by Michael Lombardi
May 20, 02010
QUOTE: “All experience is an arch, to build upon.” – Henry Brooks Adams
Urlacher speaks up. Why?
Wednesday, Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher reacted to recent criticism from former Bears great Gale Sayers, telling the Chicago Tribune, “Does it bother me? There are enough people throwing daggers at us right now, why does one of our ex-players have to jump in? There are enough experts talking (crap) about us, so why does a Bear, an all-time great, have to jump in? I just do not like that.”
Well, of course, Mr Urlacher doesn’t like the criticism, but watching the Bears play last year was not pretty -- in any phase -- and they were fully deserving of the criticism. It comes with the game. (This is where I’m reminded of the scene in “The Godfather II,” where Hyman Roth tells Michael Corleone that, as upset as he was about the death of Moe Greene, he accepted his fate because “this is the business we chose, we didn’t ask for it.” Urlacher needs to understand this is the business he chose, and criticism comes with the business.) Even Urlacher criticized his team last year, believing it needed to get back to the run game, which led to my reaction: What games was he watching? Last season, the Bears couldn’t run the ball on Purdue, let alone the Vikings or Packers.
It has not been difficult to talk badly about the Bears based on their play last year, and yet not all of their problems were related to quarterback Jay Cutler’s tendency to turn the ball over. Does anyone remember the Bengals game? The Bears defense couldn’t even get properly aligned and spent most of the game out-flanked, out-coached and out-played. It doesn’t take an expert to know the Bears were not good in any element of their team -- players, coaching and scheme. They tried to address some of their problems this offseason, firing their offensive staff, revamping their personnel department and spending huge sums of money in free agency. Will all these changes work? On the surface, I’m not sold, but then I’m not buying into the belief that motivates everyone at Halas Hall, which is, “In Tampa we trust.”
From general manager Jerry Angelo to head coach Lovie Smith, the Bears as an organization are woven with people who experienced success in Tampa and seem to believe that everything they did while working for the Bucs will work for the Bears. Yes, the Bucs won a Super Bowl, but they never dominated the NFL in the way other successful teams have. They were more of a one-hit wonder than a dominating team, but many people have been able to enjoy the success of the team, gaining head coaching and executive positions. (That’s how the NFL works. One team has a little success and everyone wants to copy them without really understanding the actual reasons for the success). However, that was then and this is now, and no one in the NFL who tries to run a steady diet of the Tampa 2 schemes will survive. Nor will building the team in the style and manner of the old Bucs -- that was one-time success story.
In fact, the Bears don’t run Tampa 2 as much as they have in the past, but they lack complexity with their defense. So once teams handle their three or four pressure packages, it’s not hard to make big plays. The Bears must reinvent themselves this year. They must play a defense that can be complex, can be attacking and is capable of lining up correctly when it faces an unbalanced look. The Bears need to focus on playing in the red zone because when studying them on tape, once a team moved the ball into the red zone, it eventually scored. But most of all, the Bears have to stop believing that Tommie Harris is Warren Sapp, that Julius Peppers will be Simeon Rice, that Lance Briggs is Derrick Brooks. And they need to find John Lynch.
For the Bears to make Gale Sayers eat his words, it will take a huge effort -- a redefined effort that’s rooted in a new identity and a new way of winning games. Change has happen all over Halas Hall, and for the Bears to win next season, they have to stop thinking they’re playing with the players from the Tampa era.
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