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Data Entry: What Passing Targets do the Bears Need?

| February 13th, 2018

There has been and will continue to be a great deal of talk about how the Bears need to add at least one stud wide receiver to their roster this off-season. Everybody wants a Julio Jones or Antonio Brown, with good reason, and the Bears are in desperate need of an upgrade in talent at the position after a season in which they finished last in the NFL in both passing yards and touchdowns, 25th in yards per attempt, and 26th in passer rating.

The Bears are going to add more talent at WR. But what exactly do they need? Should they look for one great player, two good players, or three plus capable players?

In an attempt to answer this question, I looked at how top passing offenses split their production among targets in recent years. After all, that’s the ultimate goal for the Bears, right? They want to become one of the top passing offenses in the NFL.

Accordingly, I looked at top 10 passing teams according to Football Outsiders’ DVOA for each of 2015, 2016, and 2017 and tracked how many receiving yards each of their top 5 leaders in that category had for the season. While this DVOA stat is not a perfect metric, it is an attempt to measure the efficiency of a passing attack instead of volume, which you would get from just looking at passing yards. The full list can be seen here.


No Clear Pattern

The first thing that jumps out is that there is no single defined way to have a top 10 passing offense. Some teams did it with one clear stud and a bunch of secondary weapons. Others had two dominant targets. Some had no clear dominant target at all.

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Audibles From the Long Snapper: Rare Friday Edition!

| December 29th, 2017

No podcast this week, as travel got in the way. We’ll have the 2017 season wrap-up pod in the next week or so if I can get Jahns to answer his cell.


Ted Phillips the Boogeyman!

Ever since Ian Rapoport reported Ted Phillips was “making phone calls” to gauge availability of head coaching candidates, Bears Twitter – including our own Andrew Dannehy – have been obsessed with Phillips’ role in the coaching search. Now Rap’s former bench mate, Albert Breer, had this dandy in his “Black Monday” column:

Chicago Bears: The writing has been on the wall here for a while. The expectation is that John Fox will be gone. What’s less certain is whether or not general manager Ryan Pace gets to pick the next coach, and whether or not the coaches pursued by the Bears dictate Pace’s fate.

(1) Ryan Pace is 100% picking the next head coach.

(2) The NFL sends each organization a list of prospective head coaches. Those coaches don’t always know they’re on that list. What teams do is call agents and ask if their clients are interested in becoming head coaches so that once the decision to fire the head coach is officially made, interviews can be lined up immediately. This is called due diligence. Teams also call agents of college coaches to gauge if they’re interested in coming to the NFL.

(3) Ownership, which Ted represents, can do this reconnaissance work while another coach is under contract. For a GM it is strictly verboten. The GM is a partner with the head coach, especially in an organizational structure where they both report to ownership.

(4) If this story was “George McCaskey is making calls” nobody would have cared. But McCaskey doesn’t make calls. That’s why he pays Ted Phillips and why Phillips is incredibly well-respected in the league.

(5) Do I think the Bears would want to know if Ron Rivera may become available? Of course. They want to know every good coach that is going to be available. But the apple of their eye is Stanford coach David Shaw.


Jahns on Shaheen

From AJ After Dark’s column in the Sun-Times:

But the Bears do feel good about Shaheen’s development. Loggains said he’s had a solid rookie season. Most of Shaheen’s 12 catches were either contested or diving grabs (two for touchdowns).

In time, the team believes that Shaheen will do more. The Bears still only have six packages for him.  All of his catches also have come when he is a prototypical in-line tight end.

“We know that he’s going to be a good, all-around tight end because of his size, speed, his athleticism,” Loggains said. “In the offseason, the biggest jump he is going to have to take is in the run game. But he came in and affected the game in his opportunities in the red area the way we thought he would.”

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Across The Middle: Pace Was Sunday’s Big Winner

| December 13th, 2017

No Bear had a better day Sunday than General Manager Ryan Pace.

His quarterback was in control throughout the game. His tight end made big catches. His running backs did whatever the hell they wanted because the offensive line he built paved the way.  His offense dominated and he’s going to be able to use that tape to sell the future to fans and his next head coach.

I have ruled out guys like Jim Harbaugh and Josh McDaniels for the Bears job simply because they’re going to want to be able to pick the players. The last two years the hottest coaches all got personnel say. That’s a trend that isn’t going to end and would generally make the Bears job less attractive. Pace, however, just might have shown the world that he knows what he’s doing and it might be enough for the premier coaches to trust him.

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Data Responds: Bears at Bengals

| December 10th, 2017

Is this real life?

The Bears dominated on both sides of the ball, scored 30 points for the first time in over two years, and generally rolled over the dormant Cincinnati Bengals.

I know Cincinnati is bad and banged up, but so are the Bears, and this was a lot of fun. More importantly, this as led largely by young players for the Bears, which bodes well for the future. Let’s take a look at what happened.

Offense

  • The Bears came out and threw it on their first 2 plays! The first resulted in an awful Jordan Howard drop (drink), while the second was a beautiful play action rollout to Josh Bellamy for a 1st down. This unsurprisingly caught the Bengals’ defense off guard, and they backed off the defense into standard 7 man boxes instead of loading 8-9 up. As a result, the Bears ran it the next two plays for about 40 yards and a touchdown. That marked the first time this season that the offense scored a touchdown on their first possession of the game.
  • Before I get too down on Howard, how about giving it up for a great game from Chicago’s stud running back? He had his 12th 100 yard rushing game in 26 career starts and passed the 1,000 yard mark for the 2nd year in a row, making him the first running back in Chicago history to start his career that way. That’s pretty remarkable when you think of the great running backs who have played in Chicago.

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Data Responds: Bears vs. 49ers

| December 3rd, 2017

The Bears led for almost the entire game, but pretty much everybody watching the game knew what was coming when San Francisco got the ball back down 14-12 with just over 4 minutes to go. The 49ers methodically marched down the field and longtime Chicago kicker Robbie Gould drilled his 5th field goal of the day to send Chicago to their 5th straight loss.

Offense

  • Chicago’s offense came out on the first possession and ran the ball twice in a row out of heavy sets. Anybody who’s watched Chicago this year can already guess how that ended: with Chicago in 3rd and long. That led to a sack of QB Mitchell Trubisky for a nice quick three and out.
  • Speaking of running on first down, the Bears did it 11 times in 14 chances today. Only one of those runs went for more than 3 yards; most went for 0 or 1.
  • It looks like any confidence rookie quarterback Mitchell Trubisky earned from the coaching staff completely evaporated after a bad game last week. They finally opened things up two weeks ago, and the offense shockingly had their best game of the year. Now they’ve had back to back terrible weeks after reverting to horribly predictable play calling.

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Bears Must Move On From John Fox. Today.

| November 27th, 2017

Five years ago the Chicago Bears fired a head coach because they deemed 10 wins in 16 games that season were not enough. Through 30 games of his Bears tenure, John Fox has 12 wins.

On October 16th 2016 this space advocated for the firing of Fox for many valid reasons. But primary among them was the Bears seemed ready to move into a new era – with a new, young quarterback – and Fox was clearly not the man to usher the organization through that era. It wasn’t so much an indictment of Fox’s job performance as a recognition that he’d done his part to bring the Bears back to respectability post-Argonaut and the time had now come to transition from respectable to competitive.

That was 2016. This is 2017. And now it’s ENTIRELY about job performance. Because the Bears are a terrible football team.

Is it worth going through the litany of things wrong with John Fox’s approach to game day football? No. We’ve been talking about the lack of preparedness and penalties and awful mismanagement every day over the three years he’s run the show in Chicago. But the deal breaker for the organization has to be that for the first time Fox has young offensive talent to work with and develop and he, as well as offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains, are squandering that opportunity on a weekly basis.

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Data Responds: Bears at Eagles

| November 26th, 2017

Well that was ugly. This one felt like a few drubbings the 2014 Bears received after the Bears had quit on Marc Trestman. The John Fox era is officially over, though we almost certainly still have to endure 5 more games before it becomes official. Hopefully those games aren’t all this ugly.

The Bears were never going to win on the road against the best team in the NFL, but they looked completely unprepared in every possible way. They picked up penalties, had zero creativity or imagination anywhere, and were generally outschemed, outcoached, and out-executed.

I’m not going to focus much on coaching, because this staff is obviously finished, but one particular atrocity deserves special attention. Facing 3rd and 17 from their own 1 yard line, the Bears called time out to save half a yard from a delay of game penalty. That’s bad enough, but the worst is the offense had only 10 men on the field after an injury time out gave them more than 2 minutes to prepare. That’s a team with comically inept coaching.

I’m going to focus most of my specific observations on the first half, because quite honestly I didn’t pay as much attention after that. The 24-0 halftime deficit meant the game was over by then anyway (honestly, it was over well before halftime).

Offense

  • Mitchell Trubisky threw an early INT on an inaccurate throw, and it caused the coaching staff to turtle back into their worst habits. It was a long time before they let him throw past the line of scrimmage again, and even then that only came on 3rd and long. Instead, they chose to repeatedly run out of heavy sets into loaded boxes. You might be surprised to learn this was not an effective strategy.

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Across The Middle: Will the Real Dowell Loggains Please Stand Up?

| November 21st, 2017

Outside of maybe John Fox, the hottest seat in the city of Chicago belongs to that of offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains. But in reality, do we even know if he’s bad?

Whether he intended to or not, Mitch Trubisky dropped a bombshell after Sunday’s game, saying he knows Loggains trusts him, but that Fox limits what they’re allowed to do. That’s Fox’s job and I can hardly blame him. The Bears had Tanner Gentry and Tre McBride lined out wide with a rookie quarterback two games ago. The results were completing less than 50% of their passes and an insanely high sack rate.

But that doesn’t change the fact that we still don’t really know what the offensive coordinator can do.

Some reflections:

  • Two of Loggains former quarterbacks — Matt Hasselbeck and Jay Cutler — insist he’s a bright coach.
  • Cutler went as far as to say that he thinks Loggains is going to be a head coach one day.
  • Hasselbeck has appeared on the Waddle & Silvy Show several times and has been adamant that what you see on Sunday isn’t a reflection of the coordinator.
  • Mike Munchak vouched for Loggains, having employed him as his offensive coordinator once and selling him as the guy who was going to run his show should he get another head job.

That said, he’s never had an offense finish better than 19th in scoring or 15th in yardage. Last year, the Bears were 28th in points scored and they sit 27th so far this year. But, how much can we blame him for that?

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Data Responds: Bears vs. Packers

| November 12th, 2017

Chicago came out of the bye flat, acting like nobody actually wanted to play a football game against their biggest rival. Their terrible kicker was good, but nobody else really was. The only thing that kept this game somewhat close was the fact that Green Bay is terrible, but they still won fairly comfortably on the road.

Let’s break down this embarrassing effort.

Offense

  • The first drive was simply awful. After two weeks to prepare, they ran into a loaded box on 1st down and lost a yard. After a nice pass picked up a first down, they again ran into a stacked box and lost a yard. The next play was both an illegal formation and a hold, setting Chicago up in 2nd and 21. At that point, the drive was over thanks to a combination of poor play calling and dumb penalties.
  • Rookie quarterback Mitchell Trubisky actually had a pretty good start to the game. He made good throws and got the ball to players in space. That changed as the game wore on and Green Bay dialed up the pressure. Trubisky got happy feet and starting pulling his eyes down from scanning the field too quickly. He also refused to throw the ball away, making him completely inept under any sort of pressure.
  • Green Bay’s five sacks weren’t all on the offensive line, but they were bad today too. Hroniss Grasu, making a start at center and shifting Cody Whitehair to right guard with Kyle Long out, was routinely pushed back into the backfield. The unit also picked up way too many penalties, with a nice mixture of pre-snap, during the play, and after the play mixed in.

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Data Responds: Bears at Saints

| October 29th, 2017

The Bears played pretty evenly with the NFC South-leading New Orleans Saints on the road, but a series of missed opportunities (helped by one atrocious call by the officials) cost them the chance to enter the bye at 4-4.

Perhaps most important to Chicago going forward, the loss was a costly one for the Bears. Four starters left the game with injuries and did not return, including guard Kyle Long (hand), center Cody Whitehair (arm), cornerback Bryce Callahan (knee), and tight end Zach Miller (leg). We’ll wait to see how serious the injuries are, though I can say fairly confidently that Miller’s gruesome leg injury means his season (and likely his career) is finished.

Still, the best news to me from the game was that they kept fighting. When they went down 17-6 early in the 4th quarter, I expected them to roll over and quit, but from that point on the defense forced two turnovers, the offense scored a touchdown, and the special teams picked up a big return to keep Chicago in the game. The attitude on the team is changing, and the importance of that can’t be overstated.

Offense

  • The Bears were forced to ask for a bit more from rookie quarterback Mitchell Trubisky this week, and we saw some of both good and bad, as should be expected from a young quarterback. We saw the talent leading to some big plays, and we saw the rookie mistakes leading to missed opportunities and/or negative plays. The overall stat line (14/32, 164 yards, 0 TD, 1 INT, 46.9 rating) looks ugly, but his performance was not that bad. Notably, Trubisky threw 2 touchdowns, but one of them was taken away by a terrible officiating call and one of them was inexplicably dropped by a wide open Jordan Howard.

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