So now that the Bears' staff is more than a week removed from its Senior Bowl experience, and now that the Super Bowl and the latest Patriots parade is over, what now? The NFL, for the most part, is off the radar for the next three weeks until coaches and executives gather in Indianapolis for the Scouting Combine.
But Super Bowl XX champion Bear Tom Thayer says while news cycle will slow down, it might be the most important time for teams throughout the league, including the Bears, to zero in on the strengths, weakness, and ceilings of the players they have. That while also ramping up whom they'll pursue when free agency begins March 9 as draft evaluations continue.
"The Pro Personnel Department will investigate the free agents and the college scouts will do their due diligence with the draft-eligible players that are coming out," Thayer told me during Monday night's "Bears All Access" radio show on 670 The Score.
"But the position coaches — this is the first time they can actually take the game film, slow it down, watch it with a real critical eye. Because when you're going through 16 games, you don't really have a long time to dwell on the past game tape because you're already game-planning for your next opponent.
"(The position coaches) are watching every single play - six, eight, ten times per play to get a real critical evaluation..the positives and negatives of each player. This is when the coaches earn their money because you don't otherwise have the luxury of sitting in that room and watching tape slowly. And when you have a new offensive line coach like Jeremiah Washburn, he's gotta come in and learn about every one of his players. He has to do a strict evaluation of their performances, but he also has to learn things about each one of these guys: What are they like in the first quarter? The fourth quarter? What are they like in Tampa Bay's hot weather? In the cold weather? Those are the things you start learning about your talent."
Sounds...fun? Maybe questionable for some of us, but if you talk to just about any coach at any level, they absolutely love their time breaking things down on film, individually, and scheme-wise.
[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]
So then I asked Thayer about the changes in the assistant coaching staff this offseason and how it affects some of the Bears' most promising young players. Washburn takes over a group in which Cody Whitehair excelled as a rookie. Jordan Howard's position coach, Stan Drayton, is off to Texas, replaced by Curtis Modkins. Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio absorbs more of outside linebackers coach Clint Hurtt's (Seattle) role in developing Leonard Floyd. And Kevin White and Cam Meredith will have their third position coach in as many years in the wide receivers' room after Curtis Johnson returned to New Orleans.
"I don't think that'll affect them because the key is Vic Fangio is still here, and Dowell Loggains is still here, so the new guys still deliver the messages of their coordinators," Thayer said.
"The terminology is going to be constant. The scheme is going to be the same. It'll be more about Vic Fangio teaching the new position coaches about the defense and how he wants it coached. Dowell Loggains is going to have to teach his new coaches the terminology, and pass along techniques he wants taught.
"I don't think it's going to be quite a hurdle for the players because it's not about Adam Gase-to-Dowell Loggains, when some terminology changed between those two," Thayer continued. "I think the key element here is the consistency in the language. For any player, that's the most difficult thing to learn."
The former standout guard provided an example in his favorite position group to continue his point.
"It's like asking you to learn French, and in three months, go to France, speak it fluently, and communicate. That's the same thing with terminology changes in offensive football.
"The length of the play-call is so difficult that if you don't understand every aspect and how it pertains to you, and the checks if (the defense) doesn't show what you expect, that 'This is what we're going to go to,' and have everyone understand that. You may have a half-second of notification for everyone to get through that communication process as well."