Reader Q&A: Chicago Bears Huddle Inbox

Reader Q&A: Chicago Bears Huddle Inbox
Wait a minute . . . don’t tell me that the Bears’ biggest question mark heading into Training Camp is . . . the offensive line! Again?!

It’s that time of year, unfortunately. The Draft has come and passed, and the excitement of the early free agency period is now but a distant memory. Mini-camps and OTAs are over, and we have a solid month before the first Training Camp practice of 2012.

As Tom Petty put it, “the waiting is the hardest part.”

But just because there is less happening doesn’t mean Bears fans don’t have questions about their team as we approach camp. And so, here are yours from this week. I hope you enjoy. As always, you can read the entire off-season Q&A series here.

. . .

Do you put LaDainian Tomlinson ahead of Emmitt Smith, Marshall Faulk, Walter Payton or O.J. Simpson on the all-time running backs list? – Eli Levin, via Twitter

My initial reaction to this question was that, no, I probably wouldn’t put Tomlinson ahead of those guys, but he’s definitely in that company and in that conversation. He is without a shadow of a doubt a Hall of Fame player. My initial reaction aside, I wanted to do a better job of answering the question, because I’ve been thinking about it quite a bit lately. After mulling it over, here’s my revised top-5:

  1. Walter Payton
  2. Jim Brown
  3. Emmitt Smith
  4. Barry Sanders
  5. LaDainian Tomlinson

What do you know? L.T. made it after all.

If the Bears don’t make the playoffs, is Lovie Smith going to be fired? – Eli Levin, via Twitter

Going straight for the throat, eh? Well, let’s talk about it . . . Smith is currently under contract through the 2013 season. Now, that doesn’t mean a whole lot, as teams rarely let a coach walk into the final year of their deal without new paper in hand. Why? It creates an unnecessary distraction for one. So, while truthfully every coach is in the “hot seat” every season in this business, this one is certainly an important year for Smith.

The stipulation given to Phil Emery upon his hire as Bears’ GM was that Lovie stays on through 2012. That’s it. The Bears feel like they have a closing window of opportunity this season (Bears fans feel it, too. Can you tell?), and there are legitimate championship aspirations surrounding this team.

So if you’re going to set the bar at simply making the playoffs, even in a tough division like the NFC North, then I think he’ll absolutely be fired should the Bears fail to make the post season for a fifth time in six seasons. Normally I wouldn’t be so definitive in my answer, but I find it hard to imagine Smith being handed another pass. Of course, this would be barring any early/catastrophic injuries, but even then . . .

Do you feel like the Bears have done ANYTHING to improve the o-line? And no, praying for health doesn't count. – Bryan Douglass, via Twitter

Since January 1, 2012, the Bears have made exactly 48 player transactions in which a new player was signed to the team (this does not count releases and does include Draft selections). Of those 48, just five of them were offensive lineman—none, save for maybe Chilo Rachal, is really worth noting. To answer your question: no, until this unit takes the field on game day, they are no better than they were last season.

The Bears are, in fact, banking on health in 2012. Chris Williams missed seven games last season. Lance Louis missed two, and Gabe Carimi missed 14. They’re hoping they have a bit more competition in camp and, ultimately, better depth, too. And then there’s the Mike Tice factor. How exactly will the offensive scheme better protect the passer? All that remains to be seen. If you’re concerned about this line in 2012, you’re not crazy as the Bears might have you believe, you’re human.

Can you bring a bullhorn to games at Soldier Field? – Ronetta, via twitter

As fun for you as that might be, I can’t imagine it would be any fun for those around you. Here is the list of prohibited items at Soldier Field (see bullet #12):

  • Alcoholic beverages
  • Backpacks, bags, cases and purses larger than 12” x 12” x 12”
  • Balloons and beach balls
  • Cameras with lenses when fully extended that exceed 6”
  • Cans, bottles or other beverage containers
  • Clothing or signage with offensive or vulgar language
  • Confetti
  • Hard-sided coolers and ice chests
  • Fireworks, smoke bombs
  • Illegal drugs
  • Laser pens and pointers
  • Noise-making devices (i.e., horns, whistles, etc.)
  • Poles to display banners or flags
  • Strollers
  • Umbrellas
  • Video or movie cameras
  • Weapons
  • Smokeless cigarettes
  • Any other items deemed to be dangerous or inappropriate

Long story, short: no dice. And no bullhorn either. You can find this list, among other useful information in the Bears’ official fan guide.

Can Mike Tice keep Brandon Marshall happy, increase TE receptions, install the Hester package, develop Alshon Jeffrey, utilize Earl Bennett & feed Matt Forte all in one offense? – Eric Almaguer, via Twitter

Why not? Almost feels like being concerned about having too much talent. Brandon Marshall at least appears to have matured over the years, and I don’t think he needs the 100 receptions he had in Denver four seasons ago in order to be happy. What you have described above is truthfully about developing a “team mentality”—that is what Mike Tice should be concerned about. It’s something Lovie Smith is very good at, and it’s something that the players on this team will cling to, in my opinion. Most of these guys are team players first, and fantasy player second (or not at all). I don’t see this being an issue.

The Bears’ o-line was pretty good at the run last year. Was Martz's system the reason for poor pass protection? – Jeff Glawe, via Twitter

No. Poor performance was the reason for poor pass protection. We put a lot of that onus on Mike Martz because it’s a coach’s responsibility to use his players to their strengths, not his own. That is what Martz really failed to do. We know his offense can work, but what we also knew was that the talent level on the Bears’ line was going to make it a difficult proposition. It’s why at times we saw flashes of greatness, and other times we saw total meltdowns.

The hope is that Mike Tice, being one of the premier offensive line coaches in the game, will not put his players in those same positions now as an offensive coordinator. He should know which plays the group can pull off and which they can’t. It’s throwing out the “my way or the highway” approach of a Martz system that should help this unit to be improved in all areas of play.

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  • I'm actually just gettin over my hangover.

    But I'm sure I'll soon be thirsty enough to sip some more of Uncle Emery's spiked kool-aid.

  • ...& your RB top 5 is suspect at best. Emmitt??? I could avg 4.5 ypc behind THAT o-line! Here's my take:

    1. Walter 'Sweetness' Payton
    2a. Barry Sanders
    2b. Jim Brown
    4. O.J. Simpson
    5. Adrian Peterson

  • In reply to Alpha79:

    Come on, O.J. over Emmitt?! O.J. would probably be my sixth, but I'm not feeling you on that. This coming from the guy who's already punched Alshon Jeffery's ticket into the Hall Of Fame! :) So where does that leave L.T. for you?

  • LMAO @ Alshon HOF vote!

    6. Marshall Faulk
    7. LaDanian Tomlinson
    8. Gale Sayers
    9. Emmitt Smith
    10. Eric Dickerson

  • ...I wanted to put Bo Jackson on this list at #4 actually. But his longevity would be an issue for me.

  • In reply to Alpha79:

    And you called my list suspect ...

  • 1. Walter...because I am a Bear fan
    2. Barry Sanders...if I wasn't a Bear fan, I think he woudl be #1...he isn't the all time leading rusher because he chose not to be.
    3. Jim Brown...what he did in his era is unmistakable...though I am not old enough to have actually watched him play.
    4. It gets muddy here OJ because of his longevity
    5. Sayers because of his short lived dynamism
    6. you can lump Emmitt, Tomlinson, Curtis Martin, Dickerson and the rest any way you want from here on down because all were great runners, but none of them left you with that lump in your throat and you saying "how did he do that????" The greatist of the greats do that...Jordan did that...Payton did that...Barry did that but I never said that about Tomlinson or Emmit.

  • In reply to Mouser:

    I actually threw this question out on twitter yesterday afternoon and started a shitstorm of replies. The group about 100 responses finally ended up with (based on most popular vote) was:

    1. Walter Payton
    2. Jim Brown
    3. Barry Sanders
    4. Emmitt Smith
    5. O.J. Simpson

    I like it.

    I rescinded the idea that Smith should be ahead of Sanders. Had a ton of fun discussing it!

  • In reply to Mouser:

    P.S. ~ Love your last sentence/argument. And I agree!

  • Now Mouser's list makes sense!

  • In reply to Alpha79:

    Most def.

    Mouser for President! Or GM or whatever!

  • Great way to pass time in what I call the "deadzone" of the NFL season! This is almost as bad as late winter, after the superbowl when it is cold, nasty and you are waiting for spring!

    Soon, camp will start and we will all be giddy with delight once again like an adult version of christmas waiting to see what will be there for us to enjoy!

  • Emmitt in no way cracks a top 5 list of all-time NFL running backs. Folks appear to be making a politically correct selection of Smith based on his "rushing" record that has more to do with longevity than actual talent.

    Sorry.

  • In reply to Alpha79:

    I agree entirely! There are no E. Smith runs that stick in my head today...I have numerous Barry Sanders and Walter Payton runs that are very memorable due to the wow factor. Smith was a great cut back runner with a great team running behind a great offensive line and yes, he had longevity on his side...the great ones do usually...look at Gayle Sayers as an example of a great back who didn't have time on his side....if he had played 12 healthy seasons, I bet everyone would still be chasing his rushing numbers.

  • In reply to Alpha79:

    Still disagree. Smith was incredibly talented. My evaluation considers stats, longevity, durability, and wow factor. Emmitt is easily top-5, IMO, considering each of those. The "great o-line" argument isn't fair. He did what he did, can't take anything away because of those around him.

  • Agree to disagree, bro.

    LOL!

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