- Mark Potash at the Chicago Sun-Times fantasizes about the possibility of the Houston Texans trading quarterback Deshaun Watson to the Bears:
- 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:
- Kevin Fishbain, also at The Athletic, addresses some key issues
facing the Bears in terms of their defense in the offseason:
- Adam Hoge at NBC Sports Chicago thinks losing defensive line coach Jay Rodgers to the Los Angeles Rams is a big deal.
[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 BetOnline.ag) 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
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.
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.
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.