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ATM: Before Worrying About the 2021 Bears, Maybe Let’s See How 2020 Plays Out

| July 29th, 2020

The voices clamoring to replace Ryan Pace have grown louder this off-season, but the simple truth is this: we have to see what 2020 brings before making any determination on whether or not the GM should be employed beyond this season. Some of Pace’s recent moves haven’t been popular and some of his past moves simply haven’t worked out. But the criticism of the Bears has gotten out of control, especially considering they are coming off their best two-year stretch since Lovie Smith and Jerry Angelo were in their primes.

Like pretty much every Bears GM since the beginning of time, Pace missed at quarterback. Those who believe Pace should be fired for drafting Mitch Trubisky over Patrick Mahomes won’t be dissuaded. It is harsh but not entirely unfair.

Where the anti-Pace argument gets out of control is when he gets criticized for what most would consider good moves. Roquan Smith is a very good linebacker. Drafting him ninth wasn’t a bad move. Pace deserves credit for pulling the trigger on the Khalil Mack trade and for building one of the elite defenses in the league. (Especially considering he inherited the worst defense in franchise history.) While drafting Adam Shaheen in the second round was bad, getting something for a player who had no shot to make the roster was a good move.

Pace has found good players late in the draft and as bargains in free agency.  He has made many good moves, enough that the team has won 20 games the past two seasons and has a roster that should contend for a division title in 2020.

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Grading the 2020 Chicago Bears Roster: Defense & Specials

| July 28th, 2020


Defensive Line: 7

Key Players: Akiem Hicks, Eddie Goldman, Bilal Nichols, Roy Robertson-Harris

Roster Depth: Brent Urban, Abdullah Anderson, John Jenkins, Trevon McSwain, Lee Autry

I went back and forth between a 7 and an 8 for this one. Akiem Hicks is a monster, assuming he can return to his pre-injury form in 2020. Eddie Goldman is a really good run-stuffing nose tackle, and Roy Robertson-Harris provides some nice juice as a situational pass rusher.

The wild card here is Bilal Nichols, who took a step back last year after a promising rookie season in 2018. If he can step up, this group should be really good. If he doesn’t, then they look a bit more like Hicks and a bunch of situational pieces. Brent Urban and Abdullah Anderson are both fine end of the roster players who won’t get pushed around too badly against the run but don’t offer much as pass rushers.


Edge rushers: 9

Key Players: Khalil Mack, Robert Quinn, Barkevious Mingo

Roster Depth: Trevis Gipson, Isaiah Irving, James Vaughters, LaCale London, Ledarius Mack

Mack and Quinn are the headliners here, as the duo might be the best pass-rushing tandem in the NFL. Just don’t look too closely at the depth behind them, because it’s ugly. Mingo is a suitable coverage player and run defender, but offers nothing in the way of pass rush. Nobody else has any notable NFL experience.

If Mack and Quinn stay healthy, this is one of the best groups in the NFL. If one (or God forbid both) of them gets hurt, the Bears are in trouble.


Inside linebackers: 7

Key Players: Danny Trevathan, Roquan Smith, Joel Iyiegbuniwe, Josh Woods

Roster Depth: Rashad Smith, KeAndre Jones

Stop me if you’ve heard this before: the starters are really good, but the depth is scary. Trevathan in particular is a really solid, smart player, while Roquan Smith has flashed all-pro ability through two years but needs to be more consistent. Both players ended 2019 on injured reserve and need to stay healthy this year, because the guys fighting for time behind them haven’t done much outside of special teams. Nick Kwiatkoski and Kevin Pierre-Louis, who both played very well for extended stretches in 2019, are gone.

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Grading the 2020 Chicago Bears Roster: Offense

| July 27th, 2020

Camp is here, which means it’s time for me to grade the roster. Like I did last year, I’ll grade on a 1-10 scale, with 1 being the worst in the NFL, 10 being the best, and 5 being an average NFL unit. Let’s get right down to it.


Quarterback: 3

Key Players: Mitchell Trubisky, Nick Foles

Roster Depth: Tyler Bray

Mitchell Trubisky was one of the 5 worst quarterbacks with significant playing time in the NFL last year. Nick Foles is on his 3rd team in 3 years and hasn’t started more than 5 games in a season since 2015. The Bears don’t have a good quarterback on the roster, which is a real problem in a quarterback-driven league.

If I were grading just on the starter, this would be a 2. But the Bears are probably going to end up with one of the worst starters and best backups in the NFL, so the better depth bumps it up slightly.


Running back: 3

Key Players: David Montgomery, Tarik Cohen

Roster Depth: Ryan Nall, Artavis Pierce, Napoleon Maxwell

David Montgomery struggled as a rookie, averaging only 3.7 yards/carry and failing to establish himself in the passing game, which was supposed to be the reason why the Bears traded up for him after getting rid of Jordan Howard. Tarik Cohen followed up a stellar 2018 with the worst season of his career. I think both of these players have the potential to be really good in 2020, but neither was last year, so it’s hard to be super confident in them right now.

Still, I might be willing to give them a 4 as the “starters,” but the atrocious roster depth knocks this down a peg. All 3 backups are undrafted players who have yet to show they can do anything in the NFL. If David Montgomery gets hurt, the Bears don’t have a runner on the roster who you can reasonably trust.

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Our First DBB/Lou’s Malnati’s Winner: Tim Wallace!

| July 24th, 2020

He wrote from the heart. He included a haiku. He was tough to beat. Below is the email that secured Tim Wallace (@LogicforGood on Twitter) some frozen deep dish from Lou Malnati’s.


Hi Jeff,

I’m your target demographic. Huge Bears fan living far away from Chicago. My wife and I moved to Charlottesville, from Chicago, in October 2013 with our almost two-year-old.

A month later, on the Sunday before Thanksgiving, I came down with a horrific case of hand foot and mouth disease. Not fun and very contagious. My wife did the smart thing and took our daughter to her parents.  They stayed there until I recovered, which was, of course, after Thanksgiving.

So I had to do my first turkey day away from Chicago alone, quarantining with a nasty, contagious, unpleasant condition.

And I had no idea what I was going to eat. I’ve never cooked a Turkey in my life, and it would have been irresponsible to go to the grocery store anyways.

I will never forget that on the day before Thanksgiving, I walked out on my porch and there was this big square box sitting there. Inside were four Lou Malnati’s pies on dry ice with a note from my Mom, “Happy Thanksgiving!  Here’s a little taste of home.”

Those were the best pizzas I ever ate.

Thanksgiving alone.
Far away from my city.
Lou’s was home sweet home.

Peace,
   Tim Wallace


We’ll have our second Malnati’s giveaway closer to the start of the regular season. And we’ll be formally announcing a new partnership on Monday. Stay tuned!

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Thursday Lynx Package (7/23/20)

| July 23rd, 2020


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NFL Must Address, Right Now, a Coming Issue: No Sports Bars This Fall

| July 22nd, 2020


Millions of Americans watch NFL football in sports bars each week.  And in 2020, in most areas of the country, sports bars will not exist. So how does the NFL plan to address this potential gap in their viewership?

First, an update. DIRECTV still has an absurd monopoly on NFL football through their Sunday Ticket platform. And for many people, in many cities, DIRECTV is simply not an option. Either (a) you don’t have ability to point the dish south or (b) your building won’t allow the dish at all. So if you happen to live in, say, Queens, and plan to watch every game, say, the Chicago Bears play, you’re facing a somewhat untenable position.

And before you start telling me about illegal streams and Playstation and Roku apps, let me tell you a quick story. A few weeks back the PGA Tour event in Dublin, Ohio started their final round early, afraid of afternoon thunderstorms. It was on Golf Channel for a few hours. Then it moved to a stream, on CBSSports.com. It wasn’t on television. Just the stream. And it caused anarchy. Twitter blew up. The Tour was burned in digital effigy. Streaming is clearly a pivotal component of professional sports moving forward, but we ain’t there yet. People don’t buy 70-inch televisions to watch the ballgame on their iPad. It’s got to be on the television.

Television made the NFL. Hopefully the league doesn’t forget that now.

And the NFL can ensure they don’t lose any of these fans by being smart right now. Bring the NFL Sunday Ticket to every single cable provider in the United States as a pay-per-view product. Allow every fan, on every provider, to buy a full season package at whatever the current DIRECTV cost is but also let them purchase individual games at $5.99 each. Get the providers to split the cash with DIRECTV so this isn’t perceived as a slight to your long-term partner. Remember, these bars being closed is going to have a huge financial impact on DIRECTV. They’re going to lose millions upon millions of dollars with no sports bar revenue. They’ll be willing to bend on this if it keeps them from breaking.

These are a pivotal next six weeks. And if the NFL doesn’t understand this coming problem, they’ll be left scrambling in September as angry fans seek out their product.

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ATM: Signs Point to Nagy Returning to Kansas City Roots

| July 21st, 2020

In a recent interview on ESPN 1000’s Waddle and Silvy, Louis Riddick, pal of Matt Nagy, indicated the team will be returning to the approach Nagy (and Andy Reid) had taken in Kansas City. That doesn’t mean what most fans think. While Nagy was hired in Chicago under the guise of being a quarterback whisperer who would finally modernize the team’s offense, the truth is somewhere in between. Yes, Nagy runs a modern offense with a modern passing game, but he got this gig by running the ball. That is exactly what he is going to try to return to.

Riddick worked with Nagy in Philadelphia and the ESPN analyst has maintained a close relationship with the Bears head coach. Riddick rarely indicates that what he’s saying comes from conversations with Nagy, but when he speaks confidently about the Bears approach, it’s a good bet that it comes with inside knowledge. He shared a number of nuggets in that radio spot last week, none more noteworthy then when he spoke about the Bears newfound commitment to running the ball.

“There’s going to be a marked difference in how that team is going to come off the ball running the football,” he said. Later in the interview, Riddick was more specific saying the Bears are going to be a “more physical running football team.”

That fits with what Nagy did with the Chiefs. In the five years Nagy was with Kansas City, they never ranked in the top half of the league in passing attempts. When Nagy took over play calling duties from Andy Reid in 2017, one of the big changes was feeding the ball to Kareem Hunt — the league’s leading rusher that year. After Nagy gave Hunt just nine carries in his first start – it should be noted they still scored 31 points as Alex Smith threw for four touchdowns — Hunt had 78 carries in the next three games before sitting out most of their Week 17 game.

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Our First Lou Malnati’s Giveaway!

| July 20th, 2020


After Cody Parkey did that thing Cody Parkey did, thousands of us marched from Soldier Field into the city like tired zombies who’d lost our taste for blood. Noah and I were hungry though. So off to Lou Malnati’s on Rush (my favorite of their spaces) we went.

We were quiet. So was the entire, cavernous room. What had just happened? How could this amazingly entertaining campaign end on the foot of a bonehead kicker? How could he hit the post again? Why did it all have to happen right in front of me? I remember being on the Parker House back porch in Sea Girt, NJ, summer of 2009, watching Tom Watson let the Open at Turnberry slip through his fingers. I felt the same in Malnati’s that night. Empty.

The beer was cold. The pizza was delicious. There’s no better comfort food in Chicago than a sausage deep dish from Lou’s. But halfway through it, the room seemed filled with green jerseys. Eagles fans. I wanted to throw up. I wanted to throw them out. But I thought to myself, “Hey, they didn’t miss the kick. Who am I to deprive them of this culinary experience?” So I had ten more beers and Noah and I returned to the hotel.

Lou’s was there for me that night when I needed them.


What is your unique Lou Malnati’s experience?

Share it with me on Twitter, in the comments here or via email (jeff@dabearsblog.com).

The best one is going to receive a package of frozen pies from Lou’s. 

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