Chicago Bears: First Quarter Report Card

5 of 5

Mandatory Credit: Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

Coaching: B

The Bears jettisoned the incompetent and ineffective Marc Trestman and brought in John Fox, who recruited a pair of top-notch leaders in Defensive Coordinator Vic Fangio and Offensive Coordinator Adam Gase. Ownership and fans expected results, even with the understanding that this year would probably be rough.

And, despite the 1-3 record, I would argue that the coaching staff has done a commendable job, and the team has played better than expected as a result.

Mandatory Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

Foxy has reunited a team that last year was rife with internal dissension and lack of effort on the field. I don’t think this team is going to end the season with a good record, but I fully expect they will remain competitive in just about every game and will not quit in any games, as they did against Green Bay, New Orleans, New England and others last year under Trestman. With an inferior roster, a team that somehow stays in most games and doesn’t quit or rollover for any other team is a complement to the work being done by the head coach and the coordinators.

Under Gase’s leadership, the offense has returned to a run-based scheme and is on pace for 24 turnovers, which is five fewer than they had in 2014. There’s still room for improvement there, but relying on the running game has clearly made a difference in terms of turnovers and third-down conversions, in which the team is ranked ninth in the league. The team put up respectable showings in three of its four games, even though it was without top wide receiver Alshon Jeffery.

On the down side, Gase was unable to coax any kind of meaningful work out of Clausen in the second half against Arizona and in the Seattle game. That was a difficult situation, asking your backup quarterback to start against what is still probably the best defense in the league, but the offensive showing –146 total yards, including only 48 through the air – is inexcusable.

Gase also needs to feature the running game more by getting Jacquizz Rodgers and Jeremy Langford involved. Through four games, Forte has 84 carries; that’s great. He’s one of the best backs in the league; he should be carrying the ball about 20 times a game.

But with a turnover-prone quarterback, the running game needs to be amped up, and the best way to do that without overworking Forte is by using Rodgers and Langford, the two reserve backs. Through four games, Rodgers has 12 carries and Langford has eight. Getting them more involved, and leaning on an offensive line that, even though it’s beat up has done a good job in run blocking, will only further ease the pressure on Cutler and presumably reduce the number of throws required of him per game.

Mandatory Credit: Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports

On the defensive side, Vic Fangio has cobbled a mismatched and out-of-position collection of defenders into a cohesive, middle-of-the-pack unit. If they can stay average for the rest of the season, that would be a huge feather in Fangio’s cap.

To be sure, the Bears’ defense has plenty of work to do. They struggled mightily against Green Bay and Arizona – two of the better offenses in the league – but looked better against Seattle and Oakland. The pass rush needs to improve and they need to generate more turnovers.

But Fangio was handed a cupboard barren of players needed to run his 3-4 scheme, and has managed to turn those ingredients into a defense that may at least be able to keep the Bears in most of their games.

Mandatory Credit: Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports

He’s done a great job helping Eddie Goldman and Adrian Amos develop – both have shown early signs of being long-term starters for the defense – and has found a way to boost the pass rush in each of the past two games after it was weak against Green Bay. He’s also gotten more out of Jarvis Jenkins than the ex-Redskins end ever showed in Washington, and Ego Ferguson and Willie Sutton have both flashed promise as 3-4 defensive ends in Fangio’s scheme.

Give Fangio another year or two, and this defense will be up and running and as effective as Bears fans remember it being from 2010-2012.

I initially gave the coaching staff a B-plus. Then I got to this point – the special teams – and I went back up to the top and deleted the “plus.” The special teams, except for Robbie Gould, have been a disaster. We already covered the specifics on the previous page, so I won’t delve into it again here. But whatever special teams coordinator Jeff Rodgers has tried up to this point isn’t working, and it needs to be fixed. Touchdowns, long returns, penalties … just about anything that can go wrong on a return or coverage play is guaranteed to go wrong for these Bears.

On the whole, there’s reason for optimism in Chicago about the Bears, even if it’s more about the young players and the talent of the coaching staff. It may take a year or two, but Foxy and Company will have the Bears back in the running for the division title if they keep going on the same track the coaching staff has demonstrated in the first four games.

Next: Pernell McPhee Leading Improved Bears Defense

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