Bears provide home for talented players from non-typical powers
When the Bears acquired
Three -- Cutler, wide receiver
Bennett, Cutler, Hillenmeyer and Williams never played on a Vanderbilt team with a winning record. Moore's 2008 team finished with a 7-6 mark by virtue of a win in the Music City Bowl, completing the first winning Vandy season since 1982.
The Bears, however, see an intangible in players from upper-tier academic schools that traditionally do not have success on the football field.
"I was told many years ago, by a true giant in this business, that when kids come out of those schools, they also take a quantum step in the league," said Bears general manager
"They've had to carve out ways to get better at football while maintaining a high academic standard. You know they haven't hit their ceilings because they haven't been able to devote the time yet to football that you can at the perennial football factories. If they have enough talent, and that's the key, they play to their ceilings."
Programs, like the players they produce, have distinctive traits. Penn State has a tradition of producing dependable-quality players, which also had a downside: Nittany Lions were coached so well that often they were at or near their ceilings already. With apologies to
The Super Bowl-runnerup Arizona Cardinals supplement their talent evaluation with a five-point "winner grade": football character, how hard the prospect plays the game, how smart the player is and how physical he is. "When you're trying to ascertain the 'football character' part of it, I think the program as well as the individual really help you get a feel for the kind of guy you're bringing in," said Arizona GM
Angelo and others in the past have assumed a link between winning in college and NFL success. But exact correlations are difficult. The Bears selected four Florida Gators in the 2003 draft, giving them five along with defensive end
With four of those same five on the roster in 2006, the Bears went 13-3 to the Super Bowl, where they lost to the Indianapolis Colts and
The Bears have posted winning seasons in three of the last four years with Hillenmeyer as their principal strong-side linebacker. His chief competition now is
Maybe there is something to be said for trying to achieve some sort of geographic critical mass to keep up with the Bears' five Commodores. The Lions followed their 0-16 season by trading for linebacker
For their part, the Bears also have been spending time and draft picks on defensive backs from small Louisiana schools, including cornerback
They also selected
"There are certain pockets, certain programs that do a better job, for whatever reason of preparing kids for the NFL."