Who Would Replace Adam Gase? Probably Someone Good.

Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune answers your questions. This one is about whether the Bears will hire within if offensive coordinator Adam Gase leaves to become a head coach:

“If Gase departs, coach John Fox will have to consider what is best for the offense and is the best fit for his staff in 2016. Obviously, the quarterback has a lot to do with that but you can’t let one player dictate what you are going to do. Quarterbacks coach Dowell Loggains would seem like a potential candidate. I wouldn’t be surprised if Fox considered former Titans and Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt. We’ll see what happens if Gase is hired as a head coach elsewhere in January.”

A few thoughts here:

  1. Gase is a good offensive coordinator but I feel compelled to point out that statistically the Bears offense isn’t that good. The Bears rank 20th in total offense and 25th in points. They’ve also struggled in the red zone. Don’t get me wrong. Gase has done a good job maximizing the talent he has available with a patchwork offensive line and patchy availability for most of his receivers for most of the year. But if I’m looking for a head coach, those statistics aren’t going to get me or my fan base excited. The favorites for head coaching jobs in November aren’t always the same ones that you see getting interviewed in January.
  2. Dowell Logains was Johnny Manziel‘s quarterbacks coach last year. Enough said.
  3. It seems likely to me at this point that Mike McCoy will be fired in San Diego at the end of the season. Should that happen, I would expect him to be a strong candidate here. Hes worked with Fox before and had enough success to get a head coaching job. He’d be a good choice.
  4. One of the most important jobs of a good head coach is to attract good assistants. It might be the most important job, especially if you are John Fox, who apparently gives his assistants plenty of room to do their jobs. Fox’s recent history has proven that he can do this. I think the odds are good that whoever he hires will be good for the team.

Johnny Manziel Gets More Chances. Too Many.

Chris Mortenson at ESPN reports that Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel will be returning to the starting lineup after a hiatus directly related to a visit to the clubs while the team was on bye a couple weeks ago:

Johnny Manziel
Johnny Manziel

The Browns obviously feel like they need to know what they have in Manziel. I would argue that they already know – a con man with low character that is unlikely to do what it takes to succeed in the NFL.

Manziel obviously promised the team he was going to lay low over the bye week before almost immediately being photographed holding a bottle of champaign in a club. This would be after his mea culpa over the off-season where he entered rehab and after which he promised to stay out of the clubs. He was photographed partying in a club after that, too.

The whole incident reminds me of former Bears first roud draft pick Cedric Benson. Benson was arrested on his boat. Upon talking to then head coach Lovie Smith about it, Smith obviously told him that the organization would stand by him if he laid low. The next thing you know, Benson is pulled over at 2 o’clock in the morning and charged with a DUI. At that point, it doesn’t matter if you are guilty or not. You were out at two or three in the morning after promising you wouldn’t let it happen.

The Browns are obviously being more lenient with Manziel, giving him both a third and a fourth chance. Which is bad for both them and him. Benson left the Bears to perform well here and there in Cincinnati and Green Bay. But to no one’s surprise, it didn’t last and despite his obvious talent, he’s no longer in the league. And for good reason. Manziel is headed in the same direction, arguably at a faster pace.

Yet Another Reason Why Twitter Is a Bad Idea for NFL Personnel

Former Eagles and Browns executive Joe Banner really should know better.  And maybe the fact that he doesn’t tells you all you need to know about why he’s currently an ESPN analyst instead of a NFL front office man.

Banner tweeted to his more than 27,000 followers something that was almost certainly not intended for public consumption.  He was calling somebody “a moron,” apparently in response to a question about this particular moron’s advisors. The full tweet, was screens hotted before Banner deleted it:

“True, but he is a moron on his own. He has many advisors, but Alec is his top advisor by a lot. Don’t agree with the no advisors outside…”

Speculation, which Banner has denied, was that the “moron” was Browns owner Jimmy Haslam, who fired him in early 2014.    “Alec” is presumably Alec Scheiner, the Browns president.  Even funnier than that tweet are the responses below Banner’s denial like this one:

“Joe Banner is Cleveland’s Crazy Ex-Girlfreind.”

Regardless, this once again reflects the dangers behind using Twitter to say things, either publicly or privately, that shouldn’t be said.  What’s even worse is that Banner has exhibited stupidity via Twitter before.  Banner and those like him should be sending text messages and destroying phones per the normal protocol.

“The Drill with the Bell” and Other Points of View

Bears

  • Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune rightfully describes the Bears situation after the third exhibition game as abysmal. The most significant highlights:

    “This team is short on talent, and you didn’t need to watch the most significant of the four exhibition games to know that. The Bears’ drafts from 2009 through 2014 — six drafts totaling 40 selections — produced four of the team’s starters in the 21-10 loss to the Bengals.”

    “Wide receiver Alshon Jeffery should return soon enough from a calf injury and make it five starters from those six drafts. That’s it. Cornerback Kyle Fuller, offensive linemen Kyle Long and Charles Leno and inside linebacker Shea McClellin are homegrown talent from those drafts. The core that general manager Ryan Pace and coach John Fox inherited is abysmal. When Fox said he wanted to underpromise and overdeliver when he was hired, you can bet he knew he couldn’t promise much. Not right away.”

    “The team is going to be flush with salary-cap room after this season when Jeffery comes out of contract, and Pace won’t have a long list of his own players to lock up long term. The Bears could be a major player in free agency, but that’s a trap. Free agency is for plugging a hole, not laying a foundation.

    “The Bears’ only way out of this predicament is to draft better. Pace and Fox need two and probably three draft classes to really build a foundation. That much was reinforced Saturday night.”

    The key phrase: “two and probably three draft classes to really build a foundation.” Up to this point most people have been saying “at least one more”. But I always thought at least two sounded more like it. And lets not forget that by the time that third additional draft is over, a lot of the talent on offense will be significantly older. So that side of the ball needs young talent almost as much as the defense does.

    Bottom line, this team is officially rebuilding from scratch. Bears fans had better be in this for the long haul if they’re going to find any enjoyment in the performance of their team over the next few years.

  • Hub Arkush at chicagofootball.com also was gloomy after the game but did note some positives, including this one:

    “I do think we learned that Rashad Lawrence is either the third or fourth best receiver on the roster right now, depending on how you rank him against Josh Bellamy, and he should make the team. If you view it objectively, Lawrence has shown more in a Bears uniform than Marquess Wilson has in two-plus seasons.”

    Here’s hoping that Arkush is right in this evaluation. Having young players like Lawrence emerge is one of the few good about a dismal injury situation.

  • Arkush also has some interesting thoughts on the inside linebacker situation that I happen to agree with:

    “There has been a perception throughout camp that [Shea] McClellin and [Christian] Jones have earned those spots, but the reality is they were just given to them because they are perceived as the best options.

    “Jones is a great-looking prospect but appeared completely lost against the Bengals.  McClellin keeps getting credit for looking comfortable and learning the position, but the reality is he has shown no signs he is physical enough to play the position or can make plays less than 5 or 10 yards downfield.

    “It’s time to give [Mason] Foster and [Jon] Bostic some fraction of the chances McClellin and Jones have enjoyed.”

    Jones and McClellin were the initial choice over Foster because of their relative youth and upside. Bostic’s been injured. But its time both got the chance to show what they can do in the middle after a poor showing by McClellin and Jones against the Bengals, especially in coverage.

  • Two time Pro Bowler Tim Jennings was undoubtedly the most surprising cut Sunday. But I was also taken aback when young cornerback Al Louis-Jean was cut. Louis-Jean has the length that the current coaching staff was seeking at the position but apparently wasn’t progressing fast enough after a promising start to his career last summer.
  • It looks to me like Zach Miller has won the battle for the third tight end spot. Adam Jahns at the Chicago Sun-Times notes that he’s been playing a lot of fullback with the first team offense and he’s been the Bears choice as the second player in two tight end sets. Martellus Bennett was a given and Dante Rosario is a very valuable special teams contributor. The Bears carried three tight ends last year.
  • Everybody should be holding their breath for another Kevin White-style injury revelation. Not only did Alshon Jeffery not play in the game against the Bengals, he wasn’t even healthy enough to make the trip to Cincinnati. Via Jahns. The other injured wide receivers watched from the sideline. It’s hard to trust this regime after the White affair and their initial description of Jeffery’s injury as minor, despite the fact that he was in a walking boot afterwards, looks more and more like it may have been another smoke screen.
  • If you think you’ll feel better if former Bears head of scouting Greg Gabriel blows smoke up your rear end, read this.

Elsewhere

  • Having said that, Gabriel and I do agree on Bills (in my opinion likely starting) quarterback Tyrod Taylor. Taylor is mobile and has been much more accurate than I expected during the preseason. He’s been head and shoulders above both Matt Cassel and, especially, E.J. Emanuel. If Taylor is as good as he’s looked, the Bills may be just good enough offensively to find their way to the playoffs behind an excellent defense.It’s worth noting that Manuel was promised a start in the third preseason game and got it. But he threw only two passes and got only 10 minutes of work. He’s looked very bad in the previous games and reportedly hasn’t been much better in practice. Taylor and Cassel have likely both surpassed him.
  • Michael David Smith at profootballtalk.com discusses the possibility that Robert Griffen III may not be ready to start the regular season. The Redskins, who initially said he’d be ready to play in the third pre-season game against the Dolphins, suddenly changed course, claiming that the doctors still want him to be held back for “one or two weeks”. He has the support of ownership but RGIII hasn’t looked good this preseason and the football people reportedly want him gone from the team altogether. Head coach Jay Gruden would love to see Kirk Cousins take the job away in week one. The Bears play the Redskins December 13.
  • The Animal Rescue League is pulling an October event out of Heinz Field in protest of the Steelers signing of Michael Vick.

    “‘While we understand that Mr. Vick has made an effort to atone for his past mistakes and has worked to help strengthen animal abuse laws, we do not believe that it is appropriate for him to continue a high-profile and influential public career,’ the release [from the League] states.”

    Like everyone else, I abhor what Vick did. But let’s bear in mind that this isn’t a Ben Roethlisberger situation where Vick bought his way out of a rape conviction. Vick did his time on the dog fighting conviction and now he should be able to continue living his life, “high-profile and influential public career” or not.

  • Conor Orr at nfl.com explains what he learned from the Vikings – Cowboys game Saturday:

    “Completely understand the Vikings’ reticence with Cordarrelle Patterson, but my goodness, he is the most athletic player on the field every time he leaves the bench. It is a type of Tavon Austin situation that has to be taken care of so as not to waste Patterson’s prime years.

    “Vikings offensive coordinator Norv Turner and head coach Mike Zimmer mentioned a certain precision lacking in his routes. But just look at this kick return! Something has to give.”

    Patterson is Percy Harvin. All potential and no production. He’ll flash and entice and if the Vikings are lucky, they’ll sucker another Seattle into a trade once they give up on him.

Next Opponent

The Cleveland Browns play the Bears Thursday at Soldier Field. A few notes:

  • Keep an eye on the Cleveland defense. Though the starters probably won’t see much action, the defensive line has been impressive in its ability to penetrate to stop the run.
  • Also keep an eye on Cleveland returner Shane Wynn. He’s looked to me like he might be special.
  • Don’t expect to see Johnny Manziel. He’s out with an elbow injury. It’s a shame because he’s been looking like a real quarterback in the preseason. There’s still some hope there for Browns fans.
  • Don’t expect to see former Bears quarterback Josh McCown, either. According to Mary Kay Cabot at the Cleveland Plain Dealer head coach Mike Pettine has already said he’s not playing. McCown had a very good tune up game against the Buccaneers on Saturday. His passer rating was 113.9.
  • One of the more interesting things to watch for will be how the Browns handle Terrelle Pryor. He didn’t play Saturday (or in any of the preseason games) with a lingering hamstring injury. The former quarterback is trying to make the roster as a wide receiver.

One Final Thought

This unique Jets drill where offensive linemen keep pass rushers from getting past them to ring a bell caught my attention. From Ben Shpigel at The New York Times:

“That tinny sound signifies superiority or regret, serenading the linebacker who bulled past, or mocking the lineman, like a sad trombone, who failed to stop him. In other pass-rush or pass-protection drills, heavyweight bags or dummies or even sacrificial equipment managers or coaches simulate the quarterback.”

“‘You do not want to hear that bell,’ guard Brian Winters said.”

This is a clever idea. It’s one thing to lose or win an encounter in a drill. Its another thing altogether for everyone within a hundred yards to know. Something tells me linemen on both sides of the line of scrimmage are concentrating extra hard leading up to the start of the season.

Brief Impressions: 2015 NFL Draft

  1. Did someone tell the ESPN crew that there was no smiling allowed on the set? I’ve never seen a more somber first round telecast in my life.
  2. There seems to be a belief around the league that second overall pick Marcus Mariota might have been an owners pick. The Titans aren’t supposed to be for sale but the general belief appears to be that they are. There’s a theory that interim president Steve Underwood put pressure on the Titans front office to draft Mariota in order to make the franchise more valuable.
  3. I’m not surprised that the Redskins decided that they didn’t want to draft the consensus best player in the draft, Leonard Williams. But I am surprised that they couldn’t find a way to trade pack. Brandon Scherff adds to an offensive line that general manager Scot McCloughan evidently wants to make tougher as they look to become the kind of ground and pound running team that the Cowboys were last year. But I’m having a hard time believing there was no market for that pick. Scherff has short arms and isn’t considered to be a great offensive line prospect, especially if he’s going to be put at right tackle. The Redskins should have been able to pick up Scherff or another lineman later in the round.
  4. The Browns pick of Cameron Erving at 19 overall as a guard appeared to be a puzzler. Erving was generally considered to be a potential Pro Bowl center but his performance at tackle when he played the position was not considered to be good and he doesn’t necessarily project as a guard long-term. But a look at current center Alex Mack‘s contract clarifies things. His contract is player voidable in 2016 and apparently, like so many other people associated with the Browns organization, he intends to get out as soon as he can.
  5. On the other hand, I’m still having a hard time figuring out the Andrus Peat pick by the Saints. Terron Armstead seems to be a lock at left tackle. Right tackle Zach Strief is entering his 10th season with the Saints. I suppose he could be the future at that spot but I don’t see an immediate need there. The other positions along the offensive line seem to be similarly set. All I can assume is that Peat was the best available on their board and they took him.
  6. I love the Bears’ apparent free agent signing of Shane Carden. Many will remember that I put up a post on Carden questioning why he was considered only a low round prospect. Now we’ll find out first hand how full of it I am.
  7. I thought it was funny that ESPN‘s Ben Goessling‘s opinion of the Vikings draft so closely mirrored my own of the Bears’ saying, “This draft could be tough to judge for several years thanks to the number of talented, yet unrefined, players the Vikings took.”
  8. Many were surprised by the fall of so many pass rushers so far in the draft. I was not. I thought all of the pass rushers after Dante Fowler were being over-rated by the media in large part because, well, they were pass rushers. The only one I thought was worth a top ten pick other than Fowler was Randy Gregory and he blew his chance with off the field issues. It says here that Shane Ray and Vic Beasley, who went right after the Bears pick at number eight to Atlanta, both have bust written all over them. Bud Dupree might be an average starter by the time he’s developed.
  9. Speaking of pass rushers, its going to be interesting to see how things pan out for Fowler in Jacksonville. Fowler thinks he’s going to be the Leo linebacker (the primary pass rusher) but that doesn’t seem to fit his skills as he would be more suited to the Otto role (strong side linebacker who turns into a pass rusher on obvious passing downs). How he develops there may largely depend upon whether they choose the correct way to use him.
  10. One big loser in the draft appears to be former Bears prospect Matt Blanchard. The Packers drafted developmental prospect Brett Hundley. Scott Tolzien is currently entrenched as the back up. Unless Blanchard shows a great deal of potential or the Packers aren’t as committed to Tolzien as they appear to be, Blanchard would seem to be the odd man out.
  11. There’s a big part of me that likes the Rams’ first round pick of Todd Gurley. He’s the kind of runner that will fit in well in St. Louis and there’s no doubt that the Rams are planning to beat the rest of the NFC West by further overpowering it’s best teams. That means a big time running game and with the selection of Gurley followed by two offensive tackles, they may have added the personnel to do it.

    The problem is that head coach Jeff Fisher is under some pressure in St. Louis to start winning now after a string of seasons in which the team has under-performed. And with Gurley coming off of a very bad ACL injury, he might not be ready to contribute right away. Despite good reports on the condition of the knee, Gurley won’t be ready to practice until halfway through training camp, losing valuable reps to learn things like pass protection. Even worse, players with knee injuries have a bad habit of not getting all the way back to where the were before until the second year after the injury. You have to wonder if the Rams wouldn’t have been better off selecting Melvin Gordon, who is very close to Gurley in terms of how the experts had them ranked and who I actually liked better than Gurley anyway.

Bears May Look to Miami as a NFL Draft Trading Partner and Other Points of View.

Bears

  • Will Brinson at CBS Sports rates wide receiver David Terrell as the worst Bears first round draft pick in the last 25 years. I don’t see how he beat out Michael Haynes and Cade McNown but it must have been close.
  • Hub Arkush at chicagofootball.com continues to claim that the Bears have a “screaming need” for a number one receiver. I’m not too sure that they don’t have one in Alshon Jeffery. In fact, I’m going to be mildly disappointed if he’s not. I look around the rest of the league at what other teams have and I’m not too sure the need at receiver is as great as some Bears commentators seem to think it is. Dan Wiederer at the Chicago Tribune agrees here.  Don’t get me wrong – another playmaker would be welcome and you won’t hear any complaints from me if they draft one. But with Marquis Wilson and Eddie Royal, with Martellus Bennett at tight end and Matt Forte at runningback, I think that the Bears have plenty of receiving talent. The “need” might be for depth.
  • Arkush has the Bears selecting runningback Todd Gurley in his latest mock draft. I would hope the Bears would desperately try to trade back if Gurley is their guy.

    Arkush has been pushing runningback as an underrated need for the Bears for quite a while now. He’s got a point but this might be over doing it. The draft has plenty of depth at runningback and Stanford OT Andrus Peat, Iowa OG Brandon Scherff, Michigan State CB Trae Waynes and West Virginia WR Kevin White – picks 9-12 in Arkush’s mock – all look like better picks to me in that spot.

    The guess here is that Arkush is just having a little fun with it and that he doens’t seriously believe that the Bears will take Gurley at seven.

  • The Bears best free agent signing? For my money its linebacker Mason Foster, signed from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (profiled here by Adam L. Jahns at the Chicago Sun-Times). Foster wasn’t a great fit for the cover two but I think he’s perfect for an inside linebacker in a 3-4 defense. Football outsiders points to the Bears struggles at linebacker in coverage as a major problem in 2014, one that they think Foster could help solve. Jon Bostic in particular looked lost in space last year.

Elsewhere

One Final Thought

For those of you wondering what Brit McHenry did to get herself suspended from ESPN, the video of this media darling is below. McHenry’s car was towed by a company that is, by most accounts, pretty shady. Note that she is warned immediately that she is on camera.

I get that she’s upset and I would be, too. But taking it out on the employee at the front desk, especially in this manner, is not a good look.

Draft Day Trade of Cutler? In Some Ways It Makes Sense.

Josh Alper at profootballtalk.com continues to speculate on the possibility that Jay Cutler will be traded. This is, of course, possible and if it is going to happen, it will most likely be close to or during the draft. But it’s highly unlikely to be directly connected to an attempt to obtain Marcus Mariota.

If the Bears do draft a quarterback that they feel could start in 2015 or even one they think they can be very confident will develop this year, they might still be able to trade Cutler for a bag of balls without, for instance, asking for some sort of quarterback in return. If they pass on Mariota, that team could be the Titans, who might want a veteran quarterback to pair with promising but still relatively unknown Zack Mettenberger. That would be some expensive insurance, though, and it’s unclear to me how Cutler would fit into that equation.  It’s possible that such a trade only happens if the Titans, contrary to their public stance, actually have doubts about Mettenberger (as everyone outside of Tennessee seems to have).

Bottom line anything is possible. This assessment of the Bears chances of trading Cutler on draft day from Adam Schein at nfl.com is right in line with that thinking:

“New GM Ryan Pace established that Cutler is the Bears’ starting quarterback, but let’s be honest: It wasn’t exactly a ringing endorsement. Is it hard to imagine the new regime looking for an opportunity to unload the mercurial signal-caller and his bloated contract? No, not at all.

“Let’s say a QB-needy team — Tennessee or Cleveland, for example — eschews the position early in the draft. Would either entertain the idea of ‘fixing’ Cutler if it only meant taking on his salary and giving up a low-round pick? The Titans need buzz and Cutler made a name for himself in Nashville while starring at Vanderbilt. Cleveland … well, you can never be sure what the Browns are thinking. So who knows?

“Would the Bears get rid of Cutler, even without addressing the position in Round 1? I would, if I were Pace, in a heartbeat. I’d look to draft a quarterback on Day 2 and possibly make a move for a vet. You cannot have John Fox preaching energy as Cutler sucks the life out of the Bears.”

What quarterback on Day 2?  How about Garrett Grayson? I love Grayson and I think the Bears should seriously consider drafting him. Read this article by Troy E. Renck at the Denver Post to see why.

“When I talk to NFL scouts, I tell them to let him show what he knows. He can run a pro offense, and I also tell them to put on the film,” [former Colorado State offensive coordinator DaveBaldwin said. “I tell them to watch the Boston College game, when he hurt his shoulder, hobbled to the line of scrimmage and wouldn’t come out. Or watch when we went down to San Jose State and he pulled his hamstring and had a great day. His toughness is what you want. And his knowledge of defenses is definitely what you should want.”

Insert Grayson and take out Cutler for a low round pick? I’d take that. In a heart beat.

Sun-Times Proposes Potential Trade Down in Latest Mock Draft

Adam L. Jahns at the Chicago Sun-Times mocks the draft. He echos my own thoughts on why the Bears might trade down if at all possible here:

“My first mock draft had the Bears selecting Washington defensive tackle Danny Shelton at No. 7. But the Bears might be able to grab him later in the first round.”

danny-shelton

If the Bears want Shelton (above) – and I personally like him – then all they need to do is stay ahead of Cleveland, who will almost certainly take him if here’s there at 12. The trick will be finding a partner to trade with.  Someone might want to move up to take Kevin White or Amari Cooper if they’re still on the board. I think that’s the Bears’ best hope.

Sorry, “Source”, But the Bears Are Not the Browns

Jason Cole at the Bleacher Report says that the idea of trading quarterback Jay Cutler to the Tennessee Titans to take Marcus Mariota with the second overall pick is “gaining traction” within the Bears organization in the video below.

Cole is getting this from “a source he talked to over the weekend”. Who want to bet its quarterbacks coach Dowell Loggains, who apparently helped push the Browns into taking Johnny Manziel last year?

I don’t believe this for a second. The last time there was a trade up in this kind of scenario, the Redskins gave three first round picks to the Rams to get Robert Griffin III. I refuse to believe the Bears are that stupid. Nor do I believe that Bears general manager Ryan Pace and Bears head coach John Fox would allow themselves to be bullied into taking such a risk because a “source” like Loggains or someone like him tried to drum up support for it. Say what you want about George McCaskey, he’s not dumb enough to demand that the Bears take Mariota because someone other than the general manager wants him.

Totally Inept… And Still Better?

cleveland-browns-3d-1280x960

I’ve been as tough as anyone on the Browns.  And its well deserved because they really are the definition of dysfunctional. Pat McManamon at ESPN elaborates:

“From general manager Ray Farmer being suspended four games because of illegal in-game texting, to offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan leaving with two years left on his contract, to first-round pick and expected face-of-the-franchise quarterback Johnny Manziel finishing rehab, to former All-Pro receiver Josh Gordon facing another suspension for substance abuse, headlines have not been kind to the Browns. And that was all within the past few months.

“‘Let’s face it,’ [owner Jimmy Haslam] said, ‘it hasn’t been the smoothest start in the world.’

“Since the family bought the team for just more than $1 billion in October 2012, the Browns have been through three head coaches, three general managers, seven quarterbacks and (in two full seasons under Haslam) 21 losses in 32 games.”

And yet with all of that, Michael David Smith at profootballtalk.com had to admit this:

“[I]t’s hard to dispute that those moves made the franchise look like it didn’t know what it was doing.”

“On the other hand, the Browns really did take a step forward on the field last season. Granted, a 7-9 season isn’t ‘a step forward’ in most places, but in Cleveland it is. That was the Browns’ best record since 2007.”

How bad is it when a franchise can be about as inept as it gets – a total embarrassment for an entire city – and yet it’s still an improvement?