Chicago Sun-Times

Hines Ward defends WR coach: "I know the QB situation (in Chicago) and I don't care who you bring in to catch the ball"

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PITTSBURGH--Because Jerry Angelo is not going to lose sight of the quarterback position, we're going to keep it in focus this offseason and suggest you do the same.

But in evaluating the Bears' passing game, and the struggles over a long period of time, we need to cover all areas. Wide receivers coach Darryl Drake, an original member of Lovie Smith's 2004 staff, has taken some criticism for the lack of production at the position. There is no disputing the Bears have not put up big numbers at the receiver position. Marty Booker was the last to top 1,000 yards, and he did that in 2002. It's been an organizational concern long before Drake arrived too.

Don't blame the position coach, that's what three-time second team All-Pro Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward said.

"Any criticism of him is not fair,'' Ward said. ``Look at the quarterback situation. They don't have a stable quarterback. I know the quarterback situation there and I don't care who you bring in to catch the ball. You could bring in the best receiver in the league. Look at Randy Moss going out to Oakland and what happened there. His stats went down. It wasn't based on Randy, it was based on the quarterback play.''

Bernard Berrian had a breakthrough season in 2007, but 71 catches for 951 yards and five touchdowns were still modest numbers when you looked around the league. Berrian went on to riches in Minnesota, Muhsin Muhammad returned to Carolina and the Bears got very little production from the position this past season beyond small strides made by Devin Hester. At least the rest of the players were there on the cheap.

So, a day after watching ex-Bear Justin Gage catch 10 passes for 135 yards in Tennessee's divisional round playoff loss to Baltimore, we tracked down Ward in the Pittsburgh locker room Sunday night to ask him about Drake and get an outsider's perspective on the Bears' situation. Gage isn't the only former Bears receiver to find success elsewhere. Bobby Wade has found a niche in Minnesota. Mark Bradley had 30 catches for 380 yards and three touchdowns in limited duty in Kansas City after he was cut loose. Is it possible they're applying what they learned at Halas Hall elsewhere?

Drake coached Ward at Georgia when he was a quarterback-turned-receiver, so he's qualified to speak about him as a coach.

"It's unfair for Drake to be criticized because you have to factor in the quarterback play there,'' Ward said. ``If you're not getting quality quarterback play, it's hard for any receiver to put up huge numbers or really go out and do something. That's not to say that Muhsin or Berrian were any less as wideouts, it's just the quarterback situation Chicago had, they didn't know who was going to be quarterback week to week. When you have that, a lot of that is reflected on the wideouts. It's unfair. Drake is a phenomenal coach. He's coached a lot of guys in this league. He was my college coach and the player you see out on the field today has a lot to do with coach Drake.

"He motivated me. I got recruited as a quarterback and I didn't know anything about wideout. I played two years under him and all and all, he taught me the game itself, how to block, how to be a complete player and I owe it all to him. The quarterback has a major factor in what the receivers are going to do.''

What Ward says makes sense. You're not going to bring out the best in a wide receiver if you're not getting strong play from the quarterback. Kyle Orton may get some competition in the form of a free agent but don't look for Angelo to start adding too many pieces around his quarterback until he is convinced he has the right one.

"We have to get that position right,'' Angelo said. "I know that there is going to be a lot of talk about a No. 1 receiver. It starts with the quarterback. It's all about the quarterback. You don't win because of wide receivers. You don't win because of running backs. You win because of the quarterback. We've got to get the quarterback position stabilized. We're fixated on that and I don't want us to lose sight of that.''

After holding court at his locker for more than a half-hour, Ward was ready to leave Heinz Field but added a comment before departing.

``Drake's on my speed dial,'' he said. ``I've probably got a message from him right now. He's a good man and a good coach.''

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21 Comments

I was gonna ask you about Drake Biggs. Some things though that should be pointed out are that Bradley got injured in KC. One of his major problems has been his health. He did have an injury in KC and he started 8 games and had all of 380 yards. Gage nnever developed here, he was developed by the Titans, I was glad to see him have a big game, but he also suffers from injury issues and only put up 680 yards on the season. Moose however was better in Carolina before he got here and after he got here even when he had a QB for an entire season. It would also be fare to point out Berrian and Wade are still dealing with bad QB's on the Vikings.

Brad I like Ward but do you really expect him to rag on Drake, a man who took him under his wing? If he taught Ward how to block maybe he could teach some of our guys how to do that to. Plus Ward doesn't block, Ward seeks and destroys. Drake did have some success with Berrian as well though and it's not like he has been given a lot of talent to work with either. Maybe this year a first round WR is in order, if Mays is off the board. I would say a RDE would be nice but I don't excpect Angelo to find one or Rod to develop one sense niether has had any luck at it and this would not be the first time the two tried it. There a couple of real nice safties and a few nice recievers the Bears would have a shot at.

Now if Angelo brings in Peppers, we don't need to worry about that position, if Mays and Moore are gone Maclin would be a real nice pick for the Bears if Orton wants to prove he is a legit QB Maclin goes a long way in that help. Then again it would be hard to Pass on Hardy or Johnson at DE. I get the feeling DT is also going to be a problem for the Bears next year. If Harris continues to regress and without a true NT next to him the Bears have problems. Raji out of BC would be a nice pick he is a run stuffer but also gets to the QB with 7.5 sacks. On the Other side of the Line Alex Mack or Duke Robinson would be safe picks plus they would be excelent players and are also a need.

I am not a guy to agree with Angelo, but he is right QB is still a question, but this is Chicago and that is nothing new.

Well, for starters, Ward is clearly biased in favor of his old coach. But the coach isn't really the issue either. The issue is the lack of a clear no. 1 receiver. The type of guy that you have to game plan to stop. That makes the whole offense better.

Now, Orton obviously did not play very well (missed a handful of big plays where Hester got behind the defense, plus just generally wasn't as accurate) after he came back from his ankle injury, but he showed some promise in the first half of the season. During that stretch, who was getting the ball? Forte, Olsen, etc. Now, I'm not an expert, but from what I saw this season, it was Olsen who was getting more separation than anyone on the field. He is also maybe the only player physically capable of winning a jump-ball fade in the end zone (they ran that play to him several times).

So, blame Kyle all you want, and he certainly needs to take a big step next year, but he needs some more help, IMHO.

I'm not sure that Drake is a problem either, we have seen receivers simply not perform in a BEARS uniform, Davis numerous dropped passes this season, Wade dropped passes, fumbled punts, Booker dropped balls in 08' Muhammad dropped balls for the BEARS and the Panthers this season, Bradley injuries simply kept him off the field, Terrell-head case, its not only the QB as Ward says it's the guys on the field also, an upgrade here is needed to really see what Kyle can do, I think QB competition would not hurt, but let's be real a few more held balls in critical situations this season and the team may have been in the playoffs, I like Maclin-Creighton, but don't forget about the guy at N.Carolin either Hakeem Nicks or Hayward-Bey Maryland. bottom line is we need someone who can stretch the field and catch the football to improve our offense, and we need a QB because you have to have two guys who can play in this league with the way teams are selling out to get to the passer. Go BEARS

Look at what Drake has done with Hester. There's a guy who hadn't played receiver in college on a consistent basis and he's doing a pretty decent job in the pros. Converted Arena League CB Rashied Davis, used primarily in the slot, was a huge playmaker in '06. So, I guess he's a pretty decent coach.

But I have to disagree with Ward. Yes, a QB is a big part of the offense, but when receivers can get separation and make great catches, the QB looks that much better. Tom Brady's always been fantastic, but with Randy Moss he became legendary. Peyton Manning struggled last year at times due to Reggie Wayne's injuries. If And if the Saints weren't so worried about Hester beating them deep last December, they would have won the game because Hester's speed kept them in a soft coverage.

Otherwise, isn't Ward basically saying that for the Steelers he's as replaceable as they come?

While Orton was off target at times and locked on to receivers, it didn't help that they couldn't get separation, got jammed at the line, or flatout dropped passes. He needs some more weapons this season and a #1 WR would dramatically improve his game.

Easy Hines.

Orton threw one more touchdown and three less interceptions than Roethlisberger this year. When I last checked Orton didn't have a pro bowl receiver on the roster (Ward) or a receiver picked in the first round (Holmes). If the Bears are not happy with Orton, go ahead and cut him. I bet he gets picked up quicker than Leftwich, Vick or Garcia.

Get Orton some receivers in this years draft like Harvin, Maclin, Britt, or Nicks and keep building this team from within. Davies and Booker are done, and if Drake can't see that then he can go too.

Field General

Creighton, I agree with a lot of what you say but one thing I disagree with is your knocking of Marinelli as a D-line coach. I read today that during Marinelli's tenure as D-line coach of the Bucs, they had the most sacks by any D-line in the NFL over that period. I'm not saying he's gonna turn the Bears line into a sack machine, but he's been a really respected guy in that capacity for years and it might be his 1 true skill as a coach.

Peter, I have not knocked Rod I asked a question. As for the Sacks, if you read what I wrote about the players he was given and draft picks he was given you will understand. I never said he didn't have a good line, He had Rice and Sapp, Hovan, McFarland. My point about Rod was he was given a lot of high draft picks and a lot of top talent free agent linmen in his time there. However he never developed a DE in his time there given 3 first round picks to do so and a third round pick plus about 4 other picks. He was given McFarland a top 15 pick who turned out to be ok but Rod never made him anything special. He ws given Hovan and Rice and someone else I am forgetting. My point about him was he may have developed Sapp, but from what I remember he was more of a mentor to Sapp and a guy who kept him focused, which I said is good. But with all the talent he was given that line should have been real good. However outside of Sapp in 10 years in Tampa who else did he develop given all those high draft picks. At one point he had 3 Pro Bowlers on his line, two of them were free agents who had already been to the pro bowl and Sapp was drafted before he got there. So again I ask what has he done to develop talent like everyone says he has? They had to sign Rice because he couldn't develop DE and they had to draft another first round pick for him in McFarland because he struggled to develop anyone they drafted in later rounds for the position and had to keep filling it with free agents, really good free agents. It's not bashing, , I just want to know what he did that was so great in terms of developing talent and who actually has said he is the best line coach. Thats all. I know Sapp and Angelo and Lovie like him but there from the same club so to speak.

Obviously, Hines Ward is going to protect Darryl Drake, but, blaming the lack of production on the QB situation can only go so far as is saying there isn't a #1 WR on the team. The thing which stood out to me was the production former Bears WRs had while playing for a different WR coach and 'not-great' or multiple quarteracks throwing to them. The examples are:

Bobby Wade and Bernard Berrian (Vikings) had Gus Frerotte and Tavaris Jackson, Justin Gage (Titans) had Kerry Collins and Vince Young, and Mark Bradley (Chiefs) had Damon Huard, Brodie Croyle. and Tyler Thigpan. Only Mushin Muhammad (Panthers) had an 'above-average QB (Jake Delhomme) throwing to him the whole season with Muhammad used as a secondary WR with Steve Smth being the 'true' #1 WR on his team.

But, time and time again we watched Darryl Drake coached WRs:

- get jammed off the line and taken out of their routes on 3-step drop passes

- drop catchable balls

- fail to run the right routes and drift out of their patterns

- fail to pick up audibles to change their routes

- use proper footwork

- catch the ball with their hands and not let the ball bounce off their shoulder pads

- come back to the ball when the QB is under pressure

- stay on the their blocks on run plays and screens

- find the open spaces in zone and Cover 2 defenses

- not run routes past the 1st down markers on 3rd down and come up short for 1st down

While, some of the above WR miscues can be blamed on their own abilities, all of these miscues can be 'coached-up' by Drake and be prevented from happening again Though, Bears WRs continued to make the same mistakes over and over again. And, in my opinion, was a 'by-product' of Drake not correcting their mistakes and emphasing the correct way to do things as has been the case since became the Bears WR coach.

However, it seems Drake will get a pass this season as the Bears had a 'makeshift' line, rookie RB, no 'true' #1' WR, and inconsistent play from the QB position.

Although it would be great, I don't think the Bears absolutely must have a traditional number one receiver. Those guys are about a one in ten shot even in the first round and are hard to find. Hester may never be in the Fitz-Randy Moss-Andre Johnson class, but he does cause the defense to game plan for him. I look at him kind of like I did Gault. Gault never caught a ton of balls or touchdowns, but he was such a vertical threat that the defense had to game plan for him. That left a hole. Hester can do that, but they still need a real good 2 guy.

The minimum the Bears must have is a pre-historic Marty Booker type who can run routes, has glue for hands, sneaky speed, good size, and good YAC skills. Put somebody like that with Hester, Olsen, and Forte and the Bears have enough weapons for a good passing game.

Of course, like the man said, we need a QB to throw the ball to them. I hope that is Orton, but my jury is still out on that. He lost his mojo in Green Bay and never really got it back. Those last couple games he looked to have good zip back on his passes. They just weren't zipping to any of his receivers. I don't know if it was him or the receivers causing that.

Hilarious, a wideout defending wideouts. The Bears receiving corps is the most ragtag bunch in the league. The are literally the cast-offs and converts. Orton is the best QB to take a snap in Chicago since Harbaugh without question, but who the hell cares, we'll just draft all defense anyway.

Mike has it right. I really like Hines Ward and would rather have him than any other receiver in the league given everything about him. But he doesn't get it: a quarterback needs good receiver play in order to perform well just as a receiver needs good QB play to do so. Bear receivers are simply not getting adequate separation, even against mediocre and poor pass defenses, which makes Orton's or anyone else's job almost impossible. Even the national announcers on the Monday night game against Green Bay commented on how little separation Bear receivers were getting. Sorry, but the Bears will never have a good passing game if they don't get better play out of both the QB and receiver positions. It's not one or the other.

Why would anyone criticize Darryl Drake? It's not his playbook, and unless he went up to Angelo said something along the lines of "I know we can get Larry Fitzgerald, but that Brandon Lloyd is where it's at", he can't be blamed for the pile of garbage at WR. The Bears might have the worst wide receiver group in the league - there's no one on this team who's even a definite #2 receiver on any good offense. Sure, Moose didn't put up the same numbers here as he did in Carolina, but he wasn't playing across the field from Steve Smith, and Delhomme is better than any QB we've had in a long, long time. Hines Ward is one hundred percent right about Drake. The relative success of Wade, Gage and Bradley (and probably Benson too) is a direct result of their new teams utilizing their unique skills. The fact that a receiving corps of Booker, Lloyd, Hester and Davis even had positive yardage this year might disprove that old saying about not being able to get something out of nothing. Let's get Earl Bennett out on the field, and if Hines Ward likes Drake so much, maybe he should come play in Chicago. Plus let's sign Drake to an extension just because his feelings might be hurt.

The problem is and always will be Lovie. Creating the right strategy for a game (some call it a game plan), ability to call the right play (both on offense and defense), and ability to change or modify the game plan during the game.
The Bears have none of this. Then you compound this problem with hiring your buddies instead of talented coaches. Its the blind, leading the blind....and then you got Angelo that can't draft good players in the first and second round.

Fire angelo.
Fire Lovie.
Fire the Babich
Fire Turner.

These people do not know what they are doing.

The problem is not just Lovie, or just Angelo, or just Turner, or just the lack of talent at WR, or just Daryl Drake, or even the lack of quality in our offensive line. The problem is the perfect storm of all of these things. Lovie calls a conservative game plan...Angelo is gun-shy about taking a WR early enough in the draft to have an impact...Turner has no imagination when it comes to play calling...our OTs are turnstiles when it comes to pass blocking...our wide receivers do not get separation (partly due to the pedestrian routes they are running)....Passes are dropped a lot more often than professionals should drop them...Moose had the dropsies when he was here, so it isn't just this current crop...Instability at the QB position has something to do with that, but they all get paid to do their job. None of the groups listed above are doing their job well enough to create success for this football team.

We need a lot of work, or we will continue to be a "play great defense, hope the offense and special teams make enough plays for us to win" kind of team. As Burgess Meredith said in Grumpy Old Men...."You can wish in one hand, and take a cr@p in the other, and see which one fills up first"

Debunking a myth: Contrary to what several media outlets have been reporting, Angelo never said during his end-of-the-year press conference that the quarterback position is his No. 1 offseason priority.

The Bears general manager simply indicated that while he’s been impressed at times with Kyle Orton, he still needs to see more before anointing Orton the team’s long-term solution at the all-important position.

Angelo indicated that he would like to create competition for Orton and will consider signing a free agent. He also discussed the importance of the position, but again, never said that it was his top offseason priority.
Larry Mayer

I cannot believe they are not fireing babich.whos taking the blame for a horrible year on the defensive side?And as for WR's coach let him be look what he did for hester and berrain gauge and others the bears arent playing? its the defenseive coaching and lovie and turner that r the problem!!!

Hines needs to rein it in... a lot.

I saw a handful of incredible catches this weekend by various receivers that not a single one of our wideouts could make. Olsen and Clark, our tight ends, are about the only players on the Bears who can catch in traffic and hold on. Hester has to be wide open to catch balls and they have to be perfectly thrown (not below the waist and not above the shoulders).

Also, look really hard at the Steelers. That's the team that Lovie thought he had -- a great defense that could always keep the team in the game. Didn't really need great production at the QB position, just enough to win. That's what Orton delivered. In fact, he delivered more. What didn't deliver was Lovie's D -- after all the millions invested in it. From Urlacher, Harris on down, the Bears defense underperformed and underwhelmed in every conceivable facet of the game.

Angelo is blowing smoke about the QB position. He hopes it will keep folks from focusing on the real culprits -- Angelo and Smith. Now that we are hiring a bunch of new position coaches, I'm sure next year's excuse will be something along the lines of "well, when you have all these new coaches you can't really expect your Defense to perform well." Yeah... right. Go tell that to the Miami Dolphins, Baltimore Ravens and Atlanta Falcons.

Our WRs have been dropping passes, running poor routes, and missing blocks for years. That's not the QBs fault. Some coach has to be at fault for letting it go on. Who would it be?

I respect Hines Ward and his opinion, but the jury on Drake is still out for me. He's only been able to develop Berrian out of Berrian, Gage, Wade, and Bradley. And, I know young WRs don't usually have great years their first year, but Bennett barely saw the field. He didn't have a single catch did he? Why is that? He didn't have pro bowlers ahead of him keeping him off the field. And I keep hearing criticism of the wide receivers that they can't get off the line, they drop balls, and they can't get separation. Isn't the WR coach supposed to help teach them how to do those things and get them ready for games? I'm withholding judgement because I don't know what kind of coach he really is. I just know we've only had 1 WR develop into a pretty good one (Berrian) since Drake's been here. Yes, they haven't had consistency at the qb position, but there is a big difference between being a pro bowler and being a productive player. The guys that left got cut, because they weren't productive. We definitely need to get competition at the qb position until Orton can hit more than 1 deep pass for a whole year and stops locking onto receivers. I'd love to see the Bears get Mays. They need a leader and playmaker in the secondary to take the torch from Brown. I'd also be happy with a DE or WR. But, I'd really like to see the Bears upgrade the O-line. We have Forte and we were 21st(?) in rushing last year. We need a stud at G fairly high in the draft to take advantage of Forte.

GSH I agree with you on alot. But we lack so many areas on this football team it isnt real. We need someone fresh to relieve brown that knows how to flatten a man to the ground like he does. We defintely need a pass rusher and a hard hitting Nose takle too. if we all remember in 2006 we got the best pressure with our front four defensive lineman. Having urlacher briggs Roach come up to the line of scrimmage show blitz and then run back in coverage all the time that would get old. The need to get them back off the line so when they need to go into cover pass protection there not out of place all the time. Plus our offensive line needs re worked or retooled because the guys on the line can hardly pass protect the barley can open holes or lanes for forte to run thru and if they keep this up very much longer without upgrading the offense Line there going to derail forte into the ground only so much 1 man can do. Plus in my Oppinion I say we get rid of peterson Wofle Jones and get another back that can bruise opponents and make them pay. Plus kyle Orton is a sore subject to me. Orton doesnt have a deep ball when he does throw the deep ball it is sadly over thrown all the time and being able to throw a deep ball isnt something that is devolped it is either you have or you don't.He needs devolped alot more than what he is getting from the bears and pep hamilton as quarterback coach sounds like he came from a college cheer leading squad or something. Lets say if Orton was released he wouldn't go to another team for a starting postion at quarterback he would be a # 2 or 3 for that matter. Kyle Orton has done alot of good things this year but he isnt the man for the job. It's ok to be a game manager but it seems he is in game manager mode all the time. Now look at grossman even though that a sore subject he could throw the ball deep because he was already devolped he had a arm to do it. But the only reason the Bears are keeping Orton is because right now there isnt really no solution to Quarterback and that is sad it's patheic too. Plus Lovie said a real dumb thing today too he said a team who is 9-7 is in the playoffs and 1 more game closer to the superbowl and he believes we are close too. lets see Philly has a reiable QB and running back decent recievers than us better lineman offensively but were close Lovie is Living in Lovies world he is just going threw the motions to save his job 1 more year. Plus Lovie said he will be calling the defenisve plays on game day then why not release Babich of his title and make him strictly a postions coach with no impact on running a defense because we know he doesnt know how to run one even in his dreams

I think we are close, because we missed the playoffs, because we couldn't win our last game. If Miami, and Atlanta can make one year turnarounds, we should be able to as well. Yes, I know they got new head coaches, but they also just inserted a few key players and it made all the difference. And the Bears are not as bad off as they were. This offseason will be crucial to the current regime. We shall see if they can pull it off.

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This page contains a single entry by Brad Biggs published on January 12, 2009 3:38 PM.

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