Bears

View from the Moon: Start Mike Glennon or Mitch Trubisky? Bears have two other options

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USA TODAY

View from the Moon: Start Mike Glennon or Mitch Trubisky? Bears have two other options

Obscured behind the smoke of the start-Mike-or-Mitch brouhaha is the reality that the Bears have, not one, but two viable options at quarterback that they have not yet unveiled. And neither of them involve starting Mitch Trubisky a week from Monday against the Minnesota Vikings.

And either of which would be preferable to starting an inexperienced, very green rookie against a defense that went into this weekend ranked No. 3 in rush yards allowed – which should be more than a little concerning for a team whose offensive identity is pegged to running the football.

One point to be clear on going into the Bears’ current quarterback scenarios: Trubisky is not ready to start an NFL game. If he were, he would have already. It’s a point that’s gotten lost in the mayhem created by Glennon’s play. Two things are not – repeat: not –  linked: How good or bad Glennon is, and whether Trubisky is a better, NFL-ready option.

Understand that one basic tenet of the John Fox regime is that he needs/wants to win now or he’s increasingly likely to be out of a job. If Trubisky were the Bears’ best clear chance to win NOW, he would be playing. Allow that Fox and the staff can rate quarterbacks.

As far as QB decisions: GM Ryan Pace is involved in player decisions and has his own opinion on what should be happening. But he’s in the position of being “right” either way: If Glennon is good, that was Pace’s signing. If Trubisky is good, that was Pace’s draft call.

Structurally, Pace could order Fox to play one of the two. But several points here: That’s not Pace’s operating philosophy or style. Fox could quite possibly resign on the spot (and Pace would have a difficult task finding a quality coach for a culture in which the GM tells the coach whom to play); and those GM-dictated situations commonly blow up, as the Bears’ did in 2013 when the Marc Trestman staff was ordered by Phil Emery to reinstate Jay Cutler as the starter over a Josh McCown whom coaches privately wanted to remain the starter.

(Pace’s starter preference isn’t a matter of public record, but a surprise would be if he wanted Trubisky under center before the young man is somewhere within sight of ready. Besides the injury risk inherent in uncertain play, if Trubisky is ghastly, Pace would be pilloried for having whiffed on his first two major quarterback efforts.)

But the Bears do have alternatives to prematurely (which it would be) turning their franchise future into its present:

Option 1: The McNair/McNown Maneuver

Amid the rubble left after a couple of Glennon’s starts, the Trubisky debate has broken along obvious and predictable lines: bring him along as unhurriedly as possible, allowing him to learn the NFL game while minimizing the chance of catastrophic setback; or give him the keys and directions to downtown, and let him learn how to drive in rush-hour traffic.

But what if there were a hybrid NFL orientation plan, say, one in which the rookie quarterback is inserted and plays a predetermined series or two each game and… .

Oh, wait, the Bears tried that once, and it definitely didn’t work.

But it is an alternative that at least one member of the extended Bears family – and who was part of that experiment in 1999 – who thinks is an option preferable to simply parachuting The Kid into a Monday Night Football crucible.

Former Bears quarterback Jim Miller was there when the Bears selected Cade McNown with the 12th pick of the 1999 draft. McNown was by acclamation the most NFL-ready member of what was expected to be a quarterback-rich draft (five in the first 12 picks, 13 drafted overall).

The incoming coaching staff of Dick Jauron hatched a plan to stay with Shane Matthews as the starter but give McNown a package of plays and drop him in for a designated possession in the first half. However, while a similar plan had worked nicely for Steve McNair, the No. 3-overall pick by the Houston Oilers in the 1995 draft, the McNown Maneuver produced nothing, for two reasons. McNair was good and McNown wasn’t, and because McNair had the maturity to study in depth his play package; McNown, never one to be accused of maturity in those days, did not.

Parenthetically, Houston starting quarterback Chris Chandler, a Bear later in his career, didn’t particularly like the plan, any more than Glennon would. Chandler didn’t particularly like the Oilers using the No. 3 pick on a quarterback after he’d signed in the offseason with them (sound familiar?) but he understood that was the deal.

That the Bears did not implement some variation of the McNown/McNair Maneuver may have been because Bears coaches just don’t like that concept. Or because Trubisky wasn’t ready for even that level of usage. But if Trubisky indeed isn’t full-game-ready, a gradual immersion may make exponentially more sense than an abrupt all-in dunking. And Trubisky has gotten high marks for maturity, certainly off the field.

“If [Trubisky] is not ready for everything, that’s one way they could get him on the field, to provide a change of pace and those type of things,” Miller said. “I don’t think he’s ready to go a 65-snap game; I just don’t from what I’ve witnessed.”

The situation would not necessarily be one of staying with Trubisky when he got the chance with his play parcel; preferably not, in fact. “I personally think Glennon should start against that [Minnesota] defense,” Miller added. “If he goes out and turns over the football, then you’re going to insert Mitchell – coaches say, ‘Mike, come over here, we’re going to call this package of plays for Mitch, collect yourself,’ and then trot Mike back out on the field after Mitch’s series.”

Option 2: The Sanchez Scenario

One of Pace’s offseason moves was to sign veteran Mark Sanchez to the quarterback depth chart. Sanchez has been inactive for all four games, raising questions of its own, not the least of which would be why the organization would have committed a roster spot and nearly $1.8 million to ostensibly a third-stringer.

Unless there was more to it, a “secret” codicil to a plan that outwardly consisted of just Glennon-Trubisky.

Sanchez was in a similar situation with the Dallas Cowboys last year, part of a depth chart that included Tony Romo and draftee Dak Prescott. Now, “I don’t want to close or open any possibilities,” Fox said regarding Sanchez after the Green Bay game.

“Nobody’s even talked about that,” Miller said, “but Mark is there for a reason. You could start Mark and see how it goes. If he doesn’t turn over the ball, he cools everybody down, gives everybody some breathing room.

“[The Bears organization] can’t give in. They’ve got to go with their plan, and that plan includes Mark Sanchez as well.”

Is Jordan Howard underrated in fantasy football?

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USA Today

Is Jordan Howard underrated in fantasy football?

Jordan Howard has accomplished some pretty amazing things to start his career. Most notably, he's the only running back in Chicago Bears franchise history to finish his first two seasons with more than 1,000 rushing yards, including 1,313 yards as a rookie, good for a team rookie record.

Still, Howard has been the target of criticism this offseason because of his questionable set of hands. He was plagued by a case of the drops last season and he's been labeled as a guy who can't catch the ball heading into 2018. Combine that with the player nipping at his heels -- Tarik Cohen -- and the overwhelming theory advanced by analysts is that he'll give way to Cohen on passing downs.

This presumption has made its way into the world of fantasy football, too. Howard is rarely if ever mentioned as one of the first running backs that should be drafted this summer and in a recent player vs. player showdown on Pro Football Focus, 49ers starter Jerick McKinnon was selected as a more appealing fantasy starter in 2018.

It’s close, but I give the nod to Jerick McKinnon. Howard’s troubles in the passing game are very real and it’s clear the Bears want to focus on that more this year. Meanwhile, McKinnon was handed a fat contract and has little competition when it comes to carries.

McKinnon, a career backup, was signed by San Franciso to be Kyle Shanahan's feature running back. He has a real chance to be a stud in fantasy circles, but should he be valued over a guy like Howard who's proven to be a contender for the NFL's rushing crown?

All of this offseason chatter will serve as great motivation for Howard who has to prove, first and foremost, that he can be a three-down back for coach Matt Nagy in the Bears' new offense. If he has a consistent training camp as a receiver and carries that momentum into the preseason and regular season, those fantasy players who draft McKinnon or another less-proven player over Howard will long for a redo.

15 Most Important Bears of 2018: No. 8 - Eddie Goldman

15 Most Important Bears of 2018: No. 8 - Eddie Goldman

Eddie Goldman is entering the final year of his contract this season and in order to cash in on a big payday, he'll need to stay healthy and make good on his top-tier potential. 

If he does, he'll become a very wealthy man and the Bears defense will have an even better year than its top-10 finish a season ago.

Goldman, 24, came to Chicago via the second round of the 2015 NFL draft and quickly became a household name among Bears fans. He started 12 games that season and finished with a surprising 4 1/2 sacks, a total that was more productive than his college scouting report predicted. He was pegged as a breakout star for 2016, but injuries ultimately derailed his second season. He played only six games that year (started five) but still flashed a surprisingly productive set of pass-rush traits; he finished 2016 with 2 1/2 sacks.

This past season represented something of a mixed bag for Goldman. He started 15 games and quieted some of the injury concerns that started bubbling around him, but his production dipped. He managed only 1 1/2 sacks. That said, he set a career-high with 27 tackles, nearly doubling his output as a rookie.

Still, Goldman wasn't a dominant force in 2017. He finished the year ranked 69th among interior defenders with a 76.3 grade from Pro Football Focus. Despite being healthy and available, it was the lowest season grade of his career from PFF.

Nose tackle is arguably the most critical position for any defense running a 3-4 scheme. It's no exception in Chicago. Goldman will set the table for linebackers Danny Trevathan and Roquan Smith and the more bodies he can consume or attention he can draw from offensive lines, the more room second-level defenders will have to work. It's not just about filling up the stat sheet for Goldman. If he clogs running lanes and collapses the pocket consistently, he'll be worth every penny of a big contract extension despite lacking numbers.

The Bears need Goldman to bring his A-game in 2018, especially as a pass rusher. Chicago resides in arguably the most talented quarterback division in the NFL and for the defense to make those quarterbacks uncomfortable, Goldman has to apply pressure up the middle. He's proven he can do it, as evidenced by his rookie year production. But he's been on a steady decline in this area of his game since then and there's no room for more regression in 2018.

Players entering contract years tend to bring extra motivation to the field and there's no reason to expect anything less from Goldman. If he can combine his rookie year production with last season's availability, he could end up with the most well-rounded year of his career en route to leading the Bears' defensive line on a late-season playoff push.