ATM: Out of the Hunt. So Now What?

| February 13th, 2019

The Chicago Bears won’t be signing Kareem Hunt. The great debate ended before the offseason officially began, as the former Kansas City Chiefs running back, facing disciplinary action from the league for a history of violent behavior, signed with the Browns. Time will tell if he’s worth the trouble for Cleveland, but the Bears still need to add some explosiveness to their backfield if they hope to improve their run game.

Because while Jordan Howard is a good player, the Bears simply need more. Forget for a second his sub-4.0 yards per carry number. The Bears offense just didn’t function well with him on the field.

  • According to NFGSIS, the team averaged 4.78 yards per play in the five most frequently used lineups in which Howard was used.
  • In the five most-used lineups that didn’t include Howard, they averaged 6.8 yards per play.
  • The big difference came in the passing game, where they averaged 7 yards per pass play without Howard and 4.92 with him.

Matt Nagy seems to know it too. In the playoff game he used a formation with three wide receivers, one tight end and Cohen over Howard 21 times. Their next most-used formation was used five times, that also didn’t have Howard in it. Howard played just 22 snaps — 34% of the team’s total — against the Eagles. From a football perspective, signing Hunt would’ve been the easy move, but not one the Bears could make without knowing his availability. Now, they have to figure out something else.

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Browns Sign Kareem Hunt

| February 12th, 2019

There were many people hoping another team would make this move, sparing the Bears faithful from the endless debate that would accompany such a signing. It happened. Hunt is now a Brown.

Were the Bears interested? Absolutely. Were they willing to make the move THIS soon, prior to an NFL ruling on Hunt’s availability for 2019? Absolutely not. The Bears have designs on winning a championship next season. They need availability. Because if 2018 proved anything, it proved the gap between the best team in the NFC and the fifth or sixth-best team is minuscule. (If the Bears make a kick in Miami, they would have been in the NFC title game this season.)

The Bears don’t have Hunt next season. But they still need A Hunt.

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ATM: Signing Hunt to Bolster Rush Attack the Clearest Path to Super Bowl

| February 5th, 2019

Sometimes the best moves are the most difficult.

The biggest no-brainer of this 2019 NFL offseason is for the Bears to sign Kareem Hunt. From a strictly football standpoint, Hunt must be their top target. But, of course, it’s about more than strictly football. Those arguments were made by Jeff here and Emily here.

What we learned from the 2019 NFL playoffs is that running the ball is still really important:

  • The team that won the rushing battle went 9-2. The two exceptions of course were the Chicago Cody Parkeys losing to the Philadelphia Eagles and the Los Angeles Chargers beating the Baltimore Ravens, despite losing the rushing battle by a single yard.
  • Teams that ran for 100 yards went 8-1. The only team that lost was Houston, which gave up 200 to Indianapolis in the Wild Card round.

Television networks and league executives want the NFL to be a passing league, but it’s tried and true that running the ball is important and the Bears just weren’t good enough at it. Despite being 11th in rushing yardage, the Bears struggled to move the ball on the ground consistently throughout the year. They were 27th in yards per carry and all of their rushing totals were inflated by having a quarterback who could routinely run for 15 yards on 3rd-and-10.

Perhaps what’s most troubling about the Bears lack of run production is that, unlike 2017, opponents weren’t trying to stop the run. Jordan Howard faced a stacked box (eight or more defenders) on just 14% of his carries, according to NFL NextGen Stats. That’s the 13th-lowest mark in the league. The player who had a stacked box the least was Tarik Cohen, coming in at 5.05%, well below Wendell Smallwood’s 6.9% rate.

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Twitter Responses to the Kareem Hunt Pieces From Emily & Myself

| January 25th, 2019

Here are some of the responses to both our Kareem Hunt pieces this week. The reactions were varied and interesting. I am interested to read what ya’ll think of the situation and will be pulling from the comments to this post to create a second response post.

In response to Emily…

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The Case for the Bears Pursuing Kareem Hunt

| January 24th, 2019

Whataboutism is often associated with the Soviet political apparatus. Their concept was simple: we can rationalize anything we do on the world stage as long as someone, somewhere did something similar at some point. “Sure, we’re endorsing the imprisonment and murder of homosexuals in Chechnya, but what about the Americans banning trans people from their military?” Whataboutism doesn’t require facts and logic. A does not need equal B.

I bring up this concept because Whataboutism is going to be a primary defense for whichever team decides to sign Kareem Hunt in the coming months. “Yes, he’s done bad things but what about the Chiefs with Tyreek Hill? What about the Saints, Cardinals and Redskins with Adrian Peterson? What about the Bengals with Joe Mixon?” Nobody will defend the actions of the player. They will defend the team because, well, if other teams did it, why can’t we?

By now you’ve hopefully read Emily’s wonderful piece in this space on Wednesday, arguing for the Bears staying out of the Hunt market. Honestly, I fundamentally agree with much of what she wrote. But I thought it worthwhile to present the opposing view; an argument for giving Hunt a second chance and giving him that second chance with the Chicago Bears. And in presenting that case, there are three issues with which to deal.

Issue I. The Event, or What Was Recorded

Nobody could possibly make an argument defending the video above, which clearly shows Hunt in an altercation with a woman in a hotel hallway. There are many reports suggesting this woman verbally-assaulted Hunt with “the N-word”, and it sure looks like alcohol was fueling the festivities, but nothing excuses a man laying his hands (or boots) on a woman. Nothing.

And as Emily deftly pointed out, this was not an isolated incident. Hunt was actually involved in three separate violence-related altercations in 2018. But in none of the three instances were charges files against the running back and that means, without debate, he’ll be back in the league. He’ll likely face a short suspension in 2019 but those anticipating a substantial absence will disappointed.

Hunt is not Ray Rice. We’re not talking about a man who beat his wife or girlfriend. We’re talking about a man with a violent streak. This isn’t Whataboutism because there is a distinct difference between the behavior of Hunt and Greg Hardy, Tyreek Hill and Josh Brown – men who abused women with whom they were in relationships, i.e. domestic abusers. The difference? Hunt seems to fight EVERYBODY. He’s an angry young man.

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The Bears Should Pass on Signing Kareem Hunt

| January 23rd, 2019

There’s only one game left in the 2018 NFL season, and regrettably the Bears aren’t in it. So naturally our thoughts turn to what might happen this offseason. Apart from the obvious need to replace Cody Parkey, I didn’t think there’d be a whole lot to talk about this early in 2019. But Matt Nagy and Ryan Pace turned heads at their final news conference by not ruling out the possibility of signing former Kansas City Chief and current Commissioner Exempt List occupant Kareem Hunt.

While this is purely hypothetical, and months away from even being a possibility, it is currently a hot topic of discussion, and Jeff asked me if I’d like to weigh in. So here goes.

Pros of signing Hunt:

He’s a talented running back who thrived in Nagy’s system.

Cons of signing Hunt:

There’s a video of him kicking a woman on the ground.

My opinion:

Don’t sign him.

In many ways it should be that simple, but I do understand that in our current reality it isn’t. So here in more detail are the reasons why I don’t think Chicago should sign Kareem Hunt:

The Bears don’t exist in a vacuum.

We can’t talk about Kareem Hunt without acknowledging the environment in which we currently find ourselves. The systemic and long ignored abuse of women at the hands of powerful men is being exposed in a way it hasn’t before, and the NFL finds itself firmly entrenched in that discussion.

From the many credible yet unproven allegations against former and current players, to cases like Josh Brown, Ray Rice, Tyreek Hill, Joe Mixon, and yes, Kareem Hunt where there is no doubt as to their guilt, it’s clear the league, along with the sports community in general – and let’s face it, the whole goddamn world – has failed to adequately demand accountability on this issue. As fans have become more aware of the seemingly endless instances of abuse and cover-ups, we’ve grown more cynical about the degree to which the NFL takes violence against women seriously, and more vocal in our pleas for them to do better.

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