Super Bowl Shorts, Volume I: Orlando Brown Jr. (My Chief to Watch)

| February 6th, 2023

Player to Watch on the Kansas City Chiefs.

Orlando Brown Jr. is an interesting football player.

As left tackle for the Kansas City Chiefs, he has historically gotten off to slow starts but finished seasons as one of the more dominant tackles in the sport. It happened in 2021. It happened in 2022. And now he’s just weeks away becoming a filthy rich individual, with teams across the league desperate for offensive line help.

The Chiefs tagged Brown this past season. It is unlikely they would do that again. But what better opportunity for the player? Brown will square off against an historically elite pass rush with a hobbled quarterback behind him. If he keeps the pocket clean for Patrick Mahomes in February, he’ll be lining his pockets as one of the richest offensive linemen in the league history come March.

And there’s a team in Chicago that would gladly pay full freight.

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Prelude to a Preseason Game: Things to Watch on Saturday

| August 12th, 2022

The official DBB talking points when it comes to the preseason are well established. These games are glorified practice sessions. The “schemes” are vanilla. The intensity is non-existent. The value is nil. But the 2022 Chicago Bears find themselves in an interesting place as they begin their preseason calendar tomorrow. Here are a few things worth looking at as the Chiefs come to Soldier Field.

  • Braxton Jones. The new regime is not repeating the mistakes of the previous one. They have spent the early days of camp trying to firmly establish a starting five across the offensive line. That line looks to be Jones-Whitehair-Patrick (Mustipher backing up)-Schofield-Reiff. But with young tackles waiting in the wings (Borom, Jenkins) Jones can ill afford to lose the confidence of his coaches, or quarterback, in the weeks leading up to the regular season. The job is his to win. A few stable efforts in these practice games should achieve that.
  • Darnell Mooney’s Reps. Calling the Bears thin at wide receiver would be a massive understatement. They have Mooney, a rookie with significant potential (and speed) and a bunch of fourth options. Oh, and most of the fourth options are dealing with injuries. Any significant injury to Mooney would relegate this position group to worst in the league status. And not just worst WR group. Worst position group, period. Flus and Getsy are playing with fire if Mooney has pads on tomorrow.
  • The Opening Drive on Offense. Doesn’t it just feel like this group could use some points to start things off? They don’t need a touchdown, even, just a nice 30/40-yard drive and an easy field goal. Get some first downs. Develop some rhythm. Don’t get the quarterback hit. Something. A start.

Coach Flus has said the starters will receive substantial playing time tomorrow. So, as always, the most important part of this ball game is the Bears coming out of it as healthy as they go into it. With the season still a month away, it would be difficult to argue for the importance of much else.

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ATM: Signs Point to Nagy Returning to Kansas City Roots

| July 21st, 2020

In a recent interview on ESPN 1000’s Waddle and Silvy, Louis Riddick, pal of Matt Nagy, indicated the team will be returning to the approach Nagy (and Andy Reid) had taken in Kansas City. That doesn’t mean what most fans think. While Nagy was hired in Chicago under the guise of being a quarterback whisperer who would finally modernize the team’s offense, the truth is somewhere in between. Yes, Nagy runs a modern offense with a modern passing game, but he got this gig by running the ball. That is exactly what he is going to try to return to.

Riddick worked with Nagy in Philadelphia and the ESPN analyst has maintained a close relationship with the Bears head coach. Riddick rarely indicates that what he’s saying comes from conversations with Nagy, but when he speaks confidently about the Bears approach, it’s a good bet that it comes with inside knowledge. He shared a number of nuggets in that radio spot last week, none more noteworthy then when he spoke about the Bears newfound commitment to running the ball.

“There’s going to be a marked difference in how that team is going to come off the ball running the football,” he said. Later in the interview, Riddick was more specific saying the Bears are going to be a “more physical running football team.”

That fits with what Nagy did with the Chiefs. In the five years Nagy was with Kansas City, they never ranked in the top half of the league in passing attempts. When Nagy took over play calling duties from Andy Reid in 2017, one of the big changes was feeding the ball to Kareem Hunt — the league’s leading rusher that year. After Nagy gave Hunt just nine carries in his first start – it should be noted they still scored 31 points as Alex Smith threw for four touchdowns — Hunt had 78 carries in the next three games before sitting out most of their Week 17 game.

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Thoughts on the 2020 Schedule Release

| May 8th, 2020

Who knows what is to come from the NFL season? But there is a schedule now and here are my thoughts.


  • Media members used to criticize the schedule release as an event with the tired mantra, “We already knew the opponents!” But the schedule release, for many fans, sets their travel agenda for the fall. And with road games in Atlanta, Charlotte, LA, Nashville and Jacksonville, you better believe Bears fans will be traversing the country if fans are allowed in these buildings this season.
  • The Masters is scheduled for 11/12 – 11/15. And for some reason, I was gifted the Bears playing on Monday Night Football that week. I haven’t missed a Bears game since 2005. And I wouldn’t have missed the game that Sunday. But man, it would have been difficult to keep my eyes on a football game as the leaders made their way to the 12th tee box. (I’ll manage with the US Open at Winged Foot in September.)
  • Things I love about this schedule:
    • At Lions, home Giants to start. It’s hard to predict how good teams will be but neither of these teams is gonna be any good defensively. It’s a great opportunity for the offense to get off to a decent start.
    • Week 11 bye. Teams aren’t going to need the bye early this year because there’s not going to be an intense preseason period. Having the bye in late-November should allow the Bears to rev up for the stretch run.
    • At Jaguars, home Packers to finish. Jacksonville should be one of the worst teams in the league and the Bears seemingly finish on the road every single year; usually at Minnesota. Nice to finish at Soldier.
    • The Texans coming to Chicago on 12/13. Warm weather, inside team coming to Chicago in mid-December should play in the Bears’ favor.

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Super Bowl Preview: The Data Prediction

| January 29th, 2020

I’m very excited for this Super Bowl matchup between two of the best teams in the NFL. Here’s what I’ll be watching for on Sunday night.

When Kansas City Has the Ball

  • I can’t wait to see Patrick Mahomes vs. San Francisco’s defense. The NFL’s best QB against the NFL’s best front 7. How can you not love that?
  • San Francisco has played 4 games against the top 10 QBs in passer rating this year (Wilson 2x, Lamar Jackson, Drew Brees). 3 of the 4 averaged less than 7 yards per attempt, threw 2 or fewer TDs, and led their team to 27 or fewer points. San Francisco’s defense is really good.
  • The 4th was Drew Brees, who averaged 8.7 yards/attempt, threw 5 TD, and put up 46 points. What did Brees do differently? He got rid of the ball before he could get hit. His average time to throw was 2.45 seconds, which was faster than any QB in the NFL as a whole this year (the other 3 were all over 2.7 seconds). As a result, Brees didn’t get sacked. This meant that he had to throw the ball short, with his average completion traveling only 5.1 yards past the line of scrimmage. Instead, he relied on his pass catchers to pick up yards after the catch, and they responded with an average of 6.9 YAC.
  • Patrick Mahomes generally doesn’t get the ball out super fast; his average time to throw this year was 2.82 seconds, and it was 2.91 seconds in 2018. Yet he’s had 5 games in his career where the ball has come out in under 2.6 seconds, and his results there have been remarkable: 73% completion, 10.2 yards/attempt, 19 TD, 0 INT, and only 6 sacks on 198 dropbacks. His team has averaged 35 points per game in those contests too. If you want to get even pickier, he’s had 2 games getting the ball out in under 2.5 seconds: 79% completion, 11.5 yards/attempt, 9 TD, 0 INT, 1 sack. He’s capable of getting the ball out quickly and effectively, even if it’s not his preferred style.

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Did the Matt Nagy Bears Become a Team on Saturday?

| August 27th, 2018

There was a time, when I was a younger man, I would have taken David “Blue Moon” Haugh’s latest exercise in journalistic futility and dissected every single sentence, right down to the incorrect placement of punctuation. I would have shown you that not only was the work devoid of intellectual competence, but also another shining example of why it’s not a wise idea to hire someone for a writer’s position who isn’t good at writing. Haugh’s greatest crime is not his transparent attempts to write his blowhard nonsense into a daily spot on Around the Horn. No, his greatest crime is against the English language itself. That the same newspaper can employ both Blue Moon and the great Rick “Drinks Like an Actual Man” Pearson blows my fucking mind daily.

But I am not that younger man. If you haven’t read Haugh’s take on head coach Matt Nagy’s decision to bench his starters for the team’s fourth practice game, don’t. There will be no link provided here and don’t waste a valuable minute of your life searching it out. Instead, read a few chapters of John McCain’s wonderful book Faith of My Fathers or Neil Simon’s Biloxi Blues or some classic Royko columns being run in the Sun-Times. Hell, just read anything else.

What Matt Nagy achieved this weekend, in a practice game, was somewhat extraordinary.

Forget the result. The result means nothing. Nobody in their right mind believes the second units of the Chicago Bears are better than the first units of the Kansas City Chiefs, a playoff team a year ago. Nobody in their right mind believes Chase Daniel is a rare combination of Joe Montana’s accuracy and Steve Young’s elusiveness. Nobody in their right mind believes anything they see on the preseason field, except Denny Green of course, but was he ever in his right mind?

So what mattered?

Team Building

While Dan Pompei believed Nagy’s decision to rest players sent “the wrong message” and was an example of coaching “scared”, the sideline reflected the exact opposite.

Mitch Trubisky was the game’s loudest cheerleader, especially when it came to the play of his backup. The starters erupted in support of Kevin White’s first touchdown in a Bears uniform. Players like Danny Trevathan and Tarik Cohen were seen rushing to greet their teammates as they came off the field from a successful drive. These guys were engaged and excited. Why?

Because NFL starters, especially veterans, don’t want to play in these games. They don’t want to risk their long-term financial security in physical contests that count neither in the standings nor in the stat column that ultimately determines how many zeroes are on their paychecks.

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