Bears

No playoffs = no championship chances cost Smith his job

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No playoffs = no championship chances cost Smith his job

As the Bears spiraled downward from their 7-1 standing at midseason, so did the evaluation of their head coach. When the team failed to at least slip into the playoffs, one of the already played-out scenarios was executed and Lovie Smith fired on Monday morning.

Had the Bears made the playoffs and had some success there, Smith might have been fulfilling at least the last year of his contract. GM Phil Emery made it clear on Tuesday that no final call had been made on Smith before the final weekend of the season.

The evaluation process was made, Emery confirmed. I would say that that decision wasnt finalized until the morning and it really wasnt final until I sat down with coach Smith. Thats when the decision was finally made because to me, until you actually tell the person, and you look them in the eye and say, Were going to move in a different direction, that decision has not been made.

Bears President Ted Phillips laid out the same scenario: I cant point to a single moment in time where the decision was obviously final.

When the Bears missed the playoffs, it meant that they had finished out of the postseason for five of the last six. Had the Green Bay Packers beaten the Minnesota Vikings and allowed the Bears into the tournament, then Smiths case would have been that they had made the playoffs two of the last three years.

But Emery was adamant that the goal of the organization is and will be to win championships. To do that means making the playoffs to even have that chance.

As a professional sports team and as a historic charter member of the greatest sports league in this world, the NFL, our No. 1 goal has to be to win championships and to win championships we must be in contention on a consistent basis, Emery said. And to be in contention, we have to be in the playoffs on a consistent basis.

Five out of the last six years, we have not been there. We have fallen short.

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Emery cited the consistent excellence of the Chicago defense under Smith. But it was the consistent failures on offense that could no longer be tolerated.

We havent had the balance between our defensive excellence, Emery said. Weve had special-teams excellence. We have not had consistency on the offensive side of the ball. We have gone through a number of coordinators. We have searched for answers.

The end result is that we did not have enough consistency. That part and not getting to the playoffs on a consistent basis, being able to meet our organizational goals, to be in a consistent spot, to be in the hunt to win championships, I made the change moving forward.

On top of simply not making the 2012 playoffs was the disappointment that came with the slide from such high expectations at mid-season.

I think just for this years standpoint it was starting off 7-1, and with that expectation then that we were going to at least follow through and make the playoffs, Phillips said. That was probably the biggest disappointment with this season in particular.

There are no certainties yet, but the Bears are 'cautiously optimistic' that Mitch Trubisky will return this Sunday

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USA Today

There are no certainties yet, but the Bears are 'cautiously optimistic' that Mitch Trubisky will return this Sunday

The Bears won’t definitively say whether quarterback Mitch Trubisky will return for Sunday’s game against New Orleans, but, to borrow one of Matt Nagy’s favorite deflections, his arrow seems to be pointing in the right direction.

“I feel good that he’ll be able to practice the whole way, and have a good practice,” Nagy said. “His deal is going to be more a day-by-day deal –– let’s see exactly. Every day that goes by, was that a good day? Was that a bad day? Talk through it and see how he feels, see what the trainers say, where we as coaches think he’s at. And mentally, too. All that’s a part of this thing.”

Wednesday will be the first day that the Bears release a post-practice injury report. Trubisky returned to his throwing regiment on Monday and wasn’t limited with any sort of pitch count. He’ll be a full-go in practice, and feels confident that his left shoulder is close to feeling 100%. Trubisky (/Bears PR) brushed off the line of questioning when an official diagnosis was asked for, but his left shoulder, as reported, was dislocated.

“Yeah, it went back in,” he said. “It's a weird feeling – it's not good.”

Trubisky and the Bears were pretty confident off the bat that the injury wasn’t season-ending. Going forward, he’ll wear a protective brace on the shoulder, and the team plans to spend this week assessing his pain tolerance.

“Obviously I haven't gotten hit since then, and there always is some pain tolerance involved,” Trubisky added. “I mean, this is football. So you've just got to figure it out throughout the course of the week I guess. There are some ways we simulate getting hit –– either with the pads or going through certain drills with the trainers –– to try to get you as ready as possible and to make sure I can go out and do the job the way I know I can.”

The harness he’ll wear is similar to what wide receiver Taylor Gabriel had been using to protect a shoulder that was dislocated at multiple points last season. Gabriel actually cut off the brace during halftime of the Bears game in London because he was frustrated with how much it limited his pass catching. Still, the two have spent some time talking about what to expect.

“Mine’s a little different because I don’t need to necessarily catch,” Trubisky said. “But I’ve got to make sure I’ll be able to catch all the snap radius’ if something happens with that. I’ve been practicing everything that you could pretty much simulate with the trainers as much as you can to make sure I could go out there and do what my team needs me to do.”

For now, the public-facing message coming out of Halas Hall is that Trubisky and backup Chase Daniel will be splitting reps with the 1’s all week. And even though the Nagy-era Bears have always practiced excess precaution with injuries, there's an undeniable optimism in the building.

“I always say ‘cautiously optimistic’,” Nagy said. “I feel good about it, but we’re preparing with both right now. The thing with Chase is that we know he’s been in this role before. If it ends up being him, then it’s the same mojo.”

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Which Saints player would you want on the Bears?

Which Saints player would you want on the Bears?

The Chicago Bears have a tough test ahead of them Sunday at home against the 5-1 New Orleans Saints. Not only is New Orleans rolling on offense, even without QB Drew Brees in the lineup, but their defense has ascended into near-elite territory over the last few games.

This shouldn't come as a surprise to NFL fans, either. The Saints are overflowing with talent on both sides of the ball and there are several players who would represent an upgrade on the Bears.

Let's start on offense, where the obvious pick is Brees. But since he won't take the field in Week 7, we'll look elsewhere. 

Running back Alvin Kamara is about as dynamic as it gets at the position in 2019. He offers an equally lethal skill set as a runner and receiver with the kind of contact balance and burst to flip the field in one play. Imagine him working in Matt Nagy's offense? Scary.

There's also wide receiver Michael Thomas, who may just be the game's best all-around player at the position. He can beat defensive backs on all three levels of the passing game and is off to an incredible start to the season with 53 catches, 632 yards and three touchdowns. I'll do the math for you: those numbers equate to a 141-catch, 1,685-yard season. Yup. He's going to be a tough assignment for cornerbacks Kyle Fuller and Prince Amukamara.

New Orleans' offense isn't limited to just talent at the skill positions, either. Tackles Terron Armstead and Ryan Ramczyk are two of their four highest-graded players on offense, per Pro Football Focus, and each would represent a potential upgrade over Charles Leno, Jr. and Bobby Massie. Armstead and Ramczyk each rank in PFF's top 15 at offensive tackle in 2019, while Leno, Jr. and Massie are both outside of the top 50.

On the defensive side of the ball, it's hard to find a player who the Bears would prefer over a current starter, but one candidate is cornerback Marshon Lattimore. 

Lattimore hasn't been great this season, but his incredible blend of long speed and ability to change directions quickly established him as one of the league's most talented cornerbacks during his rookie season. It's a volatile position where players go through peaks and valleys during their careers, but Lattimore's physical gifts are borderline rare.

Cameron Jordan, the Saints' premier edge rusher and most recognizable name on the defense, would be enticing as well. He leads the team with five sacks and has accumulated 31 pressures over six games, proof that he's a handful for opposing offensive linemen. He wouldn't be a perfect scheme fit for the Bears, but lining him up opposite Khalil Mack would be fun to watch (to say the least).

This is a tough call. What say you? Head over to Twitter and share your thoughts here.