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Dannehy: Bears Process Nets Ryan Poles, Their Top Candidate

| January 25th, 2022

While the process the Chicago Bears used to find their next general manager was criticized locally, the results gave them perhaps the top candidate on the market in Ryan Poles.

Every team seems to look for something different when it comes to GMs, so the fact that Poles was a finalist for three different jobs in the same offseason is somewhat incredible. While the Giants seemed to have pinpointed Buffalo’s Joe Schoen from the start, Poles still managed to earn a second interview there. Minnesota cast a fairly wide net and Poles was thought to be the favorite until the Bears scooped him up. (Poles was also a finalist with the Carolina Panthers last offseason, with owner David Tepper always seeming to want to create some buzz.)

And then there’s the Bears.


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The process included at least 15 interviews and an unknown number of feelers. The team owned by geriatrics used technology to move through the process and came away with the same conclusion as the aforementioned clubs: Poles is a stud.

Now Poles has to make possibly his most important decision. He has to hire a head coach. He’ll have to consider how to get the most out of a young quarterback, while also being sure he has someone who commands respect in the locker room. We will see what happens in the coming days.

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Dannehy: With Brian Flores, the Bears Would Know What They’re Getting on Defense

| January 19th, 2022


If the Chicago Bears tap Brian Flores to be the team’s next head coach, you can bet they’re going to have an aggressive defense that takes the ball away and hits the opponent in the mouth.

Flores has become a hot name after two separate reports indicated he is a strong candidate for the Bears. On Monday, ESPN’s Jeff Darlington said “Bears execs were extremely impressed with Flores” during joint practices last summer. That same day, Charles Robinson of Yahoo Sports said on the Brother from Another Mother podcast that the Bears were “very, very smitten” with Flores.

[Editor’s Note: George McCaskey and Ted Phillips were not on the field for these joint practices. But clearly someone wanted this report out there.]

There is something comforting about knowing what you’ll get when you make a hire. We know what Flores will bring because we’ve seen it. The Dolphins blitzed at the second-highest rate in the league in 2021, they were eighth in takeaways, a year after leading the league, and 10th in DVOA. Flores got the Dolphins job after being the play-caller for a Patriots defense that allowed just three points in the Super Bowl. The question when hiring a head coach is always if their success as a coordinator will translate, and with Flores the answer was clearly yes.

While he might take a year to get the personnel he wants on defense, we know Flores won’t stand for a team having the worst passer rating allowed, like the 2021 Bears did. And you can be damn sure he won’t let a quarterback talk about “owning” his team.

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Dannehy: No Sure Strategy for Finding Next Great Head Coach

| January 12th, 2022


Everyone has their preferred qualifications for the next Chicago Bears head coach. In a way, they are all correct. Or all wrong.

No Surefire Resume

There are 11 coaches who have been in the league for more than three years and won 60% of their games. Of those, five were defensive coaches. If you stretch the list to include Pete Carroll – currently at 59.3%, with a Super Bowl ring – it’s an even six offensive and six defensive coaches. So, while fans tend to focus on one side of the ball or the other, history doesn’t seem to prefer either when it comes to sustained success.

What’s maybe more interesting is that their coordinator experience isn’t all that relevant.

  • Five of the coaches were coordinators for at least five years. All of them had success, though they weren’t successful every year. (Bruce Arians had some awful offenses in Cleveland, so did Mike McCarthy in San Francisco. Sean McDermott was fired as defensive coordinator in Philadelphia.)
  • Sean Payton was only a coordinator for three years, but he was stripped of play-calling duties by Jim Fassel early on and wasn’t a regular play caller again until he got to New Orleans.
  • Mike Tomlin and Mike Vrabel were only coordinators for one year. Tomlin was good, Vrabel wasn’t.
  • Matt LaFleur only called plays for one season, having one of the ten worst offenses in the league. (Are we sure LaFleur is good and isn’t just being carried by Aaron Rodgers?).
  • Andy Reid was never a coordinator at all.
  • John Harbaugh coached special teams.

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Dannehy: Sean Payton Should Be the Primary Target

| January 5th, 2022


The goal for the Chicago Bears and George McCaskey should be clear: pry Sean Payton away from the New Orleans Saints. The reasons why are fairly obvious.

He has been one of the most successful coaches in the league over the past 15 years, with an offense that perfectly fits Justin Fields. (Payton is known for “four verts”, which is designed to stretch the field. He is also known to want a mobile quarterback. There is no better fit for what he wants than Fields.) He wins in a variety of different ways, adjusting his offense to the talent he has, and managing to achieve similar results. He is a great offensive coach. The entire league knows that. The Bears know that. But how could the Bears get the Saints to agree?

The reasons for Payton to leave are there. The Saints don’t have a quarterback or really the means to acquire one. The Saints are projected to be nearly $62 million over the salary cap in 2022, and while GM Mickey Loomis has long been able to negotiate the cap, the likely outcome is going to include letting some good players go. (Keep in mind that that cap number doesn’t include a new contract for Terron Armstead who is set to be a free agent and could net an annual salary topping $20 million.)

If any team can navigate that cap mess, it’s the Saints, but the other factor is their age. Even if they bring Armstead back, he’s 30 years old. Cam Jordan is 32, Taysom Hill, 31; Ryan Ramczyk and Michael Thomas are both 28. They are a top-heavy team with a lot of veterans making big bucks. Their entire roster is going to need rebuilding in the near future and, at 58 years old, Payton may not want to endure that experience.

And they still have to find a way to get a quarterback! Perhaps they can swing a trade for Russ Wilson, Deshaun Watson or Aaron Rodgers, but it would gut the draft picks they need to replace the veteran players already mentioned.

There is no easy fix for the Saints.

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Dannehy: Structure Change Should Give Coach More Power

| December 29th, 2021


The Chicago Bears should change the way their football operations are structured, but not in the way many fans are clamoring for. The President of Football Operations many seek, a position that does not include the duties of General Manager, is historically flawed. Many organizations with non-football people owners have tried it and it has universally failed. The failure is often quite embarrassing.

But what has proven to work around the league and is a direction the Bears have leaned in recent years, is making the next head coach the leading football voice in the organization.

That’s the way several successful teams have operated including Seattle, New Orleans, Kansas City, San Francisco, New England and Buffalo. Green Bay has the head coach on equal footing as the general manager, Mike McCarthy answers directly to ownership in Dallas and you can bet that if the head coaches of the LA Rams or Tampa Bay Bucs said, “it’s me or him,” those owners would pick the coaches over the GMs.

The Bears have come close to executing this arrangement in the past.

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Dannehy: Despite Rampant Criticism, Cole Kmet on Schedule to Be a Productive Tight End

| December 22nd, 2021


It’s weird to hear a second-year player, in his very early 20s, criticized the way Cole Kmet is criticized. But perhaps we should expect nothing less from a passionate, if sometimes over-emotional fan base.

Kmet is putting together a fine season for the Bears. With three games left, he has 49 catches, averaging 10 yards per catch. Those numbers put him firmly in the top-15 in the league. Oh, and he’s a good blocker to boot. Yet, every game, there are Bears fans calling him some combination of a bust or wasted pick. It truly is weird.

What most fans seem to have lost sight of is that tight end is a grown man’s position, especially those who play in-line, like Kmet does. If you look throughout the history of the league, it is rare to find a young tight end who has produced like Kmet at only 22 years old. Of the tight ends with more catches than Kmet, only one is younger than 24 – that’s phenom Kyle Pitts, who really is more of a wide receiver at this point.

Even freaks of nature like George Kittle and Travis Kelce didn’t break out until well past their 22nd birthdays. In fact, both were not producing much in college when they were Kmet’s age. Kittle had 20 catches at Iowa and Kelce had 13 at Cincinnati.

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Dannehy: Bears Offense Closer Than You Think

| December 15th, 2021

Stop if you’ve heard this before, but the Chicago Bears are good quarterback play away from having a really good offense.

As thoughts of sweeping changes in Halas Hall flood the minds of Chicago Bears fans, the reality is that the offense isn’t as far away from being good as most think. The season totals probably aren’t even as dreadful as they look; they’d be 22nd in yards per game without their 47-yard performance. That game was a part of a five-week clunk fest in which the Bears didn’t do a heck of a lot well on offense.

But we have seen some considerable progress since.

In Fields’ last four games, the Bears have averaged 36.4 yards per drive. That mark would be tied for the sixth-best in the entire league. They have also averaged two points per drive, a mark that would be tied for 20th.

Not great, but certainly not as awful as some have reported.

There’s more to this though, with Andy Dalton at quarterback, the Bears have averaged 40.6 yards per drive — a mark that would be the best in the league — and 1.98 points per drive, 21st. Since Halloween, the Bears offense is 16th in EPA per play.

What this tells us is that when the Bears have had adequate quarterback and offensive line play — which they mostly have since Halloween — they’ve moved the ball. But the quarterbacks need to take better care of the football if the team is going to score more points.

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Dannehy: After Sunday Night’s Loss, Matt Nagy Should Be Handed His Walking Papers

| December 8th, 2021

If the Chicago Bears lose to the Green Bay Packers on Sunday night, it should be the last game Matt Nagy coaches.

It was worth seeing if Nagy could mount a charge down the stretch and the Bears had a decent game plan against Arizona. They might have won the ballgame if not for a shocking number of dropped passes and horrendous interceptions. But they didn’t win and, after yet another press conference about “finding out the whys”, it’s clear Nagy will never discover the answers.

The Bears are going to lose to the Packers this week and that loss will eliminate them from playoff contention. There’s a good chance it will be embarrassing, but that’s become a minor consideration when deciding when to fire Nagy. The more important point is about timing.

The team has a short trip home and with the next game being on Monday Night Football, Chris Tabor will have the extra day to settle into the role of head coach. They won’t want to do it after the Minnesota game because it will be a short week. The following week will also be shorter than usual as they play in Seattle on Sunday afternoon. (Besides, the Bears might win that game and they won’t want to make the move right after a win.)

Given the rule change that allows teams to interview coaches over the final two weeks of the regular season, it would be irresponsible for the Bears to wait any longer. There is already one team that will be champing at the bit to interview potential new coaches. By the start of Week 17, there could be several more.

If the Bears intend on taking a look at college coaches, they could do so immediately after Nagy is fired.

While Jim Harbaugh would surely wait until after Michigan’s season is over, Ohio State’s Ryan Day or Northwestern’s Pat Fitzgerald might be more willing to jump to the pros immediately, considering they are not competing for a national title. Even if Harbaugh wants to wait to announce his departure, the Bears could still feel out his interest.

In two weeks, they could turn their attention to NFL assistants. Theoretically, the Bears could have their new coach picked out before the regular season even ends.

There could be hold-ups since NFL teams have to grant permission before the Bears interview any assistants. Considering this is the first year with the new rule, there’s no way of really knowing if teams will actually allow assistants to look at other jobs during the course of the regular season.

If reports that the Bears are already doing background checks on other coaches are true and Nagy’s last-ditch efforts to save his job have fallen flat, the Bears need to move on to the next chapter. The importance of doing so can’t be overstated.

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Dannehy: Nagy Deserves Chance to Fight for Job

| December 1st, 2021

While “Fire Nagy” chants fill even the smallest stadiums in Illinois, the Chicago Bears are doing the right thing by giving their coach at least a chance to fight for his job. Had the Bears lost to the Detroit Lions, that story would be different.

Perhaps it can be argued that a last-second win over the worst team in the league shouldn’t matter, but keep in mind that the Ravens, Browns and Vikings were also taken to the wire by Detroit, with several of them deserving to lose. There’s no such thing as a bad win, especially when draft status is not impacted.

Thanksgiving’s victory isn’t likely going to mean anything, but giving Nagy a chance to dig out of this hole will surely look good to candidates interested being his replacement. (Firing Nagy mid-season, a year after making the playoffs, might turn off some candidates.) Since there would be no actual benefit to firing Nagy right now, why risk eliminating any potential replacements? Especially considering the most interesting rumor involves one of Nagy’s good friends, Ryan Day. While the Bears being “in the hunt” is a punch line today, it might not be a week from now.

Sunday, the Bears face a team from the southwest, at noon, on what is expected to be a cold and rainy day. Nobody likes the term “Bear weather,” but there have been plenty of warm-weather teams who have struggled to deal with it over the years. The Cardinals are very good, but they’re young, wounded and have their own coaching distraction to worry about. Likely working for a contract extension, Kliff Kingsbury didn’t even shoot down the rumors about Oklahoma.

The Cardinals have a top-10 offense and defense, but if ever there was a chance for a massive upset, this is it.

It’s likely going to take nine wins to make the playoffs, and if the Bears win Sunday that won’t be as far-fetched as many believe, especially if the team can get back to running the ball and playing defense like they did earlier in the year. (They’ll also need their young quarterback to replicate his Pittsburgh performance a few times down the stretch.)

The most likely scenario is a loss for the Bears — probably even an ugly one. That coupled with a sure loss to Green Bay next week will seal Nagy’s fate. The Bears will be out of the playoff hunt and can move on from Nagy with time to interview coaches before the end of the season, thanks to a recent rule change.

Fans can hate Nagy all they want, but those looking at the job from a distance will look positively on two playoff appearances in two years. They may see things they think they could do better, but nobody will paint the picture fans have of Nagy matching the incompetence of John Fox and Marc Trestman. They’ll see a coach who made the playoffs with horrible quarterback play and they’ll know how difficult that is to accomplish. They also know what all coaches know: If you don’t win enough, you won’t have a job for long.

Nagy is still a winning coach and has dug out of holes before. The Bears have nothing to lose by giving him the opportunity to do so again.

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Dannehy: With Nagy’s Tenure on Life Support, His Possible Successors Come into Focus

| November 17th, 2021

Under Matt Nagy, the Chicago Bears have been notoriously horrendous after the bye week. They are 0-3, with two of those losses against backup quarterbacks, and two of the three being complete blowouts. Another woeful showing this week would take place in front of his potential replacement: Baltimore offensive coordinator Greg Roman.

Nagy is done. At least, that’s what NFL Insider Benjamin Allbright has reported, stating the Bears have already begun doing background checks on other coaches, mentioning Vance Joseph and Brian Daboll specifically.

Sunday’s matchup with Baltimore brings an interesting option to Soldier Field in Roman. Baltimore’s offense isn’t lighting up the league, but they sit a respectable 12th in scoring and second in yardage, despite numerous injuries. A major reason for that is Lamar Jackson’s ability to do everything on the field and it is easy to see how Justin Fields could fit in an offense that maximizes a quarterback’s mobility as well as his ability to throw the ball down the field.

What makes Roman more interesting, though, is that he isn’t just reliant on Jackson being an MVP. He brings a unique and exotic running scheme that has had his team leading the league in rushing each of the last five years he has been an offensive coordinator. His teams have never finished lower than eighth in rushing and have been inside the top five in yards per attempt seven times in nine seasons.

Roman has been in the NFL a long time, coming in under Dom Capers in Carolina. If available, Vic Fangio figures to be his top candidate as defensive coordinator, as the two were together in Carolina, Houston, Baltimore and San Francisco.

But do you really want Fields taking so many hits? While Jackson has proven to be excellent at avoiding big shots, Fields has been just the opposite. He takes a big hit every week. It isn’t hard to see why this kind of offense isn’t preferred when the top priority is protecting a young quarterback.

But Roman isn’t the only strong candidate who figures to be available for the Bears in this cycle, here’s a quick look at some of the others, in no particular order:

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Brian Daboll, OC, Buffalo

The emergence of Josh Allen has made Daboll a hot name — Allbright said he is the top candidate for the Bears job — but it’s worth wondering who deserves credit for Buffalo’s success.

Before Allen became an MVP candidate, Daboll only once coached an offense that finished outside the bottom-10 in scoring. They have regularly been near the bottom of the league in turnovers and, of course, his teams haven’t won much as he was a part of three coaching staffs that were fired  — largely because they couldn’t score.

Many want to fire Nagy because of his work with Justin Fields, but Daboll’s offense had almost identical production with Josh Allen as a rookie.

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Vance Joseph, DC, Arizona

Much of the credit for Arizona’s success this year has gone to Kliff Kingsbury and Kyler Murray, but Joseph has quietly coordinated a top-five defense.

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