Bears Q&A: 2018 free agents, 2018 draft and ... 2018 coaching prospects?

The Tribune's Brad Biggs answers your Bears questions weekly.

I've heard conflicting things about who ultimately owns the John Fox hire. How much of this was Ryan Pace and how much of it was influenced by ownership and/or Ernie Accorsi? — @mosconml

The Bears collectively own the Fox hiring. No general manager in the NFL is going to go hire a head coach to whom ownership doesn’t give a full thumbs up. It doesn’t work that way. Sure, GMs have the power to choose their head coach, but in that process, they’re consulting with ownership. So the McCaskeys and everyone else with juice at Halas Hall was on board with the selection of Fox. Accorsi was hired as a consultant to assist the franchise with hiring the GM -- Pace. Accorsi stayed around and had a small role in the hiring of the coach and knew Fox well from their time together with the Giants. But this was a franchise decision all the way, one that Pace, Chairman George McCaskey and surely team President Ted Phillips all were involved in.

I have a bad feeling the next coach will bring in a guy who will want to switch back to 4-3 defense. Do the Bears have the personnel for that? — @leftofcrazytown

If the Bears wind up making a coaching move at the end of the season, I’d be far more concerned about the team getting the right coach for the job. If the team is searching for a new coach, I’d expect the Bears to be completely open-minded. Let’s say they identify a head coach they believe will be the best fit for quarterback Mitch Trubisky, and let’s say that candidate is set on bringing with him a defensive coordinator who wants to run a 4-3 scheme. You would turn that candidate away? I think you can see where I am going with this. A coaching search should be wide open with no restrictions or preconceived notions.

If Vic Fangio leaves, as anticipated, should the Bears prioritize a defensive coordinator hire on 3-4 defense or pursue the best defensive coordinator out there, even if he’s a 4-3 guy? — @ndblackirish97

This is along the lines of the previous question. Fangio is in the final year of his contract and the Bears blocked him from speaking with the 49ers last offseason. It’s likely Niners coach Kyle Shanahan would have hired Fangio away as his defensive coordinator. If you’re looking for a new coach, I think you’re striving to get the best individual for the job. Period.

In light of the glaring issues, don't the Bears have to go O-line in the draft? Looking at you, Connor Williams, in the first round next year. The Bears can get the best wide receiver in the draft, but if Trubisky has no time to throw, it's for naught. — @austing183

I would disagree with the idea that the Bears have “glaring” issues on the offensive line. Do they have the best line in the league? No. Are they among the worst in the league? No, they’re not close. I certainly wouldn’t rule out the possibility of the team drafting a lineman in the first round, and the Bears are on course to have a top-10 draft pick. But their pressing need for a completely overhauled crew of wide receivers is as plain and obvious as it can be. Early indications are this could be a good draft for offensive tackles, and Notre Dame has a dominant guard in Quenton Nelson. Sure, the Bears could tinker with the offensive line and make a move or two but they’ve got to do some heavy lifting at wide receiver.

The Bears need receivers. Why cut Tre McBride now with five games left? — @mikesugar_07

McBride got some solid playing time, logging 42 snaps or more in four games, including Sunday’s loss in Philadelphia. Keep in mind the Bears were evaluating McBride in practice every day. I don’t know the specific reasoning behind the move, and the team has yet to announce a corresponding move. It’s possible the Bears will promote a player off their practice squad this week, and there is an outside chance they will sign a player away from another club’s practice squad. I suspect this move also could be an indication that Josh Bellamy will be cleared from the concussion protocol soon. Bellamy had taken playing time away from McBride, and the reasoning was pretty simple: Bellamy was running better routes and doing a better job of getting open. Here’s the bottom line, and I included this in an answer about the wide receivers in another recent Mailbag: If the Bears are still messing around with playing time for guys such as McBride or Bellamy next season, then the overhaul of the position in the offseason will have failed. They were undermanned at wide receiver to start this season, and their top-two targets suffered season-ending injuries. It put the Bears in a terribly compromised position and led them to trade for Dontrelle Inman. Let’s see what shakes out at the position in the offseason.

Because Josh McDaniels’ brother works for the Bears, will that increase their odds in being able to hire him? — @antnee09

The Bears hired Ben McDaniels as an offensive assistant in 2016, and he certainly could share plenty of insight about the franchise, the inner workings and the roster with his brother. Does that enhance the Bears’ chances of luring Josh McDaniels if they’re seeking a new coach at the end of the season and he is interested in leaving the Patriots? Not necessarily. It would certainly give Josh McDaniels a head start when it comes to doing homework on the organization, though.

Are solid receivers the missing piece to the Bears’ offensive puzzle or are there other positions of need? — @beamdog88

Wide receiver is by far the biggest need on the roster. Could the Bears use upgrades elsewhere on offense? Sure. NFL teams always are looking to add talent, and the ultimate goal is to push the roster from the top down when possible. It starts at wide receiver, and you can’t overlook areas on defense that need to be addressed.

Could the release of Tre McBride be making room for Kevin White? Original reports post-surgery suggested 10-ish weeks. We are at 11 and he traveled with the team to Philadelphia. — @todddfoster from Twitter

The release of McBride is not related to White, the former first-round draft pick who was placed on injured reserve after the season opener with a fractured scapula that required surgery. As I have written numerous times in the Mailbag, I do not believe White will be designated to return from IR this season. No one within the organization has suggested with optimism that White could return this season. Could that change in the next week or two? Hey, anything is possible, but don't count on it. The Bears wouldn’t release McBride to clear a spot for White before White even started practicing either. So that scenario doesn’t add up.

Mitch Trubisky has a low completion percentage and his accuracy is a little erratic. A lot has been made about the talent level of the wide receivers that could have contributed to his subpar performance the last few games. How much better would his completion percentage be if he had a true No. 1 receiver? I’m hesitant to think there would be a huge leap in his completions or accuracy. Making the assumption that Trubisky improves once the talent around him improves could be dangerous. It sounds like the same argument many made for Jay Cutler, but when paired with Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffrey and Martellus Bennett, we still saw the same ol’ Jay. Is it possible the Trubisky we’re seeing now is the same one we’ll see three to five years from now? — Corey S., South Side

There’s a big difference, to me, in projecting Trubisky headed into Year 2 of his career and Cutler headed into Year 7, which is where Cutler was in 2012 when the Bears traded for Marshall. Keep in mind that Trubisky started only 13 games at North Carolina -- he’s young with a lot of room to grow and improve. He has shown he’s a hard worker and I believe with improved skill players around him and more work, including a full offseason to practice and train, he will be an improved player in 2018. Yes, the completion percentage is lower than you would like, and sure, it’s a little concerning for the No. 2 pick. But Jared Goff had a poor completion percentage as a rookie last year and looks like a much different players this season with a new coaching staff and improved talent around him with the Rams.

Will Ryan Pace be able to land one or two quality free agents this offseason rather than splitting his available cap dollars among several mediocre options? — @jtbcubs

I expect the Bears to be a major player in free agency at the wide receiver position and will aggressively target the position in the draft. Certainly the model the team has used the last year or two needs to be reevaluated -- they’ve spread too much money around on too many average players, guys who have underperformed. First, we have to see what the market looks like in early March before free agency opens.

We keep hearing about the Bears never having fired a head coach during the season. Has ownership ever made a comment as to why? And does any other franchise choose to follow this ... tradition? — @alphaneko

You probably keep hearing about it because the Bears are in the midst of a four-game losing streak that has them at 3-8 and tied with the Colts and Broncos for the fourth-worst record in the NFL. Coach John Fox is in Year 3 with one season remaining on his contract, and it’s natural to speculate about his future. The Bears have not made an in-season change before, and some teams are reluctant to make such a big move like that in-season. The Giants are in an absolute abyss and already have made it clear they will not fire embattled coach Ben McAdoo in-season. I don’t know that firing Fox and making a change would create the desired improvements some seem to believe would come along with the move, but fans are angry and patience has worn thin. 

Would there be some benefit to keeping Mike Glennon as a backup? Could they restructure? I think the last few weeks have shown that the offense’s problems weren’t all on him. — @billmiller1991

That’s a good point -- the struggles of the offense were not all on the shoulders of Glennon. But I find it difficult to believe the Bears would keep him around next season and I’d bet he will be eager for a change scenery after the season. Glennon is due a base salary of $12 million in 2018 and has a fully guaranteed $2.5 million roster bonus that the Bears will be on the hook for. The good thing is there is offset language with that roster bonus. So let’s say Glennon signs a $2 million contract with another team. In that situation, the Bears would then be on the hook for only $500,000. If Glennon signs for $2.5 million — or more — the Bears would not owe him. My bet is he will be elsewhere next season.

Marc Trestman was successful before and after he coached the Bears. John Fox was successful before he came to Chicago. Don't you think that indicates there's a systemic problem at Halas Hall that a coaching change (or a GM change) would not resolve? – Walter H., Parts Unknown

I wouldn’t lump Trestman and Fox into the same boat. Fox has had success with other organizations, guiding the Broncos and Panthers to a Super Bowl appearance. The common thread is the roster hasn’t been good enough for either coach to have a lot of success. The Bears’ struggles in the draft for the last decade or so have been well documented. As they say, it’s more about Jimmys and Joes than X’s and O’s. Teams with superior talent generally perform better in the NFL. But the Bears are headed toward their seventh consecutive season without a playoff appearance and, yes, that makes you wonder if there is an overarching problem.

How well-positioned are the Bears for attracting quality free-agent wide receivers? I think a winning team is nice (especially for an older player), but I would think money and the quarterback would be the main factors, with quarterback being a far second. Do you think Mitch Trubisky has shown enough glimpses in the games he has started? Seems he’s doing well with Dontrelle Inman. — John R, Ann Arbor, Mich.

You are correct that the No. 1 factor in free agency -- by a landslide –- is money. Yes, I think the Bears will be able to compete for the top talent available at the position in free agency. However, this is a good time to point out that free agency isn’t always a successful avenue in roster building. You can plug a hole in free agency, but it’s really difficult to find multiple core players to build around. The Bears are going to be flush with plenty of salary-cap space, but we don’t know what the quality of available free agents will look like. There’s a chance that a true No. 1 is not available. Remember, teams generally do a pretty good job of locking down their best players and keeping them off the market. Trubisky, a big-money offer and the chance to play in Chicago should be attractive.

Let’s get Harbaugh and Manning! — Mark F., Parts Unknown

Jim or John? Eli or Peyton?

[email protected]

Twitter @BradBiggs

Copyright © 2017, Chicago Tribune
54°