Bears

Quarterback and tight end: What hath Martz wrought?

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Quarterback and tight end: What hath Martz wrought?

If Mike Martz leaves after this season, as expected, there will be some reckoning. To some extent, there already can be one as far as what Martz has done to and with the Chicago offense. Two areas stand out dramatically.

Quarterback

Jay Cutler emerged as a top-tier NFL quarterback through the middle of this season. The fact that he and Martz had their clashes was apparent and the question will be whether Cutler developed because of Martz or in spite of Martz, since the Bears offense was at its most successful when it least resembled the Martz template.

Backup quarterback has been a disaster, something that had not been the case under Ron Turner or even John Shoop. GM Jerry Angelo had brought in proven veteran backups (Jim Miller, Chris Chandler, Brian Griese, Kyle Orton, Jeff Blake) and the Bears seemed content with Caleb Hanie and a two-pack at QB in 2009 under Turner.

They added youth via the draft in 2010 (Dan LeFevour) and 2011 (Nathan Enderle). While numerous other franchises have had impact play from their rookie quarterbacks, the system in Chicago has not worked to get a rookie on the field under Martz.

Hanie has proved a disaster and Enderle was not deemed field-worthy through this point of the season. At some level, the question is reasonable as to whether this is an offense that for whatever reason is too Byzantine for its own good?

It did not sound Wednesday like Martz had a handle on what the problems were.

Those are all things we have to look back at and reflect and make sure that we spend time going over that with Caleb and make sure we can fix that, Martz said.

Tight end

The organization has twice given Martz what he wanted at tight end, with less than satisfactory results.

Brandon Manumaleuna was a colossal (financially and other ways) bust last offseason. The Bears traded away Greg Olsen, deemed not a fit for Martz, and that has been its own disaster. The guy who didnt fit had 41 catches and 5 touchdowns last season; Kellen Davis and Matt Spaeth, given Olsens job, have combined for 22 catches and 6 touchdowns.

These two tight ends allow us in our running game to do special things that nobody else in the league is doing, Martz said.

Maybe. But Olsen, playing with a rookie quarterback (Cam Newton), has 45 catches and 5 touchdowns. Combined with Jeremy Shockey, the Panthers are No. 5 in rushing yardage, with DeAngelo Williams (5.1 yards per carry) and Jonathan Stewart (4.7) combining for more than 1,300 rushing yards.

Matt Forte ran for 4.5 yards per carry last season. He increased that to 4.9 this year but had half the touchdowns (3) he had last season (6) at the time he was injured. Olsen was a receiving threat the Bears could sorely use right now.

Indeed, Martz appears to be out of step with or at least running contrary to what numerous successful teams (Green Bay, New Orleans) are doing with the position.

Just the last five years, the athletic ability of the tight end in todays NFL, theres probably 12-15 teams that have a featured type tight end to oppose to years ago, there was probably a handful, said Green Bay coach Mike McCarthy. The ability to play the tight end in a 1, 2, 3 receiver position is very beneficial. Theres things that you can gain from that, whether its a potential matchup or so forth. Youre just seeing that across the league.

Chris Simms says Bears are a dangerous team entering Week 15

Chris Simms says Bears are a dangerous team entering Week 15

The Bears have completely flipped the narrative of their 2019 season over the last three weeks, thanks in large part to Matt Nagy's offense finally resembling the 202-level that was promised last summer.

It may have taken quarterback Mitch Trubisky a little longer than expected to arrive this year, but if his last two games are an indication of his development in his second season under Nagy's tutelage, the Bears have a bonafide quarterback. And it's been a while since that could be said.

"Mitchell Trubisky is hot, there's no doubt about it," NBC Sports NFL analyst Chris Simms said Thursday. "He seems so much more comfortable. Decisive. He's accurate with the football. Running around at the proper time. I don't think it was all Mitchell Trubisky's fault with the struggles of the offense, either."

Those struggles spanned the first half of 2019 when Chicago seemed incapable of sustaining drives or scoring points. It began with Week 1's three-point output against the Packers and continued through Thanksgiving Day when Trubisky finally got his mojo back, throwing for 338 yards and three touchdowns against the Lions.

With Trubisky clicking, and the running game receiving a jolt from rookie David Montgomery's productive back-to-back weeks (in which he's averaged more than four yards per carry in successive games for the first time all year), the Bears appear capable of beating just about anyone. 

They'll need to. If Chicago wants to keep their weak playoff pulse going, they have to win out. And that includes games against the Packers, Chiefs and Vikings. 

The odds seem stacked against them, and it's their own fault. It took way too long to get the offense going, but it's better late than never. 

According to Simms, the Bears are that team no one wants to play.

"They're a dangerous team right now. They really are."

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Bears QB Big Board, 6.0: It's Mitch Trubisky's job to lose

Bears QB Big Board, 6.0: It's Mitch Trubisky's job to lose

Just when it appeared like Bears quarterback Mitch Trubisky was entering his final half-season as the team's unquestioned starting quarterback, the last month happened.

Trubisky's play has steadily improved over the last five games and reached what may have been his watermark moment in Week 14 against the Cowboys. He completed 74% of his passes for 244 yards and three passing touchdowns while adding a season-high 63 rushing yards and a score on the ground. It marked the second week in a row that Trubisky's completed over 74% of his passes; he connected on 76% of his throws a week earlier against the Lions.

Trubisky's recent success is a far cry from the mentally broken player he was after the first month of the season. He has his confidence back. In fact, he's playing with more confidence than he's ever shown as a pro. His recent success is a direct and obvious result of his evolution between the ears.

The Bears were circled as a team that was likely to be in the quarterback market this offseason because of how terrible Trubisky looked early in 2019. And there's still a chance that GM Ryan Pace will look to add some healthy competition to the roster, but if Trubisky continues to play well, that competition will be for the backup job. 

It's also worth noting that one of the more appealing quarterback targets this offseason probably won't make it to the open market. Titans starter Ryan Tannehill continues to enjoy a remarkable comeback season and appears destined to sign a long-term extension with Tennessee sooner than later. After Tannehill, the discount quarterback rack includes names like Andy Dalton and Marcus Mariota, players who a month ago would've been viewed as marked upgrades over Trubisky.

It doesn't feel like that's the case anymore.

Barring a massive regression from Trubisky over the next three games, it's starting to feel like he's winning back Chicago's confidence one game at a time. 

With all that in mind, here's the updated Bears QB Big Board entering Week 15:

Bears QB Big Board (Dec. 12, 2019)

1. Mitch Trubisky (Bears)
previous: 2 (Dec. 3)

2. Andy Dalton (Bengals)
previous: 1 (Dec. 3)

3. Ryan Tannehill (Titans)
previous: 3  (Dec. 3)

4. Jalen Hurts (Oklahoma)
previous: 4 (Dec. 3)

5. Marcus Mariota (Titans)
previous: 5 (Dec. 3)

6. Teddy Bridgewater (Saints)
previous: 6 (Dec. 3)

Outside looking in (list cut down to three)...

-Jake Fromm (Georgia)
previous: outside looking in (Dec. 3)

-Jameis Winston (Buccaneers)
previous: outside looking in (Dec. 3)

- Cam Newton (Panthers)
previous: outside looking in (Dec. 3)

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of the Bears.