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Across The Middle — Week 12

| November 23rd, 2016

matt_barkley_bears

So, now what?

Over the last two weeks the Bears have lost 10 starters to injury or suspension, including six on offense. Some of them will come back, but the starting quarterback won’t and his backup is already gone. Matt Barkley is going to make it next to impossible for the Bears to win or evaluate any of the other offensive players. So the Bears have six games left in which they can’t accomplish anything.

I know some fans are happy that the Bears will “tank” and end up with a high draft pick, but this won’t be any fun. I would love for every game to be meaningful, instead we’re wasting six weeks of our NFL fan lives, which will make the wait for next year even more excruciating.

The offseason will be interesting. Ryan Pace is going to have a high draft pick and finally the ammunition he needs to pull the trigger on “his” quarterback. This will be the guy we ultimately judge his career on.

The Bears are probably done with Cutler. Pace will probably try to trade him, but the market for a 34-year-old quarterback who was injured twice the previous season. Some have suggested the Bears will make a move for Tony Romo, but I’m not sure Jerry Jones is going to let him go and his salary cap hit, combined with his injury history, would be too much to take on in a trade. My guess is the Bears will open training camp with Brian Hoyer battling a first-round pick, but it’ll be interesting to see how it plays out.

Who coaches the new quarterback is another interesting thought. We really can’t judge John Fox’s win-loss record based on this season. But does it pay to spend a highs draft pick on a quarterback only to have them coached by Fox and whoever his offensive coordinator is?

If they move on from Fox, do they also move on from Vic Fangio? One has to wonder if Pace regrets not hiring Adam Gase as his head coach two years ago because Gase was planning on teaming with Fangio. He’d have long-term answers on both sides of the ball instead of the two question marks he’s currently looking at.

Those are all things to look at in the future. For now, however, we don’t have much. My hope was that we’d get the second half of the season to evaluate Cutler and Fox with a healthy roster. At the very least, that would be interesting. But that didn’t happen. Now, we really can’t evaluate either or anybody else on the offense.

So, we have six games. Six games in which we can kind of evaluate the defense — which will be difficult as they get no help from the offense — and nothing else.

Fox’s Job Saver?

I don’t think Dowell Loggains has done a bad job, but the Bears aren’t scoring points and, if Fox, wants to make sure he can keep his job, he needs to make sure his teams can field an acceptable offense.

Enter Norv Turner?

I don’t think anybody doubts that Fox can build a Super Bowl-caliber defense. Or that the Bears are well on their way to building that. In 12 Peyton Manning-less years, however. Fox’s teams have finished outside the top 20 in points scored eight times. Turner’s teams have done so just five times in 25 years.

I think Fox keeps his job regardless, but Pace has to at least be asking if he can trust him to build an offense around a young quarterback. On the surface, there is no real connection between Fox and Turner, but they competed against one another for years. Turner is out of a job and Fox will be soon if his team doesn’t start scoring points.

Not To Get Ahead of Myself But…

I haven’t really done much research on the quarterbacks in the draft yet because there really is no point until the players declare, but I have seen all of them play at least a little bit.

When we hit draft season, I’ll be dig more into each prospect, but right now I have a hard time getting over DeShaun Watson’s experience, especially in big games. DeShone Kizer has the highest ceiling — and would be perfect for Norv Turner’s offense — but he’s incredibly raw. I’d be nervous about Mitch Trubisky’s lack of experience. Brad Kaaya is a name that has been linked to the Bears, his arm is stronger than some say, but he doesn’t step into his throws.

The evaluation process will last right up until the draft, but we know the Bears have already taken a close look at all of them.

Charting The Bears

• Entering last week’s game, I had the Bears with seven dropped passes on the season, a mark they equaled against the Giants. Jordan Howard led the way with four drops, a couple of them would’ve been difficult catches, but ones you expect him to make.

• If Cutler hits free agency, this game is one he should use to highlight what he can bring to a team. He threw a number of darts and made plays after the pocket broke down. The question is if he can succeed without chaos, nobody knows the answer to that, but the right team will help him be successful.

• You can’t talk trash then not show up like Pernell McPhee did. He had one QB disruption and it came late in the game when Eli Manning basically ran right into him. The Bears pass rush wasn’t as bad as it was sold to be, but neither McPhee nor Willie Young did much of anything. Instead it was Lenny Floyd leading the charge with 4.5 disruptions.

Bring On The Titans

I have to admit that I have a soft spot for the Titans and I always have.

While the Bears stunk in the late-90s and early-2000s, I admired how the Titans went about their business with Air McNair, Eddie George and Jevon Kearse. They stunk for a long time after that, but in recent years they’ve added a few of my draft crushes and the arrow is pointing up.

I’m a huge fan of Marcus Mariota, who has accounted for 25 touchdowns in his second season. As DBB readers should know, I was also a huge fan of Derrick Henry and Jack Conklin before the draft last year.  The Titans also have a couple former Bears who I liked in David Bass and Marc Mariani. Hell, I’m even a fan of Mike Mularky — as a coordinator, not so much as a head coach.

Tennessee’s defense stinks, but that won’t matter against Matt Barkley and company. If the Bears were even remotely healthy, or even if they just had Cutler, they’d have a chance in this game. Without that, however, I don’t see it.

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