Goldilocks' Three Friends

The Calculus of Justin Fields, Andy Dalton, and Nick Foles

Justin Fields entered Bears training camp wedged between Andy Dalton and Nick Foles on the Bears' quarterback depth chart.

Talk about being the meat in a mediocrity sandwich. How on earth did Matt Nagy manage to parallel park Fields between Dalton and Foles? That's not a spot on the depth chart, it's a speck. Foles' DVOA in 2020 was -16.3%, Dalton's -16.7%. Nagy really threw his rookie quarterback into a tight window.

Not to go off on a tangent, but the Bears' quarterback situation reminds me of a calculus exercise I used to teach: estimating the value of a derivative at, say, x = 3 by finding the slope of the secant line between 2.99999 and 3.00001. The quality difference between Dalton and Foles appears infinitesimal, like a limit approaching zero. Nagy and Ryan Pace claim to have found it and ordered Fields to squeeze into it, at least temporarily.

Nagy and Pace have every reason to make Fields' development appear to be as complex as differential calculus. If they hope to keep their jobs, they must make it look like they're the only ones qualified to handle it.

Pace built the Bears quarterback depth chart out of two terrible decisions and one stroke of almost outrageous fortune. Now he and Nagy must create the illusion that it was all part of some master plan. They're like cartoon cats balancing the fine china on their tails and whiskers after overturning the dinner table while chasing the mouse. Inserting Fields as an immediate de facto starter, like Trevor Lawrence for the Jaguars or Zach Wilson with the Jets would A) be admitting that the acquisitions of both veterans (particularly Dalton, signed in March and heralded as the starter) were short-sighted blunders, and B) create early expectations for Fields that could get a coach and general manager fired if the rookie stumbles out of the gate. Declaring Fields the third-stringer, on the other hand, would strain both Pace and Nagy's credibility to the breaking point.

Nagy and Pace aren't like Urban Meyer or Robert Saleh and Joe Douglas. Meyer is a Designated Franchise Savior with carte blanche, a long leash, and a mandate to rebuild. Saleh also has low early expectations and plenty of benefit of the doubt. Douglas has been cast as both Adam Gase's adversary and the "real brains" behind the Super Bowl Eagles and can coast on his not-entirely-earned reputation for another year. Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch have also earned lots of leeway when handling the Trey Lance/Jimmy Garoppolo situation, especially since Lance is more of a mystery box than a quarterback right now. And the Patriots are still the Patriots: Bill Belichick can handle a quarterback competition any way he chooses.

Pace, however, spent six years demonstrating that he's a blind squirrel who sometimes stumbles into an acorn. Nagy's work with Mitch Trubisky didn't earn him any quarterback guru cred. Fields is less of a boon to them than the warhead they must delicately diffuse: snip the wrong wire, and both of their careers go "boom." With so little margin for error, look for Nagy and Pace to retreat into the final bunker for every overmatched NFL insider: this stuff is really complicated and you outsiders have no idea what you are talking about.

Case in point: last week's camp report from Adam Hoge of NBC Sports Chicago. "Fields held onto the ball too long and forced the ball into coverage too many times," according to Hoge, but Nagy addressed those concerns in the next day's presser. "Yesterday was kind of a unique day of practice in the fact that it's all carded and we're telling you, 'You've gotta throw here, you've gotta throw there.' So it's not really fair that way."

So Fields looked bad because Nagy was ordering him to make bad decisions. Sounds like a great way to foster development, amiright? In fairness, lots of coaches use variations on the Kobayashi Maru to prepare their offenses for FUBAR situations. Few make sure the media pool knows they are doing so, however. Nagy is protecting Fields by pulling back the veil, and I would love more transparency from coaches about what fans and media are seeing in training camp. But this strategic deployment of information is also a spin-control maneuver: don't believe what you are seeing and hearing in camp; there are forces at work that mere outsiders cannot comprehend.

As mentioned earlier, Foles had an incrementally higher DVOA than Dalton in 2020, though it's better to think of their 2020 performances as "even." Foles played with a far weaker supporting cast than Dalton did last year and should know the Bears system. Dalton has had one decent year in the last four; Foles, of course, helped a team win a Super Bowl in that span. Foles would be the marginally more qualified starter in a logical universe. So why is Dalton the starter to open training camp? Because Pace paid Dalton $10 million and the Bears PR department spent March and April marketing him as the solution to the team's quarterback problem. And why is Foles the third-stringer? To reassure fans that Fields is not Dwayne Haskins, who could not fight his way past Case Keenum and Colt McCoy as a rookie in Washington.

Fields could (and probably should) win the starting job in training camp. It's far more likely that Nagy will send Dalton out to start the first few games so Fields can save the day and look great by comparison. It's a tried-and-true Real Football Genius maneuver. If Nagy times it right, Dalton can stumble all the way to the Week 9 bye, getting hammered by the Buccaneers and Steelers in his final starts. Fields flies to the rescue, beats the Lions on Thanksgiving, creates lots of late-season buzz, and reaches the end of the season before opponents really get a book on him. Nagy and Pace can then sell themselves to the McCaskeys as the only ones equipped to help Fields and the Bears take the next step, something they would not be able to do if Fields is the one having the six-sack/three-turnover/high ankle sprain performance against a Steelers defense that has figured out everything he can do.

Fields' actual readiness is a factor in all of this. So is the reading on Dalton's odometer: perhaps he still has a bit more to offer than he showed last year, when injuries and a serious COVID bout slowed him. But those are secondary variables. When forecasting how the Bears quarterback controversy will sort itself out, the primary input is management's need to control expectations and create plausible face-saving escape routes so they don't lose their jobs at the first sign of rookie lumps or a journeyman geezer collapse.

The Bears, like many teams with bad executives and beleaguered coaches before them, will use CYA reasoning to choose their quarterback. Unless Fields walks on water or trips over his shoelaces every time he takes the field, scrutinizing his training camp performances or preseason appearances or Nagy's press-conference mutterings would just be missing the point.

For wagering types: I'm seeing a -500 moneyline on Dalton starting on opening day for the Bears; my CYA theory confirms that this is a proper line and a bad bet. Fields at +225 is tastier for Ohio State fans and folks who somehow still believe in meritocracy.

Oh, and Foles is at +2500 to start the season for the Bears. You gotta admit that those are Nick Foles' kind of odds.

The Skeptic's Guide to the Start of Camp

Having spent 1,000 words being cynical about the Bears, it's time to be (mostly) cynical about the other 31 teams as training camp heats up.

NFC East

Dallas Cowboys: There will be more posing and posturing on HBO's Hard Knocks than during New York's Fashion Week with both Jerry Jones and Mike McCarthy preening for the cameras. McCarthy is so eager to prove that he doesn't spend workdays with cucumber slices over his eyes that he'll demand that HBO film a staged sequence of him building a barn by hand to store his "analytics" in.

Dak Prescott suffered what is being described as a minor shoulder injury about 45 seconds into his first practice. Call it the Football Outsiders Almanac Sleeper Favorite Curse.

Washington Football Team: With the arrival of Ryan Fitzpatrick, Washington's rebranding is complete: they're no longer a despicable, soulless, socially irresponsible corporation, but a quirky hipster sportsball co-op! It's now OK to like them and their rugged-yet-dreary style of play in the same way that you enjoy a regional "microbrew" that is actually owned by Das Bilgewater and Unionbuster Detergent Manufacturer and Brewery of Golden, Colorado.

Philadelphia Eagles: Blowing up your coaching staff and declaring cap bankruptcy to escape a bad quarterback contract while retaining Fletcher Cox/Zach Ertz/Brandon Graham/Brandon Brooks types and adding mid-tier veterans is a little like burning down the Bluth Banana Stand when there's still money hidden in the walls.

New York Giants: So much for Kelvin Benjamin's Comeback Player of the Year Award campaign: the wide-receiver-turned-portly-wide-receiver-pretending-to-be-a-tight-end got into an animated kerfuffle with Joe Judge and Dave Gettleman on the first day of camp and was quickly released. Zack Rosenblatt of NJ.com got Benjamin's side of the story. Read it if you want to discover what Wednesday's Aaron Rodgers Manifesto would have sounded like if Rodgers wasn't any good.

NFC North

Green Bay Packers: Look, the important thing is that Aaron Rodgers is happy, and that means we can all be happy.

Minnesota Vikings: The Vikings, watching the Packers for the last six months:

Sickos Meme

Now that Rodgers is back in Green Bay, the Vikings are forced to revert to their usual slogan: "At Least We Have Team Chemistry!"

Chicago Bears: One more note as we watch Nagy and Pace play three-quarterback monte: We project the Bears defense to rank 10th in DVOA this year. Their defense ranked 10th in 2019 and eighth in 2020. If a team hopes to win using the bad offense/top-10 defense paradigm, it helps to do more than barely qualify on the defensive side.

Detroit Lions: The best argument to be made in support of Dan Campbell is that anyone who acts that much like Coach Toasterhead self-parody must be using it as cover for some brilliant and progressive roster- and culture-building philosophy. Experience has taught me that coaches who try as hard as Campbell does to sound like Bill Parcells are doing so because that's the only thing they will ever have in common with Bill Parcells.

That said, our win projection for the Lions (7.2) absolutely smashes the house over-under (4.5 as of July 30). Campbell mixes just enough Harvey Dent with Two-Face during his press conferences to make me think a 7-10 season is entirely possible.

NFC South

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Tom Brady keeps covering the spread as a heavy underdog against Father Time, so it makes sense for the Bucs to keep his supporting cast together for one more season, no matter the long-term price tag. I just can't wait until 2023 or so, when Brady is retired (???), the Buccaneers' salary-cap ledger is a disaster, and the boat parade(s) are a fading memory, when fans start saying things like "what the hell was Jason Licht thinking when he paid all these guys?" That's what happened in Philly this offseason.

New Orleans Saints: This year's version of the 2020 Patriots: a veteran team with a strong defense and a distinguished coach who has no clue whatsoever how to replace his legendary quarterback but knows that if he keeps scowling, we'll all assume that he does.

Taysom Hill took all of the first-team reps on the first day of camp. Those expecting Jameis Winston to win the starting job are still looking for the first sign that he will get a fair chance.

Carolina Panthers: Welcome to Year 2 of Matt Rhule coasting on: A) his reputation; B) fun-to-diagram GIFs of intricate offensive plays that netted 12 yards in 23-16 losses to mediocre opponents; and C) the fact that no one pays attention to the Panthers when they stink.

If Urban Meyer or Kliff Kingsbury traded for Sam Darnold to be his starter, we'd be roasting them until the meat fell off their bones. But Rhule is media-friendly, so we give the guy who once almost won a Boca Raton Bowl a little more benefit of the doubt.

Atlanta Falcons: This is what it looks like when the Cult of the Veteran Quarterback drinks the funky Kool-Aid.

NFC West

Seattle Seahawks: A Seahawks team like any other, only more so. From a national media standpoint, the Seahawks are in an attention trough: no splashy acquisitions, minimal quarterback drama by 2021 standards, an established high level of play that's resistant to rising/falling storylines. Maybe that will work in their favor. Maybe Russell Wilson will get sacked five times in another playoff loss. Both things could happen.

Los Angeles Rams: In an NFL where teams are eager to unload (or be unloaded by) disgruntled/disappointing franchise quarterbacks, trading Jared Goff for Matthew Stafford was a masterstroke. It kept the Rams from becoming the Eagles (who are spending at least one year dead for cap purposes) or the Falcons (pretending to still enjoy vacationing at the timeshare because there are 36 payments remaining).

At the same time, it's remarkable how many folks became "longtime" Stafford stans the moment that tastemaker Sean McVay coveted him. Goff-to-Stafford sure looks like a hyper-expensive 5% upgrade for a team that's at least as close to cap-and-roster Armageddon as it is to the Super Bowl.

San Francisco 49ers: The core of a Super Bowl team is returning from injury. Trey Lance provides a viable alternative to Jimmy Garoppolo. And Kyle Shanahan has proven that he's one of the league's most brilliant and flexible game-planners. But the 49ers may have slightly overpaid linebacker Fred Warner two weeks ago, so they will go 5-12 the next three years as penance and then be relegated to the XFL. Am I doing analytics right?

Arizona Cardinals: I'm seeing a +1200 moneyline on Kliff Kingsbury becoming the first coach fired in 2021. I find it ghoulish to wager on someone losing their job, even if that someone only got that job through old boy privilege/executive-caliber stubblebeard, doesn't appear capable of handling it, and will land on his feet as the emperor of some Conference USA program three days after being fired. But if I weren't squeamish about such matters…

AFC East

Buffalo Bills: They have everything they need to win the Super Bowl except antibodies.

New England Patriots: Year 1 of the Patriots/Brady divorce found Bill Belichick in a filthy undershirt eating a can of baked beans at his kitchen sink while muttering about how it wasn't his fault. Year 2 finds him maxing out the credit cards and trying to make his new main squeeze into a much-younger carbon copy of his ex. In both cases, results will be non-catastrophic but largely pathetic.

Miami Dolphins: The Dolphins really worked hard to temper expectations this offseason. They nearly made the playoffs in 2020, debuted Tua Tagovailoa, and entered the offseason gushing with cap space and draft capital. Then it was like "Woah, woah, woah—slow down, big shooter. Let's trade down from the third overall pick, draft the second-best receiver from Alabama, avoid all the big names in free agency, and signal as much low-key ambivalence as possible about our quarterback of the future."

Xavien Howard's trade demand just casts another shadow on what should be a sunny start to training camp: a team on the verge of contention needs to find some way (more money, a player-for-player swap, lots and lots of sweet talk at the bare minimum) to resolve that sort of situation.

Most of the Dolphins' offseason moves are defensible to laudable in isolation. Taken together, it looks like they made a C-plus offseason out of A-plus-plus resources. It's as if they are so comfortable with two decades of fringe wild-card contention that they just decided to stay there.

It's worth noting that Dolphins beat writers spent the weekend singing the praises of Tua and his receivers. Dolphins beat writers have been over-selling the Dolphins at the start of training camp since at least the Chad Henne era.

New York Jets: Zach Wilson only missed the first few days of training camp due to a completely unnecessary contract dispute. Take it away, Bob Seger!

It might not sound like much
But it'll mean a lot you'll see
Every hour you survive will come to be
A little victory.

AFC North

Baltimore Ravens: Despite our glittery 11ish-win projection, I fear that Lamar Jackson is due for the mediocre-to-ordinary season which "proves" both he and the Ravens offense are not viable and must be scrapped for all eternity. Meanwhile, Matthew Stafford has had about eight mediocre-to-ordinary seasons and is being hailed as a potential franchise savior at age 33.

Pittsburgh Steelers: This year's version of the 2020 Washington Football Team: outstanding defense, rugby offense with no forward passing or blocking.

Cleveland Browns: The anti-Seahawks: a new contender that appears to be trending upward and has gobs of storylines, making them a sleeper darling for the second time in three years.

The new Nick Chubb contract extension appears short and affordable enough to soothe the worries of the Moneyball evangelicals (who think anyone who pays a running back is also a Flat Earther) while meeting the needs of a real football team, as opposed to a football thought experiment. I like that the rebooted Browns are still analytics-driven but keep finding ways to steer slightly south of orthodox analytics doctrine. It's almost as if better/further research results in more nuanced findings, especially within an ever-changing ecosystem of team tactics, salary cap strictures, and so forth. Keep being unpredictable, Browns: the cognitive dissonance is good for our industry.

Cincinnati Bengals: Zac Taylor is Kliff Kingsbury with less sex appeal. Joe Burrow could be a rising star but could also be Marcus Mariota with less mobility, and the Bengals may have broken him the moment he removed him from the packaging. The Bengals could have a high ceiling, but there's little question about their floor.

AFC South

Tennessee Titans: A team built like it wants to hang another "Playoff Also-Ran" banner from the rafters.

I plan to provide breathless updates of the battle between undrafted free agent kickers Tucker McCann and Blake Haubeil throughout the preseason, because I enjoy kicker battles, particularly ones that appear hopeless. So far, things aren't going well. Football Outsiders research warns us to take any field goal results with a grain of salt, but missing 37- and 40-yarders in practice cannot be interpreted as a positive sign.

Indianapolis Colts: Alas, Carson Wentz broke before I could even begin to make wisecracks about his fragility. Now the Colts must discover how Wentz overcomes the adversity of: A) an injury; B) minimal reps in the weeks to come; and C) reading positive press clippings about Brett Hundley, Jacob Eason, and any other possible challengers.

This Philly guy can tell you how it's gonna go. But it may be necessary for the Colts and their fans to find out for themselves.

Jacksonville Jaguars: The party line here at FO is that the Jaguars will enjoy a modest 2021 bump due to Trevor Lawrence, a soft schedule, some other new faces, and the novelty of Urban Meyer's system. But gosh, Meyer sure is tearing through plot (quirky drafting! NFLPA wrist-slaps! TIM TEBOW!) like he was only greenlit for six episodes. So yeah, look for "Is Urban Meyer Coach of the Year?" headlines in mid-October but "Disgruntled Meyer Eyeing UCLA Job" headlines by mid-December, with the smarter money on the latter.

Houston Texans: Say your brother-in-law made a series of silly, disastrous trades, then left your fantasy league after a bitter separation from your sister. So you handed his team to your neighbor, who claimed to know a lot about football but spent all his time trying to lure your friends and family into his quasi-religious pyramid scheme. So you handed the team to your nephew, who knows the game but has such a toxic personal life that half your league unfriended him on Facebook in self-defense. So finally you set the team to autodraft, and a computer filled out the roster with the sort of mediocre veterans who cling to the bottom of fantasy cheat sheets. That team is now the Houston Texans.

AFC West

Kansas City Chiefs: We project a 22% chance that the Chiefs end up with a losing record in Football Outsiders Almanac. If the Chiefs do backslide, it won't be because the rebuilt offensive line collapses, the defense falls apart, or Patrick Mahomes is "figured out." It will be because the Chiefs morph into Andy Reid's late-era Eagles, who won lots of games on sheer brilliance but sometimes glitched out and forgot how to play football for weeks at a time.

Reid is a Hall of Fame-caliber coach who sometimes forgets to change the oil and rotate the tires while turbocharging the engine. This probably isn't the year it catches up to him, but there's a 1-in-5 chance that it could be.

Denver Broncos: The roster looks strong enough to win if they can just get adequate game management from either the journeyman veteran they acquired or their scuffling prospect they are giving a final chance to. This segment was brought to you by the years 2016 through 2019.

Las Vegas Raiders: If Jon Gruden ever gives up coaching football, he could be a world champion in fortress defense-style video gaming.

Gruden has gone through three losing seasons but has only sacrificed one coordinator. That means he can still execute the "bench Derek Carr" and "futz with play-calling duties" maneuvers before Mark Davis can even think of firing him. He can also still play the "blame COVID" card from the 2020 expansion pack for another year, plus the "adjusting to new city" buff from the Jeff Fisher mod Gruden came bundled with. And of course, there's the risky "blame Mike Mayock" scenario as a last resort.

There's also a chance that Raiders actually finally reach the playoffs. But with a tough schedule out of the gate (Ravens-Steelers-Dolphins), they will be hard pressed to replicate their hot start/hard stop 2019 and 2020 campaigns.

Long story short, Gruden would be appalled by every element of this segment if he somehow managed to decipher it. But even if the Raiders collapse again, he'll respawn with all of his equipment and (of course) gold.

Los Angeles Chargers: As best as I can tell, the Chargers only exist to generate Justin Herbert prop bets.

Herbert's yardage over-under at my preferred legal sportsbook is 4450.5; I'm leaning over on that. Herbert is getting +2000 for MVP (a homer bet for a team with no homers) but +3300 for Offensive Player of the Year, a much better bet for a guy likely to throw for a zillion yards for a .500-ish team.

Other than Herbert, the Chargers are a placeholder team with a rookie coach and a roster trapped somewhere well south of contending but just north of rebuilding.

And Finally

Look for Walkthrough twice per week on Mondays and Thursdays throughout August! I will be putting my unique spin on camp news, analyzing preseason games, keeping tabs on quarterback and kicker controversies, and having fun with prop bets. I might even do some actual statistical research! So keep checking back throughout the summer, not just for Walkthrough but for all the analysis and insight you've come to expect from the Football Outsiders crew.

Comments

61 comments, Last at 10 Aug 2021, 4:07pm

1 Correction (or maybe not)

Pace, however, spent six years demonstrating that he's a bling squirrel who sometimes stumbles into an acorn.

I assume this is intended to read as "blind squirrel," but the mental image of a bling squirrel amuses me enough that I kind of want it to remain uncorrected.

8 And thank you for…

In reply to by dmb

And thank you for documenting the fortuitous misspelling (which Mike quickly corrected). FO readers never forget!

29 But Wait!

...There are more. 

'Stafford stans' takes me to 'Staffordstan', the NFL version of The Island of Lost Toys' in which failed dreams may be revived if someone just loves you enough. 

2 Mike, please tell me you…

Mike, please tell me you didn't make your calc students compute the 2.99999 to 3.00001 secant slope by hand!

5 Oh wow

I think I just found my new favorite NFL column.  Love how Mike concisely eviscerates much of the non-sense surrounding the NFL. 

6 Projection?

“and the boat parade(s) are a fading memory, when fans start saying things like "what the hell was Jason Licht thinking when he paid all these guys?" That's what happened in Philly this offseason.”

If there are multiple parades, Licht might well be canonized before Brady retires.  I think you are projecting Philly fandom on a different city too much.

9 Regarding the 49ers QB room,…

Regarding the 49ers QB room, here's a headline from today, with one of the finest damnings, with the faintest of praise, that I've ever seen:

"Kyle Shanahan: Jimmy Garoppolo at his best can beat out any rookie QB"

That's what $25M a year gets you: Top 30 QB upside!!

14 Ah, Houston

Houston Texans: Say your brother-in-law made a series of silly, disastrous trades, then left your fantasy league after a bitter separation from your sister. So you handed his team to your neighbor, who claimed to know a lot about football but spent all his time trying to lure your friends and family into his quasi-religious pyramid scheme. So you handed the team to your nephew, who knows the game but has such a toxic personal life that half your league unfriended him on Facebook in self-defense. So finally you set the team to autodraft, and a computer filled out the roster with the sort of mediocre veterans who cling to the bottom of fantasy cheat sheets. That team is now the Houston Texans.

Pure gold, Mr. Tanier.

17 Mike

Don’t hate on BDN. That is all.

18 Coach/GM on hotseat draft first round QB

I have never understood why teams do this. How many times has this gone so badly? The Jets did it with Sam Darnold. The Football team did it with Haskins. The Cardinals did it with Rosen. 

The lameduck coaching staff drafts a first round qb - that qb proceeds to either be terrible or be rookie level bad, which means the coaching staff doesn't survive and a new staff is hired to either fix the QB who they never drafted or has an incentive to move on from the QB they never drafted. Either way, its a completely toxic mix. 

I guess Bears management can be forgiven because they never expected Fields to fall to them. OTHO, what has Naggy done to suggest he was worth keeping besides ride a defense heavy team to one playoff birth and then to fall ass backwards into another that hadn't existed until last year?

 

22 The Bears have been really,…

The Bears have been really, really cagey about Pace and Nagy's contract status so nobody really knows if they are actually on the hot seat (as I would agree they should be). If they received secret contract extensions as a vote of confidence from the McCaskeys prior to the draft, I think that's ridiculous but given that they did go on to draft Fields I feel like that's a better situation than if they were assuming they have to win this season or get fired.

27 It's a weird situation. It…

It's a weird situation. It was a legitimately great move by Pace to snag Fields when he fell within striking distance, and the way that Pace and Nagy have handled everything so far indicates that they're thinking in terms of the team's longer-term interest. I really thought 2021 was going to be a purgatory-type season for the Bears, but suddenly they have a real foundation to build on.

And yet... if Fields does flash some real potential this year - in which case Pace and Nagy will receive a lot of credit - it only raises the stakes for the significant decisions that the Bears will need to make next offseason. And based on how Pace has managed the Bears roster and resources over the last few seasons, I know that I would definitely *not* want him in charge of making those decisions!

In short, Pace made a promising move at the QB position against the odds, and if it shows early signs of working out, IMO it just makes it more imperative that the Bears fire Ryan Pace! And I don't know where Nagy fits in there. He's probably most directly responsible for Fields' success/failure, but a potential new GM might also want to work with someone else. Maybe it's not surprising how the Bears have been evasive about their job status.

41 Yeah, Fields completely…

Yeah, Fields completely messed up my thinking because when I assumed the QB room was going to be Dalton, Foles, and a midround pick, I was actively hoping for disaster and chaos and a full rebuild following the 2021 season. But I actually like Fields and think the price paid for him was reasonable. The problem is that if he's anything short of HOF-level in his first couple seasons, I don't see this team as it's constructed being a realistic short-term Super Bowl contender and I don't trust Pace to fix things around him for what will hopefully be a long and productive career.

If Pace had been fired and the new GM was truly empowered to pick the next coach (I could have gone either way on Nagy as long as the GM had full control), and then they drafted Fields, I'd be cautiously optimistic. (And history has dictated that I'll never be more than cautiously optimistic about the Bears, no matter what they do). As it is, it's just a messy situation and could get even messier if Fields is decent/good but not great and the team is mired in that 8-9 win range for a couple more years, because then what do they do?

19 "Dolphins beat writers have…

"Dolphins beat writers have been over-selling the Dolphins at the start of training camp since at least the Chad Henne era."

I remember the AJ Feely hype...

52 That's a fun thing to psycho-speculate about

Do 25 years of Shula in a sportswriter's formative years predispose one to thinking that players will probably work out?  Does the residue of being perfect once still color perceptions even 50 years later?  Is there a cushioned floor when you're secure that, sometime around week 12 or so, you'll get to write about the Boys of '72 getting together and obnoxiously clinking champagne glasses again?

Maybe it's just that, if you live near South Beach, things seem pretty damn rosy.  Yeah, "Winter Is Coming," but it's going to be pretty pleasant.  Their January matchup with the Pats to end the regular season might end up being win or go home, but is going home so bad?  If the NFL ever expands to Hawaiʻi, maybe the beat writers covering the Honalulu Kamehamehas will be pretty relentlessly optimistic too.

26 Lamar Jackson mediocre season prediction/Stafford comments

Unfortunately I will second that opinion on Jackson's upcoming mediocre PASSING season.  DVOA shows this going back for his career.

Ravens scrap their offense, YES, its 2021, what year is this run oriented offense in?

$40-$45M for Jackson, Ravens will sign and bail like the Carson Wentz deal.

If Jackson tests positive for COVID a 3rd time, is that the first world record that he will have?

If a Ravens receiver catches a Jackson pass for the 3rd time, does that guarantee a starting role?

Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays will prevent great QBs from the successful completion of their playoff passes and rounds.

In 2020 a strong Buffalo wind and a mediocre Buffalo defense prevented Lamar Jackson from successful completion of his playoff round.

In 2019, it was a mediocre Titan defense

In 2018 it was a 7 DB defense with Anthony Lynn as head coach

Good pitching will always stop good hitting.

Does mediocre defense always stop mediocre offense?

Nah, see Joe Flacco, and many more

Despite all this, I believe that the Ravens are a Super Bowl contender.

 

As far as Stafford goes, 8 mediocre seasons, true, so how far is he from Eli Manning (Hall of Fame candidate), from the all time mediocre seasons record?  Stafford is two rings away from being a Manning duplicate.

28 I have to be honest, Lamar…

I have to be honest, Lamar is the type of QB I typically don't like. At least that kind of profile. To be honest, I'm also not a fan of the mahomes profile of quarterback, although if mahomes is going to do mahomes like things it's pointless to be against it.

 

That said, there are definitely parts of Lamar's game as a passer that I like that's not quite the same as your stereotypical scramble a heave thrower. Lamar actually has good accuracy, which is something Vick never had. He may never find that perfect straddle of scrambler to pocket passer that is optimal, but his accuracy is a real strength that I feel like is enough to move him into an upper echelon QB and maybe even an elite one.

 

I have maintained my biggest ultimate gripe with Lamar is I don't believe that style can survive an NFL pounding. I've been proven wrong so far as only covid has injured him, but it's a concern I have nonetheless. And yes I'm aware most injuries occur in the pocket but it's the total sum of hits that bothers me and Lamar's style opens him up to more hits than other quarterbacks

 

54 What's not to like about the Mahomes "profile" of QB?

To be honest, I'm also not a fan of the mahomes profile of quarterback, although...

Surprising.  What about his "profile" do you not like?

People like to talk about Mahomes as if he's sui generis, but I think he's a type we've seen before.  He's "merely" the latest version of the Bert Jones / Brett Favre line of QBs.  If the myths are to be believed, Greg Cook was an early version of that model. 

That model that has tended to perform pretty damned well: MVP, HOF, myth.

55 Let me rephrase. Mahomes I…

Let me rephrase. Mahomes I would love to have on my team. I would love to have peak Favre on my team. By that I mean, if your QB is awesome, it becomes slightly irrelevant what style of qb he is. We can debate if Manning vs Brady vs Mahomes vs Rodgers....and on and on, but I suspect the difference in their success has a lot more to do with the circumstances than whatever small differences exist in their own abilities. 

But what I mean by profile is, I think the QBs that tend to live the longest and maintain the best consistency are your typical drop back passers who make quick decisions and make a lot of hay from the seemingly simple, mundane throws. That isn't to say they are all checkdown artists - they should possess accuracy and a willingness to fire downfield. But just, maintaining pocket integrity and mitigating the effects of big hits, sacks, pressures etc etc.

A good example of the type of profile (and I mean strictly profile) would be Matt Stafford. Good size, good arm, and a pocket player. Of course, Matt Stafford just isn't very consistent enough at the things he needs to be to become elite.

56 Maybe Matt Ryan instead of Stafford?

I think the QBs that tend to live the longest and maintain the best consistency are your typical drop back passers who make quick decisions and make a lot of hay from the seemingly simple, mundane throws.
...
A good example of the type of profile (and I mean strictly profile) would be Matt Stafford. Good size, good arm, and a pocket player. Of course, Matt Stafford isn't...

If you'd said Matt Ryan I'd feel more confident that I understood what you're driving at.  I think of Ryan as sort of on a continuum with Brady, guys who "manage" the game and read the D and take the throws that are available.  Stafford seems more like a mad bomber to me – gunslinger, on a continuum with Favre, a guy with great confidence in what his arm power can let him get away with.
 

...maintaining pocket integrity and mitigating the effects of big hits, sacks, pressures etc etc.

If I'm following correctly, Mahomes is a "type" that extends plays a little too much for your taste?  Somewhat like a younger Roethlisberger?  Not taking the early easy completion, instead too often keeping plays alive, which invites sack-risk? 
(I don't mean current Roethlisberger, who last year played exactly the opposite way: getting rid of the ball super-quick, being impossible to sack.)

Invoking Mahomes really threw me here.  Mahomes' career sack% is on par with Brady's in his 50 TD Imperfect Season, 3.8 to 3.5.

57 I guess if Ryan had a…

I guess if Ryan had a stronger arm and a bigger frame that would match correctly. I still enjoy a strong, powerful arm. I really saw this contrast between pre and post injury Manning.

I know Mahomes and Brady's sack rates are fairly similar, but I think Mahomes gets hit more or at least always seems to find himself in a precarious situation where he makes a ridiculous throw or move to avert danger at the last second

58 I think I see

You like a "calmer", lower-risk QB who takes what the defense gives.  Yeah?  Whereas the Mayomes type goes for some plays that ONLY their athletic gifts make possible; rather than always playing within the "design" of the offense.

It's a fine line.  Appropriate risk-taking is an important part of the job.  Checkdown Charlie is bad too.

59 Agreed. It's a very fine…

In reply to by JimZipCode

Agreed. It's a very fine line. My thinking is actually trying to maximize longevity but also keeping the entire field a threat.

Let's assume I couldn't get the best of everything. My preferred flawed QB would trade lower sacks for more interceptions. He would be more pocket defined than scrambler which means he would have fewer hero tds and scramble yards but would take fewer hits. That's why I feel like the player I'm describing is Matthew Stafford. He's my ideal fit among all flawed tier 3 quarterbacks.

I also wanted to clarify something. I don't define accuracy by completion percentage or something in that vein. I actually think completion percentage is more of a measure of the scheme(how many screen passes are being called) and decision making. True accuracy is threading passes imo which I guess people are starting to quantify

 

 

60 Accuracy vs completion pctg

I also wanted to clarify something. I don't define accuracy by completion percentage or something in that vein. I actually think completion percentage is more of a measure of the scheme (how many screen passes are being called) and decision making. True accuracy is threading passes imo

Yeah.  And placing it with the correct leverage away from the defender etc.

And then there's consistency, which seems to be a separate quality from "accuracy".  I used to lump those two qualities together – a QB was always as "accurate" as they are, subject to pressure and depth of target etc – but watching Lamar is making me rethink that. 

Matt Waldman has tiers for accuracy: "pinpoint", "general", and – I dunno, something else.  So he'll say that a college QB has "pinpoint accuracy out to 20 yards and general accuracy out to 40", or something like that.  Also there's On-platform Accuracy, Off-Platform Accuracy, Opposite-hash Accuracy, etc etc etc.

31 "the Walkthrough" is generally my favorite column...BUT...

you've really missed the mark today.

Andy Dalton was trapped in a series of TERRIBLE systems run by questionable coaches.

Marvin Lewis? Mike McCarthy?

Nein Danke!

With Matt Nagy's offense Dalton will succeed immediately, the opposite of stumbling ...causing some serious decision-making in Chicago...I'm all in favor of a wry sense of humor, but you also have to be accurate (Like Andy Dalton)

The other QB you and everyone else has wildly missed (and bought into the cliches) is Jameis Winston...who will have a spectacularly successful 2021 season and the Saints Offense will be an unpredictable and formidable Juggernaut. 

33 Watch what happens next!

THe Bears won 8 games and got in the playoffs in 2020 with Trubisky and Foles...despite a 6 game losing streak.

If Dalton stays healthy, he could hardly miss winning 10 games, more if they catch even a little fire...

I would put Jameis in the dual "Comeback POY/MVP" lane...

34 If Andy Dalton had to…

If Andy Dalton had to overcome terrible circumstances and Jameis Winston had to overcome terrible circumstances, what does that say about the potential of players like Sam darnold or Josh Rosen? 

 

Is that to be the next Brady Manning rivalry?

40 Technically, the Bears made…

Technically, the Bears made the playoffs in 2020...in the first season that ever had a 7 seed. Any other year in history, they'd be like every other mediocre 8-8 non-division-winning team watching the playoffs on TV. Their performance in that loss to the Saints supports the idea that they had no business in the playoffs.

Nagy's offenses have been 25th in DVOA each of his seasons. While Trubisky and 2020 Foles were not good QBs, Nagy may not have demonstrated that he and his offensive system are terrible but he certainly hasn't shown definitive evidence to the contrary. So you could be right that Dalton has been held back by bad coaches, but if that's the problem I don't see a lot of reason to expect it to change.

47 Bucs in 23

I’m a little confused that you and Breer both seem to be of the opinion that the Bucs will be in cap hell post-Brady. The Bucs don’t do signing bonuses, so they never really get hit with prorated stuff. Plus by then JPP, Brady, Evans, Smith, LVD, & Jensen will all be off the books, with reasonable replacements already on the roster (though maybe not at QB). Plus, as the sports franchise that up until last year had the worst winning % of any team ever, trust me, we’re already pretty damned pleased/stunned we have two championships 😅

48 Denver

Also as the resident weirdo Tebow defender ☺️, I find it amazing how we just bagged on him relentlessly though he never got 1st team reps until week 5 of his 2nd year (and he did decently his 1st year for 3 starts), he got the team who just picked 2nd to the 2nd round (only losing to Belichick on the road, something Luck loved to do too), and he was shunted off the Broncos, even though Manning won a SB with weirdly Tebowesque stats. I bring all this up because the Broncos are off national tv and irrelevant this year for the first time ever, the guy who insisted he’d never improve had to fire himself eventually, and Mike went on about the comical way coaches think quarterbacking is some code that only they can crack. No, it’s about being an inspirational leader in an insane game, not throwing picks, and performing well under pressure. 85 in your hearts did all that, and a few QBs hit that weird sub 50% completion early on too. Meanwhile everyone’s darling Mr. Luck had a way worse playoff rating than the Jags 8th string TE. #overthinking 

49 "and he was shunted off the…

In reply to by liquidmuse3

"and he was shunted off the Broncos, even though Manning won a SB with weirdly Tebowesque stats."

Its statements like these that I find so unusual. Its almost like 2012, 2013, and 2014 didn't happen. Its almost like the Broncos went from a bad 8-8 team with an anemic at best passing game to one of the all time great runs on offense. But since Denver didn't win the SB until Manning was all broken down and roughly Tebow equivalent, none of that matters right?

Btw, your Tebow playoff sauce = greatness also applies, in spades! to Mark Sanchez. Why the hell is he unsigned? 

Skip Bayless basically owes his entire career and fame to defending the indefensible. But that at least was motivated by greed. How anyone who isn't profiting from this can believe it is frankly astonishing. 

61 Eagles vets

Brooks - coming off a torn achilles what are you going to get for him?

Graham final year of contract, old, same question?

Cox - somebody has to rush the passer and collapse the pocket.

Ertz - yeah, should have been gone by now.