As we wait for word to come on the 2009 schedule let's get into another round of Four Down Territory. Here we go.
Q: I do have a question about the job security of Jerry Angelo, Lovie Smith and the coaching staff. Before the Jay Cutler trade, I could sense the leash on Angelo and company was tightening. Certainly the team, especially Lovie's defense, has been in steady decline since the loss in the Super Bowl, including several dubious coaching decisions (Danieal Manning, the end of the Atlanta game, etc.). I would think another year missing the playoffs this year would have put Jerry and Lovie squarely on the hot seat. Does the Cutler trade as the center of the most aggressive offseason in memory buy Angelo more time? Angelo's boldness in actually bringing in talented players seemingly has given him the leeway for another few years at the helm, but with talent finally in place on offense and Lovie taking the reigns on defense, is it time for these coaches to produce another playoff appearance? Hopefully the team will succeed with a truly talented quarterback, but these are the Bears after all. Will there be more pressure on the coaching staff this year, specifically offensive coordinator Ron Turner? Will another mediocre season mean ousting Turner and/or Bob Babich as scapegoats?
Ryan Y., Columbus, Ohio
A: Did the acquisition of Cutler buy Angelo more time? Angelo agreed to an extension following the team's appearance in Super Bowl XLI through 2013. I don't think he is going to be buying himself more time. Let's keep in mind the franchise we're talking about here--the Bears. The bold move to deal for Cutler was not the kind of move you are accustomed to in these parts. You're also not accustomed to the organization eating the contracts of high-powered employees and paying them to go away. It doesn't happen. Prior to the Cutler deal, I could not envision a scenario in which the Bears would have lost in 2009 and then Angelo would have been on the hot seat. I just didn't see any way the McCaskeys would have paid Angelo to not work for them in 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013.
As far as Smith, he remains under contract through 2011. I doubt the second coach to take the team to a Super Bowl would have walked in front of the firing squad after this season without Cutler. The Bears will be on the hook for more than $9 million to Smith. That doesn't sound like a move they would make, does it? In regards to the assistants, he's shown no hesitation in replacing position coaches. It is our belief that Turner and Babich are both entering the final years of their contracts. Turner will be under pressure to produce with a new quarterback. Babich is effectively the linebackers coach right now with Smith running the defense. If he didn't can his longtime friend after last season, I don't see him releasing Babich moving forward. There is no question the expectation is for the Bears to win in 2009 after two consecutive seasons of missing the postseason. Turner would seem to be under scrutiny now but all things considered he did a much better job with the offense than Smith and Babich did with the defense last season.
Q: I have heard Braylon Edwards' name mentioned in trade talks involving the New York Giants. Rumors have the Giants giving up a first-round pick and a third-round pick for him. Edwards has size and speed plus he is a Pro Bowl player. The Bears need to get Jay Cutler a bona fide target at wideout. They could have a Pro Bowler at quarterback and wide receiver. Would it make sense for the Bears to trade their second-round pick this year and Greg Olsen for Edwards? The Browns traded Kellen Winslow Jr. so they may need a tight end. I think the Bears should outmaneuver the Giants on this one.
Bearstatic, Parts Unknown
A: It might not take that much in the way of draft picks to pry Edwards out of Cleveland. The Giants badly need to replace Plaxico Burress in their offense and Jason Cole of Yahoo! Sports reports that a deal will be done before the draft. The two sides just have to come to terms. Edwards would instantly be better than anything the Bears have at the position but I'm not convinced he would turn into an elite player. I didn't see a lot of Browns games last season on television, but it seemed like every time I did Edwards was dropping some key passes. He led the league with 16 dropped passes according to Stats Inc. The next closest was Dwayne Bowe with 13. The Bears were on Rashied Davis about his slippery hands in 2008. He had seven drops. He's basically had one standout season since being the third pick of the 2005 draft. Your idea for a trade isn't a bad one but I am not sure the Browns would want to go for a tight end as a center piece to the return package. They need to find a wideout and according to Cole were trying to get Steve Smith from the Giants. The Bears have added three starters on offense this offseason--Cutler, left tackle Orlando Pace and left guard Frank Omiyale. Remember, Angelo said originally that he envisioned help coming at wide receiver in the draft.
Q: Even though the Bears signed Josh Bullocks to bolster the safety position most experts think Jerry Angelo will still select a safety early in the draft, possibly with the 49th pick. Alabama safety Rashad Johnson is mentioned most often as the possible selection. Though he's been very productive at a big-time program, he seems a bit small for a free safety. Do you think a player like Notre Dame's David Bruton, who is bigger (6-2, 219 pounds) and faster (4.40), would be a better selection, and might be available in a later round ?
C. Washington, Kokomo, Ind.
A: There is little doubt that Bruton will be available later on in the draft. He projects right now as a fourth- or fifth-round selection. He's got good size, runs well and has good character but the feedback from scouts I spoke to is that he doesn't play real well in open space and his instincts are not top notch. Johnson is the opposite kind of prospect. You're concerned about his size and a to a lesser degree his speed. But his production is through the roof and on tape he always seems to be in the right spot. Some think Bruton will ultimately be most successful as an in-the-box safety. I'm not sure he fits what the Bears need. Keep an eye on Clemson's Chris Clemons. A source told us today that the Bears recently put in a call to Clemons so they are keeping a close eye on him with less than two weeks to go.
Q: Does Jerry Angelo have any say over who plays in games? The reason I ask is because you have two highly drafted kids on offense in Earl Bennett and Garrett Wolfe who barely get to see the field under Lovie Smith. Of course if they bust, the blame for them falls directly on Angelo. I just feel like you will never know until you see them play on the field, but since they never do get on the field in game-time situations, are they just judged based off their play in practice? Have you ever heard of a general manager forcing coaches to make their high draft picks play more?
Vik C., Chicago
A: That is a slippery slope. The GM is in charge of the roster and shaping those decisions and the coach is in charge of what happens on the field on Sundays. I wouldn't worry about Bennett playing this season. He's going to get every chance and then some to succeed with Cutler. Wolfe's status remains less clear after Kevin Jones was re-signed. Angelo has been clear that it's up to Smith who plays. That can be a very tricky situation of the GM starts sending edicts to the coach. I will say the word is Angelo directed that Marc Colombo get on the field at the end of the 2004 season. That's what sources told me at the time. The Bears wound up releasing Colombo after that year as he wasn't fully recovered from his gruesome knee injury. Their castoff turned into a terrific find in Dallas as ex-Bears wide receivers coach Todd Haley urged Cowboys coach Bill Parcells to sign Colombo.
Thanks for all of the participation. We'll check back with a Q&A on Wednesday but if the forecast is right and we get a break in the weather, we might take a break and go catch a ballgame. So Four Down Territory might be delayed a little Wednesday. As always, thanks for reading.