Mike Glennon

Bears attitude adjustment already apparent in first wave of free agents

Bears attitude adjustment already apparent in first wave of free agents

The first thing you notice is some swagger, some chips on the shoulders of the newest Bears, and while that doesn’t win any games in-season, let alone in March, it’s something of a positive for a team that’d had a lot of its swagger pained out of it over the past two years in particular.

Receivers Taylor Gabriel and Allen Robinson, tight end Trey Burton, backup quarterback Chase Daniel and kicker Cody Parkey all said the requisite niceties and platitudes on Thursday, all about how much they like the coaches, the organization, all that stuff.

But I’ve seen free agents come and go since real free agency started in 1993. All levels of players coming through, and they all say right stuff. There was something else with this bunch, though, and it wasn’t always there in the past. (More on that in a second.)

So there was Gabriel mentioning how Mitch Trubisky had texted him after Gabriel had signed, and Gabriel first piping in with, “How’s your deep ball?” And Trubisky was right back at Gabriel, one of the fastest players in the NFL, with, “Are you still fast?”

Best guess — they’ll get along just fine.

Gabriel’s first comment on impressions of coach Matt Nagy? Not about his football knowledge, his enthusiasm. No, it was: “Smooth dude, man,” Gabriel said. “I like his swag a little bit.”

Robinson was described by former Jacksonville and current Bears teammate cornerback Prince Amukamara as “a nightmare” to play against because he let defensive guys, even his own, know when he’d had them for lunch. As far as now, a very high bar has been set: “I think for me as a player, it's not my job to make Mitch's job easier, it's to make his job easy.”

Two points on why this comes with a touch more relevance in the case of a Bears team coming off a fourth straight NFC North basement finish:

First, because of what developed on the other side of the football when the likes of Akiem Hicks, Pernell McPhee (describing his style of football as “violent”) and Danny Trevathan came in, even rookie safety Eddie Jackson last year. They brought in attitudes from not just winning organizations, but more important, championship organizations. And they were good enough to walk the walk, even as they struggled through injuries.

The result was that in less than three full seasons, the Bears were a Top 10 defense. Attitudes can be infectious, for good or bad, and the right attitude with the right players made the defense a force, even with its injuries.

What the Bears secured in their first wave of free agents was five players all involved in points production — two wide receivers, a tight end, a kicker and a backup quarterback, whose two mission statements consist of being ready to play winning football if he’s needed and also to be a foundation pillar for the starter, in this case Trubisky.

What makes this a speck more interesting is that Trubisky will be the biggest factor in formation of the 2018-and-beyond Bears, and it was Trubisky whom Leonard Floyd and his defensive mates dubbed “Pretty Boy Assassin” last year because of Trubisky’s give-some-smack attitude anytime he lit up the No. 1 defense just running scout-team plays.

The second observation is that this wasn’t the case last year with Markus Wheaton, Quintin Demps, Marcus Cooper, Dion Sims and certainly not Mike Glennon, last year’s main free agency additions. Some of that’s obviously personality; Glennon and those guys are simply not swagger-smack kinds of guys, and that’s OK, as long as they play with attitude.

Last year’s group, just to use them as a case in point, came from decent programs. But the current top Bears additions include Super Bowl winners (Burton, Daniel as Drew Brees’ backup), a Super Bowl loser (Gabriel, painfully in the Atlanta Falcons’ collapse vs. New England) and a top wideout who had his dream derailed by injury and missed out on his team’s drive to within 2 minutes 48 seconds of a Super Bowl (Robinson).

And while Nagy and the organization are probably wise to counsel patience in the Bears’ recovery climb, the players aren’t seeing it that way.

“You can never underestimate how important youth is and guys who are willing to learn and willing to get better, but then also you look at the city,” Burton said. “They want another championship. They want to win. They want to be winners. You look at the other sports, the Bulls, the Blackhawks, the Cubs, the Cubs just won a couple years ago.

“The city's ready for another championship and like I said, they have a great quarterback, young quarterback, and an unbelievable head coach. They're aggressive and they're ready to win right now.”

The Bears will release Mike Glennon

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USA TODAY

The Bears will release Mike Glennon

Mike Glennon's Bears tenure is about to come to an end.

The guy signed last offseason to be the team's starting quarterback — that, of course, occurring prior to Mitch Trubisky being drafted with the No. 2 pick in the draft — will be released, general manager Ryan Pace told reporters Wednesday at the NFL Combine.

Glennon struggled mightily in his handful of starts to begin the 2017 season, throwing for 833 yards and four touchdowns compared to five interceptions in four games. Those struggles, specifically those involving hanging onto the ball, forced the Bears to move Trubvisky into a starting role just a few weeks into his pro career. The Bears went 1-3 in Glennon's four starts.

Glennon didn't throw another pass after being benched in favor of Trubisky.

The Bears gave Glennon a three-year contract last offseason. Glennon made $14 million in 2017 and was set to make $16 million in 2018 and $15 million in 2019.

2017 Bears position grades: Quarterbacks

2017 Bears position grades: Quarterbacks

2017 grade: C-

Level of need: Low

Decisions to be made on: Mike Glennon (contract), Mark Sanchez (free agent)

Possible free agent targets: Chase Daniel, Derek Anderson, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Matt Moore

The Philadelphia Eagles proved on NFL’s biggest stage why a No. 2 quarterback matters, and while the Bears may not need a version of Nick Foles to beat Tom Brady in Super Bowl LIII, getting Mitchell Trubisky’s backup right will be important. Two big decisions face Ryan Pace and Matt Nagy here: Should Mark Sanchez back up Trubisky, and if not, should they still carry three quarterbacks next season?

Sanchez and Trubisky developed a good relationship in 2017, but Sanchez was inactive for all 16 games. Would the Bears really trust someone who’s only thrown 18 passes since the beginning of the 2016 season with being the guy to play if something were to happen to Trubisky? That seems unlikely, but Sanchez’s ability to provide been-there, done-that advice should at least lead the Bears to consider the idea.

More likely is the Bears look at someone outside the organization to fill their backup gig. Chase Daniel makes a lot of sense, seeing as the 31-year-old began his pro career in New Orleans from 2010-2013 (with Pace) and then moved on to Kansas City from 2013-2015 (with Nagy). Daniel’s football intelligence has been one of his better traits since his days as a Heisman Trophy finalist at the University of Missouri, and he could be a good resource for Trubisky on the sidelines and in the locker room. But if recent playing time is a requirement, Daniel falls short of even Sanchez -- he’s only thrown three passes since the beginning of the 2015 season.

Derek Anderson, Ryan Fitzpatrick and Matt Moore all fit the bill of veteran backups who are set to hit free agency, but whether any of them make it there is another question. Anderson has been Cam Newton’s backup in Carolina since 2011; Fitzpatrick started three games as Jameis Winston’s backup in Tampa last year; and Moore has been in Miami for the last seven years. Those three players aren’t the only ones the Bears could target, but they’ve all started multiple games in the last two seasons.

As for the number of quarterbacks the Bears carry: It seems likely it’ll just be two, with perhaps a late-round pick or an undrafted free agent stashed on the practice squad. It’s a matter of when, not if, Mike Glennon will be cut to save $11.5 million in cap space, and with him out of the quarterback room, it wouldn’t make much sense to add another veteran behind a backup.

Obviously, the Bears hope whoever they sign to be Trubisky’s backup doesn’t start a game. Trubisky’s growth will be the most crucial factor in determining the Bears’ success (or lack thereof) in 2018, but getting the right backup nevertheless is important. Just ask Doug Pederson.