Dan Pompei's Bears mailbag
What's Martz's record on turf? Speaking of which, why do the Bears still play on grass? And Whatever happened to Corey Wootton? The Tribune's Bears columnist answers reader questions each week during the season.
Mike Martz's offenses have fared better on turf, which bodes well for Sunday in Detroit. (Chris Sweda, Chicago Tribune / November 18, 2010)
- <LI style="FLOAT: none" class=relatedTitle>Related
Ask Dan Pompei about the Bears
By Dan Pompei, Tribune reporter 4:36 p.m. CST, December 3, 2010
What are the stats of Mike Martz offense on turf compared to grass like Soldier Field? Tom, Hermitage, Pa.
Martz has been in charge of an offense for 10 seasons, including the five full years he was head coach of the Rams, but not counting 2005 when he missed 11 games with an illness. In those 10 years, including this year, his team has had a higher passer rating on turf than on grass in all but two seasons. His team has had a higher yards per attempt average on turf than grass in all but three seasons. This year, the Bears have a 92.2 passer rating on artificial playing fields and a 76 passer rating on grass, according to STATS. This is not unique to Martz though. It's easier for any passing offense to operate in a controlled environment. But I think it reinforces the notion that the Bears would have a more potent offense with Martz as their offensive coordinator if they changed the playing surface at Soldier Field to an infill field. And it also tells us the Bears should have a fruitful day passing the ball Sunday at Ford Field.
You wrote that it's the Bears' choice to have a natural grass playing surface at Soldier Field. Really? Why would the Bears want this league's worst field if the cost would be incurred by the Park District? Dan, is that an accurate statement? Which executive would stand behind that comment? Ted Phillips? The McCaskeys? I was convinced that this was a bone of contention between the Bears and the Park District and may the cheapest person win. Gino, Chicago
Cost really isn't a factor in what kind of the surface the Bears play on, because the burden of maintaining the field falls on the Park District. Playing on an artificial surface would be much more economical than constantly replacing the grass. But the Bears have hesitated to make the switch because some believe playing on infill surfaces have led to more lower-body injuries. If they make the change, there may be no going back, so they want to make sure they are doing the right thing. As more studies become available, it's possible the Bears will change their mind. Here is a link to a story I wrote about the situation last May, quoting a statement from Ted Phillips.
I'm very happy with the team right now but I still don't understand the call on the Wildcat. Why have Jay Cutler on the outside without any effort on his "route" as a receiver? Isn't the point of the Wildcat to keep an open wideout even though it's supposed to be a run play? I don't understand the need for the play, the formation and, of course, the execution. What are your thoughts on it? Andrew Molina, Los Angeles
Not a big fan of the Wildcat either, Andrew. Some teams have gotten some mileage out of it, especially the Dolphins. But it is a gimmick that has run its course. I think it basically has one redeeming quality--it forces opponents to waste practice time on it. But it also forces your offense to waste a play on it most of the time.
What are the chances of complacency settling in this upcoming week in the Motor City and how much help will it be that Mike Martz was associated with the Lions? Steve, East Asia
I think complacency always is a potential danger for successful teams in the NFL. We see a better team lose to an inferior team almost every week, and often complacency has a role in the outcome. It's human nature to let up when things are going well, and when the challenge isn't perceived to be as severe. But even if the Bears do let up a bit, they still should be able to handle the Lions. This is not the same team the Bears faced back in September. Injuries and losses have changed the Lions.
You mentioned in a recent column that the call on Corey Graham was questionable. I was at the game and my entire section had no idea exactly what the call was. From what we could hear of the explanation, it sounded like the ref was making it up as he went. What was the call? Scott Boucher
The call was unsportsmanlike conduct, and it was assessed because officials ruled Graham did not come back inbounds quickly enough after being blocked out of bounds. The problem on the play was Graham was knocked behind the area where all the Eagles players were standing out of bounds. There was no way for him to get back inbounds any more quickly. Usually, a player is allowed to come back inbounds after being blocked out of bounds. If he goes out of bounds on his own and then comes back, he is penalized.
I have noticed the absence of players such as quarterback Caleb Hanie, safety Craig Steltz, cornerback Joshua Moore, running back Kahlil Bell, guard Edwin Williams, and tight end Desmond Clark. All have been contributors to the team, especially Desmond Clark. I am at a loss to figure out why they are put on the shelf. Can you enlighten others and me?Chuck Durante, Guilin, China
NFL teams can keep only 45 players on the active roster each week. They usually keep the best special teams players active as their reserves. Players like Steltz, Moore, Bell, Williams and Clark have not been special teams standouts. That being said, it's still a little curious to see Clark disappear the way he has. The best explanation is other players better fit what Mike Martz wants his tight ends to be. Brandon Manumaleuna basically plays two positions--blocking tight end and fullback. Kellen Davis is a blocking specialist. And Greg Olsen is the receiving tight end. Martz obviously likes the blend of abilities those players bring the offense. As for Hanie, the coaches clearly are more comfortable with the experience of Todd Collins. But you are never going to know what Hanie can do unless he plays.
Whatever happened to Corey Wootton? He was supposed to be this great steal in the draft but he isn't even active during game days. Is he improving at all? Do you think he'll be a factor this year or next year? Thai, Seattle
I think Wootton could be a factor next year. He hasn't had many chances to prove himself. He's still learning, figuring out how to deal with the speed and strength of NFL players, as well as blocking schemes. I'll be surprised if this guy doesn't develop into a good player.
How would you assess the Cutler/Orton trade with so many reporters writing that the Bears got the worst of it, with some of those pointing out the Pro Bowl year that Orton is having. Lou Scalzo, Aptos, Calif.
It's too early to assess the Cutler/Orton trade. Both of these guys are going to play a lot more football over the coming years. But I will say this: I think it's clear they both can be very good NFL quarterbacks. And right now, the Bears are winning and the Broncos are losing. So if the quarterback is the most important player on the team, then that reflects well on the Bears' decision to make that deal.
Dan has there ever been a situation where two teams in the same division finished the season tied with the same record atop the division and split the head to head match up? In the situation how would they determine the division champion? Joe D., Ankeny, Iowa
The situation you describe is not uncommon, Joe. If the Packers beat the Bears in the final game of the season and they end up with identical records, there is a series of tiebreakers that are called into play. The first is winning percentage in division games. The second is winning percentage in games against common opponents. The third is winning percentage in conference games. The fourth is strength of victory. Fifth is strength of schedule. Sixth is best combined ranking among conference teams in points scored and allowed. The seventh is best combined ranking among all teams in points scored and allowed. Eighth is best net points in common games. Ninth is best net points in all games. Tenth is best net touchdowns in all games. And if there still is a tie? Toss the coin.