Bears

Adam Gase-watch will escalate as head-coaching jobs open next week

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Adam Gase-watch will escalate as head-coaching jobs open next week

With the extended clock for the 2015 season ticking inexorably toward “Black Monday” and its annual spate of coach firings, the efficacy of Bears offensive coordinator Adam Gase as a head coach moves again to the forefront of what’s-next? discussions for the Bears and elsewhere.

The latest is Peter King’s “MMQB” and a piece by columnist Jenny Vrentas on why Gase will top head-coach wish lists for next offseason. If it’s all on Gase’s mind right now, he’s "not saying.”

“Right now, I’m focused on this week,” Gase said on Thursday. “I know that’s not the answer anybody wants. This is a big game for us. We feel like we’re headed in the right direction with what we’re trying to accomplish this year. We had a big win last week and we need to try to make it two in a row.”

But somehow the real underlying topic is a referendum on Jay Cutler.

[MORE: Bears open to long-term deal for Alshon Jeffery]

Because by his role in making over the turnover machine that the Bears’ quarterback has been too often in his career, Gase has become to some a made man in NFL circles. And Cutler has left no doubt about his belief that Gase would succeed at the next coaching level.

“You never know until you get into that role, but I’m sure he’d be similar to what he is as an OC,” Cutler said. “I think he’s going to be good. If he gets that shot, I’m excited for him.

“I think he deserves it. He’s done some really good things in this league and they speak for themselves, whether it’s Tim Tebow or Peyton [Manning] or myself or Kyle Orton. Whoever he’s worked with he’s found ways to manage the system and make them successful.”

As was posited here back when Gase was hired, 2015 projected to be the only season Cutler and Gase would be together. If the year and Cutler went superbly well, Gase would be gone. If the season and quarterback went badly, Cutler would be gone.

What has played out, however, is something in between. Cutler has had the best season of his career but the Bears haven’t won enough. Meaning: A GM has to decide whether he believes in the success of the Cutler Project, and then decide how much of that success traces to Gase.

And is that GM looking only at Gase’s work with Cutler or at the offense as an entity, which is more likely.

The offense is averaging 13 more yards per game than it was at this point last season. Rushing yards are predictably up, given Marc Trestman’s scant use of the run game.

[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]

Passing yardage is actually down nine yards per game. But that in fact may be the single best testimonial to Gase, given the nightmare his receiver group has been due to injuries, from Kevin White before training camp on through to Alshon Jeffery joining Martellus Bennett on IR. Last year the offense had massive production from Bennett, Matt Forte, Jeffery and Brandon Marshall – none of whom have come close to their outputs a year ago. Marshall did, but as a New York Jet.

But Gase ascending to a top field job isn’t a given. Gase interviewed last offseason with Atlanta, Buffalo, San Francisco and the Bears. He’ll be just 38 next March and it will take just the right organization and management to want Gase and for Gase to want them, since the job is open because the previous coach was fired for poor team performance. And does Gase want to uproot his family again to go somewhere like Cleveland or Jacksonville

Head-coaching vacancies already have occurred with firings in Miami and Philadelphia, with others to follow.

Recalling moments in Tom Brady history ahead of his likely last meeting with Bears

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Recalling moments in Tom Brady history ahead of his likely last meeting with Bears

As Tom Brady approaches what in all reasonable likelihood will be his last game against the Bears and in Soldier Field, the first time this reporter saw Tom Brady comes very much to mind. Actually the first times, plural. Because they were indeed memorable, for different reasons.

That was back in 2001, when Brady should have started replacing Wally Pipp as the poster athlete for what can happen when a player has to sit out and his replacement never gives the job back. Drew Bledsoe, who’d gotten the New England Patriots to a Super Bowl, had gotten injured week two of that season. Brady, who’d thrown exactly one pass as a rookie the year before, stepped in and never came out, playing the Patriots into the AFC playoffs the same year the Bears were reaching and exiting the NFC playoffs when Philadelphia’s Hugh Douglas body-slammed QB Jim Miller on his shoulder.

After that the playoff assignments were elsewhere, including the Patriots-Steelers meeting in Pittsburgh for the AFC Championship. Brady started that game but left with an ankle injury and Bledsoe came off the bench to get the Patriots into Super Bowl.

Then came one of those rare moments when you are witnessing history but have the misfortune of not knowing it at the time.

The question of Super Bowl week was whether Bill Belichick would stay with Bledsoe’s winning hand or go back to Brady. Belichick of course waited deep into Super Bowl week before announcing his decision at 8 p.m. on a Thursday night, the second time that season Belichick had opted to stay with Brady over a healthy Bledsoe. And of course Belichick didn’t announce the decision himself (surprise); he had it put out by the team’s media relations director.

You did have to respect Belichick, though, going into his first Super Bowl as a head coach with a sixth-round draft choice at quarterback and leaving a former (1992) No. 1-overall pick with a $100-million contract on the bench. The Patriots upset The Greatest Show on Turf Rams in that Super Bowl, Brady was MVP, and Bledsoe was traded to Buffalo that offseason.

History.

That Super Bowl also included one of those performance snapshots the Bears envision for Mitch Trubisky but missed a chance to let him attempt last Sunday at Miami in his 17th NFL start. Brady took the Patriots on a drive starting at their own 17 with 1:30 to play and no timeouts, ending with an Adam Vinatieri field-goal winner.

If Belichick was all right letting his second-year quarterback in just his 17th start throw eight straight passes starting from inside his own red zone, the next time Matt Nagy gets the football at his own 20 with timeouts and time in hand, best guess is that the decision will be to see if his quarterback lead a game-winning drive with his arm instead of handing off.

It may not happen this Sunday. Brady is a career 4-0 vs. Bears, and if there is one constant it is that his opposite numbers play really bad football against him, or rather his coach’s defense. Bears quarterback passer ratings opposite Brady, even in years when the Bears were good: Jim Miller 51.2 in 2002, Rex Grossman 23.7 in 2006; Jay Cutler 32.9 and Cutler again in the 51-23 blowout in Foxboro. Cutler finished that game with a meaningless 108.6 rating, meaningless because Cutler put up big numbers beginning when his team was down 38-7 after he’d mucked about with a 61.7 rating, plus having a fumble returned for a TD, while the Bears were being humiliated.

A surprise would be if Trubisky bumbles around like his predecessors (New England allows an average opponent passer rating of 91.6), but whether he can produce a third straight 120-plus rating…. Then again, Pat Mahomes put a 110.0 on the Patriots last Sunday night, but Deshaun Watson managed only a 62.9 against New England in game one.

Trubisky will make the third of the three 2017 first-round QB’s to face the Patriots. The first two lost.

Brian Baldinger: 'I'm not so sure anybody could've seen the jump that Mitch Trubisky is making right now'

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Brian Baldinger: 'I'm not so sure anybody could've seen the jump that Mitch Trubisky is making right now'

On Thursday, Brian Baldinger released another video clip on Twitter for his #BaldysBreakdowns series, this one praising the recent play from Bears QB Mitch Trubisky.

Baldinger states that Trubisky is "making some kind of jump", referring to how impressed he was with Trubisky's play when compared to his rookie season. 

In the video Baldinger explains in the video how you expect franchise QBs to make a big leap from year one to year two, and a big part of that leap for Trubisky is being unafraid to make aggressive throws downfield.

Baldinger highlighted a play where Trubisky hit Taylor Gabriel 47-yards down the field, choosing to trust his wideout after he hit him with perfect ball placement despite tight coverage. He continued this theme later on in the video, showing Trubisky's TD strike to Allen Robinson, which was whipped right past a Dolphins defender. 

But Baldinger's video wasn't exclusively compliments for Trubisky. He discussed Tarik Cohen's effectiveness as a pass-catcher, saying that you "can't cover him" and comparing him to a Ferrari with his ability to go from first to fifth gear "about as fast as anybody."

He ended his video by showing Trubisky punishing the Dolphins for a blown coverage, hitting rookie Anthony Miller in stride for a 29-yard TD. Baldinger's point in including this clip was to show Trubisky's improved recognition, as he may not have spotted the blown coverage last year. Noticing when and how to take advantage of defensive sloppiness is one of the many things that seperate a "franchise QB" from a stopgap, and Trubisky is trending in the right direction. 

If Baldinger's breakdown is any indication, we should expect Trubisky to keep his incredible momentum rolling when the Bears take on the New England Patriots on Sunday. New England is 3rd worst in the league in passing TDs allowed, giving up 15 scores through the air in six games.