Chicago Sun-Times

The 10 Bears with the most to lose heading to camp

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I'm packing and heading to Bourbonnais this morning. I'll be Tweeting (still a fairly new concept for someone with such a stone-age mentality) throughout the day (bynhayes). Here's a copy of what ran in today's editions for those of you who missed it:

Most NFL teams have a lot to prove when they report to training camp, but that's especially true about a Bears team that likely will be dismantled if the playoffs remain out of reach for a fourth consecutive season.

General manager Jerry Angelo and coach Lovie Smith already have been given notice: Win or else. But they aren't the only ones with much at stake. For the entire Bears organization -- from ownership to administrators to coaches to players -- the buck stops in 2010.

If the Bears fail to qualify for the playoffs yet again, a reckoning could be coming, and it could lead to sweeping changes. Here are the 10 with the most to lose:

10. Mike Tice

He wanted to be an offensive line coach again. The Bears obliged. Based largely on his assessment of a unit that was a major disappointment last season, the offensive line was not addressed in free agency or the draft. Tice firmly believes he has the talent necessary to field a formidable offensive line. Now all he has to do is prove it.

9. Mark Anderson

The defensive end had 12 sacks as a rookie in 2006 and has 9 1/2 since. This should be his last chance to prove he's not a one-year wonder.

8. Rod Marinelli

Smith trumpeted his arrival as the biggest acquisition of the offseason only for the defensive line to be inconsistent and often lackluster last season. Now he has been elevated to defensive coordinator for the first time in his career. Plus, he's the coach most responsible for motivating Peppers and Harris, who everybody agrees will provide the foundation for the defense. It's time for him to back up Smith's glowing praise.

7. Mike Martz

He spent last year as an TV analyst and would likely have remained one if Smith hadn't offered him this job after an awkward search. He has routinely gushed about Cutler and his young receiving corps this offseason. He claims tight end Greg Olsen will have a prominent role even if that hasn't been the case with tight ends in his offense in the past. Not only will Martz be hugely important to the success of the Bears this season but he has done nothing but raise the stakes since he arrived.

6. Peppers

Fairly or unfairly, a reputation for taking plays off has dogged him. He claims it's not true. He'll have a great opportunity to prove it once and for all because the Bears defense dearly needs their coveted free agent to make a difference and fans and the media will be examining his every move through a microscope.

5. Brian Urlacher

Is he still one of the league's great linebackers or is No. 54 slowing down? After missing 15 games in 2010 with a broken bone in his wrist, the answer will be forthcoming, and could decide whether he remains the face of the franchise or is replaced in visibility and jersey sales by Jay Cutler or Peppers.

4. Tommie Harris

You can't consider someone an elite defensive tackle when he hasn't approached that level for three straight seasons. It almost unrealistic to think that he can be that player again given his injury history. Another average season and the Bears will have to cut their losses. They may look back and wish they had done it sooner.

3. Jay Cutler

The team's franchise quarterback has yet to play like one --- in Chicago, anyway. He'll have to dramatically reduce his league-high 26 interceptions for this team to make a playoff run.

1t. Jerry Angelo

How the many players on the roster who have yet to prove themselves perform will help determine whether Angelo could be part of the solution.

1t. Lovie Smith

If the Bears lose three out of their first four --- which is plausible considering they play the Lions, at the Cowboys, the Packers and at the Giants in the first month, it could get ugly quick for a coach who has lost the confidence of the fan base since leading the Bears to the Super Bowl.

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I would agree with this list, but add in the following players as having a lot on the line:

Pisa Tinoisamoa--If he fails to beat out Roach for the strong side job, he will be out of a job, and likely will not get another one. Injuries have robbed him of some of his speed, and he is not big enough to convert to a thumper this late in the game.

Olin Kreutz--This is the last year of his contract. If he falters in camp or early in the season, the Bears will have no choice but to go to Beekman, closing the door on a new deal to keep him around after this season.

Matt Forte--Injury made him a lot less effective in 2009, but the arrival of Chester Taylor, as well as the stable of young backs now in camp, puts a lot of pressure on Forte to perform above his rookie level. If he doesn't seize the job and hold it, he could be let go after this season.

Devin Hester--this is his third year as a wide receiver. Has an awfully big salary for a guy who is best suited to the slot. If he doesn't make the strides needed to at least be a legit #2 WR, the Bears could be looking for salary relief next season. With a strong crop of return men in the fold already, he is not as valuable on special teams any more either.

Charles Tillman--Not necessarily a lot to lose, but he has already been moved to the opposite side, which means he may be losing a step. he has been beaten up the last 3 years, and could start to break down if he gets another significant injury. Another big salary that could be pared down next year if his play drops off.

Not that I think the Bears would follow through on this, but if the coaching staff and front office are overhauled, there is not going to be any loyalty to the players who are here, so they could all be on the block to go after this year while the team rebuilds.

If the Bears do not make the playoffs, lets hope the new McCaskey cleans house. I have sat as a fan too long watching Angelo pluck players with wild picks 2 rounds before their value because he liked their "athleticism". Mortgage the next years picks for someones pool jumping abilities and hoard average DE's like they are gold.

Win lose or draw, I do not think too many people will miss Jerry, hopefully Lovie is right behind. It is time to get some real management and personnel into this storied franchise and become the Monsters again. This will not be created through stockpiling failed head coaches.

The best of luck to the Bears this year but here is to hoping the front office sees the U-Haul outside real soon.


You know I give you a big thumbs up when it's a good article, but if you were limiting it to 10 guys, then you missed 2 or 3 huge ones.
Where is "windbag" Olin? With his salary, and his below average overall performance the past few years, he needs to step up big time.
Hester: He now has another offensive coordinator to prove that moving him from the greatest returner of ALL TIME to receiver was not such a bad idea.
Forte: For a guy going into his 3rd season, he's had more questions than the Riddler. Is he really healed. He might not have break away speed, but has he regained his speed to where he can go 60-70 yards without being tackled from behind?
And if you wanted to, Neil, Major Wright: Even though he was only the 75th player taken, he was the Bear's first pick and on top of that, a division rival moved up past your team to take Morgan Burnett who some say {including me} is a much better FS prospect. If Burnett ends up starting and performing well and Wright can't find the field except for Special Teams, then the pressure will be on.
Also, I don't necessarily agree with Tice. Even if he is fired here, he will get another turn as an OL coach. He was given no support by management in the offseason and the crop of players he has to work with is average at best.

You are back in the groove on this one, Neil.I do agree with Gearheadboy, though, about adding Olin, Hester and Forte. Even more significant is Wolfe's pending fate. I think he is gone before the season starts.I realize that you just focussed on what you considered the top ten, and I do agree about those. I'm sure we fans already realized that a good many players and coaches were on shaky ground this year, but having you point it out adds a bit of credence.

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This page contains a single entry by Neil Hayes published on July 29, 2010 7:25 AM.

Bears' to-do list for training camp was the previous entry in this blog.

Players mindful of Smith's future, Cutler said is the next entry in this blog.

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