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Exclusive Interview with Dan Hampton

The Hall of Fame defensive end had plenty to tell Windy City Gridiron about the state of today's Bears team, and not much of it was nice.

Rick Stewart/Getty Images

This Monday, Dan Hampton joined with Miller Lite as part of their giant throwback jersey promotion. Former Bears Anthony Adams, Alex Brown, and Otis Wilson - along with Dan Hampton - will have their giant autographs featured on this giant jersey, which is destined for a lucky fan:

Miller Lite Giant Jersey

The giant jersey, located at the corner of Clark and Sheffield in Chicago.

Miller Lite Giant Jersey

Anthony Adams signing the jersey from a lift.  Not pictured: large counterweight to keep the lift from tipping over.

This Monday, it was Dan Hampton's turn to sign the jersey, and after he braved the cold and the crane to put up his signature, I met with him at Houndstooth Saloon on Clark Street.  My first question for Hampton was if there is any room for optimism now that the Bears finally ended their three-game skid with a win against the lowly Vikings. As he said, "There's a saying, 'Start where you stand'  You [can] mess up a bunch of stuff, but if you try to start right there and move forward - and be productive - a lot of time people will accept that.  That's what they've got to do, start where they stand.  The season has been a catastrophe: a record setting-debacle on defense, the offense has been abysmal at best throughout most of the season, and it has degenerated the franchise to a laughing stock."

After all that, Hampton did indeed see a silver lining, stating, "All that being said, if they start building, start putting wins together, start doing things the right way, start blocking and tackling, stop making stupid mistakes, win games, people will take notice and come back.  It's been a long time since I've seen so much apathy from the fanbase.  A lot of it is their bad play, but a lot of it is the cavalier crap attitude Cutler has presented to the fanbase, players saying 'Eat dirt,' players saying 'Oh, we don't like you to boo us,' all this nonsense.  They need to put a cork in it, line up, knock the hell out of somebody, and start winning games.  If they do, people will start to accept them again, but right now... I can't remember anything like this."

Hampton is no stranger to a locker room divided over his long tenure with the Bears, so I asked him if thinks there is a chance that the reported rifts in the locker room can be patched over or if the situation is beyond repair.  As he stated, "When you get enough people excited about achieving a common goal, anything is possible. Not everybody's going to buy in, especially when you hit averse conditions.  What you have to do as a team, as a wannabe leader, is go to the guy that doesn't have his mind right, whoever it may be: somebody loafing, somebody mouthing off, somebody missing tackles. You put it to him: 'We're trying to do something special here and what you're doing is unacceptable, and either you get it right or where going to have to make changes.'  A lot of times that comes from a coach, a lot of times that comes from a GM."

Here's where the optimism dropped out. He continued, "On this team, that ain't going to happen.  They've got two different kinds of birds [Marc Trestman and Phil Emery] that think it's all about feel-good.  It has to come within the locker room.  When Brandon Marshall went off, whatever, but he understands the big picture. The team has devolved into a laughing stock, and he didn't like it, but a lot of that is by his own doing.  Together is the only way they can climb out of this thing. Maybe they will, maybe they won't, but we're going to find out.  They're going to find out who's willing to sacrifice their personal views and goals to put themselves in a position for the team to become preeminent.  If we see that, we'll see the team start playing better: everybody from the guy who covers the kick to Jared Allen will start playing harder, better, faster, lower, stronger, all those things.  But you know what?  When you've got a cancer and everyone thinks they're the star and thinks everyone else is subservient, you've got what you've got today."

Obviously, the Hall of Fame defense end knows a thing or two about defensive line play, so I asked him about the team's two defensive ends, Jared Allen and Willie Young. As to whether Willie Young can be that complimentary guy and Jared Allen can look like he did against the Vikings for the rest of the season, Hampton said, "Truth be known, Willie would be best on the right side. They've got two right ends.  The left end, you need a more powerful guy, because that's where you're going to get a lot of the tight end sets and double teams: you want more of an anchor.  The right end is more of a speed merchant, a slasher.  All I can tell you is that Jared Allen came up with a few plays against his old team, against his old friend Matt Kalil, and [Kalil] hasn't blocked anybody.  Now does that mean [Allen] will be able to beat the left tackle from the Tampa Bay Bucs?  We haven't seen him beat anyone else this year.  It'll be interesting to see if he uses this as a little bit of confidence boost and starts to pick it up. Thus far, he's been a lot less than advertised  He was ill, he lost some weight: I got it. But when you're getting paid as a professional, you've got to be able to get it done. It's not about 'trying hard,' it's about getting it done, and he hasn't gotten it done."

I didn't have much doubt about what he would say about Mel Tucker ("Fire the guy yesterday!") given the conversation so far, so I posed a more complex question to close things out.  Given everything that's happened so far, did Hampton think the team was right to let Lovie Smith go after a 10-6 season, and what is the direction forward on the coaching side of things? The Hall-of-Famer had his numbers ready to go: "Lovie made the playoffs one time since he went to the Super Bowl, and it wasn't good enough. Since 1992, the Packers have won two Super Bowls and been in the playoffs 16 times.  We've been in the playoffs five times and went to one Super Bowl, and we got our butt kicked.  It's not good enough.  Cut it any way you want, but a lot of times, you make a decision and it doesn't work out.  The jury's out, but right now, I'm very dissatisfied with the level of accountability and discipline that Trestman has with this football team."

He continued and turned his sights not on Trestman, but on Phil Emery, saying "There's no explaining some of the crap that's happening.  The league's been around a long time - 94 years - never, ever has a team given up 50+ in back-to-back games.  I don't want to hear about the Rochester Jeffersons, that's a bunch of of drunks who showed up with leather helmets on back in 1925.  Pro football has history, and for this team to spiral into a laughing stock is unacceptable.  The [man] that has to be held accountable is Phil Emery. We basically have had to plug holes: we have 31 guys on the roster that have been on somebody else's team and they no longer wanted.  How good can you be when over half your team has been rejected by somebody else?   You look at the Packer organization and Ted Thompson. Don't care for the guy, but they've been exemplary.  Only five of their players have been on another football team, and what are they doing?  They're kicking the hell out of people. They have a plan, and they're making it happen.  What the team needs to do is find a GM who has a plan and is able to make it happen, and for two years now with Phil Emery, it hasn't happened."

Cheers to Miller Lite for hosting, and a healthy thanks to Dan Hampton for sharing his thoughts with WCG.

Miller Lite will host Otis Wilson next Monday, November 24th, from 7-9pm at Mad River, 2902 N Sheffield Ave, Chicago, IL 60657.  No suckers will get past him, and the ladies will love him for both his body and mind.