Bears

Just Day 1 of minicamp, but did Bears coaches see what they needed to from QB Mitch Trubisky?

Just Day 1 of minicamp, but did Bears coaches see what they needed to from QB Mitch Trubisky?

Random (and not-so-random) thoughts on the new kid running the Bears’ huddle on Friday…

John Fox is rarely given to strong positives, let alone superlatives, over his two seasons as Bears coach – which made his take on rookie quarterback Mitch Trubisky after just one no-pads, no-contact, limited-work practice at least a little worth noting.

“I think we put a lot of work into the evaluation and again saw a lot of the reasons why we decided to pick him where we did today,” Fox said after Friday’s opening practice for the Bears’ weekend rookie minicamp. “He’s very accurate, very smart, he’s got good football character, as far as transferring things from the meeting room to the field. And I think we saw that today.”

Whether he would say if he DIDN’T see the reasons drafting him high in the first round, hard to say. Maybe not. Maybe it would have been evident in his face (pout-face?), or by damning with faint praise.

This weekend Trubisky is with fellow rookies or fringe vets on tryouts, so if he looked “good,” he absolutely better have, and assigning it any kind of significance would be silly. He’ll still have to learn proper footwork under pressure, what “open receiver” really means at the NFL level, all of the little things that seem insignificant until one of them isn’t done right. Trubisky mishandled a couple of direct-snaps, not what he did much at North Carolina, but he also wasn’t working with anyone he’d ever taken a snap from before.

“Just getting with the new centers, getting that rhythm, getting that timing and chemistry,” Trubisky said by way of summary. “It’s all about getting better every day and working under center.”

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Whether trading up from No. 3 to No. 2, and whether Trubisky was the right guy to trade up for, will remain simmering what-if’s for some time to come.

Two AFC scouts revealed that they had the highest grade on Trubisky that they’d had on any quarterback over the past six years. That means: higher than Jameis Winston; higher than Marcus Mariota; higher than Cam Newton; higher than Russell Wilson; higher than Andrew Luck; higher than Derek Carr; higher than Carson Wentz.

The evaluation of one NFC regional scouting team was that “Trubisky is an almost perfect quarterback prospect” and that 'the Bears should count their lucky stars he only started 13 games because if he was a two-year starter, he goes 1/1 [overall No. 1] without hesitation.”

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The things that can be learned from watching a minicamp, particularly a rookie one, are minimal if for no other reason than some of the things that actually matter you really have no way of assessing.

Like how well, fast and thoroughly do these guys learn?

The Bears put Trubisky through a number of drills during their evaluations of him, not for purposes of teaching him anything specific, but rather to see how he reacts to new stuff, being made uncomfortable. “We had confirmation that he would be able to handle that stuff,” said offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains, “and he would be able to get it quickly.”

Coaches altered the practice structure Friday expressly to put Trubisky in more passing situations, meaning making drops, reads, throws and all the rest. They again saw what they needed to, beyond the actual execution.

“We're having two 7-on-7 [passing sessions], so he's getting more reps that way,” Loggains said. “We gave him a big install, and he handled it. We wanted him to feel stressed a little bit and understand how different the game is and to this point right now he's responded well… .

“The expectations for him is to come in and develop as fast as possible. He gets a great opportunity to sit behind Mike Glennon; the guy’s a pro. [Trubisky] gets a chance to learn and grow in the system. Those are the only expectations, that he gets better every day.”

For one writer, Hall of Fame semifinalist selection of Brian Urlacher closes a career circle

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USA TODAY

For one writer, Hall of Fame semifinalist selection of Brian Urlacher closes a career circle

The news on Tuesday wasn’t really any sort of surprise: Brian Urlacher being selected as a semifinalist for the Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility. Some of the immediate thoughts were, however, for one writer who covered Brian from the day he was drafted on through the unpleasant end of his 13-year career as a Bear.

Good thoughts, though. Definitely good.

The first was a flashback, to a Tuesday in late August 2000 when the ninth-overall pick of the draft, who’d been anointed the starting strong-side linebacker by coach Dick Jauron on draft day, was benched.

It happened up at Halas Hall when Urlacher all of a sudden wasn’t running with the 1’s. Rosie Colvin was in Urlacher’s spot with the starters and would be for a few games into the 2000 season. I caught up with Brian before he walked, in a daze, into Halas Hall after practice and asked about what I’d just seen.

"I'm unhappy with the way I'm playing and I'm sure they are, too," Urlacher said. "I don't think I've been playing very well so that's probably the cause for it right there. I just don't have any technique. I need to work on my technique, hands and feet mostly. I've got to get those down, figure out what I'm doing. I know the defense pretty good now, just don't know how to use my hands and feet."

Urlacher, an All-American safety at New Mexico but MVP of the Senior Bowl in his first game at middle linebacker, had been starting at strong side, over the tight end, because coaches considered it a simpler position for Urlacher to master. But he was not always correctly aligned before the snap, did not use his hands against blockers effectively and occasionally led with his head on tackles. His benching cost him the chance to be the first Bears rookie linebacker since Dick Butkus to start an Opening Day.

It also was the first time in his football life that Urlacher could remember being demoted.

"It's not a good feeling," he said. "I definitely don't like getting demoted but I know why I am. I just have to get better."

Coaches understood what they were really attempting, subsequently acknowledged privately that the SLB experiment was a mistake. While the strong-side slot may have been simpler than the other two principally because of coverage duties, "we're trying to force-feed the kid an elephant," then-defensive coordinator Greg Blache said.

"So you see him gag and what do you do? You give him the Heimlich maneuver, you take some of it out of his mouth, try to chop it up into smaller pieces. He's going to devour it and be a great football player. But he wouldn't be if we choked him to death."

Urlacher didn’t choke and eventually became the starter, not outside, but at middle linebacker when Barry Minter was injured week two at Tampa Bay.

We sometimes don’t fully know the import or significance at the time we’re witnessing something. Urlacher stepping in at middle linebacker was not one of those times – you knew, watching him pick up four tackles in basically just the fourth quarter of a 41-0 blowout by the Bucs.

That was the beginning. Over the years came moments like Urlacher scooping up a Michael Vick fumble in the 2001 Atlanta game and going 90 yards with Vick giving chase but not catching him. Lots of those kinds of moments.

And then cutting to the ending, in 2013, when he and the organization came to an acrimonious parting after GM Phil Emery managed to alienate the face of the franchise both with the one-year contract offer and the way it was handled. Butkus had a nasty separation at the end of his Bears years, too, and Bill George finished his career as a Los Angeles Ram after creating the middle linebacker position as a Bear. Maybe that’s just how Bears and some of their linebackers wind up their relationships.

In any case, while there is no cheering in the pressbox, the hope here is that Brian goes into the Hall in a class with Ray Lewis in their first years of eligibility. Somehow that just seems like it all should close out for that confused kid from New Mexico who lost his first job out of college, but responded to that by becoming one of the all-time greats in his sport.

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Who deserves the most blame for Bears losses?

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Who deserves the most blame for Bears losses?

Mark Potash (Chicago Sun-Times), Ben Finfer (ESPN 1000) and Kevin Fishbain (The Athletic) join Kap on the panel. It’s another losing season for the Bears. So who deserves the most blame: Ryan Pace, John Fox or the players? Plus Mark Schanowski drops by to talk about the Bulls future and if the Celtics will win the East.