Desai Hiring a Notable Change of Attitude for Bears Management

Patrick Finley at the Chicago Sun-Times addresses the changes in the 2021 Bears coaching staff:

When [head coach Matt] Nagy had to hire Fangio’s replacement, he took two days.

When he hired [Chuck] Pagano’s replacement, he took 10.

With a more deliberate tack — and leaning on experience from two years ago — Nagy interviewed nine candidates.

“That was different than the first time,” he said. “And then there were a lot of great ones.”

Nagy picked [defensive coordinator Sean] Desai because he admired his conviction and confidence. Desai is the rare NFL coach who didn’t play college football, but players still have an “unbelievable connection” with him, Nagy said.

A couple thoughts here.

First, the fact that Nagy felt that he had to interview 9 candidates is not exactly a vote of confidence in Desai. You certainly want to do due diligence but 9?

Nagy is, for all practical purposes, a lame duck head coach. You have to wonder how many of those candidates turned him down before he settled for Desai.

In fact, one of the first things I thought when Nagy hired Mike Pettine as a senior defensive assistant was that he might well have made him defensive coordinator had he been available to him at the time he filled the position.

The second thought I had was more positive.

Finley already pointed out that Nagy basically had decided to hire Pagano the minute Fangio left.

Four years ago, general manager Ryan Pace fell in love with Mitch Trubisky and decided to draft him almost to the point where he basically excluded all other possibilities out of hand. He notoriously didn’t even meet with Deshaun Watson. It turned out to be the wrong move.

In both cases I’m sure Bears management thought that they were moving with “conviction” a term both Nagy and Pace love to use. Most notably in the case of Trubisky, people have wondered with some justification if Pace made up his mind too quickly and didn’t do the thorough evaluation of the other prospects that he should have.

The methodical approach to interviewing defensive coordinator candidates, though it may have been a excessive, could be an indication that Bears management have learned their lesson and don’t plan to make any hasty moves without considering all of the possibilities in the future.

Tough Cap Decisions Will Tell Us A Lot about Where the Bears Think They Stand

Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune talks about how the Bears might create space under the reduced salary cap in 2021:

Free safety Eddie Jackson is a prime candidate for a restructure to lower his cap hit of $11.45 million. Maybe the Bears will take a similar approach with outside linebacker Robert Quinn, who has a $14.7 million cap hit but has a fully guaranteed base salary of $11.5 million. The Bears could attack the problem by moving cap commitments into future years when the overall cap number is expected to rise, especially after the NFL finalizes new television contracts and the pandemic is in the past.

The problem with extending contracts is that, obviously, it connects you at the hip to players for the future. The same goes, to a lesser extent, with converting salary to bonuses, which spreads the cap hit out over future years but which also makes it harder to part from a player in those future years.

Jackson is, indeed, a prime candidate for this and I consider it to be almost a certainty that the Bears will do something here if they can. Kyle Fuller is another player who is in line for an extension. Both are still in the prime of their careers and, though it was a bit of a down year for both as play makers, I think pretty much everyone still considers them to be cornerstone pieces for the defense. As Biggs points out, this might be easier said than done, however. Agents will know that the Bears are desperate to create space and this will give him leverage.

The problems come after that. Quinn is a great example of a player who is a real quandary. He didn’t live up to his massive contract last year. To top it off, the contract was back loaded which means that the Bears are paying the price for it this year in terms of the cap hit. When they put the contract together, I’m certain it was with the idea that they would do a restructure this year. But now you have to wonder if that’s still the plan.

Quinn carries $23.9 million dollars in dead cap if the Bears cut him this year as the contract stands. That obviously makes doing so prohibitive. However, that falls to $9.3 million if they cut him is 2022 and the cap savings would be $6.7 million.

So the Bears have a decision to make with Quinn. Do they want to restructure his contract and move money into future years, making it more difficult to cut him later? Doing so would be betting that he recovers to be a better player and earn the money in his contract. But that’s a bet I think it would be difficult to make based upon what we saw this year. You have to wonder if they would be better off leaving the contract as it is, which would leave them to option of separating from him later if necessary.

The Bears are in a similar situation with Akiem Hicks, who is entering the last year of his contract. Hicks is 31 years old and has been injured a bit more often than anyone would like the last couple years. On the other hand, the defense isn’t anywhere near as good without him. Extending Hicks would essentially be betting that he maintains a high level of play for at least a few more years, something the Bears should be hesitating to do with a declining player on the wrong side of 30.

Other options for creating space include cutting Bobby Massie and Jimmy Graham. Each older player has his flaws. Each has his strengths. Cutting each creates another hole in the lineup that has to be filled with someone else.

Connecting yourself to the younger players above like Fuller and Jackson for future years is a no brainer. But its what the Bears do with the other players that will tell us a lot about where they are at.

Disconnecting from these players would be what the Bears would want to do if they think that the current team needs a major overhaul. But it they continue to connect themselves with older players that they could replace, especially those like Massie and Graham, that tells the world that they continue to think that the current team is good enough to contend. That’s something that many, including myself, might question considering the Bears performance against some of the better teams in 2021.

One way or the other, the Bears have to create space under the cap in order to make the moves at quarterback, wide receiver and other positions where holes exist in the current lineup. But its going to involve some tough decisions that are going to tell us a lot about where the Bears think they are at and that will have implications far into the future.

Nagy Says Team Has Lost Its “Edge”. Fixing It Will Be a Challenge.

Dan Wiederer quotes Bears head coach Matt Nagy in an interview with the Chicago Tribune:

“What I’ve learned the most from the past two years — and I put this on me — is I think we lost a little bit of that (edge) with those standards,” Nagy said. “You just think they’re going to happen naturally from the culture that you built. And when I say that, I’m talking about practice habits. It’s starting with me making sure that every single play, we are going 100 mph. And if you’re tired? Get your tail out. That’s going to be a mindset and an attitude that then goes onto the playing field on Sundays.

“I feel like when some things didn’t happen (for us), it was more us just saying, ‘OK, when is it going to happen?’ Instead of making it happen. I have to be better as a head coach on the front end on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday in practice of making sure that we are the best practice team in the NFL. … I feel like the last two years, that slipped a little bit.”

First of all, kudos to Nagy for this incredibly honest response. In it, Nagy confirms something I think most of us suspect about the natural order of things in the NFL.

For most new head coaches, the first year is relatively easy. Everyone on the team is on edge and concentrates just a little bit more because they aren’t familiar with the coaching staff and they’re on uncertain ground. Relationships with the previous coaching staff are now gone and suddenly you are wondering how safe your job is. IN 2018 when Nagy and his staff were new, this is the position the Bears players found themselves in. As often happens that first year, they got very good results.

The problem is that rarely lasts. Players establish new relationships with coaches. Coaches get to know and trust the players. Everyone eases up a bit. That’s the position the team is in now.

Nagy has a real problem here, one that might be more serious than he thinks. Its hard for any coaching staff to maintain that edge that natural circumstances created in that first year. Almost no one manages to do it. But once you ease up, its mighty tough to go back to the way things were. Players resent it and it can create a bit of a toxic atmosphere.

I’m not saying Nagy can’t do it and I’m certainly not saying that he shouldn’t try. But it will be interesting to see if he can be one of those rare types of managers who can pull it off.

No Matter the Plan, It Has to Include Drafting a Quarterback in 2021.

Brad Biggs at The Chicago Tribune answers your questions:

While I am maybe the 10,000th person to note this, none of the current top-five quarterbacks in the NFL (Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Patrick Mahomes, Lamar Jackson, Deshaun Watson — pick any order) was a top-five pick. Corresponding, almost every top-five QB pick this decade has been a disappointment. Why does every pundit every year say you must trade into the top five to get a franchise QB? Data shows this is completely false. Would the Bears be better off drafting a QB at No. 20, moving up or down slightly if needed, then packaging 2021 second- and third-round picks (and a 2022 Day 2 pick if needed) for a late first/early second pick and take a second QB? Data says that franchise QBs can be had, but you need a lot of at-bats. Thoughts? — Marc B., Avondale

I agree with you that teams often need a lot of swings at a quarterback to get an extra-base hit, and if the Bears are guilty of anything over the last several decades, it’s the failure to take enough cracks at the position. Your point is that quarterbacks can be overdrafted, and that’s definitely a fact. Here’s the issue I have with your scenario: If the Bears wait until No. 20 to draft a quarterback, or consider only a slight trade up to get one, the chances of selecting a passer who can come in and start as a rookie are minimal. What you see in the second half of Round 1 is that many times quarterbacks are overdrafted. Sure, you can point to Rodgers and Jackson and find others who were selected later in the first round, but they are the exceptions. Count up all of the quarterbacks taken in the back half of Round 1 and in Round 2 who have been failures. It’s a long list. Considering the other needs the Bears have, I don’t believe they can draft two quarterbacks this year, but it isn’t a bad idea in some years if you see multiple prospects you like..

Marc probably isn’t the “10.000th” person to note this but I did say something similar just the other day.

As I sad then, it isn’t just a question of taking a quarterback. Its a question of being smart about it and taking the right guy, no matter where he’s drafted.

I really doubt that the Bears are going to be able to draft a quarterback who is gong to be starting this season. I think we’re probably looking at a scenario where a veteran bridge quarterback starts.

But I will say this. If you ask who the Bears are developing to start in the future in May and the answer isn’t obvious, it will be a fireable offense for every decision maker involved.

I don’t throw terms around like “fireable” lightly, even just as a blogger. And I’m very serious about it here.

I don’t care where they do it. But they’d better draft somebody. It’s been a franchise-level failure that they haven’t drafted more players at the position to this point. If they don’t do it this year, is malpractice pure and simple.

Why Aren’t the Bears Talking to Allen Robinson? A Few Possible Reasons.

Brad Biggs at The Chicago Tribune answers your questions:

Re-signing Allen Robinson seems like a no-brainer. Why aren’t the Bears talking to him? The whole thing feels needlessly disrespectful. Are they just that far apart contract-wise that the Bears don’t even want to bother? — @adam407

There’s no question the team and Robinson were far apart when it came to parameters of a contract extension last summer. My opinion has been that the Bears will use the franchise tag on Robinson, and the deadline for that is Tuesday. The Bears need to be competitive in 2021, he has been their best offensive player for three seasons and as much as they talk up the ability of the other wide receivers on the depth chart, they would be in a miserable place without Robinson. Darnell Mooney had an encouraging rookie season, but in a really good offense, he’s a No. 3 receiver next season. Anthony Miller hasn’t progressed since his rookie season. Riley Ridley can’t get a uniform on game days. Javon Wims hasn’t really stepped forward with his opportunities. They have to keep Robinson. Maybe the Bears take a swing at a long-term extension before Tuesday, but it’s not like that’s a deadline as they would create more time for negotiating by using the tag. You can call it disrespectful, but at the end of the day, it’s business. Robinson is seeking what’s best for him and using comparable contracts to justify his position. He took a risk playing out his last contract and performed well. The Bears haven’t valued him in the same range, and that’s how we’ve arrived at this point. It’s not ideal. It might not seem fair for Robinson. But it happens.

I think there may be a few reasons why the Bears aren’t talking to Robinson. The first may be that there simply isn’t anything to talk about. There’s little advantage to the agent, Brandon Parker to negotiating with the Bears before they actually apply the tag. Once that’s done and Robinson is actually occupying the cap space, the pressure on the Bears begins to increase as their freedom to sign other free agents decreases.

I’d say it also possible that the Bears are trying to send a message here. When negotiations started earlier in the year, Robinson (read \”his agent\”) decided to make a public display which supposedly demonstrated his unhappiness by dropping the Bears from his social media accounts and, briefly, letting it known that he wanted to be traded. This was, of course, all posturing but the Bears are notoriously adamant about insisting that negotiations not be public. It’s possible that the Bears are telling Parker, “If this is the way you are gong to choose to handle your business, you are going to get the rough end of the pineapple from us.”

Finally, and I tend to like this explanation best, its entirely possible that the Bears have decided to franchise Robinson and see how the market gets set in free agency.

With the drop in the salary cap, this offseason is pretty much unprecedented and its entirely possible that neither the Bears nor Parker actually know what Robinson’s market value is. Will the prices for high end free agents go down due to lack of cap space? Or will the high end free agents continue to be signed at high salaries while the middle class gets further squeezed? For that matter, no one knows what the salary cap will even be at this point.

So its entirely possible that nothing is happening because everyone is being patient for all kinds of reasons.

Smart Teams Find a Way to Acquire Good Quarterbacks with the Resources Available. And Other Points of View.


  • Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune answers your questions:
  • Why is everyone obsessed with Ted Phillips’ role in the organizational structure? For every team, the top football person is evaluated by a non-football person (often the owner). What would be the purpose of exchanging Phillips for a football person other than adding bureaucracy? — @patrick53762437

    Anytime the Bears hit a rough patch — and they’ve certainly been in deeper holes than coming off consecutive 8-8 seasons — the fan base clamors for change. The push-button topics for fans are to call for the McCaskeys to sell the team or replace Phillips. The public wants to see someone pay with his job for the team’s struggles. They’re out for blood, and in the age of social media, that is only amplified. Phillips might not be the longest-tenured employee at Halas Hall, but he has been around for an awfully long time and has been in a prominent role for most of that run, serving as president and CEO since 1999. As you know, the Bears have had consecutive winning seasons only once during that span (2005 and 2006), and there are those who place the blame on Phillips’ doorstep for the ongoing struggles. I agree with you that eventually decisions are made at a level that doesn’t involve “football people.” The argument for a football person in the upper hierarchy is it would add an extra set of eyes to the operation, but ultimately, when a hire is made for a general manager, ownership has to sign off. Phillips doesn’t have a role in football decisions, but he is involved at the level of hiring a general manager. I can see both sides, but ultimately George McCaskey is the man who makes the call on the organization’s top decisions, and that would be the case whether Phillips is empowered or someone with a football background is hired to replace him.

    I recognize the argument that both this fan and Biggs are making. What’s the difference if McCaskey is making the final decision on the hire anyway? Why add an extra layer to the top?

    I’ll give one potential answer in defense of the fans and media who are calling for this hire.

    Potential GMs come from a pool of personnel men who are usually buried a couple layers down in the hierarchy. They are pro player scouts or draft scouts or assistant GMs. I really doubt that either Phillips or McCaskey really knows who these people are. Indeed, they have shown repeatedly that they don’t by doing things like hiring firms to identify candidates.

    But team presidents are different. They come from a different pool. They are, for example, former GMs. Often people who were successful GMs or other types of front office people but who, perhaps, are retired or who no longer wanted to put in the time to do the job day-to-day. These are people who McCaskey will have known. People who he probably has met or interacted with over the course of their career becasue they were at the top of their former organizations.

    Because of this, you could argue that McCaskey is better placed to hire an effective team president than he is to hire a GM who he possibly has never met in his life before his job interview.

  • Biggs answers another question:
  • Do you see Danny Trevathan being one of the starting linebackers for the upcoming season? — @richrbreez

    That’s a great question. Trevathan looked a lot slower this season, and it’s difficult to imagine at 31 and entering his 10th season that he will regain the range he played with earlier in his career. Trevathan is due to earn $7.125 million in 2021, and his base salary of $2.5 million is fully guaranteed. He also has an option bonus of $3.625 million, and if the Bears decline that, his base salary escalates to a fully guaranteed $6.625 million. So there isn’t a cheap out for the Bears after signing Trevathan before free agency began last year. They placed a high value on his leadership when they brought him back on his third NFL contract, and while he played a little better as the season went along, I would imagine they can find a cheaper alternative with greater range. The question is how much do they continue to value the intangibles he brings and what would the replacement cost be?

    I have to believe that with limited cap space that the Bears keep Trevathan on for at least another year and hope things get better. True, he’s on the wrong side of thirty and there’s good reason to doubt that he will. But he’s not exactly ancient and he was at least adequate this year. With limited cap space, it probably costs more to replace him when the cost of the replacement is considered.

  • Alex Shapiro at NBC 5 Chicago dreams of the Bears signing J.J. Watt:
  • [Watt’s wife] Kealia Ohai Watt joined the Red Stars in 2020 and moved to Chicago to begin training last March. She enjoyed instant success with the team, scoring two goals and two assists in only four regular season games. Kealia is under contract with the team for the 2021 season as well.

    You may be thinking the Bears don’t have a shot to land Watt, since they won’t be able to offer him the best contract on the open market. According to, the Bears rank 22nd in the league in current cap space. But while a few extra million bucks from the Jacksonville Jaguars is cool, not needing to be in a long distance relationship with your wife is priceless.

    I think it far more likely that Watt sees Green Bay as being plenty close enough to Chicago to satisfy both his heart and his desire to win a Super Bowl. He was born in Wisconsin and went to college at U.W.

    I think its so likely that Watt will sign a team friendly with Green Bay that I consider it to be almost a foregone conclusion.

  • Biggs answers another question:
  • Would it be such a massive reach to take Mac Jones at No. 20? Or should the Bears stick to the best player available or trade back? — @sprucebandit

    I don’t know that Jones is a quarterback who can come in and have success right away, and there is a chance he is off the board before No. 20. It would be a risk for GM Ryan Pace and coach Matt Nagy to stake their future and the idea of progress on a rookie quarterback. Jones has gotten plenty of publicity in the last week since performing well at the Senior Bowl. He was far and away the best quarterback in Mobile, Ala., though it’s not like he had a ton of competition. One of the points scouts make when you ask about Jones is that he was surrounded by such an embarrassment of riches at Alabama — the Crimson Tide’s wide receivers were better than the position groups for a handful of NFL teams — he often was throwing into wide-open windows. He could wind up being very good, but it probably will take some developmental time. There’s a good chance the Bears could get an offensive tackle at No. 20, and it’s also a strong draft for wide receivers. I tend to think the likelihood of them taking a quarterback in Round 1 is low.

    I tend to agree with Biggs that, at least right now, it doesn’t appear that taking Jones at #20 overall would be a reach.

    I would further say that if the Bears like him, they should do it without reference to their futures with the team. In fact, if anything, I’d think it would be an advantage for them to do it.

    Yes, your chances of winning a championship go down when you are starting a rookie QB. But Bears chairman George McCaskey has made it pretty clear that he’s looking for progress more than anything else in 2021, If the Bears look like they’re on the rise at the end of the next season, I’d be surprised if McCaskey fired either Nagy or Pace. Admittedly, making the case that the team improved in 2021 without making the playoffs would be difficult. But the continued development of a rookie quarterback who is showing potential would probably do it.

  • Kevin Fishbain at The Athletic examines playing time over the course of the season for the members of the Bears roster. In the process, he notes the gradually increasing playing time for tight end Cole Kmet:
  • During the December win streak, Nagy used Kmet as an example of why it took the offense some time to get going.

    “So Cole Kmet, when we drafted Cole Kmet, we knew when we drafted him what type of player that this kid is going to be in his career,” he said. “He’s going to be really, really good at the tight end position. But sometimes what’s hard for people to understand is it’s like Nintendo and you think you can just put these kids in for the first game they ever play or the first three games they ever play and they’re going to have these numbers or they can play every snap.”

    Fair enough. But I can’t get past the feeling that this was more than that.

    Nagy didn’t start playing Kmet more until the press started to push him on it. It certainly correlated with the amount of public pressure that was put on him and I tend to believe he was giving into it.

    I might add that any reservations about playing Kmet before that might have been well-founded. Kmet tends to be a bit loose with the ball and, though his numbers for 2020 weren’t bad for a rookie, they weren’t anything to brag about either. He’ll still have to take a big step forward in 2021 to impress me.


  • Mark Potash at the Chicago Sun-Times quotes former Bears and current Chiefs special teams coordinator Dave Toub on why special teams coaches make good head coaches.
  • “The fact that we talk to the entire team every day — offense, defense, specialists — we understand the game from the offensive and defensive perspectives,” Toub said. “Roster management — who knows the roster better than us?

    “Game management, in-game decisions, the rules of the game — how important is that? And just being a leader of men — that’s what we do. We’re managers. We’ve got to motivate guys. That’s really what coaching is all about.”

    I couldn’t agree more with this.

    That might sound funny coming from a guy who has always advocated for finding offensive head coaches. And I still stand by that. If you find the right one, you need to keep him and if he’s not the head coach, he’ll be hired away to another organization who needs one. It’s a lot easier for find good defensive coordinators than offensive coodinators.

    The problem is, as the bears are finding out, that you have to hire the right offensive head coach. If you don’t, then its going to do you no good regardless.

    Dave Toub would be an outstanding head coach. Few people in the league would be better at getting the most out of his players. He does it with a constantly changing group made up of the bottom of the roster every year wherever he’s at.

One Final Thought

Biggs answers another question:

I don’t think the Bears have the capital to get Deshaun Watson, but let’s say three first-rounders and Roquan Smith gets it done. I think Ryan Pace would exhibit a lot of humility and courage in that instance because it would be highlighting forever his biggest mistake. It would be like Pace at a news conference, standing in front of a whiteboard pointing to those first-round picks, plus a fourth first-round pick (Smith), plus the second-, third- and fourth-round picks to move up for Mitch Trubisky on one side, and then, on the other side, the first-round 2017 pick where he could have had Watson for, comparatively, free. It would so clearly define the cost of his being the Bears GM. Wouldn’t you also admire his willingness to endure that for the sake of the organization? — Damian W., Missoula, Mont.

If Pace can swing a deal for Watson, at what would almost certainly be an exorbitant cost, the Bears would be set at quarterback for years to come. The price would be dramatic when you consider that, yes, Pace could have remained in place with the third pick back in 2017 and selected Watson (or Patrick Mahomes). Pace made a mistake, the Bears have paid the price and they will continue paying the price until they come up with a solution at the position. The reality is if the Bears can’t get a franchise quarterback this offseason — at a steep, steep cost — they will have to pay dearly in the future to get one, unless they absolutely bottom out and one falls into their lap at the top of a future draft (no sure thing) or they get exceedingly lucky and find one lower in the draft, something that has eluded them for 70 years and counting.

Biggs goes on to say that he doesn’t think Pace cares whether the general public sound view a move as being with “humility courage” or not. He just cares about winning and saving his job. That’s a sentiment that I agree with.

But I’m tired of hearing people moan over the Bears situation and talk about how they need to be “extremely lucky” to find a quarterback this offseason with limited resources.

Yes, Pace has put the team in a bind with his poor judgment and with the way he has wasted those resources and he has made his task more difficult this offseason. But this is not an insurmountable task by any means.

Great quarterbacks are typically found near the top of the first round. We all know that. But the league is also full of exceptions. The Super Bowl was just won by perhaps the greatest of them, Tom Brady, a sixth round pick in 2000. The Cowboys have found not one, but two exceptions to the rule in recent years, one in Tony Romo (undrafted free agent, 2003) followed by Dak Prescott (fourth round, 2016). Russell Wilson was a third rounder in 2010. Derek Carr was a second round pick in 2014. Kirk Cousins was a fourth round pick in 2012 who eventually beat out first round pick Robert Griffin III.

Still think the Bears need to take one in the first round and that drafting #20 overall is too low? 2020 MVP Aaron Rodgers was taken #22 overall in 2005 (and Brett Favre was a second rounder in 1991). 2019 MVP Lamar Jackson was taken #32 overall in 2018. 2018 MVP Patrick Mahomes taken by the Kansas City Chiefs after they traded up from #27 overall in 2017. That’s the last 3 MVPs taken by teams drafting lower than the Bears will be in 2021.

And I needn’t remind anyone that the Texans drafted Watson in 2017 by trading up from #25 overall.

Do I need to go on?

What the Bears need to do this season is to be smart. They need to find the guy that no one else sees and develop him. Easier said than done? Yes. And the fact that they haven’t done that in more than 30 years isn’t encouraging. But it is far from mission impossible.

Finding a quarterback in the NFL draft is no different that doing anything else that’s difficult in life. If you need “luck” to do it, its because you have to be smart enough to make your own. Expecting anything else is just an excuse.

With Stafford Trade, Rams Actually Make Ryan Pace Look Fiscally Conservative.

Mike Florio at Pro Football Talk comments on the inclusion of Jared Goff in the Rams trade for Matthew Stafford. The Rams also sent a 2021 third round draft pick along with first rounders in 2022 and 2023 to the Lions:

Initial reactions are emerging regarding the trade that will, as of March 17, send quarterback Matthew Stafford from the Lions to the Rams for quarterback Jared Goff, a pair of first-round picks, and a third-round pick. As one executive with a team not connected to the trade opined late Saturday night, the move “reeks of desperation” by the Rams.

The Lions didn’t get two ones and a three for Stafford. They got two ones and a three for Stafford plus taking on Goff’s contract. Basically, the Lions got extra for Stafford by taking Goff, who has $43.25 million in fully-guaranteed payments over the next two years, much of which has no offset attached to it. The Lions, despite any other offers they may have received for Stafford, got two ones and a three only because they took a terrible contract off the Rams’ books.

From the Rams’ perspective, it’s not a gamble as much as it is an effort to make chicken salad out of chicken crap. They paid Goff when they shouldn’t have paid him. And so, to unload a player in whom they invested two first-round picks, two second-round picks, and a third-round pick in a 2016 trade with the Titans for the right to draft Goff, the Rams gave up another two first-round picks and a third-round pick, and they acquired Stafford.

I read that last paragraph and my jaw dropped for the truth of it. The Rams basically gave up four first round picks and a host of other picks for a 33 year old Matt Stafford.

All told between this trade, the Goff trade and trades for Jalen Ramsey and Brandin Cooks, the Rams will have been without first round picks since 2016 and will be without them until 2024. That’s seven years without a first round pick.

And you thought the Bears wasted draft capital. The Rams trade away picks like they’re going out of style.

Everyone who follows football knows that players acquired in the NFL draft are the life blood of every franchise. The only way to keep up with the salary cap is to keep bringing in younger, cheaper talent. If you are constantly trading for or signing veteran players like the Bears do, you eventually find yourself up against it with some tough choices in terms of extending older players that you’d rather not extend to push money off into future years to create room. Eventually, with no younger players in the pipeline, you simply have to let the older, big contracts go and eat the cap space.

Looked at in isolation, the price that the Rams paid for Stafford seemed a bit steep but considering that the first round picks are both in future years, I didn’t think it was totally out of line. But seen in the big picture, this is just one piece of a puzzle that, when put together, gives us a picture of total franchise mismanagement.

It is possible that the Lions are simply going to use those picks to trade up to get a quarterback this year. But if they keep them, this trade tells a different story.

By taking more picks in future years, you could argue that the Lions may be thinking that the Rams are a franchise on the brink of a collapse. The more they lose in 2021 and 2022, the better those first round picks are. The Rams play the NFC North and the AFC South next year which doesn’t seem to add up to an overly difficult schedule and they have talent, especially on defense. But the NFC West is a competitive division and most of that talent will be a year older with one less year on their contracts. You never know.

It might not happen in 2021 but eventually this may very well all fall apart on Rams GM Les Snead. Surely the bill for all of these veteran players he’s accumulating for draft picks comes due. At that point, the Rams may find themselves so far over the cap that they have to dismantle the franchise to get under it. And when it does, with picks where they are essentially betting against the Rams future, the Lions may be the primary beneficiaries.

Do the Bears Really Have “High Character” Players? And Other Points of View.

  • Mark Potash at the Chicago Sun-Times fantasizes about the possibility of the Houston Texans trading quarterback Deshaun Watson to the Bears:
  • [I]f the Texans don’t want to trade Watson to an AFC team, the Bears would be a contender. In fact, the Bears are the top NFC betting choice (11-2 odds, per as a landing spot for Watson if he is traded — behind the Dolphins, Patriots and Jets.

    I understand why Potash is entertaining thoughts along these lines and I also understand why the Bears would be the NFC favorite. The trade for Khalil Mack showed the world just how aggressive general manager Ryan Pace is when it comes to these things.

    But I can’t imagine it happening. First, I can’t imagine that the Texans would be stupid enough to trade a 25 year old franchise quarterback for any price. But, setting that aside, the Texans are going to want a quarterback in return as part of any potential deal. The Dolphins can give them Tua Tagovailoa and the Jets can give them Sam Darnold. The Bears can give them Nick Foles

  • Adam Jahns at The Athletic makes a good point
    about the Bears culture which both owner George McCaskey and team president Ted Phillips touted as a reason for retaining Pace and head coach Matt Nagy at the Bears season ending news conference:
  • There was a quote from quarterback Mitch Trubisky
    that didn’t get enough attention after the Saints game.

    After the playoff loss, Trubisky was asked to explain the Bears’ drop off in offensive production against strong defenses. He said it was due to “a lot of things” and described their performance as “sloppy” in New Orleans. But he kept going.

    “Like I said, there’s a lot of things we need to do better, a lot of things we need to change and a lot of it is the culture and what we accept and what we don’t,” Trubisky said. “So we just have to keep getting better. And you’ve got to play your best ball against better teams like that. Especially Green Bay last week and the Saints this week, you have to show up to play and execute.”

    Jahns goes on to say that Trubisky might have been talking about the fact that wide receiver Anthony Miller was tossed from the game after reacting to Saints cornerback C.J. Gardner-Johnson. Javon Wims was ejected from an earlier contest for the same thing. The guess here is that Trubisky wasn’t talking about this specifically but it is peripherally related.

    I think McCaskey and Phillips define culture as having players who are nice guys. High character guys that don’t point fingers and hang tight as a team. This is a good thing. But its not precisely the same thing as having a winning culture. It’s a step towards it. But it’s not the same.

    All that “being a high character guy” stuff only takes you so far. At some point when both Miller and Wims were interacting with Johnson, a conflict in their heads took place. It was “I really want to hit this guy” Vs. “I’m going to hurt the team and have to face the wrath of Nagy”. In both cases, the player chose the former.

    The lack of discipline that these players showed reflects upon the coaching staff in general and Nagy in particular. I wouldn’t be the first one to point out that the end result might have been different had Wims been released after the first incident.

    To take it a step further, as Trubisky pointed out the lack of discipline results in sloppy play and poor execution. That results in losses, not the winning culture that the Bears dream of but don’t have.

    Nagy is a players coach. I would say in this case it was to a fault and the lack of respect that both players showed for his authority is a bad sign for the future.

  • Kevin Fishbain, also at The Athletic, addresses some key issues
    facing the Bears in terms of their defense in the offseason:
  • Any improvements to the defense should start with the pass rush, which will lead to the next problem area the past two seasons: takeaways. The players that should be the central focus for the next coordinator to do that will be Khalili Mack, Robert Quinn
    and Eddie Jackson. All three will be Bears next season, barring an unforeseen trade. It’s up to the coaches to get the best out of them.

    Let’s start with the pass rush. This falls squarely on the shoulders of outside linebackers coach Ted Monachino, who also failed to develop Leonard Floyd. Floyd had 10.5 sacks for the Rams this season. Monachino was brought in as the right hand man of defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano. Now that Pagano has retired, I would say that there’s little reason to retain Monachino.

    Pagano has now been replaced by safeties coach Sean Desai

    Unlike Monachino, I’m not going to lay Jackson’s struggles entirely on Desai. Yet. But it looked to me like Pagano sacrificed a lot in terms of scheme to try to get Jackson and the other defensive backs going and to generate more turnovers. They played a lot of zone defense in the second half of the season. That keeps the defensive backs facing the quarterback and could, in theory, lead to more interceptions. But it didn’t work and it looked to me like it resulted in tentative play.

    There must be a reason for the drop off in turnovers. Desai has to be squarely in the cross hairs. He will bear even more responsibility now that he is the defensive coordinator.

  • Adam Hoge at NBC Sports Chicago thinks losing defensive line coach Jay Rodgers to the Los Angeles Rams is a big deal.
  • I think he’s right. Rodgers always seemed to come up with a surprise rotational player like a Mario Edwards, who came out of nowhere to produce for the bears this year at defensive end.

    What’s disappointing is that its looking like it might be a parallel move. Initially it was thought that new head coach Brandon Staley was going to make Rodgers the defensive coordinator and he hasn’t filled that role yet. But he hasn’t named Rodgers to it either. They currently have Giff Smith, who was the defensive line coach under the previous regime.

    One Final Thought

    Patrick Finley at the Chicago Sun-Times analyzes the Bears’ biggest offseason questions:

    Beside quarterback, Ryan Pace’s biggest challenge this offseason will be…

    Improving the pass-catchers on his roster. Tarik Cohen’s return will help, as will the momentum David Montgomery got from a breakout season. Bringing back [Allen] Robinson — and keeping him happy — should be a priority. The Bears need another pass-catching tight end, presuming they cut [Jimmy] Graham. Pace needs to decide whether to part with Miller; McCaskey’s frustration with the receiver doesn’t bode well for his return.

    I’m going to disagree with Finley on this. The biggest challenge that Pace faces is improving the offensive line. Veteran NFL writer Bob McGinn at The Athletic asked front office and personnel men in the NFC North to rank the players at each position for each team. Each Bears offensive lineman was last at his position except Cody Whitehair at left guard (he was second).

    While the Bears have sunk resources into the interior line positions in order to keep the pocket clean in front of the quarterback, they have neglected the tackle position and its caused a serious problem, especially in the run game. Both Charles Leno on the left and Bobby Massie on the right need to be replaced. Each will carry a cap hit if released and the Bears have no cap space and limited draft picks to use to replace them with.

    Football games are won and lost at the line of scrimmage. The Bears offense will continue to struggle until they do something to strengthen the offensive line.

Quick Game Comments: Bears at Saints 1/10/21


  • The Bears were occasionally packing the box whenever they thought Alvin Kamara was going to run. I don’t think they had much choice, really, and they couldn’t afford to do it too often. And frankly, it didn’t help that much. The New Orleans offensive line is very good and did a good job.
  • Some really bad tackling out there. Admittedly many of the Saints players are pretty good at making defensive players look pretty miserable. All the more reason to emphasize the fundamentals.
  • Tony Romo pounded away on this but its something I’ve noticed the second half of the season. The Bears have flat out stopped playing man-to-man coverage. I’m guessing they’re trying to generate turnovers. But they’re struggling to cover with it. It just wasn’t going to work against the Saints. Or anyone else who is any good.
  • Manti Te’o is mobile enough but he’s not very physical to me. I thought the Saints came out and picked on him in the second half. Credit to him for being a high effort guy, though.
  • The Bears had this weird lineup I’ve never seen them do before. They had all three defensive aligned to the right of the center – to the same side Kamara was on in the backfield. They ran a stunt off of it to rush Brees on the play. Perhaps a little creativity from defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano.
  • I thought Tashaun Gipson had a really good game today. He was really aggressive and quick to the ball.
  • Truth be told what I said about Gipson really goes for the whole defense. I thought they all looked more lively and were faster to the ball today. I was glad to see it. I felt like they’d been missing it for most of the last half of the season.
  • Also kudos for getting pressure on Drew Brees. They did a surprisingly good job of this against a very good offensive line.


  • Mitch Trubisky was right on target with his passes today. About as good as he’s ever been. Kudos to him.
  • I thought the offensive line did a reasonably good job of protecting Trubisky as well. They held up even when the Saints brought pressure.
  • Unfortunately they had a tougher time making hay in the running game against a highly rated Saints defense. Not a surprise but if the Bears can’t run the ball, they aren’t going to be able to do much on offense.
  • I love the way David Montgomery runs. Just maximum effort on every play.
  • The Saints did a really good job of stopping those naked boots that Trubisky has made a living on. You knew a good defense was going to do that.


  • Matt Nagy decided to go for it on 4th and 4 from roughly the Saints 35 yard line in the first quarter. I really thought with Cairo Santos being as hot as he is, I would have kicked it. It was still early and they needed to get on the board.
  • How in the world did Javon Wims drop that touchdown in the end zone in the first quarter?
  • I lost count of the number of pre-snap penalties in this game but it was too many on both sides.
  • Anthony Miller’s ejection was inexcusable. Plain and simple.
  • 4th and 2 from the Bears 12 yard line with 5 minutes left in the third quarter. Eddie Jackson jumps off-sides. The Saints eventually scored a touchdown to make it 14-3. Awful.
  • Duke Shelley appeared to have an interception in the second quarter but the call was reversed. I thought the refs did the right thing.
  • John Jenkins got an interception (the called it a fumble) on a tip ball by Tashaun Gipson in the second quarter. It was a huge play as the Bears were really doing nothing and things were looking grim at 7-0. After Cole Kmet got a stupid unsportsman-like conduct penalty that cost the team 15 yards, the Bears settled for a field goal. But at least they got on the board.
  • Well, it wasn’t like this was unexpected. The Bears got beat by a better team.

    A very shorthanded defense played better than I expected for most of the game. I thought we finally saw a little bit of the team that we saw at the beginning of the year. Generally speaking they were fast to the ball and played with a little fire. It was nice to see.

    But what really stuck with me was the way that the Saints solved the Bears offense. It confirmed what I have thought for weeks. Head coach Matt Nagy was forced to simplify his offense for Mitch Trubisky for the third year in a row and when they finally ran up against a good defense, they had it covered. The movement in the offense, the naked boots that cut the field in half, none of it worked.

    I give Trubisky credit. He really threw the ball reasonably well today. But his arm is connected to his head and his head just isn’t there.

    The Bears face an off-season with a lot of holes and with very few resources to fill them. The defense is aging and needs an injection of youth. The offensive line needs a make over. They need better receivers and they need more dynamic play makers. But, as usual, no need is greater than the one at quarterback.

Quick Game Comments: Packers at Bears


  • The key to this game for the Bears offense was what it should always be. Run the ball successfully. The Packers weren’t packing the box with players to stop it early on. That isn’t really surprising. It isn’t Green Bay defensive coordinator Mike Pettine’s style. They definitely were concentrating on stopping it, though.
  • I thought the Green Bay defense came out a little flat. They were just a step slow and maybe not all there mentally. I’m surprised. There was a lot for them to play for. Someone woke them up because they picked it up after the first series.
  • Trubisky was wild and high on his passes early. I thought he got better as the game progressed but he was never what you’d call accurate. At 5.8 yards per pass, he will have to go down field more in the playoffs if the Bears expect to make a run.
  • The Packers had the Bears in very tight coverage most of the game. First possession aside, they were very quick tot he ball and swarmed the receiver allowing very little yards after the catch. I think this is how Chuck Pagano envisioned the Bears defense playing today. It didn’t work that way.
  • Trubisky tried hard to throw another red zone interception. Kevin King dropped it in the end zone with 6 seconds left in the first half. The Bears kicked a field goal.
  • Darnell Mooney had a good game today and was a bigger part of the game plan than was Allen Robinson, who the Packers shut down.


  • The Bears came out playing a lot of zone. It seemed that the plan was to pressure Rodgers with the front four, tackle well and limit the yards after the catch. There were still some bad missed tackles that gave the Packers a lot of critical yards.
  • The Bears definitely did crowd the line of scrimmage a little to concentrate on stopping the run, as well. They were very conscious of Aaron Jones. As well they should have been. They did a pretty good job of shutting it down.
  • Late in the game, the Packers lined Jones up as a receiver more often to set him up in a mismatch. He made some nice plays. It was a nice adjustment.
  • First quarter and the Packers have 4th and 3 deep in Bears territory on their first possession. The Packers put Devante Adams in the slot on Duke Shelly. Shelly can’t give him room because he has to defense the line to gain. Adams blows by him and draws a pass interference call. Nice play call there. The Packers picked on Shelly all day. Marquez Valdez-Scantling beat Shelley at the beginning of the second half for a deep pass that would have been another touchdown had he not dropped it.
  • As nice of a receiver as Allen Robinson is, the play immediately above is one that you simply can’t run with him. He’s not that kind of explosive player. That might explain why the Bears aren’t offering him what he wants.
  • Somehow Valdez-Scantling ends up on Danny Trevathan midway through the second quarter. That, my friends, is a mismatch. Touch down. Another good play. Rodgers doesn’t miss anything.
  • Similar to the first match up, the Bears struggled to get pressure on Aaron Rodgers with their highly paid front four in the first half. That’s pretty much death most of the time when playing Green Bay. They did better in the second half.
  • The Bears had a couple of interceptions that they dropped today (Eddie Jackson and Kindle Vildor). Had those been caught it could have been the difference in the game.


    • Cordarrelle Patterson made a good play on the opening kickoff, stepping out of bounds while touching the ball down. The Bears got the ball on the 40 yard line.
    • Cairo Santos had a good day kicking three field goals. But that was more of a negative as it was a positive. The Bears failed to score touchdowns in the red zone this game and that made it very difficult to keep up with the Packers offense.
  • The Bears did an exceptional job of limiting penalties with only 1. It was the pass interference penalty on Shelley mentioned above and it saved a touchdown. SO nice work there.
    • Demetrious Harris forced a fumble on a Bears punt in the first quarter. It gave the Bears the ball on the Green Bay 20 yard line. The Bears settled for a field goal.
    • I’ve noticed that sometimes Cole Kmet can have a little bit of a tough time hanging on to the ball. He turned it over in a bad spot this game, giving the ball to the packers at the Bears 22 yard line in the second quarter. Just like that it was 21-10. The Bears simply can’t afford those kinds of mistakes against good teams.
    • Trubisky threw an interception with 3 minutes left in the game with the score at 28-16. It was a bad decision but I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt by saying that at that point you are just doing everything you can to make a play.
  • There’s little doubt that the turning point in this game was a long, sustained drive that the Bears had that ate up half of the fourth quarter. They went for it on fourth and one twice and made it but failed on a third attempt. They came away with no points. The game felt over at that point.
  • Well, it wasn’t a blow out until the end. That’s the best you could say about this one. But it is evident that the Bears aren’t in the same class with the best teams in this league as this one really never felt like the Packers weren’t in control. The one difference between the teams (other than the quarterback) is the lack of explosive play makers on the Bears. Darnell Mooney was the only Bears player on the field to compare with what the Packers had out on the field.

    The Bears will likely have a chance to prove me wrong at least once more as they will back into the playoffs with the Arizona Cardinals down big to the LA Rams late in their game as of this writing. But this team doesn’t appear to me to be competitive for a championship and that means they aren’t where the front office expected them to be at this point. Ownership will have some interesting decisions to make this offseason.