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When it Comes to QBs in the NFL, Studs are Studs.

| May 14th, 2021

Whether Justin Fields succeeds or fails, Matt Nagy probably isn’t going to have a hell of a lot to do with it. While everybody loves a “QB guru”, fans, media members and NFL teams waste entirely too much time talking about the development of young quarterbacks. It is just as likely that studs will be studs and duds, well, you get the picture.

At least in the modern NFL.

This isn’t your grandfather’s NFL and there isn’t a huge difference in the schemes run by teams. In his discussion with local media, Ohio State head coach Ryan Day referred to his experience in the NFL, even labeling his current scheme an “NFL offense” numerous times. Sure, rookie quarterbacks have to adjust to the speed of the NFL. They have to learn how to read different coverage concepts and adjust protections.

And while that’s all stuff that a good NFL team will help with, some guys just get it.

A narrative has emerged in recent months that Nagy failed to develop Mitch Trubisky. The truth is no one could have develop Trubisky because Trubisky is a bad football player. Bad football players don’t become good. Ryan Pace failed by drafting him to play quarterback in the NFL. Was Trubisky’s inability to read defenses and adjust something we would’ve found out about had he played more collegiate games? Almost certainly. (His inaccuracy downfield was certainly something that one would see if they looked at North Carolina tape.)

Fundamental improvements are fixed in the offseason these days because NFL coaches aren’t allowed as much contact. Mike McCarthy used to run a full-blown QB Camp as part of his offseason program. (Aaron Rodgers even credited it as part of his development.) That can’t happen any more.  Trubisky seemed to acknowledge that he wasn’t getting what he needed from his personal QB coach. Why else would he have changed coaches last offseason?

If we’re going to blame Nagy for not developing Trubisky, why don’t we blame Bruce Arians for whatever happened to Jameis Winston? Surely Sean McVay can’t be trusted with young quarterbacks after failing Jared Goff and why didn’t Boy Genius Kyle Shanahan turn his first hand-picked passer, CJ Beathard into a steal?

Then, if you look at the quarterbacks who have been good. Who do we credit for Derek Carr? Is Pete Carroll the genius behind Russ Wilson?  Is Jason Garrett the reason Dak Prescott became a stud? Shouldn’t Bill O’Brien get another job because of the work he did with Deshaun Watson? Uhhh…no.

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Things To Consider With Tonight’s Schedule Release

| May 12th, 2021


The NFL has turned everything into a television program. And who can blame them? The NFL Draft now does better ratings than almost every other sporting contest AND the damn Academy Awards. (How in the hell did that happen?)

The schedule release does not have the same ratings appeal for two reasons: (1) every local beat leaks the schedule as the day goes on and (2) we consume the schedule in one shot, in about 30 seconds, and then sort of move on.

Three things I’ll be watching with the release tonight at 8 PM ET.

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Number One. Where is the Bears bye?

With a seventeen-game schedule, most teams will be hoping their bye lands as close to the middle of the season as possible. A Week 4 or Week 5 bye leaves a long stretch of uninterrupted football (barring wildcard weekend off) in order to get to the Super Bowl.

But for the Chicago Bears the bye is entirely about one thing: Justin Fields. If the Bears stick with their current plan, and give Andy Dalton the opener, the bye will be every fan’s target to get Fields on the field. A few questions should be asked.

  • What’s the difficulty level of the schedule pre-bye? If the Bears face a murderer’s row of teams and are likely to be going into the bye with a losing record, the transition to Fields will be far easier to execute.
  • Who is the opponent post-bye? If I was making the NFL schedule, I would have the Bears at home to the Lions after their bye. Soft team, terrible defense, crazy atmosphere on the lakefront. (I know right now you’re thinking, “That’s brilliant! He SHOULD make the schedule!” You are right.)

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Does Andy Dalton Upgrade Chicago’s QB Room?

| May 11th, 2021

The Bears completely overhauled their QB room this offseason, letting Mitchell Trubisky leave, signing Andy Dalton, and trading up in the 1st round to draft Justin Fields. The goal is obvious: improve a passing attack that finished last year ranked 28th in yards/attempt, 18th in passing TD, threw the 4th most interceptions, and had the 24th passer rating among 32 NFL teams.

With that in mind, I want to look at each of the additions compared to who they replaced to see how likely it is that they actually provide the desired upgrade. I’m starting today with Andy Dalton, who the Bears have insisted is still their starter.

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Basic Stats

Let’s start with a surface-level view of Dalton’s passing stats compared to Trubisky and Nick Foles, the 2020 QBs.

Since playing time has been spotty for all of them over the last few years, due to a combination of injury and sometimes being the backup, I’m going to use cumulative 2018-20 stats for all of them to give a decent sample size (600+ pass attempts for each). I’ll include the NFL average over that time period to see how each QB stands relative to their peers.



As you can see there, a first glance makes it look like Dalton doesn’t provide much improvement over the status quo. The three QBs vary quite a bit in completion percentage, but all come up well below the NFL average in both yards per attempt and TD to INT ratio. If anything, Trubisky was the most productive QB of the three (though this is not an argument for keeping Trubisky. They are all bad NFL QBs). If you’re really curious about the 2020 Bears specifically, they completed 66% of their passes, averaged 6.4 yards/attempt, and had 1.6 TD for every INT.

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Short/Deep Split

However, we can take a closer look to see if there’s something we might be missing. Let’s split up passes into short (less than 15 yards past the line of scrimmage) and deep (15+ yards past the line of scrimmage). Here’s the same table as above, only with that split applied. Short passes are highlighted in orange, deep passes in blue.

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Welcome to the Justin Fields YouTube Rabbit Hole!

| May 7th, 2021

Found myself down the Justin Fields YouTube rabbit hole yesterday so I thought I’d share that here today.


Nate Tice with Hoge & Jahns.

Two thoughts:

  • This is just really solid analysis of Fields, on-field. And it should give every Bears fan hope that the organization may have finally gotten the position right.
  • Tice’s podcast with Robert Mays for The Athletic is some of the best football conversation you’ll hear. These guys know all 32 rosters pretty damn well. It’ll make you a smarter fan and it’s now the SECOND football podcast to enter my podcast rotation. (The sport now trails golf 9-2.)


Fields at the Facility.

There’s just something different about how this kid carries himself. He walks around like a star. And I believe you need that to success at quarterback.

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Bears Can’t Let Rodgers Set Their QB Timetable

| May 6th, 2021


It’s been a week since Justin Fields became the next quarterback of the Chicago Bears.

It’s been that same week since Aaron Rodgers decided he would no longer go gentle into that Green Bay night. After weeks of apparently expecting to be traded and not, while also receiving contract extension offers without enough guaranteed cash, Rodgers decided to have his people call Adam Schefter’s people and fly the Enola Gay over the draft proceedings in Cleveland.

Immediately, DraftKings Sportsbook pulled the NFC North odds for next season off the board. As rumors of Rodgers’ probable destinations surfaced – Denver and Vegas being the leaders in the clubhouse – DK also pulled the AFC West off the board. (Both divisions have since been reinstalled, with the Packers -115 to win the division, which might be where the odds settle without Rodgers in the mix.)

Will Rodgers be on the Packers this season? He’s told the team he will not. He’s told his teammates he will not. I’m pretty sure he told half the bartenders at Churchill Downs he will not. (“Hey man, you know this is one good Mint Julep. You know anything about the golf clubs in Denver?”) All signs are pointing to the end of the Rodgers era in Green Bay and the first set in the main room for Jordan Love, who’ll now begin his quest to provide the Packers with three consecutive Hall of Fame quarterbacks.

No matter the outcome of the Rodgers saga, the Bears must ignore it. All of it. Yes, Rodgers out of the NFC North would mean the division is up for grabs in 2021 and the Bears would be well-positioned to win it. But the team can’t let the circumstances of another club, even their oldest rival, impact the development of their quarterback. If the plan coming out of camp is for Andy Dalton to start the season at quarterback and for Fields to learn at the hip of Matt Nagy for a period of time, stick to that plan. If Dalton starts 0-2, so be it.

History definitively tells us two things. (1) Andy Dalton isn’t winning the Super Bowl. (2) Rookie quarterbacks aren’t winning the Super Bowl. So while winning the NFC North would be a nice treat in 2021, the team will be far better served ensuring their young quarterback is ready to win the whole shebang in September 2022.

Rodgers leaving the division would be a remarkable moment; a three-city sigh of relief. But when it comes to the long-term success of the Chicago Bears and their quarterback, it shouldn’t mean a damn thing.

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ATM: Leno Release Hints At Security for Pace, Nagy

| May 5th, 2021


Selecting a quarterback in the first round of the NFL draft hasn’t bought extended tenures for coaches and general managers of late, but the decision to release Charles Leno Jr. could be a hint that Ryan Pace and Matt Nagy are on stable ground.

There is no way around it. The Bears would be better in 2021 with Leno on the team. He is an average left tackle, but average is good enough to prevent either Andy Dalton or Justin Fields from being buried in the ground. Leno bounced back from a rough start in 2019 and has been inarguably the team’s most consistent offensive lineman since. While he isn’t known for his ability to push the pile, the Bears averaged six yards per carry running behind Leno in 2020, according to Sharp Football Statistics.



The Bears generally seem to agree that Leno was at least decent at his job or they wouldn’t have waited until after the draft to move on. Outside of a push for one of the league’s best in Trent Williams, we had no real evidence that the Bears were displeased with Leno. If they hadn’t moved up for a tackle, it seems they would’ve been just fine proceeding with him.

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Ryan Pace’s Reversal of Fortune.

| May 3rd, 2021


It started with a dinner.

Dan Wiederer told the tale.

Ryan Pace had a “covert” dinner with Mitch Trubisky at a steakhouse in Chapel Hill. The reservation, made by Mitch, was under the name Jim McMahon. History! Trubisky drove a Datsun or Pinto or something. Humility! The Bears decided this was their quarterback of the future because he seemed to check all the intangible boxes found on a form Pace stole from a locked drawer in Sean Payton’s desk.

It didn’t work. And the scrutiny started quickly. What didn’t Pace like about Patrick Mahomes? Why didn’t he meet with Deshaun Watson? What about Trubisky was SO impressive – it certainly wasn’t his collegiate production – that it led the Bears GM to throw horse blinders on and ignore everybody else?

The Pace tenure had become defined by those months leading up to the 2017 NFL Draft and the production of the men he decided not to take. Sure, he whiffed on Kevin White, reached (ridiculously) for Adam Shaheen and tossed some money away on Robert Quinn. But every GM misses on picks and spends money ineffectively in free agency. Trubisky was the story. And that mistake, compounded by Pace’s inability to correct it (an improbable task, to be fair) was the entire narrative. Every positive move, including rebuilding the worst defense in Chicago Bears history, was shuffled into the shadows.

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Come the end of the 2020 season, the expectations were that Pace would be GM no longer. The Bears were coming off back-to-back mediocre seasons, with a flop quarterback and an aging defense. Change felt inevitable, whether that be the coach, the GM or long-time team president Ted Phillips. GMs don’t get second chances to find franchise quarterbacks. Owners, especially in this modern, last-place-to-first-place-yearly NFL, are not patient individuals. It’s been well-discussed how much George McCaskey likes Pace but an owner’s love plus $5.99 will get you a double cheese at the Billy Goat.

They stood pat. They delivered an awkward press conference, preached collaboration, and maintained an organizational status quo. McCaskey and Phillips trusted their instincts, leaning on their belief that Pace – still only 44 years old – was not a completed picture. In any line of work, one usually improves with time and experience and the Bears believed the same would be true for Pace. It was not a decision met favorably by those who cover and cheer for the Chicago Bears. Many claimed it was the Bears acting like 8-8 was perfectly acceptable. But anyone listening to that presser heard a distinct refrain: it was about the quarterback. Pace was admitting his Trubisky failure and vowing to make amends THIS offseason.

As the draft closed in, that vow seemed like horseshit.

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