Chicago Bears: What did we learn at QB in 2021?

justin field, bears

Lake Forest, IL.– It’s been just over a week since the 2021 regular season ended for the Chicago Bears and as the 2022 offseason begins, it’s clear that 2021 was filled with ups and downs at the quarterback position. The Bears cycled through three starting quarterbacks–Andy Dalton, Justin Fields, and Nick Foles–in a season where QB play defined the regular season.

As the page turns to 2022, let’s recap what the Bears taught us in 2021 in terms of the QB position.

1) Let’s go all the back to April 29th, the night the Bears drafted Justin Fields. Chicago moved up 11 spots in the first round, sending a 2022 first-rounder to the New York Giants for the opportunity to move up and draft Fields. When Chicago pulled the trigger on Fields, the 2021 season and ensuing three seasons became meaningful all of a sudden. Just four years after missing on Mitchell Trubisky, the Bears had more hope than ever.

2) Ex-HC Matt Nagy wanted to use 2021 as a way to implement the “Mahomes Model,” having veteran Andy Dalton start the entire regular season while Fields watched from the bench. Instead, Dalton was injured in week 2, leading to Fields being thrust into action. Nagy’s plan didn’t succeed and his biggest flaw was shown: While Fields was Nagy’s hand-picked quarterback, Nagy was never ready to be the man in charge of developing Fields.

3) There needs to be some serious credit given to Nick Foles, who started just one game in 2021. Despite being labeled as a third-string quarterback for a majority of the season, Foles’ willingness to be vocal in meetings meant challenging Nagy’s philosophy and approach. This alone showcases why Foles was such a valuable piece for the Bears quarterback room.

4) Chemistry with the wide receiver position is always crucial for the QB position and the Bears did Fields a complete disservice by not giving him extended time to practice with the first team throughout training camp. When looking at the WR position, the goal should’ve been to maximize Fields’ time with Darnell Mooney and Allen Robinson. Instead, the trio that could’ve formed the offensive foundation of the future for the Bears was forced to build chemistry on the fly, leading to below-average results.

5) Throughout the season, there were debates regarding whether or not Justin Fields was the answer for the Bears at QB. It’s too early to get a read on whether or not Fields is the Bears’ true answer at quarterback but the 11th overall pick did showcase enough potential to warrant being labeled the answer.

What does 2022 hold for the Bears at QB?

Chicago needs to make 2022 the offseason of Justin Fields. That starts with hiring the right head coach and general manager who can build around Fields. That means getting Fields a starting-caliber Center to anchor the middle of the offensive line while reinvesting in the starting quarterback position.

For the Bears, making a commitment to investing in Fields while continuing his development means being active in free agency and the NFL Draft, prioritizing the offense at the expense of the defense. However, with just five draft picks but ample cap space, the Bears will need to be smart, figuring out a way to maximize the second year of Fields rookie contract.

 

Chicago Bears: Changes begin uncertain, yet exciting offseason

Ryan Pace, bears

Lake Forest, IL.– After ending the 2021 season with a record of 6-11, the Chicago Bears used black Monday to begin a new era for the franchise, with the team firing head coach Matt Nagy after four seasons while moving on from general manager Ryan Pace, who had been with the organization since 2015.

The Bears’ moves don’t come as surprising. Heading into the 2021 season, many looked at Pace and Nagy as possibly being with the organization through the end of the 2022 season, especially after Pace opted to trade up in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft to select rookie quarterback Justin Fields.

After losing five straight games in 2021 while losing four of the final seven games of the season, Nagy ends his Bears tenure with an overall record of 34-31, with two playoff appearances and zero wins. Pace’s would finish with an overall record of 48-65, along with two playoff appearances and zero wins.

Pace and Nagy leave the Bears with an exciting core of young players that includes Fields, wide receiver Darnell Mooney, pass rushers Robert Quinn and Khalil Mack, cornerback Jaylon Johnson, and linebacker Roquan Smith. With a plethora of young talent, the potential for a quick turnaround is certainly possible for the next HC and GM duo.

“To the Chicago Bears organization- it was an honor to serve as your Head Coach over the past four seasons,” Nagy said in a statement the Bears released via Twitter. “I want to thank Ted Phillips, George H. McCaskey, and Mrs.Virgina McCaskey for the opportunity to lead one of the game’s most storied franchises. It’s four years I’ll always remember.”

Pace had some kinds words in his exit statement too, reminding fans that despite his departure, the future is bright in Chicago.

“To the players, I appreciate everything you gave out on the field,” Pace said in a statement the Bears released via Twitter. “I believe in each and every one of you and I know the talent is there to bring a championship to Chicago.”

The search for the next head coach and general manager has started for the Bears, who will hope to hire both candidates quickly enough to allow the new regime to establish its vision before the offseason officially begins.

Chicago Bears: Vikings trump Bears in season finale

bears, matt nagy

Minneapolis, MN.– In a meaningless game for both teams, the Chicago Bears would fall to the Minnesota Vikings 31-17 to wrap up the 2021 regular season. The Bears will finish 2021 with a final record of six wins and 11 losses, marking the franchises’ first true losing season since 2017, when the Bears finished with just five wins.

The Bears scoring summary was simple. Kicker Cairo Santos converted three field goals while Andy Dalton connected with running back Damien Williams for a 23-yard touchdown in the first half. The second half was a different story for Chicago. Minnesota scored 21 unanswered points in the fourth quarter, including a 66-yard pick-six by cornerback Patrick Peterson and a 45-yard touchdown pass from Kirk Cousins to Justin Jefferson.

In the final game of the Matt Nagy era, the Bears cruised to a 14-0 lead before Minnesota scored 28 total points in the second half to finish off the comeback. The Bears, despite a strong start, did have some struggles in this game. Head coach Matt Nagy, who was coaching in his final game, opted to go for it on fourth down, on six different occasions. The Bears would convert just once.

In what is also his final game as Bears quarterback, Dalton was sacked seven times for 59 yards. The 11-year veteran would finish the afternoon 33-for-48 with 325 passing yards and one touchdown, averaging 6.8 yards per attempt. After signing a one-year deal worth $10M in free agency, Dalton’s 2021 season was mediocre for the Bears, even after being guaranteed the starting job.

The sole positive for the Bears on offense was second-year wide receiver Darnell Mooney who had 12 receptions for 126 yards, averaging 10.5 yards per reception. The 2020 fifth-round pick eclipsed the 1000-yard mark, finishing off his sophomore season with 1,055 receiving yards, 81 receptions, and four touchdowns.

As Chicago now looks towards the offseason, 2021 is solely in the rearview mirror, and 2022 will bring winds of change to the Bears franchise, which now moves forward with quarterback Justin Fields as the face of the franchise.

Chicago Bears: Ownerships reaffirms commitment to Ryan Pace

Ryan Pace, bears

LAKE FOREST, IL.– The 2022 offseason has yet to officially start for the Chicago Bears but the talk has never really stopped. Since the end of the 2020 season, questions have lingered about the future of general manager Ryan Pace. When Pace first stepped to the podium eight years ago after being hired by the Bears, his energy and commitment to being great was apparent.

It could be argued that one simple quote from Pace has been the exact opposite of how his tenure has gone. Fast forward seven seasons later and Pace has missed on two head coaches, drafted two quarterbacks in the first round, one winning season, and two playoff appearances with zero wins.

“The recipe to winning Super Bowls is stringing successful drafts together again and again,” said Pace via the Chicago Tribune in 2015. “We are acquiring football players that fit the Chicago Bears. There will be a major emphasis on character, toughness, instincts, and intelligence. Guys, it’s all about winning games and that’s what I’m here to do. Every decision we make goes back to what’s best for this organization. It’s as simple as that. Our plan will start being put into place to get the Chicago Bears back to the sustained success this city deserves.”

When the Bears season ends on Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings, it’ll be the sixth time in seven seasons that Pace has had a losing record. When Monday rolls around, expect head coach Matt Nagy to be fired, and when Pace returns, the Bears will allow him to hire a third head coach.

Pace returning isn’t about Chairman George McCaskey reinforcing who’s really calling the shots at Halas Hall. It’s about McCaskey’s own confidence and belief that Pace can live up to what he said eight years ago: Building a long-term and sustainable winner.

The ship for Pace to turn the Bears into a winner hasn’t necessarily sailed, especially with rookie quarterback Justin Fields now the future of the franchise but it’s hard to ignore Pace’s first seven seasons with the Bears. A new head coach essentially means Pace’s window will reopen for however long McCaskey sees fit. Fields too guarantees Pace some additional job security. In what is quickly turning out to be the most anticipated offseason in franchise history, the Bears are confident Pace can deliver despite a tumultuous tenure so far.

Trevis Gipson is having a sneaky good season for the Chicago Bears

Trevis Gipson, bears

CHICAGO, IL.– In a season that’s been filled with injuries and disappointment for the Chicago Bears, pass rusher Trevis Gipson is a player that has continued to fly under the radar. A 2020 fifth-round pick, Gipson saw limited action as a rookie before entering training camp as the primary backup to starting outside linebacker duo Khalil Mack and Robert Quinn.

Mack’s foot injury, which cost him the season, gave Gipson an opportunity to step up and gain valuable experience. When the Bears drafted Gipson, he was deemed to be “very raw but had all the tools needed to be an effective pass rusher.” Much of the 2021 offseason would be spent with Gipson continuing to add strength to his frame, with hopes of making an impact in 2021.

Through eight starts and 15 total games, Gipson has 6.5 sacks, 35 tackles, six tackles for loss, seven QB hits, and three forced fumbles. When the Bears drafted Gipson, all they saw was potential and in 2021, much of Gipson’s rise has been attributed to seeing a boost in confidence. As a rookie, Gipson was all about learning to get acclimated to the NFL. This season, the challenge for Gipson was being able to put it all together while the Bears remained patient.

“You know, it only continues to grow,” said Gipson via the Bears official YouTube channel. “I’ve left some opportunities out there this season, and I know what I have to work on this upcoming offseason but as far as my opportunities and confidence, it goes hand to hand. When I do miss opportunities, it might not go up a little bit but when I do make those big chances and those big plays, it skyrockets more than it stays flat.”

As the Bears enter a period of transition where the defense will need to be retooled, Chicago will need to identify some building blocks and Gipson’s 2021 season should solidify him as a reliable building block who can become a valuable starter down the road.

 

Chicago Bears: Justin Fields on track to start in week 18

justin field, bears

LAKE FOREST, IL– After missing two consecutive games due to an ankle injury, the Chicago Bears are hopeful that rookie quarterback Justin FIelds is able to return to the starting lineup in week 18 for the Bears’ regular season finale against the Minnesota Vikings.

Fields, who’s recorded as a starter is currently 2-8, has had a rookie season filled with ups and downs. The Bears haven’t been good enough on offense around Fields to give the 11th overall pick a chance at winning enough games. Likewise, while Fields has had his fair share of rookie mistakes, he’s thrown just seven touchdowns to 10 interceptions in 2021 while completing just 58.9 percent of his passes. Fields’ bright moments have been apparent at times in 2021, as have rookie mistakes.

“We’ll get him in here the next couple days and see where he’s at and then be able to get him going for Wednesday practice,” Nagy said via the Bears official YouTube channel. “And again, it’s always going to come down to his health. It’s always going to come down to medically where he’s at, where we feel he’s at, and then we go play ball.”

When the Minnesota Vikings played the Chicago Bears on December 20th, Fields went 26-for-39 with 285 yards, and one touchdown, completing 66.67 percent of his passes. The Bears reached the redzone on five separate occasions but failed to significantly capitalize, scoring a touchdown just once towards the end of the game.

When Fields does play on Sunday, the Bears week 15 film against Minnesota should serve as a basis for his own preparation. Minnesota did throw a number of exotic blitz packages at Fields and while the Bears rookie adjusted well, week 18 should provide the Bears rookie with another chance to put up a strong performance and end the regular season on a high note.

New York Giants get blown out by Chicago Bears in Week 17

saquon barkley, giants

The New York Giants lost to the Chicago Bears on Sunday with a score of 29-3. This leaves New York with a 4-12 record and only one game remaining this season. The Giants finished the 2020 season with a record of 6-10. Expecting improvement heading into 2021, the Giants have regressed, now being unable to match their win total from last season.

The Giants were already eliminated from the playoffs entering this game. With a loss today, New York Giants fans’ sights are set on the 2022 NFL Draft. More exciting than the regular season is the speculation around the Giants’ front office. The team is likely moving on from General Manager Dave Gettleman after this season and looking to replace him with new blood.

However, though that might be the focus of Giants fans, Head Coach Joe Judge and the team want to convince everyone they are focused on finishing the season strong with a win in Washington next Sunday. It is hard to believe the Giants will have any chance of winning though if they play like they did today.

Key stats and takeaways

  • QB Mike Glennon: 4/11 24 yds, 2 INT, 4 FUM 2 LST, 0 TD
  • RB Saquon Barkley: 21 CAR, 102 yds
  • LB Lorenzo Carter: 6 TAK, 1 SAK, 2 TFL

The New York Giants’ inability to protect the quarterback cost them this game. Mike Glennon was constantly under pressure, being berated by Chicago’s pass-rushers. Glennon had no time to throw and, eventually, the Giants just stopped trying to throw the ball. They stuck to the ground and gained some yardage, but seldom enough for a first down and never enough for a touchdown.

Offense has been a struggle for the New York Giants all season long. The team has one struggle match left before they can focus on the offseason and rebuild their team for the future.

The case for Canton: Should Devin Hester be a first ballot hall of famer?

devin hester, bears

Ask Chicago Bears fans to name one player who impacted the game as a special teams returner and most will point to WR/KR Devin Hester as the most notable example. Dubbed the “Windy City Flyer,” Hester suited up for the Bears from 2006-2013 and quickly become a beloved figure among Bears fans and one that will be remembered forever.

On Thursday, the Pro Football Hall of Fame announced that Hester was selected as a finalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2022, leading to an intriguing question: Should Hester be inducted into Canton on his first try?

Hester’s career is surely storied. Playing in 156 career games, Hester spent 12 seasons with four different franchises, averaging 11.7 yards per punt return and 24.9 yards per kick return. Surely, much of Hester’s career took off while playing with the Bears, meaning when he does eventually get inducted into Canton, it’ll likely be as a member of the Bears, as Hester currently holds the Bears franchise record for average yards per punt return, which is set at 17.1.

Playing wide receiver certainly wasn’t the strongest aspect of Hester’s game and with just 255 career receptions and 16 total touchdowns, it’s clear that Hester’s time playing wide receiver could work against him when the Hall of Fame committee does decide who to enshrine. Much of Hester’s success as a receiver did come with the Bears, yet another reason he’ll likely be enshrined as a member of the Chicago Bears.

Overall, when looking at Hester’s career, it’s clear that he’ll continue making a strong case to be inducted into the Hall of Fame over the next few years and while there is a strong chance that he’s inducted on his first try, the committee could surely see his time as a wide receiver as working against him but ultimately decide that his time a return specialist could be the decided factor that he’s enshrined in 2022.

How attractive is the Chicago Bears HC job in 2022?

Ryan Pace, bears

CHICAGO, IL–Just two weeks remain before the Chicago Bears officially move on from head coach Matt Nagy and begin searching for the 17th head coach in franchise history. With Nagy on his way out, the future of general manager Ryan Pace remains uncertain, with the possibility of a return not off the table.

The Bears brass being split on what to do with Pace leads to an intriguing question: If Pace is allowed a third head coach, just how attractive is the Bears head coaching gig in 2022? With rookie quarterback, Justin Fields in the fold through at least the 2024 season, any new head coach would be guaranteed at least three seasons.

Then consider the rest of the offense. The Bears have some upcoming talent in offensive tackles Teven Jenkins and Larry Borom, running back Khalil Herbert, wide receiver Darnell Mooney, and tight end Cole Kmet. Add that to an offensive core that already includes interior offensive lineman James Daniels and Cody Whitehair, along with running back David Montgomery, and it’s clear the Bears offense has the potential to be exciting.

Defense is a different story for the Bears, one that will require a full retooling. Cornerback Jaylon Johnson, linebacker Roquan Smith, pass rusher Khalil Mack, and safety Eddie Jackson form an exciting core. While 11th-year pass rusher Robert Quinn is on the verge of setting the franchise’s single-season sack record, Quinn likely won’t be with the Bears beyond 2022. The Bears’ willingness to rely heavily on defense throughout the Nagy era will soon be met with an overhaul that will form the foundation of the next great defense in Chicago.

Consider this too: Chicago is an original charter franchise of the NFL and in the third biggest market in the United States, the thought of merely getting the Bears back to relevance should excite prospective candidates. With a handful of jobs set to be open soon, the Bears surely offer one of the most enticing destinations for head coaches who are looking to win quickly and get a prominent franchise back to contention.

Chicago Bears: Week 16 takeaways, tidbits, and more

cole kmet, bears

SEATTLE, WA.,–After winning in week 16, the Chicago Bears have now moved to 5-10 on the year and while a playoff spot is out of reach, let’s recap the Bears 25-24 win over the Seattle Seahawks.

1) Nick Foles final stat line may not be the flashiest but on a snowy day, he did average 7.1 yards per pass attempt. Foles’ confidence was apparent while slinging the rock all afternoon. Two throws sum up this confidence: The 15-yard touchdown to Jimmy Graham and the two-point conversion to Damiere Byrd. In both instances, Foles gave his playmakers a chance.

2) Despite having what seemed to be a solid day, running back David Montgomery averaged just 2.1 yards per carry. Seattle keyed in on Montgomery, hoping to stop him early and often. It is worth noting the Bears abandoned the running game early, which also contributed to Montgomery’s final stat line.

3) Speaking of running backs, Sunday was an ideal time to use rookie Khalil Herbert, who had a 20-yard rushing touchdown. The Bears have to start thinking about the future at some point and what Herbert brings to the table as a player who can spark an offense. Whenever Herbert has been given the rock this season, the Bears have moved the ball effectively, including big chunk plays.

4) Let’s stick with the young guys for just a second here. Rookie WR Dazz Newsome had just one reception for 10 yards on the afternoon. But why does Newsome’s lone reception stick out? It was in a third-and-long situation, helping Chicago move the football and keep the drive going. The Bears have to look into getting Newsome involved more over the final two weeks to gain just enough of an idea of what he can do for the team going forward.

5) The foregone conclusion seems to be that head coach Matt Nagy is getting fired at the end of the season. And for the Bears, there is no turning back. But players are still fighting and playing hard for Nagy. When the Bears do eventually relieve Nagy of his job duties, it will be a tough pill to swallow around Halas Hall in what is a results-based business.

“Coach Nagy, he’s an amazing coach, an even better person,” said Montgomery following the game. “I feel like everybody kind of got weird, this bad depiction of who he is but he’s also, he’s actually a great guy and a great coach. Ever since I’ve been on the Bears, day in and day out, he’s always emptied his cup.”

6) Pass rusher Robert Quinn needs just one more sack to set the Bears single-season sack record, surpassing Richard Dent, who currently holds the record with 17.0 sacks. Every time Quinn was asked about the record in his postgame press conference, he simply decided to knock on wood and maintained the stance that while his individual year is something noteworthy, it doesn’t mean much considering the way the Bears season has gone.

“Well my individual year don’t seem as great because we aren’t winning,” said Quinn. “Haven’t had the success over the year as a team so it’s kind of, for a split second, I could be proud of myself but then the next second, I’m kind of quite highly upset because we lost.”

7) Veteran CB Artie Burns started the game for the Bears before Chicago decided to slowly insert rookie Thomas Graham Jr. into the game. Burns hasn’t blown anyone away but has still showcased enough potential to warrant being on the roster in 2022 and competing for a spot. Despite being beat by Seahawks WR D.K. Metcalf for a 41-yard touchdown, Graham Jr. had a solid showing as a player who is looking to put strong performances together to kickstart his career as a starter in 2022.

8) Cole Kmet and Darnell Mooney once again had strong showings as the Bears 2020 draft class showed up once again. Mooney had a 30-yard reception on the Bears’ final touchdown drive while Kmet had two receptions for 30 yards to set up a field goal for the Bears. Chicago needs to be pleased with the progress both players are making this season, especially as the Bears continue to look ahead to 2022.

9) Speaking of Mooney, he had five receptions on Sunday afternoon, now giving him 62 receptions on the season. Mooney has already surpassed his reception total from 2020, which was 61. With two games left, Mooney has a chance to get to 70 receptions as he continues to ascend into the face of the WR position for the Bears.

10) The Bears defense put together another strong showing on Sunday afternoon and while there were times where it appeared as if Seahawks QB Russell Wilson was going to take over the game, Chicago held Wilson in check. Wilson was just 16-for-27 with 181 passing yards and a QBR of 30.8. The Bears’ entire gameplan was predicated on stopping Wilson, knowing he covers up for a lot of holes on the Seattle offense.