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Nick Foles: Reasons for Optimism

| August 3rd, 2020


There’s a popular opinion shared among Bears fans (and certain media types) that Nick Foles isn’t good. Because of this belief, these individuals have reached two conclusions: (1) it’s in the best interest of the Bears for Mitch Trubisky to “win” the starting job this summer and (2) the Bears won’t be any good in 2020.

Here’s where I differ: I think Nick Foles is good. Great? No. A franchise quarterback? Of course not. But Nick Foles has led a franchise through a miraculous postseason and won Super Bowl MVP. Nick Foles has thrown twice the number of touchdowns as interceptions in his eight seasons. Nick Foles has pitched to a career QB rating of 88.2, more than two points better than that Cam Newton with whom everybody seemed so enamored.

And Foles’ goodness goes beyond statistics. I remember seeing him look absolutely dominant running Chip Kelly’s offense in Philly. I remember the calmness he brought to the huddle after Carson Wentz’ injury. I’ve seen him for what he is: a stabilizing force within an organization.

That’s what stood out when he and Mitch Trubisky addressed the media Friday. Trubisky seemed immature, still spouting well-rehearsed cliches and insinuating – somehow – that he’d never make mechanical adjustments before. Trubisky seems like a good enough kid but the act is tired now. He wants to “prove everybody wrong” but the opinions of everybody are based solely on one thing: his wretched play.

This organization, city, fan base is lost in the quarterbacking desert, so thirsty for good play from the position they’ll enthusiastically believe any watery mirage is real and pretend to be quenched after consumption. Trubisky couldn’t even satisfy the most delusional among us.

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Thursday Lynx Package (7/23/20)

| July 23rd, 2020


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ATM: Lack of Preseason Doesn’t Necessarily Hurt Trubisky

| July 10th, 2020

While many think a lack of a game action prior to the regular season would benefit Nick Foles in the competition to be the starting quarterback of the 2020 Chicago Bears, Mitch Trubisky still has the inside track. As of last week, the preseason slate was cut down to two and it doesn’t seem that anybody actually expects either of those games to be played. That leaves the Bears with only practice settings to determine their QB and Trubisky shouldn’t be ruled out.

When it comes to running plays correctly, adjusting protections and making accurate passes, there’s no question that Foles is superior to Trubisky. It’s the ability to run and make something out of broken plays that is supposed to even the playing field. The problem is, camp practice won’t allow that. When a play breaks down in practice, it is whistled dead and they move on to the next one.

But the Bears have to be absolutely certain he can’t play before moving on to Foles. And it’s unlikely Trubisky will clearly display that inability to play on the practice field. (He hasn’t in summers gone by.) The team does not want a situation where the second overall pick becomes someone else’s franchise quarterback. If the two quarterbacks are even close to equal in practices, Trubisky is going to get the chance to show that he is willing to use those legs and has made the necessary strides to be a legitimate starting quarterback in the NFL.

Matt Nagy has said he made a mistake not playing Trubisky and other starters in the 2019 preseason. The team assumed their young quarterback would make plays with his legs. (How could they know he’d suddenly stop running?) Even before he injured his shoulder, Trubisky only had five rushing attempts in three games. The UNC product did begin running again late in the season with 22 rushes over the final month of the season, so there is reason to believe he will again in 2020. Did running equal some magic formula for Trubisky? Hardly. In those four games he had four touchdown passes and three interceptions. Nobody is arguing that he doesn’t need to improve as a passer, but that’s something he can show — at least somewhat — in practice.

With or without preseason games, the ball is firmly in Trubisky’s court. If he shows improvement as a passer, and a firmer handle on the playbook, in whatever form of training camp the team ends up having, he could get to start the regular season.

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Despite National Negativity, Bears Outlook Not that Bleak

| June 23rd, 2020

National pundits be damned, the outlook for the Chicago Bears in 2020 and beyond isn’t nearly as bleak as some have made it out to be.

In a column published last week, supposed Bears fan-turned-national-football-writer Robert Mays essentially wrote that the Bears are stuck in mediocrity, with no way out. Most of his points ranged from “off the mark” to “WHAT?!”

Mays posits the absurd argument that even if Nick Foles plays at his Super Bowl MVP level the Bears have no shot at winning a Super Bowl. He determines the Bears would lose on the road to the Saints, a team that just lost a home playoff game to Kirk Cousins. But his general point is one with which most would agree. The Bears are more likely going to finish somewhere in the 7-11 wins range in the coming season. It’s what Mays extrapolates from that potential win total that seems out of touch, lacking historical backing. He believes it is “no man’s land”. It’s not.

The Kansas City Chiefs were in no-man’s-land not all that long ago, with a quarterback who could consistently get them 10 wins but never make noise in the playoffs. One could argue that the Bears are actually better off than Kansas City was then because they have a quarterback they know can win a Super Bowl. Realistically, Nick Foles isn’t the long-term answer. Mitch Trubisky probably isn’t either. But that doesn’t mean the Bears have to fold as a franchise.

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Nick Foles Will Be the Starting Quarterback

| June 1st, 2020


For the Bears, there is no more important issue looming than which man will be under center receive the shotgun snap when the Bears take the field against Detroit in Week One. Today I want to dig into the stats to see what we can learn about Foles vs. Trubisky, as well as what to expect from whoever wins that derby compared to other QBs around the NFL.

The table below shows basic efficiency statistics for Trubisky and Foles in the Reid offense (so Trubisky in 2018-19 in Chicago and Foles in 2016 in KC and 17-18 in Philadelphia), plus the other three notable recent Reid QBs (Smith 13-17, Mahomes 18-19, Wentz 16-19). I’ll note I included playoff stats for everybody because otherwise Foles’ sample size is just so small (less than 350 with just regular season, just over 500 with playoffs included). I also included the NFL average for 2018-19 as a frame of reference for what’s roughly normal around the league. I split up the data into short and long passes (targeted more than 15 yards past the line of scrimmage) using Pro Football Reference’s game play finder.

That’s a lot of information to digest, so let’s look at short and deep passes separately.


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Three Bears Futures Bets To Consider

| May 14th, 2020

Quick note: I know money is a major issue for many Americans right now as the unemployment numbers have exploded and entire industries have been destroyed. When I write columns like this, encouraging gambling, I hope those suffering know I am sensitive to their situation. But gambling odds provide a solid context to discuss sporting issues. So I’m going to keep writing about them for the time being.


Bet One: Nick Foles MVP (+15000)

Do I think Nick Foles is going to win MVP this season?

No.

But that’s why he’s 150-1 to win the award. (Same odds as Mitch Trubisky actually.)

Here’s why the bet is worth $1: the value logic. What if Foles starts, executes the offense and the Bears start winning? What if he proves the 2019 season can be written off to the failures of the previous quarterback, as many believe the case to be? There will be an easily-made argument for his value to the franchise.

Also, when quarterbacks execute this offense, they produce statistically. Alex Smith, who most consider a game manager, put up 4,000 yards and 26 TDs in 2017 for Andy Reid. You combine him turning around the Bears offense with a large statistical output and he’ll be in the MVP conversation.

And Foles plays in Chicago. If he plays well, it’ll be visible and there will be a demonstrative campaign for him.


Bet Two: Bears To Make the Playoffs (+160)

If the 2020 rules existed in 2019, the Bears would have finished a single game out of the postseason. If they’re healthy I don’t see how they’re not a better team in 2020.

As a matter of fact, I believe the Bears are going to be a very good team and this number will be -400 by the middle of the season.

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ATM: Trubisky’s Development Still Important

| April 8th, 2020

We’ve all seen the flashes from Trubisky.

The arm strength, the mobility.

But there is a mental block preventing him from becoming the quarterback Ryan Pace thought he drafted. At this point, it certainly seems like that mental block will keep Mitch from being the guy who ends the franchise’s historical quarterback drought. But crazier things have happened, haven’t they?

Because while the trade for Nick Foles means the Super Bowl window should be open for the 2020 Chicago Bears, the club’s best chance at keeping it open longer is still dependent on Trubisky’s development, barring the team selecting a new “quarterback of the future” in the second round of the upcoming draft.

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ATM: Does Foles Trade Put Nagy on the Hot Seat?

| March 31st, 2020

When the Chicago Bears traded for Nick Foles, they finally acquired a quarterback who can run their offense. Now, we should get answers about the man coaching it.

Because Foles knows exactly how this offense is supposed to operate.

Prior to the 2019 season, his last 18 games had come with either Andy Reid or Doug Pedersen calling the shots. In the 14 games in which he threw more than 15 passes, he completed nearly 68 percent of them for 3,661 yards, 24 touchdowns, 9 interceptions and a passer rating of 97.2.

Those aren’t regular season MVP numbers, but with the Bears defense, they’d get the job done.

(And it shouldn’t be forgotten that five of those games came in the playoffs, including two against what were considered to be the league’s top defenses in those given seasons.)

Much has been said and written about what Foles did in Philadelphia, but it sure appears as if the Chiefs debated a quarterback change a year earlier. When Alex Smith was injured, Foles came in and threw two touchdowns off the bench to lead the team to a win. Reid wasted no time in naming Foles the starter for the following week and Foles put together an efficient outing for another win. The Chiefs ultimately stuck with their starter, however, as Smith returned and led them to the playoffs again.

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Why Nick Foles.

| March 20th, 2020


About five years ago I was on the boardwalk at Point Pleasant Beach, NJ and noticed they had a game where you had to chip golf balls into a hole for big prizes. One of those prizes was a throwback Walter Payton jersey. Authentic. I remember thinking, “I’m a damn good chipper of the golf ball. I can get three of these in and win that jersey for about ten bucks.” Thirty bucks later, no jersey. (No golf balls in the hole either.)

So I walked over to the candy wheel at Jenkinson’s Pavillion, threw a few bucks down on my usuals: blue 2, white pop, Bob both ways. I won on the first spin and took home a box of red Swedish Fish.

In many ways, this is what the Bears just did at the quarterback position. They tried to get the Payton jersey. They took a financial risk on promising ability. But they ended up wasting time, wasting money, and settling on a reliable candy experience.

Nick Foles isn’t a sexy choice to be quarterback of the Chicago Bears. He isn’t going to sell tickets or jerseys. He isn’t going to be the focal point of the 2020 marketing campaign, or a promotional weapon for the television partners. Foles’ arrival in Chicago does not increase the chances – thank sweet Jesus – of the team appearing more prominently on primetime television over the coming season.

What Foles does is stabilize things. He calms the waters. The Bears looked at their 2019 and determined the quarterback was costing them games. They went and found someone who wouldn’t.

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