Bears

Rotoworld: 2016 NFL head coach rankings

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Rotoworld: 2016 NFL head coach rankings

NBCSports' and Rotoworld's Pat Daugherty released his annual NFL head coach rankings on Thursday. Here are the Top 16 coaches. Also, be sure to check out the entire list here.

As I say every year, this list is an inexact science. Just seven active coaches have Super Bowl rings. You are what your record says you are, but with so many similar records, differences must be discerned. Recent success is certainly a tiebreaker. As is supporting cast. Has this coach ever made the playoffs without a future Hall-of-Famer at quarterback? Does he saddle himself with ineffective assistants? Playoff records are not the end-all be-all. Andy Reid has never won a Super Bowl, but he’s done pretty well for himself in 17 years as a head coach. He’s an easy target when history repeats itself in the form of an in-game mistake, less so when you consider the full weight of his résumé.

Most of all, I try to ask myself, who would I want coaching my team right now? Last year’s list can be found here. 2014’s is here.

1. Bill Belichick

Career Record: 223-113 (.664)
With The Patriots Since: 2000
Last Year’s Ranking: 1

The greatest coach of all time isn’t just riding on his reputation in the top spot. Bill Belichick, who is 187-69 (.730) over 16 years in New England, has won at least 12 games each of the past six seasons. To put that in perspective, Bill Parcells oversaw four 12-win campaigns. Bill Walsh, three. The Cleveland Browns have one 12-win season since joining the NFL in 1950. Belichick’s run of success isn’t just historic, it’s completely without peer or precedent.

The Patriots couldn’t defend their title in 2015, but nevertheless came within three points of the Super Bowl despite having one of the league’s worst offensive lines and running games. Their 2014 defensive MVP, Darrelle Revis, was playing for a divisional rival (who missed the playoffs). The central “argument” against Belichick — besides his “Controversies” section on Wikipedia — has always been that he’s a product of Tom Brady. Any reasonable observer can probably discern that 187-69 wasn’t built on the back of one player, but even unreasonable ones have to admit: Belichick was given the best player of his generation and knew what to do with him. Belichick is alone at the top, and will remain there for however long he continues coaching.

2. Pete Carroll

3. Bruce Arians

4. John Harbaugh

5. Andy Reid

[ROTOWORLD: Complete NFL News]

6. Mike McCarthy

Career Record: 104-55-1 (.653)
With The Packers Since: 2006
Last Year’s Ranking: 7

Life is a game of chance. Mike Pettine had Brian Hoyer and Johnny Manziel in Cleveland. Mike McCarthy has had Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay. Not that you should fault a man for his good fortune, especially when he takes advantage of it. McCarthy has missed the playoffs just twice in 10 years, and won a Lombardi. He also let a 15-1 team lose in the Divisional Round, and preferred field goals to the Super Bowl in last year’s NFC Championship Game. According to longtime Packers reporter Bob McGinn, it had been “25 years or more since a coach in Green Bay made more errors in allocating playing time” than McCarthy did in 2015. Twitter knew Jeff Janis could spark the Packers’ moribund receiver corps. It took two Hail Marys in a Divisional Round loss for McCarthy to finally see the light. Ultimately, these are nitpicks for a coach who has won 49 more games than he’s lost. If you coach 10 years, you’re bound to have some haunting losses. It’s just hard to shake the feeling that the McCarthy era could have been something more for the Packers, who aren’t going to have future Hall-of-Famers at quarterback forever.

7. Marvin Lewis

8. Ron Rivera

9. Mike Tomlin

10. Bill O’Brien

11. Mike Zimmer

12. Sean Payton

13. Todd Bowles

14. Jay Gruden

15. Gary Kubiak

[NBC SHOP: Gear up, Bears fans!]

16. John Fox

Career Record: 125-99 (.558)
With The Bears Since: 2015
Last Year’s Ranking: — —

Have you ever been sitting in traffic and noticed the signs on a telephone pole or stop sign? There’s usually one about a lost cat or someone offering guitar lessons. Maybe Spanish tutoring. Then there’s the house flippers, bootstrappers looking for rundown properties to buy on the cheap, gut, refurbish and sell for a profit. That’s John Fox. He comes into town in such a hurry that he barely even has time to communicate any clichés to the media. He tears out the rotted deck, puts down sod, replaces the smoke-ruined curtains. Maybe he even orders new carpet and countertops. What he doesn’t do is leave behind a finished product. There’s always the next house to flip. Fox makes his teams respectable in a hurry. The Bears went from embarrassing eyesore to inoffensive “Previous” option on the remote under his watch in 2015. What they didn’t do is look like a team ready to win the division any time soon. Fox might progress the Bears another level or two before GM Ryan Pace reaches the same conclusion John Elway did in Denver. This guy made the place livable, but it could still be so much nicer.

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2017 Bears position grades: Inside Linebacker

2017 Bears position grades: Inside Linebacker

2017 grade: B+

Level of need: Low

Decisions to be made on: Christian Jones (free agent), John Timu (free agent), Jonathan Anderson (free agent); Jerrell Freeman has reportedly been cut

Possible free agent targets: Demario Davis, Preston Brown, Anthony Hitchens, Avery Williamson, Navorro Bowman, Derrick Johnson

How the Bears rate Nick Kwiatkoski will be the key to figuring out what this unit will look like in 2018. Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio thought Kwiatkoski finished last season strong, but strong enough to rely on him in 2018 as the starter next to Danny Trevathan?

The thing with the Bears’ inside linebackers, though: Trevathan makes whoever is playing next to him better. The problem is Trevathan hasn’t been able to stay on the field — he missed time in 2017 with a calf injury and a one-game suspension, and missed half of 2016 after rupturing his Achilles’. Trevathan hasn’t played a full 16-game season since 2013, so durability is an issue for the soon-to-be 28-year-old.

So that leads to this question: Do the Bears need to find someone in free agency, regardless of how they value Kwiatkoski, who’s also missed time due to injuries in his first two years in the league?

Free agency could provide a few options. Demario Davis had a career high 97 tackles for the New York Jets last year and has never missed a game as a pro. Preston Brown had some decent production in Buffalo and also hasn’t missed a game since being drafted in 2014. Avery Williamson may not be a world-beater but has only missed one game in his four years in the NFL.

The Bears could also opt for someone who fits more of a rotational mold, like Dallas’ Anthony Hitchens, or try to lure a veteran linebacker like Navorro Bowman (who played for Vic Fangio in San Francisco) or Derrick Johnson (who Matt Nagy knows from his Kansas City days) to play next to Trevathan and/or Kwiatkoski.

The Bears could opt to keep the status quo and re-sign Christian Jones and John Timu for depth, and enter 2018 with Kwiatkoski and Trevathan as the team’s starters (Jerrell Freeman, who suffered a season-ending injury and then was hit with his second PED suspension in as many years, was cut on Tuesday). Signing a starting-caliber free agent isn’t out of the question, either, but there is a third option for the Bears if they appear to stand pat in free agency: Draft an inside linebacker in April. If that’s the route they go, Georgia’s Roquan Smith could be the guy. But again, those more pressing needs at other positions could mean the Bears don’t burn a first-round pick on an inside linebacker.

With Josh Sitton on his way out, what’s next for the Bears’ offensive line?

With Josh Sitton on his way out, what’s next for the Bears’ offensive line?

The first major move of Ryan Pace’s 2018 offseason hit on Tuesday, as NFL Network reported the Bears will not exercise Josh Sitton’s $8 million option for 2018. 

The move accomplishes two things for the Bears: 1) It frees up about $8 million in cap space and 2) Removes a veteran from the offensive line and creates a hole to fill, presumably by a younger free agent or draft pick. 

The 31-year-old Sitton signed a three-year deal with the Bears after Green Bay cut him just before the 2016 season, and was a Pro Bowler his first year in Chicago. Sitton played 26 of 32 games in two years with the Bears, but him being on the wrong side of 30 was likely the biggest factor here. If the Bears saw his skills eroding, releasing him now and netting the cap savings while going younger at the position does make sense. 

“Going younger” doesn’t guarantee the Bears will draft Notre Dame brawler Quenton Nelson, though that did become a greater possibility with Tuesday’s move. Nelson might be one of the two or three best offensive players in this year’s draft, and offensive line coach Harry Hiestand knows him well from the four years they spent together at Notre Dame. 

There’s a natural fit there, of course, but a few reasons to slow the Nelson-to-Chicago hype train: Would he even make it to No. 8? Or if he’s there, is taking a guard that high worth it when the Bears have needs at wide receiver, outside linebacker and cornerback? Still, the thought of Nelson — who absolutely dominated at Notre Dame — pairing with Hiestand again is tantalizing, and Nelson very well could step into any team’s starting lineup and be an immediate Pro Bowler as a rookie. 

If the Bears go younger in free agency, Matt Nagy knows 26-year-old guard Zach Fulton (No. 25 in Bleacher Report’s guard rankings) well from their time in Kansas City. Fulton — a Homewood-Flossmoor alum — has the flexibility to play both guard positions and center, which could open the door for Cody Whitehair to be moved to left guard, the position he was initially drafted to play (though the Bears do value him highly as a center, and keeping him at one position would benefit him as opposed to moving him around the line again). There are some other guys out there — like Tennessee’s Josh Kline or New York’s Justin Pugh — that could wind up costing more than Fulton in free agency. 

Or the Bears could look draft an offensive lineman after the first round, perhaps like Ohio State’s Billy Price, Georgia’s Isaiah Wynn or UTEP’s Will Hernandez. How the Bears evaluate guards at the NFL Combine next week will play an important role in how they go about replacing Sitton. 

The trickle-down effect of releasing Sitton will impact more than the offensive line, too. Freeing up his $8 million in cap space -- which wasn't a guarantee, unlike cutting Jerrell Freeman and, at some point, Mike Glennon -- could go toward paying Kyle Fuller, or another top cornerback, or a top wide receiver, or some combination of players at those positions (as well as outside linebacker). The Bears were already in a healthy place cap-wise; that just got healthier on Tuesday.