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Data Entry: Scouting Chicago’s 2016 Rush Offense & Defense

| August 15th, 2017

The Bears generally had a good rushing attack and bad rushing defense last year. Their offense was only 17th in rushing yards, but 6th in yards per attempt. On defense, they were 27th in rushing yards allowed and 21st in yards per carry allowed.

These basic stats are easy to look up, and I think most fans generally know Chicago’s run game was good (thank you Jordan Howard) while the run defense was bad. What’s more interesting to me is to look at why that happened for both. That is, what areas of the field did they do well running to/stopping the run in, and where did they struggle running/stopping the run?

Thankfully, that information is all available through the NFL Game Statistics & Information System (username and password are both “media” if you want to poke around), so I’ve compiled it into a few handy images that we can look at. This should be helpful heading into 2017, as much of the personnel in the run game (OL/RB) and run defense (front 7) is similar. I’ll re-visit this at the bye week to see how things have changed halfway through the season. At that time, I’ll also add in passing offense and defense, I didn’t bother with those now because the personnel for both has changed so drastically.

Rush Offense

Here’s the data for Chicago’s rushing attack in 2016. The line at the bottom is the line of scrimmage, runs are split into 7 zones, and attempts and yards per carry are listed for each zone, with ranks relative to the rest of the NFL in parentheses. The height of the bar is proportional to yards per carry, and bars are colored green for top 10, red for bottom 10, and yellow for middle 12. Note expected yards per carry varies by region, so the colors are relative to their peers in that region.

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Data Entry: How the Bears Should Handle Mitch Trubisky

| July 28th, 2017

Ryan Pace and John Fox have quite literally gambled their careers on Mitchell Trubisky, so now the question becomes how they should handle his rookie season to give him the best chance of success going forward.

With that in mind, I looked at how teams handled the rookie seasons of the quarterbacks drafted in round 1 in the last 20 years. There were 55 QBs in the sample, but I removed the 6 drafted in 2016 and 2017 because it is too early to draw any conclusions about their career outcomes. This left me with 49 round 1 QBs between 1998 and 2015.

I loosely grouped each quarterback into either a hit (developed into at least a solid starter for several years) or a miss (failed to establish themselves as a solid starter) and then looked at two different factors: how much they played in their rookie year and how well they played relative to their peers around the NFL as a rookie (full data can be seen here). Let’s look at each factor and see if any trends can be observed.

Rookie playing time

The amount of playing time 1st round QBs saw as a rookie varied wildly. Some players didn’t see a single snap their rookie seasons, while others took every snap, with many players scattered at various points in between. Overall, I couldn’t determine much of a trend to indicate players who played more would turn out differently than players who sat and learned.

  • 8 of the 9 players who started every game their rookie season turned into solid starters – with poor David Carr being the lone exception.
  • But 8 of the 9 who started 13-15 games did not. I don’t think those extra few games make that much of a difference, and trends are scattered below that, with too much noise to make any conclusions.

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Data Entry: Playoffs or Bust for John Fox in 2017?

| June 7th, 2017

(AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)

I’ve seen a lot of speculation this offseason that John Fox is on the hot seat with the Bears in 2017. There were even some rumors that he might be fired following a disastrous 2016. But now his job is widely believed to be on the line should 2017 not show significant improvement.

With that in mind, I wanted to look at what history says about Fox keeping his job beyond 2017 based on similar situations around the NFL. Since this will be Fox’s 3rd year on the job, I looked at coach success in the first three years.

New Coach

Coaching turnover happens fast in the NFL. From 2000 to 2016, there were 142 coaching hires, an average of just over 4.4 per team. Thus in the last 17 years, the average head coach has lasted just under 4 years on the job.

Looking at the current list of 32 NFL head coaches, that 4 year marker also proves to be significant. Exactly half of the coaches are entering at least their 4th season, with the other half all entering their 3rd season or less (full data here). What do those 16 head coaches who have been around for 4 or more years have in common? All but one of them made the playoffs sometime in their first three seasons, with the lone exception (Jason Garrett) achieving that feat in year 4 after 3 straight 8-8 seasons that indicated the Cowboys were close.

It appears the achievement needed for John Fox to keep his job past 2017 is clear: guide the Bears to the playoffs.

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Data Entry: Trubisky Will Determine Next Five Years for Bears

| May 5th, 2017

Photo: Jasen Vinlove, USA TODAY Sports

The Chicago Bears secured the man they believe is their quarterback of the future when they grabbed Mitch Trubisky with the 2nd overall pick in the draft. There has been plenty of discussion about the wisdom of that move, so I am not here to add to that.

Here is what I am curious about: as a Bears fan, what can I look forward to in the next few years if Trubisky does or does not pan out?

Quarterback is the most important position in football, so it makes sense that hitting or missing on one will have a significant impact on the immediate future of the franchise. This is especially true when you have committed such a high pick – a premium resource -to a quarterback and thus are determined to give him a few years to succeed.

General Setup

Thus I went back and looked at all of the quarterbacks drafted in the top 5 of the draft over the last 20 years to see how the franchise drafting them fared for the 5 years after the draft. Since I’m looking at 5 years, the most recent draft I could use was 2012, so the sample here looked at all 26 quarterbacks drafted in the top 5 between 1993 and 2012.

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Data Entry: Turning Over the Turnover Problem

| March 13th, 2017

This is the 3rd installment of a monthly offseason piece I’ll be doing here at DaBearsBlog, helping fill the content void of the long offseason. Each one will be a numbers-crunching look at something Bears related in which I attempt to earn the “Data” moniker so kindly bestowed on me by the comments section regulars and, more importantly, answer a Bears question that I’ve been wondering about. If you have anything you’d like me to look into, let me know in the comments or email me at woodjohnathan1@gmail.com and I’ll see what I can do.


Chicago’s defense has significantly improved in the last two years from the disaster that was the Mel Tucker era, but there is one area where they have actually regressed: forcing turnovers.

Tucker’s defenses in 2013 and 2014 actually forced turnovers at a slightly-above average rate (Tucker can probably thank the leftover Lovie Smith-trained players for that), while Vic Fangio’s defenses have forced fewer turnovers in the last 2 years than any other NFL defense. In fact, 13 defenses have forced as many turnovers in one season (28) as the Bears’ defense has the last two seasons combined.

The problem was particularly pronounced last year, when the Bears forced a measly 11 turnovers, tied for the fewest by any defense in the NFL in the last 10 years.

Given the strong and well-established relationship between winning the turnover battle and winning football games, this is a real problem for Chicago. All of this research looks at turnover differential, not just turnovers forced. But forcing turnovers is half of turnover differential and it’s the part I want to focus on today. Avoiding turnovers is largely a product of your quarterback (and luck for fumbles/fumble recoveries). That’s a separate issue that has already been discussed on here at length.

Setting it up

Here’s my question: What is the history for teams the year after they have forced as few turnovers as the Bears have recently? Does the defense continue to struggle generating turnovers, or does it improve quickly?

Here’s how I approached the study:

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