Tag Archives: Randall Cobb

The NFL’s Worst Off-Seasons of 2020

We are officially in the dead zone in the NFL off-season. Free agency and the draft are both in the rearview as organizations, players, and fans anxiously await the 2020-21 season. Whether or not it starts on time remains to be seen, but the NFL has acted as if things would proceed as normal. As such, we can–no, we are obliged to pass judgment on all that has transpired.

This will be a two-part exercise focusing on the best and worst laid plans from this off-season. We will begin with the bad news first, so apologies to any fans of the teams that follow. It may have been overpaying in free agency or reaching in the draft. It could be the opposite where a team was too frugal or patient and missed out on a prospect.

However you slice it, it wasn’t good….

Worst Offseasons of the NFL in 2020

3. Chicago Bears

Our countdown begins with the Chicago Bears. Coming off of a rather disappointing 2019 where they went 8-8, this is not what fans want to hear. They peaked in 2018, going 12-4, but fell back to Earth and have been trying to piecemeal their way back to prominence. That’s what happens when your general manager goes all-in on a project quarterback.

Trying to remedy their mishandling of the quarterback position with journeyman Nick Foles is less than inspiring. But when you add in the draft capital it took to get him, the deal triggers something worse. Robert Quinn should boost the pass rush so his big payday may well be justified. Jimmy Graham did well for himself to get the deal he did. Let’s just leave it at that.

The draft was a chance to make it right but opinions on if the Bears accomplished that. Chicago landed the draft’s top tight end but did so at the expense of higher-rated players at bigger areas of need like safety, a hole they filled with Tashaun Gipson. Their second pick, cornerback Jaylon Johnson received better reviews, even if tempered by his shoulder issue. The rest of the picks were developmental.

Chicago, operating under financial constraints of their own making, came out of the offseason without being substantially better on paper. Aside, perhaps, from Foles though they are largely counting on 2018 being closer to who they really are than the debacle of 2019. Well, that and scrap-heap offensive linemen. Not exactly encouraging.

2. Green Bay Packers

Staying in the NFC North for this one, the Green Bay Packers have seemed to be working multiple angles heading into the 2020 season. They ended 2019 one game away from the Super Bowl. But everything since has been with an eye towards the future. They traded up to take quarterback, drafted a running back in the second round and spent big money on a middle linebacker and right tackle.

General manager Brian Gutekunst has been much more active than his predecessor but this off-season was reminiscent of days past. Two of Green Bay’s acquisitions were linebacker Christian Kirksey and wide receiver Devin Funchess. Kirksey has only played in nine games the past two seasons while Funchess appeared in just one game for the Colts last season.

Their draft wasn’t bad in a vacuum, especially taking Love with a 36-year-old Aaron Rodgers. Brett Favre can attest to that. But the pick of a running back in AJ Dillon that, barring an injury, is the third-stringer. The Packers took their second pass-catching tight end in as many seasons but ignored the receiver room, opting for experience and internal improvement.

Green Bay’s off-season is saved by Love’s talent (regardless of any other factors) and Ricky Wagner. That’s a far cry from the praise they rightfully received last off-season. Teams don’t spend big every year. That would actually be a bad thing. But for a team that was so close to playing for a championship, this off-season has left a lot to be desired.

1. Houston Texans

You probably know where this is going. Anytime a team trades away a player that is ranked at or near the top of his position, you better have a damn good reason for doing so. For the Houston Texans, that reason appears to be Bill O’Brien; the head coach slash de-facto general manager. Not only that, but it doesn’t appear he has done enough to replace that player.

Rumored to be displeased with DeAndre Hopkins’ influence in the locker room and desire for a new deal, B.O.B. went bold. He traded the stud wideout to Arizona. This is where it gets weird. O’Brien felt compelled to take back the bloated contract of running back David Johnson. And you’d be forgiven if you felt Brandin Cooks and Randall Cobb combined didn’t make up for the loss of Hopkins.

Even weirder, usually following a move such as the Hopkins trade, teams try to draft the next guy to replace them. It’s true Cooks and Cobb were brought in, but this was a deep class at receiver. Instead, the Texans replaced a different key cog in D.J. Reader. It’s never a bad thing to build in the trenches. But that idiom is usually reserved for guys who get after the quarterback.

Houston also ignored the offensive line outside of a fourth-rounder. That’s not enough, even with last year’s trade of Laremy Tunsil, for a team that ranked eighth in sacks allowed in 2019. O’Brien might be trying too hard to channel his inner Bill Belichick, fielding an offense without a true number one receiver. The problem is, when the Patriots had a chance to get a true number one in Randy Moss, they did. O’Brien is hustling backward.

Worst NFL Offseasons of 2020

This is just one half of the coin. In our next installment, we’ll address the best off-seasons. But it’s hard to ignore the holes in the plans of these organizations. Of course, they could always prove the doubters wrong. But these teams’ decisions make it seem like they are fighting demons of their own creation. That rarely ends well for those involved.

Chicago Bears Seek Vengeance, Playoff Berth in Week 15

The Chicago Bears are looking for a little vengeance in Week 15, and a playoff berth wouldn’t hurt either. Life is funny sometimes. One moment the sky is falling, 14 weeks later and everything is falling into place. Yes, that is a very specific length of time. It happens to be the exact length of time since the Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers shared the field. Funny.

Are Vengeance and a Playoff Berth in the Chicago Bears Future?

Best Served Cold

Bears fans surely remember that game; opening night at Lambeau Field. The Bears started the season with a bang, going up by 20 on their most hated rival. They even managed to knock out Aaron Rodgers…almost. Rodgers came back to throw three second-half scores on the way to an improbable victory. One that apparently has stuck with more than just fans.

Kyle Fuller remembers. So does Akiem Hicks, who also took exception to remarks Rodgers made about going to “Chicago, a place we’ve won several times, beat them…”. Hicks responded in no uncertain terms that he is “excited for Aaron to come down here…”. Chicago is coming off a huge primetime win over the NFC leading Rams, who were held to 214 yards for 6 points on two field goals. It was an inspired performance, to say the least; one the Bears will look to replicate this weekend. They will have to do so without their impressive slot corner, Bryce Callahan, who was diagnosed with a broken foot.

An Old Foe

Green Bay (5-7-1) is in unfamiliar territory. Having fired their head coach and his top assistant, most teams would play out the string. They would take this time to evaluate the young talent on the roster. Most teams, however, do not have Aaron Charles Rodgers at quarterback. He alone allows the Packers to develop their young defense – Clay Matthews and Tramon Williams are the only current starters over 27 – to learn on the job as the offense does the heavy lifting. Add the rejuvenated ground attack led by Aaron Jones and these Packers pose a bigger threat than their record would indicate.

The Packers will probably look to get the ball out of Rodgers’ hands quickly with short passes. Slants to Davante Adams are always a good idea, but they might be inclined to target the Bears fill-in slot corner, Sherrick McManus. That could mean lots of Randall Cobb and yards after the catch. It is a tactic that has worked against the Bears this season; the Packers among the teams to exploit it. They should also look to establish a ground game to keep the potentially-explosive Bears offense on the sidelines. That is easier said than done.

Be You

For Chicago, the game plan should be similar to last week. Smother the Packers offense. That means shutting down Jones out of the backfield; like they did Gurley. It means getting after Rodgers so he cannot just sit in the pocket, but it also means containment. Rodgers is a master at extending the play, a characteristic certainly not lost on the Bears. The front seven got to Jared Goff early and often Sunday night. This time around they will have a much taller task.

The hope is that a game and two full weeks of practice gets Bears quarterback, Mitchell Trubisky, back on track. He was awful against Los Angeles and was lucky to get bailed out repeatedly by his defense. Trubisky has struggled with accuracy throughout the season, but he had been trending upward in that regard as he built chemistry with his pass-catchers. He gets a feisty Green Bay secondary that is physical and fast, but also young and burnable. The Bears would do well to lean on Jordan Howard and the rediscovered run game; the less Rodgers has the ball the better.

Chicago Bears Seeking Vengeance and Playoff Berth

Clearly, there is no love lost between these two teams. The Packers have tormented the Bears and their fans for years. This meeting, however, is different. This time around it is the Bears perched at the top of the NFC North and gearing up for their first postseason appearance since 2010. On the other side of this role reversal, the Packers are fighting for their playoff lives and needing help to do it.

Could there be a better setup for the 198th meeting between these two historic franchises? The bully trying to maintain their dominance versus the young upstart with a lot to prove. The season started with heartbreak in Chicago and another campfire tale in Green Bay. This week it could end with a Chicago playoff berth and a long trip back to Wisconsin for the Packers. Not exactly the stakes expected after opening night. Again, funny.