Former Bear Brown signs with Chiefs

Mike Brown, one of the Bears’ biggest impact players before injuries and age robbed him of his speed, signed today with the Kansas City Chiefs.

It’s a shame, really, because Brown was one of the few Bears of recent vintage who knew how to make the big play. In fact, the 31-year-old safety is the Bears’ all-time leading defensive scorer, with seven touchdowns to his credit.

Who could forget his interception in overtime that beat the San Francisco 49ers in the Bears’ magical 13-3 season in 2001?

It’s unfortunate that Brown and the Bears had to part company. I’m not so sure, personally, that this is a decision that the Bears had to make. You can’t tell me that an older Brown still isn’t better than most of the safeties on the Bears’ roster today.

Which Chicago sports team will win a title next?

Sports fans love to make predictions: the White Sox will trade Paul Konerko. The Cubs will fall short in the NL Central this year. The Bulls will make a terrible pick in the NBA draft.

One of the more intriguing guessing games today, though, centers on the Bears. The question is: Which Chicago team will next win its league champsionship? Most fans usually pick either the Bears, bolstered by this summer’s signing of quarterback Jay Cutler, or the Blackhawks, fueled by all that young talent.

If I had to wager a guess? I’d go with the Blackhawks.

Here’s what fans forget about Cutler and the Bears: The Denver Broncos didn’t win the SuperBowl with Jay Cutler as their quarterback, and the Broncos have a supporting cast that’s every bit as strong as — or maybe stronger — than the Bears have.

Don’t get me wrong; Cutler is a huge upgrade at quarterback. He had a great season last year. But to believe that Cutler will lead the Bears to the SuperBowl, you have to think that the Bears were just a quality quarterback away from making it back to the title game. Unfortunately, that doesn’t look to be true.

The Bears’ defense, despite its reputation, is weak. The receives are terrible. The running game is thin. And the offensive line doesn’t rank as one of the game’s elite. The Bears have above-average tight ends and a darn good punter. Is that, combined with a ProBowl-caliber quarterback, enough for a championship?

I don’t think so.

Why the Vikings are still the favorites in the NFC North

I really want to believe that the Bears, powered by the strong arm of Jay Cutler, will win the NFC North this year.

It’s hard to force myself to believe this, though. Yes, it’s a fairly weak division. But I still think the Vikings, though they’re certainly not Super Bowl contenders, are still the smarter choice to win the division.

Here’s why: The Vikings have a good, tough defense. They have arguably the game’s most explosive running back. And if Brett Favre plays for them this year, they’ll have a quarterback who is just good enough.

The Bears meanwhile, still have a lot of question marks. Yes, Jerry Angelo did fill some holes, most notably with Cutler, finally acquiring a quarterback that defensive backs will fear. But remember, that Bears defense has been lousy since the SuperBowl year. Brian Urlacher appears to be winding down. Mike Brown is gone, with not much talent to replace him.

I’m still not sold on Matt Forte, either. Yes, he had a solid rookie season. But he wore down terribly as the season went on. And he’s more of a solid back when he’s on. He’s not a gamebreaker.

Then there are the receivers. Simply put, this is a terrible group. Devin Hester is not a number-one receiver, no matter how many times Lovie Smith says he is. And we’re relying on Earl Bennett? The same Earl Bennett who caught exactly zero passes last season?

I’m sorry, but there are too many holes on these Bears.

Which Bear has the most to prove this year? Urlacher

There are a lot of Bears that have something to prove this year.

Devin Hester has to prove he’s a number-one receiver. Jay Cutler has to prove he’s ready to be a leader. Rashied Davis has to prove he can actually catch the ball.

And then there’s Brian Urlacher. Remember when he was one of the most feared defensive players in the league? Well, those days are gone. Injuries have made sure that Urlacher will never again be that dynamo that caused opposing offensive coordinators so many headaches. But that doesn’t mean that Urlacher can’t still be a force on the field.

He’ll just have to do it in a different way.

Urlacher has always had trouble shedding blockers. Hopefully, Lovie Smith will use Urlacher’s speed. He sitll has that. And he can still use that to disrupt passing plays and chase down running backs, if Smith figures out a way to get him away from big, meaty blockers.

If Urlacher has an outstanding season, so will the Bears’ defense. If he struggles again, expect the defense to give up its share of long drives and points this season.

Why don’t people care when football players take steroids?

Sammy Sosa is making news again in Chicago today. Seems he tested positive for steroids back in 2003. Not much of a surprise there. I mean, the guy looked like a toothpick when he played for the White Sox. With the Cubs he’d magically transformed into a walking mountain.

Even though no one’s really surprised by this — It’s not like Sosa and his bat falled with rubber balls hasn’t been found guilty of cheating before — many Cubs fans seemed a bit disappointed in the news.

Here’s my question, though: Why isn’t anyone ever that upset when a football player is found to be taking steroids? When a football player is caught with steroids, people tend to shrug and move on.

But with baseball? It’s a national tragedy. The way the media covered the Alex Rodriguez steroid scandal, you’d have thought that we finally did find those weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

So what gives? Is it because baseball is so dependant on numbers and records? This might have something to do with it. The homerun marks of Ruth and Maris have been shattered. But now all the people who shattered these marks have been found guilty of taking steriods. How do you account for that?

I have no idea. I’m a White Sox fan; Most White Sox players don’t set any records, so I haven’t had to worry about it. Besides, like so many other Chicago sports fans, I’m waiting for the Bears’ season to start.

Maybe the Broncos and Bears will just switch rosters

Former Bears wide receiver — for one year, at least — Brandon Lloyd signed with the Denver Broncos yesterday. He joins Kyle Orton, the former Bears quarterback who was the guy responsible for throwing him passes yesterday.

Lloyd was one strange guy last year. In September, he was Orton’s go-to guy. Lloyd snagged 15 passes in September for 249 yards. Those aren’t Hall-of-Fame numbers, but they were certainly better than the stats the rest of the Bears’ awful receivers put up.

Then something happened. Lloyd got hurt. I’m then assuming that head coach Lovie Smith wasn’t happy with the way Lloyd rehabbed. Because ever since the injury , Lloyd barely played a role in the Bears’ offense. After his strong September, Lloyd finished the season with just 26 catches for 364 yards and two touchdowns.

For those not quick with the numbers, that’s just 11 catches after September.

I don’t imagine Lloyd will put up much better numbers with the Broncos. Remember, he’s got Kyle Orton throwing to him. Orton’s not exactly a model of passing efficiency.

The Crosstown Classic — and all we care about is the Bears

This started out as a fairly promising baseball season. The Cubs were supposed to run away with their division. The White Sox, while troubled by more questions, were at least supposed to be serious contenders in theirs.

So far, though? Neither team has done anything to make their fans proud. The White Sox are struggling along with a losing record. The Cubs, thanks to being in a truly awful division, are definitely in contention for their divisional crown. Problem is, they’re only at .500.

And this week, these two mediocre teams meet in the annual Crosstown Classic. This is usually a big deal. But this year it’s hard to get fired up. I already know the White Sox, the team I root for, isn’t doing anything this year. And I have the feeling that the Cubs, whom I hate, are going to win their division just because it’s so awful. They’ll then flame out in the playoffs.

So instead, my thoughts are with the Bears. In fact, if I could speed up the baseball season, have it end tomorrow, I would. Bring on football season!

When are you too old to wear an Urlacher jersey?

I think anyone over the age of 25 should never be caught wearing a Brian Urlacher jersey … except for Brian Urlacher, of course.

That goes for Lance Brigg, Jay Cutler or Brad Maynard jerseys, too.

It’s time to face the facts: You look kind of like a dork when you’re of a certain age and you’re wearing a big football jersey.

You’re not on the team. You may say “we” when you’re referring to how the Bears did in the draft. But that doesn’t make you a teammate of Urlacher’s.

Maybe this is just me, though. I’ve always been annoyed by some of the odd clothing choices that men make after hitting 25. I’ve seen them in public in sweat pants. No. This is not good.

I’ve ever seen grown men wearing shirts with Mickey Mouse or the Tasmanian Devil on them. C’mon! Mickey Mouse is a hack, for one thing. If you were cool, you’d be a fan of Bugs Bunny. And secondly, what’s a grown man doing wearing any cartoon character on his chest.

I know it’s only the beginning of summer. I know the football season is still a ways off. But a warning can never come too early. If you’re an adult male, don’t pick up that Olen Kreutz jersey. No, it doesn’t look good on you.

Why do we still care what Mike Ditka thinks?

Mike Ditka thinks Jay Cutler has to prove himself as a true leader in Chicago. This makes sense, I suppose. Cutler has a rocket arm, but he hasn’t fired a single meaningful pass yet in a Bears jersey.

What I really wonder, though, is why people still care what Mike Ditka says.

The Tribune ran an interview with Ditka yesterday. In it, the former Bears coach says that Cutler needs to show maturity as he takes over the quarterbacking position on the Bears.

Again, this is true. But, again, why is the Tribune interviewing Ditka? It’s been a long time since Ditka’s mid- to late-80s heyday. And even when the Bears were piling up fat won-loss records, Ditka wasn’t the most innovative NFL thinker out there.

Ditka believed in smash-mouth football. That worked in 1985. But then offensive coordinators got clever. They relied on short passes and quick plays. Ditka didn’t adjust. That’s why his Bears teams fared so poorly in the playoffs after that magical 1985 season: They could overpower the league’s weaker teams. But the star teams, the Giants, 49ers and Redskins could always count on a playoff victory when they met the Bears.

So lets not wait eagerly for every word the former coach gives us. The NFL passed Ditka by a long time ago.

How would you like to be a Los Angeles Clippers fan?

I sometimes feel a bit marginalized when it comes to baseball in Chicago. That’s because I’m a fan of the Chicago White Sox. And I’m one of those fans who was reared to not just like the White Sox, but to hate the Cubs.

So I do. Yet it seems, and I admit I’m paranoid about this, that everyone else in town loves the Cubs.

I wonder, then, what it must be like to be a fan of the Los Angeles Clippers. First of all, do the Clippers have any fans? And if so, why aren’t they rooting for the Los Angeles Lakers? The Lakers are everything the Clippers are not: successful, fun, dynamic, hip.

I think about this, of course, because the NBA championships are going on now, with the Lakers leading the Orlando Magic two games to one as of this writing. I picture a lonely Clippers fan somewhere, hoping desperately for the Lakers to lose or, at the very least, for the basketball season to finally end.

I suppose it’d be like rooting for a new NFL team in Chicago instead of cheering on the Bears. You might remember, many years ago, there was talk from Mayor Daley on Chicago possibly landing an AFC team. Can you imagine that team trying to attract fans when so many Chicagoans dearly love their Bears?

Imagine how hard it’d be if the Bears were actually a successful franchise? I mean, this team has won exactly one SuperBowl, and has appeared in exactly two. That’s not exactly a long record of success, at least not like the Lakers.