- Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune answers your questions:
Why is everyone obsessed with Ted Phillips’ role in the organizational structure? For every team, the top football person is evaluated by a non-football person (often the owner). What would be the purpose of exchanging Phillips for a football person other than adding bureaucracy? — @patrick53762437
Anytime the Bears hit a rough patch — and they’ve certainly been in deeper holes than coming off consecutive 8-8 seasons — the fan base clamors for change. The push-button topics for fans are to call for the McCaskeys to sell the team or replace Phillips. The public wants to see someone pay with his job for the team’s struggles. They’re out for blood, and in the age of social media, that is only amplified. Phillips might not be the longest-tenured employee at Halas Hall, but he has been around for an awfully long time and has been in a prominent role for most of that run, serving as president and CEO since 1999. As you know, the Bears have had consecutive winning seasons only once during that span (2005 and 2006), and there are those who place the blame on Phillips’ doorstep for the ongoing struggles. I agree with you that eventually decisions are made at a level that doesn’t involve “football people.” The argument for a football person in the upper hierarchy is it would add an extra set of eyes to the operation, but ultimately, when a hire is made for a general manager, ownership has to sign off. Phillips doesn’t have a role in football decisions, but he is involved at the level of hiring a general manager. I can see both sides, but ultimately George McCaskey is the man who makes the call on the organization’s top decisions, and that would be the case whether Phillips is empowered or someone with a football background is hired to replace him.
I recognize the argument that both this fan and Biggs are making. What’s the difference if McCaskey is making the final decision on the hire anyway? Why add an extra layer to the top?
I’ll give one potential answer in defense of the fans and media who are calling for this hire.
Potential GMs come from a pool of personnel men who are usually buried a couple layers down in the hierarchy. They are pro player scouts or draft scouts or assistant GMs. I really doubt that either Phillips or McCaskey really knows who these people are. Indeed, they have shown repeatedly that they don’t by doing things like hiring firms to identify candidates.
But team presidents are different. They come from a different pool. They are, for example, former GMs. Often people who were successful GMs or other types of front office people but who, perhaps, are retired or who no longer wanted to put in the time to do the job day-to-day. These are people who McCaskey will have known. People who he probably has met or interacted with over the course of their career becasue they were at the top of their former organizations.
Because of this, you could argue that McCaskey is better placed to hire an effective team president than he is to hire a GM who he possibly has never met in his life before his job interview.
- Biggs answers another question:
Do you see Danny Trevathan being one of the starting linebackers for the upcoming season? — @richrbreez
That’s a great question. Trevathan looked a lot slower this season, and it’s difficult to imagine at 31 and entering his 10th season that he will regain the range he played with earlier in his career. Trevathan is due to earn $7.125 million in 2021, and his base salary of $2.5 million is fully guaranteed. He also has an option bonus of $3.625 million, and if the Bears decline that, his base salary escalates to a fully guaranteed $6.625 million. So there isn’t a cheap out for the Bears after signing Trevathan before free agency began last year. They placed a high value on his leadership when they brought him back on his third NFL contract, and while he played a little better as the season went along, I would imagine they can find a cheaper alternative with greater range. The question is how much do they continue to value the intangibles he brings and what would the replacement cost be?
I have to believe that with limited cap space that the Bears keep Trevathan on for at least another year and hope things get better. True, he’s on the wrong side of thirty and there’s good reason to doubt that he will. But he’s not exactly ancient and he was at least adequate this year. With limited cap space, it probably costs more to replace him when the cost of the replacement is considered.
- Alex Shapiro at NBC 5 Chicago dreams of the Bears signing J.J. Watt:
[Watt’s wife] Kealia Ohai Watt joined the Red Stars in 2020 and moved to Chicago to begin training last March. She enjoyed instant success with the team, scoring two goals and two assists in only four regular season games. Kealia is under contract with the team for the 2021 season as well.
You may be thinking the Bears don’t have a shot to land Watt, since they won’t be able to offer him the best contract on the open market. According to spotrac.com, the Bears rank 22nd in the league in current cap space. But while a few extra million bucks from the Jacksonville Jaguars is cool, not needing to be in a long distance relationship with your wife is priceless.
I think it far more likely that Watt sees Green Bay as being plenty close enough to Chicago to satisfy both his heart and his desire to win a Super Bowl. He was born in Wisconsin and went to college at U.W.
I think its so likely that Watt will sign a team friendly with Green Bay that I consider it to be almost a foregone conclusion.
- Biggs answers another question:
Would it be such a massive reach to take Mac Jones at No. 20? Or should the Bears stick to the best player available or trade back? — @sprucebandit
I don’t know that Jones is a quarterback who can come in and have success right away, and there is a chance he is off the board before No. 20. It would be a risk for GM Ryan Pace and coach Matt Nagy to stake their future and the idea of progress on a rookie quarterback. Jones has gotten plenty of publicity in the last week since performing well at the Senior Bowl. He was far and away the best quarterback in Mobile, Ala., though it’s not like he had a ton of competition. One of the points scouts make when you ask about Jones is that he was surrounded by such an embarrassment of riches at Alabama — the Crimson Tide’s wide receivers were better than the position groups for a handful of NFL teams — he often was throwing into wide-open windows. He could wind up being very good, but it probably will take some developmental time. There’s a good chance the Bears could get an offensive tackle at No. 20, and it’s also a strong draft for wide receivers. I tend to think the likelihood of them taking a quarterback in Round 1 is low.
I tend to agree with Biggs that, at least right now, it doesn’t appear that taking Jones at #20 overall would be a reach.
I would further say that if the Bears like him, they should do it without reference to their futures with the team. In fact, if anything, I’d think it would be an advantage for them to do it.
Yes, your chances of winning a championship go down when you are starting a rookie QB. But Bears chairman George McCaskey has made it pretty clear that he’s looking for progress more than anything else in 2021, If the Bears look like they’re on the rise at the end of the next season, I’d be surprised if McCaskey fired either Nagy or Pace. Admittedly, making the case that the team improved in 2021 without making the playoffs would be difficult. But the continued development of a rookie quarterback who is showing potential would probably do it.
- Kevin Fishbain at The Athletic examines playing time over the course of the season for the members of the Bears roster. In the process, he notes the gradually increasing playing time for tight end Cole Kmet:
During the December win streak, Nagy used Kmet as an example of why it took the offense some time to get going.
“So Cole Kmet, when we drafted Cole Kmet, we knew when we drafted him what type of player that this kid is going to be in his career,” he said. “He’s going to be really, really good at the tight end position. But sometimes what’s hard for people to understand is it’s like Nintendo and you think you can just put these kids in for the first game they ever play or the first three games they ever play and they’re going to have these numbers or they can play every snap.”
Fair enough. But I can’t get past the feeling that this was more than that.
Nagy didn’t start playing Kmet more until the press started to push him on it. It certainly correlated with the amount of public pressure that was put on him and I tend to believe he was giving into it.
I might add that any reservations about playing Kmet before that might have been well-founded. Kmet tends to be a bit loose with the ball and, though his numbers for 2020 weren’t bad for a rookie, they weren’t anything to brag about either. He’ll still have to take a big step forward in 2021 to impress me.
- Mark Potash at the Chicago Sun-Times quotes former Bears and current Chiefs special teams coordinator Dave Toub on why special teams coaches make good head coaches.
“The fact that we talk to the entire team every day — offense, defense, specialists — we understand the game from the offensive and defensive perspectives,” Toub said. “Roster management — who knows the roster better than us?
“Game management, in-game decisions, the rules of the game — how important is that? And just being a leader of men — that’s what we do. We’re managers. We’ve got to motivate guys. That’s really what coaching is all about.”
I couldn’t agree more with this.
That might sound funny coming from a guy who has always advocated for finding offensive head coaches. And I still stand by that. If you find the right one, you need to keep him and if he’s not the head coach, he’ll be hired away to another organization who needs one. It’s a lot easier for find good defensive coordinators than offensive coodinators.
The problem is, as the bears are finding out, that you have to hire the right offensive head coach. If you don’t, then its going to do you no good regardless.
Dave Toub would be an outstanding head coach. Few people in the league would be better at getting the most out of his players. He does it with a constantly changing group made up of the bottom of the roster every year wherever he’s at.
One Final Thought
Biggs answers another question:
I don’t think the Bears have the capital to get Deshaun Watson, but let’s say three first-rounders and Roquan Smith gets it done. I think Ryan Pace would exhibit a lot of humility and courage in that instance because it would be highlighting forever his biggest mistake. It would be like Pace at a news conference, standing in front of a whiteboard pointing to those first-round picks, plus a fourth first-round pick (Smith), plus the second-, third- and fourth-round picks to move up for Mitch Trubisky on one side, and then, on the other side, the first-round 2017 pick where he could have had Watson for, comparatively, free. It would so clearly define the cost of his being the Bears GM. Wouldn’t you also admire his willingness to endure that for the sake of the organization? — Damian W., Missoula, Mont.
If Pace can swing a deal for Watson, at what would almost certainly be an exorbitant cost, the Bears would be set at quarterback for years to come. The price would be dramatic when you consider that, yes, Pace could have remained in place with the third pick back in 2017 and selected Watson (or Patrick Mahomes). Pace made a mistake, the Bears have paid the price and they will continue paying the price until they come up with a solution at the position. The reality is if the Bears can’t get a franchise quarterback this offseason — at a steep, steep cost — they will have to pay dearly in the future to get one, unless they absolutely bottom out and one falls into their lap at the top of a future draft (no sure thing) or they get exceedingly lucky and find one lower in the draft, something that has eluded them for 70 years and counting.
Biggs goes on to say that he doesn’t think Pace cares whether the general public sound view a move as being with “humility courage” or not. He just cares about winning and saving his job. That’s a sentiment that I agree with.
But I’m tired of hearing people moan over the Bears situation and talk about how they need to be “extremely lucky” to find a quarterback this offseason with limited resources.
Yes, Pace has put the team in a bind with his poor judgment and with the way he has wasted those resources and he has made his task more difficult this offseason. But this is not an insurmountable task by any means.
Great quarterbacks are typically found near the top of the first round. We all know that. But the league is also full of exceptions. The Super Bowl was just won by perhaps the greatest of them, Tom Brady, a sixth round pick in 2000. The Cowboys have found not one, but two exceptions to the rule in recent years, one in Tony Romo (undrafted free agent, 2003) followed by Dak Prescott (fourth round, 2016). Russell Wilson was a third rounder in 2010. Derek Carr was a second round pick in 2014. Kirk Cousins was a fourth round pick in 2012 who eventually beat out first round pick Robert Griffin III.
Still think the Bears need to take one in the first round and that drafting #20 overall is too low? 2020 MVP Aaron Rodgers was taken #22 overall in 2005 (and Brett Favre was a second rounder in 1991). 2019 MVP Lamar Jackson was taken #32 overall in 2018. 2018 MVP Patrick Mahomes taken by the Kansas City Chiefs after they traded up from #27 overall in 2017. That’s the last 3 MVPs taken by teams drafting lower than the Bears will be in 2021.
And I needn’t remind anyone that the Texans drafted Watson in 2017 by trading up from #25 overall.
Do I need to go on?
What the Bears need to do this season is to be smart. They need to find the guy that no one else sees and develop him. Easier said than done? Yes. And the fact that they haven’t done that in more than 30 years isn’t encouraging. But it is far from mission impossible.
Finding a quarterback in the NFL draft is no different that doing anything else that’s difficult in life. If you need “luck” to do it, its because you have to be smart enough to make your own. Expecting anything else is just an excuse.