For months we have heard national analysts telling NFL fans all over the country how bad the Chicago Bears organization is and how poor the Bears will be this season. Last night, I tuned on ESPN to watch Bears-Seahawks, and I didn’t even have to wait for it to start to get frustrated at the coverage.
It started earlier in the day when ESPN NFL reporter Dianna Russini said on TV, “Justin Fields has no weapons and no offensive line. Bears may be the worst team in football”. Ok, that’s her opinion, and she is, of course, entitled to it. But has she ever been to a Bears practice this year? Not likely, as that sentiment felt like it was in line with the national narrative of how bad the Bears are.
Then, last night ESPN used their No. 2 team to telecast the game.
The color analysts were Louis Riddick and Dan Orlovsky. Both are former NFL players and very knowledgeable people. I have known Riddick since he was a safety at Pittsburgh, worked with him for a year in Philly, and consider him a friend, but that friendship will not get in the way of critiquing his comments. As for Orlovsky, I have been impressed with his analysis since he has been with ESPN. His knowledge of quarterback play is usually excellent. Last night in his first game as an NFL game analyst, he failed miserably. It was like he did no preparation for this game.
For the last four seasons, Riddick has been a big Bears booster regardless of their performance on the field. Why? Riddick and former head coach Matt Nagy were close friends when they worked in Philadelphia. Ever since Nagy and Ryan Pace got fired, Riddick has done nothing but criticize the Bears organization. Does he feel Nagy was wronged, and he is bitter about it?
During last night’s game, the Bears were clearly the better team — starters or reserves. Let’s face it; they dominated the game from the opening kickoff. If you just listened to the analysis, you would have sworn it was the other way around. Riddick is on record as saying the Seahawks were building something special. It didn’t look like it last night.
In the second half, Orlovsky and Riddick started making excuses for the Seahawks, saying they had to travel back to Seattle after a game last Saturday and had a short week of practice. Guess what, guys? The Bears also played last Saturday and had to travel across the country on Wednesday, and they looked a hell of a lot better than Seattle. The Bears had three penalties all game compared to Seattle’s 13. The Bears have committed only eight penalties in two preseason games. That shows a well-coached, well-disciplined squad.
What got me was when the crew started talking about Roquan Smith’s “hold-in.” Riddick and Orlovsky were saying that Smith wants to be one of the highest-paid linebackers in football, but because he’s an off-ball linebacker, he doesn’t deserve it. Does either one of them realize the importance of the Will linebacker to the defensive scheme the Bears are playing?
After listening to Orlovsky tell the audience that Smith wasn’t worth the money he asked for, I had to comment. I tweeted that Orlovsky has no clue of how this scheme operates and the importance of the Will Linebacker to the scheme. I added, “Can’t they do their homework?”
To my surprise, Orlovsky texted me back a few minutes later, saying he did mention Shaq Leonard had played the Will for the Colts, where Bears coach Matt Eberflus was the defensive coordinator. I replied by saying that I had been around this scheme since 2004, when Lovie Smith came to Chicago as head coach and knew the history of the system and the importance of the Will.
As the college scouting director when Smith was around, I had to know exactly what the scheme was about and find players that fit the system. On the first day that I worked with Smith, he explained the importance of the Will linebacker. I have seen a video of Eberflus, while with Indianapolis, explaining the importance of the Will to the scheme.
To give you some history, this scheme, commonly referred to as the Tampa-2, goes back to when Tony Dungy was the Head Coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Monte Kiffin was the defensive coordinator. They had an All-Pro Will linebacker, Derrick Brooks, who, with his play, showed all how important the Will was in making this scheme successful. Smith was on that staff and totally bought into the scheme.
As college scouting director for the Bears during Smith’s tenure as the coach, I had to know and understand the scheme as it was my job to help our scouts find players that fit the scheme. We got Smith the players he needed through the draft and veteran free agency, enabling him to play the scheme effectively.
So yes, Mr. Orlovsky, I know the scheme and understand it. You don’t.
Last, is it too much to ask that highly-paid NFL game analysts do a little homework before they broadcast a game? Is it also fair to ask them to be impartial when it comes to their analysis and not follow a narrative that isn’t close to being true?