Reader Q&A: Dan Pompei's Bears mailbag
The Tribune's Bears columnist fields questions on the future of Lovie Smith and Matt Forte, and whether the Bears could have reached the Super Bowl had they remained healthy.
Coach Lovie Smith leaves the field after the Bears' season-ending victory at the Metrodome. (Chris Sweda/Tribune Photo)
By Dan Pompei Chicago Tribune reporter January 24, 2012
Isn't Lovie Smith the Bears' general manager? He was kept on and is choosing all the coaches. That sounds like a GM to me. Maurice Sharpe, Chicago
Lovie Smith always has chosen his own assistants. Almost every head coach in the league does that. If there were a general manager in place, the GM likely would have some input, but hiring the assistant coaches usually is the not jurisdiction of the general manager. Finding players is. And Smith is not expected to be choosing players when the Bears have their new GM in place.
Given what happened to Hue Jackson in Oakland when a new GM came in, is it possible for Lovie Smith to still be fired? Timothy Trisham
Anything is possible in the NFL, but the chances are remote that Smith will be fired this year. The difference between what happened in Oakland and what happened in Chicago is no one ever said Hue Jackson was staying. The Bears made it clear from the start Smith wasn't going anywhere, and they have been preceding in that manner.
If the Bears had kept Jay Cutler and Matt Forte healthy enough to get the wild-card spot, could they have made it to the Super Bowl? Jared Johnson, Burke, Va.
Good question. Certainly, you could make the argument that the Bears had a decent chance of being the best team in the NFC. They were 7-3 at the time Cutler went down, when the Giants were 6-4. The Giants peaked at the right time. The Bears appeared to be peaking when the injuries hit. We'll never know what kind of playoff team the Bears would have been, but my guess is they would have been a pretty good one.
Could a new GM come in, look at the "mileage" on Forte and decide to trade him for much-needed picks? This seems to be an NFL trend recently. What is Forte worth in trade? Rick, Naperville
The new GM would have to sign Forte first, then trade him, and I don't believe this has much of a chance of happening. Running backs in general do not carry great trade value. Most of the time, a team would rather draft a younger back that pay a trade premium in order to acquire an older one, and then have to pay that older one a lucrative salary besides. There aren't many good recent examples of a team trading a running back in his prime. In 2004, the Broncos traded Clinton Portis to the Redskins for cornerback Champ Bailey and a second-round pick. Last year, the Bills got a fourth-round pick for Marshawn Lynch. If I had to put a value on Forte in a trade, I'd guess he'd be worth a first-round pick. But his value could fluctuate up or down depending on the market, and the number of teams interested.
Cleveland has been unable to find a consistent running back and Chicago has been unable to find anyone who resembles a left tackle, so could Chicago deal Matt Forte to Cleveland for Joe Thomas? Scott Dennler, Columbus Junction, IA
I would not make that trade if I were Browns general manager Tom Heckert. Thomas arguably is the best left tackle in football. Great left tackles are hard to find. You don't give one away when you have one. Forte is an upper-echelon running back, but you can find a decent running back in a lot of places. You don't have to give up an elite left tackle to get one.
Would dealing Lance Briggs for a first-rounder and potentially other picks in the draft be worth it? Joe Devine, from Twitter
It would set the defense back in the short term but potentially pay off in the long run. Briggs is 31. History says he won't be playing at a top level for many more years. If the Bears could replace him with a young Briggs, they would be better off. But finding a young Briggs wouldn't be easy. Briggs is a special player, and he has been a great Bear. And I doubt another team would give up a first-round pick for a 31-year old linebacker.
With such a deep class of free agent O-lineman, do you think the Bears will attempt to sign a top O-lineman in free agency? Brian, Providence, R.I.
It's really hard to say at this point for two reasons. The first is the person who is going to be making that decision hasn't even been identified yet. The second is we have no idea how deep that free agent class of offensive linemen will be. It is possible many of the players you are dreaming about either will re-sign with their teams or be tagged before they become free agents. If I had to bet right now though, I'd say the Bears will be more likely to invest in free agents at other positions.
From what you've seen this past season, do the Bears have any long-term fixtures on the offensive line on their current roster? Personally, the only player on the line that I think has a definite bright future ahead of him is Lance Louis at guard. Ted Sorey, Lancaster, Texas
If you are hoping for five Jim Coverts, you are going to need a lot of new blockers. But the truth is you don't need five Jim Coverts. The Bears are going to change their offense a little so the offensive linemen aren't asked to do so much. They should be able to get by with lesser athletes. There are question marks with a number of the Bears' blockers, but there is a belief at Halas Hall that the team can win with these guys. I like Louis' potential, too. Gabe Carimi definitely looks like a long term fixture. Chris Spencer is plenty good enough. Roberto Garza was probably the most consistent blocker on the team last year, though he isn't going to be playing forever.
With Mike Tice the new OC, what are the chances of David Garrard backing up Jay Cutler next year? Mark Early, Arlington, Va.
If you were David Garrard, would you want to come to Chicago to back up a well-established, durable quarterback? Or would you want to go someplace like Miami where you could compete for the starting job? Don't hold your breath on Garrard signing with the Bears.
The Bears had a very successful run defense early in the century when they had Keith Traylor and Ted Washington, truly massive defensive tackles. They favor the smaller faster ones now, but they don't seem as effective. Any chance of a change in the philosophy back to big tackles? Rick, Spanaway, Wash.
I don't suspect the philosophical change you advocate is going to happen any time soon, Rick. As long as Lovie Smith is the head coach, I'm pretty certain the Bears will look for athletic, quick defensive tackles who can penetrate and pass rush. It would likely take a new head coach to change the team's profile for defensive tackles.
How can it be that the Bears hire an OC and have a head coach who think the way to win in the NFL is by running the ball? The Bears need to wake up to the new NFL. You can't hit a QB or WR during a pass play anymore. Passing is the way to win in this league. Running is just something you do to mix things up a little. Gary Kral
Couple thoughts on this Gary. First of all, not everyone can pass the ball the way Aaron Rodgers can, and if you can't, you had better be able to run it. Second, the best offenses in the NFL usually are balanced -- they don't just give defenses one thing to concentrate on. That's been that way for a long, long time, and probably will be that way for a long, long time no matter how the league changes. What is important in today's NFL is that a team can win the game in the fourth quarter with the passing game. Believe me, Smith and Tice want to be able to do that.
I hear every year how the Bears don't place a premium on quality corners because they aren't as important in the Cover-2 scheme. Didn't the last Packers game especially expose how good teams can isolate a weak corner (like Zack Bowman) -- especially in the red zone -- and capitalize? Should the Chiefs franchise Dwayne Bowe, I would think Brandon Carr would be a good answer to the annual question mark at corner opposite Tillman. Reasonable target? Dan Marshe, Fishhawk, Fla.
No doubt Carr would be a good addition. He is a solid, underrated corner. The question is if the Bears believe the best place to get a cornerback is through free agency or the draft. The previous regime thought the draft was a good source of corners. I tend to agree you can get a good young corner for the right price, especially for the Bears' scheme, in the second to fourth round range. By doing it that way, you can use your free agent bucks on players at other positions.
How likely do you think it is that the Bears make a strong effort to sign Cliff Avril, the Lions' DE? He'd be expensive, but he'd look great opposite Peppers. Andrew Heckman, Portland
My suspicion is Avril will be tagged by the Lions and he will never leave Detroit. But if for some reason he does shake free, the Bears would be nuts not to go after him. Avril is 25. He had 11 sacks and six forced fumbles. Guys like that don't grow on trees. Rod Marinelli drafted him when Marinelli was the head coach of the Lions, so the Bears know him well. He would fill a position of need and enhance the play of Julius Peppers. Signing him would hurt a division rival. Any other questions?
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