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ATM: Letting Sitton Go Creates An Unnecessarily Big Hole at Guard

| February 21st, 2018

Ryan Pace’s decision to decline the option on Josh Sitton needlessly creates a big hole in the middle of the Bears offense.

There’s no doubting that Sitton isn’t the player he once was, but he was still better than most other guards in 2017. He was stout against the run, held his own as a pass-blocker and — despite his age and, well, shape — his ability to get to the second level was still top of the league. Sitton is a big reason why the Bears have been among the best rushing attacks in the league the last two years.

Sitton wasn’t cheap. But he wasn’t expensive either. His salary cap hit of $8 million would’ve put him 13th among guards. If the Bears try to upgrade in free agency, they’ll almost certainly have to pay more. Sitton’s ex-teammate T.J. Lang, one of the top guards in the 2017 free agent class, signed for $28.5 million over three years; $7.5 million more than Sitton received from the Bears. Lang’s cap hit in 2017 was $10.9 million and jumps up to $11.7 million in 2019.

The Bears could look to the draft to replace Sitton. Quenton Nelson is a popular name, but using the eighth pick on him seems rich.

[Editor’s Note: It’s not!!!]

But Nelson would immediately be slated to make more than Sitton did and about as much as Long earned in his last contract. And there are other questions about Nelson’s athleticism that need answering going forward.

This draft figures to be rich at guard, and the Bears could nab a starter in the second round, but why not keep Sitton and draft a position of need there?

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Across The Middle: Bears Should Think Bigger Than Chiefs

| February 14th, 2018

When Matt Nagy was hired as Bears head coach, comparisons to Kansas City – both their talent and approach – were immediately made by fans and media alike. How would the Bears find their version of Chiefs Player X? Who would the Bears target to run Chiefs Concept Y? But the Bears should be thinking bigger — literally and figuratively.

As exciting as Kansas City’s offense was last year, they were relatively easy to defend when the field shortened and their speed became less of a factor. The result was a shockingly bad red zone team. After ranking 30th in red zone scoring % in 2016, the team only increased to 29th last year. These were the two seasons Nagy has had at least a share of the offensive coordinator tittle.

In those two years, Kansas City scored on just 43.8% of their red zone trips. And it wasn’t like they had a bad kicker — their kickers made 47-of-51 attempts from 39 yards or less. They just couldn’t get into the end zone.

Over the same stretch under Dowell Loggains, the Bears scored on 55% of their red zone attempts. While the Bears had 23 fewer trips inside the red zone, they only managed one less score.

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Across The Middle: Alshon’s Inflated Contract Could Prohibit Bears From Attacking Receiver in FA

| February 7th, 2018

Whether they did it knowingly or not, by giving Alshon Jeffery a huge extension during the season, the Philadelphia Eagles made their success model next to impossible to duplicate.

The Eagles gave Jeffery the kind of contract the Bears would not, especially coming off his shaky-at-best 2016. AJ will average $13 million per season for the next 4 years, with a total guarantee of roughly $27 million. The Eagles are the champs so every move looks golden but what they actually did was inflate the wide receiver market by paying a premier contract to a non-premier player.

The Bears have come under constant criticism for not bringing Jeffery back but:

  • He hasn’t had 1,000 yards or 10 touchdowns in a season since 2014.
  • This year he caught less than half of his targets for the Eagles.
  • After the Patriots switched Stephon Gilmore on to Jeffery in the Super Bowl, he became a ghost. It looked like it would be easy to point to Sunday and say the Bears should’ve paid him, but that game is exactly why Ryan Pace didn’t. What happened to Jeffery doesn’t happen to number one receivers and now Jeffery is paid like one.

And other receivers will want to cash in.

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Across The Middle: Vic’s Right, Bears D Needs to Be Better

| January 31st, 2018

After weeks of Chicago’s media and fans singing Vic Fangio’s praises, the re-hired defensive coordinator’s message at his re-introductory press conference was simple, clear and correct: his defenses have not been good enough.

Thanks largely to playing games against the Browns and Bengals (their averages through 12 games would’ve had them 16th in yardage and 18th in scoring), the Bears defense snuck into the top 10 in yardage and scoring bythe end of the year. It’s been a hell of a climb when you consider where they were before Fangio came to Chicago, but they’re still not good enough. While the scoring and yardage numbers are nice, the Bears were still closer to the middle of the pack in takeaways (13th), third-down defense (20th) and DVOA (14th).

Although they had injuries at the end of the year – when their defense actually climbed the rankings – there’s no reason why they shouldn’t have been better defensively.



One of the biggest problems has been the way the team has started.

In three years with Fangio, the Bears have given up scores on at least one of their first two possessions thirty times, including nine last year. While the offense was going through growing pains with a rookie quarterback and injuries at wide receiver, they were also forced to play from behind early in games. That’s a losing formula.

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Five Things The Bears Can Learn From the Eagles: Part II

| January 24th, 2018

The series continues…


3. Good Coordinators Matter

So much of the credit for the Eagles success has gone to their offensive coaching staff, but they also have one of the five best defenses in the league. A defense that harassed Case Keenum again and again. I have a strong dislike for Jim Schwartz and the constant sour puss face he has on. The guy threw a fit because Jim Harbaugh shook his hand too hard. But he built a bully defense and they are fun to watch.

Say what you will about Keenum, but the Vikings offense was legitimately good this year. And Schwartz’s defense just pushed them around.

The Bears hope they have this same formula with Vic Fangio and they may be right. Fangio built defenses that pushed good offenses around in the playoffs. The 2017 Bears defense was better than the 2016 Eagles defense so it isn’t unreasonable to think they could have a similar leap into the top five. Especially if…


2. Keep Adding Pass Rushers

The Bears had one of the best pass rushes in the league in 2017. I don’t care. Add more guys who can get the quarterback.

The Eagles didn’t need to improve their defensive line after the 2016 season because they were certainly good enough. Then they added Timmy Jernigan, Chris Long and Derek Barnett. Jernigan helped them completely shut down the Vikings run game while Long and Barnett both help create takeaways.

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Five Things The Bears Can Learn From the Eagles: Part I

| January 24th, 2018

The following is the beginning of a series breaking down what the Bears can learn from the two Super Bowl teams. Andrew will take on the Philadelphia Eagles. Emily will handle the Pats.


5. Make Sure You Have a Decent Backup QB

Nick Foles isn’t great. He probably isn’t even good; at least not good enough to be a starting quarterback in the league. But prior to Sunday’s game, he showed the ability to have some success in the NFL. That was key.

Foles was calm and able to make big throws under pressure against the Vikings. While there’s no arguing he had a lot of help (more on that later), his success shouldn’t be a complete shock because we’ve seen him play well in a similar situation. His career playoff passer rating is now 116.1 and he hasn’t thrown an interception in any of his 96 attempts.

Really, this is a lesson the Bears should already know. They have had potential Super Bowl seasons derailed by incompetent backups more than probably any other team over the last three decades. Had they had a competent backup quarterback in either 2010 or 2011, Lovie Smith might still be the coach. (I might never forgive them for allowing Todd Collins to enter the NFC Championship Game.)

What I’d look for is a player who has starting experience and has had success. You know who fits the bill land might be really interesting: Mark Sanchez.

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Across The Middle: Pace Still Has His Work Cut Out For Him

| January 17th, 2018

Matt Nagy could be the greatest offensive mind in the history of the league and even he couldn’t have succeeded with the Bears talent this season. A telling quote from Bob McGinn’s annual :All-NFC North team column, polling multiple scouts:

“Personnel people find it hard to believe what the Bears were employing with at WR after Cameron Meredith and, to a much lesser extent, Kevin White, suffered season-ending injuries early. ‘Just a bunch of names, really,’ one scout said.”

In the piece the Bears had four players  — Josh Sitton, Cody Whitehair, Kyle Long and Jordan Howard —  take first-team spots offensively. They also had five starters finish last in their positions and two more were second-to-last.

The Bears have a lot more talent on defense, where seven players finished in the top two at their positions, which is impressive with the All-Pro laden Vikings unit in the division. The Bears’ talent resulted in a top-10 finish and that group still needs help in the pass rush department.

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Across The Middle: Nagy Was Always Pace’s Guy

| January 10th, 2018


Updated 2018 Bears Coach Power Rankings

#1. Matt Nagy. He was the guy all along.

“That’s who Ryan and this organization wanted to go after. They had a plan for it, they attacked it and they did it so that’s a credit for them for doing that, they were aggressive with it, they believed it, they had conviction and let’s go.”


Yes, Nagy was talking about Ryan Pace’s pursuit of Mitch Trubisky in the quote above but he might as well have been talking about his own pursuit by the Bears GM. The Bears interview schedule only made sense if they had a specific target in mind. Nagy was that target.

The alarm went off inside my head Friday night.

Why did the Bears schedule the first interview they were going to conduct last? (We already knew the Bears were going to meet with Nagy, Josh McDaniels, John DeFilippo and Pat Shurmur.)

Why did the Bears (and only the Bears) interview Vikings defensive coordinator George Edwards completely came out of the blue, when they had already reached out to but not scheduled a meeting with  Panthers DC Steve Wilks to satisfy the Rooney Rule? (They were clearly meeting with a coach who wasn’t nearly as qualified to get the league rule out of the way.)

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Wildcard Sunday Commentary: Panthers DC Wilks Deserves Consideration

| January 7th, 2018

Aaron Rodgers and the Packers were supposed to be in Carolina to run the table, but Steve Wilks and the Panthers had other ideas, knocking Rodgers around and essentially ending the Packers season.

That game gave Bears fans a lot to like when it comes to Carolina’s assistant head coach/defensive coordinator. He wasn’t scared of Rodgers. He wasn’t scared of the moment. He wasn’t just going to let the quarterback who has tormented the Bears for years come in and win. He attacked Rodgers. He hit him repeatedly, left him battered, bruised and intercepted him three times.

While he only has one season as a defensive coordinator, Wilks has been in the league for a long time and has been the assistant head coach (a move teams made to keep their coaches) for the last three seasons in which Carolina has gone 32-16.

  • As a coordinator, he brought Carolina’s defense from 26th in scoring to 11th.
  • As a defensive backs coach, Wilks has worked with guys like Charles Tillman, Nathan Vasher, Danieal Manning, Quentin Jammer, Eric Weddle, Antonio Cromartie, Josh Norman and Sean Taylor.
  • He’s been a part of several top-10 defenses, has an NFL record of 133-90-1 and coached on two Super Bowl teams.

On top of that, Wilks is considered to be a great leader and excellent communicator, arguably the two biggest qualities that make a head coach successful.

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Wildcard Saturday Commentary: Nagy Could Be Next McVay (But What About His Staff?)

| January 6th, 2018

Matt Nagy has spent his entire career with Andy Reid; not a bad guy to hitch your wagon to. Reid’s coaching tree has had prolific success, winning championships as head coaches, coordinators and position coaches. Just look at the his 2001 staff in Philadelphia:

  • Brad Childress (QB)
  • Pat Shurmur (TE)
  • Jim Johnson (DC)
  • Ron Rivera (LB)
  • Steve Spagnuolo (DB)
  • Leslie Frazier (DB)
  • Sean McDermott (ASST.)
  • John Harbaugh (ST)
  • Dave Toub (AST)

Behind every great coach there are great assistants. None of Andy Reid’s assistants rose as quickly as Nagy. But the young offensive coordinator’s lack of experience in multiple staff rooms could suggest to NFL front offices an inability to find his own assistants, keeping him from the opportunity to be a head coach.

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