I knew that the Chicago Bears were an old team last year, I just didn't realize that they were among the oldest teams in the league.
I saw a tweet yesterday from Chase of FootballProspective.com and pro-football-reference.com. He posted an article that looked at Approximate Value-adjusted roster ages. If you're into football history, trivia and advanced stats at all I recommend giving Chase a follow. Anyway, he first tweeted that the Seahawks, coming off their second straight Super Bowl appearance still have the third youngest roster in the league.
He then tweeted:
What's really scary is situation in Chicago, where Bears are both bad and old. Offense and Defense in bottom 8 in age http://t.co/Uq3DYIHtMX— Football Perspective (@fbgchase) May 6, 2015
His article is quite interesting. Instead of using the old standby of average roster age using the average of all 53 roster players, he uses PFR's "Approximate Value" which uses a complicated set of data to assign one number to a player as a measurement of how good they are. I don't pretend to have the brain capacity or stomach for the math formulas involved in AV but it's nice to try to place one number on a player.
As for the roster age thing, from the article Chase explains it:
You don't want to calculate the average age of a 53-man roster and call that the "team age" because the age of a team's starters is much more relevant than the age of a team's reserves. The average age of a team's starting lineup isn't perfect, either. The age of the quarterback and key offensive and defensive players should count for more than the age of a less relevant starter. Ideally, you want to calculate a team's average age by placing greater weight on the team's most relevant players.
Now, it should surprise you from the Tweet embedded above the Bears did not fare well. Their 2014 overall AV-adjusted age is 27.8, good for 31st in the league. Their offense was aged 28 last season (ranked 27th) and their D was 27.5 years old (good for 25th).
This goes to show, as has been mentioned time and time again, the failings of both former general managers Jerry Angelo and Phil Emery. Their misses in the draft process did not bring enough young talent onto the roster and they compounded those shortcomings by signing free agents, who then add to the age since most free agent signings are in their late-20s or, such as Jared Allen, already on the wrong side of 30.
Which brings us back to the difficulty of the job new GM Ryan Pace has. Pace inherited a roster that was the second-oldest in the league by starters' importance, and an offense and defense that were both bad (offense finished 23rd in points scored, defense finished 31st in points allowed). The units were bad and old, which I shouldn't need to spell out is bad news.
However, Pace has already done his part to turn those tides. Aside from bringing in a coaching staff that appears better suited to teach and coach up the players than the previous regime, he also has begun bringing in younger players.
Some of the oldest starters on the team will not be back: Roberto Garza, age 35 last season, will be replaced by Will Montgomery (32) and possibly by third round pick Hroniss Grasu (23). Lance Briggs, 34, is gone and while his replacement isn't necessarily clear-cut yet, in part because of the transition to a 3-4, Mason Foster (26) was brought in.
They also jettisoned Brandon Marshall (30) and replaced him with Kevin White (22) and Eddie Royal (28). The team let veteran Charles Tillman (33) walk and brought in Alan Ball (30).
Another item to consider is that younger players will be relied on more than their aging counterparts.
For example, Jeremiah Ratliff (33) will be back but rookie Eddie Goldman (21) and a player like Ego Ferguson (23) should see larger roles and therefore, higher AVs.
Safety, while appearing to get older with the addition of Antrel Rolle (32) and the loss of the Chris Conte (25) could also get younger, with Pace bringing in Adrian Amos (22) and then second-year player Brock Vereen (turns 23 in August) possibly getting more playing time.
Matt Forte will turn 30 this December, but his AV might dip as Jeremy Langford (23) and Jacquizz Rodgers (25) take more snaps.
Overall though, this is Pace's uphill battle. The team he took over is old and, while he is making it younger, there are still older players that need to be counted on (Forte, Jay Cutler, Ratliff, Tim Jennings, Rolle, Allen, etc.). Ideally the coaches can get better play from the roster and Pace will continue to bring down the age.
Hopefully Pace was able to find at least three starters from this year's draft, perhaps as many as five. Time will tell, but one thing is for sure: time was not on Pace's side as far as the roster's age went when he took over.