1. Q: Olin Kreutz has been a solid starter for 12 years and been a part of the team for 13. Has any Chicago Bear player ever held one position on the offensive line for as long as Kreutz? Also who are the players that have if any?
A: George Trafton and Keith Van Horne played center and tackle, respectively, for 13 years each. George Trafton played center for 12 seasons while Stan Jones and George Musso logged 12 seasons while moving back and forth between tackle and guard. Mark Bortz played guard and Jay Hilgenberg center for 11 years, too. Hopefully, I didn't leave out anybody.
2. Q: I remember reading in an article a few weeks back (I can't remember where), that when [offensive line coach Mike] Tice was hired, he told Bears coaches that if they were going to run a pass-heavy scheme, he wasn't their guy. Of course, they hired [offensive coordinator Mike] Martz, who went pass-crazy for most of the first seven games. The offensive line, particularly pass protection, is obviously the team's weakest link and will almost certainly prevent a worthy defense and special teams from winning the Super Bowl. My questions is this: is there any chance the Bears bring in any additional offensive line coaching assistants next year, a la Anthony Munoz or some such expert, to assist in pass protection coaching? I don't think I've ever seen worse pass protection in 23 years of watching football. --- Shane
A: It's too early to discuss the staff for next year. If the Bears lose their final three games, for example, it may impact decisions about who returns. That said, I expect Mike Tice to be back and I don't anticipate the Bears hiring any other coaches to work under him. In my opinion, the problems the Bears have had up front have been more of a talent issue than a coaching problem. The Bears might be in danger of losing Tice if the offensive line was more productive. As it stands, however, I expect him to come back and continue to develop the players he has while working with new additions. Talk to people around the league and they rave about Tice. As bad as the offensive line has been this year, imagine where it would be without him.
3. Q: The Bears have spent the whole season rotating players on and off the field. Obviously this is planned when it comes to the d-line, d-backfield, and o-backfield, while the o-line has only been solidified over the past 5 weeks. Do you see a connection between this regular rotation of players and the Bears' lack of injuries? I don't know any other team that does this as often as the Bears do and they seem to be the healthiest team in the league (fingers crossed). --- Nick
A: I don't see a connection. Defensive linemen are almost always rotated. It's especially true in a cover-2 scheme that relies more on quickness. Those guys need a blow so they can continue to use their speed to their advantage. As for the rotation in the secondary, that's more a product of coaches wanting to develop rookie safety Major Wright. In the backfield, the Bears are trying to recreate the one-two punch they had in 2006 when Thomas Jones and Cedric Benson helped the Bears to the Super Bowl. Most teams rotate players the way the Bears do at those positions. Don't read too much into it in terms of injuries. The Bears have been lucky that way. I don't know if there's any other way to explain it.
4. Q: Haven't heard much about the bears scouts this year. Who are they and what type of credentials do they have? Being without first-and second-round picks last year, how much emphasis/pressure do you think will be on those guys to recognize some top notch talent? --- Dee
A: There have been no real changes to the scouting staff. The primary change was former Seahawks general manager Tim Ruskell replacing both college scouting director Greg Gabriel and pro personnel director Bobby DePaul. All that said, and given the team's draft failures under general manager Jerry Angelo, there should be immense pressure on Angelo, Ruskell and the scouting staff heading into this year's draft. This team's ability to remain a division-championship contender moving forward depends on an infusion of young talent.
5. Q: Playing Monday's game in the land of Harry Potter colors (maroon and gold), which team do you think would be a better cold weather team, the Slytherins or the Gryffindors? --- Seedy Backslash.
A: Great question. I would've said the Bears until they played Sunday's game against the Patriots as if they had rather been under an electric blanket. Obviously, the Vikings are a dome team. You would like to think the Bears would have the advantage in temperatures that are expected to be as low as minus-18. We'll have to wait and see if that's the case.
6. Q: Also, what in the heck has happened to Greg Olsen in the Bears offense? Please, don't give me any lame excuses about Martz' offensive scheme. Olsen is the receiver that gives opposing defenses the most challenging match up, but we rarely seem to take advantage of Olsen's skills, speed, size, etc. Does Olsen, once Cutler's best friend, feel jilted by the Cutler-Martz marriage alluded to in today's paper? --- Seedy Backslash
A: Based on my conversations with Olsen, he's pleased to be Cutler's go-to guy in red zone situations. He may be the team's fifth leading receiver, but he's got five touchdowns, which is two more than any other pass-catcher. He's also made some key third-down catches this season. Olsen may not be putting up prolific numbers but he remains a key cog in the offense.
7. Q: I was glad to see Patrick Mannelly received an award this week as the man is due some props. His receiving of the award made me think...Has Mannelly ever had even a single errant snap in his career with the Bears? I honestly can't remember even one bad snap, not even a slightly low one on a field goal.
A: I can't honestly remember one bad snap, either. But he has had some. Not many, but he has had some during his career, according to special teams coach Dave Toab. Of course, what makes Mannelly so good is that what he considers a bad snap doesn't sail over the punter's head but is not right at the punter's hip. That's how much emphasis he puts on putting a snap in the exact spot.
8. Q: Chester Taylor seems somewhat like the forgotten man. What happened to the concept that he and Forte' would share the load? I do see that they use him for short-yardage situations, but using him more often on screens or short yardage, third-down plays would make a bit of sense. Of course, if they only put him in on third and shorts, the opposition can key on him and stuff the run, but even then, he'd be harder to stop up the middle than Forte. --- Paul Manter
A: I agree that the Bears haven't found enough way to take advantage of Taylor's abilities. Part of the reason might be that Martz to split out Forte to match him up with safeties in the passing game early in the season and had great success with it. It seemed as if they were trying to get him the ball more against Detroit so Forte could get a break, but that didn't work out, either. As of now, we're still waiting for Taylor's total presence to be felt. Hopefully for the Bears, he'll break out and help win a big game, perhaps even in the playoffs.
9. Q: It appears that the Bears and the Vikings will be playing their game at the University of Minnesota's football stadium. Obviously, this will present a few challenges and several issues will need to be addresses before the Vikings get the field ready for Monday. The biggest question that I have in regards to this is will the Vikings be able to get the speakers that they use in the Metrodome to artificially pump up the crowd noise installed and working at the game's new location? --- Jon S.
A: According to my sources, the Vikings are working night and day to bring the speakers to the new site. If they are unable, they are training dogs in the neighborhood surrounding TCF Bank Stadium to howl on cue when the Bears have the ball. Obviously, I'm kidding. But the new site will offer more than the same old challenges of playing in the Metrodome. Oftentimes, NFL games are played in sterile environments, especially in places like the Metrodome. I'm looking forward to the new venue. It will be different, if nothing else.