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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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Bears Dominate Vikings in Jay’s Return

| November 1st, 2016

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Jay Cutler was great. The defense was great. And the Bears dominated a team someone (me) told you was a great match-up for them. Rapid fire.

  • The pass rush did exactly what it should against that Vikings offensive line. Minnesota had no answer for McPhee, Floyd or Hicks.
  • Jordan Howard is the real deal and it seemed John Fox came to that realization at some point Monday night. This is not a player who should be rotating at the running back position. He is their best runner at the position, their best pass catcher at the position and a solid pass blocker. Spell him, of course, but he should be getting twenty-five touches every week.
  • Two plays stood out to Jon Gruden Monday night when it came to Cutler. One, obviously, was the step up in the pocket shuffle pass to Howard for a big gain. The other was far more subtle. Later in the game. First down. The pocket collapsed on Cutler and he scrambled to his left and ran for a gain of one or two. Was it a big play? No. Does Brian Hoyer lose seven or eight yards on it? Absolutely. That’s the difference.

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Across The Middle — Week 6

| October 12th, 2016

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Well, now what?

The loss to the Colts may have been the most disappointing of the season to me because it ended any chance the Bears had of becoming relevant this season.

I didn’t think they’d make the playoffs but I expected the Bears to be relevant. I expected them to a be a team nobody wanted to play and I expected to see serious signs of growth. A win over Indianapolis would’ve put them at 2-3 with a  chance to go 3-3 next week before they played the Packers in a Thursday night game. At that point, anything would’ve been possible.

But they lost to the Colts, a bad team. Making the loss worse, they Colts are a bad team that was coming off of a trip to another country, while the Bears were coming off of their first win. It was a game the Bears had to win and didn’t.

There are still bright spots this season and I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. I think the Bears have a very good GM and a lot of excellent young talent. They actually have a better record through Pace’s first 21 games than the Packers did with Ted Thompson. But that doesn’t make me feel better today.

There’s always next year, for most of us anyway. Depending on how the rest of this season goes, that could bring some very difficult questions.

The biggest question is the coach and there is no easy answer.

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Trench Warfare: Pace’s Roster Building Strategy Comes Into Focus

| June 6th, 2016

The following is a guest column by the artist known as Data, also going by the name Johnathan Wood. If you’d like to write a guest column for DBB, email jeff@dabearsblog.com.

General manager Ryan Pace has had 2 offseasons to shape the Bears roster the way he sees fit. There are a number of different ways you can look at his moves and draw conclusions about his priorities, many of which have been discussed in detail. Pace himself has talked repeatedly about wanting size, speed, length, and football junkies. He has shipped out locker room problems and replaced them with high character football players (Ray McDonald aside).

But when I’m looking at what a GM prioritizes, I look at how he allocates his resources. Who does he invest his high draft picks and big free agent contracts in? Looking at Chicago’s recent moves through this lens gives a clear answer: Ryan Pace wants to build a team that wins in the trenches.

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Bears Building Team That Could Take Control of NFC North

| May 18th, 2016

Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) is sacked and hit by Indianapolis Colts inside linebacker Jerrell Freeman (50) in second half action. The Colts defeated the Green Bay Packers 30-27 on Sunday, October 7, 2012, in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Sam Riche/MCT) ORG XMIT: 1129744

Since taking over before last offseason, Ryan Pace and John Fox have completely rebuilt the Bears defense and it should result in a team that contends for the NFC North in both the near and long term.

I don’t care what happened last year. The Packers are still the team to beat in the NFC North. They have the best coach, the best quarterback and – while they’re certainly declining – I’m not ready to proclaim the Vikings or any other team the new King of the North. But what the Bears did to the Packers on Thanksgiving wasn’t a fluke and now they’re building up their talent level to do it consistently. At the very least, with a good defense, they’ll give themselves a consistent chance.

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