Bears

Matt Nagy ranked 12th among NFL head coaches for 2019

Matt Nagy ranked 12th among NFL head coaches for 2019

Matt Nagy was the NFL’s Coach of the Year for 2018, but even he would tell you there’s still more work to be done.

It was a great distinction for his first season, but now everyone’s waiting to see how he follows it up in year two with another set of challenges.

That’s part of why Rotoworld’s Patrick Daugherty ranked Nagy 12th on his list of the NFL’s best coaches for 2019.

“It was a nearly flawless first act, but big challenges lie ahead for 2019. Most daunting is the replacement of Vic Fangio, who oversaw one of the best defenses of the decade in 2018,” Daugherty wrote. “So far he’s 1-for-1. Now the task becomes “remain you” as the league adjusts and Trubisky enters what will be the most telling year of his professional career.”

Nagy ranked the highest of any first-year head coach on the list, and his lack of long-term success might be what kept him lower.

Out of the top 10 on the list, nine have won Lombardi trophies. The only two ahead of Nagy without a Super Bowl ring (as a head coach) are Mike Zimmer from the Minnesota Vikings and Anthony Lynn from the Los Angeles Chargers.    

 

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Kyle Long's reported move to injured reserve a difficult, yet necessary, move for the Bears

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USA Today

Kyle Long's reported move to injured reserve a difficult, yet necessary, move for the Bears

Per NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport and Mike Garofolo, the Bears are “likely” to place right guard Kyle Long on injured reserve, a move which could potentially end a disappointing season for the 30-year-old former first round pick. 

If Long indeed lands on injured reserve before Week 7, he could theoretically return for the Bears’ final three games of the regular season (players designated to return need to spend at least eight weeks on injured reserve). But if he were to miss the rest of the season, it would be a particularly brutal way for Long’s seventh year in the NFL — and potentially his time with the Bears — to end. 

Long re-structured his contract earlier this year, leaving it with only $1.5 million in dead cap for 2020. The Bears could save $8.1 million in salary cap space by releasing Long after the 2019 season, per Spotrac. 

Long talked in the offseason of finally feeling healthy after not having to undergo offseason surgery following three injury-plagued years. A Pro Bowler in his first three seasons in the NFL, Long played in eight, 10 and eight games from 2016-2018, and has started four of the Bears’ five games in 2019. 

The Bears listed Long as being limited or out of practice over the last few weeks with a hip injury, which was why they held him out of their Week 4 win over the Minnesota Vikings. 

Long did not play well in the four games he started this year, with his team-worst PFF grade of 37.5 matching the eye test. On the “Football Aftershow” on NBC Sports Chicago following last week’s Bears-Raiders game, longtime Bears center Olin Kreutz said of Long: 

"You could make an argument that they have to take a good, long look at Kyle Long, and where he’s at, and does he need weeks off… does he need to go on IR, is Rashaad Coward a better option. If you take a really good look at the film, and this is hard for me to say, because I am a big fan of Kyle long, and I’ve watched him for a long time play a high level of football, where he was a dominant right guard… What I’ve seen in the first 3 weeks, and in this week, I wonder about his body, I really do, and I wonder where he is in his career.”

Placing Long on injured reserve, though, would be an attempt for the Bears to fix an offensive line that’s lagged in both pass protection and run blocking. 

Long’s replacement could be either veteran Ted Larsen or greenhorn Rashaad Coward. Larsen did not travel to London with the Bears due to a knee injury suffered in Week 4, so depending on his status after the Bears’ off week he may not even be an option in a week when the New Orleans Saints come to Soldier Field. 

That would leave Coward, who played his first snaps as an NFL offensive lineman after Larsen’s injury against the Minnesota Vikings. He possesses intriguing athleticism, but also was developed almost exclusively as a tackle after switching positions (he began his NFL career as a defensive lineman) back in the spring of 2018. 

Another option for the Bears could be to promote undrafted free agent Alex Bars from their practice squad. Bars — who was recruited to Notre Dame by Bears’ offensive line coach Harry Hiestand and played under him for four years there — had a good preseason, and was regarded as a likely mid-round draft pick before his 2018 season in South Bend ended in September with a torn ACL and MCL. 

Better play from Hiestand’s right guard wouldn’t solve everything that’s ailed the Bears’ offensive line this year, but it would be a start. Placing Long on injured reserve certainly would not be an easy decision made inside Halas Hall, given how much he’s sacrificed and fought through to be on the field over the last few years. 

But, rather unfortunately, it might be a path the Bears need to take. 

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If Bears decide to make a trade, which QBs could they look to pursue?

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USA TODAY

If Bears decide to make a trade, which QBs could they look to pursue?

Week 6 of the 2019 NFL schedule will be highlighted by the showdown between the Kansas City Chiefs and Houston Texans. Quarterbacks Patrick Mahomes and DeShaun Watson will face off in what’s being dubbed as a showcase of the league’s best young quarterbacks.

Naturally, that’s a tough pill to swallow for Bears fans.

We all know the story by now. General manager Ryan Pace pushed all of his 2017 NFL draft chips to the center of the table when he traded up one spot from No. 3 overall to No. 2 in order to select Mitch Trubisky, a move that’s produced mixed results now three seasons in.

It’s unfair to call Trubisky a bust at this point, but it’s an honest assessment to say he’s a distant third in the pecking order behind Mahomes and Watson.

But none of that really matters moving forward. Quarterbacks who throw for incredible numbers don’t always win the Super Bowl, and while Trubisky doesn’t project as a guy who’s going to lead the league in any major passing category, he does have the work ethic and character to emerge as a leader who can take his team on a Super Bowl run.

He did, after all, lead the Bears to a 12-4 record and what should’ve been a game-winning drive in last year’s wild-card round.

There is one troubling theme bubbling under the surface with Trubisky. For the second year in a row, he’s missed starts due to a shoulder injury. He sat two games in 2018 and was sidelined for the Raiders game in London last week. His absence cost the Bears in the win column and it’s pretty clear that Chase Daniel isn’t the best backup plan in the long-term.

Normally, backup quarterbacks aren’t big-name guys who are fresh off of starting jobs, and if they are, they probably weren’t very good. But the Bears could have an opportunity over the next few weeks to trade for a better Plan B if Trubisky gets hurt again (note: the NFL trade deadline this season is Oct. 29).

Let’s start in Jacksonville, where the Jaguars are riding Minshew Mania to a better-than-expected start to their 2019 season. None of this was supposed to happen; instead, Nick Foles was signed to be their fearless leader who could finally complement a Super Bowl-worthy defense and lead Jacksonville on a playoff run.

Foles injured his collarbone in Week 1 and hasn’t taken a snap since. He’s expected to be out until Week 11. By then, the Jaguars should firmly be Gardner Minshew’s team. Foles can likely be had in a trade and his familiarity with an Andy Reid-style offense (he thrived under Doug Pederson in Philadelphia the last two seasons) would make him a perfect fit under Matt Nagy.

Then there’s the Cincinnati Bengals and Andy Dalton. The Bengals are in a two-horse race with the Miami Dolphins for Tua Tagovailoa and there’s virtually no chance they’ll re-sign Dalton this offseason. After a few more losses, would the Bengals consider shipping him out of town for some draft capital? It would certainly be worth exploring by Pace.

Dalton has enjoyed success as a passer in the NFL, including two seasons with more than 4,200 passing yards. However, he does have an injury history and has just 16 starts over the last two seasons. Still, he’s an accurate passer who would be a fantastic insurance policy in 2019 and potentially beyond.

If the Bears want to go the more traditional backup route, they could kick the tires on Giants veteran Eli Manning. Prying the two-time Super Bowl champ away from Big Blue is probably the least likely scenario considering Manning’s no-trade clause, but Manning has enough left in the tank to give Chicago a chance to win games if Trubisky is out of the lineup. Maybe it’s more accurate to say he’d give the Bears a better chance than Daniel.

And then there’s always Josh Rosen, who the Miami Dolphins appear to be auditioning to trade away this offseason when they land their quarterback of the future in the 2020 NFL draft. He’d be the most controversial addition because of his status as a young former first-rounder who doesn’t project as a one-year rental (unless you’re the Dolphins). Rosen’s growth, much like Trubisky’s, has been stunted by his less-than-ideal first-year setting more than his natural talent.

The most likely approach, however, is that Pace will do nothing. He’ll roll the dice on Trubisky’s toughness and Daniel’s veteran experience (although that seems contradictory considering his limited number of starts over his 11 years in the NFL).

But if the Bears are serious about going on a Super Bowl run in 2019, they’ll need to do something to protect the team against a devastating turn of events at quarterback.

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