The Bears aren't leading the analytic revolution, but that doesn't mean it's not a part of their game plans

The Bears aren't leading the analytic revolution, but that doesn't mean it's not a part of their game plans

Throughout the early months of Nagy 202, much of the conversation around the Bears’ offensive growth has been framed in terms of personnel. Mike Davis and David Montgomery will be the pass-catching backs that Nagy’s system needs. The wide receiver room is six, seven guys deep. Adam Shaheen and Trey Burton give the Bears that elusive edge in heavy sets.  

If roster-structuring was the earthquake that got every NFL team's attention, the use of new-age analytics are the aftershock tremors. In 2019, there’s nothing inventive about surrounding a first-contract QB with skill position talent. The Rams did it and became a juggernaut overnight. The Eagles did it and won a Super Bowl. Ryan Pace and Matt Nagy have followed suit in Chicago, and impressively so. What remains to be seen is how much the Bears have invested in taking it one step further, like other teams – Philadelphia being a prime example – have already done. 

To be clear, Nagy and the Bears aren’t kicking kids off his lawn. He is, after all, a disciple of Andy Reid and Doug Pederson - both widely lauded for being on the forefront of the analytic movement. The key for Nagy is finding the right balance. He pointed to situational football - end of halves and games, going for it on 4th down - as places where the numbers can be advantage. 

“Yeah, there is a weight to it,” Nagy said before Wednesday’s practice. “I’m kind of a feel person in regards to calling plays, and how I think that something’s going.

“So there’s a balance there. Everyone’s a little bit different, but I am certainly a feel guy.” 

One of the poster boys of the analytics movement has been reevaluating how to handle 4th-and-short situations. Per Warren Sharp’s site Sharp Stats, here are the league-wide numbers on offensive plays run on 4th and short (anything between 1-3 yards): 

2018: 188 Runs/196 Passes
2017: 153 Runs/146 Passes
2016: 150 Runs/ 170 Passes 

For some more context, the Bears ranked 20th in 4th down attempts (15) in 2018. The Eagles (23) ranked 2nd, while the Rams also had 15. Nine of the Bears’ attempts were in short yardage scenarios, and came with mixed results. On one hand, they ranked 18th in 4th down passing success (67%). On the other, they were 2-2 on 4th-and-short runs. (Insert small sample size caveat, etc). And despite much of the on-paper numbers telling the Bears to go for it more often, in-game situations (like weather conditions, for example) dictate much of the decision making. 

“It’s just another feel thing,” quarterback Chase Daniel said. “I don’t think it’s something that’s like, ‘hey, on the first 4th-and-3, no matter where we’re at, we’re going for it.’ I think it’s a feel thing. In the game, how your defense is playing, where you’re at on the field, how your quarterback is throwing, how your run game is going. Stuff like that. All that plays into it.” 

The analytics movement, as it regards to quarterback play, has been a hot-button topic with Bears fans for a few years now. Sites like Pro Football Focus, Football Outsiders, and Sharp Stats see Mitch Trubisky as a 2nd overall pick who, in Year 3, still struggles with deep ball inaccuracies, forcing throws, and decision making. Fans see a Pro Bowl quarterback who’s become a vocal and beloved leader, not to mention one that led the Bears to 12 wins and an NFC North title. To them, stats like QBR, DVOA, or Passer Rating are just talking points. The Bears tend to agree. 

“I see value in how your coaches evaluate you, everyone’s different,” Daniel said. “... You definitely see it. I mean, anything over 90 is pretty good. You definitely see it, but it’s not something you pay that much attention to. You can see it and go, ‘yeah, cool,’ or ‘woah, that was bad, but we won so who cares.’” 

Trubisky’s deep ball has been one of the most scrutinized aspects of his game since being drafted in 2017. The analytics – this time from Pro Football Focus – say it’s a mixed bag: 

Deep Left: 10/25, 337 Yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT, 97.5 Passer Rating
Deep Center: 4/15, 132 Yards, 1 TD, 2 INT, 46.4 Passer Rating
Deep Right: 13/33, 408 Yards, 4 TDs, 3 INT, 88.1 Passer Rating

NFL’s Next Gen Stats paint a less rosy picture. DVOA puts Trubisky in the middle of the pack. Given the wide variety of answers, you can start to better understand why the Bears prefer to stick to their own internal evaluations. 

“Never, [those stats] have never once come up [in meetings,” Daniel added. “It’s about protecting the football and getting the win.” 

Barring a total disaster, Matt Nagy's job is safe according to hot-seat list

Barring a total disaster, Matt Nagy's job is safe according to hot-seat list

Bears coach Matt Nagy was the darling of the NFL coaching fraternity in 2018 after he led his team to a 12-4 record and Chicago's first NFC North title in nearly a decade. But that was last year, and with the Bears sitting at 6-6 and falling way short of preseason expectations, some of the shine from his 2018 Coach of the Year Award has worn off.

But even though 2019 hasn't gone as predicted, Nagy isn't among the list of coaches who are on the hot seat, according to a new list compiled by ESPN. Instead, Nagy's seat is 'cool' and his job is safe barring a complete meltdown over the final four games of the year.

"Nagy doesn't have the same job security he enjoyed last season when he was the NFL Coach of the Year, but it's a stretch to think the Bears will fire him," ESPN's Jeff Dickerson wrote. "The team has struggled across the board on offense -- Nagy's specialty -- and the coach has shouldered his share of the blame. Still, the Bears are 18-10 in the regular season under Nagy. For comparison sake, John Fox went 13-34 in Chicago. Nagy isn't going anywhere."

It's pretty remarkable how far the Bears have come in two seasons under Nagy, even though their record this year doesn't scream success. If Chicago doesn't win another game this season, their six wins would equal the highest total in the four years preceding Nagy's arrival. If the Bears finish 8-8, it would be only the third time since 2011 that they were .500 or better. Chicago had just eight wins combined in 2016 and 2017.

Sure, Bears fans were hoping for a Super Bowl run in 2019 and Nagy was supposed to be the offensive genius who spearheaded the charge. It's true he's regressed as a play-caller this year, but it's only his second season as an NFL head coach. Much like his young quarterback, he's going through some growing pains and learning on the job.

But compared to the coaches who came before him -- John Fox and Marc Trestman -- Nagy is a beacon of hope for a bright future in Chicago.

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Bears land high-profile QB in latest 2020 NFL Mock Draft

Bears land high-profile QB in latest 2020 NFL Mock Draft

The 2020 NFL draft is still more than four months away, but it hasn't stopped draft experts from publishing their early mock drafts. And fortunately for Bears fans, most mock drafts now extend beyond just the first round.

Bleacher Report's Matt Miller published a new three-round mock draft Wednesday which has the Bears spending their first of two second-round selections on Georgia quarterback, Jake Fromm. The Fromm pick keeps with the trending narrative that general manager Ryan Pace will look to add competition for Mitch Trubisky this offseason.

Fromm would make a ton of sense for the Bears. He isn't overflowing with physical gifts and may end up settling in as an average NFL starter when it's all said and done, but he'd be a great insurance policy if Trubisky doesn't breakout in 2020. Fromm would provide Chicago with another young and talented option at quarterback who the Bears can insert into the lineup early next year if Trubisky fails.

The problem with this mock selection is that it might never have a chance to come to fruition. Fromm could sneak into the end of the first round and be off the board well before the Bears pick, which right now would be in the late-40's, early-50's.

With their second pick in the second round, Miller has the Bears taking Michigan offensive guard, Ben Bredeson. A veteran of more than 50 starts at guard, Bredeson would provide the Bears with the kind of physical toughness the interior of the offensive line has been missing since Kyle Long's injuries started mounting up.

Chicago isn't about to give up on 2018 second-round pick James Daniels, and Cody Whitehair appears set at center for as long as Trubisky is quarterback. But Rashaad Coward has done little to suggest he's the long-term answer at right guard which makes a prospect like Bredeson a logical target as a potential starter right away.

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