Bears

Lovie Smith fired by Bucs, joins Adam Gase as coaching candidate

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Lovie Smith fired by Bucs, joins Adam Gase as coaching candidate

The head-coaching options for Bears offensive coordinator Adam Gase expanded by one late Wednesday when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers fired for Bears coach Lovie Smith despite Smith improving the Buccaneers from two wins to six in his second year.

Like John Fox and the Bears, Smith had Tampa Bay on the brink of a surprise playoff leap, with the Buccaneers standing at 6-6 before dropping their final four games, including a game-15 home loss to the Bears. Tampa Bay ranked in the top 10 in yardage on both offense and defense, but were 20th in scoring even with rookie No. 1 pick Jameis Winston at quarterback, and 26th in points allowed.

[SHOP: Gear up, Bears fans!]

Whether Smith joins Gase on his own North American tour remains to play out. Smith sat out 2013 after his firing by the Bears before taking the Tampa Bay job. Smith still has two years remaining on his Buccaneers contract.

Meanwhile, Gase is on the guest lists of the Philadelphia Eagles (Tuesday), Cleveland Browns (Wednesday), Miami Dolphins (Thursday) and New York Giants (Friday). The Eagles reportedly want a second interview with Gase, expected sometime after his meeting with the Giants.

John Fox was hired as Bears coach after a second interview just a few days after his initial interview with GM Ryan Pace and other members of the organization.

Trubisky on NFC North QBs: 'Bring 'em on'

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USA Today

Trubisky on NFC North QBs: 'Bring 'em on'

The NFC North was recently dubbed the most talented quarterback division in the NFL largely because of Aaron Rodgers, Kirk Cousins and Matthew Stafford.

Bears starter Mitch Trubisky may eventually be viewed as an elite quarterback someday, but his average rookie season has created some doubt among analysts about whether he'll ever be that guy.

In a recent sit-down with Bleacher Report's Tyler Dunne, Trubisky said he isn't concerned with outside opinion, nor is he intimidated by the resumes of his NFC North counterparts.

"I've realized that these people you look up to—watching Aaron Rodgers, watching Tom Brady—they're humans just like I am," Trubisky told Dunne. "They can make mistakes. They're just people. We've all been through similar things to get to where we are now. ... As a competitor, you want the biggest, tallest challenge you can possibly ask for.

"So, yeah, give me the division with Aaron Rodgers, Stafford and Kirk Cousins. Bring 'em on."

Trubisky's confidence has been evident this offseason. There's no doubt who the Bears' leader in the locker room is. Just ask Kyle Long.

Still, he's not without his critics, something he said he doesn't consume himself with.

"Why would I be worried about what anybody has to say on the outside?" he said. "You're sitting in a chair talking into a microphone. I'm in the war. I'm in the middle of the hurricane."

Trubisky's name is consistently mentioned after DeShaun Watson and Patrick Mahomes whenever the 2017 quarterback class is discussed and few -- if any -- experts expect him to be the best of the three.

But none of that matters. All Trubisky has to be is a winner in Chicago, and he certainly has the confidence needed to get there.

"So get ready," he said. "I'm going to be prepared. I'm going to give you everything I've got. Hopefully, I make people eat their words with what they say about me."

15 Most Important Bears of 2018: No. 6 - Kyle Fuller

15 Most Important Bears of 2018: No. 6 - Kyle Fuller

Last year this time, Chicago Bears cornerback Kyle Fuller was about to start the most important training camp of his pro football career. The former first-round pick was coming off a season where he didn't play a single game because of a mysterious knee injury and was viewed as a potential training camp casualty.

The Bears didn't pick up his fifth-year option and as a result, the 2017 season represented a prove-it year for Fuller. And boy did he ever.

Fuller enjoyed the best season of his career from both a health and production standpoint. He registered 60 tackles and two interceptions en route to becoming the kind of shutdown corner the Bears envisioned when he was selected 14th overall in the 2014 NFL draft. He got paid for his efforts, too.

Ryan Pace rewarded Fuller with a four-year $56 million contract, making him one of the team's biggest cap hits over the next three seasons. To be fair, Fuller's contract was actually offered by the rival Packers and Pace exercised his option to match under the transition tag. Still, it's a contract that Fuller must now continue to earn. One great season is a far cry from a great career.

There's no reason to expect a regression from Fuller, assuming he can stay healthy. The entire starting secondary is returning and should be even better than last year with more comfort and confidence in each other. Fuller can trust safeties Eddie Jackson and Adrian Amos to have his back if he takes a chance at an interception. It's not unreasonable to expect Fuller to have an even better year considering he's beginning 2018 with that trust in his teammates already developed.

The Bears need Fuller to take hold of elite status this year. He's just as important to the defense's success as the pass rush is. He has to make Aaron Rodgers, Kirk Cousins and Matthew Stafford think twice about throwing in his direction. He needs to shrink the field.

Fuller isn't that guy yet, but if he blossoms into one of the league's top cover guys, Chicago's defense will challenge for an even better status than the top-10 finish they enjoyed a year ago. Much of his success will rely on the aforementioned pass rush, and one could argue that the Bears haven't exactly set up Fuller for a sensational breakout. But the point remains: For Chicago to soar among the league's top defenses, Fuller has to become one of the NFL's best pure defenders.

He's close.