Six months from now, the 2017 regular season will be at a close. Here are ways I hope to be proven wrong between now and then.
#6) I hope I need to apologize to John Fox
Reason: complaining about his conservatism
I feel as if John Fox coaches like he’s afraid. He tends toward playing to keep scores close instead of playing to win. I understand that he seems to be well-regarded by his players, and the man has 15 more years of head coaching experience in the NFL than I do. However, with the Bears he is 6-11 in games decided by only one score, and his record as Chicago’s head coach is…sad.
Conditions: In order to merit an apology, I would like to see John Fox fulfill any two of three goals: winning more close games than he loses, having at least four games where the team establishes an early lead (say by the first half) and actually does control the ball and the clock so that the other team never regains the lead, or being willing to go for it on fourth down when trailing at least half the time.
#5) I hope I need to apologize to Ryan Pace
Reason: complaining about his selection of Kevin White
I want to be clear—I have nothing against Kevin White, the player. As nearly as I can tell, White himself has done nothing wrong at any point. He is engaged in his community, he seems to have a good work ethic, and he seems supportive of his teammates. However, I have been (and remain) critical of Ryan Pace’s decision to select him. Some of this is because I disagree with the idea of selecting a wide receiver so highly. Some of it is because I disagree with the idea of selecting a developmental wide receiver with so little likelihood of success in the NFL so highly. Some of it is also the quality of talent passed on to pick Kevin White.
In the last ten years, only six other wide receivers have been taken with picks between #6 and #10, and these are the men I expect Kevin White to match in performance in order to justify Pace’s investment of the #7 pick: Ted Ginn, Darrius Heyward-Bey, Michael Crabtree, Julio Jones, Tavon Austin, and Mike Evans. I have some small amount of hope that Kevin White will turn out to be a solid contributor. If he instead emerges as a top-level wide receiver in the league, then I will accept that Pace was right about his potential and that I was overly critical of his prospects.
Conditions: My threshold for this apology is White managing 68 combined receptions and rushing attempts, 900 yards from scrimmage, and 5 touchdowns. That level would be the “average” of a typical full season coming from the other six wide receivers who form White’s draft peer group.
#4) I hope I need to apologize to Jeremy Langford
Reason: my constant little criticisms
I admit that I am just a fan—a guy with an internet connection who watches games with enthusiasm. I am not inside of Bears’ practices, and I am certainly not inside the locker rooms or meeting rooms with any of these players. However, I remain baffled by the fact that Jeremy Langford was considered starting running back material heading into the 2016 season.
I mean, I was impressed with the way he stepped up in 2015 when called on, and I felt that he had the potential to be a solid rotational player. However, he seemed to be lacking in the agility he needed to avoid contact and the power he needed to break it. His hands were only so-so (in fact, in 2015, he only caught about half of his targets and suffered 7 drops). Others felt that he was good as a blocker, whereas I only felt that he was better than the other running backs on the team at that time, not actually good on his merits.
When Jordan Howard emerged, I readily dismissed Langford as a stopgap whose time in the sun was over. I have spent most of this off-season sort of expecting word that he has been forced off the roster by a combination of Howard, Cohen, and the others.
Conditions: In order to change my mind, I want Langford to put it all together. His better receiving season was 2016, when he caught more than 70% of his targets with a single drop, and he averaged nearly 7.5 yards per reception. Meanwhile, in 2015 he had 3.6 yards per carry on the ground and with barely more than 9 rushing attempts per game he still came away with 6 rushing touchdowns. If Langford can do something similar in 2017 (call it 10 touches a game with more than 3.5 yards per carry and more than 7 yards per reception, plus 4 or 5 touchdowns) while keeping the drops and the fumbles down, then I will admit that I was too harsh about what he brought to the table.
#3) I hope I need to apologize to Kyle Fuller
Reason: For basically forgetting about him
Bears fans—how would you feel about a defender who had 4 interceptions, 3 forced fumbles, and 10 pass deflections in a season? You know, sort of like a more productive, healthier Tracy Porter? Kyle Fuller’s rookie campaign was remarkable. 2014 Kyle Fuller forced twice as many turnovers as any Bear has in the last two seasons. In 2015, he was not quite as impressive, but he also was targeted less and allowed only 5.7 yards per target (14th among qualifying corners, per Football Outsiders). Then, he was injured and…well…
I’ll be honest, nothing about Fuller’s play merited his dismissal from my mind. He was a solid player. However, the fact that he was not on the field for an entire season made me forget the fact that he had two years as a solid if unspectacular corner. Honestly, I think Fuller faces an uphill battle getting back onto the field, given the competition that was brought in for him, but I want to see him rise to the challenge.
Conditions: If Fuller turns in a year that is close to 2015 (Top 50 in interceptions, Top 60 in passes defensed, Top 20 in yards per target allowed), he is probably worth keeping around. However, if he returns to 2014 form (Top 10 in interceptions, Top 15 in forced fumbles, and Top 50 in passes defensed), he will have earned an apology for the way I essentially wrote him off after an injury.
#2) I hope I need to apologize to Mike Glennon
Reason: for not believing that he is more than a replacement-level quarterback in the NFL.
I have little to no confidence in Mike Glennon. I do not think he has been put in a good situation, and I do not think that he has the talent it will take to overcome that situation. He has a sub-60% completion rating and his career Adjusted Net Yards per Attempt would rank him 25th among active quarterbacks. Ryan Fitzpatrick and Brian Hoyer have arguably better stats than he does.
More than that, I have watched enough of Glennon play that I feel he is an almost perfect backup quarterback. He doesn’t take huge risks and he executes a game plan, but he does not seem to be more than that. He seems to be a fine guy and I certainly don’t envy him the awkward spot he is in (the paycheck he is getting for that awkwardness should take some of the sting out, though). I really, really hope I am wrong on this one.
Conditions: If Mike Glennon has a passer rating of 88 (ahead of Jameis Winston’s 86.1 for 2016 but behind Andy Dalton’s 91.8), I’ll be thrilled. If he manages 5.88 ANY/A (Cutler’s career average in a metric with huge penalties for interceptions and sacks), I’ll delightedly apologize. While those markers do not capture all of the ins and outs of quarterback play, they give the ballpark of what I am looking for—I want to see Glennon provide competent play.
#1) I hope I need to apologize to Dowell Loggains
Reason: for wanting him gone at the end of 2016.
It was obvious after 2016 that the Bears were going to be in the quarterback market. I felt that they should go after someone in the second round of the draft, and Ryan Pace disagreed with that. Fair enough. However, I was concerned from the beginning with the prospect of Dowell Loggains being the man to help develop any new quarterback. I was also concerned with the way Loggains abandoned the best parts of his offense (i.e. the run game) and instead focused on putting three different quarterbacks throwing to special teamers in the position where they were always throwing it.
I have already dismissed the idea that Loggains had to abandon the run when he did due to the scoreboard, and I simply doubt that Loggains has the ability to be an effective offensive coordinator in the NFL. I think whatever his other talents might be, he’s over his head. Last year, the Bears were 21st in 3rd down efficiency, 26th in points per drive, and 30th in scoring efficiency.
Conditions: Obviously, the easiest way for Loggains to prove me wrong would be to put a top offense on the field. If the Bears are Top 10 in scoring efficiency, points per game, or any related category, then I’ll have to admit that I sold Loggains short. However, if Loggains simply does something with the play balance (380 rushing plays compared to 559 passing attempts, with 201 of those rushes coming on 1st and 10), it will be a step in the right direction. What I’m really looking for is a sign that the man developing Trubisky is competent, and seeing significant progress on the offense will be key.
Those are the apologies I hope to give to the Chicago Bears after 2017. What are yours? Tell us below. Also, tell me which apology you think is the most likely to be needed.
Which apology from the article do you think is the likeliest?
This poll is closed
John Fox (conservatism)
Ryan Pace (picking Kevin White)
Jeremy Langford (general criticism)
Kyle Fuller (writing him off)
Mike Glennon (doubting his merit)
Dowell Loggains (wanting him fired)