137 Comments

The Justin Paradigm: When Thinking About the 2021 Bears, Consider the 2020 Chargers.

| May 20th, 2021


In 2020, they went 7-9, with some inexplicable losses.

They finished third in their division.

At the end of the season, they fired their head coach.

Their campaign, in terms of results, in terms of the scores of the contests, was a failure.

But a cursory glance at the Los Angeles Chargers blogosphere, followed by a survey of national media types (especially Mays and Tice at The Athletic), would lead one to a very different conclusion. Optimism abounds. Hope reigns. Everything’s coming up roses.  (Or pick another showtune, if ya like.)

The reason is simple. In the 2020 NFL Draft, they drafted a kid called Justin to play quarterback. And in the aforementioned season, Herbert proved he’s their long-term answer at the position. When you get that question right, the others seem far less important.

This is the objective for the 2021 betway平台 . Sure, we will all want them to win as many games as possible. (Without a first round pick, losing has 0% value.) Sure, we’d like them to be as entertaining as humanly possible; a seemingly difficult ask for this offense over the last few seasons, as they staged one colossal bore after another on the back of an incompetent quarterback.  And sure, we’d love to see some of these high-priced defenders (Mack, Quinn, Jackson…etc.) play up to their contracts.

But none of that matters when it comes to long-term projections for this organization. What matters is the kid called Justin they drafted to play quarterback. What matters is sitting here on May 20th of NEXT year, knowing the Bears have their man at the most important position in team sports.

If they do, their championship “window” opens in 2022. And it doesn’t close for a decade.

Tagged: ,

79 Comments

A Closer Look at Justin Fields’ College Production

| May 18th, 2021

Today, I want to take a closer look at Justin Fields’ advanced statistics in college to see what they can tell us about his playing style, comparable quarterbacks, and forecast to the NFL.

____________________

Pass Location and Accuracy

To start out, let’s take a look at where Fields throws the ball and how accurate he is to different areas of the field. This data is pulled from Derrik Klassen, who has charted 28 draft-eligible QBs across 2019, 2020, and 2021. The table below shows how frequently and effectively Fields threw the ball short (5 yards or less), medium (6 to 15 yards), and deep (16 or more yards). It also compares each value to the average of the 28 QBs.



A few thoughts:

  • Fields is generally a very accurate passer. He’s one of the top 10 in accuracy to each range of the field, and ranks 1st among the 28 in “True Accuracy,” which is Klassen’s distance-weighted accuracy summary.
  • Fields also did not throw short passes all that frequently. It’s often hard to evaluate college QB production because so much of it comes from schemed short passes that don’t require much from the QB. Fields was one of the QBs who threw short the least, which means more of his production came down the field than a typical college QB.
  • Fields also didn’t throw it deep all that much, but he was really good when he did. I’ll look in more detail below at how well that translates to the NFL.
  • Where Fields really stood out, both in frequency and accuracy, was the midrange game. Fields’ 80% accuracy tied with Mac Jones, and nobody else in the sample was above 75%.

____________________

Translation to NFL

So Fields is really accurate and likes to target the middle range of the field often. How well do those traits translate to the NFL?

I’m actually going to focus on two slightly different traits here, because they’re ones where I have easy access to the data (using Pro Football Reference’s Game Play Finder). That lets us view deep passes, which travel 15+ yards past the line of scrimmage, separate from short passes, which travel less than 15 yards.

When it comes to deep passes, Fields threw them at a slightly lower than average frequency in college, but was one of the most accurate passers in the last 3 drafts. How well do those traits translate to the NFL?

Read More …

Tagged: , , ,

93 Comments

Can Justin Fields Upgrade Chicago’s QB Performance in 2021?

| May 17th, 2021

Recently, I looked at Andy Dalton and found that he is not likely going to improve on the production the Bears got from their QBs in 2020. That means any improvement in the QB room likely has to come from rookie Justin Fields.

This is a more difficult projection to make because Fields doesn’t have years of NFL production to look at for an apples-to-apples comparison like I did with Dalton. Instead, I’m going to look at all rookies drafted in the last 10 years (2011-20 drafts) who attempted at least 300 passes in their rookie NFL season, with the idea being they played the majority of the year. This gives a sample size of 29 QBs; how many of them performed better than Chicago’s QBs in 2020?


The Setup

To do this comparison, I’m going to look at 3 stats, which I want to briefly explain here:

  • Yards per attempt + (Y/A)+. Yards per attempt is a simple enough metric, but the + indicates it is adjusted for era. Since this is comparing QBs over a 10 year sample, and league-wide yards/attempt has fluctuated year-by-year, this scales them all accordingly. 100 is a league average mark, anything higher is better and lower is worse.
  • Adjusted net yards per attempt + (ANY/A+). This takes yards/attempt and factors in touchdowns, interceptions, and sacks, and then scales according to league averages that year. A full explanation of the formula for adjusted net yards/attempt (which is from Pro Football Reference, just like Y/A+) can be seen here. The scaling is the same as Y/A+ above; 100 is average, and higher is better.
  • Expected Points added (EPA/Dropback). This attempts to account for the value of each individual play by comparing expected points on the drive (based on down, distance, and field location) at the start and finish of a play. Generally speaking, higher values here indicate that QB’s team is expected to score more points over the course of the season. A more detailed explanation can be found here. EPA data is pulled from this website.

The idea here is simple enough: how many of the 29 rookie QBs in the last 10 years with 300+ pass attempts have outperformed Chicago’s QBs from 2020? I also threw Andy Dalton’s 2020 season in just as a point of reference. Full data can be viewed here. 


Results

The table below shows how the Bears did in all 3 stats in 2020, how Andy Dalton did in all 3 stats in 2020, the average for all 29 rookies in the sample, and the number of rookies who outperformed the better of the 2020 Bears/2020 Dalton in each stat.

A few thoughts:

Read More …

Tagged: , , , , , ,

257 Comments

When it Comes to QBs in the NFL, Studs are Studs.

| May 14th, 2021

Whether Justin Fields succeeds or fails, Matt Nagy probably isn’t going to have a hell of a lot to do with it. While everybody loves a “QB guru”, fans, media members and NFL teams waste entirely too much time talking about the development of young quarterbacks. It is just as likely that studs will be studs and duds, well, you get the picture.

At least in the modern NFL.

This isn’t your grandfather’s NFL and there isn’t a huge difference in the schemes run by teams. In his discussion with local media, Ohio State head coach Ryan Day referred to his experience in the NFL, even labeling his current scheme an “NFL offense” numerous times. Sure, rookie quarterbacks have to adjust to the speed of the NFL. They have to learn how to read different coverage concepts and adjust protections.

And while that’s all stuff that a good NFL team will help with, some guys just get it.

A narrative has emerged in recent months that Nagy failed to develop Mitch Trubisky. The truth is no one could have develop Trubisky because Trubisky is a bad football player. Bad football players don’t become good. Ryan Pace failed by drafting him to play quarterback in the NFL. Was Trubisky’s inability to read defenses and adjust something we would’ve found out about had he played more collegiate games? Almost certainly. (His inaccuracy downfield was certainly something that one would see if they looked at North Carolina tape.)

Fundamental improvements are fixed in the offseason these days because NFL coaches aren’t allowed as much contact. Mike McCarthy used to run a full-blown QB Camp as part of his offseason program. (Aaron Rodgers even credited it as part of his development.) That can’t happen any more.  Trubisky seemed to acknowledge that he wasn’t getting what he needed from his personal QB coach. Why else would he have changed coaches last offseason?

If we’re going to blame Nagy for not developing Trubisky, why don’t we blame Bruce Arians for whatever happened to Jameis Winston? Surely Sean McVay can’t be trusted with young quarterbacks after failing Jared Goff and why didn’t Boy Genius Kyle Shanahan turn his first hand-picked passer, CJ Beathard into a steal?

Then, if you look at the quarterbacks who have been good. Who do we credit for Derek Carr? Is Pete Carroll the genius behind Russ Wilson?  Is Jason Garrett the reason Dak Prescott became a stud? Shouldn’t Bill O’Brien get another job because of the work he did with Deshaun Watson? Uhhh…no.

Read More …

Tagged: , ,

100 Comments

Things To Consider With Tonight’s Schedule Release

| May 12th, 2021


The NFL has turned everything into a television program. And who can blame them? The NFL Draft now does better ratings than almost every other sporting contest AND the damn Academy Awards. (How in the hell did that happen?)

The schedule release does not have the same ratings appeal for two reasons: (1) every local beat leaks the schedule as the day goes on and (2) we consume the schedule in one shot, in about 30 seconds, and then sort of move on.

Three things I’ll be watching with the release tonight at 8 PM ET.

__________________________

Number One. Where is the Bears bye?

With a seventeen-game schedule, most teams will be hoping their bye lands as close to the middle of the season as possible. A Week 4 or Week 5 bye leaves a long stretch of uninterrupted football (barring wildcard weekend off) in order to get to the Super Bowl.

But for the betway平台 the bye is entirely about one thing: Justin Fields. If the Bears stick with their current plan, and give Andy Dalton the opener, the bye will be every fan’s target to get Fields on the field. A few questions should be asked.

  • What’s the difficulty level of the schedule pre-bye? If the Bears face a murderer’s row of teams and are likely to be going into the bye with a losing record, the transition to Fields will be far easier to execute.
  • Who is the opponent post-bye? If I was making the NFL schedule, I would have the Bears at home to the Lions after their bye. Soft team, terrible defense, crazy atmosphere on the lakefront. (I know right now you’re thinking, “That’s brilliant! He SHOULD make the schedule!” You are right.)

Read More …

Tagged: , , ,

197 Comments

Welcome to the Justin Fields YouTube Rabbit Hole!

| May 7th, 2021

Found myself down the Justin Fields YouTube rabbit hole yesterday so I thought I’d share that here today.


Nate Tice with Hoge & Jahns.

Two thoughts:

  • This is just really solid analysis of Fields, on-field. And it should give every Bears fan hope that the organization may have finally gotten the position right.
  • Tice’s podcast with Robert Mays for The Athletic is some of the best football conversation you’ll hear. These guys know all 32 rosters pretty damn well. It’ll make you a smarter fan and it’s now the SECOND football podcast to enter my podcast rotation. (The sport now trails golf 9-2.)


Fields at the Facility.

There’s just something different about how this kid carries himself. He walks around like a star. And I believe you need that to success at quarterback.

Read More …

Tagged: , , , , , ,

118 Comments

Bears Can’t Let Rodgers Set Their QB Timetable

| May 6th, 2021


It’s been a week since Justin Fields became the next quarterback of the betway平台 .

It’s been that same week since Aaron Rodgers decided he would no longer go gentle into that Green Bay night. After weeks of apparently expecting to be traded and not, while also receiving contract extension offers without enough guaranteed cash, Rodgers decided to have his people call Adam Schefter’s people and fly the Enola Gay over the draft proceedings in Cleveland.

Immediately, DraftKings Sportsbook pulled the NFC North odds for next season off the board. As rumors of Rodgers’ probable destinations surfaced – Denver and Vegas being the leaders in the clubhouse – DK also pulled the AFC West off the board. (Both divisions have since been reinstalled, with the Packers -115 to win the division, which might be where the odds settle without Rodgers in the mix.)

Will Rodgers be on the Packers this season? He’s told the team he will not. He’s told his teammates he will not. I’m pretty sure he told half the bartenders at Churchill Downs he will not. (“Hey man, you know this is one good Mint Julep. You know anything about the golf clubs in Denver?”) All signs are pointing to the end of the Rodgers era in Green Bay and the first set in the main room for Jordan Love, who’ll now begin his quest to provide the Packers with three consecutive Hall of Fame quarterbacks.

No matter the outcome of the Rodgers saga, the Bears must ignore it. All of it. Yes, Rodgers out of the NFC North would mean the division is up for grabs in 2021 and the Bears would be well-positioned to win it. But the team can’t let the circumstances of another club, even their oldest rival, impact the development of their quarterback. If the plan coming out of camp is for Andy Dalton to start the season at quarterback and for Fields to learn at the hip of Matt Nagy for a period of time, stick to that plan. If Dalton starts 0-2, so be it.

History definitively tells us two things. (1) Andy Dalton isn’t winning the Super Bowl. (2) Rookie quarterbacks aren’t winning the Super Bowl. So while winning the NFC North would be a nice treat in 2021, the team will be far better served ensuring their young quarterback is ready to win the whole shebang in September 2022.

Rodgers leaving the division would be a remarkable moment; a three-city sigh of relief. But when it comes to the long-term success of the betway平台 and their quarterback, it shouldn’t mean a damn thing.

Tagged: ,

214 Comments

Ryan Pace’s Reversal of Fortune.

| May 3rd, 2021


It started with a dinner.

Dan Wiederer told the tale.

Ryan Pace had a “covert” dinner with Mitch Trubisky at a steakhouse in Chapel Hill. The reservation, made by Mitch, was under the name Jim McMahon. History! Trubisky drove a Datsun or Pinto or something. Humility! The Bears decided this was their quarterback of the future because he seemed to check all the intangible boxes found on a form Pace stole from a locked drawer in Sean Payton’s desk.

It didn’t work. And the scrutiny started quickly. What didn’t Pace like about Patrick Mahomes? Why didn’t he meet with Deshaun Watson? What about Trubisky was SO impressive – it certainly wasn’t his collegiate production – that it led the Bears GM to throw horse blinders on and ignore everybody else?

The Pace tenure had become defined by those months leading up to the 2017 NFL Draft and the production of the men he decided not to take. Sure, he whiffed on Kevin White, reached (ridiculously) for Adam Shaheen and tossed some money away on Robert Quinn. But every GM misses on picks and spends money ineffectively in free agency. Trubisky was the story. And that mistake, compounded by Pace’s inability to correct it (an improbable task, to be fair) was the entire narrative. Every positive move, including rebuilding the worst defense in betway平台 history, was shuffled into the shadows.

____________________

Come the end of the 2020 season, the expectations were that Pace would be GM no longer. The Bears were coming off back-to-back mediocre seasons, with a flop quarterback and an aging defense. Change felt inevitable, whether that be the coach, the GM or long-time team president Ted Phillips. GMs don’t get second chances to find franchise quarterbacks. Owners, especially in this modern, last-place-to-first-place-yearly NFL, are not patient individuals. It’s been well-discussed how much George McCaskey likes Pace but an owner’s love plus $5.99 will get you a double cheese at the Billy Goat.

They stood pat. They delivered an awkward press conference, preached collaboration, and maintained an organizational status quo. McCaskey and Phillips trusted their instincts, leaning on their belief that Pace – still only 44 years old – was not a completed picture. In any line of work, one usually improves with time and experience and the Bears believed the same would be true for Pace. It was not a decision met favorably by those who cover and cheer for the betway平台 . Many claimed it was the Bears acting like 8-8 was perfectly acceptable. But anyone listening to that presser heard a distinct refrain: it was about the quarterback. Pace was admitting his Trubisky failure and vowing to make amends THIS offseason.

As the draft closed in, that vow seemed like horseshit.

Read More …

Tagged: , ,

463 Comments

Franchise is Reset: Bears Have a New Quarterback (And 2021 Has Promise)

| April 30th, 2021


When the Bears gave their postseason presser, they used the word “collaboration” a whole bunch and received the scorn of the Chicago media. Many seemed to think their reliance on clichés and platitudes showed a lack of sympathy for their fans; a failure to understand that the achievements of the previous seasons were not nearly good enough.

But anyone actually listening to that presser heard a clear message: Ryan Pace and Matt Nagy had to solve the quarterback problem. When you heard your favorite radio host (and mine) saying, “They’re not going to make any changes!” you didn’t realize he’d missed the point. The Bears were not only going to make changes. They were going to instigate change at the most important position in team sports.

They tried with Deshaun. Nothing. They had a deal for Russ. Didn’t happen. It all turned to the draft and when the Bears had an opportunity to make a bold move and get their guy – Justin Fields – they made the move. Will it pan out? Who the hell knows? But you have to take the shot when it comes to quarterbacks and the Bears took theirs.

Because of that move, the 2021 season has life. It has excitement. It has promise. And that’s all we could ask for.


Tagged: