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Short Essay: The Problem with Nick Foles

| November 5th, 2020


The debate was inevitable. As Nick Foles struggled against the New Orleans Saints, everybody started clamoring for Mitch Trubisky to be back on the field. Not because Trubisky is an upgrade. He’s not. But strictly because, hey, why not? (Our own Data provided the only true rationale for making the move. If the Bears are going to be down to their 10th offensive lineman Sunday, they’d be better off playing the quarterback that can avoid the rush.)

Foles has not been good. But it’s the way he’s not been good that is so disconcerting.

There were several reasons I believed the Bears should have announced Foles as the starter the day they acquired him.

  • He would run the offense. Recognize what the defense is showing him, get into the right protections, get the ball to the right playmaker.
  • He would hit the open man. Trubisky’s inaccuracy had been killing drives and Foles has historically been consistently accurate, especially on the intermediate stuff.
  • He would avoid mental mistakes.

The truth? He’s done none of those things. The steady, veteran presence Foles was meant to provide has never materialized. Yes, he made a great read in the Bucs game and yes, he gave a great post-game presser. But the offense is constantly struggling with the play clock. Foles throws 2-3 passes a game that should be intercepted. And lately he’s been “seeing ghosts”, abandoning his fundamentals because of phantom pass rush and missing wide open receivers.

Foles is never going to be an electric player. That’s not who he is. But if the Bears want to be playing football in January, he has to be better than this.

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ATM: Offense is Terrible, But Did We See Signs of Improvement Sunday?

| November 4th, 2020


None of it was pretty. But 23 points and roughly 330 yards was about the best anybody could have or should have expected from the Chicago Bears offense on Sunday. That is a sad statement. But it is our current reality.

Already with a bad offensive line, the Bears got worse up front early in the game when Bobby Massie went down. His replacement, Jason Spriggs, is a backup for a reason, and a backup on this offensive is most likely a third stringer elsewhere. The Bears ended the game with an offensive line that included two UDFAs (one was a defensive lineman three years ago), a seventh-round pick turned average veteran, a second-round bust and a first-round bust. Some teams can win with a bad offensive line. A team with Nick Foles at quarterback can’t. To their credit, the Bears battled and scored 23 points against a Saints defense just hitting its stride.

The offense wasn’t good enough by NFL standards, but it could have been good enough to win Sunday. If the Bears defense plays to their potential, the same type of performance could also be good enough to win enough games down the stretch.

Could this have been a performance upon which to build?

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This Offense Isn’t “Ugly”, It’s Embarrassing.

| November 2nd, 2020


A few weeks ago, Nick Foles suggested the Bears win “ugly”. Let me clear something up for him.

Ugly isn’t throwing off your back foot while under no pressure and forcing passes to the wrong receivers. The last quarterback did that. And he doesn’t play anymore because of it.

Ugly isn’t failing to build a significant package of plays for your second-round tight end. Every single week.

Ugly isn’t designing a run-heavy game plan against one of the league’s best run defenses, and stubbornly refusing to deviate from that plan. (The two runs after the interference call in the end zone should have forced Ryan Pace to personally take the play sheet away from Matt Nagy.)

Ugly isn’t inexcusably being called for a delay of game weekly, often coming out of timeouts.

Ugly isn’t failing to get a first down or two and at least forcing the opponent to start their possessions in their own territory.

Ugly isn’t sucker punching a defensive back, costing your team a vital possession, and celebrating the punch like you achieved something.

Ugly isn’t dropping two passes, in overtime, on the potentially game-winning drive. If Anthony Miller and Jimmy Graham catch those balls, do the Bears win? Who knows? But it would have made it far more difficult for them to lose. And that’s the difference between being in first place and being outside the playoff picture.

No, what the Bears do on offense isn’t ugly. Ugly is too cute a word for it. What the Bears do on offense is embarrassing. And with the season now at the halfway point, it’s time to acknowledge this is unlikely to change during the 2020 campaign.

This is who the Bears are on offense. A sloppy, undisciplined, poorly-coached unit. David Montgomery runs hard. Allen Robinson leaves it on the field. Darnell Mooney gives hope for the future. The rest? Thoroughly uninspiring. Nagy changed his coaching staff. Nagy changed his quarterback. Nagy changed his tight end room. And somehow, they’re worse.

They’re 5-3. Hope is not lost for playing in January because there isn’t a game left on their schedule the defense won’t keep them in. But unless that group returns to 2018 form and starts scoring, the battle will be consistently uphill.

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Week 8 Game Preview: Oh When the Saints, Come Marching In!

| October 29th, 2020


Why Do I Like the Chicago Bears This Week?

I always like the Chicago Bears…

…defense.


Definitive Week for Matt Nagy, Caller of Plays

A friend of mine works for the New Orleans Saints in their scouting department. When discussing this week’s game, and the prospect of Matt Nagy relinquishing the role of play caller, he noted, “If they can’t move the ball vs our secondary next week…then it’s really time.”

Last week, Mike Davis had 7 carries for 12 yards against the Saints front. Let me just repeat that. Mike Davis, the starting running back for the Carolina Panthers, had 7 carries. For 12 yards. (New Orleans is the fourth-ranked rush defense in the league.) One would think that such a porous running game would have made it impossible for Teddy Bridgewater to execute the passing attack. But the opposite was true. Bridgewater – who pitched to a quarterback rating of about 50 against the Bears – was nearly perfect against the Saints. 23-28. 254 yards. 2 touchdowns. QB rating of 128.3.

You don’t need a running game to move the ball and score points on these Saints. And that’s good. Because the Bears don’t have one. If Nagy can’t draw up production from the passing game this week, it would be very difficult to see him calling the plays against the Tennessee Titans next week.


Nine Favorite Films of 1979, the Year of Drew’s Birth

(9) Monty Python’s Life of Brian

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(8) The Jerk

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(7) …And Justice For All

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A Change Needs to Come: Matt Nagy Needs to Bench Matt Nagy.

| October 27th, 2020

Mitch Trubisky was benched for a lot of reasons but primary among them was his inability to run Matt Nagy’s offense. He was unable to to read defenses, change protections, get into the right play.

Nick Foles can run Nagy’s offense. The problem is, as we’re now learning, Nagy’s offense doesn’t make any sense.


Personal Note.

I like to think I’m pretty forthright with my readers around here. I don’t spend hours upon hours dissecting All-22 tape because I legitimately can’t think of anything more boring. I do, however, watch the Sunday Ticket “Short Cuts” presentation of every single game played in the NFL. These are quick, easily-digestible presentations that help cut through national media misrepresentations of players, teams…etc.

When I went through the Rams season, one thing was abundantly clear. There was 0.00% chance the Bears would have any success running into the middle of their defensive line. If the Bears were going to have success on offense they would need to spread the Rams out, get the ball to their speedsters in space, screen them to death. This isn’t necessarily the approach EVERY team should take with the Rams, but it was certainly the approach the Bears would need to take.

And they didn’t. They did…nothing. They attempted a bizarre, incoherent game plan. They ran directly at the best defensive player in the sport and then acted shocked, SHOCKED, when that approach failed.


The Questions.

What would Andy Reid be doing with Darnell Mooney? You can bet your life he’d be finding creative ways to get him the ball in space 3-5 times a game.

Why have the running backs been exiled from the passing game since Tarik Cohen’s injury?

Why is Cole Kmet – who does nothing but make plays when he’s allowed – struggling to usurp a useless Demetrius Harris on the depth chart?

Why does Jimmy Graham get pulled off the field in the red zone? This is now back-to-back weeks where Nagy is removing the team’s most intimidating red zone threat where they need him most!

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5 Reasons to Be Overly Excited About the 5-1 Start

| October 22nd, 2020

We’ve spent the last two days focused on where the Bears need to improve. Today, I come to celebrate these first six weeks.


The Pass Rush

Defensive success in 2020 is predicated upon rushing the passer with the front four and Football Outsiders ranks the Bears as the second best pass defense in the league, predominantly because of the success they’re finding in the pressure department. Khalil Mack and Akiem Hicks have been as expected, and the Bears are getting pass rush contribution from unlikely sources like Mario Edwards Jr, James Vaughters and even Brent Urban.

What’s the most exciting thing about the pass rush? Robert Quinn is still being worked into the lineup and every time he gets on the field he makes an impact. When Quinn reaches 100% health, and sees his snap count tick up, the Bears will be the most feared front in the league.


The New Kyle Fuller

No one is surprised that Fuller is the team’s best cover corner, and one of the best cover corners in the league.

But did anyone see Fuller becoming the reincarnation of Ronnie Lott, delivering a crushing hit almost every week. Did anyone see Fuller making the kind of tackle he made on Teddy Bridgewater Sunday, keeping the Panthers’ quarterback out of the end zone and changing the course of the game?

Fuller, through six weeks, is in the conversation for Defensive Player of the Year. (I’m just not sure Aaron Donald will ever lose that award again.)


The Quarterback Change

Has Nick Foles been great since taking over at quarterback? No.

Has there been a discernible change when it comes to leadership? Absolutely.

Let’s take a look at what Foles has done since taking over.

  • He led the comeback against Atlanta, throwing three touchdown passes.
  • He made the crucial read on the crucial drive – highlighted here by Emmanuel Acho – to beat Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Bucs. (The kind of read his predecessor never made.)
  • He delivered a stirring press conference following the victory over Carolina that firmly established him as the team’s most vocal leader in years. This is what you expect from the quarterback position.

Foles will always be limited physically. He’s frequently going to take the quick, efficient option over the “shot”. But as the season progresses, and he becomes more comfortable with his receivers, the passing game should improve.

A tweet from Allen Robinson’s agent seems to sum up how important it was for the Bears to make this move WHILE ALSO winning.

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Are There Potential OL Upgrades Available for the Bears?

| October 21st, 2020

Nick Foles, in his inspirational postgame press conference on Sunday, said, “without belief nothing is possible”. There’s truth to that. But with all due respect to Foles, belief alone isn’t going to get the Chicago Bears offense anywhere.

Foles was excited after the Bears defeated the Carolina Panthers to move to 5-1. And he should be, as another win buys the Bears more time to figure out what is hurting their offense. Foles believes they will, and he has his reasons, but six games into the season — and 38 into the Matt Nagy era — there’s little reason for anyone on the outside to believe the Bears are going to get where they need to be offensively.

There’s no reason to believe Foles’ belief is anything but blind optimism. In the same press conference he also said, “There have been teams that have been bad offensively for a very long time, we’re not one of those teams.”

But, hey, he’s new here. We’ll cut him some slack on that one.



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Bears at the Mini-Bye Volume I: Offense

| October 13th, 2020

We’re five weeks in to a wild season in which we’ve already seen the Bears make a quarterback change and post three comeback wins from 13 or more points down. Since they’re on a mini-bye following their Thursday night victory over Tampa Bay, now is a good time to take a step back and see what we’ve learned so far.

Obligatory warnings:

  • These are still small sample sizes, especially given that each QB basically played 2.5 games. So think of any lessons learned here more as observations that are worth monitoring going forward than hard and fast conclusions.
  • Statistics for Bears are updated through 5 games, but all other teams only have 4 at the time of this writing, so NFL ranks may have changed a bit by the time this is published.

I have a lot I want to get to, so let’s dive right in.


Better Lucky Than Good

The Bears may be 4-1, but I don’t think anybody would argue they have played well so far this year (including Matt Nagy). As you can see from the pie chart below, which shows the % of offensive snaps the Bears have taken in a variety of score situations, they have actually spent the majority of the season trailing.

They’ve taken 2/3 of their offensive snaps while trailing (33% by 2 or more scores) and only 19% with a lead. To somehow go from that to 4 wins in 5 games is remarkable, but it should not be expected to continue going forward. The Bears need to play better if they want to keep winning games. The good news is that they started to look better in week 5; the defense in the 2nd half looked the best it had since week 4 of the 2019 season, and the offense was something approaching competent for the last 40 or so minutes of the game.


QB Comparison

The Bears switched from Mitchell Trubisky to Nick Foles in the 2nd half of week 3, which means both QBs have actually played a similar amount of snaps so far this year (Foles is at 168, Trubisky 169). Let’s see how each performed. The table below shows stats for each passer, as well as the average for the entire NFL this year, broken up into deep and short throws (anything that travels 15+ yards in the air past the line of scrimmage is considered deep). YPA = yards per attempt.

A few thoughts:

  • Keep in mind that Nick Foles has played 2 of the best defenses in the NFL the last 2 weeks, while Trubisky played all of his snaps against 3 of the worst defenses in the league. Still, it’s hard to argue Foles has been better so far, at least on a statistical basis. He needs to play better going forward.

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Bears Beat Brady: Rapid Fire, Quarter-By-Quarter, Real Time

| October 9th, 2020


Did something a bit different with this week’s recap. Took notes quarter-by-quarter. So don’t judge what you read in quarter one, follow the entire narrative.

Quarter One

  • Troy Aikman in the pre-game commentary suggested that the Bears running game was built around Mitch Trubisky’s abilities and had to be rethought for Foles. I had never seen or heard that anywhere, but it should be assumed that came from the Bears.
  • Roquan Smith missed a big TFL opportunity and I’m thinking, “Bears need their defensive stars to PLAY like defensive stars.” Smith has to make that play and all-but kill the drive. Khalil Mack has to make the interception last week. This defense has opportunities every single week. They have to take them,
  • Where is Robert Quinn?
  • Nick Foles absolutely can’t miss the easy third down conversion throw on the Bears’ first drive. That’s amateur hour.
  • Does Ted Ginn ever catch punts on the fly? His ball awareness as a return seems severely lacking through a few games. (And boy it seems the Bears miss Tarik Cohen more than I expected they would.)
  • Get the sense Tashaun Gipson more an old school strong safety, even though that position doesn’t actually exist anymore.
  • Allen Robinson, perfect back shoulder throw, off both of his hands, intercepted. Does this guy ever win a contested ball? It seems weekly the answer is no. I know he’s a very good wide receiver but I’m not giving $80 million to a guy who does this every single week.
  • The touchdown pass from Tom Brady to Evan was absolute perfection. He’s Tom Brady for a reason.

Quarter Two

  • Deep ball to Darnell Mooney and third down pass to Robinson, Foles threw the ball to the wrong spot. Foles looks absolutely lost in the playbook right now.
  • Bruce Arians going for it with a sneak on fourth and inches inside his own 20 is borderline insane. But it was the decision I did not want him to make. So that makes it he right one in that spot.
  • Roquan Smith again exploding into the hole and not wrapping up the ball carrier. After Sunday’s game, he’s pitching a dud.
  • Jaylon Johnson called for a pass interference on a deep ball. Terrible mistake on a pass that had no chance of being caught. He’s got to learn to trust his coverage skills. Because he has them.
  • Is it bad that when a kickoff goes over Cordarrelle Patterson’s head my first thought is, “Get a first down before you punt”?
  • Terrific drive orchestrated by Foles to get the Bears into the end zone. Made short, precise throws and gave his guys a chance to make plays.
  • Khalil Mack knocking down Brady’s first down thrown on the Bucs’ final drive of the half was a crucial moment.

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