You couldn't avoid the hoopla if you tried.
With former Bear Alshon Jeffery's Eagles playing in the Super Bowl this Sunday, questions were always going to surround his departure from Chicago last off-season. Why couldn't the two parties make it work? Where did the bridge sever at first? Do the Bears and Jeffery miss each other?
The conversation has centered mostly around these Jeffery topics, at least in Chicago. In Jeffery's case, you can bet he's fully squared away and focused on beating Patriots' coverages in U.S. Bank Stadium for his first championship. Any thoughts of a less than cordial previous goodbye are stowed away in irrelevancy.
The same goes for the Bears with Matt Nagy. Halas Hall is moving in a different direction and already operating well in what they must undertake in this off-season to reach Jeffery's Eagles' level. Ryan Pace and company aren't thinking about how much they miss Jeffery, if at all. They're focused on the here and now to improve their team.
Two exes in a relationship that eventually soured, now finally, mercifully, and healthily moving on.
Let's get into the mailbag.
Alshon didn’t put up No. 1 receiver stats, and didn’t receive a No. 1 receiver contract, so was Pace wrong not to sign him to a contract for No. 1 receiver money? - Silence_Dogood
While yes, Jeffery produced more like a middle-end No. 2 wide receiver according to his less than 50 percent catch rate in taking a backseat to star tight Zach Ertz: this isn't about how Jeffery produced in Philadelphia in 2017.
As I've often maintained in the past approximate year, Jeffery and the Bears were better off without each other instead of unhappily together. Sometimes that's how relationships and egos work in the NFL, with both sides having their arms stubbornly crossed, contrary to popular belief.
Pace was never going to consider paying Jeffery any piece of his now long-term $52 million dollar extension with the Eagles that has $27 million guaranteed. The Bears didn't trust him enough. Jeffery knew he wasn't going to get that money from the Bears and knew they didn't see him as a reliable foundational piece of their future. When Pace decided not to give Jeffery an extension following the 2015 season, one that would've been much more affordable according to the 27-year-old's services at a reported $10 million, the lit match to the bridge was set.
Neither side was going to tug on the rope hard enough to get past an impasse again after that.
With that in mind, I've always liked Jeffery. I think he's a fine football player and fairly decent player who can make circus plays not every pass target on the field could dream of.
I'm still of the mindset that the Bears and Pace made the right decision with him, though. If they were going to keep Jeffery, they would've preemptively extended him early. In the pure context of last March, it was over and should've been over. To an organization in Chicago seeking true reliable playmakers on the outside, they took the tremendous short term hit of losing Jeffery in their offense, but aren't damaged long term.
Jeffery isn't worth being the ninth-highest paid receiver in the NFL.
Who will contribute more to the Bears' Superbowl run? Leonard Floyd or Adam Shaheen? - Red_Hair_White_Sox
I assume by Super Bowl run, you mean if all goes well with Mitchell Trubisky, Nagy, and Pace's overall plan in the next few seasons. And, in accordance with Chicago tradition, the first of many titles, correct?
We'll limit it to that hallowed first potential title run here. I know many will accuse me of bias given that he is my son, but I do think Floyd contributes more to a drought-breaking Bears' championship.
From my vantage point, I expect both Floyd and Shaheen to be at minimum, above average starters for an extensive time in Chicago. I'd go as far as to say I see Shaheen being a star, top-10 tight end for most of the duration of his professional career. I could see the Bears building their offense around him as a No. 1 pass target, with him owning the middle of the field. If you think that sounds ludicrous, look at the current landscape of the position in the NFL and how much up and coming talent there is. (Hint: it's not a pretty sight.) Asserting a bright future for Shaheen isn't far-fetched.
Floyd, however, plays the more important position as a pass rusher (even though that’s not all he does) and the Bears need him to be the dominant force that wrecks offensive game-plans. Pass rushers in conjunction with great quarterback play are what win championships. In the most cliche terms, they need him to be a "Monster of the Midway." Otherwise what does it matter what else happens defensively for Vic Fangio's group?
While many have discussed bolstering the Bears' edge and outside linebacker position, especially due to the age of guys like Willie Young and health of Pernell McPhee, that construct falls apart without Floyd. The Bears could get a franchise pass rusher all they want with their first-round pick. They could acquire decent depth in free agency too. If Floyd doesn't live up to his immense expectations as a former top-10 pick, that improvement goes by the wayside.
Acting as the Bears, you have another hole to fill if Floyd fails within a closing window known as Trubisky's rookie deal over the next four seasons. Not exactly an ideal scenario to scramble around fixing for.
To this level, Floyd is the only defensive first-round pick of Pace's Bears through three years. If I'd have to estimate, Pace is going to add his second hopeful defensive stud in April. Both of these players together, especially Floyd right now with him being 26 by the start of next season: have to be beyond consistently disruptive if the Bears have any prayer of bringing a Lombardi trophy back to Halas Hall.
Would love to hear your thoughts Edmunds. Specifically, if the Bears do draft him, what's the best way to use him? Is there a "pure" edge at 8 who's better at rushing the passer? #AskWCG— Matt Lee (@ActualLeeMatt) January 31, 2018
Building off that partner for Floyd idea and another all-around stud in Virginia Tech's Tremaine Edmunds. If we're being frank, if Edmunds is sitting there at No. 8 overall (or if Pace trades up in trademark fashion), I'd bet money he's the Bears' selection regardless of on-paper fit in college production. He fits their profile.
A guy such as Marcus Davenport is an intriguing edge rush talent and someone I'd have no problem with on any football team. Still, he's not as great of a player at this time than Edmunds. Davenport is incredibly raw and will take time to develop, time the Bears don't have. Assuming NC State's Bradley Chubb is gone at No. 8, there is no other pure edge player worth that selection. Even if Chubb is somehow still available, I'd still take Edmunds where the Bears sit.
For those of you who aren't aware, Edmunds was an off-ball linebacker in college. He played like a future NFL All-Pro given the ACC competition, his athletic ability, closing speed, instincts, and overall statistical numbers. But it was all off-ball. He's not a natural outside linebacker or pass rusher, which most would agree fits the Bears more suitably. Most of his 10 career sacks at Virginia Tech came off the blitz, not in prototypical one-on-one battles regular pass rushers are expected to win.
I for one, don't believe that's an issue when taking into consideration Edmunds' talent, age, likely immediate impact, and upside. The 6-foot-5, 250 pound still-only 19-year-old come draft time, can be deployed all over a defense with a brilliant, patient coach in tow. Now as we all know, Fangio can be a bit gruff and honest as a member of the Bears. To say he isn't a good teacher - especially for his outside linebackers individually - would be mistaken. A malleable gifted 20-year-old (by the start of the season) is someone the veteran coach would relish in having reach his potential.
Edmunds has the necessary closing speed from any part of the field, which is why he draws comparisons to Brian Urlacher. He's explosive and rarely out of position. He's intelligent and often reads plays beforehand to blow them up before they start. Given what I expect will be tremendous test results come Scouting Combine time, he'll certainly be able to be deployed all over the Bears' defense in this hypothetical scenario too. That's what athletic dynamos are capable of.
I'd compare how the Bears would use Edmunds to Floyd now, but Floyd actually rushed the passer full-time in college in addition to playing all over the field in his career. Edmunds never enjoyed that distinction. That'll make his transition to the NFL more difficult. Not out of the question success-wise, just more difficult.
Think of Edmunds instead as a more versatile Floyd that would be less of a pass rusher, but a more complete football player in this power duo situation. Two Swiss Army Knives Fangio would mix around with to confuse offenses on a regular basis. Where will either line up? Are they dropping back? Are they rushing the passer?
Having two match-up issue, match-up swirling weapons like that can make a good Bears defense, a winning defense.
Under John Fox the Bears had a policy of no media talking to assistant coaches, only coordinators could talk to the media. Will the new staff have the same policy? Or is this a Pace thing? Which assistant coaches would you be interested in talking to and learning more about given the chance, and why? - TJGOBIG
I should maintain that while it was extremely rare for an assistant coach to be made available to the Bears' media throughout Fox's tenure, to my knowledge they were always given microphone time at least once during training camp. That happened this past summer with former receivers coach Zach Azzani when he spoke to us, for example. It wasn't always all bad with Fox as perceptions seemed from the outside looking in (caveats included).
To expand upon that idea in the Nagy sense, only a few weeks ago you already saw the new coach's full staff of coordinators in offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich, the returning Fangio, and special teams coordinator in Chris Tabor introduced. That would've been unprecedented for the Fox era. In fact, it was, as Fox's main staff of Adam Gase, Fangio, and Jeff Rodgers wasn't introduced until May of 2015: approximately four months after Fox was hired.
What that means for the Nagy era in terms of accessibility to individual position coaches is too early to tell without speculating. I don't expect the Bears to fully pull back the reins of access in every which way. They prefer Halas Hall to be a bunker of their information at times, as many know. It allows them a greater sense of comfort in their football and overall operations. That's a Pace mantra through and through.
A higher degree of transparency from the coaching staff and better media relations in comparison, is a facet I could easily foresee the Bears enacting, though. Early matters bode well. Nagy seems like the type of coach that enjoys energetically answering all questions in detail and putting on a happy face. Someone who is authentic and enthusiastic about the job at hand. That could be merely him trying to win over the court of early public opinion in Chicago in a honeymoon phase. That enthusiasm goes over well in any event.
Let's assume then, since he does possess some pull at Bears' headquarters, that Nagy does allow more position coach access because of his demeanor. I'd be utterly fascinated by an in-depth conversation with offensive line coach Harry Hiestand with access. Hiestand's reputation as one of the best and most experienced offensive line coaches in football precedes itself making this a clear choice.
I'd want to pick Hiestand's brain as to all the intricacies of the game up front that I could. What's his favorite run blocking philosophy? How does he begin developing a young lineman from the ground up as he has previously with Zack Martin and Ronnie Stanley? What are the core tenets he constantly preaches to his unit, and how he relates to them?
A coach in the mold of Hiestand has seen every battle in terms of the game of football. Anyone could become that much more intelligent as a reporter, fan, and probably coach as well. I'd imagine nothing would surprise him as far as a question with his gathered internal knowledge.
You see, I don't care about baseball in the slightest. Definitively choosing either Chicago professional team feels like an exercise in futility.
Why, you ask?
I don't find baseball compelling. I'll gladly head out to Wrigley Field or U.S Cellular Field to hang out in beautiful weather while having some drinks during the summer. But, I don't actively watch the game while present. It's more of an activity to do with friends and loved ones than something I enjoy partaking in as purely a sport. Entertainment comes from the people I'm with, instead of the product on the field.
I also don't think I could emotionally invest myself in a 162-game season, nor do I want to. I'm aware that many baseball fans don't actually watch every game. That'd be insanity. For me as a person who would be a fan, I'd want to attempt to catch the majority of the White Sox of Cubs' schedule. I tried back in 2006 with the Cubs. It wasn't them, it was me. With time constraints now, that's impossible.
To that end, I'll say that I did root against the Cubs this past October in the playoffs. I was in their corner in 2016 but now I'm not particularly fond of how sizable the egos have become on the North Side for anyone that associates with the team from players down to fans. It's a little much for my tastes. Ironically, I live on the North Side so it should've been an easy fit.
Long answer to a short question: I'd pick the White Sox by default. I couldn't care less overall.
I won't lie. I'll dearly miss live football for the next six to seven months after the Super Bowl this Sunday.
Robert Zeglinski is the Bears beat writer for The Rock River Times, an editor for Windy City Gridiron, and is a contributor to The Athletic Chicago. You can follow him on Twitter @RobertZeglinski.