After a heartbreaking loss to the Lions, barring a miraculous late season run, a still relatively new tradition will continue for some regarding the Chicago Bears: firing up mock drafts in mid-November.
Yes, at 3-7 the Bears' hopes of making the postseason are miniscule. For the fourth straight season, even with a Brett Hundley-led Packers team "standing in their way", Chicago is likely on it's way towards another last place NFC North finish. For the seventh straight season, there won't be any meaningful January football played on the lakefront.
A still limited offense that gets into "lulls" and has "siestas" as John Fox put it, is the primary culprit of a 3-7 record through 11 weeks of the season. With Leonard Floyd now likely out until 2018 (thank goodness there's no ACL tear), and a defense beginning to feel the brunt of carrying a team, it's difficult to envision the Bears pulling themselves out of their malaise enough to win more than two games the rest of the year, if that.
Still, there's a bit of joy to pull out of the rest of yet another lost Bears season. Try and have a glass half full mentality here. For as much success as Chicago doesn't enjoy right now, all of these repetitions matter to the face of the franchise in Mitchell Trubisky. This is where he gets his seasoning. This is where the launch platform of his development into a hopeful superstar that can carry the organization happens.
Even if the Bears as a whole are currently faltering, the more Trubisky steps into the limelight, the better the chances of looking at mock drafts in the late fall ends soon.
At any rate, there's a lot to parse through pre-Thanksgiving as the Bears visit the terrifying 9-1 Philadelphia Eagles to close the holiday weekend this Sunday. My advice? Try and, uh, enjoy your time with your family before then.
Let's open up this week's mailbag.
Is this coaching staff helping or hurting Trubisky's development? -Jacqui13
I don't always like to lead these bad boys with a softball, but yes, Fox and Dowell Loggains are limiting Mitchell Trubisky's natural playmaking ability and are not consistently putting him in position to succeed. That much is obvious.
Does Trubisky still have issues with pocket presence, as he occasionally panics instead of stepping up, doesn't throw the ball away when he gets the opportunity, or staying calm in a well-designed pocket? Yes.
Does Trubisky miss reads on his progressions more often than you'd like? Yes.
Are these aspects of his game correctable? Yes, because he's a 23-year-old rookie quarterback getting seasoning now, for as much as he's handicapped.
The intricacies are what Trubisky will ideally refine in due time. But he's shown already now, that he's capable of making multiple level reads and throws, adjusting well to exotic blitzes designed to throw him off base, and that he can improvise to make a play when called upon.
I don't believe it's a stretch to say Trubisky could handle more formations, play variety, and actually run the offense at times to call his own plays at the line. But for whatever reason, the Bears don't trust him and refuse to give him the keys to the car, maintaining a tight vice grip.
Loggains and company started last week's game against the Lions very well by their standards. The Bears used slow-developing plays, run-pass options, implemented a variety of route trees, and - gasp - even threw on first down. All on script.
The problem is what happens when a defense such as Detroit adjusts after said initial script. Chicago's coaching staff doesn't have good enough contingencies in place to help Trubisky on the fly. For as inexperienced as he is with but six starts under his belt, they could indeed do a better job of preparation in the face of defenses that they know will throw him for a loop. Or even, merely have his best weapons on the field (Adam Shaheen, Tarik Cohen, Jordan Howard) when he needs them in crunch time. Simplified, actually coach and make your quarterback comfortable first.
Because of this lack of foresight, you get scoreless, punt-filled third quarters. A quarterback is then thrown off rhythm and the entire offense is out of sync. Always the recipe for offensive success.
The excuse of a lack of playmakers is overblown. The excuse of inexperience is a farce. The Bears have enough to assist Trubisky. But the air of indignity and stubborn incompetence runs deep at Halas Hall.
If it is a foregone conclusion that Fox is gone, why keep him until the end of the season? It seems like it would be the perfect time to make Fangio the interim head coach to see how he does. It almost makes too much sense. My fear is that it is not a forgone conclusion and we are allowing Fox to play out the year to see if he fulfills certain criteria. - JDelly
I assure you, this time around, it is all but certain that Fox won't be roaming the Bears sideline in 2018. Unless the Bears go 6-0 down the stretch, make the playoffs, go on a run, and experience dramatic offensive improvement, Fox is a lame duck in waiting. I'd venture to say the relationship between Ryan Pace and Fox isn't on stable ground as well - not the recipe to stick around if you're the one clearly not in the favor of ownership like Fox is.
It's a repeated diatribe but the only reason Fox is still coaching the Bears is that the McCaskey family doesn't veer away from tradition i.e. they never fire a head coach before season's end. They never have. They never will.
If they didn't get rid of Marc Trestman after back-to-back 50-point blowouts to the Patriots and Packers in 2014, followed by in-fighting and endless drama in the late season, do you really think Chicago would get rid of the inept Fox that at least gives the Bears an occasional illusion of competence (his trademark?) Not a chance.
It's interesting to me that people that have this ideal of Vic Fangio as a mastermind defensive coordinator or even top head coach candidate, though. Even after he lets the horrendous Packers' Hundley tear his defense up, while the young quarterback struggles mightily against everyone else he plays. Even as he plays a conservative defensive game plan that lets Matthew Stafford carve the Bears like a Thanksgiving turkey.
Barring a head coaching hire that accommodates Fangio purely, which the Bears may well elect to do, he's also gone. They know what they have in their defensive coordinator. An interim hire isn't going to convince Chicago to do everything to make him stay. Or for him to sign a new contract with the organization.
In the immortal words of "Macho Man" Randy Savage: you may not like, but accept it.
What wide receiver that is available next year in free agency, trade, or the draft would be your choice to infuse some talent to the position? What coach that will be available next year fits Mitch-a-palooza the best? - Butlacher34
I've had a few ideas regarding Bears receivers and coach matches that I'll elaborate much more on in the near future, but here's an early look at a few names I see at the top of the landscape of both these markets.
Head coaching candidates
- Pete Carmichael, Saints offensive coordinator: To me, hiring Carmichael away to take Trubisky to the next level is the most logical move Pace could make. By season's end due to the Saints' success, Carmichael will be as hot of a commodity as current 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan was with the Falcons last year. Plus, for you Fangio heads, he doesn't have many defensive ties or friends of his own to bring in as his defensive coordinator. Sean Payton receives entirely too much credit for New Orleans' latest resurgence. Carmichael would be a slam dunk.
- Jim Bob Cooter, Lions offensive coordinator: In the past two seasons, Matthew Stafford has been one of the NFL's best quarterbacks. He's been the primary reason Detroit made the playoffs last year and why they're again a playoff contender at the moment. Consistency, however, was always an issue for Stafford. Enter easily one of the youngest candidates in the 33-year-old Cooter with his mentorship, and you've seen a franchise quarterback play efficiently like he never has before. Sure, the Lions ground game is less than ideal balance-wise. But Cooter knows how to maximize his players, and most importantly in the Bears' case: can clearly tutor a quarterback to have him grow up.
- Jim Harbaugh, Michigan head coach: Any time the Wolverines aren't meeting the exceedingly high standards in Ann Arbor, there's going to be rampant speculation about Harbaugh returning to the NFL. Right now, this move is highly unlikely given how much money Harbaugh would have to give back to Michigan per his original seven-year, $35 million contract. Harbaugh would have to be compensated quite handsomely to walk away from a cushy situation with his alma mater. But this isn't about likelihood for the Bears. It's about fit. I've discussed at length before how crucial it is the Bears use these next four years - the last of Trubisky's rookie contract - to go and win a championship. After they have to extend Trubisky (if he pans out) and pay other core players such as Jordan Howard and Floyd, a tightened salary cap will make future contention that much more difficult. There isn't anyone better that can make the Bears immediately relevant in 2018 and maximize that window than Harbaugh - long-term viability be damned.
1. Calvin Ridley, Alabama: The best receiver in this year's draft would be dynamite and create an impeccable duo with Trubisky. This is a polished player that does everything well from polished route running, to explosive plays over the top and after the catch, to being the possession guy an offense needs in traffic and on third down. If the Bears chose to draft Ridley wherever they select in the top-10 in April, I suspect there would virtually be no qualms about the selection outside of neglecting another major need.
2. Paul Richardson, Seahawks: Richardson isn't talked about nearly enough as a sleeper in March's free agency class. The 25-year-old is one of the biggest reasons Russell Wilson has been able to enjoy an MVP-caliber season in Seattle. Since the Seahawks are currently tight up against the cap with recent extensions to Wilson and a heavy investment in their superb defensive core, Seattle would have to make significant changes to keep Richardson from testing the open market. Richardson is an ascending player any quarterback could trust without much apprehension that will prove to be an incredible value for whoever deems him worthy of a deal in free agency. He'd be an excellent downfield weapon in Chicago.
3. Davante Adams, Packers: Too many see Adams as purely a product of working with Aaron Rodgers in his career. The 24-year-old has 18 touchdowns in the last season and a half. You don't attain those kinds of statistics without a little individual ability of your own. Plus, in Rodgers' absence this season while having a backup quarterback throw to him of late, Adams has 13 receptions on 18 targets for 216 yards and a score in his last two games. If the Bears were able to poach away Adams from their long time rival - who will no doubt be looking for a huge payday some suspect Green Bay won't shell out for - then that would be a coup.
What offensive philosophies, systems, and schemes especially, best fit the talent and direction you see for the players we have and the type of players we seem to draft/sign? - RoamingBear
Recently, I've been trying to figure out exactly what the Bears would call their current offense or what scheme they would derive their rules from. Because aside from the frustrating predictability at times, Loggains' offense uses a lot of spread concepts. Howard, a star tailback, ideally runs out of the shotgun. There aren't many timing routes. If Chicago used more run-pass options, it would very much remind me of a simplified but focused high pace college scheme.
With that being said, I'd like the Bears to model themselves off of what the Eagles and Rams have done for their attacks. Both head coaches in Los Angeles' Sean McVay and Philadelphia's Doug Pedersen have West Coast backgrounds but have added a necessary wrinkle to let their young quarterbacks in Jared Goff and Carson Wentz thrive: college options.
In addition to easy reads and completions set for both the big armed Goff and Wentz, the Rams and Eagles run a variety of misdirections, screens, and off-balance formations decided to continually out leverage and out man defenses. Power offenses with quick passing built in. It's not rare, but also not all often that Goff and Wentz are doing the classic pocket passing while going through progressions in the mold of a Tom Brady. These offenses aren't built that way.
For example, the most popular concept and formation for the Eagles this year has been "Pony" which is called that because Philadelphia lines up two tailbacks to flank Wentz on both sides. Wentz then has the option to get his runners the ball quickly into space behind an offensive line that excels at traps and pulls, fake it, or rifle the ball downfield to playmakers like Alshon Jeffery - a freakish monstrosity of a West Coast attack only in name as it evolves by the week.
I would love to see the Bears use Howard and Cohen in a similar fashion with Trubisky next year, regardless of head coach, and put the onus in their signal caller's hands while simplifying his reads. Make the franchise comfortable. Utilize your tailbacks at a greater clip of responsibility. Go the way of a hybrid college offense like the Eagles and Rams have done before the rest of the NFL catches up.
Robert Zeglinski is the Bears beat writer, an editor for Windy City Gridiron, and contributor to The Athletic Chicago. You can follow him on Twitter @RobertZeglinski.