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.
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.
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.