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Fixing the Bears: What’s Next?

In this series, Windy City Gridiron offers solutions. To kick things off, Josh offers six moves to make this offseason

Rich Campbell column Armando L. Sanchez/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

So, Denmaster Ken Mitchell proposed an elegant, simple premise:

“Through some act of providence, I (WCG staffer) have been hired as team president and given 100 percent control of all football operations. What specific offseason moves do I make? Who do I fire? Who do I bring in? What roster moves do I make?”

With what I would describe as an unsatisfactory amount of housecleaning already taking place at Halas Hall, I have the privilege of tackling this question first.

MOVE #1: Step Into the Future

Right now, the Bears are stretched pretty thin for the 2020 draft--#43, #50, a compensatory 4th-rounder, the Raiders’ 5th-rounder, their own 5th-rounder and 6th-rounder, the Eagles’ 6th-rounder, and their own 7th-rounder. My first act will be to thin those ranks even more.

It’s hard to discredit the notion that new GMs do struggle a bit in their first drafts, and so I want this first draft for the new general manager to have training wheels on. I would therefore try to trade #50 to some team for a 2021 first-rounder. That’s more or less the going rate, and I’ll probably be able to find a taker--either New York team and any of the Florida teams seem like possibilities. It doesn’t really matter, though, because it will be setting up the new GM for future success.

A single second-rounder is not going to turn this team around in a year, and I want the new GM to get the new scouting team in place for a year before determining the future of the franchise.

MOVE #2: Finish the Purge

The specific prompt from Ken made it clear that the staffer in question would be given control of “football ops only from Ted Phillips on down.” My read of that is that Ted Phillips is not safe, so he’s gone. So is Ryan Pace. Josh Lucas, the Director of Player Personnel who Pace brought with him from the Saints, is gone. Mark Sadowski, who worked with Pace as an area scout for the Saints before moving over to the Bears (and who seems to have been promoted within the organization on the basis of this familiarity) is gone. My guess is that most of the other staffers will be gone eventually, but these are the fewest moves I will accept.

Nagy will be retained for one more year, with the ability to rearrange his staff, under clear instructions to fix his own mess. However, he will not be saddled with Trubisky as his only option at quarterback. More on that later.

MOVE #3: Assemble an actual 21st century front office

The Bears do not have an analytics department. They did, but in a classic example of misunderstanding cause and effect, they scaled back on analytics when they fired Phil Emery. I want Corey Krawiec (Manager of Player Evaluation and Analytics for the Ravens), but I’d take Brian Burke (founder Advanced Football Analytics) or either of Jon Liu and James Gilman from the Eagles. I’ll listen to other names, but those are my leading candidates. I want a head of analytics position on par with the director of pro personnel.

Likewise, and this seems like a joke but I am strangely serious--I want an internship set up with Illinois Math and Science Academy. I want any decision made by the front office to get feedback from a know-it-all teen who actually understands probability, logic, and math. To be clear--the GM does not pick the intern; IMSA does that. This is not looking for a lackey or a sycophant. Instead, I want the GM to be reminded on a semi-regular basis that he is probably not the smartest person in the room, and as a college professor and debate coach I can speak to the fact that facing the derision of kids who at least think they know more than you does a great job of keeping you self-honest. Worst-case scenario, it trains someone in the profession and offers some good PR from time to time. Best-case scenario, it informs one or two decisions a year in a meaningful way.

My new Director of Analytics can assemble a staff as desired, again as if it’s a full department. The only requirements will be that it cannot be only prior coworkers. There needs to be cross-pollination involved.

MOVE #4: Thank Certain Players for Their Contributions

As most people know, when players leave they are always thanked for what they have given the organization. I would therefore extend heartfelt thanks to Danny Trevathan, Kyle Long, and Chase Daniel. Clinton-Dix would be offered a contract at roughly the same level he received this year ($3mil), to take or leave as he desires.

Trevathan only played in nine games, and the Bears have Roquan Smith (who cost a top ten pick and is supposedly good at this) locked up. When Trevathan was in, the Bears allowed 106 yards per game; when he was out they allowed 112 yards per game. This is despite the fact that Trevathan had the benefit of Hicks playing with him for 4 of those 9 games, and Hicks only appeared in one contest without Trevathan. Meanwhile, I do try to lock up Nick Kwiatkoski before I make it clear that Trevathan is gone. Still, I cannot imagine a bidding war over Kwit, and the second inside linebacker in a 3-4 is not a tough position to replace if need be.

Long was great, but he’s old and injured. It’s time to move on. Chase Daniel is a victim of the Quarterback Project.

MOVE #5: The Quarterback Project

I pick up Trubisky’s team option. I don’t like doing it, but the way first-round contracts are worked in the NFL, picking up the option is purely to the team’s advantage. If his agent calls about an extension, I actually laugh at him. Better, I get the teen intern from Move 3 to mock him for me.

Next, I need to find a free agent quarterback to compete with Trubisky. This shouldn’t be hard, as there are five quarterbacks with a higher DVOA than Trubisky who will be free agents in 2020 (Ryan Tannehill, Teddy Bridgewater, Case Keenum, Jameis Winston, and Matt Moore). Marcus Mariota was actually worse than Trubisky from that perspective, but he might be worth a look at the right price. All of those players are also free agent quarterbacks with a higher ANY/A than Trubisky on at least 100 passing attempts except for Moore, who misses the cut by 9 attempts (but otherwise blows past Trubisky’s ANY/A mark). Actually, about the only free agent quarterback who is demonstrably worse than Trubisky is Kyle Allen.

Huh. This is a pretty good year to find competition for a busted quarterback.

My guess is that Tannehill and Bridgewater are going to get starter money, and I’m not interested at that level. Keenum or Moore are probably the actual level I am targeting, here. I am absolutely not handing out a contract that anoints a player as the starter.

Finally, I tell Matt Nagy that the expected 4th-round compensatory pick is his to find a quarterback in the draft he thinks can compete for the starting position from Day 1 and can save Nagy’s job. If he passes on the opportunity, then I find someone. Maybe Nathan Stanley or some equivalent, but this is not about finding a guy who will “grow” into the position. This is about finding actual competition, now, to step up. If Nagy wants to trade this 4th-rounder (and only this 4th-rounder) for a player some other team has on a roster, that’s fine. It’s his job on the line.

In any event, this should provide three quarterbacks to look at during the offseason and even during the regular season. Maybe even the preseason.

MOVE #6: Find A New GM

I am not a football general manager. I’m a guy with an internet connection. I need an actual replacement for Ryan Pace. While I might retain some title like “senior executive assistant consultant for football quality supervision’, someone needs to be brought in to actually run the team. In a perfect world, I somehow lure Ozzie Newsome out of retirement with a big enough check. I don’t see that happening, however.

Instead, I take a long look at Ed Dodd (Assistant General Manager for the Colts, former executive for the Seahawks), Scott Fitterer (Co-Director of Player Personnel for the Seahawks), and--as my X-factor--Louis Riddick. I actually tend to disagree with some of Riddick’s opinions, which is what makes him so interesting to me. In any event, the goal is to find a new GM who will take over the reins of the team with the goal of actually competing.

This is not a rebuild. This is not a reboot. This is an effort to make a team competitive. It doesn’t take long (witness the 49ers), so Chicago should be able to manage it. Is it possible that my first five moves will scare away top GM prospects? Sure. However, there are only 31 of these jobs available, so I will probably be able to find someone willing to accept a few constraints.