Bears

With Adam Gase to Miami, Bears attention turns to finding OC successor

dowellloggainsslide.png

With Adam Gase to Miami, Bears attention turns to finding OC successor

That the Bears could be without Adam Gase as offensive coordinator after the annual hiring blitz of NFL coaches has been anticipated for some time, as far back as the time of his hiring in Chicago. Gase had been on multiple NFL interview cards before following John Fox to Chicago. The assumption here has always been that either Gase or Jay Cutler would be elsewhere after the 2015 season. (good = Gase gone; bad=Cutler gone).

The bigger story surrounding the Bears, however, is not where Gase would end up — it became Miami on Saturday — but rather who would succeed him. That carries extreme weight because of the progress made by Cutler — the best statistical season of his career — despite a receiver corps that changed weekly, sometimes daily given the number of nicks suffered in practices.

It has been a volatile position since Cutler’s arrival: Ron Turner (2009), Mike Martz (2010-11, Mike Tice (2012), Aaron Kromer (2013-14) and Gase (2015).

[MORE BEARS: Adam Gase named Dolphins head coach]

ESPN’s Adam Schefter, citing sources, said that current quarterbacks coach Dowell Loggains is the front-runner to succeed Gase.

Looking ahead, first, at the general philosophy of the offense, and then several of the top possibilities for Bears offensive coordinator:

Overview

For all of the focus on Cutler, the Bears were going to be a running football team under Fox, and Gase was an architect of game plans consistent with that philosophy. The fact that the Bears were without Martellus Bennett, Alshon Jeffery and Eddie Royal for about a half-season each, and Kevin White for the entire year were additional factors tilting the Bears away from heavy reliance on the pass.

But the Bears under Gase ran the ball consistently, with or without their top receivers. In games with Jeffery close to full health (seven), for example, the Bears ran the ball 45.7 percent of the time. The expectation is that Fox, not the coordinator, will set the overall base course of the offense.

[MORE BEARS: Playoff field provides lessons for Bears: Draft defense high, Cutler backup]

“Let me make this clear,” Fox declared in the Bears’ year-end press conference with Fox and GM Ryan Pace. “Our systems are our systems. They’re not any individual’s systems; they are our systems. Our systems aren’t changing, offense, defense or special teams.

“You tweak and you grow and you adjust. You have to do that in this league because it’s a fluid league, there are trends and things that happen, and things that you have to react to regardless of what they are. That’s all part of coaching. One of the hard things about being a new staff is introducing those systems and they won’t change.”

Pace noted that Fox’s experience and time as an NFL coach has given him a wide spectrum of contacts. Two stand out in particular.

Top prospects

Ken Whisenhunt: was reportedly at the top of Fox’s candidate list to succeed Mike McCoy as Denver Broncos offensive coordinator, but Broncos football czar John Elway wanted Gase in the job, which is what happened.

Whisenhunt was fired in-season by the Tennessee Titans after a 1-6 start with rookie quarterback Marcus Mariota and 3-20 record over his tenure with the Titans.

But Whisenhunt also was the Pittsburgh offensive coordinator when the Steelers drafted Ben Roethlisberger in 2004. Pittsburgh reached the AFC Championship game with Roethlisberger as a rookie and won the Super Bowl the next year with a run-based offense around him.

Whisenhunt went from Pittsburgh to the Arizona Cardinals, which he took to 8-8 in his first season (after 5-11 the year before) and to the Super Bowl in 2008 with Kurt Warner. After his run with Arizona, Whisenhunt was hired as San Diego Chargers offensive coordinator in 2013 by new coach McCoy.

[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]

Loggains: was intimately involved in the Cutler process as well as the offense, and has had experience as an offensive coordinator, serving in that capacity for the Titans in 2012-13. One potential problem here: If Fox should choose Whisenhunt, Loggains’ future with the Bears could be in question: Whisenhunt took over the Titans and Loggains was not retained.

Whether a Whisenhunt hire would automatically foreshadow a Loggains exit isn’t a given. But Cutler liked working with Loggains, frequently cited Loggains for credit in his successes. Whether that would be an issue with Cutler, who was not involved in the hiring decisions for Fox’s staff the way he once was when Martz was hired, remains to be seen.

Loggains is even closer in age (35) to Cutler (33 in April) than Gase (37) was when hired. And he actually has slightly more experience as an offensive coordinator (32) than Gase did (16) when the latter was hired in Chicago as OC.

Others such as Pat Shurmur from the Philadelphia Eagles will surface in discussions. But Loggains and Whisenhunt are the two most prominent names in what will be a critical hire for at least the near-term future of the organization.

Week 7 NFL Power Rankings: Outside the top, no clear picture yet

Week 7 NFL Power Rankings: Outside the top, no clear picture yet

Last night's 43-40 game between the Patriots and Chiefs said more about the NFL than it did either team playing in it. 

Through the first seven weeks, there are pretty clearly three very good NFL teams: the Rams, the Pats, and the Chiefs. 

After that? Who knows. The Chargers look strong, but have looked strong for years -- and have what to show for it? After a good start, the Jaguars have looked actively terrible. The Steelers are rounding into form and yet still find themselves in third place. All three of the NFC East's contenders are sitting at .500 or barely better. 

How'd your probably-mediocre team do in our Power Rankings this week? 

Wait no longer! You can find out right here. 

Bears grades: Defense falls flat, and a longer look at Matt Nagy’s decision-making

10-16mattnagy.jpg
USA Today Sports Images

Bears grades: Defense falls flat, and a longer look at Matt Nagy’s decision-making

QUARTERBACKS: B

There’s a lot to unpack here. Mitch Trubisky’s first half was bad, with him completing nine of 14 passes for only 89 yards (6.4 yards/attempt), and while he wasn’t picked off he was sacked twice. His decision-making wasn’t good beyond checking into a quarterback sneak on third down here and there, and he missed a wide open Anthony Miller on the Bears’ first offensive possession of the game. 

But the second half was completely different — Trubisky threw for two touchdowns in the third quarter and made an outstanding throw to Taylor Gabriel for a 54-yard gain that set up Tarik Cohen’s rushing score. Really, everything Trubisky did in the second half was excellent…except for the interception he threw in the end zone. Trubisky has to take care of the ball in that instance, with the Bears leading by eight and in position to at least go up by a two-score advantage with a field goal. Instead, Trubisky thought he had looked off safety T.J. McDonald, who easily picked off a pass intended for an already well-covered Ben Braunecker. 

Trubisky’s final line of 22 completions on 31 attempts for 316 yards with three touchdowns, one interception and a rating of 122.5 looks like he followed up his magnificent Week 4 with a strong performance. And while his resiliency should be praised for how he operated the offense in the second half, that one interception was a critical turning point in a three-point overtime loss. 

RUNNING BACKS: C+

Talk about a game of high and lows for this unit. Cohen had a 21-yard touchdown and caught seven of nine targets for 90 yards, including an outstanding route, catch and run on a 50-yard reception. Jordan Howard carried 14 times for 69 yards, and he gained 34 yards on back-to-back runs in overtime that set up Cody Parkey’s game-winning attempt (which he missed).

But both running backs lost fumbles in critical spots. Howard coughed up the ball on the Dolphins’ one-yard line in the first half, making sure the Bears didn’t score in the first 30 minutes. And Cohen lost a fumble on the Bears’ 45-yard line with the score tied late in the fourth quarter — while Miami didn’t turn that into points, the way the Bears’ offense was going, had Cohen not fumbled they probably would’ve at least got into range for Parkey to attempt a go-ahead field goal without much time left on the clock in regulation. 

WIDE RECEIVERS: A-

Gabriel made a phenomenal catch on a 47-yard gain and caught a 54-yarder to pace his five-catch, 110-yard day, while Allen Robinson caught five of six targets for 64 yards with his second touchdown of the year. Miller only caught one of four targets, though that was for a 29-yard touchdown and he should’ve had a big-chunk gain on the Bears’ first drive when Trubisky overthrew him. The talent in this group has been apparent for a while, and was again on Sunday. 

TIGHT ENDS: B-

Trey Burton did some good things in the run game — he landed a perfect block to set up Cohen’s touchdown run — and caught a shovel pass for a touchdown as one of his four receptions for 23 yards. Nagy felt like Burton couldn't have -- and shouldn't have -- done anything differently on his rub route that was flagged for pass interference. Also, if you’re wondering who Burton raced over to give the ball to on his touchdown, it was his brother. 

OFFENSIVE LINE: C+

Bobby Massie and Kyle Long were credited with sacks allowed, per Pro Football Focus, and the Bears’ offensive line wasn’t consistent enough blocking for Howard and Cohen. This wasn’t an issue of defenses stacking the box, either — only 7.7 percent of Howard’s 14 runs came with eight or more defenders in the box, according to NFL Next Gen Stats. The James Daniels-Eric Kush rotation, though, wasn’t an issue, and Charles Leno Jr. did play well, especially in the second half. 

DEFENSIVE LINE: C-

For whatever reason, this group didn’t get a consistent push on a Miami offensive line missing its starting left guard and center — and even with those guys, this wasn’t a particularly impressive group. Frank Gore (15 carries, 101 yards) and Kenyan Drake (13 carries, 57 yards) were given plenty of opportunities to get to the second level, and Brock Osweiler was rarely pressured, too. This group is better than what they showed on Sunday. Akiem Hicks does get a mention here, though, for forcing a miraculous fumble on the one-yard line in overtime that gave the Bears a chance to win the game on Parkey’s field goal attempt. Roy Robertson-Harris did make a nice play to break up a pass in the first half, while Goldman crucially recovered Hicks’ forced fumble. 

OUTSIDE LINEBACKERS: F

Khalil Mack suffered an ankle injury during the first half and was the recipient of plenty of extra attention from Miami. (“I don’t know,” Miami coach Adam Gase said when asked how his team was able to stop Mack. “We had about four guys blocking him.”) Mack recorded one pressure, per Pro Football Focus, as did Leonard Floyd. Floyd was flagged twice — his suplex of Danny Amendola earned a 15-yard flag (“I just keep trying to play football. I feel like he was trying to gain more yards. I had to stop him,” he said) as did a bizarre roughing the passer call when it appeared he grazed Osweiler after the Dolphins quarterback threw the ball (“Now that I don’t know how that was called. I don’t even think I touched the quarterback,” Floyd said). Either way, there wasn’t close to enough pressure on Osweiler from this group. 

INSIDE LINEBACKERS: D+

Roquan Smith racked up 13 tackles and made a few good stops, but he took a bad angle on a late overtime pass to Drake, winding up chasing the Dolphins running back on a play that set up Miami’s game-winning field goal. Danny Trevathan and Nick Kwiatkoski combined for half of the Bears’ four quarterback hurries, which speaks to how non-existent the pass rush was for most of the game. 

DEFENSIVE BACKS: D+

While Kyle Fuller had two interceptions, those were about the only big-time positive plays from this group. Safeties Adrian Amos and Eddie Jackson had rough games, missing far too many tackles and not containing Albert Wilson on both of his big catch-and-run touchdowns in the fourth quarter. Prince Amukamara left with a hamstring injury and Kevin Toliver II was beat on an extended play by Kenny Stills for a game-tying two-point conversion. The big-chunk plays allowed by the Bears were especially concerning for this unit, given that’s been a common thread between the Week 1 loss to Green Bay and Sunday’s loss in Miami. 

SPECIAL TEAMS: F

Parkey missing the game-winning 53-yard field goal earns this unit a failing grade. No matter how difficult the kick was — and 53 yards is hardly easy — the Bears guaranteed Parkey $9 million in march to hit kicks like that. There wasn’t much else on which to evaluate this group — that was Parkey’s only field goal attempt, and while he had touchbacks on all six of his kicks, if he makes that 53-yarder the Bears win. 

COACHING: C-

There’s a lot to evaluate here. Some broad points: The Bears’ offense was flat in the first half, with an over-reliance on using speed to get to the edge against an athletic Dolphins defense. But the second-half surge was a major positive for Nagy, who was able to scheme up plenty of throws Trubisky was able to make, leading to touchdowns on three consecutive possessions. Maybe Burton could’ve been coached up better on his rub route that was whistled for pass interference, but Trubisky’s end zone interception wasn’t Nagy’s fault. 

Continued: Why did Nagy wait about 20 seconds before calling timeout prior to Miami punting with under a minute left in the fourth quarter? Nagy’s explanation was that he didn’t know what Miami would do, and if he calls timeout quickly and the Dolphins go for it, they have more time to drive into field goal range. That’s fair. 

And, most notably — the decision to run Howard on third-and-four with a 50-plus-yard field goal looming deserves added scrutiny. Nagy said he had “ultimate trust” in Parkey’s ability to hit a 53-yard field goal — and, it’s worth noting, Parkey had hit seven of eight kicks from 50 or more yards in his career before Sunday, including a 54-yard game-winner for the Dolphins last year. 

But from a larger picture, placekickers have hit 57 percent of attempts from 53 or more yards since 2008, while the Bears were eight of 12 (67 percent) on third down on Sunday. Nagy brought up a concern of getting sacked on third down and taking the Bears out of field goal range, but if that were to happen, the Bears would’ve punted and probably wound up with a tie, not a loss. 

The over-arching point here, though, is that the Bears came out flat and got conservative in a spot that brought about plenty of second-guessing outside the walls of Halas Hall. Nagy likely will learn from this one, just as he did following Week 1’s loss to the Packers.