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ATM: Nick Foles? Leonard Williams? Become Sellers? Deadline Decisions Loom.

| October 22nd, 2019


If the Chicago Bears think they are going to improve on their own this season, they’re going to fade into 2019 irrelevance, just as they have for most of the last 30 years.

There isn’t an easy fix for these Bears, but with the trade deadline coming next Tuesday, there are a pair of big moves that could get them back on track and save what was supposed to be a Super Bowl season. And, if they can’t pull those off, there’s a third move that could make the future at least a little brighter.

Trade for Nick Foles

He isn’t necessarily the franchise quarterback the fan base has been longing for, but he’s at least competent. Foles is very likely the best the Bears can do at quarterback for the rest of this season. He knows the offense and has excelled in it. He’d bring instant credibility to the offense and knows how to get the job done at the highest level.

The 30-year-old has been on IR since Week One, but he’s slated to begin practicing this week, opening up a 21-day window for activation. We don’t know when, exactly, he’d be ready, but he could return in Week 10. It has generally been reported that he won’t be eligible to play until Week 11 but that, presumably, is because the Jaguars have a Week 10 bye.

The Jaguars would have to eat a lot of money in order to trade Foles, but they’d still have to pay that money and then Foles’ salary in order to keep him. With rookie Gardner Minshew playing well (10 touchdowns and 2 interceptions) the Jaguars likely will want to move on from Foles at some point.

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Trubisky is not the guy.

| October 21st, 2019


If you want to spend this Monday criticizing the defensive performance over the last two weeks, go right ahead. But I’m not going to join you. Sure they have struggled getting off the field but the Bears have a collection of terrific defensive players and they’ll be just fine in the long run.

If you want to question the vision and direction of the head coach over your morning coffee, go right ahead. Matt Nagy’s play-calling has been suspect (at best) and the offense lacks any semblance of coherence. But Nagy’s going to get time to right this ship because unlike his most recent predecessors, he has a 12-4 division title on his resume.

If you want to discuss the fumbling or the blocked punts or whatever other mistakes are on your mind before lunch, feel free to do just that. Those things shouldn’t happen to championship-caliber clubs and championship-caliber is what was expected from the 2019 Chicago Bears.

But those things aren’t the story today.

The story was picked number two and wears number ten.

The story plays the most important position in professional sports.

The story is Mitch Trubisky.

And the story is over.

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Saints at Bears Game Preview, Volume II: Rest of the Football Stuff

| October 18th, 2019

[NOTE: I’m not writing about Mitch Trubisky in this preview because what is left to say? He needs to play well. That’s all.]


Why Do I Like the Chicago Bears This Week?

I always like the Chicago Bears.

And I believe in this coach. I believe he’s a very good coach. And a very good coach understands what needs fixing, fixes it and beats Teddy Bridgewater in his own building.


Oh When the Saints…

  • Alvin Kamara is not healthy and it greatly limits the effectiveness of this offense because Teddy Bridgewater, while statistically fine, has been mostly in a managerial role outside of exploiting a useless Tampa secondary. When pressured, especially by Jacksonville, Bridgewater has looked eager to choose avoiding big mistakes over making big plays. That works against bad defenses. Against the decent ones lately (Jax, Dallas), the Saints have scored 12 and 13 points.
  • The Saints defense is very good. From Bobby Hebert in a WWL Radio piece: “This is winning football no matter who the quarterback is. Over the last three games, the defense is giving up an average of 13.3 points per game…They’re allowing an average of 71.3 rushing yards. And, in this day and age, for total offense, they’re giving up under 250 yards. That speaks volumes. They’re trending in the right direction at an unbelievable rate. It’s really amazing to me that they’ve shown they can win in all three phases.”
  • Deonte Harris is one of the best returners in the NFL. The Bears can’t let him flip the field and make things easier on Bridgewater and the offense.

Ditka’s is Closing (Tweets of the Week)

These are the transcribed Tweets of the legendary Jackson D, of the Q Brothers Collective. Check out his Twitter feed. It’s good.

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Saints at Bears Game Preview, Volume I: An Open Letter to Matt Nagy

| October 17th, 2019

Dear Mr. Head Coach,

Your offense sucks.

I know that’s an abrupt way to start a letter, and may discourage you from reading any further, but I’ve never been known for my subtlety. Your offense isn’t struggling. It isn’t sub-average. It just flat out sucks. It sucks in America. It sucks in England. It sucks. And being an offensive-minded head coach, that’s on you.

Your left tackle, a damn good player, looks like he belongs in the XFL.

Your most dynamic weapon, Tarik Cohen, has been useless for five weeks.

Your quarterbacks, both of them, look like they left their playbooks in the men’s toilet at Rossi’s.

But more than anything else, this entire offense

lacks coherence. If someone were to ask me right now, “What is the Bears offense” I would have no earthly idea how to answer. And I have the strange suspicion you’d stammer a bit as well.

You were brought to this organization to modernize the operation, specifically when it comes to moving the football. (Hell, we even co-authored a tee shirt proclaiming you’d do just that.) Pace and Fox built the all-world defense. You were the finishing touch on one of the most dramatic rebuilds in organization history. Year One was a massive success. You won 12 games. You won the NFC North. But the offense had very little to do with that.

Year Two was supposed to be the year the complete picture emerged. But through five games, the offense not only doesn’t look better than 2018…it looks significantly worse.

So, you know, fix it. Just fix the fucking thing. Get creative. Coach the players up. Make this unit better. You had the bye week to diagnose the ailments and this thing is quite diseased. Now load up the syringe with penicillin and jam it into your offense’s ass. No more excuses.

There are about 15 teams that can win the Super Bowl and you coach one of them. But that status currently exists despite the script you author each week. Fix it. Because while you’ve tried to absorb the blame for the struggles, you’ve yet to receive much criticism.

That won’t last much longer.

Sincerely,

Some Guy in Queens

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ATM: These Eleven Games Will Define Mitch Trubisky

| October 16th, 2019


Reality came quickly for Marcus Mariota, as the former second pick overall was benched Sunday for Ryan Tannehill. His tenure as the starting quarterback of the Tennessee Titans seems to have come to an end after four seasons and change.

Mariota’s story should serve as a warning for Mitch Trubisky who, for better of worse, has eleven games to show the Chicago Bears if he’s the quarterback of their future. If the Bears are smart, they won’t wait any longer than that, or waste any more time, to make their judgment about the most position in all of sports.

Like Trubisky, Mariota was expected to make a big leap in his third season, after throwing 26 touchdowns in his second. He was expected to become the franchise quarterback nearly everyone – which included Ryan Pace – thought he was destined to be.

But Mariota never took off. His third season was a bust with (13 TDs/15 INTs). His fourth season showed some promise (11/8), but included numerous injuries and ultimately most of his success came running the football. The most complimentary way to describe his start to 2019 was ineffective.

Perhaps Mariota will rebound, most likely somewhere else? History tells us he won’t.

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Bears at the Bye: Defense (and Specials)

| October 15th, 2019

With five games under their belt, the Bears are roughly 1/3 of the way through the season. I already checked in on the offense, so today let’s take a closer look at how the defense is doing.


No Regression

I wrote this offseason that the Bears’ defense was likely to regress a bit from their 2018 selves but still be one of the best in the NFL. So far this year, you could make the argument that this defense is better in 2019 than it was in 2018, as you can see in the table below.

The Bears are giving up fewer points and getting more sacks than they did a year ago, but the turnovers and touchdowns (the 2018 stats most likely to regress) are both down a bit, which is why their DVOA has fallen so drastically. Still, this remains one of the absolute best units in the NFL, even if they had a thoroughly disappointing showing heading into the bye week. That alone should give the Bears a chance in every game they play.


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Bears at the Bye: Offense

| October 14th, 2019

With five games under the belt, the Bears are roughly 1/3 of the way through the season. Let’s check in on how they’re doing, starting with the offense.


Explosive Plays

I wrote this offseason about the importance of explosive plays (passes of 20+ yards or runs of 15+ yards) to an offense’s overall success, finding there is a very strong correlation between explosive plays and points scored. Chicago’s offense produced explosive plays at a slightly below-average rate in 2018, and I believed they were poised to improve dramatically in that category this year, and thus improve overall as an offense.

So far, the exact opposite has happened, as you can see in the table below.

The Bears have turned into one of the least explosive offenses in the NFL. They currently have 11 explosive passes and 2 explosive runs, and their current explosive rates would have ranked 31st and 32nd of 32 NFL teams in 2018 (I didn’t have time to compile the numbers for everybody in 2019 so far).

The run game is particularly egregious, as the lowest mark in the NFL last year was 3.1%. 1.7% is not even in the same ballpark. The Bears are 20th in average yards per carry before contact and 29th in yards/carry after contact, but I’m inclined to blame the offensive line more than the runners. Most of the time first contact seems to come not from one player in space, which might give the runner a chance to break a tackle and keep going, but with multiple front 7 players hitting the RB at the same time. It’s worth noting that the Bears’ running backs haven’t been great either though; Player Profiler ranks David Montgomery 36th among running backs in juke rate (evaded/broken tackles per carry), while Tarik Cohen is 55th. In Montgomery’s defense, he is 9th in the NFL in broken tackles per carry, according to Pro Football Reference.

I wrote this offseason that getting rid of Jordan Howard would help Chicago’s run game be more explosive, but so far they’re producing explosive plays on the ground at less than half the rate they did last year. Part of the problem is that Tarik Cohen and Mitchell Trubisky – who combined for 14 explosive runs on 167 carries last year, have no explosive runs so far this year, but David Montgomery only has 1 in his 69 attempts, and that’s far worse than Howard’s rate of 1 every 25 carries last year (which was already one of the worst marks in the NFL).

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Rival Roundup: The Bears Are Good, But Must Be Better to Win the NFC North

| October 11th, 2019


We’re just over a quarter of the way through the 2019 season, and the bye week makes it the perfect time to assess where the Bears stand, both as an individual unit and in relation to the rest of the NFC North.

Rivals:

Green Bay Packers

Right now the Packers are the top team in the NFC North. They’re currently 4-1, and 2-0 in the division. Most likely they beat the Lions on Monday and become 3-0, which would be a boon to their playoff hopes. They also have the second easiest remaining schedule in the division.

Both the defense and run game have improved for the Packers, and much of the tension that hung in the air during the end of Mike McCarthy’s tenure seems to have dissipated under LaFleur (despite initial reports that he and Rodgers were clashing). Rodgers isn’t putting up his usual numbers quite yet, but as long as they’re winning, he seems perfectly content with that.

It’s early and a lot can still happen, but it’s quite possible that Week 15 in Green Bay could hold even more significance than usual in the Bears-Packers storied rivalry.

Detroit Lions

The thing about the Lions is, they’re actually kind of good. They’re also still the Lions.

They could very easily be 4-0 right now instead of 2-1-1. They blew a significant fourth quarter lead against the Arizona Cardinals in their season opener that ended in a tie, and they kept pace with Mahomes and the Chiefs right up until the very end of their Week 4 matchup.

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