Bears Must Shift Emphasis from Winning Games in 2021 to Preparing Justin Fields for 2022.

| October 19th, 2021

Herm Edwards said it best, and for the most part he was right. When you line up to play a football game, the primary objective should be to score more points than the other team. That has certainly been the approach of Matt Nagy, at least offensively, through the early goings of the Justin Fields era at quarterback. The Bears have identified their best approach to winning as play good defense, run the ball consistently, and ask the quarterback to make a play or two at pivotal moments.

But is this the right approach for the Chicago Bears moving forward, especially over the difficult four-game stretch to come? The answer is unequivocally no. And it all comes down to self-evaluation.

Forget the complexity of QBR and DVOA and all the other analytics flooding your Twitter feed. Let’s objectively look at each position group on offense for the Chicago Bears and assign them either a + (plus) or a (minus). Let’s leave quarterback out. Plus means they’re good. Minus means they’re not. Simple.

[Side note: these evaluations are based on current usage and production. I think Damiere Byrd is a good NFL wide receiver but he’s not being used at all so what can you do?]

  • Running backs: +
    • David Montgomery is one of the better backs in the league, Damien Williams is a terrific change of pace option and Khalil Herbert looks every bit an every-down back. (And don’t forget Tarik Cohen is still in the wilderness.) This has turned into as good an RB room as there is in the league.
  • Offensive line: –
    • They are a good run-blocking unit but they’re incapable of protecting the quarterback in obvious passing situations. In this modern NFL, that’s a must.
  • Tight ends: –
    • Cole Kmet finally flashed in the passing game Sunday. But they have Jimmy Graham making $7M to block once every other week. When you factor in the supposed importance of this position in this offense, it’s something of a disaster.
  • Wide Receivers: –
    • Darnell Mooney is going to be a player for years to come. Allen Robinson is ordinary. The rest of the group can be found on practice squads around the league at this production level.

So if you’re Nagy and Bill Lazor, of course you’re going to be run-first, run-always, run-forever. The only two real positives on your offensive roster, around the rookie QB, are the OL’s ability to run block and the backs behind them. But this approach only makes logical sense if the primary objective is to squeeze out as many wins from the 2021 season as possible. And that should no longer be the primary goal. It should never have been the primary goal.

The goal has to be Fields.

They need to get more out of him every week.

They need to ask more of him every week.

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ATM: Bears Finding Answers During Playoff Push

| December 22nd, 2020

A month ago it looked like the Chicago Bears were heading towards a full-scale rebuild. But after two straight wins and a few quality offensive performances, the Bears might be finding they already have answers to some expected offseason questions.

The most significant answers are on the offensive side of the ball where Matt Nagy appears to have fixed what was wrong, even if that meant partially by stepping aside. It’s easy to say that Nagy giving up play calling was a negative on him, but fans should know better. The best Bears coach in recent history, Lovie Smith, had to convince his buddy Rod Marinelli to take defensive play calling away from him and we have seen numerous offensive geniuses – Sean Payton, Andy Reid come to mind – do the same for at least a short period of time.

While he isn’t calling the plays, Nagy still has oversight over the offense. It’s still his direction the team is following and his hires of Bill Lazor and Juan Castillo are suddenly looking fantastic. Lazor has found ways to consistently keep the offense simple for Mitch Trubisky and Castillo is getting standout play from undrafted free agents Sam Mustipher and Alex Bars, two players who certainly look as if they could compete for starting spots next year.

Mustipher has played at a high level since entering the lineup against the Saints on Nov. 1. An injury knocked him out the next few weeks, but he returned Nov. 29 and seems to have locked down the job. In his five starts, the Bears have averaged 7.8 yards per carry when they run behind him. In all other games they’ve averaged 3.9 yards per carry.

Theoretically, most would be fine with the Bears going into the 2021 season with Leno, Whitehair and Mustipher taking up three of the five spots while James Daniels and Alex Bars compete at right guard. While they’d surely like to bring in more young depth, what once looked to be a full rebuild of the offensive line could now be the team focusing on just the tackle positions.

With that, we’ve realized that David Montgomery is a legitimate stud when he has blocking. Suddenly, the Bears just might have a piece to build their offense around.

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A Change Needs to Come: Matt Nagy Needs to Bench Matt Nagy.

| October 27th, 2020

Mitch Trubisky was benched for a lot of reasons but primary among them was his inability to run Matt Nagy’s offense. He was unable to to read defenses, change protections, get into the right play.

Nick Foles can run Nagy’s offense. The problem is, as we’re now learning, Nagy’s offense doesn’t make any sense.

Personal Note.

I like to think I’m pretty forthright with my readers around here. I don’t spend hours upon hours dissecting All-22 tape because I legitimately can’t think of anything more boring. I do, however, watch the Sunday Ticket “Short Cuts” presentation of every single game played in the NFL. These are quick, easily-digestible presentations that help cut through national media misrepresentations of players, teams…etc.

When I went through the Rams season, one thing was abundantly clear. There was 0.00% chance the Bears would have any success running into the middle of their defensive line. If the Bears were going to have success on offense they would need to spread the Rams out, get the ball to their speedsters in space, screen them to death. This isn’t necessarily the approach EVERY team should take with the Rams, but it was certainly the approach the Bears would need to take.

And they didn’t. They did…nothing. They attempted a bizarre, incoherent game plan. They ran directly at the best defensive player in the sport and then acted shocked, SHOCKED, when that approach failed.

The Questions.

What would Andy Reid be doing with Darnell Mooney? You can bet your life he’d be finding creative ways to get him the ball in space 3-5 times a game.

Why have the running backs been exiled from the passing game since Tarik Cohen’s injury?

Why is Cole Kmet – who does nothing but make plays when he’s allowed – struggling to usurp a useless Demetrius Harris on the depth chart?

Why does Jimmy Graham get pulled off the field in the red zone? This is now back-to-back weeks where Nagy is removing the team’s most intimidating red zone threat where they need him most!

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A Single Question for the Bears Offense: Why?

| October 20th, 2020

(AP Photo/Mike McCarn)

[Editor’s Note: The following column is written from a place of jubilance. The Bears are 5-1. They are playing some of the best defense in the National Football League. But if our expectations are going to venture beyond just making it to January, they need to improve.]

3rd down and 2.

1:43 remaining in the fourth quarter.

Bears are nursing what feels like a tenuous seven-point lead.

Two yards ends the game. Two yards and the Bears are coasting to 5-1, allowing their defense to relax on the sideline and celebrate a job well done.

This is when you call your best play.

Your two-point conversion play.

Your “Chicago Special”.

This is when you roll out that thing you’ve been practicing every week because these moments don’t often present themselves over the course of a game. How many times are you actually in the position to say, “Get a couple yards and get a W.” The Bears faced one Sunday.

And then they ran…something. I don’t have the foggiest idea what it was. Foles took the snap and threw a dud of a pass to Allen Robinson on a well-covered shallow cross. No creativity. No imagination. I’ve drawn up better plays during street games in Kearny, New Jersey. (“Run to the Buick bumper and turn” always worked.) In the notebook I’ve been keeping during these games I wrote a single word.


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