Bears Q&A: John Fox's game management, Bears' perception in the NFL, Kevin White update and more

Thursday, 23 November 2017, 08:46:58 AM. The Tribune's Brad Biggs answers your questions weekly.

The Tribune's Brad Biggs answers your questions weekly.

failed to call a timeout with 2:35 left. That 35 seconds could have been useful to get closer for the field goal and even make end zone shots. I am not a rabid dump Fox fan, but really they were unprepared against the Packers and his gameday management is questionable. — Brian C., Parts Unknown

The game was tied 24-24 when quarterback hit tight end Eric Ebron for a 26-yard gain to the ’ 26-yard line. After Ebron was tackled down by safety and nickel cornerback Cre’Von LeBlanc, there was 2 minutes, 35 seconds remaining in the game. The Bears had all three timeouts remaining and did not elect to use one at that juncture. I thought the same thing watching the game live. Fox could have used a timeout there in an effort to preserve time. Would it have helped in the long run? Potentially but I don’t think that’s necessarily a given. As it was, the Bears were able to get in position for a reasonable field goal attempt – 46 yards – before the game ended. One thing I do find interesting is most fan bases everywhere complain about the game management of the head coach. Seriously. What coach out there has a reputation for being a masterful game manager? Maybe Bill Belichick gets props for that but he’s got Tom Brady. It’s just an observation on my part more than anything else. Fox has made some mistakes but so did Marc Trestman, so did Lovie Smith and so did Dick Jauron.

Let’s say the Bears do not re-sign or use the franchise tag on Cairos Santos at the end of the season. Are they eligible for compensatory picks if he signs elsewhere? — Doug E., Hawthorn Woods, Ill.

As I have written many times in the Mailbag, there is a formula for determining the allocation of compensatory draft picks and it is based on the net gains and losses in free agency. Could Santos be part of the formula for the Bears if he departs in free agency after this season? Absolutely. But if the Bears go out and buck up big in free agency (think signing one of the top wide receivers on the market), I highly doubt Santos’ loss would swing a compensatory draft pick their way. There is little to no chance the Bears are awarded compensatory draft picks in 2018 even after the departure of wide receiver Alshon Jeffery because they were quite active themselves in free agency.

Has anyone asked about why before attempting field goal at end the Bears didn’t either throw quick pass to sideline to shorten the kick or take shot at end zone for a win? The latter is risky in terms of time but so was going to overtime and I’d rather put the game on my franchise QB than my below average kicker. — Martin R., Chicago

The Bears used their final timeout with eight seconds remaining after completed a 15-yard pass to , moving the ball to the Lions’ 28. Did that leave enough time to potentially complete a quick out and gain a couple more yards? Potentially. I don’t think an end-zone shot would have made a lot of sense. There would have been too much risk involved. You’re talking about real risk trying to pick up a few yards too. If the wide receiver cannot get out of bounds, the game is over and then John Fox looks like the biggest goat in the for the week. A quick pass would have gained what? Five, six, maybe seven yards? That’s making the kick for only marginally better. I don’t have a problem with the Bears trying the kick there with eight seconds on the clock. It would have made sense to me to try a short pass if Barth would have been facing a 56-yard kick. That would have changed the situation for me but this is a fair question.

Can you explain why Tarik Cohen wasn’t on the field for the final drive on Sunday against the Lions? Why do the coaches insist on using Benny Cunningham? — Mark A., Milwaukee

I don’t have a problem with this decision the way some people do. If folks want to criticize the coaching staff for some of the decisions that have been made, including how personnel has been deployed, I think there are more nuanced criticisms that can be made. The Bears ran 10 offensive plays in the final possession and Cunningham was on the field for all of them. He stayed in as a pass blocker on six snaps. He chipped and then released into the pattern as a check-down target on one snap and he released from the backfield on three snaps. I certainly don’t think it would make sense to have Cohen on the field as a pass blocker in that situation. The natural counter to that is you say, ‘OK, why not line him up as a wide receiver?’ Now you’re talking about having a 5-foot-6 wide receiver on the field for the quarterback to find. Bear in mind that in the hurry-up situation, the Bears were not going to be able to substitute freely as they normally do from one snap to the next. Cohen still got 31 snaps in the game, his second-highest figure of the season. I don’t view Cunningham as a liability in this situation either. Is he dynamic in the open field like Cohen? Of course not. But the Bears needed to push the ball downfield, they needed a player they could count on in pass protection and Cunningham was that guy.

I must apologize to you. In the past I’ve been critical of your commentary regarding most notably, Jay Cutler. You were more accurate and more insightful than I and for that, you have earned my respect. Thought I’d ask if you could elaborate upon what you believe is the league perception of playing and coaching for the Bears? I’m curious because for years it seemed the Cubs couldn’t draw the special managers or elite players while in their prime. Currently, the Bulls seem to be in that position and the Blackhawks may be cashing in on whatever past credibility they have saved, but it may end ugly in a year or two. Chicago is a tremendous city with a loyal fan base and the team is frugal but not cheap, so can we, on your opinion, grab top tier coaches and players? If not, why? — Lee B., Encino, Calif.,

The Bears have attracted some elite players in recent history and some top coaches. They signed in free agency in 2010 when he was the biggest free agent on the open market and they did so with a huge contract. Vic Fangio has been one of the most respected defensive coordinators in the league for a long time and John Fox was able to hire him to the current staff. Lovie Smith landed his good friend as defensive coordinator back in the day and Marinelli was highly regarded for his acumen and ability. was considered one of the best offensive line coaches when Smith added him. came with an elite resume when he was hired. The last couple of years, Bears general manager has spread out his resources in free agency and one of the reasons he’s done that is there have been a lot of holes to fill. The Bears missed at a couple of top cornerbacks on the market but you don’t always land your guy. The roster isn’t where it needed to be right now and we’ll see what shakes out when the season ends. Just keep in mind a football roster can take on a dramatically different shape when a team figures out the quarterback position. If the Bears hit with Mitch Trubisky, the players surrounding him on offense will be elevated. It will be easier for the Bears to recruit top recruits. It will put the Bears in position to compete.

Why is John Fox on the hot seat while Ryan Pace’s job appears safe? The Bears have finished last for his entire tenure and look likely to finish last this year as well. The roster has few playmakers, an abysmal receiving corps, a secondary in need of a rebuild and a limited pass rush. Does anyone believe a different coach would get much better results with this roster? While Pace was not handed much in terms of a roster, the NFL operates on a much shorter cycle than other sports, and after 2 1/2 years a turnaround has not happened and does not appear imminent. In my opinion much of the goodwill centers around optimism you can still project onto Mitch Trubisky. But Pace gave up enormous value to get him and that already appears to be a mistake (Deshaun Watson). — Tim M., Parts Unknown

I don’t believe Pace has been unscathed when it comes to criticism and commentary this season. Fox is front and center every week and that certainly makes him an easier target for most people. What’s made this a complicated dynamic is the Bears waited until Year 3 to push the reset button at the quarterback position. That put a coach entering his third season and in need of a successful season in a tough position with a rookie quarterback. I’ve written it before and will surely write it again: It was a mistake to stick with Jay Cutler from the jump for Pace and Fox. Yes, they would have had to swallow hard to handle the salary cap ramifications of a move, but Cutler wasn’t the guy to have when you’re rebuilding. Now, the Bears are struggling record-wise and it really shouldn’t come as a surprise, should it? They were 3-13 last season and I think most people pegged them for 6-10 (or something in that vicinity) this season. Maybe you look at how Pace has built things around the quarterback and on the defense while understanding there is a growth and maturation process for a young passer. It will be interesting to see what happens. There are some signs that give you hope but when the losses continue to pile up at some point you have to determine where you want to draw the line.

Does the defense have a chance in stopping the on-fire offense of the Eagles? Teams the Bears should not have beaten, they came through against. — @karinakambridge

The defense hasn’t been very good the last two weeks. The secondary played poorly against the Packers and wasn’t a lot better against the Lions. You’d think at some point the Eagles, who have won eight straight games, are bound to cool off, right? It’s difficult to predict that happening this week though. Looking back on it, the victory over the in Week 3 was pretty impressive. So was a dominant victory over the . But maintaining a high level of play has been difficult for the Bears to accomplish.

How long does the rebuild get extended if (when) John Fox is let go? He doesn't seem to be the answer but a whole staff overhaul could extend this thing even longer than fans are seemingly willing to wait. Or is there a Sean McVay type out there who could come in and win right away? — @conor_bananas

You say a rebuild could last longer than fans are willing to wait and I counter with the reminder that – barring a spectacular miracle – this will be the seventh consecutive season the Bears have failed to reach the playoffs. It will also mark the 10th time in the last 11 seasons they have failed to reach the playoffs. I don’t think the fans will go away. It’s more a situation where interest won’t be as intense until they turn the corner and become relevant in the again. I don’t know that there is a McVay out there but if the Bears make a move on the head coach after the season, you can bet they will be looking for someone that can bring energy and success quickly.

What do you think the defensive backfield looks like next year? — @jpzimm

That’s a good question. Free safety Eddie Jackson has played well and Adrian Amos has played better than he did in his first two seasons. Jackson looks like a fixture and Amos has played well enough that not only do I think he can hold off if and when the veteran returns from injured reserve this season (there’s no guarantee that happens), he can secure the starting job next season. The burning question is what happens at cornerback? and are in contract seasons and the Bears can move on from Marcus Cooper before a roster bonus is due to him in March. So as I wrote this past Sunday, all three are really in a contract year. My hunch is Fuller will want to explore the open market and see what is out there. He’s played OK this season with some ups and downs. Amukamara has been steady and has gotten a lot less action than Fuller. Two pass interference calls against him the last two weeks aren’t good but that happens. Cooper looks like he’s lacking confidence. What’s the solution? I think the Bears need to use a high draft pick (think first two rounds) on a cornerback, they need to sign one in free agency and come up with a third option. This will be an offseason project for sure.

Any update on 's status or if he comes back this year? Imagine the organization won't comment until they announce he is off IR but when is earliest he could return? — @bob_fallon

While the Bears have not ruled out a potential return by White this season, I don’t believe that will happen and I wouldn’t get your hopes up on seeing the 2015 first-round draft pick again this season. The Bears really haven’t expressed any optimism on that front and I’ve answered this question a few times. Nothing has really changed. White was injured in the season opener and required surgery to repair his scapula. He’s been on the field a total of 238 snaps and the Bears have run 2,594 offensive plays since White joined the team. That means he’s been on the field for less than 10 percent of the time and that’s obviously problematic looking ahead to next season.

What are your thoughts on the Bears drafting another quarter back next year? — @bearsdfense

I’m guessing a guy with the Twitter handle BearsDfense would be happier if they used their draft picks on wide receivers, defensive backs, outside linebackers and maybe some linemen. I’d be stunned if they drafted a quarterback in 2018 and you should be too.

With the injury to and injury history of Pernell McPhee, the Bears appear to be lacking impact pash rushers yet again. Do you believe the Bears cut McPhee to save the $7 million against the cap in the offseason? Who are impact pass rushers the Bears may consider in draft and free agency? — @beardown7878

I don’t think the right knee injury Floyd suffered in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s loss to the Lions has anything to do with what the club will decide to do with McPhee, who turns 29 next month. McPhee’s balky knees will make it difficult, in my opinion, for the Bears to consider him part of the future plan. He has a base salary of $7.2 million in 2018 with a $200,000 roster bonus due June 1 and a $175,000 workout bonus. The delayed roster bonus would give the Bears a little time to make a decision but I don’t know that the Bears will need that much time to filter through this one. McPhee is a part-time player at this point and has struggled with the knees since midway through the 2015 season. The one thing the Bears have in terms of the pass rush is a pretty good presence in the middle with linemen and Eddie Goldman. Yes, they are going to need to address the situation at outside linebacker in the offseason but right now I would place wide receiver and cornerback as greater priorities. As far as draft prospects for next year, North Carolina State’s Bradley Chubb has gotten a lot of publicity this fall. One scout I spoke to said he thinks ’s Harold Landry is overrated. LSU’s Arden Key has some durability questions but is talented. Oklahoma outside linebacker Ogbonnia Okoronkwo has gotten some buzz.

Injuries … every NFL team suffers them but the Bears seem to have had more severe/season-ending injuries than most teams. Chalk this up to simple bad luck or the need to look at processes, i.e. strength/conditioning coaching changes? — @gregpressler

The Bears looked long and hard at what they did this past offseason with an eye on reducing injuries this season. If they’ve improved, it’s been marginally. Some injuries you are not going to avoid. Quintin Demps suffered a broken arm. Leonard Floyd’s knee was injured when teammate Kyle Fuller went flying into him. It’s a collision sport not a contact sport. But I would think that at the end of this season they will want to reassess once again everything that’s done and what can potentially be done to make improvements. They certainly haven’t reduced the number of soft-tissue injuries and that is something that should be addressed. We’ll see what shakes out. They’ve got some overarching decisions to make before they get to business like this.

Twitter @BradBiggs

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