What the Bears can learn from NFL wild-card weekend

What the Bears can learn from NFL wild-card weekend

The NFL is nothing if not a copycat league, with successful innovations or stratagems invariably being replicated by others. So with the opening playoff weekend of the playoffs finished, did situations unfold in the four games that can provide useful object lessons for a Bears team that may not yet have talent to pull of certain things but certainly can learn from them?

Absolutely. Even allowing for a degree of oversimplification, consider:

Playoff Lesson 1: Teams without their No. 1 quarterbacks lost by double digits.

The Miami Dolphins may have earned new coach Adam Gase serious consideration for AFC coach of the year by reaching the playoffs. But forced to start Matt Moore instead of Ryan Tannehill (No. 12 passer rating, No. 6 completion percentage), the Dolphins were beaten 30-12 by the Steelers. Moore lost 2 fumbles and was intercepted once.

The Oakland Raiders dropped down from MVP candidate Derek Carr to rookie Connor Cook, who threw 3 interceptions on his way to a 30.0 passer rating in his first NFL start.

Bears Lesson 1: Don’t get down to your fourth quarterback.

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Playoff Lesson 2: Every winning team out-rushed their opponent and ran the football at least 25 times.

The Green Bay Packers ran just 25 times in their rout of the New York Giants, which was more than the Giants did, and also, any team with Aaron Rodgers as its quarterback is by definition an outlier anyway.

Bears Lesson 2: Run the football 25 times.

Or at least start with that as a minimum. Obviously game and scoreboard situations can unravel any plan, but the Bears ran the ball 25 or more times in seven of their 16 games. They won three of those games; in one (Jacksonville) the defense gave up 17 fourth-quarter points and a 13-0 lead; in one (Giants) the quarterback (Jay Cutler) threw a late interception on a potential winning drive; and in two (Washington, Minnesota II) the Bears turned the ball over a combined 10 times (see Lesson 1).

Playoff Lesson 3: 10 of the 12 playoff teams drafted their No. 1 quarterback.

Houston acquired their quarterback (Brock Osweiler) in free agency. Kansas City traded for theirs (Alex Smith). All the rest drafted the quarterback who eventually led them into this season’s playoffs.

Of those 10 drafted quarterbacks, only Oakland’s Derek Carr (2014 draft) and Dallas’ Dak Prescott (2016) have been with their teams less than five years. Of those 10 quarterbacks, more than half were drafted when their teams already had a starter in place (e.g., Tom Brady behind Drew Bledsoe, New England; Aaron Rodgers behind Brett Favre, Green Bay).

How Bears are using veteran videos to school rookies on NFL way

How Bears are using veteran videos to school rookies on NFL way

This week marks the end of the beginning, or the beginning of the end, depending on how you want to look at organized team activities (OTA’s), the third stage of the NFL offseason culminating in the mandatory minicamp June 13-15. Teams are allowed a total of 10 OTA sessions, giving coaches a final look at players before the break until training camp convenes in late July.

The sessions also mark the first time that the players, who were finishing college semesters this time a year ago, will be introduced to the REAL NFL, the professionals already part of the August fraternity to which the draft picks and undrafted free agents aspire.

Well, maybe it's not the true first time some of the rookies will “meet” the pros.

During the brief rookie minicamp, offensive line coach Jeremiah Washburn did as all the coaches do: show his position group the film of them going through their drills. In the interest of accelerating the young players’ learning curve, however, Washburn went a step further.

[MORE: Bears QB coach Dave Ragone doesn't mind his type of turnover]

He followed the rookie film with the same drills being run by the pros, meaning the rookies could see how Kyle Long, Charles Leno, Josh Sitton, Cody Whitehair and other vets did those same drills.

The difference was startling – as Washburn intended. The kids were being shown a new meaning for what they might have thought was “maximum effort.”

“That’s one thing coach ‘Wash and coach Ben [Wilkerson] have really been pushing to us — just making sure we’re doing everything to maximum effort, and always finishing near the ball,” said rookie lineman Jordan Morgan. “I feel like that’s stuff you hear at every level of football, but more so now, especially, it being the NFL.”

Rules limit the amount of work allowed vs. opposition, meaning how much Morgan might learn by going against a Leonard Floyd, Eddie Goldman or Pernell McPhee. But learning the every-play intensity at the NFL level may be difficult to comprehend for players who’ve obviously seen it done this hard before.

“The way the veteran guys run [the drills] is the way you’re supposed to do it,” Washburn said. “There’s a style of play, a work ethic you have to put into this. You can’t just get away with things because the guy in front of you is as good or better than you are.

“Scheme-wise, that has not been a problem, the way it has been with some rookies I’ve had in the past. It’s the day-to-day intensity and focus you have to put in for 16 weeks. That is a big adjustment.”

The NFL is replete with examples of college players arriving with elite physical abilities but not taking effort and learning intensity to the professional level. The Bears used the No. 8 overall pick of the 2001 draft on wide receiver David Terrell, who’d dominated on raw ability at the college level but never developed beyond a mid-level wideout.

Washburn saw something similar while coaching offensive line for the Detroit Lions.

“I had a rookie guard in Detroit who ate Hot Pockets and played video games at night,” Washburn recalled. “His rookie year he got by, played OK, but then had a big slump his sophomore year and said, ‘I gotta change my ways.’

“He absolutely changed everything and now he’s an absolute pro.”

If Bears rookies do anything video with their nights, Washburn intends for those videos to be the ways the pros do it

Why Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh will be 'pulling hard' for the Bears this season

Why Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh will be 'pulling hard' for the Bears this season

Jim Harbaugh is a former Chicago Bear, but that's not the main reason why he'll be rooting for the Monsters of the Midway this fall.

Harbaugh, the current Michigan head coach and former head coach of the San Francisco 49ers, used to coach alongside current Bears assistants Vic Fangio and Ed Donatell in the Bay Area.

Fangio, the Bears' defensive coordiantor, and Donatell, the Bears' defensive backs coach, held those same positions for all four of Harbaugh's seasons leading the Niners.

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Harbaugh voiced his support for his former assistants Monday, speaking with CSN's Pat Boyle at the Golf.Give.Gala golf outing in St. Charles.

"I know (the Bears) are going to have a heck of a defense," Harbaugh said. "Because I know they've got Vic Fangio and Ed Donatell and a tremendous coaching staff. So I'll be pulling hard for them."

Harbaugh also was asked about new Bears quarterback Mike Glennon, and you can hear his comments in the video above, as well as comments from Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer on another new Bears quarterback, Mitch Trubisky.