Bears legend Walter Payton was born on this date in 1954, so let’s take a look back at some highlights:
Payton hasn’t played a down of football since December 27, 1987, and still holds team records in rushing yards (16,726), attempts (3,838), and touchdowns (110). But, of course, he was more than just a runner.
Payton’s name is everywhere on the Bears leaderboard. He ranks first in receptions (492), fourth in receiving yards (4,538), and third in total scoring (750) with only two kickers topping Sweetness on that specific list.
It’s also worth noting that Payton threw eight touchdown passes in his career, making him the all-time leader in touchdown passes for a running back in the Super Bowl era. And when it comes to the Bears’ record books, Payton has as many touchdown passes as Matt Barkley (with eight fewer interceptions) and more than Chris Chandler, Kordell Stewart, and Jimmy Claussen among others.
I wonder how many Super Bowls Dan Hampton thinks the 1980s Bears would have won with Payton under center?
- Just because Mike Glennon is entrenched as a starter right now doesn’t mean Mitch Trubisky won’t start in 2017. Dan Cahill of the Chicago Sun-Times has some of the latest numbers from the wagering committee, which set the odds of Trubisky starting the season opener at 3-1 according to TopBet. To be fair, it’s more likely that Trubisky will start the season finale than the opener – which is something that TopBet has odds for and has gives Trubisky (-110) a slight edge to start over Glennon (+150). If I were a betting man (which I’ve been known to be from time to time) I would wager that Trubisky starts at least once this season (but don’ take my advice for it … seriously).
- Frankly, it would be out of the ordinary if Trubisky didn’t play at all this season, but not completely unprecedented. Carson Palmer and Philip Rivers are notable examples of quarterbacks who were drafted in the top-10 and didn’t make a single start in their rookie seasons. In fact, that scenario has unfolded just three times since 2000, according to ESPN Chicago’s Jeff Dickerson. There have been 26 quarterbacks picked in the top-10 since the turn of the century, and the only ones not to start in their first seasons are Palmer (1st overall, 2003), Rivers (4th overall, 2004), and Jake Locker (8th overall, 2011). Trubisky following in the footsteps of Palmer (two Pro Bowls, 44,269 passing yards) or Rivers (five Pro Bowls, 314 passing touchdowns) would be welcome with open arms.
- Over at the Chicago Tribune, Brad Biggs writes that the pressure is mounting on Trubisky’s head coach. We’ve discussed John Fox’s position on the hot seat, its potential effects, some potential replacements, and other things (his high ranking, his job security compared to other NFC North coaches) this offseason … but Fox’s situation is the off-field/non-quarterback story line to follow this season. Two losing seasons and a 9-23 record in two years isn’t what anyone had in mind when GM Ryan Pace hired Fox to replace Marc Trestman, who oversaw the team bottom out in every facet of the game in just two years with the team. The third year is supposed to be one where a team shows progress, but that doesn’t look to be on the horizon for a team with as many stop-gap starters as this one does.
- Biggs notes several coaches who started their careers with new teams at 9-23 or worse, and things didn’t end well for Dennis Erickson (2003-04 49ers), Norv Turner (2004-05 Raiders), Dick LeBeau (2001-02 Bengals), and Lovie Smith (2014-15 Buccaneers) among others. The fact that former Lions coach Jim Schwartz is the shining example of a successful coach who stuck it out after a slow start says a lot about how difficult it is to struggle while rebuilding and stay on the same path at the same time. Early in the offseason, Fox said his team is within striking distance … of something, but it’s up to him and his staff to coach up the players to reach those heights.
- For the Bears to beat expectations, they’ll need some significant contributions from some unexpected sources. An example of one of those pleasant surprises could be second-year defensive lineman Jonathan Bullard. CSN Chicago’s Chris Boden writes that Bullard – who made the leap one full year after transitioning from a 4-3 defense in college to a 3-4 in the pros – exemplifies where and how the Bears could improve in 2017. Chicago had some holes along the defensive line last year with injuries sapping some of the position group’s potential, so a healthy and productive Bullard could provide a needed boost to the front seven.
- Perhaps a surprise season from a rookie could inject some life in an offense that finished in the bottom 10 in scoring average last year? That’s something second-round tight end Adam Shaheen could provide, and Dave Hogg of FanRag Sports offers up what the Bears can expect from their high-upside rookie. Despite opening training camp as the team’s No. 3 tight end, Shaheen could move up the depth chart with a strong summer performance and a possible move of Zach Miller off the roster. After that, building a rapport with Glennon and Trubisky will be his top priorities if he wants to grow into the playmaker the team expects him to be.
- The 2017 season will likely test the patience of Bears fans, so allow Mark Potash of the Chicago Sun-Times to test your levels of optimism and pessimism regarding the team right before we get to training camp.