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Across The Middle: Coaching Collision Course?

| September 20th, 2017

Whether this is just a rumor or if it actually happened is anybody’s guess.

The story goes that before the Bears Week 17 game in 2014, Ted Phillips and George McCaskey brought Phil Emery into the principal’s office and asked him what his plan was. Firing Marc Trestman was a no-brainer but the Bears needed to know Emery had a solid plan to replace him. Emery’s response was a guy he had worked with before: Mike Smith.

Smith had success in the past. The Falcons won at least nine games in his first five years, but they’d gone just 10-22 since then. He wasn’t sexy and wasn’t someone any other team was going to consider. Emery liked him because he knew him and he felt Smith did a good job in helping turn the Falcons around. The Bears brass never really responded to Emery. They watched the Week 17 game together and the next time they spoke was the last. Emery was fired the next morning.

If things keep going the way they’re going, Ted and George are going to have the same talk with Ryan Pace. And, like Emery, there’s a good chance Pace is going to be able to mention a familiar name. Only this time, that name will have a Super Bowl ring.

But is Sean Payton the answer?

I know some fans are excited about the possibility of Payton coming to the Bears. I’ve also heard that Payton would have an interest in the opening because of his familiarity with Pace and affinity for Mitch Trubisky, who the Saints reportedly tried to trade up to the second overall pick to get. But since winning the Super Bowl in 2009, the Saints have had just three winning seasons and have suffered three straight 7-9 campaigns. He just might be Jeff Fisher 2.0.

I’ll concede Payton as an offensive genius, even though I think working with Drew Brees is a large part of the reason why he has that reputation. But the guy just can’t get the defense right. He has a reputation as someone who meddles with his assistants, particularly his defensive coordinators. Do you think Vic Fangio is going to stay and work for a guy who wants to tell him how to call a defense? If the Bears lose Fangio, they’d have a hard time replacing him under Payton, who is as bad as hiring defensive coaches as Lovie Smith was at hiring offensive coaches.

But I couldn’t blame Pace if he went with Payton. If Pace is given the chance to hire the team’s next coach, he has to be positive that he’s hiring the right guy. I’m sure Payton would provide some comfort for him and if Pace has hit on Trubisky like we all seem to think he has, whoever the next coach is should be able to have a lot of success.

But Fox hasn’t been fired yet…

Maybe the firing seems like a formality at this point but Fox has 14 games left to save his coaching career. If it’s going to happen, it has to start this week.

The Bears aren’t going to make the playoffs, but I don’t think making the playoffs was the bar set prior to this season. They just have to improve and show they’re on the right track. The only problem to this point is that they’re still making the same mistakes they were making in Year 1 and those really should be fixed by now.

Pittsburgh is beatable. Really, they are. They’re a different team on the road and the Bears notoriously slow turf could play a big factor in slowing Antonio Brown. The Steelers barely beat the Browns in Week 1 this year and went 6-4 on the road last year with one win coming against the Browns and another against the Andrew Luckless Colts.

If the Bears drop this game, it could be just the middle of a long slide. They play in Green Bay next Thursday before hosting the Vikings, who should have Sam Bradford back on Oct. 9 and at Baltimore Oct. 15. It’s not hard to see 0-6 and 0-6 probably gets the head coach fired.

If they can win this week and win one of their next three, they follow that with consecutive winnable games against Carolina and New Orleans. Even with a split in those two games, they’d be 3-5. Three wins in the final eight (in which they have games against the 49ers and Browns) could keep Fox’s job and four would almost guarantee it.

Of course, Fox could really help himself by, you know, playing the best quarterback.

I Want Winners

Tarik Cohen probably should’ve just let that punt die and be downed. That was the smart play. But he saw an opportunity to make a play and he took a chance. It just really did not work for him at all.

Cohen ran for the ball, thinking he could get it and, if he did, he’d have a lot of room to run. He was right and it almost worked, but it didn’t. The Tampa Bay player realized what Cohen was doing and ripped the ball out of his hands. The Bucs scored a touchdown on the next play and a 10-0 hole was too much for Mike Glennon to fathom.

Still, give me the guy who wants to make a play, even if it backfires. I can live with mistakes if they’re aggressive mistakes. But maybe next time, he should pick his spot better.

Weird Numbers

Generally, I think fans will say the offense has been the problem with the Bears this season, but don’t sleep on how blah the defense has been.

According to Pro Football Reference, the Bears defense is currently 26th in terms of yards per drive allowed, and 29th in points per drive. They’re allowing opposing offenses to average 6.5 plays per drive, the sixth-worst rate in the league. What’s weird about their scoring inefficiency is that they’ve had the second-best average starting field position to work with.

The offense, meanwhile ranks in the top five in number of plays and time per drive and they’re eighth in yards per drive. Of course, the kicker is that they’re averaging just 1.33 points per drive, the eighth-worst rate in the league.

If you don’t think these numbers pass the smell test, I tend to agree with you. The offensive numbers are inflated by three drives late in the game against Tampa Bay and their last two drives against Atlanta. Outside of those, the offense has done very little.

The defensive stats are hurt by two busted coverages against Atlanta and a long field goal drive when they were already trailing 26-0.

That said, these are numbers worth keeping an eye on.

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