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Backing It Up: Should the Chicago Bears Draft Luke Falk as 2nd String QB?

| February 15th, 2018

The Chicago Bears have found their answer at starting quarterback, but that doesn’t mean they’re completely set at the position. It remains to be seen who else will be in the quarterback room with Trubisky this year, backing him up.

We know for sure one guy who won’t be there: Mike Glennon. Glennon’s a fine backup, and I’m sure he’ll land somewhere in 2018, but it won’t be Chicago. Then there’s Mark Sanchez, who undoubtedly proved an excellent mentor to Trubisky, and is someone I’d like to see stay with the organization in some capacity. I just don’t know if I want him out on the field if Trubisky gets injured. (Actually, I’m pretty sure I don’t.)

So what are the Bears to do?

Certainly there is never a shortage of veteran backups looking for a landing spot and the hot rumor has Matt Nagy looking at Chase Daniel this March. But there’s also another option: a rookie quarterback later in the draft.

When Ryan Pace was first hired as Chicago’s GM he was quoted as saying he wouldn’t be opposed to drafting a quarterback every year. Well he didn’t take any in years one and two, so maybe he’s due for another QB in year four?

One quarterback prospect expected to go in the later rounds, who has gotten a fair amount of press coverage due in part to making a positive impression on multiple teams during Senior Bowl week, is Washington State University quarterback Luke Falk.

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Data Entry: What Passing Targets do the Bears Need?

| February 13th, 2018

There has been and will continue to be a great deal of talk about how the Bears need to add at least one stud wide receiver to their roster this off-season. Everybody wants a Julio Jones or Antonio Brown, with good reason, and the Bears are in desperate need of an upgrade in talent at the position after a season in which they finished last in the NFL in both passing yards and touchdowns, 25th in yards per attempt, and 26th in passer rating.

The Bears are going to add more talent at WR. But what exactly do they need? Should they look for one great player, two good players, or three plus capable players?

In an attempt to answer this question, I looked at how top passing offenses split their production among targets in recent years. After all, that’s the ultimate goal for the Bears, right? They want to become one of the top passing offenses in the NFL.

Accordingly, I looked at top 10 passing teams according to Football Outsiders’ DVOA for each of 2015, 2016, and 2017 and tracked how many receiving yards each of their top 5 leaders in that category had for the season. While this DVOA stat is not a perfect metric, it is an attempt to measure the efficiency of a passing attack instead of volume, which you would get from just looking at passing yards. The full list can be seen here.


No Clear Pattern

The first thing that jumps out is that there is no single defined way to have a top 10 passing offense. Some teams did it with one clear stud and a bunch of secondary weapons. Others had two dominant targets. Some had no clear dominant target at all.

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Data Entry: Breaking Down Trubisky’s Interceptions

| January 23rd, 2018

In his rookie season, Mitch Trubisky got to play 12 games and throw the ball 330 times. In those 330 attempts, he threw 7 interceptions, which is actually pretty good. That rate – an interception on 2.1% of his throws – was 12th best in the NFL among qualified passers, ahead of established veterans like Matt Ryan, Ben Roethlisberger, and Aaron Rodgers.

As that list above shows, there’s more to being a good quarterback than simply not throwing interceptions. But avoiding interceptions is an important part of a quarterback’s job; in no small part because they can be game-changing plays that make it a lot harder to win.

But not all interceptions are created equal. Sometimes it’s the quarterback’s fault, sometimes it’s on the wide receiver, and sometimes it’s hard to tell. In general, I think you can group them all into one of four categories:

  1. Bad decision. These are throws that should never be made because the receiver isn’t open and a defender has a good chance at an interception. Bears fans have seen plenty of these in the last 8 years from balls being chucked up into double or triple coverage.
  2. Bad throw. The target is open, but the pass is off target. The problem here comes not in the choice to throw but in the throw itself.
  3. Miscommunication. The quarterback thinks the wide receiver is running one route, the wide receiver runs another route, and the defensive back is the beneficiary.
  4. Receiver error. The receiver is open, the pass is good, but the ball bounces off of the target’s hands and gets intercepted.

The first two are both the fault of the quarterback, though in very different ways. The third one makes it pretty much impossible for us to assign fault. The last one is the fault of the target.

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Across The Middle: Pace Still Has His Work Cut Out For Him

| January 17th, 2018

Matt Nagy could be the greatest offensive mind in the history of the league and even he couldn’t have succeeded with the Bears talent this season. A telling quote from Bob McGinn’s annual :All-NFC North team column, polling multiple scouts:

“Personnel people find it hard to believe what the Bears were employing with at WR after Cameron Meredith and, to a much lesser extent, Kevin White, suffered season-ending injuries early. ‘Just a bunch of names, really,’ one scout said.”

In the piece the Bears had four players  — Josh Sitton, Cody Whitehair, Kyle Long and Jordan Howard —  take first-team spots offensively. They also had five starters finish last in their positions and two more were second-to-last.

The Bears have a lot more talent on defense, where seven players finished in the top two at their positions, which is impressive with the All-Pro laden Vikings unit in the division. The Bears’ talent resulted in a top-10 finish and that group still needs help in the pass rush department.

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Reacting to Matt Nagy’s Introductory Press Conference

| January 9th, 2018

The Chicago Bears formally introduced new head coach Matt Nagy today. Here are some thoughts on the press conference.

  • News: Nagy and Pace have not reached an agreement with a defensive coordinator or any other members of the staff. That will come in the next few days.
  • What occurred to me was the Bears now have a first-year head coach, second-year quarterback and 40 year-old GM responsible for putting it all together. I can’t remember another time where the three most crucial roles in this organization were operating as one. Were they ever? This is an exciting time to be a Bears fan. Sure, it might not work out. But it also might. And working out means competing for division titles every season.
  • “This is about more than the quarterback” was one of the first phrases out of Ryan Pace’s mouth and his only “football” comment made in the introductory remarks.
  • The Bears interviewed six candidates. One of them got four and a half hours and a dinner. The other five decidedly did not. Nagy was the target.


  • Nagy is a confident speaker. It is always interesting to see how these young coaches hold up in front of the media for the first time and Nagy seemed like a natural. This bodes well for a man who’ll have to address 53 giant lunatics every week.
  • Someone named “Larry Wisdom” got mentioned. I need to know more about him.

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Across The Middle: Call to McDaniels Had To Be Made

| January 3rd, 2018

I don’t know if Josh McDaniels has learned from his failures in Denver, but I’m glad Ryan Pace intends to find out. We can sit back and debate the qualifications of all the other candidates, but there’s no questioning what McDaniels has done. The 41-year-old offensive coordinator…

  • Has five Super Bowl rings.
  • Has coached nine offenses that have finished in the top 10 in scoring and seven that have taken top 10 spots in yardage.
  • Has won at least one game with six different quarterbacks, including an 11-5 campaign with Matt Cassell.
  • Has has been credited with developing young quarterbacks (who were later traded for draft picks) in Cassel, Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett.
  • In New England’s 2017 Super Bowl run, they averaged 34.6 points per game. They scored 28 points against the best defense in the league to win the 2015 Super Bowl.

You name it, he’s done it. He’s the one guy every team with an opening has to interview.

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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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Why I’m Going to Bears v. Browns Tomorrow

| December 23rd, 2017

New York Times theatre critic Frank Rich once wrote of the infamous Broadway bomb Moose Murders: “FROM now on, there will always be two groups of theatergoers in this world: those who have seen ”Moose Murders,” and those who have not.” I’m beginning to wonder if the same won’t be said for those attending Bears v. Browns at Soldier Field tomorrow.

Tomorrow is Christmas Eve and I’ll be spending three plus hours of it on the lakefront, in a cold and windy stadium, watching a dead-on-arrival home side play the only team in the sport significantly worse than they are. So the only relevant question is…why? Why would a human being do this?

I’m not a huge fan of attending live football games. The television timeouts are excruciating. The bathroom lines are worse. And while I like drinking beer and watching a ballgame I don’t like paying double-digits for an MGD while trying to navigate thousands of jagoffs who’ve been slamming booze in a parking lot since the wee small hours of the morning.

However, with a good seat, that unlike tomorrow usually costs A LOT of cash, you can experience elements of the game that are impossible to gauge on television. The size and speed of the players. The shear violence of the impacts. The game moves at a different pace live than it does with the distance of a two-dimensional, 52″ rectangle.

But there is one real reason I’m going: Mitch Trubisky. I want to see him live. I want to see how he conducts himself in pregame workouts. I want to see how he interacts with teammates on the sideline. I want to see how that fastball of his looks in person. Anybody who reads this site or follows me on Twitter knows I have not been as excited about a young player since starting this site in 2005. And I don’t want to have gone his entire rookie campaign without having seen him with my own eyes.

So I’m going. Bears v. Browns. Christmas Eve. Maybe it’s to see Trubisky. Or maybe it’s because I never saw Moose Murders.

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A Look at the QB Situations of the Potentially-Available Head Coaching Gigs

| December 22nd, 2017

Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images (Edited)

The question I’ve been asked most since getting to Chicago: “Do you think Trubisky will be a positive when looking for a new coach?” My answer each time has been a definitive yes because I truly believe it will.

But I decided that, instead of leaning on my gut, to poll my two pals in the league on the question, factoring in all of the potentially-available gigs and their quarterback situation. I’ve grouped the teams into categories.

(I’ll be referring to my friends as AFC GUY & NFC GUY.)


Colts

They get their own category because think of the waters GM Chris Ballard has to navigate. When he’s looking to hire a coach in January he may not be able to tell the candidates whether Andrew Luck, their franchise quarterback, will require an additional surgery sidelining him six months or more. He won’t be able to tell the candidates if they have a franchise quarterback in 2018 or not.

NFC GUY: “Chris is going to have to sell that job. And every potential coach will want to know if they’re considering drafting a quarterback early.”


Bucs / Titans

These are two jobs that, should they come open, will come open with a quarterback in-place. But…do you want them?

  • Marcus Mariota has questions to answer regarding his play in 2017. Because he’s been awful. Said AFC GUY: “If he’s not hurt, he’s a problem.”

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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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