Bears

View from the Moon: Should Bears draft offense or defense at No. 3?

View from the Moon: Should Bears draft offense or defense at No. 3?

GM Ryan Pace put forth a number of operating principles on Wednesday, one day before he and the Bears presumably decide on a player to become an integral part of the franchise for the years well beyond the 2017 draft. Some of those principles were clear – “you get yourself into trouble if you’re not sticking with our philosophy of best player available” – and some were less so, such as exactly how much weight is assigned to the intangibles of quarterback prospects.

Pace did elaborate on the structured approach to the Bears’ draft board – one that has identified three elite players with the prospect of the Bears remaining at No. 3 in the first round; a second “cloud” of players that would allow a drop down into the middle of the first round; and a third “cloud” of target players in the event that Bears trade up or down into a position just before the close of round one Thursday night.

Pace’s demeanor, notably upbeat and at times borderline jovial, spoke of having reached a critical meeting of minds. “By the time we get to this point, there's a handful of guys that we have a consensus on throughout our building,” Pace said, “and when I feel that backing from not just our coaches but from everybody, it makes those decisions easier when we're all on the same page.”

But Pace didn’t divulge which of the elite top three are offensive players or defensive players. Because a case can be made for targeting a talent on either side of the football, as long as he is best-available/best-possible:

The case for offense

The best: Pat Mahomes, Mitchell Trubisky, Deshaun Watson

The Bears have done exhaustive study of the quarterback position, the spot with the greatest ripple effect on not only on an offense, but on an offense. Whether one or more of Mahomes, Trubisky or Watson are in the elite-three, mid-round cloud, or late-round cloud remains closeted on the draft board upstairs at Halas Hall.

Pace has ID’d the need for a quarterback to bring a charge to the organization, something absent during the time of Jay Cutler, who checked all the “traits” boxes coming out of Vanderbilt, even for ball-security (1.9 percent INT percentage his final two seasons), but was a suspect leader. But Pace did not detail the Bears’ grading methodology, particularly whether intangibles top the list or are considerations only once all the requisite measurable are satisfied.

“With a quarterback, yeah, there's core beliefs that I have that have been probably put in me from Day 1 as a scout and what I believe a quarterback needs to have to be successful,” said Pace, whose template for a franchise quarterback begins with Drew Brees, who lasted into the 2001 second round in part because he was undersized at 6 feet. “Maybe guys that I've been around. Those are all traits that I look for.”

The Bears have had the most extensive in-person contact with Mahomes and Notre Dame’s DeShone Kizer, the least with Watson; Trubisky has given two different accounts of interactions with the Bears, so the truth lies with the Bears and him. They sent the biggest staff contingents to Pro Days of Mahomes and Watson. A surprise will be if neither Mahomes nor Watson is not a Bear come sundown Thursday but Pace remains steadfast in not looking outside the known information about even a quarterback with character.

“When you start trying to manufacture things or create things, that’s when teams get into dangerous water,” Pace said. “I think if we just stay with guys we have a consensus on and best player available we’ll be in good shape.”

Do they have a “consensus” on a quarterback?

The case for defense

Most likely: DE Myles Garrett, DE/LB Solomon Thomas, S Jamal Adams

Considerably more NFL opinion is that the Bears will look for a franchise-grade pass rusher (or defensive back) with their first-round pick. Pace has been consistently reserved in offering overall assessments of drafts, which perhaps makes this year’s simply because Pace doesn’t do this sort of praising normally: “It would be accurate to say that this is a strong defensive draft this year,” he said. “That would be true.”

Selecting an elite defensive linchpin comes with arguably less risk than a quarterback. And the effects of a defensive hit can be franchise-altering: The Bears reached the playoffs four times, including the Super Bowl once, in the 2000-10 years of the Brian Urlacher tenure, with four different quarterbacks, not one of which was voted to a Pro Bowl as a Bear.

On the other hand: The Houston Texans have been to the postseason three times in the six years since drafting three-time NFL defensive player of the year J.J. Watt. Yet in spite of myriad additional defensive stars, including Jadeveon Clowney, they have never advanced beyond the divisional round in large part because of quarterback failures.

The Bears used the No. 9 pick of the 2000 draft on Urlacher (and No. 9 on Leonard Floyd last draft), plus 14th-overalls on Tommie Harris, Michael Haynes and Kyle Fuller (meaning: the hit-rate in picks in the upper half of the first round isn’t exactly a guarantee).

But an elite defense can endure, and produce long-term and repeated success. And makes another defensive centerpiece to pair with Floyd a franchise-grade pick.

Kevin White's NFL career was an 'every day battle, mentally and physically'

Kevin White's NFL career was an 'every day battle, mentally and physically'

Many Bears fans already know the toll that Kevin White's injuries took on him physically. Leg breaks, hamstring tears, and shoulder fractures all contributed mightily to White's underwhelming time in Chicago, but the lesser known side of things centers on the emotional toll those injuries took. Talking with our Bears Insider JJ Stankevitz, White went into detail about what it was like for him to be living through that: 

It was hard. I would be lying if I said it wasn’t hard. It was hard because I love the game so much and want to be great so bad and did the right things, be a good person — forget about football, I try to be a super good person. And it was just like oh my gosh, when am I going to get my chance or my turn? Or when am I going to be like, oh my gosh I got through it and now I’m with this team or got this contract and I was able to score the winning touchdown or whatever. So I just kept thinking that’s gonna come, it’s gonna come, it has to happen. Just stay the course, keep fighting, keep battling. You got the talent, just stay healthy so we can show it. So that’s what every day kept me going.

... Like, you don’t understand what that player has to go through day in, day out. Even sleeping, it’s hard to sleep because your mind is like, I’m ready to play, I wanna go. Your body is like, no shot. So you gotta sleep on that. Then you get kind of bored, or sometimes you know what the media’s saying, fans are saying, it kind of gets you like, I’m gonna go out there and run a route. I want to be able to do it right now. Like I want to be able to do it now. So you gotta be able to deal with that mentally. Physically, your body’s not ready, so you gotta do treatment and extra things every single day. You don’t just go in for treatment from 9 to 11 and then you’re done for the day. That’s not it. It’s an every day battle, mentally and physically. 

It's fascinating – not to mention a bit heartbreaking – to get such a first-hand account of what failure in the NFL feels like. You can listen to the entire interview on the latest episode of the Under Center Podcast: 

NFL head coaches can reportedly return to team facilities next week

NFL head coaches can reportedly return to team facilities next week

No one steals thunder quite like the NFL. 

On a day when the NHL is planning to publicly announce how their season will return, it's being reported that the NFL may take a significant step towards their own reopening – and soon. 

Yahoo Sports' NFL columnist Charles Robinson is reporting that NFL coaches may return to team facilities as early as next week, and the league has its eyes on OTAs in mid-to-late June:

The sources told Yahoo Sports that if coaches resume their in-house work next week, minicamps including players could be scheduled as early as June 15 or as late as June 27, depending on COVID-19 data and whether a handful of franchises get a “go ahead” signal from state governments to resume full operations. Resuming full operations and getting a minicamp scheduled would represent the league's biggest step to date toward keeping the 2020 NFL season on track for a regularly scheduled fall kickoff.

Robinson's source adds that 'June 15 and June 27 are the dates that have been identified as potential full-squad minicamp windows,' and the 'key hurdle' is the timeline in which California governor Gavin Newsom begins to reopen the state. Newsom has already expressed a willingness to have professional sports team return under strict and specific guidelines. 

The news is a good sign for the return of the NFL on a normal schedule – a reality that's looked increasingly likely over the past couple weeks.