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

| June 3rd, 2021

Yesterday I profiled five candidates to replace Ryan Pace, should this season not work out. Today, five more.

Joe Hortiz, Ravens Director of College Scouting

The latest in a long line of highly thought of Ravens executives. Hortiz has helped build a roster that has been among the best in the league annually.

The Ravens have had a completely different philosophy than the Bears, in that they’re usually trading back, but they’ve still been able to add quality talent, especially on the defensive side of the ball.

Like many before him, Hortiz just may want to stick in Baltimore where executive life seems to be pretty nice.

Champ Kelly, Bears Assistant Director of Player Personnel

Kelly is going to be a GM in the near future, so why not the Bears?

While Pace may lose his job, there seems to be a general consensus that the Bears have a lot of talent in their front office and Kelly is a big part of everything they do. To top it off, he has GM experience, though in a different league.

Kelly was a huge part of building the Denver Broncos Super Bowl teams with Peyton Manning. We never truly know what each person does in a front office, but Kelly is well-respected in league circles for his work with the Bears and Broncos.

Milt Hendrickson, Packers Director of Football Operations

While working with the Baltimore Ravens from 2005-18, Hendrickson developed a reputation in league circles as an offensive line guru, but that isn’t the only way he worked his way up to Brian Gutekunst’s right hand man in Green Bay.

Hendrickson and Gutekunst go back to coaching together at University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, but had been separated since 2004 when both were with the Packers. Hendrickson learned from Ozzie Newsome and certainly could assemble a staff to help build the defense and the rest of the team.

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The Justin Paradigm: When Thinking About the 2021 Bears, Consider the 2020 Chargers.

| May 20th, 2021

In 2020, they went 7-9, with some inexplicable losses.

They finished third in their division.

At the end of the season, they fired their head coach.

Their campaign, in terms of results, in terms of the scores of the contests, was a failure.

But a cursory glance at the Los Angeles Chargers blogosphere, followed by a survey of national media types (especially Mays and Tice at The Athletic), would lead one to a very different conclusion. Optimism abounds. Hope reigns. Everything’s coming up roses.  (Or pick another showtune, if ya like.)

The reason is simple. In the 2020 NFL Draft, they drafted a kid called Justin to play quarterback. And in the aforementioned season, Herbert proved he’s their long-term answer at the position. When you get that question right, the others seem far less important.

This is the objective for the 2021 Chicago Bears. Sure, we will all want them to win as many games as possible. (Without a first round pick, losing has 0% value.) Sure, we’d like them to be as entertaining as humanly possible; a seemingly difficult ask for this offense over the last few seasons, as they staged one colossal bore after another on the back of an incompetent quarterback.  And sure, we’d love to see some of these high-priced defenders (Mack, Quinn, Jackson…etc.) play up to their contracts.

But none of that matters when it comes to long-term projections for this organization. What matters is the kid called Justin they drafted to play quarterback. What matters is sitting here on May 20th of NEXT year, knowing the Bears have their man at the most important position in team sports.

If they do, their championship “window” opens in 2022. And it doesn’t close for a decade.

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Things To Consider With Tonight’s Schedule Release

| May 12th, 2021

The NFL has turned everything into a television program. And who can blame them? The NFL Draft now does better ratings than almost every other sporting contest AND the damn Academy Awards. (How in the hell did that happen?)

The schedule release does not have the same ratings appeal for two reasons: (1) every local beat leaks the schedule as the day goes on and (2) we consume the schedule in one shot, in about 30 seconds, and then sort of move on.

Three things I’ll be watching with the release tonight at 8 PM ET.


Number One. Where is the Bears bye?

With a seventeen-game schedule, most teams will be hoping their bye lands as close to the middle of the season as possible. A Week 4 or Week 5 bye leaves a long stretch of uninterrupted football (barring wildcard weekend off) in order to get to the Super Bowl.

But for the Chicago Bears the bye is entirely about one thing: Justin Fields. If the Bears stick with their current plan, and give Andy Dalton the opener, the bye will be every fan’s target to get Fields on the field. A few questions should be asked.

  • What’s the difficulty level of the schedule pre-bye? If the Bears face a murderer’s row of teams and are likely to be going into the bye with a losing record, the transition to Fields will be far easier to execute.
  • Who is the opponent post-bye? If I was making the NFL schedule, I would have the Bears at home to the Lions after their bye. Soft team, terrible defense, crazy atmosphere on the lakefront. (I know right now you’re thinking, “That’s brilliant! He SHOULD make the schedule!” You are right.)

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