Windy City Gridiron is the best blog about the Chicago Bears, the team Vikings fans love to hate the second most. And of all the quality folks they have on staff over there, Kev H is the blogger I personally hate the second most, so if nothing else, this five questions is consistent, if not entertaining.
(I actually like Kev, he's a pretty good dude to follow on Twitter and such. Just don't tell him I said so.)
Anyway, we exchanged five good questions. My answers to his questions should appear over at WCG sometime Saturday morning, and we'll put them on our main page when they're posted over there. So give Kevin a warm hello, and enjoy his entertaining answers to some fairly mediocre questions.
1. So, Marc Trestman didn't work out, and the Bears brought in John Fox. Did Bears fans like the hire at the time, and are they still happy with the new head coach and his staff? With the slow 2-4 start, do you think he will get this team turned around either this year or in the next season or two?
Bears fans, generally, liked the hire quite a bit. The Bears don't have a history of hiring veteran head coaches, so this was a nice change of pace from trying to find the diamond in the rough of coordinators.
That said, being a veteran head coach means you're a known commodity. Knowing John Fox knows that he has a tendency to have his team play hyper-conservatively at the end of games. For the first real-time that reared its head in the Lions game, so he caught some flack for his end of game time and play management. (The Bears eventually lost in overtime) The big bonus you get from Fox is culture - guys want to play for him, and he and Ryan Pace are quickly whittling through the roster to figure out who will be a part of this going forward.
You can already see the changes in the team. Even when down they're playing competitively, and with the exception of any moment where Pickles was the quarterback, have been competitive in their games. There's not enough talent on the roster right now to flip the script and squeak into the playoffs this year, but with personnel upgrades, I don't see any reason they can't be right in the pack of wild card contenders.
2. There's a lot of noise and chatter that make it seem like Jay Cutler's time in Chicago might be at an end after this year. Do you think the Bears and Cutler part ways after this season, and if so, who do you think will be the starting QB next season?
I do not believe they will part ways this year. Right now, Jay is playing some of the smartest football of his career. (I know many will say "that wouldn't take much") However, he's appearing very comfortable in the system right now, and he's finally starting to get some of his actual targets back. Jeffery was out for a quarter of the season, Royal has been in and out, and White has yet to see the field.
The most expensive part of his contract is over, and next year, if he continues to play the way he is right now, would almost seem like a deal. He's had a lot to deal with. The team has had a lot to deal with. If you're willing to accept that he's not ever going to be a "great" quarterback, but can generally play at a good-to-very-good level, it turns out you're much happier with his performance. A big part of the problem for not just Jay, but a lot of quarterbacks right now, is that there is this tier of ungodly-good quarterbacks, and a lot of guys take knocks for not being able to play at generational-talent levels.
If anything, I'd see the maybe addressing the position in the next draft with a second or third round pick, and see if that's someone they want to groom to start in 2017. At the same time, if he plays well enough you may have another QB-desperate team who'd be willing to slip you a pick for a year of his services.
3. The Bears defense doesn't appear to be the traditional Monsters Of The Midway units of years past. They're a top 10 unit terms of passing yards given up, but are near the bottom in passing TD's allowed, and the run defense isn't very good at all. How did a team that is know for their defense fall off so dramatically in such a short period of time?
Oh, yeah, they're not very good. You mention passing yards given up, but the flipside of that is usually because you're giving up rushing yards. In this case, the Bears are giving up the 7th most rushing yards/game, at 124.8. (Side note: If the Vikings gameplan doesn't include a significant number of inside runs, they're doing it wrong.)
The last two years, it was a combination of coaching and talent. Mel Tucker was supposedly running a modified version of the defense the personnel was familiar with, but they all sucked and the play calling was bad. This year, they've got a defensive coordinator in Vic Fangio that has a history you can look back and agree with. However, they also transitioned to a new front. There is currently a huge talent mismatch, as you have 4-3 defensive ends playing OLB in places, 4-3 defensive tackles playing end, and 4-3 zone corners trying to play man. Additionally, some players, like Kyle Fuller, have significantly regressed. (Look at the touchdown in the back of the endzone against the Lions where he plays with his back to Stafford the whole time.
There's hope, and I'd expect a healthy draft on the defensive side of the ball this offseason. It can be fixed, it may just take at least one more year.
4. Why did the Bears deliberately pursue Vlad Ducasse in the off season, and then make him a starter on the offensive line? He was a tire fire with the Vikings last year. Has he improved at all?
I...I don't...I don't know...
I have some ideas. When he was signed back in March, Jordan Mills was still the right tackle, and Kyle Long was still the pro bowl right guard. Ducasse was purely depth. Then, as the offseason went on, Mills underperformed, and just before the season started they made the decision to get rid of Mills, and move Long to right tackle. That left a void at guard,and Ducasse is standing there. I'm not sure I can say he's necessarily filling the slot, but he sure is standing there.
On the roster also is Patrick Omameh, who started for the Bucs at guard last year, but was cut in the final round of cuts before the season started. He's coming back, but has been limited. If Ducasse continues to struggle, PO may get the nod in the future.
I can't imagine Ducasse has a future at the position, at least for this team. He still doesn't have the handwork or footwork to take on the best guys, and gets pushed around a lot. It's also tough to run behind him at times, because he can't get set and move his guy. If the Bears had a better center, I could see getting away with it. However, Will Montgomery got hurt, and rookie Grasu is currently questionable for Sunday's game. The Vikings would be wise to get lots of pressure up the middle.
5. Earlier in the season, the Bears traded DE...I mean OLB...Jared Allen, and the common thought was that the Bears were going into fire sale mode. They went 0-3, then won two games...then lost to Detroit. So are the Bears at the burn it to the ground and start over point, or are they closer to being contenders than most people seem to think? Is Kevin White ever going to see the field?
The Bears are, in effect, starting over on defense. And that's fine. The last two years, and so far this year, are godawful, but that's to be expected when you take on the project you're taking on.
I think there's enough talent on the offensive side of the football to make some noise, but the Bears are giving up more points per game than anybody except for Tampa Bay. That's got to be fixed. The Bears are currently in the top half in rushing yards/game, but in the bottom half for passing. I'm going to chalk that up to the fact that Jimmy Clausen went 23/40 for 184 yards in 2 games. (63 whole passing yards against Seattle!) It's cliche to say, but quarterback is the most important position. Without Jay Cutler, this offense is done.
So yeah, I think the offense is in alright shape, though the line could get better. Given some defensive talent and adjustments, they could be back in the mix sooner than you might otherwise think..
Rumor is that White will see the field this year, still. I'd like to see him make it up this year, because I think that your first round picks should be able to play and play a contributing role in year one. Also, I like real game reps as the way to get experience.
5a. You're hosting a Halloween party and John Fox has agreed to attend, but needs a costume. What does he dress up as for the WCG Halloween Office Party?
I think he'd probably go as Frasier's dad, actor John Mahoney. (ED NOTE: Solid choice. If he brings the dog, he wins the best dressed costume imo)
5b. So who's going to win, the Vikings or the Bears?
The Vikings are favored, I think in large part to the great defensive performance they've had stopping the run (admittedly against some bad rushing attacks.) That said, I'm going to give the Bears the home edge and say it's a close game, something like 30-27. Though, if the Bears are up by 4 or less points in the last 2 minutes, then I think Fox might coach his way right back into another loss.