Bears Have Increased Their Talent Level. Now, Can They Stay Healthy?

| May 29th, 2018

There has been a growing feeling among local and national media alike this offseason that the Bears are a team on the rise. Several writers have pegged them as one of the most improved teams in the NFL through both the draft and free agency. Peter King recently declared they had “the best offseason of any team in football.”

It’s no secret that the writers for this site all agree the Bears are poised to make a jump in 2018 (though I have cautioned against letting expectations get too high), but today I want to address the elephant in the room: health.

To put it frankly, the Bears can’t expect to be better than the last few years unless they can find a way to stay healthier. In the last four seasons, Chicago has won 5, 6, 3, and 5 games, and in that time they have consistently been among the most injured teams in the NFL, ranking 27th, 28th, 32nd, and 31st in Football OutsidersAdjusted Games Lost (AGL) metric. This is a useful metric because it weighs starters as more valuable than backups and accounts for playing through injuries as well (click the link above for a more detailed description of how it’s calculated).

By the Numbers

In an attempt to quantify the impact injuries have on team performance, I looked at how well teams did compared to how they ranked in the AGL for that season. I looked at the last five years, giving a sample size of 160 teams, and split them into quartiles (8 teams per group per year, so 40 total). Results can be seen in the table below.

[Editor’s Note: Nope, you’re not alone. I had never heard the word “quartile” either.]

These results clearly show the importance of staying healthy.

Teams in the top half of AGL account for 2/3 of playoff teams and 70% of 10+ win teams in the last five years, while only accounting for 30% of 10+ loss seasons in the same time span. Half of teams that have average or better health make the playoffs.

There’s clearly more that goes into team success than just health, but it’s an important factor, and one the Bears have struggled mightily in over the last five years. If they want to take a step forward, they need to stay healthier.

Can it be fixed?

The good news is Ryan Pace has admitted health is a problem and taken steps to improve it.

  • He fired the Bears’ old training staff.
  • He brought in the well-regarded Jason Loscalzo to be the strength and conditioning coach, with Andre Tucker taking over as the head athletic trainer. Tucker has been a trainer in Cleveland the last 8 years, and the Browns ranked around average overall in health over the last five years (an average of 15th in AGL over that timespan).
  • If you believe health is more about players than trainers, Pace also sent frequently injured players like Pernell McPhee, Willie Young, Josh Sitton, and Jerrell Freeman packing this offseason, though frequently injured players like Kevin White, Leonard Floyd, Kyle Long, and Danny Trevathan remain on the roster.

Bears fans can only hope these moves pay off. Even a jump up to average health could have a significant impact on the Bears’ fortunes. Because no matter how much the talent level appears to have increased on Chicago’s roster, it won’t translate to the field if they remain among the most injured teams in the league.

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  • KentuckyBearsFan

    So the difference between the most healthy teams and the least healthy teams is…2 games? 9 wins vs 7 wins.

    THAT….is a league of parity.

    “I had never heard the word “quartile” either.”

    There must be an awful math geek blog out there called “Sextiles.”

    • Those two games are pivotal though. A 9 win team is a fringe playoff team, while a 7 win team is drafting near the bottom of the top 10.

  • That Guy

    I would imagine anyone who had ever taken a statistics class has heard the word quartile. And quintile, too.

    That’s OK. Playwrights don’t need stats.

    • yeah, I didn’t even think twice about using it. But not everybody has taken a stats class.

      Still, it’s kind of in the word. Quart = four or 1/4.

      That’s the case with many fancy-sounding math/science words. You can usually break it down a little bit using prefixes and figure it out. I teach my students how to do that in chemistry because there’s a lot of terminology.

      • Big Mike

        You might want to toss out your credentials there Dr. Wood.

      • KentuckyBearsFan

        That’s the sad thing. A stat class should be a requirement in high school at the latest.

        I remember being forced to take a Home Ec class in 8th grade. Class had nothing to do with the Home or Economics. Taught at a 4th grade level. Teacher was a bitch and lazy which made it worse. I think she had the equivalent of tenure for a small town school.

        • CanadaBear

          Oddly enough I took a typing class for one semester and it is probably the most useful class ever! Never had a home ec class.

          • “Modestly” Huge Bears Penis

            Never took a class dedicated strictly to typing, however there were portions of “typing” in several of the computer classes I took in high school. HATED those portions. Not because I could not type well, but because the teacher was a stickler on form and posture to me specifically. It turned out that I just happened to be a punk kid that actually knew more than the teacher on about everything she taught for the classes. Coincidentally, I also did not mind pointing out when she was wrong about something or there was an easier way of doing it. Not sure why she did not like me.

          • CanadaBear

            Guess how many computer classes there were when I was in HS? My typing teacher was harmless and it got the job done. Not that I’m a great typist but at least I don’t use the Columbus method (find it and land on it).

          • “Modestly” Huge Bears Penis

            I am guessing 0, considering you were probably still using an abacus to do math calculations.

          • CanadaBear

            Close, you bastard!!!!!!!!!!!!!

          • AlbertInTucson

            “Columbus Method”.

            I resemble that remark.

            Although it SOUNDS better than “Hunt & Peck”.

          • Irish Sweetness

            The army had internet in the late fifties, C-Bear, you were there at the start, you just didn’t know it!

          • “Modestly” Huge Bears Penis

            he was around for a lot more than that… 1st automobile, plane, radio, TV etc…

          • Johnnywad

            I’m 44 and I was required to take a typing class in 8th grade. I’d wager I’m damn near the last class to take a traditional typing class.

            Coincidentally, I bumped into that teacher about a week ago at a local bar/restaurant. She came straight to me and started talking like it was yesterday that I was in her class. Kinda strange.

        • There’s nothing wrong with not knowing quartile. I’d wager most people don’t know that stage right and stage left are, and that’s a really basic theater term.

          • KentuckyBearsFan

            I’ve only encountered those stage terms as a kid watching Snagglepuss in old Hanna-Barbera cartoons.

  • SC Dave

    You may recall that I called firing the S&C staff and trainers as one of the most significant events of the off-season.

    Let’s hope the new guys are better. It’s hard to get too much worse. In fact, given an average rank of 29.5 over the past four years, it’s easy to imagine the Bears are the worst team in the league overall.

    On the other hand, if they were counting White as a starter, I’d say the rankings were skewed to the negative.

    • There is no perfect injury metric. Losing Aaron Rodgers obviously hurts more than losing Kevin White, but how exactly do you quantify that?

      The only metrics I’ve seen are games lost or this one, which at least accounts for starters vs. backups and also accounts for players playing hurt. So regardless of whether a player plays or not, they lose a partial game for being listed as questionable, and an even bigger partial game for being listed as doubtful. Only a full game if they’re completely ruled out before game day.

      • SC Dave

        I’m was not referring to the methodology, just wondering whether the counted White as a “starter”. He has not shown enough at the NFL level to be considered a starter not playing IMO.

        • It’s based on the depth chart, not quality of the player. So White would have counted as a starter for sure the last 2 years, and probably his rookie season as well.

        • Irish Sweetness

          As far as I can see he would be the starting Z receiver. Nobody else has the size.

      • Big Mike

        Quartile, Decile, Percentile? Never heard of those? Shame…

  • CanadaBear

    I’m guessing not beating the hell out of each other in practice might help. Thanks Foxy! I think that, a lousy S&C program and Bears luck all contribute to being so beat up. Getting multiple injuries at the same position is also a killer.

  • KentuckyBearsFan

    …so the worst performing quartile would be…the Futility Quartility?

    Damn it I need coffee this morning. And maybe a lobotomy.

  • leftcoastdave

    As far as analytics go with respect to injuries, the W/L issue seems self evident. But what precedes that? What I would like to see is an analysis which factors time of possession into the injury metric. When your D is on the field and being ground down and tired, it would seem that your front 7 defenders will suffer the most. Rotation will help in that regard, but being off the field entirely is the ideal.

    Any metrics out there and is this a good article for you to consider, Data?

    • KentuckyBearsFan

      Associated Press article from 2015…this is surprising
      “Time of possession has turned into a meaningless stat”


      “The undefeated Patriots are 21st in the league in time of possession, while four of the top five teams at controlling the clock have losing records.

      The Eagles have been last in the league in time of possession since Kelly arrived in 2013. They went 10-6 in each of his first two seasons and are one win away from being in first place this year despite a 4-5 record.”

      • leftcoastdave

        Here’s the numbers with the Iggles at the top, Viqueen #3. Da Bears 28 and Cleveland 31. This chart has NE at 13, Hotlanta 14.

        I’m not so sure I’d throw it out the window.


        • It’s a correlation vs. causation thing though. Teams that win have leads late in games, when they milk the clock.

          I’ve never been convinced that time of possession shows anything. I think it’s more a product of game situation.

    • I don’t think time of possession would have much to do with it. Smart teams rotate guys through to keep them fresh.

      If I had to say that goes into injuries, I’d guess it’s a combo of luck, training staff, and the players (some guys just get hurt more than others). Bears have gotten rid of a number of chronically injured players (though several remain) and changed the training staff. Hopefully that makes a difference this year.

  • BerwynBomber

    The Rodgers injury exposes their AGL ranking, IMO. The Cheese at “only” #21 seems kinda silly given what they count on from their #1 QB. (To me only Wilson and maybe Brees are as important to their teams as Rodgers.)

    Anyway, just tough to quantify this stuff. Once you get past games loss to injuries and then break it down in terms of the available depth chart that very moment, not a lot you can do, and even there it might only tell half the story.

    Maybe if the football stat guys had a WAR type metric, it might help.

    But yeah we have had our share of bad luck.

    One interesting side note of the Football Outsiders stuff is how injury-free the Rams have been the last couple of years. Hadn’t realized that.

  • “Modestly” Huge Bears Penis
    • CanadaBear

      Sounds like Shea made the correct decision. Actually it sounds like the rest of the NFL made the decision for him (no interest).

    • AlbertInTucson

      Another shining member of the Bears “Hall Of First Round Busts”.

  • willbest

    “And anybody saying sports gambling won’t make a ton in this country is losing it. DFS sites did $3.2 billion in handle their last reported year.” – Jeff

    Sports Gambling will make a ton because people would rather spend the money on it than other vices and leisure. The question of whether governments will make a ton is open to a lot of debate. If they are just pulling money that people would spend at restaurants and bars it is unlikely to enrich the state government more than it harms the local economy.

    • AlbertInTucson

      The Feds will be lobbied hard by the gaming interests for uniform regulation so they don’t have to deal with state -to-state rules

  • AlbertInTucson

    I guess you could say Rosanne has been BARRed.


    Twitter claims yet another celebrity.

    • AlbertInTucson

      Twitter: The ticking time bomb in your pocket or on your night stand that could blow up and , figuratively, kill you.

    • Sactowns#1

      It was only a matter of time until her crazy started showing. I saw an interview with her like 2 years ago and she just seemed so out of it, like she had a mental break or something.

      • SC Dave

        Its awesome… ABC loses many millions for political correctness.

        The funniest part is Barr was not p.c. to begin with.

        Snowflakery is alive and well

        • BerwynBomber

          Disney/ABC would have lost millions in advertising, and more damaging, would have taken a major hit to their brand.

          Firing the bigoted heroine of the right is probably a smart business move in the long run. And ethically it is nearly a no-brainer.

          • AlbertInTucson

            SHE has already lost ABC the millions.

            As I mentioned, no advertisers, no show.

            ABC was just cutting it’s losses on the production side.

            Fellow cast members are the collateral damage.

          • BerwynBomber

            Wasn’t disputing that. Was only saying that if they had not acted swiftly, or even brought her back, it could have resulted in deeper, longer term damage to Disney, which owns ABC.

            Disney, I’d bet, is highly dedicated to the notion of family entertainment that is racially and ethnically inclusive.

          • AlbertInTucson

            For sure.

            I figure they could HEAR the advertisers stampeding for the exits.

            Wonder how drunk she was when she tweeted out THAT pile of doo-doo?

          • CanadaBear

            I always look at it the same way, you can say whatever you want but there are consequences.

          • willbest

            The only thing for certain is that Disney zeroed out the revenue in a half hour spot that had 20 million eyeballs. Can they fill it with something that will get the same?

      • AlbertInTucson

        She got away with mangling the National Anthem. Advertisers didn’t seem to mind that.

        Race is a whole different ballgame.

    • Irish Sweetness

      Freedom of speech … but not.

      • BerwynBomber

        Freedom of speech is not an absolute and even if it were Barr’s right has not been denied. (Far as I know she is not being jailed or prosecuted.)

        But if you publicly call a black person a baboon you’re probably gonna be fired.

        • AlbertInTucson

          Among a LONG list of things you can say to eat yourself canned in a heartbeat.

        • willbest

          Point of order. 150 people got fired today for 1 tweet

          • BerwynBomber

            Yup, her bigotry resulted in a lot of collateral damage.

          • “Modestly” Huge Bears Penis

            Not quite fired. Most people that work on those shows actually work for a production company. Yes that show is gone but they will be moved onto the next project rather quickly. Actually it is kind of a convoluted mess on how “Hollywood” handles the production of shows. Most people are contracted to Production companies, then the Production company is contracted to the Studio. The only people that are losing any money and jobs are the actors and maybe a few writers.

            FYI – I wrote the payroll software for a company that handles the Payroll for 80% of all production companies.

      • AlbertInTucson

        She’s not going to jail for what she said.

        She made her herself, and therefore her show, RADIOACTIVE for ANY potential advertisers.

        She can say what she want but sponsors can advertise where they want.

        No advertisers.

        No TV show.

        The decision to cancel easy for (and as easy AS) ABC.

        • willbest

          I might agree with you but Disney didn’t give a shit about it. They canned her before anybody could have called them.

          • AlbertInTucson

            Of COURSE they gave a shit.

            You didn’t have to be Nostradamus to see what was coming.

            The show was INSTANTANTANEOUSLY unprofitable.

            To quote from THE RIGHT STUFF:

            “No bucks, no Buck Rogers.”

          • willbest

            I think you are vastly over estimating people’s willingness to give a shit about the lives of their entertainment.

            Maybe Hollywood can learn something from the NFL. You drop an N-bomb and its 15 yards and a 15k fine, and then life moves on.

          • AlbertInTucson

            Oh, really?

            Apples and Oranges.

            Drop a few N-bombs as a team owner and see what happens.

            Barr was the equivalent of the team owner of ROSEANNE.

          • willbest

            Different rules for comedians. That is why Colbert didn’t lose his show for gay bashing, or Asian bashing, and Bill Maher is still around.

            Anyway, it took longer to fire Kevin Spacey, and that guy sexually assaulted people.

          • “Modestly” Huge Bears Penis

            willingness to give a shit about the lives of their entertainment: Charlie Sheen proves that. How much awful shit did he do before he was fired, but then he picked up a show on some cable channel.

    • willbest

      I wonder how many years her probation she gets. Mel ended up taking 5-6 years off for his drunken rant against the Jews and the battery of his mistress

      • BerwynBomber

        I have little doubt that networks or streaming services are looking for non-radioactive Roseannes that will appeal to the Trump white working class voters.

        Hollywood’s ultimate politics is, of course, money. Roseanne’s success and her apparent audience will be something they’d still like to reel back in.

        But Roseanne herself? Who knows? I think what works against her is that she has a lengthy history of bigoted comments, does she not? In other words, this ain’t a first or second mistake that you can chalk up to youthful ignorance.

        Btw, have you watched “The Ranch” on Netflix? It is aimed, I believe, at the Trump voter. As you know, those aren’t my politics, but I think it is well done, self-effacing and non-toxic. I gave it a rest in the second season because of a major plotline I wasn’t too interesting in but it is worth checking out for the conservatives who are looking for characters who share their views.

        Somewhat mindless sitcom stuff but that is all of these shows.

        • willbest

          I have not seen the ranch. Most of my tv these days is screen stuff my children watch

          • BerwynBomber

            I found it pretty funny, and I usually don’t go for sitcoms. Or hell even many dramatic shows for that matter.

        • AlbertInTucson

          CBS is bringing MURPHY BROWN back.

          Think that will appeal to “Trump Voters”?

          • willbest

            I am pretty sure trump voters are just people that don’t want sermons in their entertainment

          • AlbertInTucson

            You can bet MURPHY BROWN will mount the pulpit.

        • AlbertInTucson

          I haven’t watched a new series in ages.

          Just don’t have the time or inclination.

          Yeah, I’m sure it’s an old age thing.

          My music education is frozen, too.

          • BerwynBomber

            Well in regard to TV show watching I mostly checked out in my late teens/early twenties. Showing my age here, but there was the occasional Cheers, Frasier, St. Elsewhere or LA Law but that was about it.

            I’m mostly a sports and politics/news watcher when it comes to TV.

            But I have Netflix and Amazon Prime and I do enjoy binge-watching if something appeals.

            There is some good stuff out there today that I think you would like — Mindhunter and the Americans are two excellent shows, IMO (though the latter is wrapping up — no spoilers please). And you could even delve into some superb stuff you have missed in recent decades. I’d recommend The Sopranos as one you might like.

    • AlbertInTucson

      Her agency has dumped her, as well.

  • AlbertInTucson

    “The Intercept’s Shaun King reported Sunday that some NFL players are considering sitting out until free-agent quarterback Colin Kaepernick and free-agent safety Eric Reid sign with new teams, . According to King, those throwing around the idea are hoping to get engagement from 25 percent of their fellow players across the league.”

    I find this “report” laughable.

    Like. they’re all gonna just walk away from Millions of dollars.

    Sorry, Shaun, I notice you have no names to share so I have to believe you just made it all up in a desperate attempt to be perceived as relevant now that you no longer have the NY Daily News as a platform.

  • Irish Sweetness

    Poem for today:

    They Are Not Long – Ernest Dowson

    They are not long, the weeping and the laughter,
    Love and desire and hate;
    I think they have no portion in us after
    We pass the gate.

    They are not long, the days of wine and roses,
    Out of a misty dream
    Our path emerges for a while, then closes
    Within a dream.

  • ButtonShoes

    Ryan Pace has been admitting that health is a problem his entire time here. Every year he says he’ll fix it. Every year he doesn’t. I see no reason to believe him or that he will until we see actual evidence of the team’s health improving.

  • Irish Sweetness

    99 days.

    • willbest

      Red balloons?

    • BerwynBomber

      My countdown is to the start of camp, which is less than two months away.

      Jeff historically dismisses pre-season (though seemed to make exception last year for Bisky) but I find it semi-valuable as a fan, if only to get a glimpse of the new guys or see who might make the 53. Plus it gets the blood flowing for the regular season.

      • willbest

        Yes the preseason is meaningless unless the QB I want to start isn’t the starter exception

  • AlbertInTucson
    • willbest

      I still want to know how many accidents per miles driven. You can go into traffic court tomorrow and 3 people will be there for hitting non moving objects

      • KentuckyBearsFan

        At least two of those people were playing Pokemon Go while driving.

        And at least one of those people hit the right object.

  • “Modestly” Huge Bears Penis

    I am kind of disappointed. OTAs started and we have not heard from anyone about how they are in the best shape of their lives. What a bunch of slackers!

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