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1985 Bears Coverage: McMahon apes his linemen

Every day of the 2015 Chicago Bears season, Chicago Sun-Times Sports will revisit its coverage 30 years ago during the 1985 Bears’ run to a Super Bowl title.

McMahon apes his linemen

Kevin Lamb

Originally published Sept. 11, 1985

If you have a question after Sunday’s game, call 321-2817 between 6 and 8 p.m. Sunday. Sun-Times Bear writer Kevin Lamb will answer the best ones next Wednesday morning.

QUESTION: Why does Jim McMahon roll his shirt sleeves up?

ANSWER: McMahon is probably the only quarterback who likes to look like an offensive lineman. “All my linemen do it,” he said, “so I like to do it, too.”

But there’s also a more practical reason.

“Those jerseys are real big,” McMahon said. “The one time I got sacked, the guy grabbed me by the jersey and just twirled me around.

“They’ve got to tailor those jerseys before next week. That’s ridiculous. William Perry could probably fit in my jersey.”

Q: Does the Bears’ defense miss Todd Bell and Al Harris that much?

A: Not 28 points’ worth. One thing defensive coordinator Buddy Ryan told the players at halftime was, “You can’t blame this on Bell and Harris. The way we’re playing, Superman couldn’t help.”

The defense missed Bell and Harris in subtler ways. The biggest problem was that people left holes in the defense by trying to make big plays.

That could have been a subconscious reaction to Bell’s and Harris’ absence, but probably had more to do with last year’s No. 1 defense wanting to show off.

The underlying difference between the defense last year and now is that last year’s unit was virtually intact through training camp. That’s important for a defense that uses so many formations and coverage schemes.

This year, the defense not only had to replace Bell and Harris, it had to practice without holdout Mike Singletary and four players who had lengthy injuries: Dan Hampton, Gary Fencik, Otis Wilson and Leslie

Frazier.

Q: Should the Bears change punt returners?

A: They should have done it a month ago, when they had time to experiment. But now, with Dennis McKinnon coming off knee surgery, rookie Ken Taylor is their most experienced return man.

Coach Mike Ditka didn’t blame Taylor for Sunday’s gaffe, when a punt boomeranged from inside the 5 and hit Taylor’s back. Tampa Bay recovered, setting up a short touchdown drive. Ditka said someone should have called “Poison” when the ball bounced back, but Taylor understandably was blocking so the Bucs couldn’t down the ball near the goal line.

Punt returning requires experience, both for making difficult catches and for deciding when to let the ball go. New England had to use inexperienced Stephen Starring Sunday and he fumbled three punts. Taylor, too, is new to the job.

The Bears’ problem could have been solved in the draft. In the third round, they could have picked either Danny Greene, a wide receiver who’s a good return man, or James Maness, a faster wide receiver. They went for speed, once again making special teams a low priority.

Q: Why is Mike Richardson so bad?

A: He’s too eager to challenge receivers. Ditka likes that, but he likes it accompanied by good judgment.

Richardson played Kevin House too closely on House’s 44-yard touchdown catch Sunday, when his assignment was to stay back and protect against the long pass. Wilson, the linebacker, was responsible for the short pass. “Otis was almost deeper than Richardson,” Ryan said.

But when Ryan was asked if anyone graded well on defense, he mentioned only Richardson and the other cornerback, Leslie Frazier.

Q: Have the Bears tried to trade Harris or Bell?

A: They’ve tried to trade Harris because they tried even before he held out. They’ve given his agent permission to shop for a deal, as long as they can get at least a third-round draft choice. But trading Bell, they feel, would be giving in to his holdout.

General manager Jerry Vainisi said Miami, San Diego, Philadelphia and Kansas City were interested in Harris, but not in paying him more than the Bears have offered, $875,000 for three years.

Q: How many teams kept only two quarterbacks?

A: Thirteen. That’s six more than last year, when the roster limit was 49 instead of 45, and seven more than in 1981, the last year of 45-man rosters.

Some of those 13 teams have third quarterbacks on injured reserve. Most of the others have someone a phone call away, but those quarterbacks can’t practice with the team and are free to sign elsewhere.

Q: What’s wrong with Willie Gault’s hands?

A: Nothing. His hands were never a problem in his first two seasons with the Bears.

When a receiver is wide open and drops the ball, it means he lost concentration. Gault has improved considerably in his techniques for getting open this year. It’s possible he’s working so hard on getting

open he’s neglecting to finish off the play successfully.