Friday, January 30, 2015

Trestman Goes to Ravens as Offensive Coordinator

Trestman is a good man and a good coach.  He's replacing Gary Kubiak as Offensive Coordinator  on John Harbough's staff and it's a good spot.  He'll have Joe Flacco to work with in Baltimore. 
Trestman has had many years of experience working in the NFL.  Before becoming a head coach, Trestman worked with quarterbacks Bernie Kosar, Scott Mitchell, Jake Plummer, and Rich Gannon.  He gets excellent grades for working with each of these players. 

Trestman moved on to Canada as head coach of the Montreal Alouettes and had great success.  In his five years as head coach of the Mountreal Alouettes, he was in the Grey Cup (their Super Bowl) three times and won it twice.  The Bears hired Trestman as head coach in early 2013. Things did not work out in Chicago.

Trestman talks about facing setbacks as they happen and not being bowled over by them.  For Trestman, how you react to setbacks is part of life just as how your react to wins.  Just how Trestman reacted to his teams play annoyed some Chicago fans. 

Winning championships in the NFL requires many things to line up just right.  In Baltimore, John Harbough had a recent winning tradition that can be built off.  Trestman is a "smart guy" and should do well there. 

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Deli for Super Bowl

My daughter is working in the Deli in our local grocery store.  I am curious about the meats and cheeses people eat and ask her what people are buying these days.  When I was a kid, we ate bologna (after years of peanut butter and jelly).  The bologna came in the plastic containers that hung on the refrigerated section in the store.  Once in a while we'd have ham and cheese.  

When my mother would cook a meatloaf (once a week) the following day we'd have meatloaf sandwich.  But my mother was not an inspired meatloaf cook.  Our meatloaf was kind of hard as a rock.  But at least it stayed in one piece when cut.  Sometimes we'd have pork chops. My dad was a policeman and made pork chops sandwiches for our lunch.  It must have been a specialty at the time.  He would slather two pieces of bread with chunks of butter and cover the pork chop.  He'd leave the bone in.  It was always difficult to extract the bone without getting you hands full of butter.

Getting back to my daughter at the deli.  Most people eat turkey and cheese today.   Ham is probably a distant third.  There are tons of varieties of turkey.  They have Dietz and Watson meats and Land O' Lakes, which are premium brands.  Some of the turkey tastes like something from another world.  They have an Applewood Smoked turkey that is about $8 a pound on sale.  The good American cheese is running about $6 a pound. 

My wife buys the stuff on sale, but my daughter sometimes buys the Dietz and Watson stuff. If the average American can buy deli today for the Super Bowl they can get a darn good sandwich.  And believe it or not, my daughter's store is selling a nice little package of bologna for about a $1.  My wife makes a fried bologna sandwich which has just a little fried onion on it--it's very good, but not on my diet these days.  

Whatever you put on your table this weekend, I hope it is good.  At my table I am going to think about those who came before me and say a little prayer for them.  It seems like Super Bowl has become a second Thanksgiving Day only in the middle of winter.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Vic Fangio and Adam Gase Join Bears

Vic Fangio is the Bears new Defensive Coordinator and Adam Gase is the new Offensive Coordinator under John Fox.  Fangio is a coach who uses players with multiple skills and can play multiple roles in his complex schemes.  The Bears will have to acquire many of the players to fit his schemes.  Fangio has served as defensive coordinator most recently with the San Francisco 49ers from 2011-2014.  He had 28 NFL seasons and is 56 years old.

Adam Gase is a young coach, 36,  who took the Offensive Coordinator with Fox and the Broncos in 2013-2014. Before that he coached the quarterback and receivers with Denver.  He was with the Lions as a scout and moved up to quarterback coach before he went to San Francisco for a year. Gase worked closely with Peyton Manning and is popular with the players.  Gase is five years older than Jay Cutler and 2 years younger than Peyton Manning.


Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Fox Says All the Right Things at Bears' Introduction

If you've listened to the John Fox interviews, you know he says all the right things and you have the impression that he means them.  Here are ten points that Fox has made:

1. Quarterback is one of the players and it takes 11 on the field.  Yes, the quarterback is important, but we should not look at the QB in a vacuum.  A lot of people point to Cutlet as the reason for the Bears tough season, but you have to look at a lot of reason's beyond Cutler. 

2. Fox is one of several important team managers.  The right staff is important.

3. Fox comes from great organizations and he brings with him those principles.  

4. Football is tough and he understands that players have to be tough physically and mentally.

5. Fox is a football guy. His life is steeped in football and he brings his passion with him.

6. Winning is fun and that's what is important.

7. He has just started to process of evaluation and he is skilled at it. 

8. He loves the fact that Chicago is behind the Bears and is a Bears town.

9. He understand the importance of winning in the division.

10. He does not assume the team will be great right away, but he does not shrink from responsibility. 


Sporting Chance Press is the publisher of Pillars of the NFL: Coaches Who Have Won Three or More Championships.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Chicago Bears Hire John Fox as Head Coach

The Chicago Bears have hired a veteran head coach who has a tremendous amount going for himself and will provide a guided leadership on a team that needs direction. It's good new for the Bears.

I don't know much about John Fox, but I do remember watching him during Super Bowl XXXVIII (for the 2003 season) between his Carolina Panthers and the New England Patriots. Fox had a quarterback, Jake Delhomme,  who had only played a handful of games for the Saints, but had played for the NFL Europe's Frankfurt Galaxy. He was up against Tom Brady.  Fox's Carolina Panthers gave the Patriots everything they could handle and the game was won when Adam Vinatieri kicked a 41-yard field goal to give New England a 32–29 lead with four seconds left in the game.

Bear fans might remember that Julius Peppers and Muhsim Mohammad were playing for Carolina at the time.  I remember watching Fox and thinking that he was matching up with Belichick and getting the most out of his team.  

Thursday, January 15, 2015

NFL New Head Coaches Update

It's kind of interesting to see the NFL coaching prospects this year.


The four top coaches in the playoffs are:

Mike McCarthty of the Packers who is 51 years old.
Chuck Pagano of the Colts who is 54 years old.

Bill Belichick of the Patriots who is 62 years old.
Pete Carroll of the Seahawks who is 63 years old.

The coaches remaining who are looking for a head coaching job or at least in the conversation:


Adam Gase who is 36.

Dan Quinn who is 44.
Teryl Austin who is 49
Doug Marrone who is 50.


Gary Kubiac who is 53.
John Fox who is 59.
Mike Shanahan who is 62.

The teams looking for a coach are:

Denver Broncos
Chicago Bears

Atlanta Falcons

Already Picked

Buffalo Bills Rex Ryan
New York Jets Todd Bowles
Oakland Raiders Jack Del Rio
San Francisco 49ers Jim Tomsula









Tuesday, January 13, 2015

NFL Coach Prospects this Year

It's kind of interesting to see the NFL coaching prospects this year. 


The four top coaches in the playoffs are:

Mike McCarthty of the Packers who is 51 years old.
Chuck Pagano of the Colts who is 54 years old.

Bill Belichick of the Patriots who is 62 years old.
Pete Carroll of the Seahawks who is 63 years old.

The coaches who are looking for a head coaching job or at least in the conversation:


Adam Gase who is 36.

Dan Quinn who is 44.
Teryl Austin who is 49
Doug Marrone who is 50.

Todd Bowles who is 51.
Gary Kubiac who is 53.
John Fox who is 59.
Mike Shanahan who is 62.

The coach has to fit into the organization.  The teams looking for a coach are:

Denver Broncos
Chicago Bears
San Francisco 49ers
New York Jets
Atlanta Falcons
Oakland Raiders

The Buffalo Bills have selected Rex Ryan already.  There are many stories in the press about who is going where.  Let's see how this all plays out.










John Fox Head Coaching Candidate

John Fox, the former Head Coach of the Denver Broncos, has parted ways with the GM John Elway and quarterback Payton Manning.  There could be any number of reasons for Fox's departure, but it's hard to imagine anyone doing better.  Fox took the broncos into the playoffs three years in a row.  Manning may be about to announce his retirement and it just might be a good time for Denver to break links to the past.  John Elway said that he and John Fox agreed that he disagreed how to get to the next step.

Before Fox's seasons in Denver, he was Carolina for 9 seasons.  In Fox's time in Carolina, he brought the Panthers to the Super Bowl against New England and lost by 3 points.  He had the Panthers in the playoffs four time and had the Broncos in the playoffs all four seasons.  His head-coaching record is 119-89. 

Last year, Fox had a heart valve replaced, recovered quickly,  and wants to continue to coaching.  He is coach who is known for defense and with a passion for the game.

Mike Ditka Number 89

It's kind of interesting that Mike Ditka  played with the Bears from 1961-1966 and them moved on to the Philadelphia Eagles in 1967-1968 and finished his career with the Dallas Cowboys from 1969-1972. When  you look at the Bears team photographs during the Ditka years,  the old number 89 seemed to take up a lot of space. Even in photographs, he was larger than life.

I was wondering, who took Ditka's number on the 1967 Bears.  It was Terry Stoepel, a 6-foot-4 235 pound lineman who took Ditka's  number.  Stoepel didn't see a lot of action for the Bears.  He was gone in 1968 and then showed up with the Houston Oilers in 1970 for a single season.  From Houston he was traded to the New Orleans Saints and disappeared from their roster.  

No one for the Bears will be wearing number 89 again, it was retired in 2013 to honor Ditka.  Stoepel was happy that Ditka was so honored. 







Saturday, January 10, 2015

Forte Not the Answer to Bears Woes

Matt Forte has been solid for the Bears and he also gives the critics a quick fix on Bears losses.  They believe the Bears ought to run Matt Forte more.  Sorry folks, I think we used Matt Forte plenty in 2014 and using Forte more is not the silver bullet to the Bears wins. In 2014, Matt Forte between his rushes and receptions handled the ball the second most of his career, 368. 

I though it might be instructive to look at Matt Forte's first seven seasons and roughly compare them with the Bears' number one legendary running back Walter Payton.  You'll see why I say compare "roughly" to Payton's. But I think this demonstrates that the Bears have made good use of Matt Forte. 


First Year

Forte has seven complete seasons with the Bears. In his first year 2008, he had 316 rushes for 1,238 yards and a 3.9 yard average. That same year, he had 63 receptions for 477 and a 7.6 yard average. Forte's total yards gained equaled 1,715.  Forte also scored 12 TDs for the Bears.

You can not compare a current player's statistics in which teams play 16 games against someone who played during the 14 game seasons. Walter Payton's first three years were played during 14-game seasons. The NFL did not start the 16-game season until 1978. Rather than try to “normalize” the statistics on the two players here, we just provide the raw data on them. There are many factors that also make actual year-to-year comparisons questionable. By just looking at the performances generally, fans may have a better understanding of the value of these two great running backs without having to make any judgments that span teams, offensive/defensive schemes, talent or lack of talent surrounding the players etc.

In addition to the number of games, it should also be noted there is one more huge difference that reflect in Payton's numbers. Fullback play was much more prevalent then. Roland Harper, the Bears fullback during Payton early years was used liberally and got 100 carries for 453 yards in Payton's first year. Harper would end his career with over 3,000 rushing and 1,000 receiving after 7 seasons.   Bears running back Mike Adamale also got 94 carries for 354 yards in Payton's first year. And then there was Matt Suhey, the second long time fullback with Payton.  When Shuey retired he had over 5,000 yards from scrimmage with over 3,000 rushing and 2,000 receiving.  By the same token, today we see a more liberal use of the running back as receiver. It might also be said that Forte's at 6'2'' and 214 lbs. is a more likely target for passes than Payton who was 5'10" and roughly 200 lbs.  Modern fans might also be interested in knowing that fullback's Harper and Shuey were not much bigger than Payton. 

Payton had 196 carries for 679 yards and a 3.5 yard average in 1975. In receiving, Payton had 33 catches for 213 yards and a 6.5 yard average. Total yards gained by Walter Payton in his first year equaled was 892. He scored 7 TDs.  He was just warming up.

Looking at these performances, you can see that both Payton and Forte had "game" and were following in the footsteps of the Bears great running back traditions. Payton would go on to break the mold over 13 seasons.

Second Year

In 2009, Forte's second year, he had 258 rushes for 929 yards and a 3.6 average. He had 57 receptions for 471 yards and an 8.3 average. His total yards for the season were 1,400. He scored 4 TDs.

Payton's numbers were building in his second year. In 1976, he had 311 carries for 1390 yards and a 4.5 average. His 15 receptions made 149 total yards, which gave him a 9.9 yard average. Total yards were 1539 for Payton that year. He scored 13 TDs. The Bears would hand the ball off to Payton in the red zone.  I am one of those fans who says that Forte is not a red zone kind of runner.  It could also be that Payton had a fullback and defenses would have two running backs to focus on.  Forte was already seeing a almost four times the passes of Payton. 


Third Year

In 2010, Forte rushed 237 times for 1,069 yards netting a 4.5 yard average. His 51 receptions gave him 547 yards and a 10.7 average. His total yards for the year were a hefty 1,616. He scored 9 TDs.

Payton was nothing short of phenomenal in 1977. He rushed 339 times for 1852 yards and a 5.5 average. He had 27 receptions for 269 yards and a 10 average. His total yards tallied an incredible 2121. He scored 16 TDs.  Payton continued to be the go-to guy in the red zone. 

Fourth Year

In 2011, Forte started 12 games and he rushed 203 times for 997 yards netting a 4.9  yard average.  His 52 receptions gave him 490 yards and a 9.4  average.  His total yards for the year were 1,487.  He scored 4 TDs. He suffered a knee sprain in early December against Kansas City.  Both Forte and Cutler missed the last several games and the Bears season tool a nose dive.

For 1978, the Bears played a 16 game season and Payton played in every game.  He rushed  333 times for  1395 yards and a  4.2 average. He had  50 receptions for 480 yards and a  9.6  average. His total yards tallied 1,875 . He scored  11 TDs. 

Fifth Year


In 2012, Forte started 15 games and he rushed 248 times for  1094 yards netting a  4.4 yard average.  His  44 receptions gave him 340 yards and a  7.7  average.  His total yards for the year were 1,434.  He scored 6 TDs. Forte suffered an ankle injure against the Packers on September 13 and missed the following game against the Rams.

For 1979, Payton rushed  369 times for 1610  yards and a  4.4 average. He had  31 receptions for 313 yards and a  10.1  average. His total yards tallied 1,923. He scored  16 TDs.

Sixth Year

In 2013, Forte started 16 games and he rushed 289 times for  1339 yards netting a  4.6 yard average.  His  74 receptions gave him 594 yards and a  8  average.  His total yards for the year were 1,933.  He scored 12 TDs.

For 1980, Payton rushed  317 times for 1460  yards and a  4.6 average. He had  46 receptions for 367 yards and a 8  average. His total yards tallied 1,827.   He scored  7 TDs.



Seventh Year

In 2014, Forte started 16 games and he rushed 266 times for  1038 yards netting a  3.9 yard average.  His 102 receptions,  the most ever by the running back gave him 888 yards that surpasses Walter  and a  7.9  average.  His total yards for the year were 1,848.  He scored 10 TDs. Forte set two records in 2014, he had 102 receptions

For 1982, Payton rushed  339  times for 1222  yards and a  3.6 average. He had  41 receptions for 379 yards and a 9.2  average. His total yards tallied 1,601.   He scored  8 TDs.

Payton's career continued for another 6 seasons.  Forte's may as well.  I think Forte has remained healthy and he is a valuable member of the Bears, but let's not think that he's going to do everything.  The Bears have had a good passing attack the past few seasons.  More on that in another post. 

See "The Day Dick Butkus Caught a Bobby Douglass Pass for the Win."


Copyright 2015, Sporting Chance Press, the publisher of Pillars of the NFL, which covers the football lives of the 10 greatest coaches in the NFL history. 

Friday, January 9, 2015

NFL Playoff Games: January 10-11, 2015

This weekend Games


Dallas at Green Bay

The Dallas Cowboys squeaked by the  Detroit Lions last week with the help of a bad call.  In my opinion, it wasn't the only bad call in the game, and some favored Detroit.  Green Bay on the other hand got very strong towards the end of the season and would probably be the easy favorite playing at home were it not for Rodgers' calf injury.  I think somehow Rogers and the Packers will win, but Rogers will have to leave the field no worse for wear if the Packers are going to win again. Calf injuries are often graded from 1 to 3 and a slight injury #1 -can heal in a two week period.  A more severe injury can take two months or even longer.  If Rogers has a slight injury, he's going back before it's time and that will put the Packers at risk.  You could put Matt Flynn in and see how he measures up to Tony Romo, but Rogers is too competitive for that.

Baltimore at New England

Baltimore can beat the Patriots.  They will have to play very well to do and it will be a cold night, but this team has the character to do it.   New England played some tight games down the stretch after they looked unbeatable for while.  So this one is tough to call.  New England should win, but again, Baltimore can win this, but the game will be in New England so you have to go with the Patriots. (Update: Last night New England beat Baltimore 35-31 in the playoffs to move into the AFC Championship next week.)

Carolina at Seattle

This will likely be Seattle all the way.  I was not impressed with Carolina this year except I like their coach.  To me this looks like a big win.  I don't think that Seattle will let up.  (Update: Last night Seattle beat Carolina 31-17 in the playoffs to move into the NFC Championship next week.)

Indianapolis at Denver

This is another tough one, because the Colts looked very beatable their last game in the first half against Cincinnati. Adam Vinatieri kicked four field goals.  Of course, Cincinnati had a solid team.  Denver had a good stretch heading into the playoffs, but they lost to Cincinnati  before Christmas and Manning is dinged up.  This one could be very close.  I give the edge to Manning at home.

Sporting Chance Press is the publisher of Pillars of the NFL which covers the football lives of the 10 winningest coaches in the NFL history. 

 See "The Day Dick Butkus Caught a Bobby Douglass Pass for the Win."


Todd Bowles One of the Strong Candidates for NFL Head Coaches

After one year as defensive coordinator of the Arizona Cardinals, Todd Bowles is a candidate for several NFL Head Coaching jobs.  He came from the Eagles and before that worked for the Jets, Browns, Cowboys, and Dolphins during his 15 year pro career.  When he was with the Dolphins, he took over as head coach to see the team through the final 3 games.

The Arizona Cardinals were marching through the 2014 season as one of the best teams in the NFL when Carson Palmer, their quarterback went down with a serious knee injury.  Their second string quarterback went down and  most observers believe it spelled lights out in their wild card team loss.  Their defense under Bowles was among the best in the NFL. The Cardinal ranked tops against the run, and were high in sacks, takeaways, and interceptions.

Bowles played for the Redskins and 49ers as a pro. In college, he played at Temple where he was team captain.

Sporting Chance Press is the publisher of Pillars of the NFL which covers the football lives of the 10 winningest coaches in the NFL history. 

See "The Day Dick Butkus Caught a Bobby Douglass Pass for the Win."

Ryan Pace First Remarks as Bears' General Manager

Chicago Bears President and CEO Ted Phillips introduced Ryan Pace this morning at Halas Hall.  Phillips introduction positioned Pace's job as key to the football operations of the Chicago Bears Club.  Pace came up to the podium and made some key points:
  1. Sustained growth would be made through the draft.
  2. Importance of building requires series of good drafts.
  3. Picking the right coach is key and depends upon Pace.
  4. Right players will had character, toughness, instincts, and intelligence.
  5. Pace will evaluate entire roster.
  6. Will look at every means to build roster, but again draft is key.  


Everyone agrees that the key thing for the Bears is wins and the need to compete in the division.

Sporting Chance Press is the publisher of Pillars of the NFL which covers the football lives of the 10 winningest coaches in the NFL history. 

 See "The Day Dick Butkus Caught a Bobby Douglass Pass for the Win."

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Former Saints Director of Player Personnel Ryan Pace is New Bears GM

The Bears have named Ryan Pace their new General Manager.  Pace has spent the last 11 seasons with the Saints in various scouting capabilities before becoming the  team’s director of player personnel in 2013. He was a four-year letterman as a defensive end at Eastern Illinois, where he served as a team captain as a senior.  Pace is just the sixth general manager in team history replacing Phil Emery, who was released following the season.  The Bears used Ernie Accorsi to help senior management decide on the new GM. Accorsi is also helping select a new coach following Marc Trestman's departure.  

Coaching prospect are likely to include Adam Gase and Dan Quinn who have been interviewed. and Todd Bowler and Mike Shanahan. 


Dan Quinn Head Coach Prospect

Dan Quinn is finishing up two excellent years as the Defensive Coordinator of the Seattle Seahawks. The Seahawks have had the NFL's leading defense for two seasons and many people are pointing at Quinn's performance.  (Update: Last night Seattle beat Carolina 31-17 in the playoffs to move into the NFC Championship next week.)

A few years ago, Quinn was in Seattle coaching the defensive line and left to become defensive coordinator at the University of Florida in 2011-2012.  He had worked for Jim Mora who had coached before Pete Carroll took over as Seattle's head coach.  Quinn started out coaching in the pros in 2001 in San Francisco as its defensive quality control coach and worked briefly with the 49ers, Dolphins, and Jets.  Defense is his specialty. 

Quinn gets high marks for keeping things simple for the Seattle Seahawks and having his team well prepared.  He is a calm coach, but he is very enthusiastic as well. His players like him and he gives them some latitude on the field.   Pete Carroll likes his communication with the team and he's a very quick speaker. There's not a lot of long pauses with Quinn. 


Quinn was born in 1970 in Morristown, New Jersey.  He graduated from Salisbury State University where he played on the defensive line.  He also competed in track & field and he had a record breaking hammer throw (Before he moved to the pros, he coached at William and Mary, VMI, and Hofstra. 

Five teams looking for a head coach have interviewed Quinn.  Lot's of positive's with Quinn's work with Pete Carroll.

See this story.

Sporting Chance Press is the publisher of Pillars of the NFL: Coaches Who Have Won Three or More Championships .

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Pat Summeral Was Terrific

I listened today to Pat Summeral calling an old Bears game and remembered just how good he was.  In the 1970s and 1980 on Sunday the top pro game would be called by Pat and eventually he would be joined by John Madden.  John Madden called Summeral, "the voice of football and always will be."

There are plenty of good announcers today, but it's hard to think of them on Pat Summeral terms.  For me, it seems like today's announcers can't conjure up the excitement in a genuine way and they can't help turning things negative if the game goes bad.  A sports fan makes an investment in time every time he or she sits down to watch a game. The fan doesn't need to sit there and listen to the announcer grouse about the game.  Summeral had a natural enthusiasm that you appreciated.

Summeral had a 10-year pro football career in which he played defensive end and kicker.  He was drafted by Detroit in 1952, moved on the Chicago Cardinals and then finished off  his career with the New York Giants from 1958-1962.  Summeral had good company with the Giants who were frequently in contention during that period. His pro experienced help him in his announcing, but he never played his experiences up on the air.

When I was working with Pat McCaskey on Pillars of the NFL we covered some Baltimore Colts and New York Giants games.  I was a fan of Summeral, but I did not know about his pro career.

See "The Day Dick Butkus Caught a Bobby Douglass Pass for the Win."

Awesome Bears in the 1980s

When the Bears under Mike Ditka exploded into a winning football team in 1984 and then won the Super Bowl for the 1985 season, the following years held much promise.  But championships would elude them after one.  But championships aside, it's easy to forget the long term success that Mike Ditka's team had.  They were right up their among the best for several seasons.

The Bears went 10-6 during the 1984 season and then beat Washington in the divisional match and lost to the awesome 49ers in the Conference Championship, 23-0.  In the 49ers game, the Bears had most of the team that would lead them to a Super Bowl and although their numbers for the game were not great, there was much to be excited about.  Payton had more than 10 years playing time in, but  you could see him fly up from the ground after his rushes and hustle back to the huddle. Most of the Bears were young and getting better.  Announcing the game, were John Madden and Pat Sumerall, so even the game film today is pretty special.

Bears fan can recall the 1985 season with nothing, but excitement!  Although you may have worried about the season's ultimate outcome, you knew as the season was closing that the Bears were the best team in the NFL.  I remember the Bears game against the 49ers as a kind of flashpoint for the season.  The Bears beat the 49ers 26-10 and Jim McMahon's numbers were on a par with Joe Montana. Kevin Butler kicked four field goals. The Bears' defense held Bill Walsh's offensive numbers down.  The West Coast Offense looked a lot more Midwestern that day. As the Bears finished their season, they flattened teams with a will and confidence that was awe inspiring.  Their last several games were not even close.  The playoff's were runways.   The Bears were Super Bowl Champs!

In the six years that followed, the Bears were a contender in five seasons.  And I mean a contender! In 1986 and 1987, they lost to Washington in the playoffs. In the 1987 playoff loss, Washington beat them by 4 points and then they went on to win the Super Bowl.  In 1988, San Francisco would knock the Bears out.  In 1989 the Bears were not a playoff team.  In 1990, the Giants who would go on to the Super Bowl would beat them.  In 1991, Ditka's last playoff year with the Bears,  the Dallas Cowboys would knock the Ditka Bears out.

There was no single reason why the Bears could not repeat, but I suppose most Bears fan would say that they seemed to have some quarterback injuries at bad times.

If you think the Bears overpaid for Cutler, think about how the Bears may have done in the late 1980s with someone of his talent.  Cutler has given the Bears someone who can win some games against top talent, but the formula needs to be tweaked.  Will they get there soon?  Who knows.  But it was sure nice to look at Ditka's 1980s Bears and remember when they were one tough NFL team for much of the decade.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Mike Shanahan: One Super Bowl Away from Top Tier of All Time

Mike Shanahan led the Denver Broncos to two NFL Championships in 1997 and 1998.  Three NFL Championships is a number that only 10 NFL coaches reached in the history of the NFL.  Bill Belichick is the only active coach to achieve three championship and Shanahan and Tom Coughlan are the only other coaches within reach.

Shanahan;s last job was with the Washington Redskins and he was relieved after the 2013 season.  Washington was a tough venue for Shanahan and he suggested that during his tenure salary cap issues became a problem. Some say he also had issues with Robert Griffin III.  RGIII has not been the savior the Redskins were looking for the Shanahan-less Redskins.

Shanahan is involved in interviewing with teams now looking for a new head coach.  In the last few days he has interviewed with the Buffalo Bills, San Francisco 49ers, and the Oakland Raiders.

Shanahan has a 170-138 record over a 20-year coaching and he has experience managing Jay Cutler. There are other fits that make him a good candidate for the Bears, but he is headstrong coach who likes to wield control.  If Shanahan gets a job, some believe his son Kyle will follow.  Kyle Shanahan has been the offensive coordinator for the Browns and had to work with the Johnny Manziel star status that is difficult to deal with when he has not played himself into a playing position. 

Whatever happens and wherever it happens, the Mike Shanahan landing adds some drama to the 2015 season.

 See "The Day Dick Butkus Caught a Bobby Douglass Pass for the Win."

John "Bonesetter" Reese, A Remarkable Man

John "Bonesetter" Reese
In the annals of sports literature you will find many references to John D. "Bonesetter" Reese.  He was one of the most fascinating figures in sports, although he was really not a sportsman. He was one of the most fascinating figures in medicine, although he was not a physician. Reese fixed aches and injuries with his hands. The references to Reese's work are generally shorts and sweet. A baseball, boxer,  or football player stops in at Reese's Youngstown office and he gets relief. 

Many sources define a Bonesetter as “someone who sets bones.” This definition is not accurate and is perhaps misleading. Going back to a source contemporary to John Reese, Norman D. Mattison, M.D., shed some light on the practice when he wrote “Bone Setting and Its Modern Revival,” published in the 1916 New York Medical Journal, Volume 104. Mattison quoted another authority, W. P. Hood, who said that bone setting “is the art of overcoming by the sudden flexion or extension any impediments to the free motion of joints that may be left behind after the subsistence of the early symptoms of disease or injury.”

Bonesetting has been practiced for long time in the United States.  According to Mattison’s review of the literature at the time, a bone setter named James Sweet came to America from Wales and settled in Rhode Island in 1650 to set up shop. Generations of Sweet’s followed suit. It was in Wales, the same coal mining and iron and steel producer,  that Bonesetter Reese would have his origins. Reese arrived with his set of skills in 1887 to find work in Youngstown. Reese was a young orphan boy who grew to become an ironworker and learned the medical trade of "Bonesetter" from a fellow worker. His skills would be in great demand in Youngstown, an industrial powerhouse that was part of a region that was called "Steel Valley."

The Bonesetter practice was a godsend to many impoverished miners and others that injured themselves in labor.   

John Reese was good at his work and quit mill work in Youngstown to focus on his growing bonesetter practice. Despite friction from authorities and medical doctors, Reese had a flourishing practice—people lined up to see him. Eventually, the official civic community would recognize his work. Reese’s legend lives on today as a man who miraculously helped heal a number of prominent baseball players. His patients included Honus Wagner, Cy Young, Ty Cobb, Rogers Hornsby, George Sisler, and Grover Cleveland Alexander. Baseball history books are loaded with references to Reese, but his focus was helping the millworkers in Youngstown where he set up his practice. 

John Reese was often quiet and spoke softly with his patients, but the practice required hard work and sometimes rough treatment to the affected areas.  Reese's demeanor could calm a patient before he had to move swiftly. Although Reese was thin, his patients were often impressed by his hand strength.

We came across Bonesetter Reese and one of his patients in Mike Cameron's Public Bonehead, Private Hero: The Real Legacy of Baseball's Fred Merkle. Cameron introduces readers to baseball pitcher Jack Pfiester of the Chicago Cubs who was known as "Jack the Giant Killer" because of his superb record against the NY Giants. According to Cameron, Pfiester pitched for the Cubs in the famous Merkle game of September 23, 1908 while suffering from a dislocated tendon in his throwing arm. Pfiester held the Giants to one run going into the ninth inning although he was in unimaginable pain during the gutsy performance.

According to Cameron, Pfiester sought Reese out for treatment immediately following the September 23rd game. Reese reportedly snapped back Pfiester's dislocated tendon in a short office visit. Cameron writes that it is was the kind of injury that would have been treated by surgery today. In Pfiester's case, he still had pitching problems for the rest of the season including the World Series. Perhaps he would have had better results had he seen Reese prior to his pitching performance on the 23rd. However, he came back the following year with a strong 17-6 record and a 2.43 ERA.

There is a Reese connection with another the author of a Sporting Chance Press book called Sports and Faith: Stories of the Devoted and the Devout. The author, Patrick McCaskey, is the grandson of George Halas, the founder of the Chicago Bears and legendary NFL pioneer. Patrick's grandfather used the services of Bonesetter Reese on three different occasions. Twice while he was a student at the University of Illinois and again when Halas had injured his hip sliding into second base for the New York Yankees.

David Anderson of the Society for American Baseball Research wrote an informative biographical essay on Reese. Additionally, Reese’s grandson, David Strickler, published a book on his grandfather called Child of Moriah: A Biography of John D. Bonesetter Reese in 1989. This is the definitive work on Reese and includes many accounts and witnesses to his work.  You may be able to get a copy of this book off the Internet, but it is expensive and rare. 



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Copyright 2015, Sporting Chance Press, Inc.

Pete Rose Message for Athletes

Pete Rose is one of the tough guys in sports.  His issues with gambling aside, he is doing a lot of talking these days and I heard something from his this past weekend when he was on the Sunday Morning Show that I thought was worth repeating. 

Pete was talking about when he gets together with young baseball players--minor leaguers. He tells them that every one of them has more talent than him, but not one of them will achieve what he has done.  He tells them that's because he when he played he was all in, playing, winning, was everything to him. 

When Rose was playing, he gave it his best every second, every play.  Success followed. 

When you watch a sub par performance on the field, you have to wonder sometimes--what went wrong.  And many times there is no easy answer. But sometimes when a team seems to fall apart and you see players lose heart and look for excuses, Pete Rose's words make sense.  When the entire team is "all in," they may not win every game, but they are not going to lose many of the ones that they could have or should have won.  

For more inspiration on baseball see our book called The Ten Commandments of Baseball: An Affectionate Look at Joe McCarthy's Principles for Success in Baseball (and Life).

Patrick McCaskey Recieves Mention at Cheshire Academy for Third Book

Trustee Patrick McCaskey  received mention  for his third book Pillars of the NFL: Coaches Who Have Won Three of More Championships. 
McCaskey played football prior to enrolling at the Academy in 1967, but was advised by his doctor to no longer play contact sports. Although he never had an opportunity to be a part of the Cheshire Cats’ football program, McCaskey participated in track and field, and cross country.In these sports he was exceptional.
His most recent book, Pillars of the NFL: Coaches who Have Won Three or More Championships, took him three years to write.  He started by researching teams and coaches who have won championships since 1920. “I was curious about who had the most championships.” McCaskey research uncovered 10 coaches who each held three or more wins, including his grandfather. His book, which now is a permanent part of the Cheshire Academy library, includes a chapter about each of those 10 coaches. For information on the book go here.
McCaskey has an impressive resume, which includes membership on the Chicago Bears’ Board, a position with the team as the senior director of special projects, and a Cheshire Academy Trustee. “I appreciate the opportunity to be a trustee, to have been given the honor of Commencement Speaker in 2009, and to have received the Headmaster’s Award in 1968,” he said. McCaskey was also named to the Cheshire Academy Kevin Slaughter Memorial Hall of Fame in 1988.

Picking a NFL Coach; No Easy Task

I read an article in a newspaper recently suggesting what the Bears have made mistakes in coach and GM selections.  It went on to give the writers view of what they should do now to select a new coach.  Having studied the Bears history for our book Pillars of the NFL: Coaches Who Have Won Three or More Championships, my advice is good luck.  There is no formula and no silver bullet.  You take your pick and hang on. 

George Halas was a very good coach.  And one of his greatest talents, was to keep looking for new help.  He'd coach and step aside for a while--come back.  He had friends in the college game that he he brought in and developed some great new programs.  Typically, he brought in some very rough players, but when he needed a brainy quarterback to run his modified T Formation, he brought Sid Luckman in from Columbia.  

Vince Lombardi was another coach that people gave high marks.  Lombardi was not huge on finding talent.  He did find some great players, but he impressed me as someone who took what was available and worked them harder than anyone thought possible and developed a team that way.  Could Lombardi have taken the Bears and driven them into a championship team in 2014?  Maybe? 

How much different was Bill Walsh?  Walsh was a quarterback guru who saw talent in a given quarterback rather than consistency.  And after a point he drove the talent to championships and frequently out thought his adversary. Would today's coaches want to face Bill Walsh?

Chuck Noll was another great coach.  Noll wanted a few players who would help him build his team and help drive the others to great performance.  In some ways the opposite of Lombardi, Noll would never call attention to himself. Noll's messages to his players were so simple, it's hard to call him a genius, but he was a man's man and his players respected it from him.

Paul Brown was the consummate organizer.  Every minute in practice was used wisely and he kept his coaching hours to a schedule.  He developed an organization that is exceptional and could produce winners year after year.

Joe Gibbs was a coach who was not outsmarted and he developed overachieving players and he also emphasized his offensive line like they were the stars. Gibbs Hogs opened holed for his rushers and won championships.  

Which of these coaches could win championships today with the Bears?  These men were very different. 

Take our quiz on the greatest coaches in NFL history here.

 See "The Day Dick Butkus Caught a Bobby Douglass Pass for the Win."

Monday, January 5, 2015

Take this New NFL Quiz--January 2015

Here's a quiz from the publisher of 

Pillars of the NFL: Coaches Who Have Won Three or More Championships.


1. Who is the only Chicago Bears' player to be invited to the Pro Bowl in 2015?

2. Who passed Walter Payton's previous record for most receiving yards by a Bear in a season is 2014? 

3.  Who caught a 102nd reception of the season, surpassing Arizona's Larry Centers for the most catches by a running back in a season in NFL history.


4. Walter Payton is second to Emmitt Smith in career rushing yards gained.  Who is third?

Talented NFL Family

5.  One of the best centers in pro football moved over to guard to help fill a need in 2014.  His twin brother is another very talented center.

More Questions 

6. The Chicago Bears had some awesome players heading into the 1950s.  On their 1949 roster, they had the highest rated offense and had picked up George Connor and Johnny Lujack after these two players helped Notre Dame to two consecutive national championships. But a new team would come into the NFL from the All-American Football Conference and shake things up for most of the decade.  Who were they?

7. Two coaches built powerful teams that are remembered as dynasties by recruiting black players who were overlooked by many clubs. The first coach knew the players firsthand from Ohio Schools that he coached in high school and college.  The second coach had help scouting  the Black Colleges for some of his finest athletes.  One coach made his mark in the 1950s and the second in the 1970s.  Who were these coaches?

8. There are only 10 NFL coaches who have 3 Championships.  There are two coaches with 2 who may be next on the list.  One was out of the NFL in 2014, but has expressed an interest in coaching and a second has had a few disappointing seasons, but is still an NFL head coach. Who are they?

9. One current NFL head coach has 3 NFL Championships. Who is it?

10. Which NFL mascot comes from a famous poem?
 

Answers



1. Who is the only Chicago Bears' player to be invited to the Pro Bowl in 2015?  Kyle Long

2. Who passed Walter Payton's previous record for most receiving yards by a Bear in a season in 2014?  Matt Forte

3.  Who caught a 102nd reception of the season, surpassing Arizona's Larry Centers for the most catches by a running back in a season in NFL history. Matt Forte

4. Walter Payton is second to Emmitt Smith in career rushing yards gained.  Who is third? Barry Sanders

5.  One of the best centers in pro football moved over to guard to help fill a need in 2014.  His twin brother is also a center.  Mike Pouncey moved to guard with the Dolphins. Maurkice Pouncey is center for the Steelers.

6. The Chicago Bears had some awesome players heading into the 1950s.  On their 1949 roster, they had the highest rated offense and had picked up George Connor and Johnny Lujack after these two players helped Notre Dame to two consecutive national championships. But a new team would come into the NFL from the All-American Football Conference and shake things up for most of the decade.  Who were they? Paul Brown and his Cleveland Browns

7. Two coaches built powerful teams that are remembered as dynasties by recruiting black players who were overlooked by many clubs. The first coach knew the players firsthand from Ohio Schools that he coached in high school and college.  The second coach had help scouting  the Black Colleges for some of his finest athletes.  One coach made his mark in the 1950s and the second in the 1970s.  Who were these coaches? Paul Brown and Chuck Noll

8. There are only 10 NFL coaches who have 3 Championships.  There are two coaches with 2 who may be next on the list.  One was out of the NFL in 2014, but has expressed an interest in coaching and a second has had a few disappointing seasons, but is still an NFL head coach. Who are they? Mike Shanahan and  Tom Coughlin

9. One NFL head coach has 3 Championships. Who is it?  Bill Belichick

10. Which NFL mascot comes from a famous poem? Ravens come from Edgar Allen Poe's poem, The Raven.



Copyright 2014, Sporting Chance Press  



Take our other coach quiz here

Friday, January 2, 2015

Kyle Long Good Bear in 2014

Bears second-year right guard Kyle Long has finished up his second season with the Bears and he is one of the team bright spots in a gloomy season.  The 60-foot-6  313 pound Long is the only Bear nominated to the Pro Bowl this season--his second year in a row he was honored.  He has been also named second-team All-Pro as voted on by the Associated Press.
Long is a positive teammate.  He's said that since he's been with the Bears, he's just tried to be the best teammate he could be and soak up the knowledge he needs to play the game. 
Coming into the pros, he was scouted positively for his  size and he could extend  well for pass protection. Long good upper body strength is combined with good leg strength and flexibility.  Solid footwork and a good attitude--Long plays well as a teammate.  The only things that Long has needed is more football experience as he spent a lot of his early college days in baseball and only played one year of major college football. 

2014 Bears Season No Where Near as Bad as 1964


Chicago Bears record of 5-11 was a big disappointment this year, but it was not nearly as bad as the 1964 season.  In 1964, the Bears were coming off a championship season. The team was strong and stocked with great players on both defense and offense.  Coach George Halas described the Bears 1963 Championship as his "biggest personal satisfaction."  Things looked great for the Bears heading into their 1964 season. But tragedy struck.

On July 26, 1964, while the Bears were preparing for the College All-Star Game, teammates Willie Galimore and John Farrington were killed in an automobile accident.  The deaths shocked and saddened the Bears.  Galimore left a wife and three small children and Farrington left a wife. George Halas called it the saddest day in Bears' history. In less than a year the Bears had gone from being national champion to mourning the loss of two teammates. 
Often described as one of the most elusive runners in NFL history, Willie Galimore played halfback for the Bears from 1957-1963.  He was known for making quick movements in any direction—even backwards—that prevented tacklers from grasping him. Once he had an opening, he would head towards the goal while accelerating at uncatchable speeds. Mike Ditka described some of his teammates on the Bears as very fast, but when he talked about Galimore, he simply said "he could fly."  Galimore attended Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University (FAMU) where he rushed for
3,592 yards and set numerous records. He played seven seasons for the Bears and gained 2,985 yards on the ground and 1,201 yards receiving for a total of 4,186. He was called Willie "the Whisp" Galimore.

John "Bo" Farrington was a 6-foot-3 receiver who had been on the Bears for four seasons from 1959-1963.  He had a 98 yard touchdown reception in 1961 that was tops for the year.  Farrington played with Johnny Morris and Mike Ditka, two of the best receivers in football. He had attended Prairie View A & M.

It was a tragic beginning to a poor season for the Bears.  The Bears did not play like a championship team and finished the season at 5–9.  

It's been a tough season Bear fans, but it's light years ahead of the tragic 1964 season.

Copyright 2014, Sporting Chance Press

Sporting Chance Press is the publisher of Pillars of the NFL: Coaches Who Have Won More Than Three Championships.