ATM: Fields & Mahomes Situations Not Comparable

| June 15th, 2021

As tempting as it may be, Chicago Bears fans should resist comparing the team’s current situation at quarterback with past examples from around the league, especially what transpired in Kansas City with Patrick Mahomes. Justin Fields is neither Mahomes, nor Mitch Trubisky. Andy Dalton neither Alex Smith, nor Mike Glennon. The situations are simply not comparable.

First, the veterans.

When Mahomes was drafted Smith had been the starting quarterback in KC for four years, leading the team to the playoffs three times. He had the locker room’s respect and knew the playbook cold. The Chiefs were HIS team, and he’d earned that. But Smith had physical limitations. Hence, Mahomes was drafted.

Glennon came to the Bears with 30 career touchdown passes to 15 interceptions. He had a career rating of 84.6 in 18 starts. He was no Smith. Dalton is more Smith, coming to Chicago with 142 starts under his belt and leading numerous playoff teams. Dalton, like Smith, has success when everything around him is perfect. But their situations are completely different. The Bears are not Dalton’s team. He’s been slightly longer than his surefire replacement, Justin Fields.

Then there are the contracts.

The Chiefs hoped Smith would play well and they could trade him for draft capital. It worked.

The Bears had hoped the same for Glennon. It did not.

No matter what Dalton does in 2021, he will be a free agent in 2022. (The Bears could, in theory, tag and trade him if he balls out, but let’s not cross that bridge until it comes.) There was significant prospective value in playing Smith and Glennon. There is little-to-none when it comes to Dalton.

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ATM: In Case It Doesn’t Work Out At Head Coach

| June 10th, 2021

Matt Nagy enters the 2021 season with a 28-20 record and two playoff appearances in three years, but his job very much could – and certainly should – be on the line. While there is a lot of good that Nagy brings to the Bears, his inability to field even an adequate offense is puzzling. Because even when they don’t have good quarterbacks, good offensive minds typically find a way to move the ball. The Bears have been in the bottom 12 in yardage all three seasons and the bottom six in net yards per passing attempt the last two years.

Maybe it’s Mitch’s fault. Maybe they need better offensive line play. Maybe it’s both. (It probably is.) But the truth is this: the Bears need to score points.

If the Bears do replace him, and this unlikely with his hand-selected rookie QB, I’d look for an offensive mind to pair with that QB. I put priority on coaches who not only call plays, but have designed offenses. Here is a short list of coaches who could get the job:

10. Shane Steichen, Eagles Offensive Coordinator

The offensive coordinator for a team that had a rookie quarterback (Justin Herbert) throw 31 touchdown passes would typically be a hot commodity. But Anthony Lynn was such a bad head coach, nobody cared to look at his assistants. When Steichen replaced Ken Whisenhunt during the 2019 season, the improvement was immediate.

9. Nathaniel Hackett, Packers Offensive Coordinator

Forget what he has done with the Packers, Hackett had a top-five scoring offense with Blake Bortles. He was fired the next year because a scapegoat was needed after the Jaguars couldn’t repeat that success, but he quickly signed on with the Packers, learning a different offense under Matt LaFleur.

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Tribune Sinks Deeper Into Irrelevance with OTA Coverage.

| June 4th, 2021

If ever wondered how the Chicago Tribune dropped to the worst coverage of the Chicago Bears in town, their reaction to the team’s first open Organized Team Activity is the answer.

If fans cared about anything from that practice it was the performance of Justin Fields vs. Andy Dalton. The Tribune‘s writers knew that, which is why they titled their 16-minute recap video “Justin Fields vs. Andy Dalton”. Then they spent the first six minutes spewing hot garbage about defensive players not showing up to the OTA practice. So much of what was said was complete and utter garbage, it’s hard to know where to start, but when they determined that this was evidence of some sort of horrendous team culture, it just was too much.

Early in the discussion, Dan Wiederer said the players not being there was “obviously an NFLPA-driven pushback on the addition of the 17th game on the schedule.”

Both noted that the Bears have typically had close to 100% attendance, but then Wiederer went into one of the worst rants you’ll ever hear.

“I just have a difficult time buying in to the notion that this is an organization filled with championship culture when the trophy case is void of championship trophies and there aren’t enough guys out there to justify this talk of championship-winning culture,” Wiederer said. “They can change our minds over time. But look, you are a football team that went 8-8 over the last two years.”

This would be the place for the facepalm emoji.

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ATM: In Case It Doesn’t Work Out at GM: Part I

| June 2nd, 2021

The mood around the Chicago Bears has completely flipped since draft night, but we all know it can flip back rather quickly when the games begin. While it is common to say that drafting a quarterback gives a regime more time, recent history suggests that is no longer true. The Bears still need to show they’re heading in the right direction if Ryan Pace and Matt Nagy are going to keep their jobs.

As of last week, Nagy still had the third-highest odds of not only being fired, but being the first coach fired. It is possible that Nagy would be fired and Pace would retain his job. (The LA Chargers have allowed Tom Telesco to hire his third coach and Rick Spielman is on his third with the Vikings. One drafted what seems like a star QB. The other gave a mediocrity millions.) But there has been some indication that Pace is no longer the top guy in the organization, with the Fields pick seeming to belong to Nagy. If you listen to Louis Riddick – and there is reason to do so – the coach and GM are at least on the same footing. That almost certainly means that if one is fired, they both are.

I’ve already written about replacing Pace but that was a lifetime ago. At that point, the primary focus was finding a quarterback. Assuming they have, the focus now shifts to building around Fields and learning to adjust.

With that, here are a ten of the top candidates to replace Pace should the Bears go that route. You’ll get five today. Five tomorrow. If you have better options, share them in the comments section below. 

Adam Peters, 49ers Assistant GM

Peters has been a top guy for three teams that have played in the Super Bowl; two in Denver and one in San Francisco. He was also an assistant with two Super Bowl champions in New England. At a certain point, you can’t ignore it when success follows someone.

What we saw in Denver and San Francisco were systems that put the quarterback in position to succeed. In Chicago he could have a franchise quarterback which would make life that much easier.

He’d likely want to bring in a coach from the Shanahan tree, since that’s where he has had success. If that’s true, we could see Mike McDaniel or Mike LaFleur be candidates.

Ed Dodds, Colts Assistant GM

Dodds might really be the brains behind the Colts operation and there’s reason to believe he was for the Seahawks previously. Perhaps the best help the Bears could give a true franchise quarterback is an elite defense and Dodds has done that in two separate spots.

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ATM: Fields Should Have To Earn Starting Job

| May 25th, 2021

While many fans don’t want to hear it, Matt Nagy’s response when questioned on if Justin Fields could win the starting quarterback position in training camp was spot on. Nagy was asked by ESPN 1000s David Kaplan if Fields could win the job with an exceptional training camp performance and Nagy responded by pointing out that Andy Dalton is also competing for the same position.

It’s reasonable, beyond reasonable, to say Fields should have to be the better quarterback to win the starting job and it’s certainly possible that is exactly what will happen. The Bears certainly aren’t ruling that out publicly, which might tell you what their expectations are privately. But Fields should still have to earn the job.

The Patrick Mahomes Example has been brought up numerous times because Nagy was in Kansas City when Mahomes wasn’t able to wrestle the starting job away from Alex Smith. While unlikely, it isn’t out of the realm of possibility that Dalton has a season similar to Smith’s, and we’ve never seen a rookie match that level of success.

Dalton is pretty close to what Smith was prior to the 2017 season. Smith has a slight statistical edge, but that can be explained by the supporting cast with which each had played. Smith wasn’t the 2017 version of himself until that year and it had been six years since he had a passer rating above 100. (This is somewhat ironic because Dalton had a passer rating of 106.2 six years ago.)

Cincinnati became a bad situation quickly for Dalton and, like Smith, he’s not the kind who can make chicken salad out of chicken shit. Dalton performed reasonably well for the Cowboys last year despite playing behind a horrendous offensive line. We saw Smith drop back down to earth right after he left KC.

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ATM: Castillo’s Nasty Mothers.

| May 19th, 2021

The Chicago Bears offensive line approach has changed drastically under Juan Castillo, as we’ve seen the team go from smaller linemen to a bunch of nasty motherfuckers.

That line, of course, comes from 2021 second-round pick Teven Jenkins, who described himself as a “tough, physical, nasty motherfucker” when meeting the media before the draft. (Picking Jenkins is just one example of the Bears identifying a need to add toughness up front.)

Even Ryan Pace’s best offensive line pick, Cody Whitehair, entered the NFL as a player who needed to get stronger. As good as Whitehair was at Kansas State, there was some questioning if he had the strength to bang with the big guys in the NFL. The same is true for James Daniels, an otherwise good player, but can’t get push against strong defensive lines.

What happened to the Bears against the Indianapolis Colts last year has happened far too many times. They don’t even have a chance to run the ball because they aren’t physical enough.

Castillo is trying to change that.

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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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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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ATM: 17 Solid Options at the 20th Overall Pick

| April 27th, 2021

Even if they aren’t able to move up for a quarterback, the Chicago Bears should still get a really good player with the 20th pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.

There are 17 players the Bears should be ecstatic to get their hands on this week. On the surface, it sounds bad that there are only 17 players and the Bears have the 20th pick, but consider players at other positions will also be drafted by needy organizations. There figure to be at least a few pass rushers taken off the board, a couple off-ball linebackers and probably even a guard or defensive tackle. It’s likely the Bears will have a couple of options from this list. Of the players I listed, the lowest-ranked on the 2021 NFL Draft Consensus Big Board produced by The Athletic is 26.

Considered for this list were positions of need for the Bears. They need a quarterback. The release of Kyle Fuller made cornerback another obvious pick. But we also heard the rumors of the team going after tackle Trent Williams and receiver Kenny Golladay, so we can safely assume those are positions they will strongly consider.

Here is a quick look at the players the Bears should target:


The Quarterbacks (5)

Really, any of the five would be great. We know Trevor Lawrence and Zach Wilson will be the first two picks and a third quarterback will go third overall. If Justin Fields doesn’t go third, there is no way he will last to 20. The only real possibility at 20 would be Alabama’s Mac Jones — who would be a top-five pick in pretty much any other draft – and is still the favorite to go third to San Francisco.

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ATM: Pace Can Be Trusted When It Comes to Draft

| April 20th, 2021

Since the Bears hired Ryan Pace prior to the 2015 offseason, few teams have made fewer selections in the NFL Draft. But the Bears GM ranks among the best in the league at getting value with the pick he’s made. While misses like Mitch Trubisky, Adam Shaheen and Kevin White receive the most intention – rightfully, when it comes to the quarterback – Pace has been among the best in the league at making picks when it comes to the weighted career approximate value (CarAv). This is a metric used by Pro-Football-Reference.

Since Pace took over the team has made 39 draft picks. The only teams with fewer are Atlanta and New Orleans, while Carolina is tied. With those picks, Pace has managed a total approximate value of 407, just around the middle of the pack since 2015. The average CarAV amongst Pace’s picks is 10.4, the fourth-best average in the league.

Pace is often criticized for not valuing draft picks, but that oft-repeated notion seems unfounded.

  • Of the teams in the top 10 for average CarAV, only one, Baltimore, has used more than 45 draft picks since 2015.
  • Recent Super Bowl winners, Kansas City (42) and Tampa Bay (43), are all in the same ball park.
  • Other annual contenders like New Orleans (37), Buffalo (42) and Tennessee (44) also rank in the top 10.
  • Two other teams who are in the top 10 — Atlanta (38) and Carolina (39) — have made a Super Bowl in that span.
  • The only team in the top 10 without multiple playoff appearances since 2015 is the LA Chargers.

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