Bears

Cleveland Browns name their starting QB

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Cleveland Browns name their starting QB

From Comcast SportsNet
BEREA, Ohio (AP) -- Brandon Weeden won the Browns' starting quarterback job without playing a game. Cleveland coach Pat Shurmur announced what had been an open secret after practice on Monday: Weeden, the No. 22 overall pick, will start Friday night in Detroit. "Brandon is the starter and we're moving forward," Shurmur said. "We're rolling and I'm not looking back." Weeden has taken snaps with Cleveland's first-team offense throughout training camp. He was pleased by the decision. "I busted my tail for 10 practices now and put in a lot of work," Weeden said. "I've had my ups and downs. We play Friday. My job is to get the team playing better and win games ... starting Friday." Incumbent starter Colt McCoy is now competing with 10-year veteran Seneca Wallace for the backup job. "I sat down with all three guys separately and told them," Shurmur said. "Colt was very professional. Disappointed, but he handled it well." McCoy believes he showed improvement, but has come to grips with the direction Cleveland is headed toward. "Guys," he said, "it is what it is. I worked so hard and I felt so good. Every day, I approach my job as a professional. I get here early and am the last guy to leave." The 25-year-old then went to pose for pictures with fans and sign autographs. A year ago, McCoy started the first 13 games before being inactive the last three with a concussion as Cleveland (No. 30 in the AP Pro32) finished 4-12. He was victimized by a vicious helmet-to-helmet hit by Steelers linebacker James Harrison during a 14-3 loss in Pittsburgh. A dazed McCoy went back in after sitting out only two plays. Trainers attending to other hurt players were unaware of McCoy's distress. That led to a league policy now requiring teams to have a certified athletic trainer in the press box to monitor play and help medical staffs evaluate injuries. Cleveland went 0-3 with Wallace as the starter down the stretch. Now, Shurmur likes the progress displayed by all of the team's passers. "I feel better about the quarterback position," he said. "We've got two guys here who can be number two. To me, it is a win-win situation." Wallace took some snaps with the second-string offensive unit Monday, but Shurmur said McCoy likely would be first off the bench against the Lions. Weeden said officially being No. 1. won't make him change his daily approach, though he is getting more comfortable working with veterans like All-Pro left tackle Joe Thomas and center Alex Mack. "I'm getting in the huddle and joking with guys now. The chemistry is great," said Weeden, a 28-year-old rookie from Oklahoma State. "But it is all about wins and losses. I've got to show I'm the best guy to get wins." Weeden will likely play one quarter against the Lions. He's eager to play more. "Every rep is vital," he said. "You can't get enough of them. You see guys in the league 12, 14 years like Peyton Manning, and they take as many as they can. I take every single one and learn." Shurmur is confident Weeden will be able to guide Cleveland's west coast-style offense. The strong-armed former pitcher in the New York Yankees' minor-league system, has looked sharp throughout camp. Monday, he regularly found receivers on deep sideline patterns, routes that are generally acknowledged to be the toughest to complete. "He gets with the program, he's accurate," Shurmur said. "He's wired right to play the position." NOTES: Shurmur moved Tuesday's practice back about six hours to the afternoon so that he and others on Cleveland's staff can attend morning memorial services in Philadelphia for Garrett Reid, son of Eagles coach Andy Reid. Shurmur, a former assistant to Reid, expressed his sorrow over the death of the coach's 29-year-old son. Browns GM Tom Heckert, and four Cleveland assistants also worked with Reid in Philadelphia. ... LB Marcus Benard walked off with an undisclosed injury. "I don't know what happened, but at least he walked off," said Shurmur. Benard missed the final 12 games a year ago after getting hurt in a motorcycle crash. ... LB Chris Gocong was seen in the parking lot, on crutches. Gocong tore his right Achilles tendon Saturday and is out for the season.

Will Bears see instant improvement under Matt Nagy? Putting his first-year expectations in context

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USA TODAY

Will Bears see instant improvement under Matt Nagy? Putting his first-year expectations in context

Circling back around from the playoffs to the Bears, or at least to the Bears using the current postseason as a bit of a prism, magnifying glass, measuring stick, all of the above:

The ultimate question, obviously meaningfully unanswerable for perhaps another 10 or 11 months, revolves around expectations that were ushered in along with Matt Nagy and the rest of his coaching staff. One early guess is that there’ll be an inevitable positive bump in the record, the only true measuring stick. Depending on changes in practices, strength training, luck, whatever, Nagy might fare better than John Fox simply by virtue of having a presumably healthier roster — pick any three Bears who were injured during the 2017 season: Leonard Floyd, Cameron Meredith, Eric Kush, Kyle Long, Pernell McPhee, Mitch Unrein, Kevin White and Willie Young — and a broken-in Mitch Trubisky from the get-go.

This is far from a given, however. Far, far from a given for the Bears. Of the 10 coaches hired in the 50 years since George Halas stopped, only Fox, Dick Jauron and Dave Wannstedt improved on the winning percentage of their immediate predecessor. All dipped, save for Jack Pardee, who in 1975 equaled the 4-10 finish of Abe Gibron before him. And Pardee was getting Walter Payton in that year’s draft, so things started looking up in a hurry.

And maybe that should be the expectation for Nagy, who projects to get some or all of Fox’s wounded back, plus a draft class beginning with No. 8 overall.

Better Bears record in 2018? Maybe, but ...

The Bears are perhaps something of an anomaly (imagine that) in the near constant of incoming coaches failing to improve matters in their first years. One of the more memorable aspects of this writer’s first year on the Bears beat (1992) — besides the obvious pyrotechnics of Mike Ditka’s epic final season — was the startling turnarounds affected by first-year and first-time NFL coaches helming teams on the Bears’ schedule that year, meaning there were chances to study those in depth.

Consider: Bill Cowher took the Steelers from 7-9 to 11-5, Dennis Green took the Vikings from 8-8 to 11-5, Mike Holmgren took the Packers from 4-12 to 11-5, Bobby Ross took the Chargers from 4-12 to 11-5, and Dave Shula took the Bengals from 3-13 to 5-11.

The Bears played all but the Chargers that year, losing twice to Green, once to Holmgren and defeating the Cowher and Shula teams. Holmgren’s Packers didn’t make the playoffs, but he had to make an in-season quarterback change, which worked out pretty well long-term. It was Brett Favre.

Bears coaching-change history notwithstanding, the Nagy bar should be well above the five wins of Fox’s 2017. Nagy is a first-time head coach, but none of Cowher, Green, Holmgren, Ross or Shula had ever been NFL head coaches previously, either. Green and Ross had been college head coaches, albeit Green with a losing record and Ross barely .500 in those tenures.

And those coaches were taking over in the last year before the advent of free agency, which began in 1993. The Bears “landed” Anthony Blaylock and Craig Heyward. The Vikings secured Jack Del Rio. The Packers, Reggie White.

Odd years coming

Expectations vs. results will be interesting to observe in quite a few places this season. In some spots, the situation wasn’t completely broken but they “fixed” it anyway, in the dubious tradition of the Bears axing Lovie Smith after consecutive seasons of 11-5, 8-8 and 10-6 — two more wins (29) than Fox and Marc Trestman had combined (27) over the next five years.

Sometimes that sort of thing can work out. Phil Jackson did get the Michael Jordan Bulls to the next level that Doug Collins hadn’t. And Joe Maddon got the Cubs over the Rick Renteria hump, though adding Kris Bryant, Dexter Fowler and Jon Lester probably helped, too. Fox got the Broncos into a Super Bowl with Peyton Manning, but Gary Kubiak won one with Manning. Fox’s Broncos went against the 2013 Seattle Seahawks, one of the top 10 defenses of all time, while Kubiak had the good fortune of facing the 2015 Panthers.

But back to current NFL case studies:

— The Lions fired Jim Caldwell after a 9-7 season, his third winning year out of four there, two of those going to the playoffs.

— The Titans concluded their playoff year with the exit of Mike Mularkey, his reward for a second straight 9-7 that reversed four straight losing years under others.

— Chuck Pagano had five .500-or-better seasons with the Colts, didn’t have Andrew Luck all year, and was fired two years after going 5-3 with Matt Hasselbeck filling in for Luck.

What the expectations are in those venues is their business, just as it was when Phil Emery launched Smith in a fashion similar to the Titans with Mularkey. Smith didn’t reach the 2012 playoffs but would have been fired for anything short of a Super Bowl appearance, as Mularkey was for only winning one playoff game with Marcus Mariota as his quarterback.

All of which makes the Nagy/Pace Era more than a little intriguing. Nagy takes over a team with a No. 2-overall quarterback, as Mularkey did with Mariota. Some of Mularkey’s undoing traced to failing to maximize Mariota with an offense suited to how his quarterback plays his best, and force-fitting a player into a scheme is high-risk at best.

That doesn’t really apply in the case of a conservatively wired Fox, who directed that the offense be kept under ball-security control with a rookie quarterback. Fox and Dowell Loggains arguably were as constrained by Trubisky as he was by them.

But Nick Foles flourished with the Eagles under Chip Kelly and Doug Pederson, struggling a bit under Jeff Fisher. Case Keenum, a teammate of Foles when the Rams played in St. Louis, was so-so under the defense-based Fisher with the Rams, yet went supernova this year under the defense-based Mike Zimmer with the Vikings, which speaks to the value of the right coordinator irrespective of the head coach’s offensive or defensive background.

In the end Nagy’s achievements will be player-based. They always are. What he can do with what he’s got and given, via draft, free agency or whatever, vs. the successes and non-successes of others in his situation, is the work in progress now.

Viewers' Choice: Vote for High School Lites game coverage

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Viewers' Choice: Vote for High School Lites game coverage

Who wants it more?

We are putting High School Lites, Chicagoland's top prep sports show, in the hands of area basketball fans in our "Viewers' Choice Game of the Week." Fans will get the chance to pick one game that the NBC Sports Chicago (@NBCSPreps) crew will cover on Friday night. We will send our cameras to the game that gets the most votes; highlights and postgame reaction of that game will appear on that night's "High School Lites" broadcast at 11 p.m. The show also live streams at NBCSportsChicago.com/watchlive. High School Lites will also have broadcast replays at 6:30 a.m. and 7:30 a.m. the following Saturday. This week, it's all about powerful things coming in smaller packages. We're leaving the 4A schools for another week. It's time for some of the smaller schools to do battle: a West Side duel between Raby and Wells, a 'North vs. South' game with Ellison and Northtown and the Battle of Elmhurst featuring IC Catholic and Timothy Christian. Which game should we cover this week?

Raby at Wells, 5:00 p.m.

Ellison at Northtown, 6:30 p.m.

IC Catholic at Timothy Christian, 7:30 p.m.

Poll opens Tuesday at 12:00 p.m. and closes Thursday at 4 p.m. Here is what fans need to do to vote:

— Follow @NBCSPreps on Twitter.
— Note the "pinned Tweet" atop the @NBCSPreps feed. Vote for the game you want us to cover.
— Spread the word! 

We will make an announcement on @NBCSPreps just after 4 p.m. Thursday with the official results of which game will be covered. And as a reminder, be sure to follow @NBCSPreps for updates on the "Viewers' Choice Game of the week," along with other high school sports news, scores and highlights this season.