As Bears prepare for Marcus Mariota, expectations for 2017 should be on the rise

As Bears prepare for Marcus Mariota, expectations for 2017 should be on the rise

The 2016 Bears season has been nothing if not a succession of painful object lessons (not to be confused with the literally painful injury elements) in quarterback management. Sunday another one lines up against them in the person of Tennessee’s Marcus Mariota.

But more is involved than another might-have-been Bears quarterback; the Bears sniffed at the cost of trading up for Mariota in 2015 but didn’t, and neither did anyone else. The Bears could have taken Dak Prescott in this year’s fourth round, but every other team passed on him in nearly four rounds. For that matter, every team passed for more than two full rounds on Joe Montana, Tom Brady and so on and so on.

The broader issue is not the past, however, but the future.

Because Mariota has become the latest case study for what Bears Nation might expect from a draft commitment to the position in 2017.

The Bears, who already have lost to three rookie/second-year quarterbacks (Prescott, Carson Wentz, Jameis Winston), are actively evaluating more than a dozen scenarios for addressing their quarterback situation in the coming offseason, sources told Those scenarios involve the draft, free agency and trade possibilities, and Jay Cuter, the only NFC starting (when he’s healthy) quarterback who has been with his team more than one full season and failed to reach the playoffs even once since 2010.

The oddity is that starting over with a young quarterback has typically reflected a collapsed franchise. Not so anymore, which is why the Bears internally want so much to establish what kind of core the presumptive new quarterback will take over.

Winston took Tampa Bay from two wins to six in his rookie season. Prescott has taken Dallas from four wins to 10 already. The Philadelphia Eagles are at 5-5 with Wentz after trading up for him from a 7-9 mark last season.

Mariota, the No. 2 pick, has played himself into the seventh-ranked passer (100.3 passer rating) in just his second season, and that with an abysmal team (that’s how you earn No. 2 picks usually). Prescott is No. 3 (108.6).

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The Titans were 2-14 in 2014 to get the No. 2 pick they used for Mariota. They were only slightly better last year (3-13) but already have a win total up to five, and have seen Mariota become one of the NFL’s best at closing once he gets the football in close.

Besides in the red zone, “he’s been effective in every other part of the field,” said Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio. “He’s athletic; his movement comes into play, and they’ve run special plays down there that he can execute well.

“They have a lot of offensive packages down in the red zone that they’ve been successful with. And they still run the ball well down there. So they’ve got more variety in the red zone than most teams, and the quarterback is engineering it all.”

Robbie Gould-Bears reunion appears to be all but dead

Robbie Gould-Bears reunion appears to be all but dead

Any chance of a Robbie Gould-Bears reunion happening for the 2019 season seems to be all but dead.

Monday, 49ers general manager John Lynch said that Gould will be with the team in 2019.

“Robbie is going to be a part of us this coming year, I know that,” Lynch said. “We would like it to be longer than that. We’ve made an attempt to make it happen. We haven’t come to an agreement as of yet, and we’ll see where that goes.

“But Robbie will be a part of us this coming year, and we’re excited for that because he’s very good at what he does and he’s also a big part of this team.”

Gould joined the 49ers in March 2017 on a two-year, $4 million contract. The 49ers placed the franchise tag on Gould on February 26, though the 36-year-old kicker has yet to sign the one-year, $4.9 million tender.

According to NBC Sports Bay Area, Gould is not participating in the 49ers' offseason program—he isn't obligated to do so— instead working out in the Chicago area. NBC Sports Bay Area also reported that the 49ers hope to re-sign Gould to a multi-year deal and spoke to the kicker's representation at the NFL Combine.

Lynch's declaration doesn't guarantee that Gould will sign the franchise tender, but it does indicate that he isn't on the market. Essentially, if Gould plays in the NFL in 2019, he will be with the 49ers. 

The Bears released Cody Parkey on March 13 after a rough first season in Chicago. This offseason, the team has added kickers Redford JonesChris Blewitt and Elliott Fry. The Bears are expected to add more kickers to the competition as the offseason moves along.

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Tarik Cohen admits losing Jordan Howard ‘hurt me a little bit’

Tarik Cohen admits losing Jordan Howard ‘hurt me a little bit’

The Jordan Howard trade was tough for Tarik Cohen.

The two Bears running backs had formed a backfield bond over the last two seasons, and Cohen was there to support him during the rumors and eventual move to Philadelphia.

“I was really following after him as soon as I came to the Bears because I was one year behind him, so he could tell me everything to do because he had already been through it,” Cohen said Monday. “Losing him, it hurt me a little bit. I’m not going to lie. It hurt me, because that’s like my brother.”

Both running backs understand football is a business as they go their separate ways. Cohen’s “brother” will get to work in the city of brotherly love, while the North Carolina native continues to go out in his adopted community.

Cohen and Bears chairman George McCaskey met with members of Heartland Alliance’s Rapid Employment and Development Initiative in Chicago as part of the team’s effort to combat gun violence.

“I wear a ‘C’ on my helmet every Sunday, and every time I play a game,” Cohen said. “So I feel like it’s necessary for me to get inside the community and see what’s going on, and to help any way I can.”

With Howard exchanging his “C” for green wings, Cohen is now the running back a year ahead in Matt Nagy’s offense as Mike Davis joins the backfield.

The former Seattle Seahawk is just getting to know Halas Hall in the first phase of the offseason program, but he and Cohen had already connected through a mutual friend — fellow North Carolina native Todd Gurley.

“Mike, he’s like one of the guys,” Cohen said. “He’s already fitting in the locker room. Everybody’s already getting along cool.”

Just like that, life moves on without Howard in Chicago. Cohen expects Ryan Pace to add a rookie to the backfield too, and then it’ll be his turn to be the mentor.

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