Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune answers your questions:
Why do you continue to mention the new coaches — particularly the offensive line coach — as a significant factor in the Bears’ improvement. Weren’t we told how terrific the former assistant coaches were, especially Mark Helfrich and Harry Hiestand? Why should we trust in the new ones? Why do you? How much of this is scapegoating? — Damian W., Missoula, Mont.
Those are certainly fair questions you are raising. The point I’ve tried to make is that the Bears, by virtue of their actions more than anything else, have pointed to the coaching changes being the most significant when it comes to the offensive line. The personnel additions there have been minimal. Germain Ifedi and Jason Spriggs were signed for veteran minimum salaries. Ifedi projects as competition, perhaps the leading candidate, for the right guard job. Spriggs could compete for a spot as the swing tackle. How else do you evaluate the club’s evaluation of the offensive line coming off last season? I look at it and say, “Obviously, the Bears have a high level of confidence that staffing changes under Matt Nagy will go a long way toward changing the performance of the unit.” If the offensive line doesn’t look considerably different this season, we’ll know there is much more work to be done and in that case, yes, it’s fair to say some scapegoating took place.
Will Charles Leno be a starter in 2020? — @bearsvictoryfl1
Is that really a question? Who else on the roster would the Bears possibly roll out as the Day 1 starter at left tackle provided Leno is healthy? There have been offensive line questions in the mailbag nearly every week since the end of the season. I don’t know how many different ways I can write that the Bears are largely banking on the players they had last season playing better. Obviously, Leno is a huge part of that equation at left tackle. He was added to the Pro Bowl as an alternate after the 2018 season, so he’s not far removed from a strong season. As you may recall, the Bears converted $6.97 million of his base salary for 2019 into bonus money, clearing nearly $5.6 million in cap space in August 2019. That transaction effectively tied Leno to the club through at least the 2020 season, so he wasn’t going anywhere at the end of last season. He’s only 28, so he’s still young and potentially has some good football ahead of him. If not, the Bears will have a major void to fill when looking ahead to 2021. But asking if he will start this season is missing the mark by a wide margin.
I get the frustration on both sides here. It’s the same thing week after week and you can sense that Biggs is getting tired of answering these questions. The answers don’t change.
When I talk to Bears fans all over the city the one thing that they consistently mention are the deficiencies on the offensive line. And no matter how many times I explain why the situation is what it is, the money being paid to the tackles and Cody Whitehair, the commitment to James Daniels, they still keep asking.
I ask, “Who are they going to replace?” Silence. But then the next time I see them they ask me yet again why the offensive line wasn’t addressed. It’s like they don’t even hear me.
Most fans sense that, one way or the other, games are won and lost at the line of scrimmage and they all pay particular notice when one of the units on either side of it is under performing. It’s hard to accept that there were virtually no changes to this unit after 2019.
For whatever reason, Matt Nagy has decided he’d rather have Juan Castillo coaching the offensive line. It isn’t that Hiestand was necessarily a bad coach. It’s just that Nagy didn’t believe he was the right coach. That’s the way it is. Whether it makes a difference or not, we just just have to wait and see.
In the mean time its obvious that the Bears believe that the linemen that they committed to organizationally after 2018 can do better despite under-performing last season.
To be frank, their judgement when it comes to these sorts of decisions hasn’t been great in recent years. The prime example was the decision to ignore the tight end position last year and ride with Adam Shaheen and Trey Burton. They were wrong and they paid dearly for it as a key cog in the offensive machine was virtually useless. In the end, they had to attempt fixing the position in part by drafting Cole Kmet in the second round this year. Which meant, of course that they couldn’t address the offensive line with that pick.
Every year we see situations where the Bears “so called good players” have to step up and improve. The Bears are taking a big risk by putting that on the offensive line this year. But it’s obvious that’s what they’ve done and I think we all understand the reasons why.
Time to accept it and move on.