Chicago Bears: Grand plan all about tight ends in 2020

The Chicago Bears have a clear focus on tight end as part of their grand plan.

Every NFL team tries to get ahead of the curve. Once one team finds the next “thing”, others attempt to copy in hopes of finding similar success. The Chicago Bears are following one trend while, at the same time, starting one of their own. It’s a small needle to thread but could lead to championship glory.

After Philadelphia found success with a backup quarterback stepping in and driving a good roster to a Super Bowl, Chicago thought it wise to trade for that very same backup quarterback: Nick Foles. Now they are starting a championship trend all their own, tight ends galore. Will this pay off or prove foolish?

Dan Salem and Todd Salem debate the Chicago Bears in today’s NFL Sports Debate.

Todd Salem on the Chicago Bears:

The differences between the two scenarios in Chicago and Philadelphia are slight. Both teams play in the NFC and were very successful in recent memory. But see if you can spot the differences.

  • Philly had an MVP-caliber quarterback ahead of Foles; Chicago has Mitch Trubisky.
  • Philly had an elite roster around the QB pairing; Chicago had a -18 point differential last year.
  • Philly paid Foles just over $4 million in 2017; the Bears, after coughing up a mid-round draft pick to acquire his rights, are paying Foles the rest of his three-year, $24 million deal. Regardless of how this plays out, Chicago is on the hook for $21 million in dead cap.

Mimicking the Eagles’ Super Bowl formula at quarterback was Chicago’s first offseason plan. Part two was creating their own strategy that other winners will need to copy in the future: rostering nothing but tight ends.

It’s devious in its simplicity. Tight ends create mismatches for opposing defenses. Linebackers are too slow to stick with them. Corners are too small to cover them. One tight end can often break open a defense. It stands to reason that more than one would exploit even more holes.

Nevermind that those mismatches only come if the tight ends in question are actually good and athletic/not past their prime. The Bears even used their top asset in the draft to continue this roster construction. They nabbed Cole Kmet in the second round as their main draft piece. After a release of another tight end, the Bears settled on their magic number at the position: nine. Nine mismatches each and every snap.

No team in the Super Bowl era has ever trotted out nine tight ends on their active roster (I assume. I’ve done zero research on this.) While other teams chase what Kansas City has on offense, Chicago pinpointed the real culprit of the Chiefs’ success in Travis Kelce.

But what if a team had nine Kelces? They would be unstoppable! Thus far, Chicago has found zero, but as with draft strategy, the more lottery tickets you have, the better your chances of winning.

Elsewhere on the roster, the Bears seem to trail both Green Bay and Minnesota in terms of talent. Even Detroit has the leg up in some departments. But where it counts, this division is Chicago’s to lose.

Though the Packers can match Chicago’s depth at quarterback after spending dearly in that regard in the draft, it is important to point out that Green Bay and Minnesota only have 11 tight ends combined! They each have a lot of work to do to catch back up with the Bears.

Dan Salem on the Chicago Bears:

Being a former tight end myself, the versatility of the position is obvious. They are unstoppable… unless you stop forcing linebackers to cover them. Then they can become slow, plodding blockers who should not be targeted in the passing game. Tight ends can even play running back, which must be Chicago’s plan when including nine on offense.

All kidding aside, the addition of Foles was smart but too little too late. Adding tight ends isn’t a bad idea in principle — unless it’s at the expense of other roster spots.

The Chicago Bears do not have the offense of the Eagles. Adding Foles to push Trubisky, or replace him entirely, will not suddenly infuse talent beyond the quarterback position. Some quarterbacks literally make everyone around them better, but those are rare players. They are not career backups with a few moments of true glory.

Foles can be great in the right situation, but he can also be forgettable in an average situation. Trubisky is on a short leash, and rightfully so after failing to make significant progress last year. But the Bears were great two seasons prior because of defense and a methodical offense. That type of offense can be run by any quarterback who holds onto the football and doesn’t make mistakes.

Do we think the Bears will once again have a great defense? Can a bevy of tight ends carry the offensive load? Considering the vast improvement of Chicago’s competition in the NFC North and conference at large, it’s not looking good for the Bears. So where’s the silver lining? What has Chicago done right to get itself back to the playoffs in the first year of our expanded postseason field?

Chicago ranked 29th in both points for and points against last season. That says everything about this team and it’s a real credit to the Bears that they managed an 8-8 record with such a pitiful performance on the scoreboard. There is a silver lining.

Next: Ranking every starting running back in 2020

Chicago did kind of okay despite scoring and giving up about 18 points a game, ranking them 29th in both categories. Even a marginal return to average puts the Bears up near 21 points a game on offense and down around 15 points a game on defense. I figure +/- three points each way. What does that equal in wins?

As long as it equals one to three more victories, the Bears are in the playoffs. A 9-7 or 10-6 record gets you in with an extra wildcard team per conference. Perhaps Chicago is okay after all.