We're getting a late start on dipping into our mailbag today. The Jon Hoke hiring and Lovie Smith teleconference tied us up for the majority of the day. Typically, we want to get to the Q&A's a little earlier.
But before we do that, there are a couple links that are worth checking out in regards to the East-West Shrine Game, where Bears general manager Jerry Angelo and the scouting staff are for the week.
This gives a nice primer to set the week up down in Houston.
Here's a practice report that gives props to Jason Williams, the Chicago linebacker who had a fine career at Western Illinois. It's good stuff to get you in a combine and draft frame of mind.
Now to Four Down Territory.
Q: It seems that most every game season, Kyle Orton's QB rating was significantly lower in the second half of the game. I was wondering if you could provide a statistical breakdown. I'd also like to hear your thoughts on the reasoning behind the statistics. Is it a failure by the coaching staff to adjust at the half?
Bill S., Oneida, Ill.
A: Great question, Bill. First, let's get to some numbers I've collected to take a look at this:
1st quarter--116.1 passer rating, 70.5 completion percentage, 6 TD, 0 INT
2nd quarter--76.2 passer rating, 56.3 completion percentage, 5 TD, 3 INT
3rd quarter--66.5 passer rating, 52.7 completion percentage, 5 TD, 5 INT
4th quarter--65.7 passer rating, 57.1 completion percentage, 2 TD, 4 INT
There is no question that Orton did not perform as well in the second halves of games as he did in the first halves. What's interesting is that the Bears scored 109 points in the first quarter in 2008, a franchise record that was second in the league behind only Atlanta (114). The previous club record was 91 in 1984. Whatever gameplan coordinator Ron Turner had from the get-go usually worked.
Why and how Orton was less successful as the game went on, I'd imagine Turner and his staff are trying to figure that out this offseason. Certainly adjustments are involved. The defense makes a move to counter what is working for you and you have to react off of that. It could also be a sign of the lack of weapons Orton had at his disposal. When an opponent can stop the one or two things that are working for you, where do you turn then? I'm not sure Orton had valid third and fourth options.
It's interesting to note that Orton did post terrific numbers in the final two minutes of each half. In those settings, he was 34-for-56 for 340 yards with a 101.8 rating. He threw four touchdowns. So, whatever they tried just before halftime or late in a game generally worked.
To me, the bigger concern though is the difference between pre-ankle injury and post-ankle injury. His numbers were dramatically different after his right ankle was injured Nov. 2 vs. Detroit and although never 100 percent before the season ended, he just didn't recapture the success he had early in the year.
Passer rating by month
Q: Jerry Angelo stated you do not win games with your wide receivers, but if you look at Arizona you clearly do. The Bears receivers strike fear in no one. What is the chance that the team trades a player/draft pick for a seasoned veteran receiver and if not do you think the Bears will pursue T.J. Houshmandzadeh in the free-agent market? I believe Devin Hester will thrive with a consistent veteran opposite him in the lineup. Also, why is wide receivers coach Darryl Drake still at Halas Hall?
Tom K., Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.
A: Tom, I see your point and I very much agree that Hester would benefit from a more experienced, reliable target across from him, the kind of player that would command attention from the defense. But let's take a look at what made the Arizona Cardinals click. They had three 1,000-yard receivers this season because they got a terrific season from quarterback Kurt Warner, one that made him a serious MVP candidate. Take him away from that lineup, insert former first-round draft pick Matt Leinart and you would have had a much different season in the Valley of the Sun.
The reason the Cardinals have made an unexpected run to the NFC Championship Game is because they've finally struck a balance on offense. Play caller Todd Haley, the former Bears' wide receivers coach, has committed to a ground game with Edgerrin James and Tim Hightower and the Cardinals have evened out their play calling, which was the most pass-happy in the league this season. They've also started playing much better defense at just the right time.
As far as Houshmandzadeh, it's too early to rule anything out. But Houshmandzadeh is a veteran possession receiver and the last time the Bears made a big move in free agency to bring one of those guys in, well, it didn't work out quite as planned. It's a thin free-agent class and someone will no doubt overpay for his services.
As far as Drake goes, we talked to Hines Ward in Pittsburgh about Drake and he put together compelling support for the position coach which he based on the quarterback play the Bears have been through. It's not like Drake has been outfitted with top draft picks or given a big free agent with the exception of Muhsin Muhammad. That's not to say the production level of the position has been acceptable, but Drake is well liked by his players and some he has coached have gone on to success elsewhere.
Q: I thought the purpose of the Assistant Head Coach title was to prevent position coaches that were in line for coordinator positions from leaving. Why would the Bears call Rod Marinelli an Assistant Head Coach? He doesn't want to be a coordinator. Is it because the Bears don't have a position coach in line to be a coordinator, or because Bob Babich and Ron Turner won't be going anywhere?
A: Marinelli held the title of assistant head coach and defensive line coach for the final four of his 10 years with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. It's one way to give an assistant a little more juice and a little more pay, and Lovie Smith said today that Marinelli would be assisting him in some of the duties of the head coach. It strikes me as a way to justify a bigger contract and pay respect to his previous experience. Giving Marinelli the title doesn't have anything to do with Babich, Turner or another assistant, and such a title isn't going to be used by Smith to block someone from interviewing for a coordinator job. Smith has been very forthright in saying he believes in doing what he can to promote his assistants who have opportunities for advancement elsewhere.
Q: Why didn't the Bears draft Joe Flacco last year? It would have solved a lot of problems.
Fan 55, Parts Unknown
A: The Bears are not the only franchise that question applies to, are they? Just think, Kansas City had two chances to nab Flacco holding the fifth and 15th picks and he went 18th overall to Baltimore. It's interesting because I exchanged a series of e-mails with Flacco's agent Joe Linta about his client last year. I wrote that Flacco would be a third-round pick and Linta challenged that he would be a first-round pick. Well, Linta was on the money.
Drafting quarterbacks is a tricky business and Flacco wasn't the easiest player to project because he played at I-AA Delaware after transferring from Pittsburgh. He's displayed tons of moxie, is more athletic than anyone thought he would be and has a great arm. It just goes to show you how tricky this evaluation business. I remember talking to a quarterbacks coach from another team the day QB's worked out at the combine. He walked out of the RCA Dome talking about hos awful the passers had been and said he didn't like anything about Flacco. See what I mean?
The Bears felt they had to get a left tackle for the future to be a building block for the future of the offense. The jury remains out on Chris Williams and whether or not he can fill that role.
Thanks for the questions. Start shooting them in on the blog right here and we'll get back to four more on Wednesday. As always, thanks for reading.