COMING UP TO THE MIDPOINT IN THE SEASON

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Coming up to the midpoint in the season.

I imagine the tumbling tumbleweed rolling over the great expectations

that once filled many a Bear fan’s heart.

I imagine the halls, the hallowed halls of George Halas Way in the sky and 1920 Football Drive on football field earth, are very silent right now.

I find myself already staring into the chasm of an endless night looking for possible quarterbacks to draft in the 2020 draft. 

How many quarterbacks does a team have to bring in and try before they can find a stud?

The right answer of course is as many as it takes. I also do think Matt Nagy can help a young quarterback. He’s a born leader, he’s had personal success at the position, and he will defend you.

The only thing he doesn’t have a defense for how bad his own offense is right now.

Settling for the field goal at the end of last week’s game, rather than trying to make it easier on a young kicker and getting a few extra yards with time on the clock, is an elephant in the room. But I think Nagy knows it.

Matt Nagy once Coach of the Year, now brought back down to earth.

There’s nothing so obvious then a parent that is dissatisfied with their own underachieving child. Everyone and especially the child can read it on their face. It’s not an algorithm to solve. It’s just basic human emotion.

Nagy looks that way to me. He looks beyond frustrated, like he’s trying to solve for the moon. 

It’s not rocket science as all the dummies like me like to say. 

You just have a bad offense, last in the league in nearly everything. But is it fixable? 

Sunday’s game against an injured opponent was better. David Montgomery’s long run skews the stats but still, not bad. Even Mitchell T made some nice long throws to Anthony Miller downfield. 

The defense looks really pretty great to me and if the offense was just ordinary I think we’d have a contender on our hands. Three losses have been decided by seven points or less. 

Also, what team is last place in their division but fourth best in the league in points allowed?

But the defense can’t alone win the Super Bowl, the offense needs to do something, generally speaking.

Sunday’s game against the Eagles will probably be bad. Trubisky looks like he can’t hear in his home stadium and can at times look really lost on the road but we’ll see. 

You beat a kid long enough and two extremes emerge. He either folds into himself thinking he deserves it, or he’s born again tough. It’s probably going to be somewhere in the middle. 

The Bears have been in every game but one this season, the Saints game. Every other game they’ve competed, even with a substandard offense. 

I’d like to see them run more like everyone would, but run more in less than obvious running situations. This offense doesn’t seem like it has made anyone play on their heels too much except for the Chargers game and of course the game against the lowly Redskins. 

I’d like to see them throw the ball downfield to give Trubisky some confidence early on in the game, and to keep those defensive backs of the Eagles from playing too tight of coverage.

I’d like to see them surprise some people this week. Usually teams caught in a losing streak can snap out of it, and show great flashes of what they can be.

But can they do it on the road? Against a good team? As much as my heart says yes, my mind says no. Another close game but no dice Chicago.

EAGLES 24 BEARS 18

onlyifyoudreamtidbits…………………to show you what a difference 34 years makes take a look at the often misread and misunderstood quarterback rating. Jim McMahon in our beloved 1985 Chicago Bears, a team that keeps orbiting like the moon further and further away from the earth, had a 82.6 QB rating during that season. Trubisky’s quarterback rating so far this season is 81.4. Eerily close, except McMahon played in the pro bowl that year (as an alternate) and Trubisky is stuck in another kind of bowl.

 

SO YOU WANT TO PLAY QUARTERBACK?

 

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The NFL has a flawed concept of how to find a Super Bowl quality quarterback for their franchise.

Essentially they choose one, and mostly they choose only one and that’s the flaw. 

Then they adorn him with all sorts of gifts, like a great coach, a great defense, solid playmakers on offense and giant lineman to protect, all on the premise that he can stand under pressure, with the weight of a city on his shoulders and hit the open man.

And, on top of it all they pay him giant amounts of money before he ever really proves he can be “that guy.”

What most teams do is they spend tens of millions of dollars on a guess. 

They engage in calculated risk.

On the surface it sounds entirely American, invest in a business, put in resources and time and materials and watch it compete and grow. 

The problem is when they don’t compete and they don’t grow. 

Take our beloved Bears as exhibit A. The first thing Ryan Pace said when taking over as GM is that he would draft a quarterback EVERY YEAR.

How many has he actually taken? ONE!

Forget about whether or not it’s in the first round. The point is you never know when you’re going to catch lightning in a bottle. Who knows who the next Tom Brady or Joe Montana is.

If you had to guess how many Super Bowl winning quarterback WEREN’T drafted in the first round how many would you guess?

5? 10?

Try 16. Here they are:

Tom Brady——————6th round

Nick Foles——————-3rd round

Russell Wilson————-4th round

Drew Brees——————2nd round

Brad Johnson—————-9th round

Kurt Warner——————undrafted

Brett Favre——————-2nd round

Steve Young——————supplemental draft

Mark Rypien——————6th round

Jeff Hostetler——————3rd round

Joe Montana——————-3rd round

Joe Theismann—————-4th round

Roger Staubach—————10th round

Ken Stabler———————2nd round

Johnny Unitas——————9th round

Bart Starr————————17th round

(Apologies if I missed anyone)

You still have to adorn him with gifts. You’ll still have to pay him the money if he wins. Unless you’re the Eagles and you decide beating Bill Belichick and the Patriots and winning the Super Bowl isn’t good enough to earn you a spot as the team’s number one quarterback. No, that belongs to Carson Wentz “because he’s our guy.” 

It flabbergasts me why the Eagles didn’t trade Wentz and keep Foles. I guess they’d rather follow through with their plan, rather than follow through with what’s best for their team. 

What more does a guy have to do than beat the Patriots, one of the greatest dynasties in the history of the NFL?

I really don’t think being a GM is terribly complex. But I do think you have to be ruthless. You have to sit a guy down you just told how much you love and tell him HE ISN’T YOUR GUY after all.

One last thing I’ll say in defense of the GM, to be ruthless is to be unpopular, and to be unpopular is to be without friends, and to be without friends is to be without a job and to be without a job is well you see where it takes you. 

It’s a fine line between ruthless and a guy you actually want to play and work for, actually want to sacrifice your body and mind for a fistful of dollars for, well a little more than that.

Also, another thing in defense of the GM is how stressful the job is. I mean to be responsible for a team in that way and have millions of little micro GM’s like me screaming and telling you what to do.

It’s no wonder they come in all fresh faced like a president and look like haggard janitors after four years on the job. 

I get that playing quarterback is hard. I certainly wouldn’t want it no matter how much money you threw at me for the chance. But there are hundreds if not thousands who do. Why not give some of them a shot?

ONE FINAL NOTE…………………IN THE LAST 33 YEARS THE BEARS HAVE DRAFTED ONLY 14 QUARTERBACKS! If that isn’t a S.O.S. to the McCaskey family about a mediocre football team what else can we do???

 

UGH!!!

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I was all set to deliver this rampage against Matt Nagy. How he got outcoached by Doug Pederson. How the decision to keep Cody Parkey on the roster came back to bite him in the ass. How he decided not to get Tarik Cohen involved in the offense when the guy is his number one threat. How he seemed to get really conservative when the very thing that got him there in the first place was his willingness to take chances.

Then something occurred to me and I fell in a deep sleep thinking about how many days until pitchers and catchers report for spring training.

The Bears were never supposed to be this good, this first year under the Matt Nagy regime. I went to look up 2018 NFL season record predictions, randomly found Sports Illustrated, and a writer in SI who picked the Bears picked to go 4-12 and the Eagles to go 12-4. They also had the Vikings at 13-3 and the Packers at 12-4. Most places had them finishing in last place.

in SI in June they said

The Bears got better at crucial positions they had to get better at this offseason. Chicago brought in Taylor Gabriel, Allen Robinson and Trey Burton to help their second-year quarterback Mitch Trubisky. The offensive line took a big hit losing guard Josh Sitton and the defense, while improved with Roquan Smith at linebacker, still needs to find a pass rush. It may take one more year for this group to gel.

Granted it was before the team got Khalil Mack but the point is that they got considerably better than how they looked on paper with a first year head coach.

They other thing that is incredibly encouraging is that they’re a young team. Five years ago they were ranked 29th in the league with an average age of 26. 8 and this year they’re ranked 10th with an average age of 25.7, the same as the Eagles and the Packers.

Ryan Pace did what he said he was going to do, he made the team younger, which made the team better.

Just look at what’s coming—-Roquan Smith, 21, James Daniels 21, Bilal Nichols 22, Tarik Cohen 23, Mitchell Trubisky 24, Anthony Miller 24, Jordan Howard 24. All their Pro Bowl defenders——Eddie Jackson 26, Kyle Fuller 26, Khalil Mack 27, Akiem Hicks 29 are all under 30. 

Saw an interesting article   

https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/why-coaches-and-qbs-should-divorce-after-five-years-of-not-winning/

on 538 last year about how the window for new coaches and their QB’s is about five years. Of the 31 head coaches to win at least one super bowl, 27 of them won it within the first years of that team.

Jim McMahon was drafted in ’82 the same year Mike Ditka started coaching the Bears. It took them four years and they finally did it. 

Some other pillars on that team—-Walter Payton drafted in ’75. Hampton in ’79, Mike Singletary in ’81, Richard Dent in ’83, The point is it took some time.

But not too much time. In the history of Chicago Bear coaches only Ditka and Lovie Smith made had multiple playoff appearances. Ditka made it to the playoffs 7 times and Lovie Smith 2. 

Jack Pardee made it to the playoffs once, Neil Armstrong once, Dave Wannstedt once, Dick Jauron once. They were all fired soon after.

Another big point is that a team often catches fire one year only to revert back to being a mediocre team the next. There are very few Sean McVay’s who was 11-5 last year and then was 13-3 this year. That will be the challenge for Matt Nagy. Can he improve on an already incredible year? Or will it prove to be an outlier, a fluke, something he won’t be able to reproduce?

Another thing about the Bears offense that showed promise is that they have a lot of guile and at times look really competent. In the Eagles game they came back when they had to (the last drive notwithstanding). 

You hope that as Trubiksy grows more comfortable in clutch situations when the game is on the line, and that Nagy starts to have more trust in him and as an offense they can really start to control the ball when they have to. Most Super Bowl winning teams have offenses who control the ball, make big plays, and score a lot of points.

One last thought. Like a lot of fans I thought this could’ve been the year, but I think something is missing on the offensive side of the ball. A LeVeon Bell or Kareem Hunt kind of back I think is needed. Somebody great. Somebody who is a difference maker. An All Pro. For Trubisky to be that great player he has to be, he’ll need great support. 

But the number of throws that should’ve been picked off yesterday and really the whole season, leave the judgment of how good he is still way up in the air. The clock is ticking. Unless he gets really bad, he’ll have about 2-3 years to prove it.

It all stings with that typical Chicago Bear disappointment. The truth of the matter is that to be a Chicago Bear fan is a difficult proposition. In fact it’s really fu*&ing hard being a Chicago Bears fan. They’re an enormously mediocre franchise trying to sell a championship team to a hungry fan base. 

There are franchises like the Steelers, and the Niners, and the Giants, and the Patriots, and the Packers, and then there are franchises like the Bears. The difference is so palpable. The expectations are from legitimately different sides of town and walks of life. How do you change a culture like that without taking a lot of risks?

36 days until pitchers and catchers report.

108 days until the NFL draft.

204 days until Bourbonnais training camp.

UGH! 

Good bye 2018 Bears it was fun.

It’s already taking too long.

JANUARY RELEVANT!!!

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The Bears are in the playoffs and a lot of things are going through my mind. In no particular order——

How different the playoff games feel. The way the crowd can’t seem to contain itself with so much on the line.

Matt Nagy asked the fans to be particularly noisy.

A lot of writers like to play the game of who would you rather play, figuring that the weaker opponents, or opponents the team matches up well against will make it easier to get to and win the Super Bowl.

I disagree. A great team will beat other great teams no matter what the record. If they have to go on the road to do it, so be it. A great team rises to the occasion and plays their best game against another great team. A great team wants to play another great team. 

A great team will have a bunch of ultra competitive guys, too. Guys that scream and kick and scratch on each play. That play with an edge, even borderline nasty. They block well and tackle well. They believe so much in themselves no matter what. They want to help other guys on the team, too. They want to lead the team. They want a group of guys to lead the team. Everybody buys into it. Everybody believes it.

And then of course great players have to play great. Not only the great players, but also fair and good players. Some might even become famous with how they distinguish themselves in the big games.

When I hear athletes who win, they say things like nobody gave it to them, they had to take it. They earned it.

When picking whose going to win a tournament a lot of handicappers will pick a team that is on fire. That has a lot of momentum and winning a lot of games as they go into the playoffs.

This makes a lot of sense to me. Some recent Super Bowl winners that got hot as the season drove on—-The 2013 Seahawks were 9-2 in their last 11, the 2014 Patriots were 5-2 in their last 7, the 2016 Patriots were 7-1 in their last 8, the 2017 Eagles were 5-2 in their last 7.

This year’s Eagles are 5-1 in their last 6 and this year’s Bears are 9-1 in their last 10. Something’s gotta give.

If the Bears are fortunate enough to beat the Eagles they’ll go on to L.A. to play the Rams. I think they’re better than the Rams. I will also be rooting for whoever the winner of Cowboys/Seahawks is as they would then travel to New Orleans to play the Saints. It’s hard not to look ahead.

Three times the Bears have faced the Eagles in the postseason. In the 1979 playoffs they lost 27-17 on the road, in the 1988 fog bowl playoff they won 20-12 at home, and in 2001 they lost 33-19 at home. 

The three quarterbacks that started those respective games and their QB ratings? Mike Phipps, with a QB rating of 30.1, Mike Tomczak, with a rating of 56.7 and Jim McMahon who also played in that game had a rating of 75.7 and Jim Miller who started had a rating of 31.7 until he got hurt and then Shane Matthews had a rating of 17.9.

No matter how good the defense is, and those teams in the 80’s had some really great defenses, you need clean QB play. Is Trubisky poised for a clean game against the Eagles?

Everything also seems to get magnified. If a team is up by 3 points it feels like 7, 7 feels like 13, 13 feels like 20. One turnover in your own zone feels like the whole game has changed. Even the home team QB is asking for quiet because the fans are so insanely pumped up they can’t contain their own jubilation. 

The ’85 team I remember how the fans kind of took over. One long big loud scream to bring the snowflakes. 

Another part of all of this is confidence. A confident player isn’t so nervous that the jitters affect his game. He’s emotional, he’s got the right attitude, but he plays within himself. He’s totally respecting his opponent, but he’s so sure he’s going to prevail. Sometimes you don’t need facts or evidence or a compelling argument. All you need is a hunch. A feeling can be greater than anything.

Can Trubisky play like that? Will he not be asked to do too much? Can the Bears stay in the lead as they have in most of the games they’ve won? Can they not play coming from behind? 

How is Eddie Jackson’s foot feeling? How strong are the meds? Can he block out the pain? Is 60% of Eddie Jackson better than the next man up, Deon Bush?

I was listening to longtime Bear reporter Hub Arkush on the WSCR, the score earlier today and he said Khalil Mack is having a year as good as Lawrence Taylor ever had. Pretty rare air, he said. 

Can Khalil Mack simply take the game over?

I was listening to Dan Bernstein on The Score and he said that Bear fans don’t know how to feel about how good a QB is because they don’t know what one is. They can’t recognize it. Great point.

I thought Nick Foles deserved to start this year and I think he’s great. Anybody that beats Tom Brady in the Super Bowl deserves to be a QB 1. 

It’s all got me thinking about mountains and man. Man was meant to rise. He visualizes himself ascending. Women too, of course. We were born to test ourselves. The great ones are never satisfied with being just good. 

The mountain is the symbol for all that. It has different sizes for geological reasons, to be sure but also has different sizes for motivational ones. 

Somewhere on a desk, maybe there’s a list. Mount Fuji—-12.3 feet. Matterhorn—-16.9. Kilimanjaro—-19.3. Denali—-20.3. Mount Everest—-29. 

Somewhere in this Chicago organization, on a desk or in a locker or locker room the Eagles are a mountain to be challenged and will prove just how high these 2018 Bears will be allowed to climb.