Final Thoughts on the 2017 NFL Season

| February 12th, 2018

The season has been over more than a week so I thought I’d throw a bunch of thoughts on the entire league into one semi-coherent post.

(1) It was a bad season for the NFL and it all stems from mismanagement at the top. The fallout from injuries/head trauma, player protests, rules issues…etc. were manageable and fixable. But Roger Goodell once again showed himself to be the most flaccidly ineffective commissioner in the history of professional sports.

(2) The “catch rule” has been the mostly thoroughly debated issue in the NFL and the Super Bowl seemed to be a turning point for its legislation, with two touchdowns actually being ruled touchdowns. (This despite the utter confusion of the commentary box, where Michaels and Collinsworth acted like they were asked to call a three-day test cricket match on forty minutes notice.) Possession. Two feet down. That’s it. If you have possession of the ball and two feet on the ground, you have caught the ball. For the first time in a long time, it feels the NFL is headed back in that direction.

(3) Ryan Pace took over the GM job in Chicago prior to the 2014 season.

  • His first year? Low expectations.
  • His second year? Three quarterbacks played, one of whom was benched for C.J. Beathard in 2017 and another didn’t approach an active roster.
  • Year three featured the drafting a quarterback with the second pick and nobody should put win/loss expectation on a rookie quarterback.

Now we enter year four. Pace has his coach. Pace has his QB. And if the latter stays healthy, the Bears should be expected to win games in 2018.

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Super Bowl 52: Four Thoughts & Game Prediction

| February 2nd, 2018

  • Nobody on earth could convince me Carson Wentz wants the Eagles to win this game. How could he? He’s a human being with human emotions. If Nick Foles wins the first Super Bowl in Eagles history, what does Wentz do to follow that? He could win 12 games a year for the next five seasons but without the ring, he’ll never reach the historical level of Foles in Philadelphia. When Jeff Hostetler beat the Bills, Phil Simms had already won a title for the Giants and established them as his team. Wentz has established his potential. Foles can establish his legacy.
  • Is there a dumber debate than Tom Brady vs. Michael Jordan; currently being argued on every conceivable sports media platform? Here’s my answer: Brady would beat Jordan at playing quarterback but Jordan would destroy Brady at basketball. (Pete Weber would kick the shit out of both of them at the local lanes.)

  • Rob Gronkowski’s line: 8 catches, 157 yards, 2 touchdowns. Why? Because when the Patriots get in tough spots against tough defenses they overly rely on Gronk to simply manhandle whomever is asked to cover him. That will happen Sunday.
  • This year has been bizarre…and bad. And that kind of year deserves the phrase “Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles”.

Philadelphia Eagles 26

New England Patriots 24

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Data Entry: Tracking Trubisky’s 2017 Growth Through “The Quarters Lens”

| January 16th, 2018

Former Bears coach Lovie Smith always talked about breaking the NFL season down into quarters, which splits a 16-game season into 4-game sample sizes. I’ve always thought that was a good way to look at it, as grouping four games together helps smooth some of the statistical noise of individual good or bad games.

With that in mind, I want to track Mitchell Trubisky’s rookie season through the quarters lens. Trubisky sat out the first quarter of the season, but took every offensive snap for each of the last three quarters. Let’s see how he progressed through those.


First, I want to point out that Trubisky was tasked with doing more in each quarter.

In his first 4 games, Trubisky had the ball in his hands on only 26.5 plays per game. Coaches tried to minimize what he had to do, which was why more plays featured handoffs and fewer featured him ending the play with a pass attempt, sack, or run.

In Trubisky’s 5th-8th games, that number increased to 34.3 plays per game, and it took another jump to 39.8 plays per game in the last four games.

For the 32 qualified passers in the NFL this year (224 or more pass attempts), the mean and median were both 38.2 pass attempts, meaning Trubisky was being given as much responsibility (in terms of plays per game) as an average quarterback by the end of the season. This clearly shows that coaches were willing to put more responsibility on Trubisky’s shoulders as the season wore on, which is a good sign.

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Flip the Script: Bears Should Hire Eagles Quarterbacks Coach

| January 1st, 2018

At the end of the 2013 season, when Phil Emery was looking for Lovie Smith’s successor, I wrote a column endorsing Kyle Shanahan for the job. That column was met with across-the-board rejection from not only readers but friends in the media and around the league. My argument was simple. I thought Shanahan was going to be a great head coach soon enough, knew he had a terrific relationship with Jay Cutler and wanted the Bears to grab him before he became a hot commodity. Sure enough, a few years later, Shanny went on to create explosive offenses in Atlanta and become the hottest coach on the market in 2017.

John Eugene DeFilippo is that guy right now.


Let’s just go through Flip’s career and see what he’s accomplished because it’s rather remarkable for someone who is only thirty-nine years old.

  • He began his NFL coaching career on Tom Coughlin’s staff with the New York Giants. Never a bad thing to get your first exposure to the league under one of its greatest coaches.
  • After two traumatic seasons in Oakland (‘The Kiffin/Cable Years’) he was the rookie year QB coach for Mark Sanchez in Jersey. Sanchez, coming off one year starting in college, struggled through that season but then turned everything around in the postseason. With Trubisky trusting and relying on Sanchez, Flip could probably convince him to stay on as QB coach and now the Bears would be building a similar coaching coalition to what exists in Philly.
  • Flip left the Jets, where he was splitting duties with former Bears OC Matt Cavanaugh, and returned to the college ranks. His work at San Jose State was apparently pretty damn good but who is really doing a deep dive into what’s good and not good at San Jose State?
  • He returned to the pro ranks, coaching both Derek Carr as a rookie and coordinating the Browns for a year with a quarterbacking trio of Josh McCown, Johnny Manziel and Austin Davis. That trio completed 60% of their passes for 4,156 yards, 20 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. That trio. Did that.
  • He’s been the QB coach for Carson Wentz and been primarily responsible for the Wentz transition from lost rookie fading down the stretch to MVP candidate. And let me tell you this. If Nick Foles takes this team deep into the playoffs, Flip will have the suitors stacking up.

The Leap.

Listen, is the jump from position coach to head coach a big one? Yes. But two things. (1) Andy Reid did it once. (2) Flip has already been a coordinator, even if only for one year, even if only for the Browns. And Flip also sounds an awful lot like a head coach. His players agree. From current Eagles backup Nate Sudfeld:

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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).


  • 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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Week 12: Bears at Eagles Game Preview

| November 22nd, 2017

Why Do I Like the Chicago Bears This Week?

I always like the Chicago Bears. Even when they have almost no chance of winning.

Updating Trubisky’s Development

Mitch Trubisky’s performance Sunday was a solid one, especially the final drive of the game. But just as he addressed (a) throws across his body while on the move and (b) taking too many sacks, now he must address an issue that popped up against the Lions. That’s not trusting his pocket.

In fairness, I get it. Trubisky has been harassed in that pocket for a month. Every time he drops back he’s expecting defenders, quickly. Sunday he didn’t get them. But his footwork and mechanics did not reflect that. On throws where he had plenty of time to set his feet and deliver the football, Trubisky rushed his process and delivered an errant toss.

Sunday against the Eagles might not be the day to expect a comfortable pocket. But this is an issue to watch down the stretch.

Song of the Week

Thanksgiving Food Rankings

#3. Pumpkin Pie. You give me warm pumpkin pie with cold vanilla ice cream and you might as well undo my belt for me.

#2. Turkey Gravy. I’m not sure I like turkey. I mean, it’s fine, but if I liked it so much I would probably eat it on one of the other 364 days, right? I don’t even consider turkey on those days. But turkey gravy? I’d inject it right into my veins in a Baltimore vacant if I could. Why can’t turkey gravy be the cure for skunk spraying instead of tomato juice?

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Match-ups That Matter: Eagles at Bears

| September 15th, 2016


It’s hard to read too much into what the Eagles did to the Browns last week. The Browns are a triple-A franchise right now. But there was enough to digest in those sixty minutes. Which match-ups matter most Monday night?


It is the single biggest mismatch in the game.

  • In 2015, Carr got to 20, Osweiler got to 17 and Winston got to 21. Fox and Fangio’s defense managed to keep rookie/new starting quarterbacks in check, especially at Soldier Field.
  • The Bears have a lot of potential looks to show Wentz and many of those looks will be ones he’s never seen before. They can blitz from five different positions. Their outside linebackers are all capable of dropping into coverages. This is the kind of night where the Bears need Fox and Fangio to play chess and make the kid uncomfortable. Just lining up and playing ball, which is a lot of what they did in Houston, won’t work.
  • The Bears run defense found something in the second half against Houston. If the Eagles don’t make the down/distance easy for Wentz, he’ll struggle.


Four thoughts:

  • I can’t imagine the Eagles coaching staff watching the Bears/Texans tape and having any thought other than, “we can’t let Alshon Jeffery beat us”. Expect Jim Schwartz to try and take Jeffery away all afternoon by pushing safeties in his direction.

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Bears Drafting Quarterback at 11 Unlikely, But Not Crazy

| March 16th, 2016


While still unlikely, the possibility of the Bears drafting a quarterback with the 11th pick in the first round is no longer as crazy as it once seemed.

Daniel Jeremiah’s most recent mock draft created a stir amongst Bears fans because he had them taking Carson Wentz in the first round. Ryan Pace has made it clear he wants to build around Jay Cutler, but he has also said he would take the best player available in the draft. The moves he made in free agency should give him the option of doing just that and if it’s a quarterback, so be it.

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