Bears

Chris Simms says he believes in Matt Nagy and Ryan Pace to right the ship for the Bears

Chris Simms says he believes in Matt Nagy and Ryan Pace to right the ship for the Bears

The 2019 Bears are past the point of living week-to-week. In the midst of what could soon devolve into a completely lost season, many of the current challenges facing the team are far bigger — and far more existential — than, say, this week’s matchup with the Lions.

Chief among those challenges is identifying where exactly this season went awry and what player(s), coach(es), executive(s) or unit(s) will be held accountable moving forward. In recent weeks, the brunt of that blame has fallen squarely on Mitch Trubisky, and it’s not hard to reason why. Trubisky has regressed substantially in his third season in the league, one year after amassing an encouraging 3,644 total yards and 27 total touchdowns in 2018. 

Year 2 in Matt Nagy’s offense was supposed to be Trubisky’s ‘leap’ year, but, to put it bluntly, that hasn’t panned out. I could list his 2019 numbers, but the eye-test is enough. He looks completely lost, and the team has imploded around him.

Still, when Nagy says the team’s issues are deeper than the quarterback, he’s right. The offensive line is in shambles. Untimely special teams foibles have begun to rear their ugly head again. The Bears’ once-vaunted defense now enters this week ranked eighth in defensive DVOA. (That, for the record, is still great, but the marginal slip from transcendent to great has allowed the team’s 27th-ranked offense to sink the entire ship.)

Faced with this litany of issues, the biggest thing Bears brass will have to decide over the remainder of the 2019 season is who will take charge of putting this team back together. If it were up to NBC Sports NFL analyst Chris Simms, Matt Nagy and Ryan Pace would be a part of that equation.

“I am a believer in what Matt Nagy does,” Simms said recently. “I like his attitude, the way he coaches, the way he handles himself at the podium.

“I am a believer in Ryan Pace,” he continued. “He’s done a lot of great things there. I know we all want to get on him for drafting Mitchell Trubisky. He messed up. He took Trubisky before Mahomes and Watson, we get that. There’s been a lot of teams that made mistakes, you just gotta keep moving on…

“Long story short, I’m still a believer in Pace and Nagy.”

Notably missing from Simms’ summation is Trubisky, which is fair. But as eager as many fans and pundits are to cast the third-year signal-caller aside, there is an argument that fully and completely evaluating Trubisky over the remainder of the season would be more prudent than a mid-season switch.

If the Bears do decide to cut the Trubisky era short, Nagy may have done enough to earn a second chance with a second quarterback — this time, one of his choosing. But the team’s complete and continuous unraveling should only exacerbate the scrutiny of Pace, who — even outside drafting Trubisky — has made mistakes at the top of the draft (see: Kevin White, Adam Shaheen) and made a habit of aggressively parting with valuable draft capital to, overall, little franchise-altering consequence. 

There are also the whiffs Pace has accumulated in free agency — from committing relatively big money over multiple years to Mike Glennon before trading up for Trubisky, to bringing in Mike Davis on a multi-year deal that is looking increasingly like a sunk cost, and so on. These are moves that, alone, don't outweigh the good Pace has done (the Khalil Mack trade, signing Allen Robinson, drafting Eddie Goldman and Cody Whitehair, etc.), but in the aggregate, have the potential to put a cap on the team’s ceiling and window to contend.

Whatever direction the Bears decide to move in this offseason, self-reflection and the capacity to act on said reflection will be crucial. Without that, a cycle of mediocrity is inevitable.

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Bears not among 8 teams in attendance at Colin Kaepernick's workout

Bears not among 8 teams in attendance at Colin Kaepernick's workout

So much for free-agent quarterback Colin Kaepernick throwing in front of 25 teams in a workout orchestrated by the NFL on Saturday in Atlanta.

Instead, he ran through a 40-minute session at Charles R. Drew High School in Riverdale, Georgia, and only eight teams were there: Philadelphia Eagles, Kansas City Chiefs, New York Jets, Washington Redskins, San Francisco 49ers, Detroit Lions, and Tennessee Titans.

No Ryan Pace. No Bears.

The bizarre twists and turns in what was supposed to be a formal private workout for the one-time 49ers' star have been hard to keep up with. But one thing is certain: At this point in the regular season, it seems like an awfully distracting proposition to consider adding Kaepernick the Chicago's roster.

"I've been ready for three years,'' Kaepernick said, via ESPN. "I've been denied for three years. We all know why I came out here. [I] showed it today in front of everybody. We have nothing to hide. So we're waiting for the 32 owners, 32 teams, Roger Goodell, all of them stop running. Stop running from the truth. Stop running from the people.

"We're out here. We're ready to play. We're ready to go anywhere. My agent, Jeff Nalley, is ready to talk any team. I'll interview with any team at any time. I've been ready.''

The originally scheduled workout was derailed over Kaepernick's camp changing the language of the liability waiver players sign before participating in private workouts. They wanted the workout open to the media, too, something the league refused to allow.

"We are disappointed that Colin did not appear for his workout," the NFL said in its statement Saturday. "He informed us of that decision at 2:30 pm today along with the public. Today's session was designed to give Colin what he has consistently said he wants -- an opportunity to show his football readiness and desire to return to the NFL. Twenty-five (25) clubs were present for the workout, and all 32 clubs, their head coaches, general managers, and other personnel executives would have received video footage of the interview and workout."

The NFL said the rewritten liability waiver provided by Kaepernick's representatives was "insufficient" and that although the league had agreed to allow Kaepernick's representatives on the field for the workout, it would remain mostly private. 

The disagreement over the workout's particulars isn't overly surprising. It was an odd situation to begin with considering the NFL was controlling the "who" and the "how" of the event. You can't fault Kaepernick for wanting some say in it all, especially since he's been waiting three years for the opportunity.

And even though he didn't get the chance to showcase his skills in front of as many teams as advertised, Kaepernick still made a positive impression on the field.

Where this all leads is anyone's guess. But it doesn't appear it will end in Chicago. 

How Tua Tagovailoa's injury will impact Bears' quarterback situation

How Tua Tagovailoa's injury will impact Bears' quarterback situation

Alabama Crimson Tide quarterback Tua Tagovailoa suffered a devastating season-ending hip injury late in the first half of  Saturday's game against Mississippi State, one that likely marks the end of his career as a member of the Crimson Tide. 

Next stop: NFL.

"Tua Tagovailoa sustained a right hip dislocation that was immediately reduced at the stadium," Alabama Team Orthopedic Surgeon Dr. Lyle Cain said in a statement following the game. "He is undergoing further testing to determine the best course of treatment. He is expected to make a full recovery but will miss the remainder of the season."

As Dr, Lyle pointed out, Tagovailoa is expected to make a full recovery. His timetable to return is unknown, but it's at least a positive sign that his team of doctors is optimistic about his future.

The harsh reality, however, is that Tagovailoa's injury is going to have a significant impact on his 2020 NFL draft stock, which before Saturday seemed like a top-five lock. After suffering ankle injuries in back-to-back seasons and now a disastrous hip injury, teams selecting in the top 10 will be extremely careful before hinging the future of their franchise on a player with major medical red flags.

And while the Bears were never in the mix to draft Tagovailoa, they will be in the quarterback market this offseason assuming Mitch Trubisky continues to struggle down the stretch. Tagovailoa's injury will make it more difficult for Chicago to land a veteran free agent who prior to Saturday may not have been on a team like the Dolphins' wish list.

That's all changed now.

If Miami had planned for Tagovailoa to be 'the guy' in 2020, their objective in free agency would've been to sign a veteran who can serve as an extra coach in the meeting room rather than a threat for reps on the field. But with Tagovailoa's health now a huge question mark, the Dolphins may not have a choice but to add a player like Cam Newton or Marcus Mariota who can come in and start not only in 2020, but for the foreseeable future as well.

The Bears aren't going to find their 2020 starting quarterback in the draft. If it isn't Trubisky, it has to be a veteran who has a resume of production that can take advantage of a championship window because of the talent on defense. But the price has to be right, and even adding just one team into the free-agent bidding war can have a massive impact on whether Ryan Pace is able to land his guy at his price.

Remember: It's not just the Dolphins whose draft and free agency plans will be impacted by Tagovailoa's injury. Quarterback prospects like Oklahoma's Jalen Hurts and Georgia's Jake Fromm could get pushed up the draft board because they have cleaner medicals or because teams realize they can't assume next year's prospect pool will offer them the answer they're looking for.

Tagovailoa's injury proves there's no such thing as a long-term strategy in a sport where one play can completely derail the best-laid plans. The club that may be eyeing Clemson's Trevor Lawrence in 2021 could choose to snag Oregon's Justin Herbert instead simply because he's healthy and available.

As a result, a run on quarterbacks might occur before the Bears are ever on the clock. That, combined with the free-agent market getting more expensive, could turn one hip injury into another season of Trubisky or bust in 2020.

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