5 REASONS WHY THE BEARS ARE WINNING

IMG_1220.jpg

 

RYAN PACE

Give him credit. Give him a lot of it. Give him holiday cheers of it. After swings and misses he seems to be getting better at his job. Better at picking the right coach. Better at drafting difference making players. Better at using free agency as a way to find difference making players and also players who can fill obvious needs. 

Just look at this list——Matt Nagy, Khalil Mack, Mitchell Trubisky, Tarik Cohen, Eddie Jackson, Allen Robinson, Anthony Miller, Roquan Smith. The list goes on and its impressive and its young and its really, really good. 

There are so many things that need to go right and Ryan Pace is a guy that makes sure it does.

I know New Orleans and Los Angeles, hell even the Green Bay Packers look like big mountains, but I don’t see why the Bears couldn’t make some loud noises in the playoffs.

MATT NAGY

It all starts with the coach and the way he implements his vision, gets people buying in it, and how they execute. 

John Madden always said you got to be authentic, because the players can spot a phony, and I think that may be his best quality. He’s a genuine dude and that helps players trust him. 

Plus the Bears finally look like a complete team. So many of their teams have always looked one sided. If only they had an offense, you can hear the Bear faithful whine. 

The fact that Nagy was a quarterback I think has really helped Trubisky. He’s gone from being an indecisive quarterback, to playing a game of pitch and catch. It really doesn’t have to be a complicated game. Hit the open guy, and if he’s not, scamper for some yards. 

Is it possible the Bears have an offense that can win a championship? If they do Nagy will become a legend and get all sorts of credit, as will a handful of players. One of the things I look for in a team is how good are the second and third string players. It says a lot about the coach when the whole roster is ready to play.

KHALIL MACK

Ok this was the ballsy move of the century. 

Word had it that the Packers were about to pull the trigger too and the Bears just out bid them. 

I mean could you imagine the Packers with Mack? People who say the Bears spent the farm to get him are ignoring the most important point. Mack is a once is a lifetime player. 

Every Super Bowl team always seems to have Hall of Fame type players on it, at least one or two and hopefully more. 

Is he at 100% yet? If he is I think that defense climbs a few more rungs on the ladder. When he’s a step quicker, he’s going to require a double team. That opens huge chances for everyone else on that line to get the quarterback. 

If they can pressure the quarterback with four they are going to be a handful come winter.

MITCHELL TRUBISKY

I keep thinking they did something to that offense. The team that just beat Arizona by two points is now seeing a confident decision maker in Trubisky. He looks better. Cooler. A cooler head to prevail whilst sitting in the hottest seat in professional sports. But he still makes some decisions where you just scratch your head.

He of course is the key. If he fails the team will fail, but if he has these kind of dominant performances, I don’t see why this team can’t win it all. Nick Foles doesn’t have a giant contract with 80 million dollars guaranteed, yet, but he did have a career day in the Super Bowl, and went throw for throw with the unmatchable brilliance of Tom Brady. 

Is Nagy getting him to play a little over his head, or is his ceiling still being set? Does he have the potential to be not just good but great? If he’s not great, even with that defense, I don’t see them winning it all. 

Also, does he have to run all the time and does he know how to slide?

INTANGIBLES

I could pick a lot of players in this last spot. The ones I named earlier, the whole defense, the whole offensive line, how about how good those playmakers have been? 

Something about confidence makes it impossible to keep it hidden. The world can’t help but notice it. 

I remember from my own competitive playing days how important it was to believe in yourself and in your team. It always seemed to me that intangible quality of belief was just as important as skill. They’re both critical don’t get me wrong, but guys who possess qualities like attitude, character, and enthusiasm always seem to be the guys holding the trophies up. 

Football is such a sport that demands you play with an edge about you, and this team is doing that. Finally some swag to back up the way you play on the field.

Happy Thanksgiving!

THINKING FOR YOURSELF

IMG_1189.jpg

 

“Have you felt so proud to get at the meaning of poems?”

Walt Whitman, Song of Myself

 

When you look at what the Bears could be and what they are, it’s a lot like the student who shows all kinds of promise but still keeps getting C pluses.

I know because that once was me. I always went to class. I took notes. I did homework. I talked in class. I read the book/poem only once, and when I got my paper back it was always just a little above average. 

I’d look at papers of students with jealousy at their A’s and A minuses. I was easily as bright as them and wanted to be that good but I wasn’t. Eventually I turned it around but it wasn’t easy, and it definitely wasn’t handed to me or done for me. So what changed?

Well, the first thing I think was I tried to have an original idea about the subject. To think outside the box. A lot of teachers don’t want you to simply regurgitate what is being talked about in class. They want you to think for yourself. I think NFL coaches might feel the same way.

I started to read through the material more than once. Sometimes I had to read through it several times before something would then come to me. It might’ve come from another piece the author wrote. It might come from a hint of something else. A perception, a feeling, a shape, a smell.

It helps also to have a sense of history, too. History about the subject and the author. History about where in time and place it’s happening. A knowledge of history maybe repeating itself. Often subjects that are  tangentially related can also help tremendously. Like if I’m writing a paper about free verse I might bring up the subject of jazz, as an example. I might write my whole paper about it.

I began to turn it around when I began to interpret the story or poem for myself, and develop arguments that sought to assertively prove and disprove my theories. It helps to know your weaknesses too, on the football field and in English class.

I also began to turn it around when I wanted to say something I didn’t think anybody else would want to say. Call it that thing that makes you special. Makes you stick out. Something extra. Something that almost shocks the reader’s sense and sensibilities. Something to wrestle with. Something to discover. 

I think the same might hold true for these Bears.

If the NFL is a poem, and I think it most certainly and emphatically is, then what about it is inspiring you to perform at your best and/or at your worst. In essence, how do you perceive the game you play, and what is your take on how you fit in?

One thing that sticks out to me about this team that isn’t true for other Bear teams for many years now is that they seem comfortable in the hurry up and get points back quickly when they do. When the QB doesn’t have to spend those extra mili-seconds deciding. When it’s quick and easy. 

I remember John Madden being asked why a team that hasn’t been able to move the ball at all, once they get into a hurry up all of the sudden are able to march down the field and score. It happens almost in every game, all the time. Why is that?

His answer was very telling to me, he essentially said he didn’t know. John Madden. Didn’t know. All NFL. All Madden. All everything. Professor Emeritus of the NFL. Didn’t know. 

But then he would also give several ideas before, during and after the game that would answer the question he said he didn’t know.

I don’t remember him saying these points, per se, but I do think I learned them from him, as much as from my own watching of the games.

One—-An offense that is challenging the field vertically makes the defense play tentative and back on its heels. Conversely, a defense that pressures the QB makes an offense play back on its heels as well.

Two—The offense always has the advantage because only they know where they are going and thus can fool the defenders into thinking they’re going to one place when they’re really going to another.

Three—-An offense can pick on the weaker defenders that aren’t as good and exploit the defense. The offense can do this forever until the defense discovers how to solve this problem.

Four—A team that is marching down the field makes the defense tired and forced to play substitutes.

Five—-It’s an easier game of pitch and catch when the quarterback just makes his reads and hits the open guy, or dumps it off or throws it away when nobody is open. 

Six—It’s an easier and more relaxed game for the QB when he isn’t being hit by defenders all the time. 

Seven—-Football is a game of momentum. When you use it more to your advantage you have a better chance at winning.

I get the feeling that Matt Nagy might start going to the hurry up more often. Scoring is always a great way to lift the team up.

My read on the Patriots game was that Mitchell Trubisky in addition to being inaccurate was also forcing a lot of throws. Maybe he needs to play a more gut and feel game as opposed to a mind and read game. Maybe he needs to think less about the game to be more in it.

That’s how I see it. I see them like the student that’s trying to figure out why they’re not doing better. 

One last thing. I also found that going to see the teacher about the very problem I was having was a really good idea. Particularly if you came to the teacher and showed them you were thinking about the subject and presented them with your thoughts, rather than just asking for the answer and wanting the better grade. Often they were not like they were in class. The good ones were appreciative of your concern. They tried to work with and help you generate new ideas or think in fresher ways about old ones. They really wanted you to succeed.

Maybe the key to the Bears isn’t in any of the film or stats or lessons being taught from the coaches. Maybe the keys are found elsewhere. Maybe the keys can be found with individual perspective.

WE HOLD THESE TRUTHS TO BE SELF EVIDENT

 

IMG_1178.jpg

 

On Saturday, December 23, 1972 I saw a miracle with my dad. He was 29 and I was five. It was on TV. Almost Christmas. It would be called “The Immaculate Reception”. One of my most favorite memories was also one of my earliest memories.

My dad was screaming all up and down the family room that the Lord was on the job. Urging me with all the frenzy of a mad man to keep watching the reruns of the play closely, and as I did, though I was five, I thought I understood what all the was screaming about. 

That we couldn’t quite see if Franco Harris actually did catch that ball or lifted it like a purse from the ground, not only made the mystique grow in real time but also makes it grow all these years later too. There’s also the liberating feeling of being a five year old son allowed to jump up and down crazy with your dad.

You might say after that I was ruined. Like a musky fisherman who catches the fish of a thousand casts on their first outing. Maybe from that I came to believe the Lord should be on the job all the time. Why shouldn’t a five year old boy grow up to expect miracles?

My dad was a very excitable guy. He wasn’t afraid to show great joy and jubilation but he also had some deep pockets of hell in his heart. He had massive highs and lows from his personality. One minute he was up here and the next minute he was down there. It was a great blast and a great burden to know him and to have him as my dad. He passed away over two years ago. But like the angels say, there ain’t no use in complainin’.

One thing I knew was that we were watching something special. Witnessing something special, no matter how cold it was outside or how small the black and white TV was inside.

My dad was a husband and family man first and after he married my wonderful and beautiful mom I was born soon after. While many were following a counter-culture in the 60’s or being drafted into the Vietnam war, he was following the roads that a responsible man takes to provide for his family. “It’s what people did,” he would always say years later.

Watching sports was a way to see miracles. We always had the big games on. He loved Al Davis, the man responsible for merging the AFL and the NFL together. He was also a John Madden guy. The Oakland Raiders were the model of everything right about football. 

Chuck Noll and the Steelers were also of course enormous. Any coach as I would later find out—because I was and still am trying to be a writer like my dad—who quotes Ralph Waldo Emerson as he retires from the NFL has a giant place in heaven all reserved for himself.

Don Shula and the Dolphins were giants. Hank Stram and the Chiefs were giants. Tom Landry and the Cowboys were giants. George Allen and the Redskins were giants. Bud Grant and the Vikings were skol giants. 

Later my dad as an old man would encourage me to read, “When Pride Still Mattered” by David Maraniss, because with all these football giants there’s also the God of all of them put together, Vince Lombardi of the Green Bay Packers, and even if you never read a word about him, you still seem to know why he’s such a big deal. We hold these truths to be self-evident.

The Bears were kind of a giant joke. All the good teams were playing a sophisticated game. The Bears were playing a simple one. Roger Staubach knew how to run the shotgun. Fred Biletnikoff knew how to run deep pass plays and get open. The Bears knew how to run Walter Payton three times and punt.

But hey, Walter knew how to hit a guy in the face with a forearm shiver and then lift opposing lineman up with one hand after they tackled him. He was a punishing runner but also a classy act. He endured like the seasons and helped Bear fans endure the seasons. The nickname “Sweetness,” was the cherry on top. No surprise they ended up naming the man of the year trophy after him. Yeah, he was a miracle, too, for sure.

I saw other miracles on TV in the 70s. We watched tennis in our house because my mom would not be outdone and I saw a woman, Billy Jean King tell a man, Bobby Riggs she was better than him and beat him in straight sets, 6-4, 6-3, 6-3. We saw Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova play like giants, and of course Borg, Connors, and McEnroe too.

I saw Kenny Stabler with my dad throw a pass blind and falling down into a Dolphin “sea of hands” only to have it find his surrounded teammate Clarence Davis for a touchdown at the end of the playoff game to win. Again I heard his, the Lord is on the job” cry. I saw all by myself the “hail mary” from Staubach to Drew Pearson to beat the Vikings in cold Bloomington in the playoffs. I also saw Stabler throw another pass to Dave Casper against the Colts in the playoffs in the “Ghost to the Post.” 

When Earl Campbell was taken by the Houston Oilers with the first pick in ‘78, it was like Rome running through the destiny of the smaller world, as defenders made futile attempts at grabbing him only to be left holding a fistful of shredded jersey. He was like a bomb exploding, sending his crown into the chest of weaker men. But in his bigness he was also gentle like Santa Claus. So soft spoken and kind. A great symbol of why the people in Texas have that reputation of buying you beers and going out of their way to help strangers.

Another thing about Campbell. My dad knew him. This made my dad a giant too, although he was one already. He shared a plate of nachos with the 34 inched thighed running back while working on an advertising project. I never asked him later about what they talked about and my dad never said. Sometimes the best thing to do when you’re with someone great like that is to just be quiet with them. Appreciate the silence.

Yes I was privileged to see all these miracles and it helped me add another element to my game, to believe that I too could do something great and pull out a victory with my last second chance. Nothing, not even all the most wonderful things a person might earn or share or feel or know, has a greater chance at making the world a better place more than a young heart believing.