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Rookie QBs: Hope For The Best, Prepare For the Worst

| September 22nd, 2021


While recent NFL history has plenty of success stories when it comes to rookie quarterbacks, Bears fans should prepare themselves for the most likely scenario: rookie quarterbacks struggle.

The 2021 season is the perfect case study.

All of the rookie quarterbacks were tremendous in the preseason. Trevor Lawrence went 11-for-12 with two touchdowns in his last action and Zach Wilson finished 9-for-11 with two scores. Those two are currently the lowest-rated passers with at least 20 attempts in the regular season. If you drop the number of minimum attempts to 15, the four lowest-rated passers in the league are Fields (38.2), Wilson (56.1), Lawrence (57.1) and Davis Mills (58.1).

Not good.

But numbers don’t tell the whole story. Fields had a dropped touchdown pass that went right threw Allen Robinson’s arms. Even with that completion on Sunday, his passer rating would’ve only been 71. Maybe better chemistry with Darnell Mooney could’ve led to a couple of more completions, but the interception and the fumble still happened and were nearly catastrophic.

In August, Sheil Kapadia of The Athletic did a story looking at rookie quarterbacks, wherein he determined that 24 of the 31 were below average. “The median rookie season was Mike Glennon,” Kapadia wrote.

In the last five years, there have been 17 teams that have had rookie quarterbacks play extensively. Only two of those teams finished inside the top 15 in terms of scoring and three were in the top half of the league in yardage. From 2016 to 2019, the worst offenses in the league were all quarterbacked by rookies.

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As Fields Becomes the Starter, Opportunity Moves to Nagy.

| September 21st, 2021


Justin Fields is now the starting quarterback for the Chicago Bears.

Could Andy Dalton come back from injury and find himself on the field? Sure. But it’s highly unlikely. Even Dalton knew, as he watched Fields from the sideline, that he wouldn’t be able to survive an injury as the starter. Fields will start Sunday in Cleveland, start at Soldier Field the week after, and assuming he stays healthy, start every subsequent Bears game for the next decade or more.

And now Matt Nagy has 15 games to prove he’s the right guy to coach him.

It’s a pretty simple enterprise. The Justin Fields that plays January 9th against the Minnesota Vikings has to be an improvement over the Justin Fields that plays September 26th against the Cleveland Browns. And the two men have to develop the kind of working relationship the best coach/quarterback combinations seem to enjoy. If those two things are achieved, Nagy safely stays on as head coach in 2022. If either is in question, the Bears can’t risk wasting a second year of Fields’ rookie contract and will have to move on to a new coach.

The work is there to be done. Fields needs to develop an internal clock on the field, guiding his decisions whether to run or not. He also needs to clean up everything pre-snap, both with his cadences and his protection calls. And Nagy needs to completely reconfigure his offensive approach for Fields, a quarterback who shares almost no traits with the former guy. Fields needs to be on the move constantly. The Bears need to take advantage of his 4.4 speed.

It’s on Nagy now, as he enters the most important three-month period of his coaching life. If he succeeds, he’ll be the coach in Chicago for a long time.

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Bears Beat Bengals to Guarantee Tie for First Place: Rapid Fire Recap

| September 20th, 2021


The story will be Justin Fields. Every week, from here out. Fields played how a rookie with no first-team reps should play. Bad interception. Cadence issues with the line. Some brilliant throws (that the receivers didn’t catch). Extended a crucial drive with his legs. Now the season becomes about his progression. And if the Bears can win while he progresses, this becomes a fascinating season.

Other thoughts. Rapid fire is back, baby.

  • The other progression to track is Kindle Vildor. Vildor made enough plays Sunday to provide hope but also looked lost at times. If the Bears can find a second corner on this roster it’ll make the offseason so much easier to navigate.
  • Roquan Smith and Jaylon Johnson are young cornerstones for this defense. Roquan is a weird combination of Briggs and Urlacher – an attacking run stuffer who’s also brilliant in space. Johnson, if he stays healthy, has All Pro corner talent.
  • Robert Quinn’s hit on Burrow out of bounds was absurd but this was his best game as a Bear.
  • Allen Robinson has to catch the touchdown pass from Fields. He just has to. It’s not only pivotal in the game but it would have given the organization a huge moment to celebrate. Don’t complain about the quarterbacks you’ve played with in your career when you can’t make plays like that.
  • Cole Kmet. One target. That just isn’t enough. The Bears have to get their tight ends consistently into the game plan.

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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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So That Happened.

| September 14th, 2021

In David Mamet’s State and Main, Alec Baldwin plays a movie star with a penchant for young women. In the middle of the movie, he flips a car, climbs out the window, looks at Phil Hoffman, and nonchalantly says, “So that happened.” It is quite literally one of my favorite moments (and lines) in movie history.



The inevitable car wreck to open the 2021 Chicago Bears season took place in Los Angeles Sunday night. And as I turned off the television I was left with the same sentiment as Baldwin, climbing out of a comfy living room chair in Greenwood Lake, NY to toss an empty bottle of Labatt’s in the recycling bin.

So that happened.

I felt nothing about it. No emotion whatsoever. And not feeling any emotion about a Bears game actually filled me with sadness. In my game preview I had written what I thought would transpire Sunday night, predicting an outcome of 30-13 Rams. The game played according to that script. The offense was a little bit better; the defense a little bit worse. 34-14 Rams. (The most surprising aspect to the whole evening was the performance of David Montgomery and the offensive line in the run game.)

Now the Bears are left to deal with the damage.

Their stopgap, 39 year-old answer at left tackle isn’t going to hold up. The fifth-round pick that replaced him might not either.

The secondary is one of the two or three worst in the sport and can’t survive unless Khalil Mack dominates opponents. (Mack hasn’t dominated many during his Chicago tenure.)

Eddie Goldman has mysteriously vanished into injury again.

Andy Dalton is Andy Dalton and the Bears have decided to use his backup – a far superior player – for a series of moronic gadget plays sprinkled into the sea of dinks and dunks.

The Bears are bad.

Okay, so you don’t want to go that far?

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Bears Must Acknowledge What They Are: Bad.

| September 13th, 2021


Justin Fields should be the starting quarterback Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals.

Not because of anything Andy Dalton did Sunday night. Dalton was Dalton. He dinked. He dunked. He took no chances. He made several mistakes.

No, Justin Fields should start Sunday because the Bears must look at what transpired in Los Angeles and recognize where they are as a franchise. They’re a bad team. They don’t have top-tier weapons on offense. They don’t have a professional secondary. They don’t have an elite coaching staff. The ceiling for this group is mediocre and the more likely outcome is bottom third of the league.

The focus of this organization must shift from the futile endeavor winning games in 2021 to doing everything possible to get Fields ready for 2022. Every day that shift is delayed is wasted time.

Is this difficult for a franchise to do? Yes. Teams delude themselves to sleep each night with visions of the Lombardi Trophy dancing in their brains. But is it necessary for the Bears to do? Absolutely.

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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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Three Lessons Learned From the Three Practice Games

| August 30th, 2021


Lesson #1

Bears don’t have an answer at second corner spot.

Kindle Vildor was the darling of the practice sessions but thoroughly underwhelmed in game action. Desmond Trufant has wanted to prove he still has it but hasn’t been able to prove he can stay healthy. Duke Shelley? Tre Roberson? Thomas Graham? Artie Burns? They’re just bodies.

What the Bears should do is play Graham and live with his learning on the job. But that would require the organization understand where they are in the championship timeline and their handling of Justin Fields has proven they do not. They will go with the lowest risk option opposite Jaylon Johnson and be vulnerable there all season long.


Lesson #2

Rodney Adams can play NFL football.

Adams’ preseason performances were better than anything former Bear Javon Wims and should-be-former Bear Riley Ridley have put on tape during their careers. And his rapport with Fields can not be overlooked. If Adams does not find a space on the final 53, it’s safe to say Matt Nagy put no import on anything that happened in preseason games.


Lesson #3

Justin Fields is the club’s most exciting player.

Khalil Mack is great. Allen Robinson is steady. But Fields is a needle mover at the sport’s most important position. Every snap he takes under center brings the entirety of Chicago to full attention. Every snap he doesn’t play in 2021 is a complete waste of time.

Fields is ready. Every single analyst objectively watching the Bears knows it. If only the head coach did.

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Training Camp Diary Ends: Season Approaches. I Feel Nothing.

| August 26th, 2021


We should all be pacing our living rooms, ordering our game-watch merch for the season, diagraming fool-proof end arounds in the condensation of our shower walls. This should be one of the more anticipatory three-week periods in the history of the Chicago Bears organization.

But it’s not that.

We should be talking to our friends, tanked in the tavern, caffeinated in the coffee shop, toweled in the Turkish bath, about how much fun it’s going to be to watch Aaron Donald try to track down Justin Fields in the backfield, only to see Fields run from the pressure and complete a ball twenty-five yards down the field.

But we won’t be doing any of that.

Instead, the fan energy and enthusiasm generated by Fields this summer – seeing a quarterback do things we have never seen one do in a Bears uniform – has been thoroughly extinguished in the short-term by his head coach mangling the position all summer long. Instead, on September 12th, we’ll be forced to sit through an entire slate of Sunday football action only to see Andy Dalton take the starter’s reins on Sunday night.

Trevor Lawrence is starting. Zach Wilson is starting. Kyle Shanahan has given Trey Lance starting reps since the first day of camp and has already made it clear Lance will be part of the game plan from day one. Hell, even Mac Jones looks like he has a chance to start, after being given competitive reps with Cam Newton all summer long.

But not Fields.

Of course not Fields.

Why? Because Matt Nagy says so, that’s why.

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