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Adam Hoge's mailbag: How the Bears rebuild could follow the Bills' lead

Adam Hoge Avatar
April 11, 2022

The Bears mailbag was open over the weekend on The CHGO Lounge and there were some good questions to dive into. Let’s get straight to it.

Adam, there’s been talk about how the Bears are replicating the Bills first offseason with Brandon Beane. If we are following their lead, what type of year 2 moves would you expect to see, especially with such a high projected cap?— Miller

This question reminded me of a conversation I had with former Bears general manager Ryan Pace back in 2017 when he told me how much he liked what Brandon Beane was doing in Buffalo. When Beane got there in 2017, he immediately started trimming fat off the Bills’ roster, not unlike what Pace did in 2015 or what Ryan Poles is doing now. Beane traded Sammy Watkins and let good players like Stephon Gilmore and Robert Woods sign big-money deals elsewhere. He turned over a massive percentage of the roster without spending much money, which is essentially what Poles is dealing with — he only has 59 players signed right now.

The Bills actually made the playoffs in 2017, but then took a necessary step backwards in 2018. A key difference was the quarterback situation though. Josh Allen was drafted in 2018 so it didn’t make sense for the Bills to go crazy in free agency yet. The Bears’ situation is much different. If you’re asking about 2023, Fields will already be going into Year 3 and the Bears will have a much better idea of what they have at the quarterback spot next offseason. 

I understand the comparison to the Bills right now, but the timeline of aggression will ultimately be determined by what Poles sees on the grass this year. If Fields takes a big step forward and the defense doesn’t take a big step back, then I’d expect him to be more aggressive in 2023. In the Bills case, Beane had to wait until Year 3 to spend more and it wasn’t until Year 4 when he made the big trade for Stefon Diggs. 

Who is the number one team we should be looking for that the Bears could trade down with? (I’m thinking mainly about the 2nd round picks).— furiousgeorge94

An interesting question and truth is, I’d just be guessing. But this is the type of thinking teams do leading up to the draft. Since we’ve never seen Poles run a draft before, I’d just look at previous relationships. Eventually we’ll see a track record of teams Poles feels comfortable trading with (the Patriots and Seahawks were always teams to watch with Pace). You can put the Chargers on that list after the Khalil Mack trade, but the Bears already own the Chargers’ second-round pick now. 

I’d keep an eye on the Indianapolis Colts though. There are some obvious connections with Chris Ballard and Matt Eberflus, but the Colts are in an interesting spot at No. 42 because the Seahawks have back-to-back picks at No. 40 and No. 41. If they are worried about Seattle taking a player they want, they’d have to leapfrog two picks and the Bears are at No. 39. 

Otherwise, the Chiefs have two second-round picks at No. 50 and No. 62. Poles obviously knows everyone in that front office. 

“With the recievers they signed this year looking at pure production may not be the best choice. What are specific things we can look for to evaluate Justin’s development as the season progresses that are deeper than just looking at pure stats?” -McBaken

In a conversation on The Hoge & Jahns Podcast last month, head coach Matt Eberflus laid out some understandably high expectations for Justin Fields’ improvement:

“The development of him for the second year should be a big jump. It should be. That’s what we’re looking for,” Eberflus said. “We’re looking for better technique, better fundamentals, better decision-making, better timing, everything. He’s all on board on that. He’s excited about where he is and he’s been working his tail off. That’s what we want, just that big jump from Year 1 to Year 2.”

So how do you measure that without simply looking at stats? Well, the tape will tell us a lot. In fact, the tape is why my expectations for Fields are still high despite underwhelming stats in 2021.

The biggest thing for me will be timing. I want to see new offensive coordinator Luke Getsy put Fields in position to make quicker decisions. He needs to be more decisive and that comes with experience. It sounds simple, but just score more points. The Bears were simply inefficient under Matt Nagy. Too often they’d move the ball and come away with no points. If Fields’ play leads to more touchdowns and better efficiency in the red zone, then that will be a sign of progress, regardless of what his passing yards, completion percentage, etc. says.

I can’t recall if it was you or Jahns that mentioned part of the reason for the Omar Khan interview was for a Ted Phillips-type role. Is that something the Bears are still exploring to replace? Any chance Poles or Cunningham change roles to accommodate that?” — NLM

To his credit, Bears chairman George McCaskey went into the interview process with a very open mind. I’m not sure how serious the Omar Khan thing was, but it certainly didn’t hurt to explore that route and see how other successful organizations structure their front office. 

In the end, the Bears didn’t change much, hiring another first-time general manager that now reports to McCaskey instead of Phillips. I’m skeptical that it will make any kind of difference. The bigger structural change was allowing Poles to hire Ian Cunningham as the assistant general manager, a new position for the Bears. 

But to answer your question, I can’t see any major changes happening above Poles and Cunningham. Asking them to change roles before a game even gets played would not be fair to them. This is the path McCaskey chose and we’ll have to see how it plays out. 

Phillips is getting closer to retirement and it appears the new stadium will be his last big project with the Bears, but in the meantime, it’s the McCaskey/Poles/Cunningham show on the football side.

“What is one sport that you know you could beat Olin (Kreutz) at?” — furiousgeorge94

Curling. No question. But I didn’t curl in high school, so, according to him, I’m not really a curler. 

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