First, a sort of p.s. for last week’s column questioning some of the aspects of the Bears not playing starters, quarterback Mitchell Trubisky in particular. Not every reader liked the conclusions. No worries; here’s an alternative anyway.
An overarching point of the column is that as utterly useless as the current preseason structure is, games specifically, until it’s fixed, i.e., done away with, it’s what the Bears and rest of the NFL have to deal with. The offense’s mediocrity wasn’t simply for want of preseason reps. But until the NFL gets its preseason right, it is what it is. Tom Brady played. Drew Brees played. Kirk Cousins played (badly). Jared Goff didn’t. Patrick Mahomes played. Baker Mayfield played. Kyler Murray played. Cam Newton played. Dak Prescott played. Aaron Rodgers didn’t. Matt Ryan played. Matthew Stafford played. Mitchell Trubisky didn’t. Deshaun Watson played. Jameis Winston played.
Anyway, moving on from all that… .
Maybe the solution lies in exactly what teams and players are concluding to be more useful (and safer) than games: Joint practices.
The sticking point with doing away with preseason games is money. Period. So maybe joint practices in stadiums with admission charged is a way to go.
The Bears can draw 20,000 to a Soldier Field practice that’s basically just a walk-through. Repeating: The issue for owners and the league is money. Well, if the NFL can package and market the 40’s, bench-presses and cone drills of the Scouting Combine for television and sell seats, it can certainly package three days of, say, Bears-Colts practices for television and revenue-generating attendance. Think Tom Brady vs. Bears D for three days would fill Soldier Field and fill an hour or two on NBC Sports Chicago that evening?
And frankly, if a game of 2’s and 3’s were tacked on at the end, fine. The Bears used to have a rookie scrimmage with the Browns on their final Platteville Saturday.
Preseason now consists of four games (using the term loosely). Three days of joint practices against, say, the Ravens and three against perhaps the Broncos makes for not four, but six revenue generators. Could they draw lower interest or viewership than preseason games one or four, as presently constituted? Hardly.
Scheduling? The first three-practice set falls in what currently is the first preseason game week. The second three come in what’s now the third week.
The Bears held joint practices in Platteville with the Cleveland Browns under Bill Belichick and with the New Orleans Saints. If Platteville can host entire visiting teams… . Chicago, surely you could come up with team lodging for a couple days? Indianapolis got it done.
Joint practices, which come with built-in controls simply because they’re not game intensity, are the alternative. The Bears set up joint practices in Indianapolis, New England and Denver over the past four preseasons, all in the normal second preseason week (third last year because of a Hall of Fame game). This year that didn’t happen because it couldn’t be worked out with the Giants facilities.
But this year’s third game was at Indy, a city set up for Super Bowls and for joint practices. Maybe it’s too close to the regular season, but if they weren’t going to play in Saturday’s game, Trubisky and the offense working against the Colts in several practices is exactly what he and they needed. Put those in Lucas Oil Stadium, sell tickets and televise the work.
Anybody else think it at least a little bit amusing/bemusing that a little while before Eddy Piniero was drilling a 58-yard field goal, Kaare Vedvik, the kicker for whom Minnesota outbid the Bears in a trade this month, not only missed his first two field goals as a Viking, but also missed one of those kicks from 43 yards?Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of the Bears.