Reader Q&A: Dan Pompei's Bears mailbag
The Tribune's Bears columnist fields questions on Jerry Angelo's share of blame for the Bears' poor drafts, Lovie Smith's possible interest in a dual coach/GM role, the state of the offensive line and more in his weekly mailbag.
Coach Lovie Smith before the Bears faced the Minnesota Vikings in the Metrodome on Jan. 1, 2012. (Brian Cassella, Chicago Tribune / January 1, 2012)
By Dan Pompei Chicago Tribune reporter January 10, 2012
Before his firing, Jerry Angelo hinted the Bears would be active in free agency in a push to win in the next year or, at most, two. Do you see a new GM holding to that win-now philosophy, especially considering the aging defense, or do you think he'll take a more measured approach to building a roster his way? Will Lovie Smith's apparent influence over the hire ensure a win-now philosophy in the new guy? Might the new guy take a go-slow approach in order to ease Smith out after 2012 to hire his own coach? Mark Early, Arlington, Va.
It's difficult to speculate on the plans of a general manager whose identity remains unknown. So this is guesswork. But I'll say this: The fact that the Bears had planned on being active in free agency under Angelo would lead me to believe they might be active in free agency under General Manager X. It tells me they have to budget to make a splash. And a new general manager is likely going to want to put his fingerprints on the team. Furthermore, everyone knows the Bears were not good enough in 2010 -- they need some personnel upgrades. So I'll be surprised if there aren't some significant signings.
As someone who respects your NFL insights, I read your column on Jerry Angelo's departure with great interest and surprise. It seems that the 2011 Bears had a very thin roster due in large part to the high number of recent draft picks that never became solid NFL players, and I had assumed that Angelo was the person who should bear most of the responsibility for the poor draft performance. Or is player development the bigger issue? Am I missing something? John Bradford, Arlington Heights
If you want to blame someone for draft picks that missed, ultimately you have to blame Angelo. The buck stops with the general manager. But it's not as simple as saying one person is responsible for all the evils of the roster. Every selection of his was made by consensus decision. And, as you point out, there is a player development issue at work. An organization's ability to identify, select and develop players is only as strong as its weakest link. And the weakest link isn't always in one place. You have to look at every player who didn't work out individually to figure out why.
As a lifelong Packers fan I am watching the latest Bears situation with great interest. It is quite a compliment to our squad that the Bears are hoping to emulate some of the organization traits that Ron Wolf and Ted Thompson have brought to Green Bay. Many fans are upset that the Bears organization is putting so much faith in Lovie. In fact, if I hear right, the next GM would have to share the same philosophy as Lovie. Here is a crazy idea for the Bears: Promote Lovie to Head Coach/General Manager. I know teams are shying away from this organizational structure (it failed miserably in Green Bay when Mike Sherman had both roles), but if the Bears really want a GM to share Lovie's philosophies, who better than GM Lovie to work with HC Lovie. Give him one year, one draft and let's see how he does. If he succeeds great, if not you would probably have to start over in 2013 anyway. If Lovie fails in the dual role you let him go and hire a new GM who can bring in his own coach for 2013. Are there any Coach/GM's still out there today? Paul Zakowski
I'm not a big fan of the coach as GM and would not advocate such a setup, Paul. I think an NFL team, like the U.S. government, needs checks and balances. It's the healthiest way to operate, in my opinion. I don't believe Lovie Smith aspires to be general manager, either. Having a coach/general manager can work depending on who the person is, but finding a good one is more the exception than the rule. Bill Belichick doesn't have the GM title, but he is essentially the coach/general manager of the Patriots. He's pretty good at it. He's really the only one in the NFL today. Andy Reid has quite a bit of personnel power in Philly, but the team has a general manager.
Is there another seventh-round pick starting at left tackle in the NFL that you are aware of other than J'Marcus Webb? Ray Geiselman, Glasgow, Ky.
Webb is the only current NFL starting left tackle who was drafted in the seventh round. However, there are two starting left tackles who were not drafted at all: Pro Bowler Jason Peters of the Eagles and Donald Penn of the Bucs. Sixty five percent of all starting left tackles were drafted in the first or second round (15 in the first, six in the second). There were two selected in the third round, three in the fourth, one in the fifth and two in the sixth.
It seems like speed rushers at left side cause more problems for the Bears than most teams. Would it make sense to move Chris Williams back to tackle and move J'Marcus Webb to guard where he could use his strength better? Dan Ryan
I think there is a good chance Williams will move back to tackle at some point, in part because the Bears have a glut of potential starting guards. In addition to Williams, Chris Spencer, Lance Louis and Edwin Williams all are capable of starting inside. I can't see moving Webb inside, though. He strictly is a tackle, based on his body type. It is possible Williams and Webb could compete for the left tackle position, with the loser being the third tackle.
I think most Bears fans were shocked to see the large drop off in depth on the offensive side of the ball after Jay Cutler and Matt Forte were injured. Do you feel a lot of this lack of depth could be improved by improving the offensive line first and foremost, or would the addition of more and better skill players be more beneficial? Dan Dosemagen, Lake Tomahawk, Wis.
The Bears are going to get an upgrade on the offensive line when Gabe Carimi and Chris Williams, two former first-round picks, return from injury. They need a wide receiver on offense more than anything in my opinion. But if you took the starting quarterback and starting tailback off almost any team in the NFL, I guarantee you it would appear that team would lack depth at a number of positions in addition to quarterback and tailback.
The article on Mike Martz said he resigned for "philosophical differences." I can't help but wonder if this means, "I told you guys we didn't have a backup QB and you did nothing about it." Or do you think Martz also thought Caleb Hanie could do the job? Richard Green, Tucson, Ariz.
I know Martz leaving the Bears was about more than Caleb Hanie. And it was a mutual decision. But the backup quarterback situation in general was a problem between Martz and management for most of his time in Chicago. Martz said all the right things about Hanie after Cutler went down, but the truth is I think he still doubted Hanie.
If the Bears knew that Nathan Enderle wouldn't be playing this year, why didn't they create an injury for him and put him on IR before the season began like they've done with other rookies the past few years? Then Josh McCown could have been brought in sooner for Hanie and we might have made the playoffs. Chad Quinn, Muncie, Ind.
What you are suggesting is against the rules. If any team is caught "creating" an injury, there are consequences. That isn't to say it isn't ever done, because teams do stretch the truth with injured reserve. But injuries and treatments have to be documented fairly meticulously. And to address your point about McCown, I don't believe the Bears ever planned on trying to earn a playoff spot with their third-string quarterback.
Can you see Jared Allen as a Bear? Tom Thunder, Lakewood, Calif.
If you are asking me if I think there is any way it could happen this offseason, the answer is no. If you are asking me if I think Allen would appeal to Lovie Smith, Rod Marinelli and the Bears coaches, the answer is absolutely. It would be difficult to justify paying Allen, who isn't leaving the Vikings by the way, and Julius Peppers. That would leave the Bears with much less to spend on other positions of need.
Who is the strongest Bears player, Kellen Davis or Stephen Paea? Gary, Statesville, N.C.
There are a lot of different ways to measure strength, but based on bench press repetitions of 225 pounds, the strongest Bears are Paea and recently signed Jordan Miller. At the 2010 combine, Paea set a new record with 49 reps. Miller reportedly got 37 reps at his pro day. Kellen Davis had 22 reps at the 2006 combine.
Wondering if the Bears are the only professional sports organization that holds their fans playoff dollars hostage. Having been a season-ticket holder of many Chicago and Wisconsin teams, only the Bears do not have an option for a refund of playoff ticket money. Further, if you hold PSL seats and do not opt for the playoff tickets, you will lose your tickets forever. Forced to buy playoff tickets, then forced to fork over next season's renewal. Hard to imagine, with so many struggling to make ends meet, the Bears would only let you forward those dollars to next year's tickets "if" there are no playoff games. We have six seats and fortunately are not in a financial bind. Just seems a little KGB to me. Fits right in with all the secrecy at Halas Hall. Lane Samuelson, Marengo
What the Bears do is consistent with what most teams do, Lane. And the Bears have actually made it better for season-ticket holders over the last couple of years. The current policy, as per Scott Hagel, the team's senior director of corporate communications, is to take a credit card number from season-ticket holders to reserve postseason tickets but to wait to charge the card until a home game is guaranteed to be played. In the 2010 season, the credit cards of season-ticket holders were charged twice -- once when the first home playoff game was guaranteed, and another when the second was guaranteed. In the 2011 season, ticket holders' credit cards were not charged, other than for a $10 administrative fee. Hagel asks that if you or other ticket holders have concerns about the process or their accounts, you should contact the ticket office at 847-615-2327.
Was wondering about this year's release of Kyle Orton from the Broncos. Reports show he was interested in returning to the Bears at that time, and the Bears were interested in his return, and if it weren't for the Chiefs interest, this might actually had happened. While the main reason for the union was because Jay Cutler was injured, do you think anything can come to fruition for the 2012 season, after Cutler has healed and Orton was only signed for 2011 with the Chiefs? It sounds like an ideal thing for all parties involved. Would you agree? Angela DeAngelo
Orton's enthusiasm for returning to Chicago will be considerably diminished when Cutler is healthy. Orton wants to play. He's not going to have a chance to play in Chicago, barring another unexpected injury to a durable, tough, ascending quarterback. Chances are better Orton will remain in K.C. and compete with Matt Cassel for the starting job, or sign with another team that is promising to make him the starter.
Can you give us an update on Chris Conte's injury? From Day One, he seemed to play heads-up football and was a true asset. It seemed like the Bears didn't give up many big plays when he was back there, and the second half of the Seahawks game was like night and day. I just hope the injury isn't career-threatening, because he could be a player for years to come. Rik, Chicago
The expectation is that Conte will be ready to go by training camp next year. There were some rumblings that he had suffered a lisfranc fracture, which can be a problem. This was not accurate. His injury was a sprain.
So it's the offseason for the Bears now. With "optional" workouts, OTAs, mini-camps, etc, how much time does a typical player really have off when he does not have to set foot in Halas Hall? Ron Soukup
They have more off time than you might suspect. NFL teams can have a structured offseason program for only 10 weeks, which begins in mid-April. Considering the Bears will have approximately 29 weeks between their last game and the day they have to report to training camp, the players will have a vacation you and I could only dream about. And there's more. The offseason program technically is voluntary, and players are required to be at Halas Hall only for four days, during for a minicamp physical exam day and for three days of minicamp. Other than that, the offseason is theirs.
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