Bears

Facing great quarterbacks is common for Bears

Facing great quarterbacks is common for Bears

Wednesday, Dec. 8, 2010
7:55 PM

By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com

Very good quarterbacks are not a new experience for the Bears in 2010. When they faced the Philadelphia Eagles, they were going against the NFL's No. 1 passer in Michael Vick, now No. 2. They have seen Aaron Rodgers, now No. 4.

This is different. Tom Brady is different.

Brady is now the NFL's No. 1-rated passer (109.5). But Brady is also arguably the NFL's No. 1 quarterback as well.

Vick is having the finest year of his NFL career. Brady does this sort of thing every year. Five of Brady's last seven seasons have been better, passing, than Jay Cutler's best-ever year prior to 2010. And Brady has come up in Halas Hall conversation long before New England became next-up on the Bears' schedule.

"We've talked about it many times this year," Cutler said. That's the mark of a good team or good player is being consistent. He's been very, very, very consistent throughout his career. So he's fun to watch. We watched the Monday night game when Brady destroyed the New York Jets. Just seeing how much in command he is of that offense, you can tell that everything is going to go through him.

Everything except opponents, that is.

Maybe it's the focus. Brady was just named AFC offensive player of the week for the second time this season and was asked about how he felt this season was going for him. It was as if the question simply didn't even register.

"I think the Chicago Bears are a good team, and we got to play well this week," Brady said, not even attempting to transition from question to answer. "I'm excited for the challenge. It's a short week for us. I think we've really got to prepare well. We're quite a few days behind the Bears after playing Monday night. That's individual statistics really the last thing on my mind."

He is, to be very sure, not the last thing on the Bears' minds.
Oh, really?

Cutler rarely exhibits excessive emotion off the field and Wednesday was no exception.

In perhaps and indication that Cutler was not as inclined as some to write off Ndamukong Suh's forearm to the back of Cutler's head in last Sunday's Detroit game, he made exactly zero attempt to excuse the Detroit defensive tackle's actions as just part of the game. So when the NFL hit Suh with a 15,000 fine Wednesday, "I'm not surprised by that," was all Cutler had to say.

And out in Denver, the Broncos reversed course and fired head coach Josh McDaniels after a recent declaration by ownership that McDaniels would be in place this year and next. Daniels was the one at the heart of the issues that saw Cutler traded to the Bears but Cutler had no even superficial concern for McDaniels.

"You know," Cutler said, "none of my concern. I'm worried about the Patriots."

He apparently is not worried about the Bears' quarterback, and hasn't been. Listing reasons for the recent 5-0 turnaround from a 4-3 point, "the offensive line is playing well," Cutler began. "The receivers are on top of it. I think everyone's a lot more comfortable with the system. Mike Martz has done a good job of dialing stuff up for us. So there's a lot of things that go into it."

Sick bay

Linebackers Nick Roach (hip) and Pisa Tinoisamoa (knee) did not practice Wednesday and running back Chester Taylor (knee) was also held out of practice. Tinoisamoa had arthroscopic surgery on his right knee two weeks ago and is not being ruled out of the New England game.

"Ideally we would like for Pisa to practice but we know a little bit about what he can do," Lovie Smith said. "If he can practice by Friday a little bit, or if he gets up Sunday and says, 'I can go,' we'll look at our options and go from there."

Quarterback Brady (shoulderfoot) and nose tackle Myron Pryor (back) were limited in practice for the Patriots. Cornerback Jonathan Wilhite (hip) and defensive lineman Mike Wright (concussion) did not practice.

Rostering

The Bears signed offensive lineman Herman Johnson off the Arizona Cardinals practice squad and onto the active roster, replacing defensive end Barry Turner who was waived. The Bears also added linebacker Marcus Buggs to the practice squad along with wide receiver Jeff Moturi.

To make room the Bears terminated the practice-squad contracts of tackle James Marten, wide receiver Freddie Barnes and defensive end Ervin Baldwin, who was re-signed to the practice squad late Wednesday.

Johnson was a fifth-round pick by the Cardinals in the 2009 draft, coming out of LSU at 6-7, 364 pounds. He was an All-SEC first teamer at guard but projects as a right tackle, where JMarcus Webb has won the starting job but has continued to have difficulties in pass protection.

John "Moon" Mullin is CSNChicago.com's Bears Insider, and appears regularly on Bears Postgame Live and Chicago Tribune Live. Follow Moon on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bears information.

Bear PAWS: Hitting 30 key for Bears against Washington in Week 3

keenum-922.jpg
USA TODAY

Bear PAWS: Hitting 30 key for Bears against Washington in Week 3

Thirty is one of those milestone numbers in life where people feel a sense of pride and accomplishment. For most, reaching 30 years in age signals an advanced maturity towards accountability and a mastering of destinies.

Sports, being extremely reflective of society, mirrors the notion of 30 as a noteworthy number. For example, once a baseball player attains membership in the “30-30 club” – hitting 30 home runs and stealing 30 bases – his status elevates among other major leaguers.

Conversely, depending on the circumstances, 30 sometimes has negative implications attached to it. For instance, once NFL running backs hit the age of 30, conventional wisdom speculates that his skills will erode, making him less effective.

This week, as far as the Washington Redskins are concerned, the number 30 represents a level of futility and ineffectiveness that’s led to two losses and zero wins this season. Let’s use P.A.W.S. (Predictive Analysis With Stats) to sift through the ebb and flow of 30 and how it affects this week’s contest between Chicago and Washington.

Washington hired Jay Gruden to be its head coach in 2014, and have since amassed a 35–46-1 record, with one playoff loss. Overall, Gruden has coached in 83 games but, unfortunately for the Redskins, they’ve lost 30.1 percent of those games after allowing teams to score 30 or more points. Yes, typically, any NFL team giving up 30 points in a game all but insures the likelihood of a frustrating loss.

For the past 3 seasons, the league average for losing games after giving up 30 points is 20.4 percent, and only five teams are at 30 percent or higher. Only one of those five teams made a playoff appearance within those three years, the 2016 Miami Dolphins. Since 2016, every team in the NFC East from Dallas (11.8 percent), to Philadelphia (3.8 percent), and the New York Giants (18.4 percent) are below the league average in games lost by allowing 30 points or more.

Washington’s defense is so bad it’s offensive. Speaking of offenses, last season in games where the Redskins lost giving up 30 or more points, their opponents averaged 436 yards per game. The NFL average for yards allowed per contest last year was at 352.2, and this season it’s increased by a few to 356.2 yards a game. The Redskins are even worse so far in this campaign, giving up 455 yards per game, essentially 100 yards more than the league average.

Another strong contributor to Washington’s ineffectiveness is their turnover to takeaway numbers. Since Gruden’s arrival in 2014, the Redskins have turned the ball over 52 times, while only taking it away 22 times for a minus-30 margin.

Going by the Redskins’ pathetic defensive output, this should be an easy win for the Bears, right?

Not so fast - as inept as Washington’s defense has been, Chicago’s offense has been equally futile. Mitchell Trubisky is ranked 28th in the league in passing yards, and has only completed 58.3 percent of his attempts with no touchdown passes. Chicago is scoring less than 10 points per game and most of those scores are from their kicker, Eddy Pineiro.

Washington, on the other hand, has its QB Case Keenum completing 69.1 percent of his passes with five touchdowns thrown to zero interceptions. Plus, the Redskins under Gruden have never allowed 30 points scored against for 3 consecutive weeks. Through the first two weeks, Washington has given up 32 and 31 points, respectively.

The Bears’ offensive scoring issues are not a recent phenomenon, because looking back over the last three games played, they only tallied 34 points combined. That's under 12 points a game. The Bears, and specifically Trubisky, need to take advantage of a porous Redskin defense and “get right” sooner than later. The Bears’ defense is among the top-3 in several categories, and should stymie Keenum and the Redskins offense enough to give Trubisky plenty of opportunities to score.

The Bears will win if…

  • The offense can match or exceed the league average of 356.2 yards total offense per game. The Redskins are giving up 455 yards on average this season
  • The defense continues suffocating offenses, not allowing more than 12 points per contest
  • The defense can force any turnover to give a struggling offense a shorter field to traverse for an easy score

 

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Matt Nagy preaches patience with Mitch Trubisky, but comparison to Drew Brees falls short

Matt Nagy preaches patience with Mitch Trubisky, but comparison to Drew Brees falls short

Matt Nagy rattled off a handful of numbers during a press conference Saturday afternoon: One touchdown, nine interceptions, a 53.3 passer rating and a 60 percent completion rate for a quarterback who was four games into his second season with a specific offensive-minded head coach. And Nagy stressed this quarterback, without naming names, is a sure-fire first-ballot Hall of Famer. 

Nagy’s point was to offer some optimistic context to Mitch Trubisky’s slow start to Year 2 running his offense. That’s because the quarterback he referenced is Drew Brees. 

“I understand everyone wants it now, now, now, now," Nagy said. "I get it. So I need to make sure that I pull back, I stay patient with our offense and who we are because there’s a lot of evidence out there of this stuff that goes on, where the story’s a really good ending in the end.” 

Brees was awful over the first four games of the 2007 season — Sean Payton’s second year as the head coach of the New Orleans Saints — putting up those aforementioned horrific numbers. While the Saints only managed a disappointing 7-9 season that year, Brees led the league in passing attempts and completions, and threw for 4,423 yards with 28 touchdowns, 18 interceptions and a rating of 89.4. The next year, he began his streak of seven consecutive Pro Bowls, during which he led the Saints to a Super Bowl. 

But there are a couple of problems with Nagy’s analogy. First: Brees was an All-Pro in 2006, his first year with Patyon, and had an established track record of success with the San Diego Chargers before landing in New Orleans. 2007 was Brees’ sixth year in the league, too. He not only had experience, but he had prior production. 

Trubisky did have a 95.4 passer rating in 2018, though that’s not a good stat to compare quarterbacks from different eras (Trubisky’s 2018 passer rating would’ve been seventh in 2007; it was 16th last year). Overall, the prior production does not exist for Trubisky in the way it existed for Brees. 

So there’s not really a comparison there. But let’s unpack Nagy’s comments about instant gratification, especially in the face of what Patrick Mahomes is doing with the Chiefs and what Deshaun Watson is doing with the Texans. 

“It doesn’t shock me with Kansas City and what’s going on there with coach (Andy) Reid and Patrick and the rest of those coaching staff and players,” Nagy said. “There’s a lot of good things that are going on there. And then you talk about a guy like Deshaun Watson and what they’re doing down there with Houston. 

"But I remember specifically dealing with all three of those quarterbacks, them talking about wanting to be the best quarterback class ever. But that doesn’t happen in 2-3 years. That doesn’t happen in 2-3 years. They’re all going to have their highs and lows. We need to face that.”

The problem here is teams that draft a quarterback in the first round do need some level of instant gratification. Trubisky’s cap hit in 2019 is about $7.9 million, and rises to a little over $9.2 million in 2020. That’s incredibly cheap, and allows the Bears to make the sort of aggressive moves in free agency they have. 

But the Bears need to figure out if Trubisky can be a long-term “eraser,” the kind of quarterback who’s good enough to life an entire roster when he’s taking up a significant chunk of cap space after earning a massive contract. Brees is one of those guys. So are Russell Wilson, Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady and, when healthy, Ben Roethlisberger and Cam Newton. Mahomes and Watson look capable of being that type of quarterback for years, too.  

But is Matthew Stafford, whose $29.5 million cap hit in 2019 is the largest in the NFL, that guy? Or Derek Carr? Or Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota? 

Every one of those players carries a cap hit of over $20 million in 2019. That’s the cost of doing business with quarterbacks no longer on their rookie contracts (or, in the case if Winston and Mariota, on their fifth-year options). Of Stafford/Carr/Winston/Mariota, can you imagine any of those players leading deep playoff runs? Probably not. 

One of the worst places an NFL team can be stuck is paying an okay-to-good quarterback a ton of money. The Bears are deeply tied to Trubisky, but need to figure out by the end of the 2020 season if he’s worthy of the kind of contract extensions signed by Carson Wentz and Jared Goff, and will be signed by Mahomes and Watson. 

The Bears can, right now, wait for Trubisky to realize the potential they collectively believe he has in him. It’s a lot easier to be patient when your quarterback is making under $10 million on his rookie contract. It’s much more difficult to be patient in that fifth-year option season or during a rich, long-term second contract. 

Two bad games aren’t enough to implode the Bears’ confidence in Trubisky. Four bad games, even at a 2007 Brees-like level, aren’t either. But the Bears will have to make a decision on Trubisky in the next 16 months, and at some point won’t be able to be patient anymore. 

“We know that what we’ve done in the last two games — that’s not what we want to be at all,” Nagy said. “But then there’s patience involved in that and there’s zero panic. So do we want to be better in Week 1 and Week 2? Yes. What are the reasons for that? That’s our job to figure out those solutions. That’s why we have 16 games, is to figure that out.”

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