Did the Bears Actually Have a Good Offseason?

Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune answers your questions:

“Can you give me your perspective of why the national opinion and/or media seem to have a negative view of the Bears? I’m watching clips of Damien Woody and John Fox saying the Bears had the worst offseason. I feel clips like this are the norm, but maybe I’m wrong? Very frustrating. — @schnurlacher1

“Former Bears coach John Fox cited the Bears as having the worst offseason of any NFL team during a Monday appearance on ESPN. But he did so after Damien Woody first listed the Bears. Woody cited the loss of defensive coordinator Vic Fangio as a reason for selecting the Bears, which led to considerable turnover in the defensive coaching staff. Fox referenced the unresolved kicker situation, which has more than a few Bears fans nervous. What Fox didn’t mention is that the team terminated the contract of all-time leading scorer Robbie Gould while he was the coach, a move Fox likely could have prevented. Keep a couple of things in mind. For starters, sometimes TV and radio personalities are going to throw out opinions to generate discussion. Second, the Bears were pretty bad for a long stretch, so it’s going to take sustained success for them to generate respect. I wouldn’t get too bothered about Fox or Woody choosing the Bears for having the worst offseason. The Bears didn’t have first- or second-round draft picks. But I think you can fairly say they still had a good offseason and I think they made about the best move possible after Fangio’s exit.”

I have a number of points to make about this question and the answer:

  1. I really haven’t found the national media to be all that biased in their assessment of the Bears. Opinions vary and many are properly skeptical of a last-to-first place Bears team that most thought would come in last in the NFC North last year.A lot of things went right for the Bears last year and the ball fell their way an awful lot. The Bears were uncommonly healthy being second in the NFL last year in games lost due to injury. They also played a last place schedule. The odds are good that the team will face considerably more adversity this year and how they respond will tell everyone everywhere what they are made of and whether they are truly worthy of respect.
  2. I’ve made it a habit to virtually ignore the national media when it comes to opinions of the Bears. Most of the local reporters seem to be very enthusiastic and they are much more plugged in to the team that national media members who are trying to track all 32 teams at once.Not that the local reporters are always right. They’re close to the players and the team and many are unabashed fans. There’s a lot of bias there. But they are more informed.
  3. Having said that, not all of the national media are down on the Bears and you do occasionally hear some glowing opinions of what they are doing. Rodney Harrison is one of the most critical NFL analysts there is but I listened to him give what was for him a glowing assessment of the Bears as a team and of quarterback Mitch Trubisky in particular two weekends ago on NBC Sports Radio.Fans have a habit of remembering the bad things and forgetting the good things. The national media aren’t biased.
  4. Regarding the specific comments of Damien Woody and John Fox, I agree with them that the Bears didn’t have a good offseason. They didn’t have a first or second round pick and they are up against the cap. It awfully hard to improve your team in what most analysts would consider to be a substantial way under those conditions.General manager Ryan Pace came from the Saints and they are constantly in this same situation. He’s definitely brought the philosophy that they have there to Chicago.

    I don’t fear it as much now as I did when they hired him because either he or the people who work for him or both seem to have an eye for talent. For instance, from what I’ve seen when they have traded away picks the last couple years its been a good investment. I think we’re just going to have to get used to it.

Paxton Lynch Might Have a Better Chance of Developing in Seattle

Curtis Crabtree at profootballtalk.com addresses the Seahawks backup quarterback situation:

“[Paxton] Lynch is getting a second chance in Seattle after the former first round pick of the Denver Broncos flamed out after just two years with the team. [Geno] Smith is on his third new team in as many years after stops with the New York Giants and Los Angeles Chargers.

“’Paxton’s got a big time, live arm. He really does,’ offensive coordinator Brian Schottenehimer said. ’For a big guy, he’s really quick and athletic, picked up the system well. Geno hasn’t been here nearly as long. He’s got a lot of moxie about him, great huddle command which is cool to see.”’

I think we know who Smith is. I’m not as sure about Lynch.

Many have speculated that Lynch wasn’t the best fit in the offense in Denver and that may have been part of the reason he didn’t develop.

So much of properly developing a quarterback has to do with pairing him with the right coaching staff. You wonder how many of the busts over the last 30 years would have been stars had they been in the proper nurturing environment early on.

In any case Seattle is Pete Carroll is far more likely to adjust to Lynch’s skill set. Not that he’s likely to get a chance to show it because quarterback Russell Wilson is a bit of an iron man but it will be interesting to see if Lynch does better there if he gets a chance to show it.

Is There Enough Depth at Defensive Tackle and Linebacker?

Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune answers your questions:

“Linebacker and defensive tackle depth seem to be biggest needs on defense. Who are the free-agent targets that would best fit? — @jokertownhero

“The Bears have pretty good depth at defensive tackle. Look at Eddie Goldman, Bilal Nichols and Akiem Hicks, who plays inside, and you’re talking about a really talented top three. Nick Williams has been around and he knows the scheme. I disagree that this is an area of need for depth. I also think the Bears are in pretty good shape at linebacker. There aren’t quality pass rushers on the street, and when you have a group headlined by Khalil Mack, Leonard Floyd and Aaron Lynch at outside linebacker, that’s good to me. They’ve got some decent reserves, too, including Isaiah Irving. At inside linebacker, Nick Kwiatkoski and Joel Iyiegbuniwe are behind starters Danny Trevathan and Roquan Smith. Josh Woods is another reserve to keep an eye on. He impressed the team last year as a rookie on the practice field. I don’t see depth issues at these positions.

The guess here is that the questioner isn’t impressed Nichols and Irving as quality back ups. A year ago this time I would have agreed with this assessment as lack of depth was one of the reasons I gave for predicting a last place finish for the Bears. However, I don’t agree now.

Irving and Nichols both impressed me in the preseason last year with the progress that they had made in terms of their play. Both looked to me like they could play in the regular season if a veteran went down and provide average productivity (which is as much as you can ask of a back up).

Both have now had an additional year to develop, with Nichols seeing significant playing time. That’s good because although the Bears depth wasn’t tested much last year, it almost certainly will be this year. They are probably going to need one or both of these players to be able to step in.

Lamar Jackson Isn’t Inspiring Much Confidence

John Breech at cbssports.com reports on Lamar Jackson’s struggles with learning the Ravens offense:

“With the Ravens hiring a new offensive coordinator [Greg Roman] this year, it probably shouldn’t have come as a surprise to anyone in Baltimore that the team would be installing a new offense this offseason, but apparently, no one told Lamar Jackson.

“When Jackson showed up for the team’s first round of offseason training activities (OTAs) last week, the Ravens quarterback literally had no idea that he was going to be spending his week implementing a new offense.

“’Coming in, I didn’t know we would have a totally different offense,’ Jackson admitted, via the Ravens’ official website. ’When I got here, coach was like, ’Yea, we have a totally new system. You’re going to have go through this and that.’ It’s been getting to me a little bit.”’

I’m completely torn on this article. I don’t know what is worse, having a quarterback who didn’t move to find out if the offense would be different or having a coordinator who didn’t tell him.

One thing is for sure. Communication was definitely lacking. I can’t believe that the team didn’t have the new offensive coordinator talking to the player to at least that extent. And I can’t believe that the player wasn’t demanding to talk to the offensive coordinator to make sure they were on the same page and that he would be prepared for workouts.

Baltimore has a well-deserved reputation for being a well-run organization. But it looks like multiple people dropped the ball here. Its not that they can’t recover from a slow start in May. But that fact that it happened at all isn’t a great sign of things to come.

The New Bears Defensive Staff Has a Noticeably Different Style

Kevin Fishbain at The Athletic quotes outside linebackers coach Ted Monachino on defensive end Leonard Floyd
“’I think the sacks will come,’ Monachino said. ’I think Leonard as a pure natural pass rusher has a bigger toolbox than anybody else I’m coaching right now. I want everybody to understand what I just said. The better rusher right now is No. 52. But the natural pass-rush ability, the pass-rush gene, No. 94 has it. As he gets better at one or two things, his numbers will go up. The thing that may happen first are the effective rushes.”’ “’This is a rare athlete playing the position. There’s a whole bunch of guys that are great hammers and guys that have the pass-rush gene that have that dominant trait. This is a rare athlete for the position. I’ve coached a bunch of good ones. I’ve coached big ones, I’ve coached smart ones, I’ve coached fast ones. I’ve never coached an athlete like this. “’… His length. His short-area quickness. Long speed. The ability to cover and change direction. All of those things are very special with this player.”’ “’He is more than willing to learn any way he can learn. He’s learning on his own because he asks me great questions every day when he gets back into the building after he’s watched tape on his own. I think that the guy has a very, very high ceiling.”’
The quotes show the difference between the current staff under new defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano and the understated style that former head coach John Fox and coordinator Vic Fangio. “Under promise and over deliver” doesn’t seem to be in anyone’s mantra in May, that’s for sure. Personally, I like the Fox/Fangio way of handling these things. Raising expectations to a high level sets players that might otherwise be very solid up for what might be perceived as disappointing results. There is a reason why Floyd hasn’t been a great player on the field entering his third year. True, he might bloom this year. But I think setting him up to be more than he’s shown that he is to this point might be unfair.