Bears: is it the Money or the Coaching?

Got a ton of great comments on the post about Sunday’s miserable game.  The last one was from “GWNIU” and it kind of steals away the second part of today’s post…but thanks none the less for all the great comments and opinions.

What the hell is the problem on defense?  We will probably never know, truly, but it can’t be disputed that the following two things have happened since the Super Bowl 41 loss on February 4, 2007:

1.  The nucleus of the defense was rewarded with fat contract extensions either prior to the 2007 or 2008 season.  They were paid so much that the defense is the “money unit” on the team, limiting a little bit what the offense can do because the defense is making the bulk of the money.  Players that are making premium money are Adewale Ogunleye, Tommie Harris (highest-paid defensive lineman in the NFL), Alex Brown, Brian Urlacher, Lance Briggs, Mike Brown, Charles Tillman and Nathan Vasher.  (And on special teams, of course we know Devin Hester was rewarded with a contract extension that could be worth up to $40 million and now isn’t performing for the first time in his career).

2.  Lovie Smith made the decision to not retain Ron Rivera as defensive coordinator, replacing him with his good friend Bob Babich, telling the media and fans that they should trust the decisions he makes because they’re the right decisions because he makes them.

As GWNIU stated yesterday, is it a coincidence that the Bears defense was ranked 2nd overall in 2005, 5th overall in 2006, then 28th overall in 2007 and 19th and slipping now (30th against the pass as of this writing) since Babich replaced Rivera?

Is it a coincidence, or do this guys not want to play now since they’re paid for life?  Granted, they are 2-3 years older than they were in 2005 when they were ranked 2nd overall.  Brian Urlacher is 30, but Ray Lewisis 33 and is playing as great as he ever has.

Lovie will continue to tell us that everything is fine and we shouldn’t be worrying about anything or trying to dissect any problems because we don’t know anything about anything-only he and his boy Babich know anything.

Friends I talk to are starting to compare Lovie-Babich to Jauron-Shoop, the assistant that cursed the team but the head man would rather be fired than be disloyal to his friend, and the losers in these messes are all of us.

This will be interesting.  I do predict that no matter how the defense performs the rest of this sinking season and next, the year after, Lovie will never part with his friend at coordinator.  And because of the fat contracts Lovie and Jerry Angelo have, they’re not going anywhere until 2012 at least.  And with the fat contracts on defense, it’s watch these overpaid underachievers for the next few years, because the only other thing the team could do would be to cut all of them, take cap hits, and slowly rebuild the unit from scratch over a period of 4-5 years.

It either gets better real quick, or this my friends is going to stay bad for a long time.

4 Responses to “Bears: is it the Money or the Coaching?”

  1. While I agree Rivera was a better DC, let’s not over rate him here. Look at the stats from the second half of 2006 compared to the first half. When Mike Brown went down, their run defense took a hit. When Tommie Harris went down, the defense was very average. I attended the Tampa game where the defense blew a 24-3 lead and let Tim Ratty torch them. Of course, everyone was too focused on Grossman’s stuggles to see this. And let’s not forget who was the DC during the Carolina playoff game and Super Bowl.

    On another note, Rivera has taken over the 32nd ranked pass defense and has gotten torched the two games.

    The problem is both with coaching and the players. The players are a bunch of overpaid, overrated big mouths, and the scheme isn’t good. But please, no Rivera lovefest please.

  2. I say it’s mostly coaching and we can’t forget the GM. As we all know The GM is supposed to bring in championship caliber players and that isn’t happening and The coach is supposed to know how to get players ready for the game and to know how to manage the clock. This was all made painfully aware to me on Sunday. The last three Bears coaches were all signed to new contracts even though they didn’t deserve them. If I remember correctly Wanny was given a new contract after the ’95 season a season the Bears missed the playoffs, Jauron was given a new contract after ’01 when the Bears finished 13-3, and of course Lovie got a new contract after ’06. What I’m trying to get at here is unless a coach helps the team win a Super Bowl he should not get a new contract. Just being good enough isn’t.

  3. Speaking as a lawywer:

    Player’s Contracts:

    High priced as these players may be, most of their money is not guaranteed. For example, the Bears could cut Tommie Harris after this year without being any more out of pocket.

    Now what that does for the salary cap I haven’t figured out, but with the opting out of the collective bargaining agreement soon there will be no cap.

    Angelo’s & Lovie’s:

    This money is not “guaranteed” either, at least not in toto. If either are terminated, any money the Bear’s owe them will be offset by their subsequent employment. For example, if Lovie were fired today and took the Vols job, the Bears would only owe him the difference between the Vols contract and the terminated contract for the balance of the period of the terminated contract.

    Now I suspect Lovie would not be on the market for long — St Louis Rams come to mind.

    Angelo is another matter.

    But of course, things would really have to tank (like losing the rest of their games) for the McCaskeys to make either move.

    Babich might be sacrificed, like Shea before him. I’m not sure that is fair. It would have been interesting to see whether Babich could have made it to Defensive Coordinator on another team based on his resume circa January, 2007. Maybe. But now his future career is tainted by his relationship with Lovie. He’ll always be known as Lovie’s hand picked guy who failed rather than someone who climbed up the ranks on his own.

  4. Thanks for your comments Brian, understood that all the defensive players that got paid this last year don’t have guaranteed contracts. I know that at least Hester and Harris’ contracts were written with pretty good out situations for the Bears, with a lot of incentives. I don’t have the time to crunch the numbers either, but there would be significant cap hits in the next 2-3 seasons if these guys continue to not perform. That was my concern.

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