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News » Warner should pop into GM's head

Warner should pop into GM's head

Warner should pop into GM's head
An NFL general manager who establishes finding a quarterback as his team's top off-season priority, as Jerry Angelo has for the Bears, is like an astronaut who says he is ready to soar into space.

Conceptually, there can be no limits to the possibilities, or what's the use?

That thought left the deepest impression when considering how the Bears viewed the first round of the NFL playoffs, a weekend that included 37-year-old free-agent-to-be Kurt Warner taking the Arizona Cardinals franchise to uncharted postseason territory.

Warner looked like the guy with two league MVP trophies on his mantel in completing 19 of 32 passes for 271 yards, two TDs and one interception in Saturday's 30-24 win over Atlanta. In Arizona, he's hotter than a black asphalt driveway, and the Cardinals would be foolish to let him hit the open market.

Yet as NFL.com reminded every quarterback-deficient team in the league Sunday, Warner and the Cardinals have made no progress in contract talks. Despite Warner's stated goal to retire with Arizona, various reports depict the two sides as being no closer than tourists on opposite ends of a famous canyon in the state.

The Cardinals have several expensive players to re-sign this off-season, and still have a young quarterback waiting in the wings: Matt Leinart, in whom they still believe and in whom they have invested millions. Wishful thinking or not, the situation Bears monitoring for Angelo if even the slightest chance exists of Warner hitting the open market.

There would be no shame in Kyle Orton biding time behind a potential Hall of Fame quarterback such as Warner, who might have two good years left and be relatively affordable with a contract that reflects that.

Now that it appears Donovan McNabb will be going nowhere this off-season but to a bank in Philadelphia with a new contract, the Bears have to turn their most ambitious thoughts to Warner.

Besides the Chicago connection with Lovie Smith, who was the Rams' defensive coordinator when Warner led the team to the 2002 Super Bowl, Warner's agent, Mark Bartelstein, also works in the city.

The Bears missed out on an opportunity to sign Warner in 2005 when he visited Halas Hall. He wanted an assurance he could compete for the starting job, something the Bears were unwilling to give with Rex Grossman in place. As legend has it, the quarterback-cursed franchise also lost out in 1997 when Warner had to cancel a tryout with the Bears because of swelling in his right arm caused by a spider bite suffered on his honeymoon. What a tangled quarterback web the Bears have woven since then.

From a marketing standpoint, Chicago would be an ideal spot for Warner to position himself for life after Football, especially if he's interested in broadcasting. But from a Football standpoint, Warner or any other quarterback might need a psychological exam if he chose the Bears over a Cardinals team with a Pro Bowl tandem of wide receivers.

Still, money can be persuasive even to the most philanthropic of quarterbacks. So if the Cardinals allow Warner to enter free agency and a bidding war ensues in March, the Bears truly have to consider putting themselves in the middle of it.

Two league developments over the weekend provided evidence for Angelo to support the contention that better quarterback play, more than anything else, can help the Bears return to the playoffs next season. Exhibit A came from the report that the Patriots intend to use a $14 million franchise tag on quarterback Matt Cassel, who likely will back up Tom Brady -- committing $29 million (24 percent) of the salary cap to the position. Exhibit B came when Joe Flacco of the Ravens and Chad Pennington of the Dolphins -- first-year starters for their teams -- faced off.

Given the number of teams that made the playoffs with first-year quarterbacks (three) and the success of what Angelo referred to as the "over-the-hill quarterback gang," the Bears must keep every option open to remain consistent in their thinking.

Even options that might seem unattainable now.

A team searching harder for a quarterback than for any other player cannot afford to ignore the most qualified one if he becomes available.

- - -

Moving the chains

Moving the chainsOn the day the Bears drafted Garrett Wolfe in 2007, Jerry Angelo compared him to Warrick Dunn and Dave Meggett. At this point, they would be thrilled if Wolfe became their version of the Chargers' Darren Sproles.

Believe it when you see it.

Sproles might be the one guy in the NFL who can look Wolfe in the eye, but the 5-foot-6-inch dynamo elevated his status around the league Saturday night with 328 all-purpose yards and two TDs in San Diego's overtime victory over Indianapolis. A free agent the Chargers will try to re-sign, Sproles did damage between the tackles, on swing passes and on returns.

From a Bears perspective, Sproles' success naturally elicited comparisons to Wolfe, starting with their smallish stature. But Wolfe hasn't shown that kind of explosiveness in the regular season to give anybody reason to think he will emerge in his third NFL season the way Sproles did in 2007.

Sproles' all-around success raised a more relevant question in the context of the Bears: Why is everybody so worried about Devin Hester being overwhelmed by too many responsibilities when there are players in the NFL such as Sproles fully capable of handling an offensive load and return duties? ...

Did anybody else in Chicago wonder Saturday night how different Super Bowl XLI might have turned out had defensive coordinator Ron Rivera effectively delayed his defense from lining up against Peyton Manning until the 25-second clock had ticked down to around 10? Rivera's Chargers defense countered Manning's audibles better than his Bears defense did two years ago in Miami.

But that's history and beside the point, which is Rivera knows defense. If Rivera was a hot head coach candidate after the 2006 season, then he should be even more appealing now that he has had quick success with an entirely different scheme. The first round of the playoffs proved that talent matters most, obviously, but defensive coordinators such as Rivera, Eagles guru Jim Johnson and the Ravens' Rex Ryan can impact games at key points as much as any Pro Bowl defender. ...

As much respect as safety Mike Brown has earned in his nine seasons in Chicago, it has been a while since the Bears received the type of game-changing play from the safety position Ed Reed of the Ravens and Brian Dawkins of the Eagles supplied Sunday. The Bears' Cover-2 functions at its highest level with safeties capable of controlling games in stretches, a reality that would make a player such as free safety Taylor Mays of USC hard to overlook at the No. 18 spot if Mays enters the NFL draft. ...

Only 43 days until the NFL combine.


Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: January 6, 2009

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E.J. Cochrane Name: E.J. Cochrane
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Age: 27
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