Bears

Urgency building in Bears coaching search

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Urgency building in Bears coaching search

It was nine years ago Tuesday that the Bears hired Lovie Smith to coach their team. They are unlikely to hit that date this time but perhaps not by much.

The divisional playoff round was not a great weekend for four candidates in the Bears search for Smiths successor. But the Bears and several NFL teams may not have been entirely unhappy with Denver, Green Bay, Houston and Seattle losing in divisional-round playoff games because it unlocked several doors.

The Bears have the offensive coordinators for all four teams and those individuals are now free for second interviews with Phil Emery if the Bears GM has them on his finalist list. Emery said that his search would include college coaches but none have been among the 13 reported candidates.

The only still-unavailable known candidate interviewed by Emery is Atlanta special-teams coach Keith Armstrong, who is not widely considered one of the leading prospects. Montreal Alouettes coach Marc Trestman and Tampa Bay offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan are believed to be among the top candidates so far but Emerys final list was still unfinished as of Sunday night.

Emery said on Jan. 1 that his ideal would be to have his new coach standing with him watching this months college all-star games and he may yet get his wish. Some of his competitors hope he does.

Indeed, at least one other NFL team is privately irritated at the pace of the Bears search because it wants to know if it needs to replace its offensive coordinator. That decision could be coming within a week based on Emery narrowing his finalist choices to 2-3 as planned, those candidates meeting with Chairman George McCaskey and President Ted Phillips, and a deal being reached.

Urgency rising

A note of urgency does in fact enter the process now because several of the Bears candidates are high on other teams lists.

Denver offensive coordinator Mike McCoy, interviewed by Emery last week, is set to interview now with San Diego, is on the Philadelphia Eagles list, and has met with and impressed the Arizona Cardinals.

Houston offensive coordinator Rick Dennison and Seattle offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell have met with Emery and have been linked to other teams as well. Bruce Arians was on Emerys Sunday interview list and also is a candidate with the Chargers.

Looking for assistants

The need for prompt action concerns more than just the top spot. The organization still has Smith's assistant coaches under contract, giving the incoming coach a ready selection of coaches familiar with Bears personnel but no coach retains the full former staff and each hiring around the league sets in motion the search for assistants.

Matt Nagy says Mitch Trubisky's Week 7 struggles due to poor footwork

Matt Nagy says Mitch Trubisky's Week 7 struggles due to poor footwork

Fundamentals can oftentimes make or break a quarterback's career. For Chicago Bears third-year signal-caller Mitch Trubisky, he's struggling with one of the most important aspects of quarterback play: footwork.

Coach Matt Nagy met with the media at Halas Hall on Monday and confirmed most of Trubisky's struggles in the Bears' 36-25 loss to the Saints in Week 7 were the result of sloppy footwork.

"The No. 1 thing I came away from was footwork. I thought footwork was just OK. And then the footwork leads to a little bit of better decisions/accuracy with throws. There was some times where there were some backpedals or movement in the pocket could've been a little better or different.

"You look at the one throw on 3rd-and-five, the second possession of the game, he's hit that all week and missed that, that was the start, and then there was a few others one. The other one that I thought was a bigger error by (Trubisky) at that position was we had a 1st-and-10 at the 24-yard line going in and we took a sack for eight yards and that was an RPO. That's a learning tool for him. Hey, we call a run-pass option and we're just a little bit off in our progression on that play and we ended up losing eight yards. Now it's 2nd-and-18, now you're back to 3rd-and-14 and we have and incomplete pass and we gotta grind to make three points.

"For me, playing the position, when you have sloppy footwork, it can lead to other issues. And I think that's what we saw."

Trubisky ended the game completing 34-of-54 passes for 251 yards and two touchdowns, but most of those stats were accumulated during garbage time, which Nagy dismissed as irrelevant. It's obvious Nagy is being careful with his words and, somehow, is still putting a positive spin on some pretty harsh criticism of Trubisky. 

If a quarterback is feeling the pass rush and dropping his eyes too early, which Nagy suggested is happening with Trubisky, and their footwork and accuracy are sloppy and inconsistent, the likely end result is a switch at the position. That isn't going to happen in Chicago, but it's Nagy's honest assessment of Trubisky's play on Sunday is at least a sign (even if it wasn't as harsh as it could've been) that the protective gloves will soon come off.

We just aren't 100% there yet.

"The growth of this offense needs to be better," Nagy said. "That territory, that position (quarterback), it always starts there. It always does. What I have to remind everybody else is there's other parts to this system. It's not just the quarterback play. I think we know what those other parts are that we need to play better at. Collectively, not just at the quarterback position, we need to be a little better."

How worried should the Bears be about Mitch Trubisky?

How worried should the Bears be about Mitch Trubisky?

Few positions in sports have the kind of expectations that come along with being a quarterback who's selected in the first round. Those expectations are elevated the higher a quarterback is selected in the first round, so in the case of Mitchell Trubsisky, who the Bears traded up to the second overall pick to select in 2017, it's safe to say failure is not an option for No. 10.

Unfortunately, Trubisky hasn't had much success in more than two seasons and 31 starts as a Bear. He bottomed out against the Saints in Sunday's 36-25 loss when he looked more like an undrafted free agent than a blue-chip first-rounder. His completions were a collection of meaningless dinks and dunks, and whenever he did take a shot downfield, his passes sailed off target and, in some instances, dangerously close to being intercepted.

It was bad. And what's worse? There's no indication that it will get better any time soon. Trubisky hasn't had that 'wow' moment in 2019, sans the 36-yard touchdown pass to Taylor Gabriel in Week 3, to suggest he's even capable of being an average starter in the NFL. It's true quarterbacks take time to develop, and it would be foolish for the Bears to move on from Trubisky with 10 games of evaluation remaining on their schedule, but it certainly feels like GM Ryan Pace is staring down an offseason that will require adding a quarterback in free agency or the NFL draft.

It would be negligent for Pace to ignore the position after what we've seen in 2019. Even if Trubisky has a strong finish to the season, the Bears need a better backup plan than Chase Daniel, who coach Matt Nagy said he never considered playing Sunday despite Trubisky's struggles. Maybe, if Chicago had a quarterback with more upside behind Trubisky, Nagy would've made the switch. This offense needs that flexibility moving forward, even if that means Trubisky moves to QB2 to begin 2020.

The quarterback situation is bad; maybe as bad as it was before Jay Cutler arrived in Chicago in 2009. According to the Athletic's NFL Panic index, it's downright awful.

Trubisky’s deficiencies, and the Bears’ fundamental offensive issues, were even more glaring against the Saints, a team that still has creative offensive play design (hello, fullback option with No. 3 quarterback Taysom Hill) and explosive plays without Drew Brees and other key offensive players, like running back Alvin Kamara and tight end Jared Cook. No, this is the quarterback the Bears picked and the head coach and play caller, Matt Nagy, they picked to develop him. And yet, the Bears, Trubisky and the offense are worse now than they were a year ago.

The swell of doubt around Trubisky and the Bears offense will only continue growing as this disappointing season marches on. Chicago faces the struggling Chargers in Week 8 and should (emphasis on should) be able to get back on a winning track. But they have to do it with some big plays on offense that are the result of a young quarterback who's ready to put this team on his back. Otherwise, it'll soon be time to scout next year's crop of NFL draft hopefuls.

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