New Orleans Saints

Bears Coaching Confidential: Pete Carmichael

Bears Coaching Confidential: Pete Carmichael

The Bears enter Week 2 of their coaching search having interviewed six candidates. Could the team's search expand beyond those six, and involve two coordinators with direct ties to general manager Ryan Pace? Today, Paul Aspan and I will look at New Orleans Saints offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael. 

JJ: Carmichael has been in the NFL since 2000 and has been the New Orleans Saints’ offensive coordinator since 2009. He’s 46 and a Super Bowl champion, but hasn’t been the recipient of a whole lot of head coaching buzz in the last few years. The Bears haven’t interviewed him, and despite Ryan Pace’s connections to New Orleans, there hasn’t been anything connecting Carmichael to Chicago. But is there any chance Pace doubles back to the Big Easy for an interview here?

Paul: On the surface, it’s a bit surprising that we did not hear his name as Pace scheduled his first round of interviews….but then again, maybe it’s not. To your point about their familiarity, Pace already knows what he does -- or doesn’t -- have in Carmichael. Even if the Bears were interested, they did the right thing spending that precious first week getting to know the guys that they are not familiar with. Add the fact that the Saints had a playoff game yesterday and there’s no need for Carmichael or defensive coordinator Dennis Allen, who we’ll get into tomorrow, to have this distraction hanging over them.

One offensive mind they did interview on Sunday is Chiefs offensive Matt Nagy, and honestly, after Kansas City's second half collapse on Saturday -- even without Travis Kelce -- the Bears probably only went through with the interview because it would be a terrible look to back out. 

I never seriously considered Nagy as a head coaching candidate for the simple fact that he just started calling plays for the final five games of the regular season. That’s not nearly enough experience and Saturday’s abysmal second half was just the nail in his candidacy coffin. 

JJ: There’s been far too much hand-wringing about the Bears interviewing Nagy less than 24 hours after his team blew a lead and crashed out of the playoffs. Good thing the San Francisco 49ers didn’t back out of hiring Kyle Shanahan after the Atlanta Falcons blew a bigger lead on a bigger stage, eh?

Were those two quarters of football bad? Yeah. It may have made for a slightly different conversation between Pace and Nagy than had the Chiefs won. But the focus of his interview likely wasn’t any different than the previous five interviews Pace conducted: What would your coaching staff look like? What’s your plan for Mitchell Trubisky? How do you plan to command a locker room?

If Nagy nails the answers to those questions...who cares if the Chiefs had two bad quarters in a wild card playoff game? Would it have been "better" for the perception of Nagy if the Chiefs lost 31-0? 

Anyways, back to some thoughts on Carmichael...

Paul: As for Carmichael, one of the most interesting/bizarre/concerning things about him is the silence surrounding his name when it comes to head coaching openings year after year. I remember Drew Brees saying during the Bears-Saints week this season that he "loves Ryan Pace" and Carmichael and Brees clearly have had a long and successful working relationship, so you would think that would work in Carmichael’s favor.

But it is Sean Payton’s offense. We talked about this with Josh McDaniels and Tom Brady, but working with a future Hall of Famer sure makes him look pretty good. Carmichael has that in Brees, and watching the Saints wild card win against the Panthers on Sunday, it sure looked like it was Payton, not Carmichael, calling the shots for the New Orleans offense with the game on the line. So where’s that leave him if he goes out on his own? 

But, JJ, I know when we first started going over names, this one caught your eye, so what’s your take on Carmichael?

JJ: Initially, before really doing any research, this one seemed to make sense: The guy who’s coordinated one of the best offenses in the NFL for years, won a Super Bowl and has an existing relationship with Pace. But diving a bit beneath the surface, this theme became clear: It’s Payton’s offense No. 1, and it’s run by a Hall of Fame quarterback No. 2. 

This line, from a 2016 article on CBS Sports, seems telling: “Carmichael is not one to politic for jobs or kudos.” Perhaps this is a two-way street: Carmichael isn’t getting much interest because the league views him as, at best, the third-most important person on the Saints’ offensive totem pole; and he’s not actively trying to change that impression, either. 

Nobody knows his organizational and motivational skills better than Pace, which doesn’t necessarily work in Carmichael’s favor. He may be one of those guys who’s a great coordinator but not a head coach. 

One final thing working against Carmichael: The Bears appear to be moving quickly on their head coaching search, as our own John “Moon” Mullin explained here. The team has conducted six interviews already and won’t interview Carolina Panthers defensive coordinator Steve Wilks, indicating they’ve settled on their initial list and may already be zeroing in on their No. 1 guy. 

If that’s the case, there’s no waiting out the Saints’ playoff run to avoid a distraction. Carmichael won’t be the guy. 

Pereira: Some NFL officials know they messed up Zach Miller TD

1101_zach_miller.jpg

Pereira: Some NFL officials know they messed up Zach Miller TD

It's been eight days since Zach Miller's-touchdown-that-wasn't and it's still a buzzworthy topic in the NFL world.

Miller is set to be released from a New Orleans hospital Monday morning after needing emergency surgery on his knee during that controversial endzone catch/non-catch. 

In the week-plus since that incident, the NFL has not walked back its bizarre decision to overturn Miller's TD against the Saints in Week 8. In fact, the league has actually doubled down, releasing a video last week where head of officiating Alberto Riveron claimed the evidence was definitive.

Mike Pereira feels differently.

The former NFL VP of officiating currently can be seen on FOX broadcasts breaking down the rules and judgements during games. 

Pereira joined the "Pardon My Take" podcast released Monday morning and admitted some officials around the NFL know the Miller TD call was a mistake, but won't say that publicly.

PFT Commenter and Big Cat asked Pereira if the NFL has officially apologized for the Miller TD reversal.

"No, they've done the opposite," Pereira said. "They have officially tried to sell the fact that they were correct with their ruling on the field, which I'm sorry to say — I don't want to call it laughable, but close to laughable.

"I get the fact that they want to try to defend what they're going to do, but there's no part of the Jet play against New England that was clear and obvious to overturn. It's a dangerous trend that we have seen.

"At least I'm happy to say this Sunday's games, they didn't pull any of those. They stayed with the calls that were made on the field. But they're trying to really try to justify their mistake when we're hearing even internally from some people in New York that they do agree it should'nt've been reversed."

Pereira said there are three plays in his mind this season that should never have been reversed — including the Miller TD and the aforementioned Week 6 Jets-Patriots call — that 50 drunk dudes in a bar could clearly see. 

Pereira hopes that NFL has gotten beyond that after a Week 9 with no such issues.

The Bears need to establish a template for Mitch Trubisky

10-14mitchelltrubisky.jpg
AP

The Bears need to establish a template for Mitch Trubisky

The bye week of every NFL season is a time of intense self-scouting, more in depth than the weekly self-critiquing that is a constant in the NFL. Four games into the NFL career of quarterback Mitch Trubisky, the Bears have something of a philosophical decision to make with their rookie quarterback.

One quarterback ideal in the current NFL is the one who can operate at max production from the pocket, with the ability to turn a broken play into a broken defense when he gets outside the pocket, whether by design, or induced by pressure. Brett Favre, Joe Montana, John Elway, Aaron Rodgers, a few that come to mind.

Trubisky already has established himself as able to move, able to throw on the move, and able to operate in an offense designed around more of his skill set than simply his right arm. Critics of the Bears’ game-planning and play-calling derided the Bears for not doing more with Trubisky’s mobile talents even as the Bears were winning two of his first three starts.

But much of life is about balance (thank you, Mr. Miyagi), and ultimately that is the foundation of a successful offense. Within that context, the Bears need to establish, and likely already have, a template for the kind of quarterback they want Trubisky to become.

Tom Brady and Peyton Manning always thrived in the pocket. Favre, Rodgers and Montana by their own assessments have flourished in chaos. All will wind up in the Hall of Fame. All have had significant injuries, whether pocket-dweller or man-on-the-move.

Mobile Trubisky, but be careful

Will defenses seek to flush Trubisky out of the pocket and keep him in it? And where will the Bears most often want him to be? How mobile do the Bears really want Trubisky to be “on purpose?”

A couple of thoughts, though:

Trubisky can move. No negative there. But his mobility hasn’t been offense-altering and coaches may have good reason for not designing a lot around that mobility, because the NFL may be onto him.

Trubisky averaged 9.6 yards per carry in preseason; his average is down at 7.3 yards per carry in his regular-season starts, and that includes a 46-yard scamper against the New Orleans Saints. Without that, Trubisky is picking up 4.6 yards per run.

Consistent with that, Trubisky was sacked once every 19 drop-backs in preseason, obviously going against lesser defensive talent. He now is being dropped once every 8.5 times he sets up to pass.

Trubisky, at this early point in his NFL career, has been critiqued as being more accurate on the move and/or outside the pocket. This is not necessarily a good thing whatsoever; the last Bears quarterback with that sort of seeming contradiction was Rick Mirer, who was demonstrably better on the fly (insert caustic comment here).

Nor is it necessarily true, at least in Trubisky’s mind.

“We had a higher [completion] percentage in play-action passes and [quarterback] keepers,” Trubisky said. “A lot of the incompletions were throwaways but we can just be higher percentage in those areas and continue to be better on third down. But we’ve been pretty good on drop backs and we just need to keep getting better in the red area to finish with points.”

He is a rookie with all of 13 college starts, about one-third the number that Deshaun Watson had at Clemson, and 572 total college passes, fewer than half the number thrown by Pat Mahomes at Texas Tech — the two quarterbacks his own selection preceded theirs in the 2017 NFL Draft. So the understanding was that Trubisky’s learning curve could well be a little longer or steeper than the typical rookie.

But he is clearly learning, what works and what doesn’t.

Ball-security concept sinking in

Coaches have drilled into Trubisky the importance of keeping the football in Bears hands and no one else’s. He has appeared to get it since before he replaced Mike Glennon, back in preseason when he nearly unseated Glennon outright as the Week 1 starter.

“Just look from game to game that he’s started,” head coach John Fox said. “We’re 2-2 in the quarter [of the ’17 season] that he’s been our starting quarterback, and I think we’ve done a better job of ball security and…we’ll just see where that takes us."

Trubisky threw zero interceptions in 53 preseason attempts even while seeing some pressure (sacked three times). He has thrown two picks in 80 regular season attempts while taking 11 sacks and throwing more than a half-dozen far out of harm’s way. Colleague JJ Stankevitz puts Trubisky in context with other rookie passers, citing QB coach Dave Ragone’s observation that some of ball-security behavior is innate and some is learning progressions and decision-making.

Jay Cutler never appeared to make ball security the priority it needed to be; his interception rates too often were north of 3, normally a tipping point for quarterback play. Favre can disprove some of the rule, but complementary football begins with an offense not putting its defense in difficult situations with turnovers. Only two teams reached the 2016 postseason with quarterbacks throwing INT’s at a rate higher than 2.7 percent.

Priority: Accuracy

Accuracy is prized nearly as much as ball security (they are not unconnected, obviously), and this so far is a work in progress.

Trubisky has completed a very, very modest 47.5 percent of his passes through his four starts. In fairness, however, he threw six passes away in the win over the Baltimore Ravens, a clear indication of movement along the learning curve from the previous week’s loss to the Minnesota Vikings when a forced throw in the closing minutes resulted in an interception that turned a potential winning Bears drive into a Vikings victory.

Just for sake of a meaningless what-if, had Trubisky completed four of those six intentional throwaways, his theoretical completion percentage improves to 52.5 — not the august 67.9 percent he completed in preseason or his 67.5 percent at North Carolina. Neither mean anything at the NFL level, except that his accuracy was a major reason for his evaluation as the top quarterback in the 2017 draft by more than only the Bears. His coaches may have installed a level-one priority for ball security but that does not compromise a natural passing accuracy that Trubisky has demonstrated his entire football life.

“We watched all the passes [last] week – all the red zone and two-minute and play action, every single pass we’ve had this year to see how we can get better and how we can get a higher completion percentage and too see how we can be more efficient all the way around,” Trubisky said. “We’ve been analyzing and self-scouting our own offense to see where we need to get better and at and what we need to improve.”