Do the Bears Really Have “High Character” Players? And Other Points of View.

  • Mark Potash at the Chicago Sun-Times fantasizes about the possibility of the Houston Texans trading quarterback Deshaun Watson to the Bears:
  • [I]f the Texans don’t want to trade Watson to an AFC team, the Bears would be a contender. In fact, the Bears are the top NFC betting choice (11-2 odds, per BetOnline.ag) as a landing spot for Watson if he is traded — behind the Dolphins, Patriots and Jets.

    I understand why Potash is entertaining thoughts along these lines and I also understand why the Bears would be the NFC favorite. The trade for Khalil Mack showed the world just how aggressive general manager Ryan Pace is when it comes to these things.

    But I can’t imagine it happening. First, I can’t imagine that the Texans would be stupid enough to trade a 25 year old franchise quarterback for any price. But, setting that aside, the Texans are going to want a quarterback in return as part of any potential deal. The Dolphins can give them Tua Tagovailoa and the Jets can give them Sam Darnold. The Bears can give them Nick Foles

  • Adam Jahns at The Athletic makes a good point
    about the Bears culture which both owner George McCaskey and team president Ted Phillips touted as a reason for retaining Pace and head coach Matt Nagy at the Bears season ending news conference:
  • There was a quote from quarterback Mitch Trubisky
    that didn’t get enough attention after the Saints game.

    After the playoff loss, Trubisky was asked to explain the Bears’ drop off in offensive production against strong defenses. He said it was due to “a lot of things” and described their performance as “sloppy” in New Orleans. But he kept going.

    “Like I said, there’s a lot of things we need to do better, a lot of things we need to change and a lot of it is the culture and what we accept and what we don’t,” Trubisky said. “So we just have to keep getting better. And you’ve got to play your best ball against better teams like that. Especially Green Bay last week and the Saints this week, you have to show up to play and execute.”

    Jahns goes on to say that Trubisky might have been talking about the fact that wide receiver Anthony Miller was tossed from the game after reacting to Saints cornerback C.J. Gardner-Johnson. Javon Wims was ejected from an earlier contest for the same thing. The guess here is that Trubisky wasn’t talking about this specifically but it is peripherally related.

    I think McCaskey and Phillips define culture as having players who are nice guys. High character guys that don’t point fingers and hang tight as a team. This is a good thing. But its not precisely the same thing as having a winning culture. It’s a step towards it. But it’s not the same.

    All that “being a high character guy” stuff only takes you so far. At some point when both Miller and Wims were interacting with Johnson, a conflict in their heads took place. It was “I really want to hit this guy” Vs. “I’m going to hurt the team and have to face the wrath of Nagy”. In both cases, the player chose the former.

    The lack of discipline that these players showed reflects upon the coaching staff in general and Nagy in particular. I wouldn’t be the first one to point out that the end result might have been different had Wims been released after the first incident.

    To take it a step further, as Trubisky pointed out the lack of discipline results in sloppy play and poor execution. That results in losses, not the winning culture that the Bears dream of but don’t have.

    Nagy is a players coach. I would say in this case it was to a fault and the lack of respect that both players showed for his authority is a bad sign for the future.

  • Kevin Fishbain, also at The Athletic, addresses some key issues
    facing the Bears in terms of their defense in the offseason:
  • Any improvements to the defense should start with the pass rush, which will lead to the next problem area the past two seasons: takeaways. The players that should be the central focus for the next coordinator to do that will be Khalili Mack, Robert Quinn
    and Eddie Jackson. All three will be Bears next season, barring an unforeseen trade. It’s up to the coaches to get the best out of them.

    Let’s start with the pass rush. This falls squarely on the shoulders of outside linebackers coach Ted Monachino, who also failed to develop Leonard Floyd. Floyd had 10.5 sacks for the Rams this season. Monachino was brought in as the right hand man of defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano. Now that Pagano has retired, I would say that there’s little reason to retain Monachino.

    Pagano has now been replaced by safeties coach Sean Desai

    Unlike Monachino, I’m not going to lay Jackson’s struggles entirely on Desai. Yet. But it looked to me like Pagano sacrificed a lot in terms of scheme to try to get Jackson and the other defensive backs going and to generate more turnovers. They played a lot of zone defense in the second half of the season. That keeps the defensive backs facing the quarterback and could, in theory, lead to more interceptions. But it didn’t work and it looked to me like it resulted in tentative play.

    There must be a reason for the drop off in turnovers. Desai has to be squarely in the cross hairs. He will bear even more responsibility now that he is the defensive coordinator.

  • Adam Hoge at NBC Sports Chicago thinks losing defensive line coach Jay Rodgers to the Los Angeles Rams is a big deal.
  • I think he’s right. Rodgers always seemed to come up with a surprise rotational player like a Mario Edwards, who came out of nowhere to produce for the bears this year at defensive end.

    What’s disappointing is that its looking like it might be a parallel move. Initially it was thought that new head coach Brandon Staley was going to make Rodgers the defensive coordinator and he hasn’t filled that role yet. But he hasn’t named Rodgers to it either. They currently have Giff Smith, who was the defensive line coach under the previous regime.

    One Final Thought

    Patrick Finley at the Chicago Sun-Times analyzes the Bears’ biggest offseason questions:

    Beside quarterback, Ryan Pace’s biggest challenge this offseason will be…

    Improving the pass-catchers on his roster. Tarik Cohen’s return will help, as will the momentum David Montgomery got from a breakout season. Bringing back [Allen] Robinson — and keeping him happy — should be a priority. The Bears need another pass-catching tight end, presuming they cut [Jimmy] Graham. Pace needs to decide whether to part with Miller; McCaskey’s frustration with the receiver doesn’t bode well for his return.

    I’m going to disagree with Finley on this. The biggest challenge that Pace faces is improving the offensive line. Veteran NFL writer Bob McGinn at The Athletic asked front office and personnel men in the NFC North to rank the players at each position for each team. Each Bears offensive lineman was last at his position except Cody Whitehair at left guard (he was second).

    While the Bears have sunk resources into the interior line positions in order to keep the pocket clean in front of the quarterback, they have neglected the tackle position and its caused a serious problem, especially in the run game. Both Charles Leno on the left and Bobby Massie on the right need to be replaced. Each will carry a cap hit if released and the Bears have no cap space and limited draft picks to use to replace them with.

    Football games are won and lost at the line of scrimmage. The Bears offense will continue to struggle until they do something to strengthen the offensive line.

Quick Game Comments: Bears at Saints 1/10/21

Defense

  • The Bears were occasionally packing the box whenever they thought Alvin Kamara was going to run. I don’t think they had much choice, really, and they couldn’t afford to do it too often. And frankly, it didn’t help that much. The New Orleans offensive line is very good and did a good job.
  • Some really bad tackling out there. Admittedly many of the Saints players are pretty good at making defensive players look pretty miserable. All the more reason to emphasize the fundamentals.
  • Tony Romo pounded away on this but its something I’ve noticed the second half of the season. The Bears have flat out stopped playing man-to-man coverage. I’m guessing they’re trying to generate turnovers. But they’re struggling to cover with it. It just wasn’t going to work against the Saints. Or anyone else who is any good.
  • Manti Te’o is mobile enough but he’s not very physical to me. I thought the Saints came out and picked on him in the second half. Credit to him for being a high effort guy, though.
  • The Bears had this weird lineup I’ve never seen them do before. They had all three defensive aligned to the right of the center – to the same side Kamara was on in the backfield. They ran a stunt off of it to rush Brees on the play. Perhaps a little creativity from defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano.
  • I thought Tashaun Gipson had a really good game today. He was really aggressive and quick to the ball.
  • Truth be told what I said about Gipson really goes for the whole defense. I thought they all looked more lively and were faster to the ball today. I was glad to see it. I felt like they’d been missing it for most of the last half of the season.
  • Also kudos for getting pressure on Drew Brees. They did a surprisingly good job of this against a very good offensive line.

Offense

  • Mitch Trubisky was right on target with his passes today. About as good as he’s ever been. Kudos to him.
  • I thought the offensive line did a reasonably good job of protecting Trubisky as well. They held up even when the Saints brought pressure.
  • Unfortunately they had a tougher time making hay in the running game against a highly rated Saints defense. Not a surprise but if the Bears can’t run the ball, they aren’t going to be able to do much on offense.
  • I love the way David Montgomery runs. Just maximum effort on every play.
  • The Saints did a really good job of stopping those naked boots that Trubisky has made a living on. You knew a good defense was going to do that.

Miscellaneous

  • Matt Nagy decided to go for it on 4th and 4 from roughly the Saints 35 yard line in the first quarter. I really thought with Cairo Santos being as hot as he is, I would have kicked it. It was still early and they needed to get on the board.
  • How in the world did Javon Wims drop that touchdown in the end zone in the first quarter?
  • I lost count of the number of pre-snap penalties in this game but it was too many on both sides.
  • Anthony Miller’s ejection was inexcusable. Plain and simple.
  • 4th and 2 from the Bears 12 yard line with 5 minutes left in the third quarter. Eddie Jackson jumps off-sides. The Saints eventually scored a touchdown to make it 14-3. Awful.
  • Duke Shelley appeared to have an interception in the second quarter but the call was reversed. I thought the refs did the right thing.
  • John Jenkins got an interception (the called it a fumble) on a tip ball by Tashaun Gipson in the second quarter. It was a huge play as the Bears were really doing nothing and things were looking grim at 7-0. After Cole Kmet got a stupid unsportsman-like conduct penalty that cost the team 15 yards, the Bears settled for a field goal. But at least they got on the board.
  • Well, it wasn’t like this was unexpected. The Bears got beat by a better team.

    A very shorthanded defense played better than I expected for most of the game. I thought we finally saw a little bit of the team that we saw at the beginning of the year. Generally speaking they were fast to the ball and played with a little fire. It was nice to see.

    But what really stuck with me was the way that the Saints solved the Bears offense. It confirmed what I have thought for weeks. Head coach Matt Nagy was forced to simplify his offense for Mitch Trubisky for the third year in a row and when they finally ran up against a good defense, they had it covered. The movement in the offense, the naked boots that cut the field in half, none of it worked.

    I give Trubisky credit. He really threw the ball reasonably well today. But his arm is connected to his head and his head just isn’t there.

    The Bears face an off-season with a lot of holes and with very few resources to fill them. The defense is aging and needs an injection of youth. The offensive line needs a make over. They need better receivers and they need more dynamic play makers. But, as usual, no need is greater than the one at quarterback.

Quick Game Comments: Packers at Bears

Offense

  • The key to this game for the Bears offense was what it should always be. Run the ball successfully. The Packers weren’t packing the box with players to stop it early on. That isn’t really surprising. It isn’t Green Bay defensive coordinator Mike Pettine’s style. They definitely were concentrating on stopping it, though.
  • I thought the Green Bay defense came out a little flat. They were just a step slow and maybe not all there mentally. I’m surprised. There was a lot for them to play for. Someone woke them up because they picked it up after the first series.
  • Trubisky was wild and high on his passes early. I thought he got better as the game progressed but he was never what you’d call accurate. At 5.8 yards per pass, he will have to go down field more in the playoffs if the Bears expect to make a run.
  • The Packers had the Bears in very tight coverage most of the game. First possession aside, they were very quick tot he ball and swarmed the receiver allowing very little yards after the catch. I think this is how Chuck Pagano envisioned the Bears defense playing today. It didn’t work that way.
  • Trubisky tried hard to throw another red zone interception. Kevin King dropped it in the end zone with 6 seconds left in the first half. The Bears kicked a field goal.
  • Darnell Mooney had a good game today and was a bigger part of the game plan than was Allen Robinson, who the Packers shut down.

Defense

  • The Bears came out playing a lot of zone. It seemed that the plan was to pressure Rodgers with the front four, tackle well and limit the yards after the catch. There were still some bad missed tackles that gave the Packers a lot of critical yards.
  • The Bears definitely did crowd the line of scrimmage a little to concentrate on stopping the run, as well. They were very conscious of Aaron Jones. As well they should have been. They did a pretty good job of shutting it down.
  • Late in the game, the Packers lined Jones up as a receiver more often to set him up in a mismatch. He made some nice plays. It was a nice adjustment.
  • First quarter and the Packers have 4th and 3 deep in Bears territory on their first possession. The Packers put Devante Adams in the slot on Duke Shelly. Shelly can’t give him room because he has to defense the line to gain. Adams blows by him and draws a pass interference call. Nice play call there. The Packers picked on Shelly all day. Marquez Valdez-Scantling beat Shelley at the beginning of the second half for a deep pass that would have been another touchdown had he not dropped it.
  • As nice of a receiver as Allen Robinson is, the play immediately above is one that you simply can’t run with him. He’s not that kind of explosive player. That might explain why the Bears aren’t offering him what he wants.
  • Somehow Valdez-Scantling ends up on Danny Trevathan midway through the second quarter. That, my friends, is a mismatch. Touch down. Another good play. Rodgers doesn’t miss anything.
  • Similar to the first match up, the Bears struggled to get pressure on Aaron Rodgers with their highly paid front four in the first half. That’s pretty much death most of the time when playing Green Bay. They did better in the second half.
  • The Bears had a couple of interceptions that they dropped today (Eddie Jackson and Kindle Vildor). Had those been caught it could have been the difference in the game.

Miscellaneous

    • Cordarrelle Patterson made a good play on the opening kickoff, stepping out of bounds while touching the ball down. The Bears got the ball on the 40 yard line.
    • Cairo Santos had a good day kicking three field goals. But that was more of a negative as it was a positive. The Bears failed to score touchdowns in the red zone this game and that made it very difficult to keep up with the Packers offense.
  • The Bears did an exceptional job of limiting penalties with only 1. It was the pass interference penalty on Shelley mentioned above and it saved a touchdown. SO nice work there.
    • Demetrious Harris forced a fumble on a Bears punt in the first quarter. It gave the Bears the ball on the Green Bay 20 yard line. The Bears settled for a field goal.
    • I’ve noticed that sometimes Cole Kmet can have a little bit of a tough time hanging on to the ball. He turned it over in a bad spot this game, giving the ball to the packers at the Bears 22 yard line in the second quarter. Just like that it was 21-10. The Bears simply can’t afford those kinds of mistakes against good teams.
    • Trubisky threw an interception with 3 minutes left in the game with the score at 28-16. It was a bad decision but I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt by saying that at that point you are just doing everything you can to make a play.
  • There’s little doubt that the turning point in this game was a long, sustained drive that the Bears had that ate up half of the fourth quarter. They went for it on fourth and one twice and made it but failed on a third attempt. They came away with no points. The game felt over at that point.
  • Well, it wasn’t a blow out until the end. That’s the best you could say about this one. But it is evident that the Bears aren’t in the same class with the best teams in this league as this one really never felt like the Packers weren’t in control. The one difference between the teams (other than the quarterback) is the lack of explosive play makers on the Bears. Darnell Mooney was the only Bears player on the field to compare with what the Packers had out on the field.

    The Bears will likely have a chance to prove me wrong at least once more as they will back into the playoffs with the Arizona Cardinals down big to the LA Rams late in their game as of this writing. But this team doesn’t appear to me to be competitive for a championship and that means they aren’t where the front office expected them to be at this point. Ownership will have some interesting decisions to make this offseason.

Tanking Is For Losers. And Other Points of View.

Bears

  • Dan Wiederer at the Chicago Tribune quotes Bears quarterback Mitch Trubisky after reviewing the game tape from last Sunday’s victory over the Vikings:
  • “Our confidence is way up from earlier in the season when it just seemed like we were a little unsure about what we wanted to do and who we wanted to be. We have more of an identity right now. It starts with running the football and then the play-action/movement game that comes off that. It’s just being efficient on first and second down and being a balanced offense. Guys are buying into it. There’s more passion and excitement at practice over the last few weeks.” — [Mitch] Trubisky , on the team’s energized mindset

    Though I really don’t believe that the Bears can be an elite offense while cutting the field in half in the passing game, this sort of offense can definitely be effective as conclusively shown by Kevin Fishbain at The Athletic when he reviewed the all-22 film.

    No one else in town seems to be too alarmed by the way the current offense has been designed so perhaps I’m wrong. It’s going to be interesting to see.

  • Having said that, I think Dan Pompei at The Athletic may have some reservations as gives his thoughts after last Sunday’s game:
  • It’s good to run the football when the opposing defense invites the run as the Vikings did. It’s better to run the football no matter what the opposing defense invites.

    Pompei echos my concerns on this. The Bears haven’t really played a good defense in a long time. The Vikings were covering for multiple deficiencies and were thin at cornerback. They had players in the defensive back field that had to be protected and they couldn’t afford to pack the box to stop the run the way that they ordinarily might have.

    Eventually the Bears are going to run into a defense that is going to challenge this run-first approach. There are multiple questions that will need to be answered at that point.

    1. Will the Bears be able to run against a team that is determined to stop them from doing it?
    2. If not, will they continue to run anyway, as they surely will need to do and…
    3. …will they be able to make up the deficit by living or dying by the pass?

    The Bears might not meet a defense that will force them to answer these questions unless they make the playoffs. The Jaguars rank 18th against the run and, if they stop the Bears from doing it, 28th against the pass. The Packers, as far as I can tell, never really concentrate on stopping the run. They let Aaron Rodgers get them a lead, then play the pass.

    But eventually, if they survive, the Bears will meet a truly good defense. At that point, we’ll find out what they are made of.

  • Nevertheless, I am intrigued by what the Packers will do to stop the Bears should the game actually mean anything to them in week 17.
  • The Packers may well wrap up the number one seed next week in which case they will surely rest their starters. But otherwise, they have tormented Trubisky in the past.

    The most notorious example was in week 1 of the 2019 season when the Bears scored just 3 points on a miserable night for Trubisky. After the game, Packers cornerback Tramon Williams said, “We wanted to make Mitch play quarterback. We knew they had a lot of weapons, we knew they were dangerous, we knew all of those things. But we knew if we could make Mitch play quarterback, that we’d have a chance.”

    The Packers did a good job of keeping Trubisky in the pocket that game, thus forcing him to make decisions under pressure and keeping him from using his legs. Playing from the pocket is undoubtedly Trubisky’s biggest weakness.

    So the Packers know very well how to beat him. They have a good, veteran defensive coordinator in Mike Pettine who undoubtedly has seen this before, knows how to stop it and, at least as far as the passing defense goes, has the personnel to do it.

    Despite the fact that it would be better for the Bears playoff chances if they didn’t, I find myself actually hoping that the Packers need to win that last game. Right now, I’m trying to figure this team out and whether there’s any long term hope associated with this offensive plan. To me, this is a greater priority than the opportunity to make a weak run in the playoffs. A challenging game against an elite team with a decent defense would be helpful.

  • Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune answers your questions:
  • I know the Bears were excited when they drafted Kindle Vildor this year and he looked good (aside from the Adam Thielen touchdown), fast and aggressive with good tackling. And Duke Shelley was the first guy off the bench behind Jaylon Johnson and Buster Skrine. Any chance the Bears view these guys as future starters or merely solid depth guys? With Skrine’s reported dip in production this year, I would think the Bears should consider Shelley or Vildor as potential (more affordable) replacements next year. — @ckindra_23

    Shelley played pretty well starting in place of Johnson and I thought Vildor, outside of the mixup you reference with Shelley on the Vikings’ first touchdown Sunday, also looked solid. It’s probably premature to make any kind of judgment on whether Vildor has the upside to emerge as a starter, but you wouldn’t want to put a ceiling on him. I don’t think Shelley is a guy a team would want to lean on as a starter on the outside, but he’s gaining experience and could rise to the level of a solid depth player. It’s possible the Bears explore options at nickel for next season and Shelley or Vildor would both be cheaper than Skrine. This will be worth monitoring because the Bears need to find ways to create salary cap savings, and they also should continue to address their depth at cornerback. A regular training camp next summer, or close to regular, and a full preseason would be a good time to see where Vildor is at.

    My problem with Shelley is that he’s 5’9″. That’s going to set the Bears up for some serious mismatches with tight ends and big wide receivers if they put him on the field on a regular basis in the nickel back role.

    My feelings on Vildor are less concrete and based upon watching him for one game. He looked athletic. But he also looked to me like a guy who was still learning the game. He looked occasionally lost. He also looked excitable which sometimes make me doubt a player’s ability to concentrate. But I say that fully understanding that its not at all fair after just one game.

    Elsewhere

    • Myles Simmons at profootballtalk.com quotes Kansas City quarterback Patrick Mahomes on the Chiefs turning to running back Le’Veon Bell with Clyde Edwards-Helaire likely out until the postseason:
    • “He’s had success everywhere he’s been,” Mahomes said. “He’s been a top running back for a long time now and I think he fits into our locker room really, really well. He’s done a great job in the amount of snaps that he’s gotten so far, and I’m sure that he’ll continue to do better and better as he gets more and more snaps.”

      Bell is only 28 years old but to me he looks like he’s running like he’s about 5 years older than that. I don’t see much explosion.

      Bell sat out a year after the Steelers refused to pay him what he wanted and you have to wonder if he believes that leaving the team was the worst decision he ever made. Pittsburgh had a running game that seemed tailor made for Bell’s running style that allowed him to be patient behind an excellent offensive line before darting through cracks to big years.

    One Final Thought

    For whatever reason, I haven’t seen him do that either during his absolutely miserable stint with the Jets or with the Chiefs. You have to wonder if he’ll ever find the right fit to display what skills he has left again.

  • Jets fans are not happy with punter Braden Mann after he made a game saving tackle of Rams returner Nsimba Webster to help preserve a 23-20 victory on Sunday. It was the Jets first win of the season and put them behind the Jaguars in the draft order for highly regarded Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence. Fans let him know what they thought via social media. Via Rich Cimini at ESPN.com
  • “I got a few messages like that,” Mann said. “But whoever says something like that, I don’t think they ever tried to compete at something like this. For us, we get paid to play. We get paid to win.”

    I think fans need to settle down when it comes to things like this.

    The truth of the matter is that if you have a good organization, you don’t have to tank for draft order to get good players, including quarterbacks. If you don’t have a good organization, it won’t matter whether you tank or not.

An Early Examination of Ownerships Biggest Offseason Decision

Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune give 10 thoughts after the Bears victory over the Vikings Sunday. I thought the 7th was interesting:

7. The Bears might have limited options in free agency.
With the end of the season near and some huge obstacles ahead for the league and the NFLPA when you look ahead to the salary cap for 2021, I connected with someone who keeps close tabs on this. I had a good conversation with Jason Fitzgerald (@jason_otc), who runs overthecap.com and cowrote “Crunching Numbers: An Inside Look at the Salary Cap and Negotiating Player Contracts.”

The NFL and NFLPA have agreed to a salary cap floor of $175 million for 2021. It could be higher than that, but won’t be any lower based on lost revenue incurred across the league during the COVID-19 pandemic. OTC ranks the Bears 21st in available cap space for 2021, noting they will be over the cap floor of $175 million by about $90,000. If that holds true, the Bears will have to subtract before they add, and it would certainly reduce their options when taking the long view ahead to free agency.

“They do have more flexibility than teams like the Steelers and stuff like that, but it’s also a question of do you want to really continue to double down on some of these older guys,” Fitzgerald said. “That’s really the thing for them. They can create a bunch of cap space if they extend players like (Kyle) Fuller or (Akiem) Hicks (both will be in the final year of their contracts in 2021) or restructure (Khalil) Mack again. It’s like the team already, especially on defense, is so over-reliant on guys that are over 30 years old. Do you want to do that?

“Who knows what they’re going to do after this year or next. So it’s kind of a tricky spot. For them to really be able to do stuff in free agency, it’s a spot where they probably have to double down on some of these guys that most teams probably wouldn’t double down on. The other side of the equation is, do you just blow it all up? Do you trade Fuller? Do you trade Hicks? Do you look to see if you could get a bunch of stuff for Mack? Do you just go in that completely opposite direction, blow it up, ride it out for one year where it sucks with your salary cap and sucks with your roster, and then look to move forward the year after that? They don’t have a quarterback under contract for next year unless they’re going to go back to Nick Foles as the starter again, which I wouldn’t think they would do.”

The Bears have already restructured Mack’s contract once to free up cap space, and that shot his cap number to $26.6 million this year. It’s at $26.646 million in 2021. If the Bears considered something outside the box like trading Mack after this season — and I’ve got no idea what they could get in return considering he’s due so much money — they would take a $21 million hit in dead cap space in 2021 and carry another $12 million in dead cap space in 2022. He would be off the books, however.

“I think you’re only doing this if you’re looking at it and you say, ‘We’re going to rebuild now and start bringing some draft picks back here,’” Fitzgerald said. “I don’t know if they can get a first-round pick or not. If they can get a first-round pick and they clear their books of him completely in the future, that’s probably a big thing. If they’re going to come into next year thinking they’re going to compete, they’re probably going to dump more money into that deal, convert money to a bonus and create cap space.”

“They’re really in a weird spot. If they come back with the same general manager and same head coach, the level of heat that is going to be underneath them is going to be just like what happened in Atlanta or any of these spots where you’re basically dead man walking going into a season. So you’ve got to pull out all stops and at that point, you don’t really care about 2022. You care about keeping your job. You’re going to do everything you can to load up, sign some players and hopefully go out there and compete and if things don’t go well, you leave someone else with the mess to handle.”

Fitzgerald’s comments were interesting. But I don’t know that he 100% grasps what is going on in Chicago. If he did, he would have never suggested that they might rebuild. At least not while GM Ryan Pace is in charge.

From the time he arrived, Pace’s mission has been to be the New Orleans Saints. That means you squeeze every resource in order to be competitive at a high level year after year. The Saints are as aggressive as any team in the league. They are always up against the cap and always short on draft picks.

This works as long as you no longer need those resources to fill a lot of major holes. You are basically using them to keep the ball rolling at that point.

Pace’s transformation didn’t start right away because the Bears weren’t going to be competitive no matter what he did when he took over. So he drafted and signed younger free agents.

But the Bears aren’t in that state now and this year Pace pulled out all of the stops. As Fitzgerald points out, the Bears are now among the oldest teams in the league and rank near the top in snaps by players over the age of 30. Pace borrowed against the future to sign free agents like Robert Quinn. He did all this because he thought the Bears were ready to win a Super Bowl.

And he was wrong. And now the Bears are a mediocre team with no resources to fix their issues. Among them are needs at both tackle and quarterback, two of the hardest to solve, and they are well on their way to a problem at wide receiver with the possibility that Allen Robinson may be about to test the market.

Pace isn’t going to rebuild. For better or worse, the Bears are now the Saints. That means going for it every year. As Fitzgerald suggests, it means restructuring contracts to keep older players here even longer in order to sign more free agents to cover for more holes that Pace didn’t see coming.

Ownership has a major decision coming this offseason for the Bears. With Pace entering the last year of his contract and head coach Matt Nagy avoiding lame duck status by entering the penultimate year of his, the Bears were set up to allow each to have one more year to compete for a Super Bowl.

But now the Bears have to decide whether they want Pace choosing their next quarterback. And, even more than that, they need to decide if they want to risk allowing Pace to run the franchise into the ground as he mortgages the future to try to bring the franchise to a competitive level he already thought that they had achieved.

If they keep Pace and they’re ready to compete for a championship next year, the Bears win their bet. But if they lose, they’re staring at least a couple of very bleak years as the team recovers after he’s gone.

Pace’s judgment is in serious question and history is not on his side. Or that of the Bears if they risk keeping him around.

What Is on the Mind of Matt Nagy? Deciphering the Answer to the Mitch Trubisky Question.

Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune answers your questions:

Is there any way that Mitch Trubisky plays himself back into the Bears’ 2021 plans? I imagine he’d prefer one last shot at being a starter to being someone’s backup. How do the odds of that change if Matt Nagy is or isn’t retained? — @ericjen98678943

That’s a fair question and an interesting one to explore, but I don’t know that Bill Lazor is really doing anything differently with him than Matt Nagy was at the start of the season. Remember, we saw a real shift in philosophy when the season started and the Bears started operating more from under center. That gave their outside running game a bit of a boost and also put Trubisky in position to bootleg, roll out and get out of the pocket using his athleticism. They’ve returned to those same strategies since Trubisky replaced Nick Foles, and maybe, as Nagy suggests the former first-round draft pick has benefited from the whole experience. [A] new front office, and the new coach likely would want to chart a new direction at quarterback. When the season ends and the Bears assess the quarterback landscape, they have to see what’s best for them and then determine if it’s realistic.

Let’s start at this point by assuming strictly for the purposes of this post that Nagy and GM Ryan Pace are back. Without knowing anything about a new coach or how well his offensive philosophy fits Trubisky’s strengths, it’s simply impossible to say.

And Trubisky does have strengths that you can use. He’s mobile obviously. He’s also accurate when he’s comfortable, especially when he’s on the move.

What you have to determine is if Trubisky’s weaknesses are fatal.

He’s likely never going to be a pocket quarterback. We know that now. And, like most middle to bottom tier quarterbacks, you have to protect him. He’s not going to do well with a muddy pocket.

But, even more, that means he needs simplified reads where you put him on the move and cut the field in half. He’s not going to survey the whole field, get to his third read and make an accurate throw to the correct receiver.

Can you win with a quarterback like that? Yes. Can you consistently compete for a Super Bowl with one? I doubt it. And so, I suspect, does Nagy.

Adam Jahns at The Athletic puts finger on the relevant issue, albeit a little indirectly:

Nagy was asked about Trubisky’s future and he brought up Alex Smith. His winding career path going from San Francisco to Kansas City to Washington has featured plenty of wins but also some “rough patches,” he said.

As it turns out, [Nick] Foles’ failures could arguably become the best thing that’s happened to Nagy the head coach and offensive mind. It’s evident in what the Bears are running offensively, particularly with moving Trubisky’s launch points and with Lazor calling plays.

“Just with the background that I came from in Kansas City and just some of the things we did, there wasn’t as much of that,” Nagy said.

No, there wasn’t. And while Jahns thought that forcing Nagy to adjust was the best thing for him as he develops as a coach, I don’t think Nagy necessarily agrees.

Nagy was coaching in Kansas City when Smith revived his career. But he was also the offensive coordinator when they drafted Patrick Mahomes because Smith wasn’t good enough. So associating Trubisky with him tells you a lot about what might be on his mind.

I think Nagy probably is willing to compromise and run a different offense from what they ran in Kansas City. I think he’s always been willing to do it. For instance, he’s probably willing to keep the quarterback under center to facilitate David Montgomery and the running game. They did start the year off doing that after an offseason of planning, after all.

But I doubt very much that Nagy is willing to compromise to the extent that Trubisky requires. At least not indefinitely. You can’t be constantly simplifying you offense, as Nagy has for three straight years now, for a fourth year quarterback in the league. It simply limits what you can do offensively too much for sustained success against good teams.

I’d bet money that we are facing a scenario where Nagy sits down with Pace in the offseason (assuming they’re still in Chicago) and says, “Go ahead and resign Mitch if he’ll return here and you can’t find someone better for the right price. I’ll tell him he’s got an excellent chance to be the starter in September. But if you want to compete with the big boys, concentrate on drafting someone who is potentially better as soon as possible.”

It won’t be easy. But smart teams do it all the time no matter what their draft position is. And that’s what’s required here. Because, at least in Nagy’s mind, Trubisky likely will never be more than a stop gap.

Quick Game Comments: Bears at Vikings 12/20/20

Offense

  • The Vikings initially kept their players close to the line of scrimmage, obviously worried more about the run and the short pass than anything that the Bears wide receivers could do deep against them. It looked from the start like they weren’t going to give Mitch Trubisky the nice comfortable throws he had against Houston last week. Which makes sense. But if that was the goal, it failed.
  • Trubisky looked good and the run game succeeded. The Bears offense looked a lot like it did the previous two weeks.
  • The Bears once again got Trubisky on the move and used it in a bit of a misdirection game that appeared to me to work. Certainly the Vikings were flowing in the direction that the Bears wanted them to.
  • The Vikings inability to keep Trubisky in the pocket on drop backs was also notable. He burned them badly with this legs.
  • Was Matt Nagy calling plays again? He seemed to be staring at that laminated card an awful lot.
  • David Montgomery ran well and that is the key to success for the Bears offense. No doubt about it. But they still aren’t using him in the passing game the way that I expected them to when they drafted him.
  • I like the way that Trubisky is playing. I’m happy for him and I’m happy for the Bears. But you guys do know that he’s cutting the field in half every time he rolls out, right? I could be wrong but I don’t think this will ever be an elite offense if they have to run the passing game like this. You have to be able to throw from the pocket and make the defense play the whole field to succeed at a high level in the NFL.

Defense

  • The Bears evidently decided that the best way to get to Kirk Cousins was to apply pressure. They blitzed on the first play of the game and immediately put Cousins in a hole and made him uncomfortable. I thought they did a reasonably good job from there.
  • The Vikings did a good job of setting up mismatches as the Bears found their linebackers occasionally matched up with the Vikings best receivers.
  • Adam Thielen got his first touchdown on a broken coverage. Kindle Vildor and Duke Shelly both followed the outside receiver. From the players’ reaction I got the impression that it might have been Vildor’s fault.
  • Both Vildor and Shelly gave up plays but neither was really bad today. They aren’t guys you’d want playing every game. At least not yet.
  • The Vikings really like using the full back as a lead blocker from the I-formation and playing straight power football. It works for them. Dalvin Cook seems to be able to recognize daylight and cut back through it in a flash. It’s very impressive.
  • The number of explosive plays that the Bears defense gave up on the ground today was disturbing. I haven’t put my finger on the reason and there may be more than one. But their run defense will need work this week.
  • Kirk Cousins gets really wound up during these big games. I’m not sure its what’s best for his team.

Miscellaneous

  • Chris Myers (play-by-play), Greg Jennings (analyst) and Jennifer Hale (reporter) were your announcers. I didn’t learn much from Jennings.
  • Midway through the second quarter. The Vikings line up to punt on 4th and 1 inside their own 35 yard line. The Bears call time out. The Vikings send their offense onto the field. The guess here is that the Bears picked up something, knew the fake was coming and wanted to set their return team. The Vikings then sent the offense out because they knew the jig was up. The Vikings didn’t make the 4th and 1. Nice job all around for the Bears, there. The Bears eventually took the field goal.
  • Cairo Santos nailed his field goals today including a 48 yarder and a critical kick with 1 minute left in the game from 42 yards. The streak continues.
  • The Vikings had some bad drops in the first half including a potential touchdown by Irv Smith. It wasn’t really an issue for the Bears.
  • Penalties weren’t a huge issue for either team. In particular, the Bears offense had few if any untimely penalties. Their margin for error is pretty narrow.
  • Cameron Dantzler intercepted Trubisky in the end zone with 4 minutes left in the game with a 3 point lead. It was a critical mistake and a devastating play. The type that bad teams allow to happen. It won’t get the attention that it ordinarily would because the team won. But it will be yet another strike against Trubisky after an otherwise stellar day.
  • This was essentially an elimination game against a mediocre teams that was playing reasonably well. The Bears offense came through and kudos to them for taking care of business. The Bears defense has work to do after the Vikings ripped them apart on the ground.

Very Late Game Comments: Texans at Bears 2020-12-13

Sorry these are late. Somebody tried to hack into my account and WordPress shut me down yesterday.

Defense

  • The Bears did a pretty good job of stopping the run in this game (4.0 yards per carry). They’ve done well the last few weeks with this, which is pretty good considering that they’re without Eddie Goldman (COVID opt out) and Roy Robertson-Harris (IR).
  • I thought it was interesting to see Houston come out of halftime and the conclusion that they had drawn was that they had to run more. They did because they weren’t doing it enough and you have to do it no matter how much success you are having. But it wasn’t because they were going to have more success with it. In any case the Bears were glad to watch them run clock and do it.
  • The Bears got plenty of pressure on Deshaun Watson. His mobility was very evident in avoiding it but there’s only so much he can do. The guy has literally nothing around him.
  • Big, big game for Khalil Mack. Big fumble recovery. Big forced fumble. Pass deflection. And, of course, a sack for a safety. Unfortunately Robert Quinn was not on the score sheet again.
  • I was glad to see the Bears playing more aggressive man-to-man defense again. the soft zones weren’t working and they weren’t producing interceptions, which I assume is why they were doing it the last couple games. The Houston offense in the first half was Watson dropping back, finding no one, avoiding a sack and running the ball.
  • Some good plays from Duke Johnson for the Texans this game. He’s a quick, speedy back with some moves.

Offense

  • To me, the biggest question of the game was whether the Bears were going to run the ball effectively again. They did (7.3 yards per carry). The new offensive line blocked very well and David Montgomery looked good again. However, it must be said that the Texans are close to last in the league in rush defense. The Vikings will pose a bigger challenge. This is the way they’re going to have to win games.
  • I don’t think Cordarella Patterson is the runner Montgomery is. I don’t think he’s got the vision. I was cutting too much inside when I thought that there was room outside. I’ve been generally supportive of him. But I think Montgomery should be getting his snaps.
  • What was really good was that the Texans were packing the box, knowing the Bears were going to run. That’s a good sign. Even a bad team can often stop you when playing is such a way.
  • I kind of liked the play calls in the passing game and I kind of didn’t. I saw more of the easy throws that allowed Trubisky to be reasonably successful in 2018 and he was on the move more. But I’d like to see them go down field more. I understand why they’re doing it. Trubisky is who he is. I just wish they could do better.
  • I thought Trubisky got good protection this game. Again, nice job from the new look offensive line. What took them so long to get some of these guys out there?
  • I’ll be interested in the snap counts for this game. I saw a lot of Jimmy Graham, who had a good game. Perhaps not as many for Cole Kmet, though we did see a fair bit of him as well.

Miscellaneous

  • Because I’m out of town I watched this game on Gamepass. So the announcers got a break from me today and I didn’t listen. Or, perhaps I got a break from them. You’ll have to tell me.
  • Penalties were even between the two teams (6 for the Texans and 7 for the Bears). That’s too many for a team that’s going to have to run the ball effectively to win most weeks. Their margin for error is too small.
  • The Bears didn’t turn the ball over. Houston lost two fumbles. That’s usually a pretty good indication of how the game went.
  • Hated the throw back uniforms. Hated them.
  • This was a nice bounce back game for the Bears. The offense looked a lot like it did last week but they got help from a defense that was more aggressive in coverage and did a nice job. But this Texans team was really miserable. Much worse than I thought, even given the statistics which told me what they were. The Bears will have a bigger challenge next week against the resurgent Vikings in their building. I think that’s where we’ll find out what they’re made of as it will be a mist win game for both teams.

Thinking Outside the Box with a Familiar Name for Bears Head Coach

Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune answers your questions:

Assuming the Bears hire a new coach next year, why haven’t they given David Toub a serious look as a head coach? He has the best resume by far out of any head coaching candidate and he is well-regarded by many former Bears players. Why hasn’t any team hired him as head coach? — @jojopuppyfish

General manager Phil Emery interviewed Toub after Lovie Smith was fired and Emery cast a wide net to find the Bears’ next coach. Toub didn’t get any consideration when John Fox or Matt Nagy were hired. Could he resurface eight years after that previous interview as a possible candidate for the Bears? That probably depends a great deal on who is in charge of making the hire. Toub has a ton of experience, but as we’ve seen for a long time, NFL teams are hesitant to turn to coaches with special teams backgrounds when hiring a head coach. It happens every once in a while. A lot of teams are looking for a coach they believe can make something magical happen with the quarterback or the offense. Toub is 58, so while he’s not too old, his shot would have to come relatively soon. Maybe his name will pop in the cycle this time around. He’s certainly more than deserving of consideration.

I have always been in favor of hiring an offensive head coach because I’ve always believed that finding good, creative offensive minds is harder than finding good defensive coordinators. Once you find one, the best way to keep from losing him is to have him as your head coach. There’s basically no promotion that another team could offer and no way they could force you to allow them to interview your guy in that situation.

Most of the league has agreed with me over the last couple years. Most of the head coaches hired were young, offensive coaches with a background in coaching quarterbacks. It just makes sense.

Having said that, This isn’t a hard and fast rule. Many, many successful head coaches have come from defensive backgrounds (Bill Belichick anyone?). And a few have come from backgrounds as special teams coaches. The most prominent current head coach from such a background is John Harbaugh and there are very few I could name that are better.

Toub is probably the best special teams coach in the league. And that is for the best possible reason. It isn’t because he’s all that clever with special, brilliant plays (though he’s had his share). It isn’t because his schemes are so much better than other special teams coaches (though they’re pretty good). Its because, like all special teams coaches, he’s taking the guys at the very bottom of the roster and getting the most out of them And he’s doing it better than anyone else.

Toub’s players execute better than the other team’s players week after week. They do their jobs in a fundamentally sound way at crucial times season after season. And that, more than anything else, defines what a good NFL coach needs to be able to do.

It is true that if you hire a good special teams coach as your head coach you are basically dooming yourself to an eternal search for good offensive coordinators. The minute you find one, he’ll be gone. And that’s a problem.

But unlike the young head coaches that are trending around the league, Toub has been around. He’s 58 years old, not 38. Kansas City is his third professional team and the only reason there haven’t been more is because he’s been so successful.

In his 20 years as a coach in the league Toub’s gotten to know a lot of guys. He’s got a lot of contacts to draw upon to hire a staff and, even if he’s hiring a guy he’s never worked with, he knows what a good coach looks like. And he knows what a good player looks like, too. Probably better than the Bears current GM,Ryan Pace, who was hired 6 years ago at just 37 years of age and probably better than Bears head coach Matt Nagy, who was hired at just 39 years of age.

It’s so easy to become enamored with creative play calls with catchy names like “Santa’s Sleigh”. It’s so easy to believe that you have to hit a home run and find “the next big guy” before everyone else does. But the core quality of every head coach in the NFL is the ability to prepare players and get the most out of them.

Fundamentally, execution, regardless of the situation, regardless of the play call, regardless of whatever adversity the team faces, is the basis for success for every NFL team.

And if you are looking for a guy who can get his players to execute, it looks to me like Dave Toub might be the right guy for the job.

Best Not to Comment. Time Enough for Bears to Thrash Over the Aftermath After the Season.

Rick Telander at the Chicago Sun-Times calls upon GM Ryan Pace to comment on the current sad state of the team:

The times cry out for a big statement from the man who orchestrated this mess afield, from the man who hired coach Matt Nagy, traded for high-priced defender Khalil Mack, picked quarterback Mitch Trubisky in the 2017 draft and brought in Nick Foles as a hopeful but failed offensive savior.

If the Good Ship Bears is sinking, the man who built the hull, loaded the cannons and hoisted the mainsail ought to stand on the pier and tell us what the hell is going on.

Mr. Pace, sir?

I understand why Telander is writing this. If I were in the business of selling newspapers, I’d want comments from as many people associated with the organization as I could get from Virginia McCaskey down to the janitor. And I’d want them no matter what the situation was, winning or losing.

Gotta fill all those pages with something to satisfy the insatiable demand for more content from fans all over the city, right?

The problem is that Pace and the McCaskeys have to think about what’s best for the organization first. And what’s best isn’t for them to comment right now.

The Bears, like every NFL team, need one voice at any one time. The players need one message and they need to be listening for it from one guy. During the season, that has to be the head coach. They can’t be worrying about what the GM or the owner said about their performance, either as individuals or as a team. They can’t have mixed messages floating through their heads from different people who, though they all think that they are on the same page, express things differently with different potential interpretations.

They need one, unified message from the guy whose job it is to turn things around and to turn them around right now. There’s time enough later to worry about what the guy who has their future in his hands thinks. Right now, he’s irrelevant. Their job is concentrate on doing their jobs and to win games. The best way to do that is listen to the coaches and perform.

And, honestly, what is Pace going to say? We all know its going to be a bunch of word salad that comes down to “We mis-evaluated the situation”. And, boy, did they ever. They mis-evaluated the talent on the offensive line, they mis-evaluated the quarterback position, they mis-evaluated the pass rushers that they threw money at, and, above all, they went all in after mis-evaluating where this team was in terms of its readiness to compete for a championship.

We know all of that. We don’t need to hear them say it. Yet.

For now, Nagy has a job to do. He needs to be able to do it without any interference from Pace or ownership or anyone else. He needs to be the one voice of the franchise. There’s an entire off-season to talk about the rest.

And, hey. We need content to fill all those pages with content then, as well, right?