With our rapid approach to another Christmas and all, it is clear that in the Chicago Bears we have an NFL team who’s approach to playing football is in alignment with the reason for the season: giving.
Only the Bears can find new ways to yield games that they are favored in to teams even hungrier for wins than they are (0-7 are the Bears now as betting favorites under John Fox, by the way).
Only the Bears can provide a confidence boost to a former star player that they unceremoniously let go (and for a second consecutive week no less).
Only the Bears can make the glamorous act of kicking a football into not only a game-winning act, but a dominating act.
Kickers get no respect normally, you don’t have to tell Robbie Gould that. Once riding high as the career leader in points, field goals and field goals over 50 yards for the NFL’s oldest franchise, Gould was dropped like a accurate pass out the backfield to Jordan Howard by said franchise (you may know them as the losing team in the video above) upon a particularly bad pre-season finale in 2016.
Gould was certainly not the kicker by 2016 that he was in 2006, while being the “Good as Gould” kicking element of the eventual NFC Champions, but really his only sin last summer was being old and — in missing two PATs in a meaningless game against Cleveland — making himself a little too conspicuous around cut time to a team with some of the worst pro personnel analyzing abilities in the NFL.
So, Gould leaves, and with most of the better teams in the league kinda set in the kicking department in that oh-so-important week leading up to the regular season opener, he has to latch on to the San Francisco 49ers to maintain his place as a pro football kicking man.
Gould would catch on in New York, benefited from Josh Brown being a wife-beating ass hole and played 11 games with the G-Men, including his first playoff game since 2011. A seeming relegation to a slightly worse ran legacy franchise than the last two he was on has worked out, its kept him paid through yet another season and its allowed him the satisfaction of beating his team in his first return trip to Soldier Field with SF, basically doing it all by himself.
Newly ascendant Niners quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, he of the legendary suburban Chicago Garoppolos, certainly showed himself to be the leader of the future for his squad, he moved the ball like the professional QB he has proven himself to be, like the guy maybe half the league (including the team he played today) should have sold out for to pull him from the Patriots.
But Garoppolo threw no touchdown passes and the Niners ran no rushing touchdowns. All the Niners’ points came off five FGs from Gould, and really this game couldn’t have gone any better if you’re a loyal Bears fan.
What the hell does a win matter for the Bears at this point? They are top-five in the draft, dead or alive, regardless at this point. Their incompetence, matched with the Niners’ incompetence, made for a game we all only wanted to pay glancing attention to in the first place.
Some good happened — Tarik Cohen thrilled us all again, Kyle Fuller finally secured an interception, Mitch Trubisky, while handicapped still by his coaches and lack of reliable playmakers around him, didn’t do the easiest thing he could do as a rookie QB and turn the ball over. All those things play a part in the incremental change that can carry over into future seasons with future coaches, i.e. coaches not named John Fox and Dowell Loggains, etc.
Until those wholesale changes are made I have no problem rooting spitefully for an ex-Bear who provided more points for the franchise than any of its 27 primary contributors in the Hall of Fame. That’s what Gould did, that experience is what fueled him to cap every Niners drive with the points needed to slow and steadily win after the Bears blew their load with Cohen’s miraculous return and a rare 1st quarter drive for touchdown.
Gould, like Alshon Jeffrey last week, relished his opportunity to show how wrong the Bears are in general and specifically about them. It sucks that we have to take blow-back in the way of watching bad football and suffering from the momentarily emotional roller-coasters that come with a bad team trying hard to be good, but them’s the breaks.
No real change is happening until someone new is preparing this team and strategizing and training it for each week and adjusting each Sunday. Everything before it is a crap shoot — the good moments are icing, the bad moments are crunchy carrot cake when all we’d really want right now is a delicate Tres Leches melting in our mouth.
Gould is Good and in the end Good has to win over Evil, or Incompetent at least. One more week of that happening brings us all closer to the change we deserve.
The Reason For The Title
In initially thinking up this recurring column, an early idea for its format was picking out three interesting stats or other numbers from the game and going on about them. Here’s 3 numbers with not much going on about them.
1965 — From our guy @readjack:
In the same year that he put together his ultra-legendary 6 TD game against the Niners, Gale Sayers became the fourth Bear to rush, receive, return a punt and pass for a touchdown in a single season. Sayers did all those but pass in the 6 TD game.
Lil’ Tarik pretty much sowed himself into Bears lore with efforts earlier in the season against Atlanta, Minnesota, Carolina and such, but this is cement stuff here, to put yourself in the same convo as Gale. Much respect to the other Bears to have accomplished this feat too — Joey Sternaman (1924), Bill Senn (1928), and George McAfee (1941). McAfee, along with Sayers, is a Hall of Famer.
Notice the years assigned with those players. The type of multi-use that at one point could only be associated with Cohen’s lack of size can also be associated with a by-gone “Ironman” type of play that football long shed for specialists and low-risk due to increased investment in salary.
Here’s to hoping that Cohen can continue to be used as a hybrid of old school flexibility and new school athleticism. To have a football player who can truly do it all is a gift, not an oddity or a quandry. Get him out there in as many places as possible and let him go.
241 — The number of yards more that the Niners had than the Bears (388 to 147). As embarrassing a stat as this game produced for Chicago. The offense just didn’t show up, they didn’t give themselves much time to perform (also embarrassing, Time of Possession: 38:47 to 21:13 in favor of San Francisco) and they let a team equally bereft of play-makers make the plays needed to control the ball and thus the game.
Seemed like the most inevitable part of this game was the Bears stopping short of the end zone at some point, even when Dontrelle Inman connected with Trubisky assuredly from out the shotgun with seconds left in the first.
Cohen’s spark of a return provided hope that this day would be better in spite of any sustained offensive futility, but it wasn’t to be. Opponents aren’t fooled by the Bears’ plans and they aren’t being caught flat-footed by their player’s movement.
This is definitely a team that needs reps — its quarterback needs to throw a lot to get a little, its running backs need to run a lot to produce one or two bust-out plays and the team needs the ball as much as possible to score anything close to a winning total. Winners are efficient in the NFL, bulk numbers come when teams control the game more than it controls them.
4 — Straight losing seasons and counting, clinched with a now 3-9 record that would ensure no better than a 7-9 record in 2017. This franchise was last middling in Marc Trestman’s first season (8-8), been worse and worse since.
Last year (3-13) was a bottom point, the worst the team has been in the 16-game NFL, or it would seem. The Bears could be 3-13 again this season on top of having the indignity of losing a game solely to its former kicker.
A skim at Pro Football Reference shows the Bears have last been this continuously bad in the late 1990s entering the Year 2G, when the last two years of the Dave Wannstedt regime yielded 4-12 records and the first two of Dick Jauron produced 6-10 and 5-11 records before the inexplicable 13-3 record of the ’01 season, which led to only 16 total wins in the following 3 seasons leading up to Lovie Smith’s breakthrough second season as coach in 2005 (11-5).
The Super Bowl season followed that, producing a 24-8 regular season record in two seasons. The Bears have had double digit wins twice since 2006, both with Lovie in 2010 (11-5) and 2012 (10-6), the year he was fired.
Trestman was given two years to be among the worst Bears coaches ever (13-19 record), but at least with him the Bears had as good an offense as they’ve had in modern times, the worst defense too, but among the best offense.
Fox came along in 2015 and God willing this will be his third and last season. With the loss today he clinched his place as the worst Bears coach ever statistically (12-32), should have at least 33 as he won’t likely be fired this week. This is a guy who coached in two Super Bowls, right? Are we sure it’s the same guy?
These passages were to help you explain to your kids or other such bewildered youngsters that at one point the Chicago Bears franchise actually fired coaches for not winning enough. Oh, how the standards have changed.
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