Bears

Bears NFL Draft notebook: Starts may not be the whole story for Mitchell Trubisky

Bears NFL Draft notebook: Starts may not be the whole story for Mitchell Trubisky

Sweeping the notebook in the wake of the 2017 draft...

- Mitch Trubisky having only 13 starts coming out of North Carolina required the Bears to make a monumental leap of faith with their expensive trade-up to No. 2 overall and their choice. In this analysis, that would have been a deal-killer for that lofty level of his selection.

Not that it's a defining predictive measure necessarily: He wasn't drafted No. 2 overall, he wasn't a quarterback and his team didn't deplete their draft larder trading to get him, but Kyle Long had switched from defense to offense and had all of six starts coming out of Oregon and has been to the Pro Bowl three times.

- The Bears not selecting just one defensive back, in the fourth round, from a supposed talent-rich draft on that side of the football was only mildly surprising, given the money and roster slots invested in free agency on cornerbacks Prince Amukamara and Marcus Cooper, and safety Quintin Demps. And Ryan Pace hadn't drafted a defensive back higher than the fifth round in either of his first two drafts.

But the one he chose warrants questions, and for reasons beyond his coming off a broken leg of last October or that he was playing behind a defense that had six players taken in this year's first three rounds. Eddie Jackson comes out of Alabama, which the NFL beats a high-round draft path annually to Nick Saban's door for his players.

But defensively, many of those players and ones before Saban, while usually solid, arguably max out at Alabama: Of the 74 Alabama defensive players drafted since Derrick Thomas went to Kansas City in 1989, many of them 1's and 2's, seven (Landon Collins, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, C.J. Mosley, Don't'a Hightower, Marcell Dareus, Roman Harper, DeMeco Ryans) became Pro Bowl players, by unofficial count.
 
For comparison purposes: From 2006 through the third round of the 2011 draft, 16 Oklahoma offensive players were drafted. Five have been selected to Pro Bowls, each to more than one. On the other hand, none of the 26 Michigan Wolverines drafted since Jake Long went No. 1 overall in 2008 have graced a Pro Bowl, yet Michigan led all schools with 11 players selected in this draft.

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For the record: This is not only not a criticism of Alabama; it's actually a compliment. Some perspective here: For a long time, a widely held opinion of Penn State among NFL personnel folks was that you got solid players from there but because of the excellent coaching they'd gotten, only rarely did they go on to become NFL superstars. The thinking was that their coaching had gotten the max out of the players; they arrived with much of their upside already realized.
 
That said, those defensive players have been on 10 different Super Bowl champions. So maybe you DO want ‘Bama defensive guys around.

- North Carolina had five offensive players drafted, all skill-position'ers (two backs, two receivers), suggesting either that Trubisky had a pretty solid supporting cast, or that he made people around him really good.

The Tar Heels were a modest 8-5, which is either a credit or an indictment of Trubisky, depending on how you want to look at it. Using a standard popular with fans of Jay Cutler, Trubisky didn't have a lot of help from the UNC defense, which allowed almost 25 points per game. (Clemson's defense gave up 18.4 per game for Deshaun Watson, No. 12 nationally).

- Ryan Pace said to check back with him in three years for a grade in this draft. This reporter has never subscribed to the multi-year time frame for evaluating a draft. Final grades maybe, as in a school-course grade, but you know well before the report card how you're doing in Chemistry. It does not take three years or even the oft-cited two to know whether a Shea McClellin or Kyle Long or Kyle Fuller or Alshon Jeffery or Leonard Floyd (or Adam Shaheen) can play, and the players in the early rounds are ultimately the make-or-break for a franchise on its drafts.

In the 2017 case, because the cornerstone Bears piece is a quarterback who isn't slotted to start this season, and they do have a longer developmental gradient anyway, this draft may be harder to evaluate. But I've used this wine analogy before: You know pretty well from a barrel-tasting what a particular vintage is going to develop into, and if the Bears don't know until three years from now what they have in Mitch Trubisky, the folks who drafted him likely won't be around to get that report card.

Former GM says Matt Nagy will lose his job if Bears don't trade for QB

Former GM says Matt Nagy will lose his job if Bears don't trade for QB

There have been some strong takes on Chicago Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky over the last 24 hours, but none have been stronger than former NFL general manager Mike Lombardi's.

Lombardi, who now contributes to The Athletic, has always been a harsh critic of Trubisky. He's never believed in the former North Carolina product's ability to become a franchise quarterback and has taken often taken shots at the Bears' signal-caller.

And while Lombardi's never-ending lamenting of Trubisky sometimes comes across as agenda-driven, it's hard to dismiss his negativity at this point. Trubisky hasn't given Bears fans much ammunition to defend him. Now, with the offense hitting rock bottom against the Saints in Week 7, Lombardi is at it again.

This time, he has coach Matt Nagy and GM Ryan Pace in his crosshairs.

"If the Bears don’t make a trade for a quarterback, Nagy will lose his job within a year, and the team will never reach its full potential," Lombardi wrote on Monday. "That is not a mere guess, but a statement that has been backed up by NFL history and the experience of being in the NFL for so long.

"Making a trade might be hard internally because General Manager Ryan Pace has put his career on the line by making the move to bring Trubisky to Chicago. He traded assets to move up one spot in the draft, and it will be hard for him to admit that Trubisky cannot play. But he cannot let his ego get in the way of doing what is right. Teams cannot solve a problem if they don’t admit they have one, and Pace needs to stop lying to himself and others about his evaluation of Trubisky. The time has come." 

Suggesting that the Bears should make a trade for a quarterback before the deadline isn't the worst idea, especially because Chicago's defense is good enough to lead the team to the playoffs if there's a halfway competent quarterback under center. But it's a massive and ridiculous leap to suggest Nagy and Pace's jobs will be lost if they don't make a trade this season. Remember: Nagy was the NFL's Coach of the Year in 2018; he isn't on the hot seat. And while Pace certainly will have egg on his face for missing on Trubisky if the third-year quarterback doesn't develop (quickly), there's no reason to assume he won't get another offseason or two to get it right.

The more likely scenario, if Trubisky does, in fact, bottom out, is that Pace and the Bears will sign one of the veteran free-agent quarterbacks who will hit the open market next offseason. Players like Andy Dalton, Teddy Bridgewater and Marcus Mariota, while not world-beaters, would represent an upgrade at the position. Nagy just needs a guy who can be his Alex Smith; a game-manager who can score enough points to assist the defense. Any one of those three fit that description.

Perhaps the Bears missed on Trubisky. Maybe he'll turn it around. But to suggest Nagy and Pace won't get another swing at the position, together, is nothing more than a fiery hot take.

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With running game, Nagy makes plea for patience: "I know we need to run the ball more. I’m not an idiot"

With running game, Nagy makes plea for patience: "I know we need to run the ball more. I’m not an idiot"

Matt Nagy brought a whoooole bunch of positive energy to his Monday morning press conference at Halas Hall. 

"First of all, you will never pull me down," he said. "That's number one. Never. You won't do it. Second of all, you'll never pull our team down. It doesn't matter what we're going through. It'll never happen. Not under my watch. That's just not how we roll."

The coach's trademark brand of endless, enthusiastic optimism took a hit after Sunday's humiliating loss to New Orleans. The Bears were outclassed by a short-handed team, at home, coming off the bye week. They set the record for fewest run attempts in Bears' history. After the game Nagy said they were going to "sit in it" that night, and from the sound of his answers on Monday morning, that hadn't ended yet. 

"I know we need to run the ball more. I’m not an idiot," he said. "I realize that. Seven rushes and the minimum amount of times, I totally understand that."

"You need to do it. I never go into a game saying I want to throw the ball 54 times. I would love to go into a game and say I want to run the ball 54 times. But that hasn’t happened. This is what I have to answer to.”

You've read it all already; things are bleak. They're the 30th ranked team in every rushing category except for the ones they're ranked 29th in. Against the Saints, the Bears handed the ball off to wide recievers the same amount of times (2) they gave it to David Montgomery. No one got more rushes than Tarik Cohen (3), who said after the game that he doesn't really even consider himself a running back – and is often scouted as a reciever by opposing coaches, according to Nagy. 

"... nine catches for 19 yards, you know, that’s not where we want to be," he said. "And it’s unacceptable for all of us. We’re definitely searching right now. There’s no doubt about it. But as I said, so last night you deal with the emotions, you watch the tape last night, you see where you’re at and now for us we can’t hang on to what just happened.  We’ve got to fix it and we’ve got to understand and be aware that offensively we’ve had some bad performances now." 

Nagy knows he and the Bears are out of excuses, and having to say the same thing every Monday morning for the last month is clearly eating at him. And while there may be some more reliance on Trubisky or Mike Davis' legs (from the sounds of it, mainly the former), there's probably still an element of patience involved. (I know, I'm sorry. Please lower your voice.) 

"Right now we’re not having productive plays in the run game any way you look at it," Nagy said. "But I want positive plays. I want plays — and part of the patience is that as well. There’s no doubt about it, there’s gotta be more patience.

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