By Greg Gabriel–
(CBS) No one who watched the Bears lose 29-14 to the Philadelphia Eagles on Monday night at Soldier Field came away from that game with many positive thoughts regarding Chicago. Except for Eddie Royal’s 65-yard punt return for a touchdown, there was nothing to get happy about.
Let’s break it down.
John Fox has been in the NFL for a long time and has had success in each of his other two stops as a head coach. In the second year of Fox’s leadership at Carolina and Denver, the team showed vast improvement. In an 0-2 start, this Bears team has gone backward.
What stands out most is this team isn’t ready to play. Last year, the Bears only won one game at Soldier Field. You would think that in the home opener, the team would start the game with some physical enthusiasm. The Bears didn’t. They came out flat both offensively and defensively and were easily outplayed by a young Eagles team.
There were signs during training camp that this team was in trouble, but having known and worked with Fox for more than 20 years, I thought, “No, it’s training camp, they will be ready when the bell sounds.” I was wrong.
The one concern that I had going back to last January was at offensive coordinator. In 2015, Adam Gase was the best offensive coordinator this team has had in years. He got quarterback Jay Cutler to play the best football of his NFL career, and the play-calling was excellent.
When Gase was hired by as the Dolphins’ coach, I thought that Fox would bring someone in from the outside. He didn’t. He promoted quarterbacks coach Dowell Loggains to the offensive coordinator position. While it was never said, I’m sure the reasoning was to keep Cutler in the same offense. While the scheme is basically the same, the play-calling and game-planning isn’t.
Except on an interim basis, Loggains has never been a coordinator or play-caller in the NFL. People who worked with him at Tennessee told me that he was nothing more than an average position coach and should never coordinate an offense.
Fox has always done an outstanding job in hiring his assistants. He missed on the Loggains hire. In the first two games of this season, the play-calling has been just “running plays.” Play-calling in the NFL is an art. The offense has to set certain opportunities up and attack the weaknesses of the defense. There’s supposed to be sound reasoning behind why certain plays are called. That hasn’t been the case in 2016, as there’s no rhyme nor reason as to why each play has been called. It’s almost like high school.
When Cutler doesn’t agree with the play-calling or philosophy of the offense, he outwardly shows it. Two games into 2016, we are seeing his disagreement.
The coaches aren’t totally at fault. The players are the ones who play the game. They aren’t playing with any enthusiasm or intensity. You can count on one hand the players who are going all out, and the one playing the hardest is linebacker Jerrell Freeman, who’s playing like the game means something to him.
In football, there has to be a veteran core on each team that leads. These leaders keep the team in balance and make sure the younger guys are paying attention to detail and are going all out. We haven’t seen that so far in 2016 for the Bears.
When players bust assignments, it’s because they haven’t done enough to prepare. We have seen a number of busts in two games. While the coaches prepare the game plan, the players have to execute it. They aren’t.
When I see this happening, the first thought that comes to my mind is this: Are the players buying in to the system? I have to wonder.
Is it already too late?
The way the schedule was set up, the Bears were in position to get off to a fast start. Their first three foes had inexperienced quarterbacks, and if Chicago clicked on all cylinders, it could get off to a fast start.
If the Bears don’t turn it around quickly, fans may be looking at their favorite team picking in the top five of the next draft. From what I have seen in the preseason and opening two games, this team is going nowhere in 2016. What we thought was going to be a promising season is a disaster.
Going into the 2016 NFL Draft, there was a debate as to who was the best quarterback. Was it Cal’s Jared Goff or North Dakota State’s Carson Wentz?
I thought that it was easily Wentz based on the offense he played in at NDSU, his skill set and his maturity. The Rams felt Goff was better mainly because he played at a much higher level of competition at Cal.
As we saw both on HBO’s “Hard Knocks” and in preseason play, Goff is a long ways away from being an NFL quarterback. Like many simple spread quarterbacks, he’s struggling to learn the nuances of quarterback play at the highest level.
On the other hand, Wentz has shown that he just may be the best young quarterback to come into the NFL since Andrew Luck. He’s a superstar in the making. His poise and ability to lead are rare for a rookie quarterback. There isn’t a throw he can’t make, and his ability to read defenses this soon in his career is amazing. What makes it even more remarkable is Wentz only played one quarter of preseason football because of a rib injury.
After two weeks, both the Los Angeles Rams and the Cleveland Browns have to be second-guessing themselves. While they will never admit it publicly, we know that’s the case.
Greg Gabriel is a former NFL talent evaluator who is an on-air contributor for 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter @greggabe.