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Dannehy: “Special, Special, Special, Special Special” Justin Fields.

| November 9th, 2022


It should not be possible for a quarterback to run toward the line of scrimmage, leave his feet for a pump fake, come back to the ground, and then outrace the defense for a 61-yard touchdown.

But that’s what Justin Fields did on Sunday and such plays are becoming a weekly occurrence.

What makes Fields special isn’t just what he’s doing, it’s that so often the defense appears to be in position to make a play and they don’t because he is too good. Perhaps most telling are the comments from opponents. 

Melvin Ingram has been around the block, he said Fields is special five times. Jaelan Phillips called him a monster, Mike McDaniel said Fields is “as dynamic with the ball in his hands as any player in the league really.”

Luke Getsy deserves credit for checking his ego and installing an offense that works for his quarterback. It’s fair to question why it took so long to do that, but that’s old history. The true challenge for Getsy will be coming up with a counter when opponents are able to adjust.

That said, the Bears offense is taking off because of the quarterback.


Did Poles Mess Up?

Imagine if this offense was paired with a top fifteen defense? It isn’t that crazy because that’s exactly what the Bears had prior to the trades of Robert Quinn and Roquan Smith.

When the Bears entered the season, the common thought was that the defense would be good, and the offense would be only as good as Justin Fields. That proved true through the first seven weeks as the team struggled to score points. The defense was still pretty good.

Now they have an offense that looks like an absolute machine, but they’re still not likely to win many more games simply because their defense cannot get a stop.

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Dannehy: Was Lack of Talent Acquisition this Off-Season Intentional?

| October 21st, 2022


It’s hard to pinpoint the most troubling aspect of the 2022 offseason: is it that Ryan Poles didn’t acquire enough good players or that he didn’t even try to upgrade the roster?

Regardless of where the Bears are in their team building process, the goal of the offseason is to acquire good players. That’s it. Simple. While Poles was certainly active, how many players did he bring in that we know are going to start in 2023? Jaquan Brisker is the only lock. Kyler Gordon is trending in the right direction, but the bad has still far outweighed the good to this point.

Poles has referenced the lack of resources when pressed on such questions, but that’s a farce. He could’ve used 2023 salary cap space in 2022 to bring in players. Instead, the team’s second-leading wide receiver is a player who didn’t even make the Green Bay Packers roster last year and their third was the sixth wide receiver on the New York Giants. It isn’t like either of those teams had an embarrassment of riches.

Then there’s Velus Jones, a high third round pick who specializes in gimmick plays and returns – except he isn’t a good return man. Jones is currently averaging 21 yards per kick return and 6.8 per punt return with two – yes, two – fumbles. Oh, and he fumbled a kick in the preseason. Poles complained about a lack of resources, then used one of his best resources on a 25-year-old gimmick player. The very next pick was Abraham Lucas, who looks like a long-term starter at tackle for Seattle.

The biggest investments Poles made in the offense were Byron Pringle at wide receiver and Alex Leatherwood on the offensive line. Pringle caught two passes in three games before landing on IR; Leatherwood has yet to play a snap.

Poles is said to be known for his ability to scout offensive linemen, but it appears as if he had no plan to fix that group last offseason. The Bears are relying on a fifth-round rookie at left tackle, fifth-round second-year player at right tackle, a converted tackle at right guard and backup-level players at center and left guard.

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How to Approach the Next 11 Games (A Twitter Thread)

| October 14th, 2022


A thread explaining why the rest of this season is going to be a tough watch and why you should emotionally detach yourself from the remaining 11 games for the sake of yourself and those you love.

The Bears didn’t try to win this year. From the moment Poles and Eberflus were brought in, they made it clear with their moves that winning games in 2022 was not a priority.

They didn’t spend on OL or at WR. They traded Khalil Mack to clear money in 2023.

You can criticize that strategy all you like but that’s clearly the strategy: lose in 2022 and then use the full slate of (high) picks and copious cash of 2023 to dramatically remake the complexion of the roster.

The Bears look like they’re “close” to winning because (a) they won a game in a monsoon against a terrible QB and (b) they have played 2 of the 4 worst teams in the league through 6 weeks. Their performances have shown they’re in same class with Hou, DC, Pitt, etc.

Bears next three are at Belichick, at Parsons, home Dolphins.

This team is going to be 2-7 when the Lions come to town and are favored at Soldier Field.

By then, apathy will have settled in across the whole of the fan base.

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Dannehy: Ryan Poles Will Be Judged by Players HE Brings to Chicago

| August 17th, 2022


Shortly after this space was used to implore Ryan Poles to get a deal done with Roquan Smith, the GM did something that surely moved the sides further apart. Poles met the media for an odd press conference, accusing the linebacker of being overly emotional and insisting the deal Smith wanted didn’t “make sense” for the team. While he complimented Roquan as a player and clearly stated his intention to resign him, it is fair to wonder if that was just GM talk, especially after reports came out that the Bears’ offer was backloaded with money that Smith would likely never receive.

[Editor’s Note: While these reports were delivered by reputable media members, they surely do not tell the whole story of the contract dispute. They tell Roquan’s side of the story.]

Does Poles want to sign Smith? Only on his terms.  The Bears later removed Smith from the Physically Unable to Perform list, leaving two sides are at a stalemate. It’s impossible to think that the team is better off without Smith or that any draft assets they would get in a trade would be fair value. The best play for Poles, at this point, would be to give in to Smith and sign him to a deal that someone who is clearly one of the best linebackers in the league deserves.

But Roquan Smith won’t define Poles’ tenure as GM and that became clear on Saturday, when fans got their first look at his first assembled roster. It was a reminder that his tenure will be defined by the players he selects, not the ones here upon his arrival. And while it is always risky to put stock in preseason games, there were exciting flashes from Poles’ new acquisitions.

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Dannehy: Poles Needs to Extend Roquan Smith

| August 10th, 2022


If Ryan Poles has made one thing clear during his short time as the general manager of the Chicago Bears, it’s that he never wants to spend more than he thinks a player is worth. But, when it comes to Roquan Smith, getting him signed should be a no-brainer.

Smith is the best player on the Bears roster, without question. He is also unquestionably one of the five best linebackers  in the entire league and a perfect fit for what the head coach Poles hired wants to do.

It is hard to see where the disconnect is. Good players cost money and Smith is a really, really good player.

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Dannehy: Lack of Action on OL Incredibly Risky for Ryan Poles

| May 26th, 2022


The 2022 Chicago Bears plan to run the ball and play strong defense, but the lack of upgrades along the offensive line could make that hard to do. While the weapons surrounding Justin Fields aren’t ideal, one can certainly make arguments for Cole Kmet and Darnell Mooney as being high-level players at their positions. Add in David Montgomery, Byron Pringle and Velus Jones Jr. and, well, you get the argument.

But the offensive line? Ryan Poles has left the team in a tricky position.

The most glaring hole on the entire roster right now is right guard where Sam Mustipher could potentially start. Nothing against Mustipher — who showed flashes of being a pretty good center in 2020 — but he has never played the position before and doesn’t seem to be a fit in any way. The team did sign Dakota Dozier, a player who didn’t even make the Vikings roster last year. (And that was a bad offensive line too.) The other options are rookies who were taken late on day three.

Poles can’t even claim to disagree with the assessment of the right guard position. He signed Ryan Bates to an offer sheet, only to revert back to ignoring the position once the Bills matched it.

The most likely bet is that the player who starts the season at right guard for the Bears isn’t on the roster. They have to be hoping that either a viable player becomes available, or an existing player lowers his price tag. Otherwise, we’re looking at flat out negligence and it’s the worst kind of negligence because it could get the team’s young quarterback hurt.

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If Sustained Success is Entirely Dependent on QB Play, Ryan Poles’ Process for 2022 is Questionable

| May 12th, 2022

In his opening press conference as the general manager of the Chicago Bears, Ryan Poles boldly proclaimed his goal to “sustain success over a long period of time.” This is a fairly standard thing to say for a new general manager, because it’s what everybody in the NFL is trying to accomplish. But today I want to evaluate Poles’ approach to his first offseason in charge of a team with that goal in mind.


How to Achieve Sustained Success

Fact 1: Offense is far more stable than defense year over year. To put it another way, defensive success is not sustainable – a fact Bears fans should be intimately familiar with after the last five years. Thus, the main factor to drive sustained team success is going to be sustained offensive success.

Fact 2: Good offensive play is driven by good QB play. This makes perfect sense, and I think we all knew it, but it’s good to have proof to back it up.

Conclusion: The best path to sustained success is a good QB. A brief look at recent NFL history supports that notion:

If you consider making the playoffs to mean success, there have been 18 instances in the last ten years where teams made the playoffs at least three times in a four-year span. Ten of those involved a solid or better QB on a rookie deal as the primary starter, while six more featured future HOF QBs on veteran contracts.

Only two of 18, then, involved solid-but-unspectacular QBs who weren’t on rookie deals. Those were Tennessee with Ryan Tannehill and Kansas City with Alex Smith. So, it is possible to sustain success without a really good QB or cheap solid QB, but it’s a much less likely path.

It’s also worth noting that both of those two found very little success in the playoffs. Only three of nine playoff seasons featured a playoff win, and only one reached a conference championship game. So, if your definition of sustained success involves more than bouncing out of the playoffs early on, those don’t really meet it.

If you want to get more selective and look at playoff success as an indicator of success, this list gets even more QB-dependent.

  • 28 of 40 teams in the conference championship game featured a starting QB with at least one All Pro or MVP in their career, and that doesn’t include Andrew Luck (retired early before achieving either of those) or Joe Burrow (only two NFL seasons so far, seems headed in that direction).
  • Only eight NFL QBs have started at least two conference championship games in the last decade, and six of them have made an All Pro or won MVP.

Again, this doesn’t mean getting a really good QB is the only path to sustained success (see SF with Alex Smith/Colin Kaepernick about a decade ago, or SF with Jimmy Garoppolo the last several years). It’s just the most likely path to sustained success.

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Dannehy: New Bears Regime Chose Familiar Path

| May 11th, 2022


You’ll never hear an NFL front office proclaim, in rich detail, the specific team they’re going to build, but the first offseason of the new Chicago Bears’ regime made it clear. The hiring of Matt Eberflus was the start of what turned out to be an entire offseason emphasis to build a defense-first team. That plan culminated at the draft when the team spent both of its second-round picks on that side of the ball. There’s an old saying that teams are built in the image of their coaches. The Bears seem to be embracing that line of thinking.

And while the 2022 season has been seen from the outside as one in which the Bears would write off as a losing campaign, securing the back end of their defense could help them field a competitive team. The picks of Kyler Gordon and Jaquan Brisker put what should be high-level players at positions that were serious question marks. The Bears did not have a viable option across from Jaylon Johnson or next to Eddie Jackson. Now, they believe they do.

Cornerbacks can be hit or miss as rookies, but a scheme that emphasizes zone coverage – similar to what Gordon played in at Washington – should make his transition relatively seamless. Safeties are typically able to transition to the NFL quickly and Brisker gives the Bears a versatile player; a sure tackler who can cover a lot of ground. With Jackson, Johnson and Tavon Young in the slot, the Bears should have a solid secondary, with tremendous upside.

While they’re probably still a high-level front four player away from elite, it isn’t an overstatement to say Eberflus has had top ten defenses with less. In fact, Eberflus has almost always had top ten defenses. In four years with the Colts, his units had average rankings of ninth in scoring, second in takeaways and eighth in DVOA. For the sake of comparison, Vic Fangio’s Bears units were 14th, 19th and 17th in those same categories.

The Bears also selected two players who figure to be explosive return men. It isn’t unlike the 2006 draft when the first two players the team selected both excelled on special teams, including the greatest return man in NFL history. Both Velus Jones Jr. and Tristan Ebner give the Bears home run hitters on specials.

The offense is going to struggle this year, just like the offenses of Lovie Smith’s time with the team did. Hopefully, Justin Fields continues to show his ability to make big throws down the field and the running game can keep the defense fresh. The Bears will be relying on the defense to create takeaways and the special teams to give the offense good field position. That’s a terribly flawed long-term plan, but if Fields is as good as many think he is, it’s a plan that will have the team contending for a playoff spot in 2022, enabling them to load-up on the offensive side for 2023.

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Secondary Rebuilt, Weapons Lacking: Assessing the 2022 NFL Draft in the Context of 2023

| May 1st, 2022

The texts buzzed my nightstand unprompted, piercing through the endless, awkward chuckling of Robert Mays and Nate Tice, as I tried to force myself to sleep on Friday evening. (I decided to take a brief, week-long booze sabbatical and it makes slumber a tricky enterprise.) The scout who I have relied upon this week to fill me in on all things draft was giving his assessment of Ryan Poles’ work over rounds two and three.



This is not someone who has any reason to inflate the work of the GM of the Chicago Bears. He has zero stake in the game. This was a professional talent evaluator evaluating the talent selected; examining the players acquired in a draft he has routinely described to me as “the weakest in the last 15 years.”

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The Complaints.

Listen, the complaints are understandable. A logical case could have been made for the Bears to spend every single pick Friday night on the offensive side of the ball. One could argue that taking shots on the potential of George Pickens or Alec Pierce or Skyy Moore is more exciting (undoubtedly) and more in-tune with the modern game. But if that’s the case, why were the Baltimore Ravens universally celebrated for their work in the first round, securing a box safety and center while trading away their best outside receiver?

Pickens will be asked to do very little in Pittsburgh (and will do little with those quarterbacks). Pierce and Moore will be no more than third options on their rosters in Indianapolis and Kansas City. The Bears would have been asking all three to start on day one and seriously contribute as rookies. Does anyone actually believe these three players are capable of that? If they were, would several receiver-needy clubs have gleefully passed on them at the backend of the first round?

But most complaints coming from fans are actually based on a fallacy. Bears fans seem to believe the organization needs to pile talent around Justin Fields to accurately assess his ability as a quarterback and make determinations on his future. That is definitively not the case. Ryan Poles and Justin Fields have been side-by-side through this process, even to the point of watching tape together on receiver prospects in the draft.



The team will not hold Fields accountable for the lack of playmaking ability around him. Poles got this job because he looked George McCaskey in the eyes and told him the roster was dreck. No one has a more sober view of the depth chart and the communication between the new leadership and the young quarterback has been impeccable.

Also, this belief that a quarterback requires a stacked roster around him in year two to improve is utter nonsense. Josh Allen’s second-year receivers were John Brown and Cole Beasley. Deshaun Watson’s second receiver in his second year totaled 32 catches. Russell Wilson’s top pass catcher in his sophomore season had 64 catches. Fields is going into this season with a new coaching staff building an offense specifically for him, a talented run game and a 1,000-yard receiver he loves. If he can’t improve in that context, fair questions should be asked.

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The Approach.

If Poles’ board had potential starters at wideout and along the offensive line at the top of the second round, those would have been his selections. But it didn’t. And with secondary being the second-worst position group on the roster, why wouldn’t he hesitate to fortify that unit? As Poles himself stated, “There were two good starting-level defensive players, and I would have made a huge mistake for this organization to say, ‘Let’s leave them there’.”

The Bears believe the best way to “develop” Fields is to take pressure off of him, not artificially inflate the wide receiver room with day two maybes. Selecting Kyler Gordon and Jaquan Brisker (the latter described to me by the aforementioned scout as a “top 35 talent” in this draft) is about establishing a structure for the difficult season to come. The Bears want to run the ball effectively and play solid defense. If they do those two things, they will not have to ask their quarterback – now in his third offensive system in three years – to drop back and fling it 40 times a week.

If the Bears didn’t address their secondary, especially after trading Khalil Mack, the team was looking at fielding an unprofessional group at the backend of their defense. If they did that, they would be chasing every game. Is there a worse possible scenario for a young QB?

The selection of Velus Jones Jr. in the third round also plays to this approach. “Deebo light” might seem like a grandiose designation, with Samuel coming off a brilliant 2021 campaign, but it’s easy to forget that the Niners receiver was more of a prolific gadget player in his first two seasons. Jones’ speed will give the Bears a dynamic they have sorely lacked in the Pace years, a player capable of taking a quick slant or bubble screen to the house at any moment. And it’s also difficult understand how Bears fans – OF ALL FANS – don’t understand the potential viability of drafting college football’s most electric return man.

Jones is a chess piece for an organization whose offensive game strategy hasn’t ascended beyond Connect Four in the modern era.


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Dannehy: Expect New Bears Leadership to Target “Trench Guys” Next Week

| April 20th, 2022


While fans debate which wide receiver the Chicago Bears should draft, the trench guys running the team just could go in a different direction. Matt Eberflus indicated as much in his interview with Cris Collinsworth, released last week:

“Ryan (Poles) and I are really clear on our vision for the football team,” Eberflus said. “He’s an ex-offensive lineman so we believe in the line play, we think that it starts up front and we believe in that. We believe in the physical punch that it takes from the offensive line running off the ball and same thing on defense. So that’s going to be a very important part to us in terms of determining who we are, what our identity is as a football team.”

It could be pre-draft manipulation, but that doesn’t really seem to be the new coach’s style. It seems more likely than not they’re going to beef up the offensive and defensive lines.

As Eberflus said, Poles is a former offensive lineman. Have you ever heard of a former offensive lineman who doesn’t think building up the offensive line is one of the two most important factors in having a successful offense? Flus was a linebacker. How many linebackers gush about the importance wide receiver play? These are trench guys and you can bet that they won’t tolerate fielding a team that is weak at the line of scrimmage.

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