Bears

Is Sullivan right for the job?

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Is Sullivan right for the job?

No less than 20 potential names have been thrown into the proverbial hat to become the Bears' next head coach. Some candidates already eliminated themselves, like former Eagles head coach Andy Reid who agreed to a 5-year contract with the Kansas City Chiefs yesterday or Falcons' offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter who publicly stated he will remain in Atlanta with a pay increase attached to it.

Others in the running will be eliminated for various reasons moving forward, but Bears GM Phil Emery likely has about five candidates he is seriously considering.

It is not uncommon for general managers to acquire a Rolodex of quality coaches who may be future head coaching material during their scouting travels. Their file continues to grow as they gain experience as their careers progress. Its similar to the numerous notes created on players, as coaching files appear to be pretty deep and very thorough as well.

The latest candidate is Tampa Bay Buccaneers' offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan who recently underwent a six hour interview conducted by Emery and the Bears' brass. Sullivan has been coaching since 1993 when he started at Humboldt State while earning his Masters degree. He formerly played as a defensive back at Army where he completed his Bachelor of Science degree and became a graduate of U.S. Army Airborne, Ranger and Air Assault schools.

If you want tough head coaches, Sullivan may be your guy, as he can beat offensive principles into players with his Blue Belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

Plus, Sullivan has spent time with accomplished head coaches during his career. In 1997, he worked at Youngstown State under former Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel, where his team won the Division I AA National Championship. Sullivan broke into the NFL as a defensive quality-control coach in Jacksonville in 2002, later becoming the offensive assistant in 2003.

He spent time there with Tom Coughlin, who brought him to New York to coach wide receivers after Coughlin agreed to be signing as the Giants' head coach in 2004. Sullivan later became Eli Manning's quarterback coach during the 2010 season.

Sullivan not only served under a very accomplished head coach in Coughlin, but also alongside a seasoned coaching staff like offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride while winning two Super Bowl Championships with the Giants before moving on to Tampa Bay in 2012. Under Sullivan, Tampa Bay finished with a top nine overall offense in the NFL, ranking 10th in pass and 15th in rushing offense.

Much of what Sullivan has to accomplish with the Bears surrounds quarterback Jay Cutler. Tampa Bay head coach Greg Schiano said the same concerning Tampa quarterback Josh Freeman.

What I can say is a 4,000-yard passer, a touchdown record there are a lot of things you say, Wow. Are there things that frustrate you? Yeah.

Do I think Josh Freeman is going to win Super Bowls in this league? I do. So, I hope that happens here. But again, at the end of the day, I have to evaluate everything before I can say thats what were doing.," Schiano said. "The one thing I do believe in is competition at every spot, including the quarterback so I want to have as many good players on our football team as we can at every single position. Its a little different in the NFL.

The truth of the matter is, Freeman was all over the map in 2012 with a great offensive line and great weapons around him with a first time play caller in Sullivan. Plus, that is not exactly a ringing endorsement about quarterback Freeman from Schiano, which is supposed to be what Sullivan was hired to rectify.

Sullivan is a first-time play caller with no head coaching experience or track record at all, which leads you to believe he is qualified enough to be the Bears' next head coach?

Next.

Bears 7-round mock draft: Is Jalen Hurts the answer at QB?

Bears 7-round mock draft: Is Jalen Hurts the answer at QB?

As the calendar inches closer to Thanksgiving and the 2019 college football season slowly comes to a close, attention will soon shift to the 2020 NFL draft and the pool of prospects who will be showcased in the college football playoffs and bowl games around the country. And that means mock draft season is here.

The Bears will be without a first-round pick for the second year in a row. But let's be honest, they still have Khalil Mack. And that's a win.

What the Bears do have is two second-round picks, which if the draft were held today would be two selections in the top 50. It's unlikely they'll remain that valuable as the season marches on and Chicago and the Oakland Raiders (re: Mack trade) continue stacking wins, but the point remains: The Bears have some draft capital that they can use to improve this roster heading into 2020.

With less than two months remaining in the regular season, the biggest question surrounding the Bears is at quarterback, where Mitch Trubisky is struggling to establish himself as 'the guy.' If his struggles continue, Chicago could use the draft, in addition to a veteran free-agent signing, to create a full-blown quarterback battle next training camp.

In this mock draft, that's exactly what GM Ryan Pace does.

Round 2: Jalen Hurts, QB, Oklahoma

Hurts is getting some first-round love right now but it feels like his draft stock will depend on how his December goes. There's no denying his ability as a playmaker and comps to Lamar Jackson are already starting to bubble. Hurts is having a ridiculous season statistically, completing over 73% of his passes and a 6:1 touchdown to interception ratio. He has five games with at least 75 yards rushing, too. 

Hurts doesn't profile as a quarterback who'd be ready to step in and start early in his rookie season, and that's exactly what the Bears should look for in this year's draft. Trubisky will be on the roster next season, and coupled with a free-agent veteran signing, a prospect like Hurts will have the time to learn from the bench in Year 1. And if he's too good to keep off the field, it's a fantastic problem to have.

Round 2 (from Oak): Albert Okwuegbunam, TE, Missouri

The Bears' tight end problems have been well-documented this season. Trey Burton has been an oft-injured bust of a free-agent signing (2018) and Adam Shaheen is an even bigger bust of a second-round pick (2017). Young developmental players like Ben Braunecker don't project as long-term answers at the position, so adding a prospect like Okwuegbunam with their second of two second-round picks would be a good play.

Okwuegbunam's scouting report is likely all over the map right now. Some front offices will love him, others will think he lacks any special quality to be a top-50 pick. The former All-SEC freshman suffered a broken scapula in 2018 that limited his season to just nine games, but he flashed appealing upside as a receiver over that span. His production hasn't been great this year -- 22 catches, 280 yards, 6 TDs -- but his tape is promising. And, let's be honest: even if Okwuegbunam's true grade is somewhere closer to the third-round range, the Bears can't afford to wait on a guy at a position of need who could legitimately win the starting job as a rookie.

Round 5: Trevon Hill, EDGE, Miami

The Leonard Floyd experiment is over. And it's not that he won't be back with this team; it's just he won't be relied on as part of the pass-rush plan. He simply can't do it and it's time to move on. Enter Trevon Hill, who offers some twitchy upside as an edge defender.

Pace will have to do his due diligence on a player like Hill, whose checkered past includes dismissal from Virginia Tech in 2018. Still, he's managed 15.5 sacks and 28.5 tackles for loss over the last three-plus seasons.

The Bears need more pass-rush options, and that's what Hill represents at this point in the draft.

Round 6: Colton McKivitz, OT, West Virginia

It's unlikely the Bears will make any sweeping changes to the offensive line this offseason, especially at tackle where Charles Leno, Jr. and Bobby Massie are both under contract for the next several seasons. But the roster could use some depth on the edges which is where McKivitz fits in nicely.

Considered a riser early in 2019, McKivitz has experience at both left and right tackle and has been a reliable pass-blocker during his tenure as a Mountaineer. Entering the 2019 season, McKivitz had allowed just eight sacks on 1,459 pass-blocking snaps, per Pro Football Focus.

Round 6: Alex Highsmith, EDGE, Charlotte

Ryan Pace loves small-school prospects, so I had to fit at least one (kind of small-schooler) in this mock draft. Fortunately for the Bears, it's one of the top lesser-known players who will be available in 2020 who also happens to fill a team need.

Highsmith has 9.5 sacks so far this season and fits the mold of that twitchy pass-rusher off the edge that Chicago must find to complement Mack. The likely Senior Bowl invite will have a chance to impress scouts in Mobile, Ala., and could ascend into the Day-2 conversation. For now, he's a great value pick in the sixth round.

Round 7: Evan Weaver, LB, Cal

Weaver profiles as a poor man's Nick Kwiatkoski, who the Bears might lose in free agency this offseason if he continues playing at a high level. With Danny Trevathan also on an expiring contract, Chicago needs to add another inside linebacker to the roster regardless of who they re-sign. 

Weaver isn't the best athlete. He's vulnerable in coverage. He isn't going to wow at the Scouting Combine. But he's strong, no-nonsense inside linebacker who isn't afraid of to throw his body around. Sounds like a Bear to me.

What are your thoughts on this mock draft? Share them with me on Twitter!

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Nick Kwiatkoski was NFL's top linebacker in Week 10

Nick Kwiatkoski was NFL's top linebacker in Week 10

Chicago Bears linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski is in a contract year. And if he keeps playing the way he did in Sunday's win over the Detroit Lions, Ryan Pace better get ready to pay up.

Filling in for an injured Danny Trevathan, Kwiatkoski dominated the Lions offense to the tune of nine tackles, a sack and an interception. It was the second time this season that he stepped up in what could've been a crisis for the Bears defense. In Week 4 against the Vikings, Kwiatkoski filled-in for Roquan Smith who was deactivated shortly before kickoff for reasons still unknown. He was fantastic in that game, too.

But Kwiatkoski's performance on Sunday was borderline special. In fact, he was so good that he earned Pro Football Focus' highest grade of any linebacker in the NFL in Week 10 with a 92.4.

His ridiculous showing against Detroit pushed his season grade up to 88.2, which is second-best among Bears defenders with at least 100 snaps this season.

So, yeah, he's going to get paid.

Kwiatkoski's role moving forward is expected to change. He won't be coming off the bench filling in for Trevathan or Smith; he'll be starting for as long as Trevathan is on the mend. And with a starter's tag comes a week's worth of preparation by opposing offensive coordinators who will have more time to gameplan for his strengths and weaknesses. We'll find out real quick if his incredible flashes this season are sustainable as a traditional starter or if he'll be exposed in his newfound role.

Regardless, Kwiatkoski's emergence has been a bright spot in a season that's been lacking many of them so far.