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ATM: Fields & Mahomes Situations Not Comparable

| June 15th, 2021

As tempting as it may be, Chicago Bears fans should resist comparing the team’s current situation at quarterback with past examples from around the league, especially what transpired in Kansas City with Patrick Mahomes. Justin Fields is neither Mahomes, nor Mitch Trubisky. Andy Dalton neither Alex Smith, nor Mike Glennon. The situations are simply not comparable.

First, the veterans.

When Mahomes was drafted Smith had been the starting quarterback in KC for four years, leading the team to the playoffs three times. He had the locker room’s respect and knew the playbook cold. The Chiefs were HIS team, and he’d earned that. But Smith had physical limitations. Hence, Mahomes was drafted.

Glennon came to the Bears with 30 career touchdown passes to 15 interceptions. He had a career rating of 84.6 in 18 starts. He was no Smith. Dalton is more Smith, coming to Chicago with 142 starts under his belt and leading numerous playoff teams. Dalton, like Smith, has success when everything around him is perfect. But their situations are completely different. The Bears are not Dalton’s team. He’s been slightly longer than his surefire replacement, Justin Fields.

Then there are the contracts.

The Chiefs hoped Smith would play well and they could trade him for draft capital. It worked.

The Bears had hoped the same for Glennon. It did not.

No matter what Dalton does in 2021, he will be a free agent in 2022. (The Bears could, in theory, tag and trade him if he balls out, but let’s not cross that bridge until it comes.) There was significant prospective value in playing Smith and Glennon. There is little-to-none when it comes to Dalton.

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ATM: Fields Should Have To Earn Starting Job

| May 25th, 2021

While many fans don’t want to hear it, Matt Nagy’s response when questioned on if Justin Fields could win the starting quarterback position in training camp was spot on. Nagy was asked by ESPN 1000s David Kaplan if Fields could win the job with an exceptional training camp performance and Nagy responded by pointing out that Andy Dalton is also competing for the same position.

It’s reasonable, beyond reasonable, to say Fields should have to be the better quarterback to win the starting job and it’s certainly possible that is exactly what will happen. The Bears certainly aren’t ruling that out publicly, which might tell you what their expectations are privately. But Fields should still have to earn the job.

The Patrick Mahomes Example has been brought up numerous times because Nagy was in Kansas City when Mahomes wasn’t able to wrestle the starting job away from Alex Smith. While unlikely, it isn’t out of the realm of possibility that Dalton has a season similar to Smith’s, and we’ve never seen a rookie match that level of success.

Dalton is pretty close to what Smith was prior to the 2017 season. Smith has a slight statistical edge, but that can be explained by the supporting cast with which each had played. Smith wasn’t the 2017 version of himself until that year and it had been six years since he had a passer rating above 100. (This is somewhat ironic because Dalton had a passer rating of 106.2 six years ago.)

Cincinnati became a bad situation quickly for Dalton and, like Smith, he’s not the kind who can make chicken salad out of chicken shit. Dalton performed reasonably well for the Cowboys last year despite playing behind a horrendous offensive line. We saw Smith drop back down to earth right after he left KC.

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Can Justin Fields Upgrade Chicago’s QB Performance in 2021?

| May 17th, 2021

Recently, I looked at Andy Dalton and found that he is not likely going to improve on the production the Bears got from their QBs in 2020. That means any improvement in the QB room likely has to come from rookie Justin Fields.

This is a more difficult projection to make because Fields doesn’t have years of NFL production to look at for an apples-to-apples comparison like I did with Dalton. Instead, I’m going to look at all rookies drafted in the last 10 years (2011-20 drafts) who attempted at least 300 passes in their rookie NFL season, with the idea being they played the majority of the year. This gives a sample size of 29 QBs; how many of them performed better than Chicago’s QBs in 2020?


The Setup

To do this comparison, I’m going to look at 3 stats, which I want to briefly explain here:

  • Yards per attempt + (Y/A)+. Yards per attempt is a simple enough metric, but the + indicates it is adjusted for era. Since this is comparing QBs over a 10 year sample, and league-wide yards/attempt has fluctuated year-by-year, this scales them all accordingly. 100 is a league average mark, anything higher is better and lower is worse.
  • Adjusted net yards per attempt + (ANY/A+). This takes yards/attempt and factors in touchdowns, interceptions, and sacks, and then scales according to league averages that year. A full explanation of the formula for adjusted net yards/attempt (which is from Pro Football Reference, just like Y/A+) can be seen here. The scaling is the same as Y/A+ above; 100 is average, and higher is better.
  • Expected Points added (EPA/Dropback). This attempts to account for the value of each individual play by comparing expected points on the drive (based on down, distance, and field location) at the start and finish of a play. Generally speaking, higher values here indicate that QB’s team is expected to score more points over the course of the season. A more detailed explanation can be found here. EPA data is pulled from this website.

The idea here is simple enough: how many of the 29 rookie QBs in the last 10 years with 300+ pass attempts have outperformed Chicago’s QBs from 2020? I also threw Andy Dalton’s 2020 season in just as a point of reference. Full data can be viewed here. 


Results

The table below shows how the Bears did in all 3 stats in 2020, how Andy Dalton did in all 3 stats in 2020, the average for all 29 rookies in the sample, and the number of rookies who outperformed the better of the 2020 Bears/2020 Dalton in each stat.

A few thoughts:

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Does Andy Dalton Upgrade Chicago’s QB Room?

| May 11th, 2021

The Bears completely overhauled their QB room this offseason, letting Mitchell Trubisky leave, signing Andy Dalton, and trading up in the 1st round to draft Justin Fields. The goal is obvious: improve a passing attack that finished last year ranked 28th in yards/attempt, 18th in passing TD, threw the 4th most interceptions, and had the 24th passer rating among 32 NFL teams.

With that in mind, I want to look at each of the additions compared to who they replaced to see how likely it is that they actually provide the desired upgrade. I’m starting today with Andy Dalton, who the Bears have insisted is still their starter.

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Basic Stats

Let’s start with a surface-level view of Dalton’s passing stats compared to Trubisky and Nick Foles, the 2020 QBs.

Since playing time has been spotty for all of them over the last few years, due to a combination of injury and sometimes being the backup, I’m going to use cumulative 2018-20 stats for all of them to give a decent sample size (600+ pass attempts for each). I’ll include the NFL average over that time period to see how each QB stands relative to their peers.



As you can see there, a first glance makes it look like Dalton doesn’t provide much improvement over the status quo. The three QBs vary quite a bit in completion percentage, but all come up well below the NFL average in both yards per attempt and TD to INT ratio. If anything, Trubisky was the most productive QB of the three (though this is not an argument for keeping Trubisky. They are all bad NFL QBs). If you’re really curious about the 2020 Bears specifically, they completed 66% of their passes, averaged 6.4 yards/attempt, and had 1.6 TD for every INT.

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Short/Deep Split

However, we can take a closer look to see if there’s something we might be missing. Let’s split up passes into short (less than 15 yards past the line of scrimmage) and deep (15+ yards past the line of scrimmage). Here’s the same table as above, only with that split applied. Short passes are highlighted in orange, deep passes in blue.

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221 Comments

If They Make 2021 About Andy Dalton, the Chicago Bears – Collectively – Have Lost Their Minds

| April 1st, 2021


Andy Dalton is a middle of the road quarterback.

Ryan Pace knows Dalton is a middle of the road quarterback.

Matt Nagy knows Dalton is a middle of the road quarterback.

George McCaskey and Ted Phillips know Dalton is a middle of the road quarterback.

And that is why none of these men can possibly believe Dalton is a pathway out of the mediocrity of the last two seasons. None of these men can possibly think Dalton – even replacing the ineptitude of “the former guy” – is the missing piece in a Super Bowl puzzle. And in the cases of Pace, Nagy and perhaps even Phillips, they can’t possibly imagine Dalton is worth risking their tenures within the organization.

To believe any of that nonsense would show that everyone in a position of authority at Halas Hall has lost their collective minds. And if that’s case, what hope do any of us have?

So we must believe Pace, Nagy, Phillips and McCaskey have not lost their minds. We must believe they understand the Bears must still solve the most important position in team sports. We must believe they know there are only two ways to inspire this fanbase for the coming season: Russell Wilson or a first-round (or very early second-round) quarterback.

Bears fans have grown impatient, and with every right. But until we know if either Wilson or a top prospect are achieved, there is no reason to be decisive about this Bears off-season. That time, however, is rapidly approaching.

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219 Comments

Wednesday Lynx Package

| March 24th, 2021


Barring a blockbuster QB trade, it’s unlikely much will happen around the Bears – with the exception of the schedule release – before the NFL Draft. So here are some links.

  • There have been various articles detailing the salary cap situation facing the Chicago Bears, but Data’s Twitter thread on the situation is certainly the most negative I’ve seen. Here’s the thing about the Bears and the cap: it actually doesn’t matter. This franchise will continue to tread water – with cap space or without – until they settle the quarterback position.
  • Think the Dolphins are the landing spot for Deshaun Watson? Well articles are now starting to appear locally urging Miami to wait until Watson’s legal woes are resolved. Watson is going to play in the league again. He’s going to play well in the league. And he’s not going to do that for the Houston Texans. The Bears should stay in this conversation.
  • Mock drafts are now projecting Mac Jones falling to the Bears at 20, per this piece from BearsWire, which includes a quote from mocker Doug Farrar. “Why would be drop to 20? Because the modern NFL requires quarterbacks to display mobility and second-reaction ability, and Jones has not shown much of that at all. But he’s a great pocket mover (the combination of liability and asset is why so many mock him to the Patriots), and perhaps he can be developed into a league-average mover on boots and scramble drills. From Day 1, though, he’s an improvement over what the Bears are hauling out there at the position.”
  • ACTUAL BEAR NEWS. China has now opened a “Polar Bear Hotel”. It is completely booked for the foreseeable future but animal rights activists are not pleased. (Honestly, I’m surprised animal rights activists still monitor China.)
  • Adam Hoge thinks the ceiling for Andy Dalton 2021 is Alex Smith 2017 and his excellent piece for NBC Sports details that comparison.

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193 Comments

Unpopular Opinion: Bears Can Win With Dalton

| March 23rd, 2021

Putting all your hopes into Andy Dalton isn’t the best spot. But it certainly isn’t the worst.

At this point, we know what Dalton is, which is good and bad. He can go through progressions and make easy plays. He won’t beat teams with his athleticism or his arm, but he also won’t beat his own team by regularly throwing interceptions in the end zone like both of the Bears quarterbacks did last year. Dalton is securely in the lower-third of starting quarterbacks. That’s not good enough. But it’s the best the Bears could do for now.

The other options weren’t all that appealing. Jameis Winston and Ryan Fitzpatrick have made careers out of wowing teams with great plays, but ultimately turning the ball over too much to make a difference. The best Winston could do with a Super Bowl-ready roster was go 7-9.

Dalton is similar to Nick Foles in that they’re both limited, but their limitations are different. Foles throws a better deep ball. Dalton is better on intermediate routes and moves better. Foles’ immobility proved especially problematic last year, as he played with a decimated OL for most of his time, and he just couldn’t handle any amount of pressure.

Perhaps the biggest reason the Bears signed Dalton is because if there’s one thing Foles has proven in his NFL career, it’s that he can’t stay healthy.

So, Dalton it is.

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Torn: How to Handle QB Position Between Now and September

| March 18th, 2021


This is one of the more bizarre off-seasons in Bears history.

It began with a year-end presser that sent Chicago sports radio into a tizzy and made the word “collaboration” a punchline. (The reaction to this presser was quintessential Chicago media. I’ve never heard so much unwarranted weeping into handkerchiefs.)

It then became about two star quarterbacks on the market: Deshaun Watson and Russell Willson. The excitement around the former has been muted by his evil organization’s reluctance to answer their landlines and the lawsuits now developing around the quarterback. (If you don’t think Watson’s legal troubles originate inside the Texans, you’re not paying attention. These are bad people.)

The excitement around the latter came to a crashing halt on Tuesday, with the Seahawks balking at a deal that had been negotiated for weeks and Andy Dalton signing in Chicago.

But is the Wilson deal dead? Adam Schefter sure doesn’t think so and any conversation about how the Bears need to approach quarterback between now and opening day starts with that question.



Until the Seahawks and Wilson make a public commitment to each other and the 2021 season, such a commitment does not exist. What we know:

  • Russell Wilson doesn’t want to be on the Seahawks any longer.
  • GM John Schneider was willing to let the quarterback leave.
  • Head coach Pete Carroll was not.

The Bears should keep calling, and keep increasing their offer, until that commitment is made or until the weekend of the draft.  At the same time, the team should not lose sight of Watson.

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250 Comments

Happy St. Patrick’s Day: The Andy Dalton Signing Makes No Sense

| March 17th, 2021


Andy Dalton isn’t any good.

He’s pitched a quarterback rating over 90 twice is his entire NFL career.

He doesn’t throw enough touchdown passes. He throws too many interceptions.

He’s a more-than-capable backup in the league and probably could fill a role like that for years to come. But the Bears are giving him $10 million. (And they hope more!) That’s not what you pay a backup. That’s what you pay a quarterback you’ve identified as your starter of choice.

Ryan Pace and the club made a valiant attempt to acquire Russell Wilson, offering what Ian Rapoport referred to as “a lot” for one of the game’s best players. As someone close to the organization said to me, “Pace and the Seahawks were speaking almost daily for a month.” In the end Seattle decided they were not ready to rebuild. Pete Carroll decided not to relinquish his most lethal weapon because, quite frankly, he’s getting too old for this shit.

So the Bears, with an old white statue of a quarterback currently on the roster at double-digit millions, decided to add another. One has to assume Nick Foles will not be on this roster come September but based on how this leadership has handled the quarterback position, how can one assume anything?

Instead all attention will now turn the draft next month where the GM who has done nothing but get the quarterback spot wrong will get another opportunity.

Oh, and say the Bears trade up for Trey Lance. Does anyone think Lance is gonna play a down as a rookie? What would this mean for Pace/Nagy? Would they still have pressure to win in 2021 after being responsible for choosing for the QB for 2022 and beyond?

This is a bleak moment for the franchise.

Angela’s Ashes bleak.

Never have the Bears faithful on social media seemed so unanimously convinced the coming season was hopeless. The organization’s fatal flaw in 2019 and 2020 was the quarterback position. Today, it’s impossible to argue they’ve improved it.

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