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SportsMonday: Blame Angelo

Anyone still believe it matters whether Mike Tice is a good offensive line coach? He could be the Bill Walsh of line coaches but if the guys he coaches don't have it, they don't have it and nothing the coach says will make a significant difference. And that is why the Bears gave up an outrageous nine first-half sacks on their way to a worrisome 17-3 loss to the New York Giants in New Jersey on Sunday.

This is it, people. No more talking about a new assistant coach making a significant difference for one of our beloved teams. Maybe we should repeat it 10 times - you either have the horses or you don't. You either have players who are strong enough and quick enough and smart enough to play positions well or you don't. The specific sport, be it football or baseball or whatever, is immaterial.

It doesn't matter if Rod Marinelli comes in to coach the defensive line or if Mike Tice comes in to coach the offensive line. It doesn't matter if Rudy Jaramillo joins the Cubs to coach hitting.

Then again, the Bears' assembly of an all-star coaching staff has made one thing crystal clear: The primary problem isn't the coaching, although there were plenty of reasons to blast the assistant coaches and the head coach on Sunday. The primary problem is the guy who isn't bringing in enough good players, especially enough good players to protect the franchise, otherwise known as Jay Cutler.

Everyone knew the Bear offensive line wasn't good enough the off-season before last. Angelo's solution was to shop the bargain bins and bring in obscure Tennessee Titan Carolina Panther back-up Frank Omiyale as the primary addition for the 2009 campaign. It now appears the almost 350-pounder may have a decent amount of aptitude for playing tackle but when Angelo brought him in, Omiyale was immediately installed at guard, where he was a colossal failure. He has returned to the tackle positions this time around and has shown himself to be a competent pass blocker at least a decent amount of the time.

Otherwise the Bears stood pat hoping their first-round pick of several years ago, Chris Williams, would transition from right tackle to left tackle at some point in the 2009 season. Williams did just that, replacing over-the-hill Orlando Pace at left tackle late in the year. Also on the line were aging Olin Kreutz, barely serviceable Roberto Garza and overmatched Josh Beekman. The Bears went 7-9 and their line was that bad if not worse.

Then last offseason, the Bears brought in . . . no one of note. Oh, I'm sorry, they did draft J'Marcus Web in the seventh round and sure enough they threw him in there last night against the Giants' relentless pass rush, replacing Kevin Shaffer. The overwhelmed Garza also headed to the bench, replaced by Edwin Williams.

The bottom line, though, is that the Bears made no significant improvement to a line that was lucky to go 7-9 last year and managed to hide it for the first three weeks of this season. There's no hiding it anymore.

The only thing worse than the Bears' pass blocking is their short yardage run-blocking. They only managed to create one third-and-one situation all night, but when they did, the game was still a game in the third quarter. Shortly before the snap, Greg Olsen ran in motion and then stopped behind the right side of the line of scrimmage. This was obviously a power play where Olsen would blast in behind the offensive line to finish off the hole they had started and clear the way for Matt Forte to surge forward for a big first down.

Except the offensive line was blown back, Olsen never gained any purchase (isn't he a receiving tight end?) and Forte was driven down for a three-yard loss. The Bears do not have one offensive lineman who can be counted on to win all the battles against a good pass rusher on any given day and they don't have one offensive lineman who they can count on to push back the defensive line far enough to have any confidence about a third-and-one conversion.

Referring back now to there being plenty of reasons to blast the coaches: Hey Mike Martz, the formation and scheme you sent in for the play that resulted in Cutler's concussion was unconscionable. While Cutler's determination to hold the ball to let downfield routes develop and to limit the number of interceptions was a problem last night, by the time he had been sacked eight times, it was a problem that wouldn't be solved in the short term.

As a side note, it is also a problem of your (Martz's) making by the way. Cutler is so determined to make the offensive coordinator's scheme work that he is refusing to throw passes away when need be (a fact that was pointed out in timely fashion by analyst Cris Collinsworth last night). If he doesn't start doing that he isn't going to make it, especially behind this line.

So Mike, let's go back to the play in question. At that point, you can't go five wide with no one in the backfield and expect Cutler to react quickly enough to exploit the blitz you have to know is coming. Sure enough, not only did Cutler not get the ball out to a wide, wide open Earl Bennett in the left flat, he took the final head slamming hit that finished his night. Brutal.

As for the defense, it was an impressive performance, a performance that if paired with any sort of offensive competence would almost certainly have resulted in a victory. The few breakdowns were notable mostly because they stood in such stark contrast to so many great plays.

This game was for the winning (it would have had to be 6-3 but still . . . ) still in reach with the Bears down 10-3 until Zack Bowman, who otherwise played a solid game capped off by an awesome hustle play ending in a fumble caused and recovered inside the five, gave up that big reception down to the three-yard line in the second half.

Bowman looked back too late as his assignment, Hakeem Nicks, ran a fly pattern down the right sideline. He had him covered like a blanket but he turned his head too late after Eli Manning threw the ball to Nicks' back shoulder, allowing Nicks to back up and catch the ball while Bowman continued to proceed down the field. It is the sort of mistake that will happen at times during a football season and it is a mistake the Bears could have overcome on most nights.They had no chance to do so Sunday.


Jim "Coach" Coffman brings you SportsMonday (nearly) every week in this space. He welcomes your comments.

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