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.

5 REASONS WHY THE BEARS ARE WINNING

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RYAN PACE

Give him credit. Give him a lot of it. Give him holiday cheers of it. After swings and misses he seems to be getting better at his job. Better at picking the right coach. Better at drafting difference making players. Better at using free agency as a way to find difference making players and also players who can fill obvious needs. 

Just look at this list——Matt Nagy, Khalil Mack, Mitchell Trubisky, Tarik Cohen, Eddie Jackson, Allen Robinson, Anthony Miller, Roquan Smith. The list goes on and its impressive and its young and its really, really good. 

There are so many things that need to go right and Ryan Pace is a guy that makes sure it does.

I know New Orleans and Los Angeles, hell even the Green Bay Packers look like big mountains, but I don’t see why the Bears couldn’t make some loud noises in the playoffs.

MATT NAGY

It all starts with the coach and the way he implements his vision, gets people buying in it, and how they execute. 

John Madden always said you got to be authentic, because the players can spot a phony, and I think that may be his best quality. He’s a genuine dude and that helps players trust him. 

Plus the Bears finally look like a complete team. So many of their teams have always looked one sided. If only they had an offense, you can hear the Bear faithful whine. 

The fact that Nagy was a quarterback I think has really helped Trubisky. He’s gone from being an indecisive quarterback, to playing a game of pitch and catch. It really doesn’t have to be a complicated game. Hit the open guy, and if he’s not, scamper for some yards. 

Is it possible the Bears have an offense that can win a championship? If they do Nagy will become a legend and get all sorts of credit, as will a handful of players. One of the things I look for in a team is how good are the second and third string players. It says a lot about the coach when the whole roster is ready to play.

KHALIL MACK

Ok this was the ballsy move of the century. 

Word had it that the Packers were about to pull the trigger too and the Bears just out bid them. 

I mean could you imagine the Packers with Mack? People who say the Bears spent the farm to get him are ignoring the most important point. Mack is a once is a lifetime player. 

Every Super Bowl team always seems to have Hall of Fame type players on it, at least one or two and hopefully more. 

Is he at 100% yet? If he is I think that defense climbs a few more rungs on the ladder. When he’s a step quicker, he’s going to require a double team. That opens huge chances for everyone else on that line to get the quarterback. 

If they can pressure the quarterback with four they are going to be a handful come winter.

MITCHELL TRUBISKY

I keep thinking they did something to that offense. The team that just beat Arizona by two points is now seeing a confident decision maker in Trubisky. He looks better. Cooler. A cooler head to prevail whilst sitting in the hottest seat in professional sports. But he still makes some decisions where you just scratch your head.

He of course is the key. If he fails the team will fail, but if he has these kind of dominant performances, I don’t see why this team can’t win it all. Nick Foles doesn’t have a giant contract with 80 million dollars guaranteed, yet, but he did have a career day in the Super Bowl, and went throw for throw with the unmatchable brilliance of Tom Brady. 

Is Nagy getting him to play a little over his head, or is his ceiling still being set? Does he have the potential to be not just good but great? If he’s not great, even with that defense, I don’t see them winning it all. 

Also, does he have to run all the time and does he know how to slide?

INTANGIBLES

I could pick a lot of players in this last spot. The ones I named earlier, the whole defense, the whole offensive line, how about how good those playmakers have been? 

Something about confidence makes it impossible to keep it hidden. The world can’t help but notice it. 

I remember from my own competitive playing days how important it was to believe in yourself and in your team. It always seemed to me that intangible quality of belief was just as important as skill. They’re both critical don’t get me wrong, but guys who possess qualities like attitude, character, and enthusiasm always seem to be the guys holding the trophies up. 

Football is such a sport that demands you play with an edge about you, and this team is doing that. Finally some swag to back up the way you play on the field.

Happy Thanksgiving!

SUCCESS AND CONFIDENCE

 

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You could argue that Matt Nagy had the perfect game plan called for the Bucs.

You could argue the Bucs defense has been awful all year.

You could argue the Bears defense is looking like one of the best in the league and Khalil Mack is on his way to an MVP season.

Or the favorite I’m sure—-you could argue that Mitchell Trubisky when given enough time and is decisive enough might have the makings of being a star. 

6 TD passes? A Bear QB?

Whatever they did to simplify things I think also should get mention here too. Whatever works keep doing it until they stop you. It doesn’t have to be a complicated game. They have fast guys. Somebody’s usually open.

If you give enough time to a good NFL QB he should be able to march down the field.

I always remember what the late great Buddy Ryan said about pressuring the QB. He said essentially, “we’re not going to just let sit back there and pick us apart.”

Does it take elite level QB play to win the super bowl? Does it take big numbers on offense and defense? Those are great subject to discuss another time.

What the Bears did to the Bucs is what good teams do. They dominate by scoring a lot of points and playing great defense.

If you’re like me at the end of the year, if the Bears have a chance at making the playoffs, when you’re eating your breakfast in December you can’t get enough Bear stuff to read. I love looking at the Points For versus Points Against differential and how for the better teams the difference is larger and they’re usually in first place. They also have lots of sacks, turnovers, and touchdowns. They get home field advantage. You get the point.

One last thing to mention is Tarik Cohen. In this column you’ve heard me mention him every week. Well he finally got the chance to be featured and the little guy played like I thought he would—-like he was one of the best on the field. He’s a matchup nightmare and he could be very, very good maybe even great.

But for now Trubisky steals the show. He looked so calm and at ease, and hit guys in stride with beautiful throws.

No greater teacher guides a young man more than success and confidence.

Whoo whoo! 3-1!

Keep Taking Baby Steps

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I know you want sexy. That you want that 15 to 19 yard pass play in the middle of the field hitting the tight end in stride on a skinny post and marching like the Patriots with a potent offense threatening to score every time you touch the ball.

I know that’s what you want and if you were paying attention after the second Bears touchdown where they marched down the field with short passes and runs you saw Matt Nagy whispering into Mitch Trubisky’s ear before commercial.

That right there is why I feel good about this team. The fact that Nagy knows what it’s like to be QB1 and the fact that Trubisky is humble enough to want to learn is all reason for hope.

Yes Trubisky threw two picks and made some really bad decisions. Yes they might’ve tried to stretch the field a bit too far. Yes they probably need to run a little bit more.

I’d like to see Cohen and Howard get more touches. Cohen particularly. Give him a chance to bust it wide open because the guy has all sorts of talent. 

It would’ve been nice to see the Bears blow that team out. Maybe they’re learning how to do that.

And what about that defense? Six sacks in a game?! It only seems logical to me that all that pressure on the quarterback is going to give those corners a great chance for more picks. Will they step up?

And Mack? My goodness! Yet another great Bear defender in the Bear tradition of great defenses. 

I’m glad they got their night games over with. A night game is more pressure on a young qb than a day game and if he’s already doing this well in prime time, what might he be?

An 83 qb rating while still throwing two picks is impressive. Why can’t he get better?

I know to be December relevant would be a dream. So let us just keep it there for now and in the mean time keep taking baby steps.