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Get a Quarterback, or Why I Could Give a Shit About the 3rd Pick in the Draft

| January 25th, 2017

Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

Matt Ryan put the Falcons up 24 on the Packers and nobody thought the game was over. Why? Because the Packers had the best quarterback in the sport not named Brady.

The AFC Championship game was played by two quarterbacks with 6 Super Bowl rings and 9 Super Bowl appearances – more appearances in the Terrific Title than every other quarterback in the league combined.

Let me make something clear, Bears fans. “With the third pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, the Chicago Bears select Johnathan Allen, defensive end, Alabama” is not going to put the 2017 edition of the Bears into the postseason. The Jets have two of the best defensive ends in the game. Aaron Donald is a game-changing defensive lineman. Geno Atkins. Gerald McCoy. Ndamukong Suh. You know what those teams are all doing on Thursday April 27th? Picking shortly after the Bears. Sturdy defensive linemen are nice and all but they don’t move the needle. Pass rushers do. Playmakers on offense do. And, most importantly, quarterbacks do.

Before free agency, quarterbacks didn’t have to be great to win titles. They could be Jim McMahon or Mark Rypien or Doug Williams or Jeff Hostetler because the money was there to build a great team AROUND the position. Those days are a distant memory.

But Peyton Manning, Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers have distorted the “franchise quarterback” conversation in the other direction because over the course of their careers, their divisions NEVER FEATURED ANOTHER GREAT QUARTERBACK. (Detroit’s Matthew Stafford is better than anything Brady and Manning ever consistently faced in the AFC East and South.) That’s why they are in the playoffs every year, with two of the three having limited success in the tournament. The other franchise-type guys: Eli, Flacco, Brees, Ryan, Rivers…etc. guarantee their teams nothing due to one primary factor: competition.

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Finding A Quarterback: Jimmy G. and a Leap of Faith

| January 24th, 2017

The Bears have a chance to acquire their best looking quarterback since Jim Miller.

One of the first moves Ron Wolf made as GM of the Packers was trading a first-round pick for a fat, drunk, third-string hillbilly who was a second round pick the year before. It ended up being a steal.

If Wolf were to make that trade today, the Twitter GMs would’ve been killing him for spending such a premium pick on a player who had never shown he could play. But Wolf was convinced he was trading for a franchise quarterback, even though nobody else seemed to have a high opinion of him. Wolf had Brett Favre rated as the best player on his draft board the year before and he knew he wanted him. The rest is history.

Fast forward 25 years and Ryan Pace is the latest Bears GM to try to fill the team’s quarterback. One of the prime candidates is a backup quarterback who we’ve barely seen in Jimmy Garoppolo. Twitter GMs are saying Pace can’t give up the third pick for Garoppolo, but, like Wolf, it all depends on what he sees in the young quarterback.

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The Stats Don’t Lie (or Say Much of Anything): Data Takes on the Senior Bowl

| January 23rd, 2017

I’m happy to be saying I’ll be doing a monthly offseason piece 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.


I’m starting with a topic that I’m sure you’ll be hearing a lot about this week: the Senior Bowl.

John Fox and company will be down in Mobile, Alabama all week coaching around 100 draft-eligible players, giving them a first-hand look at their skills, mental makeup and attitude. This has many fans excited, as they dream of the surefire franchise-altering draft to come from this valuable knowledge.

So my premise here today is simple. I looked at coaches who coached in the Senior Bowl the last 10 years, how many players from that week they drafted, and how those draft picks panned out. Since Chicago is likely drafting their quarterback of the future this year, I also looked specifically at teams coaching in the Senior Bowl who drafted QBs.

Anecdotal Evidence

First, you should know that coaching in the Senior Bowl is no sure sign of good things to come. The teams that typically coach in the Senior Bowl are the teams with the worst record in each conference the previous season who retained their head coach. With that in mind, it’s not exactly inspiring to see that San Francisco and Jacksonville both coached in this game for three straight years at some point in the last decade. Clearly they didn’t gain valuable enough information to draft players who would stop losing the following year.

Those wanting to stay optimistic, however, would do well to look at San Francisco’s 2007 draft, when they spent 5 picks in the first 4 rounds on players they had just coached in the Senior Bowl. Those picks landed them Patrick Willis, Joe Staley, and Ray McDonald – each part of the core that made up one of the best teams in the NFL from 2011-13. I’m sure we’d all be thrilled if the Bears landed three high quality players like that from their experience this week.

Of course, the 2010 Miami Dolphins spent their first 4 picks on players they had just coached in the Senior Bowl and ended up with Jared Odrick, Koa Misi, John Jerry and AJ Edds. That’s not exactly a draft class that Super Bowl champions are made of.

Draft Frequency

Enough with the specific examples; let’s get into some hard numbers. From 2006-2016, teams coaching in the Senior Bowl drafted an average of 2.3 players from the Senior Bowl that year. This ranged from some teams picking no Senior Bowlers to a few who picked 5, making up most of their draft.

Two comments:

  • This is not a particularly high number. The Senior Bowl has about 100 players on average, and most of them get drafted, meaning that the 32 NFL teams draft roughly 3 Senior Bowlers on average each year. Perhaps there’s value in Senior Bowl coaches learning what players they don’t want on their teams?
  • These were mostly mid-round picks. 11 were from rounds 1-2, 10 in rounds 6-7, and 30 in rounds 3-5. So it seems those coaching at the Senior Bowl mostly look for players to fill out their middle rounds, though it might also be that those are the rounds where most Senior Bowl players get drafted (I don’t have the numbers on that).

General Draft Success

So in general don’t expect that the Bears’ 2017 draft will necessarily be full of guys from the Senior Bowl. Now the more important question: how successful are teams at drafting players they coached in the Senior Bowl?

It’s difficult to quantify draft success. The metric I used for the sake of simplicity – though I will admit this is far from perfect – is the number of draft picks who went on to make a Pro Bowl. Out of the 51 players drafted by these 22 teams, 9 made a Pro Bowl (so far, there’s certainly room for that to increase for some of the players from the more recent drafts). 9 out of 51 is a pretty good hit rate, as most teams would be thrilled if 18% of their picks became Pro Bowlers (typically about 100 out of 1600 or so players in the league each year). That’s especially impressive considering where those 52 picks were spent, with only 11 in the first 2 rounds of the draft. If you want to look at the list and make your own conclusions, feel free to do so here (http://bit.ly/2jsXLqg).

 It’s a tiny sample size, but worth noting that teams coaching in the Senior Bowl who draft Senior Bowl guys in round 1 do quite well.

 4 of 6 1st round picks made a Pro Bowl, though 3 of those 4 guys were drafted in the back third of the round.

 Most top 10-15 picks don’t go to the Senior Bowl for fear of dropping their stock through poor performance or injury.

 The official Senior Bowl site also likes to brag that 23 2016 Pro Bowl players (out of 86 total) were Senior Bowl alumni. Only 3 of those 23 players, however, were drafted by a team that coached them at the Senior Bowl, and only 2 of those three were still playing for the team that drafted them. 2 of 23 is not appreciably different from the 1/16th of the league that coaches in the Senior Bowl each year.

Quarterbacks

Now for the good stuff: did teams who coached in the Senior Bowl with an eye on finding their next franchise QB get what they were looking for? It’s a small sample size, but I think history here is actually quite encouraging. Since it’s a small list, I want to look at each instance one by one. That way we can examine the pick in context.

In 2006, the Titans had the 3rd overall pick. They took Vince Young, who was not at the Senior Bowl. They passed on Jay Cutler – who was far and away the best quarterback in that draft – after spending a week coaching him.

In 2011, the Bengals spent their 2nd round pick on Andy Dalton, who they had coached in the Senior Bowl. They couldn’t have made a better pick there, as Dalton is easily the best QB not named Cam Newton out of that draft and they had no shot at Newton.

In 2012 Washington traded up to the 2nd pick of the draft in the draft to select Robert Griffin III, who was not at the Senior Bowl. History has shown that to be a mistake, but Washington somewhat made up for it when they grabbed Kirk Cousins, who they had coached at the Senior Bowl in round 4. Of course, their best move would have been to wait and take Cousins, or grab Russell Wilson, another Senior Bowl QB that year. Apparently a week with Wilson was not enough to convince them he was a superstar in the making.

In 2013 Oakland spent their fourth round pick on Tyler Wilson, who they had coached at the Senior Bowl. Not exactly an inspiring selection, but at least the QB-desperate team avoided reaching for 1st-round Senior Bowl QB bust EJ Manuel. That entire draft was a wasteland for QBs, as the best ones so far have been Mike Glennon and Matt Barkley. So perhaps Oakland learned enough from that week to not waste a high pick on a bad QB just because they needed one.

In 2014, Jacksonville spent the 3rd overall pick on Blake Bortles, who was not at the Senior Bowl. The 2nd round of that draft saw Senior Bowl QB Derek Carr drafted, who has since blossomed into a superstar. Jimmy Garoppolo was also a Senior Bowl QB drafted in the 2nd round; there’s no saying at this point if he’s better than Bortles, but he looked very good in his brief stint earlier this year and could be a starter somewhere next year.

It’s starting to look like teams coaching at the Senior Bowl should avoid drafting QBs they don’t coach that week at the top of the draft. (Excepting, of course, Tennessee drafting Marcus Mariota 2nd overall in 2015 even though he wasn’t at the Senior Bowl.) I’d say that’s worked out pretty well for them so far.

Finally, both teams who coached at the Senior Bowl in 2016 drafted a QB they coached that week. Dallas grabbed Dak Prescott in round 4, and Jacksonville grabbed Brandon Allen in round 6. That worked wonderfully for Dallas, though to be fair they famously came out of Senior Bowl week wanting Connor Cook over Prescott. You can’t fault Jacksonville for a 6th round QB who doesn’t play as a rookie, but they also saw Prescott for a week and passed on drafting him 4 times.

Add it all up and what do you get? Of the 8 teams that coached in the Senior Bowl and drafted a QB that year, 4 found a solid starter or better. That’s pretty good, especially when you consider only 4 of those 8 were 1st round picks, right? Of course, 1 of those QBs wasn’t at the Senior Bowl, 1 was only drafted as a backup after trading the farm to draft a different QB, and 1 was only drafted because the guy they wanted was gone.

Summing it up

Overall, there aren’t a lot of hard and fast conclusions from this data. You can spin it to make it look good or bad, which means the main takeaway is this: coaching in the Senior Bowl might help, but it is no guarantee of either a successful draft or of finding your quarterback of the future.

So by all means pay attention this week. Watch, listen, and dream of the next Bears superstar who might be getting a head start under Chicago’s coaching staff, of the franchise quarterback who can lead them to the promised land. It absolutely could happen. Just don’t be shocked if that dream ends up being nothing more than a fantasy.

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Championship Sunday Preview & Picks

| January 20th, 2017

Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Administrative Note: The Weekend Show will return Super Bowl week and continue to run throughout the off-season. Our guests will not only be Bears-related but also branch out to other Chicago institutuions – bars, restaurants, culture, politics…etc. And we’ll do A LOT on the quarterbacks available in this draft.


Went 3-1 against the spread last week but only 2-2 picking winners. So I’m an alarmingly mediocre 4-4 ATS and 5-3 picking winners this postseason. Not good.

Packers +5 over FALCONS

Atlanta had the most impressive win of the division round. Took some body blows early from a proven contender and then did what this franchise has failed to do for what feels like a decade: knocked out an opponent. This is unquestionably the most exciting and dynamic offense left in the playoffs. But what I love about the construction of this roster is they are now equipped to hold a lead because of a young, exciting pass rush.

Will that matter against Aaron Rodgers? Nobody knows. Rodgers is now playing the quarterback position better than anyone in the history of the league. His receiving corps stinks. His running back is a slot receiver. He has a brilliant pass blocking offensive line but the rest of Ted Thompson’s team is the definition of mediocrity. Can Rodgers win this game? Of course he can. But I’m saying the magic runs out. Barely.

Falcons 41, Packers 38


Steelers +6 over PATRIOTS

I have no idea what to make of this game.

Houston’s defense was brilliant a week ago but were beaten by two things: (1) Weirdo Tom Brady moon balls his receivers managed to haul in and (2) their own quarterback throwing the ball to the other team. If the Patriots had either the Chiefs or Steelers on the other side of the field Saturday night, I don’t think they’re playing this week.

Kansas City should have beaten Pittsburgh but Andy Reid and Alex Smith executed an offensive game plan the league hasn’t seen since the invention of the forward pass. (Reid is quickly venturing into Schottenheimer territory.)

Here’s what I know. Le’Veon Bell is amazing, Bill Belichick knows that and agenda item number one for the Patriots will be stopping him. If they do, they win. If they don’t…?

Patriots 24, Steelers 21

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Finding a Quarterback: The Upside of Tony Romo

| January 19th, 2017

Five passes.

That’s all we have to judge Tony Romo on from the 2016 season. Five passes. But they just might be enough.

Ryan Pace and John Fox are feeling the pressure to win now and they may have a chance to sign a quarterback who was considered among the best in the league for a decade. Even with Romo’s injury history, it’s something Pace and Fox are going to consider.

The thing about those five passes is they were all really good. They were sharp and on the money. One was a 15-yard spiral on third-and-11. Another was a deep pass that would’ve been a touchdown if not for an interference penalty. Romo finished his only drive of the season with a beautifully accurate touchdown pass, displaying a touch that very few quarterbacks have. Romo looked very much like the guy who probably should have won the 2014 MVP award.

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What the Four Remaining Teams Can Teach the Chicago Bears

| January 18th, 2017

Is it a generic, almost clichéd way to approach the Championship games? Yes. But after years of writing about the Bears in January – whilst the Bears are often in hibernation – this is what we got. The four remaining teams in the NFL playoffs have valuable lessons to teach the Bears moving forward.

QUARTERBACKS

Tom Brady beat Brock Osweiler. Aaron Rodgers beat Dak Prescott. Ben Roethlisberger beat Alex Smith. Matt Ryan beat Russell Wilson. I understand that football is the ultimate team game but it isn’t coincidence that the four better quarterbacks all advanced this past weekend.

There are three kinds of teams in the NFL.

  • Teams with star quarterbacks that can compete for titles every single season.
  • Teams with better-than-average quarterbacks who won’t be in the postseason every year but can still be good enough to win a title here or there.
  • Everybody else.

All four of these teams belong in the first category. (And half the league spends their time debating whether their quarterback is a category 2 or category 3 man.)

CONTINUITY

Three of the four coaches remaining are also three of the five longest tenured in the NFL. But…they’ve also had a franchise quarterback in their holster for the duration of their tenure.

IF DEFENSE WINS CHAMPIONSHIPS…

…how do you explain the NFC? Green Bay and Atlanta play little defense and are more than likely to blow their over/under of 61.5 out of the water.

Here’s how the eight teams that played in the Division round ranked in points allowed per game this season:

1 – Pats (win)

3 – Seahawks (loss)

5 – Cowboys (loss)

7 – Chiefs (loss)

10 – Steelers (win)

11 – Texans (loss)

21 – Packers (win)

27 – Falcons (win)

What do the four conference finalists have in common, however? All four are top 10 in turnover ratio. The lesson: you can survive playing subpar defense if you take the ball away from the opponent more than they take the ball away from you.

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Charting The Bears: 2016 In Review

| January 17th, 2017

Before the season began I decided to try to do something a little different by charting some of the things you don’t regularly see in box scores and the end result was some really interesting numbers that may change the way you feel about certain players.

The most time-consuming part of my weekly job on DBB was charting the little things that you don’t see. As most hardcore football fans know, completion percentage doesn’t always tell you if a quarterback is accurate, Pro Bowl voting doesn’t always tell you if an offensive lineman can block, sacks don’t always tell you if a player is getting pressure on the quarterback and interceptions don’t tell you if a guy can cover. There’s more to the game, a lot more and I tried to discover some of that here:

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DaBearsBlog On Vacation This Weekend

| January 13th, 2017

DaBearsBlog is celebrating a birthday in New Orleans this weekend. Should anything of note happen in Bearsland, I’ll be sure to put something up. Otherwise I will be spending my weekend on the 15th at English Turn, cozying up on the front corner stool at Napoleon House and gorging on Willie Mae’s fried chicken.


Picks for the weekend:

3-1 picking winners last weekend. But a miserable 1-3 ATS.

Falcons -4.5 over Seahawks

Patriots -15.5 over Texans

Chiefs -1.5 over Steelers

Packers +4.5 over Cowboys (Dallas 30, Packers 28)

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Finding A Quarterback: The Roster

| January 10th, 2017

When Ryan Pace was asked what he was looking for in a quarterback he might as well have said “not Jay Cutler.”

We’ve come a long way since last season’s season-ending press conference when Pace talked about building around Cutler. The best quarterback in the history of the franchise missed 11 games and was their least productive quarterback last season. Pace made it pretty clear that his days with the team are numbered.

When asked what attributes he looks for in a quarterback, the young Bears GM specified availability and ball security, Cutler’s two biggest weaknesses. Cutler was intercepted on 3.6 percent of his passes last year and his career average of 3.3 percent is worse than everyone on earth but Ryan Fitzpatrick. Cutler has also missed 23 games due to injury over the last six years. The fact that he missed so much time this season, with separate injuries, at 33 years old, doesn’t work in his favor.

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