their “qualifications” for the Hall…….such as 3,000 hits, a .300 average, 400 HR, 300 wins, etc. I find it very shortsighted.

All you need to know about how messed up the system currently is with the Baseball Hall of Fame is that NOBODY has ever received 100% of the vote. Why is that? Either the voters were fudging the numbers or they were just…..clueless. Some writers have said they didn’t vote for an obvious Hall of Famer because they KNEW their fellow voters would vote the player in. That way, they could use their own vote to choose others that needed the help. Think about that…..they’re messing with the entire system. They should be disqualified from voting if you ask me. Other times, some writers even make comments like “This player doesn’t deserve to be in on the first year but maybe later”. What????? I can hear my Dad’s voice as we’re sitting in the basement in the 1980s……”I don’t know Reid, either you belong or you don’t, now leave me alone so I can read the paper and take a nap”. I couldn’t agree more with my Dad. Either you’re in or you’re out…there’s no in between. This is starting to sound like something Yoda would say, or Yogi Berra, or Mr. Miyagi, or maybe even Bruce Lee, or of course my Dad….. “There’s in or there’s out, but there’s no in between.”

But the fact remains, it’s not always objective. It’s subjective. It’s about a players style, grace, persona. It’s about how that player made you feel. It’s about the feeling you get when you see a guy play or talk about the player to your friends.

Here are five players that should be in a Hall of Fame:

Bo Jackson Bo Jackson combo

It is commonly agreed that Bo Jackson is one of the greatest athletes of all-time. So why doesn’t he garner Hall of Fame votes? First of all, Cooperstown places a minimum of 10 years playing baseball for a player to be eligible, so Bo’s induction is a non-starter for the BBWAA’s voting members because he only played 8 years. According to Sporting News’s David Steele, “it’s hard enough to get in even if you reached the minimum of 10 seasons.” Steele wrote a nice piece about Bo back in 2015 and I agree with him 100%. As for football, they don’t vote for him because of his lack of numbers. His lack of numbers was due to his hip injury on January 13, 1991, but it’s also due to the fact that he played both sports professionally, essentially splitting time which crippled his stats. I’m that guy that thinks “Who cares about his numbers!” We all know that Bo Jackson was one of the greatest football players ever so let’s just vote him into the NFL Hall of Fame in Canton. One could argue that Bo wouldn’t have earned a Baseball Hall of Fame vote even if he played the minimum number of years, but there’s gotta be a better way. Maybe someone should start a multi-sport or “Greatest Athletes” Hall of Fame. I don’t know…….but what I DO know is that Bo Jackson was one of the greatest athletes we ever saw and we will EVER see. So he’s in my Hall of Fame regardless. Try to remember his amazing feats. Jackson was an all timer. You know it. I know it. We all know it, so why don’t we acknowledge it in a Hall of Fame? Let me go learn how to carve a bust out of clay now. Then I’ll invite Bo over and we’ll have a ceremony. Drinks will be served. It’s gonna be huge!

Tommy John 

This guy should get in simply for his future impact in the game due to his elbow injury. What was “Tommy John” surgery called before Tommy John got hurt and had his elbow replaced? It was called “Thanks dude, but your career is over.” Then Dr. Frank Jobe performed his remarkable UCL surgery on Tommy in 1974. It worked! This was truly a “Great Moments in Sports History”. How many careers have been saved by Dr. Jobe and Tommy John? Talk about impact. Absolutely incredible! I almost forgot that John won 288 games over 26 seasons too. He is 162nd all time in overall WAR (Wins Above Replacement) with 62.0, the 48th best pitcher of all time. This is a better ranking than Hall of Famers such as Don Drysdale, Jim Bunning, Whitey Ford, and Sandy Koufax. What!? How is this guy NOT in the Hall already? It’s the writers and their ignorant stats minimums. This is the ol’ “a pitcher must win 300 games” bogus prerequisite. C’mon guys, stop screwing around and induct Tommy John. If you don’t, I’ll make you sit in the corner of a hall (not THE Hall) with a dunce cap on your heads.

Mark Buehrle Mark Buehrle perfect game

I think Mark Buehrle will make the Hall of Fame anyway when he becomes eligible starting in 2021, but if he doesn’t, it will be because those BBWAA writers will analyze the stats and think “Uhhhh, not great so I’ll at least hold off a few years”. Little do those writers know that Mark was absolutely the heart and soul of the White Sox from 2000 to 2011. He was a captain and the leader of the team, along with Paul Konerko. He did so many special things that I believe Buehrle will ultimately be inducted. He has a World Series ring. He was the first pitcher to ever start a World Series game (Game 2) and then record a save (Game 3) in consecutive games. He was a 5 time All-Star including a win in the 2005 All-Star game, a perfect game in 2009 (7/23/2009), another no-hitter in 2007 (4/18/2007), a HR in an NL park (6/14/2009 in Milwaukee), a defensive play of the year (his Opening Day flip through the legs to Paulie on 4/5/2010), and he was a 4 time Gold Glove winner, winning 4 straight from 2009-2012. Over 16 seasons, Buehrle compiled a 214-160 record with a 3.81 ERA. According to Baseball-reference.com, Buehrle is the 61st greatest pitcher of all-time in WAR with 59.2. Like Tommy John, his WAR is higher than Hall of Famers such as Whitey Ford, Hoyt Wilhelm, and even the great Sandy Koufax. Buehrle was completely reliable too. You could always count on him pitching Opening Day. He pitched a White Sox record nine Opening Days. His 14 years in a row of 200+ innings is proof of his durability. Then he finished his career in 2015 by pitching another 198.2 innings for the Toronto Blue Jays. Then he retired, just like that. How many guys pitch 198 solid innings and then just……hang up the cleats? Incredible! Buehrle better make the Hall or I’m gonna go punch a writer in the mouth!

Who do you think should be in a Hall of Fame that isn’t? Yeah, I know what you’re thinking…….

Shoeless Joe Jackson Shoeless Joe Jackson Hall of Fame plaque

Did Joe Jackson really “throw” the 1919 World Series? The evidence points to…..No, he did not. He led the White Sox with a .375 batting average in that Series vs Cincinnati. He also hit a home run and made zero errors. If he was trying to lose, why was he so good? 98 years have passed since the Black Sox scandal. When we hit the century mark in 2019, let’s end this charade. Turn it into a celebration of baseball history and elect “Shoeless Joe” into the 2019 Hall of Fame class. Talk about creating interest in the game? This would be absolutely huge! It would be an extravaganza unheard of in sports history. You want to sweep the Steroids Era into the trash bin of history? This would be a distraction worthy of erasing the entire controversy with one “ratings” event. I believe this would bring back a lot of traditionalist fans that have felt betrayed by the entire Steroids Era of baseball. This “feel good” event would generate interest in the Society of American Baseball Research (SABR). It would introduce American sports history to the masses. I believe there would be gigantic media coverage. Bottom line: if Shoeless Joe did NOT throw the 1919 World Series, then he deserved to be a charter member of the Hall in 1936 along with Babe Ruth and Ty Cobb. If he DID throw the Series, he didn’t do a very good job of it. Needless to say, let’s forgive him and move on. A century is enough time to be banned. Heal the wounds by inducting Shoeless Joe in 2019. Make it a centennial celebration. The more I think about this, I need to advertise this event and make it happen! As Nike would say…..”Just Do It.”

Pete Rose Philadelphia Phillies

Ok, so he gambled on baseball. Do you really think this ultra competitor gambled “against” his team? So what’s the problem, right? 30 years in purgatory is enough. Rose has the most hits in the history of the sport, a sport that has been around 150 years. What are we waiting for? Write on his plaque that he gambled on baseball and that he shouldn’t have done it. Elect him….now!

So now you know the Dutch Lion’s thoughts on the Halls of Fame. You know what I think, but I want to know what you think. So get to work on your Hall of Fame comments. No pressure. See you next week in the next edition of “Reid ‘Em & Weep”.

Featured

Reid ‘Em & Weep 2.1

‘Twas the DNA that Cleared Me

Welcome to the 2nd year of my weekly sports blog “Reid ‘Em & Weep”. Last March of 2016 I started writing, out of the blue. I felt like a dude that just got out of prison, wrongly incarcerated of course. ‘Twas the DNA that cleared me. Anyway, I should’ve been writing my entire life but for whatever reason, I never believed in my ability. It was probably due to that college professor that gave me a “D” for an essay I wrote about “Beowulf.” I remember going into her office hours and asking why she gave me such a poor grade. “Well, you’re not a good writer” she said. “You don’t back up any of your opinions with facts from the text.” Hmmm, ok. I can learn from that.

Now I thank her for her honesty and her advice. It took me too long to get over it…..two decades to be exact. 20 years. “No doctor, I don’t hold grudges….never have. By the way, how much are you charging me for this session anyway?”

Dutch Lion2

So now that two decades have passed, I decided to write again. Last year my writing evolved into a weekly sports blog. I wrote consistently for 8 weeks. Then I took a hiatus from the blog to become a beat writer for Football Nation, writing for the beloved Chicago Bears. You may be familiar with that work as I posted two articles per week. I previewed and recapped each Bears game during the 2016 season. So all of that kept me busy for ten months. Now that the NFL season is over, the “Dutch Lion” returns!

resized_20160720_114135

I’m hopping back on the horse and riding off to start the 2nd leg of this journey. I hope my horse doesn’t buck. Bucking broncos anyone? “Bucking Broncos” sounds like a good blog for a Denver NFL crowd. Anyway, let’s start 2017 with a controversial topic that got me thinking way back in….January……the Baseball Hall of Fame inductions.

Baseball Hall of Fame Voting

I have plenty of thoughts on the whole Hall of Fame process. The voters, the players, the actual building in Cooperstown, the controversies, the steroids, the BBWAA writers that have the privilege of voting…..these are all interesting topics to be analyzed in detail. Where do we begin? I might need to address the entire sports Hall of Fame business in another post. For now, let’s focus on this year’s nominees and analyze what happened on January 18 with the announcement of the 2017 class. Thirty four players were on this year’s ballot. Three players were elected by virtue of gaining 75% of the votes: Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines, and Ivan Rodriguez.

I know what you’re thinking……”Only three made it? Those three? That can’t be right.” Well, you’re right, it’s not right. So let me write.” Oh brother, I’m tired already! Who does this “Dutch Lion” think he is, anyway? Here’s the list of all 34 eligible players on this year’s ballot:

2017 HOF Ballot.jpg
My first draft vote used “M” for maybe. I revised my vote after taking this photo. PS Arthur Rhodes and Matt Stairs for the Hall? “What the hell is goin’ on out here?”

I was watching a great show on MLB Network a few days before the vote took place. It was hosted by Brian Kenny and featured Bob Costas, Ron Darling, Ken Rosenthal, Chris “Mad Dog” Russo, and Tom Verducci. They discussed everything from voter eligibility to PED’s to ethics to traditional stats versus sabermetrics. Their votes and opinions varied all over the board and as you would guess, I disagreed with a ton of what they said. However, I also agreed with plenty of their comments. They brought up some really good points and argued effectively in most cases. Outside of “Mad Dog” Russo, they all provided respectable ballots. Here they are:

2017-bob-costas

2017-brian-kenny

2017-chris-russo

2017-ken-rosenthal

2017-ron-darling

2017-tom-verducci

Two writers from the Chicago Tribune, Mark Gonzalez and Paul Sullivan, posted their ballots in the newspaper as well. They agreed on 3 players. Sullivan only voted for 4 players like Chris Russo but he had only one player in common with Russo, that being Vlad Guerrero.

20170116_131745

You see where I’m going with this? It’s a mess! The opinions on these former players is all over the board. The spectrum is wide.

There is a deep, deep flaw in this process. Well actually there are MANY deep flaws in the voting rules but the first one I need to address is the limit of voting for 10 players maximum. Why do they have this rule? It makes absolutely no sense. What if you had the 11 greatest players of all time eligible in the same year. 11 Babe Ruths as it were? You can only vote for 10 of the 11 Babe Ruths. Who do you leave out?……as Yogi Berra would say, “When you get to the fork in the road, take it”. In this case he might say, “I’ll leave Babe Ruth out, or myself”!

It’s just insane and a huge flaw with the process because then voters need to choose and thus mess with their OWN ballots to fit into the confinements of said process. I’ve heard writers say things like “Well, I had to keep so-and-so eligible so I voted for him”, “I’ll vote for him next year because I wanted to vote for so-and-so this year in his 10th and last year on the ballot”, or better yet “He was mean to me once in an interview so I will never vote for him, or at least as a first ballot entry. He probably deserves it but I’ll make him wait since he made me wait once for 20 minutes for our interview while he toweled off after a long hot shower”. Ok, I may have made up that last one but the first two are legitimate things you hear writers say was their reasoning for yeas or nays. How silly is that?

It reminds me of when I work in the sales industry years ago. I used to work at this place doing inside sales and the managers were so concerned about our call numbers, almost more than our actual sales numbers. In their minds, the more calls you made the more money they made so they would set quotas of 20 “spins” (spins are phone calls or dials) and 4 “contacts” (actual conversations with a buyer) per hour. They would literally keep updates on a dry erase board to pit you in competitions with your co-workers. I remember them chiding workers for only making 15 “spins” and 3 “contacts” whether or not they made 3 sales or even zero sales. Their priorities were all messed up. That happens with quotas. It fudges the numbers. “Did I deserve that speeding ticket for going one mile per hour over the speed limit officer or did you just need to meet your quota? By the way, did you see that person set that arson fire down the street while you were speed gunning me?”

So me being a classy young gentlemen decided to…..fudge the numbers to mess with the managers. If I found a phone number that went to voicemail, I dialed it over and over again to quickly achieve the 20 calls. That way, I could move on to concentrating on making sales. As you’d imagine, the managers figured out what I was doing and pulled me into the office for a confrontational discussion. “Why are you messing with us Dutch Lion?” I retorted with “I wanted to point out to you that your system and your priorities are all misguided. What are we trying to do here? Make calls or make sales?”

The Hall of Fame voting is a similarly misguided adventure. What are we trying to do here gentlemen? Are we trying to vote in the correct Hall of Famers or are we trying to determine a baseball player’s character or are we making a political statement or are we keeping the legends mystique alive by not voting in many first ballot HOFers? Writers actually think of this stuff: “If my favorite player of all time (insert name here, in this case we’ll pick Harmon Killebrew) didn’t make it in on the first ballot then I don’t want Jeff Bagwell making it in on the first ballot either, that’s for sure! Therefore I’m not voting for him this year. Next year….oh yeah, for sure I’ll vote for Bagwell.” Oh brother, these pitiful baseball writers.

Either the player deserves to be in the Hall or he doesn’t. Enough with this first time ballot BS. If you think 19 players deserve to be in, then vote for 19. Don’t worry about their % of the vote, don’t worry about guys in their last year of eligibility, don’t worry about how they compare to your hero when you were a kid in the 1940s. With most Hall of Fame players, you just know. Was Ken Griffey Jr. a HOFer? Yes! Was Vladimir Guerrero a HOFer? Yes! It’s the numbers yes but it’s the eye test. It’s the awe-inspiring skills and performance on the field!

All you need to know about how messed up the HOF voting is that nobody, I mean nobody! has ever earned 100% of the vote. Not even a guy like Griffey. What does that tell you? Who is the IDIOT that didn’t vote for “The Kid”? Check that….3 guys didn’t vote for Griffey! 437 out of 440 voted for him, but 3 didn’t. As Dennis Hopper yelled into the forest while holding his rifle in “Hoosiers”……..”IDENTIFY!” Did those 3 dudes want to mess with the system? Did they truly think that Griffey, all 630 career HR and 10 straight Gold Gloves, NOT deserve induction? One of my favorite baseball writers, Phil Rogers, wrote a great piece about a year ago regarding this travesty:

http://m.mlb.com/news/article/161242860/who-didnt-vote-for-ken-griffey-hall-of-fame/

See what I mean? So where do we go from here? If I were to vote right now using the ridiculous 10 players limit, here would be my 2017 MLB Hall of Fame ballot in alphabetical order:

  • 1) Jeff Bagwell (64th in WAR (Wins Above Replacement) with 79.6) – They all had Bagwell on their ballots except Russo and Sullivan. Those two writers are often the outliers as you’ll see below. Russo went so far as to say on the show that any player that has EVER been linked or suspected of PED use was a No for him. I think it was Rosenthal who had a great reply to that absurd comment, “That’s unfair to anyone who played with Jose Canseco because he outed all his PED user teammates whereas other players with no connection to Canseco get a huge HOF break.” Think about that real hard. It’s true. Provocative and profound.
  • 2) Barry Bonds (4th greatest player ALL TIME in WAR with 162.4) – Barry “US” Bonds was simply one of the greatest players we ever saw. Even before his alleged PED use, the guy was the Player of the Decade in the 1990s (Sporting News). He could’ve retired after 1998 and made the Hall. PED’s or no, you still gotta swing the bat and we all know Barry was the best bat-handler since he was called up to the bigs in 1986. His secret….his vision of the ball at the pitcher’s release point. Is 20/20 vision a performance enhancer? You’re darn right it is. Bonds was not only the best of HIS time, but he was one of the greatest of ALL time. Costas, Darling, and Rosenthal all voted for Bonds.
  • 3) Roger Clemens (8th overall in WAR, 3rd best pitcher ever with 140.3) – No matter how you stack it up, Roger was one of the greatest pitchers of all time. Only 3 writers had Clemens on their ballots: Costas, Darling, and Rosenthal.
  • 4) Vladimir Guerrero (188th in WAR with 59.3) – Not the greatest WAR stats but Vlad falls into the ‘You know it when you see it’ type of Hall of Famer. He had it all….power, average, speed, and a live arm. He was a 4 tool player that you could argue lacked in the 5th category, his glove. Vlad was known for swinging at everything. So how did he hit .318 with 449 career HR? The dude could rake. I had the pleasure of seeing Vlad at Comiskey Park a few times. One of the most powerful arms in RF I’ve ever seen. Don’t forget about his back to back 30-30 and 39-40 seasons in Montreal in 2001 and ’02. 7 of 8 voted for Vlad. The lone dissenter……Ken Rosenthal!
  • 5) Trevor Hoffman – 2nd all time with 601 saves in 18 years. 7 of 8 guys voted for Hoffman. The lone dissenter……”Mad Dog” Russo.
  • 6) Edgar Martinez (112th in WAR with 68.3) – He gets knocked because he was a DH…..the best DH that every AL team wanted in their lineup batting cleanup. Why is he knocked for this? Sure, go ahead and rip him for his lack of fielding experience. This is like knocking Stephen Curry for his lack of dunking. Kenny, Russo, Rosenthal, Verducci, and Gonzales all voted for Martinez. No love from Costas, Darling, and Sullivan.
  • 7) Tim Raines (108th in WAR with 69.1) – I love Tim Raines. He was a premier leadoff man who finally made it in his 10th and final year on the ballot. What took the voters so long? They stink! At least they voted him in this year rather than waiting until after he died like they did to Ron Santo and his family. That was shameful. 7 of 8 voted for Raines here. The lone dissenter…….who do you think?…..”Mad Dog” Russo!
  • 8) Manny Ramirez (107th overall in WAR at 69.2) – One spot ahead of Raines, Ramirez gets ripped for being a weirdo that got suspended for PED’s. Yeah, he was a weirdo alright. He was so strange that he practiced hitting constantly. Insiders know. Manny was simply one of the greatest right handed hitters ever! .312 average with 555 HR! Yikes! Those numbers are insane. Watch him swing and you’ll see why pitchers were scared of him. Frozen ropes galore! Nobody above voted for Manny. I’m the only one. I’m the “Mad Dog” on Manny.
  • 9) Ivan Rodriguez (111th overall in WAR at 68.4) – I had the pleasure of seeing Pudge II in his major league debut weekend at the new Comiskey Park on Sunday June 23, 1991. (His debut was Thursday night in the opener of a 4 game set.) We saw him go 0 for 5 with a whiff to cap off his first 4 game series in the bigs. If I remember right, the White Sox won on a Jeff Russell walkoff wild pitch in the bottom of the 10th. I know! Block the ball in the dirt young man. Ivan was just 19 years old in his debut season. Tough beginnings make for wonderful endings. From that moment forward, Rodriguez dominated behind the plate. PS Both Juan Gonzalez and Big Frank Thomas homered. “The Deacon” Warren Newson was involved in the walk off too. Great day! Half of the guys above said NO to Ivan Rodriguez: Kenny, Russo, Verducci, Sullivan.
  • 10) Curt Schilling (63rd overall in WAR, 26th best pitcher EVER with 79.9) – He lost votes this year, probably because of his controversial politics and opinions. Schilling is clearly one of the greatest pitchers ever, especially when you consider his 3 World Series Championship performances in 2001, 2004, and 2007. Don’t forget about his time with Philadelphia, helping them to the 1993 Series. Extraordinary career topped by an amazing 11-2 postseason record with a 2.23 ERA and 2 shutouts. 15th all-time in strikeouts. Bloody sock anyone? It blows my mind when shortsighted writers like Paul Sullivan claim that they don’t hold Schilling’s off field stuff against him for the Hall, that they simply think he was “borderline at best”. Hey Paul, C’mon man….Who you crappin’?  Meanwhile, all six MLB Network guys voted for Curt. Both Tribune guys said no. Here’s a link to Curt’s blog here on WordPress in which he addressed his Hall chances back in December:  https://38pitches.wordpress.com/2016/12/23/my-response-to-jerry-and-the-bbwaa/

If I was allowed to vote for more than ten players, I’d add these:

  • 11) Rafael Palmeiro (89th in WAR with 71.6) – Why does everybody label Palmeiro as the poster child for PED use so he’s not good enough? Look at his body of work. It’s tremendous. Was he proven to use PED’s? Were any of these guys? How many players actually used, were found guilty, and admitted it? I can think of Andy Pettitte, Jose Canseco, and Mark McGwire off the top of my head.
  • 12) Mike Mussina (58th in WAR with 83.0) – Before I looked at his numbers, I thought he was overrated. Now that I look at his stats, I think he’s UNDERrated. I know! Life is weird, no?
  • 12) Mark McGwire &
  • 13) Sammy Sosa – These guys could mash. Was it all PED’s? No. Do they deserve induction? Probably. If proven, convicted, and admitted PED users get inducted, let’s just write this info on the plaque. Maybe have a separate wing in the Hall or something. Let us the fans be the judges. Don’t let the writers have the power to keep possibly valid careers OUT of the Hall. It goes back to the fairness issue. Bagwell is in. McGwire is out. That might not be fair.
  • 14) I’d maybe put in Gary Sheffield, Billy Wagner, and Lee Smith too. I need to study those guys more before making a valid judgment. Am I wrong? Probably. My family tells me I’m wrong all the time so I’m probably wrong here too.

I don’t care if a guy retweeted something lowbrow. I don’t care if he has outspoken opinions. I don’t care about their political views. In fact, I don’t even want to know really. I don’t hold anything against any of these guys if I can help it. For example, I absolutely hate Roger Clemens. The guy’s a big jerk in my opinion. But I’m going to vote him into the Hall anyway because he was simply a great pitcher. Way before his suspected PED use he was a HOFer and I’m sticking with that analysis, just like I would for Bonds, McGwire, Palmeiro, and Sosa. I’m not advocating players should cheat, but remember that MLB didn’t even have a rule against PED’s until 2004 so most of these guys weren’t even breaking any rules other than USA federal laws. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Barry Bonds has never been proven guilty. He has never tested positive for PED’s. Everyone assumes he did it but we can’t just assume. Did he do steroids? Maybe. Probably. But so did Ivan Rodriguez. Maybe. Probably. Why do we exalt some guys but blaspheme other guys? It’s not fair.

Where do we draw the line? Marijuana and cocaine are against the law. Should we not allow anyone who has ever used these drugs to be admitted to their respective Halls of Fame? Maybe, but then Tim “Rock” Raines needs to be un-admitted before he gives his speech this Summer! One time I drank too many “Three Wisemen” on my 20th birthday. Mistake. Am I barred from any Halls of Fame now? Am I barred because I DID IT, because somebody has PROOF (good thing we didn’t carry camera phones to bars in 1995), or because I ADMITTED it? Does it matter if I apologized for it?

How about the “performance enhancing” aspect of cheating? Well, I have really bad spring-time outdoor allergies. If I didn’t use a couple of pills and eye drops every April and May, I’d be worthless on a grass baseball field. So technically, if I were a baseball player I’d be guilty of using PED’s every April. What about glasses or contacts? Those are vision enhancing. What about eating a good breakfast the day of a game? Is that allowed? What if I took an Excedrin and the lack of a headache helped me hit that game-winning HR? Was that a performance enhancing drug? What about the so-called “greenies” amphetamines that many/most of the MLB players of the 50’s and 60’s used to get more energy for games? Those were allowed until about 2005 and then all of a sudden MLB put that on their illegal drug list too. Why was that ok for 40-50 years? Maybe Hank Aaron’s HR record should be tainted because of his alleged use of “greenies”. Maybe George Herman “Babe” Ruth himself used steroids, greenies, or something else to improve his performance back in the 20’s and 30’s. My theory is Babe Ruth indeed used an early form of steroids that he received from his barnstorming tours around the globe to Europe and the Far East to spread the game of baseball.

So where do we draw the line? I think it’s a complex, difficult question to answer. In my opinion too many of these writers want to exclude each player that has ever been linked to PED use or “suspected” of PED use. In addition, some of these writers want to exclude THE ENTIRE ERA of baseball. I don’t think that’s the right way to go. We’re going to pretend that an entire era of baseball doesn’t count, at least in the Hall of Fame sense?

And another thing, don’t even get me started on Pete Rose and Shoeless Joe Jackson. Now that’s a subject for another post entirely. That is all for now. So long you “bucking broncos”. See ya next week as I plan on writing at least once weekly from now on.

Happy Trails!

Baseball Hall of Fame plaques

Featured

Super Bowl LI Preview

super-bowl-51-logo

Naturally, I’m looking forward to the game today. The matchup is intriguing for many reasons, especially because of the traditional “#1 offense vs #1 defense” aspect. Atlanta’s scoring offense is #1 at 33.8 ppg. New England’s scoring defense is #1 at 15.6 ppg allowed. We have the old “somethings gotta give” theme. Defense wins championships, right? You can’t win without scoring points but obviously New England has an offense too. It’s not like Tom Brady will just be going through the motions out there this evening assuming his defense will shut out Atlanta. What usually happens in these “one vs one” matchups is the game ends up being decided by the other units that aren’t previously being discussed. In this case, can Atlanta’s defense make a statement tonight? Can they pressure Tom Brady? In Brady’s two previous Super Bowl defeats, it was the New York Giants defensive line that provided a dominating push up front to disrupt New England’s offensive line. Will DE #44 Vic Beasley and his buddies get a few sacks, a la Von Miller and the Denver Broncos, in last year’s Super Bowl 50 victory over Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers? Will the Falcons grab some takeaways against Brady and company? Can Falcons KR/PR #14 Eric Weems channel his inner Devin Hester to help the Falcons special teams flip the field like Hester did for the Chicago Bears in Super Bowl XLI ten years ago? Remember that opening kickoff return by Hester for a touchdown that brought Chicago fans to their feet? Maybe Weems can provide that same spark for Atlanta today.

Don’t sleep on special teams. These close games are usually decided by kicks, both field goals and PAT’s, which are now much longer at 33 yard attempts vs the traditional 20 yard attempts that existed for the first 95 years of the NFL. And have you ever noticed in BIG championship level games that the scores usually end up really strange because of safeties, two point conversions, and missed PAT’s? Right? So look for a 19-8 game or something weird rather than the 17-10 “common” score.

Like many of you, I’ve seen some remarkable feature stories over the last two weeks about players in today’s game. Did you hear about Falcons K #3 Matt Bryant? He’s the oldest player in tonight’s game at age 41 (3rd oldest player in the league). The guy just made his first Super Bowl, helping Atlanta get there by making his first ever Pro Bowl. He converted 34 of 37 FG’s this year (4th most made FG’s in the NFL), along with 56 of 57 PAT’s. That’s pretty cool. I’m 41 years old too and I can’t imagine still playing a pro sport after all these years. Yeah, I know he’s a kicker but still….

matt-bryant

How about Patriots WR #19 Malcolm Mitchell…..have you heard this guy’s story? This young, humble rookie out of Georgia wanted to learn how to read better so he joined a women’s book club after meeting a woman at Barnes & Noble. This guy actually joined the Silverleaf Book Club while he was in college in Athens, GA joining mostly older women to talk about a romance novel called “Me Before You”. Good for this young man. It takes guts to put yourself out there in the name of self-improvement. Talk about humility.

Malcolm Mitchell.jpg

And how about Patriots safety and special teamer #43 Nate Ebner! Have you seen this guy’s amazing story? He’s a 27-year-old former walk on football player from Ohio St. However, that’s only part of the story. This dude is also a rugby player. In fact, Ebner just played on the US National Rugby team in the 2016 Summer Olympics! I saw a video feature on ESPN’s “E:60” show about Ebner. He lost his dad in 2008 in a hideous murder during an attempted robbery. Now Ebner dedicates his career and his life to his father, whom he grew up following as a rugby player. Ebner is 100% committed to idolizing his dad as his role model. What an amazing guy to cheer for in Super Bowl 51!

Nate Ebner.jpg

Back to the game……..

Usually I have a favorite to cheer for (or against) but this year’s game has me perplexed with no real affiliation. I may be leaning toward cheering for Atlanta just because they are the underdog and have never won a Super Bowl in franchise history whereas New England has won the Championship four times already. However, I’m no New England hater. Overall, I think the Patriots are the better team and will come out victorious, giving Coach Bill Belichick and QB #12 Tom Brady their 5th Super Bowl Title.

New England Patriots 30 Atlanta Falcons 21

Enjoy the festivities!

super-bowl-51-4

Featured

2017 Butkus League Offseason Power Rankings

2017 Offseason Power Rankings & Roster Analysis 
by Reid K. Wiersema
January 22, 2017
butkus-award-trophy2
What time is it? Game time!…..
 
No it’s not. Actually, it’s time to analyze our rosters now that we’ve hit the NFL Early Entries deadline. Here’s a list of who we lost to graduation and to the NFL Early Entry declarations. There were a total of 95 early entries this year. For us, that produced 33 Butkus Leaguers that went pro early. That’s an average of 4 per team. It might be normal (I don’t know, I’d have to go back and do the research) but it feels like more than usual. To be honest, not many of us have very good teams right now. 
 
As a bonus, here’s my current Power Rankings based on 2016’s success combined with returning rosters. Remember, this is NOT a prediction of our 2017 finish. It is simply a qualitative analysis of the current rosters. In simple terms, it’s my opinion of how good your roster is in relation to other teams. Plus, it’s based on your 2016 effort and finish. It’s a fluid ranking that may change after Spring Ball and definitely after Fall practices start in August. Here we go….. 
king-of-the-mountain
 
#1 and “King of the Mountain” Derek
 
How can we not vault Derek back up to #1 in the Butkus League rankings? He’s the Champ once again after finishing in 5th Place in 2015 (regular season). This time he left a new challenger in his dust (Dave) to earn his incredible 12th Championship. This is getting ridiculous. You know how Yahoo has their Fantasy Sports Hall of Fame? Someone should nominate Derek. Great job buddy. And your roster looks stacked again after only losing a total of 7 players this offseason. Your probable starters (highlighted below) give you a great nucleus going into ’17.
 
Lost to Graduation (4): RB Joe Williams, WR Austin Carr, WR DeDe Westbrook, K Conrad Ukropina
Early Entries (3): QB Mitch Trubisky, RB Jeremy McNichols, WR Josh Malone
Returners (16) – (With probable starters in bold)
    QB (7): Shane Buechele, Sam Darnold, Eric Dungey, Nick Fitzgerald, DeAndre Francois, Justin Herbert, Kyler Murray
    RB (5): Saquon Barkley, Nick Chubb, Rico Dowdle, Myles Gaskin, Justice Hill
    WR (2): Demetris Robertson, Cedrick Wilson
    TE (2): Mike Gesicki, Jaylen Samuels
saquon-barkley
 
#2 Reid
 
Reid moved up from 6th Place in 2015 to 4th in the ’16 regular season with a 3rd Place Bronze Medal and Rice Bowl victory. Can he complete his “forever and ever” Championship destiny in ’17? Magnum, P.I. thinks so……..but he looks concerned about his team’s health, including Dick Butkus’ shoulder. Losing 12 guys is a challenge but I think I’m up for it. The 11 guys I have left are pretty good led by Browning and solid depth at RB. I’ll be right there in the Playoffs in ’17. Book it Johnny “Red” Kerr! The bigger question is what seeds will D and I be? Will we face each other in the Playoff Semis or the Butkus Bowl? The countdown begins, and it’s only January. dick-butkus-tom-selleck-magnum
 
Graduation (8): QB Josh Dobbs, QB Skyler Howard, RB Terrell Newby, RB Jamaal Williams, WR Jordan Westerkamp, TE Evan Engram, TE Scott Orndoff, K Tyler Durbin
Early Entries (4): QB DeShone Kizer, WR Isaiah Ford, WR Shelton Gibson, WR Ishmael Zamora
Returners (11) –
    QB (3): Jake Browning, Jacob Eason, Daniel Jones
    RB (6): Tre Bryant, Justin Crawford, Ronald Jones, Kamryn Pettway, LJ Scott, Mike Weber
    WR (2): Tavares Martin, Dante Pettis
ronald-jones
 
#3 Simon
 
Simon had a solid run in 2016. With Lamar Jackson’s phenomenal Heisman campaign, Si finished in 3rd Place in the regular season, barely behind Derek and Dave (4th Place postseason). Lamar can’t possibly do it again in ’17, right? Si loses 3 awesome WR’s and Davis Webb as his QB1. So he’s left with Lamar, a couple good backs, and James Washington. But still…..he has Lamar. Have you seen this dude?
 
Graduation (3): QB Davis Webb, RB Matt Dayes, K Ben Grogan
Early Entries (4): RB Elijah Hood, WR John Ross, WR JuJu Smith, WR Mike Williams
Returners (16) –
    QB (6): Brandon Dawkins, Lamar Jackson, Tanner Mangum, Marcus McMaryion, Jarrett Stidham, Troy Williams
    RB (8): Josh Adams, Alex Barnes, Taj Griffin, Justin Jackson, Ryan Nall, Jacques Patrick, Mark Walton, Ralph Webb
    WR (1): James Washington
    TE (1): Daniel Imatorbhebhe  
Lamar Jackson.jpg
 
#4 Mike
 
Lost in the wilderness, Mike is looking for a way out. Can these young bucks produce and lead you out of the dark forest? Your roster actually looks pretty solid. If I had this talent I would have high hopes. Do you agree? I mean, you already have a decent Opening Day lineup. But how many of these guys will you trade before Week 1? I’m guessing you’ll make a “wow” trade on Draft Day that might actually help your opponent more than you. Nonetheless, you’ve earned 4th Place in my Offseason Rankings. Enjoy! PS Wanna make a trade?
 
Graduation (3): QB Kurt Benkert, WR Amba Etta Tawo, TE Nate Iese
Early Entries (2): RB Joe Mixon, RB Curtis Samuel
Returners (18) –
    QB (4): Jesse Ertz, Jalen Hurts, Josh Rosen, Brett Rypien
    RB (7): Kalen Ballage, Derrius Guice, Phillip Lindsay, Clinton Lynch, Jamal Morrow, Robert Smith, Terrence Williams
    WR (5): Donnie Corley, Christian Kirk, Charles Nelson, Calvin Ridley, Equanimeous St. Brown
    TE (1): Ryan Izzo
    K (1): Emmitt Carpenter
jalen-hurts
#5 Jon
 
After Jon’s dramatic Championship in 2015, he tried to hold on last year but couldn’t get it done. He dropped to 5th Place in the regular season and finished 6th in the postseason after losing to Brian in the Consolation Championship. What is Jon’s future?…..a likely fall back into mediocrity after losing an inordinate amount of players this offseason. Look at the talent he lost! Welcome to” Heartbreak City” Jon. You just entered the city limits. However, you do have some nice QB’s to build the foundation of a house. Can you afford the mortgage though? I doubt it. You may need to rent out an upstairs bedroom to have a chance to compete in this neighborhood. I see your mother moving in….or better yet, your mother-in-law. And we all know how that goes…..
 
Graduation (3): WR Josh Reynolds, WR Fred Ross, TE Jake Butt
Early Entries (7): QB Brad Kaaya, RB James Conner, RB D’Onta Foreman, RB Leonard Fournette, RB Samaje Perine, WR Malachi Dupre, WR ArDarius Stewart
Returners (13) –
    QB (4): J.T. Barrett, Drew Lock, Baker Mayfield, Mason Rudolph 
    RB (5): Tony Brooks-James, B.J. Emmons, Royce Freeman, Chris Evans, Chris Herrien
    WR (3): Shay Fields, J’Mon Moore, Kavontae Turpin
    K (1): Michael Badgley
Baker Mayfield.jpg
 
#6 Dave
 
Oh no! I’ve seen this before……Look at the heavy talent losses! Most of your contributing talent is gone. They either had to go or “chose” to go. Seriously, all 10 guys that are listed below were big-time point scorers. This reminds me of the evacuation of Dunkirk after Great Britain successfully got their troops “the hell out” in the early stages of WWII!!!! Nobody was left on the shores in 1940 because they were all rescued, or dead. Dave, like Winston Churchill before him, hopes this transition leads to a future victory in 2017 or beyond. For those that need a history lesson, out of the ashes in a dim time the Allies completed the mission in 1945 so that’s 5 years later if you’re counting at home. Can Dave complete the mission in 2021? Well, with the advanced technology making our world ever faster, I’ll place my bet on the “under”. Of course, what do I know? I’ve been betting on myself since the Summer of 1999 with no bets to be cashed yet…..18 years later! In 2016, you were clearly one of the top 2 teams. You almost won the Real Championship (falling by 44 points). Moving forward, I’m sorry Dave but I can place you no higher than 6th Place.  
 
Graduation (3): RB Corey Clement, WR Bug Howard, WR Gabe Marks
Early Entries (8): QB Jerod Evans, QB Patrick Mahomes, RB Wayne Gallman, RB Chris McCaffrey, WR KD Cannon, WR Chad Hansen, WR Travis Rudolph, TE Bucky Hodges
Returners (11) –
    QB (5): Austin Allen, Blake Barnett, Luke Falk, Malik Henry, Nic Shimonek
    RB (4): Bryce Love, Alexander Mattison, Benny Snell, Rawleigh Williams
    WR (1): Ahmmon Richards
    K (1): Daniel Carlson
Luke Falk.jpg
 
#7 Brian
 
Great 2015 season as the “Real Champion” but took the usual step back (like most great teams) in ’16 after trying to replace tons of talent. Can Brian improve in ’17 from his 6th Place finish (5th Place postseason) in ’16? Brian did win the Consolation Championship so he has the 1st pick in the Draft to use as his ante. But your outgoing talent will be a challenge to replace. These guys are big time pro prospects. It’ll be hard to replace Russell, Watson, Cook, and Sperbeck. For now I’ll place you in 7th but we know you can do it. You’ve done it before. 
 
Graduation (4): QB Seth Russell, WR James Quick, WR Thomas Sperbeck, TE Cole Hikutini
Early Entries (4): QB DeShaun Watson, RB Dalvin Cook, RB Alvin Kamara, RB Devine Redding
Returners (15) – 
    QB (6): Kelly Bryant, Jarrett Guarantano, Kenny Hill, Steven Montez, Shea Patterson, Wilton Speight
    RB (6): Markell Jones, John Kelly, Kennedy McKoy, Sony Michel, Dedrick Mills, Devine Ozigbo
    WR (2): Deon Cain, Taj Williams
    K (1): Gary Wunderlich
Shea Patterson.jpg
 
#8 Jeff
 
Until he proves something with this squad, I’ll have to leave Jeff in 8th Place. I bet he’s pumped to compete in ’17 and hopefully move up in the standings. You grabbed some excellent young prospects in ’16. Will they emerge like you are hoping? I could see you making a run given your managing skills. On the other hand, I’m sorry but I must point out your Week 8 Waiver drops. Can anyone think of a worse pair of drops in one week than Bo Scarbrough/RB/Alabama and Ronald “RoJo II” Jones/RB/USC? Doh! That’s gotta sting.
 
Graduation (0)
Early Entries (1): TE David Njoku
Returners (22) –
    QB (8): Jett Duffey, Will Grier, Tyler Hilinski, Trace McSorley, Zach Smith, Clayton Thorson, Manny Wilkins, Brandon Wimbush
    RB (8): Damarea Crockett, Tavien Feaster, Damien Harris, Kyle Hicks, Kerryon Johnson, Bradrick Shaw, Akrum Wadley, Trayveon Williams
    WR (5): Jonathan Giles, N’Keal Harry, Isaiah Johnson-Mack, Jalen McCleskey, Jaylen Smith
    K (1): Aidan Schneider
Trace McSorley.jpg
 
As usual your comments, questions, and retorts are greatly appreciated. Please respond with your own version of rankings should you disagree with mine. PS I heard there’s a movie about Dunkirk coming out soon starring Tom Hardy. Look for it in your grocer’s freezer! (or in your local movie theater this July)
dunkirk-movie-poster2
Featured

Bears Limp to 2016 Finish Line : Bears/Vikings Preview

bears-logo5vikings-logo3

The Chicago Bears (3-12) will close out their 2016 campaign as they visit Minneapolis to take on the Minnesota Vikings (7-8) on Sunday. Sunday also happens to be New Year’s Day so we’ll kick off 2017 by closing out 2016. This is the Bears first ever trip to the Vikings new home, U.S. Bank Stadium. With very little to play for, this game is hard to predict for both squads. For the Bears, it will probably be more of the same, tracking these young players to judge if they have a future in 2017 and beyond. For the Vikings, it will be the end of a once promising season that started 5-0. Since then, they’ve gone 2-8. The clouds were there during the 5-0 start, gathering overhead (injuries to both starting QB Teddy Bridgewater and RB Adrian Peterson). After a Week 6 bye, all of a sudden the clouds burst, pouring rain all over the Vikes party. It was like when you’re out on the golf course on a beautiful summer day but then very suddenly the dark storm clouds dampen what was sure to be your greatest round ever. The Bears provided part of the deluge, giving Minnesota their second straight loss in Week 8, 20-10. It was probably Chicago’s best overall game of this 2016 season. Do you remember that one? It was Monday Night Football on Halloween. Jay Cutler played awesome with a 100.5 QB rating. Jordan Howard dominated with 153 rushing yards. The defense crushed Vikings QB Sam Bradford, sacking him 5 times. Ahhh, the good ‘ol days.

Keep An Eye On : Bears Offensive Line

We’ve overlooked this Bears Offensive Line for the most part in 2016. Early on, we mentioned how the lack of cohesion was hurting the team immensely. However, they’ve been quiet since October. The last time I remember thinking the OL did a really poor job was the Tampa Bay game on November 13. When you think about it, despite losing their best lineman RG #75 Kyle Long in that Tampa game, they’ve been really good. Part of it is the competition. Since that horrible loss at the Buccaneers, Chicago has played a bunch of “ne’er do wells” in Tennessee, San Francisco, Detroit, Green Bay, and Washington…..not among the most vicious defenses in the league. How about the run blocking for rookie RB #24 Jordan Howard? Howard has somewhat quietly put up 1178 rushing yards, the 7th most yards in the league! As a team, the Bears are 19th in the NFL in rushing yards, 13th in passing yards, and 13th in total yards. Those aren’t lousy numbers considering the Bears are on their 4th starting QB along with an injured starting TE, an injured 2nd and 3rd WR, and of course….Kyle Long. Overall this OL has done quite well for itself given the circumstances.

So let’s put our hands together for LT #72 Charles Leno, LG #71 Josh Sitton, C #65 Cody Whitehair, RG #62 Ted Larsen, and RT #70 Bobby Massie. They’ve grown together as a unit, despite missing their bell-cow Kyle Long. In this game, I’m looking at the entire unit to see what they can accomplish versus a solid Minnesota front seven. The Vikings are 4th in the NFL in sacks with 39. Can the Bears block these Vikings such as DE #96 Brian Robison, DE #97 Everson Griffen, NT #98 Linval Joseph, OLB #55 Anthony Barr, MLB #54 Eric Kendricks, and OLB #52 Chad Greenway?

cody-whitehair

 

Troy Aikman Efficiency Ratings (AER)

  • Chicago : 24th Offense, 21st Defense, 28th Overall
  • Minnesota : 30th Offense, 12th Defense, 27th Overall

troy-aikmanaikman-enterprises

Minnesota used to be one of the top defenses in the entire NFL. Now they’re down to 12th. What happened? For one thing, the Vikings defense was hurt by the offense. The Vikings offense’s inability to sustain drives and hold onto the ball put their defense at a disadvantage. Another thing was the loss of starting Pro Bowl safety Harrison Smith. Without him, Minnesota has struggled. Let’s see if QB #12 Matt Barkley can atone for his miserable 5 interception performance from last week against what should be a much tougher defense (on paper) in Minnesota.

Predictions : 

This may be the hardest prediction of the season based on the motivation of both teams and the strange roller coaster of a season that the Vikings have ridden to a 7-8 record. Minnesota is favored by 5 points. Overall they are the better team. They are at home where they have a 4-3 record. Chicago is winless on the road this year (0-7). The Bears have only 3 wins on the season (Minnesota, Detroit, and San Francisco), all at Soldier Field. I don’t see the Vikings losing both games to Chicago in one season. If there is any motivation in this game, it’s that the Vikes don’t want to “go out like that” against a division rival in front of their home fans on New Year’s Day. Plus, they’re just simply better.

Minnesota Vikings 20 Chicago Bears 9

Featured

Bears Get Pounded by Redskins on Christmas Eve 41-21

The Chicago Bears got pounded by the Washington Redskins on Christmas Eve 41-21 to close out the home schedule at Soldier Field this season. I did not expect this kind of pounding for the 3-12 Bears. This team may have finally hit the wall in what has been an awful season, mostly filled with close losses. There have been more “heartbreakers” than “backbreakers” so the blowout at home was somewhat surprising. Half of Chicago’s 12 losses have been by 6 points or less. The others have been by 9, 14, 15, 16, and 26. So this 20 point loss to 8-6-1 Washington was the second worst of the season behind only the wipeout at Tampa Bay. This pounding reminded me of how a chef tenderizes a piece of meat, such as veal, to make a fine wienerschnitzel. In fact, this pounding reminded me of the noise I heard from the kitchen at this wonderful German restaurant we had the pleasure of enjoying last week. Boom, boom, boom, boom…..the chef pounded the veal with the flat side of a meat tenderizer mallet to achieve a wonderful schnitzel that I must say I enjoyed tremendously. Meanwhile, back to Bears football…….

meat tenderizer.jpg

Washington simply dominated the game in all facets. Kirk Cousins played a good game, passing for 270 yards and 1 TD and leading the Redskins up and down the field all day. He wasn’t sacked and handed off 35 times for 208 yards and 4 rushing touchdowns. The Bears defense was lousy. They couldn’t cover anybody, they couldn’t rush the passer, they simply had a horrible day. A perfect example of how it wasn’t to be for the Bears on this day was late in the 1st quarter. Washington had a 7-0 lead and faced a 3rd and 9 on the Bears 17 yard line. Bears DC Vic Fangio called a blitz and of course it looked like the Redskins play caller was in the Bears huddle because he couldn’t have drawn up a more perfect time to call a screen pass from Cousins to RB Chris Thompson. The Bears blitzed CB Tracy Porter as well as several others. They rushed Cousins and it looked too good to be true for everyone involved. They got pressure because Washington wanted them too. Cousins dumped it over their heads and Thompson walked into the end zone to put Washington up 14-0. It was that kind of day. It was that kind of season at Soldier Field.

DeSean Jackson vs Bears.jpg

Game Balls nfl-game-ball

ILB #50 Jerrell Freeman – The other day I mentioned Freeman as our player to “Keep an Eye On”. So I did, and what I saw was decent. In his return from a 4 game suspension, Freeman recorded 9 tackles, 8 of which were solo tackles. He also had 1 tackle for loss (TFL).

RB #24 Jordan Howard – Howard earns a Game Ball pretty much every week. This is Howard’s 8th Game Ball of the season! I know…..can you say “man crush?” This time Howard carried the ball 18 times for 119 yards. He averaged 6.6 yards per carry (ypc) which is reminiscent of how he’s done it all year. His season totals are now 211 carries, 1059 yards, 6 TD, 5.0 ypc. Over the last 3 weeks, Howard has averaged at least 5.3 ypc in each game. Howard is so fun to watch too. It’s exciting to think about his future.

jordan-howard-vs-redskins

Player of the Game : WR #81 Cameron Meredith

How good is Cam Meredith? He won our “Player of the Game Award” last week against Green Bay. Let’s make it two weeks in a row! Meredith hauled in 9 catches once again. This week he gained 135 yards and a touchdown after gaining 104 yards in last week’s game versus the Packers. Is there a better player whom the Bears learned they can count on to produce in the future? Cameron Meredith is the real deal. If you don’t see that, you probably haven’t been watching, or reading my columns, closely enough all season.

cameron-meredith-vs-redskins

 

Thumbs Down : QB #12 Matt Barkley thumbs-down

Matt Barkley clearly played his worst game in his short tenure as a Bears starting QB in this effort vs Washington. He threw 5 interceptions, many of which were his fault. He made poor decisions, once throwing an interception as he threw into triple coverage. His mistakes weren’t just mental either. One of his interceptions was simply WAY overthrown over the head of #17 Alshon Jeffery. This mistake was physical. So he had both mental and physical errors that led to 5 turnovers. On the other hand, Barkley did complete 24 of 40 pass attempts for 323 yards and 2 TD. At least he didn’t give up. Overall, I still think Barkley deserves a long look as the future quarterback of this Bears team. However, the Bears brass should most definitely draft, or trade, for another young QB in addition to Barkley. Let them compete next season and see what happens.

Matt Barkley vs Redskins.jpg

Predictions Recap 

Prediction in Thursday’s Preview : “As 3 point favorites, I’ll go with ….

Washington Redskins 21 Chicago Bears 17″

So What Happened? : Washington Redskins 41 Chicago Bears 21

Bears Record : 3-12

My Record : 9-6 (I’ve won 6 in a row after a slow start. This is getting close to that point where I buy a plane ticket to Las Vegas. Can I finish the season on a 7 game win streak? Read my next and last Preview column of the season later this week as the Bears prepare for their season finale at Minnesota on January 1, 2017.)

Kirk Cousins suit.jpg

Featured

“Once More….With Feeling!” Bears/Redskins Preview

Redskins logo.jpg bears-lgo7

The Chicago Bears (3-11) close out their 2016 home schedule as they host the Washington Redskins (7-6-1) at Soldier Field on Saturday at Noon. Saturday is Christmas Eve and most of the Week 16 NFL schedule will be played on this day. However, there are still two games the following day on Christmas Day for television reasons. How will the Bears close out their home slate in 2016? They’re currently 3-4 at home this season with victories over Detroit, Minnesota, and San Francisco. Can they even their home record at 4-4? Meanwhile, the Redskins still have a chance to get that 6th seed in the NFC Playoffs as a third team to make it from the NFC East Division, behind Dallas (12-2) and New York (10-4). Washington is competing with Green Bay (8-6), Minnesota (7-7), and Tampa Bay (8-6) for that last playoff berth. New Orleans (6-8) and Carolina (6-8) are still alive as well but unlikely to gain much traction with that many teams ahead of them with just 2 games to play.

Keep An Eye On : ILB #50 Jerrell Freeman

Freeman returns this week from his 4 game PED suspension. Is he in shape? Does he remember how to tackle? I hope so because both ILB’s #44 Nick Kwiatkoski and #53 John Timu both forgot last week vs Ty Montgomery and Green Bay. Freeman still leads the Bears in tackles on the season with 91. Let’s see what he can do to improve the defense this week.

Jerrell Freeman.jpg

Troy Aikman Efficiency Ratings (AER)

  • Washington : 10th Offense, 29th Defense, 24th Overall
  • Chicago : 23rd Offense, 21st Defense, 26th Overall

troy-aikmanaikman-enterprises

Washington still has a chance to make the playoffs so at least they should be motivated to win on Christmas Eve. Will Chicago be motivated to win after last week’s bitter loss to rival Green Bay? How many fans will show up to Soldier Field on a holiday for a game that means little? One thing nobody can doubt despite this poor 2016 record is the effort given by the Bears players. No matter what you think about Head Coach John Fox and the coaching staff, they have gotten these Bears to play hard no matter what the score or their record. The effort is there…..the talent is not there……yet.

walter-payton-vs-redskins-1985

Predictions :

I’m really torn on my prediction this week. You could say I’m “Rip Torn” but you’d be getting my name wrong. Anyway, can I predict a tie? Washington is favored by 3 points. Since the Redskins already have a tie this season, I don’t think I can predict another one so I’ll go with……

Washington Redskins 21 Chicago Bears 17

I know what you’re thinking……that score sounds familiar. It is. You may recall one of the most bitter losses in Chicago Bears history. It was the end of the 1987 season, the exact date was January 10, 1988. The Strike, The “Scabs”, the “Spare Bears”. Can you believe they called the replacement players “Scabs”? It sounds so disrespectful and just simply awful, right? Terrible! Looking back it was a horrible season in NFL history. Anyway, the “real” Bears returned after the “Spare Bears” went 2-1 to finish 11-4 with the “Scabs” help and hosted the Redskins in the NFC Playoffs at Soldier Field for a second consecutive year. Then the Bears lost for a second consecutive year to those bad boy ‘Skins. It was miserable. I was miserable. This time the Bears actually held a 14-0 lead until Doug Williams led Washington to a big comeback 21-17 victory which launched them toward their Super Bowl XXII victory. The lasting memory….Walter Payton sitting on the bench contemplating life after retirement. This was his last game in a brilliant 13 year career and in a way, the Bears have never been the same since.

Walter Payton last game on bench.jpg

Featured

Same Ol’ Situation (S.O.S.) : Bears Lose to Packers on Rodgers’ Hail Mary in Last Minute

Bears vs Packers logos.jpg

The Chicago Bears (3-11) lost to the Green Bay Packers (8-6) 30-27 on Sunday afternoon at Soldier Field in what turned out to be a really great game. Tied 10-10 at halftime, Green Bay took a big 17 point lead (27-10) by the end of the 3rd quarter. Chicago came all the way back to tie the game at 27 as they kicked a FG with just 1:19 to play. But then you know what happened……Aaron Rodgers pulled the bunny out of his magic hat, throwing a bomb to Jordy Nelson on 3rd and 11 from his own 26 with only 36 seconds left as the ball was snapped. After spiking the ball and killing the clock with 3 seconds left, Mason Crosby made the game winner as the gun sounded. Packers 30 Bears 27……

“It’s the same ol’, same ol’ situation, It’s the same ol’, same ol’ ball and chain, I say No, No, No…No, No, NO!” Thanks go out to Motley Crue for making this one possible. I want to thank Tommy Lee, Vince Neil, Nikki Sixx, and Mick Mars for permitting me to use their lyrics in this column. I enjoyed the conversation today despite the incoherence…..”what’s a Dutch Lion?” Tommy said. “Who are you?” Vince retorted. Whatever guys! It’s all good! No worries….and God Bless in your retirement!

motley-crue2motley-crue-s-o-s

Other musings about Sunday’s game…..

  • It was refreshing that I didn’t feel the need to complain about the referees for a change. Overall I thought they did a fine job. They didn’t “over-ref”. They called 8 penalties on Green Bay and 6 penalties on Chicago. It seemed fair. They let the boys play. “Good game” goes out to these referees: Head Referee Ronald Torbert, Greg Gautreaux, Greg Yette, Jim Howey, Mark Steinkerchner, Paul King, and Aaron Santi.
  • The temperature was warmer than predicted. The official game time temperature was 11 degrees with a wind chill of -4. That’s cold but not the coldest in Bears history. In fact, it ended up tied for 7th coldest in Soldier Field history at 11 degrees. Coldest ever at Soldier Field was 2 degrees in a MNF game vs Green Bay in 2008.
  • Chicago’s defense had been playing so well as of late but in this game they looked like a cold turkey trying to find it’s stuffing. (What does that mean? I don’t even get it. Was it a funny line at least? Humorous at all? I’ll hang up and wait for your answer). The missed tackles of Packers RB Ty Montgomery were abominable. (Like an abominable snowman…..get it? I’m on a roll now so ‘Bear’ with me. Geez this is bad). It seemed like every time Montgomery made a move he left a defender in his wake. Did they EVER get him down on the first tackle attempt? Montgomery gained 162 yards on 16 carries with 2 touchdowns. It was despicable.
  • Why does this loss not bother me more? I guess it’s because I’m starting to see the light near the edge of the black forest. I actually think this team is making progress. They are making headway. I can feel it. These guys are playing hard despite not having much to play for at this point in the year. This Bears team is a young group of guys that are trying to develop and I think they are improving. I still have high hopes for this Bears team in the coming years. So like it said, it doesn’t bother me that much today. It’s that….and the “Dr. Feelgood”.

Game Balls nfl-game-ball

QB #12 Matt Barkley – I know he had 4 turnovers. But how many were his fault? At least 2 of the 4 were not his fault at all. One interception was a Hail Mary at the end of the 1st half. His lost fumble when former Bears DE Julius Peppers absolutely busted up LT #72 Charles Leno and strip sacked Barkley in about 2 seconds flat wasn’t his fault either. It was Barkley’s blind side and there was no trickery or blown assignments. It was simply a horrible block by Leno. Therefore Barkley threw 2 interceptions that could be seen as his mistakes. However, one time Barkley threw down the seam for slot receiver #83 Daniel Braverman but Braverman never looked for the ball. Would a more experienced WR have caught the ball? Questionable……but nonetheless, Barkley was responsible for 1 or 2 turnovers in a close game. The positives that earned him this Game Ball were 30 completions in 43 attempts for 362 yards and 2 TD. He led Chicago to 17 points in the 4th quarter to almost complete a victorious comeback. He threw to #17 Alshon Jeffery 9 times, completing 6 for 89 yards and 1 TD. But it seemed like he barely targeted him until the 4th quarter. What was up with that? Nonetheless, Barkley continued to show progress in his 4th career start. He maybe, just maybe, has a shot to be THE future for the Bears at Quarterback.

matt-barkley-vs-packers2

WR #14 Deonte Thompson – Thompson recorded 8 catches for a team leading 110 yards. Both totals were new career highs for Thompson, a 4th year receiver out of Florida. He also returned 4 kickoffs for 87 yards (21.8 avg). Thompson was probably the 6th WR at the start of the season and became the #1 WR, at least for one game. When Thompson was in college at Florida, his Head Coach at that time was Urban Meyer. I remember a preseason quote by Meyer when he was asked about the expectations for Thompson as he was penciled in to take over lead receiving duties for the Gators. He said “You think Thompson will be good? He better be”. Many years later, at least for one bitterly cold day, Barkley trusted in Thompson the same way Meyer had years before. Was he good? “He better be”….and he was.

deonte-thompson

RB #24 Jordan Howard – Howard led the Bears running game once again, this time for 90 yards and 1 touchdown on 17 carries. He scored from the 9 yard line with 7:34 left in the game, putting the Bears within 3 points. Howard has fully established himself as a building block.

jordan-howard-vs-packers

CB #30 Demontre Hurst – Hurst had 5 tackles and 1 sack on a blitz. He looked very solid as he helped fill in for the injured Bryce Callahan. Hurst is in his 3rd season out of Oklahoma. Does he have a future in this Bears secondary? He showed me something in this game even if he rarely has prior to now in his brief career.

demontre-hurst

Player of the Game : WR #81 Cameron Meredith

We’ve talked about Meredith earlier this season. He’s a solid prospect. I think he has a bright future in this Bears receiving corps. Against Green Bay he came up with 9 catches for 104 yards on 13 targets from Barkley. He looks like an athlete that is just beginning to uncover his talent in this his 2nd season out of Illinois State. He’s just 24 years old but he’s already putting up big numbers as a young phenom with 53 catches for 692 yards and 3 TD. Meredith should blend in nicely with Kevin White to form an athletic duo in years to come.

cameron-meredith-bears2

Thumbs Down : TE #82 Logan “Skunk” Paulsen thumbs-down

I’m sorry I continue to pick on Paulsen but this dude is a just a turd. Why do I call him “Skunk”? Because he stinks. This guy only played in 13 plays on Sunday but he had a key holding on 1st and Goal from the 3 on the penultimate drive for the Bears. Why? I can’t blame the refs on his hold. He clearly held which penalized the Bears 10 yards, pushing them back to the 13. As it turned out, Chicago never could punch it in and had to settle for the game-tying FG rather than the go-ahead TD. If Paulsen doesn’t hold, do the Bears score? Would Rodgers have won the game anyway? The world will never know. But I DO know that you simply can’t hold there on that play in that situation. There was one time earlier this season, I believe it was the Colts game, in which Paulsen held his defender, then celebrated and talked smack to the guy he held. Sure enough….the ref saw it, called the penalty and took away the touchdown from Jordan Howard (It would’ve been Howard’s 1st career touchdown if I remember correctly). Paulsen’s on my “high-speed bullet train” out of Chicago. “Hey mister, tell me how you really feel?”…….Okay, He’s an idiot and he stinks.

Predictions Recap 

Prediction in Thursday’s Preview : “I would bet the Bears record at least 3 sacks.”

So What Happened? : Bears recorded 4 sacks. Pernell McPhee had 2 sacks. C.J. Wilson and Demontre Hurst recorded 1 sack each. Rodgers scrambled a few times but didn’t move as well or as fast as when he’s healthy.

Prediction : “I will also predict Aaron Rodgers will “earn” at least one personal foul penalty against a Bears defender by complaining to a referee.”

So What Happened? : Sure enough, Rodgers was hit late by DE #96 Akiem Hicks on a pass attempt on the opening drive of the game. It was a pretty cheap call when you rewind and study it. It wasn’t a HORRIBLE call but it wasn’t a very rough hit by Hicks. He simply tackled Rodgers after he had just thrown the pass which ended up being a completion to Jordy Nelson which resulted in a 1st and Goal at the 9. The penalty moved the ball to the 4 yard line where Ty Montgomery took it in on the next play. Did the penalty mean much in the big scheme of things? No. Did it set the tone and continue the theme of Rodgers getting extra protection from the NFL refs? For sure.

Prediction :  As 6.5 point favorites, “I’ll take the Packers straight up (S/U) but the Bears to cover against the spread (ATS). Green Bay Packers 17 Chicago Bears 13”

So What Happened? : Green Bay Packers 30 Chicago Bears 27

Bears Record : 3-11

My Record : 8-6 (I’ve won 5 in a row after a slow start. Can I keep the streak alive? Read my next Preview column later this week.)

There are just two more games for Chicago in 2016. Next up, the Washington Redskins visit Soldier Field for the Bears home finale on Saturday, December 24. The NFL has decided to move most Sunday games to Saturday to avoid the Christmas holiday. So why are they still playing two games on Christmas? Oh yeah, TV money. This NFL needs to acknowledge the problems that they created all for the sake of money. That is a column for another day. For now, get pumped for Saturday!

Featured

Bears Blitz Will Attack the Pack in Bitter Cold of Soldier Field

Packers logo4.png chicago-bears-logo2

On Sunday, the Chicago Bears (3-10) are seeking revenge for their 26-10 loss to the Green Bay Packers (7-6) earlier this season in Lambeau Field. Expect horribly frigid weather on Chicago’s lakefront as the game starts at Noon in Soldier Field. It will be frigid with a pinch of bitters. Be thankful! It’s a good thing for these subzero “real feels” because revenge is a dish best served cold. Oh my is it going to be freezing on Sunday! In fact, this game may go down as one of the top ten coldest games in NFL history. According to AccuWeather, highs are expected to be around 3 degrees at kickoff with 12 mile per hour winds that will send the “Real Feel” to around 12 below zero. I think I’ll sit this one out….I’ll be watching the game on Fox TV from the comforts of my cozy “Bears Den”.

jack-nicholson-cold

“Keep An Eye On” : Bears pass rushers vs Packers QB #12 Aaron Rodgers

Since Packers QB Aaron Rodgers is suffering from multiple injuries to his legs (right calf and left hamstring that kept him out of practice on Wednesday), he may not be able to scramble out of the pocket as much as usual. Therefore, look for Bears pass rushers to enjoy taking out their season-long frustrations on Rodgers. I would bet the Bears record at least 3 sacks on Sunday as long as the Bears CB’s can cover the Packers WR’s decently, which may be asking a lot. However, the Bears cover men seem to be improving by the week. Young CB’s #37 Bryce Callahan and  #22 Cre’Von LeBlanc, along with veteran #21 Tracy Porter, seem to be growing confidence in themselves and the Bears scheme. If they can provide some decent coverage, look for OLB’s #94 Leonard Floyd, #97 Willie Young, and #92 Pernell McPhee to put some heat on Rodgers during the bitterly cold game. You know what, Rodgers may welcome that heat to comfort him from the brutal temps. Don’t forget about emerging star DE #96 Akiem Hicks. This guy is as hot as the weather is cold. He’s recorded 16 tackles, 3 sacks, 1 forced fumble, and 1 pass defended in his last two games. Those are gigantic numbers for a DE in a 3-4 scheme. This mountain of a man has been one of the most pleasant surprises for Chicago this year.

NFL: Green Bay Packers at Chicago Bears

“Keep An Eye On” Too (Part 2) : WR #17 Alshon Jeffery

In case you forgot, Alshon Jeffery returns this week from his 4 game suspension for getting caught using Performance Enhancing Drugs (PEDs). Jeffery must be excited to come back for the last three games of the 2016 season in order to improve his status as an upcoming free agent. The Bears management will be watching like an eagle scouting out his prey as they need to make a decision about Jeffery. Will they offer him a long-term deal to stay in a Bears uniform? Will they offer him a 2nd consecutive year as a “Franchise” player, meaning he will make $17.5 million in 2017? Or will they let him test the waters as a free agent? Personally, I would let him walk. With all due respect to a guy that has performed admirably at times, I think Jeffery is a bit overrated. It’s crossed my mind many times over the years that Jeffery makes a fine #2 WR but he is NOT a #1 lead WR. I say this because he’s not very fast and he is a poor route runner. He is a long strider that makes it easier to cover him because of his lack of quickness in and out of cuts. His biggest value is going up and getting “jump balls”, often in the red zone. That’s a reason to keep him, but I don’t think he’s worth #1 WR money and that’s probably what he and his agent will demand. If I were the Bears, I’d put my money on #13 Kevin White, #81 Cameron Meredith, and new draftees or even free agents. The Bears could definitely use a better slot receiver since #19 Eddie Royal isn’t reliable. He has only played in 9 games out of 13 this season and been targeted more than 3 times in just 5 games. I’m interested to see 7th round pick #83 Daniel Braverman get more time moving forward in ’16 as well as adding a slot receiver in the upcoming offseason.

alshon-jeffery3

Aikman Efficiency Ratings (AER)

  • Green Bay : 8th Offense, 26th Defense, 12th Overall
  • Chicago : 25th Offense, 17th Defense, 26th Overall

troy-aikmanaikman-enterprises

Green Bay’s offense is solid as usual, while their defense led by DC Dom Capers has been inconsistent, as usual. This has been a theme for the Packers over the last 8 years since their management team was put together with Ted Thompson as GM (2005), Mike McCarthy as Head Coach (2006), Dom Capers as DC (2009), and Aaron Rodgers as QB (drafted in 2005, starter since 2008). The Packers have the 2nd most wins in the NFL (2nd to the Patriots) since this foursome has been in place. Hint hint to the Bears management team…….continuity is the key to success. For more on the strange up and down nature of the Packers defense since Capers took over, see the “Football Outsiders Almanac 2016”. It’s quite a good read. Any football fan who is interested in analyzing more statistical research should take a look at this thorough take on the League as well as college ball. It compares to the “Baseball Prospectus” for MLB fans.

football-outsiders-almanac-2016

Predictions :

Green Bay is favored by 6.5 points as of Thursday morning. Even though this seems like an obvious victory for the Packers, I’m not so sure. Chicago is 3-3 at home while Green Bay is 2-4 on the road. Despite the mounting injuries and losses, the Bears are playing pretty well on defense and are 2-1 in their last 3 home games. Meanwhile, Green Bay has won 3 in a row over the Eagles, Texans, and Seahawks, but they still have a crazy amount of injuries to their cornerbacks. Can QB #12 Matt Barkley take advantage? Can Jeffery get open? “Weather” games can be hard to predict. Will these professionals be able to throw the ball, catch the ball, and hold onto the ball? Can they throw and kick it despite high winds and underinflated footballs? How will Soldier Field’s notoriously poor grass hold up? I’ll call for a low scoring game with plenty of rushing and not much passing yardage. I will also predict Aaron Rodgers will “earn” at least one personal foul penalty against a Bears defender by complaining to a referee. The refs love to protect most quarterbacks outside of Cam Newton, but especially Rodgers. It seems like whenever he gets touched they throw a flag. He reminds me of an NBA veteran who knows how to complain about fouls enough and so eventually they give in and call fouls/flags. Plus, the NFL claims to be so into protecting their players (outside of the whole Thursday night fiasco) that they encourage referees to throw flags anytime a quarterback falls down. It usually turns my stomach. There are two games being played in modern football: two-hand-touch for quarterbacks and tackle for everybody else.

This game might play out similarly to the Bears game a few weeks ago versus San Francisco. Remember how there were no completed passes until the 2nd quarter? That game was 7-6 at halftime before the Bears ran wild in the 2nd half to cap a 26-6 victory. However, Green Bay is a much better team than the 49ers. I’ll take the Packers straight up (S/U) but the Bears to cover against the spread (ATS).

Green Bay Packers 17 Chicago Bears 13

ice-bowl

Featured

Bears Defeated by Lions 20-17

The Chicago Bears went into Detroit for the annual “Lions and Tigers and Bears Oh My Classic” and almost pulled off the upset over the Lions. However, Detroit scored with 3:17 left to regain the lead 20-17, giving Detroit yet another comeback victory led by QB Matthew Stafford. This was Stafford’s 8th comeback in the 4th quarter this season, a new NFL record!

My biggest take from this game were the awful referees. How bad can this officiating get? It’s actually getting laughable. The CBS broadcasters Spero Dedes and Solomon Wilcots even got in on the criticism when they mentioned how this officiating crew has called more penalties than any other crew in the NFL this season. These officials lived up to their reputation as they called 11 penalties on the Bears for 139 yards (both season worsts) and 7 penalties on Detroit for 55 yards. They made terrible mistakes for both teams so you might argue that it evened out. However, Bears fans that watched the game felt hosed! Here’s a list of the referees for Sunday’s game:

Referees: Jeff Bergman, Steve Freeman, Dyrol Prioleau, Scott Edwards, Head Referee #42 Jeff Triplette, Line Judge #53 Sarah Thomas, Shawn Smith

thumbs-down

Beware of this group. They take all the fun out of the game by getting “flag happy”. They call anything and everything. Here’s a detailed report card (Grade F-):

  • They penalized the wrong team! What’s up with that call against Detroit that should have been called against Chicago? With 7:55 left in the 2nd quarter, the Lions had the ball on their own 40 yard line with a 1st and 10. What would’ve/should’ve gone for a nice 14 yard run by #36 Dwayne Washington was erased when Lions C #60 Graham Glasgow was called for “illegal hands to the face” in his grapple with Bears DT #91 Eddie Goldman. Only when we saw the replay it became clear that the only player using his hands to the face was in fact Goldman. What in the world is going on here? How can these officials get this THAT WRONG? If I were a Lions fan I would have been furious. CBS color commentator Solomon Wilcots was incredulous. I simply don’t understand how they could “see” an illegal hands to the face but then penalize the wrong team. It must have been a miscommunication between the ref that saw it (and threw the flag) and the head referee (to whom he told). In other words, when they got in the refs huddle and discussed the play, he/she must have told Triplette incorrectly. However, when that ref that threw the flag heard Triplette announce the penalty on the microphone to the entire crowd, didn’t he consider going back and telling Triplette that he was misunderstood? Are ethics a part of the equation? This is unacceptable. Big thumbs down here. For more, see: http://thebiglead.com/2016/12/11/video-jeff-triplette-made-an-egregious-illegal-hands-to-the-face-call-against-the-lions/

Bears at Lions refs bad call.jpg

  • They made up phantom calls. Two plays later, the refs messed up again. What was up with that penalty called on Stafford’s long pass to Marvin Jones? At first glance it looked like the flag was going against Detroit for offensive holding committed by LT #68 Taylor Decker who held OLB #94 Leonard Floyd. After the play continued and Jones caught the ball for a 48 yard gain, Bears fans didn’t worry because it looked like it was coming back anyway. However, the refs announced a DEFENSIVE holding. If you watch the replay, you’ll see all Lions receivers UNTOUCHED. So I guess I’m a little confused. The way the ref (I believe it was the female line judge Sarah Thomas) threw the flag toward the line of scrimmage would imply it was a hold against OLB #97 Willie Young who was pass rushing against Lions RT #71 Riley Reiff. While Young was rushing the passer, Lions FB #34 Zach Zenner tried to help Reiff with a chip block. Zenner then went out of the backfield into a pass pattern. The flag was thrown closest to this area. The only problem was, Zenner put on a nice block to help pancake Young. Holding on Young? Impossible. He didn’t WANT to hold Zenner. He wanted to sack Stafford. Holding?…..”C’MON MAN!”

Bears at Lions refs hugging.jpg

  • They are a disgrace. What’s up with Triplette and Thomas anyway? Judging by the photo above, they look a little cozy. Why is Triplette hugging her on the field? Why does he have his hand on her lower back? I think we have some ethics violations to be uncovered soon. Are these relationships OFF the field ruining the refs quality ON the field?
  • Let the guys play! The Bears comeback attempt was thwarted more by the refs than by the Lions defense. Twice in a row QB #12 Matt Barkley converted with passes that would’ve put Chicago in game-tying field goal range, only to be denied when questionable holding calls went against RG #62 Ted Larsen and LT #72 Charles Leno. I’m sure all the fans bought their tickets because they were dying to see Triplette and company throw penalty flags all over Ford Field. Thanks refs for trying to upstage the players. You succeeded! YOU ARE A DISGRACE! The NFL needs to address this officiating problem.

Game Balls nfl-game-ball

WR #81 Cameron Meredith – Meredith caught 6 balls for 72 yards and 1 TD. He continues to impress with his hands and his route running. He is becoming Barkley’s most trusted weapon in the passing game. I think Meredith has iced his future as a Bears playmaker. Whether it’s as a #1, #2, or #3 WR, the Bears have found a young player they can count on in the receivers room.

cameron-meredith-at-lions

QB #12 Matt Barkley – Barkley’s 1st road start went pretty well considering his teammates made more mistakes, yet again, in Barkley’s 3rd straight start. They had more dropped passes, penalties, and missed blocks. Josh Bellamy caught 3 passes on 7 targets. I counted at least 2 more drops by him. Barkley went 20-32 with 202 yards and 1 TD. He spread the ball around to 6 different receivers on Sunday including 3 WR, 2 RB, and 1 TE.

matt-barkley-at-lions

TE #85 Daniel Brown – Brown caught 6 passes for 42 yards as he became a decent security blanket for Barkley. It seems like Barkley enjoys utilizing the TE quite a bit so if Barkley and Brown stick around in the coming years, they may develop a nice chemistry. Of course, don’t forget about #86 Zach Miller. He should have first dibs on the 2017 starting TE job. Whether it’s Miller, Brown, or someone yet to be named, look for them to become a big part of the offensive game plan if Barkley is starting.

CB #22 Cre’Von LeBlanc – LeBlanc had the big interception that he returned for the go-ahead touchdown with 7:07 left in the game. Don’t stop there however. He also recorded 4 tackles and provided decent coverage of the Lions WR’s throughout the game. Supposedly LeBlanc is so good in practice that he routinely intercepts passes yet this was his first real interception in a game. He could have a future as a solid cover man in Fangio’s scheme.

Cre'Von LeBlanc at Lions.jpg

DE #96 Akiem Hicks – Hicks was excellent once again. Last week, he was our Player of the Week with 10 tackles, 2 sacks, and a forced fumble. This week at Detroit, he recorded 6 tackles and another sack. Hicks is playing at such a high level that he could garner a Pro Bowl invitation at season’s end.

akiem-hicks-at-lions

Player of the Game – ILB #44 Nick Kwiatkoski

Last week Kwiatkoski earned a Game Ball. This week he takes our “Player of the Game” Award. He recorded 8 total tackles, 1 sack, and several intense hits on Lions ball carriers. Kwiatkoski is simply a hard hitter. In my notebook, I tallied him with 7 “good plays”. Kwiatkoski is only a rookie, but if he keeps this up, he might not give either Danny Trevathan or Jerrell Freeman their jobs back. Of course Trevathan’s injury sounds serious enough where he won’t be 100% until after next season begins. That’s why Kwiatkoski’s development is so important for the future of this defense. It looks like he is providing key depth at worst and a possible new starting role at best going into 2017.

Nick Kwiatkoski at Lions.jpg

Recap of Predictions

Prediction : “Usually the Detroit crowd causes at least 2 false starts by Chicago’s offensive line.”

Result : In total, the Bears offense committed 5 penalties. There was one false start by Ted Larsen in the 1st quarter. There was one delay of game. There were 3 holding calls, one each by Josh Sitton, Charles Leno and Larsen. Barkley was only sacked once.

Prediction : “I would think the Lions will cause at least two takeaways.”

Result : I was totally wrong about this one. Bears had zero turnovers.

Prediction : “Detroit Lions 24 Chicago Bears 13. There’s just too much momentum for the 1st place Lions in a home game in which they’re seeking revenge against an old nemesis. I’ll take Detroit with the points.

Result : Detroit 20 Chicago 17

I was close but if people took Detroit with the points because of me, I’m deeply sorry. The Bears played better than expected. Overall, I still believe this Bears team is better than you might think. Their 3-10 record is not indicative of how much the defense has improved since Fox and Fangio came aboard. The main reason for the horrible record is the injuries, mainly to the offense. I mean really, how many NFL teams win games with their 4th string quarterback?

Bears record : 3-10

My record : 7-6 (I’ve won 4 in a row. Can I keep the streak going? Read my next preview of the Bears vs Green Bay later this week to find out)

bears-coach-fox

Featured

The “Lions and Tigers and Bears Oh My” Preview

This Sunday is the renewal of the annual “Lions and Tigers and Bears Oh My” game. In case you didn’t know, the “Lions and Tigers and Bears Oh My” game is when the Chicago Bears play the Detroit Lions at Detroit. This is because of the involvement of the Lions and the Bears of course, and also because the Detroit Tigers play in Detroit. Therefore, it’s the “Lions and Tigers and Bears Oh My” classic. Everyone knows about this nickname (I just made it up). It’s a really cool nickname for a game (no it’s not). I’m getting more pumped about this game by the second as I write, read, and re-read each sentence (true story).

The Bears (3-9) travel to Detroit to face the surprising NFC North division leading Lions (8-4) on Sunday at Noon. You may recall that one of the Bears three wins was against the Lions at Soldier Field in Week 4. It was the Bears first win of the season while the Lions fell  into a last place tie with Chicago at 1-3 at that point. Little did we know that they would win 7 of their next 8 games to vault into 1st Place in the NFC North. Detroit holds a 2 game advantage over Minnesota and Green Bay (both 6-6). It’s crazy how well the Lions have played since the Bears turned them into little cuddly kitty cats at Soldier. If you would have told me that Detroit would go on from that game to win 7 of 8 I would’ve told you “you’re nuts kid!”. In fact, the Lions looked so bad that day I was sure, absolutely sure that the Bears would finish ahead of them in the NFC North final standings. Somehow the Lions have found a way to win close games. They have trailed in most of these victories before coming back and winning in the 4th quarter.

Keep An Eye On : QB #12 Matt Barkley / Offensive Line

The Bears will continue to evaluate Matt Barkley in this his 3rd consecutive start. This is his first road start. How will he look? Will he keep his composure? Ford Field is a notoriously rough place for Chicago to visit. I recall Jay Cutler (and other Bears QB’s) getting sacked so many times over the years as his offensive line would always seem to fold under the pressure. It seems like they usually can’t even hear the snap count as the wild fans scream their lungs out. How many false starts and holding penalties will we see on Sunday? Historically it has been too many to gain much traction to complete enough touchdown drives to achieve victory. Having said that, can Barkley rally his troops, calm their nerves (and his), and lead his team to some scores? Will the receivers catch his passes?

Matt Barkley2.jpg

Aikman Efficiency Ratings (AER)

  • Chicago : 25th Offense, 14th Defense, 26th Overall
  • Detroit : 11th Offense, 26th Defense, 14th Overall

Predictions

Detroit is favored by 7.5 points as of press time on Thursday and I tend to agree with the Las Vegas oddsmakers on this one. As well as Matt Barkley has been spinning the rock over the last two games, I think his first road start in his NFL career will be a loud one in Ford Field. Usually the Detroit crowd causes at least 2 false starts by Chicago’s offensive line. I would think the Lions will cause at least two takeaways and will cover the spread as a first place team at home versus a division rival. The Bears offense will struggle while Detroit’s offense, with the help of its defense giving it good field position, will take advantage of a Bears team running on fumes. There’s just too much momentum for the 1st place Lions in a home game in which they’re seeking revenge against an old nemesis. I’ll take Detroit with the points.

Detroit Lions 24 Chicago Bears 13

Featured

Chicago Bears ‘Legends of the Fall’ : Willie “The Wisp” Galimore

willie-galimore-card

Of all the Chicago Bears greats over the last century, Willie “The Wisp” Galimore is one of the least known. But don’t be mistaken. Galimore played a prominent role and will forever be known by Bears super fans as the electric runner that led the Bears to eventually drafting Hall of Famer Gale Sayers. Sadly, Galimore will also be remembered as the superstar who died too young in a tragic car accident along with teammate John “Bo” Farrington at Bears training camp in Rensselaer, Indiana.

#28 Willie Galimore played just 7 seasons with the Bears from 1957-1963. If you just look at his statistics, you might not think that highly of him. In his 7 year career, Willie totaled 4186 total yards rushing and receiving with 36 touchdowns. But if you watched him play, if you’ve seen his highlight reel, that’s when you realize what a diamond in the rough he truly was. What you see may remind you of Barry Sanders, Lenny Moore, Billy Sims, Marshall Faulk, even Walter Payton. His best NFL comparison is probably #40 Gale Sayers. In plenty of their highlights, one could switch their jerseys from #28 to #40 and back again and not know who was really wearing the uniform. They were both electric, galloping and running, stopping on dimes, creating. What they had was magic. Willie was the first. He came to the Bears like a bolt of lightning, and was taken from this world just as quickly.

Tragically, Galimore was involved in an automobile accident while driving back to the dorms at Bears training camp along with teammate TE “Bo” Farrington in Rensselaer, IN on July 27, 1964. The defending NFL Champion Bears never recovered that season and were unable to defend their Championship in ’64. A big reason was the lack of a game-breaking RB. A bigger reason was probably the heartbreak that teammates felt all season, every time they looked at each other and saw the commemorative black armband worn on their jerseys. So in ’64 the Bears turned into a passing team as WR Johnny Morris set a league record with 93 receptions. TE Mike Ditka also had 75 catches, which turned out to be his career high for one season. But the ’64 Bears finished 5-9.

Willie Galimore newspaper.jpg

The next Spring of 1965, Papa Bear Halas drafted Dick Butkus (3rd overall) and Gale Sayers (4th overall) in what has become known as one of the greatest drafts ever by a single team. As legend goes, Halas had to replace Galimore with a new thoroughbred and look what happened……not only did Sayers duplicate what Galimore accomplished but he went on to a short-lived but ultimately Hall of Fame career. Sayers was Galimore reincarnated. One guy goes and another arrives. From “The Wisp” to “The Kansas Comet”.

Their running styles aside, both Willie Galimore and Gale Sayers were dogged by injuries. In those days of rudimentary training tactics (“rub some dirt on it and tape it up”) and old-fashioned knee surgeries (“we’ll just remove the guy’s knee cartilage, yeah….that’ll work”), those injuries typically turned once great players that “had it all” into “has beens”. Nonetheless, Galimore laid the groundwork for Sayers and one could argue that he was just as much a Hall of Famer as Sayers, he just didn’t have the numbers to prove it.

 

Many Bears fans have forgotten, but the “Real” Bears fans do indeed remember Willie “The Wisp” Galimore. Do yourself a favor and watch his highlight tape. It’ll hit you…..like a bolt of lightning.

chicago-bears-dvd
Galimore is featured in the Chicago Bears “The Complete History” DVD.

 

 

Featured

Bears Drop the Ball in Loss to Titans

matt-barkley-marcus-mariota

Week 12 Final : Tennessee Titans 27 Chicago Bears 21

Going into Sunday’s game at Soldier Field, most Bears fans were pumped to see 1st time starting QB #12 Matt Barkley. As it turned out, their excitement about Barkley kept building as he almost led the Bears to a comeback win over the Tennessee Titans. However, it wasn’t meant to be as Barkley’s last 4 passes were all incomplete and the Titans escaped with a 27-21 victory.

It’s hard to blame the QB for the loss though as Chicago receivers were dropping passes all day, at least 10 including 2 of the last 4 (Various counts of dropped balls have been reported: Chicago Tribune said 10, ESPN Stats said 8, I claim 12 according to the CBS game telecast statistics). Nonetheless, if either of those last 2 were caught by WR #11 Josh Bellamy on 1st and Goal or WR #14 Deonte Thompson on 4th and Goal, the Bears would’ve probably won, as all they needed was a PAT conversion to take a 28-27 lead in the last minute.

Needless to say, this game was more interesting than the usual game the Bears have played this season. After trailing 27-7 with 13:45 left in the game, Barkley and the offense started humming. It was enough to get one’s mind swirling towards the future of the Bears quarterback position. Could Barkley be the answer? Pump the brakes my friend. He COULD be but it’s too early to make a comprehensive analytical evaluation.

Meanwhile, the Titans “are who we thought they were, and we let ’em off the hook”. That infamous quote from the late Dennis Green about the 2006 Bears after they beat his then-Arizona Cardinals after a miraculous Monday Night Football comeback rang true regarding yesterday’s game. Except this time the reflection would be from the opposite sideline. The Bears are the ones eating sour grapes as the Titans’ porous defense almost blew a game that Tennessee desperately needed to remain in the thick of the AFC South division Championship race. With Houston losing at home to San Diego, they fell to 6-5. Tennessee rises to just a half game behind their division leaders at 6-6. From my viewpoint, the Titans have a chance to win that division but as good as they are on offense, that’s how poor they are on defense. They were oh so close to blowing a 20 point lead in the 4th quarter because they simply can’t cover anybody. They can’t rush the passer or stop the run very well either. The Bears, with a 4th string QB (no Cutler, Hoyer, or Shaw), none of their top 3 receivers (no Jeffery, White, Miller), and at least 2 of their top 5 OL missing (Sitton and Long) were able to move the ball at will in the 4th quarter and most of the day. Without the +/- 10 dropped passes, undermanned Chicago would’ve probably upset Tennessee.

Marcus Mariota at Bears.jpg

Offensively, the Titans are the real deal. QB #8 Marcus Mariota was everything we knew he was since he arrived in the continental United States from Hawaii. He went 10-14 for 139 yards and 2 TD in the 1st half as the Titans built a 21-7 lead. Their 2nd half performance wasn’t that astounding as Mariota went 5-9 for 87 yards. Their running game was impressive as #29 DeMarco Murray had 43 yards on 17 carries, #22 Derrick Henry (2nd round draft pick, #45 overall as the ’15 Heisman Trophy winner) had 8 carries for 60 yards and their 1st TD of the game, an 11 yard run in which both OLB #49 Sam Acho and S #26 Deon Bush lost outside containment. Tennessee also has a solid receiving corps starting with TE #82 Delanie Walker who impressed with 3 catches for 50 yards and 1 TD (all in the 1st half). After studying Tennessee’s team for one game, it seems obvious that they need to work on building their defense as they march toward the future. Their young offense has superstar potential but their defense is lacking. It’s hard to even recognize many names on their defense. Look for them to draft impact defenders next April. Make no mistake though, they are on the rise under Coach Mike Mularkey. That isn’t a bunch of malarkey either.

derrick-henry-vs-bears

Back to Chicago’s side of things, what in the world……I say “WHAT IN THE WORLD?” was up with Coach John Fox’s timeout with 2:06 left in the game? Did you catch this faux pas? The Titans were trying to run out the clock starting their drive with exactly 3 minutes left. Chicago had already used one timeout on offense so they had 2 remaining. Tennessee ran for 5 yards on 1st down. Fox used his 2nd timeout of the 2nd half with 2:52 left. On 2nd and 5, the Titans ran again, this time for 3 yards. ILB #59 Danny Trevathan was injured on this play, and it sounds like it is a serious knee injury (what would a 2016 Bears game be without a season ending injury?). So the game was halted with an “official’s injury timeout”. However, the clock was re-started with 2:47 left on the game clock and 38 seconds left on the play clock as Head Referee Ed Hochuli announced. Fox should have called his 3rd timeout right here OR he should have held onto it to be used in the last 2 minutes. Instead, he used his last remaining timeout with 2:06 left after DT #91 Eddie Goldman held Murray to a short gain on a huge 3rd and 2 play. If Tennessee gets that 1st down, the game is virtually over. But he didn’t get the 1st down which gave Chicago a chance for a 2 minute comeback. Back to the point, you can’t use a timeout there. You don’t need to. You have two clock stoppages coming up: the 2 minute warning and the stoppage on a change of possession. After Tennessee’s punt, the Bears took over with 1:56 left. The clock was stopped at this point, for the 2 minute warning AND/OR the change of possession. Basically, two stoppages were combined into one, thus “wasting” one clock stoppage. As it turned out, lucky for Coach Fox it didn’t matter. Barkley drove the Bears into scoring position with plenty of time. I believe 1st and Goal was with 47 seconds left. Let’s say Chicago needed that timeout? If Bears fans are keeping a list of Fox’s blunders, this would have garnered a bold check mark in permanent marker.

thumbs-down Head Coach John Fox 

thumbs-down Bears Receivers – After committing just 11 drops in the season’s first 10 games according to Stats, Inc., Chicago dropped about 10 passes against the Titans. Not all drops are created equal of course, but at least 3 drops were in the end zone in a game the Bears lost by 6 points.

  • WR #11 Josh Bellamy: 4 catches, 3 drops
  • WR #81 Cameron Meredith: 2 catches 3 drops
  • WR #10 Marquess Wilson: 8 catches, 2 drops
  • WR #14 Deonte Thompson: 5 catches, 1 drop
  • RB #24 Jordan Howard: 3 catches, 1 drop

nfl-game-ball Game Balls

RB #24 Jordan Howard – Howard had yet another solid game. He rushed 18 times for 84 yards. He caught 3 passes for 43 yards. He showed surprising speed on several plays too, which might previously have been seen as one of his biggest weaknesses. Now it is apparent that his biggest weakness is receiving. He dropped his 7th pass of the season in this game. According to STATS, Howard had 6 of the 11 Chicago drops on the season coming into this game. Howard was tied for the league lead with his 6 drops, tied with WR’s Brandon Marshall/Jets, Marvin Jones/Lions, and Mike Evans/Buccaneers (according to sportingcharts.com). Of course, those guys are receivers that have caught at least 42 passes on the year with a minimum of 77 targets. Now Howard has 7 drops and 25 catches out of 41 targets. He needs to work on this part of his game.

jordan-howard-vs-titans

WR #10 Marquess Wilson – He caught 8 passes for 125 yards and a touchdown. Sure he had 2 dropped passes, but at least he caught 8 spirals. Plus, he had a sweet kick of the loose ball into a Soldier Field security guy on what should have been his 14 yard TD with 3:38 left.

Tennessee Titans v Chicago Bears

OC Dowell Loggains – Loggains called a good game on Sunday. He called some well-timed screen passes that, when caught, went for good gains. He seemed to catch the Titans off guard with his play calling. He used his personnel well, outside of not targeting #19 Eddie Royal for more than 1 catch for -6 yards (1 target out of 53 targets all game???). Nonetheless, we actually saw a competent offense despite 6 of 11 offensive starters missing the game. Give credit to Loggains.

dowell-loggains

Player of the Game

QB #12 Matt Barkley – In his 1st career start, Barkley grew. You could see his confidence grow with each and every drive toward the end of the game. He certainly has an NFL arm. He threw solid, tight spirals all day. He moved the team. He led the team and got the plays called correctly from all accounts. I can’t recall one false start. Could he be the answer to Chicago’s never-ending Quarterback question? It’s too early to tell. He did commit two costly turnovers on interceptions, one in the end zone on a poor throwing decision. However, it was Barkley’s 1st NFL start and he completed his 1st NFL Touchdown pass. His final stats were 28-54 for 316 yards, 3 TD and 2 INT. Nice job by #12. I’m looking forward to seeing him for the rest of this season at least.

matt-barkley-vs-titans

Recap of Predictions

I was close this week. I predicted Tennessee to win 31-13. Final score was Tennessee 27-21.

Bears record : 2-9 (Lost 3 in a row)

My record : 5-6 (Won 2 in a row)

Next week Chicago hosts San Francisco (1-10) at Soldier Field in a big game…… big in helping determine the NFL Draft order.

Matt Barkley vs Titans2.jpg

Featured

The Battle of Wounded Bear: Titans at Bears Preview

Happy Thanksgiving everybody! This week the Chicago Bears (2-8) host the Tennessee Titans (5-6) on Sunday at Noon in Soldier Field. All eyes will be on QB #12 Matt Barkley, who will make his 1st career start in this his 4th NFL season. He was originally drafted in the 4th round (#98 overall) in the 2013 NFL Draft by Philadelphia. Since playing in 4 games over two seasons with the Eagles, he joined the Cardinals in Arizona in 2015 before joining the Bears this season. In his one game of action with Chicago, you might recall he got in the Week 7 game at Green Bay. He completed 6 of 15 passes for 81 yards and 2 interceptions in relief of injured starter Brian Hoyer. You likely remember him not looking very good, but of course that was partially due to not having practiced with the Bears starters much, if ever, prior to that game. This time he takes over for injured starter Jay Cutler, who is likely out for this game as Head Coach John Fox stated after practice on Wednesday. However, Fox emphasized firmly that Cutler is not out for the rest of the season as was originally speculated by the “experts” who cover the team.

Thanksgiving cornucopia.jpg

Nonetheless, Barkley has been put in a tough situation starting for the first time in an offense that has 6 other starters out of his 10 surrounding teammates in the huddle who are also out with injuries or suspensions. Starting WR’s Alshon Jeffery and Kevin White, along with TE Zach Miller are out as potential pass catchers while Barkley will likely have less time to throw because of 3 injured linemen in LG Josh Sitton, RG Kyle Long, and RT Bobby Massie. Hmmm, better get backup QB David Fales ready. He may need to relieve Barkley before too long.

Meanwhile, the Tennessee Titans are a young team that is improving with each and every week. They are the 5th highest scoring team in the league with 281 points scored in 11 games for a 25.5 ppg average. Only Atlanta, San Diego, Dallas, and New Orleans have scored more total points. The Titans are led by their 2nd year QB #8 Marcus Mariota who is on the verge of becoming a superstar. Already this season he has thrown for 2,772 yards (7th in NFL), 23 TD’s (4th), and just 8 INT’s. His QB rating is 100.3 (7th). He has also run for 264 yards with 2 more scores on the ground. Add it all up and it makes Mariota not only one of the best “young” Quarterbacks in the NFL but one of the best QB’s period.

For those of us that watched him play in college at Oregon, this comes as no surprise. “Maserati” Mariota has all the tools: speed, arm strength, accuracy, brains, even humility. I think his personality is one of his greatest assets. He comes from a great family in Hawaii who raised him well. He’s a student of the game. From all accounts, the reason he vaulted to the starting spot as a redshirt freshman at Oregon was more than his supreme athleticism. It was mainly due to the fact that he knew the playbook better than anyone else. He memorized it through voracious studying. He translated it to the practice fields in Eugene and once he started driving the offense, nobody was going to stop him. Despite the obvious talent and success, Mariota doesn’t let fame get to his head. He’s very well grounded, despite winning the 2014 Heisman Trophy as the college game’s greatest player. Tennessee made the right move in drafting him 2nd overall behind Jameis Winston, the #1 overall pick by Tampa Bay. I know Winston is also doing well in his 2nd season, but if you ask me Tampa picked the wrong guy. Mariota is the man and if Tennessee keeps surrounding him with the right complementary parts, “Maserati” will drive the Titans to new heights.

marcus-mariota

Aikman Efficiency Ratings

  • Chicago : 26th Offense, 18th Defense, 27th Overall
  • Tennessee : 3rd Offense, 19th Defense, 4th Overall

These AER numbers are surprising. Tennessee is the 3rd best offense and 4th best overall team in the NFL!?! Yet they are only 5-6. Sounds like they are due for some more wins in their last 5 games. After playing the Bears and then getting a late bye week, the Titans play vs Denver, at Kansas City, at Jacksonville, and vs Houston. They will probably only be favored against Chicago, Jacksonville, and possibly/probably Houston. So they are likely to go 3-2 to even their season record at 8-8. Will that be enough to win the AFC South? Currently they are in 3rd place behind Houston (6-4) and Indianapolis (5-5). So that season ending game at home vs Houston could be huge.

Keep An Eye On : ILB #44 Nick Kwiatkoski

Now that starter #50 Jerrell Freeman is suspended for the next 4 games for PED use, expect Kwiatkoski to get plenty of experience next to #59 Danny Trevathan in the middle of the Bears defense. I have a friend who has been clamoring to see more of Kwiatkoski all season! I’m also excited to see this guy play. Freeman has made a team-high 91 total tackles which ranks 5th best in the league. Can Kwiatkoski pick up where Freeman left off?

Nick Kwiatkoski.png

Prediction

Tennessee is favored by 5 points at Soldier Field. With all of the injuries, suspensions, and drama surrounding these Bears, I expect the Titans to handle Chicago. Even though the Bears defense is really starting to gel as of late, the Titans offense has too many weapons in QB Mariota, RB’s DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry, WR’s Rishard Matthews and Kendall Wright, and supreme TE Delanie Walker. With the Bears offense unlikely to put up more than 2 touchdowns at most, look for the Titans to not only win but possibly stick the dagger in the Bears. However, a bear can be tough to kill. Do the Titans have the strength to finish off a wounded bear? I think they can and I think they will.

Tennessee Titans 31 Chicago Bears 13

490055-001

Featured

Can the Bears Shock the Vikings on Monday Night Football?!?

The Chicago Bears (1-6) host the first place Minnesota Vikings (5-1) in Week 8’s Monday Night Football at Soldier Field. The Bears might be healthier than usual after getting ten days off in between games versus NFC North division rivals. Last we saw them, the Bears were getting blasted at Lambeau Field on Thursday after then starting quarterback Brian Hoyer broke his arm in the 2nd quarter. He gave way to untested and unpracticed QB Matt Barkley, who looked the part by throwing 2 interceptions and rarely sustaining drives, giving the Packers the edge in all the statistics including a 40 to 20 minute edge in time of possession. Meanwhile, the Minnesota Vikings travel to Soldier Field after a surprising 21-10 loss at Philadelphia on Sunday.

Keep An Eye On:

#6 Jay Cutler – He’s back! Cutler returns after missing the last five games. In case you forgot, Cutler sprained his thumb during the Week 2 MNF game vs Philadelphia. That’s some weird symmetry, no? He gets hurt on Monday Night September 19 and then comes back during the Bears next Monday Night game six weeks later. Cutler will be gunslinging in this one, trying to get the ball to #17 Alshon Jeffery, something that Hoyer and Barkley couldn’t do. Having said that, I expect Vikings star FS #22 Harrison Smith to intercept Cutler. Despite the turnovers, Cutler will spark the Bears offense by pushing it down the field with longer, riskier throws than Hoyer would try. This offense has played WAY too conservatively since we last saw Cutler. Sure Hoyer completes a good percentage of passes. The problem is those passes are mostly all for short gains on safer throws underneath the coverage. How many times did the Bears end up short on 3rd and 12’s by throwing 6 or 7 yards downfield over the last 5 games? I am really pumped to see Cutler back in there on Monday Night! If nothing else it should be more exciting.

jay-cutler2

Statistics:

Once again, let’s call on Troy Aikman for his amazing Efficiency Ratings. Minnesota is 11th overall in the NFL which is surprising considering they were the last undefeated team until last week’s loss to the Eagles. Offensively, the Vikings are 27th. Defensively they rank 1st. There is little doubt the Vikings are the best defensive football team in the league right now. Chicago is 26th overall, 25th on offense, and 17th on defense.

http://www.aikman.com/AikmanEfficiencyRatings/tabid/274/articleType/ArticleView/articleId/103/Aikman-Efficiency-Ratings-2016-As-of-Week-7.aspx

Meanwhile, according to the NFL rankings which are based strictly on yards, Minnesota is 31st on offense and 1st on defense. Chicago is 17th on offense and 12th on defense. Is the Vikings offense really that bad? Perhaps it is. Their offensive line is giving them tremendous problems right now as both Offensive Tackles Matt Kalil and Andre Smith have been placed on the Injured Reserve. The Vikings signed former Pro Bowl OT Jake Long this week. Coach Mike Zimmer said he will ready if needed. Last week, Minnesota could not protect QB Sam Bradford at Philly. He was sacked 6 times! Expect the Bears improving pass rush to record at least a couple of sacks from either #97 Willie Young, #94 Leonard Floyd, or maybe even #92 Pernell McPhee, who will be playing in his 2nd game back from a knee injury. I’ll go on record and say the Bears will record a minimum of 3 sacks.

Prediction:

Minnesota’s dominating defense will provide a huge challenge for Chicago’s offense. Even though the Bears will have the energy of playing in front of a national audience under the lights while getting their starting QB back, I don’t think it will be enough for an injury riddled squad. Minnesota should be energized as well after last week’s disappointment at Philadelphia. They will be out to prove their standing in not only the NFC North but in the NFL as a whole while they have the national attention from ESPN. Expect the Vikings to be focused and take advantage of a young Bears team. However, it wouldn’t shock me if the Bears give the Vikes a run for their money. The idea of getting Cutler back could and should be a big boost for the offensive team, while on the other side of the ball the defense is making strides and showing improvement in both stopping the run and pressuring the quarterback. Since the Vikings are struggling on offense, look for the Bears to get some pressure on QB Sam Bradford.

This matchup is closer than people may think if they just look at the standings. I almost want to predict an upset but I just can’t pull the trigger. For as many problems as the Vikings showed in their one loss, the Bears have shown just as many or more problems in their 6 losses. I think the Bears will surely put up a fight. However, in the long run I think the Vikings vaunted defense will be too much for an out-of-rhythm Bears offense with too many moving parts. I’ll pick Minnesota, by a strange score. Vikings are favored by 5.5 points. Take them with the points. Vikes win by 7. Another weird prediction: at least one safety for each team. These defenses are too good for a couple of very poor offensive lines. Take that one to Vegas! 

Minnesota 19 Chicago 12

Bears record: 1-6

My record: 3-4 (Can I get back to .500? I hope I don’t but it’s probable.)

harrison-smith

Featured

The 2016 Cubs……..Not That Good!

The Chicago Cubs head into the MLB Playoffs after completing an historic 103-58 regular season record this year. The Chicago White Sox had yet another disappointing season, finishing at 78-84. So why do I think the Sox were almost as good as the Cubs this year? Before you get crazy, let me explain.

2016 MLB Standings

AL EAST W L WIN % GB
93 69 .574 0
89 73 .549 4
89 73 .549 4
84 78 .519 9
68 94 .420 25
AL CENTRAL W L WIN % GB
94 67 .584 0
86 75 .534 8
81 81 .500 13.5
78 84 .481 16.5
59 103 .364 35.5
AL WEST W L WIN % GB
95 67 .586 0
86 76 .531 9
84 78 .519 11
74 88 .457 21
69 93 .426 26
NL EAST W L WIN % GB
95 67 .586 0
87 75 .537 8
79 82 .491 15.5
71 91 .438 24
68 93 .422 26.5
NL CENTRAL W L WIN % GB
103 58 .640 0
86 76 .531 17.5
78 83 .484 25
73 89 .451 30.5
68 94 .420 35.5
NL WEST W L WIN % GB
91 71 .562 0
87 75 .537 4
75 87 .463 16
69 93 .426 22
68 94 .420 23

Now that the 2016 season is over, I went to http://www.baseball-reference.com to conduct some statistical research. I was shocked (not really since I’ve been theorizing about the weakness of the National League for years) to learn that the Chicago Cubs played 105 games against teams that were under .500. In other words, they played two-thirds of their games against losers. The Cubs dominated those games. Give them credit. They went 72-33 against those loser clubs. In many cases, those teams are tanking. Those teams are in the rebuilding stages. You know that stage very well if you’re a Cubs fan. You lose on purpose to get high draft picks. The Cubs finished in 5th place five years in a row from 2010-2014. You build up your farm system with young players that will either pan out for your big league club someday or you use them as trade bait to land already proven veterans such as Aroldis Chapman. That’s the modern game.

Don’t get me wrong. The professional players on those tanking teams are not trying to lose. They are playing hard for themselves and their teammates but frankly they aren’t good enough or there are not enough “good” players to win games. Management knows this and hopes they struggle. Think “Major League” where those bottom feeder Indians got fed up with their Owner and foiled her plan by winning in spite of her!

These General Managers might say all the right things but let’s be honest…..this is exactly what Cubs GM Theo Epstein did for several years to rebuild the Cubs farm system. Now we’re seeing the results of that experiment. Other organizations are seeing it too, believe me. Now they are the ones tanking and basically giving free, easy wins to the good teams such as the Cubs. It’s all a cycle.

The Cubs played 56 games against teams that were .500 or better. Nobody in baseball played less games against winners than the Cubs. So in that regard the Cubs had the EASIEST SCHEDULE IN BASEBALL! In those games, the Cubs only went 31-25. That is an average record, a little better than mediocre. For a comparison, the Texas Rangers went 60-31 against winners. Wo! That makes me respect the Rangers and their postseason hopes. But is it predictive of playoff success? Who can say? The Cubs record against the other playoff teams is even murkier. In fact, the water is murky in Wrigleyville. It’s not as murky as Flint, Michigan…but Flint hasn’t had a drought since 1908 either!

This is a good Cubs team that is going to the playoffs. They dominated their division. However, their competition level reminds a college football fan of a Big Ten team playing an FCS opponent. If this were college basketball, it would be like Kentucky playing Towson St. (no offense Towson). If this were the NBA, it would be like the Golden State Warriors playing the Bulls……no not those BULLS rather their NBADL development league team the Windy City Bulls! When you think about it, baseball has no parity anymore. There is no salary cap to entice parity like the NFL. With the modern rules, MLB is really rewarding tanking. The 2016 Cubs schedule was so poor that I’d argue it was misleading at best and unfair at worst.

8 miles south on the Dan Ryan, the White Sox had a disappointing season once again, going 78-84. However, the Sox went 27-23 against losing teams, playing just 50 games against teams under .500. That means they had to play 112 games against teams over .500. They went 51-61 against those winning teams. So the Cubs played 105 games against losers and the Sox played just 50 games vs losers. 55 games is one third of the season! (technically 54 games). The Cubs played 56 games against winners while the Sox had to play 112 games against winning clubs. The Sox had the 4th hardest schedule in baseball according to this statistic. Only the Rays (121), Angels (114), and A’s (113) played more games against winning ballclubs (Note these are all American League teams). These numbers will floor most people. In fact, it’s hard to believe. Believe it.

Do you see the disparity from the North Side to the South Side? How can we attribute that crazy difference? Well, the American League is a far superior league to the National League. The AL has more contending teams. They have more teams trying to win. The NL has more tanking teams. The disparity in NL wins is 35 (from 68 to 103). There were three teams with just 68 wins (Braves, Reds, and Padres), another with 69 wins (Diamondbacks), another with 71 wins (Phillies). The Brewers had just 73 wins. The Rockies won 75 games. That is a total of 7 teams (out of 15 NL teams) that were just plain bad. You could argue all of those teams mentioned were tankers. There is no doubt at least 5 National League teams were 2016 tankers (Braves, Reds, Padres, Phillies, Brewers).

Over in the American League, the disparity in wins was actually 36 (from 59 to 95). Take away the tanking Twins 59 wins and the disparity was just 26 ( from 69 to 95). What does that mean? It’s means the AL has more parity. There are more teams “trying” to win games. The AL tankers are the Twins, Rays (68 wins), A’s (69 wins) and probably the Angels (74 wins).

To recap, the AL had 11 teams trying to win and only 4 real tankers. The NL had only 8 teams trying to win and up to 7 tankers. That’s HALF THE LEAGUE! While the Cubs took advantage of those teams and won games they should have, the Sox were scuffling all season as they were challenged 56 more times than their North Side rivals. 56 more games against winning teams! That explains a lot. The Sox have their problems, there is no doubt but it doesn’t help them that they couldn’t rest their bullpen or they couldn’t earn some easy victories against subpar teams. In reality, the Sox are much closer to the Cubs than one might think. Put the Cubs in the AL and they might be a 90 win team. Put the Sox in the NL and they might be an 85 win team. Who knows? If you took the league average record against winning teams which was 38-47 (85 games) and added 29 more hard games for the Cubs (56 + 29 = 85 league average) and subtracted 29 easy games from their schedule, what would their record be? I’d be willing to gamble a few sheckels that the Cubs record wouldn’t have been 103-58. It might have been more like 90-71. By that same token, if you subtracted 27 tough opponents from the Sox schedule and added in 27 easier opponents, maybe they would have qualified for the Playoffs (112-27 = 85 league average). They would have had to make up 11 games to equal the AL Wild Cards Baltimore and Toronto. It’s possible but not probable. Still, they likely would have won more like 85 games.

What if the Sox made the Playoff field while the Cubs were sitting at home in October? It’s unlikely but we just don’t know due to this strength of schedule disparity. The only real facts we have are:

  1. The Sox and Cubs split their season series 2-2.
  2. The Cubs schedule was the easiest in baseball while the Sox had the 4th hardest.
  3. All statistics point to the AL being better than the NL.

al-vs-nl

The American League proved once again that they are the premier league….by far! How many teams were over .500 by league? The AL had 9 teams over .500 while the NL had just 6. There are 15 teams in each league. So 60 percent of AL teams (9 of 15) were winners. Only 40 percent of NL (6 of 15) were winners.

Other facts supporting the American League’s supremacy:

  • AL won the All-Star Game…..again. This year the AL won 4-2, once again dominating the series they have most of the time since 1988. Since then the AL is 22-6-1.
  • AL won Interleague play by a total of 165-135 this year, continuing a trend of winning every year since 2004. In fact, the National League has only won 4 seasons over their AL foes in the 20 years since Interleague play was introduced in 1997. When you sort the teams by Interleague record you’ll see 7 of the top 8 are AL teams. The Cubs were first with a 15-5 Interleague record. Once again, the Cubs took advantage of a light schedule, going 9-2 against losing teams and 6-3 against winning teams. Overall, the AL had 10 teams at or above .500 in Interleague record while the NL had just 6 teams. For more info, see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Interleague_play

2016 MLB Interleague.jpg

Cubs records vs NL Playoff teams:  15-13 total

  • 2-5 vs New York Mets
  • 4-3 vs San Francisco Giants
  • 4-3 vs Los Angeles Dodgers
  • 5-2 vs Washington Nationals

Cubs records vs AL Playoff teams: 2-1 vs Texas Rangers

Total record vs all Playoff teams: 17-14

Total record vs all other teams: 86-44

As you can see, the Cubs went 17-14 versus other playoff teams. This should be a cause for concern. The concern is twofold: that the Cubs only played 31 games all year vs playoff teams…..and that they just barely won more games than they lost.

Overwhelming evidence supports my theory that the Cubs are not as good as you think. Their 103 wins are “not your father’s 103 wins”.

Bottom line is, they won enough to make the Playoffs and now they have a chance to prove me wrong. Maybe they will just do it. The statistics say it will be a bigger struggle than many diehards and bandwagon jumpers want to believe. Now the heat is turned up as the temperatures fall. The Cubs wake-up call rings on Friday night. Will they answer? So tap the brakes on your Cubs enthusiasm. Better yet, slam on the brakes because a storm is brewing…..and the clouds are looming at Wrigley.

wrigley-field

Featured

Bears travel to Indy to tame the Colts

The Chicago Bears (1-3) travel to Indianapolis this Sunday to take on the Colts (1-3) at Lucas Oil Stadium. Surprisingly the Colts are under .500 once again after a disappointing 2015. It seems like a long time ago that people were predicting the Colts to go to last year’s Super Bowl 50. Then they started 0-2 and never recovered, finishing 8-8. This year has gotten off to a similar start, once again opening up 0-2 with losses to Detroit and Denver before beating San Diego in Week 3. Last week, the Colts traveled to London to play the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Jags pulled off an upset victory, leaving Indianapolis fans crying in their beer, or coffee. The game started at 8:30 am Central time, leaving the Colts as Week 4 losers before anybody else even kicked off.

As for the Bears, they got a win for the first time this season and at home in Soldier Field for the first time in a year. They broke their 6 game home losing streak to the relief of Monsters fans.

I’m a firm believer in the axiom “You’re never as good as you think and never as bad as you think”. After Chicago started 0-3, I was hoping that axiom applied to the Bears this year because in a league of parity, aren’t they better than what they showed those first three weeks? They were, as they played a solid Week 4 game that would have looked a lot better if the Lions had not returned that punt 85 yards for a touchdown with 2 minutes left, cutting the score from 17-6 to 17-14 after the 2 point conversion. It didn’t really matter once the Bears recovered the onside kick.

So now where do the Bears and the Colts go from here? That’s what makes this a big game. If anyone is going to climb out of their last place deficit, getting a win here is key. The Bears are already 3 games out of 1st place behind the dominating Vikings (4-0). The Colts are just 2 games out of 1st place, tied with both the Jaguars and Titans, behind the Texans (3-1).

The Bears are likely to get pressure on Colts QB Andrew Luck as he’s been sacked 15 times already in the first 4 games. That’s an average of almost 4 sacks per game. It will be fun to see #94 Leonard Floyd, #97 Willie Young, #49 Sam Acho, #96 Akiem Hicks, and company rush the passer this week. Count on at least a couple of sacks.

As for the Bears offense, the question is at QB as usual. Will #2 Brian Hoyer duplicate last week’s surprising performance? Or will #6 Jay Cutler be back from a thumb injury? Cutler did not practice on Wednesday so it looks like he’s out again. I’ve gotta believe an injury to the thumb on your throwing hand would be a tough one to overcome. Can he grip the ball properly? Does it allow him to throw a spiral? Don’t forget Cutler has injured this thumb before. In fact, Cutler broke his thumb at what was probably the high point of his career in 2011 after leading the Bears to a 7-3 start. Remember that injury? The Bears were in the midst of winning their 5th game in a row when Cutler threw an interception when the Bears WR stopped on his route, letting the Chargers defender pick off the pass. Adding insult to injury (or maybe injury to insult), Cutler broke his thumb when he tackled the interceptor, thus ending his season and the Bears playoff hopes. The Bears lost 5 in a row without Cutler and finished 8-8. That was a hard season to get over because it looked like the Bears had all the momentum, looking to advance further than they had the year before when they lost the 2010 NFC Championship game. The more I reminisce, that was the moment when Cutler’s career went downhill. The Bears, and Lovie Smith, never recovered. When the coach and QB get blamed, then it all crashes down as the organization got caught up in firing GM’s and coaches and thus hiring different GM’s and coaches, coaches who brought in different schemes. Cutler outlasted all of those GM’s and Head Coaches and Offensive Coordinators, but at what cost? He’s had 6 OC’s in his 8 years as Bears QB and with the revolving door in management, they have essentially ruined his career. It’s a shame really. And now it’s probably over for Cutler, at least after this season.

That’s a discussion for another day. Today we’ll tackle this week’s game.

jay-cutler2

Keep an Eye On: 

#81 Cameron Meredith – The big news this week was #13 Kevin White broke his left fibula and sprained his left ankle, which may end his season. It’s a tough break for White who was really beginning to show off his skills. His confidence seemed to be climbing each and every game and he was becoming a focal point of the offense, garnering more targeted passes (35) than anyone else including #17 Alshon Jeffery (25) and #19 Eddie Royal (22). So now Meredith must step up and fill White’s shoes. Last week Meredith did just that, grabbing 4 passes for 28 yards after White’s injury. Can the 6’3″ 207 pound 2nd year receiver from Illinois St. be a dependable target for Hoyer?

Cameron Meredith Bears.jpg

 

Stats Thru 25% of the season (4 games), better stat in bold:

Colts Defense: 24th Total Defense (382.8 yards per game), 18th Rush Defense (105.8), 24th Pass Defense (277.0), 30th Points Allowed (31.3)

vs Bears Offense: 24th Total Offense (335.0), 26th Rush Offense (82.3), 15th Pass Offense (252.8), 31st Points Scored (15.5)

Bears Defense: 10th Total Defense (333.5), 26th Rush Defense (123.5), 8th Pass Defense (210.0), 19th Points Allowed (24.3)

vs Colts Offense: 17th Total Offense (349.3), 24th Rush Offense (88.0), 13th Pass Offense (261.3), 7th Points Scored (27.0)

In a nutshell of 4 games, these stats lead us to believe the Colts have the better offense and the Bears have the better defense. It’s hard to argue with that. Now that the Bears are gaining continuity with their Quarterback, Offensive Line play, and Running Back spots, their offense is improving. Despite last week’s performance by Hoyer against Detroit, don’t forget they only scored 17 points though. The Colts are 24th in Total Defense and 30th in Points Allowed so I think Chicago can move the ball and score. The Colts can’t stop anyone, including Jacksonville, so I will predict the Bears win a close one at Lucas Oil Stadium.

 

Bears 21 Colts 20

Bears record: 1-3

My prediction record: 2-2

I incorrectly picked the Bears to win their first two games at Houston (3-1) and at home vs Philadelphia (3-0). The Bears had a rough start vs some really good teams. In fact, their first 3 opponents are in 1st or 2nd Place. Then I correctly nailed the Cowboys (3-1) beating the Bears and Chicago getting on the board over Detroit (1-3). Let’s hope I’m right for the 3rd week in a row.

Featured

Bears/Lions Recap

It just felt different on Sunday. You could tell early on that it was going to be a better day at the Chicago lakefront on the shores of Lake Michigan. Even the sod at Soldier Field was in good shape. Long time Chicago fans know that’s a rare occurrence. A home game at noon was a welcome sight for Bears players and fans alike. It’s Week 4 of the NFL season and yet this was just the Bears second home game and first during the day. Cloudy October skies on a Sunday at high noon inspired memories of Walter running relentlessly while Hampton prowled the line of scrimmage. Would those Bears have ever let the Lions come into this Bear den and leave with victory? No way man.

soldier-field

After imagining this disparity, I wondered…..am I over-glorifying the 80’s Bears? Let me check the NFL Record & Fact Book…….FACT: Bears won 10 of 13 games over Detroit at Soldier Field from 1980-1992. Overall, Chicago beat Detroit ten games in a row from 1984-1989. But those were the good ‘ol days when Coach Ditka roamed the sidelines. Those days are just distant memories now. Meanwhile, Coach John Fox wanders the modern sidelines trying to conjure the same magic that made those Monsters of the Midway dominant.

coach-ditka2

Right away Chicago responded with a TD pass from #2 Brian Hoyer to #19 Eddie Royal. You know how I feel about Royal. He’s an underrated playmaker that the Bears desperately need to use. They need to get the ball in his hands and let him make plays! That’s what he did with 6:35 left in the 1st quarter, catching a 4 yard pass for a touchdown.

The fun continued when gigantic beast #96 Akiem Hicks sacked Matt Stafford late in the 1st quarter. I believe it was former Bears Defensive Coordinator Greg Blache (1999-2003) who once said sacks were overrated. They might be, but sacks are drive stoppers too. What’s more, sacks are fun! Hicks drove Stafford into the turf and celebrated to Bears fans’ applause.

Detroit finally got on the board with 2:19 left in the 1st half as Matt Prater nailed another long FG, this one a 50 yarder. Prater holds the Soldier Field record for longest FG as he converted a 59 yarder last season. One of the turning points in this game that helped the Bears finally earn a victory was #39 Jacoby Glenn’s interception right before Halftime, stopping Detroit’s drive that was probably going to result in at least a FG. Glenn’s return out to the Bears 34 set up the Bears for a last chance at scoring before the gun. Hoyer’s 26 yard completion to #17 Alshon Jeffery gave the Bears what turned out to be a lame Hail Mary try with 2 seconds left. Going into the locker room, the Lions only had 99 total yards. Meanwhile the Bears had 230 yards to go along with a 15-5 1st Downs advantage. Bears led 7-3 at Halftime.

Going into the 2nd half, as a Bears fan you’re worried because despite all of these statistics, the Bears only had a 4 point lead. Then when the Lions had a long 3rd quarter drive, chewing up over 7 minutes of the clock as they drove down the field, advancing into the shadows of the Bears goal line, you’re getting extremely worried. Perhaps the most important plays of the game were the 2nd down and 3rd down stops to hold Detroit to a FG. The 3rd down play reminded me of Nintendo’s NFL Tecmo Bowl video game from the late 80s/early 90s in which you had to choose from 4 plays. If you picked the correct play on defense, your entire defense would swarm the ball carrier, giving virtually no chance to the offense. It was hilarious! That’s what the Bears defense looked like on this 3rd and Goal play for Detroit as #53 John Timu blitzed up the middle, tackling Lions RB #34 Zach Zenner milliseconds after he received the handoff along with a host of Bears defenders. In fact, it looked like they had made a bet on who could grab Zenner first. About 3 or 4 Bears gobbled him up in the backfield. The result was a 3 yard loss and a Bears red zone stop! So after the Lions hit the shorty, the Bears still led 7-6.

The proceeding Bears drive was paramount as Eddie Royal caught a long seem pass on 3rd and 11 from his own 24 and took it 64 yards with his run after catch. Then from the Lions 12, Hoyer hit Kevin White on 1st down (who sprained his ankle on the tackle) and #86 TE Zach Miller on 3rd down for the 6 yard touchdown!

eddie-royal2

You knew it was over when…..

#32 Deiondre’ Hall picked off QB Matt Stafford’s pass with 4:03 left preserving a 17-6 Bears lead. After that, it was “all over but the shouting”. The Bears shaky special teams did allow an 85 yard punt return TD by #12 Andre Roberts with 1:52 left but once the Lions couldn’t successfully grab their onside kick it was truly over. Bears won 17-14.

Game Balls  nfl-game-ball

#37 Bryce Callahan – He had to cover #15 Golden Tate and he did a fine job. Callahan held Tate to 1 lousy catch for 1 useless yard on 4 targets. Way to make a name for yourself Callahan!

#13 Kevin White – White brought gobs of energy with his play today, catching 6 passes for 55 yards on 9 targets. He is oozing potential and gaining confidence by the week. The Bears are really working this kid into the offense the last 2 weeks, seemingly targeting him more than veteran WR’s Jeffery and Royal. I’m really pumped to see his continued development. Hopefully his ankle injury isn’t too bad.

#19 Eddie Royal – Royal showed off his playmaking skills once again, catching 7 passes for 111 yards and 1 touchdown. Royal is so good at turning screen passes into solid gains. His big play was really a shot in the arm for the Bears offense and seemed to give everyone watching (fans and teammates alike) a lot more confidence.

#24 Jordan Howard – If you read my Preview this week, you knew I’d be keeping an eye on Howard as he filled in for #33 Jeremy Langford. He did not disappoint, finishing with 111 rushing yards on 23 carries. He hauled in 3 passes for another 21 yards. In fact, Howard showed that he could be a possible starter moving forward for this young Bears team. Why not? He’s got power, speed, and even ball skills as a receiver. It’s fun to watch this guy!

jordan-howard2

Player of the Game

#2 Brian Hoyer – Hoyer did an excellent job hitting his receivers in motion and giving his skill guys a chance to make runs after the catch. Bears YAC (Yards after catch) yards today were ?    Hoyer went 28-36 with 302 passing yards and 2 TD. He had zero turnovers, along with the rest of the offense. He converted a good solid game plan into just 17 points (despite one missed FG), executing OC Dowell Loggains plays with consistency. Hoyer seems to have a knack for taking what the defense gives him. He hits his short passes and rarely throws deep but will take a couple of shots when needed. Best of all, he led the Bears to a victory.

brian-hoyer

Since we’re giving all the credit to the Bears skill players, we shouldn’t forget to give credit to the offensive line that blocked so well for them. Maybe the OL is finally gaining some steam due to cohesion gained from a few games and weeks of practice.

Next up…..the Indianapolis Colts are next as they take a quick flight back over the pond after their loss to Jacksonville in London, England. Chicago will take the rather long flight from O’Hare to Indianapolis for the Week 5 matchup at Noon on Sunday.

Featured

Chicago Bears Week 4 Preview

lions-logo      at       bears-logo6

The Bears (0-3) host the Detroit Lions (1-2) at Soldier Field this Sunday at Noon. This is an old black and blue, Norris division slobberknocker as Chris Berman would say. Chicago is going on 31 years now since their last Super Bowl Championship. You think that is bad but how about Detroit? The Lions have never been to a Super Bowl. This season leads to Super Bowl 51 in February so, yeah, that’s not good. In fact, the Lions haven’t won an NFL Championship since 1957, when they won their 3rd NFL Championship of that decade. Talk about a dry spell. Detroit is out in the desert, panting. They are thirsting for even one drop of water. At least the Bears have won it twice since then, in 1963 and 1985.

Can the Bears win this game? The answer is yes. Will the Bears win this game? The answer is……….?

I know it looks bad right now for the Bears but the schedule really lightens up the rest of the season. Look at Chicago’s opponents’ records through Week 3 and you’ll see what I mean.

Bears schedule.jpg

I know what you’re thinking: Boy this guy is really reaching here. You might be right, but I might be right too. It really struck me that the Bears opponents so far are a combined 7-2 (4-2 if you take away the 3 wins over Chicago). The record of remaining opponents is 19-20 with just 5 of 13 opponents having winning records. 4 of those 5 are against NFC North foes Minnesota and Green Bay. So outside of those 4 games with the Vikings and Packers, the Bears have an easy schedule. Those 9 games are against teams with a combined record of 9-18. Could the Bears win all of those games? The answer is yes. Will they win all of those games? The answer is………?

Looking at some stats on Pro Football Focus, we see that Detroit’s run defense is below average. They are 21st in rushing yards allowed. In fact, they are tied for worst in the league allowing 5.1 yards per carry. You’d think John Fox, despite his sickness this week that caused him to miss practice Wednesday, will stress to OC Dowell Loggains to run the ball. Given starting RB Jeremy Langford’s right ankle injury, the Bears should give the rock to new rookie starter Jordan Howard and even possibly to newly signed former Lion Joique Bell.

Pro Football Focus released some stats from the NFL’s Week 3 games. Their 2nd lowest rated LB was Lions MLB #59 Tahir Whitehead. They said he struggled as he missed plenty of tackles while he only made 2 tackles at Green Bay. Usually he was blocked at the second level and never made an effort to even get in on tackles. If the Bears can copy the Packers game plan and attack him in the run game, maybe they can also achieve success like Eddie Lacy who rushed for 103 yards on just 17 carries.

Keep An Eye On:

#24 RB Jordan Howard

Howard has shown flashes in the first 3 games of his career that he could be an every down back at 6’1″ 222 pounds. Coming out of Indiana (2015 stats: 1,213 rushing yards, 6.2 avg, 9 TD; 11-106-1 receiving) after transferring from UAB, Howard needs to continue his development as both a runner and a receiver. Last week at Dallas, Howard had 9 carries for 45 yards and 4 catches for 47 yards after Langford got what Fox would call an “owie”.

Jordan Howard.jpg

Prediction:

Chicago will get a win here one of these days, so why not this Sunday?

Bears 20 Lions 17

Bears record (0-3): Awful start but there’s still some hope, especially when Cutler and some of these other injured players return from their “owies”.

My prediction record (1-2): Not a great start in my predictions, but like the Bears, there is some hope. It’s not my first rodeo and this cowboy thinks the Bears will still get on the horse and have a successful ride.

Featured

Chicago Bears Week 3 Recap

cowboys-logo 31

bears-logo 17

The Bears looked awful last night…..in the first half. Believe it or not, Chicago “won” the second half, outscoring the Dallas Cowboys 14-7 on Sunday Night Football. You need to look at the positives sometimes. Bears 14 Cowboys 7 (2nd Half only). Unfortunately the Cowboys outscored the Bears 24-3 in the 1st half.

Overall this third straight loss to start the 2016 season looked a lot like the first two games. The Bears played decently in one half of the football game but ultimately couldn’t sustain any success for 4 quarters. So now Chicago is 0-3, one of just 4 winless teams along with Jacksonville, Cleveland, and New Orleans. The Saints play tonight on Monday Night Football so they could leave the Bears as one of just three winless teams heading into Week 4.

Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott, Cole Beasley and a dominant offensive line were simply too much for the Bears shaky defense to stop. With all the injuries, was it really a surprise? Sure the Cowboys had injuries too, to Tony Romo before the game and then WR’s Dez Bryant and Beasley during the game. Those receivers weren’t out for long though. They returned to catch 10 balls combined for 113 yards and a TD, Prescott’s 1st career TD pass.

ezekiel-elliott

I knew this game wasn’t likely to go well when NBC announced the lineups and some dude named Cre’Von LeBlanc was named as a starting cornerback for the Bears. I had never heard of this guy, at least as far as I could remember.

The first half was simply dominated by Dallas. They led 17-0 before the Bears even got a 1st down. It was one of those nights where you knew it was probably over early on. Sure the Bears came back and made it a game at times, but if you cheered for Dallas you probably never worried too much. You didn’t need to apply more deodorant watching Brian Hoyer throw his dink and dunk passes for the majority of the 2nd half.

Where does Chicago go from here? Well, first they need to go to the training room and get healthy. This team is so beaten down after three games, both mentally and physically, that it is hard to remember a time when a team was this beset by injuries this early in the season. So the first prescription is to get some guys healthy. If and when Kyle Fuller, Danny Trevathan, Eddie Goldman, and the DB’s with concussions (Adrian Amos, Bryce Callahan, and Harold Jones-Quartey) get back to full strength, then the Bears can clean up their defensive game and make progress on improving this unit. Some guys did show flashes such as Jerrell Freeman, Willie Young, Christian Jones, and Leonard Floyd.

Game Balls  nfl-game-ball

#50 Jerrell Freeman – Freeman was one of the few Bears that looked pretty good last night. He was credited with 12 total tackles. With Trevathan out for a while, the Bears need Freeman to be a tackling machine and also be a leader for this young and inexperienced defense. I think he will succeed.

#13 Kevin White – White oozes potential and we’re starting to see why the Bears were so high on him. He caught 6 passes for 62 yards from QB Brian Hoyer. He was targeted often and responded with some nice plays. He had a highlight reel catch, jumping up and over the Cowboys CB and hauling in a long pass as he tipped it to himself with one free hand.

Player of the Game

#86 Zach Miller – Miller had a break-out game, his first of this young season. He caught 8 passes for 78 yards and both of the Bears 2 touchdowns. He looks like a rock solid TE, in the mold of Cowboys TE Jason Witten. He’s athletic. He’s a security blanket for his QB. He’s one of the best weapons on this young Bears team.

Zach Miller.jpg

HOSED!  thumbs-down

I know the Bears stunk last night and these two plays likely wouldn’t have mattered, but the fact is that they were hosed on two calls at AT&T Stadium.

  1. With 7:47 left in the 2nd quarter, the Bears tried an onside kick attempt after hitting a FG to close the ‘Boys lead to 17-3. It was one of those “surprise” onside kicks where the kicker nudges it straight ahead while his teammates rush to recover it ideally 10 or 11 yards downfield. Bears kicker #4 Connor Barth perfectly executed his attempt and the ball was recovered by #27 Sherrick McManis. Of course the refs called an offsides on #58 Jonathan Anderson. Problem was, he was not clearly offsides. If anyone was offsides it may have been McManis who was lined up between Barth and Anderson. However, there was no clear evidence of anybody being offsides. Can this play be reviewed? If so, it should have been reviewed. This play was equivalent to a turnover. The refs essentially gave the Cowboys the ball because the Bears had to re-kick and they weren’t going to onsides again. Tough break for a team that needs all the breaks they can get. Boo!

Bears onsides kick.jpg

  1. I truly love this guy. He’s one of the “good guys” but he was guilty of a holding call, yet the referees picked up the flag. Cowboys TE #82 Jason Witten clearly held Bears OLB #94 Leonard Floyd on 1st and Goal at the 9 with 1:15 left in the half. Once again these silly refs had a “discussion” and took away the flag they had thrown. This was clearly a case in which the veteran got the break. Witten got the benefit of the doubt because he’s a long time professional. He’s very likeable and successfully pleaded his case to the refs during their discussion. Meanwhile, Floyd is a rookie in his 3rd career game. Plus, the game was in Dallas and usually home teams get these calls. Nonetheless, it makes me sick! Like I said, I love Witten but this was absolutely bull!!! Instead of 1st and Goal from the 19 yard line, the Cowboys got the result of the play which made it 2nd and Goal from the 3. Alfred Morris proceeded to bull his way into the end zone, putting Dallas up 24-3. Boo again!

witten-holding-1-of-3witten-holding-2-of-3

witten-holding-3-of-3
These photos prove Witten held Floyd. If at least one ref threw a flag, what was the discussion about? Witten clearly was guilty of a holding. He even did that “Ohh, I didn’t hold” reaction and looked for a ref to bail him out. Floyd would have probably made the tackle around the 9. Since he was held, it should have been a 10 yard penalty on Dallas from the spot of the foul. Instead, it was 2nd and Goal from the 3. “Cmon man!”

These calls likely didn’t make the difference but for the Bears, when it can go wrong it will go wrong. On top of everything else, the Bears are getting bad luck to top off their lack of depth and lack of experience. Next up is a return to Soldier Field for a Noon game on Sunday versus a 1-2 Detroit Lions team that is also scuffling.

Featured

“A Look Back”: One Decade Ago……the 2006 Chicago Bears

brian-urlacher-with-halas-trophy

This is the first in a series of posts about Chicago Bears teams from days gone by. Throughout the course of this season, I will turn back the clock by the decade and look at the Bears teams of yesteryear. We’re gonna start by going back one decade. Reset your clocks to 2006.

You may recall that the 2006 Bears started the year with high hopes. This was the beginning of Lovie Smith’s third season and after making the playoffs in 2005, Bears fans were pumped! After 2005’s surprising run to the NFC Playoffs as they won the NFC North with an 11-5 record, the Bears started off strong, winning their first 7 games in ’06. They won the NFC North with a 13-3 record, then went on and beat Seattle in the Divisional round 27-24 in OT, then dominated the NFC Championship 39-14 over New Orleans at Soldier Field before losing Super Bowl XVI (41) to Indianapolis 29-17.

Lovie Smith was at the height of his coaching tenure in 2006, winning the NFL Coach of the Year Award. The Lovie Era started in 2004 and ended at the conclusion of the 2012 season. He coached nine years with Chicago, making the playoffs three times (2005, 2006, 2010). At this moment in time, Lovie managed a staff of coaches including Ron Rivera as his DC and Ron Turner as his OC.

Here’s what the roster looked like for much of the year:

QB’s Rex Grossman, Brian Griese, Kyle Orton

RB’s Thomas Jones, Cedric Benson, Adrian Peterson (from Georgia Southern)

FB’s Jason McKie, J.D. Runnels

WR’s Muhsin Muhammad, Bernard Berrian, Rashied Davis, Justin Gage, Mark Bradley, Airese Currie

TE’s Desmond Clark, John Gilmore, Gabe Reid

LT John Tait, LG Ruben Brown, C Olin Kreutz, RG Roberto Garza, RT Fred Miller or John St. Clair

DE’s Adewale Ogunleye, Alex Brown, Mark Anderson

DT’s Tommie Harris, Israel Idonije, Dusty Dvoracek, Tank Johnson, Ian Scott

LB’s Brian Urlacher, Lance Briggs, Hunter Hillenmeyer, Leon Joe, Jamar Williams

CB’s Charles Tillman, Nate Vasher, Ricky Manning Jr.

S’s Mike Brown, Chris Harris, Todd Johnson, Danieal Manning, Brandon McGowan

K Robbie Gould, P Brad Maynard, KR/PR Devin Hester, LS Patrick Mannelly

The Bears had 8 Pro Bowlers in 2006: Olin Kreutz and Ruben Brown from the offense, Brian Urlacher, Lance Briggs, and Tommie Harris from the defense, and Devin Hester, Robbie Gould, and Brendan Ayanbadejo from the special teams. What an outstanding special teams this was! Special teams coach Dave Toub was a “special” coach. His units consistently won games the Bears would have otherwise lost. His return units were inventive and truly a “3rd” phase that the “4th phase” (nickname for Chicago Bears fans in this era) cheered and admired.

Super Bowl XLI: Indianapolis Colts v Chicago Bears

2006 was quite a season in Bears history. This was an excellent team that gets lost in history because, like most teams that lose the Super Bowl, if you don’t finish #1 then people think you’re OVERRATED rather than awesome in your own right. The truth lies somewhere in between. Lovie’s Bears fell 12 points short of Tony Dungy’s and Peyton Manning’s Colts in a rainstorm in which key cogs Mike Brown and Tommie Harris didn’t play because of injury. Go back and watch. Peyton Manning took advantage of inexperienced safety Danieal Manning missing a coverage which resulted in a long TD pass to Reggie Wayne. If Brown were in there, does he get burned? I would bet that he would not. As we saw in later years, without a premier DT like Harris and a solid FS like Brown, Lovie’s Cover 2 defense was simply not as dominating.

But that’s the bad side of the story. How about the good side? You’ll remember the controversy of fans calling for #8 Rex Grossman’s job while Lovie consistently and defiantly stated “Rex is our Quarterback”. You’ll remember superstar rookie athlete #23 Devin Hester wowing fans and opponents alike on kickoff and punt returns. He scored 7 times (3 punts, 3 kickoffs, 1 FG) on returns in ’06 including the opening kickoff of Super Bowl 41. You’ll remember #20 Thomas Jones setting the tone with a dominating running game. You’ll remember the takeaways that the defense drooled over as the coaching staff taught them to punch at the ball, creating the “Peanut Punch” by #33 Charles Tillman. You’ll remember one of the all-time athletes at linebacker in #54 Brian Urlacher as he flew from sideline to sideline making truly amazing tackles on speedsters like Reggie Bush. You’ll remember rookie phenom pass rusher #97 Mark Anderson blowing up quarterbacks, finishing with 12 sacks. You’ll remember #30 Mike Brown always being in the right place at the right time, somehow finding a way to pick off a pass or pick up a fumble and run it to paydirt. It’s both a gift and preparation…..and luck. You’ll remember their jersey numbers.

mike-brown-bears

You’ll laugh when you think of the late Arizona Cardinals coach Dennis Green, who just passed away in July, slamming his fist on the wooden podium after his Cardinals team squandered a big lead on Monday Night Football in Week 6……”The Bears are who we thought they were. That’s why we took the damn field! Now, (slaps podium in disgust) if you wanna crown ’em, then crown their ***! But they ARE who we thought they were!…..and we let ’em off the hook!”

The Bears comeback at Arizona from a 20-0 halftime deficit to win 24-23 was a huge momentum changer and confidence builder that propelled Chicago all the way to Miami. Even though the ultimate crown wasn’t to be, the memories of Brian Urlacher holding up the NFC Championship Trophy, the Halas Trophy, in the snow at Soldier Field will remain a fantastic memory for Bears fans forever.

I can’t believe it’s been a decade.

Featured

Chicago Bears Week 3 Preview

This week the Bears travel to Dallas to take on the Arlington Cowboys on Sunday night…….check that, reverse it. (That’s my small tribute to Gene Wilder.) Speaking of Wilder, I wish he were still here. There was just something so special about this guy. Bears fans might feel the same way, not only about Wilder, but also about their favorite Bears players that they wish were still here. I’m not talking about the Brian Piccolo’s, the Doug Buffone’s, the Walter Payton’s. Not today. That’s for another column. For now I’m talking about all the Bears currently not playing because of injury.

Jay Cutler, Lamarr Houston, Eddie Goldman, Danny Trevathan, Adrian Amos, Bryce Callahan, Chris Prosinski…..all hurt vs the Eagles. Now there’s news that Alshon Jeffery is questionable as he was limited in practice on Wednesday with a knee injury. What else can go wrong in a short week of preparation as they head down to Texas? Check out the Lake Forest Hospital guest list, courtesy of Rotowire.com: (I’m just kidding about the hospital guest list although there IS a Lake Forest Hospital near Halas Hall, practice home of the Chicago Bears)

As you can see, there are 11 players “questionable” for Sunday, along with one “doubtful” (Trevathan) and two “out” (Goldman & Houston). Two remain on the PUP list (Pernell McPhee & Marquess Wilson). Some of these questionable players we didn’t even know about such as Sitton and Porter while the others were obvious if you watched the game vs Philadelphia. It would be nice to see Kyle Fuller play again at CB so hopefully Chicago will have his services in Dallas. Overall, this list is ridiculous! 14 players on the Bears 53 man roster did not practice (DNP) on Wednesday or were limited. That’s more than a quarter of the team! 6 of the top 12 Bears Defensive Backs in the 3 deep are currently questionable. 10 Bears defenders are either out, doubtful, or questionable for this weeks game. I hope those trainers are getting paid overtime this week at Halas Hall!

Moving on from the injuries, can Chicago compete against a Dallas Cowboys (1-1) team that is counting on plenty of young players also, including their QB and RB? Tony Romo is hurt once again but luckily for Dallas they drafted Mississippi St. alum Dak Prescott, who looks solid so far in his young career. He shows potential as a dual-threat QB for the Cowboys. Dallas is known for their offensive line and that sure helps a QB and a RB look good. Note to Ryan Pace……DRAFT OFFENSIVE LINEMEN and LET THEM GET SOME PRACTICE TIME TOGETHER over the COURSE OF SEVERAL SEASONS to ENSURE COHESION AND CAMARADERIE while at the same time SECURING THE HEALTH OF YOUR QB AND RUNNING GAME. Do NOT switch up personnel at multiple positions on the five man OL on the eve of Week 1…..2 years in a row! There’s no anger there. I get it….but this is getting alarming. Hopefully someday we’ll look back at all this and laugh.

Keep An Eye On:

#93 Will Sutton

I loved Will Sutton in college at Arizona St. This guy was a stud! It’s been a harder transition for him to the professional ranks as the Bears changed schemes since he was drafted for the Bears previous 4-3 defense. Vic Fangio’s hiring evolved the defense to it’s current 3-4 base defense. Sutton seemed like a better fit as a 4-3 DT rather than as a NT in the 3-4. Now that Goldman is hurt and out for several weeks, Sutton steps in. Can he help stuff the Cowboys solid running game starring their rookie RB Ezekiel Elliot? Can Sutton also help collapse the pocket on rookie QB Dak Prescott as a pass rusher? I’m interested to find out how Sutton as well as all the Bears backups fill-in as starters replacing all these injured Bears.

Will Sutton.jpg

After Monday Night’s debacle, it might be hard to get excited for this game but trust me, when you see Carrie Underwood dancing around on NBC’s Sunday Night Football, you’ll get pumped really fast. While I might be more than interested to see how the Bears respond, I am sorry to say I can NOT pick this team to win this game right now. Too many injuries on a short week of practice on the road in a prime time night game without their #1 Quarterback = Another disappointing performance ending up in a Bears defeat.

Prediction:

Cowboys 20 Bears 13

Featured

Chicago Bears Week 2 Preview

eagles-logo at bears-logo5

The Bears (0-1) are featured on Monday Night Football in Week 2 as the Philadelphia Eagles (1-0) invade Soldier Field. This is the Bears home opener after losing on the road in Week 1 at Houston. All signs point to Philadelphia starting rookie QB Carson Wentz, who wowed the crowd in the Eagles Week 1 win over Cleveland 29-10. He went 22 of 37 for 278 yards and 2 TD’s. Can he duplicate his success in Week 2? The coaches sure would love it, but they have to get him ready to face the Monsters of the Midway, or at least this improving Bears defense. Who’s coaching the Eagles nowadays anyway? It’s Doug Pederson…..you know, that guy who backed up Brett Favre for most of his career? It makes you wonder if Favre will make an appearance on the Soldier Field sidelines. But where would he stand? He’d stand in front of Doug Pederson of course.

eagles-fans

The Eagles sure looked impressive last week, but it WAS Cleveland so don’t get too excited Philly fans. Chicago ain’t Cleveland (3-13 last year), as they say. Who says that exactly, other than Joakim Noah? As bad as the Bears have been at times over the last decade, their mediocrity pales in comparison to the Browns failures since they returned as the Cleveland Browns in 1999 after the original Browns left to become the Baltimore Ravens. The Browns have exactly one playoff appearance in the 17 seasons under the new ownership! Speaking of owners, do you have a fine appreciation for art?…..Art Modell that is? Enough Art, and enough Cleveland. This week’s opponent is Philadelphia so let’s look at the numbers.

Browns fans.jpg

The Eagles were 7-9 last year. The Bears were 6-10. The Eagles drafted Carson Wentz from North Dakota St. with the second overall pick. The Bears drafted Leonard Floyd from Georgia with the ninth overall pick. The Eagles used their first four picks in April’s Draft on offensive players. Yet they were awful last year on defense, giving up 430 points. The Bears gave up 397 points and used 6 of their 9 picks on defensive players, including five of their first six. Chicago also spent money on two big free agent linebackers in Freeman and Trevathan. Do you see where this is leading? The Bears have a better defense than Philadelphia and will prove it on Monday night!

Keep an Eye On:

Eddie Royal/WR/Bears

Royal had his Bears career high in receiving yards last week with 57 yards on 4 catches including his 19 yard touchdown. He also had a 31 yard punt return last week in Houston. Is he becoming a go-to receiver for Cutler when Jeffery is being double covered? After struggling with injuries last year, Royal is healthy for now. If he can stay that way, he could have a solid ’16 for Chicago.

eddie-royal

Prediction:

I know what you’re thinking. Is this guy gonna pick the Bears again? The answer is yes. Pick the Bears. Trust me. If I’m wrong you can throw tomatoes at me on Tuesday. Here’s to thinking the Bears playing at Soldier Field in their home opener on MNF versus a rookie quarterback making his first start on the road will equal success. The Bears will get their first victory in 2016……and if they don’t, it’s a good thing I love tomatoes.

Bears 24 Eagles 13

bears-fans

Featured

Chicago Bears Week 1 Preview

This article was originally published at Football Nation:

http://www.footballnation.com/articles/chicago-bears-week-1-preview

The Chicago Bears open up the 2016 campaign in Houston, TX where they will take on the Texans at Noon central time on Sunday at NRG Stadium, formerly known as Reliant Stadium. The Bears have high hopes as this is Head Coach John Fox’s second season leading the Monsters of the Midway. In his previous coaching stops in Carolina and Denver, Fox showed solid if not spectacular improvement in the win column in his 2nd season. Last year he led the Bears to a 6-10 record. Can he improve in 2016?

After a vast number of roster moves to start this season, GM Ryan Pace is hoping these players are enough to help Coach Fox and his coaching staff including defensive mastermind Vic Fangio. Recent additions Josh Sitton at OG and Connor Barth at PK have Bears fans pumped up!…..well maybe not pumped exactly but we’ll say the Bears fans are intrigued.

I can’t wait to see the new front seven on defense. If the Bears want to return to the Monsters of the Midway, they’ll need to drastically improve the front wall. It all starts up front, and Pace worked hard this offseason bringing in Akiem Hicks to man one DE spot in Fangio’s 3-4 scheme. Hicks is a monster of a man (6’5″ 324) so at least he’s got that going for him…..which is nice. Manning (don’t remind us that Peyton retired, the Denver fans are whispering) the other DE spot will be a rotation of Mitch Unrein and 3rd round draft pick Jonathan Bullard. Bullard is showing all the signs of being a draft steal as the 72nd overall pick. He looks like an attacking pawn in Fangio’s chess game. The nose of this line will be 2015 2nd rounder Eddie Goldman. This group should be a major improvement over last year’s group.

Danny Trevathan & Akiem Hicks.jpg

At ILB, the new starters will both be free agent signees. This is where Pace put forth his best focus, signing Broncos leading tackler Danny Trevathan and Colts leading tackler Jerrell Freeman. These boys can hit! I saw Trevathan lay down the lumber a couple of times already in the preseason that reminded me of exactly nobody on the Bears last year. If nothing else it should be fun watching a more physical and imposing Bears team this Autumn. At OLB, Willie Young and Lamarr Houston will usually rush the passer and less often cover RB’s and slot WR’s. Backing them up will be Sam Acho and the electric Leonard Floyd. Floyd attacks like a thunder bolt…..at times. Other times he’ll play like a rookie. Of course, he IS just a rookie so it will be interesting following his development. He wears #94. Keep an eye on him.

leonard-floyd2

On offense, Jay Cutler returns for his 8th season with an improved OL, we’d like to think. Adding Josh Sitton from Green Bay seems too good to be true. He was just released by the Packers and the Bears took advantage, signing Sitton to a three-year deal for $21 million. He’s 30 years old and looked excellent on his 2015 tape so the Bears snapped him up. Were the Packers just trying to save money? It makes you wonder. Maybe they know something that the Bears don’t. If it’s just a money issue, then another fantastic move by Pace and his staff. For now we’ll give the Bears the benefit of the doubt.

The big news out of Houston is that J.J. Watt will play. Will Watt be healthy? He just started practicing on Monday for the first time since his back surgery on July 21. If so, can he jump right in and start where he left off which was the most dominant defensive player in the World? So is Houston good? Last year they were 9-7. They weren’t very happy with their quarterback play. They played four QB’s and their main starter was Brian Hoyer. (2606 passing yards, 19 TD, 7 INT, 61 % completion percentage) Hoyer is now Cutler’s backup so he might feel strange using the visitors locker room across the field at NRG Stadium. The Texans went out and signed Brock Osweiler to a four-year $72 million deal as a free agent when everyone assumed Denver would resign him to be their new starter after “you know who” retired. Now that Peyton is sitting on his couch listening to Lionel Richie, life goes on for the rest of us, including Osweiler. Can this guy be the answer to a perpetual question for the Texans?

For the Bears, will the Offensive Line gel with one new guard, a rookie center, and another guard that was injured for a couple of weeks? Will Jeremy Langford and the running game be more than average in their first game without Matt Forte? Will Kevin White give us a glimpse of his talent? We’ll begin getting the answers to these questions on Sunday.

Talk is cheap. It’s time to strap it up and hunker down.

Week 1 Prediction: Bears 24 Texans 20

Featured

Reid ‘Em & Weep (1.8)

Butkus League Power Rankings (Post-Draft Contenders, Pretenders, & Tankers)

Contenders

1. Jon – 2015 Butkus Bowl Champion

Jon returns plenty of talent in ’16 but can he replace Heisman Trophy winner Derrick Henry/RB/Alabama? Maybe he can. He made a suave trade, bringing in Royce Freeman/RB/Oregon from Mike for just 2 Draft picks (turned into DeMario McCall/RB/Ohio St. & Devwah Whaley/RB/Arkansas). When you compare Henry and Freeman’s 2015 stats you’ll see somewhat similar numbers: Henry 2219 yds/28 TD vs Freeman 1836/17.

Here’s Jon’s probable starting lineup:

QB1 – Baker Mayfield/Oklahoma

QB2 – J.T. Barrett/Ohio St.

RB’s – Lenny Fournette/LSU, Royce Freeman/Oregon and Samaje Perine/Oklahoma

WR’s – Charles Nelson/Oregon, Josh Reynolds/Texas A&M, and Travis Rudolph/Florida St.

TE – Jake Butt/Michigan

K – Michael Badgley/Miami

D – LSU

2. Brian – 2012 Butkus Bowl Champion, 2015 Real Champion

QB1 – Seth Russell/Baylor – QB’s as good as any

QB2 – Deshaun Watson/Clemon

RB’s – Dalvin Cook/Florida St., Jalen Hurd/Tennessee, and Devine Redding/Indiana

WR’s – Thomas Sperbeck/Boise St., Torii Hunter/Notre Dame, and River Cracraft/Washington St.

TE – O.J. Howard/Alabama OR Jordan Leggett/Clemson

K – Yustin Yoon/Notre Dame

D – Florida

3. Dave

QB1 – Luke Falk/Washington St. OR Chad Kelly/Ole Miss

QB2 – Patrick Mahomes/Texas Tech

RB’s – Christian McCaffrey/Stanford, Wayne Gallman/Clemson, and Corey Clement/Wisconsin – Excellent collection

WR’s – K.D. Cannon/Baylor, Gabe Marks/Washington St., and Simmie Cobbs/Indiana – Excellent again, maybe Dave deserves to be higher

TE – Bucky Hodges/Virginia Tech

K – Austin Seibert/Oklahoma

D – Michigan

Pretenders

4. Derek – 11 Time Champion

QB1 – Mitch Trubisky/North Carolina OR Deondre Francois/Florida St.

QB2 – Trevor Knight/Oklahoma OR Eric Dungey/Syracuse

RB’s – Nick Chubb/Georgia, Jeremy McNichols/Boise St., Myles Gaskin/Washington OR Saquon Barkley/Penn St. – Good depth

WR’s – Artavis Scott/Clemson, Mack Hollins/North Carolina, Steve Ishmael/Syracuse OR DeDe Westbrook/Oklahoma

TE – Jaylen Samuels/N.C. State

K – Greg Huegel/Clemson

D – Ohio St.

5. Simon – 2 Time Butkus Bowl Champion (2000, 2014), 2007 Real Champion

QB1 – Davis Webb/California OR Max Browne/USC

QB2 – Dakota Prukop/Oregon OR Lamar Jackson/Louisville

RB’s – Elijah Hood/North Carolina, Justin Jackson/Northwestern, and Matt Dayes OR Barry Sanders/Oklahoma St. OR Travon McMillian/Virginia Tech

WR’s – JuJu Smith/USC, James Washington/Oklahoma St., and Mike Williams/Clemson

TE – Dalton Schultz/Stanford

K – Andy Phillips/Utah

D – Washington

6. Reid – 2 Time Real Champion (2010, 2014)

QB1 – Jake Browning/Washington OR Skyler Howard/West Virginia

QB2 – Josh Dobbs/Tennessee OR Tommy Armstrong/Nebraska

RB’s – L.J. Scott/Michigan St., Mike Weber/Ohio St., and Ronald Jones/USC OR Jamaal Williams/BYU OR Ke’Shawn Vaughn/Illinois

WR’s – Isaiah Ford/Virginia Tech, Shelton Gibson/West Virginia, Jordan Westerkamp/Nebraska OR Darren Carrington/Oregon

TE – Evan Engram/Ole Miss

K – Eddy Pineiro/Florida

D – Alabama

Tankers

7. Mike – 2001 Butkus Bowl Champion, 2002 Real Champion

Mike’s first 6 Draft selections were Freshmen. In addition to those 6 Freshmen, he took 2 Sophomores and 2 Seniors (one of which was his Kicker). Mike finished in 7th place last year and I foresee another 7th place finish for the Tigers.

QB1 – Josh Rosen – Could be a franchise player

QB2 – Brett Rypien – Another franchise type player but also a QB1. No QB2’s ready to start.

RB’s – De’Veon Smith, Marcus Marshall, and Kalen Ballage – I heard they might’ve moved Ballage to TE. The rest of Mike’s RB corps consists mainly of backups and 3rd stringers.

WR’s – Calvin “Showtime” Ridley, Christian Kirk, and Malachi Dupre – 2 really good WR’s, 1 starter, and a few other prospects.

TE – Ryan Izzo

K – Michael Geiger

D – Tennessee

8. Jeff – 2004 Butkus Bowl Champion

QB1 – Brady White/Arizona St.

QB2 – Taysom Hill/BYU

RB’s – Shock Linwood/Baylor, Joe Williams/Utah, and either Bo Scarbrough/Alabama OR Damien Harris/Alabama

WR’s – Mark Andrews/Oklahoma, Noah Brown/Ohio St., and Antonio Callaway/Florida – 3 Sophs and 5 FR in his 8 player WR corps

TE – David Njoku/Miami

K – Aidan Schneider/Oregon

D – Florida St. – This team could easily compete for 7th place if they don’t watch it.

Overall, there are six Contenders for the Butkus League Championship this year. Three teams are really tough and will be hard to beat for a top 3 spot. Then we have three contenders/pretenders looking to get in that 4th playoff spot. Last year Jon finished in the 3rd spot in the regular season and went on to his magical Butkus Bowl triumph. What will happen in 2016? I can’t wait to find out.

—————————————————–

Reid’s Cornhuskers Themes

2003: “Full Throttle”
2004: “Can You Stand the Rain?”
2005: “When It Rains…It Pours”
2006: “The Impossible Dream”
2007: “Shutting Out the Ghost of Autumns Past”
2008: “Forget About Next Year”
2009: “Like a Bolt of Lightning”
2010: “Refuse To Lose: The Scoring Explosion”
2011: “Unfinished Business”
2012: “Echoes of the Mind”
2013: “Forget About Next Year….This IS Next Year”
2014: “It’s All Over But The Shouting”

2015: “We Shall Never Surrender”

And now announcing this year’s theme……….

“Not In This Lifetime”

After all these years of never winning, I’m starting to wonder if I’ll ever break through the ceiling and win a Championship. Well, someday Hell might freeze over. When they asked Axl Rose if GNR would ever get back together, he said “Not in This Lifetime”. That was four years ago. You all know what happened next.

 

The 2016 “Not in This Lifetime” Tour

Week 1 – September 3 – Arlington, TX (AT&T Stadium) – USC vs Alabama

IMG_2283.JPG
Natalie posing outside of “Rangers Ballpark in Arlington” and in front of Dallas Cowboys “AT&T Stadium” in 2014.

Week 2 – September 10 – Lincoln, NE – Wyoming at Nebraska – I’m taking my family to see the ‘Huskers in action vs Wyoming. Last time we went out West to Nebraska was November 2, 2013. It was Trev’s 7th Birthday and we saw an incredibly memorable game vs Northwestern. You might recall FR Jordan Westerkamp catching a Hail Mary from Ron Kellogg to win the game for Trev on his Birthday! Later T-Magic was featured in “Hail Varsity” magazine. Can this game top 2013? Never.

075.JPG
Photo taken just after Jordan Westerkamp’s Hail Mary catch on November 2, 2013.
Trev's Hail Varsity article.jpg
Erin Sorensen’s article about Trev in “Hail Varsity” magazine’s November 30, 2014 issue.

 

Week 3 – September 17 – Norman, OK – Ohio St. at Oklahoma

Week 4 – September 24 – Knoxville, TN – Florida at Tennessee

Week 5 – October 1 – Seattle, WA – Stanford at Washington

91 Champs.JPG
Tribute to the ’91 Champs, outside of Husky Stadium in Seattle (2001).

Week 6 – October 8 – Dallas, TX – Oklahoma vs Texas

Week 7 – October 15 – South Bend, IN – Stanford at Notre Dame

117.JPG
“Play Like A Champion Today” Trev inside the locker room tunnel on the Notre Dame Stadium Tour (2013)

Week 8 – October 22 – Tuscaloosa, AL – Texas A&M at Alabama

Week 9 – October 29 – Tallahassee, FL – Clemson at Florida St.

Week 10 – November 5 – Baton Rouge, LA – Alabama at LSU

Week 11 – November 12 – Eugene, OR – Stanford at Oregon

Reid at Autzen Stadium.JPG
The gates to Autzen Stadium weren’t locked on this Summer day in 2001.

Week 12 – November 19 – East Lansing, MI – Ohio St. at Michigan St.

Week 13 – Playoffs! – November 26 Columbus, OH – Michigan at Ohio St. &

December 3 – Indianapolis, IN – B1G Conference Championship Game

Butkus Bowl XVIII – Capital One Bowl Week concluding January 2, 2017

Not in This Lifetime Tour3

 

Featured

Reid ‘Em & Weep (1.7)

2016 Butkus League Draft2

Butkus League

As many of you know, I love fantasy sports. Less of you know that my favorite fantasy sport is college football. The Butkus League was conceived in 1999 by Derek, Simon, and myself. We kicked around the idea over email. If I remember right, I was at work at my second job out of college, the infamous H&S Media. I had just started there in early ’99 and to keep in touch with our college buddies, Derek, Simon, and I founded the League during that Summer. We needed a few more guys so I asked my friends Mike and Jeff. I think I invited them in the car during our trip to Appleton, WI. (Do you guys remember that?) Simon asked Leo and Derek asked Raj. They all joined so there were just seven of us trying out a new idea. Needless to say, it has been a giant success. From the very first pick in 1999 Drew Brees, to great picks like “Rocket Queen” Michael Crabtree, Tim Tebow, “Camzilla” Cam Newton, and Derrick Henry. For every Reggie Bush there’s a Joe McKnight. For every Amari Cooper there’s a Freddie Milons. For every Maurice Clarett there’s a Lydell Ross. From the Trophy we bought in 2001 to the current Trophy (which still has only the original 3 Champions names engraved. WHAT!) From the many different rules changes, the different eligible teams, the many people involved, the League remains the highest priority in our competitive lives. Many wonder why there is no money involved. It’s not about money. It’s about pride.

So we just had our 18th Annual Butkus League Draft. Here’s how it all went down at Simon’s new place in Lincoln Park. By the way, I just gave my Phil Steele a serious workout. I might need to buy a new one after bending the pages insanely the last few days, along with the water damage sustained when I put my backpack down on a wet spot after that “Air & Water Show” drenching on Simon’s back porch. Anyway, here’s the Draft in all it’s glory with analysis and “Odds ‘N Ends” noted in red ink. All opinions are final! Just kidding. All opinions are fluid and don’t take them personally. For the record, we’re all allowed up to 14 keepers which makes this a super Dynasty league, so that’s why guys like Leonard Fournette and Seth Russell are not listed in the Draft below.  And oh by the way, Phil, we need to buy you some drinks. I owe you going all the way back to Rudi Johnson in 2000.

 

2016 Butkus League Way-Too-Early Draft Analysis

Round 1 Note that we had 1 SR, 7 FR in the 1st Round!!!
1 Simon Dakota Prukop/QB/Oregon/SR – Best pick of the 1st round.
2 Mike Jalen Hurts/QB/Alabama/FR – Mike’s “Jump the Shark AKA I hit the wall from too much drinking Moment”. Worst pick of the 1st round, but then again…..look at all these FR. They might all be busts.
3 Reid Jacob Eason/QB/Georgia/FR Jacob Eason
4 Derek Shane Buechele/QB/Texas/FR
5 Jeff Jett Duffey/QB/Texas Tech/FR
6 Jeff (from Dave) Zach Smith/QB/Baylor/FR
7 Brian Shea Patterson/QB/Mississippi/FR
8 Mike (from Jon) DeMario McCall/RB/Ohio St./FR
Round 2  3 JR, 2 FR, 2 RSFR, 1 SO
9 Simon Mark Thompson/RB/Florida/JR
10 Mike Austin Mack/WR/Ohio St./FR
11 Reid Isaiah Ford/WR/Virginia Tech/JR – Best pick of the 2nd round. I almost took him at #3 overall.
12 Derek Sam Darnold/QB/USC/RSFR – Worst pick of the 2nd round. Named backup hours later.
13 Jeff Tyler Hilinski/QB/Washington St./RSFR
14 Jeff (from Dave) Kerryon Johnson/RB/Auburn/SO
15 Brian Damore’ea Stringfellow/WR/Mississippi/JR
16 Mike (from Jon) Devwah Whaley/RB/Arkansas/FR
Round 3  1 SR, 1 JR, 1 SO, 4 FR, 1 RSFR
17 Jeff (from Simon) Brady White/QB/Arizona St./RSFR
18 Mike Kareem Walker/RB/Michigan/FR
19 Jeff (from Reid) Noah Brown/WR/Ohio St./SO
20 Derek Justin Herbert/QB/Oregon/FR – Eyeing the backup role already
21 Jeff Melquise Stovall/WR/California/FR
22 Dave Tavien Feaster/RB/Clemson/FR
23 Brian Torii Hunter/WR/Notre Dame/JR – Best pick of the 3rd round
24 Jon Travin Dural/WR/LSU/SR – Worst pick of the 3rd round: 533-3 as a JR. Breakout as a SR?
Round 4  5 JR, 3 FR
25 Simon John Ross/WR/Washington/JR – Tied for best pick of the 4th Round
26 Mike Donnie Corley/WR/Michigan St./FR
27 Reid Derrick Willies/WR/Texas Tech/JR
28 Derek Steve Ishmael/WR/Syracuse/JR
29 Jeff N’Keal Harry/WR/Arizona St./FR
30 Dave Dwayne Haskins/QB/Ohio St./FR – Worst pick of the round. Did you really need an OSU QB? He’s your Redshirt or you’re hoping Barrett gets hurt. Maybe too early for this at 30th overall.
31 Reid (from Brian) Tarean Folston/RB/Notre Dame/JR – Tied for Round 4’s best pick but ACL last year. Sounds like Kelly named him starter already.
32 Jon Brad Kaaya/QB/Miami/JR – Tied for best pick of Round 4, but his Soph stats were so-so: just 16 TD
Round 5  Run on Defenses starts with Bama: 4 D’s, 3 FR, 1 SO
33 Simon Collin Johnson/WR/Texas/FR
34 Mike Ryan Izzo/TE/Florida St./SO
35 Reid Alabama D – Bama rarely disappoints, rarely gets one nervous about negatives
36 Derek Demetris Robertson/WR/California/FR
37 Jeff Devin Duvernay/WR/Texas/FR
38 Dave Michigan D
39 Brian Florida D
40 Jon LSU D
Round 6  3 more D’s, 3 FR, 1 JR, 1 SO
41 Simon Washington D
42 Mike Tennessee D
43 Jeff (from Reid) T.J. Vasher/WR/Texas Tech/FR
44 Derek Ohio St. D
45 Jeff Isaiah Johnson/WR/Washington St./FR
46 Dave Nate Craig-Myers/WR/Auburn/FR
47 Brian Taj Williams/WR/TCU/JR – Best pick of Round 6
48 Jeff (from Jon) David Njoku/TE/Miami/SO
Round 7  3 SR!, 2 JR, 2 SO, 1 FR
49 Simon Davis Webb/QB/California/SR – Could be best pick of Round 7.
50 Mike Equanimeous St. Brown/WR/Notre Dame/SO – Why did they blow his RS last year? He played in just 7 games and had 1 catch. Dude, 1 lousy touch. Your FR year is burned up Quan!
51 Reid Keith Ford/RB/Texas A&M/JR – Could be best pick of Round 7.
52 Derek Stacy Coley/WR/Miami/SR – We’ll call this Worst Pick of Round 7 since he got in trouble literally one hour after our Draft concluded. He’s being investigated in car rental case per Miami Herald at 3:36 pm Saturday. 
53 Jeff John Franklin III/QB/Auburn/JR – Could be HUGE. At one time I considered him at #3 overall. Could be Best Pick of Round 7.
54 Dave Rawleigh Williams/RB/Arkansas/SO – Could be best pick of Round 7.
55 Brian O.J. Howard/TE/Alabama/SR
56 Jon Tyler Vaughns/WR/USC/FR
Round 8  A really good round of picks! 4 SR!, 1 JR, 1 SO, 1 FR, 1 D
57 Simon Barry Sanders/RB/Oklahoma St./SR
58 Mike Tyler O’Connor/QB/Michigan St./SR
59 Reid Ishmael Zamora/WR/Baylor/SO – My “Jump the Shark AKA I hit the wall from too much drinking Moment”. This dude beat his dog and faces discipline. Why did he rise up my Draft board? I guess I liked his aggressive “mean streak”.
60 Derek Trevor Knight/QB/Texas A&M/SR
61 Jeff Florida St. D
62 Dave Jerod Evans/QB/Virginia Tech/JR
63 Brian River Cracraft/WR/Washington St./SR
64 Jon B.J. Emmons/RB/Alabama/FR
Round 9  Another good round. 4 SR, 3 JR, 1 FR
65 Simon Matt Dayes/RB/N.C. State/SR
66 Mike Michael Geiger/K/Michigan St./SR
67 Reid Jamaal Williams/RB/BYU/SR – Nobody seems to like Seniors but this Mormon might put up 1000 yards in Big Sky country.
68 Derek DeDe Westbrook/WR/Oklahoma/SR
69 Jeff Aidan Schneider/K/Oregon/JR
70 Dave Austin Allen/QB/Arkansas/JR
71 Brian Devine Redding/RB/Indiana/JR
72 Jon Austin Kendall/QB/Oklahoma/FR  – Jon’s  “Jump the Shark AKA I hit the wall from too much drinking Moment”. Remember that game show called “Sale of the Century”? Jon just picked the “Handcuff of the Century” with this FR QB from Oklahoma. Yeah, it’s good to have the “possible” next QB at OU but Baker Mayfield was just designated a JR if I’m not mistaken and he doesn’t fit the profile of a high NFL Draft pick at QB so this Austin Kendall kid MIGHT compete in 2018. This is reminiscent of Reid’s Blake Bell. “Hey, I don’t mind redshirting Bell a 3rd time. Next year he’s gonna be AWESOME!”
Round 10  1 SR, 2 JR, 3 SO
73 Simon Dalton Schultz/TE/Stanford/SO
74 Reid Evan Engram/TE/Mississippi/SR
75 Derek Greg Huegel/K/Clemson/SO
76 Dave Ian Sadler/WR/Texas Tech/JR
77 Brian Sony Michel/RB/Georgia/JR – Could be huge if Chubby is still hurt. Of course, Sony “Playstation” is hurt too. “He’s got a forearm……daaaaa” – Coach Wannstedt
78 Jon John Burt/WR/Texas/SO
Round 11  1 SR, 2 SO, 1 FR, 1 RSFR
79 Simon Andy Phillips/K/Utah/SR – A run on kickers. These are all good kickers, well maybe not Pineiro. He’s never kicked in a game before.
80 Reid Eddy Pineiro/K/Florida/RSFR – Why am I so pumped about this guy? Because he kicks 77 yard FG’s in practice on Youtube…..that’s why! The next “Honkie widda Negro Leg”? I guess he’s more a “Hispanic widda Negro Leg”.
81 Dave Austin Seibert/K/Oklahoma/SO
82 Brian Justin Yoon/K/Notre Dame/SO
83 Jon Devin White/RB/LSU/FR
Round 12  2 SR, 1 SO
84 Dave Leshun Daniels/RB/Iowa/SR – Wanted him in a trade for a 6th rounder a week before the Draft. Got him in 12th Round. #Value #Dontworrybehappy
85 Brian Geno Lewis/WR/Oklahoma/SR
86 Jon Chris Warren III/RB/Texas/SO – Great pick. Excellent use of a Handcuff. Potential difference maker at #86. What’s great about our League is that Chris Warren could literally turn out to be the greatest player drafted in 2016.
Round 13  2 JR
87 Dave Simmie Cobbs/WR/Indiana/JR – Best pick of Round 13.
88 Jon Robert Foster/WR/Alabama/JR – Worst pick of Round 13. Another “Jump the Shark AKA I hit the wall from too much drinking Moment” for Jon? Man, that’s a lot of drinking!
Round 14  1 JR, 1 SO
89 Dave Jalan McClendon/QB/N.C. State/SO – Worst pick of Round 14.
90 Jon Charles Nelson/WR/Oregon/JR – Best pick of Round 14. Mr. Irrelevant is a really good player.

2016 Butkus League Draft5

Great Draft quotes:

Reid – “I’ve never won a Championship in 17 years but once I win……I’m really gonna start rolling!”

Mike – “WHAT? I’m not a Contender? I’m gonna win the Championship with Hurts!”

Reid – “It Hurts So Good Mike.”

Simon – “Why are all these great Seniors not getting drafted?”

All of us – “I’ll take blah blah blah” while the rest of us respond “Who?”

Mike – “I haven’t won a Championship since I had kids.”

Derek – “Let me break some of your lightbulbs to distract my competitors.” (This was not said but it did really happen.)

2016 Butkus League Draft4

So here go. We’re embarking on another year, another season, another chapter in the long history of the “Butkus League”. What will happen in 2016? Who will go down as Champ? Will Jeff’s strategy pay off down the line? Will Dave and Reid get off the “schneid”?  The Draft is over. Now the fun begins.

AP INDIANA PURDUE S FBC USA IN

 

Featured

Reid ‘Em & Weep (1.6)

Ichiro2

Ichiro

I love Ichiro. When he first arrived in the States way back in 2001, he was a revelation. How are the Seattle Mariners dominating when they just recently let go of Alex Rodriguez, Ken Griffey Jr., and Randy Johnson? I tuned in to find out how the Mariners were winning so much. When I first saw Ichiro my thought was “Wow, this guy is different”. As Americans we hadn’t really seen a guy play with his style and grace. We didn’t know what the Japanese style was or why it worked. The more I watched the more I realized this guy was indeed special…..the throws, the catches, the speed, that batting stance, that…….grace. Ichiro is one of the all-timers.

IMG_2044
Safeco Field – July 21, 2010
IMG_2052
Ichiro on deck
IMG_2053
Check out our great seats as Ichiro goes up to bat!

 

The other day Ichiro smashed his 3000th hit. He is just the 30th player in major league history to record that many hits. You probably knew all that, but did you know he didn’t even cross the Pacific Ocean until he was 27 years old? He had already played 9 years in Japan, recording 1,278 hits. So he started over here in 2001 and age 27…..and he earned 3000 hits. Think about that! He had to average about 200 hits per year for 15 years from age 27 to 42! Do you understand how insane that sounds? 200 hits is usually the league leader, and Suzuki had to do that…..for 15 years…..as an old guy. Most guys hit their peak at age 27, but the ones that normally get to 3000 hits have probably 1,000 hits already in the bag. For example, fellow “3000 Hit Club” member Derek Jeter had 1008 hits before he turned 27 and just recently retired with 3,465 career hits. Pete Rose had 899 by age 27. Ichiro’s like “Hey, I’ll give you guys a head start and we’ll see what happens”.

Ichiro gets criticized for his lack of power. Yet his batting practices were legendary. I read that he once hit eight consecutive Home Runs in BP after somebody called him out to hit for more power. So he COULD hit HR but that wasn’t his game. That wasn’t his style. Ichiro’s style was speed, getting on base, turning singles into doubles with stolen bases, then scoring. Don’t forget he has 507 Stolen Bases in his career. For some reason that gets lost in the numbers because the prevailing thought about Suzuki was his hitting, and rightfully so. He hit over .350 four times in his 16 seasons. 4 times over .350? Are you kidding me? That’s nuts! Ichiro was like a boxer practicing in the gym…..HIT, HIT, HIT, HIT, HIT, HIT….HIT again, over and over and over. Before you know it, that’s 3000 Major League Baseball hits. Throw in his 1,278 hits in Japan and that’s 4,278 baseball hits. Pete Rose had 4,256 hits. By the way, Pete Rose had 3,357 hits from his age 27 season on. Ichiro is 2nd all time with his 3,000 and counting. I don’t want to get into the Japan’s Nippon vs the USA’s MLB debate. I don’t care. What does it really matter? Whether you love and respect Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball League or you find it totally worthless, either way we can agree that Ichiro has done something amazing. His baseball life is an outstanding achievement.

So how did he do it? First, he’s in excellent shape. Have we ever seen a guy stretch as much as Ichiro? The only guy with better flexibility that I can think of is Bruce Lee. I’m simply amazed at his stretching. Take a look now before he retires. The guy is constantly stretching. I believe this is one of the most underrated aspects of avoiding injuries. The body needs to be used to being in weird positions or else it snaps, breaks, or tears. So why not put your bones, tendons, muscles, and ligaments through these stretches so that if and when it happens someday they will be ready? Flexibility….ingenious. Here in America we tend to value muscles and strength more than speed and flexibility. Maybe we should change our way of thinking.

 

So what will I remember about Ichiro? I will always remember his uniqueness, his style, his art, his way….”The Way” as Bruce Lee would say. I remember that batting stance, the way he held the bat out in front and then gently tugged on the jersey sleeve at the right shoulder. I’ll remember the way he was falling out of the box on every swing. I’ll remember the hustle. I’ll remember the way he changed the game. He’s truly one of the groundbreakers in Far Eastern players being accepted into American’s conceptualizations of what a baseball player is and should be. He broke down barriers, maybe as much as Jackie Robinson did for African-Americans. Suzuki did the same for Asians. Sure it was different, but maybe just as important. I’ll remember him. I love him. In a way, he’s one of my favorite players of all time, and I’ve never liked the Mariners for even a day in my entire life. I’ll remember the stretching. I’ll remember the iconic pose. I’ll remember the grace. He will not be forgotten. He’s Ichiro. I’ll see you again………in Cooperstown.

Ichiro Suzuki
Seattle Mariners’ Ichiro Suzuki gives a tug to his jersey sleeve, as he does every at-bat, while stepping in against the Texas Rangers in the first inning of a baseball game Sunday, July 15, 2012, in Seattle. Suzuki flied out on the turn. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

 

Featured

Reid ‘Em & Weep (1.5)

I love this time of year! One of the things I look forward to most is ESPN’s countdown of last year’s Top 25 College Football games! It’s a great way to relive last season while at the same time getting pumped for this upcoming season. Those of you that know me best know that college football is truly my favorite sport. I love all sports but there is just something a little extra special about college football. It has enthralled me since the mid-80’s….since I watched on Saturday afternoons with my Dad.

ESPN just wrapped up their Top 25 by revealing the top 5 games over the weekend. The fans voted for the Top 5 and it was surprising. Here’s this year’s complete list with my comments:

ESPN college football logo

#25 Notre Dame 34 at Virginia 27 – Kizer “Soze” to the rescue after Malik Zaire broke his ankle.

#24 Tennessee 27 at Florida 28 – Talk about blowing a game. UT……..oh no. “I’m sorry you like them”. (Inside joke that some readers may remember)

#23 Oregon 61 at Arizona St. 55 (3 OT) – You’d think this would be higher on the list. 61-55 in 3 OT? How ’bout a little respect? #23? Rodney Dangerfield must be rollin’ over in his grave.

#22 Georgia 31 at Tennessee 38 – Good game marred by Chubb’s gruesome injury

#21 Memphis 34 at Houston 35

#20 Michigan 48 at Indiana 41 (2 OT) – I remember thinking Indiana choked but I don’t remember the details.

#19 Nebraska 33 at Miami 36 (OT) – Another Nebraska loss that I couldn’t watch live because of a cousin’s wedding. Looked up the score at the beginning of the reception. Big Red was down 33-10 and I was so downtrodden. Then later heard we lost……in OT. WHAT!?! What in the world happened? A furious comeback to wake up the echoes, that’s what happened! Still lost in OT but 36-33 instead of 33-10 gave me a glimmer of hope.

#18 Auburn 46 at Arkansas 54 (4 OT) – 54-46 in 4 OT and this is #18? Geez, this was a good year of games.

#17 Michigan St. 38 at Nebraska 39 – Probably my happiest moment of the season. After losing at Purdue 55-45 the week before, I don’t know why I predicted Neb would win this game vs the #6 team in the land but sometimes I feel it deep in my bones. Nebraska wins! Revenge……Victory……Hope……Motivation for ’16…….Thank you Lord.

#16 B1G Championship : Michigan St. 16 vs Iowa 13 – Slobberknocker of a game. Lasting memory?……L.J. Scott bulldozing Iowa throughout the drive but especially on the TD. Beast!

L.J. Scott6

#15 TCU 29 at Oklahoma 30 – Weird game. TCU backup QB’s somehow kept Horned Frogs in the game but Oklahoma squeaked by, won Bedlam the following week, then ended up going to the Playoffs. TCU must be thinking “what COULD have been” with a healthy Trevone Boykin???

#14 Oklahoma 31 at Tennessee 24 (2 OT) – I know what you’re thinking…….”I’m sorry you like them”. Excellent game. It should probably be higher on the list.

#13 BYU 33 at Nebraska 28 – Ugh sauce. I wasn’t even watching this game because I took my son to the Notre Dame opener vs Texas in South Bend. We parked and then I heard the news. I didn’t believe it at first. I normally would let this eat at me for days but I didn’t want to ruin the ND game for my son so I tried to convince myself it didn’t truly happen. I watched the recording the next day upon returning home. We had it…….then we lost it. Spoiler alert! I guess it really did happen.

BYU Hail Mary

#12 California 45 at Texas 44

#11 Michigan St. 17 at Ohio St. 14 – Just another day in the B1G.

#10 Miami 30 at Duke 27 – Nuts! Duke got hosed on the kickoff return for TD that featured several horrible calls including missed illegal blocks, missed illegal forward laterals, and missed tackles when a Miami knee was clearly down! What were the refs doing during the 10-15 minute replay review? “After reviewing the play…..check that, we need more time to review it more” What? Did the ref really say that? How did they not see this very clear photo of his knee touching the turf? Oh well, let’s move on the Duke coaches would say. “Not so fast my friends”. Emotion is such a big part of this sport……the next week a good 6-2 Duke team lost at North Carolina 66-31!

Miami vs Duke

#9 TCU 55 at Texas Tech 52 – This game was RAW! I recall almost spitting out dinner at the conclusion of this game. Quadruple bypass ending on that tipped ball caught by Aaron Green! Incredible game! PS I think we ate pork chops.

pork chops.jpg

#8 Ole Miss 43 Alabama 37 – It’s always fun to see ‘Bama scuffling and for some reason they almost always lose one game per season, often at home. Sure we all know they’re the best program in all the land, but that’s what makes it so much fun! College football NEEDS a villain. Think of “the Boz”, the “U” at Miami, “SC”, now the Crimson Tide. Does it get better than seeing someone go into Tuscaloosa and pull off the upset? Rarely.

Bama fans crying

#7 Notre Dame 22 at Clemson 24 – Listened to Don Criqui on the radio on my way back from the Nebraska at Illinois game in Champaign (another close loss for the Big Red, how did they blow this one??? I still don’t think the Illini WR caught that TD pass). Meanwhile, Trev slept in the backseat while I enjoyed the classic voice of all those 80’s Orange Bowls…….”Happy New Year! Tonight you are looking live from a blimp over the city of Miami where we will crown a National Champion in the Orange Bowl here on NBC”.  By the way I hated Bob Trumpy. What a tool!!!

#6 Notre Dame 36 at Stanford 38 – Another 2 point loss for ND. This was how close the Irish were to making the Playoffs. They lost by 2 at #1 Clemson and by 2 at #5 Stanford. Anyone see “A Season with Notre Dame football” on Showtime? Awesome look at a college program from inside the classroom and locker room. You could see how Notre Dame was so close. Without all the injuries, I think they would’ve succeeded in their goal. This year’s “A Season” will be Florida St. beginning on September 6 on Showtime.

#5 Alamo Bowl: Oregon 41 vs TCU 47 (3OT) – This game tied the record for greatest bowl comeback of all-time! Oregon led 31-0 at the break but couldn’t hold the lead, losing 47-41 in 3OT. That Ducks backup center who struggled completing shotgun snaps?…….C’mon man.

#4 National Championship Game: Clemson 40 vs Alabama 45 – Wow! How was this game not #1 or at least #2? These were clearly the top 2 best teams of 2015. The final score was 45-40. It was wild! What were the voters thinking? I guess it was hard to choose #1 versus #2 or even #5 when you had such a great selection of games to choose from. If I had a vote I would pick this as the second best game of the year.

#3 Arkansas 53 @ Ole Miss 52 (OT)- This was extremely wild. If you didn’t watch this game, you’ll be shocked if you see it one day. It was absolutely ridiculous. The lateral on 4th down….insane! Like really? Only in college football do games like this happen. It’s actually hard to even imagine an ending like this. You can’t write this stuff. Trust me.

Arkansas at Ole Miss.jpg

#2 Michigan St. 27 @ Michigan 23 – Sheer madness! Did this really happen? Games like this are why college football will forever remain my favorite sport. This was probably the 2015 Game of the Year. Did you see the ending of this game? If not, do yourself a favor and watch it. PS My Stevenson buddy Matt Morrissey #10 was involved on the punt block. He’s one of the guys tackling Michigan punter Blake O’Neill. Matt is such a good kid going into his Sophomore season and I’m proud of him for already being involved in a historic play that will live on in college football lore.

Matt Morrissey

#1 Florida St. 16 @ Georgia Tech 22 – How is this game the best game of 2015? I don’t think it should be, but there was some cool stuff nonetheless. The game was tied when FSU lined up for a game winning FG attempt that was blocked and returned ALL…..THE……WAY…….by GTech’s Lance Austin! Very cool, but NOT the best game of 2015.

So there you have it. An amazing season. I wonder what Phil Steele thought of all these games? Hey Phil, do you like pork chops? Next time my wife cooks up the pork you’ll be invited.

Featured

Reid ‘Em & Weep (1.4)

“Clearance Sale on throwback jerseys! Get your throwbacks on SALE!”

newspaper boy

“Extra extra, read all about it! Chris Sale is a child!” Wait a second, maybe Chris is the boy SELLING the newspapers rather than headlining them. Dude, c’mon man! Chris Sale is an immature prima donna. I hope the Sox trade him now after this latest episode. There’s something wrong……that’s a common phrase amongst me and my Sox fan friends as we analyze the Sox over the last few seasons. Typically we talk about Manager Robin Ventura or the culture created by the management. However, this latest incident with Sale gives us another peek behind the curtain. Could it be that Chris Sale is the problem? I know what you’re thinking…..Sale is the LAST thing wrong with this team. He’s 14-3. He’s an incredible pitcher and the best thing that the Sox have going for them. I know! But I don’t need to tell you real sports fans that the difference between winning and losing isn’t always talent or skill but rather chemistry, culture, and a winning atmosphere. I can envision a Sox clubhouse that isn’t winning because there are certain players, maybe most or all, that think that it’s a shame that Chris Sale is the “captain” and leader of this team because he is such a strange weirdo. Sure he’s good but he’s also a spoiled brat who thinks the world revolves around him. He thinks his way is the ONLY way. He thinks just because he’s a phenomenal pitcher that the Sox management should do whatever he says. What in the world of promotions is going on here? Bill Veeck must be rolling over in his grave!

76 Sox throwback jerseys

Do you realize since Sale was sent home with a 5 game suspension, the Sox have gone 4-1? Maybe there’s a reason. The reason is the players are more relaxed and happy when he’s gone! Since Saturday’s news broke that Sale was scratched from his start, I’ve done a complete 360 degree turn on the question of trading him or not. Initially I thought it was a ridiculous move to trade our best player. But now after reading all the “Extra, Extra” newspapers, getting a package of 4-5 prospects sounds mighty good. Of course, it would be nice if the Sox waited to trade him until AFTER his victory over the Cubs tonight. 😉

Robin Ventura in '76 throwback jersey

 

The PGA Championship starts today. I always love watching the 4 majors every Summer and it usually makes me a little sad when the PGA Championship is over. It feels like another Summer is over and another long hard Winter is ahead. The Summer and these 4 majors go too quickly! I guess part of the problem is we’re always so busy that I try to watch all these majors but we’re always gone on vacation most years during 2 of the 4 tournaments. This year was no exception. I really didn’t get to see the U.S. Open and the British Open. So I better make the most of this weekend and watch all I can of Baltusrol.

Golf Ball near hole

Speaking of golf, did any of you read this ESPN The Magazine article in their May 9 “Fame” issue about Eldrick Woods and his “secret” life? Wow, what an eye-opener! It was certainly enlightening. Woods is really weird, right? He is such a strange cat and this brilliant article by Wright Thompson poignantly showed how Eldrick (I refuse to call him by his other name) evolved, especially after his father died in 2006. If you have awhile, check it out. It’s a long, detailed account of his infatuations with women and the Navy SEALS, but it’s worth it…..whether you love Woods or you hate him.

20160727_141851

As usual, your comments are most appreciated. Please throw me some high heat and I’ll try to catch up to it. Until next week!

Hawk and Stone in '76 throwback jerseys

Featured

Reid ‘Em & Weep (1.3)

I’m currently on vacation at a ranch in Colorado, but I wanted to produce a quick article in the name of consistency. This week we’re talkin’ baseball.

With the All-Star Break giving us our “unofficial” mid-way point of the season, I want to analyze which teams are contenders and which teams are pretenders or even worse…..tankers! Make no mistake about it, there are plenty of MLB teams tanking in the hopes of “earning” a high draft pick. Drafting some studs and rebuilding the farm in the hopes of contending in 5 years seems to be a trend that’s picking up steam after many in the industry are seeing the success of the Cubs and President/GM Theo Epstein’s “tanking” and rebuilding scheme. After Epstein was hired in October 2011, he continued the Cubs losing ways, not even “trying” to win baseball games. They were already a 5th place team for 2 years (2010 & ’11) and Epstein continued with that strategy by placing 5th again for another 3 years (’12, ’13, and ’14). That’s right…..the Cubs were a 5th place team for 5 consecutive years!!!! Many people have already forgotten this even though I can remember several friends of mine that swore off the Cubs forever during this time. Over these 5 years the Cubs “earned” the following draft spots: 9, 6, 2, 4, 9. Do you know who was drafted in these spots? These picks turned into……

  • #9 2011 : SS Javier Baez
  • #6 2012 : OF Albert Almora
  • #2 2013 : 3B Kris Bryant
  • #4 2014 : C Kyle Schwarber
  • #9 2015 : OF Ian Happ

Do you see a common theme here? They are all position players….hitters drafted in the Top 10. So what you have is a strategy that started to pay off last season with the Cubs magical NLCS run. Will it continue with no pitching prospects? It may, but don’t be too sure. This is still the Cubs……Losers since 1908!

AL logo

AL Contenders (Contending….at least until the Trade Deadline, in order of my Power Rankings)

  1. Toronto Blue Jays (51-40) – Awesome collection of hitters
  2. Baltimore Orioles (51-36) – Good lineup, good pitching; best overall?
  3. Texas Rangers (54-36) – They’re not as good as this record
  4. Boston Red Sox (49-38) – Good hitting, bad pitching but just added Drew Pomeranz
  5. Cleveland Indians (52-36) – Not as good as this record
  6. Houston Astros (48-41) – Good or Bad…..not even sure THEY know.
  7. Chicago White Sox (45-43) – Sox are like the ‘Stros, not sure if they are truly contenders

AL Pretenders (they might think they’re good, but they’re not)

  1. Detroit Tigers (46-43) – I think they’re good but the bullpen is killing them
  2. Kansas City Royals (45-43) – Not the same team as the 2 time defending AL Champs
  3. New York Yankees (44-44) – They just want to move past bad big money contracts on  old guys like A-Rod, Teixeira, Sabath, which reminds me of an old email joke: “Hey dude, did you CC Sabathia me???”
  4. Seattle Mariners (45-44)

AL Tankers (they know they stink and they WANT to finish in Last Place)

  1. Minnesota Twins (32-56) – Already announced EVERYONE was available
  2. Oakland A’s (38-51) – GM Billy Beane continues to sell off ANY asset
  3. Los Angeles Angels (37-52) – They’re not good but pretend to be
  4. Tampa Bay Rays (34-54) – No Direction…..sounds like a boy band

Overall, the American League has 11 decent to good teams with only 4 bad teams. I’m not sure there is a GREAT team among them but we’ve only played half the season so we’ll see.

NL logo

NL Contenders

  1. San Francisco Giants (57-33) – The lone GREAT team?
  2. Washington Nationals (54-36) – Potentially great
  3. Chicago Cubs (53-35) – Unreal start (25-6) but more “Cub-like” 28-29 since
  4. Los Angeles Dodgers (51-40) – Hard to gauge LA
  5. New York Mets (47-41) – Injuries hurting their chance to repeat as NL Champs

NL Pretenders

  1. Pittsburgh Pirates (46-43) – Should be better
  2. St. Louis Cardinals (46-42) – Has the “Cardinal Way” finally hit a brick wall?
  3. Miami Marlins (47-41) – They’re not that good, believe me

NL Tankers (Ranked in terms of successfully tanking)

  1. Atlanta Braves (31-58) – Awesome at being poor
  2. Philadelphia Phillies (42-48) – How are they winning games? Must be the weak NL
  3. Cincinnati Reds (32-57) – Selling everyone, now Jay Bruce?
  4. Milwaukee Brewers (38-49) – I usually recognize only about 2-3 players in their lineup….and I’m a fan!
  5. San Diego Padres (38-51)
  6. Colorado Rockies (40-48)
  7. Arizona Diamondbacks (38-52)

The National League is currently a hit or miss league. This is the “Anti-Parity” League. In fact, the 8 Contenders often have better records than they deserve because they get cheap, easy wins over the 7 Tankers. The Tankers are GIVING them wins. Last year’s Cubs are the best example. They won 97 games and they weren’t even very good. They were a 3rd Place team with 97 wins. Has that ever happened in the history of baseball? Let me look it up….the answer is NO……at least in the divisional era.

“According to Elias Sports Bureau, Chicago became the first third-place team to reach 94 wins in a season since the divisional era began, according to NBC Chicago.”     Chicago Sun-Times 10/1/2015

So now you know how I feel about the AL vs the NL. I’ll go into more detail in a future article. For now, since I’m strapping on my cowboy boots in a horse saddle near Denver, let me leave you with one “Nugget” of info until then. The AL is 16-3-1 in the last 20 All-Star Games.

Until next time!!!

cowboy riding horse

Featured

Reid ‘Em & Weep (1.2)

 

I love this time of year. Summer is awesome! It’s hot, fun, and relaxing. It’s also very busy, sometimes stressful, and…..hot. But that’s good. You can’t complain about the heat if you complain about the long, cold Winter right?

One of the strange oddities of the sports calendar is the baseball All-Star break. There are really no other sports for several days. You have no competitive games for 4 days. Within those 4 days we only have the HR Derby and the MLB All-Star Game. I love these two events!

* Last night’s Home Run Derby was really fun. I had a great time with my son Trev watching all the bombs, dingers, and taters! Giancarlo Stanton proved that he is by far the best power hitter in baseball today. Everyone has suspected it for awhile but last night he proved it. This guy not only hits lots of homers, he hits them into the stratosphere. Did you see some of these tape measure shots last night? Good Lord! I don’t think Mickey Mantle in his prime would have been able to defeat Stanton in Petco Park yesterday. The dude looks like a wrestler, like “The Rock”, with power strewn from muscles bulging everywhere. Remember when he was known as “Mike” Stanton? Yeah, I like Giancarlo better too. Congrats to Giancarlo for an impressive display of power!

Giancarlo Stanton

* With no competitive sports this week, what better time to do some solid Summer reading. I love sports books of all types but I especially enjoy reading sports biographies. Here are my favorites:

  1. “Joe DiMaggio – The Hero’s Life” by Richard Ben Cramer – It has been many years since I read this wonderful book about Joe DiMaggio’s extraordinary life. I’m putting it on my list to read again because I recall learning a ton in this book, not only about DiMaggio and the Yankees but also about San Francisco in the 1910s and ’20s, about Italian immigrants at that time as well as New York City and it’s nightlife and America in general from the ’30s to ’50s. I remember this being a phenomenal book that was entertaining, fun, and a history lesson all at the same time.
  2. “When Pride Still Mattered – A Life of Vince Lombardi” by David Maraniss – Even though I’m a Bears fan I can admire the life of Vince Lombardi. This was a detailed account of a famous coach and how he became known as a celebrity despite years of failures and deep introspection. Lombardi transformed the way we look at the clichéd demanding “football coach” with a whistle both past and present. Did you know that Lombardi attended Catholic mass EVERY morning!?! Think about that.
  3. “Stan Musial – Am American Life” by George Vecsey – Similar to the DiMaggio book, I learned so much about American history including growing up Polish in the coal mining towns of Pennsylvania like Musial’s hometown of Donora. When you read books like this, the good ones teach you about the culture of the cities and teams of the era, in this case St. Louis and the Cardinals. Stan “The Man” was not only one of the greatest hitters of all-time but also one of the all-time good guys. Has there ever been a nicer professional athlete? You’d be hard-pressed to find one.
  4. “The Last Boy – Mickey Mantle and the End of America’s Childhood” by Jane Leavy – Finally, how can I create a list of baseball biographies and NOT include one of my all-time favorites Mickey Mantle? Leavy does a tremendous job writing about a small town talent from Commerce, Oklahoma, growing up in rural midwestern America, and then moving to the big city and becoming a reluctant superstar. Her book is special because of her memories shared as a fan as well as an interview with Mantle in the ’80s. What a book! It was in this book that I got interested in seeing Mantle’s hometown and his boyhood home. We ended up driving through Commerce and seeing this home on our trip to Texas in 2014. For me it was a visit to “sacred ground” as one guy put it as he pulled up and saw us taking photos in their front yard. Overall, this was one of the best books I’ve ever read, for it was an intimately true portrait of one of our heroes, warts and all.

     

So do yourself a favor and read a book, especially a good sports biography during these lazy hazy days of Summer. Until next week……

IMG_2268

 

Featured

“Reid ‘Em & Weep” (Weekly Sports Musings 1.1)

This is the start of some serious sportswriting. I’ve been so busy recently that I wasn’t able to write but today is the start of a new column called “Reid ‘Em & Weep”. This column will be similar to Mike North’s bi-weekly columns in the Chicago suburban newspaper “The Daily Herald”. I’m not sure I’ll write twice a week like North or simply once a week or even more randomly. I like the brevity of his articles though and how he usually attacks two to three topics per column. My goal is the same. So here we go with some quick takes on Summer sports!

Copa America logo

  • International Soccer – As I get older, I just love watching these International soccer tournaments. I find it fascinating the way these other countries watch soccer. It is so much different from the way we watch American sports. They seem to be partying in the stands the entire game. They wear goofy fan gear and don’t seem very stressed out like we would during an important football or basketball game. I guess it’s more like how we watch regular season baseball games but with more standing, cheering, and waving their countries’ colors. It’s awesome!

National Lampoon's Summer Vacation

  • So we’ve been busy traveling on our annual Summer vacation. This year we drove around Lake Michigan up through the UP all the way West to Minneapolis. We traveled almost every day for 2 weeks which meant a different hotel room with a different TV with different channels and everything. So every night after check-in I had to figure out what sports were on. It was tough to watch all these sports but the fun part was seeing different regional Fox Sports channels. I saw a lot of Tigers and Twins game and was able to enjoy new broadcasters. When we finally returned home to northern Illinois I wanted to watch USA vs Columbia in the Copa America 3rd Place Game. I was dismayed in not finding it on TV anywhere with our AT&T U-Verse cable package. Really? C’mon man! We pay so much money for this cable and the only place I could find it was on a Spanish language Telemundo station. Seriously? How is the USA 3rd Place game not on network TV? Did I miss something? I just did a quick online search and it looks like it may have only been on SI.com. That’s just plain dumb. Did the networks really think that English-speaking USA fans just wouldn’t earn ratings high enough to broadcast it on a real network? No wonder soccer never catches on here in America. Geez!

Target Field

  • Target Field/my list of MLB Ballparks – So I mentioned that my wife and I just took our two kids on an old-fashioned Summer vacation. This is something we started the last couple of Summers and we plan on doing for the next decade or so. We drove our van around Lake Michigan starting here in Mundelein, IL and headed East down around the southern tip of Lake Michigan, up North all the way to Mackinac Island, then the Upper Peninsula (the UP) of Michigan, then West toward Duluth, then on to Minneapolis and finally back home to Illinois after stopping at my wife’s alma-mater St. Olaf in Northfield, MN. We took two weeks and it was a memorable trip. One of the things I was looking forward to the most was going to see Target Field. We saw the Twins vs the Phillies. Wow, talk about some bad baseball teams. These squads gave new meaning to “meaningless” Summer baseball. Anyway, we weren’t there for the game as much as for the stadium, and what a park it is!!! Target Field vaulted up my personal list of MLB ballparks. This was our 7th MLB park that we’ve hit over the last 4 seasons since my kids gave me a MLB Passport Book for Father’s Day 2013. It’s a perfect gift for those of you that enjoy visiting all the baseball stadiums. We’ve gotten 7 stamps so far out of the 30 major league stadiums. Out of the 7 parks, I would have a hard time ousting Target Field from the top spot. As of now, here’s my list:
  1. Target Field (Minneapolis, MN)
  2. Rangers Ballpark (Arlington, TX)
  3. Busch Stadium (St. Louis, MO)
  4. Comiskey Park (Chicago, IL)
  5. Miller Park (Milwaukee, WI)
  6. Minute Maid Park (Houston, TX)
  7. Wrigley Field (Chicago, IL)

Other ballparks I’ve visited prior to 2013 include:

  1. Pac-Bell Park/SBC Park/AT&T Park (San Francisco, CA)
  2. Dodger Stadium (Los Angeles, CA)
  3. Safeco Field (Seattle, WA)
  4. old Busch Stadium (St. Louis, MO)
  5. old Comiskey Park (Chicago, IL)
  6. old County Stadium (Milwaukee, WI)

Overall compilation of current parks:

  1. Pac-Bell Park/SBC Park/AT&T Park (San Francisco, CA)
  2. Target Field (Minneapolis, MN)
  3. Rangers Ballpark (Arlington, TX)
  4. Busch Stadium (St. Louis, MO)
  5. Comiskey Park (Chicago, IL)
  6. Safeco Field (Seattle, WA)
  7. Miller Park (Milwaukee, WI)
  8. Minute Maid Park (Houston, TX)
  9. Dodger Stadium (Los Angeles, CA)
  10. Wrigley Field (Chicago, IL)

Target Field

I know what you’re thinking………Wrigley in last? Yeah, part of it is my Sox bias against the Cubs, but honestly Wrigley is just not that good no matter how you look at it. The weird truth is that almost all the current MLB ballparks are good and modern. There are 5 old Stadiums: Wrigley Field (1914), Fenway Park (1912), Dodger Stadium (1962), Anaheim Stadium (1966), and Royals Stadium (1973). All the other parks were built since 1989 and so they are cleaner, more convenient, have bigger concourses, more food, more and better bathrooms, more and better parking, etc. Sure Wrigley is beautiful on a late Summer afternoon, but then again, what ballpark isn’t? If you like the team, you probably like the park. If you love baseball like me, they are ALL awesome and worth the price of travel and admission.

As of today I will keep San Francisco’s AT&T Park (boy AT&T is getting a lot of play here in this column….they should be paying ME to watch their cable!) at the top of my list but Target Field made a strong case and after I go to these Parks multiple times I may adjust my rankings. I find it important to go multiple times because sometimes variables such as the weather or your health can really change your personal experience. For example, I never particularly enjoyed our first visit to new Busch Stadium and thus didn’t rate the Park that highly. In retrospect it was because the game time temperature was 98 degrees (I think this is an old boy band name by the way which reminds me to promote my column on band names called “Band Aid”) and our son Trev got sick so we spent part of the game in the infirmary (just kidding it was called First Aid). The second time we attended Busch it was a beautifully pleasant day and our kids didn’t get dehydrated. PLUS we visited the Cardinals Nation area beyond left-center field and it was extraordinary. After our 1st visit I may have listed Busch toward the bottom of my list. If we had only gone to Busch on our 2nd visit I may have been tempted to put it near the top of my list. So you can’t truly judge a Park with only one visit. Overall after two visits, I decided to throw Busch in there at #4 of 10.

CFL logo2

  • CFL (Canadian Football League) – I’m really starting to enjoy watching the CFL, especially in Summer when we don’t have any American football. I enjoy seeing the different cultures and people from “Up North”. Their game is similar yet has some weird intricacies such as the bigger field (110 yards plus the two 20 yard endzones for a 150 yard field vs our 120 yards), 12 on 12, 3 or even 4 men in motion running toward the line of scrimmage allowed, 3 downs per possession, and some other weird scoring opportunities. To be honest, I’m still trying to figure it out. I was watching a game on ESPN the other night…..I think it was “Stampeders vs Roughriders ehh?” and in a mid-field Hail Mary situation at the end of the game I saw a team throw a short screen pass and then the WR punted the ball! I know! He punted it and the DB caught the punt and fell down on his own 5 and the game was over. What was the WR trying to accomplish there? His team was down 8 points so they needed a TD and a “convert” (as the CFL announcers said in between their “aboouts” and “dooowns” and other strange comments). So if he punted there must have been a way to score a TD, right? Was he hoping the DB fumbled the punt and then one of his fellow WR’s team fell on the fumble in the end zone for a TD??? I don’t quite understand yet but can’t wait to watch more games this Summer!

CFL map of teams2

I hope you enjoyed “Reid ‘Em & Weep!” Until next time!

Pacific Bell Park

 

Finally……the Bears 2016 season is over!

1920 Decatur Staleys.jpg

The Chicago Bears (3-13) finally finished their journey toward one of their worst seasons in the history of the franchise that dates all the way back to 1920’s Decatur Staleys. On Sunday, the Bears visited Minnesota’s new U.S. Bank Stadium for the first time and subsequently lost to the Vikings 38-10. The score told us pretty much everything we needed to know about this game. The Bears were dominated from start to finish, turning the ball over 5 times en route to yet another blowout loss.

We learned the Bears will draft 3rd in the upcoming NFL Draft. They “earned” this pick by winning just 3 games, slightly better than the 1 win Cleveland Browns and the 2 win San Francisco 49ers. Chicago’s 3-13 final record is their worst in a 16 game schedule and 2nd worst by winning percentage in any length schedule in Bears history.

Game Balls nfl-game-ball

WR #81 Cameron Meredith – Meredith cemented his spot as a future star with his play in 2016. In this game, Meredith led the Bears in receiving as he caught 4 passes for 61 yards on 6 targets. He also threw a 2 yard touchdown pass to QB #12 Matt Barkley on a cool trick play called by OC Dowell Loggains. For the season, Meredith led the Bears receiving corps by catching 66 passes for 888 yards and 4 scores. He led the team in all three of those categories as well as targets (96), which he earned by staying consistent and avoiding injuries. Meredith is a local 24-year-old in his 2nd season from Berwyn, IL and Illinois State University. I have little doubt Meredith will be a huge part of GM Ryan Pace’s rebuilding plans.

NFL: Chicago Bears at Detroit Lions

CB #22 Cre’Von LeBlanc – LeBlanc gets a Game Ball for his interception against the Vikings very accurate QB #8 Sam Bradford. Late in the 3rd quarter, Bradford gunned a 3rd and 10 pass toward the end zone intended for WR #84 Cordarrelle Patterson. LeBlanc made a sweet play to cut in front of Patterson and intercept the pass. LeBlanc has been up and down in his rookie year out of Florida Atlantic (FAU) but insiders and teammates say that he intercepts passes ALL THE TIME in practices and easily has the best ball skills and hands of anyone else in the Bears defensive backfield. With offseason improvement, I see Chicago moving forward with LeBlanc as a playmaker to build around to form a young defensive core along with OLB #94 Leonard Floyd and DT #91 Eddie Goldman. Most of the other guys…..I’m not so sure about yet. For instance, the entire DB room (outside of LeBlanc) might need to be revamped.

Cre'Von LeBlanc2.jpg

Player of the Game : RB #24 Jordan Howard

In case you didn’t know by now, Jordan Howard is good. Along with Meredith, RG #75 Kyle Long, TE #86 Zach Miller, and WR #13 Kevin White, the Bears have some young pillars for their offense to build on. Howard was a revelation as a rookie in 2016. He came on like a bolt of lightning, although we may agree that Howard was more like thunder if you had the pleasure of watching him play. The guy simply blows through defenders. He is a power back, yet he also has some speed. In this Minnesota game, Howard carried the ball 23 times for 135 yards. So in his two games vs Minnesota this season, Howard combined for 288 yards and a TD (5.9 ypc) against Minnesota’s dominating defense. What!

Howard finished his rookie year as the NFL’s 2nd leading rusher with 1313 rushing yards. I know! Who would’ve guessed a rookie 5th round draft pick that didn’t even play in Week 1 at Houston would have finished the year as the 2nd leading rusher in the entire league!?! It is truly amazing. Howard finished 2nd behind only the 4th overall pick Ezekiel Elliott from Dallas (1631 yards). However, Elliott had 70 more carries with a 5.1 ypc average. Howard finished 4th overall amongst RB’s that had at least 100 carries with a 5.2 ypc. In reality, Howard was 2nd best in rushing average with that 5.2 ypc behind only Buffalo’s LeSean McCoy’s 5.4 ypc because both McCoy and Howard had well over 200 carries while the other two had only about 100 carries. Simply astounding! These numbers are outstanding, surprising, and a reflection of the Bears Offensive Line as well. Maybe that OL is developing better and faster than we may have guessed.

jordan-howard-at-vikings

Thumbs Down : QB #12 Matt Barkley thumbs-down

Matt Barkley played poorly again against Minnesota, finishing 10-14 for 125 yards with 2 interceptions and a lost fumble. In 7 games (6 starts), Barkley completed 129 of 216 passes for 1611 passing yards, 8 TDs, and 14 INTs. In my view, Barkley shows promise but he was obviously very careless with the ball, especially over his last three starts where he threw 10 of his 14 interceptions. He also lost 2 fumbles in that span for a total of 12 turnovers in his last 3 games! That’s awful. However, I think Barkley showed enough arm strength, command of the offense, and leadership skills to provide at least an option for GM Ryan Pace moving forward. I still think going into 2017 the Bears draft/trade for a QB at the NFL Draft, bring back Barkley, and give a shot to one of the following QB’s: David Fales, Connor Shaw, or Brian Hoyer. Let’s provide a hypothetical situation…….Pace drafts DeShaun Watson at #3 in April’s Draft. They should throw Watson, Barkley, and Fales into a competition at Bourbonnais and see what happens. You never know, Barkley could beat out Watson for the starting job at least for 2017. Then Watson would be the likely starter in 2018 and beyond. I would advise to NOT give up on Barkley. Remember the guy only starting practicing with the starters (or what was left of the starting unit) during Thanksgiving week. He showed enough promise to warrant a chance moving forward.

Matt Barkley at Vikings.jpg Thumbs Down : TE #82 Logan “Skunk” Paulsen thumbs-down

Paulsen is on my “Thumbs Down” list….again! This is Paulsen’s unprecedented 3rd nomination of the season (Colts, Packers, Vikings). He STINKS….like a skunk! Paulsen was once again called for holding. He does it almost every week. GET RID OF HIM NOW! Pace should call a press conference and all the media will suspect that HC John Fox is getting fired. Instead, Pace should walk out there in front of the media and say: “We just waived Logan Paulsen because he stinks…..like a skunk! That’s all….just wanted everyone to know how bad he stinks.” Now THAT would be a press conference that would rival the infamous Dennis Green’s “They are who we thought they were” podium-damage-rant post game press conference.

Logan Paulsen.jpg

Predictions Recap 

Prediction in Friday’s Preview : “If there is any motivation in this game, it’s that the Vikes don’t want to “go out like that” against a division rival in front of their home fans on New Year’s Day. Plus, they’re just simply better.

Minnesota Vikings 20 Chicago Bears 9″

 

So What Happened? : Minnesota Vikings 38 Chicago Bears 10

Bears Record : 3-13

My Record : 10-6 ((I won 7 in a row to finish the season at 10-6! Normally that record is good enough to get a team into the playoff field (except for Lovie Smith in 2012 in what turned out to be his last season). Too bad my predictions won’t get the Bears into the Playoffs. We both had slow starts, but luckily I recovered to finish strong. The Bears…..not so much.))