ATM: Bears, Wolf Could Be Perfect Pairing

| December 1st, 2020

The interview would be simple.

Former Packers and Browns executive Eliot Wolf, son of the famed Ron Wolf, would explain to George McCaskey one simple truth: he wants to beat the Packers as much as anyone in and around Halas Hall.

The reason Wolf isn’t already a general manager in the league is because the Packers wouldn’t let him leave. Wolf was said to be the favorite for the Detroit Lions job that ultimately went to Bob Quinn but he was never even allowed to interview for it. The Packers did let him speak with the 49ers about their GM opening, but that wasn’t a traditional GM job, as the coach they were certainly hiring — Kyle Shanahan — would have the keys to the organization. Wolf withdrew from that possibility thinking he would be next in line for the soon-to-open Packers job.

It never happened.

In fact, Ted Thompson’s position – which was held by Wolf’s father – was eliminated by Mark Murphy, the club’s financial guy. Murphy changed the organizations structure so that all football decisions would, ultimately, run through him. The job Wolf had always dreamt of having was taken away from him and Brian Gutekunst was promoted up the Packers personnel chain. Wolf wanted to pick the coach. Wolf wanted to pick the players. He didn’t want to share the GM role with the club’s salary cap manager.

Wolf was left in a limbo. He spent a season as Assistant General Manager for the Browns, barely even getting his feet wet before his boss – John Dorsey – was fired. Wolf then chose to leave Cleveland, first helping out in Seattle and then working as a consultant with the New England Patriots.

(As the Bears were picked apart by the likes of Davante Adams and Aaron Jones, it’s worth remembering that Wolf was the second-highest ranking executive when the team drafted them. As Ted Thompson’s health declined, Wolf began doing even more. He was training to be the team’s football czar without knowing that Murphy already planned that position for himself.)

There is no way that didn’t piss him off and the Bears have the opportunity to allow Wolf to show the Packers they screwed up.

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ATM: Final Six Games Will Determine Nagy’s Fate

| November 23rd, 2020

There’s no evidence that Matt Nagy can fix the Chicago Bears offense. But if he’s going to keep his job, he has no choice.

The Bears have six games against mostly bad defenses. (The Vikings are actually the best defense left on their schedule and they’re not very good.) Six games in which they have to score points. Six games in which Nagy has to show that he can do something, ANYTHING, schematically that will put the team in a position to win.

All of the arguments about a lack of talent are correct, but an offensive head coach can’t be this bad. Just can’t be. His job is to get the most out of the talent he has. That isn’t happening. The idea of hiring one of his buddies – namely Louis Riddick – to take over for Ryan Pace loses steam with every stinker Nagy’s unit puts up. Why would the Bears keep a coach who struggles so much just to get first downs, let alone actual points?

As I wrote last week, every coach needs at least some talent to succeed, but every good coach finds a way to at least do something well. Kyle Shanahan’s 49ers didn’t light the scoreboard up prior to the 2019 season, but they ran the ball and threatened defenses even with pathetic quarterback play. While yardage is generally useless when it comes to determining which teams are good, it does give you insight about which coaches are good. Shanahan has had one year in the bottom 10, Andy Reid 3 and Sean McVay zero. Nagy’s best finish was 21st.

The most important project of the 2021 offseason is going to be finding a quarterback and having a young signal caller with a lame duck head coach is nothing more than a waste of time.

The first step is immediately firing Bill Lazor from play-calling. It didn’t work and it’s pretty telling that the worst game of the Nagy era came with someone else calling the shots. If Nagy is going to get out of this season with his job, he has to be the one doing the heavy lifting.

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ATM: Offensive Ceiling is ‘Adequate’. Who Takes the Heat?

| November 11th, 2020

Whether Matt Nagy should be fired following the 2020 season is being hammered to death by fans on Twitter. The question does not come with an easy answer.

Down six offensive linemen against Tennessee, and with a quarterback requiring protection, one could argue Nagy did an adequate job on Sunday. This coming after the Saints game in which it now seems inarguable that the offense was somewhat adequate. The 2020 Chicago Bears offense is not going to be good and that is not Nagy’s sole fault. The coach just doesn’t have the horses to put a high-octane offense on the field. Adequate is the ceiling.

The Bears are 20th in the league in amount of salary cap space spent on offense. They entered last week 27th in DVOA. That’s a slight underachievement. But when you consider their most explosive player went down for the season in Week Three and their best offensive lineman was gone two weeks later, it’s more of a shoulder shrug than cause for alarm.

But it’s also evidence that Nagy certainly isn’t doing the job. The great offensive coaches elevate the talent on the roster. Does anyone on the Bears offense outplay their talent level?

A coach not putting up points without talent to work with shouldn’t be a surprise. Kyle Shanahan couldn’t do anything against Green Bay’s bad defense last Thursday night, as he was forced to shuffle his lineup. If Shanahan were in Chicago, you can bet people would be calling for his job, especially considering he is just 27-30 as a head coach. His 49ers were 27th in DVOA in 2018 and 19th in 2017. They jumped up to seventh last year.

What changed? Well, they’ve spent four top-70 picks on wide receivers and a top-10 pick at right tackle. They’ve invested a ton in the running back position and, perhaps most importantly, the offense has just been different when Jimmy Garoppolo — as average as he may be — is on the field.

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ATM: Offense is Terrible, But Did We See Signs of Improvement Sunday?

| November 4th, 2020

None of it was pretty. But 23 points and roughly 330 yards was about the best anybody could have or should have expected from the Chicago Bears offense on Sunday. That is a sad statement. But it is our current reality.

Already with a bad offensive line, the Bears got worse up front early in the game when Bobby Massie went down. His replacement, Jason Spriggs, is a backup for a reason, and a backup on this offensive is most likely a third stringer elsewhere. The Bears ended the game with an offensive line that included two UDFAs (one was a defensive lineman three years ago), a seventh-round pick turned average veteran, a second-round bust and a first-round bust. Some teams can win with a bad offensive line. A team with Nick Foles at quarterback can’t. To their credit, the Bears battled and scored 23 points against a Saints defense just hitting its stride.

The offense wasn’t good enough by NFL standards, but it could have been good enough to win Sunday. If the Bears defense plays to their potential, the same type of performance could also be good enough to win enough games down the stretch.

Could this have been a performance upon which to build?

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ATM: Don’t Let the Defense Off the Hook for Monday Night Debacle

| October 28th, 2020

Last week began with comparisons between the 2020 and 2018 Chicago Bears defenses. This week begins with us finding there is no comparison.

There are two simple truths about Monday night’s beat down:

One. The Bears couldn’t realistically expect to win by scoring just three offensive points.

Two. The Bears couldn’t realistically expect to win by allowing 24 points.

Only one offense this season has scored more than 24 points against the Rams. That came in a weird Week Three game as the then-red hot Buffalo Bills took a huge lead early. Since then, the Rams have allowed 10 or fewer points in three of four — Monday night included. (As you read that, keep in mind that the Bears haven’t held a single opponent to 10 or fewer points yet this season.)

To win on Monday night, the Bears needed the game to be a low-scoring slugfest. Their offense looked only slightly worse than we should’ve expected going against a top-five defense. The Bears defense, however, couldn’t get off the field in the first three quarters allowing drives that either resulted in scores or flipped the field, leaving the offense in an inopportune position. Five of the Bears first six drives began inside their own 20. For the game, they had eight drives start inside their own 20 and five inside the 10. Imagine how fun that is for Nick Foles when the team is asking Rashaad Coward to block Aaron Donald.

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Are There Potential OL Upgrades Available for the Bears?

| October 21st, 2020

Nick Foles, in his inspirational postgame press conference on Sunday, said, “without belief nothing is possible”. There’s truth to that. But with all due respect to Foles, belief alone isn’t going to get the Chicago Bears offense anywhere.

Foles was excited after the Bears defeated the Carolina Panthers to move to 5-1. And he should be, as another win buys the Bears more time to figure out what is hurting their offense. Foles believes they will, and he has his reasons, but six games into the season — and 38 into the Matt Nagy era — there’s little reason for anyone on the outside to believe the Bears are going to get where they need to be offensively.

There’s no reason to believe Foles’ belief is anything but blind optimism. In the same press conference he also said, “There have been teams that have been bad offensively for a very long time, we’re not one of those teams.”

But, hey, he’s new here. We’ll cut him some slack on that one.

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ATM: Next 5 Weeks Will Tell Us Who These Bears Are

| October 17th, 2020

With four wins in their first five games, the Chicago Bears did more than tread water over this initial stretch. They put themselves in good position to make a playoff run. And while beating bad teams typically doesn’t mean much, last Thursday’s win over Tampa Bay was a good sign that these Bears might not just be the best of the bad teams. They might actually be good.

The next five weeks will tell the tale.

The offense has to be better. On Friday, Matt Nagy hammered home a point about how they needed to be more detailed, but it’s unclear if he realized that he was really telling the world his offense is poorly coached. The details of a specific offense, after all, have to be taught. They’re not innately known.  The good news is that the Bears had some more time to figure it out and they’ll need it with this upcoming stretch of games.

The defense gets a pass, but shouldn’t. Playing offense is more difficult when the defense gives up early scores and puts the team in a double-digit hole before halftime. While they rank in the top ten in many statistical categories, the truth is, they should be much higher considering who they played and the injuries they’ve encountered. In every game, there has been a stretch of three or four possessions where the opposing offensive coordinator runs circles around Chuck Pagano. (Perhaps the biggest difference between Pagano and Vic Fangio is that Fangio would figure out the problem after one possession.)

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Matt Nagy’s Offense Was Not Good Enough Sunday. Will It Ever Be?

| October 6th, 2020

Matt Nagy, an offensive head coach, has had far too many postgame press conferences like Sunday, wherein he proclaimed the offense “wasn’t good enough”. No, his offense wasn’t good enough Sunday. They weren’t good enough in year one. They weren’t good enough in year two. And through four games of year three, they’re still not good enough.

The sign of a good head coach is one who has success on the side of the ball from which he came.

  • Bill Belichick always has top 10 defenses.
  • Andy Reid has only ranked outside the top 20 in scoring twice — his first and last years in Philadelphia.
  • Kyle Shanahan has had a bunch of injuries this year, but his team in 11th in yardage and 13th in points. (Shanahan’s 49ers have never ranked outside the top half of the league in yardage or in the bottom 10 in scoring.)

But after Sunday’s woeful performance, the Bears are 25th in scoring and 24th in yardage. They’re 31st in third down conversions, 25th in the red zone.

The passing game is averaging an anemic 6.4 yards per attempt while still being intercepted 3.2 percent of the time. They’re sixth in passing attempts — partially due to the fact that they fall behind every week — yet 21st in yardage. It isn’t a stretch to say they have the worst passing offense in the league.

And, hey, it’s not just that they can’t pass the ball, they’re 20th in rushing and are the only team in the league without a rushing touchdown this year.

This comes after they changed out the offensive coordinator, offensive line coach, quarterback coach and, of course, the quarterback himself.

Nagy is running out of people to blame.

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ATM: Bears Defense Must Fix Run-Stopping Issues to Meet Expectations

| September 29th, 2020

The Chicago Bear recipe for a successful 2020 season always included one absolute necessity: great defense. Three games into the season, they’ve been far from great.

The rankings? They don’t look that bad.

  • 9th in points allowed.
  • 12th in takeaways.
  • 15th in yardage.
  • Allowed the fewest passing touchdowns: 2. (two)
  • 2nd in opponent passer rating (71.4), despite playing three solid quarterbacks.

The biggest problem is the run defense, as the Bears have allowed a shocking five yards per carry and four rushing touchdowns. And numbers alone don’t tell the story.

The statistics don’t tell you about how in each of the Bears first three games, the other team was missing its best offensive player. They don’t tell you about the dropped touchdown in Detroit or the fourth down failures that allowed the Giants to get within 10 yards of a win. The numbers don’t tell you that Atlanta was without two of its top three wide receivers for the second half and went uber-conservative.

(In fairness, they also don’t tell you about the bad calls that took a pick-six away, or two very iffy roughing the passer penalties — one of which took away a strip sack. But you can bet every team has similar arguments.)

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ATM: Anthony Miller’s No-Show Sunday Proves Bears Need Allen Robinson

| September 22nd, 2020

Last week a strong argument emerged that the Bears might be better off not extending Allen Robinson’s contract, instead relying on Anthony Miller to be the team’s top wide receiver.

That argument died on Sunday.

Calling the two passes Miller didn’t catch drops is disingenuous. Both would’ve required phenomenal moments from the young receiver. But Miller has that ability! What changed from Week One when he made those plays to Week Two when he couldn’t? How can the Bears rely on him when they don’t know what they’re getting from week-to-week?

Dan Pompei was among those who promoted that idea that the Bears could have a number one receiver in Miller. Nobody questions that Miller has the talent to be The Guy, but NFL history is littered with talented wide receivers who never developed the consistency to be The Guy. See: Price, Peerless.


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