A forgotten key: Nathan Vasher

I found an interesting blog post at Scout.com about Bears cornerback Nathan Vasher. It reminded me of how important Vasher might be to this Bears’ season.

Unless, of course, he’s not. Which is a possibility, too.

It was just two years ago that the Bears rewarded Vasher with a heap of money for a nice season at the cornerback position. You might remember watching Vasher intercept passes and harrass wide receivers on a regular basis.

It’d be nice to see this again from Vasher. Since getting his money, Vasher has been either injured or ineffective.

But what if he bounces back? He’d certainly strengthen a questionable defensive backfield. With Charles Tillman on one side and a back-to-form Vasher on the other, life would suddenly become difficult for NFL quarterbacks.

There’s a nagging doubt, though: What if Vasher’s good seasons were the flukes? What if he’s more like the player of the last two years, an inconsistent defender plagued by injuries?

We’ll find out this year. And if we don’t see much from Vasher, get ready for some shootouts at Soldier Field.

How weak is the safety position?

There’s been a lot — a ton, actually — of talk about how bad the Bears are at wide receiver. And this talk is justified. But there hasn’t been as much chatter about how awful the Bears might be a safety, too.

And, frankly, if you’re a Bears fan, you should be more concerned about the safety position. It’s more important, and can sink what might be an otherwise strong defense.

Fortunately, everyone’s good friends at ESPN have compiled a list of available safeties that might be able to help the Bears stop a quarterback or two. You can check out the list here.

Sarah Palin and a grumpy Bears fan

Yesterday I wrote a rather cranky post about Rod Marinelli having a job in this terrible economy even though he failed miserably at his previous position, head coach of the Detroit Lions.

I don’t have anything personally against Marinelli, though I don’t really like those super-intense, yell-and-scream kind of coaches. I do get annoyed with football announcers, too, who can never, ever seem to admit that, yes, some NFL coaches just aren’t that good. I remember in the waning days of Dick Jauron’s time coaching the Bears; announcers would go out of their way to say what a talented and intelligent coach Jauron was, even when all the evidence suggested that he shouldn’t have been a head coach.

Today, I read a column about former VP candidate Sarah Palin. You might have heard that she’s decided to step down as Alaskan governor. She also has a book deal in the works. There are rumors that she’s going to be a TV commentator somewhere, probably on FOX News. In other words, the wealthy Palin is going to get even wealthier, for quitting on the people who elected her.

This is extremely frustrating, too. Palin seems to be a bit of dimwit. She was woefully unprepared to be a VP candidate. She’s ditching her current job. Yet, in these tough economic times, she’s going to be one of the big winners.

Is there no justice in this world? Hard-working people are laid off and fired every day. Yet failures such as Marinelli and Palin land happily on their feet. That’s why I’m such a crank these days.

Rod Marinelli has a job, but my friend doesn’t?

It’s tough to keep a job today. Unemployment is rising past 9.4 percent. Companies across the country are laying off employees in bunches.

But Rod Marinelli has a job. He’s the assistant head coach/defensive line coach of your Chicago Bears. At the same time, my talented engineering friend has been looking for work for nearly six months now.

This is an injustice. And here’s why: Marinelli went an historic 0-16 as head coach of the Detroit Lions last year. That’s abysmal. The Lions couldn’t even luck into a win last year. Meanwhile, my friend has been a consistent performer at every job he’s held. Yet he’s looking for workand Marinelli, an epic failure last year, has a nice, cushy job.

How badly would Marinelli have had to have performed last season to not get a job this year? Did he need to lost 17 games in a 16-game season? Maybe he needed drive the Lions into bankruptcy, throw a pie in their owner’s face and set Ford Field on fire?

Then again, professional sports consistently rewards failed head coaches with lucrative jobs. Look at Joe Bugel. How many jobs did the former Cardinals coach get? How about Norv Turner? Even the Bears’ sad Dave Wannstedt got the chance to coach the Dolphins after stinking it up as Bears coach.

So welcome to the NFL, where dismal is rewarded!

Not everyone thinks Bears wide receivers stink

What’s the biggest problem with the Chicago Bears, right now?

Did you say “wide receiver?” If you did, you’re like most fans out there. Including me.

However, there are some out there who aren’t as worried about the receiver position. You can read this post over at the Bleacher Report blog. The writer argues that the Bears aren’t that bad at receiver. He points to Devin Hester and tight ends Desmond Clark and Gregg Olsen as the reason why.

I’ll agree that Clark and Olsen are two of the best receiving tight ends in the game right now. And that’s a true advantage for the Bears.

But Hester? He’d be fine as a number-three receiver, maybe even a number-two. But as a number-one receiver? He’s not even close yet. He led the Bears in receiving last year wtih decidedly below-average catches and yards. This might change with new quarterback Jay Cutler throwing him the ball. It may not.

And after Hester, who exactly is the number-two receiver? Is it fumble-fingered Rashied Davis, who can’t catch anything? Or is it Earl Bennett, who caught exactly zero passes in his rookie season?

There’s no denying that the Bears’ wide receivers are a lame lot. Yes, they have their tight ends and a good pass-catching running back in Matt Forte. But they still need a receiver that can put some fear in opponents. They don’t have that now.

Bears lost in the shuffle on a busy day

Yesterday was a busy day for Chicago sports, and none of it involved the Chicago Bears.

The Blackhawks signed Detroit star forward Marian Hossa and center John Madden from the New Jersey Devils. Both players should be great additions to a young team on the rise. Meanwhile, the Bulls got worse, losing Ben Gordon to the Detroit Pistons. I know Gordon had some serious shortcomings on defense, but who, exactly, is going to score for the Bulls now?

On the baseball beat, my White Sox continued their recent hot play, beating the Indians 6-2 to take their fourth series in a row. It was also the sixth straight win for the Sox. I’m sure the Cubs did something, too, but I’m not interested in whatever it was.

It was interesting to see a day where the Bears didn’t at least merit a semi-big story. It’s been a busy offseason for the Bears. And besides the fact that it looks like there’ll be no Plaxico Burress on the way, there wasn’t much else to report from Halas Hall.

When did you become a Bears fan for life?

When I was younger, I didn’t much care for football. My dad would hog the TV for what seemed like hours. And all those football games screwed up the Sunday evening TV schedule; The games always ran late.

But then came 1984, and the Bears were actually a pretty good team. They had a ferocious defense, a great running back and a cocky young quarterback.

Still, halfway through the season they hadn’t really proven themselves to the rest of the league. Then they took on the Oakland Raiders.

If you remember that 1984 game at Soldier Field, you’ll remember that defense ruled. The Raiders knocked quarterback Jim McMahon out of the game with a serious injury, more or less derailing his career. But the Bears, led by that punishing defense and running game, ruled 17-9. I’d never seen two teams hit each other so hard.

From that moment on, I was a Bears game. I was rewarded in 1984 with the Bears’ surprising playoff victory on the road against a tough Washington Redskins team. Of course, one week later, in the NFC championship game, the 49ers stifled the Bears 23-0.

I knew a team on the rise when I saw one, though, and I was hooked.

I still am, even when watching the Bears is as exciting as watching grass grow. They’re still my team.

Do the Bears need a backup running back?

The Bears had a lot of needs to fill this offseason. Credit Jerry Angelo will addressing many of them: He found a potential franchise quarterback. He added Orlando Pace to the offensive line. He added depth to the linebacking corps.

Of course, that leaves a few needs left unfilled, wide receiver being the most glaring. But there’s still time, and some hope, that Angelo will find a veteran free agent to play receiver.

But what about backup running back?

This may not seem like a huge need. But consider that starter Matt Forte is only entering his second season. Who knows if he’ll be as good this year as he was last season? Remember, too, that Forte wore down significantly as the season went on. He had some non-productive games during the year.

And just who is the backup to Forte? Do we trust the Bears’ Adrian Petersen or Garret Wolfe? I know I don’t.

New quarterback Jay Cutler will want a strong a running game. It’ll only increase his ability to be a game-changer. But if Forte goes down with injury, or isn’t as effective this season as he was in his rookie campaign, that running game isn’t going to be offering a lot of help.

USA Today takes a whack at the Bears

Few teams have had as eventful an offseason as have the Chicago Bears. The Jay Cutler signing alone guaranteed that.

Now the USA Today has devoted a signficant amount of space to previewing the Bears’ upcoming season, largely because of the Cutler trade. The big surprise is that the paper actually does a good job of analyzing the Bears.

For instance, the USA Today story rightly skewers the Bears’ once proud defense. The story even points to the defense as the main reason why the Bears missed the playoffs for a second straight season last year.

However, the paper is a bit too kind to Kyle Orton and his play. Let’s not forget that in two of the Bears’ late-season wins — against the Green Bay Packers and the New Orleans Saints — Orton played like garbage. The Bears, in fact, should have lost both of those games, which would have left the team with a 7-9 record. That record would have been more appropriate for how the Bears played throughout the season.

Is it up to the tight ends to provide the passing offense this season?

Jay Cutler may wish he was back in Denver by the time this season ends. Of course, if the Bears do find a veteran wide receiver somewhere, than Cutler will probably have a fine time this year.

Will that happen? Who knows? For now, though, the Bears organization continues to insist that Devin Hester, who led the team with 51 catches for 665 yards, is a number-one receiver. I guess that makes dropsy-plagued Rashied Davis a number-two. Shudder.

The best receivers on the team are actually Gregg Olsen and Desmond Clark. Too bad they’re tight ends. The third best receiver is probably Matt Forte. Too bad he’s a running back.

That makes Hester the fourth best receiver on this squad.

Cutler can throw deep. That might help Hester. Or it might just frustrate Cutler when he finds out that no other Bears receiver can get open deep on a consistent basis.

My hope is that this post will soon become moot. There’s always hope that the Bears actually will pick up a real live NFL receiver.

Stranger things have happened. I mean, look at what the Bears did in April. They actually found a quarterback. Who would have predicted that?