Urlacher again proves himself to be a pud

I’ll admit it: I’ve long thought Brian Urlacher is an ass, even before his play on the field began slipping. I cringe every time I hear him grunt through an interview, making a poor reporter’s job nearly impossible. I hate reading about his nasty relationship with the mother of his child. And I absolutely despise the way he implies that fans have no idea what professional football is all about.

Now there’s a red-hot story saying that Urlacher told former teammate Bobby Wade, now a receiver for the Minnesota Vikings, that he thinks new quarterback Jay Cutler is a … well, let’s just say Urlacher said “sissy.”

Urlacher denies saying this. I guess we’re supposed to believe that Bobby Wade just made all this up out of the blue.

Maybe Cutler is a, ummm…, sissy. But he’s also the Bears’ best chance to reach the SuperBowl. Urlacher was once a dominant player. That has changed. Today he’s a good player. He’s no longer a Pro-Bowl quality player, though.

So, who’s more important to the Bears now, Cutler or Urlacher? A strong-armed quarterback can take a team to the Superbowl. A top linebacker can help a team get there. There’s a big difference.

It’s time, then, for Urlacher to shut his mouth. Cutler may be a sissy, but there’s no way Urlacher’s getting back to the SuperBowl as a Bear without the quarterback’s powerful arm.

Favre pulls a Palin; He quits

You have to feel bad for the Minnesota Vikings. The team has been waiting all offseason to see if Brett Favre will be its quarterback. Then, just two days before starting training camp, Favre breaks the Vikings’ hearts and says that, yes, he is still officially retired.

Favre has had almost as much difficulty retiring as has Michael Jordan. But this time, he says, the retirement will stick.

For the Vikings this is bad news. They’re now left with a roster full of quarterbacks who make Kyle Orton look like Joe Montana. It’s a shame for the team, too, because with better quarterback play, the Vikings would be a legitimate SuperBowl contender. They have the game’s most dynamic halfback in the real Adrian Peterson. They have a tough defense. They have a good coach. They just don’t have a good quarterback.

Bears fans, of course, don’t feel too sorry for the Vikings. Favre’s announcement makes it easier on the Bears in their quest to win their division title. It also gives the Vikings a taste of what Bears fans have suffered through for many years: good defenses, good running games and horrible quarterbacking.

It’s hard to win much without a good quarterback, some flukes aside. The Vikings will get one more reminder of that this season.

Bad news for Tillman, Bears

There was just too much good news surrounding the Bears lately. They picked up new quarterback Jay Cutler, somehow. They found a new offensive lineman with past Pro Bowl credentials in Orlando Pace. And then came the news that both Brian Urlacher and Tommie Harris reported to mini-camp looking hungrier and trimmer than ever.

You just knew the bad news had to happen. This is the Chicago Bears, after all, a team that’s managed to win just one SuperBowl, a squad where wide receivers and quarterbacks seemingly go to die.

That bad news came this morning: Veteran defensive back Charles Tillman is out indefinitely after having back surgery.

Yes, this is serious bad news. The Bears’ defensive backfield is already a disaster. This injury leaves it even shorter on talent.

It all means one thing: Cutler’s going to have to throw an awful lot of touchdown passes.

Bears’ Cutler, Smith munch with Barack

I’m beginning to think that Pres. Barack Obama is enjoying himself a bit too much. I mean, isn’t the economy still in shambles? Isn’t health-insurance reform falling apart? Don’t we still have two wars going on?

Yet our Commander in Chief spends Thursday evening eating dinner with Lovie Smith and Jay Cutler. What gives? Is Obama presenting the two Bears with a new offensive game plan? Maybe he wanted to press Smith to find a wide receiver or two?

You can read about the big event here, in this story by the Chicago Tribune’s Fred Mitchell. And if you didn’t get invited to the big dinner, don’t sweat it. You know what an awful conversationalist Lovie Smith is.

Can Hester commit to double duty?

There was a lot of concern when the Bears converted Devin Hester to a full-time wide receiver. The worries weren’t that Hester wouldn’t develop into a solid receiver. No, the concerns were that he’d no longer be the top kick-return man in the NFL.

Judging from last year, those concerns were valid. Hester went from being the most feared returner in the game to one who spent an inordinate amount of time running backwards, fumbling or getting dropped for a loss. And to top it all off, Hester, though he turned into a solid receiver, wasn’t exactly an all-star at his new position, either.

It hardly seemed worth it to make the change.

Today, the Bears say that Hester will become a true number-one receiver, especially with strong-armed Jay Cutler throwing to him. Bears officials envision Hester routinely streaking down the sidelines, snagging balls and racing to the endzone.

Problem is, it’s hard to picture Hester ever being a better receiver than he once was a kick returner.

Chicago Tribune writer David Haugh addresses this issue in today’s paper. He writes that it’s essential for Hester to commit equally to returning punts as he has to catching passes.

I’d agree with Haugh that Hester has to commit to returning punts. But I’d disagree with the catching passes part. Hester should never have been turned into a wide receiver. By doing so, the Bears simply took their greatest strength for two years and turned it into a weakness while barely upgrading the wide-receiver position.

An outsider’s view of the Bears receivers

To hear Lovie Smith and Jerry Angelo tell it, the Bears have the league’s deepest crew of wide receivers. They see Devin Hester as a budding star. Earl Bennett, who caught exactly zero passes last year, has improved greatly. And the rookie wide receivers the Bears drafted are all poised to become the next Jerry Rice.

Of course, all of this is nonsense. The Bears receivers are terrible. The team might have the worst receiving corps in the NFL. Thank goodness for tight ends Desmond Clarkand Gregg Olsen.

It’s interesting, though, to read about what bloggers covering other teams think of the wide receiver situation here in Chicago. For instance, you might check out this post on the Lombardi Avenue blog. The writer of the blog, which covers, not surprisingly, the Green Bay Packers, refers to a radio interview given by Donald Driver, in which the Green Bay receiver says that the Bears have no real quality wide receivers.

The blog writer, wisely, agrees with Driver.

It’s no secret across the league that defensive backs don’t fear the Bears wide receivers. It’s a shame that the Bears acquired a franchise quarterback in Jay Cutler, but still have hardly anyone for him to throw to.

You change the “attitude,” but defensive line still features same players

I came across this rather nauseating story at the Bleacher Report blog: Seems new Bears’ defensive line coach Rod Marinelli has changed the sign on the defensive-line meeting room at Halas Hall from “Defensive Line” to “Rush Men.”

How cute.

I wonder if Marinelli tried any of the same “motivational” tactics for the defensive linemen of the Detroit Lions. If he did, it didn’t keep them from going 0-16 last season.

These motivational techniques by grown men for grown men are a bit sickening, aren’t they? They’re silly. Spare me the platitudes of Marinelli instilling a “new attitude” among the defensive linemen. Aren’t these guys grown men being paid very well to do their job? I hardly think they need a new attitude. They may need more talent, more natural pass-rushing ability and maybe, just mabye, some better schemes (the one thing Marinelli can actually help them with ), but a new attitude? C’mon, this isn’t grammar school football here.

What really amazes me is that no sportswriters openly mock the “Rush Men” sign change. Or do the sportswriters in town think such silly things actually have an impact?

What will have an impact is Tommie Harris actually playing like the star we all thought he was going to be, or Adewale Ogunleye playing like he’s actually alive.

Will you be cutting back on your Bears spending this year?

The economy continues to be terrible. Despite the efforts of Barack Obama and his administration, unemployment continues to soar. Now businesses are more often asking their workers to take unpaid days off.

It’s a mess. And it’s depressing.

Sports is supposed to take us away from all this. But will it? Or will economy realities hit our beloved Bears this year?

Will Bears fans go to fewer games? If they are at the games, will they pass on the overpriced hotdogs or (shudder) the beer? Will they buy fewer Urlacher or Briggs jerseys? Will any of them drop their satellite TV packages, including all those football games from other cities?

Everyone is feeling the economic pinch today. I suppose sports — even the mightly NFL — is no different. How about it? Will you be cutting back on your sports spending this year?

I hate the All-Star break

I’m a diehard White Sox fan. Even more than the Bears, I live and die with the fortunes of the Sox. It’s why I hate baseball’s All-Star game.

You get in a flow during the baseball season. You get used to tuning in the game on the car radio or dialing it up on TV. You get used to logging onto the White Sox’s home page late at night to see how they fared out on the West Coast.

Then comes the All-Star break. It all comes to a screeching halt.

That’s fine in years when your favorite team isn’t in contention for anything. But this year, somehow, the White Sox are a mere three-and-a-half games back. Of course, I know that the odds are against the Sox actually winning their division. They have too many holes. Closer Bobby Jenks is having an iffy season. Jim Thome is showing his age. Centerfield is a mess. There is no fifth starter.

Still, you never know. But now I have to wait for the All-Star break to come to a close before I get the chance to find out. And there isn’t even any exciting Bears news to keep me occupied. Sure, the Blackhawks fired general manager Dale Tallon, but that’s hardly news to keep a sports fan glued to the radio.

I keep telling myself that the break is almost over. Then it’s back to near-daily baseball again. At least until the Bears report to training camp …

My biggest Bears disappointment: The postseason

Back in the mid- to late-80s, I expected the Bears to win every Sunday.

Until the playoffs, that is. When the playoffs started, I usually expected trouble. And I was usually right. After 1985, when the Bears, of course, went 3-0 and won the SuperBowl, the Bears compiled a putrid 1980s playoff record of 1-3. In 1990 and 1991, the Bears went an additional 1-2 in the playoffs. The Bears made the playoffs once more in the 1990s, under Dave Wannstedt, and went 1-1 again.

That makes a playoff record of 3-6 in the 1980s and 1990s after the 1985 SuperBowl.

The Bears made the playoffs three times from 2000 to today. The team’s record in these games is pretty mediocre, too: 2-3. That gives us a postseason record of 5-9 in 14 playoff games since the SuperBowl winning year.

Of course, the Bears did go to a second SuperBowl in 2006, though we all know how that turned out.

There is hope, though. The reason for many of those nine playoff losses was horrible quarterback play. Today, in Jay Cutler, the Bears finally have a real NFL quarterback. Maybe the team’s postseason record will improve.