Ryan Pace Has Only One Pitch: The Fast Ball.

Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune answers your questions. And mine:

“I ask people about Ryan Pace and I get the two extremes. Either people defend him to the hilt for signings like Akiem Hicks or they trash him for decisions like the Mitch Trubisky pick. A year after winning Executive of the Year, Pace was rated the 19th-best general manager in the league by NFL.com. The list had only 25 GMs with a minimum of two offseasons. That put Pace in the bottom quarter of the league. Justified? — Tom S., Chicago

“I wasn’t familiar with this ranking until you mentioned it and I went and found it. The top of the list is populated by guys leading a lot of the teams consistently in the playoff mix. Eight of the top 12 were with playoff teams last season. Two other playoff GMs were non-qualifiers because they’re still new on the job. The Vikings’ Rick Spielman and the Packers’ Brian Gutekunst were the only GMs of playoff teams ranked outside the top 12. Pace has been on the job for five seasons and the Bears have had one winning season and one playoff appearance with no postseason victories. If they rebound this season and reach the playoffs, I’m guessing he would vault forward and get credit for the moves that brought the team success in 2020. Ultimately GMs are judged by their record. If you’re looking at the Bears record over the long haul, it’s underwhelming. The beauty is every team will start 0-0 this season with an opportunity to chart a new course. What matters to the Bears is how they perform this season. If they win, Pace would deserve to be bumped up, right? If they don’t, then maybe No. 19 was just about right. The 2017 draft always will be linked to Pace, but he has made moves to improve the organization and is credited as the driving force behind the impressive Halas Hall expansion and the introduction of many new layers of technology.”

I certainly do agree that Pace will be bumped up if the Bears win this year. And the more they win this year, the more he will be bumped up. If they win 12 games again, he’ll be executive of the year again. That’s the way the league and its fans work.

But having said that, I think Pace is more susceptible to this up and down motion that most.

In his five seasons with the Bears on thing has become evident about Pace. He’s extremely aggressive. Part of that is because he comes from a Saints organization that has the same philosophy. Pace has traded up in the draft six times compared to only three times moving down. He favors the kind of maneuvering that leaves you constantly short on both draft picks and cap space.

Pace evidently believes that general managers should be like young players in training camp. Many coaches tell rookies just one thing about making mistakes. You are going to do it. Just make sure that when it happens, you do it at full speed.

That’s how you end up trading up to get Mitch Trubisky even though most pundits didn’t think it was necessary. Thats why you pay $9 million guaranteed to a tight end on the wrong side of thirty that everyone else thinks is in decline.

If you believe in it, you don’t take anything off of the pass. You throw the deep ball as hard as you can. Whether you are about to hit on a player who is going to make your career or who is going to be its biggest mistake, you do it with every aggressive bone in your body screaming.

That’s how you end up on the roller coaster of public opinion. You are always going to be judged on your latest on top of the world success or your biggest lower than a snakes belly depression.

Where will Pace be on next year’s list? Who knows. But where ever it is, he’s headed there extremely fast.

Bears General Manager Ryan Pace Lacks Long-Term Vision at the Quarterback Position

Colleen Kane at the Chicago Tribune quotes Bears general manager Ryan Pace on why he has failed to take quarterbacks in the draft.

“‘To be honest, when we got here, we had so many needs, there were so many holes to fill throughout the roster, you’re doing whatever you can to fill those holes,’ Pace said. ‘And so sometimes when you look at the draft and you have more talented players on the board that are also hitting major positions of need and major holes on this offense, it doesn’t always line up.

“‘But I do think that drafting a quarterback, developing quarterbacks, that’s important for the franchise for a lot of different reasons. You’ve seen teams do that to their advantage to flip them for draft picks. It’s something we talk about. It just hasn’t been something that’s lined up in recent drafts.”‘

Yada, yada, yada.

My tendency when it comes to this topic has been to cut Pace some slack because since 2017 the coaching staff has been concentrating on developing Mitch Trubisky and drafting another quarterback might have been counter productive.

But what I’m reading above is just nonsense. Pace is making excuses rather than pointing the thumb and blaming himself for his lack of long-term vision.

Pulling the trigger and actually taking a player for the long-term health of the franchise, one that might not provide any immediate benefit, takes discipline.  And Pace’s comments tell me nothing more than he lacks it.

Follow the Investment, Not Just the Money, on Mitch Trubisky Vs. Nick Foles

Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune answers your questions:

“Was the Nick Foles trade a way for Ryan Pace to add a veteran quarterback without admitting Mitch Trubisky is not the guy? — @jhartzmark

“No. How is it not apparent that swapping a fourth-round pick
and guaranteeing Foles a little more than $20 million isn’t a complete
admission that Trubisky is not the guy? If Trubisky were the guy, the Bears would have kept the draft pick and earmarked that money for other needs.

“This isn’t the kind of investment a team makes for a QB2. It’s far and away more than they provided for Chase Daniel to be the clipboard holder the last two seasons. The addition of Foles signals a restructuring of the depth chart at the position that will happen soon. I don’t believe the Bears added Foles to motivate or push Trubisky and I don’t believe he was brought in to be a fallback plan in the event Trubisky is inconsistent at the start of the season. Follow the money and put the pieces together. This move was made to get a starting quarterback for the start of the 2020 season. That’s my takeaway.”

Biggs has been very vocal in his opinion that Foles will be the starting quarterback this September.  I’m not so sure for a variety of reasons:

  1. The follow the money point of view is always one that is always well taken. But Foles really isn’t getting paid starting quarterback money in today’s NFL. Its true that $21 million is a lot to pay for
    a quarterback who to the bench.  But I think the Bears would gladly pay it if Trubisky actually won the job.

    I prefer to think of this philosophy less in terms of money than in terms of investment. Guaranteeing someone s lot of money is most assuredly an investment. But so is drafting and spending three years developing a young quarterback who, if he develops, could stabilize your franchise for 10 years yet.

    Trubisky rebounding to have a good year would be far and away the best outcome for the Bears, no matter how unlikely you think the odds are that will happen

  2. I’ve already made the point that patience may pay off for the Bears when it comes to Trubisky.His history at North Carolina points to the possibility that he’s slow
    to develop but that once he figures it out, he could be very good.

    There’s no doubt that Trubisky has to do a better job of learning the offense. This is the only way that he will ever get to the point where he can anticipate and respond to movement after the snap. But time may take care of the issue.

  3. The Bears have a better idea of how to handle Trubisky now than they did last season.Trubisky seems to respond well to pressure, at least on the field. Bringing the team back to put them into field goal range in the playoff loss to the Eagles with minimal time on the clock was the most well-known example but it wasn’t the only time he’s done that. Its happened often enough to where you have to believe it wasn’t a fluke.Everything head coach Matt Nagy touched in 2018 turned to gold, eventually earning him coach of the year honors. But its fair to say the opposite happened in 2019. That starts with the way he handled Trubisky.In the offseason of 2019, the Nagy turned the heat down on Trubisky, actually telling the media that he had to encourage Trubisky to go home and relax in the offseason. He gave Trubisky, along with the entire team, the preseason off.I think its fair to say there will be no more of that this year.

    The Bears are turning the heat up on Trubisky by adding Foles and, in my opinion, probably another rookie in the draft. And Nagy has already confirmed that the quarterbacks will be competing in the preseason games.

    I think his history on the field suggests that Trubisky might respond.  In either case, they clearly aren’t committing the sin of doing the same thing over and over again hoping the result will be different every time.

Last year at this time I can remember the whole NFL predicting
huge things from the Bears offense with Trubisky taking the next step in his development. Just as I thought this was
an overly optimistic point of view then, I find the extreme pessimism exhibited by some of the same members of the media now to be an overreaction.

I’m not saying that Biggs isn’t right and that Foles won’t be beginning the season as the starter. In fact, I think
the odds are reasonably good he will be. The Bears clearly aren’t going to stick with a quarterback who isn’t working out. The position is too important. Certainly the Foles signing
is an acknowledgement of that.

But completely discounting a 25 year old quarterback after a one
year regression doesn’t sound to me like something the Bears will be – or should be – doing. And I certainly don’t think signing Foles indicates that they have.

Jimmy Graham (Head Shake). And Other Points of View.

Chase Daniel is headed to the Lions on a three-year deal, ESPN reported.

“What it means: It was known the Bears likely weren’t going to bring Chase Daniel back for a third season as Mitch Trubisky’s backup, so he moves on to be the backup to Matthew Stafford.

“The Lions will be his fifth team in 11 seasons, a remarkable career for someone who has made only five starts. For the Bears, Daniel was a veteran presence to help guide Trubisky through coach Matt Nagy’s offense, and he also served as a team leader and the Bears’ representative to the NFLPA. He also started three games, throwing six touchdown passes and four interceptions. His presence is valued enough that the Lions gave him a $13.05 million deal, which contains a voidable clause.”

I think its fair to wonder if the Lions signed Daniels with more than just being a competent back up in mind.  Daniels was by all accounts a good mentor for Trubisky when he was with the Bears.

The odds in Las Vegas that the Lions will take Tagovailoa?  -110.  That’s tied for the top spot with the Dolphins.  Despite all of the denials coming from the Lions camp, sometimes actions speak louder than words.

  • Kevin Fishbain at The Athletic gives some thoughts on the Robert Quinn signing:

“The Bears went from sacking the quarterback on 8.1 percent of pass attempts in 2018 (ninth in the NFL) to 5.6 percent in 2019, which ranked 27th. [Bears pass rusher Khalil] Mack didn’t put up his usual numbers. Akiem Hicks missed 11 games. But Floyd should have had plenty of opportunities to have a breakout season. Instead, he had one sack in the final 15 games after two in the opener.”

A good part of the reason for the Bears disappointing 2019 season was due to the failure of several young players to bloom as anticipated.  Chief among these was quarterback Mitchell Trubisky and tight end Adam Shaheen.  But Floyd’s failure to develop was close behind and was a major problem last year despite the defense’s solid statistics.

Early in his career, former Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio helped Floyd out by scheming relatively easy sacks for him.  That stopped when Fangio left and with the hiring of Chuck Pagano.

Nevertheless, with Mack getting triple teamed, Floyd never saw a double team on the other side all year.  Three sacks under those conditions just won’t cut it.

Quinn, on the other hand, is also a bit worrisome.  He’s a couple years older than you would like and, though he certainly performed for the Cowboys last year, he looked miserable with the Dolphins and at the end with the Rams before that.  Which Robert Quinn are the Bears getting?

Nevertheless, one would expect that Quinn will do a better job of beating offensive linemen one-on-one than Floyd did.

  • Biggs comments on the signing of tight end Jimmy Graham:

“Graham, 33, was a dynamic target earlier in his career with the Saints, but he hasn’t run well in recent seasons, making it difficult to envision that he will emerge as a threat for Bears coach Matt Nagy. Graham made 38 receptions for 447 yards with three touchdowns for the Packers last season while playing with Aaron Rodgers. So how will he look with Mitch Trubisky or pick-your-replacement? And who exactly were the Bears bidding against?”

Exactly.

I can’t imagine there was another team willing to pay Graham half of that money.

General manager Ryan Pace frequently uses the word “conviction” when talking about the pursuit of players.  As a result, you almost get the impression that he doesn’t negotiate.  He just decides what a player is worth regardless of the market and makes the offer.  No wonder agents do hand springs every time the Bears call.

I have no idea what Pace saw in Graham that made him think he was worth that kind of money.  Perhaps it was fond memories of what Graham did on his fantasy team in 2014.

Unfortunately the reality in 2020 is that Graham is an older player who has lost his explosiveness to bad knees.

Perhaps even worse, since Graham doesn’t block, he doesn’t fill the gaping hole at Y tight end that the Bears desperately need to fill.  If Trey Burton has finally recovered from surgery and is healthy, he’s shown before that he can perform at the U position.

But Shaheen has been a non-entity every time he has stepped on the field, which has been rarely due to injury.  I’m sure recent signing Demetrius Harris is a fine player but he’s undersized and he’s not really a starter.

Finding a player to fill that hole at the Y tight end is critical.  Paying double what you should for a broken down player at a position of lesser need can only eat up cap space and hurt that effort.

The Mysteries of the Bears Interior Offensive Line. And Other Points of View.

“Do you think it’s more likely the Bears draft a quarterback in Round 2 or trade down and recoup picks? — joshua726_gs “Choosing solely between those two options, my hunch is the Bears would be more likely to trade down with one of their second-round picks than draft a quarterback in Round 2. As I said above, they’re in win-now mode with the defense they have, and I expect them to address the 2020 quarterback situation via free agency or a trade. Maybe they would explore a quarterback later in the draft, but unless there is a guy on the board whom coach Matt Nagy is completely in love with, I don’t see how they choose a quarterback in the
second round.” “If Jalen Hurts is there for the Bears at No. 43 or 50, why would they not pull the trigger? What’s the knock on this guy? He’s everything Matt Nagy needs for this type of offense, from being able to extend plays to making correct reads using RPOs.— @king8off “Hurts had a solid performance at the scouting combine and has a ton of college experience at the highest level playing in a lot of big games. He has terrific character and in some ways compares to Deshaun Watson
as a gym-rat kind of guy with a true passion for the game. But scouts I’ve talked to have questions about Hurts’ ability to excel as a pocket passer. I
don’t know how the Bears feel about him. I doubt he’s off the board before the Bears pick, but you never know because it takes only one team to fall in love with a player. Hurts could have a lengthy pro career, but I haven’t talked to anyone who views him as a front-line starter. Keep in mind he played with some of the top skill-position talent in college football at Alabama and Oklahoma, so he always has been surrounded with great players.” “Are Cam Newton and Derek Carr on [Bears GM] Ryan Pace’s
radar? — @thegeorgeyou “If the Raiders made Carr available, I see a possibility the Bears would be interested. The Raiders aren’t going to ship out Carr unless they first replace him with a player they view as an upgrade. A high-stakes game of musical chairs will take place for quarterbacks once the new league year begins. Newton has serious questions regarding his health. Is his shoulder healed? He didn’t throw the ball well last year after he suffered a Lisfranc injury in his left foot. That’s also a serious injury.”
All of these are sensible responses but I do hope they take a quarterback somewhere in the draft.  Like almost all GMs and every one the Bears have had for the last 20 years, Pace has said multiple times that he’s like to take one every year.  The problem is that all of those GMs had multiple immediate needs and quarterback picks beyond the first round are part
of future planning. It take discipline to take a quarterback and plan for the future of the franchise when you are in “win now” mode.  The Bears have struggled to find one with the proper attitude and vision to do it. As far as Hurts goes, the question is out of line with reality.  Hurts is unlikely to go before the third round and probably won’t go until the fourth.  That’s where likely backups with an outside chance to start generally go. It looks very unlikely that Derek Carr is going to be traded.  Via profootballtalk.com:
“The Raiders coach [Jon Gruden], appearing recently at an
event in the team’s new hometown, bristled at a question about the team’s interest in the six-time Super Bowl winner. “‘You’re killing me, man,’ Gruden said, via John Katsilometes of the Las Vegas Review-Journal. ‘We love our quarterback. Our quarterback’s a really good player, Derek Carr. I want to reiterate that to everybody here in Vegas.
We’ve got a good, young quarterback, and the film, the statistics and analytics prove it.'” “The Raiders previously have been linked to [Tom] Brady, nearly a month has passed without any significant reporting linking Brady to Las Vegas. If the Raiders were plotting a run at Brady, more r ports to that
effect likely would have emerged, especially since Gruden (as former Gruden pupil Chris Simms has surmised in the past) would be unable to not bounce the possibility off of others, who would then be tempted to tell a reporter or two that Gruden is talking about chasing Brady.'”
“Don’t be surprised if …: Vic Beasley becomes a top target for Ryan Pace. Beasley was drafted eighth in 2015, one pick after the Bears chose Kevin White. Beasley’s best season came in 2016 whe he recorded 15½ sacks, earned first-team All-Pro honors and helped the Falcons win the NFC. Beasley had only 18 sacks total in the three seasons since then. But some
believe his top-level potential could be unlocked again if he lands in a new place with a coaching staff and teammates who quickly learn which buttons to push.”
Beasley reminds me a bit more of current Bears linebacker Leonard Floyd than I’m comfortable with.  We’ve heard every year about Floyd’s potential and every year the sacks don’t come.  If Floyd was ever going to break through, it should have been last year when Khalil Mack was
frequently triple teamed on the other side. Still, at least Beasley has had one good season.  And he wasn’t always used in the proper way in the Falcons scheme under head coach Dan Quinn.  Beasley might benefit from starting at linebacker in the Bears 3-4 base.  And he’s almost certainly be cheaper than the $13 million the Bears are currently set to pay Floyd.
“Biggest storylines: Even with an obvious glaring need at the position, it’s
difficult to imagine the Bears will be willing to engage in the high-priced bidding wars that likely will ensue for players such as [Austin] Hooper.
Don’t forget: Trey Burton still has two years remaining on the $32 million contract he signed in 2018, with the Bears on the hook for $4 million guaranteed and up to $6.8 million overall in 2020. Still, for a sputtering offense that got next to nothing out of the tight end position last season, the Bears have to remain aggressive in free agency and the draft to make certain they upgrade their talent and depth. A patient approach in free agency might prove most prudent. As the market settles and the second wave of free agency begins, the Bears might be able to find a reliable
veteran at a bargain price. It also will be interesting to see how the pursuit of [Eric] Ebron unfolds leaguewide. The 26-year-old tight end had a career year in 2018 with 66 catches, 750 yards and 13 touchdowns. “Don’t be surprised if …: Adam Shaheen is not on the Bears roster come September. Shaheen is set to enter the final season of his rookie deal with an uphill climb to stick around. He has been injury prone and unreliable through his first three seasons, totaling just 26 catches for 249 yards while missing 21 games. That production is hardly befitting of a player selected with the 45th pick in the 2017 draft. And the Bears made clear when last season ended that availability would be a major focus in their evaluation.”
First I agree that Shaheen could well be off the roster in September.  Unlike Burton, Shaheen has never been able to perform even when he was healthy. In contrast, however, I wouldn’t be a bit surprised to see the Bears pursue Hooper and rumor has it that they are interested.  Pace has an aggressive nature and, right or wrong, going after Hooper looks to me like the kind of thing he would do.
“Do the Bears think they made the right decision by letting [former Bears safety Adrian] Amos go and signing Ha Ha Clinton Dix? Of course economics played a part in the decision. — Joe S.  “Yes, they do — and everyone should feel the same. Adrian Amos is a good starter but he isn’t a great one. With safety Eddie Jackson eventually getting a $58.4 million extension this offseason, spending significant money on Amos last year wouldn’t have been wise. There is only so much to go around for one position. “Playmakers get paid first too. In his career, Amos has five interceptions, 26 pass breakups and three forced fumbles in 76 games, which includes 72 starts. One of those interceptions came against the Bears in Week 1 of last season. Jackson is different; he’s elite. He has 10 interceptions, 26 pass breakups and four forced fumbles in 46 games.”
Agreed. Having said that, its worth pointing out that this wasn’t a bad signing for the
Packers.  They knew exactly what they were getting and they got exactly what they wanted. Amos wasn’t ever going to be a turnover generating machine.  What he does do really well is his job in terms of getting into the right place at the right time.  That’s what they wanted.  A reliable back stop that would allow they to do what they needed to do with their scheme in front of him.
  • Continuing on the subject of safety, Jahns and Kevin Fishbain address the position as they consider which of the departing veteran free agents should be resigned
Ha Ha Clinton-Dix “Age: 27 “2019 stats: 16 games, 16 starts; 78 tackles, two interceptions, five passes
defensed, two fumble recoveries “Should he be re-signed? “Jahns: Yes but also no. Clinton Dix is a starter, but his return depends on other options. The Athletic’s Sheil Kapadia recently paired the Bears with safety Vonn Bell. I agree with it, too. The Bears need to add a safety that will allow Eddie Jackson to roam free on the back end. He didn’t do that enough in 2019. If the Bears do bring back Clinton-Dix — he seemed to hint at it on Twitter — then defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano needs to find ways to maximize what Jackson does best.  “Fishbain: Maybe. The Bears liked the pairing of Clinton-Dix and Jackson. The two former Alabama safeties are friends and enjoyed playing together, and Clinton-Dix’s tweet would suggest it’s a possibility. There’s also the thought of getting someone that complements Jackson’s center-field abilities better like Bell or Kenny Vaccaro or Tony Jefferson … or a draft pick, which would be cheaper than Clinton-Dix. But if the former first-rounder is willing — again — to play for the Bears at a reasonable price, why not?”
I’m really not sure why the answers were so equivocal here.  The answer is a flat “no”.   As Jahns hints, the Bears tried to make it work with Clinton-Dix last year by moving Jackson to strong safeties.  This was a down grade at both positions.  Clinton-Dix isn’t as good as Jackson at free safety and Jackson wasn’t as effective in the box. The Bears need to let go of Clinton-Dix and sign or draft a box safety so they can move Jackson back where he belongs.
Isaiah Irving (restricted free agent) “Age: 25 “2019 stats: 13 games, zero starts; 10 tackles, one QB hit, four tackles on special teams “Should he be re-signed? “Jahns: Yes. He’s a young player and the cost will be low. The better question is whether he’ll make the roster after training camp. There will be new competition for him. “Fishbain: Yes. The Bears won’t tender Irving, but will likely re-sign him on a cheaper contract like DeAndre Houston-Carson did last season. He can still compete to be a rotational edge rusher and special teams contributor. The OLB spot is too thin to not bring him back.”
No.   I have been a fan of Irving and I’ve thought for a couple years that he might develop into something.  But the fact of the matter is that he hasn’t and if he was going to, he would have done it by now. The Beas need to move on and find someone to fill that roster spot who still has the potential to become a future starter.
“Offensive guard “The Bears have a crater-sized hole at right guard. Kyle Long was physically unable to perform his job last year and the contingency plans the team had at the position faltered. Rashaad Coward was given an extended look and
showed he is not a viable NFL starter on offense. “It’s curious that the team continued to play Coward and didn’t take a look at Alex Bars, whom they elevated to the active roster to keep from signing with the New England Patriots. They gained no observable data about Bars’ ability to play in the NFL, which was a miscalculation by the front office and coaching staff.”
What the Bears do at the interior offensive line positions in free agency and the draft will be fascinating. Right now there are a lot of unknowns.  What do they think of Bars?  Did they hold him out all of last year because he wasn’t fully recovered from knee surgery in 2018?  Or do they have doubts about his ability, especially with his former offensive line coach at Notre Dame, Harry Hiestand, not with the Bears any more. What do they think of Coward?  He seemed to get better as the year wore on but was he good enough for the Bears to depend upon him to start in 2020?  Most observers don’t seem to think so. Finally, what do the Bears think of current left guard James Daniels and current center Cody Whitehair?  They tried to move Whitehair to guard and Daniels to center last year but the experiment failed and they switch positions again mid-season.  Whitehair is an excellent center and the Bears have said that they want to leave him there.  But they made that switch once for a reason and it would surprise no one to see him move back to guard to make room for a
new player. I have to figure the Beas will add someone to the group on the interior of the line.  Former Lions guard Graham Glasgow is hitting free agency but a cheaper choice might be former Broncos center Conner McGovern. McGovern played right guard his first two years in Denver and started at center the past two. He’s rated #78 on nfl.com’s top 101 free agent list and he should come at a reasonable price. It’s a weak draft for guards but its thought to be a good year for the center position. In any case, what the Bears do here will answer a lot of the questions surrounding their thoughts on the line.

More on Bears Quarterback Possibilities and Other Points of View

“Our Athletic colleague in Cincinnati, Paul Dehner Jr., reported that the Bears have talked to the Bengals about Dalton, who has one year remaining on his contract. The Bill Lazor connection is there, and Dalton is a veteran who has made the playoffs multiple times. He makes a lot of sense, but can the Bears sign him instead of trade for him?

The last thing the Bears want to do is part with a second-round pick — which is what the Bengals will ask for in a trade — for a quarterback who was statistically worse than [Bears quarterback MitchTrubisky last season. Dalton, who turns 33 in October, had career-low marks in passer rating (78.3) and QBR (40.1) in 2019.”

I can’t imagine the Bengals demanding a second round pick for Andy Dalton.

For one thing, every team in the league pretty much knows they’ll release him if they can’t find a trade partner.  For another, if he was worth a second round pick they wouldn’t be looking to replace him.  Third the market is glutted with veteran quarterbacks.

I just can’t see it.  But on the off chance that the Bears actually did give up a second round pick for Dalton it would be the death of Mitch Trubisky as a starter for the team.  Dalton would almost have to start.  And I can’t imagine the Bears giving up on Trubisky without at least seeing what he can do for a few games next year.

“Word came last week at the Combine from the team website that the Bengals could move on from offensive lineman Cordy Glenn. Now, comes a more definitive report.

“According to Jenna Laine of ESPN, the Bengals are shopping Glenn, and if they can’t find a trade partner, they will release him.

“Glenn, 30, got in the team’s doghouse last year. He ended up playing six games, with five starts, and served a one-game suspension for an argument with an assistant coach.”

With reports circulating that the Bears have been talking with the Bengals about a trade for Dalton, you wonder if they have actually been meeting to talk about Glenn instead.

With limited cap space, the Bears would probably have to hope that the Bengals are willing to eat some of the salary that is owed no matter which player they are talking about.

[Case] Keenum, on the other hand, is a free agent. He played on a one-year, $3.5 million contract last season with Washington. Keenum, who turned 32 last month, had a 91.3 passer rating and 43.5 QBR in 10 games last season, which included eight starts.”

I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if the Bears weren’t thinking very carefully about Keenum.  Keenum has shown that he can be successful under the right conditions as he won 13 games with the Vikings in 2017.  And the price will probably be right.  He’s a name to watch.

“Foles, the Super Bowl LII MVP, has a fully-guaranteed salary of $15.125 million in 2020, along with $500,000 in per-game roster bonuses and a $250,000 workout bonus. Trading him would trigger a cap charge of $18.75 million, the remaining 3/4ths of his $25 million signing bonus from 2019.

“Faced with paying Foles nearly $16 million to back up Gardner Minshew II versus paying Foles nothing and eating $18.75 could be a justifiable swap, if the Jaguars have decided to ride with the sixth-rounder who took Jacksonville by storm as a rookie. And the below-market cash payout for 2020 could make the Foles contract attractive.”

Foles would make sense for the Bears.  But I’d say that, in contrast to the situation with Dalton, he might command a high pick in a trade that the Bears don’t have.  That $16 million salary might also have to be reduced.

But Foles has connections to both offensive coordinator Bill Lazer and quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo.  So the possibility can’t be discounted if the price is right.

“What should the Bears’ strategy be in bringing in a quarterback? Should they be aggressive from the start of free agency in signing or trading for a quarterback or let the market dictate where it is headed so they don’t overpay for one? — @rickdaruler773

“The vibe I got last week in Indianapolis is the Bears have definitely prioritized the position — as they should — and will be aggressive. Whether things play out that way remains to be seen. General manager Ryan Pace knows he needs a life raft for the offense in the event Mitch Trubisky doesn’t show considerable improvement. The Bears can’t be left in a position where they are one-third of the way into the season, Trubisky has stumbled out of the gate and they don’t have a quarterback they feel can at least be steady with the defense still playing at a high level. The question is whether the Bears are willing to go hard at another quarterback with a promise he can start from Day 1. Or would they tell any potential candidates that Trubisky gets the first shot at the job? Which way they go could put them in a different class of quarterbacks. It won’t be cheap, but there isn’t an easy way out when a team trades up to use the No. 2 pick on a quarterback and three years later has more doubt and questions than confidence and answers.”

I’m reasonably sure that the Bears won’t promise whoever it is that he will be the day 1 starter.  For one thing, they haven’t created the cap space to pay one.

I’m sure they’ll tell potential signees that they can compete for the job in a fair competition.  But even that won’t be the case.

The reality is that the Bears want the Trubisky pick to work out and it will be his job to lose.  And anyone who signs will know that whether they tell him or not.

They’re likely looking at signing a second tier free agent.

  • Rick Morrissey at the Chicago Sun-Times comments on the Bears quarterback situation:

“Do you ever get the feeling that public pressure has dragged the Bears, kicking and screaming, into looking for a quarterback to “push” Mitch Trubisky in 2020? That, left to their own devices, they’d not only stick with the status quo, they’d take regular naps with it? I get that feeling about 10 times a day.

“And that word — push. It’s so non-confrontational. It doesn’t want to step on Mitch’s toes. It says: ‘Your job is secure, dear one. We simply want to help you discover the best version of yourself.'”

I think Morrissey is being a little harsh in his criticism overall in this column but  there’s something to what he says here.

As I said above, there’s little doubt the Bears still want Trubisky to succeed.  However, there’s been a definite shift in the way that they have decided to handle him.  In contrast to last year they appear to be taking a tough love approach to getting Trubisky to the point where he can perform better rather than trying to replace him.

Head coach Matt Nagy is undoubtedly tired of cutting his playbook down to accommodate Trubisky.  In previous years they’ve been gentle and supportive but this offseason its evident that its going to be “learn the playbook backward and forward and get better in the offseason or you’re out”.  Instead of telling him to relax in the offseason, they’re telling him to go to work.

Whether the competition is legitimate or not, there’s can be little doubt that just having one is a good part of the reason for bringing in quarterbacks that are more capable of adding to it.

“Do you sense that Ryan Pace will stick with Trey Burton as the primary tight end and not look to upgrade via the draft or free agency? — @johnnyograddy

“I believe Burton will be on the roster this coming season because of the money he’s guaranteed. I also believe the Bears will continue to look for help at the position, which they already did by signing Demetrius Harris. Pace could look to draft a tight end in the second round or trade for one. I doubt the Bears will be big spenders at the position in free agency, but I am pretty certain they are not done adding to the depth chart. There will be new options in the event Burton cannot make a strong comeback from his injury-riddled 2019 season.”

I think it’s important to note that brining in competition at the U tight end position probably isn’t at the top of the Bears list.  They are reasonably sure that Burton can produce when he’s healthy.  What the Bears are looking to do is replace Adam Shaheen at the Y-position.  That requires a different sort of player, one who is bigger and can block.

“An interesting theme of Bears-related conversations at the combine? Virtually no one brought up the defense. It’s understood that while there are some moves to be made at inside linebacker, outside linebacker, safety and corner, this is still a formidable unit … but one that needs the right offense to complement it.”

The Bears defense is an underrated need. They did well last year but if you aren’t getting better, you are getting worse.  And the have some definite holes to fill.

There is plenty of talk about which inside linebacker, Nick Kwitkowski or Danny Trevathan, that the Bears will try to sign (it cold be neither).  But safety, cornerback and, especially, pass rush are needs this offseason that are every bit as big as guard and wide receiver.

Juan Castillo has bounced around a bit since he left the Eagles in 2012. He was out of the league last year. Cause for concern? — @bearingthenews

“Castillo has worked for the Ravens and Bills since leaving Philadelphia and spent last fall doing some work for Jim Harbaugh at the University of Michigan. Matt Nagy hired an offensive line coach he has a background with, and that kind of relationship can go a long way. Coaches often feel most comfortable with a guy they know well. Keep in mind the personnel will be very similar to last season.”

“Despite all the quarterback talk, I feel the offensive line is the biggest team issue. Are they going to try to upgrade that front five? — @stevehayes3434

“The offensive line was not good enough last season, but it also wasn’t the reason Mitch Trubisky, by almost all measures, was one of the worst quarterbacks in the NFL. I’ve gotten this sentiment in the mailbag for some time now, and I think some Bears fans are conditioned to accept subpar quarterback play and look for other reasons to deflect the organization’s greatest issue. The Bears will be in the market for a starting right guard. I would be surprised if they make a big investment there. New offensive line coach Juan Castillo prefers athletic linemen, so look for them to sign a guard who moves relatively well. The other four starters appear pretty much locked in.”

“I know the offensive line will need a shakeup. Do you envision Alex Bars potentially in the starting lineup? — Shaun W., Carrollton, Texas

“With a new offensive line coach in place, Bars will be evaluated and has a shot to stick on the roster as a depth player, but I imagine the Bears will seek a veteran option as the front-runner at right guard. This will be a big offseason and summer for Bars to show Juan Castillo what he has. I wouldn’t rule him out by any measure, but the Bears probably need to get some experience in the mix.”

The first one is mine.

Biggs is right in that it’s important to remember that it was the run blocking that was poor last year not the pass protection.  In fact, all things considered, the Bears offensive line was more than adequate in that respect.

The Bears are obviously depending on better coaching to improve the offensive line.  As Biggs points out, the Bears are basically locked in everywhere but right guard next year.  You can give other guys a chance to compete and they will.  But you’ll be sitting someone in whom the team has made a major investment if the current starters don’t’ win the job.

The one open job at guard is going to be interesting.  We were led to believe that Bars in particular had the potential to start and I’m surprised that Biggs was only willing to state that he “has a shot to stick as a depth play” with what appears to be only an outside chance to start.  He’s usually plugged in to what the team is thinking and it makes me wonder if they haven’t significantly cooled on Bars.

I’m sure Rashaad Coward will get his chance at that job, as well.  He wasn’t good enough as the starter last year but he seemed to get better as the season wore on.

In any case, the Bears likely aren’t going to be signing a lot of new help for the offensive line (though you can never rule out the unexpected with Pace – see the Cordy Glenn entry above).

Sometimes your so called good players just have to step up and play better.  There’s a reason four of those guys are locked in.  Right or wrong the Bears believe in them.

Biggs continues:

“We know Ryan Pace is a trade-up guy. Let’s say he packages our two second-round picks, who’s the target? — @stcollins23

“Pace has been very aggressive in the draft since coming to the Bears, trading up in Round 1 for Leonard Floyd and Mitch Trubisky. I don’t think he will be motivated to make that move this time. He has had success in Round 2, and the Bears are better off with two picks in the top 50 than one, especially considering they’re tight in terms of salary-cap space and have needs on both sides of the ball.”

I think it’s more likely Pace trades back and tries to pick up a third rounder. For instance, a reasonable trade would be to go down from #50 overall to a pick late in the second round to pick up a late middle third rounder.

Given the dearth of Bears picks in the top half of the draft, I think this makes far more sense.

“Indeed, more than 29,000 who responded to a Twitter poll regarding consumption of televised Combine content said that they watched less this year than last year.

“The NFL seems to be intent on making the Scouting Combine into an even bigger offseason tentpole than it already is. But there may indeed be a hard ceiling on the level of interests in watching incoming rookies do a bunch of stuff that isn’t really football. And it could make more sense for the league to not cram an event that isn’t really ready for prime time into prime time.”

Count me as one who watched less of the Combine this year than in previous years.  I’ve also watched less of the draft since it moved to prime time.

There was a time when I planned to sit all afternoon on weekends enjoying these events.  But I work for a living and past a certain time of night I simply have to go to bed.

I might add that, although its not a factor in my case, there’s a lot more competition for eyes in prime time.

Is There Still Hope That Patience With Mitch Trubisky Will Pay Off for the Bears?

Josh Alper at profootballtalk.com quotes Indianapolis offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni as he describes what he wants to see quarterback Jacoby Brissett improve upon next year:

“Sirianni said that Brissett’s ‘ability to create and extend plays’ was a big plus during the 2019 season and that the quarterback ‘always knew where to go with the football.’ Where he’d like to see improvement in the future is in how quickly Brissett gets to that point.

“’And that comes with experience, and that comes with playing time,’ Sirianni said, via the team’s website. ‘You know, you see these guys that have been starting at quarterback at some of these franchises for, you know, 15, 16, 17, 18 years — like, there’s nothing those guys haven’t seen, alright? So sometimes it’s brand new, what he sees, but as you build those reps and you build that game experience, that really will speed that up. And that’s nothing but reps, and you get that in practice, and you really get that in games.'”

For those who are looking for hope for quarterback Mitch Trubisky, you need look no farther than these comments.

Brissett was drafted in 2016, one year ahead of Trubisky and yet Sirianni still thinks that hasn’t been enough time to for him to become really proficient at handling the things he sees on the field.  Add that Trubisky only started one year in college and you can see how his lack of experience could really be an issue even three years into his career.

The fact that Trubisky had to sit behind Marquis Williams, a relatively unknown quarterback with inferior talent, for his first three years of college was a red flag for many scouts going into the 2017 NFL draft.  One interpretation of this might be that Trubisky is one of those guys who is a bit slow to develop.  However, the fact that he was so good when it finally all came together also gave hope that the same thing might happen with time with the Bears.

We could be seeing that come into play.

It’s not a surprise that both Trubisky and Brissett are under fire and may lose their jobs this offseason.  The rapid development of other young quarterbacks in the league like Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson under mines them and it becomes hard to have patience with guys who may be slower to put it all together.  But its worth considering that it may be worth the wait.

One Player’s Dream of Being a Porn Star. And Other Points of View.

  • Kevin Fishbain at The Athletic evaluates the Bears’ tight end options the combine.  He voices the cautious concerns some Bears fans have over the possibility of Drafting Dayton’s Adam Trautman:

“And that brings us to another commonly-held thought in Indianapolis: regardless of whether he’d fit or how good he could be in the NFL, it’d be stunning if the Bears took Trautman. One tight end named Adam from a small school in Ohio is enough for one front office.”

Fishbain is referring, of course to Adam Shaheen, who the Bears drafted out of Division II Ashland in 2017.  Shaheen has been a major disappointment and, therefore, he is a big reason why the Bears are looking for more tight end help again this year.

Potential public relations problems aside, I’m not sure that the experience with Shaheen should keep the Bears from taking Trautmen.  For one thing, Shaheen was coming out a year early whereas Trautmen is a senior.  Amongst other things, this gave him a chance to compete in the Senior Bowl against top Division I prospects where he more than held his own.  In fact, he impressed.

  • • Fishbain also collected respnoses from tight ends when they were asked about their strengths:

“For teams that will evaluate how players respond to certain questions in their interviews, here’s a sampling from the combine on their strengths…

[Cole] Kmet: “I think it’s my ability to stretch the field, get open and win one-on-one matchups. What I really have to work on is my blocking technique, my hands, all that type of stuff. That’s something I’m still trying to improve on today.”

Harrison Bryant: “For sure. My willingness to block is all there. I’ve always had that. I enjoy blocking and I feel like that’s a big thing from playing offensive tackle because growing up that’s all I did was block people, so it’s definitely there and I enjoy it and I feel like I do a pretty good job at it.”

Hunter Bryant: “I think I can create a lot of mismatches because I can be moved around so much and all over the field in so many different positions, so I think that’s something unique to me. And I’m excited to go into the NFL and do it.”

[Albert] Okwuegbunam: “Just my ability to create mismatches all over the field. Whether it is in the red zone and using my athleticism to get open or just be able to stretch the field with my speed, or just anywhere to pick up a first down. As well as my versatility and the balance to my game — being able to be used effectively in the run game as well.”

“Trautman“Just a relentless style of play along with an edge. Every level I’ve been at, I’ve been not good enough. Coming out of high school, you’re not good enough to play FBS. And then going to Dayton, no one’s ever really played in the NFL — especially drafted since the ’70s. I’m here to keep fighting that and always use that edge and carry it with me.”

[Thaddeus] Moss: “I think (I have) the want-to. That’s the biggest thing when it comes to blocking, period. You’ve gotta want to put your nose in there and get physical and block. The tight end position, you should be able to do everything the coach asked you to do. If that’s go block a D-end, if that’s wham a three-technique or a shade-technique, go lead up on a linebacker, I think the want-to is the biggest thing when it comes to the tight end position.”

Of all of these responses, the ones that stuck out to me were the last two.  I get the impression that Trautman and, especially Moss, get it.  It helps to have talent.  But in the NFL everyone has talent.  Particularly when it comes to blocking and playing defense in the NFL, “want to” becomes a big factor.

Trautmen and Moss sound to me like the guys most likely to play with the testicular fortitude necessary to succed.

  • Jason Lieser at the Chicago Sun-Times comments upon the Bears reported pursuit of Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton in a trade:

“Sniffing around for Dalton is the first sign that Bears general manager Ryan Pace grasps reality, though, and is unwilling to bet the 2020 season — and his employment — on [Bears quarterback Mitch] Trubisky. There’s a big difference between trading for someone such as Dalton and bringing in a clear backup a la Chase Daniel. The Bears wouldn’t bother with Dalton unless they were ready to hold a legitimate competition for the job.”

I think calling whoever the Bears bring in “legitimate competition” is going a bit too far.  I doubt very much that “legitimate” will apply.

The Bears want Trubisky to succeed badly and he’s going to be given every opportunity to do so.  The Bears would have to be very disappointed in the results of Trubisky’s offseason work and he would have to be very, very bad in the preseason not to be the starter when the season begins.

I think the correct term for whoever the Bears bring in is likely “insurance policy”.  If Trubisky starts 202 like he started 2019, he won’t last 4 games before being replaced by whoever the Bears sign.

  • Peter King at profootballtalk.com gives us 30 bits of buzz from the NFL Combine:

4. Anonymous quote of the combine. From an agent with vet quarterbacks in the mix, when I said I had no idea how this QB game of musical chairs will end up: “The problem is, there’s way more quarterbacks than chairs.” I can see that.

“My prediction: Five quarterbacks will be immensely pissed off a month from today, with a depressed market value for their services. Or no market value.”

I can totally see this happening.  It’s a crazy year for veteran free agent quarterbacks with 8 reasonably good ones making nfl.com’s top 101 free agent list.

If I were the Bears, I’d seriously consider holding off signing veteran “competition” for Trubisky.  Letting the first wave of free agency pass, then seeing who is left my allow them to find some surprising names still not associated with a team.   Which is exactly what King expects the Patriots to do:

“I think, judging by history, the Patriots won’t rush into the quarterback market if they lose Tom Brady. I’ll tell you how I see a New England-minus-Brady scenario playing out: New England goes through the draft, and maybe picks a quarterback (I doubt in the first round) and maybe does not. But after the draft, there will be four or five vets looking for a landing spot. Will one—Marcus Mariota, Jameis Winston, Case Keenum, someone else—still unsigned by May 1 be interested in a one-year, low-money deal to recharge a career and have the chance to play for the six-time Super Bowl champs?”

The Bears probably have the best back up opportunity in the NFL right now with Trubisky being on shaky ground.

“21. Toughest TV schedule in years. Imagine being on NFL schedulemeister Howard Katz’s four-person team that puts the schedule together every year. You’re six weeks from having to release the slate, and you don’t know if you should have the Patriots slated for five national dates or three because of the Tom Brady thing, and because you don’t know the Brady whereabouts, you don’t know if the Titans or Raiders or Chargers or Colts should max out on national dates . . . or if maybe they should have two or three. You have the regular unknowns of the season—about the Rams bouncing back, about the fate of the Steelers, about who will end up with the franchise QBs in this draft—but this year just seems harder to forecast because of the free-agent dominoes, none of which will fall for at least 17 days. As an exec for one of those teams I’ve just mentioned told me here: ‘How do you create a prime-time schedule not knowing who half the quarterbacks will be?'”

I know.  Let’s just keep the hard working people of Chicago up all night by putting the Bears on as often as possible regardless of the schedule.

Which they will.  They’ll get as many games onto prime time as early in the season as they can get away with in case they start losing later on.

“One team executive suggested that the Bears lost an edge on their offensive line when it became clear that Kyle Long wasn’t the same player he once was. Long was eventually placed on injured reserve. After that, the executive said the Bears’ line isn’t impressive or physical enough. They lack some ‘nasty.’

“That’s also why Castillo was hired.

“‘He’s going to push them to the brink,’ [head coach Matt] Nagy said.

“Castillo has to. Tackles Charles Leno Jr. and Bobby Massie, guard James Daniels and center Cody Whitehair all return. But the Bears are expected to be active on the guard market in free agency.”

I’m worried about the Castillo hire.

When the Bears hired Harry Heistand I wondered why, if Heistand was do good, he was coaching at Notre Dame rather with another professional franchise.  Now we have Castilo and I have similar concerns.

There’s little doubt Castillo was a top notch offensive Iine coach with the Eagles from 1995-2010 until his ill-fated forray into the other side of the ball when he became their defensive coordinator in 2011 and 2012.  Since then he was had stints with the Ravens and the Bills before being dismissed by each franchise.  He was out of work in 2019.

I’m not sure exactly what the problem has been since Castillo left the Eagles in 2012 but it troubles me.  We’ll see how he does with the Bears.

  • Mike Florio at pro football talk.com thinks the Raiders are eyeing Eagles back up quarterback Nate Sudfeld:

“A preseason broken wrist wiped out Sudfeld’s 2019 season, one that saw him enter the year as the primary backup to Carson Wentz. Operating under a restricted free agent tender of $3.095 million, the 2016 sixth-rounder is now eligible to hit the open market.”

Lots of people like Sudfeld an awful lot.  He’s only 26 years old.  If he doesn’t get a starting opportunity, he might consider the Bears as his best opportunity to see playing time as a potential Trubisky replacement.

This would be exactly the kind of move you could see Pace making if he likes him.

Elsewhere

2. Brady, Brady, Brady.Tom Brady,” one well-connected NFL exec told me, “is the one domino paralyzing the entire NFL right now.” That’s because of the realization among teams here that Brady actually might leave New England. Before this past week, I’d say most people in the league thought Brady might flirt with other teams but eventually finish where he started and where he belongs. But by week’s end, there was rising informed speculation the Raiders, Chargers, Colts and Titans (though that cause would be hurt if Derrick Henry leaves in free agency) could be in play for Brady.”

This all might be true.  But the problem is that, to my eye, Brady’s really not that good right now.  I think that the Patriots have seen this and they aren’t in the habit of making mistakes.

I would still say the odds are good that Patriots owner Bob Kraft steps in and stops this.  But I’m really not that sure that he should.

One Final Thought

And now, just because I can.  From Florio:

“In a video that, per a league source, reflects a Q&A conducted by Combine staff and not by any specific team, Washington tackle Trey Adams is asked, ’If you could change anything about yourself, what would it be?’

“He pauses, considers the question, twists his mouth for a moment, and sheepishly says, ‘Bigger d-ck.‘ Then he decides to say it more clearly, confidently: ‘Bigger d-ck.’”

Lots of Combine Talk. And Other Points of View.

“Pace said defensive lineman Akiem Hicks didn’t need surgery on his injured elbow and the Bears ‘don’t have any concerns there.'”

I do.

Athletes hate getting surgery.  The rehab is a long and arduous process and I think they’ll do almost anything to avoid it.

The problem is that they often say no to it when they really need it.  I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen pro football players not get surgery for an issue only to have it continue to be a problem, resulting in them eventually getting it anyway.  Months are wasted that could have been used trying to get back onto the field.

We can hope that wasn’t the case with Hicks.  But fans should be holding their breath a bit until he plays for a few games and they can be sure he’s over the hump.

“Pace and coach Matt Nagy have spent time this offseason trying to find ways to get receiver/special-teams ace Cordarrelle Patterson more involved on offense. That includes using him at running back more often. Patterson’s 7.62 yards per carry in his career are the most since the NFL/AFL merger for players with at least 100 rushes.”

You do start to wonder if the Bears aren’t preparing to use Patterson more at running back this year.  Clearly they considered him to be more of a gadget player/special teams ace last year.  His record as a receiver is limited.

After David Montgomery, the second running back capable of carrying a full load is Ryan Nall.  Pace had nice things to say about Nall but the Bears may conclude that Patterson would be a better choice.

  • Having said that, the Bears still love Montgomery and are talking about giving the ball more in 2020.  Adam Jahns at The Athletic reports:

“(Montgomery’s) a very talented kid,” Nagy said. “I love his hunger. We talked last year about how much he learned each week in practice about what this long season was about. He can do a lot of different things. We know what his strengths are and what his weaknesses are. Could we have helped him last year by getting him the ball more? Yes, absolutely. It’s a part of the identity. What we are going to do is focus in No. 1 as a staff schematically how can we get better? And if we start with that, then we can worry about the players.”

One of the reasons Mongomery was drafted was because of his ability to catch passes.  One wonder, therefore, why they didn’t pass him the ball more in 2019.  Perhaps this year we’ll see more of him in this part of the offense.

“We all need to be better and I know Cohen will be motivated.”

The reference to motivation is interesting.  Cohen seemed to be having a pretty good time celebrating his success last offseason.  You wonder if he didn’t let up.

Having said that, I think its far more likely that the drop off at tight end hurt his production badly.  Nagy almost certainly got Cohen the ball by putting safties and linebackers in a bind.  They could either cover Trey Burton of Cohen.  Last year they had only one guy to worry about.

  • Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune continues to wonder about the Bears future at quarterback:

“The deadline to pick up the fifth-year option isn’t until May 30, but the refusal to address [quarterback MitchTrubisky’s 2021 status while championing his cause for the coming season seems at least somewhat contradictory. How can we be certain Trubisky is the guy this year if you’d rather not say if he might be the guy next year?”

Clearly the Bears are being cautious about committing to doing this.  Once you say you are going to do it, there’s no going back.

Still, the money isn’t guaranteed except for injury and all things considered Trubisky’s been pretty healthy.  Consider that if he under-performs this year he almost certainly won’t start more than about 6 games before they put in whatever veteran back up they sign. 

I’ve got a feeling the Bears are going to pick up the option.  There are clearly things that they want to see Trubisky work on and they want to see progress.  

Anyone remember last year when they were afraid he’d work too hard and they asked him to take it easy in the offseason?  That’s apparently gone out the window.  

In any case, they may just want to see what kind of progress he makes in the offseason and what new offensive coordinator Bill Lazor and quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo think of him before making the commitment.

“Is there any actual chance Mitch Trubisky isn’t the starter Week 1? I don’t think there is, but I feel like there needs to be. — @rawkhawkchicago

“Right now, Trubisky not only is the starter, he’s the only quarterback under contract for the 2020 season. Some are of the mindset that in the right situation the Bears will pull the plug on Trubisky and move on. I don’t know that there’s a potential ‘right situation’ this offseason, and that could be a pricey proposition as Trubisky’s cap number for 2020 is $9.2 million. You can’t rule anything out, but the more plausible scenario probably is general manager Ryan Pace doing his best to improve the talent around the quarterback position while hoping Trubisky makes a major step forward in his fourth season with a more modestly priced backup option on board. As much as I have considered the possibilities, I keep circling back to the idea that I don’t believe the Bears are ready to declare Trubisky a failure. They can talk about operating without egos all they want; I just don’t see them moving on before the season begins. I might be wrong, but that’s my evaluation three weeks before the start of the new league year.

I really don’t thin this is about ego.  The Bears truly believe that Trubisky still has a chance to develop.  But its also clear that they’re running out of patience and they aren’t going to be dumb about it.

I think Trubisky starts the season unless he looks really bad in training camp and during the preseason.    But he would really, really have to look bad.

I’m looking for the Bears to sign a veteran to back up Trubisky and be ready to start somewhere about game 4 if he starts the season like he did last year.  I’m also thinking that if there’s any quarterback they like anywhere in this draft, they’ll take him with the idea of developing him. 
 

“It’s an awkward time for Pace, and that’s understandable. The Bears fell to 8-8 in a season Nagy said felt worse than the club’s actual record. The Bears are short on resources. They have eight draft picks, but only two project to be in the first half of the draft. After cutting cornerback Prince Amukamara and wide receiver Taylor Gabriel, the Bears created $13.5 million in salary-cap space and two prominent roster needs. Still, they rank in the bottom third of the league in available cap room.”

Pace has a bit of a problem on his hands.  He came from the Saints and he has chosen to run the organization on that model.  

He has aggressively done everything he can to build a team that is ready to compete with the hope that Trubisky, who he constantly compares to Saints quarterback Drew Brees,  will progress into a top 12 quarterback.

So he has chosen to go all in and he has spent his resources.  As a result, like the Saints, the Bears are constantly short on them.  

The problem is that Trubisky isn’t Brees and the team isn’t that good.  So now they find themselves in need to improvement at multiple positions with little cap space and even fewer good draft picks.

The team has a challenge on its hands.

  • Dan Durkin at The Athletic reviews video of new Bears tight end Demetrius Harris:

“Harris has four years of history with Bears coach Matt Nagy. He started his NFL career as an undrafted free agent out of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, where he played forward on the basketball team. The NBA wasn’t in the cards, but at 6-foot-7 and 230 pounds, he fit the athletic profile scouts seek at tight end. Then-Chiefs general manager John Dorsey gave him a shot and he’s hung around for six seasons now.”

I was really surprised at that size that Harris plays the Y position at tight end (lining up next to the tackle instead of split out like a wide receiver).  Usually I think about tight ends who weigh in the 250-270 pound range when I think of players who are going to be called upon to block like linemen much of the time.

Adam Jahns, also at The Athleticquotes Pace as he elaborates:

“It’s interesting his background coming in as a basketball player and then developing into more of what we see as like a ‘Y’ tight end,” Pace said. “He has a lot of strength as a blocker while normally these basketball players you see them excel more as a ‘U,’ athletic receiving tight end. Demetrius has strengths in the blocking aspect, so we think he’s still getting better. We think he can kind of flourish in the scheme that we have.”

It will be interesting to see how Harris overcomes the lack of leverage his body type can generate.  He may have a definitely ceiling.  Its possible that the Bears will choose to have him compete at the U position instead.

“Pace was never going to detail the Bears’ plans for free agency. But similar to other GMs, Pace will drop hints about his intentions.

“In this case, it became apparent that linebacker Danny Trevathan has a better chance of returning in 2020 than Nick Kwiatkoski. His answers about them were that different.

“Pace indicated that there would be a decent market for Kwiatkoski.

“’He took full advantage of his opportunities when he got them,’ he said. ‘You tip your hat to him. We talk about drafting and developing players. With him being a fourth-round pick, we’re proud of where he got to.'”

This certainly sounds about right.  Trevathan  will be the cheaper option coming off of an injury.  

Usually you can figure the Bears to go with the younger player but, frankly, even almost 30 years old, he better than the 26 year old Kwitkowski.  Kwitkowski has, in past years, had a habit of getting lost in coverage and he struggled to pick up receivers over the middle running shallow crosses.

New defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano did a good job of hiding Kwitkowski’s deficiencies.  But I’m reasonably certain they’d rather stick with Trevathan for another contract.

Dan Durkin at The Athletic did an in depth dive on Hooper and liked what he saw:

“What stood out to me most when scouting Hooper was how well he reads coverages. Once he’s into his route, he quickly diagnoses man or zone and adjusts accordingly to create throwing windows.”

“Another aspect that stands out about Hooper’s game is how strong his hands are. He consistently extends his arms, catches the ball away from his body and effortlessly plucks passes out of the air. He is not intimidated in contested situations and willingly works over the middle of the field. He caught 77.3 percent of the passes thrown his direction, which ranked seventh overall in the league and fifth among tight ends.

“From a blocking perspective, Hooper is a work in progress. He’s inconsistent at the point of attack and has to work on lowering his pad level. He tends to get too upright, negating his length and losing the leverage battle.”

This sounds like exactly the kind of aggressive manuever Pace might try to pull off. 

Like every sensible person who follows the league, I hate to see the team dip into free agency to compensate for deficiencies created by poor draft picks (see Adam Shaheen).  But the reason Hooper is hitting the market apparently has more to do with the Falcons limited cap space than with their evaluation of Hooper’s performance.

Like virtually all free agents who are any good, Hooper will be over-priced  It looks like Hunter Henry will be franchised so that makes Hooper the only decent tight end on the market.  He’s going to cash in and the Bears have limited cap space.

Biggs asks one of the bigger questions in my mind not having to do with the quarterback:

“In his two media sessions since the end of last season, Pace has been positive when asked about Leonard Floyd, making the point that the outside linebacker does some of the unheralded things worthy of attention from those in the know. 

“That’s noteworthy, but does it mean the Bears will keep Floyd on the terms of the fifth-year option in his contract — $13.2 million?”

No, its not.

Floyd gets a lot of credit for being a good strong side linebacker in other areas but with Khalil Mackgetting triple teamed on the other side there’s no excuse for Floyd not having more sacks.  

Floyd was drafted to rush the passer.  If the Bears are going to settle for a linebacker who can’t do that, they can certainly find one in free agency or the draft that costs a lot less money.

Trubisky, Trubisky, Trubisky. And Other Points of View.

  • Colleen Kane at the Chicago Tribune on what Bears leadership had to say about quarterback Mitch Trubisky:

    [General Manager Ryan] Pace saw the inconsistencies this season as Trubisky completed 63.2% of his passes for 3,138 yards, 17 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. But said he believes the potential for Trubisky’s development is still “wide open,” noting there were times when the quarterback responded well to adverse game situations.

    “You see moments this year (where you say), ’Aha, there it is,’” Pace said. “And then we see the inconsistencies and the dips. We need to figure out why that’s happening and work hard to solve that. And that’s part of what this offseason is about.”

    A year ago someone who knows more about such things than I do told me that Trubisky didn’t have it. The major reason was that his footwork was atrocious. I agreed. Nearly every time Trubisky makes an inaccurate throw, it can be traced to obvious problems with this footwork. It’s the primary source of his inconsistent play.

    But I told my friend that, unlike him, I thought this poor footwork could be coached out of him. Now, at the end of Trubisky’s third year in the league, I’m starting to understand his point of view.

    This seems like the kind of thing that can and should be coached. But apparently its not that easy. Trubisky continues to have poor footwork, most obvious is his tendency to throw off of his back foot when there’s no pressure around him. Head coach Matt Nagy obviously recognizes the problem:

    Physically, Nagy is stressing Trubisky’s footwork in the pocket, an issue he said they discussed Monday night.

    “(He needs) a little bit more trust where he’s not drifting out (of the pocket),” Nagy said. “There were times throughout this year where (it’s) focusing on trusting the center of that pocket, pushing forward, and now he’s a running threat.

    There was a point at the very beginning of his career when Trubisky was better about all of this. Anyone remember his very first preseason game? It seems a long time ago when, for one week, he took the league by storm and everyone was wondering if great things were ahead.

    In any case, Nagy needs to get back to the fundamentals with Trubisky. Much talk has been generated about Trubisky’s lack of ability to see the field but next year, instead of pushing Trubisky ahead in the offense, he needs to step back and concentrate on the fundamentals. If Trubisky isn’t solid there, nothing else will matter.

  • Kane continues with another quote from Nagy:

    “The other thing with this offense is it’s all about timing. So routes are matched with the footwork of the quarterback, and so mastering the footwork mechanics of knowing, ‘Is a guy pressed? Is it off? Etc.’ That’s huge.”

    Yes, this is another thing I’ve wondered about.

    Coaches constantly talk about how plays work in practice but when it comes to doing it in the game, it all falls apart. I’m sure at least part of this has to do with the timing of the play. Its one thing to do it in practice when you can run the play under ideal conditions with little contact. Its another altogether to do it when someone is trying to disrupt the receiver’s route. The Bears have generally done a poor job of this. It will be interesting to see if they can improve in the area.

  • Again, from the Kane article:

    Beyond the decision-making, Nagy wants Trubisky to be “a master at understanding coverages.” He said Trubisky is not far off but needs to focus on studying defenses in the offseason.

    “These defensive coordinators, they have different ways of showing different coverages, and they’re good at it,” Nagy said. “(Let’s) understand how defenses are going to try to trick you, and let’s not get tricked. If we do that, we slow the game down and we get other parts of this offense fixed, which I know we can and that’s our job.”

    This is a tip of the hat to Packers defensive coordinator Mike Pettine among others. Pettine turned Trubisky inside out with confusing coverages that change at the snap of the ball the very first game of the year. Many knew there was big trouble ahead after that game. Arguably Trubisky never recovered mentally.

  • Kane also reports that the Bears are open to drafting a quarterback to develop along side Trubisky:

    “I do think that drafting a quarterback, developing quarterbacks, that’s important for the franchise,” Pace said. “You’ve seen teams do that to their advantage, to flip them for draft picks. It’s something we talk about it. It just hasn’t been something that’s lined up in recent drafts. It doesn’t mean that it’s something we still don’t believe in and something that can’t happen.”

    Yeah, yeah. How often have we heard that, not just from Pace, but from every general manager for the last 20 years? I’ll believe it when I see it.

  • The Bears also fired 3 assistants Tuesday. Via Rich Campbell at the Chicago Tribune:

    The team informed offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich, offensive line coach Harry Hiestand, tight ends coach Kevin Gilbride and special teams assistant Brock Olivo they will not return next season.

    News of the changes surfaced two hours after a news conference in which Nagy provided no specifics in response to a question about potential staff changes.

    “It’s our job and it’s my job to make sure the reflection process is done the right way,” Nagy said as he sat next to general manager Ryan Pace. “Regardless of the timeline, we want to make sure that they are the right decisions.”

    I had a problem with Helfrich’s hire from the beginning. Its not that Helfrich really did anything wrong. Nagy runs the offense. It’s just that Nagy is a very young coach who still has limited experience in the league. It was and still is imperative that he have someone around that he can lean on to give him advice when adversity hits, as it did all too frequently this year. In theory Senior Offensive Assistant Brad Childress, who is a former head coach and a long time NFL offensive assistant, fills that role. But if Childress is around the team much, I’ve seen little evidence of it.

    Helfrich was also focused on improving the running game, which was a miserable failure this year.

    Having mostly a college background, Helfrich’s natural tendency would be to run from the shot gun. Personally, I think it would be better if they got Trubisky under center more often. Running backs get a better, running start towards the line of scrimmage and running plays develop more quickly when you do this. It may not be a coincidence that we saw more of that the last game with the Vikings.

    The firing of Hiestand is also significant. Like Gilbride, he coached a position that under-performed this year. He was the Bears offensive line coach from 2005-09 but coached college ball after that. Former players raved about Hiestand’s ability to teach blocking techniques but at the time of his hiring I wondered why, if he was such a good coach, he didn’t have a job in the NFL after leaving the Bears.

    We will find out soon how much the under-performance along the offensive line was lack of talent. Unlike tight end, there won’t be a lot of change on the line with right guard probably being the only likely position where a significant upgrade might take place.

    Both tackles and the center are under contract and being paid and left guard James Daniels was a second round draft pick who will be given every opportunity to succeed. Indeed, Daniels lack of development may have been a major reason for Hiestand’s firing.

  • Rick Morrissey at the Chicago Sun-Times had an interesting take on all of this:

    The bottom line, though — this being the Bears — is that we’re stuck with everybody. That was the message Tuesday.

    Outside linebacker Leonard Floyd, he of the three sacks in 2019?

    ‘‘We’re happy with Leonard,’’ Pace said.

    Unproductive tight end Adam Shaheen, whom Pace took in the second round in 2017?

    ‘‘When he’s played, we’ve liked what we’ve seen,’’ he said.

    Running back Tarik Cohen, who went from 10.2 yards per reception last season to 5.8 yards this season?

    ‘‘He is a dynamic player in so many areas — in the run game, in the pass game, in the return game,’’ Pace said.

    And Trubisky, whom Pace chose over [Chiefs quarterback Patrick] Mahomes? Have I already mentioned that he chose Trubisky over Mahomes?

    ‘‘Mitch is our starter,’’ Pace said.

    Team president Ted Phillips said Mahomes is an ‘‘anomaly.’’ That, in a nutshell, is the Bears. Good teams hire good talent evaluators who find the anomalies. The Bears found Trubisky.

    All good points. But here’s the deal. With limited cap space and few draft picks, who are the Bears supposed to replace these guys with?

    Pace is committed to roll with these guys and the path to improvement isn’t going to be replacing them. Next year, the Bears are simply going to have to get better performances from their “so called good players”.