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ATM: First Look at the Quarterback Market

| January 12th, 2021

Regardless of who is making the decisions, the top priority for the Chicago Bears this offseason has to be finding a quarterback. The Bears can’t – and from the sounds of it, won’t – let the best stretch of Mitch Trubisky’s career change what they already knew: he is not and never will be good. Not finding an upgrade is no longer an option for the Bears.

While some have tried to paint the picture that the Bears won’t be able to find a better quarterback, the truth is they have no choice. And upgrading isn’t the monumental task some make it out to be. Here’s a quick look at some of the options:

The Extreme Long Shots

Russell Wilson

After finally letting Russ cook in 2020, the Seahawks seem determined not to do that again.

This is, more or less, throwing mud to see what sticks, but trading Wilson has been floated before and if Seattle wants to run into the middle of the line of scrimmage every other play, they might as well move him.

Seattle is operating in a different existence right now. Pete Carroll is determined to waste Wilson and the rest of the league can thank him for that. Don’t rule out Wilson requesting a trade since Carroll just signed a huge contract extension.

Deshaun Watson

Whatever the price for Watson might be, it isn’t too much. Like Wilson, it’s very unlikely that Watson will be traded, but players have power and Watson is ticked off.


Slightly More Likely

Derek Carr

We went down this road last year and not a lot has changed. He still plays for Jon Gruden and Jon Gruden doesn’t like anybody who currently plays quarterback for him.

The Raiders didn’t sign Marcus Mariota last year for insurance. They did it because Gruden always has a wandering eye. Carr likely wouldn’t cost that much in draft capital, but he may want a new contract to guarantee his future a little more.

With two straight seasons surpassing 4,000 yards and a passer rating of 100, Carr would solve the position for the foreseeable future. The difficult part is making sure they have enough talent around him.

Dak Prescott

If the Cowboys loved Prescott as much as they say they do, he wouldn’t be worried about a contract right now.

Prescott was on pace to throw for nearly 6,000 yards; completing 68% of his passes for an average of 8.4 per attempt. He has a career passer rating of 97.3 and he can run.

Bringing him back seems like a no-brainer for the Cowboys, but Jerry is Jerry.  It’ll cost draft picks and a lot of money, but Prescott is worth it.

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Short: Get a New Quarterback

| January 11th, 2021


The Bears were not good enough yesterday in New Orleans.

But no matter what organizational changes they are pondering – and those conversations are all fair – the club must concretely decide today not to bring Mitch Trubisky back to Chicago next season. No more running out of bounds instead of barreling ahead for the first down. No more absurd check downs with the game on the line. No more errant throws into traffic from the pocket.

The Bears need instincts at quarterback. (Look at how Lamar Jackson turned the Ravens game around with his legs.) They need guts. (Look at how Taylor Heinecke inspired Washington.)  They need a gamer. (Look at the way Josh Allen feels a game.) Trubisky has, and is, none of those things. And he never will.”

Mitch said he feels he has “unfinished business” here. He does not. His story is written in Chicago. Might Mitch find a career for himself in this league? Maybe. Blake Bortles had far more success in Jacksonville than Mitch has had in Chicago and Bortles can’t find a roster spot these days. The Mitch asset teams would find most valuable – his legs – are rendered useless by his refusal to use them productively.

The Gathering Horde: But what are your better options then for 2021, Jeff?

Jeff: Who cares?

Maybe the 20th pick starts at quarterback next season. Maybe it’s a second round pick. Maybe it’s Matthew Stafford or Matt Ryan seeing out their careers. It doesn’t really matter. Who the quarterback is for 2021 is important. Ending the Trubisky drama, the Trubisky debate, the Trubisky era, is just as important. And that should happen today.

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Bears at Saints Wildcard Weekend Preview: When Saints Have the Ball

| January 8th, 2021

Sunday at 3:40 CT, the Bears will play a playoff game in New Orleans. This is the third in a three-part preview of that contest.


Notes on the First Meeting

Two things were frustrating about the first meeting between the Bears and the Saints.

(1) The Bears had no answers for Jared Cook. The world knows Drew Brees is not going to try and take the top off the defense. He doesn’t have the arm strength for that anymore. So opponents can’t let the slant route go for big YAC. They must have an answer for Kamara out of the backfield. And they can’t let Cook beat them on third downs. That’s exactly what the Bears did.

(2) Every Taysom Hill run seemed to work. When Sean Payton gets into short yardage or goal line situations, he no longer hesitates to take Brees off the field and put Hill on. A lot of Hill’s success is a product of a tough, physical offensive line but it’s also simply a schematic advantage to run the football at 11-on-11. If Hill is converting every time he comes on the field, the Bears are in for a long day.

Both of these issues will be difficult to correct if Roquan Smith is unavailable, as expected.


Stop the Rush, Stop the Saints?

The Saints have won their last two games, against Carolina and Minnesota, rushing for 156 and 264 yards respectively.

The Saints lost their two games before that, against Kansas City and Philadelphia, rushing for 60 and 96 yards respectively.

Keeping the New Orleans rushing attack contained doesn’t guarantee you victory but it does guarantee you’ll keep their point total manageable.


Three Things the Bears Defense Must Do

  • Catch the Ball. One looks at the score of last Sunday’s Bears/Packers game and thinks, “Well the Bears got blown out.” Except that’s simply not what took place. This was a one-score game late in the second half and the Bears dropped THREE EASY interceptions. The spectacular plays that go unmade by defenders can be excused. But when the quarterback tries to play backyard pitch-and-catch with you, you have to oblige him. When Brees gives the Bears an opportunity for a game-changing play, they have to seize it.

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Bears at Saints Wildcard Weekend Preview: When Bears Have the Ball

| January 7th, 2021

Sunday at 3:40 CT, the Bears will play a playoff game in New Orleans. This is the second in a three-part preview of that contest.


Last year, it was Mitch Trubisky’s performance against the New Orleans Saints that soured many – including me – on his prospects as the future quarterback of the Chicago Bears. Now he meets them again, this time in the postseason, this time with his career potentially on the line. Will the results look any different?

Thoughts.

  • Objective one for Dennis Allen’s defense is going to be limiting David Montgomery. If the Saints can keep the Bears in second/third-and-long, they’ll force Trubisky to throw the ball down the field. But their rush defense – while ranked near the top of the sport – has been a bit scattershot this season.
    • Against Philly and Jalen Hurts, they got thrashed. Miles Sanders went for 115 (8.2 per carry) and Hurts added 106 (5.9 per). The threat of a running quarterback kept them off-balance.*
    • When they had no fear of the opposing QB, against San Francisco in mid-November, they limited Kyle Shanahan’s rushing attack to 49 yards and tailback Jerick McKinnon to 1.8 yards per carry. This approach will more accurately mirror how they approach Sunday.
  • *While understanding the fear of sounding like a broken record, Trubisky’s legs can be an offensive game-changer Sunday. The Bears don’t need to call designed runs for him but they need him to recognize when the yards/first downs are available. Every five-yard chunk matters. Every first down matters. And getting that first down is a better option than a risky throw into traffic every single time. Trubisky’s legs are an x-factor.
  • Saints don’t have “stars” on their defensive line but they’ve got one of the more solid rotations in the league. Trey Hendrickson has been great all season but lately Carl Granderson has looked like a budding pass-rush star. They move these guys around. They change their pressures constantly. They are a lot for an offensive line to handle.

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Bears at Saints Wildcard Weekend Preview: Special Teams

| January 6th, 2021

Sunday at 3:40 CT, the Bears will play a playoff game in New Orleans. This is the first in a three-part preview of that contest.


Kickers

Cairo Santos has been the biggest surprise on the Bears roster this season and is due a contract extension. Santos hasn’t missed a field goal since September, and has missed only one extra point on the season.

Will Lutz has had a down year for the Saints, making only 82.1% of his field goals. But his numbers have been substantially better at home, where he has not missed an extra point and missed only one field goal.

If this game comes down to a big kick late, both teams will be comfortable sending their kicker out there to make it.


Punters

Pat O’Donnell has become one of the more consistent punters in the game. But if there’s a flaw in his game it’s the absence of the great punt. He is fourth in the league, leaving 28 punts inside the 20, but in a game where the Bears’ specials need to be special, PO’D needs to pin Brees deep a few times.

Thomas Morstead is having (arguably) his weakest season but the metrics used to judge punters are often yardage-based and those don’t always compute. But Morstead’s punts have been fair caught more than any in the league and returners are averaging 2.3 yards per return against his punt unit, best in the league.


Return Game

Cordarrelle Patterson is the best kickoff return man in the sport but I don’t imagine a scenario where Sean Payton gives him an opportunity to dramatically alter momentum. And the Bears simply haven’t found a replacement for Tarik Cohen on punt returns. (The playoffs are no time to experiment back there, either.) As a team they rank 10th in kickoff return average and 22nd in punt return average.

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ATM: Pace Should Need Playoff Miracle to Keep His Job

| January 5th, 2021

Recently, The Athletic‘s Mike Sando published a list of NFL GMs, along with their winning percentages. Of the 18 GMs who have been in the league at least five years, Ryan Pace ranked 14th in terms of winning percentage. Two of the guys behind him have been fired. One owns the Bengals, where winning isn’t that big of a deal. The fourth? Well, how does Jason Licht still have a job?

The truth about what needs to happen with Pace was painfully obvious on Sunday. He was hired largely because of two lopsided losses to the Green Bay Packers in 2014, wherein the Packers outscored the Bears 93-31. He has closed the gap a little, but in 2020 the Packers still outscored the Bears by a combined 35 points that would’ve been more if not for a couple of garbage time scores in October. Pace has had six off-seasons to eliminate the gap between these two rivals. He has failed to do so.

Yes. Pace inherited a tough job, but was it more difficult than what Les Snead was thrown into with the Rams or Steve Keim with the Cardinals? Doubtful. Heck, Jon Robinson inherited a team that just used the second pick on Marcus Mariota and has still managed to turn the Titans into a winner.

The tricky part about Pace is that he clearly has an eye for talent.

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