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2019 Chicago Bears Off-Season Agenda: Part One, Fixing the Biggest Problem

| February 6th, 2019

For every NFL franchise, each offseason begins with self-evaluation. That process is driven by one prevailing question: where can we improve our roster? The Bears have a very good roster; one of the better in the league. But their deficiencies in 2018, one in particular, kept them from advancing in the playoffs. They have a serious, specific need. And that need must be addressed in the coming months.

The Bears Need a Kicker.

Cody Parkey will be handed a pink slip as soon as it makes the most financial sense, leaving the Bears looking for a starter at the pivotal kicker position. (If you don’t think kicker is pivotal you missed this postseason.) Three points of note:

(1) Redford Jones was chum for the sharks. This is not to say the Tulsa product can’t kick his way onto the 2019 roster but that is not the current expectation inside the Halls of Halas. The 24 year-old product of Steve and Kristi Jones (Wikipedia is so funny) has one significant advantage: for most of January, all of February and half of March he’s going to be the only kicker on the Bears roster with a chance to play football for the team in September.

Helpful advice for Jones: go to Soldier Field and kick. Even if you have to steal the key from someone on the custodial staff.

(2) Free agents cost money and good free agents cost almost exclusively too much money. If the Bears want to bid for Stephen Gostkowski, they’ll end up making the same mistake every team makes when they acquire a Belichick castoff. The answer in free agency – IF there is an answer in free agency – is Robbie Gould. From a Patrick Finley piece in the Sun-Times:

“Obviously I still have an affinity for the city of Chicago,” Gould said while helping other Payton Award nominees build a playground at Warren Boys and Girls Club. “I really enjoy playing for San Francisco. They have exclusive rights to talk to me until free agency opens up. I think there’s a mutual understanding of wanting to go back there, but I’ve been through free agency before and you never know what’s going to happen.

“They’ve said they want to bring me back, obviously. At some point we have to negotiate a contract. . . . When the time’s right, they’ll do that and we’ll figure it out. If not, we’ll figure it out.”

If Gould does ends up as a free agent, he would find the Bears intriguing. His family still lives here and will continue to do so after he retires. If he signs a long-term contract, though, he plans on taking his family with him to that city.

“I’d like to be next to my family,” he said. “Those are things that will play a big part in free agency, for sure, if I ended up getting there.”

Clearly, Gould wants to return. But he can’t say that, of course. If the Niners don’t franchise him and free agency opens, the Bears have no choice. They must sign him. Because even if he misses every single kick he attempts in 2019, it’s a decision that will never be second-guessed.

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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: Bears, Back to Life

| October 4th, 2017

I grew up on Bears vs. Packers.

As most DBB readers already know, I grew up in Wisconsin, right near the Minnesota border, and had to sit on the sidelines while Packers and Vikings fans battled it out. But the two times a year the Bears played the Packers were the best two weeks of the season. They were my Super Bowl simply because I knew the Bears had no shot of getting to the actual Super Bowl.

I’ll admit there were times when I cried after the Bears lost to the Packers. One of the happiest days of my life was the Walter Payton game. The 2010 NFC Championship was one of the worst. The Bears beating the Packers meant everything to me.

Last Thursday’s game meant nothing. I didn’t have any hope. Something wasn’t right in my Bearsmosphere and I’m damn glad they fixed it.

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Across The Middle – Week 2

| September 14th, 2016

 will-fuller

The word of the day is perspective.

I like to think I’m as passionate a Bears fan as there is. I typically get nervous about the Sunday games on Friday and, when the Bears have a performance like they did against Houston, it ticks me off until the next Wednesday. But none of my common symptoms were there this week.

The reason is simple. The day after the Bears played their opener, my wife was scheduled to be induced and we welcomed the world’s newest Bears fan on Tuesday.

The Bears didn’t mean much to me last week and they don’t this week and I suppose that’s how it should be. But what happened last week shouldn’t mean much to you either. Just like the preseason, there’s a ton of instant reaction. But historically it hasn’t proven to be an indication of things to come.

Surely everyone remembers last season when the Rams beat the Seahawks and the 49ers thumped the Vikings? There were three playoff teams that lost to non-playoff teams last year and it seems to happen every year. Most of the teams in the league are still figuring out who they are the first three weeks of the season.

The Texans seem better than I thought (mostly because of Will Fuller) and the Bears have work to do. We knew the Bears wouldn’t be a finished product coming in. But what happened in Week 1 shouldn’t change your opinion of what kind of team the Bears have this year.

Coaches Have to Be Better

While I’m a big believer in the importance of winning in the trenches, the biggest area in which the Bears were out-classed Sunday was on the sidelines. John Fox single-handily cost the Bears a minimum of 11 points by not challenging two easy plays.

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Across The Middle: Week One

| September 7th, 2016

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How can anyone be sure the Bears were right on both Robbie Gould and Josh Sitton?

Both players were released for the exact same reasons:

  • Age
  • Money
  • Declining skills

The Bears got an up-close look at it with Gould. S0 did the Packers with Sitton.

With Gould, the Bears must think his leg is either dead or going to die before long. There is some evidence to back that up since 9 of his 12 misses over the last three seasons have come after November 1st. Maybe his leg has gotten tired or maybe he isn’t able to cut through the cold wind as well.

But, if they were even considering cutting him, why didn’t they bring competition in? That lack of competition tell us this can’t be based on last season’s performance. Gould made nearly 85 percent of his kicks last year with 9 attempts coming from at least 50 yards away. By comparison, Baltimore’s Justin Tucker was under 83 percent with 10 attempts from 50 yards away. Gould missed the game-winner against San Francisco. Minnesota’s Blair Walsh missed a gimme in a playoff game. Stephen Gostkowski missed an extra point that could’ve put the Patriots in the Super Bowl.

It happens. Teams in cold-weather cities need good kickers and they recognize the value in keeping them.

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Notes on a Wild Sunday For the Chicago Bears

| September 5th, 2016

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I didn’t see any of it coming. Any of it. Thoughts.

  • Impossible to suggest the Bears had planned to replace Robbie Gould at the start of the summer. Not when they brought in zero competition for him. But his big misses last season coupled with an incredibly shaky camp/preseason forced the Bears hand. Pace  and Fox know what this team is. They know they’ll need to win close ones. And they simply didn’t trust Robbie any more.
  • That being said, Robbie had a brilliant career in Chicago. Brilliant. Hester-Robbie-Mannelly-Toub is the modern era Mount Rushmore of Bears special teams.
  • Connor “Party On” Barth is a guy. Could be good. Could be shaky. But if the Bears thought this a possibility, why not bring a few kids to camp? I wrote about challenging Robbie this summer LAST FALL. The signs were there. It feels like the front office missed them.
  • I don’t care about Josh Sitton’s back issues. He’s still a damn good player. If the Bears only get one season out of him, that’s fine by me. They have the cash. Why not spend it? The risk/reward is ENTIRELY in Chicago’s column.

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Five Things I Wish the 2016 Bears Had (#5)

| August 29th, 2016

#5 – ROBBIE GOULD FROM TEN YEARS AGO

The 2016 Bears are built to play close games. How so?

  • They are built for a power run game. Angry guards. Good backs. A bunch of tight endy, hybrid-type players. You get the sense John Fox will be preaching about time of possession each week.
  • The Bears secondary is the team’s signature weakness so good offenses will be able to move the ball. But they have terrific coverage linebackers and a solid front seven so translating those drives into seven points will be harder.
  • The Bears passing game, even with Alshon Jeffery, is not designed to hit home runs. They want to play a quick-release style and get the ball in the hands of their playmakers.

A year ago, with much less talent, Robbie Gould could have extended a game against the Redskins and beaten the 49ers. He had a decent season overall but when the game was on the line, Gould was at his weakest. When 2006 Robbie walked onto the field, you could take a bathroom break and zip up with confidence. Three points were guaranteed. But those days are long gone.

The difference between seven and ten wins this season could be three kicks. But which Robbie will attempt them, 2015 or 2006?

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