Football

By now you probably know the Chicago Bears hired veteran NFL coach Bill Lazor as Offensive Coordinator. Wooohooo.

We knew this hire wasn’t going to be real interesting, at least not in a style/scheme sense, when Head Coach Matt Nagy announced he would not be giving up play calling duties in 2020. This job also doesn’t scream “stability”. 2020 poses a make or break year for every relevant figurehead in the organization, meaning if things don’t at least culminate in a playoff berth and probably a solid effort once there, that many more positions will be open at Halas Hall.

There’s still a trail of bread crumbs we can follow leading back from Lazor, though, that could give some insight to what the Bears plan to do at QB this offseason and how they might work with Mitchell Trubisky to help him to suck less. I mean, you’re not here to read a summary of Bill Lazor’s Wiki page, so let’s get goofy. Fuck it.

Come along on a journey with me, dear reader, as we connect some dots. TO THE MOUNTAIN TOP!

Lazor comes in to replace Mark Helfrich, and while both are supposed to be QB whisperers that’s where the similarities end. Helfrich was a first time NFL hire, coming from the college ranks with a specific job to manage the run game. Seen as how that went the last few seasons, along with non-development of the QB position, Helfrich is out and Lazor is in. It’s not yet known if Lazor will assume the Run Game Czar title, or even if he’ll do much in the QB room since Dave Ragone managed to dodge the ax himself, yet again. No, Lazor seems to be here to help Nagy clean up the mess that is the RPO offense under Nagy…and maybe because of his connections to a few potential QB options for Chicago.

Lazor brings an NFL pedigree, holding jobs in the League for the better part of the last 16 years. His most recent stop was as OC to Marvin Lewis in Cincinnati, where he brought in the run-pass option to help out a struggling offensive line/rushing attack and helped the Bengals make one more flailing effort to the playoffs before Lewis was finally put to pasture. So this makes him both highly qualified for 2020 Bears OC AND an ominous omen as the Angel of Death for Nagy and Ryan Pace, which is fun! Whatever he did was beneficial to QB Andy Dalton, who threw 64 TDs against 31 INTs from 2016-18. A.J. McCarron was also in Cincy during his tenure. More on that in a minute.

Lazor also found himself as OC in Miami in 2014…a year in which a young Ryan Tannehill threw for 27 TDs/2 INTs/4,095 yards and another 311 yards on 56 carries, arguably his best season (albeit on a pretty rough 5-11 Dolphins team) before his current run toward the AFC title this season. Lazor was hired in Miami because of his time in Philadelphia, where he had a hand (as QB Coach) in Nick Foles stand-in monster season.

A pattern is forming here, and it lines up in a few ways:

-While not always ending in overall success, Lazor tends to be around for strong years from his QBs

-Lazor isn’t going to revamp the run game, but a lot of those prior successes with QBs comes in spite of run game, not because of it

-Lazor has links to a number of QBs that should be readily available this offseason (to varying degrees)

So maybe this “underwhelming” hire has some meat to it. Maybe there’s more here than finding a competent NFL coach that’ll stay out of Nagy’s way. I’ll admit that Lazor’s resume of QBs doesn’t really elicit much excitement, but the team could do a lot worse than sending a conditional late round pick for the safety net and recent continuity of Dalton or even a cheap, one year deal for McCarron. Foles and Tannehill are much less likely based on circumstances, but in the event that Pace has some batshit plan in place, they have some familiarity of past successes with Lazor. The fact he’s worked most recently to coax the most out of struggling offensive lines and using RPO schemes to do so helps make even more sense of why he’s here.

Ultimately, it didn’t lead to sustained success in Cincinnati. Pace and Nagy and wagering their futures on things turning out different in his second shot at the same problem.

Football

2019 is going to be the type of football year that you just want to throw in the trash, hoping that things get sorted out in a positive manner and you can mostly forget the things that transpired on the field. That’s essentially the case for the Bears pass catchers save for what passes as the brightest spot from the team, but also includes arguably the darkest, deepest hole (outside of QB…) and Ryan Pace’s second biggest miss of the 2017 draft.

On one hand, you have Allen Robinson being the monster wide out everyone wanted when he signed in the 2018 off-season and the emergence of second-year receiver Anthony Miller into a legit threat on any play. On the other, you have an underwhelming group of wide outs behind them, a one-dimensional backfield passing attack and a tight end room that’s stinkier than David Kaplan’s nose (because it’s firmly planted somewhere inside Tom Ricketts colon, GET IT??).  The team ranked in the lower third in just about all receiving categories, and if you read the rushing post from yesterday and quarterbacks on Monday you don’t have to squint to pick up on the theme of the 2019 Chicago offense. It sucked.

The highs were the type that felt squandered, the lows all disasters that played a part in the unacceptable offensive output – to varying degrees.

Let’s dive in, shall we?

The Good

Allen Robinson. That’s essentially your list. Robinson was the steady, go-to security blanket all season and pulled in 98 of 154 (!!) targets for just under 1,150 yards and seven scores, roughly one third of the entire receiving production on the team. He’s been everything the team needed and wanted when they gambled and signed the oft-injured Robinson two years ago, and Pace would do well to rip up the final year of his contract because 1) He’s more than earned new paper/$, 2) a new deal would actually improve the Bears cap situation for 2020 and beyond (ARob counts $15M against the cap with just $10.5 in actual dollars in 2020) and 3) who in the fuck else are you trusting on this roster going forward, especially after 2020?

Anthony Miller shone at times this season, especially standing out on Thanksgiving in Detroit with a 9/140 line. While he came up big during the min- revival stretch later in the season, he was inconsistent on the whole. But you if you want to argue that was more product of his environment in this slap dick offense you’d get no more than a “fair” from me. Miller is still an injury case, however, as he’ll rehab this spring from the exact same shoulder surgery that ended his 2018-19 campaign. Still, he lands in the positives and the Bears will need him back and building on his success in 2020.

The Bad

The rest of the wide out group left a whole lot to be desired. Taylor Gabriel was the benefactor of three TD catches in a half against the atrocious R-words in Week 3, but again suffered from concussion issues and only played parts of nine games. Rookie 4th round pick Riley Ridley hardly saw the field, working through a litany of nagging foot and leg injuries before totaling a whopping six catches over the final three contests. Javon Wims filled in admirably, again, but when he’s consistently on the field you’re probably in some trouble with your personnel; he’s best suited for ST duty in the opinion of yours truly.

Tarik Cohen was the only real contributor out of the backfield, and while he was used quite a bit (79 catches, 104 targets) all but 19 of his 456 yards were via YAC, meaning he was hardly targeted past the line of scrimmage all year. That’s your #2 in targets, averaging 5.8 yards/catch, often being targeted BEHIND the line of scrimmage. Fun!

The Ugly

The tight end group may have been the worst ever in Chicago Bears history, at least in terms of the modern game. No individual player went over 91 yards FOR THE SEASON, and the two leaders at 91/87 were preseason practice squad players JP Holtz and Jesper Horsted. Big money man Trey Burton got hurt in August, never really got to full health, and submitted to injury in November, landing on IR with all of 24 catches for 84 yards. Pace’s pet Adam Shaheen continued to impress no one but his boss, again dealing with a myriad of injuries and totaling 9/74 line. He now boasts 26 catches in 27 career games since being drafted in the 2nd round of 2017. Blocking TE Ben Braunecker was used in the passing game. Bradley Sowell was active at the position for a few games; that should tell you all you need to know about this shit ass group.

The RBs outside of Cohen weren’t as bad as the TEs, but that group was paced by David Montgomery‘s 25/185/1 line, a bit underwhelming after all the buzz about him “doing it all well” after the draft. FA Mike Davis caught all seven of his targets before he was cut, and the coaching staff failed to get $5M man Cordarrelle Patterson involved in any meaningful way.

Any Hope?

No? Not really? Robinson should get a new deal, possibly very soon, but after that it’s a big ol’ shit sandwich. Miller has the injury history, Gabriel might need to retire (but at least they can save $4.5M in cutting him) and Ridley looks to have a long way to go. This group lacks speed…so maybe just try Patterson out there instead of running him on 3rd and short?? Whoever gets hired to help run the offense would do well to get Cohen involved more down the field and in the slot, potentially, along with Patterson. The speed exists on the team, just not sure these dummies can harness it properly. Maybe some further passing work for Montgomery to keep teams guessing too.

The TE room is all signed for next year, and Burton somehow has so much guaranteed money that they can’t just cut him. The depth pieces are all okay, but this group screams for improvement. Can they sign Austin Hooper if he hits FA? Pace will need to get creative to clear enough space for such a move.

Pace and Co. have quite the overhaul on their hands this off-season.

Final Grade: C-

Football

Jordan Howard was sent packing. Tarik Cohen, gem of the 2018 draft, planted his flag as the next Darren Sproles-esque gadget back. Ryan Pace maneuvered ahead of his counterparts in the middle rounds to select David Montgomery, the quiet, no-nonsense, blue collar worker back that was going to excel immediately in the system. Pace also signed veteran Mike Davis on the cheap, seemingly because of fit and personnel package and depth. Then came Cordarrelle Patterson, the do everything secret weapon.

2019 was supposed to be the season the Bears rushing attacked returned to great heights, the season the team got back to its Chicago football reputation of pounding the ball on the ground and using that rushing attack to unleash Matt Nagy’s offense.

2019 did not go to plan.

The Good

Umm…right. Well, there was that one game that Mitch did his best LEEEEEROOOOOY JEEENNNNKKIIIIINSSSS and thrashed the Cowboys for 64 yards. That is to be considered good, I think. But, uh, he’s not a running back.

Montgomery did have his moments, rushing for 889 yards on 242 carries for the season which was highlighted by a 135-yard, 1-TD effort (and 5.0 yard per carry average!) in the heart breaking loss to the Chargers at home. Monty also hit the century mark in the season finale, totaling 113 yards and a TD (albeit against a lot of backups).

Cohen chipped in much more via the passing game, helping the offense where he could with 79 catches on 104 targets for 456 yards, good for 2nd, 2nd and 3rd on the team respectively…which will be an indictment when we get to pass catchers tomorrow but we’ll count it as “good” today.

The Bad..and Ugly

Strap in, dear reader.

To call the rushing game “bad” is a bit of an understatement. The coaching staff/Nagy told us they had their pieces, they were going to fix the underwhelming rush attack from 2018 (buoyed by QB  Mitchell Trubisky‘s 421 yards). We’ve already been over the additions to overhaul the group, which saw only Cohen return from 2018. The results were an unmitigated disaster, as the team rushed for under 1,500 yards as a group, averaging 91.1 yards/game. Chicago had a 3.7 per carry average. The Bears scored all of eight rushing touchdowns on the year. EIGHT! Per AP Style standards I can’t even use numerals for that low of a total.

These totals put them in the bottom of the league for rushing all around, 26th or worse in every category I just listed. You watched it. You probably assumed as much, but hot damn that’s fucking terrible. This team regressed by over 500 yards overall, 30 yards a game, and scored HALF as many rushing touchdowns.

So what happened?

Well, the offensive line was not what was expected and not even really close. The play calling was all over the map as well, seeing the Bears call all of FIVE run plays in the gut punch Week 1 loss to Green Bay..at home…by one score. FIVE RUN PLAYS. This would be a tough theme, as Nagy would get far too pass-happy or lean on the pass in games like the stinker against New Orleans where he abandoned it all together. The Bears ran the ball 395 times in 2019, sticking them in the lower third yet again, while it’s also worth pointing out that no other team rushed as much as they did for fewer yards. The Pittsburg Steelers were very similar, but the totals of the other teams near them in attempts are all 300-500 yards (NOT feral hogs, unfortunately) MORE than Chicago.

Montgomery was fed a decent amount with his 242 carries for a rookie season, but beyond that the division of work is alarming. Cohen only had 64 rushing attempts all season, with the damn QB coming in 3rd as Mitch saw 48 (and most of those were in the latter half of the season as things spiraled to hell). Free Agent additions Patterson and Davis saw a COMBINED 28 carries. Patterson seemed to be the choice short yardage back early on, which was curious at best but really it was fucking batshit insane. Nagy lost his damn mind. Poor Mike Davis never got a shot, and the team mercilessly cut in early November so that Pace could at least recoup a compensatory draft pick.

Not great!

 Any Hope?

I don’t know, man. The Bears have a lot to fix on offense, and the goal should be to get more out of the run game first and foremost. I know everyone wants Trubisky to be a star, but he needs help to even get to an even baseline. The offensive line and play calling must be better, and this team needs a third actual running back that can pick up short yards and block. They have their lead man and pass catcher and their gadget man, as Montgomery, Cohen and Patterson should all be back. They just need to figure out how to use them all properly, which I’m not so sure this regime is capable of. I’d expect them to skip RB completely in the draft and find their fourth back on the market this March. Or maybe they can just use a defensive tackle for the dirty work. Just do better.

Final Grade: D+

Football

Let’s get this out the way immediately – if Ryan Pace didn’t draft Mitch Trubisky, then Trubisky wouldn’t be the Bears starter, he probably wouldn’t even be on the team. But he did, so he is; and we are going to have to learn to deal with it.

Not a single player on the 2019 Bears took a more precipitous fall from grace that the Bears #10. It was, in a word, bad. Just plain bad. Inconsistency was the only constant you got from Trubisky week in and week out.

But why? And how?

Well, you can blame the head coach, who is calling plays as a generality, and not really tailored to a specific player or offense. You can also blame an inept O-Line, who were inexperienced and couldn’t protect a QB who was desperate to check down every time he felt some pressure. You can blame a running game, which was non-existent much of the year, and let defenses tee-off on a sub-standard passing game. But at the end of day, the lack of success at the quarterback position must be the responsibility of the player himself.

So, let’s unpack Mitch Trubisky’s 2019 season according to the numbers:

The Good:
Trubisky continued to do a great job of protecting the ball this season, finishing with 10 interceptions against 17 touchdowns. These are numbers that reflect more of a game manger than a gunslinger, but with the dominance of the Bears defense, this is not a team that needs a guy who is going to throw for 5,000 yards. In addition to throwing only 10 INTs, Trubisky only fumbled three times. Ball security in the NFL cannot be understated, and this is something a struggling QB and a struggling offense can continue to build on heading into next season.

The Bad:
For a guy who operates on check-down first philosophy, Mitch Trubisky finished 18th in the league with a 63.2% completion percentage. This must improve, especially given his yards per completion rank 32nd league wide.

The Ugly:
Perhaps the most unsettling aspect of Trubisky’s 2019 season was the regression we saw, both statistically and with a simple eye test. In 2018, Trubisky had:
• A higher completion percentage (66.6% vs. 63.2)
• More passing yards (3,223 vs. 3,138) in less games
• A higher yards per completion (7.4 vs. 6.1)
• More TD passes (24 vs. 17)
• Less sacks taken (24 vs. 38)
• A higher passer rating (95.4 vs. 83)

This is not at all what you want or expect from a guy who had other year of experience in the same system in addition to an improved receiving corp.

How bad was it this season?

When you look at the four most important QB categories (Yards, TD’s, INT’s, QBR), the highest Mitch Trubisky ranked in any single category is 18th. In the three other categories, he ranks in the bottom five in two, and the bottom 10 in one. This is what you expect from a guy who was searching for some semblance of confidence all season. Mitch developed a check-down to touchdown mentality, whereas this has become a touchdown to check-down league. Above all, this is why this team and this QB struggled this season. A positive to take from this is that this mentality can be corrected and changed, often very quickly.

Final Grade = C-

If I was to grade Mitch Trubisky on his play alone, it would have been worse. But you cannot evaluate his season without considering an offensive coordinator who did him zero favors and a general manager who didn’t have the greatest supporting cast in place.
I expect a huge bounce-back year from #10 in 2020, because I expect him and everyone around him to be better. Doesn’t that sound horribly familiar?

Football

Well, no one can say Ryan Pace has no idea what he’s doing. He locked in All-Pro Safety Eddie Jackson on a Four year, $58M contract extension on Friday afternoon and managed to deflect at least a little bit of the unsilent majority that’s been killing him for his NYE press conference the last few days.

Jackson takes home $22M in guarantees at signing and $33M overall, so you can assume he’s been given a healthy bonus, small cap number in 2021 (unless this tears up his 2020 $735K of his final rookie year, either way the team will really need it) and the first two years at least fully guaranteed. Jackson, deservedly so, becomes the highest paid Safety in football at just under $15M/season.

Jackson earned that top-salary-in-the-league title with his play, starting way back in 2017 when he picked off Cam Newton and scooped up a fumble, taking both to the house with each TD return going over 75 yards. That’s a single game NFL record and Jackson did nothing but build his resume as a playmaker and takeaway specialist from there. He had monster pick-six returns in huge moments to seal wins down the stretch for the 2018 Division Champion team, though he didn’t record a TD in 2019  as opposing teams avoided throwing his way almost exclusively. Not matter, Jackson just set a career high with five tackles for loss as Chuck Pagano used him more in the box and mixed him in with blitz coverages closer to the line. And the whole “don’t throw at Eddie” game plan helped the Bears hold opponents to a top three finish in plays of 20+ yards at 40 total.

Eddie Jackson is the real fucking deal and he earned this contract. The team is better with him in it, period.

So what does this mean for the rest of the offseason? Well, it’s definitely good that Pace got this order of business out of the way early in the offseason and didn’t let anything linger into OTAs or training camp and the specter of a hold out. Jackson would have gotten all this and possibly more if he’d hit UFA status, so the deal is timely and warranted. This could, however, impact what they do at the opposite Safety position. Jackson is now the lone (true)Safety on the books for 2020 and beyond, with Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Deon Bush and DeAndre Houston-Carson all UFAs come March.

Bush and Houston-Carson should be cheap enough to bring back, assuming they’d both like to be here. Dix is the more curious case, as he didn’t exactly shine in his new home. He was very steady, though, and didn’t really show the issues of poor tackling that have plagued him in the past. Pace would do well to lock him and one of the lesser depth Safeties up next to save himself from scrambling later this offseason, though he doesn’t have a ton of cap room to work with. If Dix wants a big, 3+ year deal he’s likely going to have to find it elsewhere, so it might come down to how much he wants to continue with his Alabama alum partner and the rest of this defensive core.

You can probably bet that this move will seal Danny Trevathan‘s fate unless he takes a huge pay cut, but Nick Kwiatkowski is also due new money and he showed he’s ready to step into that role after Trevathan and Smith’s injuries this season. The offense is noticeably absent from the any discussion of core players locked up. Pace would be wise to prioritize a new deal for WR Allen Robinson, who was arguably the only good thing the Bears can point to from 2019 on his side of the ball.That, though, can be left for later as everyone celebrates Steady Eddie and his new paper. This gives the Bears a very sound, solid defensive core locked in through at least 2022 including Jackson, Khalil Mack, Akiem Hicks, Kyle Fuller, Roquan Smith, Eddie Goldman and to a lesser extent Buster Skrine and Bilal Nichols.

Enough of the future what-ifs, enjoy some of Eddie’s best work. Congrats to #39. Roll Damn Tide.

 

 

Football

Our Bears wing gets together one last time to work out their feelings about whatever it was that just went down.

 So now it’s all over, and we couldn’t glean anything from the finale. Where are you? How far away do you think the Bears are from getting back to contending next year? What’s most important to you this offseason?

Brian Schmitz: As I have clearly shown this season, I am a Bears pessimist. And to be totally honest with everyone, I took some pleasure in watching this team self-destruct time and time again. That probably says more about the person I am than anything; but…whatever. 

With that, I think the 2020 Bears, with a few tweaks, are a 10-win playoff team. The schedule will get easier next year and you have to expect  improvement from the major cogs of this team: coaching, QB, d-coordinator, kicker, tight end to name a few. 

Tony Martin: I’m excited to see what the front office does to right this ship, you know? It should be pretty clear where the faults lie, and the question is now wether or not the front office can fix the personnel holes with their limited cap space, and if they can wrestle away play calling duties from Matt Nagy. 

Wes French: I, too, am very interested to see what Pace has planned for this offseason. His and Nagy’s fates are predicated on a run at the playoffs if not a division crown in 2020. They’ve got some big decisions to make between QB, OL and a few key contract decisions on defense. 

I can say I didn’t take much pleasure in watching this team punch itself in the dick over and over again and I sure hope they have more of a plan for next season. 

Did you guys take anything out of the postseason press conference at Halas Hall? Other than as an organization the Bears are extremely weird…

Brian: My biggest takeaway is that the entire organization is trying to build up a quarterback that clearly has confidence issues. Pace’s job is tied into his quarterback, so in order to protect his own best interests, he is forced to ride or die with Trubisky. 

Wes: I was a bit disappointed with the press conference as a whole. I know, you can’t expect them to come right out and declare the QB sucks and needs to be replaced, but to continue to talk up his development and that he was very raw coming out of college is like….why did you take him at #2 then??

I think the thing that pissed me off the most though was talking up Adam Shaheen in a similar fashion. Pace almost seems more like he has to defend that pick more than Trubs, citing the same stuff of him being raw, playing at a small school, etc. Then why take him in the 2nd round? Why reach on a guy you know is going to be a major project when you’re trying to set up for a SB run? 

The OC/his staff took the blade as they were mercilessly let go, and I’m curious to see if they bring someone in with a big pedigree that would wrestle play calling or at least game prep away from Nagy. Juan Castillo is familiar with the type of stuff Nagy wants with the O-line/run game to do given his background with the Reid coaching tree. I’m trying to remain optimistic but until we see other hires/FA-roster moves I don’t think anyone at Halas Hall gets the benefit of the doubt right now. 

Tony: This is the last offseason that I’m going into with the full faith in Ryan Pace and Matt Nagy. They’ve had their fingerprints all over this trainwreck, and it should be noted that this is their chance to reflect on the job they’ve done thus far. It’s one thing to assess the talent left on your roster and to try to build around it, but now we get to see how they’ll address the setback that was the entire 2019 campaign. As a professional educator, I embrace mistakes because they are an important part of the learning process. True learning comes from identifying where you went wrong, understanding the error, and fixing it, and I hope the dudes at the top are willing to look at their faults in an honest way for the benefit of the organization and most importantly my Sunday afternoons.

Football

That about sums it up.

I’ve said it before, but just to reiterate, I’m hardly a football expert. Just a Bears fan who’s as frustrated and disappointed as you are. Tonight was ugly, as ugly as it’s been, because other than the Saints game the Bears have been in every one and just missed here and there to lose. This was being outclassed, which hurts as a fan more than anything.

What makes it far worse is the lazy-ass narratives that come out of it. Yeah, we know Mahomes was taken 10th and Trubisky 2nd. This is such an easy branch to reach for when someone wants to sound right and profound. It’s over now. And it’s not fair to use that to judge Trubisky. To judge Ryan Pace? Absolutely, and it will almost certainly be his defining moment, probably for worse. But you have to keep those separate.

That doesn’t mean Mitch should be absolved. He was bad tonight, but so was everything. The gameplan sucked. So did the o-line. The defense was kind of helpless. We could do this all day. And those things have happened far too often this season.

I know everything now has recency bias, especially in the NFL where things change so much from year to year. But we’re still only 12 months removed from probably the most fun Bears team of our lifetimes (depending on how old you are). No one wanted anybody fired or cut then. It can’t be completely negated. Now, other than Allen Robinson no one has taken a step forward, and that team is basically still here. Is that on Pace? Maybe, maybe that’s everyone’s ceiling. Or is that on Nagy? Combination thereof?

If the Bears lose next week, their two-year record will be 19-13. That hardly seems like a fireable record. Remember, this team punted Lovie Smith after a three-year stretch of 29-19, and that sent them on a five-year spin-cycle of idiocy. You have to be careful on these things.

Also some history. Remember that John Fox was forced on Ryan Pace after he was hired, and he had to tailor a team to that idiot. That doesn’t mean those three years should be completely erased from the records or the evaluation, but weighted less heavily than you might normally. Again, when he’s had the run of the place, 19-13. And to repeat myself, that only means that next year is the make-or-break for everyone.

As I’ve said, the ship of Mitch being great has sailed. But I don’t see that we have to give up on good, though it seems a readily available thing to reach for right now. He missed Allen Robinson on a deep throw that could have started this game on a different note. And it’s another in the category of throws the Bears had to have, as I’ve catalogued. Hit those five throws, and the Bears probably have 10 wins right now. At least nine for sure. And if Mitch is never going to be that guy who hits those throws, and he might never be, well then it’s time to move on.

But fuck, Josh Allen is a playoff QB. So’s Kirk Cousins. So’s Carson Wentz. A year ago, you wouldn’t have swapped any of them in here. All that means is everyone gets one more spin. Matt Nagy isn’t solely responsible for the mess that Mitch is now, but he’s got a hand. A big one. Can he accent what Mitch does well next year? Is there anything? We’ll find out, because there aren’t many other options. You want to ride on the Andy Dalton merry-go-round? That’ll land you with y0ur dick in the dirt as well.

It sucks, because that team last year was so much fun and this one has been such a goddamn drag and you can’t remove the emotion out of it when it comes to the Bears. Especially when they’ve pretty much been a calamity for most of our lives. It’s beyond old at this point.

But we can do better than lazy. At least we’re going to try.

Football

 @

RECORDS: Chiefs 10-4 @ Bears 7-7

KICKOFF: 7:15 pm

TV: NBC 

I’m sure you all read that headline and thought, “please, no, not a post about why this team would be Super Bowl bound with Patrick Mahomes“. Guess what? I WOULD NEVER.

No, this is about what could have been for a team that looked on the cusp of becoming NFC contenders a scant 11 months ago crashing and burning into the mess you and I have been subjected to for the better part of the last four months. And while there were some pretty tall expectations, it’s reasonable to expect minimal changes within the organization and coaching staff. Some might clamor for major changes, but Ryan Pace, Matt Nagy, Chuck Pagano and most of the other coaches will remain for the job of cleaning up this mess of a campaign, which arguably starts this week.

The first test is how to get your team up and motivated for a meaningless game in late December, one that’s played a mere week after your slim playoff hopes ended at the two-yard line as time expired against the most hated of rivals. The Bears will need to find that energy as they host the AFC West Champion Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday Night Football, a game that Mahomes and Andy Reid desperately need to win if they’re to secure a bye for what looks to be a loaded AFC playoff field.

The Chiefs enter playing possibly their best defensive football of Reid’s tenure. The uptick on that side of the ball coincides with a 5-1 stretch, seeing KC secure their fourth consecutive AFC West title. The Chiefs have held opponents to 212 passing yards or less in five of six games during this streak, helping them to get into the top team passing defenses in the league overall for the year. They will have a true test this week, though, as Bears QB Mitchell Trubisky has averaged over 295 yards passing the last four weeks and gone over 330 yards twice. Mitch has been using his legs to greater effect as well, something KC hasn’t really had to deal with in games against the likes of Drew Lock, Derek Carr, Tom Brady and Philip Rivers.

The non-existent Bears rushing game failed to show up much against a near-league worst Packers side in Green Bay, so while the Chiefs rank near the bottom of the league in rushing yards against at 130+/game they are more likely to see that number improve than be gashed for worse. Unless, of course, Mitch runs wild like he did against Dallas on TNF a few weeks ago. Mitch is still working on his decision making, and what he does with the RPO all night will go a long way to determining if KC has any issues trying to get closer to that bye week. it’d certainly be nice to see Nagy and staff try some new things, maybe moving the line in different ways or using more misdirection/creativity to get David Montgomery some confidence in a lost rookie campaign.

Mahomes comes in seeing his otherworldly number from 2018 deflated a bit (he’s missed two+ games to injury), but the third-year QB is still making defenses pay when they give him any kind of window. Mahomes is top five in yards/game (300.5), has 23 TD against four INT in 12 games and comes in at 2nd and 6th in QBR and Passing Rating, respectively. He can and will beat you deep to Tyreek Hill (who will also simply just beat you, but only if you’re under 10 years old or female) or Mecole Hardman, or he’ll slowly kill you by feeding monster TE Travis Kelce or any one of the RBBC that seemingly 1) can all catch out of the backfield and catch well and 2) go for allll the YAC. LeSean McCoy, Damien Williams, Darwin Thompson, Spencer Ware…it really doesn’t matter. Reid plugs and plays at will and somehow employs backs that can do it all…it’s called a SCHEME,,, folks.

The Bears young stand ins at ILB (Nick Kwiatkoski, Kevin Pierre-Louis) and the defensive backfield (Kevin Toliver, Deon Bush) will all be tested over and over by these weapons and almost assuredly beaten unless the defensive front can create pressure – something that’s been missing since Week 1 for the Bears. Can they find some way to get pressure on Mahomes to help out their youthful next men up? Maybe Pagano has some new ideas for Khalil Mack and Co. after failing all year to get any sustained pressure.

The Bears constant is that they are inconsistent, including during this late 3-1 run to respectability. A loss here is expected, but more than wins or losses these last two weeks should be dedicated to continued learning experiences and trying any and everything to see what they’ve got moving forward. Everything should be on the table, anyone with questions should be thrown into the fire. Who knows, maybe the apprentice will catch the master and score an upset while having a little fun along the way (did you know Nagy is a Reid disciple????)

Prediction: Chiefs 38, Bears 29

Football

The Bears season is not going to end with any kind of post-season glory, so in lieu of a CHI/KC match up, we’re looking at some internal match ups this week of positions/players with something legitimately left to play for. Enjoy.

Tony: Wes, I appreciate the idea of re-focusing this week’s matchup on some of these end-of-roster players that we’d like to see more of in the last two weeks. It’s a lot easier than trying to figure out 400 words or so each that basically says “The Chiefs should win this one very easily”. So, since you’ve gifted me the offense, here’s 4 guys I’d like to see get some real run in the last two meaningless games.

Ryan NallFor no other reason, to finally appease the people who think Nall is a franchise-caliber RB; you know, the same people who thought Dane Sanzenbacher was the next Wes Welker. I know he’s had a couple nice 69 yard runs in consecutive pre-seasons, but let him get some carries against the starters and see what happens.

Javon WimsJuice has been out there quite a bit this season, but he doesn’t get much in terms of looks in the passing game. We all remember his outstanding Week 17 game last year; I’d like to see what we get from Wims with somewhere between 5-7 targets a game. He knows the offense much better than…

Riley RidleyHe’s been hurt, but he doesn’t seem to know where to line-up ever and I’m starting to believe he shouldn’t be out there and the coaching staff is exposing him to an unnecessarily high number of situations where he isn’t prepared. It would be nice to have a package of plays he can confidently run and we can see if he has more to offer the team than just a somewhat relevant last name.

I wrote half a paragraph about Ben Braunecker before I remembered he was in concussion protocol and is now on IR, which should tell you how high my hopes are that he makes the team next year. So instead, let’s talk about:

Jesper HorstedIn his 3 career games, Horsted has 7 catches for 67 yards and a touchdown. In Braunecker’s 47 games, he’s produced 13 catches for 142 yards and one TD. In my mind, Horsted is the only TE that is a lock to be on the roster next season, since Burton has underwhelmed and The Adam Shaheen Experiment needs to be chalked up as a loss before Mitch gets his head taken off when he misses his chip. Yeah, I know, the Bears passed on George Kittle in that draft but WWE never signed Pentagon Jr, so I guess just shut up or I’ll hit you with a package piledriver, nerd. The Bears will draft a TE high, and Horsted could be a capable #2. Bradley Sowell is a total team player and will always be Matt Nagy’s Taysom Hill, but with less of a chance to fuck your fantasy team. He might be there next year too, but with a strong showing I think Horsted sticks.

Wes: Tony, the Bears and the trash they give us to discuss every week is the true gift this season. Thank Matt Nagy, Ryan Pace and whoever else helped get us here more than ya boy. You covered a couple interesting players on the offensive side, so I guess I’ll toss out a few names on defense, especially hoping the Bears just put Akiem Hicks on IR and give him the rest of this lost campaign off. Apparently the starters will play the last two games, but here’s to hoping we get some decent looks at the younger pieces on the roster.

Also, thank YOU for the gift of reminding everyone that Dane Sanzenbacher exists.

Leonard Floyd: Not really an end of roster player I guess, but ho-boy that fifth year option is looking pretty bad right now. Floyd flew out of the gates with two Sacks in Week 1, but he’s totaled all of ONE since and had his best stretch of stats during the mid-season losing streak. Not exactly standing out in 2019. Methinks his $13M, non-guaranteed contract is going to find him cut before June 1 unless they can come to some other agreement. He’s probably playing more for his own film at this point, but you never know.

Josh Woods: Woods was a favorite of all of ours this pre-season, and while he didn’t get any game action until four weeks ago in LA (a game we’d all like to kind of pretend didn’t happen, ugh) he’s seeing some defensive snaps and work on ST. With Roquan and Trevathan both on IR, and the future of the latter a big question mark, Woods (along with current starter Kevin Pierre-Louis) has a chance to keep his name in the queue at ILB and make Pace believe he’s got plenty at the position to make it a lower priority this upcoming off-season.

Deon Bush: The Bears will have a decision to make at Safety opposite Eddie Jackson (who himself is due new money in 2021) as Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, DeAndre Houston-Carson and Bush are all coming up on Free Agency. Unless Dix wants to take a similar small money/1-year pact (doubtful), getting to see a lot more of Bush (Phrasing, I know) these last two weeks should be the plan. He’s still only 27 and shouldn’t demand a high salary for sound, steady work at the position, and cap-flexibility will be key with not much readily available for Pace

Kevin Toliver II: Toliver has been a nice bright spot these last few weeks as Prince Amukamara dealt with nagging injuries. The 2nd year player out of LSU has 10 tackles and two passes defended the last two weeks, and speaking of cap space the Prince can be cut to save $8M against $1M in dead money. Again, unless Amukamara wants to restructure it’s looking like the Sophomore CB is making Pace’s decision easier come March and he can further solidify it with continued solid play against tough offenses in KC and Minne-HO-ta.

Eddy Pineiro/Pat O’Donnell: I’m cheating a little here as these are not defenders, but who isn’t thinking the Bears could move on from both their kickers in 2020? Pineiro has done nothing to stake his claim since his walk-off winner Week 2 in Denver and carries no cap penalties, though I can’t see Pace committing much over a minimum to the position. O’Donnell can also be cut for next to nothing, and while he’s not really any worse than last season he’s been treading water at bottom-third rankings in punt AVG, NET and Returns. If the Bears are going to get better they really need to improve consistency in these positions.

Football

Tony Martin: Today’s matchup post is going to look a little different than usual- since this year has been anything but normal, we are having to seriously discuss how to spend our Sunday afternoons. I just started a new job, I’m still in grad school, and I still play in multiple bands- that time of the weekend would be perfect to spend it on anything other than shitty football that I’m emotionally invested in.

Yet I know for a fact that I’ll be parked on the couch this Sunday, watching the lifeless Bears play against the Giants. I’m not sure if I’m watching to see if they have something to prove or if I do it out of sheer tradition. I feel like if there was a Dawn of the Dead style zombie apocalypse, instead of lurking to the mall you’d find my dead ass sitting on the couch with a half cashed bowl and a LaCroix within arms reach of my rotting arms, waiting for the Bears to come on.

What do the Bears have to prove over these last few games? Is this just a talent evaluation process by now? It could be. I’m thinking they need to assess what options they have at so many different positions- both sides of the line, tight end, linebacker, kicker, and the defensive backfield. At this point, let’s see what this team has going forward. A lot of what Pace and Nagy should be focusing on where the holes in this leaky sink are coming from, because even though Mitch is the most glaring problem, the reason we are where we are is deeper than bad QB play. If Kyle Orton can win games as a starting QB, so can Mitch, but the franchise needs to build and play to his strengths. A great game plan can help mitigate a lot of deficiencies if done right.

This team absolutely has a playoff core, but Pace/Nagy need to spend the offseason figuring out what the identity of the franchise actually is and then building towards it. The end of last season covered up a lot of the problems with this roster from an identity standpoint on offense. They had a bruising running back and then a scatback, an all-star caliber wide receiver and a bunch of undersized speedsters, and a tight end that was not worth the money. All they did was replace the running back with a much better prospect that fits the offense, but they get away from running as soon as they fall behind, even if it’s by something as small as a first half field goal. Now might be the time to find those things to build upon, but it’s going to be boring as shit from a fan perspective to see it.

To wrap this part up, I’ll tell you what I’m looking for as the Bears play us off (insert Bill O’Reilly impression here):

-Is there an NFL-caliber tight end on the roster?
-Is Anthony Miller consistent enough to warrant a spot as the starting slot WR?
-Which defensive linemen could create pressure on their own in the absence of Khalil Mack?
-Does Leonard Floyd still play for this team?
-Eddie Goldman somehow has a grade of 74.3 so far from PFF- how much of 2018’s 88 rating from PFF was aided by the presence of Akiem Hicks?
-Do the Bears look to extend any of the following players: Danny Trevathan, Haha Clinton-Dix, Aaron Lynch, Nick Williams, Nick Kwiatkoski, or Roy Robertson-Harris?
-Are the Bears interested in taking a harder look at Javon Wims or Ryan Nall?

 

Wes French:Tony, I have to admit – If there is a Dawn of the Dead style scenario, I’d like to come find that couch and help you finish off your party favors. Barring a Hollywood situation on Sunday, though, I think I’m checking out on the Bears for a week.

It’s the Sunday before what’s basically a holiday week – yeah, I’ve got to work a few days at the beginning, but am I REALLY working? Fuck no. And the fact the Bears don’t really seem to be working the last month+ makes me unsure about investing another 3-4 hour block of my weekend, especially against a putrid trash heap like the New York Giants. I guess this might be the BEST time to check in, since the Bears should be able to get a W against the rookie-QB led G-Men, but the last time we had that narrative was all of two weeks ago against Detroit and that game was about as entertaining as a wet fart. Plus we’ll get that same wet fart four days later, bright and early before we’re all stuffed.
Am I interested in another slog between trash teams trying to sort out how exactly to best use the players they employ? No, no I’m not. Tony outlined plenty to look for in terms of WHY you may want to check in to this game on Sunday, and beyond the Bears sorting themselves out for a hopefully more spirited run in 2020 I could see you being mildly interested in who this Daniel Jones character is playing QB for NYG and wanting to see the sometimes electric Barkley do what he does. Outside of those two, the Giants have nothing to hold the interest of anyone but the diehards in the Big Apple and even those dummies are probably on to other things by week 12 of a 2-8 season. The Giants are pretty terrible and deserve no one’s attention, and in the immortal words of Local H – And Fuck New York, Too.

So what else should you be doing on Sunday? I’m going to play hockey and casually catch a nice dose of Red Zone with NINE noon games. Why the NFL can’t sort themselves out enough to have a better division of games through the day (there are only TWO late afternoon contests, but one is DAL @ NE) remains a mystery, but I digress. There are some strong teams on bye this week (KC/MIN), but while the schedule at first glance looks like a mirror of Bears/Giants, I’d say we’re in for a noon slate of some wild football with goofy fun matchups galore: 
– SEA @ PHI: The best game on paper at noon, Seattle looks to keep the Eagles down as they chase the 49ers for the NFC West/#1 seed. The Eagles are maddening, but always capable of a breakout performance and still have a shot at their own shitty Division
– TB @ ATL: Human Turnover Machine/Piece of Shit Jameis Winston goes into Hotlanta, quietly one of the best defensive units in the league since Week 5; I’ll guarantee at least 3 INTs and a DEF TD
– DEN @ BUF/ OAK @ NYJ: On the surface, the Bills and Raiders should cruise, but the Broncos have proved a difficult out and the Jets are scoring in bunches of late. The Bills and Raiders also remain the Bills and Raiders, so place those bets cautiously
– PIT @ CIN: A once fierce rivalry reduced to Mason Rudolph against Ryan Finley. I’ll be honest, this one excites even less than the Bears, but it does produce a decent opportunity for the Bungals to get their first win…it could totally be worse, Bears fans
– CAR @ NO: This sees two teams heading in wildly opposite directions, with the Panthers looking like they might be onto their third QB of the season and just about dead in the NFC at 5-5. Saints are aiming for NFC’s top spot. Divisional games can be weird, though
– MIA @ CLE/DET @ WSH: These two matchups pit four of the leagues worst franchises (of late, at least) against each other, and while on the surface the matchups look shit you should NEVER discount a game between the worst of the worst. How will Cleveland respond after the brawl to end last week’s game? Can Miami make it 3 wins in 4 after starting 0-7? Will the Lions continue to be the tonic that aids young/under-performing QBs for Dwayne Haskins and the Racial Slurs???
TUNE IN TO FIND OUT