Bears

Numbers grow in Bears coaching search, but 'target' difficult to ID

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Numbers grow in Bears coaching search, but 'target' difficult to ID

General manager Phil Emery promised that his search for the next Bears head coach would be thorough. If quantity is any indication, Emerys search already is close to qualifying as such.But while the number of candidates continues to grow almost daily, and it says that Emery was sincere when he said last week that no one is excluded, it is reasonable to wonder whether the Bears were certain they could do better when they fired Lovie Smith.The lineup of more than a dozen candidates suggests that a change was set in motion without a short list already developed. The search continues to be more shotgun than rifle, not necessarily a bad thing or even surprising for someone (Emery) going through the process for the first time.By contrast, when the Bears fired Mike Ditka after 1992, the consensus hot candidate was then-Dallas defensive coordinator Dave Wannstedt. Bears President Michael McCaskey had a short list but the clear target was Wannstedt and McCaskey simply out-hustled the New York Giants for him.The 2013 market is different and the Bears are in play with several of the current hot candidates: Indianapolis offensive coordinator Bruce Arians, Denver offensive coordinator Mike McCoy, Montreal Alouettes coach Marc Trestman.Besides current Bears special teams coordinator Dave Toub, former colleague Dan Pompei over at the Chicago Tribune reported Tuesday that Mike Singletary is also on the guest list for Halas Hall, along with Mike Priefer, special teams coach for the Minnesota Vikings. Singletary, also an assistant head coachlinebackers with the Vikings under coach Leslie Frazier, was sought as an assistant by Dick Jauron but was nixed by then-general manager Jerry Angelo.Singletary subsequently went on to coach the San Francisco 49ers for a couple of seasons, leaving with an 18-22 record that included the 2008 season with Mike Martz as his offensive coordinator.
Critiquing candidatesPhil Emery made it abundantly clear that his new coach will be someone who comes in with an ability to work with what he has, in addition to working with Emery on personnel additions. Some of the candidates pose interesting issues in the work-with area.Bruce Arians would bring a superb quarterback development portfolio, but whether he brings a system workable with the Bears talent base is what his interview would address.Andrew Luck was sacked 41 times last season and hit a multiple of that, according to one NFL source. The sack total was the most of a Colts rookie quarterback. Peyton Manning was sacked 22 times as a rookie and never more than 29 times with Indianapolis.Arians is aggressive and throws downfield even with shaky protection, which has a distant ring of Mike Martz. Luck is extremely mobile and physically strong, and is a timing passer. Whether Jay Cutler adapts to Arians system, or vice versa, is a franchise-level question.I discussed Houston offensive coordinator Rick Dennison previously and a question in his meeting with Emery will undoubtedly be whether the Bears can run a zone-blocking scheme in the run game. Right now the Bears are significantly bigger than the Texans line that runs this mobile system, and Emery and Dennison will need to be clear on what Dennison wants to run, what Emery has for him to run it, and what the Bears will do this offseason and beyond to facilitate that.

Can the Bears make enough plays to beat the Carolina Panthers?

Can the Bears make enough plays to beat the Carolina Panthers?

Everything changed for the Bears after going up 17-3 last week against the Baltimore Ravens. Mitchell Trubisky’s 27-yard touchdown to Dion Sims was immediately followed by Bobby Rainey running a kickoff back 96 yards for a touchdown, then the offense was bogged down with three fumbles (two lost) on three consecutive possessions. 

But Adrian Amos seemed to seal the game with his 90-yard pick six — that is, until Michael Campanaro ran Pat O’Donnell’s punt back 77 yards for what wound up being a game-tying touchdown after a two-point conversion.

The point is the Bears should’ve cruised to a comfortable win last week; a few critical mistakes didn’t allow that to happen. The Bears haven’t led at the end of the fourth quarter this year, a pretty strong indicator they haven’t played a complete game yet despite having two wins. 

The Carolina Panthers have road wins over the Detroit Lions and New England Patriots this year, and only lost to the Philadelphia Eagles by five points last week (despite Cam Newton throwing three interceptions). The bet here is the Bears keep things close on the backs of a strong defense, but either can’t make enough plays or make too many mistakes to win. 

Prediction: Panthers 20, Bears 16

Three and out: What Ron Rivera likes about Mitchell Trubisky played out this week

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USA TODAY

Three and out: What Ron Rivera likes about Mitchell Trubisky played out this week

Carolina Panthers coach Ron Rivera saw a lot of Mitchell Trubisky last year, with the North Carolina quarterback on TV quite a bit in the Charlotte area. The Panthers, set with Cam Newton, weren’t in the market for a quarterback in the 2017 NFL Draft, but Trubisky nonetheless stood out to the seventh-year Carolina coach and former Super Bowl-winning Bears linebacker. 

For Rivera, more than Trubisky’s arm strength and athleticism jumped off the screen. 

“Leadership,” Rivera pointed to. “When you watch him when he was playing — I love watching guys that either get on their teammates when they’re not doing it or they take accountability when they make a mistake. And you saw that with him.

“… We think the young man has got what it takes. We like who’s he’s gonna become. We do. We think the future can be bright for him. We are big fans here.”

Trubisky took accountability for both of his turnovers against the Minnesota Vikings: The interception Harrison Smith baited him into was certainly his fault, but his sack-strip fumble was more the result of Everson Griffen jumping the snap and blowing past left tackle Charles Leno. Against the Baltimore Ravens, Trubisky also lost a fumble on a sack-strip when cornerback Lardarius Webb hit him and dislodged the ball.

Trubisky’s explanation of that fumble was that he moved off his first read too quickly, causing him to miss Webb making a beeline for him in the backfield. But according to offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains, that fumble wasn’t the quarterback’s fault. 

“That’s because he’s a stud,” Loggains said of Trubisky taking responsibility for it. “We screwed the protection up. We should have been sliding to the guy. The guy should not have been coming free. That’s Mitch taking a bullet that he doesn’t need to take. The reality is he saw the guy coming and tried to get over to the check down quickly but we got to do a better job up front protecting him.”

But that Trubisky was willing to say he was at fault for that fumble plays into why he quickly gained the respect of the Bears’ the locker room. That’s what a quarterback should be doing when speaking to the media after the game — accepting responsibility and deflecting off his teammates, even if he’s not at fault. That kind of stuff doesn’t go unnoticed. 

Stopping Superman

Pernell McPhee offered this goal up for his fellow defensive teammates this week: Make sure Newton stays as Clark Kent on Sunday. 

“He’s a very talented guy, but the only thing I told the defense is let's make him be Cam Newton, not Superman,” McPhee said, referring to Newton’s signature touchdown move. “We don't want him opening up the cape.”

So how does a defense stop Newton from being Superman?

“He’s a very versatile quarterback,” defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said. “Obviously his running the ball, whether it be through his improvising with scrambling on called pass plays, or the called running plays they do have for him, that’s a strength for him. We can’t just focus on stopping that. We’ve gotta stop Cam Newton the passer and the runner. They’ve got good running backs they’re handing it off to and receivers and running backs he’s throwing it to, so you’ve got a total offense to stop.”

One point to note here: Newton threw three interceptions last week against the Philadelphia Eagles and had been picked off eight times this year. A Bears secondary that intercepted Joe Flacco twice last week could have some more shots at takeaways on Sunday. 

High praise

Sunday will mark Thomas Davis’ 156th game in the NFL, with the linebacker playing every one of those with the Carolina Panthers. He played for John Fox from 2005-2010. But where we’re going here is what he had to say about how the Bears run their offense with a rookie quarterback:

“I think this is probably the best running game that we’ve seen from an offense with a rookie quarterback,” Davis said. “You look at some of the other rookies that come in. Teams want to run the ball. But when you look at the physicality and the style of play that this team plays with, I think that really makes the job a lot easier for a young quarterback. So I definitely feel like that physicality in their running game is definitely going to help him out.”

The Bears ran the ball 50 times against a Baltimore Ravens defense that played a lot more Cover-2 than expected. With star linebacker Luke Kuechly out for Sunday, the Bears may try to use a similar strategy, even if Carolina loads the box more than Baltimore did (a little more than once one every three runs by Jordan Howard). 

But if the Bears’ offense is going to have success, it’s going to be behind Howard, Tarik Cohen and an improving offensive line. Maybe Davis’ comments are hyperbole, but he’s also played a lot more football than you and me.