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The Bears are lurking near the playoffs
But if you listen to games on the radio you probably don't know that
The Bears, as a rule, do not win enough games for us to waste any time complaining about them. Sunday’s win over the Vikings was a rare bout of offensive competence, with the defense making just enough big plays to make it matter. And so, the red hot Bears, who have won two of their last eight games have an actual path to the playoffs.
Granted, had they not blown the Lions game in spectacular fashion, they would control their own destiny, instead they need the Arizona Cardinals to lose one of their final two games (at home against the Niners in the stadium they currently share, and at the Rams who just managed to lose to the Jets.)
If the Cardinals lose one of those and the Bears win at Jacksonville (the Jaguars can now “earn” the number one overall pick in the draft by losing out thanks to that inexplicable Jets win) and at home against the Packers. If Green Bay beats the Titans next Sunday night they will clinch the number one overall seed in the NFC and will not need to win the Bears game.
You and I both know what’s going to happen. The Bears are going to beat the Jaguars, the 49ers are going to beat the Cardinals and the Packers are going to beat the Titans. That will mean that all the Bears have to do on the final day of the season to make the playoffs is to beat the Packers backups, and they will lose.
There is a worst case scenario even worse than that—if you can believe it.
The Bears steal the seventh seed in the NFC playoffs. Two playoff appearances in three seasons (for a franchise that has made the playoffs once in the last decade, twice in the last 15 seasons and four times in the last 20 years) not only saves Pace his job but gets him a one year extension, keeps The Visor employed on the sideline and…oh god, no…earns Mitch Trubisky a new contract.
It shouldn’t. After going 5-1 and then losing six in a row, the die should be cast for Pace’s and Mitch’s exits no matter if they make a token playoff appearance. And that’s what it’ll be. They’ll go to the Superdome to face the two seed Saints and get run out of there faster than Notre Dame in a bowl game.
You have to give the Bears credit for finding some sort of an offensive identity the last few weeks. It should have happened two seasons ago, and it definitely needed to happen from week one on this year, but it didn’t. It took until after the bye week, after they changed play callers and after the Packers had rolled to an insurmountable lead in that first game after the bye, but since then, the Bears appear to have some sort of clue.
The commitment to the run still isn’t what it should be, or needs to be, but it’s a lot better than it was. The last three weeks they have scored at least 20 points in the first half (73 points total), which would be better if they could also score in the second half (26 points total), but playing with leads has helped them fight the urge to completely abandon the run.
David Montgomery has rushed for 100 or more yards in three of the last four games, and should have done it against the Lions but maddeningly got only six carries after halftime (which contributed mightily to the Bears blowing that game). On Sunday he finally got a full game’s worth of carries and he rushed for 146 yards on 32 carries. The only reason he got that many carries is that kick returner Cordarrelle Patterson was nursing an injury that kept him out of the offense for the second half.
Watching Montgomery get better with more carries like he did yesterday should be a fireable offense for Nagy, but…oh never mind.
And then there was the play of Mitch. He hit his first eight passes. He led a sequence of six drives in seven possessions (one was when they took a knee to end the first half) where the Bears scored points. He played with confidence, and looked like something we didn’t think he’d ever be.
He’s a mediocre, run of the mill NFL quarterback. Yes, it’s progress, but come on. The Bears are getting plaudits for finally moving the pocket for him and rolling him out. That’s the best way to use him, but it’s not a sustainable way to win football games in the NFL. The reason Mitch does well when he rolls out is that it cuts the field in half and limits the number of reads he has to make. It also eliminates half the field to the offense, and if a receiver isn’t open pretty quickly there’s nowhere else to go. Against a bad defense like the Texans it works, and it works against a Vikings defense that had so many key injuries that $50 million of their payroll, all on defense, was missing from action on Sunday. It’ll work this week against the Jaguars. But it will not work against any good defense.
In year four, you should not need to be dumbing your offense down for your quarterback. This is as much of a failing on Nagy as it is Mitch. It’s pretty clear even though the Bears employ no fewer than a half dozen coaches with QB coaching experience that they do not coach the position well. Part of the benefit of making things simpler for Mitch is making things simpler for them, too.
Mitch being benched in week three isn’t retroactively wrong just because Nick Foles sucked and Mitch has put up decent numbers since his return. What it did was it allowed Mitch to miss most of the few good defenses the Bears have faced this year. While he got two starts against the Lions (27th ranked defense), and starts against the Vikings (18th) Giants (8th), Falcons (25th), Packers (16th) and Texans (29th), Foles got the Colts (5th), Saints (2nd), Vikings (18th), Buccaneers (6th), Rams (1st), and Titans (23rd).
If the Bears were really in evaluation mode still with Mitch they should all get fired for not starting him in those games. But if they are still in evaluation mode in year four they should all be fired for still being in evaluation mode. Huh? Oh, you know what I mean.
Mitch can not be in the Bears future. He’s too limited to ever be anybody’s answer at quarterback. A few solid starts at the end of a lost season can’t change that, and if it does then things are more hopeless than we already fear.
And, as well as Mitch played Sunday (for him) he nearly duplicated his tragic end to the Lions game with that terrible third and goal interception in the final two minutes.
At halftime, sideline reporter Jen Hale said The Visor told her what he said to Mitch at the half.
Speaking of that announcing team, they had a rough go of it. Chris Myers, the man Marquee wanted to replace Len Kasper with (and still might—shudder at the thought) had a rough day. Was he at the stadium? I ask because mechanically he had a brutal game, and as dull as he can be, he’s usually a very solid announcer. But he was late realizing there were penalties on plays, he had a tough time figuring out where the ball was being spotted and he just seemed late on…well, everything.
Jennings clearly was about to make a point about how well Mitch was throwing the ball early, only to wait until his ninth pass—one on which Mitch badly missed an open Javon Wims—to do it, and he ended up trying to tell us that Mitch’s first incompletion of the game was a good throw, when in reality it was his first bad one.
But, compared to how my game experience started, Myers and Jennings were Pat Summerall and John Madden in their prime.
Yes, I had to listen to the first two drives in my car on the radio.
Some of you might not have ever had the experience of having to have Jeff Joniak and Tom Thayer be your eyes and tell you what’s going on. Consider yourselves lucky.
Joniak was the Bears pre and postgame host from 1997 through 1999. After the 1998 season radio play by play guy Wayne Larrivee ditched the Bears to go to Green Bay, and the Bears hired Gary Bender to do the 1999 season. Gary was…fine. He’d had a long career doing big events for CBS and he certainly had the voice for the job, but the Bears were right to try to find a more permanent solution for the job.
The problem is, they went with their consistent default option, they went with the cheapest choice and promoted Joniak to the job.
It’s been 20 years, and he still sucks at the job. His biggest problems early on were the aforementioned mechanics of the job. Vin Scully breaks down how to announce sports on the radio to its simplest terms. Tell the listeners where the ball is. If they know where the ball is they can follow along.
Joniak treats that bit of information like it’s top secret. In his early days he would often neglect to tell you little things like what yard line the ball was on, what down it was, how many yards were needed for a first down, what the score was, what quarter it was and how much time was left. Other than those little details he was fine.
Two decades later and he’s not any better. It is literally impossible to follow what’s going on. He will often say things like, “Mitch fires out to Robinson. Makes the catch. Turns and goes out of bounds there.”
Where the fuck is there? Did he gain one yard or twenty or did he lose yards? He will go on and on with needless descriptors about a running back cutting or driving the pile and never tell you if there was a gain on the play or for how many yards. He seems hell bent to always tell us who made the tackle on every play, at the expense of us knowing anything else.
On the first possession yesterday the Bears had a third and one and us poor radio listeners didn’t know it. Joniak made the first play of the drive, a seven yard pass to Cole Kmet sound like a first down. So we thought the second down run by Montgomery was a first down play. We also had no idea how many yards Montgomery had gained (turns out it was two yards). So when Mitch was sacked on the next play, it was a complete surprise to us that Pat O’Donnell was coming onto the field to punt.
And yet, through that whole time Joniak and Thayer never stopped talking. In fact, because the Bears were, apparently, running a hurry up to start the game, Joniak was literally talking faster than normal. It was absurd.
But it’s always that way. The confusion they created on the first drive is the norm for them. And it’s been that way forever.
My dad was a farmer and in the fall he would rely on the radio broadcast to follow the Bears while he was working. When it was Joe McConnell or Larrivee or even Bender he didn’t have any problems. One time, during an October game probably in 2005 or 2006, my phone rang while I was watching the game. It was dad, on a cell phone that he didn’t really know how to use but that he started carrying with him in case something broke while he was working.
“What is the Bears score?”
”Are you in the combine?”
”Is the radio broken?”
”Might as well be. That dumbass Joniak hasn’t said the score in 20 minutes.”
When someone listening intently to the broadcast has to call someone watching the game on TV to find out what the score is, the radio announcers have completely failed at their job.
For a long time, the Bears radio broadcast promoted turning down the TV and turning up the radio for the “hometown call.” And, I’m convinced it’s why Joniak never got any better. He just assumed everyone listening was either at the game or watching it on TV. It’s ludicrous, but I think it’s true. It defies the basic duties of the job. You are a radio broadcaster, TELL people what’s going on. And now, nobody can sync the radio audio with the TV anymore, anyway. Not that I have any idea why they’d want to. No matter how bad the TV announcers are—and thanks to mediocre Bears teams for most of the last 30 years we get all the bad ones—they are, to a man, better than he is.
And Thayer’s no prize, either. He hasn’t had a unique insight on anything that’s happened in a game since Dick Jauron was the coach. The Notre Dame grad, who famously played both a full USFL season and NFL season in 1985, apparently has a Papal appointment to his job.
We’re Bears fans. We’ve learned to live with incompetent, penurious ownership, a complete lack of parking for home games, lousy quarterback and receiver play, consistently missing the playoffs and terrible radio announcers.
But hey, at least Hub’s not on the broadcasts anymore.
Here’s my very real fear about what’s going to happen after the season for the Bears. I voiced this to my Remember This Crap podcast co-host Mike Donohue before we started recording last week and he treated it like an actual possibility, too.
I don’t think the Bears are going to fire Pace or Nagy. I do think the rumblings that Ted Phillips is going to get a golden parachute to retire have something to them. I think the Bears will hire a new President/CEO and give that person a season to evaluate Pace and Nagy without giving them permission to dump either before then.
Given how Ted got his job, I fear the Bears will repeat that and give the president job to a longtime employee that they think seems like he knows a lot about the team and the league, even though he doesn’t.
I fear the next president of the Bears will be…
Nah, that’s absurd even for them. Right?
It’ll be Thayer.
And either way, they’ll both keep doing the games on radio. We’re doomed.
This current college football season has been a dangerous, ill-advised, half-assed joke, and as a result can you really be mad at the college football playoff selection people for rewarding Notre Dame with a playoff spot after getting their asses kicked throughly on Saturday by Clemson?
Somebody has to play Alabama in the semifinal and get beaten by 35 points, and hey, that’s something Notre Dame has been really good at for quite a while. What were the other options? Texas A&M? They got destroyed by Alabama already this season. Cincinnati? Yes, those big wins over ranked teams Army, SMU and Tulsa were really impressive.
The most telling thing about the ACC Championship game was that everyone who said that DJ Uiageleilei played so well filling in for Trevor Lawrence in the first game between Notre Dame and Clemson, that Lawrence being back wouldn’t make a huge difference were super wrong.
Turns out replacing your freshman fill-in QB (no matter how good he is) with the best player in college football makes your team a lot better.