Tuesday, December 02, 2003

The Bears

There has been a lot of talk about the Bears making a run for the playoffs. It seems silly, as they have only beaten one good team. But the playoffs are indeed a possibility thanks to the ineptitude of the Vikings and Packers. However, since the Bears are 3-0 against the AFC and 2-7 against the NFC, they will end up losing all tiebreaker scenarios. So the only way for them to make the playoffs is:

For the Vikings to lose 3 of 4.
For the Packers to split their remaining 4 games.
For the Bears to win out.

That would leave the Bears at 9-7 and the Pack & Vikings at 8-8. Now the Bears will be able to help themselves by beating the Packers and Vikings in the next two weeks. And I wouldn’t be surprised if Green Bay & Minnesota do in fact finish at 8-8. But I can’t let myself believe that this 5-7 team has the ability to win 4 straight games, especially with the season ending in KC.

That’s not to say there hasn’t been a lot of positives these past few weeks. At the beginning of the season I thought the Bears would end up 2-14. But the defense has played great lately and the young guys have stepped up. Charles “Peanut” Tillman may be the best player in the secondary, or on the defense for that matter. On a good team he might be the defensive rookie of the year. Lance Briggs (that’s a football name) plays a much better strong side linebacker than the departed Rosey Colvin ever did. Bobby Gray has shown signs of replacing the toughness that left with Tony Parrish.

The offense still has problems, but rookie Justin Gage has shown he can make the big plays. And the offensive line has been opening holes for everyone who carries the ball.

But what we are left with this season is regret. A horrible start, and two point losses to the Lions and Rams, probably created too big a hole to dig out of, even in a bad division. And while Jauron deserves credit for the turnaround, as Carol Slezak pointed out in today’s Sun-Times, he also deserves blame for the horrendous start. (Note: Slezak seems to think that a playoff run will set the Bears back "several years". Any NFL team can start from scratch and be in the playoffs in three years. So that line is stupid but the rest of her column makes sense.)

I have always given Jauron the benefit of the doubt and blamed the offensive woes on John Shoop. But all the points Slezak makes about Jauron are true. Jauron is too hesitant to play rookies, and doesn’t do a great job of identifying talent. And if Shoop was the problem, it was Jauron’s job to get rid of him. Now it looks like Jauron will be fired if the Bears don’t finish 9-7. It’s unfortunate as I would have liked to have seen what Jauron could have done with a better offensive coordinator. But I can’t say it won’t be deserved.