Bears

Record-setting Thibodeau nonplussed about feat

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Record-setting Thibodeau nonplussed about feat

ORLANDOIf you expected Tom Thibodeau to be elated about becoming the NBA head coach to reach 100 career victories in the shortest amount of time, you clearly havent been paying attention.

Im just glad we won. When you look at stuff like that, it says that you have good players, he said after the Bulls throttled the Magic Monday night. We have great guys, too. Theyre not only good players, but theyre great people. Im very fortunate to be coaching this team.

However, while Thibodeau downplayed the feat, his players showed their appreciation for the workaholic coachs achievement.

Im glad its him because he works so hard. He really deserves it. Ive never seen anyone work as hard as he does. We all believe in him, so as hard as he works, whenever he comes up with a game plan, we all buy into it because we know how much effort he puts into studying every opponent, said Luol Deng.

It says a lot. He didnt even say anything. No one said anything before the game about it. Most of us didnt even know and its just the type of guy he is. He was just focused about tonights game and thats it.

Echoed Joakim Noah: I know hes going to say it doesnt mean anything, but I think its a great accomplishment. Hes the hardest-working guy Ive ever been around and he deserves it.

John Lucas III, whose father Thibodeau coached under during his long career as an NBA assistant coach, discussed the coachs famed work ethic.

I always say when you put the work n, you put the time in, you can be successful at whatever you do and he puts the work in, the time in and it shows. Look at what hes done in the past two years. Hes a guy who loves the game of basketball and hes still a student of the game of basketball. Hes always learning something, always going into other things to make us better and also make himself better as a coach, so when you have a coach like that, hes going to be successful, said the dimuntive point guard.

Its just who he is. Hes humble. He doesnt expect less. He wants us to play our best and I know he wants to his best when hes out there.

Swingman Ronnie Brewer acknowledged that while it made the record more special because it came on a night when the Bulls set a franchise record for fewest points allowed to an opponent in a regular-season game, that wouldnt matter to the single-minded coach.

He doesnt care. It goes in the record books, but thats not going be in the record books like he wants. He wants to win the championship, I think thats what everyone wants to do and were going to keep working until were playing championship-caliber basketball, he said. If a team gets a bucket at the end, hell come and let us hear it in the locker room, like Yo! You all didnt play 48 minutes! You let them scorethey scored 61, 63 pointshes like, Yo! Youve got to play to the end. We played great D, but thats the kind of coach Thibs is.

Added Carlos Boozer: Toms been great since we all got together last year, putting us in a great system that well continue to improve and get better at, but well-deserving. He puts so much work in with film. You guys see him. He almost looks exhausted every day, just watching film. But hes one of the most detailed people Ive been around and its been a fun ride, but knowing that, at the same time, none of us is satisfied. We want a whole lot more and it starts with him. He wants a whole lot more, too.

Hes not about himself. Hes about the team and that trickles down to everybody, from Coach Thibs to D-Rose, to the rest of us, everybodys about the team. Nobody talks about themselves, really.

Stankevitz: Why the Bears should draft Quenton Nelson with the 8th overall pick

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Stankevitz: Why the Bears should draft Quenton Nelson with the 8th overall pick

The majority of the decisions made by Ryan Pace since New Year’s Day have been centered around Mitch Trubisky. 

He hired a young, offensive-minded, quarterback-driven coach in Matt Nagy — who hired Mark Helfrich and retained Dave Ragone — to pair with Trubisky. He guaranteed $66.2 million to Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel and Trey Burton in March to dramatically improve the weapons at his young quarterback’s disposal. He guaranteed $5 million to Chase Daniel, who’s only thrown three regular season passes since the end of the 2014 season, to give Trubisky a backup who knows the nuances and language of Nagy’s offense.

So why would the Bears deviate from that approach in the NFL Draft, specifically with their first-round pick?

That’s why the Bears should draft Notre Dame guard Quenton Nelson with the eighth overall pick on Thursday night. 

Nelson is regarded as one of the best offensive line prospects in recent memory, and those who were around him at Notre Dame see him as a Pro Bowler from Day 1. He’s an aggressive mauler in the run game who doesn’t play out of control, and has a highlight reel of pummeling opposing defenders to prove it. He’ll immediately help the Bears effectively run the ball, especially on the inside zone plays that are a staple of Nagy’s offense. He’s a sturdy, consistent pass blocker who will keep opposing defenders out of Trubisky’s face, allowing him to step up in the pocket and connect with all those shiny targets added by Pace in March. 

The “problem” with Nelson is that he’s a guard, a position traditionally not valued as worth such a high draft pick. But the league is changing: Three of the 15 contracts with the most guaranteed money handed out in free agency this year went to interior offensive linemen (Andrew Norwell, Weston Richburg and Ryan Jensen). Yes, left tackle Nate Solder got more than those guys, but the point here is that quality offensive line play is not easy to find. 

Plus, as Nelson eloquently argued at the NFL Combine, having strong interior line play is more important in today’s defensive landscape than ever before. 

“You have guys that are dominating the NFL right now in Aaron Donald, Geno Atkins and Fletcher Cox that have just been working on interior guys and you need guys to stop them, and I think I’m one of those guys,” Nelson said. “You talk to quarterbacks, and they say if a D-end gets on the edge, that’s fine, they can step up in the pocket and they can throw, a lot of quarterbacks if given the opportunity can do that. 

“That’s what I give is a pocket to step up in, and I think I also help the offense establish the run through my nastiness and establishing the run also opens up the
passing game, so I think it’s a good choice.”

And we haven’t even got to the Bears hiring Nelson’s college position coach, Harry Hiestand, to coach their offensive line. Hiestand recruited Nelson to Notre Dame and developed him into an elite player over their four years together in South Bend. If there’s anyone that can make Nelson an even better player in four years than he is today, it’s Hiestand. 

“He’s known me since I was an immature freshman that wasn’t good at football, until now being a lot more mature and responsible and doing the right thing and a good football player,” Nelson said at Notre Dame’s Pro Day last month. “He knows everything about me. … He’s always pushed me to be the best at everything I’ve done and I couldn’t be any more thankful and grateful for him.”

Do the Bears need to address their red-line need for a pass rusher? Of course. Does Vic Fangio’s defense need more playmakers? Absolutely. Those needs will have to be a focus of this week’s draft. Virginia Tech’s Tremaine Edmunds or Alabama’s Minkah Fitzpatrick or Georgia’s Roquan Smith would all be fine picks. 

But if Pace is sticking to his strategy of building around Trubisky and drafting the best player available, there’s only one player that makes sense. And that’s the bruising, powerful guard who played his college ball two hours away in South Bend. 

“As a blocker my mindset is being dominant,” Nelson said. “I want to dominate all my opponents and take their will away to play the game by each play and finishing them past the whistle.”

John "Moon" Mullin's counterpoint: Why the Bears should draft Virginia Tech linebacker Tremaine Edmunds

  
 

Moon: Why the Bears should draft Tremaine Edmunds with the 8th overall pick

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USA Today Sports Images

Moon: Why the Bears should draft Tremaine Edmunds with the 8th overall pick

The late and legendary New York Giants GM George Young once described the first 15 picks of the NFL draft as the “dance of the elephants,” a reference to the premium the game placed on size, particularly when all other factors were somewhere close to equal.
 
For that reason, given the choice between linebackers Tremaine Edmunds from Virginia Tech and Georgia’s Roquan Smith, the Bears will hand in the name of Edmunds (6-5, 253 pounds) rather than that of Smith (6-1, 238).
 
It is far from the only reason and not the biggest (pun intended).
 
For purposes of perspective, the Bears are more than capable of selecting neither Edmunds nor Smith. GM Ryan Pace said that the Bears had identified eight players for their “cloud” of candidates worthy of the No. 8-overall pick in the 2018 draft. None of those eight are quarterbacks, Pace said.
 
Not that Pace would lay down smoke or engage in misinformation or misdirection, of course; but one interpretation of that “eight” declaration would be that Pace is advertising that he has operators standing by to take trade calls from teams below the Bears who were just told that the Bears have enough attractive options that they would be happy to trade down, secure in the knowledge that one or more of their eight will be there as late as No. 12 or even further.
 
Edmunds and Smith are among the top eight non-quarterbacks in a wide sampling of rankings by draft experts. Best guess here is that both linebackers are in Pace’s cloud.
 
Grades/rankings are the primary component of “best player available” evaluations. If Pace was being straight about having eight for No. 8, then rankings and grades are within an acceptable range.
 
What tips the decision toward Edmunds and Smith over the others in the eight is need.
 
The Bears need to protect Mitch Trubisky (Quenton Nelson). They need more takeaways (DB’s Minkah Fitzpatrick, Denzel Ward). But the dire need, after exits of Lamarr Houston, Pernell McPhee and Willie Young and even after signing ex-49er Aaron Lynch, is for pass rushers and those are too rare to pass on when the chance is there.
 
North Carolina State’s Bradley Chubb isn’t expected to last until No. 8, so View from the Moon has moved to the others in Pace’s eight with that skill set. Edmunds has length and size for 3-4 OLB or possible ILB when Bears go nickel. The decision between Edmunds, with length and size and 10 sacks over last two years, and Smith, with better ’17 production (6.5 sacks, 14 TFL), is difficult because both could develop into elite players.
 
But Edmunds “might have the highest ceiling of any defender in this draft,” according to USA Today draft analyst Michael Middlehurst-Schwartz. Smith is more polished than Edmunds, but Pace is about upside, and for that final reason, “With the eighth pick of the 2018 NFL draft, the Chicago Bears select…
 
"Tremaine Edmunds, linebacker, Virginia Tech.”

JJ Stankevitz's counterpoint: Why the Bears should draft Notre Dame offensive lineman Quenton Nelson