Chicago Bears

Why the Bears finally feel like they're in striking distance of a winning team

Why the Bears finally feel like they're in striking distance of a winning team

PHOENIX – Where the relationship between Bears GM Ryan Pace and coach John Fox goes beyond 2017 remains to play out with their third season together. At this point, however, despite a combined total of nine wins over their first two, the critical bond between coach and general manager appears both clear and solid.
 
Which is no small state of affairs with the growing pressure on both and the organization, pressure that will only intensify if the on-field fortunes of their team does not begin to dramatically reverse. And both know it. Losing doesn't build character, it reveals it, and the same applies to a relationship; if there are cracks, adversity of the kind the Bears have endured the past 32 games will widen and expose them.
 
That relationship has been the subject of speculation virtually since its inception, when Pace hired Fox following the end of his tenure with the Denver Broncos. Much of it centered around who was in fact making the final decisions on personnel and who was the advisor, with some positing that Fox was in fact the final authority if only because age, seniority and experience. The primacy of Pace, however, has become clearer with each decision and traces or shadings of any fractiousness are conspicuously absent.
 
"His people skills are tremendous," Fox said Tuesday during the NFL owners meetings. "His evaluation skills are very good. I think humility is always a great quality in this business. And I've seen that. He's the same guy. He hasn't changed. Sometimes people get [elevated] positions, whatever position that may be and they change. It's just how some people react. And I haven't seen that."
 
Pace, who recently turned 40, is by his own description wanting buy-in on decisions. In the cases of free agency, which have involved the high-dollar commitments designed to have immediate payoff, he has identified pro targets and involved Fox in the decisions.
 
Looking for an immediate hit at linebacker to upgrade the entire defense about this time last year, Pace targeted Denver leading-tackler Danny Trevathan. Fox was his first consult.
 
"Just having drafted [Trevathan] and seeing him develop and get better and his work ethic and his preparation and study habits and how he is as a teammate in the locker room," Pace said of what insight Fox provided. "Those were all things that were taken into consideration."
 
This year, with the max need of improvement, the franchise-grade decision was to make a change at quarterback. Jay Cutler effectively made the decision on himself and he was out. Whether Mike Glennon is or is not an upgrade will play out this year, but Fox was involved in and endorsed the decision to go in a decidedly less-experienced direction.

[RELATED - No signs Bears are locked into drafting a QB in 2017]
 
Pace had attempted in the past to trade for Glennon, which Fox agreed with. Fox had familiarity with Glennon from his time coaching in Carolina.
 
"I was in North Carolina when [Glennon] was playing [at N.C. State], actually," Fox recalled. "I was exposed to two guys there. A good friend of mine was the head coach at NC State. Both Russell Wilson and Mike Glennon were coming through at that period in time, so I got exposed to them, watching games and kinda following them.
 
"And obviously evaluating both of them coming out, they were in different schools then. So I had a high opinion of them then. And then really [Glennon] was talked about a little bit before this year as a potential guy to get, and then this year, being free and without any kind of compensation, we dove in pretty good and feel good about it."
 
Most expectations are that the Bears will not repeat a three-win season, and that an improvement from the first two years keeps both Pace and Fox in their jobs. Key players (Trevathan, Eddie Goldman, Kyle Long, Kevin White) returning from injuries, free-agency upgrades on both sides of the ball and a draft class currently with two picks in the first 36 point to perhaps the kind of turnaround Fox has produced (in years two) at Carolina and Denver.
 
Fox did not dwell on what the roster was or wasn't when he arrived, or on how much of an overhaul Pace needed to do when he took over from Phil Emery and brought in Fox to replace Marc Trestman. But the reality was there.
 
"Going back to a lot of the changes, we've had a lot of change," Fox said. "I think we're better for it. Unfortunately, you can't walk around with your chest out about that because of our record the last two years. But I have total confidence and [Pace] has done an outstanding job and will continue to.
 
"I understand you have to win. And I finally feel like we're in striking distance." 

Five reasons Mitch Trubisky should start right now ... and five reasons he shouldn't

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Five reasons Mitch Trubisky should start right now ... and five reasons he shouldn't

After Mike Glennon had three first-half turnovers in the Bears' blowout loss Sunday in Tampa, Bears fans are more adament than ever that the team should turn to rookie Mitch Trubisky as its new starting quarterback. There are good arguments to be made as for why Trubisky should get the keys to the car right now, as well as for why it would be prudent to wait a while. Let's take a look at those arguments.

Five reasons Mitch Trubisky should start right now ...

1. He gives the Bears a better chance to win

If you’re going to have a quarterback who may be prone to turning the ball over, why not go with the one who’s shown he can make more plays? That’s probably the biggest point in Trubisky’s favor right now, given what we’ve seen from him during training camp and preseason games. His accuracy, arm strength and mobility will translate to the NFL level no matter who he’s playing with or against, and he showed progress in the pre-snap operation of the Bears' offense throughout training camp. — JJ

2. The future has to start sometime

The Bears were obviously planning for the future when they selected Trubisky with the No. 2 pick in the draft, and that future has to start eventually. The Bears might not be ready to compete this season, but if you want that window to open as soon as 2018, you’ve got to give Trubisky the best chance to succeed in 2018 and that might mean getting him some experience in 2017. Think how much more ready Trubisky could be by opening day next season if he has nearly a whole season already under his belt. If it looks like games in which Glennon plays are going to be losses anyway, why not let Trubisky gain some valuable experience while the team is losing? — Vinnie

3. He can cover for defensive/special teams mistakes better than Glennon

It's true what Fox said in that Glennon was not the only guy making mistakes out there against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. From Tarik Cohen's boneheaded muffed punt to the costly penalties by the defense, the Bears had plenty of problems on Sunday. But When those special teams and defensive mistakes were made, they were then compounded by Glennon's turnovers and inability to move the offense. Trubisky, should he play like fans believe he can, would theoretically take better care of the ball and sustain some drives, calming things down even following those bad plays in other phases. If the defense gets torched on a long drive and then Glennon goes three and out, that puts the defense in another bad position. If Trubisky follows that up with a long drive of his own, then the defense is much less likely to make the same mistakes again. — Vinnie

4. He can make the players around him better

As the NFL Combine began in Indianapolis in March, Fox talked about wanting a quarterback who can “raise all boats.” Trubisky flashed some of that boat-raising ability during the preseason, and elevating the play of guys like Kendall Wright, Deonte Thompson, Tarik Cohen, Jordan Howard and Adam Shaheen could quickly negate any concerns about the players around him. — JJ

5. He’ll give the Bears hope

If the Bears exit September 0-4 — meaning they lose to the Pittsburgh Steelers and Green Bay Packers — this season could feel D.O.A. by the time the Minnesota Vikings come to Soldier Field for Monday Night Football on Oct. 9. If Glennon isn’t performing well and the Bears are winless, making a change at quarterback could energize the team. While the locker room seems firmly behind Glennon right now, those players know who should be starting — and if they believe, at some point, that should be Trubisky, playing him could provide a boost. — JJ

... and five reasons Mitch Trubisky shouldn't start right now

1. He doesn’t give the Bears a better chance to win

Bears fans don’t want to hear this, but is there a chance Glennon really does give the Bears a better chance to win than Trubisky? John Fox keeps insisting that’s the case, even if it’s a hard thing to believe after Glennon’s miserable performance against the Bucs. But maybe Trubisky hasn’t yet mastered the offense. Maybe he’s not impressing Fox and his staff in practice. Maybe the success he had during the preseason was a result of the defensive competition he was going against. Fox believes Glennon gives his team the better chance to win, and as hard as that might be to believe, maybe he’s right. — Vinnie

2. The current roster would hurt his development

Look no further than what happened to Jared Goff last year with the Los Angeles Rams: Jeff Fisher, feeling pressure to save his job, inserted Goff into the starting lineup in the 10th game of the season. The Goff-led Rams lost the final seven games of 2016, with the former No. 1 overall pick throwing seven interceptions against five touchdowns. Goff himself struggled, of course, but he didn’t have much help, as former Rams and current Bears running back Benny Cunningham pointed out to CSNChicago.com in August. Having a quarterback flail away with a flawed support system can be a confidence-ruiner with long-term negative effects. — JJ

3. The next two opponents

While it's possible that any and all starting NFL defenses are better than the ones Trubisky faced during the preseason, it's definite that the Pittsburgh Steelers and Green Bay Packers will be difficult competition for the rookie. Why begin Trubisky's NFL career with two games where he's in an especially difficult position to succeed? Sure, one day, the hope is that Trubisky will be able to handle whatever an NFL defense throws at him. But to ask a guy whose last meaningful football came against North Carolina State to try and make crucial decisions against the Pittsburgh Steelers is somewhat questionable. — Vinnie

4. Are we sure Glennon is bad?

Fox caused a Twitter uproar when he said it’s “really hard to evaluate somebody” based on two games. For Glennon, that’s one game in which he executed the Bears’ offense the way the team wanted (Atlanta) and one in which he didn’t (Tampa Bay). Those are Glennon’s only two starts since the 2014 season, for what it’s worth. While there’s no sugarcoating what Glennon did in Tampa, if that game turns out to be an aberration and the rest of his season looks more like the Atlanta game, he’ll continue to be the Bears’ starting quarterback. Giving things time is risky in a short 16-game season, but the Bears aren't throwing away months of evaluation of Glennon because of a couple sub-optimal preseason games and one bad one in the regular season.  — JJ

5. It's too early to deviate from the plan

Pace and Fox might not be Chicago fans' favorite people right now, but they do know football and made a preseason plan based on what they thought was best for the franchise's present and future. And no matter how much fans might decry that plan at the moment, it's hard to imagine that 120 minutes of football is enough to blow that plan up completely. When the season began, their belief was that the team is best served by Glennon playing and Trubisky being on the sideline. That belief still existing is completely understandable considering how early it is in the season. And with Fox potentially seeing his job on the line as the season progresses, sticking with that plan might help the Bears stick with him. — Vinnie

Charles Tillman: FBI agent?

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USA TODAY

Charles Tillman: FBI agent?

Charles Tillman isn't wasting time on life after football.

The former Bears cornerback — one of the best defensive players in an illustrious franchise history — is reportedly training to be an FBI agent, according to the Chicago Tribune.

Tillman turns 37 in February and last played in the NFL in 2015 with the Carolina Panthers. His age is an issue, as the Tribune notes, FBI guidlines stipulate a candidate cannot be 37 at time of appointment, meaning Tillman had to act fast if he wanted to become a special agent.

Tillman studied criminal justice at the University of Louisiana-Lafayette. 

In his 12-year NFL career, Tillman appeared in 168 games, tallying 38 interceptions, 141 passes defensed and an incredible 44 forced fumbles. He jarred 10 balls loose in 2012 alone and earned his own wrestling move nickname for his ball-smacking prowess — the Peanut Punch.

Now Tillman apparently is taking his punching talents to Quantico, Virginia.