Castillo, Flip & Team Grades: Thoughts on the Off-Season (So Far)

| January 20th, 2020

The Bears offense was an abomination in 2019 and there was plenty of blame to go around. Here are five thoughts on what’s transpired since the end of one of the most disappointing campaigns in the history of this organization.

(1) The most pivotal decision made thus far (and unsurprisingly the first) was hiring Juan Castillo to rebuild the offensive line/run game. How did that happen? It’s pretty simple. Matt Nagy is in constant communication with Andy Reid, his mentor and friend. Reid’s recommendation was to get the run game fixed by getting Castillo. (And Andy was instrumental on making it happen.) This offense doesn’t want to be run first. But it needs to be run effectively. And under Helfrich/Hiestand, the rushing attack was disjointed and wildly ineffective. Relying on RPO concepts meant relying on the quarterback to make the right decision. He didn’t do that very often in 2019. Castillo will move the run game back down the hill.

(2) Nagy and Pat Shurmur had a deal done. Shurmur was going to be the next Bears offensive coordinator. But a day after I got word of the agreement, I got another word: “He’s got options.” The allure of Philly was strong. Shurmur is pissed off at the Giants and wanted to play them twice a year. The allure of Cleveland grew, even though he was fired there, because he has deep affinity for new head coach Kevin Stefanski. But ultimately it was Vic Fangio giving him the keys to the offensive kingdom in Denver that won the day. Now he’ll run half that program, nurture a young, talented QB and perhaps get himself a third shot at a head coaching gig.

[Side note: Shurmur was not turned off by working with Trubisky.]

(3) John DeFilippo interviewed to be the head coach of the Bears in 2018 and, since then, his star has been rapidly falling in the league. Why? Because many folks in the league don’t believe Flip is a play-caller. He’s a leader of men. He’s a teacher. He’s great on the whiteboard and even better on the sideline. But his talents are misused trying to figure out which run to call on third-and-one. Flip will make every QB in the 2020 QB room better. Now it’s just a matter of finding out who is going to be in that room.

(4) On that point, it’s not hard to see the promotion of Dave Ragone to passing game coordinator and the hiring of both Flip and Bill Lazor as pro-Mitch Trubisky maneuvers. But I’ve been told explicitly that is not the case. Yes, the Bears have to prepare as if Mitch is the starting quarterback in September because there’s no GUARANTEE they can find a better option in free agency or the draft. (I’d argue that since Mitch was not ranked higher than 28th in any meaningful QB metric, almost every quarterback is a better option.) Someone is coming to Chicago to compete with Mitch. And I find it hard to believe that person won’t win the job.

(5) After the season is over, every team does a self-evaluation of every single element of their organization. A few things I’ve heard:

  • Khalil Mack was dominant, even if that didn’t translate to the box score. (And he dealt with neck and back issues all season.)
  • Leonard Floyd’s grades were positive in everything but the pass rush department. He’s a versatile player, great in coverage, but he’s never going to be dominant off the edge. Bears know they need to target the edge.
  • Ryan Pace calling the offensive line a “real” issue was about these grades. Every single offensive lineman graded down from a year ago. (Cody Whitehair the least significant of the bunch.) But the team doesn’t believe it was a talent issue. They believe it was a scheme/coaching issue.
  • Bears have serious decisions to make at inside linebacker this off-season. Danny Trevathan, Nick Kwiatkoski and KPL all graded extremely high.
  • Anthony Miller’s season grades read like two different players. He couldn’t get lined up for the first month or so. He couldn’t run a route. He was the lowest-graded offensive player through the first six games. And then the light went on. They expect a hundred-catch season in 2020. (If the QB gets him the ball.)

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