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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.

Anthony Miller is hyped about Nick Foles' knowledge of Bears' offense

Anthony Miller is hyped about Nick Foles' knowledge of Bears' offense

One of the main reasons the Bears targeted Nick Foles in an offseason that was overflowing with quality quarterbacks to challenge Mitch Trubisky for Chicago's starting job is his familiarity with Matt Nagy's offense. The Bears knew what they were getting when they traded a fourth-round pick to the Jaguars for the former Super Bowl MVP, and in the current COVID-19 reality, that knowledge of who Foles is as a quarterback is more valuable than the team could've ever imagined.

So is Foles' comfort with the playbook. 

Unlike traditional offseasons when players have a chance to acclimate themselves with their new city, teammates, coaching staff, and offensive system, the novel coronavirus has thrust the Bears' quarterback competition into a shotgun four-week run that Foles is oddly equipped to handle. He's already made a positive early impression on wide receiver Anthony Miller.

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“You can definitely tell that Nick has been playing this game for a long time, and he knows this offense very well," Miller said Friday during a Zoom call with reporters. "He’s very detailed in practice, you can catch him in the back of an offensive play going through his progressions and he’s not even in, so that’s just the type of player he is, and I can’t wait to see him live action to see what he really can do.”

It feels like the Trubisky vs. Foles showdown has been underway since March, but the reality is it's just getting started. Padded practices begin next week and will give Chicago's coaches and players their first real opportunity to evaluate which quarterback gives the team the best chance to win.

According to Miller, the starting gig is up for grabs.

“This is going to be an interesting competition to see and the best man is going to get the job.”

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Super Bowl or bust? Why Bears' championship formula is backward in 2020

Super Bowl or bust? Why Bears' championship formula is backward in 2020

First, the good news: The Bears can win Super Bowl LV.

Why not? It’s August.

If Matt Nagy can find the right quarterback and Ryan Pace’s play to overhaul the tight end room pays off, this offense could be a ton of fun to watch. And if the addition of Robert Quinn gives the Bears the sort of fearsome pass rush we expect it will, this defense should be among the best in the NFL – and more than good enough to win a Super Bowl.

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There’s absolutely no part of me that’s going to tell you the Bears cannot win a Super Bowl before we’ve seen them practice, let alone play a game, in 2020.

“We want to win a Super Bowl,” wide receiver Allen Robinson said. “Every day we come into the facility, all our meetings and things like that, I think that our coaches are doing a really good job for everybody to keep that in mind and that's the main thing.”

Okay, but you’re probably waiting for the bad news. I just didn’t want to start with it. Because while it's not impossible for the Bears to make a Super Bowl run, there's a big reason why it feels unlikely. 

The Bears’ formula for winning in 2020, seemingly, is pairing a good enough offense with an elite defense. It’s what got them to the playoffs in 2018 as NFC North champions. It’s what could get them back to the playoffs again this season.

But an “eh, it’s fine” offense coupled with an awesome defense is not a formula that wins you a Super Bowl in 2021. As the last 10 Super Bowls tell us, it pays to have a great offense – and doesn’t matter if you have a great defense.

The last 20 Super Bowl participants, on average, had the sixth-best offense in a given year as ranked by Football Outsiders’ DVOA. The average ranking of their defenses was about 12th.

It’s been even more pronounced over the last four years. On average, a Super Bowl team in that span ranked fourth in offense and 16th in defense.

Only two teams in the last decade reached a Super Bowl with an offense outside the top 10 in DVOA (Denver in 2015, Baltimore in 2012 – notably, both teams still won). Eleven of the last 20 teams to make a Super Bowl had a defense outside the DVOA top 10, including last year’s Kansas City Chiefs.

MORE: Why you shouldn't worry about Allen Robinson getting a contract extension

So the Bears, as currently constructed, do not appear built to win a Super Bowl. That doesn’t mean it can’t be done – we’re not all that far removed from the 2015 Broncos hoisting the Lombardi Trophy with the No. 25 offense and No. 1 defense – but recent history suggests it’s unlikely.

That is, unless Nagy can find the success his former peers (Doug Pederson, Andy Reid) had with his offensive scheme. Make no mistake: Offense leads Super Bowl runs, with defense a supporting character. Not the other way around. And it feels like the Bears have it the other way around. 

 

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