Chicago Bears

View from the Moon: Happy Chico landing

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View from the Moon: Happy Chico landing

Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2011
3:26 PM

By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com

Ron Riveras sometimes-discouraging search for a job as a head coach finally is coming to a happy ending as the former Bears linebacker succeeds John Fox as head coach of the Carolina Panthers.

Rivera was let go by Lovie Smith in 2006 after a successful stint as defensive coordinator and he had interviewed over the intervening years for top jobs in Dallas, Arizona and elsewhere.

Rivera worked as San Diego Chargers linebackers coach in 2007 and moved up to defensive coordinator in 2008, answering any questions about whether a 4-3 linebacker and coach could work with a 3-4 scheme.

The kind of coach Chico is and will be is pretty much out there on the record. Everywhere hes played and coached, hes won. Period.

But theres always been one snapshot of Chico that has stayed with me.

Back in 1993 when Dave Wannstedt was coming in as Bears coach, changes were obviously coming. One day out in the back of old Halas Hall, sometime in late June when nobody was around after a conditioning session, Chico was there late, snapping balls to a ball boy standing 13 yards away.

What are you doing? I asked Ron.

Learning a new trade, he said, laughing. New regime, you gotta do what you gotta do.

Chico never became a long snapper. What he did do, however, was do what he had to do. He worked in as an analyst for WGN, then he worked as an unpaid quality control coach for the Bears, just to get experience around coaching.

The Eagles took a chance on him in 1999 and the late Jim Johnson hired him to coach linebackers. Philly went to three straight NFC Championship games and eventually Rivera landed on Lovie Smiths staff in 2004 as coordinator.

It really wasnt Smiths first choice; that was Rod Marinelli, whom the Tampa Bay Buccaneers wouldnt free up. Pro Personnel chief Bobby DePaul knew Chico from Philadelphia, which helped get Rivera in the door and he ran with the opportunity.

Hes still running with it. Good for a good guy who was always willing to do what he gotta do.

New kids

Teams are best served when they dont look past the game in front of them but the Bears front office doesnt have that luxury.

An early analysis is that the Bears will address, among other positions, defensive tackle in the coming offseason. Accordingly they signed Tank Tyler to a reservefutures contract Monday, picking up a veteran with 19 starts and 47 NFL games between 2007, when he was a third-round pick of the Kansas City Chiefs.

Also signed was wide receiver Onrea Jones, an undrafted free agent out of Hampton College who made the Houston Texans practice squad in 2007 and has been with San Diego, Green Bay, Indianapolis Colts, Washington Redskins and Arizona Cardinals

John "Moon" Mullin is CSNChicago.com's Bears Insider, and appears regularly on Bears Postgame Live and Chicago Tribune Live. Follow Moon on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bears information.

Kendall Wright draws a line between Marcus Mariota and Mitch Trubisky: They 'can do it all'

Kendall Wright draws a line between Marcus Mariota and Mitch Trubisky: They 'can do it all'

Kendall Wright saw two years ago what the transition for a quarterback, picked second overall and coming from a college spread offense, can look like. Marcus Mariota made that move smoothly and now looks poised to join the ranks of the best quarterbacks in the NFL this year with the Tennessee Titans. 

Can Mitch Trubisky make a similarly successful transition? Wright, so far, has liked what he’s seen.

“His overall progression from OTAs to training camp to now, his overall everything he’s done in every area has gotten better,” Wright said. “The work he puts in, it helps him.” 

It’s not a perfect comparison, of course, given the offense Mariota so effectively operated at Oregon didn't resemble the look and feel of the one Trubisky ran at North Carolina. Mariota started far more games than Trubisky, too. They’re two different quarterbacks with different skillsets. And Mariota was given the opportunity to be a Week 1 starter from the moment he was drafted, while Trubisky — for now — remains behind Mike Glennon. 

“Marcus was in a different position where he came in and he was the quarterback,” Wright said. “I think it’s different. Once Mitch starts playing, whenever he starts playing, he’ll start progressing a lot more because he’ll actually be out there in game-like situations.”

But consider why the Titans were so confident Mariota could start immediately and make a successful transition to the NFL from that flashy Oregon offense:

“I don’t think the system he had in Oregon, I don’t think that held him back when he came into the league,” Wright said. “I think he was good at making his progressions, decisive. He’s like one of those players, it doesn’t matter what system he’s in, you put him out there and he’s a guy that’s a difference-maker.”

After espousing Trubisky’s accuracy back in April, Bears general manager Ryan Pace quickly pointed out this trait: “His ability to process and see the whole field jumps out right away. 

“… All these top quarterbacks, it’s just their ability to quickly process defenses, process coverage, find open targets, not panic under pressure, deliver accurate throws when there’s a noisy pocket – things are collapsing – those guys all have those traits. And Mitch has those traits, Drew (Brees) has those traits and those are things we value.”

The point being: No matter the system, both Mariota and Trubisky have good football intelligence, and are more than what Arizona Cardinals coach Bruce Arians once bemoaned about college spread quarterbacks. 

“They hold up a card on the sideline and he kicks his foot and throws the ball,” Arians said in 2015. “That ain’t playing quarterback.”

Trubisky, of course, still has to improve with his pre-snaps reads, calling out protections, identifying coverages, learning the playbook, etc. But he seems to have the football intelligence to make those strides and marry them with his impressive physical skillset. 

And as was the case with Mariota, Wright doesn’t see a reason why Trubisky can’t succeed in the NFL. 

“(Trubisky) can do it all too,” Wright said. “He’s still learning, he’s still getting better, he’s never complacent. He has the ability to get better and he’s willing to get better. He’s a young guy that listens. He’s just a baller. You put him out there and he makes plays.” 

With return to Tennessee looming, football is fun again for Kendall Wright

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USA Today Sports Images

With return to Tennessee looming, football is fun again for Kendall Wright

Sunday will mark Kendall Wright’s first trip back to Nashville since he not-so-amicably split with the Tennessee Titans after the 2016 season. 

Wright has said he doesn’t want to talk about his time in Tennessee, where injuries and clashes with coaches led to a steady decline in targets and production after a standout 2013 season (139 targets, 94 receptions, 1,079 yards). But it’s easy to compare how he feels practicing with the Bears to how he felt toward the end of his days with the Titans. 

“A fresh start is good,” Wright said. “Football is fun again. 

“If you don’t have fun playing the game, what the use of you playing? And I didn’t really have too much fun the past few years. But when you’re out here playing and doing what you love to do, it’s fun. So you just gotta keep the game fun.”

Wright was a little more forceful earlier this year. 

“What motivates me the most is I probably was the best receiver on the Titans roster last year and I was playing, like, 10 plays a game,” Wright said during OTAs in June. 

But while this weekend’s game against the Titans could seem to be an opportunity for revenge, Wright is more approaching it for what it is — another preseason game to continue to improve with the rest of the first team offense. 

Wright caught a touchdown from  Glennon Saturday night in Arizona (he also was the target on Glennon’s interception, though that looked to be more on the quarterback than the receiver). And he seems to be clearly ahead of Victor Cruz to be the team’s No. 1 slot receiver — Cruz wasn’t targeted against Arizona, while Wright received three targets. 

If the Glennon-led first-team offense is going to have success in the regular season, it needs improvements from every unit — quarterback, running back, wide receiver, tight end and offensive line — based on what we’ve seen during the preseason. Perhaps a motivated, fun-having Wright, playing for the same offensive coordinator under which he had his best season, can be a part of that. 

“The game of football is supposed to be fun,” Wright said. “Don’t take the fun out of it. You just gotta go out there and have fun and make plays. When you’re making plays, it’s even more fun.”