Chicago Sun-Times

Building the Bears: Looking at some personnel issues

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SAN FRANCISCO--I covered some of the personnel issues facing the Bears this morning in the print and online edition of the paper, specifically looking at the help that has been brought in via the draft over the last five years.

The Bears are one of only 10 franchises to not draft a Pro Bowl position player since 2005.

That list:

Kansas City
St. Louis

Only three of those teams--Cincinnati, Pittsburgh and Arizona--have records above .500 at this point, although I am not sure if there is a direct parallel. After all, the Steelers have won two of the last four Super Bowls, and they've done so with a bevy of talent on both sides of the ball. Certainly some of the other teams on this list have become perennial losers--the Chiefs, Raiders, Redskins, Lions and Rams all have serious roster issues. The Bears, I think it's fair to say, fall somewhere in between.

The interesting thing is general manager Jerry Angelo could add a Pro Bowl player to his list over the last five years this season. Cedric Benson could make the AFC Pro Bowl team if his second half in Cincinnati mirrors the first half. Let's look at the starters from the last five drafts and significant contributors:


Starters: None.

Significant contributors: None


Starters: WR Devin Hester, FS Danieal Manning

Significant contributors: DE Mark Anderson


Starters: TE Greg Olsen, LG Josh Beekman

Significant contributors: S Kevin Payne


Starters: RT Chris Williams, RB Matt Forte, WR Earl Bennett, DT Marcus Harrison, CB Zack Bowman

Significant contributors: TE Kellen Davis


Starters: SS Al Afalava

Significant contributors: WR Johnny Knox

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Brad: Nice piece on the drafting of Angelo and player contributions to date. We can see that none of the players on this list has Superstar potential presently. Forte, Knox, Olsen and Bennett have been solid but are still proving themselves week to week. If any of these players step up their output the drafts will look good in a few years, right now the jury is still out on them. The defensive players are the big area of concern to me; Manning just now starting to make plays at Free safety, needs to back off the "I tackle High syndrome that Tillman has" to be a better performer on the field. Anderson--1 hit wonder, don't see him back next season, Harrison and Bowman-the future we need to see some progress this season to make these picks good one's to build around for the defense, Afalava- starting but not doing much outside of run support, still willing to give him a chance to develop into a hitter. Dj Moore, Gilbert and Louis will determine if this draft become salvagable or trash like the 2005 draft, which is performing for everyone else around the league right now, Benson-Bengals, Orton-Broncos.
BEARS have yoing players, but none of them seem to have star potential at this point, and when you evaluate talent, you look at not only can they be put on the field, but can they become stars. Lovie and Angelo have found players they can put on the field, but have found nor developed any stars, this is the dilemma that we now face as a team. In the NFL you win with stars, and right now we have none......

Didn't Hester make the pro bowl?

On average what did the good teams do? Like Indy, NE, that would be interesting to see for comparison purposes...

Interesting observations, Brad. The number of contributing picks seems pretty good in spite of there being no 2005 pro-bowler. The picks also seem to get chronologically better, so maybe the scouting information has improved significantly.Let's hope some of those picks make a difference tonight.

Brad, thank you so much for your insightful and accurate articles today, they are so refreshing to read.

You've seen my emails to you and read my posts on your blog, I've been calling Angelo out for years as being a huge fraud. I've called Lake Forest out on their propaganda as well "we're a team that builds through the draft", "we come off the bus running the football", "bear weather", all that is rhetoric. It's one thing to say something, it's a totally different thing to do it.

This team is a disaster and the writing has been on the wall for years (to any critical fan). Yes, Lovie should be feeling the heat here, but the true culprit is Angelo. 9 years on the job and he's still yet to build a complete roster, and he has job security through 2013? What an absolute joke.

Cheers & keep up the great work!

dan in wicker park

Great Job as always.......Angelo was the cheapest solution when the McCheapies finally caved and decided to hire a real NFL staff.

Nothing will change until the team is sold, because unlike the Blackhawks, there is no Rockwell Wirtz waiting to take will be Michael, who was fired by Virgina.

Welcome to nowhere Bears fans

Lets look at some of the Bears draft picks in the last 7 years who are starters.. M. Columbo, B Berrian, J Gage, C Benson, M Gandy, K Orton, C Weigman, M Bradley, I cant remember his name but the secondary player on the Patriots. We also let go of C Harris, T Jones,
I know there are more. What this tells me is Lovie Smith cannot develop players or J. Angelo is not drafting the types of players that fit Lovies schemes.
Without draft picks in the first two rounds the Bears are in trouble.
This mess starts at the top and like you know what it flows downhill from there.
This is a MUST win tonight for this team to regain any respect from their fans.


Ugh... Devin Hester went to the Pro Bowl in 2006 and 2007 but I guess he wasn't a "position player".

Angelo has been basically rebuilding the team since 2006, the year Chicago went to the Super Bowl. Especially the offense. Devin Hester was a great pick. Hester went on to become one of the greatest return men in NFL history, and has developed into a pretty good receiver for Chicago. Hester is on pace for his first 1000 yard season as a receiver, and this is only his second full season as a starter. Whats more impressive than that is the fact this is only Hester's 3rd season in the league as a receiver. If Hester continues to come on, by next season he could be one of the leagues better receivers. As for Danieal Manning, he isn't great, but he isn't bad either. The coaching staff should have kept Manning at free safety instead of moving him around so much. Manning's a solid player who could get better.

During the 2007 and 2008 drafts, Angelo has brought in some players that could be major contributors for a long time in the windy city. I still think Matt Forte is a good running back who is just having a bad season, maybe playing banged up. A lot of backs hit a wall after carrying the ball 600 plus times after 2 seasons, I still think Forte is a good back. Both tackle Chris Williams and guard/center Josh Beekman are only gonna get batter. Their both young and should be around for awhile. Receivers Earl Bennett and Johnny Knox are also solid receivers who could get better. Greg Olsen is a good tight end, he could improve as a blocker but he's a good tight end overall, the position hasn't been a problem area since Olsen has been here.

I like Jerry Angelo as a GM, he's brought in some good players for this team. On defense Angelo drafted 4 time Pro Bowler Lance Briggs and 3 times Pro Bowler Tommie Harris, also cornerback Charles Tillman. All three players were major contributors to Chicago's Super Bowl season. Also Alex Brown, not a Pro Bowler, but a very good player, another Angelo player. On offense, personnel wise, this team is headed in the right direction thanks to Angelo. The Jay Cutler trade has given this team one of the leagues better quarterbacks, Matt Forte is a solid runner who is probably playing hurt, Hester at receiver has been really coming on, Knox and Bennett will only continue to get better. Tight end Greg Olsen is one of the leagues better pass catching tight ends, also Kellen Davis will be a major contributor soon. On the line Chris Williams, Josh Beekman, and in a year here rookie guard Lance Louis should all be major contributors for the Bears up front. As for Benson, Angelo did draft him, but Angelo also drafted a quarterback for the Denver Broncos in Kyle Orton, a tackle for the Dallas Cowboys in Marc Colombo, and a starting wide receiver for the Titans in Justin Gage. All three players are starters for other NFL teams. When Angelo got them out of Chicago he actually improved at each position. Jay Cutler for Kyle Orton, major improvement, Chris Williams for Colombo, Colombo is not a left tackle, Chris Williams soon will be, this is an improvment. Devin Hester for Gage, Devin Hester is only getting better by the game and is really coming on, he was a major upgrade over Gage. Matt Forte for Benson, Forte will prove to be a better runner than Benson. Benson didn't really come on till his 5th season, so he only had one really good season out of 5. Forte came on as a rookie. Forte will prove to be a better back down the road, Forte might be a heck of a back in his 5th season and is starting unlike Benson in his second season. Also, Forte is a lot more mature than Benson and doesn't bring the off the field problems Benson did. Forte was an improvement. Bottom line, Bears GM Jerry Angelo has brought in talent over the years with his drafts and trades, he's a good GM. Go down the line on Chicago's roster, there are a bunch of players from Cutler to Briggs to Hester to even Olsen who I bet a bunch of NFL GM's wish they had on their roster. Before Angelo this team had no talent other than Urlacher and Mike Brown, and had no talent for a long time before Angelo. I think he's a good GM GO BEARS!!

Hunter Hillenmeyer said that they are allowing too many big plays on defense to win. If you must continuously play error free football, then it means you don't have the horses to make big plays and turn the game around. Outside of Lance Briggs, who is there that can do that now on defense, game after game? Blame Angelo for that as Brad's stats above demonstrate. If Lovie is a big part of the draft (I think he said he wanted Angelo to draft Benson), then keep him out of the draft room. Let's hope that Tommie Harris delivers on his promise tonite.

That's almost 1/3 of the league that has not drafted a Pro Bowler over the last 5 years. Considering how things are looking this year, Ced might be a Pro Bowler this year, if that means anything. But it is not good to be lumped in with the Lions, Rams, Redskins, Raiders, and Chiefs.

I would be curious to see the last 5 years, and how the scouting department has rated the guys we drafted where we drafted them. Dan Bazuin, Mike Okwo, Garrett Wolfe, Matt Forte, and Henry Melton all spring to mind as players who were drafted ahead of where most thought they would go.

But it should tell you something that only 6 contributors to this team were drafted between 2005-2007. That is shameful, and it should not be any surprise that we are old, breaking down, and falling like a rock on the defensive side of the ball. Let's just look at the defensive end position:

Adewale Ogunleye--has 1 double-digit sack year after getting paid like a Pro Bowler. He has only averaged 5.3 sacks per year in 5 years as a Bear going into this season. We needed a better player on the left side in this defense. His number was worsened by an injury-plagued first year, but still the results are weak at best for a "premier" pass rush specialist, which is what he came to us as.

Alex Brown--No double-digit sack years, and never more than 7 in a season. But he has averaged 5.5 over 7 seasons. Plays hard both ways (run and pass), but just doesn't get it done from a sack and pressure perspective. You take away games against the Giants a few of those years, and his sack numbers are flat out awful. He seems to have a game a year where he goes nuts and gets 2 sacks, and then basically gets 3.5 in the other 15 games....Stunning for a right defensive end. That is why the team started Anderson ahead of him in 2007. They thought they could generate pass rush by using the one-dimensional player, and we all saw how that worked out.

We drafted Baziun, Anderson, Baldwin, and now Melton and Gilbert to see if we can upgrade the defensive end position, and so far, Anderson is the only one who has seen the field. Not much results from multiple draft picks. Anybody remember Claude Harriott? Quinn Dorsey? No surprise there.

You could go through every position on the team and find similar failures to draft well, resulting in poor depth and gameday performance. We seem to focus on special teamers instead of players who can help us in the long term.

Poor drafting is at the root of all of these poor teams.
Cincy got nothing out of the draft for several years, Pittsburgh was drafting at the end of the round every year, Jacksonville kept trying to find a 1st round WR to pair with Leftwich, and Kansas City couldn't stay in a system long enough to develop their young players.

Detroit had Millen (no more explanation necessary), Washington traded away all of their draft picks for other players.

Arizona is probably the closest to us in what plagued them for years. No developmental ability in the coaching staff. Talented players (Thomas Jones, anyone?) that languished in the desert, and then played better elsewhere.

Oakland has an owner who is also the GM, who is obsessed with speed and size, and doesn't care about football smarts (or other smarts for that matter), and can't keep a coach for more than 2 years.

The Rams have been in a downward spiral since losing to the Pats in 2001, and they have hit the bottom. They just had too many primadonnas to gte back up once they hit. Spags has his work cut out for him.

The bottom line is 1/3 of the league is in the "have not" category as far as an organizational mission and ability to meet that mission. Jerry and Lovie are just going through the motions, because they are even-keel. That works great when you have a team that is capable of playing well. When you start to struggle, as we have since losing the Super Bowl in early 2007, you need someone to start a fire somewhere in the organization. They have started cutting draft picks, and they have started to move, but it is too late. They have lost this team, and they will not be able to get it back with this staff in place. Jerry won't go, because he tied himself to Cutler. Lovie, Turner, and Babich are on the chopping block, and the next 8 weeks will determine whether they get chopped, or just trimmed a little bit....

does Devin Hester's Pro-bowl appearance as a kick returner not count?

Brad why only go back to 2005? Some things to note about those other teams drafts is that even if they are not pro blowl players, they did draft very good players. At least some of them did.

If you look at the starters listed for the Bears this year only Hester and Olsen would be starters on most other teams, although on many teams Hester is a 2 or 3. Olsen may not be a starter on a lot of teams but a number two TE.

2006 Manning is not a good player sorry to the Manning fans but he is not. How is Anderson a significant contributer? He hasn't done anything sense loosing his starting job and he was a bad starter. He is probably gone after the season.

2007 Beekman is a backup who is starting and has not improved anything on the line. As for Payne you can take him or leave him, he is a below average safety.

2008 Chris Williams has been bad, Forte has done nothing special, Bennett is average at best but is really a number 4 reciever on most teams. Harrison isn't bad but the Bears scheme is uited to him or his game. Bowman has stunk up the joint. Kellen Davis has done nothing in six games this year and was even sat down for his poor blocking.

2009 Al Afalave??? You can have him, Johnny Knox has made real contributions but has tapered off sense the Pit game.

Bennett and Knox have benifited from Cutler, but Cutler and the recievers numbers don't tell the whole story of the play. Holmes and Hampton pointed out that 3 of Cutler picks where on the recieves, Aikman pointed this out as well, and that two picks where on bad play calls and or execution of that play. Either way in this pass happy offense that lacks balance all four of them have slightly bloated stats. Forte has been helped out by some late runs in blowouts.

The one thing that really stands out is that only two offensive line starters are listed and neither of them has done much and Harrison is the only defensive linemen listed. Both lines suck right?

2005 is a little early to find many pro bowlers as most of those guys are just entering their nfl prime and you will see more of them in the pro bowl this year.

You know their is a chance that the Bears 2004 draft class will have zero players on this team next year as well? Combine that with 05,06,and 07 and you pretty much have blown 4 drafts in a row and I gotta say 08 is not producing anything special the way I see it, but its still to early.

I see why didn't include 2004 though. Vasher and Harris, whats starnge is that those two former Pro Bowl palyers will probably be gone next year, and both have been bad sense they got the money. Although at least Harris has a knee problem.

I think what these statistics might really be saying is that it's hard to make the Pro Bowl when you're playing on a bad team.

Football is such a team sport compared to say, baseball, that it's hard for a position player to really shine when the players around him aren't very good.

Sure there are notable examples. Calvin Johnson is a stud on a terrible team, for instance. But in general, I think the way Pro Bowl players are decided upon makes it difficult to come from a bad team.

Brad - You say "Certainly some of the other teams on this list have become perennial losers--the Chiefs, Raiders, Redskins, Lions and Rams all have serious roster issues. The Bears, I think it's fair to say, fall somewhere in between."

Why, in your opinion, are teams in this position of being perennial losers in the NFL? With the hard salary cap and revenue sharing, it's not like there are small markets vs. big markets. Is it just bad luck, or are they bad at evaluating talent? Is it just that once you get in the rut its that hard to get out of? It seems like some teams are always good (Patriots, Steelers,) some teams are always bad (Lions, Chiefs) and then the rest of the teams have up years and down years (Bears, and most of the rest of the NFL.)

I suspect that the front office of the bears is snickering as usual saying " I cant believe these people really believe this cherade after all these years" I have been one of many fierce bears fans for over 25 years now and I seriously nearly thru-up over the last few weeks (cleveland included)watching this team on the football field. I honestly think it is time we as fans of this team wake up from the great deception and realized this is not OUR team it is the Mc caskeys business period. I know thats harsh but true non the less we as fans spend our hard earned money our energy and time supporting this team and frankly I am tired of the spin that comes out of virtually every media outlet in chicago regarding the Bears so let me shoot you straight for once This organization does not put a superior product on the field because they dont have to! we as there loyal dedicated and knowledgable fans do not hold them to that standard we show up no matter what they do, so we get whatever they put out there and I mean Phillips on down I realize this will probably not get printed but at least someone said it and someone read it!

I Strongly believe the bears front office hasnt been commited to winning for sometime now as I have been one of many fierce bears loyalist for over 25 years now and frankly I am pretty darned sick about it! I feel like a fool for investing all the time and money and energy I put into this team...Aka tired of being PIMPED!! No more being in denial for me about the subject and no more lapping up the spin every sports programming outlet wants to shell out to keep my hopes up, my eyes have been telling the story for years now I just havent wanted to believe it. It is pretty simple really..this organization doesnt need to put a superior product on the field to get an outstanding return in the pocketbook sooo...they dont. I am sure you wont print this as it would require to much spin.

The only thing the Bears can do well is that one scene in "Less Than Zero".....


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This page contains a single entry by Brad Biggs published on November 12, 2009 11:28 AM.

Catching up: Afalava questionable, Payne out & tidbits was the previous entry in this blog.

Report: 49ers to rest wide receiver Isaac Bruce tonight is the next entry in this blog.

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