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Data Entry: Bears’ Contract Options for Kyle Fuller

| February 1st, 2018

As we all know, Kyle Fuller had a breakout season in 2017 after missing all of 2016 with a knee injury. He led the NFL in passes broken up and ranked 17th among all cornerbacks in both completion percentage and passer rating allowed, per Pro Football Focus. Now general manager Ryan Pace has to decide what to do with Fuller, who is set to enter unrestricted free agency as one of the top cornerbacks on the market.

Let’s take a look at his options.

Franchise Tag

One weapon at Pace’s disposal is the franchise tag, which would guarantee Fuller the average of the top 5 cap hits at the cornerback position in 2018. Right now, that would look like a one year, $15.3 million contract that is fully guaranteed (per Spotrac). Pace can choose to apply this tag at any point between February 20 and March 6, and it seems likely to happen unless the Bears and Fuller can reach a long-term agreement first.

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Data Responds: Bears at Vikings

| December 31st, 2017

Sorry for the break the last few weeks. I haven’t been able to watch games live due to various holiday scheduling hijinks. Darn that real life for getting in the way!

Before we get into today’s game specifically, reports are that John Fox will be fired today. I won’t miss you as Chicago’s head coach.

In general, this game looked very much like a disinterested team playing out the string on the road for a soon-to-be-fired coaching staff against a hungry opponent playing to lock up a first round bye.

Offense

  • The Bears got the ball to start and opened with a heavy set Jordan Howard run into a stacked box for no gain. On their 2nd drive, they followed that up with a Jordan Howard run into a stacked box for -4 yards. Shockingly, both drives ended in 3 and outs. Oh how I am not going to miss that.
  • On Chicago’s 3rd drive, they threw the ball on 1st down! You’ll be surprised to find out that not being incredibly predictable actually worked. Of course, the Bears followed that up with a FB dive into a 9 man box on 3rd and 1 (why is Michael Burton still a thing?), which lost yardage and forced a punt. Before they could get the punt off, the Bears took a delay of game penalty, because of course.
  • Rookie QB Mitchell Trubisky had a bad rookie moment that resulted in a safety. Under pressure, he kept backing up until he was in the end zone, which was the mistake. He then threw the ball away to pick up an intentional grounding penalty, which is a safety in the end zone. My complaint is not with the grounding, but with the fact that he backed up into the end zone first. He could have taken the sack at the 3 yard line, and needs to know the field position situation there.
  • Trubisky also had a terrible throw in the fourth quarter where he missed a wide-open Dontrelle Inman because his feet were not properly set. Despite a clean pocket, he did something weird where he torqued his upper body, which caused him to put the ball far too wide and out of bounds. Those mechanical issues, and the corresponding accuracy concerns, have been a repeated problem this offseason, and are the #1 thing Trubisky needs to work on this offseason.

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Audibles From the Long Snapper: Rare Friday Edition!

| December 29th, 2017

No podcast this week, as travel got in the way. We’ll have the 2017 season wrap-up pod in the next week or so if I can get Jahns to answer his cell.


Ted Phillips the Boogeyman!

Ever since Ian Rapoport reported Ted Phillips was “making phone calls” to gauge availability of head coaching candidates, Bears Twitter – including our own Andrew Dannehy – have been obsessed with Phillips’ role in the coaching search. Now Rap’s former bench mate, Albert Breer, had this dandy in his “Black Monday” column:

Chicago Bears: The writing has been on the wall here for a while. The expectation is that John Fox will be gone. What’s less certain is whether or not general manager Ryan Pace gets to pick the next coach, and whether or not the coaches pursued by the Bears dictate Pace’s fate.

(1) Ryan Pace is 100% picking the next head coach.

(2) The NFL sends each organization a list of prospective head coaches. Those coaches don’t always know they’re on that list. What teams do is call agents and ask if their clients are interested in becoming head coaches so that once the decision to fire the head coach is officially made, interviews can be lined up immediately. This is called due diligence. Teams also call agents of college coaches to gauge if they’re interested in coming to the NFL.

(3) Ownership, which Ted represents, can do this reconnaissance work while another coach is under contract. For a GM it is strictly verboten. The GM is a partner with the head coach, especially in an organizational structure where they both report to ownership.

(4) If this story was “George McCaskey is making calls” nobody would have cared. But McCaskey doesn’t make calls. That’s why he pays Ted Phillips and why Phillips is incredibly well-respected in the league.

(5) Do I think the Bears would want to know if Ron Rivera may become available? Of course. They want to know every good coach that is going to be available. But the apple of their eye is Stanford coach David Shaw.


Jahns on Shaheen

From AJ After Dark’s column in the Sun-Times:

But the Bears do feel good about Shaheen’s development. Loggains said he’s had a solid rookie season. Most of Shaheen’s 12 catches were either contested or diving grabs (two for touchdowns).

In time, the team believes that Shaheen will do more. The Bears still only have six packages for him.  All of his catches also have come when he is a prototypical in-line tight end.

“We know that he’s going to be a good, all-around tight end because of his size, speed, his athleticism,” Loggains said. “In the offseason, the biggest jump he is going to have to take is in the run game. But he came in and affected the game in his opportunities in the red area the way we thought he would.”

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Merry Christmas: Bears Win AFC North

| December 25th, 2017

All thoughts from inside the building. If you could see same thing on TV, well fine then. Some of this was shared on Twitter yesterday.

  • Mitch does something very weird. When the window is tight he sets his feet and throws darts. When he has time and an open man, he loses concentration a bit. Passes sail. Very fixable.
  • Biggest thing I saw: my god this team loves their quarterback. Every guy on the roster is clearly rooting for him. When he makes a good play, 20 guys wanna celebrate with him.
  • Two things on Akiem Hicks. First, I’ve never seen a larger ass. It’s got to be 3 feet wide. Second, he’s spent. There’s no way he should suit up next week against Minnesota.
  • Eddie Goldman is way faster in the building than he is on television. And hustles on every single play.
  • Kyle Fuller is playing with so much confidence right now. Kizer continually throwing at him was nonsensical. 
  • Before the start of the second half, the two things receiving the loudest in-building reaction were: (a) the announcement that halftime’s frisbee golf competition was canceled and (b) the playing of Bon Jovi’s Livin’ on a Prayer
  • Mitch got bailed out on his horrible screen pass/pick 6 but came back and executed the screen game to perfection after that play. Once again, he doesn’t run from his mistakes. He embraces them and improves.

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Lions Beat Boring Bears, Sealing Fox’s Fate

| December 17th, 2017

Matt Marton – USA TODAY Sports (Edited)

Any hope John Fox had of remaining the Chicago Bears head coach faded Saturday afternoon in Detroit with another lackluster performance. The Fox Bears did what they’ve done every time a bit of optimism has crept into this franchise during his tenure: flopped. And flopped with gusto. Rapid fire!

  • Trubisky’s interceptions will certainly be the story because this quarterback is always going to be the story. But there was far more positive than negative from Tru Saturday. With this coaching staff and these receivers, the Bears are never going to erase a three-score deficit on the road. But if that’s what it takes for the Fox and Loggains to finally let their rookie QB throw the ball around and make the mistakes he has to make, so be it. Trubisky gets better on games like Saturday’s. He doesn’t get better when he’s throwing 14 passes on third-and-long.
  • The pick in the end zone is the throw Trubisky can’t make. Wanna bet he doesn’t do it again?
  • One thing that should excite fans re: Tru is the number of times Lions CBs thought they’d get their hands on his passes and didn’t come close. The kid throws a fastball and the Lions couldn’t catch up with it. (Sadly, neither could several Bears receivers.)
  • Sacks are sacks. They’re going to happen. But I don’t like the hits Trubisky is taking on scrambles and broken down plays. Those are the ones that end seasons prematurely and the Bears need a healthy Trubisky working with his new coach in January.
  • Something that maybe interests only me. Mark Sanchez, in civvies, headset on, staring at the play sheet, completely engaged. Mike Glennon, dressed as the backup, staring into space. Sanchez is going to end up being a coach in the league.
  • Some of the Bears penalties are inexcusable. Eddie Goldman’s personal foul on opening drive. Prince holding on third-and-long. But they’re not even remotely surprising because Fox’s Bears have been undisciplined since day one. Fox and his media minions can bitch about talent all they want but under Fox, good players do stupid things.

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Data Responds: Bears at Bengals

| December 10th, 2017

Is this real life?

The Bears dominated on both sides of the ball, scored 30 points for the first time in over two years, and generally rolled over the dormant Cincinnati Bengals.

I know Cincinnati is bad and banged up, but so are the Bears, and this was a lot of fun. More importantly, this as led largely by young players for the Bears, which bodes well for the future. Let’s take a look at what happened.

Offense

  • The Bears came out and threw it on their first 2 plays! The first resulted in an awful Jordan Howard drop (drink), while the second was a beautiful play action rollout to Josh Bellamy for a 1st down. This unsurprisingly caught the Bengals’ defense off guard, and they backed off the defense into standard 7 man boxes instead of loading 8-9 up. As a result, the Bears ran it the next two plays for about 40 yards and a touchdown. That marked the first time this season that the offense scored a touchdown on their first possession of the game.
  • Before I get too down on Howard, how about giving it up for a great game from Chicago’s stud running back? He had his 12th 100 yard rushing game in 26 career starts and passed the 1,000 yard mark for the 2nd year in a row, making him the first running back in Chicago history to start his career that way. That’s pretty remarkable when you think of the great running backs who have played in Chicago.

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Data Responds: Bears vs. 49ers

| December 3rd, 2017

The Bears led for almost the entire game, but pretty much everybody watching the game knew what was coming when San Francisco got the ball back down 14-12 with just over 4 minutes to go. The 49ers methodically marched down the field and longtime Chicago kicker Robbie Gould drilled his 5th field goal of the day to send Chicago to their 5th straight loss.

Offense

  • Chicago’s offense came out on the first possession and ran the ball twice in a row out of heavy sets. Anybody who’s watched Chicago this year can already guess how that ended: with Chicago in 3rd and long. That led to a sack of QB Mitchell Trubisky for a nice quick three and out.
  • Speaking of running on first down, the Bears did it 11 times in 14 chances today. Only one of those runs went for more than 3 yards; most went for 0 or 1.
  • It looks like any confidence rookie quarterback Mitchell Trubisky earned from the coaching staff completely evaporated after a bad game last week. They finally opened things up two weeks ago, and the offense shockingly had their best game of the year. Now they’ve had back to back terrible weeks after reverting to horribly predictable play calling.

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Across The Middle: Tightening Pace’s Leash

| November 29th, 2017

The Bears could’ve had the best coaches in the history of football and they still would’ve lost to the Eagles by 20 points.

Say what you will about John Fox and company — and it’s probably all fair — but the hard truth is that the Bears don’t have enough good players. A lot of that is due to injury. Losing their top two receivers and all four starting linebackers is a tough blow. But still, they should be able to put up a fight!

Let’s look at who was available Sunday against Philadelphia:

  • Markus Wheaton is paid like a starter.
  • Nick Kwiatkoski should be a starter at this point anyway. Christian Jones has played like one.
  • Deiondre Hall, Deon Bush and Hroniss Grasu should all be starters.
  • Jon Bullard was drafted to be a major piece. He shouldn’t be warming the bench behind a journeyman at this point.
  • Pernell McPhee has turned into a ghost.

I like Ryan Pace. Most fans do. I’d argue his plus decisions far outweigh his minuses but nowhere near as much as the losses outweigh the wins.

The Bears are at a crossroads.

They will, and I still believe should, allow Pace to hire the next coach. But what if they’re 3-8 next year too? Do they just hit the reset button again? How long can they reasonably expect this loyal fan base to be patient? They are currently suffering through one of the worst four-year stretches in team history.

I’ve long said the primary reason I wouldn’t want to hire Jim Harbaugh or Josh McDaniels is because they’d want to be Pace’s boss too, but I’m no longer sure that should stop the Bears. New England, Seattle, Kansas City, New Orleans all have their coaches in charge of the rosters. If Jim Harbaugh calls up George McCaskey and says he wants to the keys to the franchise, has Pace done enough for the Bears to justify saying no? Even if you look at first time head coaches the last two years, two of the big fishes were handed the keys to their franchises in Miami and San Francisco. That doesn’t include Sean McDermott, who was given what he asked for after a month or so on the job.

We have months to debate the coaching pedigrees of Harbaugh, McDaniels and everyone else, including whether or not they deserve such power. That’s not the point. The point is, how can we be so sure that Pace does? To be clear, this isn’t a call to fire Pace. I think he’s shown that he has an eye for talent. I just hope the Bears don’t let a great football mind out the door simply because Pace has a solid draft record.

Hopefully the problem is simple as needing a new coach and another off-season to build depth. I’m just not entirely sure that’s true. This is Year Three, the Bears should be much further along. Blame Fox all you want, but Pace has blood on his hands too. Here’s to hoping he can get it cleaned up.

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Across The Middle: The Argument for Firing Fox

| November 15th, 2017

Forget clock management. Forget the stupid challenges. Most of all, forget the play calling. John Fox gave fans — and team management — the only ammunition they’ll ever need to fire him last Sunday. In a big game they had plenty of time to prepare for, his team was sloppy. That doesn’t happen to a good coach.

With the loss, the Bears dropped to 0-3 after their bye week under Fox with a point differential of -36. In two out of the three, the Bears went into the bye week with momentum and hopes of turning the season into something but fell flat on their faces.

Of course, Denver fans know the pain all to well. They saw Fox’s team get embarrassed after a week off before the Super Bowl in 2013. They also saw his teams get beat after first-round byes in 2012 and 2014, his last game with the team. In all, Fox is 5-6 after byes since 2011 and they’ve been outscored by 28 points.

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Data Responds: Bears vs. Packers

| November 12th, 2017

Chicago came out of the bye flat, acting like nobody actually wanted to play a football game against their biggest rival. Their terrible kicker was good, but nobody else really was. The only thing that kept this game somewhat close was the fact that Green Bay is terrible, but they still won fairly comfortably on the road.

Let’s break down this embarrassing effort.

Offense

  • The first drive was simply awful. After two weeks to prepare, they ran into a loaded box on 1st down and lost a yard. After a nice pass picked up a first down, they again ran into a stacked box and lost a yard. The next play was both an illegal formation and a hold, setting Chicago up in 2nd and 21. At that point, the drive was over thanks to a combination of poor play calling and dumb penalties.
  • Rookie quarterback Mitchell Trubisky actually had a pretty good start to the game. He made good throws and got the ball to players in space. That changed as the game wore on and Green Bay dialed up the pressure. Trubisky got happy feet and starting pulling his eyes down from scanning the field too quickly. He also refused to throw the ball away, making him completely inept under any sort of pressure.
  • Green Bay’s five sacks weren’t all on the offensive line, but they were bad today too. Hroniss Grasu, making a start at center and shifting Cody Whitehair to right guard with Kyle Long out, was routinely pushed back into the backfield. The unit also picked up way too many penalties, with a nice mixture of pre-snap, during the play, and after the play mixed in.

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