A Look at the 2017 Bears Schedule with a Glance at the Good and the Bad

The 2017 NFL Schedule is out, and here’s a look at the Bears slate for the upcoming season, with the home games in bold:

Sep. 10 Atlanta Falcons 12:00 PM

Sep. 17 at Tampa Bay Buccaneers 12:00 PM

Sep. 24 Pittsburgh Steelers 12:00 PM

Sep. 28 at Green Bay Packers (Thu) 7:25 PM

Oct. 9 Minnesota Vikings (Mon) 7:30 PM

Oct. 15 at Baltimore Ravens 12:00 PM

Oct. 22 Carolina Panthers 12:00 PM

Oct. 29 at New Orleans Saints 12:00 PM

Nov. 5 BYE

Nov. 12 Green Bay Packers 12:00 PM

Nov. 19 Detroit Lions 12:00 PM

Nov. 26 at Philadelphia Eagles 12:00 PM

Dec. 3 San Francisco 49ers 12:00 PM

Dec. 10 at Cincinnati Bengals 12:00 PM

Dec. 16 at Detroit Lions (Sat) 3:30 PM

Dec. 24 Cleveland Browns 12:00 PM

Dec. 31 at Minnesota Vikings 12:00 PM

What’s Good about this Schedule: It won’t be easy but two of the first three are at home against the NFC Champion Falcons and the Steelers, who made the AFC Title game. If this young team wants to make an impact, winning both games would be critical to start the 2017 season.

What’s Bad about this Schedule: While a fast start would be great, the team has three of their final four on the road, with game at Cincy, Detroit and Minnesota. The only breather is a home game against the Browns, who went 1-15 last season.

Chicago Bears Draft Needs: One More Look at Taking a Quarterback Too Early

By Bryan Dietzler

Some of the people who have read my previous articles have seen me cover just about all of the top quarterbacks in the 2017 NFL Draft. I have done features on DeShaun Watson, DeShone Kizer and Patrick Mahomes.  I have skipped Mitch Trubisky because he just doesn’t have the experience and is kind of a “scary” prospect.  But, in my next article, I will give him his due.

If you have been watching or reading what football experts are saying, you may have seen that some think that the Bears could take a quarterback at number three.  But then they also say that there is not a single quarterback in this year’s draft is worth taking at the third spot.  And they are right.  For the value, no single quarterback in this year’s draft is worth the third overall selection.

It can be said that taking a quarterback there would be a reach.  But, teams have been known to go out of their way to draft a player they think could be great.  And the Bears just might do that.

A good quarterback will be the target of several teams in this draft.  The San Francisco 49ers, the New York Jets, the Cleveland Browns and several other teams could use some help at quarterback.  Two quarterback-needy teams pick ahead of the Bears so that means that there is a chance two of the top guys could be gone.  It’s a small chance but it’s still a possibility.

When considering what might happen before the Bears pick again after the first round (36th in the second round) Chicago may decide to try to “reach” and get one of the top signal callers.  If they choose to take one at number three, they are making a big mistake.

There are three things that could happen.  The first is that teams will “freak out” and take one of the top quarterbacks way too early. They think these players will be gone before they get another crack at them. This happens a lot in any NFL draft and this is also known as “reaching”.  Some teams may reach too far and end up getting burned.

The second thing that could happen is that the Bears could pick a non-quarterback then hope that their target quarterback is there in the second round.  Then, their target player suddenly gets picked earlier than they thought “stunning” them.  It’s a gamble and gambling is a big part of the draft.

Finally, the third thing that could happen is that the Bears could trade some of their draft picks and get back into the first round.  Doing that, they could grab a guy they want.  In this scenario, they would feel that their “guy” wouldn’t be around at number 36.  So they will get scared and trade picks away to get him.  This “mortgaging the future” on one player hasn’t been done much by the Bears in their history.  Maybe this the draft to take that chance in?

Chicago has been heavily connected to Clemson’s DeShaun Watson.  He has worked out for them, they attended his pro day and rumors abound that he is “their guy”.  But at number three?  No way.

But would Watson make it to the 36th pick in the draft?  Some say yes while others feel he is going to go somewhere just after the 15th pick overall.  Its likely Chicago would have to trade down to get him in the ideal spot.  That involves “mortgaging the future” which we discussed before.

The ideal scenario for the Bears would be to get a good quarterback in the second round.  If they miss out on any of the four top guys before that there are a couple other options.  The choices, however, are slim.  Ideally, if they miss out on one of the top four quarterbacks, they should wait until next year to get a future franchise quarterback.

This writer hopes that fear doesn’t grip the Bears and they take a quarterback too early.  There are other needs that the Bears could use their third pick on.  But then, some teams have found success drafting quarterbacks in that third spot.  There have been guys like Matt Ryan and Steve McNair both successful third players picks in a draft. But then you have those failed number three picks like Akili Smith and Joey Harrington.

Honestly, it’s a crap shoot.  You roll the dice with the player that you get and hope for the best.  At times, it’s hard to predict how a player is actually going to perform once the football “bullets” start flying.  Other times, it is easy.  There are plenty of players with red flags and reasons to avoid them.  Sometimes your choice is easy, sometimes it isn’t.

Ultimately, the best choice for Chicago is to go with the best player available.  Lots of teams do this and they find success with that approach.  Quite frankly, with the best players’ available being guys like Jamal Adams, Marshon Lattimore, and Jonathan Allen, the Bears could not go wrong.  Where they could go wrong is if they reached for someone who didn’t belong at number three.

My best advice to the Bears is to grab one of the top guys that are available.  They can’t go wrong.  Trying to get one of the best quarterbacks that early would be crazy.  If they can get one later then that’s what they need to do.

Or maybe the Bears need to wait a year and draft a quarterback in 2018?  The crop of quarterbacks next year is going to be much better than it is this year. With big names like Oklahoma State’s Mason Rudolph and Washington State’s Luke Falk, the Bears could have better opportunity to find a future starter.  Sure, they need to start winning now but they need to start winning the right way.  They cannot put their future in the hands of someone who has the potential to bust.

Remember Cade McNown?

So my advice for the Bears is to avoid a quarterback until after the first round.  If you miss out on the guy you want then wait until next year.  Don’t waste a pick on a player is a reach or not a good fit.  In fact, if there is any chance he might not work out, in your mind, don’t take him.

And do not take a quarterback unless it’s the right place to take one.

What do you think?  Should the Bears take a quarterback at number three?  Where should they draft a quarterback?

The Forgotten Need: Offensive Tackle Prospects

By Bryan Dietzler

Over the past few weeks we have covered several different players that would be good fits for the Bears in the 2017 NFL Draft.  We have looked at quarterbacks, safeties, cornerbacks and defensive lineman.  We have looked at guys like Jamal Adams, Jonathan Allen and Marshon Lattimore.  There has been speculation that the Bears could draft DeShaun Watson or Patrick Mahomes.

Not one single mock draft has the Bears taking any player but a safety, cornerback, quarterback or defensive tackle in the first round. And that’s for good reason.  If you look at the players that rated to be worthy of that third pick, those are the four positions that seem to be the most sensible.  Well sensible to take with the third pick in the draft.

You wouldn’t think that taking an offensive tackle with that pick would be feasible.  In this draft, it wouldn’t be.  There is not a top ten offensive tackle and the only one who might even be considered near top ten, Wisconsin’s Ryan Ramczyk, will probably not be selected until after the 15th pick in the first round.

It doesn’t appear that there could be a chance that the Bears would take an offensive tackle in the first round.  Sure, it might happen if they trade down and grab one a little later but they won’t take one at number three.

An offensive tackle is not their number one need or top target in this draft.

But it is a need and one that should be addressed in this draft.  But where in the draft?  And who should they consider taking?

I am one to advocate taking a strong future starter at left tackle in either the second or third round of the draft.  Depending on what the Bears decide to do at quarterback, they may even wait until the third round or fourth of the draft to take one.  But maybe it’s just not a top priority to them?

But why all this talk of drafting an offensive tackle? Isn’t Charles Leno Jr., the 16-game starter from last season, good enough?  Do the Bears really need to find a new left tackle in this draft?

Leno is solid but unspectacular player who gives up a lot of pressure on the quarterback.  He is serviceable, for now, but the Bears need someone a little more dynamic at the position.  If they can upgrade at left tackle, their line play would be better and they could do a lot more in a better way.

If the Bears were to take an offensive tackle, where should they take one?  And who should they take?

Let’s look at three prospects that the Bears may be interested in at the tackle position.  There is one prospect each for the second, third and fourth round.  We will look at a little of their upside, a little about their downside and if they make sense being drafted by the Bears in their projected round.

Roderick Johnson-Florida State-His build is solid for the tackle position and he has long arms which allows him to keep defenders off his body.  He can adjust quickly to the defender, keep him from disrupting the play and is quick to react.  Johnson can run block well and finishes his blocks with authority.

There are times he bends at the waist when blocking which isn’t good for an offensive lineman.  He can overreact struggle to correct and then take on the defender without good technique.  Johnson’s footwork could use some fine tuning as well so hopefully a good coach can help him work through that issue.

Is Johnson worth a second-round pick?  Most experts feel that he could be a low second to early third round selection so the Bears may not want to take him at 36.  If the fell into the third round, where the Bears pick at number 67 then he could be worth taking.  He could develop into a fine starter and may be better than Leno eventually.

Vanderbilt is not known as a football powerhouse but it has produced some decent talent in the past.  We won’t mention the most popular Vanderbilt product who played for the Bears (Jay Cutler anyone?).  But there is one guy coming out this year, an offensive tackle, that could interest Chicago.  His name is Will Holden.

Holden is a monster standing 6-7 while weighing 311 pounds.  He could play guard or tackle but the Bears need him to play tackle.  His run blocking is pretty stout and is used to working in a highly efficient run offense.  He is strong and can move defenders where he needs them to go (get them out of the way).

Pass protection is Holden’s weakness and the Bears can’t really afford to have someone that could hurt them in pass protection.  Perhaps they can develop him into a finely tuned pass protector but that would take time. Do the Bears have time to develop a tackle?  Of course, they do because Leno can still play while they let this guy get “NFL-ready”.

Although he is a project, Holden is worth looking at as a third or fourth round pick.  The Bears make their pick early in the third round and then have the 111th and 117th picks in the draft.  Many experts feel that Holden could go late in the third round but he could be there early in the fourth too.

He’s a project player with a ton of upside who could, quite possibly, develop into a starter later down the road.

Finally, Florida’s David Sharpe is yet another player that the Bears could look at in finding some help at the offensive tackle position.  Sharpe, who stands six feet six inches tall and weighs 343 pounds, is another big-bodied guy .  But does he have decent pass protection skills?

When looking at his upside, you will see that Sharpe is massive and well-proportioned with big legs and long arms.  His initial punch is big and his hand technique is well-developed.  Due to his bulk, he can grab hold and control defenders moving them where he needs them to go.  Sharpe is very strong and can outmuscle many defenders he encounters.  But can he do what he was able to do to college defensive lineman to NFL defensive linemen?

Sharpe doesn’t play with much fluidity and seems to be a little stiff.  He will bend in the middle and will lunge at the defender sometimes.  He doesn’t make quick lateral moves and is not very quick overall.  His ability to get in and execute double team blocks isn’t that strong either.

A player like Sharpe could be a good pick up .  He’s more like an early to mid-fourth round pick right and could be had by the Bears at 111 or 117.  Of course, he would be another developmental prospect that could step in and play a little later down the road.

Every team needs a solid left tackle and the Bears haven’t had one for quite some time.  If they can draft someone that could help them solidify the position that would be great.  It’s doubtful they will take a left tackle in the first round and probably not in the second.  Look for them to grab one and try to shore up a position that could use some more “punch”.

Always a Bear: The Life and Career of Charles “Peanut” Tillman

By Bryan Dietzler

The Chicago Bears have had a lot of great players since they became an NFL franchise back in 1920.  Some of those players have been talked about on this website.  Guys like Gale Sayers, Walter Payton and Dick Butkus are etched in the Bear’s lore and will never be forgotten.  There are great guys and not so great guys.  There were stars born the moment that the first ball was thrown many years ago.  And there are stars rising on the Bears right now.

In the past few years, the Bears have had some pretty solid players.  Guys like Lance Briggs, Brian Urlacher and Mike Brown come to mind.  Those three were players that helped get the Bears to their second Super Bowl in 2006.  Unfortunately they lost to the Indianapolis Colts.

There is one player that we can’t forget about who made a big impact on the Bears during his career in Chicago.  Not only was he a fine player on the field but he was a great person off it and has been recognized for that.  And even now, after his football career has ended, this person continues to make a big impact on the community.

That former Chicago Bear is Charles Tillman, better known to Bear’s fans as “Peanut”.

Tillman was born on February 23, 1981 in the city he would eventually play a majority of his career in, Chicago.  His father was in the United States Army so the family moved around quite often.  He attended 11 different schools while he was growing up.

His family stayed in one place long enough for Tillman to graduate from high school at Copperas Cove High School in Copperas Cove, Texas.  While he was there he played football and was named as an all-area team selection as well as a two time All-District 8-5A member.

The University of Louisiana at Lafayette recruited Tillman and he played his college ball there.  He was a cornerback and started all four years he was with the Ragin Cajuns.

Draft time came and Tillman was one of the more sought after cornerback prospects in the 2013 NFL Draft.  The Chicago Bears took Tillman with the 35th pick in the draft as a second rounder.  In his first season with the team, he made his way into the starting lineup and was very productive having four interceptions and 83 tackles.  Tillman was a little banged up in his second season but returned to register 93 tackles and five interceptions in his third season in Chicago.

The 2006 season was a huge one for the Bears and Tillman was a big part of the success that they had.  He had the most tackles in the league for a defensive back with 80.  Tillman snagged five passes from opposing quarterbacks and forced one fumble.  He did have some injury problems as the season came to a close but was ready for the Bears second Super Bowl appearance against the Colts.

That game, a 29-17 loss for the Bears was a good one for Tillman, at least statistically. He had 11 total tackles and was all over the field.

In 2007, Chicago gave Tillman a new contract that would make him a Bear for another six seasons.  That year also saw him nominated for the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award.  But, he didn’t win it, yet.

One of his biggest “game” accomplishments for Tillman came in a November 2007 contest against the Philadelphia Eagles.  Tillman forced three fumbles and his teammates recovered two of them.  Bears fans will always remember the famous “Peanut Punch”. This is a move, perfected by Tillman, where he would come behind the ball carrier and start to tackle them with one hand while he punched at the ball with another.  He was successful doing this and caused a total of 44 forced fumbles in his career.

Following the 2009 NFL season, Tillman was voted to his first Pro Bowl.  He probably deserved additional Pro Bowl visits prior to his first. But that’s a debate for another day.

In 2012, Tillman earned the Bears record for most touchdown returns by a defensive player with eight. In addition to that, he earned a second Pro Bowl trip along with a spot on the All-Pro team as a first team cornerback.

Unfortunately for Tillman and the Bears, his 2013 season ended early as suffered from a torn biceps injury in the tenth week of the season.  He missed the rest of the year.  It was a blow to the Bears and to Tillman but hopes were high that he would be able to return the following season and step right back in again.

The season wasn’t a total loss for Tillman however. Following the end of the season, in February, he was named the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year for his efforts in the community.  In remembering the video that they showed of Tillman’s charitable actions, I remember it to be very touching.  His work in the community is very special and very much needed.

Chicago brought Tillman back on a one year contract in 2014 but his season ended in week two with another injury, this time to his triceps.

The Bears didn’t bring him back after the 2014 season so he went on to sign with the Carolina Panthers.  He participated in every game for the Panthers during their run to the Super Bowl in the regular season.  But, in their last game of the regular season, he tore his ACL.  He missed the playoffs and the Super Bowl as a result.  He missed his chance to get a Super Bowl ring too as the Panthers lost to the Denver Broncos 24-10.

In July of 2016, Tillman decided to hang his cleats up for good.  Some people wondered if he was going to retire as a Chicago Bear.  Was there any question? No.  Tillman, like most players who moved on  after playing with the same team for a long time, signed a one year contract with Chicago.  He retired as a Chicago Bear.

It’s interesting to note what Tillman did outside of football that earned him the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award.  Tillman has his Cornerstone Foundation which assists children who are very ill to help get them the care and comfort they need at a critical moment in their life.

This organization is near and dear to Tillman because his daughter had a heart problem when she was very young.  In fact, she is the inspiration for his foundation.  Happily, Tillman’s daughter is alive and doing very well today.

Tillman’s post career exploits have taken him to the desk of Fox Sports football coverage.  He can be found teaming up with former Bear Anthony Adams on some of Adams’ videos.  He can also be seen on commercials in Chicago and is very active on Facebook.

His life in the military, with his family, brought him close to our brothers and sisters in arms.  He participates in several events with military members and has spent some time overseas with troops deployed in various places.

Tillman will forever be remembered as one of the most consistent and productive defenders in Chicago Bears history.  He has etched himself in Bears lore and will forever be remembered as our favorite Bear, Charles “Peanut” Tillman.

And the Bears First Pick in the 2017 NFL Draft is……..?

By Bryan Dietzler

The 2017 NFL Draft is just a few days away and there has been a ton of speculation as to who the Bears are going to pick with their first pick.  This pick comes at number three which is a very difficult spot to draft from in any year. While the potential for greatness from that pick is high the potential for that pick to be a bust is almost as high.  And picking a player that doesn’t make an impact so high in the draft can set a franchise back for years.

The Bears have several different options in this year’s draft at number three.  They really need to take advantage of the opportunity that has been presented to them.  Yes, picking at number three in the draft is a sign that you didn’t have a great year but the third pick in the draft can give you someone who can help you climb out of the hole that you are in.  They can help make you a playoff contender again.

Chicago needs to take advantage of this opportunity while they can.  The time for them to do something great in the draft is now.  This pick can help set the franchise in the right direction.

I have written about the different options that the Bears may have at number three before.  But instead talking about several possibilities, I am going to narrow it down to two.  What’s good about these two is that they should easily be available and it would make sense if Chicago picked them with the third pick.

But remember, there are two teams ahead of the Bears.  The Cleveland Browns have the first pick in the draft while the San Francisco 49ers have the second selection.  The consensus is that the Browns will take Texas A&M defensive end Myles Garrett.  Most experts think the 49ers will take Stanford defensive lineman Solomon Thomas.  Those guys should be gone by the time the Bears pick.

As a side note, the calls for “Solomon Thomas to the Bears” are starting to grow.  Sometime soon we can look at Thomas and see if he would be a good fit.  Right now, we are going to look at the two best possible picks for the Bears at number three, right now.

The two players that could be the best fits for the Bears in the 2017 NFL Draft are Jamal Adams and Marshon Lattimore?  Why?  Let’s find out.

Everyone reading this story knows the pain the Bears have gone through at the safety position over the past few years.  Anyone remember Chris Conte?  Enough said.  Getting some help at the safety position is something the Bears must do in this draft.  This draft is deep at safety so Chicago could always get a good player in a later round, that’s true.  But for the value and the need, Adams could be the guy they want.

After watching tape on Adams, I have noticed that they guy doesn’t make too many critical mistakes and is a big-time playmaker.  He can stick with faster receivers in coverage and likes to lay out a ball carrier when taking one on.  Adams has good instincts and a nose for the football.

One thing that several experts say about Adams, that is very appealing, is that he has strong leadership skills.  You can see him talking to his teammates helping to get them lined up when they are out on the field.  He is also very intelligent.

And when it comes to speed, Adams has it.  At his recent pro day, he ran a 4.33 40-yard dash.  Yes, a 4.33!  Now speed isn’t the indication of “great things to come” but having a safety that can play that fast is a very nice thing.  He can catch up to players from behind and make the play as well as stick with fast receivers and tight ends.  That kind of speed would be nice to have on Chicago’s defense.

Sure, taking a safety is not as “sexy” as taking a quarterback or a pass rusher but after years of futility at the position, the Bears could use someone like Adams to help shore it up.  He will be hard to pass up if he’s there at number three.  He’s a “must have” kind of player and would be a wise pick.

There is one more guy that the Bears should consider looking at in the first round.  Ohio State cornerback Marshon Lattimore is the best cornerback in the draft, hands down, and he will be there at number three.  Could he be someone the Bears consider?

When you look at Lattimore’s upside, you see a guy who is an outstanding athlete and has solid speed.  His mechanics, when in coverage, are sound and he has a lot of skill for a college cornerback.  What is nice is that Lattimore could step in and start right away on any NFL team.  If Chicago were to take him with the third pick, they would get nothing less than an “out of the gate” starter.

Proper tackling has become an issue in the NFL but there isn’t too much concern about Lattimore’s tackling ability.  If you check him out on film you will see that gets his arms around the ball carrier, keeps his head up and follows through on the tackle.  There should be no question about his ability to bring a ball carrier down.

It’s easy to see that both athletes could help the Bears in the long run.  They would help add star power to the secondary giving the Bears defense some much needed improvement.  And for the value, the Bears wouldn’t make a mistake picking either of these guys.

Most experts agree that none of the top quarterbacks are worth picking at number three.  Jonathan Allen is a potential long term injury risk who doesn’t quite fit well in the 3-4 defense.  Knowing this, the Bears must look elsewhere.  Allen and Lattimore could be solid choices at number three.  They can instantly upgrade the defense and give the Bears long term success at their positions.

A Chicago Bears Legend: An Ode to Gale Sayers

By Bryan Dietzler

By now we have all heard about the news regarding the disease that Gale Sayers is suffering from.  It recently came out that he has been suffering from dementia over the last few years.  For any Bears fan, or fan of football, that is horrible news.  This comes after recent discoveries about football and it’s relation to ailments of the brain.  Not to say that football was the cause of Sayer’s dementia but some are associating it with that.

This is not an occasion to talk about the bad aspects of Sayers and what he is suffering through.  Instead, we should take a look back at the multitude of accomplishments he had over his long and storied career.  What did he do in the NFL when he was with the Bears?  What did he do following his retirement? Some may remember but all may not know.

In honor of one of the greatest Chicago Bears of all, let’s take a look at the football life of Gale Sayers, Hall of Famer and Chicago Bears great.

Sayers was born on May 30th, 1943 in Wichita, Kansas.  He spent most of his young life growing up Omaha, Nebraska however.  Sayers played track and football at Omaha Central High School and was a stellar athlete.  In fact, he came from a family of athletes as his older brother was a track star and his younger brother played for the San Diego Chargers.

Several schools tried to recruit Sayers but he ended up settling on the University of Kansas.  Sayers first choice was the University of Iowa but he decided not to go to Iowa after their head coach did not take the time to meet him while he was in Iowa City for a visit.

He ended up having a very solid college career rushing for 2675 yards rushing with 4020 combined yards.  He was selected as an All-Big Eight player three times and was named to the College Football All-America team twice.  Sayers earned numerous other awards while he was in college.  That, coupled with his playmaking potential, made him one of the most sought after players by NFL and AFL teams.

In 1965, the NFL and the AFL had not yet merged so players were getting drafted by two football teams quite often. Sayers was no exception.  On the NFL side, he was drafted fourth overall by the Chicago Bears.  The AFL’s Kansas City Chiefs drafted him fifth overall.  We all know where Sayers decided to play football as after talking with his wife, he decided to play with the Bears.

Sayers rookie season was the stuff of legends.  He scored a record 22 touchdowns with six coming through the air, one on a punt return, one on a kick return and the rest of them, 14, rushing the football.  His 2272 yards that season were a rookie record and he averaged 17.5 yards a catch to go along with 5.2 yards per rush.

His biggest game of the season came against the San Francisco 49ers as he had a total of six touchdowns in that one game.  The game was played on a messy playing surface at Wrigley Field where the Bears used to play their games before to moving to Soldier Field.

For his efforts in 1965, Sayers was awarded the NFL Rookie of the Year award from three different media organizations.  He was the hottest thing going in professional football at that time.

The 1966 season saw Sayers lead the NFL in rushing with 1231 yards averaging 5.4 yards per rush with eight touchdowns.  He was also the Bear’s leading pass catcher with 34 catches for 447 yards and two scores.  Sayers was used heavily to return kickoffs and had a 31.2 yard average along with two touchdowns doing that.  He earned honors for his efforts in 1966 including being named an All-Pro as well as earning a trip to the Pro Bowl.

In 1967 Sayers had another solid season but his rushing yardage was less than it had been the two previous seasons.  This was happening because he was sharing carries with another running back, Brian Piccolo.  He rushed for 880 yards and caught fewer passes.  His punt return duties were also reduced but he did return one of the three returns he had that year for a touchdown.  Sayers was still electric as ever but was getting fewer touches.  He did make his third straight Pro Bowl that year despite the reduced action.  He even scored two touchdowns in the NFL’s all-star contest.

Sayers 1968 season ended early as he tore ligaments in his right knee.  Back then, players didn’t have the resources to come back as quickly or even effectively (or at all) them but Sayers worked hard to come back from the injury.  He worked with Piccolo, a big motivational help to him, to help get back to form and make his return to the Bears in 1969.

Despite the fact he suffered from the lingering effects of the previous year’s injury, he managed to lead the league in rushing with 1032 yards while averaging 4.4 yards per carry. He has the distinction of being the only player in the NFL to go over 1000 yards during the 1969 season.  For his efforts, returning from surgery and playing so well, he was named the NFL’s Comeback Player of the Year.

Thanks to some knee damage he got during the preseason in 1970, Sayers struggled to stay on the field consistently and missed a couple of games.  He came back but wasn’t the same.  Following their week four game against the Minnesota Vikings that year, he had surgery and was out for the remainder of the 1970 season.

Another surgery followed and Sayers tried to get back on the field and play during the 1971 NFL season.  He got his chance to return to the field in October of that year and seemed poise to continue on.  But an ankle injury the next week took him out for the remainder of the season.  He attempted a comeback the next pre-season (1972) but retired before the start of the season.

Sayers will be forever remembered as a player who could see the field well and get by tacklers as opposed to moving through them.  He was fast and hard to catch.  He could stop on a dime, change direction then pick up speed again outrunning defenders all the way down the field.

One of Sayer’s most famous phrases, (attributing this to the man, Sayers, himself) was “Just give me 18 inches of daylight.  That’s all I need”.

There is much to say about Sayer’s activities off the field as his on the on the field exploits.  Anyone who is a Bears fan will recall Sayer’s relationship with Piccolo.  Piccolo and Sayers worked together on the field and off of it.  When it was discovered that Piccolo had cancer, Sayers was right there by his side until the end.  Their relationship during this period is depicted in the movie Brian’s Song.  It is a story that every Bears fan must read or watch.

He had also written a book called I Am Third, which is what Brian’s Song is based on.  After reading the book, I discovered something very true to life that Sayers said.  He said (attributed to Sayers) “The Lord is first, my friends are second, and I am third.”  Quite a stirring quote.

Sayers had a busy post-football career.  He started off as a part of the athletic department at the University of Kansas (where he went to college) and then became the athletic director at the Southern Illinois University at Carbondale.

After his brief stint in college athletics, Sayers got into business and found some success.  He owned and operated a successful company called Sayers 40, Inc. This company consulted with well-known companies across the country on matters regarding technology.  They had offices in several cities across the United States.  He also donated and raised lot of money for charities and helped found the Gale Sayers Center which was located in an area around Chicago.  The center gave children constructive activities to do after school.

Of course, Sayers set several records during his NFL career.  The 22 touchdowns he scored as a rookie is still a record for an NFL player in his first season.  He is also still the most “current” player to score six touchdowns in a game.  Sayers holds the NFL record in kick return average with an average of 30.56 yards.

Some of his other records have since been broken or he is tied with others for that record.  Sayers is tied with four other NFL players for the second most returned kicks for touchdowns with six.  He held the record for rookie all-purpose yards for a while (2272) until Tim Brown broke that record with 2317 yards in 1988.  His all-purpose yardage record in a single season, 2440 was broken in 1974 by Mack Herron by only four yards.

Some of the honors that Sayers earned following his career included being selected to the Nebraska Sports Hall of Fame in 1973.  He was selected to the College Football Hall of Fame in 1977 and then earned the “ultimate” football honor by being selected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame the same year.  He was (and still is) the youngest person ever to be added to the Hall.

The Chicago Bears retired his and Dick Butkus’ jerseys (numbers 40 and 51 respectively). He was added to the NFL’s 75th Anniversary Team and the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s 1960’s All Decade Team.

Despite the fact Sayers played just seven seasons in the league, he is heralded as one of the best to not only play running back but play in the NFL period.  Had he been able to stay healthy and play in all 14 games a season (back then they had 14 game seasons), he would have broken a lot more records and could be hanging on to a few still today.

Sayers epitomizes what it means to be a Chicago Bear.  His work ethic and “never give up” attitude helped carry him through some of the toughest times in his life.  He came back from serious knee injuries when most players in his time would have just retired.  Sayers wanted to play football and he had the heart and the determination to do it.  Every time he stepped on the field, he did something great.

Gale Sayers, a one of the greatest football ever and one of the most beloved Chicago Bears of all time.

Chicago Bears 2017 Draft Thoughts: A Conversation about Taking a Quarterback

By Bryan Dietzler

The Chicago Bears are heading into the 2017 season with a former backup, a former number one pick and an untested journeyman at quarterback.  Each has a story and each has something to prove with the Bears this summer in training camp.  They will all attempt to not only fight for a spot as the starting quarterback in Chicago but also try to keep their hopes alive for making the team.

One is a former first round pick named Mark Sanchez.  Thought to be a savior at quarterback, his career has been less than stellar and he might be getting his last chance to make it in the league.  Another quarterback is Mike Glennon.  Glennon, a career backup with limited starting experience, was given a sizable contract and the keys to the offense.  It seems that the starting quarterback job is his to lose.

Finally, we have a guy that has done little in the league, but everyone seems to be high on, in Connor Shaw.  Shaw was picked up by the Bears last off-season but was lost for the year with a serious leg injury.  He’s back and ready to try to make the team this off-season.  Can he do it?

If you look at these three prospects, you should be able to determine that the Bears don’t have a franchise quarterback yet. Unless one of them steps forward and surprises us, we are facing the fact that we have three “bridge” quarterbacks who are keeping the spot warm for a future franchise signal caller.

We have spent some time speculating about what the Bears may or may not do at the position in the 2017 NFL draft.  In the past couple of weeks, we have discussed three of the top four prospects at the quarterback position who will be available in the draft.  There were a lot of opinions shared and a lot of suggestions for what the Bears should do.

The most popular choice for people was to see Chicago take DeShaun Watson out of Clemson. Why not?  He’s a proven winner, he has a lot of skill and he has room to develop.  He’s a favorite among football fans as well as members of the media and many think he will be a superstar.

But let’s look at the numbers on Watson.  The numbers don’t lie.

If you stack up the total number of interceptions you will see that in his 38 games, he had 32 interceptions.  That is quite a few mistakes made in a short amount of time.  If he can correct these mistakes in the NFL that would be great but is this a sign that he is a risk?  Is he a gambler?

Granted, this is just one of many great and not so great aspects about Watson.  There is much more to him than making mistakes.

The biggest upside to Watson is that he is a proven winner.  He has been in some big games and come out on top.  Anyone who knows how to win like that will be in high demand in the NFL.  His future in the NFL could be the brightest of all the quarterbacks available in the 2017 NFL Draft.

Notre Dame’s DeShone Kizer is one of the best quarterbacks in the 2017 NFL Draft according to many experts.  Kizer has some fantastic physical tools (he stands 6’4” and weighs 230 pounds) but is a raw talent.  There are some experts that feel that the right team could mold him into a future superstar.  Kizer definitely has a lot of upside and potential.

But he doesn’t have a lot of starting experience.  In college, he started 25 games in two years and was benched last season for his inability be effective.  Yes, he was benched but he is still considered to be one of the top quarterbacks in this year’s draft.  The question is, do you really want to take a guy who was benched the year before that high in the draft?  Some team will.  Will that team be the Bears?

Finally, there is Texas Tech’s Patrick Mahomes.  Mahomes has three years of stating experience having begun his starting career in college as a true freshman.  He 93 touchdowns and just 29 interceptions.  Experts say he has a lot of talent and some room to grow.  Mahomes could be a bit of a project but he has a ton of potential.

Of course there are some drawbacks to Mahomes.   Some people feel he is very similar to Jay Cutler.  Remember that Cutler came to Chicago with less than stellar mechanics and a “gunslinger/risk taker” persona?  We see how far that got with Cutler.  Not that he is a carbon copy of Jay but Mahomes has some similarities particularly in forcing the ball and trying to make a play that clearly wasn’t there to be made.

Anyone for another try with Cutler?  But seriously, Mahomes is his own guy and could turn out to be a great player someday.

When thinking about which one of these quarterbacks the Bears should take and if they should take one, there is one thing that we should keep in mind.  That is that Chicago should not take any one of these three quarterbacks at number three in the draft.  They are not worth the value for the pick and any one of them should be able to be picked up later on in the first or early second round.  So let’s not think they are going to Chicago at number three.

But it’s highly likely that two of them, Watson and Kizer, could be gone before the Bears pick in the second round.  If Chicago wanted one of those two, they may have to pay a heavy price to get back into the first round and grab them.  Do they want to do that?  The Bears should not want to lose any draft picks in this draft and need to be thinking about how many they can accumulate.

There are some quarterback needy teams ahead of the Bears after their pick in the first round and their next pick in the second.  The Cleveland Browns, San Diego Chargers, Kansas City Chiefs and Houston Texans are three teams that could be looking for a quarterback.  Not to mention others that might surprise everyone and grab a signal caller.

If all three of those top guys are gone then who do the Bears pick?  Maybe the best thing to do is wait until there is a better and stronger bumper crop of quarterbacks?  That should be the case in 2018.

As much as the Bears need a quarterback they don’t need one bad enough to waste a draft pick or sink the franchise.  They can get by with what they have right now and wait for a better and less costly opportunities next season.

But the time for the Bears to rebuild and move forward is now.  They cannot wait much longer.

Let’s say they are in the unlikely position to have their choice of all three of quarterbacks somewhere where they can get value and not lose picks.  Which one should they take?  Watson, the winner with an inordinate amount of interceptions?  Kizer, a smart quarterback who was benched to end his collegiate career? Or should they take the guy who has a ton of upside but takes a lot of risks (Mahomes)?

Fans would love to see Watson in a Bears uniform and he could end up being a big-time winner someday.  The Bears don’t need anyone to step in and start right away so he could develop for a season or two.  But can his college success transfer over to the NFL?  He’s probably the most qualified of the three but is a risk.  But aren’t they all a risk?

Kizer getting benched raised a lot of eyebrows but that may not ward off a team that desperately needs help at the quarterback.  If he gets on the right team, in the right system with the right quarterback coach and offensive coordinator, he could have success.  He has a ton of upside but can he be consistent?

Finally, Mahomes appears to be the biggest risk of them all but could have the biggest reward.  He needs to have a good coaching staff (sound like a broken record yet?) and be in the right situation.  If he can clean up his mechanics and develop well, he could be a star.

Before we make our selection as to whom the Bears should pick, I would like to briefly touch on something that I have talked about before.  When you draft a quarterback there are two ways he could end up being a bust.  He could be a total failure on his own, failing to take the time to learn or keep motivated to be an NFL quarterback.  That player could also be a bust thanks to the team he is on, in particular, because of the coaching staff.

A good coaching staff can develop a good quarterback and a bad coaching staff can ruin a good quarterback.  Or at least they can take a promising prospect and make him a bust.  We all know how much experience the Bears offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach have.  Dowell Loggains has coached on the offensive side since 2008 giving him nine years of coaching experience.  Quarterbacks coach Dave Ragone was a player in both college and in the NFL (his NFL career lasted three seasons).  He has only been coaching since 2010.  There isn’t a lot of experience between the two of them.

Is it even a wise idea to bring a new draftee to Chicago with the coaching staff the Bears’ have?  It looks like they have the potential to create a “bust” out of any quarterback they bring in.

But they haven’t had talent like these three guys have to work with.  Perhaps they can do some good?

Ultimately, if the Bears choose a quarterback, it has to come down to who gives them the best value at the position they can pick him at.  They cannot take any of these guys at number three as none of them would bring them any value at that spot.  Chicago also cannot have a costly trade back into the first round to get a guy.  They would give up a lot to get there.  If they do take a quarterback, and there is no guarantee they will, they need to get him in the second round.

If the Bears are looking for a good second round prospect, they need to look at a guy like Mahomes.  He could be gone before the Bears make their second pick but a majority of experts feel he’s a second talent.  The likelihood of him being there when the Bears make their pick is high.

Sure, Mahomes is a risk but the reward could be very high.  If he can develop well, work through some of the issues he had in college and have time to learn, he could be a great starter in the future.

Kizer and Watson will be gone before the Bears pick in the second round.  They aren’t worth taking at number three in the first round anyway.  Sure, there could be a trade down in the first round, by Chicago, where these guys could be taken.  That could be a wise move by the Bears.

One thing we have not covered is later round quarterback prospects in the 2017 NFL Draft.  The Bears could be interested in someone like Miami’s Brad Kaaya or Pittsburg’s Nathan Peterman.  But it appears as if most of their interest is with the three players we have been discussing.

Or they could not be interested in a quarterback at all and might wait.  You never know.

What player do you feel the Bears should draft at quarterback?  Should they even draft one in 2017?

The Chicago Bears 2017 Draft Plans: Is Patrick Mahomes a Future Bear?

By Bryan Dietzler

The Bears really seem to like a few of the quarterbacks in the 2017 NFL Draft.  This has been proven by their heavy attendance at the pro days of several college quarterbacks.  The latest news is that the Bears had a private workout with Texas Tech quarterback Patrick Mahomes just a few days ago.  Following a heavy attendance at Clemson quarterback DeShaun Watson’s pro day as well as Notre Dame’s pro day, for DeShone Kizer, it’s clear to see that the Bears could easily be targeting a quarterback in this year’s draft.

In the past I have talked about the Bears ability to develop a quarterback, their history at the position and what it would mean to draft a quarterback.  We know that the Bears have had a rocky history with quarterbacks.  From the start of the franchise on through recent times (anyone remember Jay Cutler?) the Bears have really struggled.

Could their struggles end if they drafted a guy like Mahomes?

It’s been said, by general manager Ryan Pace, that the Bears aren’t going draft a quarterback high (with the third pick in the draft) or maybe not even at all.  Knowing that they might not take someone in the first round could signal that they might be targeting Mahomes.  He appears to be a second round talent (early to middle second round).  With Kizer, Watson and even Mitch Trubisky all possible first round picks, the Bears could either be picking in round two or trading back into the later part of the first round to grab their guy, Mahomes.  That’s if he is their guy.

So is Mahomes the player that the Bears should take in the draft?  Will he be able to save the franchise from “quarterback hell”?

Let’s take a look at some of his upside.

When scouting Mahomes, you will notice that he is a big bodied quarterback who can stand tall in the pocket and get the ball out efficiently.  He has accurate throws, can get the ball into tight spaces and can use his legs to get extra yardage if the play breaks down.  Mahomes sees the field well and can take a hit, pop right back up and keep going.

Inconsistency in his play is one of his weaknesses and he will take chances.  Mahomes likes to try to go after the “big gainer” and can lose focus when he does that.  That’s where he makes mistakes.  Some fine tuning on his mechanics would help him out a lot.  His accuracy could be tweaked as well as he will, at times, overthrows his receivers.

When it comes to value, Mahomes may be there at the right “price” so to speak.  Right now, experts have him going all the way from north of number 15 in the first round into the middle of the second round.  No one can seem to agree on where exactly he will go.  The main issue is, will he be somewhere where the Bears can get him and get him at a fair market “price”.

This writer thinks that Mahomes could end up in Chicago with their second round pick.  It’s nearly safe to say that Kizer, Watson and Trubisky will go before Mahomes.  It depends on how things shake out in the first round.

But this begs the question, is he worth even a second round pick?  And is he good enough to develop into a franchise quarterback?  Is there someone else the Bears should be looking at in the second round?

Then there is the question that is being asked all the time.  Should the Bears even chose a quarterback in the 2017 NFL Draft?  General Manager Ryan Pace has led some to believe that the Bears may not draft a quarterback.  Could he be trying to throw other teams off or is he really not interested in drafting a quarterback?

Mahomes could be the perfect candidate for the Bears. They don’t need to have him start right away so he could develop behind the scenes and step in later on down the road.

Could Mahomes be the most capable of the three quarterbacks that we have covered?  Maybe.  He doesn’t have the experience that Kizer and Watson have but his raw talent may just be better than the other two.

Soon we can put this all together.  Later, we will examine which of the three quarterbacks covered recently would be the better fit for the Bears.  We will look at how they would fit in terms of future performance as well as the price the Bears would have to pay to get one of them.

Now that we have looked at these three quarterbacks, which one is your favorite?  Is there one that hasn’t’ been covered that you think might be a better fit for the Bears?

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