Life hasn’t been nice to Bears fans. Our beloved Bears are on a five-game skid after a relatively pedestrian 3-4 start and after the latest disappointment of a blunt death by 5 field goal sized papercuts, the hate and discontent for head coach John Fox and heck, the whole organization, in general, has hit an all-time high. This season has been a disgrace to the football world and suffices to say a lot of changes are coming in the offseason.
From coaching changes to the draft, a great offseason can shift the entire complexity of a season. The Bears are in desperate need of a facelift and the offseason couldn’t come any quicker. So in order to lay out some of the groundwork for how this offseason should be run, here is an official to-do list for Ryan Pace and the rest of the executives up in Halas Hall.
1. Fire John Fox
Does this one go without saying? I think this one goes without saying. The season was a total disaster and undoubtedly a lot of that falls on the shoulders of the coaching. The awful gameplans were straight out of a 1950s high school offense leading to the crowning jewel of the Bears future Mitchell Trubisky crashing and burning weekly. Surprisingly enough, the record shows. The defense has been pleasantly solid, which constitutes a success after last season’s trainwreck, but this can be chocked up the brilliance of Vic Fangio and the defensive-minded style of Fox.
But the Bears need a quarterback whisperer at the helm. It’s a quarterback-driven league and teams simply can not contend without one. The Bears might have a gem on their hands but with Fox leading the charge, there’s no way to know. The scheme has diluted Trubisky to the point where he’s almost just a lucky fan who gets to call the plays and hand the ball off.
Fox has never been an offensive-minded coach and this is not to say he’s ever been a bad coach. With the league going through a goo-goo eyed passing-and-speed phase, his old-school spirit of coaching with a ground-and-pound mentality simply does not fit for the Bears nor the league in general.
He’s trying to force “Bears football” on this team but it’s a mantra that doesn’t work anymore. Ugly defensive slugfests with the run that gets three yards a pop is an approach to the game that nowadays falls flat on its face. Teams don’t win 13-7 on a weekly basis anymore which is something Fox fully doesn’t understand. And if you so forgot, this style has gotten the Bears a single Super Bowl way back in the 1980s. It’s time the Bears move on and adapt to the evolving league. That all starts with a coach who is willing to change the entire mentality of the organization.
2. Hire Matt LaFleur
And that brings me to my next point. Offensive Coordinator Matt LaFleur of the Los Angeles Rams is the perfect candidate for the freshly open Bears head coach job. The Bears have invested their future in a quarterback prospect with such raw talent and there is not a man in the league who is more qualified to mold Trubisky and develop him into an elite quarterback in this league.
Just read look at some of these names that developed and flourished under him-2017 Jared Goff (sixth in the league in passing yards and eighth in the league in QBR after a disastrous rookie year), 2016 Matt Ryan (MVP-enough said), 2012 Robert Griffin III (one of the greatest rookie seasons of all time-also enough said), 2011 Rex Grossman (career highs in YPG and completion percentage), and 2008 Matt Schaub (who somehow led the league in passing yards).
His talent in quarterback development and offensive prowess is uncanny and that’s exactly what the Bears need. Coming off a season full of offensive mishaps, poor gameplans and downright terrible play calls and game management, an offensive mastermind like LaFleur is a godsend.
He has worked total magic in LA, rising the Rams offense that was dead last a season ago to easily a top three offense in the league. The Bears are already a solid defensive team but have the tools to be an elite offense.
In fact, the Bears and Rams from a season ago are pretty similar. A young quarterback prospect, an elite running back, a weak receiving corps, an offensive line with pieces and the burning desire for a great head coach. Why not take someone with experience in this exact situation?
3. Trade Down and Draft Calvin Ridley or Courtland Sutton
There’s no hiding it-the Bears have a lot of needs but edge rusher, offensive tackle, corner, and receiver are the most prominent spots of pain. However agreed on by many scouts, this draft is going to be a pretty weak one. Maybe one or two certified stars with a few more gems in the later rounds that will come out of nowhere as they always do. So what do you do when you have a high pick in a weak draft where your needs can be addressed mid first round?
Simply enough, you trade down. Landing a future first, second and fourth would be great but say Sam Darnold drops to the fourth (or wherever the Bears are picking this year). A quarterback-desperate team like the Jets or Bills with only a mid first round at their disposal could be willing to give up a total ransom for the Bears pick.
No matter what either top receivers will do at whatever pick the Bears trade down for. A young quarterback without a top weapon to rely on is dangerous and we’ve seen how it has panned out so far. The offense is a hot mess and it has essentially killed games for them. The Bears could be an 8-3 team right now if they were able to score just one more touchdown a game.
And while you could go out and sign Jarvis Landry from the Dolphins or Sammy Watkins from the Rams if their respective teams don’t resign them, Ridley and Sutton have too much potential to pass up in this draft, especially when you have traded down and there isn’t another player worth even a look at that point.
Both are considered the top two receivers going into this draft with scouts split on which one is more valuable. So, in this case, it doesn’t even matter who the Bears can land. Whoever is available between these two will do.
Ridley is a speedy route runner out of Alabama with stellar hands. His six foot one frame combined with his 4.35 speed are a deadly combination and even in a stubborn run game at Alabama, he still is impacting the game. In a system focused on the pass, he could flourish at the next level.
Sutton is a prototypical red zone threat, standing at a height of six foot four and has proven to be a scoring threat everywhere on the field. He has nine touchdowns under his belt so far in this year for SMU. The Bears absolutely need his offensive pop. If not a breakout run by Jordan Howard or a Mitchell Trubisky scramble, the offense struggles to even move the ball, let alone score. Sutton is exactly what Trubisky needs, a big-bodied receiver with good hands to throw the ball up to.
The Bears are a run-centric team but for good reason. Without a receiving threat, they are borderline forced to rely heavily on Howard and Tarik Cohen. With some coaching changes, a lethal pass game of Trubisky with Ridley or Sutton should be the go-to offense going into this season. Either one of these kids must be in a Bears jersey next season.
4. Cut Jerrell Freeman
Going into the final year of his contract, Freeman can be cut with only a half a million in dead cap. Originally brought in to aid the paper-thin run defense, he has simply struggled to stay on the field during his tenure with the Bears, mostly not even to injury. After missing four games due to suspension in his first season due to, he only survived a single game until going down with a pec injury and a concussion, not to mention he received another suspension, this one for ten games, for violating the league’s substance abuse policies for the second time.
The injuries can be ignored, those can be overcome but it’s the consistent suspensions that can’t be overlooked. 14 games missed due to PEDs use in only two seasons already puts a career in jeopardy. Teams can’t trust a guy with this kind of track record and his age isn’t doing him any favors. A 31-year-old middle linebacker post-season ending head and chest injury is already dicey but one coming off repeated PEDs usage almost isn’t worth having on a roster, no matter how good.
Advanced metrics show he’s generally among the best performing linebackers in the league but he simply comes with too much risk, both suspension, and injury-wise, to keep around any longer. Plus with young guys like Nick Kwiatkoski and Christian Jones impressing up to this point effectively negates any value Freeman would have on the field if he even were to be available. The Bears are a team on the rise and holding on to an aging injury-prone, suspension-prone (if that’s a thing) linebacker when there is so much young potential right behind him is only going to hold back the future.
5. Sign Trumaine Johnson
Trumaine Johnson is a pending free agent corner for the Los Angeles Rams. And boy howdy, do we know the Bears need a corner. Kyle Fuller still hasn’t panned out as we hoped and Prince Amukamara isn’t exactly a shutdown corner. The draft is stacked in safeties and picking one up if the Bears can’t land Ridley or Sutton would be wise but the corner pool is pretty weak outside of Ole Miss’s Ken Webster. And truth be told, the receiver need is greater than the corner need.
So enter Trumaine Johnson. The 27-year-old corner hasn’t reached a Pro Bowl or an All-Pro selection. He’s not a franchise savior but he’s easily the best corner in free agency this year. With a career-high seven interceptions in 2015, he has been a solid starting corner his whole career. There isn’t anyone worth a high pick in the draft and free agency is a wasteland for good corners. Even having someone as consistent as Johnson is a rarity.
Picking up someone like Carlton Davis out of Auburn or Anthony Averett out of Alabama in the second or third round is a must, especially if the Bears decide to not resign Fuller. Johnson isn’t going to take the city by storm but with as many holes in the secondary as there are, it is imperative the Bears pick up a corner to his consistency levels.