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Dannehy: Sean Payton Should Be the Primary Target

| January 5th, 2022


The goal for the Chicago Bears and George McCaskey should be clear: pry Sean Payton away from the New Orleans Saints. The reasons why are fairly obvious.

He has been one of the most successful coaches in the league over the past 15 years, with an offense that perfectly fits Justin Fields. (Payton is known for “four verts”, which is designed to stretch the field. He is also known to want a mobile quarterback. There is no better fit for what he wants than Fields.) He wins in a variety of different ways, adjusting his offense to the talent he has, and managing to achieve similar results. He is a great offensive coach. The entire league knows that. The Bears know that. But how could the Bears get the Saints to agree?

The reasons for Payton to leave are there. The Saints don’t have a quarterback or really the means to acquire one. The Saints are projected to be nearly $62 million over the salary cap in 2022, and while GM Mickey Loomis has long been able to negotiate the cap, the likely outcome is going to include letting some good players go. (Keep in mind that that cap number doesn’t include a new contract for Terron Armstead who is set to be a free agent and could net an annual salary topping $20 million.)

If any team can navigate that cap mess, it’s the Saints, but the other factor is their age. Even if they bring Armstead back, he’s 30 years old. Cam Jordan is 32, Taysom Hill, 31; Ryan Ramczyk and Michael Thomas are both 28. They are a top-heavy team with a lot of veterans making big bucks. Their entire roster is going to need rebuilding in the near future and, at 58 years old, Payton may not want to endure that experience.

And they still have to find a way to get a quarterback! Perhaps they can swing a trade for Russ Wilson, Deshaun Watson or Aaron Rodgers, but it would gut the draft picks they need to replace the veteran players already mentioned.

There is no easy fix for the Saints.

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Dannehy: Structure Change Should Give Coach More Power

| December 29th, 2021


The Chicago Bears should change the way their football operations are structured, but not in the way many fans are clamoring for. The President of Football Operations many seek, a position that does not include the duties of General Manager, is historically flawed. Many organizations with non-football people owners have tried it and it has universally failed. The failure is often quite embarrassing.

But what has proven to work around the league and is a direction the Bears have leaned in recent years, is making the next head coach the leading football voice in the organization.

That’s the way several successful teams have operated including Seattle, New Orleans, Kansas City, San Francisco, New England and Buffalo. Green Bay has the head coach on equal footing as the general manager, Mike McCarthy answers directly to ownership in Dallas and you can bet that if the head coaches of the LA Rams or Tampa Bay Bucs said, “it’s me or him,” those owners would pick the coaches over the GMs.

The Bears have come close to executing this arrangement in the past.

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Around the League Tweets (Non-Twitter Version)

| December 7th, 2021


The league is bananas. And there’s a lot to digest every week. Here are some general thoughts.

  • Texted a friend of mine about this year’s quarterback class in the draft. Got a succinct response: “No starters”. So, if you are the Giants or Eagles, and you’re loaded with early picks, you’ll have to determine whether to wait a year before pulling the plug on your current starter. Daniel Jones and Jalen Hurts may not be “the guy” but replacing them with a high-profile veteran like Watson, Rodgers, Wilson may prove too costly.
  • Lamar Jackson is always going to have physical limitations with his arm. But his decision making is what’s proving costly for the Ravens. He’s playing recklessly and that team isn’t good enough to survive reckless quarterback play.
  • Not sure I’ve ever seen a tight end cost his team 14 points, but Gerald Everett did Sunday. He bobbled a touchdown pass into an INT and fumbled at the goal line. Without those two errors, Seattle blows out San Francisco.
  • Nine of Minnesota’s games this season have been decided on the final play. They are 3-6 in those games. That team is inexcusably out of the postseason right now and it looks like it will cost Mike Zimmer his job at season’s end.
  • It was not unexpected to see the Jaguars struggle this season. But I never expected an Urban Meyer team to be consistently blown out. (And Trevor Lawrence has not improved as the season has progressed. If anything, he looks burnt out.)
  • Joe Brady is to blame in Carolina, huh? Was it Brady who made a ridiculous trade for Sam Darnold? Did Brady try to rescue the season on the arm of a washed-up Cam Newton? Did Brady build an offense entirely around a running back that can’t stay on the field?

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ATM: In Case It Doesn’t Work Out At Head Coach

| June 10th, 2021

Matt Nagy enters the 2021 season with a 28-20 record and two playoff appearances in three years, but his job very much could – and certainly should – be on the line. While there is a lot of good that Nagy brings to the Bears, his inability to field even an adequate offense is puzzling. Because even when they don’t have good quarterbacks, good offensive minds typically find a way to move the ball. The Bears have been in the bottom 12 in yardage all three seasons and the bottom six in net yards per passing attempt the last two years.

Maybe it’s Mitch’s fault. Maybe they need better offensive line play. Maybe it’s both. (It probably is.) But the truth is this: the Bears need to score points.

If the Bears do replace him, and this unlikely with his hand-selected rookie QB, I’d look for an offensive mind to pair with that QB. I put priority on coaches who not only call plays, but have designed offenses. Here is a short list of coaches who could get the job:


10. Shane Steichen, Eagles Offensive Coordinator

The offensive coordinator for a team that had a rookie quarterback (Justin Herbert) throw 31 touchdown passes would typically be a hot commodity. But Anthony Lynn was such a bad head coach, nobody cared to look at his assistants. When Steichen replaced Ken Whisenhunt during the 2019 season, the improvement was immediate.


9. Nathaniel Hackett, Packers Offensive Coordinator

Forget what he has done with the Packers, Hackett had a top-five scoring offense with Blake Bortles. He was fired the next year because a scapegoat was needed after the Jaguars couldn’t repeat that success, but he quickly signed on with the Packers, learning a different offense under Matt LaFleur.

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Bears at Saints Wildcard Weekend Preview: When Saints Have the Ball

| January 8th, 2021

Sunday at 3:40 CT, the Bears will play a playoff game in New Orleans. This is the third in a three-part preview of that contest.


Notes on the First Meeting

Two things were frustrating about the first meeting between the Bears and the Saints.

(1) The Bears had no answers for Jared Cook. The world knows Drew Brees is not going to try and take the top off the defense. He doesn’t have the arm strength for that anymore. So opponents can’t let the slant route go for big YAC. They must have an answer for Kamara out of the backfield. And they can’t let Cook beat them on third downs. That’s exactly what the Bears did.

(2) Every Taysom Hill run seemed to work. When Sean Payton gets into short yardage or goal line situations, he no longer hesitates to take Brees off the field and put Hill on. A lot of Hill’s success is a product of a tough, physical offensive line but it’s also simply a schematic advantage to run the football at 11-on-11. If Hill is converting every time he comes on the field, the Bears are in for a long day.

Both of these issues will be difficult to correct if Roquan Smith is unavailable, as expected.


Stop the Rush, Stop the Saints?

The Saints have won their last two games, against Carolina and Minnesota, rushing for 156 and 264 yards respectively.

The Saints lost their two games before that, against Kansas City and Philadelphia, rushing for 60 and 96 yards respectively.

Keeping the New Orleans rushing attack contained doesn’t guarantee you victory but it does guarantee you’ll keep their point total manageable.


Three Things the Bears Defense Must Do

  • Catch the Ball. One looks at the score of last Sunday’s Bears/Packers game and thinks, “Well the Bears got blown out.” Except that’s simply not what took place. This was a one-score game late in the second half and the Bears dropped THREE EASY interceptions. The spectacular plays that go unmade by defenders can be excused. But when the quarterback tries to play backyard pitch-and-catch with you, you have to oblige him. When Brees gives the Bears an opportunity for a game-changing play, they have to seize it.

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Across The Middle: 2018 Chicago Bears Coach Power Rankings

| December 6th, 2017

Trust is going to be the most important factor in where the Bears go from here.

Ryan Pace is in his third year as GM for a franchise that has won 12 games since he took over. That’s 11 fewer than the guy he replaced and he only got three years to do the job. George McCaskey may still have faith in Pace but he’s admittedly not a patient person. Whoever the next coach of the Bears is, they must trust that Pace picked the right quarterback and knows how to build the rest of the roster.

On Pace’s part, he has to trust the person he hires to create a successful environment around the franchise quarterback, while not losing sight of what else is going on around him. For those reasons, I believe the next coach of the Bears is likely going to be somebody Pace knows and already trusts. We’ve seen these kinds of relationships come together recently in Jacksonville, Buffalo, San Francisco and Philadelphia. Pace not only needs somebody he trusts, he needs a quick turnaround and three of the four aforementioned teams are enjoying the most success they’ve had in a number of years.

Here is my guess on which current pro coaches have the best odds of being the Bears coach next season:

1. Dennis Allen, DC, New Orleans Saints

Everyone wants an offensive guy, I get it. But Allen has connections to John DeFilippo, Mike McCoy, Al Saunders and Bill Lazor. It’s also possible he can lure another veteran coordinator — Norv Turner, Gary Kubiak or Dirk Koetter — to run his offense with a young stud quarterback. This goes back to the trust factor because Pace worked with Allen for five years in New Orleans. Allen is said to be uniquely organized and detailed — the opposite of the Bears current coach. He failed in Oakland but he had just one year as a coordinator at that point and didn’t have any talent. Since he took over for Rob Ryan late in the 2015 season, the Saints have had a drastic improvement defensively.

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Across the Middle: 2018 Chicago Bears Coach Rankings

| November 9th, 2017

The Chicago Bears probably aren’t going to have a new coach in 2018. At least, not if they continue on their current pace.

Before the season I wrote that if the Bears won seven games, John Fox would be a lock to stay. Through eight games, they only have three wins, but have played the third-hardest schedule in the league, according to Football Outsiders. The last four games particularly have been really interesting.

It isn’t just that the Bears have gone 2-2. It’s that they really beat the crap out of one good team, should’ve won by a lot more against a mediocre team and were close to beating two of the best teams in the entire league.

It seems like the  majority of the fan base still isn’t happy. They don’t just want to win, they want to look good doing it. But that wouldn’t matter no matter who the coach is. Hell, a large percentage of those people want Jim Harbaugh, the master of the ugly wins, as the coach.

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Big Picture: Ryan Pace Has 8 Games To Decide Future of Bears Offense

| October 30th, 2017

John David Mercer – USA TODAY Sports


Today could easily be spent on the particulars of the Bears 20-12 loss to the New Orleans Saints. We could talk about the ridiculousness of the Zach Miller overturn, a call that irrationally and irrevocably changed the outcome of the game, but Adam Hoge covered that brilliantly HERE. We could talk about another sterling defensive effort, marred by a few costly mistakes, but Adam Jahns detailed those HERE. We could talk about Connor Barth but, really, who wants to?

Yesterday wasn’t about the small things, however. Yesterday felt big picture.

The Bears – Ryan Pace, John Fox, Vic Fangio –  have built a championship defense. Not a decent defense or a good defense. A championship defense. And with a few off-season additions, it won’t matter who is coaching the unit. When the talent is that good and that deep you could bring Mel Tucker back and the Bears would still rank top ten in every meaningful defensive category.

[Note to Ryan Pace: Don’t bring Mel Tucker back. I was kidding.]

The offense is…the issue.

One couldn’t help wonder what Ryan Pace was thinking as he sat and watched his new team face his former team in the Superdome yesterday. It is well-documented how close the relationship between Pace and Sean Payton was during their time together and one has to believe there was some longing in the Bears GM’s heart Sunday.

Because the Saints offensive coaching staff was doing advanced mathematics at MIT. Their run game was varied and creative, using several formations and calls they hadn’t previously used this season. There was strategy in everything they did, with each early call having a late rationale. That’s not a wildly talented collection of offensive players but the coaching staff puts every one of them in the best position to succeed. Novel concept, huh?

The Bears offensive coaching staff was counting blocks at Wise Owl Nursery School in Belleville, NJ. (It is right between the McDonald’s and the bowling alley.) Read More …

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Week 8: Bears at Saints Game Preview

| October 26th, 2017

Why Do I Like the Chicago Bears This Week?

I always like the Chicago Bears. And they’re going for three straight and .500 at the bye! What’s not to like?


Hey Bears, Play Offense on Sunday

John Fox and Dowell Loggains need to walk into the Superdome Sunday assuming the Saints are going to score in the 20s. Why? Because the Saints always score in the 20s. We’re talking about a team, playing at home, that is:

  • 4th in points and yards per game.
  • 10th in rushing yards per game.
  • 3rd in passing yards per game.
  • Least sacked team in the entire NFL, allowing only 5, and they’ve played the Minnesota (ranked 4th), Carolina (ranked 3rd) and Miami (ranked 10th) defenses this season.

If Fox/Loggains operate the same offensive mathematical equation…

(Run for 2 + Run for 1) x [3rd-and-7 Throw Under Obvious Pressure] = Success?

…they’ll find themselves chasing the game. And the Bears are NOT built to chase any game.


Tweet of the Week


Three Reasons the Bears Win

  • Saints have one of the most balanced offenses in the league but the Bears can render an opponent one-dimensional with their suffocating run defense. There isn’t a pair of interior defensive linemen in the league playing to the standard of Hicks and Goldman and Sunday the Bears held Carolina backs to 21 carries, 58 yards – a staggering 2.76 yards per. If Bears can force Brees to drop back every down, they’ll get to him.
  • On the flip side, the Bears should be able to line up and run the ball on a New Orleans defense allowing 4.9 yards per carry. Green Bay QB Brett Hundley couldn’t play Sunday – it was obvious to anyone watching – and Dennis Allen’s Saints defense still allowed Aaron Jones to go 17-131-1. This kept the game competitive into the fourth quarter. So just because they know you wanna run it doesn’t mean they can stop you.

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Across The Middle: Embrace Fox Ball

| October 25th, 2017

I was mad.

The Bears were ahead by fourteen with less than eight minutes to go. Victory was a near certainty. But was I happy? No.

Considering this is a team that won just three games last season and hasn’t won more than eight since 2012, my anger in that moment was not justifiable.

What I, and many Bears fans, must do is learn to embrace these 2017 Bears. They’re ugly, sure, but style points be damned! This team is tough. They are also a game away from .500 and, you know what, they’re kind of fun.

Their offense needs to be better. I don’t expect they’ll be able to win many more games like they have the last two weeks, but it is what it is. Nobody should expect them to win the Super Bowl, or even just light up the scoreboard through the air. This team will never do that.

But they can play defense and the last two weeks they’ve done that as well as anybody in the league.

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