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The Psychology of Uncertainty & Being a Bears Fan

| January 18th, 2018

Human beings don’t react well to uncertainty. We don’t know how to handle it. We hate it so much in fact that, given the choice, we actually prefer to *know* that something bad is going to happen to us as opposed to being unsure. A study in 2015 showed that most people would rather know for certain that they’re going to get an electric shock than to not be able to predict it. The uncertainty caused a bigger stress response than knowing without a doubt that they were going to get hurt.

At this point you might be thinking to yourself, “Well, that’s fascinating Emily, but what the hell does it have to do with the Chicago Bears?”

Well if I had to think of one word to describe how I’ve felt about the Bears the last few years, the word would be “uncertain”. Not in terms of devotion, mind you. I’ve always been pretty ride or die with my sports teams. When I say uncertain I’m talking about having no real idea what to expect from them on any given Sunday since 2012.

Again I can already hear some of the comments. How could you possibly be uncertain about the Bears? They suck! They’ve sucked since 2006! The Cutler era was terrible! They’re basically the Browns! And I get why it feels that way. I totally do. But it isn’t accurate. For a quick comparison:

Last Won Their Division
Bears 2010
Browns 1989

Last in the Playoffs
Bears 2010
Browns 2002

Last Winning Season
Bears 2012
Browns 2002

Number of Wins the Last Three Seasons
Bears 14
Browns 4

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Across The Middle: Pace Still Has His Work Cut Out For Him

| January 17th, 2018

Matt Nagy could be the greatest offensive mind in the history of the league and even he couldn’t have succeeded with the Bears talent this season. A telling quote from Bob McGinn’s annual :All-NFC North team column, polling multiple scouts:

“Personnel people find it hard to believe what the Bears were employing with at WR after Cameron Meredith and, to a much lesser extent, Kevin White, suffered season-ending injuries early. ‘Just a bunch of names, really,’ one scout said.”

In the piece the Bears had four players  — Josh Sitton, Cody Whitehair, Kyle Long and Jordan Howard —  take first-team spots offensively. They also had five starters finish last in their positions and two more were second-to-last.

The Bears have a lot more talent on defense, where seven players finished in the top two at their positions, which is impressive with the All-Pro laden Vikings unit in the division. The Bears’ talent resulted in a top-10 finish and that group still needs help in the pass rush department.

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Data Entry: Tracking Trubisky’s 2017 Growth Through “The Quarters Lens”

| January 16th, 2018

Former Bears coach Lovie Smith always talked about breaking the NFL season down into quarters, which splits a 16-game season into 4-game sample sizes. I’ve always thought that was a good way to look at it, as grouping four games together helps smooth some of the statistical noise of individual good or bad games.

With that in mind, I want to track Mitchell Trubisky’s rookie season through the quarters lens. Trubisky sat out the first quarter of the season, but took every offensive snap for each of the last three quarters. Let’s see how he progressed through those.


Usage

First, I want to point out that Trubisky was tasked with doing more in each quarter.

In his first 4 games, Trubisky had the ball in his hands on only 26.5 plays per game. Coaches tried to minimize what he had to do, which was why more plays featured handoffs and fewer featured him ending the play with a pass attempt, sack, or run.

In Trubisky’s 5th-8th games, that number increased to 34.3 plays per game, and it took another jump to 39.8 plays per game in the last four games.

For the 32 qualified passers in the NFL this year (224 or more pass attempts), the mean and median were both 38.2 pass attempts, meaning Trubisky was being given as much responsibility (in terms of plays per game) as an average quarterback by the end of the season. This clearly shows that coaches were willing to put more responsibility on Trubisky’s shoulders as the season wore on, which is a good sign.

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Notes on the Nagy Coaching Staff

| January 15th, 2018


It’s okay to get excited about a new coaching staff.

It doesn’t mean you irrationally believe that staff is going to cure all that ails the franchise you root for; in this case your Chicago Bears. It doesn’t mean the good players will now become great players and the bad players good players. It just means you believe a new collection of leaders, a new assemblage of ideas has the chance to change things for the better.

When John Fox hired Adam Gase and Vic Fangio to be his offensive and defensive coordinators (respectively) there was nary a negative word to be written. Gase was the hottest young offensive assistant in the game, having interviewed for several head-coaching vacancies. Fangio was a steady rock of a coordinator, coming off his most successful stint in the league. Did it work out? No. But was that any fault of the initial coordinator hires? Doubtful. That blame falls on quarterback turnover, a tsunami of injuries and a head coach watching the game blow by like a Dakotan tumbleweed.

This is a coaching staff to get excited about. And fans should allow themselves that moment of excitement, even if it is only a moment. There are many reasons why.

  • When I ask my friends in the league to name the best offensive line coaches in the sport, three names surface: Dante Scarnecchia (the gold standard), Mike Munchak (will be employed in the NFL for 30 more years) and Harry Hiestand. Hiestand’s first time around with the Bears was exceptional but over the last five years he’s built Notre Dame’s OL into one of the most consistently dominating position groups in the nation. Of all the hires Nagy made this week, this is the most impressive.
  • But don’t get wrapped up in how this effects the draft. Yes, I believe Quenton Nelson is the best player entering the NFL next season and would be THRILLED to see him in Chicago. But the Bears would have known his ability with or without Hiestand on the staff. All having Hiestand at Halas Hall does is eliminate the need for lengthy pre-draft meetings with the ND guard. (The same can be said for the other major league prospect off this unit, tackle Mike McGlinchey.)

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Divisional Round Game Predictions

| January 12th, 2018

Went 2-2 ATS last week and would have been 3-1 if I’d remembered never to lay 9 points on an Andy Reid-coached team under any circumstances. Still, 2-2 is a good start. Need a 3-1 week to keep the dream of topping 7-4 alive. I’m confident.

All spreads from BETUS, Thursday evening.


Atlanta at Philadelphia

Saturday – 3:20 pm CT

Pick: Falcons -3

This is the hardest game to analyze on the weekend because it’s impossible to know what to expect from Nick Foles. But if the Falcons defense plays as fast and angry as it did against the Rams, how could anyone expect Foles to get anything done through the air? A few interceptions are likely as the Falcons continue their journey to Super Bowl redemption…maybe. Falcons 20, Eagles 14.


Tennessee at New England

Saturday – 7:15 pm CT

Pick: Patriots -13

This Titans crap has gone on long enough. Patriots 27, Titans 10.


Jacksonville at Pittsburgh

Sunday – 12:05 pm CT

Pick: Steelers -7

Here’s my hot take for the column: the Jaguars defense is overrated. Jimmy G tore them to ribbons on Christmas Eve. Since then they’ve faced the offensive juggernauts of Tennessee and Buffalo and could easily have lost to both. (Tyrod Taylor had plenty of opportunities.)

I can’t imagine a scenario where Ben Roethlisberger repeats his mid-season “maybe I don’t have it anymore” nightmare. I can imagine a scenario where Chad Henne finds his way onto the field to replace Blake Bortles. Steelers 30, Jags 10


New Orleans at Minnesota

Sunday – 3:40 pm CT

Pick: Saints +5

Last week I didn’t trust Goff. This week I don’t trust Keenum. Both had wonderful regular season but the playoffs are an entirely different animal. Every single throw carries the weight of the entire season. Is Keenum ready for that pressure?

New Orleans has the corners to limit what the Vikings receivers can do outside, allowing their front to harass the Minnesota signal caller into mistakes. Then the game falls on the arm of Drew Brees and, well, he’s just fine with that. Saints 20, Vikings 17

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Some More “Inside” Information on the Hiring of Matt Nagy

| January 11th, 2018

There’s a lot of information available about the hiring of Matt Nagy, with nobody writing a more detailed piece than Adam Jahns. But here’s some info that, until now, wasn’t available.

  • Chris Ballard and the Colts thought Nagy was going to be their next coach. Wanna know how close Ballard and Nagy are? Their kids are on the same youth sports teams in wherever-they-live Kansas City. These guys aren’t just colleagues. They are friends.
  • When Ryan Pace asked Nagy what he was thinking for the defensive side of the ball, Nagy responded that the team should do everything in their power to retain Vic Fangio. He supplied 5-6 other names he believed would be good choices but was effusively in favor of Fangio finishing what he started. The Bears were impressed.
  • Matt Nagy’s agent is former Bear Trace Armstrong. Armstrong’s rookie contract was negotiated by his agent, Tom Condon, and the Bears’ Ted Phillips. Phillips, Condon and Armstrong have maintained a close relationship for years. Phillips is a big reason that Nagy chose the Bears over the Colts. As I was told, Armstrong argued strongly to Nagy, “You NEED to be in Chicago. These guys are great.”
  • Nagy walking into the room with offensive line coach Harry Hiestand in his pocket was one of the most impressive moments of the entire interview process for the Bears. Hiestand is the best OL coach in the country. Bears knew that firsthand.

That’s all I got. Now Nagy will build the rest of his staff and away we go.

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