Bears

Colts losing Josh McDaniels a replay of Bears ’99 saga with Dave McGinnis? Not exactly

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USA TODAY

Colts losing Josh McDaniels a replay of Bears ’99 saga with Dave McGinnis? Not exactly

The news that Josh McDaniels had stiffed the Indianapolis Colts on the head coaching job and opted to remain as offensive coordinator of the New England Patriots, even after the Colts had gone so far as to issue a press release for the formal announcement of McDaniels’ hiring, sparked a spectrum of observations, some involving the Bears and their own top field job.

Does anybody really feel sorry for the Colts, who slunk out of Baltimore under cover of darkness (and ahead of a move by Maryland to exercise eminent domain and make the team stay) and jilted that city for Indianapolis? John Elway had refused to play for the Colts in ’83 due in large part because of concerns about management; only McDaniels knows what part the overall Indianapolis situation played in his change of heart.

The Colts didn’t lose McDaniels because of a premature press release, one that was put out before they had a signed contract with McDaniels, and the Bears did not blow up their hiring of Dave McGinnis back in ’99 because of a premature press release, either, as is sometimes mistakenly reported.

Then-Chairman Michael McCaskey did have a release sent out before a deal had been reached (actually, before negotiations had even started), and McGinnis was highly upset. But he did come in to Halas Hall that day and the two sides reached agreement on a four-year deal. But McGinnis walked away from the Bears for good the next day because of being asked to conceal from potential assistant coaches (which would have included Leslie Frazier and Mike Martz as his coordinators) that there was two-year buyout language in McGinnis’ contract, potentially making the deal just a two-year gig, something McGinnis believed his staff deserved to know before they took jobs and moved families to Chicago.

McDaniels’ reported reasons have included concerns about again uprooting his family, as he’d done to take jobs in Denver for two years and St. Louis for one before returning to the Patriots.

The Patriots aggressively sought to keep McDaniels over the past couple of weeks with contract improvements. Could John Fox and the Bears have held onto Adam Gase as offensive coordinator in 2016 with a similar push?

Not likely. Gase had a chance to be a head coach for the first time in his career, which comes with more of a pay bump than coordinators command. But Gase had been five years in Detroit, six years in Denver, and with three young kids, the prospect of not moving his family might’ve been appealing.

Still, no contest, Miami vs. Chicago? Not so fast. Gase is from Ypsilanti, Mich., and coached in Detroit. He can function with cold.

At this point 25 percent of the Bears’ games in 2018 will be against teams with new head coaches: Detroit (two games) hired New England defensive coordinator Matt Patricia; Arizona hired Carolina DC Steve Wilks; and the Giants will play under former Minnesota offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur.

The Colts could be something of an unofficial tiebreaker, but maybe not. No clear NFL offensive-or-defensive trend unfolded in this year’s hires. Arizona, Detroit and Tennessee (Mike Vrabel) went for coaches from a defense base; the Giants, Raiders (John Gruden) and Bears (Matt Nagy) went offense. The Colts, tba. Maybe former Bears special teams coordinator Dave Toub.

Bears-Lions takeaways: A toughening route to the playoffs, a run game defying fixing?

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Bears-Lions takeaways: A toughening route to the playoffs, a run game defying fixing?

The Bears putdown of the Detroit Lions provided a critically important statement start to the second half of a season that now would stand as a disappointment if the Bears fail to reach the playoffs. Not so much because of the missed-playoffs themselves, but because to misfire now after a pair of three-game win streaks will mean a couple of bad losses.

Or so-called “bad” because of expectations being raised above ground-level. But the Bears face a remaining schedule with some dark corners.

The Bears haven’t beaten a team currently with even a .500 record. No reflection on the Bears; they can only play whoever shows up. But it puts the remaining seven-game race to the postseason under a cloud of justifiable doubt, leaving it to the Bears to prove they belong in the tournament that starts in January.

The schedule has three A-list games: two against Minnesota, which has won four of its last five and comes to Soldier Field on Sunday following an off-week; and one against the Rams, the highest-scoring team in the NFC.

Three games are against bottom-feeders – the Lions again, the New York Giants and the San Francisco 49ers. The problems here are: 1) all three games are on the road and 2) those teams will beat someone over the final the final seven weeks.

And the seventh of the remaining games is against the Green Bay Packers, who’ve lost all four of their 2018 road games but have a quarterback who hasn’t lost to the Bears in Chicago since 2010.

Tiebreakers are likely out of play for the division, with Green Bay and Minnesota having a shared tie. But winning the division outright seemed a given, as it does now, in 2012 when the Lovie Smith Bears had an elite defense and stood 8-3.

Run game redux

Concern over the Bears inability to run the football may come off as nitpicking or saying nay about an offense leading a team that is on pace to set a franchise scoring record.

But it does matter that of the 10 teams with six or more victories this season, the Bears, Patriots, Saints and Texans are the only ones not in the top 15 in rushing average. Houston and New Orleans, however, rank in the top 11 for rushing yardage, and New England does have Tom Brady in addition to being tied for third with 12 rushing touchdowns.

The overarching point here is if the Bears hope to challenge for a spot among the NFL’s elite, it behooves them to fix this weakness in an offense without many.

The bigger point is whether the Bears can fix it. Put another way, they may not be able to within the parameters of the offense as being designed and operated by Matt Nagy. He has a No. 1 back who needs carries to build a game, yet he is a coach who does not run his offense through a featured back.

Nagy didn’t isolate blame for his team’s running woes on Jordan Howard, the offensive line, coaches or anyone else. Nor should he, because the problem indeed lies with none of them and all of them.

With a Detroit gameday roster with five backs and three tight ends, the result was the lowest rushing total (54 yards) and average (2.5 yards per carry) of this season and came a week after the previous lows (64 yards, 2.6 yards per carry).

But the issue is more than one back (Howard). It’s the group of running backs (leaving the offensive line out of this point purposely), none of which are likely ever going to give Nagy the identity or consistent production that he wants for this element of his offense.

For one thing, no back is likely to see anywhere near the workload that ostensibly is needed to get Howard “lathered up.” Nagy doesn’t lather anybody up, and until a back emerges who can do a microwave impersonation and heat up in a huge hurry, the Bears rushing upside is hazy.

Using the template Nagy most relates to, Kareem Hunt has gotten 20 carries in just seven of 26 career games as a Kansas City Chief, only once in a 2018 season that has the Chiefs at 9-1.

Run-run-run is simply not in the Nagy offensive DNA, nor is it anything close to a dominant philosophy, even among teams who have been its leading practitioners. Nor is there a consistent formula for winning with an integrated run-pass offense.

The NFL’s three top rushers – Todd Gurley, Rams, 9-1; James Conner, Steelers, 6-2-1; Hunt, Chiefs, 9-1 – come from teams that went into this weekend running the football 46.6 percent of their snaps (Rams), 36.3 percent (Steelers) and 40.5 percent (Chiefs).

The Nagy Bears have in fact been at the high-run end at 45.1 percent, while the coach and staff have struggled for a run-game identity. But that includes nearly 30 percent of the rushing yardage coming from Mitchell Trubisky – not exactly the preferred run-game identity.

NFL Week 11 Power Rankings: We're going to put someone else at #1, just for fun

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USA Today

NFL Week 11 Power Rankings: We're going to put someone else at #1, just for fun

FINALLY. 

It's been 10 weeks of LA-based Power Rankings domination. The Rams -- and to a slighly-less amount, the Chargers -- have dominated the top of these here Power Rankings for far too long. 

This week? A new #1 reigns. It's New Orleans' time to shine. 

We didn't forget the Bears, obviously, who sprinted their way straight into the Top 10. 

How'd your team do this week? You can find out right here.