Nothing is easier than self-deceit. For what each man wishes, that he also believes to be true - Demosthenes, Third Olynthiac, sec. 19
Jerry Angelo of the Chicago Bears was quoted in the Sporting News daily before the draft, talking about his team's quality and chances next year. The same discussion was quoted by Matt Bowen in the National Football Post:
"Well, I think that it will be better just given the fact that our quarterback is going to play better," Jerry Angelo told the Chicago Sun-Times. "I feel that will be something that is going to help that position and really the whole offense overall. If we stay status quo and nobody gets hurt, with our present receiving corps - and when I say ‘receiving corps you guys have to bring in the tight ends, too - I feel we'll be OK.
Angelo conceded that the Bears need to add depth to the wideout unit, whether through the draft or as an acquisition after the draft. He was serious, and Chicago drafted wide receivers Juaquin Iglesias in the 2nd round and Johnny Knox in the 5th round as well as Derek Kinder in the 7th.
"The receiver position is certainly something that we're looking at strongly for the obvious reasons, but I don't want to rule out other players at other positions," Angelo said before the draft, "We're never going to rule out defensive linemen."
Chicago would add two defensive ends and offensive line developmental project Lance Louis out of San Diego State.
For those who like an older phraseology, Angelo's original remark was called ‘whistling past the graveyard': the process of ignoring something in order to keep from fearing it. To quote Chauncey Billups, "Winning is fun, man." Losing isn't. You don't necessarily get more wins by bringing a vertical game QB into a ball control system which is totally unsuited for him and expect miracles. Chicago doesn't throw a lot of vertical passing plays and their system to date has relied on a lot of checkdowns (in part due to poor receiving talent, something that the Cutler trade didn't address) and passes to the running back, Matt Forte. I hope that Orlando Pace stays healthy and that Chris Williams matures, but neither has happened so far. Chicago's tight ends are good, but their receivers have been subpar.
I like and respect Cutler's skills. The fact that he was often lousy in the red zone might have been partly the play calling, but Jay was a big part of that problem and despite lesser weapons, Orton was far better in the shortened field. Does Jerry take into account Cutler's weaknesses? If so, we haven't heard a peep about it. Saying that the QB position will be better is a big jump. Will it be different? No doubt. Better? Perhaps.
Still, at the very least, Angelo needed another good receiver or two, another running back to add to Matt Forte, a few prayers for the offensive line's play and health and a different offensive scheme. At that point, if you can fix the poor play of the defense you're in a good situation. The three young receivers he drafted at least give Chicago a better chance - Juaquin Iglesias is a fine young receiver and may also add a returner skill that the Bears need as Devin Hester attempts to go from brilliant All-World returner to mediocre WR. But without a change in scheme that takes advantage of Cutler's vertical passing skill, the Bears outlook won't be promising. It's the role of the coaches will be the central element that has the best chance of turning the tide for the Bears in 2009.
There was this disclaimer from the NFP:
"Is Cutler in the same mold as a guy like Favre? And do the Bears have the type of receivers, such as Devin Hester - who Angelo thinks needs to take another step forward at the position - who can come together as a group and excel under a talent like Cutler?
Angelo thinks they can. "We have a good receiving corps that complements one another," he said. They also added Oklahoma rookie Juaquin Iglesias, whom Angelo is high on after selecting him in the third round of the draft. "Iglesias gives us that big guy across the middle."
The verdict is still out on this group, and I'm on the fence too, but Angelo believes he has the tight ends in Greg Olsen and Desmond Clark to complete the package. "When you talk wide receivers, you have to count the tight ends," he said, something he discovered when talking with Patriots coach Bill Belichick about the struggles the Patriots had trying to contain Chargers TE Antonio Gates."
This last part is a fair point that I've made before - that the Bears TEs, former Bronco Desmond Clark and Greg Olsen - are a big strength - but a moment before, Angelo had been talking about the vertical passing game, and generally the TEs aren't much help there. Clark and Olsen are good, but as a standard part of the vertical game, they aren't the answer. So, what is Angelo actually saying?
"Our receiving corps has a chance to be decent," said Angelo. "But, we feel good about our offense."
Our receivers might get decent but, we feel good? That was a wonderful slip of the tongue in which Angelo reveals that he doesn't think that their receivers are that good either.
Well, unless the receiving corps is better, there's no reason to feel all that different about the offense. Let's break this down: no one so far has argued that Orton was incapable of throwing to the TEs or to Forte, nor that Clark and Olsen were the problem. The claim was that the problem with the Bears offense was Kyle Orton, ostensibly because he couldn't throw the long pass. If you just got Cutler in order to have him make the same throws, you're wasting a lot of money. But this is a ‘magic bullet' solution that has gained substantial national fervor. If you have a new QB with certain strengths and some weaknesses, but ones that are different from the QB you had, suddenly all is well. You need a new perspective, a new offensive scheme and new approaches to make this trade worthwhile.
Why am I nattering on about the Bears, Angelo, receivers and Orton? In case you were wondering, here's how that reflects on the Broncos: The biggest thing that Josh McDaniels had to offer the Broncos may have been an outside perspective, getting them past the ‘whistling past the graveyard' stage that permeated offseason discussions in Denver over the past few years.
Management fiddled around while the Broncos defense burned our chances of success. Having that situation be over is a gift by itself. The Broncos hd reached the point where the constant believe that they were just a few pieces away from winning it all had actually kept them from winning. There comes a point in the evolution of things where you have to cull the deadwood and permit new things to grow and flourish. The Broncos seem to be in that phase. Hopefully, new things will emerge for them and will prove that this path was well worth taking.