By Dan Pompei, Tribune reporter
9:44 AM CDT, May 7, 2013
Dan, what is going on at Halas Hall? Why after years of having a stable scouting staff are there so many changes? People jumping ship? -- @chibob57, from Twitter
We have to look at each situation individually to understand what happened. Chris Ballard was offered a promotion with the Chiefs as director of player personnel. It was a better job, and presumably, a higher paying job, than the one he had working for the Bears as director of pro personnel. You can’t blame him for wanting it. Ted Monago also was offered a promotion with the Rams as national scout. He was an “executive scout” with the Bears, which basically meant he was a regional scout with a fancy title. Again, you can’t blame Monago for wanting to be a national scout with more responsibilities. The third front office man to leave, James Kirkland, apparently was not wanted back. A couple of key points here. The first point is the Bears’ scouting staff is very highly regarded around the NFL. It has been for a long time. So when other teams need front office men, they are looking at the Bears’ staff. Credit for this staff should go to Mark Hatley and Jerry Angelo, who hired most of these men. And to Phil Emery, who retained and promoted them. The other point is Emery could have blocked Ballard and Monago from leaving, because they still were under contract. But he obviously did not want to stand in the way of these men receiving promotions that were better situations for their careers and for their families.
If the Bears had had a third round pick this year, do you think there's a chance they could have gone after Matt Barkley? You mentioned in an earlier article that you think this could be Jay Cutler's last year with the Bears unless he steps up his game from past seasons. Do you think it’s an issue that the Bears don't really have much in the way of potential future starting quarterbacks coming through the pipeline right now? -- Daniel Gutstein, Lincolnwood
Certainly there would have been a chance. Emery indicated his interest in drafting a quarterback, and it made perfect sense this year. Barkley would have been an excellent value late in the third round. But the Bears just didn’t have enough draft picks to take a quarterback in the early part of the draft. Is it an issue that the Bears don’t have a potential future starting quarterback on board? Not now it isn’t. But it could be next February if the Bears decide to move on from Cutler. If that is the case, the Bears will have to find a veteran free agent or acquire a vet in a trade. Neither scenario is likely to be an ideal long term solution.I think the Bears should pick up Tim Tebow if he would agree to play in a package that has him and Michael Bush as setbacks with Matt Forte in the slot receiver position. Despite Tebow’s negatives, I think this arrangement used several times a game would challenge opposition defense preparation as well as game performance. With no QB controversy, the Bears would add a potentially powerful component to their offense. What do you think? -- Victor Martuza, Los Angeles
I never have been a big fan of having a gimmick in the offense that disrupts from the normal ebb and flow of the system. You would have to take away snaps from the players you deemed to be your best, and change gears from the philosophy you have invested most of your time and resources in. Changeups like you suggest often are successful in the short term but peter out after awhile. Once opponents know what’s coming, they aren’t caught off guard anymore and the gimmick becomes less effective. I think if you sign Tebow, you sign him to be a No. 2 and you treat him that way. But you would have to be ready to change up your offense considerably when Tebow went in the game.Help me understand the Bear's reasoning for drafting Jon Bostic vs. Arthur Brown in the second round? -- Lon, Vernon Hills
Lot of questions on this one. I did not have Brown ranked as high as some others did going into the draft. But I did have him ranked a little higher than Bostic, based on conversations with front office men. I think what it boiled down to for the Bears is Bostic was a better system fit than Brown would have been. Remember, Bostic was the fastest inside linebacker in the draft with a 40-yard dash of 4.59, and the second fastest linebacker overall. Brown did not run at the combine, but at his pro day he ran a 4.68. The Bears also know Bostic can carry his weight. He played at 245 pounds last year, and worked out at the combine at 245. Brown played somewhere in the vicinity of 230 pounds. He was 224 at the Senior Bowl. At the combine he weighed 241. At his campus workout he weighed 236. If Brown is a 230 pound linebacker, he might be best suited outside. There also is this: Bostic played in the Southeast Conference, which had 63 players drafted this year. Brown played in the Big 12, which had 22. I think they both should be fine NFL players, but it would be hard to say Bostic was not the best fit for the Bears’ middle linebacker position.
Did Kyle Long play DL in high school, or did play OL as well? -- Thanks, John Simmonds, League City, Texas
Long played on both sides of the ball. Some people liked him as a defensive lineman more than as an offensive lineman at that point in his playing life. He also started out as a defensive lineman when he started playing college ball at Saddelback Community College. But he played better after being moved to offense. I don’t think there is any doubt Long could have been a fine defensive lineman if he had chose that path and stuck with it. He is one of those athletes who might have been able to do whatever he wanted to.
Considering his great athleticism and nastiness, why not develop Kyle Long into a dominant defensive end? -- Garry V., Batesville, Ind.
You would never want to invest a first round pick in a player and then ask him to learn a new position. It’s concerning enough that Long doesn’t have a lot of experience playing on offense at the major college level. He has no experience on defense, and likely would take quite a bit of time to figure things out. He has invested his last two years into playing offensive line. He has played offensive line well. He should be able to continue to play it well. There is no guarantee at this point he would be able to make a transition. He is a much more sure thing as an offensive lineman, and you want your first round picks to be sure things.
I'm a bit concerned with the nickelback position -- mainly the depth available on the roster. I have full confidence in Kelvin Hayden and his ability to perform at the position. However, if Tim Jennings or Charles Tillman go down, he is more than likely going to take over. He also has a bit of an injury history, so there is no guarantee of him staying healthy. If something were to happen, who do you think is the likely candidate to replace Hayden at the nickel? Both Zack Bowman and Sherrick McManis performed well on special teams last year, are either of them capable of playing nickel? -- Ryan Cox, Greenville, N.C.
You never can have too many cornerbacks, so I understand your concern about depth -- especially because older players often aren’t as durable as younger ones, and the Bears’ top three corners are not spring chickens. Hayden also has a long history of injuries. But the Bears do have some depth at the position. If Hayden were to get hurt, my guess is Tim Jennings would move inside to nickel depending on the matchup and Bowman would come off the bench to replace Jennings outside. I wouldn’t be surprised if Bowman found new life under this coaching staff. He is more talented than we have had a chance to see the last couple of years. Also, don’t forget about Isaiah Frey. The team’s sixth round pick in 2012 has hung around and might be ready to step up. He is one of my training camp sleepers to keep an eye on.
Any thoughts or insight on the center out of LSU? He was rated the sixth best OC in the draft with some pretty good names ahead of him. -- @Beasthart, from Twitter
I had P.J. Lonergan, who signed with the Bears as a free agent, as the 12th-ranked center. I think he’s a long shot to make the roster. If he does make it, it will be because of his excellent intangibles and effort. Scouts say his athleticism and power are potentially limiting factors.
How did a player like Lance Briggs fall over 10 spots in NFL Network’s top 100 list. It seemed weird as he was so awesome all year along with the Bears D. So I looked at the stats, he had more sacks, pass deflections, INTs, TDs and the same amount of FFs than his 2011 season. Thoughts on why this has happened? -- Michael Swindells, Changhua, Taiwan
It also was interesting to me that Briggs did not make the Pro Bowl last season after making it the year before. I don’t think anyone would or could make the argument that the Briggs of 2012 was inferior to the Briggs of 2011. He played at a high level last year, and I would say he probably was more valuable to the team than he was the year before. But these polls don’t always provide an accurate reflection of reality. You have to remember voters — NFL players in this case -- weren’t looking at just Lance Briggs, or Briggs in 2012 vs. Briggs in 2011. They were looking at the entire league, and comparing Briggs to every other player. And I also should mention this is a very unscientific way to rate players.
Does the CBA allow veterans to take part in the rookie camp this week? The sooner these kids get on the same page with the vets, the better! A little coaching from the players would go a long way in their development. -- George McKeown, Phoenix, Ariz.
Veterans under contract are not allowed to participate in rookie camp. That’s why they call it rookie camp. But veterans are allowed to work with rookies starting next week when OTAs begin.
What's your thought of Eric Weems replacing Devin Hester as a speedy wide out now that Hester is no longer in the receiver group? -- Chuck Durante, Guilin, China
It is possible that Weems will take a larger role on offense, but that is not an ideal solution. Weems was signed to play special teams. He is an excellent special teams player. As a wide receiver, he is a small (5-foot-9) target who never has caught more than 11 passes in six NFL seasons. I would caution you against having big expectations for Weems on offense.
Do you agree with John Kass on his pre-draft column that football in America is dead because of the concussion issue? -- John Malone
First, let me say I have the utmost respect for John Kass professionally and we have been friends since we were college classmates. But I don’t agree with the premise that football in America is dead. I say that from two perspectives. First, as a reporter who has covered the league for 28 years, I believe there is nothing that ignites the passion of America more than the NFL. Even the draft gets better television viewership than playoff games in other sports. We are a football-crazed society, and it starts at a grass roots level. Which leads to my second perspective. I have a son who plays youth football. He plays soccer, too. And my wife wishes he would play soccer instead of football because she doesn’t want to see him get hurt. But he is passionate, really passionate, about football. And so are hundreds of other kids in my neighborhood. The way I see it, youth football is thriving. Does that mean the sport isn’t changing and doesn’t need to change? No. Football is evolving, and it should. It’s a safer game now than it used to be, and it needs to be safer still. It won’t be the same sport in five years that it is today. But I believe it will be every bit as popular, both from a spectator standpoint and a participant standpoint. The sport is just too damn good.
Copyright © 2014 Chicago Tribune Company, LLC