Bears Pace, QB Collector

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The Chicago Bears and General Manager Ryan Pace have been panned for a supposed bungling of this year’s NFL Draft. Trading away 2017’s third overall pick along with the third and fourth round picks and a 2018 third-round selection to move up just one spot for Mitch Trubisky was a price not worth paying, say the experts. Choosing tight end Adam Shaheen from unknown Ashland in round-two was an unnecessary gamble while Alabama safety Eddie Jackson has promise and character but comes with too much injury risk. And, critics suggest, running back Tarik “The Human Joystick” Cohen and offensive lineman Jordan Morgan filled lesser needs for a team lacking pass rushers, wideouts and secondary playmakers. Ryan Pace believes those choices take the Bears roster in the right direction, despite ridicule from both fans and analysts around the country. 

The Chicago Bears Super Bowl odds are, unsurprisingly, not good. Only five teams–the Bills, Rams, Jets, 49ers and Browns–have worse chances at winning it all next season. On paper the Bears roster looks incomplete. The draft failed to shore up a defense that ranked twenty-forth1 in points allowed per game last season. It also didn’t add proven playmakers to an offense that ranked twenty-eighth2 in points scored per game. So what did the Bears draft accomplish? It took laser-focus aim at solving the most difficult challenge an NFL team faces–finding a franchise quarterback.

Critics look at the Bears roster and see redundancy with two potential starters at the QB position, former Bucs hurler Mike Glennon and the rookie from North Carolina, Mitch Trubisky. How could the Bears pay Glennon $45 million over three years and then, just weeks later, draft his eventual replacement as their top choice? Well, giving up valuable mid-round draft picks to jump up one pick and snag an unproven quarterback seems short-sighted. But Pace’s moves are just an acknowledgement of what Bears’ fans have demanded for decades, find a true franchise quarterback to lead the team.

The National Football League clubs with the best chances of a Super Bowl championship next season all have franchise-level QBs. The Patriots and Tom Brady. The Packers and Aaron Rodgers. The Seahawks and Russell Wilson. The Steelers and Ben Roethlisberger. Even the Cowboys and Dak Prescott look like a long-term match. As Ryan Pace and the Bears front office look towards the future they know it all hinges on finding a blue-chipper at the QB position. Is it Mike Glennon, an unproven, relatively unknown quarterback who’s being paid like an unequivocal starter? Or is it Mitch Trubisky, a one-year starter at UNC, a school not known for its powerhouse football program? It actually doesn’t matter.

As long as one of the two quarterbacks pan out Ryan Pace cements himself as a front office executive worthy of the lofty title and hefty salary. By signing a starter and subsequently drafting another starter the Bears will live-and-die by this premise: find the star quarterback and then fill in the gaps around him.

Ryan Pace isn’t going to play it safe with his crack at the Bears rebuild3. “If we want to be great, you just can’t sit on your hands. There are times when you’ve got to be aggressive. And when you have conviction on a guy, you can’t sit on your hands. I just don’t want to be average around here. I want to be great and these are the moves you have to make.” Pace’s front office career will either thrive or fizzle once this story plays out but, if nothing else, Bears fans should respect a franchise builder willing to take a risk on finding the piece that matters most in sports.

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RE: A bad last drive and amnesia about Jordan Howard doom Bears

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The Chicago Bears (3-10) lost again. This time to the NFC North leading Detroit Lions (9-4). The surprise isn’t that they lost–that’s commonplace for a team who’s wandering through a lost season. As Rick Morrissey writes in the Chicago Sun Times it’s the lack of offensive vision that has fans shaking their heads.

…what was Loggains thinking? Howard averaged 6.6 yards a carry Sunday. He had runs of 28 and 31 yards. The Bears were not fighting to come back from a huge deficit. They didn’t need to throw the ball 32 times (to 17 runs). Loggains continues to forget about his best weapon, choosing instead to put the game into an inexperienced quarterback’s hands. That’s fine if you’re trying to put yourself in the best position in next year’s draft but not so fine if you’re trying to win football games.
Loggains looks like he has preconceived ideas of what an offense should look like rather than two eyes that can see the obvious in front of him. And where is head coach John Fox, old blood and guts, yelling into his headset for Loggains to knock it off already and run the football?

Jordan came into the game with five 100 yards games this season. He rushed for more than 100 yards in all three of the Bears’ victories. He finished with 86 Sunday. Give him 10 more rushes and maybe he breaks another big gain. And perhaps we’re discussing a Bears victory right now. With 3:17 left in the game, three timeouts left and only a field goal needed to tie, the Bears started their last drive with seven straight passes. Jordan Who?

Your quarterback is journeyman Matt Barkley. Your receivers are second and third stringers that drop an unrespectable number of passes. Your running back is breakout sensation Jordan Howard, a rookie that’s top-ten in all major rushing categories. None of those facts suggest you should throw the ball nearly double the number of times you run it when the game is well within reach. John Fox is a run-first, run-second, throw-if-you-must kind of head coach that, for some reason, has allowed his new offensive coordinator to call plays that fly in the face of logic. Inexcusable.

RE: Kevin White shows progress in final exhibition…

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After the Bears defeated the Browns in Chicago’s preseason finale Dan Wiederer of the Chicago Tribune reflected on the hopefulness that comes with Kevin White’s performance.

The route was precise, the cut decisive. Kevin White broke back hard to meet the ball, snaring Brian Hoyer’s pass cleanly, then slithering past Browns cornerback Charles Gaine for extra yardage. It was a brief moment in the first quarter of a mostly trivial exhibition finale Thursday night. But for the Bears, and much more so for White, every dash of success at this point means something. Whatever White takes away from that 15-yard catch should help moving forward.

What I caught of the Bears’ preseason tells me it’s going to be an up-and-down season for the club. Shaky offensive performances across four straight weeks also makes clear the fact that Kevin White–not Alshon Jeffery, Jeremy Langford or Jay Cutler–will be the key to avoiding a rudderless offense in 2016. Last season, the Bears’ offense struggled leaning on Jeffery, Forte and Langford to move the ball forward. We need something more this fall to stand a chance in the NFC North. That something more is most obviously Kevin White.

If Kevin White fails to perform expect another limp-along offensive season in Chicago. If White emerges as a Pro Bowl level talent presume the Bears will challenge the Packers as division champion in 2016. Flourish and flatness are the two ends of the spectrum for the upcoming Bears’ season–let’s see which way White tips that scale.

RE: Bears OL competition scenarios intensifying…

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John ‘Moon’ Mullin’s April 10th CSN Chicago column on the Bears’ offensive line brings visions of hope and flexibly along with some fuzzyness to an important piece of the team’s puzzle.

Long is effectively a huge wild card in the franchise’s overall, which bodes very well for both the organization as well as one of the NFL’s rising stars on the offensive line. Long will “compete,” but as he did last year, he represents a huge flex factor. 

Despite the signing of tackle Bobby Massie and Kyle Long’s celebratory tweet, the Bears’ offensive line is anything but settled heading into the summer. Kyle Long, Bobby Massie and Matt Slauson will start–their exact positions are yet to be determined. The remaining two spots will be fought for by Charles Leno Jr., Ted Larsen, Manny Ramirez, Hroniss Grasu and others.

Martellus Bennett and Matt Forte, both stellar blockers, will play elsewhere in 2016 meaning the Bears will need a more-than-competent offensive line to keep Jay Cutler and Jeremy Langford upright.

RE: Pro Football Weekly Returns…

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So far March has brought Chicagoans whipping snow, chilling cold and more bad Bulls basketball. As Chicagoland Radio and Media recently reported, it also returns a familiar name to football fans–Pro Football Weekly is back!

From 1967 through 2013, Pro Football Weekly was America’s largest news-magazine devoted exclusively to professional football. The magazine’s final owner, Gatehouse Media, ended the publication (and its website) when advertising revenue could not keep up with the printing and distribution costs.

Last year, Arkush was able to regain the rights to the PFW name from Gatehouse Media. Teaming up with Chicago area media publishers Shaw Media, Arkush brought back PFW’s annual NFL Preview Magazines and Fantasy Football Guides.

As of March 1, 2016, PFW is back on a full-time basis. The website, ProFootballWeekly.com officially re-launched this morning.

Hub Arkush, the former and current Editor-in-Chief of Pro Football Weekly, hasn’t been muted during its hibernation period. His website, ChicagoFootball.com has brought us plenty of Bears news and commentary while his time on 670 The Score is some combination of infuriating, interesting and entertaining.

But I’m happy, for Arkush and my fellow football fans, that he and PFW are reunited once again. The PFW website, while not considered the prettiest on the block, delivers stellar news and commentary on teams, players, coaches and front office personnel across the NFL. Welcome back to the big leagues, PFW!

The Bears We Expected

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The Bears up-and-down season has reached an end. A thankful, shoot-the-wounded-horse ending that couldn’t come fast enough, say casual viewers who see only a poor record and another playoff-less winter. Diehard fans see something different–the final pages in the first chapter of a new story that showed progress and holds promise. The Bears won just six games this season, only one more than the Trestman-led team of 2014. That’s not compelling progress for fans that expect a new regime to come complete with a winning season and playoff games. To the pragmatists among us the sometimes intriguing, often aggravating 2015 Bears season is exactly what we had coming. This is how some turnaround stories begin.

John Fox and Ryan Pace are building something. The new faces of the franchise aren’t trying to erect a Starbucks pop-up coffee shop. They’re laying the foundation of a building that should stand for years to come. The mandate from the owner’s box this past off-season was to field a team that would win. Perennially. Last January, Bears chairman George McCaskey explained the way forward1: “Our plan will start being put into place to get the Chicago Bears back to the sustained success this city deserves.” Success can be had with a single victory or a single winning season while sustained success demands a roster filled with Bears’ draft picks, first-round Pro Bowlers and annual visits to the playoffs. Have we seen anything in the first season of the Ryan Pace-John Fox regime that suggests the Bears are headed towards sustainability?

John Fox knows how to coach and, nearly as important, how to recruit coaches. That doesn’t mean the Fox experience is made for prime time television. When talking to the media, he says very little–it’s like Lovie Smith is back in town. Fox’s raspy, coach-for-life voice sounds way more authoritative than Marc Trestman’s ever did but, when speaking into a mic, it imparts almost no information about what he saw in a given play or perspective on the outcome of a game. But, at least in my eyes, the dance between a coach and the media matters very little. Prepare your team for game day and lead them–offensive, defense and special teams–until the final whistle blows ensuring the product on the field is respectable, win or lose. John Fox does that well. Bears’ players still commit far too many penalties but the coaching staff’s disciple and expectations has them trending2 in the right direction.

Foxy is an experienced head coach, something the Bears’ franchise hasn’t seen for a very long time. This season will be his twenty-seventh as an NFL coach, fourteen of those with the top job. All those miles walking stadium sidelines made him a lot of friends. People around the NFL respect Fox which is why quality coaches like Vic Fangio and Adam Gase come work for him. Fangio, Gase and their assistant coaches did more with less all season, coaching a roster that’s stocked with mostly below average talent. The Bears’ head coach does something many others fail at. He lets his coordinators actually be decision makers on game day. Having legit coordinators on both sides of the ball allows him to watch over his entire flock and install the overarching principles of disciple and work ethic that create sustained success. That eye for coaching talent is why I expect Dowell Loggains, Gase’s replacement as OC, to succeed. Alas, coaching is only half the battle.

Is Ryan Pace the next Ted Thompson? Is he any better than former Bears’ GM Phil Emery? The truth is we’re not sure. We know that four of the six players Pace selected in 20153 played significant time as rookies. The two that didn’t? First rounder Kevin White who missed the entire season with a stress fracture and Tayo Fabuluje, a sixth round offensive lineman you’ve likely never heard of. The rest–Eddie Goldman (DT), Hroniss Grasu (C), Jeremy Langford (RB) and Adrian Amos (S)–made big plays and head-slapping mistakes while gaining valuable experience. Several Ryan Pace draft classes will have to take the field before we can fairly rank his talent evaluation skills. Early returns, based his tenure in New Orleans and first full year in Chicago, suggest the general manager job isn’t too big for him. That’s a step forward from the missteps we saw throughout the Phil Emery regime.

The 2015 Bears season was never meant to be about this season. It was simply the beginnings of a tale that promises more wins, some playoff games and an on-field product that, if nothing else, fans can respect.

Niral Patel ~ SecCitySportsReport@gmail.com ~ @SecCitySports

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RE: Late defensive collapse ruins Jay Cutler’s gritty fourth-quarter touchdown

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Jeff Dickerson, with ESPN Chicago, placed the weight of the Bears’ shortcomings in Sunday’s loss to the Vikings on the defense:

Good teams find ways to win. The Bears found a way to lose, in grueling fashion.

It’s another painful reminder of how much work is left to do in Chicago. Fox’s team fought hard for nearly four quarters, but gave the game away with a pair of defensive breakdowns — another example of how the Bears simply lack the talent to finish the season above .500 clubs.

Don’t blame an Antrelle Rolle gaff or try to suggest a complete defensive collapse caused the Bears to tally yet another deflating loss. Sure, the defense lacked a wow factor but Vic Fangio’s crew performed well enough to win.

The offensive training wheels have to go. John Fox placed a governor on Adam Gase, Jay Cutler and this offense to prevent turnovers. It’s also limiting the number of points going on the scoreboard and causing fans to nod off by halftime. The first half against the Vikings was stifled with far too many safe play calls–we can only watch so many bubble screens. Points win games; Fox must allow Gase to unleash the offense for all four quarters if the Bears want to rack up some wins.

Niral Patel ~ SecCitySportsReport@gmail.com ~ @SecCitySports