Bears' failures linger in the Atmosphere
CHICAGO -- Needing inspiration to write about the Chicago Bears this week, just like they seemingly need inspiration to show up ready to play football for consecutive weeks, I turned to music.
So for this column, I wanted to pick an album with a name that epitomizes this Bears team.
I first thought about Green Day, because their last two albums, "American Idiot" (in honor of Tommie Harris' ejection last week) and "21st Century Breakdown" (for the Bears post-bye-week performance thus far), seemed to fit this team perfectly. But then I went with one of my favorites: "God Loves Ugly" by the critically acclaimed indie rap group Atmosphere.
Sure, the album is old (2002), but doesn't this title sound like it should headline the NFL Films recap of this Bears season? Can Steve Sabol freestyle? Should Mike Ditka release his own CD, "I Hate Ugly"?
The CD itself is fantastic, and for this exercise even the song titles work to describe this Bears team and the various things that make it uglier than any football-loving deity (even a mini-Ditka) could reasonably appreciate.
Here are a few that I think capture the essence of the 4-4 Bears:
"Vampires": The Bears are the anti-vampires, because they can't play at night. They tanked in their NBC Sunday night opener and were lucky the Packers' line is weaker than their fans' foam cheese hats. Then they lost to Atlanta in another Sunday night game by coughing up the ball in the red zone. Heck, even during the day, when the NFL and the networks choose to highlight this team, they can't come through, like the late-afternoon stink bomb against the Bengals and last week's Fox No. 1 game. The latter resulted in a blowout loss to Arizona that inspired color analyst Troy Aikman to quip, "I thought high school football was played on Friday."
This doesn't bode well for Thursday night in San Francisco, where the 49ers should be hyped up to beat the team their coach, Mike Singletary, played for. But hey, at least it will be light out there -- for the first half, at least.
"Godlovesugly": In the beginning of the song, Atmosphere's MC, Slug, notes he lives life like the captain of a sinking ship.
Slug, meet coach Lovie Smith.
The Bears aren't Cleveland Browns ugly or Detroit Lions ugly, but that shouldn't be the point. This is a veteran team with a veteran coach and a well-established front office. With the addition of Jay Cutler, there is no excuse for this team to be this discombobulated, even with Brian Urlacher out and the ineffective offensive line that has all but wiped out the running game.
The Bears' disastrous first half against Arizona in front of their home crowd did nothing to quiet their fans. The Soldier Field faithful booed lustily when the Bears did bad, and absolutely roared when they tried to make a fourth-quarter comeback.
That's what will be even sadder when the Bears continue to disappoint their fans, not to mention themselves. Bears fans love ugly, but will they flock to Soldier Field in late December if the team isn't worth watching?
"Saves The Day": The Bears' decision to trade for Jay Cutler wasn't made because they thought he was the missing piece on a Super Bowl team like the Vikings did with Brett Favre. But even with a callow receiving corps and a middling line, the Bears' brass would surely like to see him step up and win a game with his arm.
Cutler is going to throw interceptions. Regardless of the offensive scheme, he needs to take chances to realize his potential. But he needs to come through in a fourth quarter of a close game and play better in the red zone. In Sunday's loss, he had two 90-yard drives and one succinct one, each ending in a touchdown pass to Greg Olsen.
Football Outsiders ranks quarterbacks by DYAR, a stat that stands for defense-adjusted yards over replacement. Cutler's is just 113, which ranks him 20th, sandwiched between Seattle's Matt Hasselbeck and his backup Seneca Wallace. To contrast, Tom Brady has the best DYAR at 1,120. Kyle Orton is 12th with 506.
Cutler has had eight games to get comfortable with his teammates and coaches. Now it's time to put on his Superman cape. (If Cutler bombs, the fake Cutler Twitter account a sports humorist has created will continue to be hilarious.)
"A Girl Named Hope": Well, aside from the last two losses, the Bears have been competitive in the fourth quarter in their other two defeats, tough road games at Green Bay and Atlanta. It's not inconceivable the Bears make a run starting Thursday. The Bears could get swept by Minnesota and win the remaining games, or take one from Minnesota and lose to Baltimore on the road, and make the playoffs.
For all the Bears' problems, they are healthy (aside from the linebackers they've lost) and one or two good games could begat another two. Crazier things have happened with teams getting hot late.
Plus, Tommie Harris is scheduled to play and we all know the Bears only get embarrassed when he's out.
"Blamegame": More than likely, the Bears won't jell and they won't make a dramatic run to the postseason, where they would just get waxed anyway, as evidenced by their performances against playoff hopefuls Arizona and Cincinnati. The blame game has been going on since the first half in Green Bay, when Cutler threw three picks, two linebackers went down and the team looked like anything but a playoff team.
From the O-line's play to the play calls, there is plenty of blame to go around for this Bears team. The question is: Whom does it land on? Lovie Smith? Jerry Angelo? Ron Turner? The defense has some solid veteran building blocks but is almost devoid of young talent. The offense is disjointed, from top to bottom.
God Loves Ugly is a great album, but it's a bad slogan for a mediocre football team.
Jon Greenberg is a columnist for ESPNChicago.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.