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Approaching the Quarterback Position for 2020 Volume II: Beyond the Numbers

| February 13th, 2020

Phil Rivers, 2019. 4,615 yards. 23 touchdowns. 20 interceptions. 88.5 rating.

Andy Dalton, 2019. 3,494 yards. 16 touchdowns. 14 interceptions. 78.3 rating.

Marcus Mariota, 2019. 1,203 yards. 7 touchdowns. 2 interceptions. 92.3 rating. (Benched)

Mitch Trubisky, 2019. 3,183 yards. 17 touchdowns. 10 interceptions. 83 rating.


Many will argue, especially in the coming weeks, that signing an available free agent QB to compete with Trubisky is a futile exercise. “He’s not an upgrade,” they’ll argue, citing the statistics above. But one thing fans must be reminded of is that Trubisky’s issues went far beyond the statistics. Trubisky’s issues began well before the football was snapped.

Does Rivers still have the arm strength to light up a good secondary at Soldier Field in December? Probably not.

Does Dalton have the ability to eliminate the big interception? His career suggests he doesn’t.

Does Mariota have the ability to be consistently accurate with the football? The Titans sure don’t think so, and they’re right.

But all three of these quarterbacks are smart players. All three can read defenses. All three are savvy enough to get into the right protections. Do they all come with physical limitations? Yes. But Trubisky combines severe physical limitations (see: accuracy) with mental incompetence (see: pretty much everything).

As has been reported here, and elsewhere, Matt Nagy became increasingly frustrated with Trubisky over the course of the 2019 season. Not because he refused to his use legs at the appropriate time, or handed the ball off at the wrong incorrectly on RPOs, or missed wide open receivers down the field for big plays. He became frustrated with Trubisky because the quarterback proved incapable of running his offense mentally.

That’s why the free agent quarterback market will be so appealing to the Chicago Bears in the coming month plus. Because if Nagy is going to fail as a head coach, he’d at least like to fail with his offense and not with some dumbed-down, elementary version of it, restructured for a overwhelmed quarterback.

The Bears don’t need great quarterback play to compete for a championship in 2020. But they need at least a mid-table performance at the position. There are guys they can pay to achieve that.

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Approaching the Quarterback Position for 2020 Volume I: The Possible Approaches

| February 12th, 2020


Monday I was at the gym. (Humble brag.)

On the television set was a program called Get Up. As someone who never turns on ESPN for a non-sporting event, I had never heard of this program, nor did I recognize the individuals at the desk until I saw Mike Greenberg, the show’s host. The debate topic? Mitch Trubisky, of course. This segment was a response to the above video, Prince Amukamara’s passionate defense of the Bears quarterback. The debate was being framed as how the Bears should approach the position, not Trubisky specifically.

Being at the gym, I couldn’t hear any of it. But the panelists seemed fired up. Over the next three days we’ll take a big picture look at how the Bears will address the quarterback position this off-season.

Today: Possible approaches.

Tomorrow: Looking beyond the numbers.

Friday: DBB-endorsed path.

Truth is, the Bears do not have a lot of approach options at quarterback for 2020 because there are only three ways to attain a player in the league. Sign. Trade. Draft. And two aren’t very good for this coming season. Let’s take them in reverse order.

Draft. 

Will the Bears use one of their picks on a quarterback? It’s possible. But this is not an offense rookies pick up quickly. The best quarterback in the league needed a year on the bench behind Alex Smith to get comfortable. (And has admitted how important that year was.) Trubisky is a smart kid and was the second pick of the draft and he’s still struggling with it.

Drafting a quarterback is a smart move for the future of this franchise. But the likelihood it’ll help this team win in 2020 is minimal.


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ATM: Welcome to the Hot Seat, Ryan Pace

| November 5th, 2019

It seems like a foregone conclusion that Ryan Pace’s job is safe. But should it be?

The 2019 Bears are looking at a 6-10 season, just one win better than the embarrassing, dysfunctional 2014 team Pace inherited. We haven’t gotten the consecutive embarrassing losses or locker room fights like we did in 2014, but there’s still time.

The talent levels of the teams aren’t all that different when you consider very few of the offensive starters from the 2019 version would start for the 2014 team and the gigantic difference at quarterback. This defense is a lot better than the 2014 unit but you could still argue a couple defenders from that squad — Jay Ratliff and Willie Young — would start on this year’s defense.

2019 will never reach 2014 in terms of dysfunction, but they may be well past them in terms of disappointment.

The Bears will be winning fewer than eight games for the fourth time in Pace’s five years as general manager and his decision to take Mitchell Trubisky over a sure thing in Deshaun Watson and a guy some already consider to be the best quarterback they’ve ever seen in Patrick Mahomes has become a joke. NFL owners don’t like when their team is a joke.

One can argue that Pace actually built a very strong and talented roster, but this is a quarterback’s league and is there’s any reason to think Pace can get that position right?

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Today Is the Most Important Day of the Current Regime

| March 6th, 2017

Today is the most day of the regime of Ryan Pace and John Fox because they are finalizing their plans at the quarterback position.

Forget the 40 times and other underwear Olympic events. The Bears needed to sit down and have face-to-faces with the likes of DeShone Kizer, DeShaun Watson and Mitchell Trubisky. They learned what makes these guys tick; got a feeling of thee young quarterbacks’ general football knowledge.

Forget all the rumors you have heard. The Bears could not have determined how much they wanted to spend on a free agent quarterback — or how much to give up in a trade — until they knew what the draft was offering them. Today the Bears are as ready as they’ll ever be to determine the direction of the franchise.

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Data Returns: Statistically Profiling the Ideal Quarterback

| February 12th, 2017

This is the 2nd installment of a monthly offseason piece I’ll be doing here at DaBearsBlog, helping fill the content void of the long offseason. Each one will be a numbers-crunching look at something Bears related in which I attempt to earn the “Data” moniker so kindly bestowed on me by the comments section regulars and, more importantly, answer a Bears question that I’ve been wondering about. If you have anything you’d like me to look into, let me know in the comments or email me at woodjohnathan1@gmail.com and I’ll see what I can do. 


By all accounts, it seems the Bears will be acquiring the man they hope will be their quarterback of the future this offseason. Ryan Pace was spotted scouting pretty much all of the top quarterbacks in person throughout last fall, and his end of the season press conference was centered around a discussion of what he’ll be looking for in a franchise quarterback.

With that in mind, it would be wise for any Bears fan to pay close attention to the quarterbacks at the top of the draft this year. I started doing just that back in November, when I looked at quarterbacks drafted between 2011 and 2015 and found teams looking for a starter should focus on the top of round 1 or round 2 (http://bit.ly/2lhS3t0). Luckily for the Bears that fits either of their first two picks.

Building an Ideal QB Profile

Now I want to focus on what they should be looking for with one of those picks (thanks to DBB’s Andrew Dannehy for giving me this idea). Here’s how I went about doing that:

  • I looked at all 1st and 2nd round QBs drafted between 2011 and 2015 and compiled a bunch of data about their physical measurements, passing stats from their last year in college, and team success in college. The full list can be seen here: http://bit.ly/2kQ8v2L.
  • I split the QBs into guys who are established starters (Newton, Luck, Mariota, Winston, Tannehill, Bridgewater, Dalton, Carr), guys who might be starters going forward (Kaepernick, Garoppolo, Bortles), and everybody else.
  • I averaged the data together for each group and especially compared starters vs. everybody else (non-starters). 6 traits were identified that were significantly different.
  • For each trait, I sorted the quarterbacks from best to worst and looked for a “benchmark” value, which most of the starters hit and most of the non-starters missed. This always fell such that 5 or 6 of the 8 starters were above the benchmark; there was typically a significant dropoff after this point such that this was a logical cutoff.

Based on this, here’s the ideal profile I found to look for in a highly drafted QB coming out of college:

  • He should win at least 77% of his college starts (6/8 starters hit, 3/9 nonstarters)
  • He should win a conference title (6/8 starters hit, 4/9 nonstarters)
  • His final college season should feature at least 8.7 yards per passing attempt (5/8 starters hit, 3/9 nonstarters)
  • His final college season should feature a touchdown on at least 7.3% of his throws (6/8 starters hit, 3/9 nonstarters)
  • His final college season should feature a TD/INT ratio of at least 3.7:1 (6/8 starters hit, 2/9 nonstarters)
  • His final college season should feature a college passer rating of at least 166 (5/8 starters hit, 2/9 nonstarters)

There didn’t seem to be any difference in the physical profiles of the QBs based on their height, weight, or hand size at the Combine. The important part of the Combine for QBs is their interviews, but we don’t get that data. Ignore the measurables; they are basically irrelevant for QBs.

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Recent Draft History Dictates Bears Approach at QB

| November 15th, 2016

 screen-shot-2016-11-09-at-11-51-12-am
The following is a special piece from the artist known as Data.

 

Ever since Ryan Pace took over the Bears in the 2015 offseason, rumors have been swirling around Jay Cutler. First, Pace was desperate to move on from him and draft Marcus Mariota, but then that didn’t work out, Cutler stuck around for 2015 and had a very good year, and all of a sudden the Bears were building around Jay Cutler. Then a rough start to the 2016 season that saw more turnovers than touchdowns before an injury knocked him out for a month happened, Cutler was replaced by Brian Hoyer, and head coach John Fox seemed to indicate Hoyer might be Chicago’s starter going forward. But the Bears kept losing, Hoyer got hurt, and rumors swirled simultaneously that Fox was done with Cutler and Pace might be done with Fox. Then Cutler came back and played a tremendous game in an upset of Minnesota, and all of a sudden he’s the quarterback we need, but not the one we deserve.

All that in a season and a half. It’s been a whirlwind ride, and nobody has any idea what’s going to happen in the last half season that could change the narrative around Cutler in either direction. Here’s one thing that seems abundantly clear: Cutler is 33 years old and has a long injury history, so whether or not he’s with the Bears in 2017, they need to start looking to the future of the game’s most important position.

But there are a lot of different opinions as to how the Bears should do that. Some think they should cut (or more realistically trade) Cutler and draft the next QB with their 1st pick. Others think they should keep Cutler around but spend a draft pick on a QB to groom behind him.

In order to help figure out which approach gives you better odds of success, I looked at the draft history of recent NFL drafts to see what the odds are of landing a solid starting quarterback in various parts of the draft. It’s too early to pass much judgment on 2016, as only 2 out of 15 quarterbacks drafted saw the field. So instead I looked at the 2011-15 drafts, giving us a 5-year sample size.

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Pass Rusher is the New Quarterback: My Response to Monday’s Poll

| January 26th, 2016

For years the popular maxim has been that NFL franchises are only as strong their coach/quarterback combination. But with rules “evolving” yearly to aid the passing game a third pillar has firmly emerged as equal to the aforementioned pair: pass rusher. Watching the conference championship games on Sunday reaffirmed this.

And pass rush, despite what people will have you believe, is not necessarily a quantifiable statistic. Sacks are great but pressuring a quarterback into a poorly timed throw can often be far better. Sustained pressure throughout a game is a recipe for success but intense pressure in the fourth quarter, with the game on the line, is a recipe for championships.

Pass rushers, much like quarterbacks, must raise their games in the pivotal moments.

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Does Question Mark at Quarterback Mandate Bears Choose Head Coach With Experience?

| December 30th, 2014

shanny

You hear it all the time, mostly from panicked fans tired of losing.

“WE NEED TO REBUILD!”

In the NFL that term has very little meaning. Teams that are rebuilding have one of two distinct characteristics: no head coach or no quarterback. Just look at the twenty teams not in the postseason this year.

New York Jets – neither, Buffalo Bills – no QB/possibly no coach, Miami Dolphins – jury out, Cleveland Browns – no QB, Tennessee Titans – no QB, Houston Texans – no QB, Jacksonville Jaguars – jury out, Oakland Raiders – no coach, Kansas City Chiefs – borderline playoff team/extremely limited QB, San Diego Chargers – borderline playoff team/jury out on coach.

New York Giants – football’s all time anomaly, Philadelphia Eagles – won 10 games, Washington Redskins – neither, Chicago Bears – no coach/possibly no QB, Minnesota Vikings – jury out, San Francisco 49ers – no coach/possibly no QB, St Louis Rams – no QB, Atlanta Falcons – no coach, Tampa Bay Bucs – neither, New Orleans Saints – who knows what happened there.

Rebuilding in the NFL means bringing a young quarterback along and putting as much talent around him as possible. This is far easier to do when the coach leading the way has a track record of success.

Not a single team in the non-contenders category is confident in their coach and quarterback. The Giants and Saints, the two franchises not in the playoffs with Super Bowl winning coaches and quarterbacks, enter every season with one definitive goal: another Super Bowl title. The three teams with both in place NOT in the postseason, Philly, KC and SD, will be right on the cusp of the postseason every year. (I’m crediting Philly with having a QB because I believe they have multiple characters capable of executing Chip’s system successfully.)

The Bears have a top running back, top tight end, two top receivers, a couple of top offensive linemen and some young & veteran talent spread across their defense. But their quarterback position is now a significant question mark.

Putting a head coach in place who has never been a head coach and pairing him in the years to come with a quarterback who has never been a professional quarterback is not a recipe for long-term success. It is a recipe for becoming the Jacksonville Jaguars. The historical track record of getting this combination right is not even in the same zip code as good.

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Most Important Offensive Player of 2014: Jay Cutler, Quarterback

| September 3rd, 2014

jc

Does anyone reading a football blog not understand the importance of the quarterback position? Does anyone reading a Chicago Bears blog not understand the importance of Jay Cutler? Both answers are unquestionably no. Here are four specific things Cutler must do in 2014:

  • Stay healthy. So if he could do this, that’d be terrific.
  • Accept the check down. The check down in the Marc Trestman system is not a give up play, especially with Matt Forte being the primary threat. But too often Cutler’s eyes are so focused on his gigantic wide receiving threats down the field he misses an opportunity to extend drives and gouge the defense for big yards. (As a side point, the more Cutler takes these check downs the higher his completion percentage and yardage totals will go. Quarterbacks won’t admit it but they really, really care about these numbers.)

  • Throw the ball into the third row. I have no problem with Jay Cutler believing in his arm’s ability to fit the football into places normal human quarterbacks would never consider. But one element of Cutler’s game he must improve upon is his oft-reckless attempting to execute the courageous throw when the play has broken down and there’s nothing on the field. In these moments he tends to cock back the shotgun and fire when the prudent move is to select a fan in the lower tier and aim for their chest.

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