On the week leading up to St. Patrick’s Day, people far and wide look forward with tip-toe anticipation to a Saturday filled with hops, barley and a reason to have them both.
Blend that exhilarating experience with the NCAA tournament, the weekend and good weather and you, my friend, have got some memories coming that you’ll intend to engrave in the back of your brain – and leave them there – or at least try to.
While everyone else seemed to be gearing up for the one-day event they most likely won’t remember, the fans of a certain Chicago NFL team saw a smoke become fire. This time, not as an incessant SOS signal but as a signal that things are heating up in Halas Hall.
Early (and I mean early) Wednesday morning, Adam Schefter broke on Twitter that the Chicago Bears had agreed in principle to a contract with wide receiver Allen Robinson. Fans woke up to a cocktail of ESPN, Twitter and BleacherReport alerts and started their day with a little more enthusiasm as their confidence in the organization grew overnight.
Office conversations, group-chat messages and Twitter mentions alike all became endowed with fan pride as their team landed the big gun, and arguably the best receiver available on the open market. If that wasn’t enough, Bears general manager Ryan Pace wasn’t done, following that acquisition with a barrage of signings that all served more than one purpose.
It’s easy to look at new tight end Trey Burton or explosive receiver Taylor Gabriel and see that Pace wanted to give quarterback Mitch Trubisky some new weapons.
What gets easily overlooked is the collateral construction each free agent signing provides for the team overall.
Pace has proven that the Chicago Bears are here and very ready to compete now.
Chase Daniel and Tyler Bray are two of the most underrated offseason signings by any team. Daniel, with no “s” at the end, comes to the Bears with five of his nine NFL years spent underneath the great Saints quarterback Drew Brees.
While never getting the chance to show what he could do on the field, Daniel was trusted enough to run the starting offense on Brees’ off days. He’s adopted the future Hall-of-Famer’s study methods and processual habits and has every intention to teach them to a young “sponge” in Trubisky.
According to Reuben Frank of CSNPhilly.com, Daniel actually taught Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz said lessons the exact same during his time in Philly. But wait, it gets even better. Daniel has been in this exact offense or a variation of it for the other four years that he wasn’t with the Saints.
That means Trubisky isn’t just learning the hall of fame level nuances of NFL quarterback play, he’s learning the offense from someone who’s operated in it for four years and has familiarity with the head coach.
Third-string backup quarterback Bray still adds a similar element as another quarterback who’s spent multiple years in the offense with head coach Matt Nagy. When your backups know the offense already, you’re spending less time teaching and more time perfecting the other second-string players who will see the field at some point.
This helps the entire offense because now, during the downtime when a coach has time off or away from a player, the players can be close to each other and continue to hammer the intricacies of the offense.
Trubisky will have someone teaching him some part of being a quarterback everywhere that he turns.
Burton essentially gets a promotion and becomes the player he was backing up in Philadelphia, Eagles tight end Zach Ertz. Burton admitted to knowing 90 percent of the playbook already and it helped his decision to come to Chicago. Gabriel looked at Tyreek Hill in Kansas City’s offense and simply saw himself.
Much of the system is going to be plug-and-play and again, will help players think less and play more.
Pace didn’t neglect the defense either. Reuniting defensive coordinator Vic Fangio with a pass rusher he drafted in the 2013 draft looks to help a severely depleted group on the edge. Aaron Lynch could use a restart to his adolescent career after being a healthy scratch from the rotation in San Francisco.
However, one of his best years came as a rookie and Fangio was the defensive coordinator. On the contrary, both cornerbacks Kyle Fuller and Prince Amukamara were brought back to the Bears giving Fangio a complete secondary to return for the first time in his Bears tenure. While reviews on Amukamara were mixed, he’s a sticky, press-man cornerback and does not give up big plays and deserved a long-term contract.
Fuller, on the other hand, was seen as a necessity to a defense begging for the kind of cornerback performance he gave in 2017. The consistency in the secondary alone should generate more turnovers as now all four of the starters there will not be learning the defense but will already know it.
New kicker Cody Parkey is interesting and one of my favorite additions to the team. He has the “Pace Profile” written all over him as a young, ascending talent with proof that he could still improve.
Parkey made 91 percent of his field goals last year and has familiarity with special teams coach Chris Tabor. The most inconsistent position since the departure of Robbie Gould, Parkey signed a four-year deal worth almost four million dollars annually.
That’s starter money.
That’s “we’re not bringing in anyone to compete with you” money at the kicker position. Should he continue to kick the way he has last year, Chicago will be home for Parkey for far longer than four years.
Fans everywhere should be just as excited as they were to lose control of their motor skills on St. Patrick’s Day for this Bears team.
The rumors and whispers surrounding the organization up to this point proved not only to be a thick, dark smoke but were indicative of a raging proverbial fire, ready to spread and show the league that the years of frustration are coming to an end.
With the draft looming, Pace intends to fan the flame even more to ensure it’s not one that dies, but grows when the Windy City takes its collective sigh of relief.
A lot of the “ifs” are turning into “whens” around Halas Hall and if that fire becomes what Pace intends for it to be, those “whens” will become wins.