Positioning the Bears for Success

John Mullin at CSN Chicago brings up a good point about the Bears search for a quarterback:

“How good is [general manager Ryan Pace] at finding a potential franchise quarterback, given that he’s never picked a quarterback in his two Bears drafts?

“Former GM Jerry Angelo admitted that he and his staff had more than their share of difficulties identifying good offensive linemen in the draft. Maybe it was because Angelo himself was a former college linebacker and defensive lineman; who knows?’

‘Pace is a former college defensive end and his personnel moves on that side of the football have generally been solid – Leonard Floyd, Eddie Goldman, Nick Kwiatkowski, plus free agents Akiem Hicks, Danny Trevathan, Tracy Porter and Jerrell Freeman.

“But can Pace, who certainly knows things about chasing quarterbacks with malicious intent, draft success at the single most important position in perhaps all of sports?’

It’s a legitimate question and it’s not just Pace.  He’s working in an organization full of scouts and personnel men who apparently have consistently under-rated and/or failed to understand the position, as demonstrated by the fact that the Bears have so rarely taken one high in the draft and have so rarely been successful if they did.  How qualified are they to identify the qualities of a good rookie quarterback?  Would they know one if they saw one?

For years I pushed hard for the Bears to hire a head coach with a background in coaching quarterbacks.  They eventually did hire one in Marc Trestman and it didn’t work out.  But that doesn’t mean I was wrong.

I have no problem with current head coach John Fox, a defensive head coach, mostly because he’s demonstrated elsewhere that he can hire a good offensive staff.  Neither offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains nor quarterbacks coach Dave Ragone have ever coached a rookie to a successful NFL career.  Now we’re all crossing out fingers and hoping that his judgement that they can, despite the lack of evidence, is sound.

Has Pace earned the same benefit of the doubt?

There’s a lot to like about what’s happening with the Bears right now.  And it’s not like bears fans have a choice.  You have to have faith and wait and see what happens.

But the number of “ifs” that are stacking up becomes more and more mind boggling the more you think about them.  An awful lot of things are going to have to go right with an awful lot of people who have no history of success with the quarterback position if the Bears are going to be able to draft and develop a rookie quarterback along.

Bottom line, I can’t shake the nagging feeling that the Bears as an organization still haven’t set themselves up for success because they continue to under-value the most important position in sports.  And that perhaps can be demonstrated no more clearly than when seeing how they’ve set up their organizational structure all the way from the top down.

Taking a Quarterback Is Not Optional.

Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune answers your questions:

“If the Bears do retain the third pick in the draft they will be able to choose a defensive player who is a difference maker at either the edge, 5-technique or safety depending on the first two picks. The second round should also produce an excellent player at tight end or on defense. And another starter should be found with the best available player in the third round. This is a great draft for certain positions. This is if the Bears ignore quarterback in the first three rounds. With five or six quarterbacks worthy of being drafted in the first round in 2018, why not wait till then? I am ok with Brian Hoyer next season. The Bears are not going to be a playoff or even a .500 team next season so improve the areas that can be most improved in this draft. There may well be a new coaching staff in 2018. Why not let them develop the quarterback of the future? We have waited this long after all. — Thomas H., Parts Unknown”

The idea of waiting to address the quarterback position is precisely the kind of thinking that has gotten the Bears in this predicament in the first place. I agree that there look to be some strong positions in this draft and some of them happen to match up with need areas for the Bears. But this franchise does not have a greater need than at quarterback and the longer the Bears put off the pursuit of finding the next franchise quarterback, the longer it’s going to take to actually land that guy. There’s no guarantee that quarterback is waiting for them in the 2018 draft. None. Zero. There is no guarantee that player is in this draft either. But you’ve got to swing and swing and swing and swing until you find that player. You can’t stop swinging until you get that player. The Bears’ biggest problem? They’ve been unwilling to swing for far too long. I’d also be very careful saying there will be five or six quarterbacks worthy of a first-round pick in the 2018 draft. A lot can change between now and then.”

I’m going to add one comment in my strong support of Biggs’s comment:  Not only should the Bears not wait until 2018 to take a quarterback, they should take one BOTH YEARS.  And EVERY YEAR after that until they find (at least) one.

Quarterback is a hit and miss proposition at the best of times.  You are going to miss on some, even the best in the class.  But statistically the truth is that good quarterbacks are more consistently found high in the draft, particularly in the first round.   And it’s not even close.  That means that you have to live with the occasional bust and keep taking your swings.  Over and over and over again until you get it right.

The Bears need to draft a quarterback at every opportunity every year.  It’s not an either or proposition.

Building from the Top Down

Dan Pompei , writing for The Athletic, addresses the Bears quarterback situation:

Brian Hoyer’s contract is up. He signed a one-year deal last spring. There will be many worse options to bringing him back as the No. 2 guy. Hoyer was criticized for not getting the ball in the end zone and not playing winning football, but he fills the requirements of a backup pretty well.

“Anytime you get the No. 2 in, you want the guy to not to lose the game,” an NFC North pro scout said. “He did that. He’s a better than average backup.”

There might not be another backup in the league who would give the Bears’ better return on salary.”

“Unlike Hoyer, [Connor] Shaw is an electric performer who stresses defenses by extending plays, playing with instinct and getting creative. Shaw deserves to be in the pole position for the developmental quarterback slot on the roster. That isn’t to say he shouldn’t have competition, either from a young player or from a draft pick, but he should be given a chance to stick.”

I like both Hoyer and Shaw.  But I really wonder if signing them is the right thing to do.

NFL personnel men talk about adding to the roster from the top down.  In other words, when you add a player, you add someone with the potential to start.  He and the other men at the position compete and the losers become backups.  But they become very good backups because the whole reason you signed them in the first place was because you thought they could start.  That’s how you build quality depth.

That’s particularly true of the Bears quarterback situation where they have essentially no one right now (assuming Jay Cutler is released or traded).  And the position is a particularly difficult one because, more than any other spot on the field, you are often taking a stab in the dark and hoping you get lucky.

That’s why the Bears can’t waste time signing “a better than average backup” or a guy who has been in the NFL for three years and is still considered to be “developmental”. You have to at least four guys that you think can be quality starters and let the second and third best be your back ups.

Having one of those be a solid veteran with a high floor and a ceiling high enough to make a very good starter in the right situation wouldn’t be a bad idea.  That way you have a worst case scenario if all of the younger players don’t pan out.  But if the Bears are debating whether to resign Hoyer, it should be whether he fits that profile, not if he is a guy who, at his best, is a good back up.  The same goes for Shaw.  Either he can compete to start or he can’t.

The Bears  need to be looking for players with the potential to play at the highest level.  Anything else is a waste of a roster spot at this point.

Quick Game Comments: Bears at Vikings 1/1/17


      1. Minnesota came out mixing it up and did a lot of damage with big plays on the Bears young defensive backs.  Cre’Von LeBlanc gave up a big catch to Cordarrelle Patterson as he let him get too far behind him while training him – which seems to be a habit with him.  Adrian Amos missed a tackle on Jerick McKinnon which allowed him to score the touchdown.

        The sequence highlights one problem with the Bears.  Yes, they’re playing lots of young players.  But are they really any good?  You wouldn’t know it by this series.

        In any case, despite some better play from both of these guys in the second half, I have very serious doubts about the future of both with the Bears.

      2. I’m really tired of seeing missed tackles play after play from these guys.  Something needs to be done about this.
      3. The Bears struggled to get pressure on Sam Bradford through a totally miserable Vikings offensive line.  That exposed a young and evidently less talented than people think Bears defensive backfield.  Very disappointing.
      4. The Vikings evidently decided that they could attack the Bears linebackers and safeties.  Bradford fed the ball effectively to the running backs and the tight ends, especially Kyle Rudolph who it seems the Bears simply couldn’t cover.


      1. Dowell Loggains apparently decided to quiet critics by running the ball more.  The first 3 plays and 10 of the first 12 plays were runs.  They ran the ball 22 of 31 total plays in the first half and were very successful at over 6 yards per rush.It was really nice to watch Howard run today as he broke the Bears rookie rushing record.  He broke tackles everywhere and ran with great vision.
      2. The Vikings evidently decided to let Xavier Rhoades cover Jeffery man-to-man.  The Bears tried to take advantage but Barkley and Jeffery had trouble getting on the same page.
      3. Had a great time watching the pass from former college quarterback turned receiver Cam Meredith to current quarterback Matt Barkley.  Some how I don’t see them risking that with Jay Cutler.  In any case, it’s the kind of fun play you run to keep everyone interested in the end of a crappy season.
      4. The Bears frequently looked to me like they weren’t concentrating and offensively they just weren’t always on the same page.  But there  were a couple of plays where Vikings ran right past Bears blockers to disrupt plays in the backfield that were especially bothersome.One was a miss of Eric Kendricks, where he ran right past tight end Daniel Brown in the red zone to disrupt a play.  Everson Giffen disrupted a Howard fourth down run that ultimately didn’t make it after running right by Charles Leno.  This supposedly was a missed block by Cameron Meredith but in any case Griffen was barely touched.

        These plays were either poorly designed, poorly executed or both.  They were very costly and very annoying.


      1. Dick Stockton, David Diehl, and Kristina Pink were your announcers.  I didn’t think they added anything special to the broadcast.  But I won’t say that they injured it, either.  Sometimes I guess you have to just be happy with that.
      2. Not a good day for Bears special teams.  Marcus Sherels had a 36 yard punt return to the Chicago 42.  Braylon Addison fumbled a punt late in the first half in Bears territory.  That set up a Viking touchdown.Deonte Thompson did have a very nice 60 yard kick return with 9 seconds left in the first half.  That set up a field goal.
      3. Drops weren’t a major issue.
      4. Six penalties for 49 yards isn’t a terrible game but it wasn’t good, given that the Vikings only had 2.Willie Young was off sides near the goal line early in the second quarter.  The Bears held but it could have been pretty damaging.

        The Bears sustained a long drive at the end of the first half for a touchdown despite a couple of holding calls on Bobby Massie and Josh Sitton.  Part of me was disgusted and part of me was glad to see them over come the problems to score.

      5. Very disappointing to see Matt Barkley throw an interception at the goal line on only his second pass of the game.   The pass was under thrown and behind Alshon Jeffery.  He followed that with another one in the red zone on the first drive of the second half. Both were his fault and both took points off the board.  Finally, he had a fumble in the fourth quarter that was returned for a touchdown.It was critical for Barkley to adjust after miserable showings the two previous games to demonstrate that he could protect the football.  If there’s one thing John Fox won’t put up with, its turnovers from his quarterback.  Barkley may not be back in any capacity next year.  Frankly, I don’t think he should.

        Jeremy Langford did his future no good by fumbling early in the second quarter in Bears territory.  The Vikings turned it into a touchdown.

        The Bears did (finally) get one back as Cre’Von LeBlanc did pick one off in the end zone.

      6. It isn’t very hard to figure this one out, boys and girls.  You can’t turn the ball over like this and win football games.The Bears keep saying that effort isn’t a problem.  Great.  But does it matter if you can’t play smart?

        Sorry.  It’s not brilliant analysis.  It’s just the truth.