Keeping Score: The Marshall Ratio that failed

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Keeping Score: The Marshall Ratio that failed

Danny Mac and Matt were off but The McNeil & Spiegel Show was still in session Thursday at 10 a.m. on WSCR-AM 670 The Score, this time with Ben Finfer and old buddy and Daily Herald colleague Barry Rozner sitting in.
MORE: Listen to Moon's segment from Thursday morning
Really nice of Ben to recall my early season thought that if Brandon Marshall caught 100 passes, the Bears playoff chances and offense would be in some trouble. But no, as I told Ben, Im not taking any bows; if you have seen some of my picks over the past 6-8 weeks, you dont ever gloat.
But the other reason was that the reality was there to see if anyone wanted to follow the breadcrumbs. Some teams flourish with a 100-catch receiver; New England has (although the Patriots havent won a Super Bowl with Wes Welker catching 100 passes), but that is a different scheme and the Patriots have multiple receivers with big numbers. And they were ranking in the top 10 rushing a lot of this season.
Finding Forte
But the Bears were successful with balance, the element that Mike Tice brought to Mike Martzs program the past two years. And if Marshall was getting that much of the offense, it quite likely meant that other receivers were not producing and, more important, the Bears had gotten away from Matt Forte, which they have, to no ones benefit.
Jay Cutler doesnt like to check down, so you wonder if at some psychological level he figures, why go short when he can pat the ball a second longer and Marshall should be gaining an advantage somewhere?
Safety concerns
On the other side of the ball Barry raised a concern over how the Bears fare against Detroit wideout Calvin Johnson with Chris Conte now down. Definitely a worry...Johnson is a worry even with Conte.
But anytime you dramatically alter what you do best, its you who are now in the position of needing to make the tough shot. So to start blitzing Matthew Stafford, even though the Detroit quarterback does not handle that well, is to potentially leave a safety newbie like Anthony Walters dealing with more of the field to worry about.
Johnson getting his yards and catches is not necessarily the problem; if you think the Bears offense is unsuccessful with the Marshall Ratio, Detroits with Johnson setting records is downright dysfunctional. Just do what you do best. Its usually been good enough to beat the Lions anyway.

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.