Chicago Bears: 7 Biggest Misconceptions
It happens a lot.
There you are, surfing the forums or comment threads of your favorite site (Bleacher Report) and somebody is sounding off about your favorite team.
Only what they have to say isn't true. In fact, it's profoundly false. Maybe they're a fan of another team, or maybe just an ill-informed fan of your favorite franchise.
Either way, it gets under your skin.
So today, we'll address a few of these misconceptions and set the record straight. Follow me as we go all "Mythbusters" on some of the annoying inaccuracies perpetrated against the Chicago Bears.
Top Corners Are Wasted in the Bears Scheme
This one always irks me. The Bears base defense (which we will discuss later) requires corners to play a lot of zone coverage.
But that doesn't mean that the league's top corners would be wasted in Chicago.
First, the Bears play their "base" defense less than half of the defensive snaps. In fact, the Bears have played more Cover 3 than "Cover 2" in recent years.
A strong corner in zone coverage is a huge benefit. A corner in Chicago must often trail one receiver in his zone while keeping an eye on other receivers who could potentially end up in his zone. Being able to quickly break on the ball or a receiver is a necessity for a Bears cornerback.
But corners in Chicago must be more complete than those playing in other schemes. They must be able to tackle consistently and must be adept at funneling rushers to the outside back in towards the linebackers. They are also trained heavily in the art of stripping the ball-carrier while still wrapping up effectively.
Charles Tillman is considered one of the more under-rated corners in the league because of what he does for Chicago. He's among the best in the league at creating fumbles, is consistently involved in tackles and plays the zone very well.
The Bears aren't likely to go after top free agent Nnamdi Asomugha. But it's not because great corners don't fit the system. The Bears shelled out a lot of cash to re-sign Charles Tillman and Nate Vasher the last time they had to pay out for corners.
Unfortunately, Vasher was injury prone and declined due to said injuries. But the Bears recognize the need for good corners in their scheme.
In fact, playing corner in the Bears system might be more difficult than in most due to the increased responsibilities that the scheme requires of them.
The McCaskeys Are Cheap.
Here's another little nugget that floats around the comment threads a lot that isn't exactly true.
The Bears hired GM Jerry Angelo in large part because he is a cap wizard. This hiring, along with the Bears general belief that free agency is not the way to build a team, has earned the Bears owners the "cheap" moniker.
But it isn't that the McCaskeys aren't willing to spend. It's that they are concerned about how they spend.
First, Angelo was hired because the team was getting very good at spending too much money on the wrong players and positions.
Since Angelo was hired, the Bears have been a far more consistent team and have a recorded an 87-73 record, made the playoffs 4 times, the NFC Championship Game twice and the Super Bowl once. And a lot of this success is due to Angelo spending money in better places.
The Bears avoid free agency because they believe in building that building through the draft is the best way to ensure franchise stability and success. They re-sign their own players, and use free agency to fill holes still left once they take care of their own.
But the Bears have paid their own very well. Players like Brian Urlacher, Lance Briggs, Tommie Harris, Alex Brown, Adewale Ogunleye, Olin Kreutz, Charles Tillman, Nathan Vasher and Devin Hester have all benefited from the Bears "reward our own" philosophy.
The McCaskeys aren't cheap, they just spend their money more wisely.
In 2006, the Defense Carried Rex Grossman's Offense.
Now, this isn't about defending Rex Grossman—though I do think he got a raw deal in Chicago, but that is maybe for another day. This is about dispelling a myth.
The 2006 Bears defense was vicious. The Monsters of the Midway ranked third int he league in points allowed, and first in turnovers forced and fumbles forced. Tommie Harris was in his prime, as were Brian Urlacher, Mike Brown and Adewale Ogunleye. And the up and coming Lance Briggs and Charles Tillman were making their marks on the league.
But some would have you believe that the Bears succeeded solely because of that defense or that the offense was inept behind Good Rex/Bad Rex Grossman.
It's true enough that Grossman had some bad games. Horribly bad, in fact. But it should also be remembered that the Bears defense was bailed out a few times by that same offense. The Tampa Bay game, the second Lions meeting and the Seattle divisional round playoff game were all games that the offense pulled the defense's fat out of the fire.
It gets forgotten a lot that while the defense ranked third in the league in points, the offense ranked second to only the Colts in points. Lost in the roller coaster of Rex Grossman's season was also the fact that the Bears scored the second most points in Franchise history that season.
And I know the common argument against that point: "But, but, but! The defense and special teams scored 65 points that season!"
The fact is that even without those points, the 2006 Bears offense scored the 4th most points in the franchise's 91 season history.
The Bears saw huge margins of victory in '06, winning games by 26, 27, 31, 33, 31, 18, 15 and 25 points. Margins of victory like that are not attributed to the defense alone. Those are combined efforts. And four of those games came after the veil was removed from Rex Grossman by the Arizona Cardinals.
The offense had it's issues, but the 2006 Bears didn't get to the Super Bowl on defense alone.
The '85 Bears Were All Defense
The '85 Bears are renowned as one of, if not the, best defensive team in the history of the game.
But because of that defensive prowess, people often forget that the offense was a powerhouse in it's own right.
It is true enough that the '85 defense was studly. But let's be honest here. That defense wasn't even the best of the 16 game era, or even the decade. The '86 Bears defense would be deserving of that moniker, allowing only 16 total touchdowns and 160 total defensive points in the regular season, that's 6 fewer touchdown and 30 fewer points than the '85 defense allowed.
But my point isn't to knock the '85 defense. It was astounding.
The point is that the '85 offense scored the most points of any Bears offense in franchise history. After deducting the 55 points scored by the Bears special teams and defense, the Bears scored 401 points on offense. That's 25 points more than the Bears have ever scored through offense in any other season and only two other seasons in Chicago's history have seen the team score more points through offense, defense and special teams combined.
The offense scored on 27 rushing touchdowns 17 passing touchdowns and 31 field goals. Yet the defense was so incredible that the offense's franchise topping efforts go unrecognized.
The Cover 2 Myths
This one will encompass a couple pet peeves of mine.
First, The Bears play the Tampa 2 variant of the Cover 2 defense. While people seem to believe these things are the same, they are not. In fact, calling the defense Tampa 2 is a bit deceiving. The variant more closely resembles the Cover 3 defense.
In a traditional Cover 2 defense, two safeties are dropped back to cover deep zones encompassing half of the field each.
In the Tampa 2 variant, the deep zones are divided in thirds—thus the reference to the Cover 3—with two safeties covering the outside zones and the MLB dropping back deep to cover the middle zone. This is why Urlacher is so vital to the system and why he is considered a prototype for future MLBs. In this scheme, the middle linebacker has to have great speed and safety-like coverage skills.
Second, the Bears play the base defense less than half of their snaps. Effectively, Chicago uses it's Tampa 2 on 3rd-and-long situations and when ahead in a game. But if you listen to media and fans, the Bears are almost always in a Cover 2 defense.
Part of the reason for the confusion is that the Bears disguise their coverage schemes very well, and use the base package to accomplish that. The Bears line up in a Tampa 2 look, then switch to Cover 1, sliding Danieal Manning into the box from his strong safety spot, or into Cover 3, again sliding Manning up but also dropping the corners into deep coverage.
Next time you hear a commentator blathering on about how the Bears are playing the Cover 2 all the time, watch the strong safety. You'll probably know more about what defensive play the Bears are calling than he will.
Soldier Field Is an Advantage for the Bears
Every year we hear the same drum beat. The Bears will have an advantage because they are playing at home on Soldier Field due to field conditions.
The Bears are a cold weather team, right? They come from the Windy City, after all. They play in an open stadium with atrocious surfacing and are used to the cold and elements.
Once upon a time, this would have been true. The Bears were, for decades, a plodding, ground-and-pound type team built on rushing and grinding out the clock.
But those days are long past. Now they are a finesse team built on speed and the conditions on Soldier field are as much of a hindrance to the Bears as they are to anyone else.
How many times do we have to watch Charles Tillman slip and fall on the playing surface before we can stop hearing about how beneficial the field is to the Bears? As Brian Urlacher has said many times, the Bears have to play on the same mud/grass that the opponents do.
For a Bears team built on speed and precision, the conditions on Soldier Field are as much of a hindrance to the home team as it is to the opponent, if not more.
The Bears and Packers Are the Oldest Rivalry in Football
The Bears and Packers played their first game on November 27, 1921—a game that ended in a 20-0 Chicago victory. Since then, they have played the most games against each other of any pairing in the league, meeting 182 times including two postseason matchups.
While the Bears and Packers might be the most fierce rivalry in football, it is not the oldest.
That designation goes to the Bears and Cardinals, who happen to be the only two teams left from the original founding members of the league.
They played their first game on November 28, 1920, which the then-Decatur Staleys lost to the then-Chicago Cardinals 7-6.
I don't know if the media purposely ignores this because the Bears-Packers rivalry carries so much more heat, but the Bears-Cardinals cross-town rivalry was as spirited as they came in the league's early years.
I've long suspected that this misconception has more to do with media love for the Packers than anything else. This isn't the only historic misinformation the media perpetuates about the Pack.
For example, despite what Chris Chase of Yahoo Sports or any other media type would have you believe, the Packers are not the oldest continuous franchise in the league.
That title also belongs to the Cardinals, who were founded as the Morgan Athletic Club in 1898, 21 years before the Packers were founded. They were disbanded twice due to lack of competition in 1906, the first World War and the Spanish Flu Pandemic in 1918, but were reformed permanently later in 1918 and have played every season. That makes the Cardinals the oldest continuous football franchise. Sorry, Green Bay.
Whatever the reason for the misconception, the Bears-Packers rivalry is not the oldest in the NFL—just the best.
We've now cleared the air on seven of the more common misconceptions surrounding the Bears, it's time for your voice to be heard.
Is there a misconception out there about the Bears that burns your biscuit? Have some thoughts or questions on the misconceptions above? Step up on the soap box below known as the comment section and let your voice be heard!