Bears

What if the Bears can't re-sign Brian Hoyer? They aren't alone in the hunt

What if the Bears can't re-sign Brian Hoyer? They aren't alone in the hunt

Several of the Bears’ options at quarterback for 2017 – they have, unofficially, somewhere between 10 to 15 – involve veteran Brian Hoyer being re-signed, an interim solution for a team with an empty developmental pipeline but expected to be moving on from the largely failed Jay Cutler Era.

But what if they can’t get Hoyer?

The Bears may find themselves in a situation not entirely dissimilar from where they stood in the 2014 offseason and were faced with a decision on Josh McCown after his career-best stretch in relief of Cutler. Then-GM Phil Emery wanted Cutler over the feelings of the coaching staff and signed Cutler to that $126 million contract. McCown’s price rose to eventually $5 million per season and the organization went in another direction with Jimmy Clausen.

McCown is back on the market after his release this month by the Cleveland Browns. He would be cheaper than Hoyer but is also 37 and possibly headed for a coaching job rather than back under center.

The conventional sense has been that Hoyer will be back with Chicago after his dramatic burst of four straight 300-yard games before going down for the year with a broken arm suffered at Green Bay. And he very well could be. Agent Joe Linta has some positive history with the Bears (Hoyer, Vlad Ducasse, Jim Miller) and the Bears offer Hoyer a starting job, at least in the near term after his interception-free run of 200 passes last season. Hoyer was a locker-room fit and arguably the best option not only as a veteran starter, but also a quality mentor/teammate for young quarterbacks with the organization’s goal of replacing him.

But Hoyer took a visit with the New York Jets last offseason and the Jets have youth (Christian Hackenberg, Bryce Petty) in training, with a short-term opening ahead of them. The Dallas Cowboys are even deeper in a true win-now mode behind Dak Prescott, and Dallas isn’t expected to keep Tony Romo as Prescott’s (very expensive) backup. Hoyer is a topic within both organizations, although the Cowboys do not offer Hoyer a shot at starting even on an interim basis.

The Jets just hired Jeremy Bates as their new quarterbacks coach, the same Bates who worked with Cutler as Denver QB coach in the latter’s Pro Bowl 2008 season, and later (2012) in Chicago. But ESPN’s Rich Cimini reported that the Jets are not in the Cutler market. However, Jets coach Todd Bowles has a known preference for a veteran, Bowles is now under job pressure after a disastrous 5-11 season in 2016 and the Jets were considered more likely to lean toward Hoyer than Cutler, anyway.

But back to the Bears...

The injury riddled outcome of the season makes any projection beyond mediocrity appear laughable in hindsight. But the Bears’ signing of Hoyer last offseason, to a one-year deal worth $2 million, was a statement that the Bears believed they were in a win-now mode in addition to the rebuilding process that, frankly, every NFL team does in some degree every offseason.

Hoyer is a quality veteran, the kind of quarterback signed as a backup only amid serious expectations. Otherwise, the pipeline behind Jay Cutler is filled with youth, beginning in the draft, which the Bears didn’t do. Connor Shaw was in fact “the promising young guy” in development, a decision that was looking good right up until Shaw broke his leg late in the third preseason game.

Shaw will be back, and presumably he will be joining a depth chart that will include a drafted QB. The early handicapping here is Clemson’s Deshaun Watson but this is way too early to start making mock draft picks. Plenty of time for those.

But the name at the top of the depth chart, best case scenario, has been and is Hoyer. The problem is, the Bears’ may not be the only ones holding a door open for Hoyer.

Sports Talk Live Podcast: How much will Trubisky improve in his 2nd preseason game?

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USA TODAY

Sports Talk Live Podcast: How much will Trubisky improve in his 2nd preseason game?

Mark Carman, Scott Merkin and Chris Bleck join Kap on the panel. Jon Lester looks to get back on track against the Pirates? Should he still be the Cubs Game 1 starter in the playoffs?  Len Kasper joins Kap to discuss.

 

How much will Mitch Trubisky improve in his 2nd preseason game? And will Carlos Rodon end up being the White Sox’ best starter?

Listen to the full podcast here or via the embedded player below:

How aggressive will the Bears' offense be? 'That's our attitude'

How aggressive will the Bears' offense be? 'That's our attitude'

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Matt Nagy provided a defining quote for his offense when a reporter observed that Mitch Trubisky was continuing to take shots downfield instead of checking down during practice. 

“That's never going to stop,” Nagy said. “Not in this offense.”

For a team that had neither the personnel nor scheme to be successful on offense over the last few years, that one quote felt like a breath of fresh air. Not in this offense would the Bears be conservative, plodding and predictable. What’s never going to stop is the aggressive mentality Nagy and offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich have worked to instill in this group during the installation phase of preseason practices. 

“That’s our attitude every time we come out on the field, is to be aggressive, to go full speed and it’s to execute all our assignments,” wide receiver Anthony Miller said. 

Just because Trubisky has frequently hucked the ball downfield over the last few weeks of practice doesn’t mean this offense will go from one of the worst to one of the best in the NFL. There’s plenty of work still to be done, a large chunk of which falls on the shoulders of Trubisky. The coaching staff will begin paring things down next week, when a dress rehearsal of gameplanning begins leading up to Aug. 25’s meeting with the Kansas City Chiefs. 

But while that week of gameplanning surely will lend itself to less reflexive aggression, that overall approach isn’t going away. Not when the Bears are confident in Trubisky and the multitude of weapons surrounding their franchise quarterback. In a more narrow scope, Nagy said Trubisky's arrow is pointing up after back-to-back days of quality practice against the Broncos here in Colorado. 

"It wasn't one good day, one bad day. It was two good days," Nagy said. "That's what his expectations are. That's what he knows that we want. He's done that and we're not gonna stop him." 

For some perspective, last year Trubisky only attempted 30 passes of 20 or more yards, according to Pro Football Focus. Meanwhile, 41 percent of Trubisky’s attempted passes traveled 0-10 yards beyond the line of scrimmage; drilling down further, 21 percent of his attempts were 0-10 yards and over the middle, representing most frequent “zone” to which he threw the football. Not all of those were check-downs, of course, but plenty of them were. Only nine percent of Trubisky’s throws traveled 20 or more yards beyond the line of scrimmage. 

This was, of course, partly a personnel issue — Josh Bellamy was the most-targeted receiver on deep balls (eight), while guys like Dontrelle Inman (six), Kendall Wright (four), Deonte Thompson (three), Markus Wheaton (three) and Tre McBride (three) weren’t reliable downfield targets, either. But then again, Tarik Cohen was only targeted twice on deep balls — the first one, Cohen had a step on an Atlanta Falcons linebacker, but Mike Glennon’s pass was slightly under thrown an broken up in the end zone; the other was a 70-yard completion from Trubisky against the Carolina Panthers. 

The point being: Not only did the Bears lack the personnel to create mismatches and be aggressive, but the conservative nature of the offense meant there wasn’t much opportunity within it to do so, either. 

The Bears can be aggressive now in part because of the nature of the offense, and in part too because of the personnel they now have. If an opposing team wants to double anyone — Allen Robinson, Trey Burton, Anthony Miller, Taylor Gabriel, Cohen, etc. — that’ll open up a mismatch somewhere else on the field, which lends itself to aggressiveness. 

“The biggest thing I’ve learned about this offense (is), just, there’s a lot of answers,” Trubisky said. “We’re not always going to have the perfect play call for the perfect coverage or whatever. But there’s always somewhere to go with the ball, pass to run, run to pass, there’s a lot of kills, options — there’s a lot of things we can do.”

Said Burton, who’s put together a strong preseason to date: “That’s why (Ryan) Pace and Nagy brought all those guys here, to win the one-on-one matchups. I know we’re all looking forward to those whenever it’s our time, we gotta take advantage of it.” 

Exactly how aggressive the Bears’ offense will be will become apparent in the next week and a half. While the Bears will still hold some things back against Kansas City to keep them off tape, the overall tenor of the offense will be more readily apparent on Aug. 25 than in the team’s other preseason contests. 

And if all goes according to plan, not only will this offense be aggressive — it’ll be aesthetically pleasing to everyone watching, too. 

“We’re going to keep taking shots,” Trubisky said. “We’re going to keep being aggressive because it opens up everything else when you can hit those shots. The key is just to be consistent with them, hit them and then it really stretches the field and opens up the run game and opens up the intermediate throws as well. So we’re going to continue to be aggressive, which I love.”