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Word Is McNown Was a Bear to Deal With

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Cade McNown’s brash personality, which was so popular at UCLA, didn’t go over as well in Chicago, where he lasted two seasons before the Bears traded him.

What the Bruins called leadership, the Bears called finger-pointing. Bear players didn’t like it when McNown noted their errors to the press, as after a loss to the New York Giants, when he overthrew his receivers all day and joked later they were “tired.”

The Chicago Tribune’s John Mullin wrote McNown often underthrew receivers, who started slowing down, causing McNown to start overthrowing them. On top of that, a new, reading offense proved too hard for everyone.

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“I had and have confidence in Cade’s ability,” said Coach Dick Jauron before trading him, “but I certainly overestimated where he was and then where he would go.”

Miami was where McNown would go, although with more experience and fewer expectations.

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Trivia time: Name the AFC coaches who won Super Bowls in the ‘80s.

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Mixed record: Two seasons after quarterbacks went Nos. 1 (Cleveland’s Tim Couch), 2 (Philadelphia’s Donovan McNabb), 3 (Cincinnati’s Akili Smith), 11 (Minnesota’s Daunte Culpepper) and 12 (McNown) in the 1999 draft, only McNabb and Culpepper have been to the playoffs.

McNown is on his second team. Smith is third string in Cincinnati.

The key may be keeping it simple.

“The thing [the Vikings] did that was so smart was to give him [Culpepper] the system and say, ‘This is all you have to do to facilitate the system,”’ Bear defensive coordinator Greg Blache told Mullin.

“That was the genius of the whole thing. They plugged the kid in and didn’t ask him to do a whole bunch. They protected him, they didn’t expose him to blitzes, used a lot of seven-man protection and play-action passes. So he felt comfortable to do things. It was a natural growth progression.”

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Where there’s smoke: Tampa Bay Coach Tony Dungy, whose team has become a perennial disappointment, pooh-poohs speculation he’s on the hot seat.

“I’ve been hearing that myself,” he told the St. Petersburg Times’ Gary Shelton, “but my seat doesn’t feel any warmer than it has for five years. I haven’t heard it from the people I work for, so I’m going to assume it’s the same temperature it’s always been.”

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However, Shelton, noting an ESPN poll in which voters named Dungy the NFL’s most endangered coach, writes, “Dungy’s seat is so hot they should change the name of his chair to ‘Old Sparky.”’

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Add hot: Dungy was named as most endangered by 47% of the respondents, beating out the Cowboys’ Dave Campo (10%), the Bears’ Jauron (9%) and the Chargers’ Mike Riley (3.3%).

“On the other hand,” notes Shelton, “perhaps only 3.3% of the voters know who Riley is.”

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Trivia answer: Only one AFC coach won a Super Bowl in the ‘80s, Tom Flores, who did it with the Oakland and Los Angeles Raiders.

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And finally: Baltimore Raven owner Art Modell, on the possibility of a strike by game officials: “It’s not going to be a disaster. We’re prepared. Now, if we lose our beer vendors, then you’ve got a problem.”

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