Bears

Mullin: Little optimism that 2011 will start on time

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Mullin: Little optimism that 2011 will start on time

Thursday, April 14, 2011Posted: 10:55 AM
By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com

I was hoping for a little more encouraging answer from somewhere on the panel to my question of Given that a labor settlement is generally expected at some point, whats your pick for the month when we have football again?

The overall issue before the Chicago Chapter of the National Sports Marketing Network on Wednesday was The impact of a Work Stoppage on Sports Business: What Can We Expect and How Do We Prepare? Terry Lefton, editor-at-large for Sports Business DailySportsBusiness Journal, served as moderator for the group.

And the best anyone expected was from Comcast SportsNet Chicago colleague and two-time Super Bowl winner Howard Griffith, whose thought was late August, maybe September. What that would mean is no Bears in Canton, O., for the Hall of Fame game on Aug. 7 and probably no training camp in Bourbonnais.

Judge Susan Nelson has mandated federal mediation but Howard suggested that personalities, specifically NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and players chief DeMaurice Smith, may be more of a factor that is being noted.

Not that either is a problem per se, but both are in their first negotiations with the other side and nobody wants to be the one to go back to his side and say, Well, I got a deal but its not quite the deal we wanted.

(Were not going to spiral off too far here into the latest on the labor matter; I hate writing about it and Im guessing that you hate reading about it. But some particularly interesting thoughts came up at the get-together.)

Mike McCartney, director of football operations at Priority Sports and a former member of front offices with the Bears and Philadelphia Eagles, represents a number of top NFL players and predicted that when free agency does arrive in whatever form its going to be this year, Its going to be crazy.

McCartney, whose prediction of when the impasse breaks was pegged to whether Judge Nelson stops the lockout and the decision is upheld on appeal, also offered that I dont think were ever going to get to an 18-game schedule.

Probably the most pessimistic forecast was from agent Kristen Kuliga of K Sports & Entertainment LLC out of Boston, who voted for October as the seasons starting point. Kristen was very concise on details of the proceedings to this point, and she did candidly note that players do not like the lockout situation but they also arent particularly put out to be missing the offseason programs mandated by some teams.

Bob Dittrich, VP of Client Services for MillerCoors, threw out something a lot of you are only too aware of. What happens with fantasy leagues, now such a big part of the game? Nobody knows whos going to be on what teams, he said.

The hard part in all of this is trying to gauge who may blink first, where a crack might occur. I was told as far back as last season by an NFC team higher-up that he had never seen the owners as unified as they were and appear to still be. And as former Chicago Tribune colleague David Haugh said Wednesday, Its a lot easier to keep 32 billionaires together than 1,900 players.

Strictly speaking

Catch CSNPhilly.com colleague Ray Didinger with Mike Florio on ProFootballTalk Live this morning after 11 a.m.

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.

Tight ends and all things “timing” will change in Matt Nagy Bears West Coast offense

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USA TODAY

Tight ends and all things “timing” will change in Matt Nagy Bears West Coast offense

Second of two parts

Looking ahead to training camp and what everyone will be looking at – it will help to have even a cursory idea of the offensive elements that coach Matt Nagy is incorporating, particularly in the passing game -- because the when, where and how the Bears will be throwing the football is changing. NBC Sports Chicago focuses on a selection of specifics and their origins within that part of the offense that fans will notice, first in Bourbonnais and then in the 2018 season.

Bill Walsh wrote and always insisted that the tight end was the least understood central pillar in his offense. He viewed and used the tight end as a receiver rather than simply an extra offensive lineman, and used the position to exploit matchup problems and open areas of the field created by design.

In a bit of fortuitous timing, the Bears signed and drafted tight ends (Adam Shaheen, Dion Sims) a year in advance of Matt Nagy’s arrival. But how those tight ends project to be used will be substantially changed from their functions last year. The best indication came this offseason when yet another tight end was brought in, one that signaled a critical direction change coming to the Chicago offense.

The Bears invested heavily to land smallish ex-Philadelphia tight end Trey Burton this offseason. He fits a Nagy template.

“He understands this offense and what to do, so there’s not a lot of mistakes,” Nagy said. “When guys see that you’re a player that has experience in this offense and does things the right way, they really gravitate towards that style of leadership. It’s been everything and more with what we thought with Trey.”

In eight of the last nine years Nagy was with Reid, the tight end (Brent Celek in Philadelphia, Travis Kelce in Kansas City) was either the leading or second-leading receiver on the roster.

In the last 37 years, since Emery Moorehead (No. 2, 1985), the Bears have been led in receptions by a tight end just once (Greg Olsen, 2009) or had a tight end No. 2 in catches just three other times (Olsen, 2008, Martellus Bennett 2014-15).

Receiver additions Taylor Gabriel and Allen Robinson notwithstanding, the role of the tight end in a Bears offense is about to change. Dramatically. And it started literally before Nagy even arrived in Chicago.

“Our first conversation when [Nagy and Pace] were on the plane heading to Chicago the day that I was hired, we discussed that ‘U’ position, the position that we know in Kansas City and we use in Kansas City as kind of the wide receiver/tight end,” Nagy said. “And you play the slot position you can move around, do different things — it’s what we did with Kelce.”

New meaning for “timing” in pass game

Trubisky’s mobility creates a greater threat in action passes and within run-pass options, if only because Trubisky can and will take off with purpose, even as Nagy, Helfrich and QB coach Dave Ragone drill one phrase into the quarterback’s brain: “Get down!”

“We don’t do that all the time but that’s kind of your ‘ball control,’” Nagy said. “There is a mentality that might be a little different in how we’re trying to be aggressive, too. In the classic West Coast there were still times where they were looking to be aggressive and we want that mindset.”

More than that, however, is the threat that play-calling versatility posed by Nagy’s offense. What jumps out is the play-calling balance on first downs:

 

2017 first downs

 

Run/pass ratio (%)

Bears        Chiefs

59/41        51.1/48.9 

 

Yards per carry

Bears        Chiefs

4.1             4.6

 

Completion %

Bears        Chiefs

59.3          68.2

 

The Chiefs had the advantage of a more accurate quarterback (Alex Smith) than the Bears (Trubisky). Coaches are stressing accuracy along with ball security, and improving Trubisky’s accuracy is axiomatic for success in Nagy’s scheme, which is based on the West Coast foundation of high completion percentage and minimizing risk of negative plays in the passing game.

Notably, in true West Coast tradition, with the Reid/Nagy offenses forcing defenses to spread horizontally the Chiefs rushed for a half-yard more than the Bears on first downs.

More notably perhaps, the Chiefs exploited those higher-percentage positive first-down plays, which meant shorter yardage needs on second downs, with more passing, not less. And when the Chiefs did run, they were just as successful per carry.

 

2017 second downs

 

Run/pass ratio (%)

Bears        Chiefs

48/52        40.8/59.2 

 

Yards per carry

Bears        Chiefs

4.0             4.6

 

Completion %

Bears        Chiefs

62.6          72.7

 

West Coast systems typically operate with more drag routes, quick slants and square-in’s, requiring receivers to run precise routes and have the ability to create separation quickly as Trubisky sets up quickly and looks to throw on time.

The “on time” component is critical, because it the timing of breaks and routes are connected to footwork – Trubisky’s – in that the ball is expected to be coming out when he hits the third or fifth step of his drop. The quarterback is not going to sit waiting for a receiver to come open, as in some other programs.

“It's a wide open attack and it's a great offense because there are so many options within it,” Trubisky said. “We know our job and it all comes down to execution for us. There are so many options I can't even begin to say where it starts but Coach Nagy has brought in a great plan.

“I think the system fits the players we have. In particular I feel like it really fits my skill set with the RPO's, the quick game, stretching the ball down the field and then with the running backs we have just pounding it inside and continuously trying to establish the run game each and every game. I just feel like we've got a lot of options, can be really dynamic and on top of that how we understand it and how the coaches have taught it to us since day one is just going to allow us to play faster and execute the plays at a higher rate.”

Bears among 50 most valuable sports teams in the world

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USA Today

Bears among 50 most valuable sports teams in the world

The Chicago Bears haven't enjoyed many wins over the last several years, but that hasn't done anything to hurt the franchise's bottom line.

According to a recent report by Forbes, the Bears rank 17th among the 50 most valuable sports teams in the world for 2018. The franchise is valued at $2.85 billion.

17. Chicago Bears

Value: $2.85 billion

1-year change: 6%

Operating income: $114 million

Owner: McCaskey family

Chicago is seventh among NFL teams in the top-17, with Dallas, New England, New York (Giants), Washingon, San Francisco and Los Angeles (Rams) all having higher valuations.

It's no surprise the Bears are this valuable, even without a winning product. They play in one of the greatest sports cities on the planet. And just imagine what will happen to the club's price tag if Mitch Trubisky and the new-look roster actually start winning games.