3 Comments

On the Notion of Apathy Among Bears Fans.

| December 9th, 2021


We got apathy, my friends. That’s right we got apathy here in the Windy City. With a capital A, and that rhymes with J and that stands for Just Get this F’n Season Over With.

John Patrick Shanley’s brilliant play Doubt opens with a simple line that sets the ideological foundation for the entire evening: “What do you do when you don’t know?” A similar question can be asked for the current state of the Bears fan base: “What do you do when you don’t care?”

(Okay, that’s two theatre references in two paragraphs. I think that’s enough.)

Justin Fields was the antidote to apathy this season. Every game he played, every snap he took, allowed fans to commit emotionally because Fields is going to be the quarterback of the Chicago Bears for at least the next several seasons. His development, his flash plays, were all that 2021 was supposed to be about and those moments would provide hope for 2022 and beyond. To a large extent, they have. Fields has a long way to go but he has shown the kind of excitement he can bring to this organization, under the right tutelage.

Without him, what were fans left with to care about?

  • The team is out of contention. There’s no potential playoff berth with which to concern oneself.
  • The head coach will not be here next season so the performance of the roster under his leadership – on both sides of the ball – is inconsequential. By and large, we know who is good, who is not good, and who will be interesting to watch under new coaches.
  • Does it really matter how the young players – Kmet, Mooney, Borom, etc. – develop in this failed program? Is it even development? If they don’t fit what the next coach wants to do offensively, they may not even be on the team. Investing in hypotheticals is not an exciting proposition.
  • Injuries have ravaged them. What started at left tackle this summer has permeated the rest of the roster. It could still be fun to watch the Bears defend Aaron Rodgers with Khalil Mack and Akiem Hicks out there but without them?

Fans want to care, even when the team isn’t winning. That crowd in Seattle was passionately supporting the Seahawks Sunday as they fought the Niners for their fourth win of the season. Why? Because they still have emotional stock in a coach and quarterback who have brought them tons of success. The Lions fans that showed up in Detroit Sunday were in tears as they beat the Vikings for their first win of the year. Why? Because they hope against hope this will be the coach who rights the ship, and it all starts with that first victory.

But this coach is righting any ships. He is weeks (if not days) from walking the plank. And not only has he been unsuccessful as the head coach, but his offenses have been wildly unentertaining. (Most of the Fields-based entertainment had little to do with Matt Nagy.) Every one of us knows exactly what we’re going to see when whatever non-Fields plays quarterback. And every one of us knows it’s going to be a long, boring failure. How is it possible to commit emotionally to an athletic contest when the outcome is negatively predetermined?

Read More …

Tagged: , ,

270 Comments

Mitch, Matt & Missing Playmakers: Why the Ryan Pace Era Should Be Over

| December 6th, 2021


Dave Wasserman is the savviest political analyst in the country. He’s not a partisan hack, pontificating endlessly to halfwits like Chuck Todd about why Issue X plays in rural Virginia and Issue Y doesn’t in Maricopa County. Wasserman is focused on the numbers, the data, and made his bones focusing on congressional redistricting maps. (His Twitter feed is aptly handled @Redistrict.) On election nights, Wasserman pours through the data, county-by-county, and is often able to call races (accurately, mind you) well before the networks. When he’s ready to make the call, he turns to his catchphrase: I’ve seen enough. 

Well, I’ve seen enough.

Forget reassignment. Forget restructuring the front office. When George McCaskey finally fires Matt Nagy, he must also fire Ryan Pace. Pace has done several valuable things as GM of the Chicago Bears, but this organization’s dearth of talent at several key positions – positions vital to the development and success of Justin Fields – can no longer be overlooked. It is time for a new direction.

There are two fatal flaws of the Pace tenure: he drafted Mitch Trubisky and he hired Matt Nagy. Those mistakes have been discussed ad nauseum and need not be reiterated here. But watching the Bears fall to the Cardinals Sunday, a third fatal flaw became all-too-apparent once again. The Bears have simply failed to add enough game-changing playmakers in his seven years on the job.

Darnell Mooney is a terrific player and will thrive in a more coherent offensive system next season. But is there another pass catcher on this roster that even mildly concerns opposing defenses? Allen Robinson is headed towards a one-year prove it deal in New England. Goodwin, Byrd and Grant are practice squad players for the top teams in the league. Cole Kmet is a viable piece of an offensive attack but he’s not in the conversation with the marquee tight ends and he never will be. (To Kmet’s credit, that was not the expectation of him coming out of college.)

Their backfield is good. David Montgomery is a brilliant running back and there will be teams calling for his services this off-season. But while Tarik Cohen’s production earned him a hefty payday, his injury seems to have completely derailed any semblance of an explosive screen game. The Bears valued that role to the tune of $17 million but have seen no reason to replace him in the lineup. Has anyone asked why?

Read More …

Tagged: , , ,

130 Comments

Bears at Lions Thanksgiving Game Preview, Vol. I: Establishing QB Tiers for Christmas Movies

| November 22nd, 2021


Why Do I Like the Chicago Bears This Week?

I always like the Chicago Bears.

But I’m not even sure what it is I’m liking this week. If Justin Fields doesn’t play, there is nothing to be gained on Thursday. But it’s Thanksgiving. And it’s football. And we’ll all be watching…I think.


Thoughts on A Quick Turnaround in 2022

Robert Quinn, the team’s MVP in 2021, and Khalil Mack, the team’s best player, are returning in 2022. Roquan Smith is the best ILB in the sport, Jaylon Johnson is a top corner, and the Bears have shown a propensity for finding talent at the interior DL positions. They need corners, but they’ll have off-season assets to acquire them.

While many malign the offensive line, the group is having a decent 2021, especially as a mauling/run-blocking unit. If Teven Jenkins solidifies the left tackle spot, the pass protection should be dramatically improved as well. If you believe Fields will only get better – and I do – the Bears need to concentrate their efforts on adding weapons, weapons, weapon on the outside. Again, the assets are there to do so.

(And for you schedule junkies, the Bears have two road games in the Meadowlands next season, against certainly still-bad Giants and Jets teams.)

But it will all come down to the coaching hire. Terrific quarterback play can cover for bad coaching (Aaron Rodgers won Mike McCarthy a Super Bowl) on the offensive side of the ball, but the Bears currently suffer from a lack of leadership. There is no commitment to the game day plan because there doesn’t seem to be anything resembling a game day plan. They don’t need to hire an offensive mind, or a defensive mind. There are plenty of coaches out there that can call plays. Find the guy who stands in the front of the room and inspires his players to perform at their best.

They find that guy, they win ten games in 2022.


Christmas Movie Quarterbacking Tiers

Every year, from Thanksgiving to Christmas, I gorge on Christmas movies, usually updating my viewing experiences on the Twitter feed. This year, I decided to tier the films, with a little note added when explanation was required, and with a little football flair. This is a solid guide to season for you and your family. In each category, the films are listed in no particular order.

_____________________________________________

The Prospects (Thanksgiving)

_____________________________________________

Planes, Trains and Automobiles

Home for the Holidays

Mouse on the Mayflower

_____________________________________________

The Elite QBs 

_____________________________________________

These are the top shelf Christmas movies, and I’ll be watching most of them at least twice over the next month.

Home Alone

Elf

The Muppet Christmas Carol

Scrooge (Albert Finney)

A Very Murray Christmas

Scrooged

Miracle on 34th Street (original)

The Ref

Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas

Love Actually

The Night Before

Bad Santa

The Year Without Santa Claus (1974)

The Santa Clause

National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation

Klaus

Read More …

Tagged: , , , , ,

693 Comments

Bump: George McCaskey Should Fire Matt Nagy.

| November 22nd, 2021

UPDATE 11/21/21. There is no reason to recap Sunday’s train wreck loss to the undermanned Baltimore Ravens. This is over for Matt Nagy. Time to make it official. Waiting no longer makes sense.

This piece originally ran after the Tampa game.


Nate Tice, son of the the legendary Mike Tice and one of the better young NFL analysts got me through Monday with a Twitter thread.

____________________

____________________

Not having any desire to sit through Sunday’s debacle again, it was nice to see Tice confirm what I had believed in real time: that Justin Fields had zero chance to succeed in Tampa. This was Cleveland redux and the entirety of the blame falls onto the shoulders of the head coach. The game plan made no sense. The offense, now in fourth season, makes no sense. And we are now at that moment in the development of this young quarterback where the most important question has been answered. Matt Nagy is not now, and will never be, the right man to maximize the ability of Fields.

A source close to ownership texted me Monday morning that Halas Hall was “fed up” with the head coach. They should be. But being fed up is not enough. George McCaskey should fire Matt Nagy. Today, next week, on the bye, whenever. But Nagy shouldn’t make it to the end of the season. If only for the symbolism alone, a message to the fans that this simply isn’t good enough.

Read More …

Tagged: , , ,

250 Comments

What the Next Six Days Will Tell Us About the 2021 Chicago Bears Moving Forward

| November 19th, 2021


There are three possible outcomes for the Chicago Bears over the next six days. (I’m ruling out ties, which I may come to regret by the end of next week.) Each outcome brings with it a very specific emotional trajectory for the remainder of the 2021 season.

_____________________

Outcome #1 – The Sweep

Emotional Outcome: JUICE!

If the Bears win their next two games, they move to 5-6 and put a significant amount of juice into the remainder of the regular season. The six seed in the NFC is a 5-4, quarterback-less Saints team. The seven seed just made Cam Newton their starter.

The juice would start at Soldier Field, on December 5th, against the Arizona Cardinals. Justin vs. Kyler. A fired up building on the lakefront. Christmas only 20 days away!

It is highly unlikely Matt Nagy can still earn his way back onto the sideline for 2022, but the only way that conversation can start is by winning these next two, while Justin Fields progresses.

_____________________

Outcome #2 – The Shutout

Emotional Outcome: MAKE IT STOP.

The McCaskey family is opposed to firing coaches in-season, with Marc Trestman pushing them as close to the line as they’d ever come. That year, what prevented them from making the move was their desire to clean house – removing Trestman and GM Phil Emery – and they thought it best to make both moves once the season ended.

But if the Bears fall to 3-8, including a loss on Thanksgiving to an awful and untalented Lions team, the outcry may be too great to ignore. Nagy will have lost the fans, and the locker room. With a new, two-week, regular season interview period open for head coaches, ownership may see no reason to leave Nagy in the job for a meaningless month.

And that’s all the remainder of the schedule would be: meaningless. The results would not matter, not even artificially. All that would matter is a few highlights from Fields and the development of young talent like Darnell Mooney, Cole Kmet, Larry Borom and – hopefully – Teven Jenkins. December and early January become de facto preseason games.

_____________________

Outcome #3 – The Split

Emotional Outcome: EH.

Isn’t this what every fan expects? Be relevant, or be terrible. The problem with the Bears under Nagy – since the end of the 2018 season – is they’ve been neither.

Tagged: , , ,

279 Comments

The Midseason Progress Report: QB, HC, GM

| November 15th, 2021


Quarterback

Pre-Bye Grade: B-

A few sentences: A quarterback’s rookie season is difficult to evaluate but the Justin Fields trajectory is that of a player who is going to be around a long time. He flashed big plays, even when struggling, and has translated those flashes into two dynamic performances against two solid opponents. B- is a fantastic grade for a rookie at this stage.

% Chance of Returning: 100

Thoughts on Return: Fields is the most dynamic player at quarterback in Bears history. All focus now shifts to building a roster to support him. (That means protection. Fields will make the skill guys better.)


Head Coach

Pre-Bye Grade: D-

A few sentences:  The Bears lose to every good team they play. They never have a sideline advantage. They commit too many penalties. They make too many mistakes. Details are constantly ignored. The only thing keeping this grade from the basement is the development of Fields, for which Matt Nagy must be given at least some credit.

% Chance of Returning: 7.8

Thoughts on Return: The only way Nagy can plausibly return as head coach is if Fields dominates the second half and the Bears find themselves either (a) in the postseason or (b) seriously contending for a postseason spot, the final week of the season, with a winning record. Neither of those things is going to happen.

Based on some conversations with folks close to ownership, the team is ready to find the next coach.


General Manager

Pre-Bye Grade: A+

A few sentences: Many are going to see that grade and think, “What the hell drugs is he on?” But Ryan Pace drafted – in this year’s draft – what looks like a franchise quarterback. That’s all that matters in this league. I don’t care what the old quarterbacks and tight ends cost. I don’t care what he’s doing with the cap. If he got the QB correct, and it looks like he did, everything will become easier for Bears in the years to come.

(This is not Pace’s grade for his tenure. Just his grade for this season, pre-bye.)

% Chance of Returning: 56.5

Thoughts on Return: It is close. But it’s looking slightly more likely that Pace will be allowed to choose another coach. He had a good draft in 2020 and a potentially transformative draft in 2021, including the selection of a franchise quarterback. Ownership could see these two years as a young GM making progress, lay the failures of the last few years at the feet of Matt and Mitch, and keep stability in their front office.

Bears ownership chose to keep Pace after 2020. He drafted Fields in 2021. Why would they fire him now?

Tagged: , ,

222 Comments

Bye Week Thoughts: Fields Buying Nagy 2021, Kmet Progression, Bye Weeks Songs & More!

| November 11th, 2021


Nagy Should Get Rest of Season

Many had targeted this week, the bye week, as the optimal time for the Bears to move on from Matt Nagy as head coach. But Justin Fields’ performances against the San Francisco 49ers and Pittsburgh Steelers – two good defenses, two teams playing for everything – will likely guarantee that Nagy sees out the remainder of this campaign.

And that’s the right decision.

This season needed to be entirely about Justin Fields and his development. (It hasn’t been, of course.) Over the last two weeks, the club is actually seeing tangible evidence of that development. Why would they do anything to stunt that progress in-season? The wins and losses don’t matter. The defense doesn’t matter. The weird personnel usages and return men bringing the ball out from five yards deep and penalties all over the place, they don’t matter. All that matters is Fields and Fields is currently an overwhelming positive. The Bears can’t disrupt that.

Nagy should (and likely will) be fired the second the 2021 season concludes. And if Fields continues on his current path, the head coaching candidates will be circling this vacancy like one of those dirty crows that circles your golf cart when you’ve got an open protein bar on the seat. An argument could be made that the new two-week window to interview coaches at the end of the regular season should expedite the process, and that argument is valid, but this is going to be THE destination coaching spot of the off-season. It comes with a quarterback. And these jobs rarely do.


Cole Kmet Continues to Rise

Kmet’s last four games: 4/49, 5/43, 3/24, 6/87.

His 17-game projection: 53/546.

But more important than the numbers is the rapport now developed between the tight end and the quarterback. Fields has found his security blanket and Kmet is cementing his role as a pivotal part of The Justin Fields Project in 2022, joining David Montgomery and Darnell Mooney as charter members.

Read More …

Tagged: , ,

355 Comments

Nagy and Pace Have Only Themselves to Blame

| November 3rd, 2021


After some Monday morning conversations with several people – both inside Halas Hall and around the league – I came away, for the first time in 2021, believing there was little chance of either Matt Nagy or Ryan Pace returning to the Chicago Bears in 2022. The program, the entire program, seems to have reached its conclusion. And it begs a simple question: why are we here?

When Nagy and Pace selected Justin Fields, they should have had the built-in cushion of this season. After receiving the vote of confidence from George and Ted at the end of the 2020 campaign, and then being allowed to choose the quarterback of the future, they could have sold the whole of Bears world on Fields’ long-term development being more important than any short-term results. Like it or not, they could have wiped the last several seasons off the ledger and started fresh.

Instead, they mangled the whole thing.

They didn’t have a contending roster on their hands but they naively, confusedly, acted like they did. They refused to give the rookie quarterback even so much as the opportunity to win the starting job this summer for that very reason. Then, when forced into action due to injury, they’ve seen their young quarterback struggle to find rhythm with any of the starting skills guys because of a complete lack of reps with them all summer long.

And because they pretended like they had a contending roster, they needed to contend! And there was simply no way that was going to happen. Nagy and Pace installed pressure on themselves to achieve the unachievable in 2021. Listen, the reason the franchise is not a contender this year is entirely their fault, but that almost doesn’t matter. They were given a second life. First, from ownership. Then, with Fields. They could have totally changed the conversation to a future with Justin Fields and built an entirely new program around him.

But instead, they tried to shoehorn Fields into the old program; a failed program. George McCaskey was looking for every possible reason to keep these men in their jobs, to not go through another exhausting search, but they have almost left him with no choice.

Read More …

Tagged: , ,