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Super Martz 02/02/2010

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The Chicago Bears finished the 2009 season with a 7-9 record, out of the playoffs for a third straight season.  A huge disappointment for a franchise that had some people

Martz and Warner in St Louis

 talking Super Bowl after they traded for Broncos quarterback Jay Cutler.  He was to be the franchise QB the Bears had been missing.  But a funny thing happened on the way to greatness.  Cutler threw 26 interceptions!  That’s right, 26.  Worse, several of those occurred when the Bears were in the red zone.  In trading for Cutler, the Bears gave up their starting QB (Kyle Orton) and 2 number one draft picks.  They signed Cutler to a multi-year contract extension, and he is going no where for the near future.  Most of the offensive coaching staff was dismissed at the end of the season.  The Bears have looked high and low for the right man to lead Cutler and his offense.  The new offensive coördinator in Chicago is Mike Martz.

Yep, Mike Martz, the creator of the greatest show on turf.  Martz was the OC in St Louis for their magical 1999 Super Bowl run.  After starting QB Trent Green was injured during the first pre season game that year, Martz helped lead the Rams all

Cutler reacts after one of his more than two dozen 2009 interceptions

the way to the championship  with an unhearelded QB named Kurt Warner.  Martz also led them back to the Super Bowl after the 2001 season as head coach.  There were a few things going for Martz back then.  His fast break offense was an innovation at the time.  Defenses took a few seasons to learn how to defend it.  The NFL is now a pass happy league, and Martz has no such advantage now.  Warner had cut his teeth on Arena football and had learned how to make quick reads and decisions.  Cutler, not so much.  In fact, during the 1999 season, Warner threw 15  interceptions to 41 TD’s despite having to learn a new offensive scheme.  In a new scheme last year, Cutler threw 26 int’s to 27 TD’s, and now will have to learn another new, more complicated scheme.  Also, the Rams had a very good offensive line, lead by pro bowler Orlando Pace.  Not so the Bears, who are led by a now 11 year older Pace   The Rams had Isaac Bruce, Tory Holt, Az Hakim and Rickey Proehl at wide out.  Even with all those receivers, they player with the most receptions was Marshall Faulk out of the backfield.  What do the Bears have to compare to those weapons?  Devon Hester?  Matt Forte?  Please.  Forte had less than 1000 rushing yards last season.  Faulk had 1300 plus yards on the ground AND over 1000 through the air.  The leading receiver on last years Bears team?  Tight end Gregg Olsen.  Where does he fit into the Martz system?  San Francisco tight end Vernon Davis caught only 31 passes in 2008, his last with Martz as his OC.  Last season, without Martz, he had 78 receptions and tied the NFL single season record of tight end TD receptions with 13.  Davis earned his first pro bowl apperance after the 2009 season.

Let us not forget that last season, while an analyst for the NFL network, Martz publicly criticised Cutler for his demeanor.  Martz had his first meeting with Cutler earlier this week and said that they took to each other right away.  Do not forget, however, that it was Cutler who turned on his new coach in Denver so fast that he would not even return phone calls to the team owner, the man who signed his pay checks.   We have not even mentioned the weather in Chicago as compared to a dome (as in St Louis).

Can Martz recapture the magic of  Warner and the Rams with Cutler and the Bears?  He had tough stays  in Detroit and San Francisco after he parted ways with St Louis.  Now, he is paired with turn over machine Jay Cutler.  It is going to be a long, long season in the Windy City.

Martz's biggest chalange may be between Cutler's ears

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Northern Direction 01/28/2010

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Enough time has passed for a dispassionate post mortem of the Minnesota Vikings Brett Favre experiment.    As with most things Favre, it is complicated.  Simple, it seems, will not follow this man.

I have said many times that if Favre did not lead the Vikings to the Super Bowl that the drama surrounding his courtship by the Vikings will make his signing a failure.

The year started with coach Childress picking Favre up at the airport

  While I still feel that way since the goal was not reached, I am also not sure that describing his season with the Vikings as a failure is entirely fair.  Some good things happened in Minnesota.  From the perspective of head coach Brad Childress, Favre was a success.  Childress was on the hot seat, and the Vikings hot start earned him a mid-season contract extension.  Having a job next year with the Vikings was not a given, so from Chilly’s perspective, Favre was worth the gamble.  (There are some potential long-term issues we will discuss in a moment.)

There is no denying that Viking nation was energized by Favre.  The Twin Cities were buzzing with Viking Fever all season.  The excitement was visible.  Minnesota won their division for the second straight season, and they were on

The relationship between coach and QB was not always warm

the cusp of an NFC title.  These are good things for the franchise.  Favre got off to a great start.  But to be fair, he did the same thing in New York the season before. The big question was what effects, if any, would there be from his off season sholder surgery.  The good news for the Vikings was that there appeared to be none.   Then, just as had happened the last few seasons, his team cooled off and limped home down the stretch.  They lost 3 games in a 4 game stretch, culminating with a loss on December 28th to a struggling Chicago Bears team that finished the season 7-9.  That loss denied the Vikings home field advantage for the NFC championship game.  In that game, played in New Orleans, the Vikings had survived 4 turn overs to have a chance to win.  Then bad things happened.  A horrible penalty for 12 men in the huddle, after a time out, no less, moved Minnesota out of field goal range.  That made Minnesota call a pass, and after scrambling out of the pocket, Favre decided to throw a pass across his body into the middle of the field rather than run.  There is no guarantee that Minnesota would have made the field goal to win the game, but that interception denied them of the attempt.  It looked like Favre could have picked up 5 to 10 yards, and he said afterwards that he should have run.  Instead, for the second time in 3 years, Favre’s last pass of the season was an ill-advised throw that was intercepted in the championship game that his team then lost in overtime.  It was vintage Favre to try to make an impossible throw.  But that is  water under the bridge.

The question now is where do the Vikings go from here?  Will Favre retire?  If he does, will he stay retired?  Before Minnesota signed Favre, they were already among the

Will Favre's frustration with his last pass bring him back yet again?

 best teams in the NFC.  After they signed him, they changed the nature of the team.  They had been a running team.  Favre made them a passing team.  His dust-up with Childress during the Panthers loss showed who was making that call.  What will happen now.  If Favre retires, can last season’s starter, Tavaras Jackson, reclaim this team?  Will they go back to the running game?  What is the respect level for Childress?  He acquiesced to Favre.   Did that undermine him with the rest of the team?  He also sent the message loud and clear that this team could not win with their other QB options.  So what if now they are back to those QB options? 

It was a great ride for Vikings fans.  Only time will tell if, in the long run, all the disruption was worth winning one more playoff game than last season.  After all there was, again, no Super Bowl for the purple and gold.

Say It Ain’t So, Brett 01/24/2010

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While it was not all his fault, the ending was classic Favre.  To be fair, Favre had his Vikings on the cusp of the Super Bowl with less than 30 seconds left.  It was 3rd and 15 

Favre is left to ponder what if after his last pass is intercepted

 at the New Orleans 38 yard line.  Ironically, the Vikings had been moved out of field goal range with a 12 man in the huddle penalty just seconds before.  Those five yards probably made any field goal attempt difficult.  Now, Favre had to make something happen.  He took the snap, and Saints pressure forced him to roll to his right.  He appeared to have running room.  All he needed was 5 to 10 yards, call time out and put the game on the leg of Vikings kicker Ryan Longwell.  Then it happened.  Something came over Favre.  Sure, he was hobbled with a bad ankle, but he could have run the ball,  instead, he chose to throw the ball, across his body and across the field.  Mortal sins for an NFL quarterback.  The Saints intercepted the pass, killing any chance for the Vikings to win in regulation.  It was the third Viking turnover in the 4th quarter.  

New Orleans won the coin flip and took the ball to start overtime.  Favre and the Vikings never got the ball back.  The Saints drove down the field and converted a 40 yard field goal to win the game and advance to the Super Bowl for the first time in their history.   They will take on the AFC champion Indianapolis Colts in the Super Bowl in Miami in two weeks.   The Saints came into the game as the best offense in the league, but it was the Vikings who moved the ball up and down the field all night.  The Vikes out gained New Orleans 475 yards to 257.  But Minnesota turned the ball over 5 times.  There is plenty of blame to go around, but it is the last pass by Favre that will stay with him.  

Flash back 3 seasons ago.  The Green Bay Packers were tied with the New York Giants in overtime of the NFC championship game.  On the second play of OT, Favre threw 

Favre's last pass as a Packer is intercepted in OT of the NFC championship game

an interception.  It was the last pass he threw as a Packer.  The Giants kicked a 47 yard field goal and then went on to win the Super Bowl.  Disheartened, Favre retired from the game, but the thought of that last pass haunted him.  Two teams and another retirement later, here we are again.   After all the drama, the two retirements, the trade to the Jets and signing with the Vikings, Favre faces another off-season retirement decision with that last, terrible interception on his mind.  Perhaps it is karma.  The demons are back.  Probably worse than ever.  Perhaps this is the way Favre was ment to go out.  I don’t know.  I do know that he deserved better in this game.  After all the drama  of the past 2 seasons.  After tarnishing his reputation, morphing from The Gunslinger into The Diva, after all the crap in New York and the agonizing courtship with the Vikings, Favre and Minnesota should be in the Super Bowl.  What was he thinking with that last pass?  Surely a 19 year veteran knows not to throw that ball.  So now, instead of going out in glory, Favre will have to live with that last pass gnawing away at him.  Will he retire?  Probably.  Will he come back again?  Well, we will not know that for months.  Here comes another off-season Favre watch.  Will he?  Won’t he?  How many twists and turns this time?  No one knows yet.   

Why didn’t he just run the damn ball!!!????!!!  

Favre walks off after he throws a pick late in the 4th quarter of the NFC championship game. Will this be his last pass ever?

Perfection? 12/28/2009

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No one is perfect.  

The Indianapolis Colts lost to the New York Jets 29-15 yesterday, becoming the last team to taste defeat in the NFL this season.  The Colts had become just the third team 

Only the 1972 Dolphins have achieved NFL perfection

 in history to reach the 14-0 mark.  The New England Patriots did it two seasons ago, reaching 18-0 before losing in the Super Bowl to the ew York Giants.  Of course, the 1972 Miami Dolphins completed the only undefeated season in NFL history, completing the 17-0 season with a 14-7 victory over the Washington Redskins in Super Bowl VII.  Leading 12-10 in the third quarter, Colts head coach Jim Caldwell pulled Quarterback Peyton Manning and several other key Colts players from the game.  Indianapolis had already clinched their division, a first round bye and home field advantage throughout the playoffs.  They had nothing to play for other than perfection.  But perfection had never been their goal.  Their goal, heck every teams goal is to win the Super Bowl. 

No team enters the season saying that their goal is to finish undefeated.  They all want to win the Super Bowl.  In 2007, the Patriots finished 18-1.  They set the record for 

The Giants ended the Pats bid for perfection in Super Bowl XLII

consecutive wins to start the season, reaching 18-0.  Ask any player on that team if they would rather have been 18-0 or been Super Bowl champs, and 18-0 would not get even one vote.  Perfection adds stress to an already difficult task.  Winning the Super Bowl is hard enough.  The added stress of perfection is not needed.  The 1998 Denver Broncos were defending Super Bowl champs.  They reached 13-0 that season before they lost a game.  In fact, they lost 2 in a row then went on to win their second consecutive Super Bowl.  Many members of that team, a team that had just won the big game the season before, talked about how bad the pressure was to remain undefeated.  Many feel that the loss lifted a weight from their shoulders.  So the Colts may have done themselves a favor.  But don’t tell that to the fans in the stands Sunday that were booing the home standing Colts in the fourth quarter.  Caldwell has been roundly criticized for his decision.  But teams rest their players in the same situation every season.  If the Vikings lose tonight at Chicago, the Saints will lock up home field advantage in the NFC.  If that were to happen, do you not think that several Saints players will have an early end to next weeks game?  Of course they will.  But since the Saints are not playing for perfection, most will not even notice.  In fact, if they do not pull their starters early and some one gets hurt, they will be criticized for taking an unnecessary risk.  Why should the Colts situation be any different? 

Sure, 19-0 would be nice.  But ask the Patriots if they would feel any better if that one blemish in the 18-1 season had come in week 16 rather than in the Super Bowl.  The next mont will tell if the Colts will win the Super Bowl.  With the loss their task just got easier

Super Viking 12/21/2009

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There is trouble in the Twin Cities.  The Minnesota Vikings have lost 2 of their last 3, including a game last night that could have moved them closer to home field 

The grind of the long season seems to wear Favre down

 advantage throughout the playoffs.  With the loss by the Green Bay Packers earlier in the day, the Vikings did clinch the NFC North title.  The Vikings finished 10-6 in 2008 and also won the North.  Minnesota brought  Brett Favre out of retirement to make the difference and get this franchise back to the Super Bowl.  But can Favre do that?  After a 10-1 start, the Vikings are now 11-3 with 2 games left.  This should sound familiar. 

 In 2008, the New York Jets were looking to get to the playoffs.  They decided that Brett Favre was the QB to lead them there, and they acquired the newly un-retired signal caller.  Eleven games into the season, the Jets were riding high at 8-3, but limped to the finish line 1-4 in their last 5 games and missed the playoffs.  In 2007, the Green Bay Packers were talking Super Bowl.  Through the first 11 games, Green Bay stood at 10-1.  But the Favre led Packers finished 3-2 down the stretch and lost in the playoffs, missing the Super Bowl. 

The Vikings were a playoff team with or without Favre.  He was coaxed out of retirement (again) by Vikings coach Brad Childress because he was the missing piece of the puzzle.  Surely, with Favre at QB, this team is a Super Bowl contender.  We heard that throughout the first 11 games of the season.  But now, like clock work, not so much.  Favre is again struggling down the stretch.  And the evidence is in more than just the win- loss record.  Something happens to Favre late in the season.  In the 2007 and 2008 seasons, Favre threw 24 td passes to 12 interceptions during the first 11 games of the year.  In the last 5, the ratio of td’s to interceptions changes dramatically.  The numbers for the last 5 games of the past 2 seasons is 8 td passes to 16 interceptions.  The excuse given in New York was that Favre had a bad shoulder, but the same downward trend existed in Green Bay the season before.  The bad news for Vikings fans is that the same pattern is emerging this season.  In the first 11 games this year, Favre had 24 td’s and only 3 int’s.  Over the past 3 games, the numbers are 3 and 4.  Is Favre wearing down?  Is it his age combined with the grind of the long NFL season that is causing the late season meltdowns?  That is hard to prove.  But while no one knows what will transpire over the last 2 regular season games and in the playoffs, there may be a silver lining in the gathering Viking storm clouds. 

The Vikes have one of the best runners in the game.  He is having a poor season by his standards, but Adrian Peterson is still a force to be reckoned with.  The very presence 

The Vikings need to give Peterson the ball more

of Favre may be the cause of his down season.  Peterson, like most good runners, usually gets better as the game wears on.  It is a combination of rhythm and wear on the defense.  Peterson needs to carry the ball 22 to 25 times a game to be most effective.  In the past, Minnesota had no problem getting him the touches he needs.  But things are different this season.  With Favre at qb, they are passing the ball more.  Interestingly, in the games when Peterson has carried the ball at least 22 times this season, the Vikings are 7-0.  In the games where he had less than 22 carries, they are a very pedestrian 4-3.  In the past 3 games, Peterson had 13, 26, and 12 carries.  Guess which game they won.  

If the Vikings want to reach the Super Bowl, they need to put the ball less in the hands of Favre and give it to Peterson more.

Class Act 10/12/2009

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The Denver Broncos defeated the New England Patriots 20-17 in overtime.   The win moved the Broncos record to 5-0.  Denver head coach Josh McDaniels defeated his old team, and his old boss, Bill Belichick. 

Remember the off season McDaniels had?  Hired as Denver’s new head coach, he became one of the five youngest head coaches ever.  As if that was not enough of a

Broncos coach Josh McDaniels points to the fans after the Broncos victory

Broncos coach Josh McDaniels points to the fans after the Broncos victory

challenge, the Cutler affair broke out.  Then Denver’s best receiver wants out.  The criticism grew and grew.  It seemed as if half of Denver wanted this guy gone before he ever had the chance to coach a game.  Bronco nation was atwitter with prognostications of outright failure.  The over/under in Vegas for the number of Bronco wins this season was at 6 1/2.  McDaniels had, after all, given away the best quarterback ever to play the game for the second coming of Ryan Leaf.  Now, five games in, it looks like the over will be surpassed, perhaps before the season is half over.  What a difference a few weeks can make.  Guess this guy can coach, after all.   A week one victory came on a deflected pass that was caught and turned into a long touchdown with just seconds left on the game clock.  Just luck, most said.  Never mind that Denver was in the lead until they surrendered a touchdown with less than a minute left in the game.  Then came victories over Cleveland and Oakland.  Just bad teams, the detractors said.  Wait untill the Broncos play a good team.  Then we will see how bad they are.  Denver followed the 3-0 start with a victory over Dallas.  They overcame an early 10-0 deficit, scored the game winning touchdown late in the 4th quarter, then future Hall of Fame defensive back Champ Bailey knocked down two Dallas passes in the end zone to seal the victory.  Many of the detractors said that the Broncos were lucky again and Dallas QB Tony Romo had a bad game.  Wait untill they play an exceptional team like New England.  Yep, the Broncos are now 5-0.

McDaniels and Orton talk before the game.

McDaniels and Orton talk before the game.

At the end of the game, McDaniels looked quickly for Belichick, then went  to the area in the stands where his family was sitting, pumping his fist into the air.  Lost in the moment, he seemed more cheerleader than coach, and the fans in the area were pumped up by the gesture.  During the post game news conference, McDaniels allowed that while, yes, it was special to beat his old team and mentor, it was not all about him.  The victory was a testament to a team of players who worked hard and fought hard and earned the victory.  For someone who had taken as many shots as McDaniels has, it was a class move to give the credit to the players, where it belongs.  His first big moment in the sun and he rose above the pettiness that had engulfed his chaotic start in Denver.  Some will point to the fact that he and Belichick did not shake hands on the field after the game, but McDaniels did shake hands and hug every member of the Patriots that he could find.  And the emotion he aimed at the stands will go a long way to getting Bronco fans on his side.  It will do almost as much as the 5-0 start.  It also turns out that Kyle Orton, the new QB in town, is not that bad, either. 

Perhaps McDaniels had a clue all along.  To borrow a line form the classic Movie Casablanca: Denver, I think this may be the beginning of a beautiful friendship!

McDaniels and NE QB Brady converse.  Should Jay Cutler feel slighted?  Perhaps he will now demand anothre trade!

McDaniels and NE QB Brady converse. Should Jay Cutler feel slighted? Perhaps he will now demand another trade!

Cowboy Showdown 10/05/2009

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Do you believe yet?

The Denver Broncos spotted the Dallas Cowboys a 10-0 first quarter lead, then rode a 51 yard catch and run by Brandon Marshall for a

Knowshon Moreno scores the Broncos first TD

Knowshon Moreno scores the Broncos first TD

 touchdown with 1:46 left in the game to a 17-10 win.  The Broncos now stand 4-0 at the one quarter mark of the NFL season.  Denver came into the game undefeated, but getting little respect because their victories were over Cincinnati, Cleveland and Oakland, none of which are considered NFL elite.  The Cowboys, so the conventional thinking was, would expose the defense that had allowed a league low 16 points in the first 3 games.  In the early going, it looked like that is what was going to happen.

Dallas dominated the first quarter, mainly because their running game kept the clock moving.  Running back Marion Barber pushed his way through several Broncos for a one yard touchdown run with 43 seconds left in the quarter.  The extra point gave Dallas their 10- zip lead.  It was to be the last point scored by the Cowboys.  At that point, the Cowboys had run 23 plays to Denver’s 6.  The defenses then took over the game, and it was a play by Denver’s defense that changed the game.  On a third and 14 play, Broncos

Brandon Marshall makes a nice catch over the Cowboys Terence Newman on his way to the game winning TD

Brandon Marshall makes a nice catch over the Cowboys Terence Newman on his way to the game winning TD

strong safety Renaldo Hill blitzes Dallas quarter back Tony Romo.  Romo never saw him, and Hill sacked him at the 17 yard line and forced a fumble.  Denver linebacker D J Williams scooped up the ball and ran it to the 9.  Denver wasted no time with the gift as Broncos quarterback Kyle Orton hit running back Knowshon Moreno with a swing pass on the first  play after the fumble, and Moreno raced to the end zone for the score with 10:10 left in the half.  While both defenses dominated, Denver’s offense began to gain the upper hand until, with 6:02 left in the forth quarter, Bronco kicker Matt Prater kicked a 28 yard field goal to tie the game at 10.  The Cowboys managed to possess the ball for only 6 plays before they punted it back to the Broncos.  On the first play after the two minute warning, the Broncos had the ball at their own 49 yard line.  Orton, in the shotgun formation took the snap.  Dallas came with a blitz, and Orton found wide receiver Brandon Marshall on a go route along the right sideline at about the 34.  Marshall out jumped corner back Terence Newman for the ball, caught it and separated from him.  He cut back towards the center of the field at about the 30.  When he reached the near hash marks, Marshall found himself among 5 Dallas defenders.  He stopped, reversed his direction, and out raced the Cowboys to the far sideline and the corner of the end zone.  The touchdown gave the Broncos their first lead at 17-10.  But the game was far from over. 

On 4th and 3 from their own 27, Romo took the snap, avoided the rush, scrambled out to his left and some how found Sam Hurd at about the 40.  Hurd caught the ball and raced all the way to the Broncos 21 yard line. The 53 yard gain set the Cowboys up deep in Denver territory with 59 ticks left on the clock.   Three plays later, Romo hit Patrick Creighton, who lunged to the 3.  With no time outs left, Romo spiked the ball to stop the clock with 9 seconds left, making it 3rd down and goal.  Romo then tried to hit Hurd on two successive plays, but he was covered by future Hall of Famer Champ Baily who deflected both passes.  Game over.  Broncos win.

Denver’s defense was up to the task.  They gave up 10 points, bringing their 4 game points allowed total to a paltry 26, by far the least in the

Broncos coach Josh McDaniels is now 4-0 as an NFL head coach

Broncos coach Josh McDaniels is now 4-0 as an NFL head coach

 league. The Cowboys came into the game having rushed for over 200 yards in each of its previous 2 games.  Denver held them to 74 total rushing yards.   Broncos quarterback Kyle Orton was workman like again, completing 20 of 29 passes for 243 yards and 2 touchdowns.  He has yet to throw an interception this season.  So what is the reason to diminish the Broncos now?  Poor competition?  Home field advantage?  Face it, the Broncos have been prepaired for each game so far.  Their defense is light years ahead of last seasons verson.  And they join the Colts as the only unbeaton teams in the AFC.  It is time to give head coach Josh McDaniels credit.  This is a good team.

It is time to suspend disbelief.  These Broncos can play.

Deep Cut(ler) 09/13/2009

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Welcome to Chicago.

Jay Cutler thought he had been wronged by Josh McDaniels?  Wait untill he hears from Bears fans after that performance.  One of the NBC

It was a long night for Cutler

It was a long night for Cutler

 announcers told of running into a Bears fan who had turned his new Cutler jersey inside out and proclaimed “I can’t take this!”  And that was at HALFTIME!

In the first start that counts since The Baby cried his way out of Denver, Cutler showed all the traits that Bronco fans had forgotten about during the off season.  Want red zone production?  How about 2 field goals and an interception but no red zone touchdowns.  With Cutler at qb, Denver was one of the worst teams in the NFL last season in scoring touchdowns in the red zone.  Same problem in game one in Chicago.  Want poise under pressure?  How about 4 interceptions.  Want leadership?  How about getting the ball back  with 1:06 left at the 38 yard line behind by 6 points and going 1 and done.  Interception on first down.  This is what the Bears traded a butt load of draft picks and a starting quarterback who actually has a winning record in the NFL for?  This was the fresh start Cutler was looking for?  Careful what you whine, er, wish for.  The kid from Santa Claus, Indiana came up with coal for all Bears fans in the season opener. 

Cutler reacts after throwing one of his 4 interceptions

Cutler reacts after throwing one of his 4 interceptions

 And so it begins.  From  David Haugh’s  article in the Chicago Tribune:  “If nothing else, Cutler’s first game with his new team guaranteed that Sundays in 2009 will be louder than ever for the Bears, and it has nothing to with crowd noise.  There was Cutler yelling at the back judge to throw a flag, screaming at tight end Desmond Clark to adjust his route, running his mouth constantly at teammates running their pass routes.   Clearly, Cutler’s teammates and coaches will get plenty of advice this season — and earplugs too, if they’re smart.  Just curious: Who’s going to get in Cutler’s face?”  And this from the Tribune’s Rick Morrissey: “At the rate he was going in the first half, it was a wonder Bears coach Lovie Smith didn’t throw his red flag and challenge the trade that brought the quarterback to town.  The scouting report on Cutler always has been that the rewards outweigh the risks on the field. He’ll brashly, rashly throw into coverage and break a coach’s heart once in a while, but he’ll make more plays than not.  On Sunday night, Cutler’s worst attributes crept into the light. Time and again, he tried to make plays only he saw. He threw across his body. He threw off the wrong foot. He screamed at a world that would do him so wrong.  Jay Cutler, hear him roar.”   Welcome to Chicago.    How ’bout that Windy City press!   Hey, Jay, miss Brandon Marshall, Eddie Royal, and a quality offensive line yet?

To make matters worse, the qb the Bears traded away came up a winner.  Kyle Orton, playing with a glove on his throwing hand to protect the stitches in his index finger on that hand, went 17 for 28 for 243 yards and no interceptions.  And his last pass with :27 left was deflected into the hands of Brandon  Stokley who took it 87 yards untouched for the game winning touchdown.  (Watch it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K56C-roYUOA&feature=player_embedded) The City of  Broad Shoulders traded away the tough guy who found a way to win the game.  It will get better for the Bears and Cutler.  But not next week.  Not with the Steelers and their vaunted defense in Chicago.  If Cutler struggles early against the defending champions, we will see how he handles the boo birds in Chicago.

Madden 04/17/2009

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The NFL is a little diminished today. 

John Madden and Al Michaels in the ABC booth

John Madden and Al Michaels in the ABC booth

John Madden has retired.  For 30 years, love him or hate him, Madden was the gold standard of the NFL.  He made the game accessible to the casual fan.  Madden explained the game in a way that made it simple and understandable.  He communicated at a level that belied his vast knowledge of the sport.  It was his elemental approach to the game that made us relate to him.  He made us understand the block that was essential to the 40 yard run.  BAM!  But he did it in a way that made us think that he was a fan sitting along side us at the stadium.  He made us forget that he was a Super Bowl winning coach.  Even in this age of fantasy football, where EVERYONE is an expert, he made us know that he had forgotten more about the game than we will ever know.  But he did it with the exuberance of a fan.  He talked to us, not at us.  He talked with us, not down to us.  His partnership with Pat Summerall and then Al Michaels made them the best announcing teams in the sport.  Whether it was Sunday afternoon, Sunday night or Monday night, if it was Madden, It was football.

Madden popularised the telestrator.  Who can forget the turducken?  (Or even knows what it is?) and THE video game is not EA Sports NFL Football, it is simply Madden.  And long before there was the Terry award, or the all iron team, or any other copy cat rip off all whatever team, there was the All Madden team.   Madden made it about the game and the players.  He made it about the fan.  He made it about the love of the game.  It was never about him.

The problem with most former athletes and coaches who become commentators is that they make it about them.  They madden-sb-11know more than we do.  They are better than we are.  They did things we could not do.  They get in the way. They have to flash their expensive suit, or relate a situation to a game situation they were once in.  They consistently remind us that they are not one of us.   Not Madden.  This bear of a man was so successful because he was one of us.  There is an entire generation of fans who probably do not even know he was a player, or coached the SB XI champions.  All they know is the Madden Cruiser and the BAM and BOOM of a play.  They know they had a compatriot in the booth.  He was a fan, like them.  And if you think you will not miss Madden, just wait until his replacement, Chris Collinsworth, calls games next season.  You will know what we all have lost.