Cavanaugh hired as quarterbacks coach

984617.png

Cavanaugh hired as quarterbacks coach

New coach Marc Trestman has brought back a member of a previous coach staff but not exactly one of the more expected ones.Matt Cavanaugh, who was Dave Wannstedts offensive coordinator in the 4-12 seasons of 1997 and 1998, will replace Jeremy Bates as quarterbacks coach. With Trestman himself a major coaching figure with quarterbacks, adding Cavanaugh takes the care and feeding of Jay Cutler to a new level.
Cavanaugh worked as quarterbacks coach with the San Francisco 49ers in 1996 while Trestman was offensive coordinator.After leaving the Bears when the Wannstedt staff was let go after the 1998 season, Cavanaugh was the Baltimore Ravens offensive coordinator from 1999-2004, working under coach Brian Billick during the Ravens Super Bowl season of 2000.Cavanaugh spent the last four seasons working with New York Jets quarterbacks, one of more chaotic position groups in the NFL with Mark Sanchez, Tim Tebow and the upheaval around coach Rex Ryan. The Jets reached the AFC Championship game in Cavanaughs first two seasons with Sanchez posting a passer rating of 94.3. But Sanchez and the Jets slumped to 8-8 in 2011 and 6-10 last season.Cavanaugh worked as Wannstedts offensive coordinator at the University of Pittsburgh from 2005-2008 before leaving to join the Ravens.During his first stint with the Bears, Cavanaugh coached Erik Kramer to 3,011 passing yards in 1997, which at the time was fourth-highest in franchise history and still eighth highest. The 3,501 gross passing yards in 1997 are fifth most in franchise history. That year running back Raymont Harris had 1,033 rushing yards marking one of just five times in Bears history they have produced a 3,000-yard passer and 1,000-yard rusher in the same season. Despite injuries to the quarterback position in 1998, the Bears offense produced 3,277 passing yards as wideout Bobby Engram had 987 receiving yards, 13th most in franchise single-season recordds.Cavanaugh won two Super Bowl titles as a backup quarterback with the New York Giants (XXV) and the 49ers (XIX).

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.

Bears' best rookies will have another learning curve

Bears' best rookies will have another learning curve

There's a sense of irony and, to a certain degree, concern about what changes the Bears' coaching staff has undergone.

Think of the best of Ryan Pace's 2016 rookie class: Leonard Floyd, Cody Whitehair, and Jordan Howard. They were brought along under the position group tutelage of outside linebackers coach Clint Hurtt, offensive line coach Dave Magazu and running backs coach Stan Drayton. The latter was the first to depart, shortly after the season ended, to return to the collegiate ranks on Texas' new staff.

He's been replaced with former 49ers and Bills offensive coordinator Curtis Modkins (also serving as that position coach in Detroit, Buffalo, Arizona and Kansas City). Howard certainly adapted to the NFL game well, more than anyone expected, as the NFL's second-leading rusher. One would think Drayton played a part in that.

Longtime John Fox assistant Magazu was also let go after the season despite the impressive move of second-round pick Whitehair to center the week of the season opener after Josh Sitton was signed following his release by Green Bay. Whitehair was sold as a "quick study" following his selection out of Kansas State, where he was a four-year starter at three different positions (but not center).

[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]

Like Howard, he wound up making the All-Rookie team, but whether he remains in the middle of the line or not, he'll be getting his orders now from Jeremiah Washburn.

Rounding out the trio of All-Rookie selections was Floyd, who was brought along by Hurtt. He impressed Fox enough to be kept around from Marc Trestman's staff, and moved from defensive line to outside linebackers.

That's where he assisted Willie Young in morphing to a foreign role, yet still managing 14 sacks over the last two seasons. The Bears have yet to name a replacement for Hurtt, who's joined the Seahawks in taking over one of their strengths in recent years, the defensive line.

These three were already good, and the jewels of last year's draft. But if they're to grow and ascend into impact contributors if and when this team becomes a regular playoff contender, it'll come from new faces, new voices in their respective classrooms and position groups.