Moon: Thoughts for Bears after wild-card weekend


Moon: Thoughts for Bears after wild-card weekend

Takeaways are more than just things defenses crave and offenses abhor. They’re also are learning opportunities presented by events, and there were a few for the Bears in the first seven days following the end of their disappointing 6-10 season:

A history first

John Fox would be the first to agree that the Bears need to be far better than their historically bad 1-7 at home in 2015. But the Bears were a healthy 5-3 on the road, which doesn’t exactly make them as a playoff team, but all four of the winners from wild-card weekend won on the road.

First time that’s ever happened. Which is a little surprising, because “road” teams in wild-card round routinely have better records than the home teams, which are “home” teams only because they won weaker divisions. The Kansas City Chiefs were 11-5 to host AFC South champion Houston’s 9-7. And the Green Bay Packers at 10-6 were clearly better than NFC East winner Washington at 9-7.

And what was that “what’s wrong with the Packers?” business again?

[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!

For perspective purposes…

Blair Walsh’s far-wide-left miss of a field-goal try from 27 yards to cost the Minnesota Vikings advancing on to the NFC divisional playoffs doesn’t make Robbie Gould’s miss from 36 to win the San Francisco 49ers game any less gut-wrenching. But the Gould miss pales next to the Walsh head-shaker, from 10 yards closer, even if “the pressure of playoff football is real,” said former All-Pro safety Rodney Harrison on NBC’s post-game show.

Interestingly perhaps, Walsh was the only NFL kicker with more field goals made (34) than Gould (33). Gould missed six. Walsh missed four…. make that five.

Dump Gould? In six playoff games (’05, ’06, ’10) Gould has had six field goals to kick. He made all six.

[MORE: Who will be Bears offensive coordinator after Gase's departure?

Cause for concern?

One of the semi-constants in the NFC North is that the Detroit Lions will overcome elite talent and manage to self-destruct and under-achieve more often than not. That’s how you become an organization that has won exactly one playoff game since 1957.

But on Sunday the Lions officially hired Ernie Accorsi as special advisor to team president Rod Wood.

This is not good news for the Bears.

Accorsi was a key consultant in the search that produced Ryan Pace and John Fox, actual football people with successful backgrounds, for the Bears. Wood was CEO of Ford Estates and was the choice of owner Martha Firestone Ford, neither of whom have any connection to football, which you like to see if you are a competing football organization.

But Wood and the organization bringing in a football force, as the Bears did, rather than again rely on Chairman George McCaskey and President Ted Phillips, points to astute executives with the savvy to know what they don’t know. Accorsi already was involved in the Lions’ hiring last Friday of Bob Quinn from the New England Patriots.

The Lions making intelligent organizational decisions is not what the Bears, Packers and Vikings need. Better to have Detroit perennially having the high first-round draft choices that come to an organization with just two winning seasons since the turn of the century.

[ALSO: Offensive free agents Bears could target

Coaching inanities…

Just when you think the NFL couldn’t get more dysfunctional come the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, owner Malcolm Glazer and GM Jason Licht firing coach Lovie Smith after a season in which Smith increased the team win total by four despite a rookie quarterback (Jameis Winston) starting. Smith was tasked with rebuilding a team in shambles after the inept tenures of Raheem Morris and Greg Schiano. Only twice in the seven seasons since Jon Gruden left after 2008 have the Buccaneers won more than the six games they netted with Smith in 2015.

Smith effectively restored some sort of equilibrium to a Bears franchise that had exactly one winning season in the eight years before his hiring and one playoff trip in nine years. Firing Smith despite his having one losing season in his final eight said something about GM Phil Emery; firing Smith after tripling the Tampa Bay win total in one year says even more about the Buccaneers organization, with Smith the linebackers coach for teams that had only one losing season in his tenure there (1996-2000). Call it class-lite.

It’s one thing to make a coaching change when the direction of things is all too clear, as it was with Marc Trestman. It’s another altogether when the rate of ascent just isn’t steep enough for someone.

Cleveland, hiring its fifth head coach since 2009. Miami, where Adam Gase is the fifth head coach since 2011 and which didn’t think Todd Bowles at 2-1 as an interim that year was worth a longer look. Now Tampa Bay.

Why coming to the Bears was the right opportunity for Harry Hiestand to leave Notre Dame


Why coming to the Bears was the right opportunity for Harry Hiestand to leave Notre Dame

There wasn’t a single game Harry Hiestand coached while at Notre Dame — 77 in total — in which he didn’t have a future top-20 pick starting at left tackle. 

Zack Martin (16th overall, 2014) was followed by Ronnie Stanley (6th overall, 2016), who gave way to Mike McGlinchey (9th overall, 2018). Hiestand also developed Quenton Nelson, who went on to be the highest interior offensive lineman drafted (6th overall, 2018) since 1986. Nelson and McGlinchey became the first pair of college offensive line teammates to be drafted in the first 10 picks since 1991, when Tennessee had tackles Charles McRae and Antone Davis go seventh and eighth. 

“It wasn’t surprising because the kind of guys they are, they absolutely did everything the right way, the way they took care of themselves, the way they trained, the teammates that they are and were,” Hiestand said. “They just did it all the way you wanted them to do it. So it was. It was a good moment.”

Hiestand said he had a sense of pride after seeing his two former players be drafted so high, even if he wasn't able to re-unite with either of them. The Bears, of course, didn’t have a chance to draft Nelson, and had conviction on using the eighth overall pick on linebacker Roquan Smith (as well as having tackles Charles Leno and Bobby Massie in place for the 2018 season). 

Anecdotally, one former Notre Dame player said (maybe half-jokingly) that Nelson and McGlinchey were fighting each other to see who could get drafted by the Bears to play with Hiestand again.

“There’s nobody that I’ve been around in this game that’s more passionate about what he does,” McGlinchey, now with the San Francisco 49ers, said of Hiestand at Notre Dame’s pro day in March. “There’s really only two things that are important to him, and that’s his family and then his offensive linemen. There’s a lot to be said for that. 

“In this game, everybody’s always trying to work an angle to up their own career — he doesn’t want to do anything but coach O-line, and that’s what really sticks out to us as players. He cares for us like we’re his own. Obviously he coaches extremely hard and is very demanding of his players, which I loved — he pushed me to be the player that I am.

“I’m standing in front of all you guys because of Harry Hiestand. But the amount of passion and care that he has not only for his job but his teaching abilities and his players is what sets him apart.”

Hiestand could’ve stayed as long as he wanted at Notre Dame, presumably, given how much success he had recruiting and developing players there. But six years at one spot is a long time for a position coach, especially at the college level, where the grind of recruiting is so vital to the success of a program. It’s also not like every one of the blue-chip prospects Hiestand recruited to South Bend panned out, either. 

So Hiestand knew he wanted to get back to the NFL after coaching with the Bears under Lovie Smith from 2005-2009. It’s a new challenge for him now, not only to develop second-round pick James Daniels but to continue the growth of Cody Whitehair and Leno while getting the most out of Kyle Long, Massie and the rest of the group (back during his first stint with the Bears, Hiestand had the luxury of coaching experienced, more ready-made offensive lines). 

As one of the more highly-regarded offensive line coaches in the country, though, Hiestand could’ve jumped back into the NFL whenever, and nearly wherever, he wanted. And for him, coming back to the Bears was the perfect fit. 

“That’s an awesome, awesome place, a great franchise,” Hiestand said. “It was something, I always wanted to go back, I didn’t know where I would get the opportunity. So I’m just very fortunate it just happened to be back at the same place that I was before. There are a lot of things that are different but there’s also a lot that’s the same. 

“But it’s one of the — it is the greatest organization. Historically, this is where it all began, and being part of it — and the other thing, and I told those guys when I got here, when we get it done here, you guys are going to see this city like you’ve never seen it. And I remember that. That’s what we’re after.” 

On a scale of 1-10, Tarik Cohen says his dangerous level is 12

On a scale of 1-10, Tarik Cohen says his dangerous level is 12

Don't be fooled by Tarik Cohen's height. He has towering confidence and he's setting up to have a big role in coach Matt Nagy's offense in 2018.

“On a scale of 1-10, the dangerous level is probably 12,” Cohen said Wednesday at Halas Hall about the impact he can have in the Bears' new system. “Because in backyard football, it’s really anything goes, and it’s really whoever gets tired first, that’s who’s going to lose. I’m running around pretty good out here, so I feel like I’m doing a good job.”

Cohen proved last season he can thrive in space. He made an impact as a runner, receiver and return man and will have a chance at an even bigger workload this fall, assuming he can handle it.

With Jordan Howard established as the starting running back, Cohen knows his touches will come in a variety of ways.

“It might not necessarily be rushes,” he said. “But it’s going to be all over the field, and that’s what I like to do. Any way I can get the ball or make a play for my team, that’s what I’m looking forward to doing.”

Cohen averaged 4.3 yards-per-carry as a rookie and led all NFL running backs in the percentage of carries that went for at least 15 yards. He's a big play waiting to happen.