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A Tale of Two Teams...

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Old 12-12-2006, 11:36 PM   #1
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A Tale of Two Teams...

I didn't write this, but I thought was an interesting take on two teams headed in very different directions...

***
Watching the Bears last night, we could not help but think back to one of the worst football games ever seen - that 2004 debacle the Redskins and Bears conspired to play that October in The Windy City. Both teams seemed to have very similar talent and very similar warts (particularly on offense). Lovie Smith and Joe Gibbs were just beginning their coaching eras. The Skins went 6-10 that year; Bears went 5-11.

One team made a few shred moves that season - the Ogunleye trade (something the Redskins never could pull the trigger on, man could they use that guy), but went with youth overall and built around the draft. The other has been a perpetual, crazy spender in free agency, over-pursuing average talent, often at the expense of the draft.

The Bears knew they had a defensive mastermind in Smith, so why not indoctrinate young, hungry players right into his mold, getting the chance for the coach to get his professional fingerprints on them before anyone else, rather than try to sell someone on his program, or get them to adopt their ways or techniques to his? Makes sense, eh? So they welcome Lance Briggs (drafted in 2003), Tommie Harris (2004) and Nathan Vasher (2004). Not a bad group to build around.

Not sure if anyone calls them "Core Bears" over there, but I suppose they could.

In 2003, Bears GM Jerry Angelo dealt the fourth overall pick to the New York Jets in exchange for two first round selections (Michael Haynes and Rex Grossman). By the end of the draft weekend, Chicago had selected 12 players, the most of any team in the NFL. From 2003-2005, Angelo's drafts yielded 16 rookie starters, who made 101 starts in those three seasons. Check this out from the Bears 2006 media guide: Angelo's mantra during his tenure in Chicago has been "reward your own" and he has followed through by taking a proactive approach with the team's key players. A total of 13 current players, including Pro Bowlers Brian Urlacher, Olin Kreutz and Mike Brown, have received contract extensions since Angelo's arrival and nearly 75 percent of the Bears 2006 roster is signed through the next two seasons.

Okay, the Bears didn't have a first-round pick in 2006, but they had two second round picks. One of them, cornerback Devin Hester is ridiculously sick (actually watching him break open yet another game last night spawned this entry). Every time I've seen a Bears game this dude is taking it to the house. He's got to be Special Teams Player of the Year. Set the single-season record with seven returns for TDs last night (he ran back two against the Rams), and still has three games to play (that missed field goal return against the Giants a few Sunday nights ago might be the play of the year).

So let's rejoin the original thought process here. Okay, in 2005 both teams make strides and reach the playoffs. Both went out in the divisional round (Skins won a wildcard game to get there; Bears has a bye as the No. 2 seed). But the Redskins went a bit nuts in the offseason despite all their progress, changing the offensive system, throwing around record-setting contracts to free agents, trading multiple picks for guys with no history of winning or producing Pro Bowl seasons, overhauling a bulk of the secondary, and throwing around millions to those who stayed and the new offensive play caller (Al Saunders).

The Bears, well, they stuck to their plan. They didn't just talk about it, they actually kept everyone around; no key defections. They added depth at QB and DB to fortify their run and saved up cap space and draft picks for the future, to continue on their upward trend. Novel ideas, all. Chicago is on the brink of clinching home field advantage through the playoffs with an 11-2 record (9-0 vs. the NFC). Washington is 4-9 (2-7 vs. the NFC), rudderless, grasping and clinging to whatever the next plan will be, looking at another offseason of huge questions and probes into the structure of the organization. Lovie Smith will consider whom to rest and how to play out the bye week as they make a Super Bowl run. Angelo will keep on scouting and tending the long-term future of his organization.

Coach Joe will somehow try to wear both hats, sticking with bruised veterans to try to milk every possible W out of this lost season, while spending January assessing the state of the franchise and what to do next at the macro level (while still readily admitting that he essentially operates always as a coach and isn't big on multi-year plans).

There was basically nothing separating these two teams at the dawn of the Smith/Gibbs eras, except the Hall of Fame credentials of Gibbs and his staff. The Redskins actually won that ugly game in Week 6 of 2004, 13-10, snapping a four-game losing streak, while the Bears were in the midst of a four-game losing funk themselves. It was Mark Brunell vs. Jonathan Quinn, and they combined for 160 passing yards, one TD, two INTs and a collective 39.96 rating. The Bears' only TD came off a fluky, deflected Brunell pass that was returned 70 yards for a score. Since that sunny-and-surprisingly-pleasant Sunday, Chicago is 26-14, with two straight division titles and high championship hopes. The Redskins are 18-21.
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Old 12-12-2006, 11:46 PM   #2
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Re: A Tale of Two Teams...

Who wrote it?
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Old 12-12-2006, 11:56 PM   #3
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Re: A Tale of Two Teams...

JLC took quite a beating for that post. Some valid observations there, but a lot of things conveniently ignored. The North has been a pretty soft division, really for about 5 years.

The Bears like their youth, sure, but they've had very little success building off that youth in their offense, relying on old guys like Muhammad and TJones who were both high-priced FA's, I might add.

Much like the comparison I made earlier today between the Skins and Dallas, the real standout here is the defense, and the D and ST of Chicago has really kept this team in contention for the past two years.

We thought we'd be bypassing the hit-or-miss problems of home-growing players via the draft by signing seasoned FA's who would make an impact immediately. We've had some really, fantastically bad luck with FA signings, to put it mildly. But honestly, if it weren't for the big contract numbers, I don't know that anyone would care or freak out so much about it.

We could just as easily have had a bunch of draft picks that slowly proved to be bad bets, too. Ol' 50/50 anybody?
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Old 12-12-2006, 11:56 PM   #4
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Re: A Tale of Two Teams...

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Originally Posted by TAFKAS View Post
Who wrote it?
It was on Jason La Canfora's blog on WashPost this afternoon.
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Old 12-13-2006, 12:04 AM   #5
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Re: A Tale of Two Teams...

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Originally Posted by dgack View Post
It was on Jason La Canfora's blog on WashPost this afternoon.
Thanks. Interesting article. I always find it curious that people like to basically say that only the Redskins really go after free agents. I mean you could say both the Bears and Redskins went hard after El and Arch and ultimately the Redskins outbid the Bears. Or you could say the Bears stuck to their plan while the Redskins went after El and Arch
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Old 12-13-2006, 12:06 AM   #6
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Re: A Tale of Two Teams...

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Originally Posted by dgack View Post
We thought we'd be bypassing the hit-or-miss problems of home-growing players via the draft by signing seasoned FA's who would make an impact immediately. We've had some really, fantastically bad luck with FA signings, to put it mildly. But honestly, if it weren't for the big contract numbers, I don't know that anyone would care or freak out so much about it.

We could just as easily have had a bunch of draft picks that slowly proved to be bad bets, too. Ol' 50/50 anybody?
Yeah, but draft picks don't inflict as much damage to the cap. If they don't pan out, at least you have more room left to make adjustments.

And I've never understood why the Redskins seem to be the team that worries about playing rookies more than anyone else in the league. It's as if they selected players from middle school. What are they so afraid of?

By now, there should be no doubt as to which strategy doesn't work.
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Old 12-13-2006, 12:10 AM   #7
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Re: A Tale of Two Teams...

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Originally Posted by TAFKAS View Post
Thanks. Interesting article. I always find it curious that people like to basically say that only the Redskins really go after free agents. I mean you could say both the Bears and Redskins went hard after El and Arch and ultimately the Redskins outbid the Bears. Or you could say the Bears stuck to their plan while the Redskins went after El and Arch
Yeah, it's absurd. We are an easy target because Snyder makes a lot of other teams angry with how free and fast he is with the checkbook, so when it DOESN'T go right, it's like they can't wait to throw stones, or go find some idealized vacuum setting where cultivating talent through the draft worked perfectly for one team, and then use it as a case study to point out how stupid we are as a club.

Steinbrenner fields the best baseball team money can buy every year, and he isn't demonized the way Snyder is. Is it just a cap thing? Clearly, some of the early experiments with FA sprees (Bruce Smith, Deion, etc.) were spectacular failures and maybe that's what's still dogging Snyder, I don't know. But I frankly doubt that any other team in the league would have gotten this much shit for signing Randle El, Lloyd, AA, and Carter.
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Old 12-13-2006, 12:14 AM   #8
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Re: A Tale of Two Teams...

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Yeah, but draft picks don't inflict as much damage to the cap. If they don't pan out, at least you have more room left to make adjustments.
I guess my problem with that statement is, we're always hearing about how insane we are with cap wizardry, so why do we even care about cap damage? I mean, we were told at one point by all the media blabbermouths we wouldn't even be able to field a team due to cap hell, and we ended up fine.

If the front office ever basically said, "we sure would have liked to have done X, but we couldn't because we screwed ourselves on AA and Lloyd", but I don't ever recall us being hosed by the cap in a way that limited our strategy for personnel moves... maybe I'm just blocking it out?
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Old 12-13-2006, 12:43 AM   #9
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Re: A Tale of Two Teams...

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Originally Posted by dgack View Post
I guess my problem with that statement is, we're always hearing about how insane we are with cap wizardry, so why do we even care about cap damage? I mean, we were told at one point by all the media blabbermouths we wouldn't even be able to field a team due to cap hell, and we ended up fine.
Fine? Our 4th losing season in 5 years? You don't see anything wrong with an organization whose player-personnel decision makers field teams like that?
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Old 12-13-2006, 12:51 AM   #10
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Re: A Tale of Two Teams...

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Fine? Our 4th losing season in 5 years? You don't see anything wrong with an organization whose player-personnel decision makers field teams like that?
With respect to the cap, dude, with respect to the cap. As I've said in countless other posts, there was NO REASON to expect we would regress from last year's showing, and in fact, if the defense had held steady we probably would have easily made the playoffs in this year's weak NFC field.

It's easy to freak out and scream about stupid decisions in hindsight, but honestly, who was fuming mad this summer when we made these FA deals? We were all smug as hell, knowing that The Danny didn't mind spending the cash, and his cap wizards would find a way to make it work.

I seriously don't recall too many people calling for Grilliamss, Gibbs, or Snyder's heads because of those moves.
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Old 12-13-2006, 01:38 AM   #11
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Re: A Tale of Two Teams...

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With respect to the cap, dude, with respect to the cap. As I've said in countless other posts, there was NO REASON to expect we would regress from last year's showing, and in fact, if the defense had held steady we probably would have easily made the playoffs in this year's weak NFC field.

It's easy to freak out and scream about stupid decisions in hindsight, but honestly, who was fuming mad this summer when we made these FA deals? We were all smug as hell, knowing that The Danny didn't mind spending the cash, and his cap wizards would find a way to make it work.

I seriously don't recall too many people calling for Grilliamss, Gibbs, or Snyder's heads because of those moves.
We didnt call them out for two reasons, 1, we don't break down the tapes over and over to see who is good to what degree, when people are signed to a 30 mil contract, you naturally assume they are a stud and fit the stystem well 2. We got caught up in the hype because of the huge contracts, this season was actually very predicable if you broke down who we played last year vs who we played this year, our lack of depth, the holes in our defense due to releases, the role that each player would play (Rogers, Arch, Taylor, were all supposed to be physical hitters, none of them were supposed to be quality covers, and springs's injuries were predicable plus the fact that he is gettting older and slower, and we had no depth at the secondary), Warrick Holdman starting, Brunell still being our QB, We had alot of key players on the downfall of their careers (Daniels, Wynn, Springs, Washington, Griffin, Saleve'a, Wright, Prioleau, Wright, Fauria, Jansen, Hall, Patten) (I'm not saying they're all bad, they're just not going to get any better, they are all in their 30s), We are mainly a run team but we signed two huge contracts to recievers when we have no good QB to get it to them (we had to have 8 men blocking almost every play last year just to have Brunell have enough time to see the open man, and when there was two he generally didnt see the open one, so how is he going to see who is open with less time) and we already had our go to guy at reciever, and Al Saunders's system supposively takes 3 years to pick up. There were signs
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Old 12-13-2006, 09:56 AM   #12
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Re: A Tale of Two Teams...

It was bad enough that the redskins were signing washed up free agents to huge contracts prior to Gibbs, now under Gibbs they sign free agents that dont seem to pan out and they give away draft picks in the process. The team is taking a double hit.

Gibbs is not a personnel guy and his moves are proving disasterous. This team needs a GM now.
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Old 12-13-2006, 10:19 AM   #13
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Re: A Tale of Two Teams...

We've still had far more hits than misses regarding free agency.
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Old 12-13-2006, 10:33 AM   #14
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Re: A Tale of Two Teams...

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We've still had far more hits than misses regarding free agency.
2002 record: 7-9
2003 record: 5-11
2004 record: 6-10
2005 record: 10-6 (the year we DIDN'T make a big free agent splash)
2006 record: 7-9 at best

Yep. Sounds like solid personnel to me!
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Old 12-13-2006, 10:37 AM   #15
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Re: A Tale of Two Teams...

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2002 record: 7-9
2003 record: 5-11
2004 record: 6-10
2005 record: 10-6 (the year we DIDN'T make a big free agent splash)
2006 record: 7-9 at best

Yep. Sounds like solid personnel to me!
I'm talking about since Gibbs came back.

The players we aquired in 2004 were the foundation of the playoff run in '05.
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