In his post-practice press conference today, Bears’ head coach John Fox insisted that he could see something in his team even if the rest of us couldn’t: “growth.” Via 670 the Score’s Chris Emma,
Bears coach John Fox: "I've seen growth. It's there."
— Chris Emma (@CEmma670) September 29, 2016
If you say so…
Okay, not everything about this team is utterly terrible. For example, the Bears’currently have one of the best interior lines in the NFL at the moment, with rookie Cody Whitehair, battling through early growing pains to earn the distinction of being a top-10 center in the league according to ProFootballFocus.
PFF: #Bears rookie center Cody Whitehair currently owns the 4th-highest run-blocking grade of any NFL center this season.
— Rand Getlin (@RandGetlin) September 28, 2016
Also, the beleaguered cornerback position has actually held its own even with the loss of incumbent starter Kyle Fuller, who is now on IR. Jacoby Glenn, despite some struggles, has showed tremendous hustle and determination, Deiondre’ Hall seems to save at least one touchdown, and Tracy Porter has far outperformed his expectations after an up-and-down season last year.
Good job, Fox and company. That’s about as much warm feeling as I can muster. Because the rest is pretty bleak.
Coming into this season, the prevailing feeling was something along these lines: if Fox would make last year’s team look competitive with their lack of talent, just imagine how they’ll look after massively upgrading their linebacker position, adding some veteran offensive linemen, and getting Kevin White, last year’s 7th-overall pick, back from injury?
Well, we’re now three games into the season. How’s that working out so far?
That revamped front seven that would wreak havoc on opposing offenses and protect a young, developing secondary? Please. At this point, the Bears have given up twice as many sacks this season (8) as they’ve earned (4).
Not only did the Bears’ defense barely touch Dak Prescott as the rookie completed 19 of 24 passes for 248 yards, including his first NFL touchdown, they were also kind enough to let Ezekiel Elliott break out to the tune of 140 yards on 30 carries, the first 100-yard game of his young career.
Just for good measure, he also made sure to give the Bears’ coaching staff another reason why Chris Prosinski should never play.
— NFL (@NFL) September 26, 2016
Sure, the Bears have injuries all over the place, which Fox used an excuse while trying not to make it an excuse (per NBCSports.com). Meanwhile, the Vikings are 3-0 with Sam Bradford and moveable mannequins at running back and left tackle, and New England Patriots scored 28 points on the Houston Texans, whom the Bears lost too Week 1, last week with Jacoby Brissett.
How’s our “next man up” philosophy going? Will Sutton, playing in place of Eddie Goldman, got bullied all night, spearheading a unit that allowed 199 rushing yards. Christian Jones, who got snaps in relief of Danny Trevathan, took pursuit angles that would make Chris Conte blush. “Next man up” doesn’t work if the “next man” is ready to do the job.
Not that all the starters are doing theirs…
Mitch Unrein continues to start over Jonathan Bullard, despite the fact that he has contributed approximately nothing to a defensive front that could desperately use some penetration.
#Bears DC Vic Fangio on the problem the defense had in Dallas: "We were getting blocked."
— Zach Zaidman (@ZachZaidman) September 28, 2016
Floyd, a first-round pick with potentially multidimensional talent, has yet to prove he can even do the main thing he was drafted for—pass-rushing—consistently in the NFL, let alone make one think he can cover top tight ends. Jason Witten runs like he has no cartilage in his knees, and even he made the rookie look like a young Bambi in pass coverage.
Are you getting the impression the Bears might not be preparing their players well or maximizing their talents? Because I am.
Why else would Brian Hoyer, with his outstanding leadership qualities, quick release, wonderful attitude, and general “not Jay Cutler-ness”, botch a simple handoff on his first offensive play when he supposedly practiced as the starter all week?
— Jerry Steffen™ KESQ (@JerrySteffen) September 26, 2016
Why else do you have offensive lineman committing pre-snap penalties coming right out of a timeout?
Why else would Dowell Loggains keep trying to ride Jeremy Langford when Jordan Howard, on his first carry of the night (36 yards), more than quadrupled Langford’s rushing total up to that point (8 yards)?
Why else would a team that says it wants to run the ball throw an out-route on 3rd and 2 that didn’t even reach the sticks? Why even play Bobby Massie, whom the Bears ostensibly signed for his run-blocking ability, if you’re going to make him pass block every down (though he was marginally better last Sunday)?
And why else is Alshon Jeffery not getting the ball thrown his way until the game is out of hand, as the Bears’ best offensive threat only had two catches in the first half and didn’t get another one until the fourth quarter? This is the third game in a row that Jeffery has been minimally effective in the second half, and it’s not even his fault.
Is the talent on this team elite? No. But the Bears were far less talented last season and at least managed to project an aura of competitiveness. And it certainly seemed like reason for that was the coaching staff and their ability to put their players in position to succeed.
Now, somehow, the inability of that same staff—swapping out Adam Gase for Loggains, of course—to make in-game adjustments is putting the Bears on a level of futility that I’m not sure either the Cleveland Browns or Jacksonville Jaguars, the other two 0-3 teams in the league, can match.
Sure, the Grim Reaper is walking up Loggains’ garden path as we speak, but he’s only part of the problem. We, and GM Ryan Pace, trusted Fox to be a solid professional football coach that knew how to form a coaching staff that could properly utilize the talent on his roster. We desperately needed that, as well as his established locker room presence, in the wake of the disastrous Mark Trestman experiment.
We gave him the benefit of the doubt in getting rid of Brandon Marshall, Martellus Bennett, and Matt Forte—talented veteran players who had ill-fitting attitudes or ill-fitting salary demands (or both)—in favor of developing the guys he wanted to build around because he knew what he was doing. Or so we thought.
And yet now, in an eerily similar fashion to what we witnessed just two seasons ago, Fox’s second year as head coach of the Chicago Bears is swiftly devolving into turmoil, embarrassment, and dysfunction of the highest magnitude. Though at least no one on the team is calling out Cutler in a way that gets nationally recognized the way Aaron Kromer did. Oh wait…
— Adam Jahns (@adamjahns) September 20, 2016
Also, think about this : if you think Osweiler, Carson Wentz, and Prescott enjoyed the nice, clean pockets the Bears gave them, what do you think will happen when Aaron Rodgers, Matt Stafford, and Eli Manning come calling? And how excited are Clay Matthews, Julius Peppers, and Anthony Barr going to be to have a go at Massie and Charles Leno Jr.?
Could a turnaround happen? It’s not impossible. Crazier things have happened in the NFL. But this is more than just a slow start. What we saw last night may well have been the worse team in the entire league, and even if Cutler returns this week, their most-pressing issue still might not be solved.
Because the Bears’ biggest problem isn’t Cutler, Langford, Massie, the lack of pass-rush, or the mounting injuries. It’s the fact that, over their first three games, the Bears have displayed no identifiable plan in any facet of the game—offense, defense, or special teams—when they take the field. And that is 100% on Fox and the staff that he has assembled.