Bears

With Connor Barth waived, trying to make sense of why the Bears signed him in the first place

With Connor Barth waived, trying to make sense of why the Bears signed him in the first place

The Bears addressed an open wound at the core of their special teams with the waiver of kicker Connor Barth and signing of former Kansas City Chiefs kicker Cairo Santos.

Not to spend too much time looking in the rearview mirror, but a question still lingers, the kind of inevitable second-guessing that follows any failed personnel decision, because so many of those moves made a lot of sense at the time: What were the Bears thinking when they opted at the end of the 2016 preseason to replace Robbie Gould with Barth?

An easy question to ask at this point, with Barth missing a game-tying field-goal try from 46 yards to leave the final Bears-Lions score at 27-24 on Sunday. It’s also easy to forget that Gould’s exit traced to a missed 36-yarder for a win over San Francisco to reach .500, followed a week later by a 50-yard miss for a tie to reach overtime against Washington. Even though Gould made his final seven field-goal attempts of that season, he missed two PATs during the 2016 preseason, reopening a confidence wound and sealing the deal, because when the head coach loses confidence in a player, that player is gone.

Easiest to forget, particularly right now, is that Barth converted 15 of 16 field-goal attempts in 2014 with the Denver Broncos — coached by John Fox. Barth was successful that year on four of his five attempts from beyond 40 yards, a range at which Sunday’s miss against Detroit left him 6-for-10 as a Bear.

Jettisoning Gould two years into the four-year, $15 million contract he signed in late 2013 wasn’t entirely about money. But it remains head-scratching if only because Gould was successful on 84.6 percent of his field goals in 2015. But in fairness to Fox, general manager Ryan Pace and Bears evaluators, Barth had been successful on 86.5 percent of his field goals (115-for-133) in the five seasons before the Bears signed him.

Can facing the Lions for the second time benefit Mitchell Trubisky?

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USA Today

Can facing the Lions for the second time benefit Mitchell Trubisky?

The Bears’ trip to Detroit this weekend carries a little extra intrigue for Mitchell Trubisky, not only because he’s coming off the best game of his career but because it represents his first opportunity to play a team for the second time in a season. 

Trubisky completed 18 of 30 passes for 179 yards with a touchdown, 53 rushing yards and a lost fumble on Nov. 19 against the Detroit Lions at Soldier Field. It was a decent game for the rookie quarterback punctuated by his 19-yard scramble on fourth down that set up Connor Barth’s missed game-tying field goal. 

That game was always going to be something on which Trubisky could build going into Saturday’s date with the Lions at Ford Field, though it doesn’t necessarily give him an edge in facing the same defense twice, offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains said. 

“There’s a record of how that defensive coordinator played you for the first time,” Loggains said. “… We get a lot of different coverages the first time playing a rookie quarterback, and with our run game, people trying to stop those things. Now for the first time he’s going to get to see a defensive coordinator twice. He’s obviously going to be able to study how they played him last time.”

Lions defensive coordinator Teryl Austin — who’s been the recipient of some head coaching buzz — will likely give Trubisky a different look this weekend than he did in mid-November. But as opposed to Trubisky’s previous nine starts, in which defenses frequently showed him looks they hadn’t put on tape before, the Bears’ rookie will at least have a general idea of the tendencies of his opponent based on experience. 

For what it’s worth, Carson Wentz generally had more success when facing an opponent for the second time in a season as a rookie last year. His passer ratings in those six games against divisional opponents:

Washington: 77.7, 86.7
Dallas: 91.4, 93.7
New York: 64.5, 70.1

If the same happens for Trubisky on Saturday, it would represent another step in the right direction in his long-term growth. 

“It will be good because we’ve got a lot of film on them especially from the matchup we played them,” Trubisky said. “So preparation is very important this week, just getting a good tell on them, what they’ve been running.  So really first, second down and third down is going to be crucial. We want to stay on the field to again convert third downs and come away with more points. Last time a couple times the penalties got us and that one turnover. 

“So we’re just going to take care of the football and play our game and hopefully we can take all of the positives we did from the last game and carry them over to this game coming up.”

Devin Hester leaves more than Bears, NFL records behind

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AP

Devin Hester leaves more than Bears, NFL records behind

This isn’t about Devin Hester and the Hall of Fame (can we say, “gimme?” As longtime pigskin scribe Ira Miller once said of that standard, “If they wrote the history of pro football, would they have to mention you by name?” Hester, yes, obviously). It’s about the guy, one of the quiet gentle spirits you feel fortunate to have had come through your work life.

Like so many things, when you think of Devin Hester, you get a collection of snapshots, really fun ones in this case. Well, mostly fun; sometimes “fun” doesn’t totally apply when you’re thinking about the end of something that made your Bears Sundays, well, fun.

Snapshots like…

…knowing you didn’t leave the TV when punting situations came for opponents, or didn’t take too long getting back to your seat when Devin was going to return a kickoff. Those were plays when fans sometimes dawdled in the kitchen. Before Devin…

…the touchdown return to start the 2006 Super Bowl, one of those moments with an almost cartoon quality, the roadrunner moving like someone had hit the fast-forward button for one guy and left the other 21 on the field looking like they were running in peanut butter…

…talking to Devin about whether he could put into words a kind of genius that nobody else had. What did he see, what was he thinking as he made one of those returns that simply defied human physics. He thought for a second, then just sort of laughed and said simply, “I see colors. I run away from the ones that aren’t mine.” Simple, right?...

…the Bears announcing that GM Jerry Angelo had used a second-round pick in the 2006 draft on a cornerback out of Miami. Only Hester wasn’t really a cornerback, wasn’t really anything just because he could do so many things well – returner, DB, receiver, running back – that his coaches moved him around. So what did the Bears really get? That, no one could have remotely predicted…

…the emotion that included tears when Devin learned that the Bears had gotten rid of Lovie Smith, the only coach Hester had played for. When you think pro football as being just a business, guess again. Devin had to be talked out of quitting the game that day, and it really was never quite the same for him after that, in Atlanta, Baltimore or Seattle…

…how Devin took the shredding for his shortcomings as a receiver and heard how Smith and the coaches were blasted for making him into something he wasn’t. That wasn’t the whole story, of course; the Bears wanted the football in his hands more, Devin and his agent wanted to lift the money ceiling that came with being “just a returner,” so Angelo worked out a very fair deal that was back-loaded with escalators to pay Devin $10 million over each of the last two years of the contract if he hit certain performance triggers. He didn’t, but trashing the kid for wanting to grab for the brass ring never made sense…

…the fun factor. Devin would go back to receive a kickoff and every fan in the end zone seats of Soldier Field was standing. And Devin was having a ball with it, to the point where you absolutely knew that if Devin Hester decided to run instead into Lake Michigan, all he’d have to do would be wave his arm for all the kids to join him and they’d have followed the Pied Piper about anywhere he wanted to go…

that would include Canton.