What the Bears can learn from NFL wild-card weekend

What the Bears can learn from NFL wild-card weekend

The NFL is nothing if not a copycat league, with successful innovations or stratagems invariably being replicated by others. So with the opening playoff weekend of the playoffs finished, did situations unfold in the four games that can provide useful object lessons for a Bears team that may not yet have talent to pull of certain things but certainly can learn from them?

Absolutely. Even allowing for a degree of oversimplification, consider:

Playoff Lesson 1: Teams without their No. 1 quarterbacks lost by double digits.

The Miami Dolphins may have earned new coach Adam Gase serious consideration for AFC coach of the year by reaching the playoffs. But forced to start Matt Moore instead of Ryan Tannehill (No. 12 passer rating, No. 6 completion percentage), the Dolphins were beaten 30-12 by the Steelers. Moore lost 2 fumbles and was intercepted once.

The Oakland Raiders dropped down from MVP candidate Derek Carr to rookie Connor Cook, who threw 3 interceptions on his way to a 30.0 passer rating in his first NFL start.

Bears Lesson 1: Don’t get down to your fourth quarterback.

[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]

Playoff Lesson 2: Every winning team out-rushed their opponent and ran the football at least 25 times.

The Green Bay Packers ran just 25 times in their rout of the New York Giants, which was more than the Giants did, and also, any team with Aaron Rodgers as its quarterback is by definition an outlier anyway.

Bears Lesson 2: Run the football 25 times.

Or at least start with that as a minimum. Obviously game and scoreboard situations can unravel any plan, but the Bears ran the ball 25 or more times in seven of their 16 games. They won three of those games; in one (Jacksonville) the defense gave up 17 fourth-quarter points and a 13-0 lead; in one (Giants) the quarterback (Jay Cutler) threw a late interception on a potential winning drive; and in two (Washington, Minnesota II) the Bears turned the ball over a combined 10 times (see Lesson 1).

Playoff Lesson 3: 10 of the 12 playoff teams drafted their No. 1 quarterback.

Houston acquired their quarterback (Brock Osweiler) in free agency. Kansas City traded for theirs (Alex Smith). All the rest drafted the quarterback who eventually led them into this season’s playoffs.

Of those 10 drafted quarterbacks, only Oakland’s Derek Carr (2014 draft) and Dallas’ Dak Prescott (2016) have been with their teams less than five years. Of those 10 quarterbacks, more than half were drafted when their teams already had a starter in place (e.g., Tom Brady behind Drew Bledsoe, New England; Aaron Rodgers behind Brett Favre, Green Bay).

Kyle Fuller believes he's a Top 5 cornerback in the NFL

USA Today

Kyle Fuller believes he's a Top 5 cornerback in the NFL

Kyle Fuller caused a bit of a panic late Friday afternoon when a report dropped that he signed an offer sheet with the Green Bay Packers. For a few hours, the prospect — even if it was always unlikely — of the Bears losing their best cornerback to their arch rivals to the north loomed over Chicago. 

For Fuller, though, he said he barely had time to think about the possibility of cashing in on his breakout 2017 season with the Packers. The Bears quickly matched the offer sheet, officially announcing the four-year deal Tuesday that makes Fuller one of the highest-paid cornerbacks in the NFL. 

“It was crazy not really knowing what to expect,” Fuller said. “I would have never expected it. But when (the Packers’ offer sheet) came, it was definitely something to consider, just on the business side of it. At the end of the day, how it all played out, I’m definitely happy.”

Fuller sounded like someone who took a more passive role to his quasi-restricted free agency that was set about when the Bears placed the transition tag on him, allowing them to match any offer sheet that he were to sign. Fuller said he didn’t know all the details of what was going on with offer sheets coming in and negotiations with the Bears.

“I kinda was just getting the information from (my agents) and going with the flow of everything and knowing that at the end of the day it would end up working out,” Fuller said. 

The $14 million average annual value of Fuller’s contract ranks fifth among cornerbacks, behind only Washington’s Josh Norman ($15 million), New York’s Trumaine Johnson ($14.5 million) Minnesota’s Xavier Rhodes ($14.02 million) and Arizona’s Patrick Peterson ($14.01 million), according to Spotrac. 

Fuller said he considers himself a top-five cornerback in the league, and he played like someone who could wind up in that discussion in 2017. The 2014 first-round pick was one of four players to break up 20 or more passes last year, and he picked off two passes in December while providing excellent support against the run. 

“We could not be happier to have Kyle under contract for four more years,” general manager Ryan Pace said. “We feel he is an ascending player on our top 10 defense and we look forward to him having many more productive seasons here in Chicago.”

That's right, Chicago. John Fox is coming to a studio near you


That's right, Chicago. John Fox is coming to a studio near you

So apparently John Fox is getting bored.

The former Bears head coach who led the team to three consecutive last-place seasons from 2015-17 just signed with ESPN as a NFL studio analyst.

He’ll be getting paid to dish out insider information on players and what’s happening on the field — details that frustrated Bears fans could not get out of the often elusive Fox

This is great news if you had a void in your heart that only John Fox quotes could fill — especially in case his “We don’t know exactly what we’re doing” and "Sometimes it's hard to measure what's behind the left nipple"  hot takes weren’t cutting it anymore

But more importantly, Fox’s new position brings up a new burning question: What ex-Bear will be a better analyst?

What will the Fox say? Will he be able to muster more than 10 words out of Jay? The NFL season needs to get here sooner.