The Rick Dennison model: Rushing attack with low interceptions

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The Rick Dennison model: Rushing attack with low interceptions

Another name that has emerged as a Bears head coaching candidate is Houston Texans offensive coordinator Rick Dennison. Many are quick to link time spent with Jay Cutler in Denver as the primary reason Dennison could be tabbed as Lovie Smith's successor, but there is more to it than that.
To be an NFL head coach, you should have knowledge of both sides of the ball. Its one reason Smith was relieved of his duties as head coach. Offensive failures cannot continue, according to Phil Emery, and I dont think Bears fans would appreciate any drop-off in defensive production, either.
Dennison is an interesting candidate because he played linebacker for the Broncos from 1982-1990, with his then teammate, Gary Kubiak. But his coaching career has focused mostly on the offensive side of the ball since 1995. Dennison did serve as the Denver's special teams coach from 1997-2000, when the Broncos won back-to-back Super Bowls. It gives Dennison knowledge of roster development both offensively and defensively, but its been primarily an offensive focus -- which is normally not the case with former players who coach to crossover.
Related: Why Bruce Arians could be the right call
Regardless, Dennison has had tremendous success as an offensive coordinator in Denver, and since joining Houston in 2010. His mission statement of running the football, combined with gameplans to deliver them has been more than effective. In 2011, Houston set a franchise record with 2,448 rushing yards (153 yards per game) and 546 rushing attempts, second most in the NFL. In a pass-happy league, Dennison accomplished this goal with three different quarterbacks last year, who threw a franchise low nine interceptions while making the playoffs. Dennisons encore in 2012 was a ranking of fourth in the NFL in rushing (140.3 ypg) while the Texans now travel to New England this weekend for a Divisional Round matchup with the Patriots.
Dennisons philosophy is run and play-action pass, which is directly influenced from his coaching tree. Kubiak and Dennison are direct disciples of their mentor, former Denver Broncos and current Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan. It seems, however, the teacher is still schooling his pupils, as Shanahans Redskins led the NFL this year in rushing, averaging more than 160 yards per game.
Dennison is an ideal fit for the Bears because he will implement the same offense Cutler has been most successful running in the NFL. Keep in mind, Cutler was drafted in Denver to run this specific offense. It suits his skills well. Also keep in mind, Dennison and Cutler were in charge of the NFLs second-ranked offense during their time together in Denver.
More: Dennison has the "Cutler connection"
The only thing I struggle with is whether a grind-it-out, time-of-possession offense can win against fast-break Green Bay in the division. The Texans did not break through to the playoffs until Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning was injured and could not play. As a matter of fact, Houston had never beaten Indianapolis since the franchise's inception until last year. Indianapolis owned the Texans in the AFC South Division, much like many feel Green Bay owns the Bears in the NFC North. For good measure, Green Bay hammered the Texans this year, 42-24, in a game that was more a rout than the score indicated. Aaron Rodgers threw for six touchdown passes in the win.
Cutler has been introduced to more four- and five-wide receiver offenses during his time with the Bears, which Dennison may incorporate but that is not his base. Playing catch-up is a problem with this style of offense, which may not be in the Bears cards unless Rodgers gets hurt like Manning did.

Want to be in on Bears QB deliberations? 'Look at the film'

Want to be in on Bears QB deliberations? 'Look at the film'

Back in 1992 the Dallas Cowboys were in draft deliberations around the No. 17 spot of the first round, looking for upgrades on defense. A scout made a suggestion that they target Ohio State defensive end Alonzo Spellman, one of the most physically imposing (6-4, 280 pounds) players and best athletes in that draft.
 
Coach Jimmy Johnson responded, "Tell me about the production."
 
Came back the answer: Three years at OSU, nine total sacks.
 
"Oh, please!" Johnson scoffed, calling in cornerback Kevin Smith and leaving Spellman to the Bears at No. 22. Spellman had several respectable seasons but never more than 8.5 sacks in nine NFL seasons.
 
As investment advisers counsel, past performance is not necessarily a predictor of future results. But past performance can be, and an axiom in NFL personnel rooms is, look at the film.
 
CSNChicago.com is doing that as the NFL Scouting Combine approaches (Feb. 29) along with free agency and the start of the league year and its trading window. It becomes an increasingly relevant exercise to look at the intricacies behind some of the key players and positions the Bears will be addressing through the upcoming weeks. CSNChicago.com previously looked at the need to evaluate quarterbacks from the intangible standpoints first, then the measurables.
 
Using Jay Cutler as an object lesson for how immense physical skills have questionable correlations to immense NFL performance, a look at one aspect of quarterback "film" warrants more attention than the measurables that command a disproportionate share of attention and scrutiny.
 
Ball security.
 
It has been Cutler's single biggest issue through his eight Bears seasons, was a reason why coaches once wanted to stay with Josh McCown instead of returning to Cutler following a Cutler injury absence, and why Brian Hoyer played his way into prominence in the discussion of 2017 Bears plans. Adam Gase went from offensive coordinator to hottest head-coach prospect in no small measure because he managed Cutler into better ball security.

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But the point here is less Cutler – expected to be traded or released within the near future – than the level of ball security in the available options beyond Hoyer.
 
So, look at the film:
 
The widespread drooling over a possible trade with New England for Jimmy Garoppolo. The best thing in Garoppolo's favor is that he has been a Patriots backup to Tom Brady. Garoppolo, drawing distant comparisons to a Matt Flynn, Matt Cassel and other past experience-lite quarterback options, has thrown 94 NFL passes without an interception, which is impressive until matched against Hoyer's 200 last season without an interception, for comparison purposes.
 
But evaluating Garoppolo against the coming chief draft competition – DeShone Kizer, Mitch Trubisky, Deshaun Watson – suggests comparing apples to apples, meaning college ball security, since that's all the kids have to this point.
 
Garoppolo vaulted up draft boards (to New England's second round) on the strength of an Eastern Illinois senior season with 53 touchdown passes vs. nine interceptions, against chiefly FCS opposition. But in his first three seasons Garoppolo threw for 65 touchdowns and was intercepted 42 times.
 
Kizer? In his two Notre Dame seasons, 47 touchdowns, 19 interceptions.
 
Trubisky? 30 touchdowns last season, six interceptions. Including his two years as a North Carolina backup, 41 touchdowns, 10 interceptions.
 
Watson? 90 touchdowns, 32 interceptions in three Clemson seasons, the last two as Tigers starter.
 
Observations:
 
Garoppolo put in four college seasons, but has a little of the Trubisky/Flynn/Cassel, one-year-wonder feel. 
 
Kizer and Watson have more starting seasons, but the Watson intangible of getting his team to two national-championship games speaks to another level of "intangible."
 
GM Ryan Pace will incorporate heavy input from coach John Fox and coordinator Dowell Loggains. Coaches love ball security. Garoppolo? Watson? Trubisky? Kizer?
 
Look at the film.

BearsTalk Podcast: The risk and reward for Bears in trading for Jimmy Garoppolo

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USA TODAY

BearsTalk Podcast: The risk and reward for Bears in trading for Jimmy Garoppolo

In this edition of the BearsTalk podcast, CSN's Chris Boden, Sun-Times Bears beat writer Patrick Finley, and CSNChicago.com's Scott Krinch discuss the Bears' approach to the two-week window opening to franchise-tag Alshon Jeffery again, the risk/reward in trading for Jimmy Garoppolo or drafting a QB (and how high to draft one), Scott's 2.0 mock draft, plus the workers' compensation controversy the team found itself in last week and the club's decision to raise ticket prices.

Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below: