The whole backup quarterback issue really is still the hot button and it was good to visit with Matt Spiegel and Lawrence Holmes (sitting in for Danny Mac) on The McNeil and Spiegel Show on WSCR-AM 670 for our regular 10 a.m. Thursday chat.
An overriding issue, as Ive discussed on Bears Talk, is somehow coming back to Mike Martz, his system and his philosophies. The fact that Josh McCown is starting at quarterback Sunday in Green Bay and Nathan Enderle is still considered not ready after 15 weeks of season plus training camp and preseason, says not-good things about the Martz system and approach.
I threw out the Kyle Orton experience in 2005 where a rookie mid-round-pick quarterback took over under Ron Turner and did more than just survive. The way Turner made it work was to give Orton a Cliff Notes playbook and keep the offense even more controlled than even the normal West Coast.
And in a year when rookies Andy Dalton (Cincinnati), Cam Newton (Carolina), Christian Ponder (Minnesota), Blaine Gabbert (Jacksonville), and Jake Locker in Tennessee have played, some of them well, what is it all saying about Martzs system?
And is it also points a light on Martzs predisposition away from young quarterbacks and preference for veterans. It was why Martz wanted a Todd Collins last year and unquestionably part of why McCown is preferred over Enderle despite the obvious lack of current NFL work.
The guys brought up Tim Jennings, who talked Wednesday about the fragile state of the cornerback position. He was pulled and replaced after a costly deep completion by the Seattle Seahawks, as Zack Bowman was last year for mistakes in the first Green Bay game.
My response here is that youre seeing a typical response when things turn sour with losing. Any player whos taken out is going to feel scapegoated, and both Bowman and Jennings are playing for contracts next year.
Bears GM Ryan Pace struck gold with his signing of Jerrell Freeman last offseason.
Freeman, who signed a three-year, $12 million contract with the Bears last March, was graded as the NFL's No. 1 inside linebacker in 2016, according to Pro Football Focus.
Freeman's 93.8 overall grade was PFF's third-highest defensive grade behind Los Angeles Rams All-Pro defensive lineman Aaron Donald (95.6) and Oakland Raiders standout edge rusher Khalil Mack (93.9).
Here's what PFF's Mike Renner had to say about Freeman's historic 2016 season:
One of the most impressive pure statistics any player amassed this season came from Bears linebacker Jerrell Freeman. He made 40 tackles in coverage while missing only one tackle attempt. That ratio is insane, and it’s the best we’ve recorded since 2012. That’s about the only exciting stat, though, as the Bears’ front-seven desperately missed a fully-healthy Pernell McPhee for a good portion of the year.
Despite Freeman's outstanding season, he was left off of PFF's All-Pro Team for 2016. Although he was ranked ahead of Seahawks linebacker Bobby Wagner (91.6) and Carolina Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly (92.9), PFF likely omitted Freeman due to him missing four games with a PED suspension.
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In his first season with the Bears, the 30-year-old Freeman led the team with 110 tackles (the next highest total was Harold Jones-Quartey's 78). Freeman also finished with a team-high 7 tackles for a loss.
Check out a snapshot below of Freeman's PFF metrics from last season:
If there's any doubt about Freeman's play falling off after serving a suspension, he put that theory to rest. Freeman's second-best game grade came in Week 17 against the Minnesota Vikings (3.5). Freeman also had a positive grade (1.4) in his first game coming off the suspension against the Washington Redskins in Week 16.
"People know me," Freeman told the media after returning from suspension. "People know who I am. People know what I'm about. I wouldn't do that on purpose. I made a mistake and that's what it is. It's not like I was going out of my way to do something (illegal). But it happened. It's my fault and I take responsibility for it."
Bears Pro Bowl running back Jordan Howard will have a new positional coach in 2017.
According to ESPN's Adam Caplan, the Bears are expected to hire former San Francisco 49ers offensive coordinator Curtis Modkins as their running backs coach.
Before joining the 49ers in 2016, Modkins served as the Detroit Lions running backs coach from 2013-15. Modkins broke into the NFL as a running backs coach with Kansas City Chiefs in 2008. After serving one year in Kansas City, Modkins left for the same job with the Arizona Cardinals in 2009. The following season Modkins took a promotion with the Buffalo Bills, becoming the team's offensive coordinator from 2010-12.
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Modkins will be reunited in Chicago with reported new Bears offensive line coach Jeremiah Washburn. The duo worked together for three seasons with the Lions from 2013-15.
The Bears were in need of a new running backs coach after Stan Drayton departed to take an associate head coaching job under Tom Herman at the University of Texas.