Chicago Sun-Times

Will Brown's departure create leadership void?

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Jay Cutler is the face of the offense. Brian Urlacher is the face of the defense, even if he did miss all of the 2009 season with a wrist injury. Lance Briggs has become the team's best and most consistent player, which is a role Urlacher can win back with a productive 2010 season. Center Olin Kreutz is an unquestioned leader.

Alex Brown was the Bears conscience.

The Bears lost their conscience Thursday.

General Manager Jerry Angelo bought Julius Peppers, the shiniest and most expensive free agent on the lot. Now the first payment has come due in the form of Brown. The veteran defensive end's performance may have declined in recent years like so many other Bears players, but he remained one of the most consistent performers on a defensive that lacked consistency.

He was also one player who faced the media no matter how poorly the team played. He didn't just serve up cliches, either. Brown would tell it like it was, and when he couldn't, he would allow you to read between the lines. There was no better example than after a 41-21 loss to the Cardinals at Soldier Field on Nov. 8. The Cardinals, as you may recall, scored on their first six possessions that day. It was the kind of performance that made you question everything about the Bears as an organization.

"Anybody who doesn't feel bad after that shouldn't be here,'' Brown said afterwards. ''That's horrible. We stunk up the place. It was pretty bad. I don't really know what to do. We've got another game Thursday. I know we keep saying go home and soul search and look at yourself, but I don't know. It might be something more. It might be more than that."

Lovie Smith bragged about his team's leadership late season, which seemed odd given the team's collapse had already occurred. Brown was one of those leaders. He's gone. Adewale Ogunleye was one of those leaders. He's gone, too.

Urlacher is the undeniable leader of the defense. He's back, which everyone swears will make a big impact even if the defense was lousy with Urlacher in 2008 and '09. Is Peppers a leader? Not if criticisms about him taking plays off turn out to be true, he isn't. Is Briggs a leader?

We don't know how this is going to play out. It's too early in the offseason to draw conclusions. The Bears roster is not set. Training camp remains on the distant horizon. But the Bears may have lost more than an aging defensive end when they axed Brown. Sometimes leadership can be overrated. Smith lauding his team for their leadership last season was a perfect example. But one wonders who will serve as the leader of the defensive line now that Brown is no longer around to hold himself --- and everybody else -- accountable.

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16 Comments

Everyone talks about Urlacher as a leader, but I don't think he's showm much leadership the last few years. In fact, he is the one too often out of position, too easily blocked and too slow to make the plays he used to make. He did look good on blitzes a coiple of times but has generally been outplayed by Briggs or whoever else is beside him or subbing for him. The injury aspect, first the back and then the wrist serve as ready excuse, but he has not looked good even when healthy. Let's hope this year he returns to all-pro form, but frankly, I have doubts that he will do so.

Charles Tillman is one to mention when you talk about leaders. Not only is he a leader on the field but he is a leader and a strong person outside of football. Im not to sure if Brian Urlacher is as good of a leader then Tillman.

Charles Tillman will always be under valued untill he leaves the Bears...

"He was also one player who faced the media no matter how poorly the team played. He didn't just serve up cliches, either."

And that's why he's gone. If Brown started saying things like, "I thought we did some good things and we'll go from there" after a blowout loss then he might still have been a Bear this season.

When Mike Brown left they lost their best leader on D. I wouldn't say that facing the media after a loss is that big a deal. It's one way to get yourself on TV. Might as well talk to the media since no one is going to see him making great plays on Sportscenter.

What Mike? These are not teenage games NFL teams play. He not once has ever said anything that has gotten him in trouble with the Bears.

Now move on Mike this was a buisness move. Since no Cap no Cap penelty so.... you see now

Leadership shmeadership. What the Bears need are people that can make plays. Right now they have either 1) mediocre talent or 2) a coach that doesn't know how to put players in a position to be successful. I personally think it's a little of number 1 and a lot of number 2. Fessing up to the media or jawing at your teammates isn't going to make any difference if you don't address those two things.

In regard to Urlacher, he's the leader. Fans are down on him because he was out last year and in fact has not dominated as in years past. But when reporters talk to players, they say he's the guy who communicates with his fellow defensive players and puts them in there place when things are out of whack. This was quite evident when things fell apart so badly in Cinci and against the Cards last year. In those instances it was apparent that without URL the team was grossly dysfunctional. Love or hate Urlacher, he's the glue who holds the D together. The players know it and the management knows it. That's why he's still around. He has his failings -better personal decisions and a better ability to effectively communucate with the media are a few. But if he were the NFL defensive player of the year would any of that matter? The problem that URL knows is that leadership can only do so much in the NFL when talent is the overriding factor. The level of competition is so high that teams will gamble on athleticism over character. A lack of talent will be obvious and exploited by opposing teams. I look forward to seeing URL play next year because of his talent and leadership. Go Bears!

I see your points , Jerry, and actually would be delighted if Urlacher played well enough this year to be defensive player of the year; however, I do not think that is going to happen and still have not seen much leadership from him, especially by example.

While I am no fan of Angelo and Lovie, lets face it a rotation of Anderson and Idonije should be able to produce the same amount of sacks as did Brown. Idonije should be stouter against the run as well, where Brown was undersized, but fought very hard every play. And I don't want to hear about leadership on a team that finished 7-9. What does that mean we could have been 4-12? Is there any difference?

Lou Anderson and Izzy don't have to equal the amount of production from Alex Brown. They have to equal the production of Alex Brown, Anderson and Izzy, remember they produced this year and they have to surpass that production by adding Alex Browns numbers to it. Now that may not seem like much untill you realize Anderson and Izzy where on the field a lot last year. They have to pick up close to 800 snaps, and Anderson already was on the field for 522 snaps, and Izzy 322. Its not even really Brown who they are replacing but Goon, Peppers is replacing Brown at RDE, at least thats what it looks like. You lost two starters and are replacing them with one free agent. Anderson and Izzy where already on the team and producing. So they weakened the depth and one of the end positions while making another stronger. Remember Peppers will not be on the field every snap either.

Timmer thats true their is no cap hit for cutting a player this year. So why is Harris on the team and not Brown. Last I checked he has the larger contract over a longer period of time and has been horrible on defense. Most teams would choose to get rid of the injury prone under performing nut job whos been benched twice and booted fronm a game once in the last two years. A guy who refuses to workout in camp, needs time off all the time because he is 100% healthy, and gives little effort. No they get rid of the current line Captain, who worked hard and did a solid job. Yes thats a smart move.

Alex Brown is one of my favorite Bears; however, are 36 tackles and 6 sacks worth 5 million? No.

Yes, the Bears definitely lost leadership, character, and intangibles like that when they cut Brown. They also lost their second best end. This was a horrible cheapskate move and the team will suffer for it. Leadership might be overrated in some instances, but the mental part of this game at the NFL level is always underrated by media and fans. New England showed that you can build a dynasty with high character players and without superstars. (Of course, you need other things like a good organization, including a front office that recognizes and gets not only good talent, but they type that fits the team's systems, and good coaching that makes the most of the talent it has, puts its players in positions to win, and develops talent it's given.)

And BTW, Neil and other reporters who've been mentioning this: Whether a player talks to the press and what he says to it is totally irrelevant to being a leader or winning. Being a leader is holding yourself and teammates accountable, getting your teammates to play better, etc. I couldn't care less if players talk to you guys. What I care about is that they win games, period.

Players move on, teams adapt to personnel moves every single off-season, the Bears will to. Brown was a good solid player, but it was time to move on, a change was needed at the right defensive end position. Chicago payed a lot to bring in Peppers, the best spot for him would have been on the right side (the QB's blind side most of the time), and this is where Peppers should be most effective for Chicago. Especially in a 4-3 like Chicago runs.

In most 4-3 schemes, your right end is the main pass rusher, that wasn't the case for Chicago. The lack of a consistent pass rush from the right side has killed Chicago over the last couple seasons. I think Chicago knew this, probably a big reason why Mark Anderson got a crack at the right end position after his 12 sack rookie campaign, Chicago thought he could be that guy on the right side...he wasn't. Hopefully Peppers is GO BEARS!!

Izzy and Anderson don't have to take up their AND Brown's stats. That's what Peppers is for. I will wait until after a few games and see results before I interject a negative slant on it. Again. Harris plays Tackle. His back ups and guys he worked along side him are not better than him. His is rounding out and they are just average. Even fully healthy they are just average compared to him getting his knee better. The Bears have been trying to replace Brown for a few years now. They did just that. End of discussion. It was basically a trade of a playmaker to replace an average player. Can't quibble about that. Every single team knew basically that Brown was going to be dropped just like they knew that Peppers was going to be a free agent. The Bears jumped on Peppers day one. Brown will get signed but in all honesty his numbers(excluding tackles and INTs) aren't even better than Goons who played the less than stellar LDE. He is still a free agent. In 2 less years, Goon had almost the same number of sacks. Plus he played in less games due to injuries. He had 10 as a high and Brown had 7. Brown was a blindside rusher and it didn't translate into more sacks for him. He was injured less and still his sack totals are worse than Goon but I don't see fans crying over Goon being gone. See how a better playmaker doesn't get the full benefit from fans here? Was it because he ran off at the mouth a few too many times for such stuck-in-the-mud type fans here? You can't say it's because of Goon's age because even two years older he produced better sacks than Brown. I'm sure the NFL see that. I'm also sure someone is going to mention how Brown faced the best linemen a team had and that's true but even when he faced a rookie or a wet behind the ears player he never dominated. He was shut out by most premier Tackles. Do you honestly think that Peppers will? Brown was a decent player just like Hillenmeyer was last year in place of Urlacher. Does anyone think after HH was decent that we should just drop Urlacher because we'd rather have decent over stellar? I would take all the missed tackles and getting blown up my RBs plays that Urlacher has for what he will bring to the table more times than not. Your play will provide the leadership. Let Brown's career rest in the past.

Leadership void? WHAT leadership? It's just mostly void.

When was Urlacher named The Most Over-rated Player in the NFL by his peers, two, three seasons ago?

My dream is to see a true leader emerge from this swill -- someone who imparts on his teammates they DON'T NEED to do that silly-a$$ shuckin and jivin before a game that NFL Network seems to love. Walk out. Hit someone. Go back to the locker room. A Butkus/O'Bradovivh/Atkins reincarnation.

Hey Dago T, Amen! Brother! Sweet, to the point, and alltoo true.

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This page contains a single entry by Neil Hayes published on April 2, 2010 2:43 PM.

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