Bears

New coach's credentials less important than fit with Cutler

935537.png

New coach's credentials less important than fit with Cutler

The search for a new head coach to replace Lovie Smith will involve a variety of names and backgrounds. But one name hangs like a thunderhead over the entire process, and ultimately over the foreseeable future of the franchise:

Jay Cutler.

Cutler has gained the dubious identifier of coach killer after having been the final starting quarterback coached by Mike Shanahan in Denver and Lovie Smith in Chicago, and coordinators Ron Turner and Mike Tice in Chicago. Jeremy Bates stints as quarterback coach in Denver and Chicago ended with mentoring Cutler (Bates presumably will not be retained in the re-formed Bears staff).

Mike Martz was hired only after he was sent to Nashville to be interviewed by Cutler, not the other way around.

Why this looms as the cloud over the Bears process is that the single biggest specific reason for (most recently) Smiths and Tices exits was a non-functioning offense, which obviously starts with Cutler. Given the precedent of the Martz hiring, one wonders if the new coach will be put on a plane to be cleared by Cutler, with Brandon Marshall sitting in. Martz was in the role of supplicant from the beginning and he only worked as long as Cutler liked what he was hearing.

More important, in terms of small-group dynamics, will Cutler take coaching at this point of his career? The push-back under Turner, Martz and his position coaches was friction that did no one or the offense any good.

RELATED: After Lovie Smith? Bears have issues to consider

Cutler turns 30 just after the 2013 draft. He just finished his seventh NFL season. He is what he is. Formed.

The top early candidates, because the unstated mission statement is to bring in a coach with credentials on offense, are Denver Broncos offensive coordinator Mike McCoy and Tampa Bay offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan. Keith Armstrong is on the list, from the Atlanta Falcons and a former Bears assistant.

Does anyone really envision Cutler (and Marshall) going along with ideas they dont agree with from assistants who have less time running NFL offenses than they have?

The bigger problem

And if Cutler is part of another destructive taffy pull, what do the Bears do?

Cutler has one year left on his contract. If GM Phil Emery and the new coach are satisfied that Cutler is the future, great. Extend him.

But if it doesnt work between Cutler and the new head coachoffense, where does that leave the Bears? They are expected to select a quarterback in this years draft. But finding Kirk Cousins, Russell Wilson, Colin Kaepernick, Andy Dalton or another starter-grade quarterback is problematic to say the least.

But a failed Cutlernew guy situation would mean going into 2014 starting over at quarterback, with the defense already ticketed for needing massive restocking.

Cutler may indeed be the future of the Chicago Bears offense under another coach and coordinator. It could happen. But if the coach-quarterback fit is not absolutely perfect, missing the playoffs may be the least of the franchise worries.

Bears-Vikings is most tightly contested game of Week 11

mitchandhoward.jpg
USA TODAY

Bears-Vikings is most tightly contested game of Week 11

With so much parity in the NFL, every week on the schedule has close matchups. This weekend, though, the Bears and the Minnesota Vikings are expected to play the closest.

NFL experts trying to predict Sunday night’s matchup are torn on who they think is going to win, but Chicago has the slight advantage according to NFL Pick Watch.

55 percent of experts are picking the Bears to extend their NFC North lead, the closest margin of predictions for any game this week.

Even Monday night’s contest between the Kansas City Chiefs and Los Angeles Rams has a larger majority supporting Jared Goff and company at 60 percent.

The analytics are also in agreement in support of Matt Nagy in prime time. Microsoft Cortana, FiveThirtyEight, Number Fire and Pro Football Focus analytics are all among the majority picking the Bears.

Our own J.J. Stankevitz predicts they could have statement game to establish themselves as a legitimate contender this season.

Chicago is favored by a slight margin on Las Vegas sportsbooks, but in the battle for first place in the division, anything can happen.

Bears add another weapon to offense, activate Adam Shaheen off injured reserve

11-17adamshaheen.jpg
USA Today Sports Images

Bears add another weapon to offense, activate Adam Shaheen off injured reserve

There’s a wrinkle to the Bears’ offense nobody’s quite seen yet in 2018. With Adam Shaheen being activated off injured reserve on Saturday, we might get a look at what it could be starting Sunday. 

To make room for Shaheen on the 53-man roster, the Bears placed tight end Dion Sims on injured reserve. Sims didn't practice the last two weeks after suffering a concussion Nov. 4 against the Buffalo Bills, and has had recurring concussion issues in the past.

Shaheen, who suffered an ankle injury in a preseason game Aug. 18 against the Denver Broncos, began practicing with the Bears last week. 

The aspect to Matt Nagy’s offense we haven’t seen, then, is a “Y” (in-line) tight end being a legitimate receiving threat. While opposing teams have film on Shaheen from his rookie year of 2017, they don’t have film on how Nagy could use him. 

“I haven’t even though about it,” Shaheen said. “For me, I just want to get out there and play. And so, thinking about that, if they don’t see me coming and it gives me better looks, then so be it.”

While Shaheen’s usage could be limited in his first regular season game since Dec. 10, 2017, his go-up-and-get-it ability in the red zone could instantly be a factor against the Minnesota Vikings. Shaheen led the Bears with three touchdowns in 2017 despite only catching 12 passes. 

From a schematic standpoint, how Nagy works Shaheen into the offense will be interesting to observe. The Bears are one of five teams to average seven or more yards per play while having three receivers on the field:

The Bears’ two most-used formations (totaling 90 plays) has had Allen Robinson, Anthony Miller and Taylor Gabriel as the three receivers, with Jordan Howard or Tarik Cohen the running back and Trey Burton the tight end. Their third most-used formation (31 plays) did feature two tight ends in Burton and Dion Sims, though the majority of those plays (18) were rushing plays. 

Sims, though, wasn't a receiving threat, while Shaheen is. 

“It just puts another playmaker on the field, as somebody else they have to account for,” Burton said. “We just have so many guys that can do so many different things, so it makes it really tough to guard. And so I like it because we have two tight ends in there at a time. Hopefully we can get rolling with that whenever he comes back.”

“Whenever” will be Sunday. And the larger point here may be that the Bears were able to add a playmaker into their offense instead of losing one to attrition in November. 

“He’s just a mismatch problem across the board for linebackers and safeties, and when you get a corner on him as well, his size is just too much to handle,” quarterback Mitch Trubisky said. “Getting him back will just open things up even more for this offense, and he’s another option for this offense to be even more dynamic."