NFL

Chicago Bears: Nagy and Pace desperate for quarterback solution

By Sports Desk March 02, 2021

The Chicago Bears need a new quarterback.

One of the better all-round rosters in the NFL once again suffered frustration in 2020.

A second consecutive 8-8 season was enough to creep into the expanded playoffs, but a tame 21-9 Wild Card defeat to the New Orleans Saints soon followed.

Mitchell Trubisky started the season at QB, and later regained his place after being benched in place of trade arrival Nick Foles, who also underwhelmed.

Ultimately, despite a late flurry from Trubisky, neither QB could propel the Bears into contention in the NFC North, which was dominated by the Green Bay Packers. A meaningful postseason run never looked likely because of those limitations under center.

Head coach Matt Nagy and general manager Ryan Pace know their jobs likely hang in the balance based on how they fare in 2021, with their ability to find a solution at the game's most important position crucial to the Bears’ prospects of success next season.

Here we have looked at some of the best Stats Perform data from their 2020 season to determine whether taking that next step is possible.

Offense

Despite being a playoff team, only six teams had a worse yards per game total than the Bears on offense (331.4), while 23.3 points per game was better than just nine franchises.

The Bears’ rushing offense was 25th in the NFL (102.9 yards per game), while 228.4 net passing yards per game was good for the 22nd best mark and 5.62 yards per passing play had them ranked 26th.

Continuing the trend of bottom-half offensive statistics, Chicago averaged 27.4 yards in their big passing plays of 20+ yards – the worst in the NFL - and only seven teams produced fewer than their 42 in that category.

Any struggles in the passing game cannot really be put on the two quarterbacks’ supporting cast. Bears receivers only dropped 12 of 414 catchable passes this season, an impressive rate second only to the Arizona Cardinals (nine from 296) in the league.

Fifth-round draft pick Darnell Mooney looked a steal as he registered 61 catches in 631 yards in support of Allen Robinson, who passed 100 catches (102) for the first time in his NFL career.

But generally this was an offense lacking dynamism despite the past success of Nagy offenses.

Aside from their passing problems, more could have been expected from the rushing game and a once dominant offensive line.

Running back David Montgomery had the fourth-most rushing attempts in the NFL (247) but just the 14th-most rushes of 10+ yards (24) and the 46th highest yards per carry (4.33) average.

Montgomery had a steady but unspectacular 1.8 yards after first contact, 34th in the league among rushers who had at least 50 attempts.

He also had 11 broken tackles, breaking a tackle on 4.4 per cent of plays (the 15th highest percentage in the league), though he did add 54 catches through the air. 

As a team, the 40 rushes of 10+ yards was only 25th in the league, so not much was working on this side of the ball.

Defense

The Bears still had a strong defense, though the unit fell short of the peak play it has produced in years gone by.

They ranked 11th in yardage (344.9), 14th in points allowed (23.1) and 12th in scoring efficiency, allowing 68 scoring drives out of 179.

Opponents tallied 5.41 yards per play (11th), while 18 takeaways put them in a tie for 15th, so they were in the top half of the league in all key metrics.

A sack total of 35, though, was 17th in the NFL.

Khalil Mack posted below 10 sacks (9.0) and 15 QB hits (13) for a second straight year, having not done so in either category in four years between 2015 and 2018.

But that is a reflection of the Bears front seven looking like it needs an infusion of youth, rather than an alarming drop off from Mack. Robert Quinn (2.0 sacks, 6 QB hits) had a quiet year rushing the passer opposite Mack.

The secondary, led by Kyle Fuller, Eddie Jackson and Tashaun Gipson, allowed 10 big play TDs (tied for 14th) and 59 total big plays (16th).

Offseason

Trubisky is out of contract and a return has not been ruled out, while Foles has two years left. But if either of those players are starting at QB then it is hard to see the Bears challenging.

Potential trade options Matthew Stafford, Jared Goff and Carson Wentz have already found new teams. With the Bears picking in the bottom half of the draft and the cupboard relatively bare in terms of remaining free agent options, Pace is going to have to pull something special out of the bag at QB.

Beyond that critical position, number one wide receiver Robinson is set to hit free agency and is among the NFL's most interesting names to watch after racking up 200 catches and 2,397 receiving yards over the past two years.

The Bears have the franchise tag at their disposal, so could get extra time to work out a long-term deal or consider a tag-and-trade if Robinson expresses a desire to depart.

Chicago enter the offseason approximately $2million over the estimated cap ($185m), putting them around the middle of the league.

They will likely have some room for manoeuvre without being able to embark on a significant free agency splurge.

Having not picked in the first round since 2018, several areas of the roster are in need of attention in addition to the drama at QB. Despite the stellar play of Mack, trading for him has not produced the desired results.

With those issues to overcome at a time when Aaron Rodgers' play is putting divisional rivals Green Bay up there with the NFC's best, the Bears find themselves in an undesirable position.

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