I've been hanging around WCG for a few months now and while I generally find this to be a great community, there are a few things that have bothered me lately. First among those things is the common complaint that the Bears are lacking in talent.
I've heard it for years, and it always gets me. I'm no shill, and I have serious issues with some of the personnel moves made by the Bears over the years, but to act as if this team doesn't have the talent to compete for a Super Bowl seems odd to me.
Has anyone noticed a common theme over the past few years of players who didn't make the cut in Chicago, for whatever reason, finding more success elsewhere? Cedric Benson, Thomas Jones, Bobby Wade, Justin Gage, Mike Brown, Marc Colombo, Mike Gandy, Brandon McGowen, Chris Harris, John St Clair, Tank Johnson, Mushin Muhammad. For whatever reason, none of these players performed well in Chicago, but had elsewhere (with the exceptions of Jones who blossomed here after being considered a bust in Arizona and Tampa and continued to improve after arriving in NY, and Mike Brown, who was just injury prone)
As we sit here and complain about our suffering in the secondary, Brandon McGowen outperformed our safeties with NE, Chris Harris outperformed our safeties with Carolina, and Mike Brown had the best season of his career for the Chiefs. While we huff and puff over our Truly Offensive Line, Mike Gandy and Marc Columbo helped the Cardinals and the Cowboys, respectively, to the playoffs and John St Clair quietly had a better year than Chris Williams. Chris Harris and Brandon McGowen were liabilities in coverage and Mike Brown was injury prone. But they all had better seasons than our safeties. Gandy and St Clair were garbage and Columbo was injury prone, but they all outperformed our tackles.
Chris Williams is being viewed as having a good season (allowed 8 sacks in 590 passing attempts for .0136 sacks/pass play, good for 48th amongst tackles) while last years Chicago line punching bag, John St Clair allowed 6 sacks in 498 attempts, .0120 S/PP, good for 40th among tackles. For the record, Orlando Pace was criticized a lot this year while giving up only three sacks in 443 pass plays, good for a .0067 S/PP and 16th among tackles. Too bad he couldn't run block.
My point here is that we, as Bears fans, spend an awful lot of time criticizing the players, and Jerry Angelo, for the talent level, only to watch those players succeed elsewhere. This begs the question: Who is really at fault for this pattern of unreached potential?
I would suggest directing the stares at the men behind the curtain: The coaching staff. Perfect examples do exist, mind you. Ron Rivera took the Bears to the '06 Super Bowl with a ferocious defense that ranked 1st in points allowed and 2nd in yards allowed in '05 and 3rd in points allowed and 5th in yards allowed in '06. Rivera was ousted after the Super-Loss, and with Babich coordinating effectively the same group of men, the defense plummeted to 16th in PA and 28th in YA in '07 and 16th and 21st, respectively, in '08. In the three years with Rivera at the helm, Da Bears averaged allowing 16 points and 304 yards per game. And over the three years since Rivera left the Bears have averaged allowing 22 points and 342 yards per game.
Between 2005 and 2006, Rivera's coaching produced 3 All-Pro performances and 8 Pro-Bowl appearances by five different players on the defensive side of the ball. Since his departure, the Bears defense have produced no All-Pro performances and 3 Pro-Bowl appearances, all by Lance Briggs. Most interesting, is that eight of the starters from '05 campaign, and nine of the '06 starters, are still on the roster, including 4 of the 5 Pro-Bowlers.
Decreased production with Rivera's departure plus increased success for players who leave the team leads me to one conclusion: Coaching is the problem.
[All stats and figures calculated using info from www.pro-football-reference.com and hosted.stats.com]