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He’s It: Money No Reason for Bears Not to Tag Alshon Jeffery in 2017

| February 17th, 2017

Alshon Jeffery is a very good football player. A barstool drunk with Bushmills breath and 20/80 vision could tell you Alshon Jeffery is a very good football player. But NFL personnel people are paid duffels of ducats to decide whether a player is bad or okay, okay or good, good or very good, very good or great. They are paid to decipher where to slot a particular talent within the structure of the NFL’s rigid salary cap.

Is Jeffery a great player? That’s the question currently wallpapering the offices in Lake Forest. The more important question may be…does it matter?

From the one and only Adam L. Jahns of the Sun-Times:

“I think Alshon expects more,” Pace said during the Bears’ season-ending news conference Jan.  4. “I think he’s a good player. And that’s a big decision for us.”

But how good is he really?

It’s actually a complex question, considering that the Bears are rebuilding, that the team will have their third receivers coach in three years and that a new quarterback could be coming to town.

The better question might be: Do Jeffery’s talents transcend change?

He had mixed results last season with three quarterbacks. According to Pro Football Reference, Brian Hoyer’s passer rating of 83.3 when throwing to Jeffery was better than Cutler’s (74.3) and Matt Barkley’s (50.9).

On the other side, the argument can be made that the Bears desperately need Jeffery, especially with uncertainty surrounding Kevin White after his second surgery. (White and Jeffery share the same agent.)

Being pragmatic about this decision, there are three options.

  • TAG HIM. With the copious amount of cap space and Jay Cutler most likely coming off the books, Jeffery’s tag hit will be somewhere in the $17-18M range and give the Bears an opportunity to either (a) work out a long-term extensions or (b) use 2017 as a second evaluative year.
  • SIGN HIM. The Bears want to lock up Jeffery long-term but they are not going to pay him like he’s one of the five best receivers in the sport. Why? Because he’s not one of the five best receivers in the sport. And, from my reporting, it’s clear the organization is concerned about Jeffery’s work ethic, how that work ethic has influenced his health and what to make of the four-game suspension he served in 2016.
  • SAY GOODBYE. An old fashioned adios. Pretty simply stuff. Shake his hand, make sure his car is on-time to O’Hare and tell him that both Pat’s and Geno’s are overrated in Philly. (Let’s be honest, the whole concept of the Philly cheesesteak is wildly overrated. It’s fucking beef and cheese. I’ve had better versions of that combination in probably seven other cities. Stick cheese on a Mr. Beef in Chicago or a Chap’s Pit in Baltimore or…okay, enough.)

The latter two options come with significant risk.

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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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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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DBB Weekend Show: All Adam Jahns Edition! [AUDIO]

| January 5th, 2017

ON THE WEEKEND SHOW!

  • Adam Jahns for a half hour, discussing what the postseason press conference means about the future of the Chicago Bears. Special focus on the quarterback position, Alshon Jeffery, Kyle Fuller, injuries to the 2015 draft and how to approach the secondary starting in March.
  • Picks for the Wildcard Round: Raiders +3.5, Seattle -8, Miami +10, New York +4.5.
  • Lots and lots of Shea McClellin talk!

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“This Won’t Happen Again”: Pace & Fox Address Media

| January 4th, 2017

Ryan Pace and John Fox addressed the media today. The following are my thoughts:

  • Both Pace and Fox set the perfect tone for a 3-13 press conference. They acknowledged the injuries but made clear the results of the season were unacceptable.
  • Pace sure sounded like a GM zeroing on the quarterback position this offseason. Made very clear that his decisions at that position this offseason will greatly impact the future of the organization. As Pace said, “Everything is on the table”.
  • Bears only have 19 players on the roster from previous regime. That’s kind of amazing.
  • Alshon Jeffery discussion was tepid. Pace did not sound like a GM willing to commit major resources to a player whose production – though excusable – has plummeted.
  • “Ball security is critical” -John Fox. It was obvious from the head coach’s comments that he does not want a QB who throws the ball to the other team.
  • Pace was on the money with his evaluation of the Bears secondary. They need to add playmakers with better ball skills.
  • Pace is “not giving up on Kyle Fuller”. His commentary on Fuller was some of his most passionate. Fuller will be given every opportunity to compete for this team in 2017.
  • Fox’s way of saying injuries cracked me up: “consistency of games available”.
  • Pace believes Jonathan Bullard needed this year to learn to play defense a different way. He expects a leap next year.
  • Both coordinators are staying.

I really like Ryan Pace. But this is a massive offseason for the young GM.

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Five Things We Learned From the 2016 Season

| January 2nd, 2017

It’s so easy to look at the record, 3-13, and pronounce the Bears an awful team with no hope. But that simply isn’t what took place this season. The Bears were in year two of a rebuild, lost $60M worth of players to IR and played 6 of their 16 games with Matt Barkley at quarterback. Bill Belichick wasn’t getting this group to the postseason.

So what did we learn from this difficult campaign?

  • The Bears found their offensive identity. The 2017 Bears will be defined on offense by a bully interior of their offensive line and the best power back they’ve had in recent memory, Jordan Howard. Expect every decision made on that side of the ball this offseason to complement this approach. And don’t be surprised if the Bears look to add another back to the rotation who can provide more than a spell for their workhorse.
  • The team does not have one reliable player in their secondary. The Bears won’t come into next season with seven new guys in their secondary. They’ll continue to develop players like LeBlanc, Hall, Callahan, Amos and maybe even Bush and HJQ. But the team must make secondary the primary focus of the spring and add several – not one or two but several – valuable assets to this unit.
  • Pass rush, pass rush, pass rush. Leonard Floyd looks the part. Pernell McPhee should be healthy come September. But the Bears must add to their pass rush. Whether that means finding rushers for the defensive line or zeroing in on a top edge guy in the draft, the only way for this team to increase their turnover total is to increase the pressure on opposing quarterbacks.
  • Ryan Pace deserves our faith. Look at Pace’s additions this offseason: Sitton, Whitehair, Howard, Floyd, Freeman, Trevathan, Hicks, Massie. Every one of them a significant improvement. Hell, even Hoyer and Barkley kept the Bears competitive as backups. The Bears had their best offseason in terms of personnel additions in years. Now they face two huge questions this time around. Is Alshon going to be brought back? Who is playing quarterback? Pace deserves a chance to answer both.
  • John Fox may not. Fox will get 2017. But he will get no more excuses.

The arrow is pointed decidedly up. But just as one great offseason can move the organization in the right direction, a bad offseason can derail the train as quickly. The next five years of Bears football will be defined by what Ryan Pace does between now and Bourbonnais.

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Penalties, Mistakes, Officiating Cost Backup Bears a Road Victory

| December 12th, 2016

It was a not a good game. It was difficult on the eyes. And there were a lot of reasons for that. Rapid fire…

  • It is difficult to enjoy a football game, as a fan, when you assume every long run and every good play made in the secondary is going to be accompanied by a flag. You’re simply never able to live in the moment of a football game. Yesterday the refs were a disgrace. Inconsistent pass interference calls. Hands to the face on the wrong team. Phantom holds late to literally cost the Bears a chance to tie or win the game. Officiating is going to be a big story come January and it will cost a team in he playoffs.
  • Worst example was the Stafford bomb downfield. Bears rushing three and dropping eight. Line judge throws flag, clearly for holding on the Lions. (She was staring at the line of scrimmage.) Refs convene and decide she had called holding ON THE DEFENSE! This means the refs believe one of the three rushers for the Bears held a Lions offensive lineman. Why? The only time defensive linemen hold is to prevent OL from getting to the second level. They didn’t identify who did it because, as you might imagine, it never happened. Farce.
  • How on earth are we supposed to evaluate #barkleytime with this crop of receivers “catching” the ball? Barkley didn’t do anything spectacular Sunday but when the game was put on his arm, he delivered. Again. His teammates and the refs let him down.
  • Seeing Barkley with Alshon Jeffery this week is going to be very interesting.
  • Barkley’s throw to Cam Meredith for the touchdown was a thing of beauty. Which are the throws Barkley can’t make?
  • Josh Bellamy plays wide receiver in the strangest manner I’ve ever seen. He has great hands but refuses to use them. He has no sense of where the boundaries are. He never knows when to jump or not jump for the football so his default seems to be JUMP! But he’s always open so how can Barkley not throw him the ball?

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Across The Middle — Week 11

| November 16th, 2016

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The excuses are gone, but the results remain mostly the same.

As his career drags on the question of if Jay Cutler is the answer to the Bears century-long QB crisis appears to be getting answered and Sunday gave Ryan Pace enough ammunition to move on if he wants to.

This isn’t about one game, but holy shit was that a bad game. It wasn’t just the four lazy, careless turnovers the dude flat out could not make a throw. I charted him with 11 inaccurate passes — nearly 37 percent — including two horrendous interceptions.

I’ve always been willing to live with Cutler’s turnovers because they were offset by big plays. That hasn’t been the case this year. Cutler has twice as many turnovers as he does touchdowns. What’s worse is that he’s being beaten statistically by Brian Hoyer nearly across the board.

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Recent Draft History Dictates Bears Approach at QB

| November 15th, 2016

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The following is a special piece from the artist known as Data.

 

Ever since Ryan Pace took over the Bears in the 2015 offseason, rumors have been swirling around Jay Cutler. First, Pace was desperate to move on from him and draft Marcus Mariota, but then that didn’t work out, Cutler stuck around for 2015 and had a very good year, and all of a sudden the Bears were building around Jay Cutler. Then a rough start to the 2016 season that saw more turnovers than touchdowns before an injury knocked him out for a month happened, Cutler was replaced by Brian Hoyer, and head coach John Fox seemed to indicate Hoyer might be Chicago’s starter going forward. But the Bears kept losing, Hoyer got hurt, and rumors swirled simultaneously that Fox was done with Cutler and Pace might be done with Fox. Then Cutler came back and played a tremendous game in an upset of Minnesota, and all of a sudden he’s the quarterback we need, but not the one we deserve.

All that in a season and a half. It’s been a whirlwind ride, and nobody has any idea what’s going to happen in the last half season that could change the narrative around Cutler in either direction. Here’s one thing that seems abundantly clear: Cutler is 33 years old and has a long injury history, so whether or not he’s with the Bears in 2017, they need to start looking to the future of the game’s most important position.

But there are a lot of different opinions as to how the Bears should do that. Some think they should cut (or more realistically trade) Cutler and draft the next QB with their 1st pick. Others think they should keep Cutler around but spend a draft pick on a QB to groom behind him.

In order to help figure out which approach gives you better odds of success, I looked at the draft history of recent NFL drafts to see what the odds are of landing a solid starting quarterback in various parts of the draft. It’s too early to pass much judgment on 2016, as only 2 out of 15 quarterbacks drafted saw the field. So instead I looked at the 2011-15 drafts, giving us a 5-year sample size.

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