Perhaps the most unexpected thing to come from the Bears new regime is the consistent praise of annual disappointment Shea McClellin.
When Vic Fangio was asked about returning players who could contribute, McClellin’s name was the second one to come out of his mouth (after Kyle Fuller, of course). John Fox admitted to liking him come out of college and said he “has a bright future.” These are two old school football men. They have done this before. They have nothing invested in Shea McClellin.
Even though they didn’t pick up his fifth-year option (which would’ve made him one of the highest-paid inside linebackers in the league) the Bears have made it clear that they see McClellin as a piece of their defense, somewhere.
They genuinely seem to like him.
Of course we need to entertain the idea that they know something we don’t. Both have had a lot of success with linebackers throughout their careers. The list is actually incredible from Von Miller, Dan Morgan and Thomas Davis to the likes of Sam Mills, Kevin Greene and NaVorro Bowman. They’ve gotten career years out of guys like James Anderson and Lamar Lathon.
It isn’t hard to recognize McClellin’s potential but his production has been nonexistent. We’re three full seasons into his career and he doesn’t even have 50 tackles or 10 sacks, numbers he was expected to reach annually. Sometimes, the box score doesn’t tell the story of how good or bad a player has been, but that’s not the case with McClellin.
Other than a few sacks of Aaron Rodgers, including one very notable one, McClellin has been MIA in his Bears career.
Shea got his ass kicked at the point of attack and was completely lost in coverage. Every year we hear about how he’s stronger, faster or smarter and every year we see the same thing on the field. That’s when he’s on the field at all.
It’s true that the Bears haven’t done him any favors with how they’ve used him. He never should have been expected to be a starting defensive end. His best trait as a linebacker is his ability to blitz, but they only let him do that 63 times last year according to Pro Football Focus. Maybe he could’ve developed into a pass-rush specialist if he had stuck with Rod Marinelli. Maybe he could be a good linebacker if he had started there in his career. Maybe this and maybe that but the bottom line is it hasn’t happened and we don’t have any reason to think it will now.
The new regime understands that he hasn’t been used correctly, but there is also no evidence that there is a correct way to use him.
Sometimes guys never put it together. If ever McClellin can become a good player, it will be now with Fox and Fangio guiding him. They seem to believe he will do it, the rest of us already know not to hold our breath.