WSCR visit: Urlacher future not dependent on Roach


WSCR visit: Urlacher future not dependent on Roach

The state of Brian Urlacher now, a month from now, a year from now is the dominant story line through the Bears right now. It shouldnt be.

If it is inside the locker room, the Bears can probably forget the playoffs. Talking with Danny Mac and Ben Finfer (filling in for Matt Spiegel on Thursday) on The McNeil and Spiegel Show on WSCR-AM 670 at our weekly 10 a.m. slot, that conclusion suggested itself.

At some point, whether now or sometime over the offseason, its very possible that Urlacher will be done as a Bear. But that will be more a matter of economics what 54 thinks his value is vs. what the Bears believe it is than ability shortfall. And obviously whether or not Lovie Smith is back or a new coach is insistent on keeping that part of the defensive core.

As I said to the guys, its a mistake to measure Urlacher on a curve, what he was in times when he was an annual part of the debate over defensive player of the year vs. what he is now.

Right now he is just a very good linebacker. He leads the Bears in tackles. Teams that let leading tacklers (or for that matter, players at any position) walk either have a clear succession plan they want to implement (e.g., Aaron Rodgers for Brett Favre in Green Bay) or making a money decision.

Nick Roach is part of the future and Lovie Smith told me on more than one occasion that Roach fits the template for middle linebackers in his defensive scheme. But are the Bears better with Roach at strong side and Urlacher in the middle, or Roach in the middle and Geno Hayes at strong side? Easy call.

At the right price.

All of this presupposes Urlacher healthy enough after his various physical issues (back, knee, hamstring) over the recent past. But a casual thought here is that if Urlacher plays at 10-15 pounds lighter, he gets back some mobility and lightens the load on his legs.

Folks within Halas Hall have told me that the Bears under Lovie Smith will not draft a middle linebacker. Theyll definitely draft speed linebackers, but Smith is of a mind that the scheme that he and Rod Marinelli have run since days with Derrick Brooks in Tampa fares better with runners vs. pluggers. Urlacher was simply a freak who can do both.

If Nick Roach proves what Smith has believed all along that he is a workable middle linebacker the Bears will have a Plan B at the ready, something every team craves. But if Plan A is still at the NFL level, it wont be idly cast aside.

Bears numbers don't indicate 3-13, yet still lie

Bears numbers don't indicate 3-13, yet still lie

In doing some post-season wrapping up of my Nerdy NFL Notebook as we begin turning the page to the 2017 season, part of it involves compiling where each team finished in big-picture team offensive and defensive categories: overall ranking (total yards), as well as team rushing and passing ranks on both sides of the ball.

So if the Bears wound up ranked 15th overall in total yards gained and allowed, they should've finished…oh, 8-8, right? It adds to the deception of some of the deeper issues that focus on a lack of playmakers, which tied into their inability to make plays when it matters most. In John Fox's 9-23 start, 18 of those games have been decided by six points or less. They've won just six of those games. 

Offensively, the Bears ranked higher in total offense than five playoff teams: Kansas City (20), Detroit (21), Miami (24), New York Giants (25) and Houston (29). They wound up 17th in rushing offense, better than four teams who advanced: Seattle (25), Green Bay (26), New York Giants (29) and Detroit (30). And their 14th-ranked passing offense ranked better than the Giants (17), Kansas City (19), Dallas (23), Miami (26), Houston (29).

On the other side of the ball, they'd be even better off before allowing 109 points over the final three losses. Their total defense ranked better than Detroit (18), Green Bay (22), Kansas City (24), Atlanta (25), Oakland (26) and Miami (29). After being gashed for 558 rushing yards the last three games, they fell to 27th in the NFL against the run (better than only 30th-ranked Miami). But the seventh-ranked pass defense, despite collecting a measly eight interceptions (among only 11 turnovers), was better than nine playoff teams: Miami (15), Pittsburgh (16), Kansas City (18), Detroit (19), the Giants (23), Oakland (24), Dallas (26), Atlanta (28) and Green Bay (31).

[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]

What do all the hollow numbers indicate? A lack of complementary, opportunistic football, playmakers on both sides of the ball, a minus-20 turnover ratio, and a lack of quality and continuity at the quarterback position — to name a few. All of those playoff teams have more impact players (or kept more of their impact players healthy) than the Bears in 2016.

While some of the numbers aren't that bad to look at, and some even raise an eyebrow, there's still a deep climb from the most significant numbers: 3-13.

Wintrust Athlete of the Week: Fremd's Grace Tworek

Wintrust Athlete of the Week: Fremd's Grace Tworek

This week's Wintrust Athlete of the Week is Fremd senior Grace Tworek. 

Tworek has led the Vikings on and off the court this season. Last week, the Harvard commit put up a career-high 29 points in a win over Wheeling. 

Learn more about Tworek's success in the video above.