#JaviBaez First Game At #Wrigley #Cubs

Invited to this game six months ago; never would’ve thought I’d get to sew Javier Baez’s first at bat and hit at Wrigley. Go Bears! :)

Let’s Go Bears-The Future

On the day we get to see the (partial) unveiling of the 2014 Chicago Bears, I am briefly mentioning the change to how I go about my hobby. Not that anyone cares or reads this anymore, but I had to have something to write in my new format.

I created www.BearsHistory.com way back in 2000. Totally hilarious for someone who still thinks he is young to know that some of my readers weren’t born when I started the site back in the early days of the Internet.

I’ve been fortunate to have a great career so far with two different large companies spanning the last (almost) 20 years. Back in the late 1990′s, I began taking technology classes because I used to have the time for those things. One of those classes taught me basic HTML skills, learning which allowed me to launch a great hobby that has been very rewarding. A later class gave me a taste of ASP.net, which I used to revamp the site in 2005. In 2007 I launched www.ChicagoBearsWebLog.com. I updated the blog daily for many years. I will never forget the early days of the Internet (and the earlier days of my adult life) when these sites gained a high degree of exposure, allowing me to do some very awesome things like write a book and appear on local and national television and radio. It’s been a great ride.

I’m not completely abandoning the ride, but do have to slow down and change. Over the 14 years that I have participated in this great hobby, LOTS has changed (in case you didn’t notice!) My Google page rank has fallen, I get much less exposure due to the absolute saturation of media sources, and with my responsible adult life kicking into hyperdrive, I don’t have time to focus on doing anything to try to stay relevant. My adult friends understand this, and kids, it will happen to you someday too. As much as you say it never will!! (As I did).

In the halcyon days of my young(er) adulthood, I thought this all might lead to me doing something with the Bears, or becoming a sports journalist. In the meantime, unfortunately for my friends in the industry, journalism seems to continue a long death. And maintaining a solid career in order to stay abreast of my responsibilities has trumped any further dreams of working with the Bears organization.

www.BearsHistory.com is about 95% finished. There are a few pages I’d like to finish and/or expand. I might get to it, but have no idea when. Going forward, I will focus on posting gameday updates from this Chicago Bears fan of 35 years on the blog. Probably not many Bears news or opinion updates, because there are about a thousand paid journalists and hundreds of thousands of fans posting their own opinions everywhere else. I don’t have time, and frankly don’t care that much to publicize my own much anymore.

Hell, being that this adult with real responsibilities is being priced out of professional sports anyway, maybe I will give it all up someday to focus on family and learn how to play the guitar.

I am still continuing my series of library programs this Fall, and currently am booked at Bensenville Public Library http://benlib.org/ on September 2nd, and Homer Township Library http://www.homerlibrary.org/homer/ on September 22nd. We love to see everyone that comes out.

Thanks to my readers and new fans I have met that have allowed me to enjoy a pretty incredible and fun journey I’ll never forget.

Let’s Go Bears!!

No More Injuries, Bears

It’s the time of year again when I see friends and family, that they ask me so, how about those Bears? And I’m posting today because I have said to people each and every time that “I am as excited as I can ever remember, but it all depends on injuries. We have to hope that everyone stays healthy.”

While thankfully this isn’t the end of the world by any stretch, it is the first real bad injury news to report that third wide receiver Marquess Wilson went down with a broken clavicle today. Good thing the Bears have a ton of depth at receiver. But it’s disappointing in that everyone from coaches, to the media, fans, and his fellow receivers were lauding the progress Wilson has made. And his potential to be a huge part of the offense.

Let’s hope this is an isolated occurrence and not the start of a trend.

Chicago Bears 2014 7-round mock draft

It’s that time of the year again. A lot of people across the country aren’t fans of the draft, and I can see their reasoning. Many say that it’s a total crapshoot and 80 percent of the players won’t ever make any sort of impact in the NFL. They’re right. But, it’s those guys that do that make the NFL the best league in the world. It’s the 5th, 6th, 7th round picks that turn into superstars that make the draft great. It’s the thought that comes into your mind that with any of your favorite team’s selections, they could have just drafted a player who will catch the game winning touchdown of a Super Bowl or a player who will one day be inducted into the Hall of Fame.

As I said last year, mock drafts are no fun without trades. Anyone can look at a team and say “they need a quarterback and a linebacker, so let’s make that their first two picks.” So, here it is. Let’s hope that whatever direction Phil Emery goes in, he can find some impactful players to help the Bears once again hoist the Lombardi Trophy.

Bears trade #14 (1) to the Arizona Cardinals for #20 (1), #84 (3), and 196 (6).

1. Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech
—The only thing keeping Kyle Fuller from being the consensus #1 overall cornerback in this draft is his durability. He has missed some time in college with some minor, lingering injury problems. However, Fuller has everything a team wants in a CB. According to Brad Biggs of the Chicago Sun-Times, the Bears have had Fuller into Halas Hall at least twice. Fuller tackles, plays with attitude, can play in any scheme, has the bloodlines, and has a lot of college experience. Phil Emery mentioned that he’s looking for guys who can contribute now and can potentially one day move to safety. Fuller probably won’t contribute this upcoming season unless Charles Tillman or Tim Jennings get hurt. Fuller also has that length to one day play safety if needed. At this juncture, this is just too good of value to pass up.
2. Deone Bucannon, SS, Washington State
—Deone Bucannon is another physical specimen, and he is a really nasty player, just ask Auburn RB Corey Grant. Bucannon will probably draw his fair share of penalties, but it would be nice to finally have a safety roaming the Bears’ secondary who isn’t afraid to take a piece of someone. Calvin Johnson, Greg Jennings and Jordy Nelson probably wouldn’t be so excited about catching a slant route on the strong side of the field anymore. Bucannon plays much bigger than 6’1, 211 and ran a sub-4.50 forty in Indianapolis. Last year, Bucannon notched 5 interceptions and 3 forced fumbles, so he’s more than just a big-hitter.
3. Caraun Reid, DT, Princeton
—If Caraun Reid played at somewhere other than an Ivy League school, he might be a first round pick. Reid was consistently double, sometimes triple, teamed all season long for the Tigers and still amassed 9 tackles-for-loss and 5.5 sacks in games against fellow Ivy League schools. Don’t worry, because he transferred that dominance to the Senior Bowl, where he made almost any lineman in his way look foolish. He is a natural 3-tech and would be productive from day one. Apparently, Phil Emery is a fan, too.
3. Jordan Tripp, LB, Montana
—Emery mentioned in his press conference a few days ago that only one linebacker currently on the Bears’ roster is guaranteed a starting spot. That is trouble for D.J. Williams, Jon Bostic, Shea McClellin and Khaseem Greene. Jordan Tripp reminds me a lot of Kiki Alonso, a guy who wasn’t highly regarded going into the draft but was very productive in college. Alonso ended up having a terrific rookie season for the Bills. Tripp dominated the Big Sky Conference, and at 6’3 and just under 240 pounds, he can most likely develop into a starting MLB if needed. His best spot now, however, is probably OLB.
4. DeAndre Coleman, NT, California
—DeAndre Coleman is a good, old-fashioned run-stuffing nose tackle. He’s not going to blow through the line and sack the quarterback, but his ability to maintain leverage against guards and centers against the run is going to attract some teams. Coleman dominated the Senior Bowl against two highly-regarded centers in Gabe Ikard and Travis Swanson. He is durable too, as he didn’t miss a game in his career due to injury.
5. Marqueston Huff, FS, Wyoming
—Marqueston Huff played FS during his senior year, but like Kyle Fuller, he has that ability to play almost any position in the secondary; Huff played cornerback during his first three years at Wyoming. Huff had good ball skills as a Cowboy, but his hands are extremely small. He doesn’t really love to tackle, either. Luckily, he has quick feet and the straight-line speed to eventually compete to play safety in the NFL.
6. Tajh Boyd, QB, Clemson
—There was a time when Tajh Boyd was considered a first round quarterback. Boyd’s senior year was up-and-down, and because of that, he has fallen down most scouts’ boards. His biggest issue, and maybe his only issue, is his accuracy, but nobody is drafting him to start week 1 of the 2014 season. With a few years, Boyd could develop that part of his game and be a solid quarterback. If anyone can do that, it’s Marc Trestman.
6. Isaiah Crowell, RB, Alabama State
—Once upon a time back in 2011, Isaiah Crowell would have been appearing on 2014 mock drafts as a top 10-15 pick. Crowell went on to get arrested on three weapons charges and was kicked off of the Georgia Bulldogs team. Crowell dominated small-school competition just as he did SEC competition; in 2013, Crowell accumulated 1,121 rushing yards and 15 touchdowns on just 170 carries . Emery has shown that he’s not scared to take a chance on guys with character concerns (see: Kyle Long, Evan Rodriguez), and in round six, Crowell is a low risk-high reward value. The Bears also need a back-up to Matt Forte, unless they’re sold on Michael Ford.
6. Colt Lyerla, TE, Oregon
—Another guy with character issues, Colt Lyerla might be the most athletic tight end in this draft. At 6’5 and 245 pounds, he is more of a half-back, as he had 25 catches and 13 carries in 2012. However, he’s probably not all there mentally as his arrests have been idiotic, including a cocaine arrest in which he plead guilty to. There’s no denying his talent though, and the Bears could use another TE behind Martellus Bennett in case of an injury.

–Brian Ociepka (@bjociepka1 on twitter)

Chicago Bears re-draft: 2012

After those three Jerry Angelo drafts, it’s easy to see why so many people celebrated his departure as Bears’ general manager. In came Phil Emery, who many thought was just a “yes-man” to Ted Phillips, Lovie Smith and the McCaskey family. However, Emery has proven himself to be an extremely bright, articulate man. He knows the needs of the Chicago Bears when he sees them. Unfortunately, I think he wishes he could re-do his first ever draft, despite drafting two starting-caliber players.

1 (19). Chandler Jones, DE, Syracuse
Actual Pick: Shea McClellin, DE, Boise State
—When Phil Emery made Shea McClellin his first ever first round pick as Bears’ general manager, I was rather pissed. McClellin had always displayed terrific athleticism and speed, but he never played anywhere other than outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense. I have been proven correct, as McClellin’s reign as a potential franchise defensive end has ended. He will now attempt to play outside linebacker in a 4-3 defense, something he has never done, either. I wouldn’t be surprised if McClellin isn’t with the Bears at this time next year. In New England, Chandler Jones has been a good player. In his first two years, he has 17.5 sacks and 4 forced fumbles. One could never know if a player’s game would translate to another team; maybe he had a coach there and something just clicked, but I would take my chances with him over McClellin.
2 (45). Alshon Jeffery, WR, South Carolina
Actual Pick: Alshon Jeffery, WR, South Carolina
—This will probably go down as one of the best picks of the 2012 draft by any team. Just think: the Jets traded up to pick before the Bears, and they took Stephen Hill. The 49ers used their first round pick on A.J. Jenkins. The Rams used their second round pick to take Brian Quick. Those three wideouts have 81 career receptions total, while Jeffery had 89 last year alone. Hell, even Miami picked before Chicago, and they chose Jonathan Martin, which has done wonders for that organization.
3 (79). T.Y. Hilton, WR, Florida International
Actual Pick: Brandon Hardin, CB, Oregon State
—Brandon Hardin was a mistake of a selection from the start. Hardin was an injury prone player at Oregon State and not very good when healthy. Hardin lasted just two seasons in Chicago, both of which were injury riddled years. T.Y. Hilton somehow fell this far, but he has turned out to be a good receiver in Indianapolis and Andrew Luck’s favorite target. Hilton has 132 catches and 12 touchdowns in two seasons with the Colts.
4 (111). Alfred Morris, RB, Florida Atlantic
Actual Pick: Evan Rodriguez, HB, Temple
—Evan Rodriguez seemingly loved alcohol more than football. When he was on the field, he did nothing. Off the field, he loved to have too much fun. He was released by Chicago, and he then lasted less than three months with the Dolphins. Alfred Morris is probably a product of the Mike Shanahan offense, but he would have given the Bears much more than what Rodriguez gave them.
6 (184). Danny Trevathan, LB, Kentucky
Actual Pick: Isaiah Frey, CB, Nevada
—Isaiah Frey hasn’t been a bad pick. Any time a general manager can find a contributing player in round six, it’s a positive. Frey isn’t a great player by any stretch, but he filled in nicely for Kelvin Hayden last season. However, Danny Trevathan is a terror for the Broncos’ defense. In two seasons, he has already intercepted three passes, recovered three fumbles and made 162 tackles. Emery has made it known that he likes SEC players, so I’m rather surprised that he didn’t take a longer look at Trevathan at some point during this draft.
7 (220). Daryl Richardson, RB, Abilene Christian
Actual Pick: Greg McCoy, CB, TCU
—Greg McCoy has done nothing in his career. He didn’t even make it to September in the year he was drafted for the Bears. A few weeks later, he signed with Arizona. He was then released, signed by Minnesota, and then released by them. Daryl Richardson isn’t a spectacular running back, but he has averaged 4.1 yards per carry in his career for the Rams. He would be a decent back-up to Matt Forte, and the Bears do need another running back currently.

–Brian Ociepka (@bjociepka1 on twitter)

On Tuesday, I will post my 2014 full 7-round Bears’ mock draft.

Chicago Bears re-draft: 2011

In Jerry Angelo’s last draft as Bears general manager, he had a chance to make the Bears a significantly better team. This was the draft right after the Bears lost to Green Bay in the NFC Championship game, and many thought they were just a solid offensive line away from contending once more. I would say that, in the end, this draft played a big role in Angelo’s eventual firing. The 2009 and 2010 draft classes most likely didn’t help his cause, either.

Once again, no GM will ever have a perfect draft. For example, the Patriots took Ras-I Dowling in round 2 of the 2011 draft. Dowling was released just two seasons later and is now on the Jets’ practice squad.

Looking back on it, I was a fan of a few of these picks initially. I was dead wrong.

1 (29). Muhammad Wilkerson, DE/DT, Temple
Actual Pick: Gabe Carimi, T, Wisconsin
—I remember watching this draft, and I remember at one point realizing that Gabe Carimi was falling. There were a lot of questions surrounding his health, but Carimi had way too much talent to fall to pick #29. As we all now know, I was wrong and so was Jerry Angelo (this is becoming a recurring theme). Carimi had a decent start to his career, but he hurt his knee and was never the same player. Meanwhile, Muhammad Wilkerson is easily one of the best defensive linemen in football. He’s a nasty player with a lot of skill. This past season, he recorded 10.5 sacks and 2 forced fumbles for the Jets. The Bears recently signed Lamarr Houston, and I’d say Wilkerson is a similar player in that he can play almost any position on the line and still be a force.
2 (53). Jurrell Casey, DT, USC
Actual Pick: Stephen Paea, DT, Oregon State
—Prior to the 2011 draft, I was definitely on the Stephen Paea bandwagon. He was a very good player at Oregon State, and at the combine, he showed off his incredible strength. Paea has been hampered by toe injuries, and so he now has a lot to prove this year in the final season of his rookie contract. Paea is a solid professional, but he needs to be more than that. Jurrell Casey had a lot of questions prior to the draft. Casey only measured in at 6’1 at the combine, but he has shut up every disclaimer so far in his career in Tennessee. In four seasons, Casey has 16 sacks and 4 forced fumbles.
3 (93). Richard Sherman, CB, Stanford
Actual Pick: Chris Conte, S, California
—To even have to write this one is disturbing. Richard Sherman wasn’t selected until round 5, so it’s not like Angelo was the only general manager not thinking during this process. Chris Conte had a solid 2012 season, but his 2013 was one of the worst that I have ever witnessed from a safety. Conte recently had shoulder surgery and isn’t a lock to even be on the final 53-man roster come September. On the flipside of things, Sherman is probably the best cornerback in the NFL and was a big reason why the Seahawks are the Super Bowl champions. Seattle recently locked up star FS Earl Thomas to a long extension, and many believe that Sherman is next.
5 (160). Brandon Fusco, G, Slippery Rock
Actual Pick: Nathan Enderle, QB, Idaho
—Nathan Enderle was supposed to be a developmental quarterback for Mike Martz, but after just one season with the Bears, Enderle was waived. He eventually went on to sign with a few more professional teams, then a CFL team, and now plays for an AFL team. Brandon Fusco was drafted as a center, but he is now one of the better guards in football. Sooner or later, Fusco will get a new contract from the Vikings.
6 (195). Bruce Miller, FB, Central Florida
Actual Pick: J.T. Thomas, LB, West Virginia
—J.T. Thomas wasn’t a bad selection. He gave the Bears a lot of good minutes and never gave anything less than his all. However, the Bears did hope he would have been more than a special teams standout. Thomas never was, and he ended up leaving Chicago for Jacksonville. Bruce Miller is a decent blocker for the 49ers and can catch as well. He would fit in nicely in Marc Trestman’s offense.

–Brian Ociepka (@bjociepka1 on twitter)

Tomorrow, the four-day re-draft series concludes with the 2012 re-draft.

Chicago Bears re-draft: 2010

Yesterday’s 2009 re-draft was rather depressing, but the 2010 re-draft will leave a Bears fan so much angrier. To be honest, this draft ended up being one of the deepest ever. As one will be able to see rather easily, there were Pro-Bowl players that fell far into day three.

3 (75). Jimmy Graham, TE, Miami
Actual Pick: Major Wright, S, Florida
—In fairness to Jerry Angelo, dozens of other general managers passed on Jimmy Graham repeatedly. All of their fans would have Graham on their team re-drafts, too. Graham has turned into probably the best tight end in football. He’s a nightmare for any defensive coordinator. He’s a mismatch against almost any secondary. He would make this current Bears offense the best in football, hands down. Major Wright’s career never quite materialized. He got a lot of playing time in Chicago, but he never really progressed as anticipated. Wright did give the Bears a lot of minutes, but that doesn’t mean those minutes were quality ones.
4 (109). Geno Atkins, DT, Georgia
Actual Pick: Corey Wootton, DE/DT, Northwestern
—Corey Wootton was a solid pick by Angelo. There was a lot of talk around the draft that the Cowboys really wanted him and were thinking about taking him as high as the second round. Wootton’s career got off to a slow start in part because of injuries, but in the end, Wootton did a lot of positive things in Chicago. His 11 career sacks aren’t very impressive, but he was a good defender against the run and could play anywhere on the line. However, Angelo could have gotten so much more value out of this pick had he selected Geno Atkins. Atkins missed a lot of 2013 because of a torn ACL, but he has proved to be the best pass rushing DT in the game. The Bears could have rotated Henry Melton and Atkins at 3-tech and ultimately decided to keep one. You could bet that they would have retained Atkins.
5 (141). Greg Hardy, DE, Mississippi
Actual Pick: Joshua Moore, CB, Kansas State
— Joshua Moore was always thought of being a potential successor to Charles Tillman, but that never worked out. Moore had ideal size and length, but he never amounted to much in Chicago and last appeared in the league in 2012 with the Broncos. Kam Chancellor was a steal in the fifth round for the Seahawks and has turned into one of the best strong safeties in the NFL. However, no general manager would take a good strong safety over a great defensive end. Prior to the 2010 draft, Greg Hardy was getting a lot of publicity and turned into maybe the most polarizing player in that draft. Somehow, he fell all the way to the sixth round and the Panthers found tremendous value. Last season, Hardy notched 15 sacks which forced Carolina to place their franchise tag on him. Because of Hardy, the Panthers’ defense is one of the strongest units in football, and at his age, he will continue to do his part to keep the Panthers extremely competitive in the NFC South.
6 (181). Antonio Brown, WR, Central Michigan
Actual Pick: Dan LeFevour, QB, Central Michigan
—Maybe Angelo meant to pick the WR from Central Michigan and not the QB. The Bears went with Dan LeFevour, who was eventually signed off of the practice squad by the Bengals. In Cincinnati, he did nothing and then more of the same in Indianapolis. He currently plays in the CFL. Meanwhile, Antonio Brown has turned into a solid #2/#3 wideout in Pittsburgh. Right now, he’s probably the Steelers #1 receiver, which is a problem, but he would be perfect in the Bears’ current offense. Maybe the Bears wouldn’t have drafted Alshon Jeffery in 2012, but Brown, Graham, Matt Forte and Brandon Marshall would still be the best set of skill position players the Bears’ organization has ever had.
7 (218). Marc Mariani, WR, Montana
Actual Pick: J’Marcus Webb, T, West Texas State
—Marc Mariani has earned everything in his career. He walked on at Montana and didn’t play that year. He ended up being a returner and a slot receiver for the Grizzlies, but despite a good career there, it wasn’t until round 7 when the Titans finally took a chance on him. Like he did at Montana, Mariani worked his ass off and, when healthy, is now one of the best returners in the NFL. Unfortunately, he has found himself dealing with a few leg injuries. He would have been a cheaper Devin Hester for Chicago, and this city wouldn’t have to have dealt with the ever-aggravating J’Marcus Webb. The Bears got use out of him, but he was a responsible for quite a few near-death experiences for Jay Cutler.

–Brian Ociepka (@bjociepka1 on twitter)

Come back and visit the site tomorrow for the Bears 2011 re-draft.

Chicago Bears re-draft: 2009

It’s always easy to look back as a fan at your favorite team’s draft history and think “what if?” Today, and for the next three days as I look back on the Bears’ last four drafts, I will be that fan. It should be known that this is all for fun and that no team could ever possibly have a draft like this one and the next three that I will post as apart of a four-draft series. If teams did have drafts like these, they would be set up for major success for at least the next four seasons.

Unfortunately for Jerry Angelo, he was never given the benefit of the doubt. People easily forget that he drafted a lot of good players (Lance Briggs, Charles Tillman, Devin Hester, Matt Forte), signed a few (Julius Peppers), and traded for some (Jay Cutler, Adewale Ogunleye), too. Fans forget that the Patriots, Steelers, Packers and Giants have bad drafts quite often.

Today, we start in 2009. Many remember it as the draft just a few weeks after the Bears traded two first round picks (2009, 2010), a third round pick (2009), and Kyle Orton in exchange for Jay Cutler and a fifth round pick (2009).

**WARNING**: Ok, this year’s draft can actually be laughed at. Jerry Angelo did a pitiful job of selecting new talent for the Bears. Not one of these players is still on the team, just six seasons later.

3 (68). Michael Johnson, DE, Georgia Tech
Actual Pick: Jarron Gilbert, DT, San Jose State
—I’m not quite sure what Jerry Angelo was thinking here. There were plenty of future stars on the board at this time, and for whatever reason, he selected Jarron Gilbert; WR Mike Wallace, DT Terrance Knighton, G Louis Vasquez and G Kraig Urbik were all available. A lot of fans, including myself, loved the potential that Gilbert had. However, it’s not our job to find the best possible player for the Chicago Bears and make that pick. It’s the general manager’s, and at that time, it was Angelo’s. Gilbert accounted for just two tackles in his whole career, a career that last saw him on the Jets’ roster in 2010. While the aforementioned names all sound good, the Bears would have greatly benefitted from a player like Michael Johnson across from Julius Peppers the past few seasons. Johnson recently bolted Cincinnati to sign a huge contract with the Buccaneers, and while “Chicago” may have been “Cincinnati” in this case, the Bears would have been a better team with Johnson’s 27 sacks over the last five years.
3 (99). T.J. Lang, G, Eastern Michigan
Actual Pick: Juaquin Iglesias, WR, Oklahoma
—Angelo never quite believed that a Pro-Bowl WR was a necessity for a Super Bowl caliber football team, but he was obviously lying as chose Juaquin Iglesias in round 3 to be a #1. Just like Gilbert, however, Iglesias was a bust. He recently signed in Finland to play there, where I’m sure he’s finally making Angelo look good. T.J. Lang isn’t the best guard in the league. In fact, he plays on one of the worst offensive lines in football with the Packers. Lang is a decent player who would have been good value with this pick. Had Angelo made that selection and started bettering the offensive line back then, perhaps Jay Cutler wouldn’t have played behind one of the worst in league history to start his Chicago career and lost 15 years of his life.
4 (105). Henry Melton, DT, Texas
Actual Pick: Henry Melton, DT, Texas
—Angelo got one right here. After this draft, it was this pick that actually looked like the most confusing one. Henry Melton was a running back his whole life, and there was just potential on Melton’s behalf to justify this pick. However, Melton turned out to be a very good player. He will play for the Cowboys next season and beyond, but he was once a Pro-Bowl DT in Chicago and was even given the franchise tag one year. Had he not torn his ACL back in week 3 of the 2013 season, he would probably still be donning the navy and orange.
4 (119). Tony Fiammetta, FB, Syracuse
Actual Pick: D.J. Moore, CB, Vanderbilt
—D.J. Moore was a solid player for a few years in the Windy City, although he was never more than just a nickelback for the Bears. Moore is one of the nicest people, not just athletes, that I have ever met, but politeness doesn’t get it done on the field. After his career here, he ended up in Carolina and now plays in Tampa Bay. Round four is way too early for a fullback, but Tony Fiammetta has had quality seasons since being drafted. Fiammetta is now the Bears starting FB and was given an extension a few months back.
5 (140). Johnny Knox, WR, Abilene Christian
Actual Pick: Johnny Knox, WR, Abilene Christian
—Johnny Knox will forever be one of the most overrated players in Bears’ history. Knox was a mediocre receiver on a team with a lot of bad receivers. Because of this, he was thought of to be a #1 wideout, but he was never close. Unfortunately, I’ll always think of the 2011 game against San Diego in which they won to extend their winning streak to five games, but during the contest, Knox slipped and it resulted in an interception. Cutler chased down the defensive back, and in the process, broke his thumb which ended his season and the team’s. There weren’t many other options on the board for Angelo, even looking back on it now.
5 (154). Chris Clemons, S, Clemson
Actual Pick: Marcus Freeman, LB, Ohio State
—At the time, I liked this pick. Marcus Freeman fell for what appeared to be no reason after a good college career in Columbus. Freeman never played a down for the Bears and was released in September 2009. He went on to sign with Buffalo and Houston, but he made little impact there, too. Chris Clemons has went on to be a good player in the league. He had five quality seasons in Miami and recently signed with the Texans to compete for a opening spot at safety.
6 (190). Bernard Scott, RB, Abilene Christian
Actual Pick: Al Afalava, S, Oregon State
—Al Afalava had no business ever being more than a special teams player in the NFL, but he did play safety for the Bears. Bernard Scott went on to have a nice career for such a late pick. He would have been a solid back-up for Matt Forte during all of these years where the Bears wasted money on “proven” guys like Michael Bush and Chester Taylor. Scott has averaged just above 4 yards per carry in his last five seasons.
7 (246). Tiquan Underwood, WR, Rutgers
Actual Pick: Lance Louis, G, San Diego State
—Lance Louis ended up being very good value in the 7th round. Louis had some good years with the Bears, but after a dirty block on a turnover by Jared Allen, Louis tore up his knee and was never the same player. He missed all of 2013 for Miami. Tiquan Underwood has been nothing more than a below average player in the NFL, but he can contribute on special teams and occasionally on offense.
7 (251). Ryan Succop, K, South Carolina
Actual Pick: Derek Kinder, WR, Pittsburgh
—Before September 2009 even existed, Derek Kinder was released by the Bears. Kinder had a lot of potential, but he tore his ACL in 2007 when he was still at Pittsburgh. The Bears took a shot on him, but it never quite panned out. Ryan Succop was Mr. Irrelevant in this draft, but he’s still the Chiefs’ kicker. He has made 81 percent of his field goals and has never missed an extra point. In 2009, he made the All-Rookie Team. Robbie Gould is great, but the Bears could have used his extension money elsewhere and wouldn’t have missed a beat on special teams.

Come back tomorrow to see how I would re-draft for the Bears in 2010.

–Brian Ociepka (@bjociepka1 on twitter)

Now I AM Excited

Or perhaps the headline should read “thankfully the Bears were

    not

able to sign Michael Bennett. Michael, brother of Bears tight end Martellus Bennett, was purportedly the Bears’ number one target in free agency until he quickly re-signed with Seattle. Would Phil Emery have been able to pull off what he has if he would have given Bennett more money than Seattle offered, which was reported? Probably not.

When Bennett went off the table, Emery quickly signed Raiders free agent defensive end Lamarr Houston. At the time I wasn’t real happy with the decision. I remember in 2000 when the Bears desperately needed a defensive end, and they reached to give run-stopping end Phillip Daniels a $20 million contract. Daniels ended up being a decent stout end for four seasons in Chicago, but never lived up to being paid as a premier pass rusher as he was paid to be. This was my initial concern with Houston. Lots of potential, could blossom, but neither built to be nor has shown the promise as an elite pass rusher.

Since then, Emery and the Bears signed promising young end Willie Young from Detroit, former Bear Israel Idonije, safety Ryan Mundy from the Giants, and re-signed cornerback Charles Tillman to a reasonable one-year deal. Tillman is arguably the face of the franchise. He also was able to re-sign defensive tackle Jeremiah Ratliff, a former Pro Bowler with potential to make a huge comeback.

About 10 days ago, I privately hoped the Bears would make a run at free agent DE Jared Allen. But like a lot of other possibilities (Jay Cutler in 2009, Brandon Marshall in 2012, Jermon Bushrod in 2013), I completely doubted the normally-conservative Bears would make any of these moves. Even when earlier this week the Bears pulled a quick restructure of Cutler’s deal to free cap space, I figured it was just to keep their options open during the season.

But I’ll be damned, they went out and landed Allen. And now I am as excited about a Bears season as I have been since the last Super Bowl run. While it’s granted that Emery’s drafting of Shea McClellin and Brandon Hardin still look like foolish moves, what he has done is taken the weakest areas of the Bears and turned them into strengths in his three offseasons. Chicago’s offensive line and group of receivers were complete jokes when he took over the team. Now the OL is far above average if not great, and receivers Marshall and Alshon Jeffery give Chicago an enviable group. He also made the right decision cutting Earl Bennett, a player I liked but who had been grossly overpaid by Jerry Angelo.

Following the embarrassing 2013 defensive season, now Emery has given the Bears a contending defensive line and solid corners if Tillman can stay healthy, and if nickel corner Kelvin Hayden can regain his 2012 form. The linebacker and safety position groups are still a work in progress. Will the LB corps of Lance Briggs, DJ Williams and Shea McClellin be able to stay healthy and play well enough until sophomores Jon Bostic and Kaseem Green prove worthy of their draft status? Will Mundy prove himself as starting-caliber at safety? Is 2013 scapegoat Chris Conte even in the picture anymore?

Emery’s moves in free agency allow him to truly go after the best players at the top of the draft. Will he take a defensive tackle that would make the Bears’ DL one of the most feared in the league, or finally take a safety that is any more than a stopgap (as the Bears have been playing with for a decade). Or, is there a middle linebacker the Bears could find in rounds two or three that could do a better job taking over for Williams after 2014, allowing Bostic to eventually succeed Briggs?

I can honestly say that if the Bears avoid injuries, they are certainly placed to do big things in 2014. I am already a little worried about their salary cap situation down the road. Marshall and Jeffery are in line for big extensions in 2015 and 2016.

But for now, if the draft lands studs at DT, S and perhaps LB, this Bears team will be scary.

Giving Thanks for Trestman

Something I read about Lovie Smith yesterday morning brought me back to the Smith, and even the Dave Wannstedt regimes. The flexibility shown so far by Marc Trestman and Phil Emery contrast so much with that of Smith and Wannstedt, it’s another reason to be thankful.

I hate invoking the Wannstedt era with the Bears, although over the years I have mellowed somewhat. Wanny is human, he didn’t do a good job in Chicago, life goes on.

Anyway, let’s look back to Wanny’s rookie season in 1993. Wannstedt was the overwhelmingly top head coaching candidate available to teams that year. As much as I fault former team president Michael McCaskey for the malaise he brought to the organization for his 16 years in power, I will always concede that he went after and hired the top candidate that year. (Even if looking back I wish he wouldn’t have fired Mike Ditka).

Wannstedt brought his vanilla, bend-but-don’t-break defensive system with him from Dallas, where it was ultra-successful because he had stud players at all positions that made it work. On offense, he hired Ron Turner to coordinate a west-coast passing game with a power running game. With an aging Neal Anderson (and later that year a resurgent but mentally unfit Tim Worley) and a poor offensive line, the run game took no attention away from the pass. The passing game was to rely on short timing passes with no room for improvisation. Prior to the season, the Bears re-signed Jim Harbaugh to the largest contract in Bears history (five years for $15 million) to run the offense. Problem was, Harbaugh’s skill was his improvisation, making plays with his feet.

The result of Wannstedt and Turner putting Harbaugh’s square peg into the round hole of this offense was one of the quarterback’s lowest passer ratings of his career. He was sacked 42 times, the most of any season in his career, and he threw just seven touchdowns in 15 games to 11 interceptions. Following the 1993 season, after just one year into that blockbuster contract, he was run out of town on a rail by the Bears’ staff and their fans.

I was one of those fans that was “sick of Harbaugh,” not knowing that in a system built around him he could be an elite quarterback. Look what happened just two years later. In Indianapolis coached by Ted Marchibroda and Lindy Infante, he made the Pro Bowl, led the league in several passing categories and took an unlikely team to within a dropped pass of the Super Bowl.

Harbaugh became known as “Captain Comeback” in Indianapolis, but that moniker should have been given to him in Chicago under Mike Ditka and Greg Landry. In 1991 and 1992 Harbaugh almost single-handedly led the Bears to victory at least four times by my count.

To replace Harbaugh the Bears signed Detroit veteran Erik Kramer. Kramer had his share of success, most notably in 1995 when he set individual Bears passing records that still stand. But he was the opposite of captain comeback, rarely being able to seal the deal with a win while driving the team in a game’s final minutes (the 1996 game at Washington and Green Bay in 1997 at home, to think of just a couple).

I’m even going to cut the seemingly-milquetoast Dick Jauron some credit. Jauron may have been too loyal to offensive coordinator John Shoop, but at least he knew when the team needed a drastic change away from former coordinator Gary Crowton’s “razzle-dazzle” scheme. And as abrasive as defensive coordinator Greg Blache was with the fans and media, Blache supported a system change in 2001. After the signing of defensive tackles Ted Washington and Keith Traylor, the focus was on those “800 pounds of ass” to clog the middle and allow MLB Brian Urlacher to clean up.

Then came Lovie Smith. Not to take anything away from his success in taking a team to the playoffs three times following 11 years of ineptitude in the organization. And he did change offensive systems multiple times. From the incompetence of first coordinator Terry Shea, to (again) Ron Turner’s power-running-west-coast system, back to a Shea system with Mike Martz, and ironically then to another incompetent system in his final season with Mike Tice.

But on defense he was inflexible. From 2007-2009 it was clear that injuries and age were catching up with Chicago’s front seven. Smith’s defense is doomed without a pass rush, and in those three seasons his team didn’t have the personnel to make his rigid system work. It had a definite resurgence after Julius Peppers was signed in 2010, but the ’07-’09 teams were a waste.

What this article all boils down to was Lovie Smith’s recent announcement that the team he is taking over in Tampa Bay “wasn’t built for his systems.” (Well of course it wasn’t, he wasn’t there.)

On the one hand I agree that every new coach is entitled to bring in his own systems. But in addition to much of the time being condescending to the media and fans, Smith in Chicago proved himself to be utterly inflexible on defense. Let us recall that prior to the doomed 2007-2009 seasons, Ron Rivera was “running” the Bears defense as coordinator (as much as any coordinator would be allowed to “run” Lovie’s defense. And we also should recall that Smith fired Rivera allegedly because Rivera wouldn’t adhere to Smith’s rigid bend-but-don’t-break ways.

After reading Smith talk about HIS system in Tampa, I’m thankful that we have Marc Trestman and Phil Emery in Chicago. On offense, Trestman proved in one season that he can take a group of players and tailor his system to fit their strengths. This is his genius, and is what we have been waiting for in Chicago for it seems decades.

On defense, the first year of the Trestman era was obviously a disaster. With Mel Tucker (by all accounts a great coach) running Smith’s system, the Bears posted the worst defensive numbers in their 94-year history!

But instead of having a coach insisting on inflexibly not making changes, dominating a general manager to spend resources on players to fit into his system, we finally have a group that is committed to developing a defensive system to maximize the players they will field in 2014.

Even if it pisses off Lance Briggs. More on that later.