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Dannehy: Switch to Dalton Would Put More Pressure On Nagy

| October 6th, 2021

If Matt Nagy switches back to Andy Dalton, it would be a move for the present.

It would place an enormous amount of pressure on Nagy to win games right now, this season.

It would put his job in even more jeopardy than it already has been.

While fans always expect victories, fairly or not, no matter who is under center, the organization paying $10 million to the veteran quarterback certainly would expect results should the coach choose to play that veteran over the future.

If Nagy were to stick with Justin Fields, he could spin 2021 as a rebuilding year. He’d be able to tell ownership they are focusing on the long-term future of the club and that teams don’t typically have success with rookie quarterbacks. (The data on that would overwhelmingly support his argument.) Nagy could even point to last week’s game plan, with the Bears dropping back to pass on just 37.5 percent of their plays, to show the rookie is learning on the fly.

With Dalton, though, there is going to be an expectation that they run an actual, competent NFL offense. And doing so got a lot more difficult last week when David Montgomery had to be helped to the sidelines. It could be said that the Bears need a more accomplished passer without Montgomery and Dalton has completed 73.5 percent of his passes to Fields’ 48.1 percent, with a passer rating 30 points higher. The quick passing game that Dalton executes so well (and Fields not at all) could now be the key to any short-term success.

But as we have seen throughout Dalton’s career, he needs almost as much help to succeed as rookies. If they can’t run the ball well, it doesn’t really matter if Dalton throws a four-yard pass on third-and-10 or if Fields takes a sack.

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Dannehy: The Curious Case of Matt Nagy

| September 29th, 2021

After three weeks of the season, two things are unquestionably true:

  • Matt Nagy installed an unforgivable game plan against Cleveland and was not able to fix it.
  • Matt Nagy was right in that Andy Dalton should be the starting quarterback.

Sunday’s game was among the worst we’ve seen. The backlash against Nagy has been every bit as bad. And that’s fair. There is no excuse for managing just 47 yards and one net passing yard in a league where every single rule change is engineered for more passing, more yards, more points. It’s hard to figure out Sunday is even possible. But is it possible. It happened. And the blame has to be tossed on Nagy’s lap.

But does this season warrant a second look?

The Bears offense is close to the bottom of the league pretty much across the board, but it didn’t start that way. While few are willing to accept that Justin Fields really just may not have been ready, it’s hard to find another legitimate explanation. When Dalton quarterbacked the team, the offense was nothing short of competent. In the 11 drives Dalton served as the primary quarterback, the Bears averaged 43.1 yards, that mark would be good enough for fourth best in the league, according to Football Outsiders.

Yes, you read that right.

The common rebuttal to that is that the team didn’t score enough. And that’s true, their 1.91 points per drive would be just 24th in the league – almost equal with Tennessee.

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ATM: Would Justin Fields Be Able to Save Mistake-Laden Bears Offense? Doubtful.

| September 15th, 2021

As different as the Chicago Bears offense looked on Sunday night, familiar mistakes and a suddenly leaky defense opened the question on if we should even want Justin Fields to deal with this mess.

The Bears did a lot of things differently and were even good in some aspects. This wasn’t the same as the group that struggled to get past midfield against the Rams a year ago. They actually moved the ball well until it was a two-score game late in the fourth quarter. The running game was exceptional and Andy Dalton was able to find open receivers underneath to keep the chains moving. The veteran quarterback even showed some mobility, running on one first down and scrambling before throwing for another.

The Bears gained 40 more yards than the Rams allowed on a per game basis last year.

Matt Nagy has, in the past, been killed for his unwillingness to be aggressive on fourth downs, but we saw four attempts during this game. Had any of them been successful, the stat nerds would’ve rejoiced.

But they weren’t.

And the same flaws that have killed the offense for four years were still there.

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Week One Game Preview, Volume II: Nagy, Dalton, LA Movies & Predictions!

| September 10th, 2021


Yesterday was the breakdown of what the Bears must do to beat the Rams, a team superior to them at almost every facet of the game. The Bears don’t run it better. The Bears don’t throw it better. The Bears don’t stop the run better. The Bears don’t stop the pass better. The 2020 Bears were better in the return game but their kick returner has left town. It is not difficult, at all, to see why the Bears are opening as more than a touchdown underdog on the road.

But hope is not lost.


Why Do I Like the Chicago Bears This Week?

I always like the Chicago Bears.

But they’re testing me right now. And I’m failing.


Big Night For Nagy, Dalton

To paraphrase the great Hyman Roth, “This is the life they’ve chosen.”

By not giving Justin Fields even so much as the opportunity to win the starting job, Nagy has effectively forced the NBC cameras to cut to Fields with every three-and-out, every Dalton blunder, every quarter that goes by with the offense flailing. No, this group shouldn’t be expected to flourish against unquestionably one of the league’s best defenses, but that doesn’t matter.

Because every time Dalton gets sacked, fans will wonder if Fields could have avoided it.

Every time Dalton checks down, fans will wonder if Fields could have extended the play a few seconds with his mobility and made a big gain down the field.

Every time Dalton throws a ball into the fourth row, fans will wonder if Fields could have used that 4.4 speed to race by the sticks and extend the drive.

Matt Nagy and Andy Dalton don’t need to win Sunday night. But they need a tight, clean performance. They need to look like this offense is heading the right direction. Because the eyes of the football world will be upon them.

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Predictions & Projections for the 2021 Chicago Bears

| September 7th, 2021


No reason to bury the lede.

If Justin Fields were the starting quarterback for the Chicago Bears from Week One, I would predict this team to win 9-10 games and make the playoffs. But he’s not the starting quarterback. And that prediction is impossible to make.

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What Would Starting Fields Do?

This team’s offensive line will not be as bad as many predict, but the unit is still one of the most flawed on the roster. They’ll struggle to run the ball against bigger, more physical interiors. They’ll struggle on the edge against speedier rushers. With Dalton, that means no run game. With Dalton, that means sacks.

With Fields, it doesn’t. The optimum word for a player like Fields is extend. He’ll extend drives with that casual six-yard scramble on third-and-four. That’s three more plays; three more opportunities for big plays; ten more minutes of rest for the defense. Fields will also extend plays with his mobility. That’ll keep edge rushers more worried about contain than crash.

Fields at quarterback would see the offense jump 8-10 spots in every statistical category of note. He would still make plenty of mistakes. He would still turn it over a bunch. But a serious production increase would come with those errors.

And the Bears are starting Andy Dalton.

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ATM: More Explosive Roster Should Help Nagy’s Vision

| September 1st, 2021


Matt Nagy likes to talk a lot without saying anything.

When asked last week why he was optimistic, his answer centered on the fact that more players understand their roles, having been in his system for longer. As expected, that response was universally panned because fans see more immediate results elsewhere.

But there was a second part of his answer.

After rambling about experience he added “When you have that and you have a guy like Andy (Dalton) and these quarterbacks that come in and understand it, that’s where it gives me confidence.”

Ah, yes. The most important position in sports does, in fact, matter. The truth is there is reason to believe the team’s offense will be better largely because the personnel fits what we believe he wants to do.

Nobody is going to tell you that Dalton is the savior. (Fields may be in time.) But Dalton can do things that previous quarterbacks simply couldn’t; most notably, he can throw the ball down the field with accuracy.

Keep in mind, Dalton isn’t a great downfield passer, but he’s better than what’s been here, according to Pro-Football-Reference.

  • Since 2018, Dalton has 14 touchdowns and 14 interceptions on passes 15 yards or more down the field, with a passer rating of 77.3.
  • In the same span, Mitch Trubisky had 15 touchdowns and 20 interceptions with a rating of 63.2.
  • Nick Foles had seven touchdowns and 12 interceptions with a rating of 56.

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Six Final Thoughts on 2021 Training Camp

| August 27th, 2021


Camp is over. Here are some big picture thoughts.

(1) Listen, the quarterbacks were always gonna be the main characters but who could imagine the story would come directly from The Twilight Zone. Justin Fields was never given an opportunity to be the starting quarterback. The game was rigged, Nagy chose Andy Dalton from the start, and the Bears will begin the season irrelevant. When will Fields play? No one knows.

(2) The actual offensive line FINALLY got on the field. There was so much hemming and hawing about poor OL play in the early weeks of camp but the Bears rarely had more than two of their starters available. Amazing that it took until the final days (and the signing of Jason Peters) to get their starting five on the field at the same time. How will they perform as a unit? One of the sport’s best defensive fronts will let us know on the evening of September 12th.

(3) Few roster surprises. This camp was pretty dull when it comes to position battles, roster spots…etc. The Bears seemed to have their minds made up in July (Kindle Vildor was placed with the ones and left there) and little that happened on the practice field or in preseason games changed them.

(4) Alec Ogletree turned up one day and couldn’t stop intercepting the football. That production – and his energy – translated to his preseason debut, where Ogletree cemented his spot on the final 53-man roster. Don’t be surprised if he’s playing a major role in the middle of the defense this season.

(5) Matt Nagy said a lot of dumb things. Signing Peters had nothing to do with Teven Jenkins’ injury? It takes four years for your offense to produce in the NFL? Nagy’s inability to (a) tell the truth and (b) own his early-career failures did not win over a fanbase that already wants him to be sent packing at year’s end.

(6) They are healthy. Teven Jenkins won’t be a factor this season. Tarik Cohen is likely to take until November to find his legs. But, for the most part, the Bears will enter the 2021 season with their roster intact.


Note: I had penned an Is There Any Reason to Watch… column about the final preseason game but with Tennessee now facing a serious Covid outbreak, that game may not even happen. (The Bears would be crazy to take on that risk for a practice game.)  If it happens, enjoy the Riley Ridley drops!

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Training Camp Diary: Nagy Set Dalton Up to Fail

| August 24th, 2021


Matt Nagy almost seemed annoyed when asked about the quarterback situation in the moments after Saturday’s preseason affair against the bills.

He only has himself to blame.

Nagy is optimistic the team will move the ball in the regular season with Andy Dalton calling signals. His belief is that the reason they failed to in the preseason was because they were missing key players. That’s fair. The team’s top three wide receivers, two tight ends and running back all played fewer than five snaps. That’s complemented by three backups – one of whom was likely a third-stringer – along the offensive line. It would be hard for any quarterback to have success and none of the best are ever put in these situations in August.

There is more than a decade of evidence telling us that if the Bears are going to have any success with Dalton, they better have the wind at their back. They need all hands on deck and other clichés too. Dalton needs the situation to be perfect. That’s who he is. The Bears should know that.

In practice, Dalton has reportedly looked good when they’ve been near full strength. But most of the fans don’t see practice and the national media doesn’t pay attention to those reports.

Nobody should blame Nagy for sitting the stars; they need them healthy when the games matter. But if he’s that confident that Dalton is going to be the starting quarterback, why not sit him with the starters? All playing Dalton with backups did was anger fans because all they’re seeing is an immobile guy, behind a makeshift line, going three and out repeatedly. How is he supposed to succeed in that scenario?

Maybe Nagy is right. (It could happen.)

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By Choosing Dalton, Nagy Chooses Irrelevance.

| August 22nd, 2021


What do the Bears think they are?

That’s the question that kept rolling through my brain as I watched Andy Dalton play quarterback on Saturday.

Do the Bears think they were this close to contending for a title a year ago and slightly better quarterback play will put them over the top?

Do the Bears think this roster is good enough now to run through Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers and a Matt Stafford-led Rams in the tournament?

Do the Bears think Vegas has them all wrong? That they should have better odds than 65-1 to win it all? 35-1 to win the NFC? 6-1 to win the NFC North? 2-1 to make the playoffs? An over/under win total of 7.5?

The truth is, they must. Matt Nagy saying the team needs to see Andy Dalton in the regular season is so misguided, so out of touch with the reality of where this franchise currently resides, that no other explanation is possible. The Bears don’t need to evaluate a quarterback who has been in the league for a decade and consistently underwhelmed for the duration of that time. Andy Dalton is Andy Dalton. He’s perfectly capable of being capable. The Bears, with Dalton under center, have a ceiling of about nine wins and a wildcard weekend exit. (And even that would be an achievement.)

This season, the point of the entire enterprise, is Justin Fields. And it is abundantly obvious that no matter what Nagy saw from the young quarterback, he was never going to be given an opportunity to be the starting quarterback. Now, over these next three weeks of pivotal practices, Fields will be relegated to the second teamers and scout squad. If he gets his shot to take over the starting gig during the season, it’ll likely be that week he throws his first passes to Allen Robinson, Cole Kmet and Darnell Mooney in any structured kind of way.

It is malpractice, plain and simple.

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The Bears have played two preseason games. In the first, Justin Fields thoroughly outplayed Dalton. After that game, many expected Fields to be given increased exposure to the starters in practice. He was not. Why?

In the second game, with the exception of one bad throw that a Buffalo first, second or third-team corner easily knocks to the ground, Dalton was brutal. You want to blame the absence of Robinson, Kmet, Mooney and Montgomery? Go right ahead. But Fields came onto the field with a worse collection of skill guys and an offensive line of future real estate salesmen, and moved the team down the field. He used his athleticism. He used his mobility. He used his rocket for an arm. If any of the scrub receivers he was paired with could catch the football, he might have had a stat sheet similar to his first performance. Did Nagy see this performance and say, “It’s time to get Fields some reps with the starters”? Nope. He used the postgame press conference to name Dalton his official Week One starter.

He watched what we all watched. That was his conclusion. How?

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