Mitch Trubisky

Bears Seek To Interview McDaniels, Shurmur

After the firing of head coach John Fox Monday morning, the Bears were expected to look for an offensive-minded coach to take over the role in 2018. Josh McDaniels (vertical)

They began the process Monday night, requesting interviews with Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and Vikings offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur, NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport reports (Twitter link).

McDaniels is the longtime Patriots offensive coordinator who has called the shots for seven top-five scoring offenses during his tenure with the team. He also has head-coaching experience, leading the Broncos for parts of two seasons in 2009-10. McDaniels is already being sought by a bevy of teams and will certainly be a splash for the Bears.

The Bears have plenty of familiarity with Shurmur, who has been with division rival Minnesota for each of the last two seasons. Under the veteran coach’s direction, Minnesota locked up the No. 2 seed in the postseason while fielding a top-10 scoring offense. Even more impressive is that the unit accomplished the feat without its starting quarterback Sam Bradford or rookie sensation running Dalvin Cook, who were both lost early in the season to injuries. Like McDaniels, Shurmur has already garnered interest from a number of teams.

Either coach would certainly benefit rookie quarterback Mitch Trubisky, who general manager Ryan Pace said will have a say in the team’s head-coaching decision. McDaniels has worked with Tom Brady for much of his career and also helped groom Jimmy Garropolo in New England. Shurmur’s offense has also helped veteran signal-caller Case Keenum produce a breakout year in 2017.

Should they decide against an offensive mind, the Bears might look in house at defensive coordinator Vic Fangio. Whoever receives the job is likely to sign a four-year deal to match the extension Pace received earlier in the days.

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Bears Extend GM Ryan Pace Through 2021

On the heels of firing head coach John Fox this morning, the Bears have decided to extend general manager Ryan Pace through the 2021 campaign, team president and CEO Ted Phillips told reporters (Twitter link). Ryan Pace

Pace’s original deal was set to expire at the end of the 2019 campaign. With the two-year extension, Pace will likely be on the same contract length as the head coach he will bring in.

Pace joined the Bears in 2015 following a 14-year run with the Saints as a scout and director of player personnel. At 37 years old at the time of his hiring, the Texas native was the youngest general manager in the NFL.

Phillips commented on bring back Pace, saying, “He’s earned the opportunity to see his plan to fruition.”

Under Pace’s direction, the Bears traded up one spot in the 2016 NFL Draft to nab North Carolina product Mitch Trubisky. Before pulling the trigger on that deal, he made an interesting decision to sign Mike Glennon to a three-year $45 MM deal. Glennon started just four games in 2017 before he was replaced by the rookie.

During his press conference, Pace hinted that Trubisky would be involved in the head-coaching interview process. “That’s definitely something we’re going to look into,” he said. The Bears are expected to hire an offensive-minded coach but Pace says the team has not submitted any requests to interview current coaches.

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Bears Fire Head Coach John Fox

After three losing seasons, the Bears have fired head coach John Fox, NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport reports (Twitter link). John Fox (vertical)

Rapoport also noted (Twitter link) that the team will look at offensive-minded coaches to work with first-round pick Mitch Trubisky, while defensive coordinator Vic Fangio will also be a candidate.

The Bears finished in last place in the NFC North in each of Fox’s three seasons with the team. In 2016, Chicago finished with a 3-13 record, its worst finish since 1969 (1-13). His .292 winning percentage is the second worst in franchise history behind Abe Gibron‘s .274 mark in the early 1970s.

Fox joined the Bears in 2015 following a productive four-year run in Denver, in which he led the Broncos to a 46-18 mark and advanced to the Super Bowl in his third season. Before joining Denver, Fox spent nine seasons as head coach in Carolina, where he led the team to its first Super Bowl appearance in just his second season on the job.

The Bears are expected to begin interviewing candidates this week and the coaching search is said to include names from the college ranks. Since the departure of Lovie Smith in 2012, the Bears have not had a winning campaign and will now be on their third coach in six seasons.

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NFC North Notes: Vikings, Nelson, Trubisky

Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer was hired to his post mostly because of his mastery in calling an NFL defense. Zimmer was the Bengals defensive coordinator for six seasons before making the jump to the head coaching ranks in 2014. Although, he’s still been calling Minnesota’s defensive plays for the past four years. However, that is something that may change come 2018, reports Andrew Krammer of the Star Tribune.

Krammer passes along that Zimmer almost gave up his playing calling duties this past year to defensive coordinator George Edwards. He ultimately decided against the move largely because of his success at calling defensive schemes for the past 18 years. Zimmer did express that Edwards is the main orchestrator of the team’s defensive game plan for the most part anyway.

“George does everything,” Zimmer said. “He helps with the game plan. He runs a lot of the meetings, the defensive meetings. Him and I really sit down and talk about all the different things that are going on. He studies the game just like he’s calling the game. So he’ll come in and talk to me about second down-and-whatever. ‘They’re doing this,’ or, ‘they’re doing that.’ Really, he does everything other than call the game on Sunday.”

Edwards used to call plays for the Bills back in 2011, but has taken a backseat in that regard in order to work as a member of Zimmer’s staff. This dynamic could be a subplot as we approach next year’s training camp because Zimmer appears to be letting go of the idea that he has to be the one making the final defensive decisions on Sundays.

“It’s a lot of work when you sit down and do it,” Zimmer said of calling plays. “I’ve done it for a long time. And because I have confidence in George, as well. I think maybe just the fact that, um, you know, I don’t know – I guess I’m just getting older.”

Here’s more stories from around the NFC North:

  • In other Vikings news, wide receiver Jarius Wright is reported to have restructured his deal at the beginning of the season, which dropped his base salary from $2.5MM to $1.05MM, according to Ben Goessling of the Star Tribune (Twitter link). Goessling notes that Wright has earned weekly roster bonuses of about $93k in order to get back his original salary figure. With that in mind, he’ll have earned back the rest of his money by the time Week 17 kicks off.
  • Packers longtime receiver Jordy Nelson appears to be stuck in limbo with the organization the drafted him back in 2008, opines Rob Demosvky of ESPN.com. Nelson, who’ll turn 33 over the summer has seen a major drop off in production in his 10th year in the NFL. Demovsky suggests that the veteran wideout may hinder the team’s ability to re-sign the more productive and younger Davante Adams, who’ll be a free agent this offseason. Nelson will collect about $10MM in salary and bonuses in 2018, which will make him more difficult to cut or trade in the next few months. Randall Cobb is signed long-term as well, but is five years Nelson’s junior, which makes him a better piece to have moving forward. Not being able to sign Adams would be a major blow for a Packers team that saw what life is like without Aaron Rodgers this year. This puts the Packers in a very difficult position entering a crucial offseason with the team having missed the playoffs for the first time since 2008.
  • Mitch Trubisky has had his moments during his rookie campaign, but has largely faced a lot of difficulty in his first season in the NFL. It’s expected that the Bears coaching staff and roster will have a lot of turnover this offseason, but the young signal caller expects to take a “big jump” in 2018, reports Colleen Kane of the Chicago Tribune“I’m always motivated to get better,” Trubisky said. “I expect to make a big jump from Year 1 to Year 2. The experience I got this year, I’m definitely going to carry that with me into the offseason and expect to have a lot of momentum and just a full head of steam going into next year.” While he experienced a number of challenges in 2017, Trubisky emphasized “growth and development” in his reflection of his first foray into professional football. Expect the Bears to put an emphasis on surrounding Trubisky with more talent this offseason. He’s had to work with patchwork receiving groups all year long, which certainly does not bode well for his outlook moving forward. The former first round pick comes into Week 17 completing under 60% of his passes, while throwing just as many touchdowns as interceptions at seven apiece.

 

Browns Rumors: Jackson, Haslam, Haden

Hue Jackson did not want to confirm a report that he and ousted executive VP Sashi Brown weren’t on speaking terms, but Mary Kay Cabot of cleveland.com reports the two had clashed on numerous occasions — and certain players were at the root of this friction. Carson Wentz, Marvin Jones, A.J. McCarron and Jimmy Garoppolo induced disagreements between the Browns’ power structure, as previously reported, but Cabot adds Jackson and Brown were at odds about the likes of Joe Haden, Demario Davis and Jeremy Maclin.

Jackson wanted the Browns to sign Maclin, Cabot reports. They were loosely connected to the UFA wideout, but the Ravens, Bills and Eagles were well ahead of them. Jackson presumably wanted Haden to remain in Cleveland, but the Browns released him. Davis was also shipped back to the Jets and has enjoyed a productive season. Cabot also notes Jackson and Gregg Williams received pushback from some members of the front office in the Myles Garrett-vs.-Mitch Trubisky argument that transpired in April, with the coaches’ side winning out and Garrett being the pick.

Here’s the latest on a busy day in Cleveland.

  • Jimmy Haslam made this move Thursday in order to not fall behind on the GM carousel, Tony Grossi of ESPNCleveland.com reports, adding the owner saw the Giants taking an early lead by landing their former GM Ernie Accorsi to lead a search to replace Jerry Reese. Ownership was “adamant” not to fall behind in this pursuit, per Grossi. Matt Miller of Bleacher Report said during a radio appearance on 92.3 The Fan in Cleveland the early Brown firing was to get an early start on a John Dorsey push (Twitter link). The Browns do not have to wait until season’s end to interview Dorsey like they would an active exec, and Miller reports many believe he will be Cleveland’s next GM. Dorsey steered the Chiefs to three playoff berths in four seasons after taking over following a 2-14 season.
  • Haslam was tinkering with the idea to make in-season changes for the past couple of weeks, Albert Breer of SI.com reports, noting the owner was considering bringing in a football voice to complement Brown rather than replace him. But after research, the owner decided to fire Brown and begin a search for his replacement.
  • Both Breer and Grossi confirm the Thursday-afternoon report the Browns are going after Dorsey. Grossi reports Dorsey has been “endorsed heartily” by at least one of the football execs with whom Haslam’s already consulted. Breer notes a Dorsey/Jackson arrangement makes more sense than Brown/Jackson, with the ex-Chiefs GM’s scouting background aligning more with Jackson’s admitted old-school approach to football development. That, and not necessarily his impressive work in Kansas City, made him a key name to watch in Cleveland, Breer notes.
  • A Dorsey hire could well mean a more prominent role for ex-Colts GM Ryan Grigson, Grossi writes. Grigson’s currently working as a senior personnel exec, with an emphasis on scouting. Dorsey and Grigson’s friendship and mutual respect would stand to lead to a better title for the since-fired Indianapolis decision-maker.
  • The Browns’ decision to part with Brown and not Jackson could lead to an increased interest in Josh Rosen. Miller notes. Jackson likes the UCLA quarterback as a prospect, with a source informing the draft-based reporter Rosen is “Jackson’s guy.” Rosen seems more certain to declare for the 2018 draft than Sam Darnold at this juncture.

NFC Notes: 49ers, Bears, Lions, Saints

The 49ers considered Mitch Trubisky with the No. 2 pick in the 2017 NFL Draft before deciding to trade the pick to the Bears, who ended up selecting the North Carolina product, coach Kyle Shanahan told NBC Sports’ Matt Maiocco.

“I really liked Mitchell. He was really the only guy I flew out and saw. I spent some time with Mitchell and got to work him out. I spent a few hours watching tape with him,” Shanahan said.

“But that wasn’t something we were going to do with our pick. We felt like we had to go a lot of other different directions. Our goal was to add picks and get as many players as possible, and we are happy with what we did.”

Instead of taking the quarterback, San Francisco traded back one spot with Chicago and picked up the team’s first-, third- and fourth-round picks in 2017, and the team’s third-round pick in 2018. Interesting to note, that third-round pick was traded to the Saints, who tabbed breakout running back and Offensive Rookie of the Year candidate Alvin Kamara.

Shanahan will get to see Trubisky up close on Sunday when the Niners travel to take on the Bears.

Here’s more from around the NFC:

  • Sticking with the Bears and 49ers theme; Shanahan also said he was interested in hiring Chicago defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, Patrick Finley of the Chicago Sun-Times writes. A well-respected and longtime NFL coach, Fangio could be a candidate to replace John Fox in Chicago, should the coach be let go in the coming weeks. “I think Vic definitely deserves to be [a head coach]. He’s one of the coaches I’ve respected the most, just from going against him,” Shanahan said.
  • Though Fangio is an option, the Bears are likely to invest in an offensive coach to groom Trubisky, writes Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune. Leading the list, of course, is Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniel, who always seems to be atop everyone’s wish list.
  • Lions head coach Jim Caldwell should be safe if the team finishes 10-6, even if the team misses the playoffs writes ESPN’s Michael Rothstein. He added that he expects Caldwell will return as head coach as of right now, but that could change in the coming weeks. Caldwell has managed two winning campaigns in his first three seasons in Detroit, or the same amount the Lions produced in the 14 years prior to his arrival.
  • The Saints will not use their remaining IR-to-return spot, writes Joel A. Erickson of the New Orleans Advocate. The hope was that tackle Zach Strief would be an option to return, but that shelved after he underwent to repair his ACL and MCL two weeks ago. No other players on IR have a time table that would allow them to return.

NFC North Notes: Bears, Hundley, Lions

Although John Fox is known for his conservative tendencies, the Bears coach wanted to pull the trigger on starting the Mitch Trubisky era earlier than the team ended up going through with the quarterback switch. Fox raved about the No. 2 overall pick’s upside and was open to the team replacing Mike Glennon earlier than Week 5, Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports reports. However, ownership and management, due to Trubisky’s inexperience and the investment the team recently made in Glennon, halted the switch before finally agreeing to turn to the rookie after Glennon’s rough outing in Green Bay. Trubisky picked up his first career win as a starter Sunday, with the Bears beating the Ravens in overtime.

Here’s more from the NFC North, shifting to the division’s highest-profile quarterback situation.

  • Mike McCarthy doesn’t sound ready to explore outside solutions to replace Aaron Rodgers after the perennial MVP candidate broke his collarbone Sunday. The Packers coach said postgame (via Jason Wilde of ESPNWisconsin.com, on Twitter) Brett Hundley is his starting quarterback and Joe Callahan, who hasn’t played in a regular-season game yet, is the backup. A 2015 fifth-round pick, Hundley entered Sunday with 11 career pass attempts. The UCLA product threw three interceptions in the Packers’ loss to the Vikings. Colin Kaepernick, Robert Griffin III and Matt McGloin are among the UFA options. Wisconsin native Tony Romo has stood out as an analyst in his first season, and the 37-year-old recently retired passer reportedly would only consider a return to the NFL if the Cowboys needed him. However, this would be quite the special circumstance, given the Packers’ recent track record.
  • The Lions continue to wait for left tackle Taylor Decker to return to action, and Greg Robinson has yet to prove a capable replacement. But it’s likely the former No. 2 overall pick will continue to function as the Lions’ starter on the left edge due to his experience advantage over Brian Mihalik and Emmett Cleary, Michael Rothstein of ESPN.com writes. However, Rothstein notes Decker might be ready to play by the time the Lions return to action in Week 8. A late-October return gels with the last update that emerged on Decker.
  • Teddy Bridgewater received good news on multiple fronts. Eligible to come off the PUP list on Monday, the Vikings quarterback is said to be ready to go. Bridgewater’s contract situation also looks to be breaking in a favorable fashion after previously residing in a murky place.

Browns Eyed Trubisky, Mahomes, 2018 QBs Over Watson?

For the second straight year, the current Browns front office is set to observe the team face a rookie quarterback upon whom it passed in that year’s draft. After Carson Wentz and Dak Prescott faced the Browns last season, Deshaun Watson will match up against the team he was often linked to in the pre-draft process.

But the Browns evidently had a multi-layered thought process behind moving past Watson, with Mary Kay Cabot of cleveland.com reporting the team had Mitch Trubisky, Patrick Mahomes and Watson as their top three quarterbacks and likely in that order.

The Browns also bypassed Watson with their No. 12 pick in order to pick up a future 2018 first-rounder — their second high-2018 draft choice acquired from the Texans this spring — because of what’s being viewed as a superior class of quarterbacks likely set to be draft-eligible, Cabot reports. With two first-round picks and three second-rounders next year, the Browns would like to be “well-positioned” to draft a quarterback in the event DeShone Kizer is not their long-term solution. Considering Kizer was just benched for what Cabot notes will likely be for at least three games through the team’s Week 9 bye, that clock is ticking.

Cleveland may well have taken Mahomes, who had a private workout with the Browns before visiting the team in April, had the Chiefs not traded up to No. 10 and selected him, Cabot notes. Kansas City’s brass obviously shared the Mahomes-over-Watson line of thinking. The longtime Browns reporter adds some in the front office did want to draft Trubisky No. 1 overall, leading to “heated debates” before Hue Jackson and Gregg Williams‘ preferred player, Myles Garrett, went to Cleveland at No. 1 overall.

Jackson declined to say this week if he advocated for Watson, who has accounted for 10 touchdowns the past two weeks. The second-year coach also declined to speculate whether coaching Watson in January would have endeared him more to the team.

The Browns not viewing Wentz or Watson as the kind of game-changer they coveted is being scrutinized now that Kizer has been benched for 2016 practice squad signee Kevin Hogan, who has outperformed the second-round pick when summoned this season.

Viewing this demotion as a “temporary timeout,” Jackson anticipates returning to Kizer this season. The Browns are planning to obtain more evidence he’s the future to determine if the Notre Dame product is worthy of bypassing a signal-caller with all five of their 2018 first- or second-round picks.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Bears To Start QB Mitch Trubisky

The Bears will start rookie quarterback Mitch Trubisky over veteran Mike Glennon in Week 5, according to Adam Schefter and Dan Graziano of ESPN.com (Twitter link).Mitch Trubisky (Vertical)

Signed to a three-year, $45MM deal during the offseason, Glennon has done nothing to prove that he’s a capable NFL starter through four weeks. Chicago has gone 1-3 in his four starts, and Glennon ranks 25th in touchdown percentage, 28th in interception percentage, 29th in adjusted net yards per attempt, and 29th in quarterback rating. The 27-year-old Glennon will now be relegated to backup duty while Mark Sanchez presumably will stick at No. 3 on the depth chart.

The Bears paid a hefty price to acquire Trubisky in the 2017 draft, as they shipped the two third-round picks and a fourth-rounder to the 49ers for the right to move up from No. 3 to No. 2 overall. The North Carolina product was strong during the preseason, but Chicago still went with Glennon at the season’s outset. But Glennon’s performance, the Bears’ team record, and — speculatively — head coach John Fox‘s job status have now led to Trubisky moving under center.

Trubisky won’t face an easy test in his first NFL start, as he’ll go up against the division rival Vikings (although he’ll have the benefit of a home game). While Minnesota’s defensive unit hasn’t played well statistically, head coach Mike Zimmer fields a strong pass rush and a top-notch secondary that could fluster a rookie signal-caller. Luckily for the Bears, they’ll have a 11-day layoff between games, so Trubisky should have time to get first-team reps in advance of Week 5.

Glennon, for his part, can easily be released after the 2017 season, as Chicago would only incur $4.5MM in dead money by cutting him (versus $11.5MM in cap savings). The Bears could potentially look to trade Glennon, although it’s difficult to see any club offering anything of value — or even being willing to take on his few remaining guarantees — given his production this year. Glennon has an offset on his $2.5MM guarantee in 2018, tweets Mike Garafolo of NFL.com, so the Bears could hypothetically get out from under that total.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

North Notes: Burfict, Bears, Packers, Decker

Vontaze Burfict‘s Bengals contract calls for a $2MM roster bonus if he’s on the team by March 31 of next year, Jim Owczarski of the Cincinnati Enquirer reports. The Bengals protected themselves heavily with the Burfict extension, one that could pay out $33.234MM through 2020, since the deal comes with just $3.3MM guaranteed. Speaking publicly about the extension for the first time, Burfict didn’t elaborate much about his decision to bypass free agency for a largely non-guaranteed deal. Although, he did say he appreciates the Bengals’ support in agreeing to take him on long-term given his suspension history. “I hope so,” Burfict said (via Owczarski) of the feeling of support. “I give my blood, sweat and tears out on the field. It’s vice versa. I appreciate everything they do for me and my family and like I said, let’s go get a win on Sunday. Now we’re in for four more years, so we’re past it now. So now obviously just win some games.”

The Bengals reinstated Burfict on Thursday.

Here’s the latest from the North divisions on a night when their most storied rivalry takes center stage.

  • The BearsTarik Cohen pursuit began when Ryan Pace‘s top southeastern scout declared the then-North Carolina A&T running back was his favorite player to watch, over all of the SEC prospects he observed, and the Chicago GM soon became enamored as well, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com reports (video link). The Bears selected several small-school talents this year, with second-round tight end Adam Shaheen being the first, but Cohen — a fourth-rounder — has played an impact role from the start.
  • While Cohen will receive his first chance to display the elusiveness that enticed the Bears to a national audience, the Packers will be down several key players. Both starting tackles — David Bakhtiari and Bryan Bulaga — are out, and Mike Daniels will miss the Week 4 tilt as well. The Packers are already down would-be backup options in Don Barclay, Jason Spriggs and Kyle Murphy — each on IR — so Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com tweets a four-guard lineup could be on tap. Justin McCray, who started at tackle for Bakhtiari in Week 2, and fellow rookie Adam Pankey join second-year player Lucas Patrick in the mix to protect Aaron Rodgers on Thursday. Each of those players entered the league as a UDFA. The Packers played without both starting tackles against the Falcons, with Murphy and McCray receiving the replacement starts.
  • The Bears aren’t judging Mike Glennon in their impending quarterback swap but rather are monitoring Mitch Trubisky to determine when the rookie will be ready to take over, Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune writes. Glennon has struggled during his first three starts, and Biggs categorizes the season’s plan — once based around Trubisky redshirting as a rookie — as a week-to-week arrangement.
  • Ka’Deem Carey‘s Bears injury settlement was worth $273,529, Biggs reports. The Bears placed the backup running back on IR just before the season, and the settlement came shortly after.
  • Not known for particularly expansive pressers, Jim Caldwell succinctly assessed Taylor Decker‘s status. The fourth-year Lions coach said Decker is “progressing towards” a midseason return, Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press notes. The left tackle was given a four- to six-month timetable upon a labrum tear in June. Midseason would fall in that range. Greg Robinson currently mans the left edge for the Lions.
  • Tests done on Danny Shelton‘s injured calf don’t look to reveal a serious malady, Rapoport tweets. The Browns defensive tackle injured the calf in practice Wednesday. He has not missed a game in his three-year career.