Tuesday, January 02, 2007

It's Going To Be A Long Two Weeks

At some point during the Bears' bowel movement on Sunday night, I turned to some friends and said that the worst part about the way the Bears were playing was all the noise it would induce over the next two weeks. The 16th game of the season is no more useful as a predictor of playoff performance than the rest of the season. It must be analyzed in the context of the team's season long performance to determine how good the team really is. Nor is momentum a real concern. There's just too much time between games for one to carry over to the next. But there's no escaping the headache inducing blather of sports radio and writing that will result from that stink bomb, and for that I curse this team.

Let's start with Jay Mariotti, who is leading a chorus of critics calling for the Bears to replace Rex Grossman with Brian Griese. I don't blame the columnists and commentators for this. I blame Grossman for playing like butt against the Packers. But as I've said all along, the problem with replacing Rex is that Griese isn't very good. The real quarterback controversy is whether the Bears have one at all. Here's what we know: Rex has gotten hot enough for three game stretches to lead a team to a Super Bowl championship. True, he's at least as likely to play like crap and cost the Bears a game against a crappy New York or Seattle team in the Divisional round, but I really don't care if the Bears lose to a crappy Giants team or a mediocre Saints or Eagles team. The only worthwhile destination in the craptacular NFC is the Super Bowl, and Griese ain't leading anyone there.

I've talked before about Griese's mediocrity over his career, which has been on a downward spiral for the past half decade. Sunday night, Griese showed us just what's he capable of. After replacing a putrid Rex, Griese promptly went five for 15 and threw two picks of his own. Grossman was worse than Griese, but what's the point of replacing the eratic, but potentially explosive guy, with the mediocre but consistent guy, if the consistent guy is just as capable of suckage? Plus, all this talk about the quarterbacks is obscuring the fact that the Bears' imploding defense may cost the team the game no matter who's behind center (I'm still hoping that having Nathan Vasher and Charles Tillman back on the field together fixes that).

Grossman has now sunk to the depths of NFL starting quarterbacks. Using Defense-adjusted Value Over Average, which measures a quarterback's success on a per play basis, and adjusts for game situation and opposing defenses, Grossman ranks 33rd at -11.2% among qualifying players. That's about as bad as Daunte Culpepper was, worse than Jake Plummer, and a little better than Brad Johnson. None of those guys start anymore. Griese doesn't have enough plays to qualify, but his DVOA is -45.3% in the limited action he's seen this year. Sixty-one quarterbacks attempted at least 10 passes this year. Only three were worse than Griese: Aaron Rodgers (GB), Jamie Martin (NO), and Marques Tuiasosopo (Oak). This is the guy we want leading us?

There was some good news for the Bears. Cedric Benson had the third most productive day of any running back in the league (as measured by Defense-adjusted Points Above Replacement). He collected 109 yards on 13 carries, and 22 more on his lone reception. Everyone is asking why Lovie Smith is coddling Rex, when he would have inserted the back-up weeks ago if this were an under-performing safety we were discussing. They should be asking the same thing about Thomas Jones. It's long past time to give the ball to Benson 25 times a game. And since Adrian Peterson is better picking up the blitz and catching the ball out of the back field, he should probably be the passing down substitute. That leaves Jones with limited duty as a change of pace guy.

Jones is a fine running back. He had a productive season, finishing 11th among running backs in DPAR, or overall production. However, he was 19th among qualifying runners in DVOA, or per play production. Here, it was Benson who ranked among the league's elite at 10th. For the record, Benson was 18th in DPAR as well.

Look, it's a long two weeks between now and the first playoff game. We don't even know who the opponent will be, so there's nothing to talk and write about between now and then but these little in-house "controversies." It's just unfortunate that Rex played so poorly on Sunday, or the next two weeks might not have been so depressing.


Blogger jamesmnordbergjr said...

I'm hoping the Bears were playing a little opossum on Sunday night. That INT returned for a TD by Rex was something a dead tree could have seen coming, so why didn't Rex? Did he throw it on purpose? Probably not, but enthusiasm was not high on the Bears priority list on NYE.

2:43 PM  

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