Chicago Sun-Times

Giant leap still leaves Eli & Co. small step ahead of Bears

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The playoffs define everything in the NFL, as they should. And the Giants, head coach Tom Coughlin and quarterback Eli Manning are getting their due credit after upsetting the Packers at Lambeau Field on Sunday.

But let's not forget how fine the line is between success and failure in the postseason. The Packers barely made it into the postseason last year before winning the Super Bowl. The Giants only made it this season by winning a crappy division on the final day of the season.

There's no doubt the Giants have accomplished more in Tom Coughlin's eight seasons than the Bears have in Lovie Smith's eight seasons. The Giants have been to the playoffs five times. They won their Super Bowl and beat one of the best teams in NFL history to do it. The Bears have been to the playoffs three times. They lost their Super Bowl.

But this isn't the season that illustrates how much more competent the Giants are than the Bears. The biggest difference between the Bears and Giants in 2011 is that the Giants kept their quarterback healthy.

When Jay Cutler suffered a season-ending broken thumb against the Chargers on Nov. 20, the Bears were 7-3 with a five-game winning streak and legitimate contenders in the NFC. Their defense was 14th in the NFL despite playing eight of their 10 games against teams ranked in the top-10 in the NFL in scoring. Their beleaguered offense had been averaging 26.6 points a game in the winning streak. And the easiest part of their schedule was coming up.

At the same time that Cutler's season was ending, the Giants were 6-4 after losing at home to a Philadelphia Eagles team without Michael Vick that the Bears had beaten on the road with Vick two weeks earlier.

The Bears are maddeningly dysfunctional. They are teetering on the brink of a precipitous fall if Brian Urlacher, Lance Briggs and Julius Peppers suddenly show their age. But their dysfunction played only a small part in their demise this season. The four conference finalists have one thing in common that can't be ignored: Their quarterback hasn't missed a game this season. That seems to make a big difference.

It did for the Bears. And the Giants. And while Tom Coughlin has been a better coach than Lovie Smith and Ernie Accorsi/Jerry Reese have been better talent evaluators than Jerry Angelo, I would argue that the difference between the Bears and Giants in the Lovie-Coughlin era is small enough that one factor has separated the two: the Giants got the quarterback right. The Bears did not.

When Angelo had the No. 4 pick in the 2003 draft, he traded down to take Rex Grossman at No. 22. When Accorsi had the No. 4 pick in the draft in 2004, he traded up to take Eli Manning at No. 1. Without that single move, are the Giants still better than the Bears over the past eight seasons? I severely doubt it.

(And you can't ignore the role of luck, either. If Accorsi hadn't traded up for Manning, he still would have wound up with Philip Rivers or Ben Roethlisberger. Angelo theoretically could have traded up to No. 1 in 2003 and taken Carson Palmer. But had he stayed at No. 4, the best he could have had was Byron Leftwich or Kyle Boller.)

A year ago when the Bears lost to the Packers in the NFC Championship Game it was clear the disparity between the teams was only widening -- and it turned out to be true in 2011. But the current difference between the Bears and Giants is nothing to lament during the offseason. It can turn the other way in an instant.

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6 Comments

Yes, but don't overlook the Bears' own luck getting into the playoffs last season as a mediocre team (I would agree they looked like a legit contender this year before cutler went down, and certainly a better team than they were last year). The Bears won in week 1 against the Lions by a sheer stupid technicality over which they had no control (Megatron's touchdown that wasn't). If the Bears had lost that game, they would have been 10-6, the Giants, at 10-6 as well, would have gotten the wildcard bid instead of the Bears seeing how they crushed the Bears earlier that year. The Bears then drew a 7-9 Seahawks team, which although nothing to scoff at after having beaten the saints, was still the easiest draw the bears could have gotten.
Though, admittedly, the Giants deserved to miss the playoffs after that Eagles game failure. Just sayin' those outside factors go both ways.

Also, although injuries are not within a team's control all the time, Lovie Smith could try lobbying for some better O-line men to protect Cutler better, and his own pocket awareness could be improved to help him avoid getting hit. Both Mannings are excellent in the pocket and know how to get rid of the ball when a play goes sour, despite being unathletic individuals. They both hold nfl records for most consecutive starts, and its not just luck.

Well, if you can grade a franchise on perception, then yes, the Bears look ok. But if you grade them on performance. There is no way you can even judge the Bears and Giants on the same line this decade, and even the last two. The Giants have clearly been the dominant of the two. I would trade 10 NFC Central Division championships for one Superbowl. They have 3. We have one.

I don't count pre Superbowl age NFL Championships anymore.

While UI ama Bear fan I am also a realist and I must say that this piece is the poorest attempt to apologize for the errors Jerry Angelo committed compiling the personnel of the 2011 Bears.

Yes, Cutler injury was bad but the bears problems went far beyond his injury and this is even more glaring when compared to the Giants.

1. The Bears receivers are no where near as good as the Giants receivers. How many Bears receivers had 1,000 yard receiving in the last 5 years and how many times did this happen and how can you ignore this Bear weakness Potash especially after witnessing all of the dropped key passes Roy Williams left on the field in '11?

2. I never saw Eli Manning literally running for his life on virtually every play because the Giants offensive line has been far superior to the bears line for the last 5 years. Compare the sack totals Potash. Hanie only appeared in 6 games and he was sacked 19 times alone.

I wish the differences between the Bears and Giants were just that the bears had the misfortune of injury but that is simply not the case. Teams with poor receivers, poor offensive lines and poor secondaries do not win championships, much less make it to the playoffs with a shot at making a dent into the post season other than the typical 1 and out.

While I am a Bear fan I am also a realist and I must say that this piece is the poorest attempt to apologize for the errors Jerry Angelo committed compiling the personnel of the 2011 Bears.

Yes, Cutler injury was bad but the bears problems went far beyond his injury and this is even more glaring when compared to the Giants.

1. The Bears receivers are no where near as good as the Giants receivers. How many Bears receivers had 1,000 yard receiving in the last 5 years and how many times did this happen and how can you ignore this Bear weakness Potash especially after witnessing all of the dropped key passes Roy Williams left on the field in '11?

2. I never saw Eli Manning literally running for his life on virtually every play because the Giants offensive line has been far superior to the bears line for the last 5 years. Compare the sack totals Potash. Hanie only appeared in 6 games and he was sacked 19 times alone.

I wish the differences between the Bears and Giants were just that the bears had the misfortune of injury but that is simply not the case. Teams with poor receivers, poor offensive lines and poor secondaries do not win championships, much less make it to the playoffs with a shot at making a dent into the post season other than the typical 1 and out.

While I am a Bear fan I am also a realist and I must say that this piece is the poorest attempt to apologize for the errors Jerry Angelo committed compiling the personnel of the 2011 Bears.

Yes, Cutler injury was bad but the bears problems went far beyond his injury and this is even more glaring when compared to the Giants.

1. The Bears receivers are no where near as good as the Giants receivers. How many Bears receivers had 1,000 yard receiving in the last 5 years and how many times did this happen and how can you ignore this Bear weakness Potash especially after witnessing all of the dropped key passes Roy Williams left on the field in '11?

2. I never saw Eli Manning literally running for his life on virtually every play because the Giants offensive line has been far superior to the bears line for the last 5 years. Compare the sack totals Potash. Hanie only appeared in 6 games and he was sacked 19 times alone.

I wish the differences between the Bears and Giants were just that the bears had the misfortune of injury but that is simply not the case. Teams with poor receivers, poor offensive lines and poor secondaries do not win championships, much less make it to the playoffs with a shot at making a dent into the post season other than the typical 1 and out.

How can Eli and Peyton both hold the nfl record for consecutive starts? The record belongs to Favre, and Peytons current streak sits at zero. The Giants have had one of the best lines in football for the last 8 years. Eli has been sacked 27 times in the last two years. The reason is a nice mix run vs. Pass, a simplified offense that at one point was only using 30 plays a game and then you have the fact that he has an actual pocket.

You brought up that Giants game from 2010, did it look to you like we could make a pocket? The crazy protections, all the deeps the Bears run, all the mistakes the line and recievers have made. Do you have any idea how many times you can watch a Bears game and see Jay looking to throw to a spot on the field only to see his reciever in the wrong place.

You don;t think Jay is good in the pocket. He is great at bing time with his feet, he did it in denver all the time. He was doing it here to. The Bears you 7 and 8 man protection and can get smoked by a 5 man rush while doing it. Jay was sacked 11 times in 2008 on 616 attempts behind an average o-line that was over hyped because of what Jay did with his feet. This year with a crazy OC, using a rigid offense that does not allow for audibles, don;t forget that put both Mannings in an offense that does not allow for audibles and let me know how they do. Yeah 7 step drops, deep rout's a crap line wit hcrap recievers and no audibles, I would love to see the Manning boys play in that. Peyton the human statue not being able to aduible while Chris Willaims, J Webb and Lance Louis practice there patented dive at there ankles technique and Hester, Knox, and Bennet and Williams lose yet another game of tag to the DB's. In a five game win streak this year Cutler was sacked 5 times. After he went down, in the six games after he went down they gave up 26. Of all the sacks this year PFF only charged Cutler with one. You have had Chris Snee, Shaun O'Hara, Kareem McKenzie, David Diehl, Seubert, over the last 5-6 years and you want to compare lines. Granted you have had a bad line this year, they have played bad. But after they dropped the play count down to 30 they started playing a lot better. But over the last 5 years don;t compare your line to our line, it's not even close, you have multiple pro bowlers and we have had 1 and he is gone.

You want to know it it's like to play QB in Chicago you tell Eli and Peyton "come down here and chum some of this ####"

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This page contains a single entry by Mark Potash published on January 17, 2012 12:33 PM.

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