Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

07 Nov 2006

Any Given Sunday: Dolphins over Bears

by Ned Macey

21 years ago, the Miami Dolphins beat an undefeated Chicago Bears team with the winning quarterback throwing three touchdowns. On Sunday, the Dolphins again beat an undefeated Bears team with their quarterback throwing three touchdowns. Rest assured, the similarities end there. These are not the same Dolphins, these are not the same Bears, and Joey Harrington is definitely not Dan Marino.

The Bears were the consensus best team in football coming into Sunday and the presumptive NFC representative in the Super Bowl. Despite numerous pre-season predictions to the contrary, the closest the Dolphins are getting to the Super Bowl will be as guests at a party in South Beach.

The Bears' run to 7-0 included an improbable win over Arizona where they were able to overcome a dreadful offensive performance. Rex Grossman was abysmal in that performance, and unfortunately, he matched that level of play in the second half on Sunday. A fumble on a punt return and struggles both running the ball and stopping the run made this poor performance impossible to overcome.

The obvious goat of the game was Grossman. In his first year as the full-time starter, Grossman has exceeded expectations and provided Chicago with the potent passing offense they lacked a season ago. Entering the weekend, they ranked among the ten best passing offenses in football according to DVOA. A matchup against the mediocre defensive secondary of the Dolphins, in Chicago no less, seemed like a certain blowout.

Things in the NFL do not always go according to plan. Conventional wisdom was wrong for two reasons. The first is the much-reported story that Grossman struggles against pressure. The second was an injury to deep threat Bernard Berrian.

As the game progressed, it looked like the Dolphins' base defense was to rush five defenders. Grossman was flustered throughout the second half, consistently throwing wildly and off his back foot. The two second-half interceptions were terrible throws. Grossman was sacked three times after being sacked only six times in his first seven games.

Grossman definitely needs to improve his composure in the face of a rush, but his cause was hurt by the injury to Berrian on the Bears' first offensive play. Berrian is not the best receiver in the world, but he can stretch the field. The Bears had numerous opportunities to connect on deep pass plays against the Dolphins' suspect secondary. Grossman hit some of them, including a nice catch by Muhammad on the team's only touchdown. Despite some success, numerous big play opportunities were left on the field.

Without Berrian, Justin Gage became the second receiver. Gage caught only two of the six passes intended for him and fumbled after one of his receptions. Gage is not a bad receiver, but he is much more of a possession guy than Berrian. The speedy Rashied Davis is an intriguing player, but he is not prepared to be a consistent contributor.

With or without Berrian, Grossman needs more help from the Bears running game. Despite huge strides forward in the passing game, the rushing offense is no more potent than a season ago. Both starter Thomas Jones and backup Cedric Benson are averaging less than four yards per carry. Benson is not playing at a high level, but his performance is adequate and should keep Jones fresh for the stretch run.

The Dolphins running game is more than adequate because Ronnie Brown is developing into an elite running back. A year after splitting carries with Ricky Williams, Brown has the running game all to himself. Brown has 151 carries. The next highest running back on Miami is Sammy Morris with nine. After struggling to run consistently the first five weeks, Brown has two 100-yard games in the last three weeks, averaging over five yards per carry in both.

Brown's previous big game was against the Jets, a team with a poor run defense. His fine performance on Sunday is worth noting, as the Bears run defense is among the best in football. Brown had particular success running to the outside, away from the teeth of the defense and linebacker Brian Urlacher. On his 12 runs up the middle, Brown gained 35 yards and had only one run over five yards. On the 17 runs to the edge, he gained 122 yards.

The Dolphins were particularly effective running behind right tackle Vernon Carey, and they have been successful running in that direction all season. The Dolphins have been able to run outside in both directions since the insertion of erstwhile guard Damion McIntosh as the left tackle against the Jets. A year ago, the Dolphins ran extremely well behind McIntosh down the stretch, but for some reason they imported L.J. Shelton at the beginning of the year. Moving McIntosh to guard and starting Shelton at left tackle was an enormous mistake. Shelton has now safely moved inside to guard, where he has played better.

The Bears defense gave up four runs of at least 15 yards to Brown, and the easy explanation is the injury to Mike Brown. The Bears' longtime safety is gone for the season, replaced by Todd Johnson. Even with Mike Brown, the Bears have been susceptible to outside runs and have given up a fair number of long runs. Admittedly, Johnson was invisible on Sunday, unless you count watching him consistently being pushed out of plays. The Bears will miss Brown's knack for making big plays, but this minor problem in run defense is more often the result of linebacker overpursuit.

One final problem for the Bears is that much of their early success has been the result of an extraordinarily high level of special teams play. They have excelled in almost all aspects up to this point, creating enormous field position advantages for both their offense and defense.

That is a problem because it is simply unsustainable. Only one team since 1998 has had a full-season special teams DVOA over 7.8%. Before the Miami game, the Bears' special teams DVOA was 13.7%. They had even further benefited from things outside of their control, like opposing teams' kickoff and punt distances.

Their DVOA started to drop early in the second quarter. Devin Hester fumbled a punt inside his own 10-yard line. Three plays later, Miami took a lead it never relinquished. The Bears special teams did make some nice plays, blocking a field goal and generally providing good coverage. But they also fumbled a kick return that they recovered and dropped another punt that did not count because of a procedure penalty. Special teams will continue to be a strength for the Bears, but they will not be as potent as they were through the first half of the season.

The Hester muff started about as bad a sequence of football as has been played all season. One play after Harrington converted Hester's muff into a touchdown, Grossman was picked by Jason Taylor, who brought it back for a touchdown. The Bears fumbled the ensuing kickoff but fortunately recovered it. Seven plays later, Grossman was sacked and fumbled on another big play by Taylor. It was a superb overall performance by Taylor, who proved he still is capable of making the big play at 32. He remains one of the top defensive linemen in football.

The bleeding stopped thanks to a Harrington interception on an exceptional individual effort by Alex Brown (another great defensive lineman). Harrington, in fact, did everything he could to keep the Bears in the game. The one thing that can be said in his favor is that he avoids sacks. This is in large part because he seems to throw more passes behind the line of scrimmage than past the first-down marker. His first two touchdowns were nice throws, but his third one was nearly intercepted. The three drives covered a total of 42 yards.

The Joey Harrington era is only likely to last the season, as either Daunte Culpepper will get healthy or the Dolphins will start form scratch. The rebuilt offensive line has shown the ability to free Ronnie Brown. The defensive front seven, while aging, is still a venerable group that excels against the run. If the Dolphins get average play from Harrington, and the pass rush can protect the mediocre secondary then ... well then the Dolphins may win six games.

More likely, the Dolphins will get inconsistent play from Harrington and watch their secondary get exposed by everyone from Damon Huard to Jon Kitna. This victory highlighted some of the pieces that made Miami a chic playoff pick. Unfortunately, the pieces that have them 2-6 are likely to be featured on a regular basis going forward.

For the Bears, the most important question is what Rex Grossman's real level of play is. Grossman's overall stats rank among the middle of the pack in starting quarterbacks. However, he has been very good to excellent in every game but two. In those two games, he has been beyond terrible. These two performances have helped make the Bears' offensive performance the most inconsistent in football.

What can we expect from Grossman going forward? In all honesty, your guess is as good as mine. There is no precedent for a player spending 75 percent of the time as one of the game's best quarterbacks and the rest of the time as the second coming of Ryan Leaf. His overall stats say he is an average quarterback, but he has not played one game at an average level.

The second half of the season presents more difficult opponents than the Bears have faced to date, but it is not exactly a gauntlet. So far this season, the Bears have faced one team with a winning record and only one top-10 defense, as measured by DVOA. The last eight games bring only two games against teams that are currently over .500 and two games against top-10 defenses.

The Bears will likely cruise into the playoffs with around 12 wins. The problem is whether or not bad Rex will reappear in the playoffs. The Bears should spend the next few months finding a way to get Grossman to provide average production when he is off his game. They also need to work on dealing with opposition blitzes, which they will see a lot of each week until they prove they can handle them.

This team is nowhere near the quality of the 1985 Bears, but they do have the chance to be better than the 2005 Bears. Minor problems in the run defense do not mean this is not an excellent overall defense. They are almost guaranteed to be the first Bears team in over a decade to post consecutive winning records. Whether they win their first playoff game since 1994 or make their first Super Bowl since 1985 likely rests on whether or not Grossman can deliver.

Each Tuesday in Any Given Sunday, Ned Macey looks at the most surprising result of the previous weekend. The NFL sells itself on the idea that any team can win any given game, but we use these surprises as a tool to explore what trends and subtle aspects of each team are revealed in a single game.

Posted by: Ned Macey on 07 Nov 2006

48 comments, Last at 09 Nov 2006, 5:08pm by TomC

Comments

1
by Richie (not verified) :: Tue, 11/07/2006 - 2:51pm

Fantastic article Mr Macey. I think the dolphins will surprise everyone in the second half of the season.

2
by Noble (not verified) :: Tue, 11/07/2006 - 2:56pm

I've yet to see a Bears game this season, and probably won't until they play New England. That said, a lot of people around FO and elsewhere have commented on his habit of getting a little gunshy after being hit or hurried a few times. Can anyone confirm that this is what happened on Sunday?

3
by Fnor (not verified) :: Tue, 11/07/2006 - 3:04pm

As I said in my charting comments, I think a lot of Grossman's stellar early-season performance is simply luck (low completion rate, low interception rate).

I think this game highlighted how incredibly important Bernard Berrian is to Grossman. It looks a lot like Manning/Burress or (more similarly, I think) Culpepper/Moss. This is partially because Berrian is so bloody fast, but in large part because teams have focused too much on Muhammad and played coverage keyed on him rather than Berrian.

In any case, I really don't think Grossman is all that great. He'll put up gaudy numbers when the ball falls in the right spot, but he'll also crumple under pressure and make boneheaded decisions because he thinks he's a gunslinger, but he just doesn't have the accuracy neccessary.

4
by ABW (not verified) :: Tue, 11/07/2006 - 3:05pm

Possibly the best AGS this year. Nice article.

5
by Fnor (not verified) :: Tue, 11/07/2006 - 3:07pm

Also: Jason Taylor was insane. There was some good defence going on with both lines. Much more fun to watch than I though it was going to be.

6
by Bobman (not verified) :: Tue, 11/07/2006 - 3:08pm

Way to go, Ned. You actually made a Dolphins game sound worth watching.

7
by mawbrew (not verified) :: Tue, 11/07/2006 - 3:10pm

Re: 2

It sure looked like Grossman got rattled by tyhe early pressure. As Ned mentions in the article many of his throws (especially in the second half) were off his back foot. It looked like he was just reluctant to expose himself to contact/hits.

OTOH, it looks like Ronnie Brown may finally start paying some dividends for my fantasy team.

8
by Brian C (not verified) :: Tue, 11/07/2006 - 3:14pm

Rex Grossman? Gunshy? Quite the opposite problem, I'm afraid.

Personally, and contrary to popular belief, I don't think his problem has much to do with pressure at all. I mean, obviously he'll make bad throws under pressure, but no more than most other QBs.

No, the two games that he's been at his worst were games that they were losing, and he looked like he felt that he needed to make a play, RIGHT NOW.

To me, he's more like a guard in basketball who sees that his team is 10 points down, and starts heaving up 3s every time he touches the ball. He was the same way in college.

9
by Independent George (not verified) :: Tue, 11/07/2006 - 3:18pm

As noted elsewhere, Grossman also has a Brooks-esque tendency to sprint backwards twenty yards when pressured.

Unfortunately for Giants fans, it looks like he won't be doing very much of that against the NYG practice squad this week. Richard Seymour should have a fun time in a couple weeks, though.

10
by Marko (not verified) :: Tue, 11/07/2006 - 3:37pm

Excellent article. The Bears definitely missed Berrian. Gage does not provide anywhere near the same deep threat, although there was one play where he was wide open deep and Grossman barely overthrew him. That's the type of play that Grossman had been connecting on with Berrian often, especially at home. Because Gage has seen limited action this year and has received far less practice reps than Berrian, there was no chemistry between Grossman and Gage. Hopefully Mark Bradley can step up with Berrian probably out for about a month, according to various reports.

As for Taylor's pick six, that was a great play by him. He read the play action and drifted back and to the side where Grossman was rolling out rather than rushing Grossman. Grossman apparently never saw him, which is surprising because he's kind of hard to miss.

That play was Cedric Benson's first play in the game. It seems like in every game, the Bears use a play action fake on Benson's first play. They have hit a couple of big passes in those situations, but maybe the Dolphins figured out this tendency to go play action when Benson enters the game.

11
by Tom Kelso (not verified) :: Tue, 11/07/2006 - 3:40pm

I would also add the Minnesota game to the bad performance list -- but he was better against the Vikings than either Miami or Arizona. He sure wasn't very good, though.

But, of their remaining games, who can be expected to bring much of a pass rush? The Giants and Patriots, maybe the Vikings (but this one will be outdoors in Chicago). The Rams or Bucs? 12-4 looks to be their finishing record at worst, but the playoffs look to be insurmountable unless the protection schemes are changed to keep him upright.

12
by mactbone (not verified) :: Tue, 11/07/2006 - 3:42pm

Re Grossman and Contact:
I think his knee and ankle injuries have not only made him slower but much more reluctant to step up into pressure. The backwards running seems to be a symptom of this because if you look back before this year he would roll out and occasionally tuck it ala Trent Green, but now he just doesn't even look for that.

I think the coaches need to limit the passing plays early in the game. It seems like Turner tries to get aggressive early and Rex forces too many bad passes, which creates turnovers, which puts the Bears behind, and that causes Grossman to press even harder. I was cheering last week whenever he found his checkdown, because that's a big way that Grossman can improve and limit the mistakes.

13
by Fnor (not verified) :: Tue, 11/07/2006 - 3:44pm

#11: Indeed. MIN was VERY close to making it as bad. I forget the exact number, but at least 4 passes that should've been INTs that were dropped, and a lot of boneheaded throws to the flat. It was a pretty terrible game.

14
by Wanker79 (not verified) :: Tue, 11/07/2006 - 4:01pm

Re: 3

I think the comparison of Grossman/Berrian to Culpepper/Moss is a pretty interesting one. It's kinda strange to think of a desparation bomb as a safety outlet, but that's exactly what Moss was for Culpepper and probably what Berrian is for Grossman. From my limited viewing, it seems like as soon as Grossman feels pressure he just steps back and heaves one down field. With Berrian's ridiculous speed, he's more often than not able to track them down.

I think we can all agree that Bernard Berrian is no Randy Moss circa 1998-2003. So what, if anything, does that say about the relative quality of Culpepper/Grossman?

15
by Andy (not verified) :: Tue, 11/07/2006 - 4:04pm

Nice analysis of Ronnie Brown and the Miami O-line!

16
by Jesus (not verified) :: Tue, 11/07/2006 - 4:05pm

Hard to believe there are still people clinging to the "Dolphins are going to surprise people" rationale.
I've been hearing this for about a year or so now.

Face it -- the Dolphins stink. They stunk last month, they stink this month, and they're going to stink next month.

17
by paytonrules (not verified) :: Tue, 11/07/2006 - 4:05pm

Ned I noticed something watching the Bears game - and I wonder if you did.

The Bears were going with 5 or 6 men on the line of scrimmage on nearly every down, and a lot of blitzing (then fake blitzing when they weren't blitzing). It sure didn't look like the Cover-2 to me, and on some of Browns edge rushes it looked like he had so much space because Hillenmeyer or Briggs had already rushed the QB on a blitz, leaving the spot vacant. It looked a lot more like a Philadelphia defense to me, than a Tampa-2.

You understate, I think, how much the Bears miss Mike Brown. Todd Johnson might be a big hitter, but he's easily blocked, and Daniel Manning has good hands in coverage but is not a good run defender. Chris Harris needs to get back in there to support the run.

18
by TomC (not verified) :: Tue, 11/07/2006 - 4:19pm

The "desperation heaves" to Berrian have actually all been designed plays with BB as the primary target. Furthermore, Grossman has been damned accurate on those throws, either hitting Berrian in stride or just overthrowing him --- and Berrian is a good enough receiver to turn some percentage of those overthrows into catches.

19
by Lou (not verified) :: Tue, 11/07/2006 - 4:24pm

It looked to me like Grossman had cut down on the LONG drop backs. I can only think of one time he did that in this game. But yeah he does make bad throws under pressure. It looked like the Dolphins double covered Gage early to prevent the deep threat and in the first half when Grossman actually looked average. I expect to see more teams double our deep threat.
Mike Brown would've made a big difference in run support. I guess this was the week we found out how important safeties can be between this game and IND-NE. I'm concerned going the rest of the way with Todd Johnson and a dinged Urlacher.
Also Jason Taylor made a nice play on that interception. But he's getting way to much credit for that sack/forced fumble. Vonnie Holliday took out three Bears linemen on that play. He owned LG Brown at the snap pushed LT Tait to the ground and then drew a block from a diving Kreutz. Taylor had a free shot at blindsiding the QB cleaned up like any good defender by going for the strip.

20
by Chocolate Milk (not verified) :: Tue, 11/07/2006 - 4:27pm

Usually, when the Bears are down, Ron Turner seems to completely abandon the run and put the game entirely on Rex's shoulders. It's some sort of panic reaction that happens when the Bears go down by even as little as 10 points. Unfortunatly, Rex is not capable, at this point, of carrying that load. It's no surpirse that whent the Bears get an early lead, Rex tends to play better. When this occurs, Ron's play calling tends to be more balanced (maybe because of a desire to burn the clock). This keeps defenses honest. When it becomes obvious that the Bears are not really running the ball with any conistancy, that's when teams pin their ears back and bring everyone on blitzes. Rex simply cannot handle this at this point. His mechanics completely break down in the face of pressure.

A lot of Rex's success has been based on the play action pass. It's no suprise that Rex struggles when this becomes ineffective.

I'd like to add that Gage is a horrible receiver. Horrible. He plays as soft as any receiver I have ever seen. His fumble at the beginning of the third quarter was the death blow for the Bears in this game. All momentum was behind the Bears at that point and it all went away when he fumbled that one away. A truely catosrophic play. He also ran a couple routes that were obviously wrong and Rex mentioned this after the game (While not specifically calling Gage out).

It's pretty difficult to pin this loss entirely on Rex's shoulders as some want to do. It's my opinion that Turner occationally put's Rex in situations that make it hard for him to succeed. This was one and Carolina was another.

21
by paytonrules (not verified) :: Tue, 11/07/2006 - 4:30pm

As a Bears fan I'm concerned about this team dropping quickly. They should be positioned to contend for a couple more years, and since it usually takes a couple tries to win the Super Bowl that's good, except for two problems:

a) Offensive Line - aging fast.
b) If Grossman is a turkey who had a hot start...start over.

As the Giants look better and better - well Texans game notwithstanding - I don't see why they couldn't end up with home field throughout the NFC. I think the Bears will be underdogs for two of their next three games. If this year they make progress and get to the NFC championship game I'll be happy but concerned because of that offensive line.

22
by Chocolate Milk (not verified) :: Tue, 11/07/2006 - 4:33pm

#17.

The Bears' blitzes seem poorly designed and are rarely effective.

23
by Fnor (not verified) :: Tue, 11/07/2006 - 4:37pm

TomC is right in that a lot of these players are designed to go the BB. I think he overstates it, as deep routes are usually there to stretch coverage or act as decoy.

I strenuously disagree with his characterization of Grossman as accurate. He has a low completion percentage, even with Berrain's (and occasionally Muhammad's, though very hit or miss) heroics to get to the ball or make a completion.

24
by Charlie (not verified) :: Tue, 11/07/2006 - 4:41pm

"However, he has been very good to excellent in every game but two. In those two games, he has been beyond terrible."

I've gotta take issue with this. Grossman's stats have been excellent in every game but two, but there seems to have been consistent themes throughout - namely his tendencies to take loooong drops, throw off the back foot quite a lot and make poor decisions. He's got away with these poor decisions quite frequently this season however, through a combination some substandard defences and sheer good fortune - witness the dropped interceptions against the Vikings and the Bills, or his throw off the back foot, into double coverage, to Rashied Davis for a TD in the latter game. Grossman just seems, at this moment, to be a gambler with a penchant for long odds. The type of success he's been having was therefore always going to be unsustainable - in the Arizona game, his poor decision-making caught up with him, and he seemed to just wilt under the pressure. Of course, for such a player, games like that one (and this week's if, as I suspect, Ned is accurate) are simply bringing his stats back towards his true level of performance.

(And whilst he's obviously important to the Bears offence, the absence of Berrian for this game doesn't totally explain his poor play in this case, because he's been making mistakes even with Berrian playing.)

25
by Chocolate Milk (not verified) :: Tue, 11/07/2006 - 4:43pm

#23.

Grossman has been very accurate in deep throws to Berrian. TomC He was refuting your claim that they were "desperation heaves", which they were not. 3 throws in particular were absolutely perfect. As well as another that was incomplete due to Berrian not getting two feet down in the endzone.

On the whole, he has obviously not been accurate. That is not because he is incapable of being so.

26
by Dave (not verified) :: Tue, 11/07/2006 - 4:47pm

Very good analysis. As a huge Dolphins fan, I watch every game. I have duely noted Harrington's inconsistency. He does get the ball away quickly, but like you said, it rarely goes downfield. My big problem with him is his inaccuracy. He doesn't put the ball in the receiver's numbers. Nor does he throw it to were the defender can't make a play on it or to where the receiver can catch it and continue to make a play downfield.

As for Jason Taylor, this is just what we have seen from him for some 10 years now. His 100 sacks has solidified him, IMO, as one of the best defensive players in Dolphins history. Hopefully he can have 2-3 more great years and rack up about 20 more sacks so that he can be in the HOF discussion.

27
by sid (not verified) :: Tue, 11/07/2006 - 5:02pm

Another aspect of Turner's play calling, which was particularly noteworthy on Sunday is the overeliance on slants. The Dolphins were jumping the slants everytime. The Bears have had success on those patterns -- Muhamad and Davis particularly throughout the season -- but it was clear what patterns they were running. Also, they've really never been a great screen team, but it seems like if teams are going to keep blitzing and pressuring Grossman, they should try to counter that with some screens.

28
by mactbone (not verified) :: Tue, 11/07/2006 - 5:19pm

Re 24:
Well, DPAR and DVOA account for the defense so his high numbers there must just be luck? I doubt that. He makes mistakes and he'll throw worse balls than other QBs, but let's not say he's Andrew Walters or Aaron Brooks here. He has played exceptionally well, accurate or not, in most of the games. He's an obvious upgrade over the 30 odd QBs that have come through Chicago since Erik Kramer. While that may not mean much to most fans, it's a definite cause for excitement in Chicago. I really think that Grossman's shown us what he has and the coaches need to scale back the offense and rely more on the running game just to give Grossman some relief. He obviously isn't good enough to win games on his own and he just as obviously doesn't understand that, so it's the coaches' job to limit his mistakes.

29
by Benjamin (not verified) :: Tue, 11/07/2006 - 6:03pm

I'm surprised to hear Brian Urlacher referred to as "the teeth of the defense". I was always under the impression that the best way to beat the Bears was to run right at him. He'll kill you in pursuit because of his speed and difficulty in getting a clean block on him, but he doesn't like stepping up in the hole and taking on blockers to create a pile. I would think the reason that most teams don't do this is because of Harris and Scott in the middle. But if you had a team that was strong up the middle (it would have to be very strong) I would think that would be the best running attack especially with Mike Brown out.

30
by Wanker79 (not verified) :: Tue, 11/07/2006 - 6:04pm

I really think that Grossman’s shown us what he has and the coaches need to scale back the offense and rely more on the running game just to give Grossman some relief. He obviously isn’t good enough to win games on his own and he just as obviously doesn’t understand that, so it’s the coaches’ job to limit his mistakes.

If you replaced "Grossman" with "Aaron Brooks (v1.0)" that entire description would still be completely accurate.

31
by Wanker79 (not verified) :: Tue, 11/07/2006 - 6:08pm

Re: 29

I think you're right that if you can get a body on Urlacker, your best bet is to run right at him. But, especially this year with Harris and Scott playing the way they are (like you mentioned), you don't get the opportunity to get a body on Urlacker. So if your choice is to either take on an unblocked Urlacker trying to run up the middle or take it to the outside and hope to get him blocked, the obvious choice is to take it to the outside.

32
by Marko (not verified) :: Tue, 11/07/2006 - 6:56pm

Ian Scott's playing time has been reduced this year - he was out of the lineup for a few games with an injury, and he's been replaced in the starting lineup by Tank Johnson. But Wanker, you're right - teams have been far more successful running off tackle against the Bears this year than they have been running straight up the middle. They have been gashed on quite a few runs where someone has been out of his gap on the outside, which is a definite problem in the Bears' one-gap scheme. And the Bears really do miss Mike Brown in run support.

33
by D (not verified) :: Tue, 11/07/2006 - 7:44pm

I'm a Bears fan and have been calling for Griese since the pre-season and all I can say is that if the Bears have any desire at all to go anywhere in the playoffs they need to begin starting him. I noted as far back as week 4 that Grossman's low interception percentage was unstainable with his low completion percentage and that his go for broke style was going to lead to distarous consequences. He takes way too many dumb chances and (outside of the San Fransisco game) has never looked comfortble throwing to the flats and always preferred to air it out even when he had recievers open short. The Bears' defense is good enough that they don't need the offense to put up 30 points and 350+ yards a game, they just need it to move the chains and not turn the ball over. Griese looked great in garbage time against the Bills and has played in low risk-ball control offenses (the type the Bears need) in Denver and Tampa Bay and he at least deserves a chance.

34
by Charlie (not verified) :: Tue, 11/07/2006 - 8:32pm

re: 28

We're not too far apart really; I'm not trying to say that Grossman is as bad as Walter, and I accept that the strength of Chicago's defence means that they won't need All Pro quarterbacking to win most games. In fact, I think we're pretty much in agreement when you say:

"He obviously isn’t good enough to win games on his own and he just as obviously doesn’t understand that, so it’s the coaches’ job to limit his mistakes."

I mean, this is absolutely true, and it isn't a hallmark of a quarterback who has frequently played at an "exceptional" or "very good" level. He's taking undue risks when he doesn't need to, which is a consequence of poor decision making. His DVOA and DPAR doesn't necessarily reflect that, because it can't account for dropped interceptions or make value judgements about squeezing the ball into double coverage off the backfoot. If Grossman completes that type of pass for a first down, it gives him credit - but that doesn't always mean that the pass was a good idea in the first place.

I think Grossman has talent, but what Chicago needs is a real disciplinarian to teach him more control and sharpen up his decision making on those short and intermediate routes.

35
by Diane (not verified) :: Tue, 11/07/2006 - 9:24pm

Wonderful article. The kind of stuff I love about FO.

Its a little like having Ron Jaworski watching the game with you.

36
by Fnor (not verified) :: Tue, 11/07/2006 - 9:48pm

#34: Perhaps. Tough discipline on him might help, but I doubt it. Even if it would, I doubt Chicago's staff would give it to him, considering the blind faith and stubborness they've shown with other high-pick talent.

37
by TomC (not verified) :: Tue, 11/07/2006 - 10:45pm

#25 made my point for me. Thanks.

I just went through the NFL.com play-by-plays and my very unscientific count is 4-8 with 3 TDs on 40+-yard throws to Berrian. (I had to do some creative interpretation and memory work on the incompletes --- they classify most any pass that travels over 15 yards in the air as "deep.")

38
by TomC (not verified) :: Tue, 11/07/2006 - 11:30pm

#30 - Is he Bledsoe or is he Brooks? Make up yer damn mind!

39
by James, London (not verified) :: Wed, 11/08/2006 - 10:01am

Really good AGS Ned. Thanks.

Assuming Miami wind with a high (Top 10) pick, are the better off going with a QB, or OL? If you knew for certain Culpepper was finished, the choice would be easier, but it looks as though he won't play again this year, and that leaves Miami with a difficult choice.
The front 7 might hold up for one more year so do you take a chance on Culpepper returning to form & fitness and draft a O-lineman, or is it time to write Culpepper off and start again?

40
by Charlie (not verified) :: Wed, 11/08/2006 - 11:24am

I think Miami have to give Culpepper another shot, primarily because they have so many other holes to fill - whilst they can probably get away with not finding a replacement for Taylor for another year, they can't really do the same for Zach Thomas, and they obviously need a starting OT, a number one corner and maybe an OLB as well (and that's presuming Jason Allen helps them sort out their safety situation soon). I think they were quite near to the cap this year too, so I don't know how much room they have for free agent signings in the offseason (which would obviously impact on their draft strategy).

41
by Andy (not verified) :: Wed, 11/08/2006 - 1:22pm

#40:

Miami will be $20mil under the cap for next year.

You can't give up on Culpepper after 4 games. His cap number is huge and we invested a second rounder in him. No way Miami drafts a QB early on...this year, at least.

Miami needs for 2007, in order of need:
1. Left Tackle
2. Guard
3. #1 WR (Chambers is an excellent #2 guy)
4. Cornerback
5. OLB

42
by James, London (not verified) :: Wed, 11/08/2006 - 2:20pm

Point taken on Culpepper, particularly as at this point he's still a mystery. Given that Harrington isn't the answer, it strikes me as worth giving Cleo Lemon serious playing time. That way you get an opportunity to evaluate him; I heard him rated highly, but the only way to find out is to play him.

43
by Jumpin Jahosofat (not verified) :: Wed, 11/08/2006 - 3:44pm

Miami's realistic needs for 2007:
1. Offensive line
2. wide receivers
3. QB
4. Cornerbacks
5. Safeties
6. Tightends
7. another RB
8. easy schedule

44
by Wanker79 (not verified) :: Wed, 11/08/2006 - 4:57pm

Re: 38

When did I compare him to Bledsoe? I made a comment that the comparison of Moss:Culpepper::Berrian:Grossman was an interesting one, but that was just commenting on someone else's thought. And I only compared him to Brooks because earlier in the post I was responding to mactbone made the statement that "He makes mistakes and he’ll throw worse balls than other QBs, but let’s not say he’s Andrew Walters or Aaron Brooks here." I was merely pointing out that his description of what Chicago needs to do to protect Grossman from himself was the exact same plan NO should have taken to protect Brooks from himself.

45
by Brett Favre (not verified) :: Wed, 11/08/2006 - 6:19pm

re #33

You're crazy

46
by Mohawk Matt (not verified) :: Wed, 11/08/2006 - 10:15pm

The Bears had six turnovers in each of the Miami and Arizona games, with Rex contributing to nine of the twelve. This gives me great cause for concern when it comes to the playoffs, home field advantage or not. If Rex doesn't figure out how to keep the ball under control, I will be one unhappy(to say the least) Chicago fan.

47
by mad greek (not verified) :: Thu, 11/09/2006 - 6:36am

Ive watched all bear games. Rex doesnt get gunshy after getting hit, in fact the opposite seems to be true. He gets overexcied and starts makin throws downfield he shouldn't. Hes a very confident player and plays that way, unfortunately sometimes he must humble himself. gotta love dem bears tho!

48
by TomC (not verified) :: Thu, 11/09/2006 - 5:08pm

re: #44 - When did I compare him to Bledsoe?

Week 6 DVOA Rankings, comment #228. (Sorry, I have a long memory.)