NFL Nation: 2009-10 Regular Season

Seven-time Pro Bowl linebacker Lance Briggs told he has a Monday visit scheduled with the San Francisco 49ers.

Briggs just completed his 12th and final season with the Chicago Bears. The Elk Grove, California, native grew up 1 hours from Candlestick Park and was a 49ers fan.

The 49ers are in desperate need of help at linebacker following the retirements of Patrick Willis and Chris Borland. The team only has three experienced inside linebackers on the roster.

Briggs, who turns 35 in November, said he strongly believes he can "still perform at an elite level" as he looks to continue his career. He played in just eight games last season before being placed on injured reserve with a groin injury.

According to statistics compiled by the Bears, Briggs surpassed 100 tackles in a season eight different times. In his career, he also has 16 interceptions, 15 sacks and five defensive touchdowns. Briggs is one of four linebackers in franchise history to be selected to seven consecutive Pro Bowls, joining Hall of Fame members Dick Butkus, Bill George and Mike Singletary.

49ers general manager Trent Baalke confirmed the team’s interest in Briggs when he spoke at the NFL owners meetings.

Briggs has drawn interest from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Dallas Cowboys as well.

Virginia McCaskeyKyle Terada/USA TODAY Sports 

Majority owner: Virginia McCaskey (92)

Minority owners: Patrick Ryan (77), Andrew McKenna (84)

Source of wealth: Ownership of the Chicago Bears

Net worth: $1.3 billion (Forbes)

Residence: Des Plaines, Illinois

Marital status: Widowed

Family: Virginia McCaskey votes the stock for her 11 children and other relatives which amounts to an 80-percent ownership share, and allows her to control the team. The team’s board consists of Virginia McCaskey and five of her sons: George, Brian, Edward, Michael and Patrick, along with minority owners Pat Ryan and Andrew McKenna.

Education: Drexel University

When purchased team and how much: Virginia McCaskey took over when her father died in November 1983. George Hallas originally purchased the team in 1920 for $100.

Franchise valuation: $1.7 billion (Forbes)

2014 revenue/rank: $309 million/eighth (Forbes)

Owns stadium: No

Ownership philosophy: The McCaskeys have brought in football people to run the day-to-day operations, and they take a hands-off approach, preferring to empower the people they put in key positions to do their jobs.

Defining moment in ownership tenure: On Oct. 31, 1983, Bears founder and owner George Halas died, and Virginia McCaskey -- Halas' eldest daughter -- became the team’s principal owner.

Regular/postseason wins-losses during tenure: 267-231/9-10

General managers during tenure: Jerome Vainisi (1983-87), Jerry Angelo (2001-11), Phil Emery (2012-14), Ryan Pace (2015-present)

Coaches during tenure: Mike Ditka (1982-92), Dave Wannstedt (1993-98), Dick Jauron (1999-03), Lovie Smith (2004-12), Marc Trestman (2013-14), John Fox (2015-present)

Playoff appearances: 1984, 1985, 1986, 1987, 1988, 1990, 1991, 1994, 2001, 2005, 2006, 2010

Super Bowl appearances/championships: Defeated Patriots 46-10 in Super Bowl XX (1985 season), lost to Colts 29-17 in Super Bowl XLI (2006 season)

NFL committees: Employee benefits, stadium, stadium security and fan behavior, Super Bowl advisory, Hall of Fame, international, CEC executive working group, CBA player benefit plans, workplace diversity

Bears may find receiver help in draft

March, 18, 2015
Mar 18

ESPN Bears reporter Michael C. Wright discusses remaining needs in Chicago.

ESPN Bears reporter Michael C. Wright says the team will upgrade linebacker and defensive line in their new 3-4 alignment.

Jay Cutler decision looming

March, 4, 2015
Mar 4
ESPN Bears reporter Michael C. Wright discusses options with Jay Cutler.
INDIANAPOLIS -- Chicago Bears coach John Fox and general manager Ryan Pace met Wednesday with the media at the NFL combine, and several other interview sessions commenced Friday involving general managers and head coaches around the league. Here’s what we’ve learned about the Bears:

Inside linebackers on radar: Multiple sources indicate the Bears are looking to add inside linebackers in free agency. Interestingly, the current roster features some intriguing possibilities at the position in Jonathan Bostic, Khaseem Greene and the recently re-signed DeDe Lattimore, along with pending veteran free agent Lance Briggs. The team’s interest level in re-signing Briggs is unclear. Briggs earned $4.75 million in base salary in 2014, and likely won’t be able to command such a lucrative salary in free agency.

The Bears will meet with reps for New York Jets free agent inside linebacker David Harris this week at the combine, according to a source. Harris has generated 100-plus tackles in each of the last three seasons and hasn’t missed a game since 2008.

Jay Cutler-friendly staff: At least on the surface, it appears that the new staff is Cutler-friendly it its hiring of offensive coordinator Adam Gase and quarterbacks coach Dowell Loggains.

According to multiple sources, Cutler started to grow close to Gase after spending considerable time with the former Denver Broncos offensive coordinator at the wedding of former Bears quarterbacks coach Shane Day, a disciple of former Bears coordinator Mike Martz. Cutler has wanted to work with Gase for a long time. Interestingly, Martz tried to bring aboard Gase back in 2010 as the quarterbacks coach, but the Denver Broncos wouldn’t allow him out of his contract, which led to the hiring of Day.

It goes even deeper than that, though.

Back in 2012, Cutler wanted former Bears coach Lovie Smith to hire Loggains, but he wasn’t allowed out of his contract with the Tennessee Titans. Cutler and Loggains have a close personal relationship, according to sources, and both the quarterback and coach have wanted to work with one another for quite some time.

So while Fox and Pace have been noncommittal regarding Cutler, the club’s recent hires indicate the team ultimately wants to make things work with the quarterback.

Amari Cooper high on Mike Groh: The Alabama receiver complimented Bears assistant coach Groh for his attention to detail, according to this piece by colleague Jeff Dickerson.

“He’s really diligent in the way he wants to teach us,” said Cooper, projected as a first-round pick. He’ll go out and watch a lot of film on other guys, NFL wide receivers, and come back and try to teach it to us so we can be the best we can be.”

Groh worked with Cooper at Alabama from 2011-12 as the team’s receivers coach and recruiting coordinator.
INDIANAPOLIS -- Chicago Bears coach John Fox and general manager Ryan Pace met with the media on Wednesday at the NFL combine. Here’s what we learned:

1. Bears definitely a 3-4 team: When the Bears brought aboard Vic Fangio as the defensive coordinator, there was plenty of speculation about the team moving to a 3-4 scheme or a hybrid look. But Fox made it clear the Bears are definitely moving to a 3-4. What’s more is that Fox and Pace believe several of the players on the current roster such as Jared Allen, Willie Young and Lamarr Houston fit the new scheme.

“I think he can be very flexible,” Pace said of Allen. “We can use him in a variety of ways. He has done it for a lot of years. I feel the same way about several other players. Houston is the same way. I think position flexibility is a strength of some of those guys. And again, I think Vic Fangio and John Fox -- intelligent guys that will find ways to maximize their skill sets.”

2. Healthy cap means Bears can make moves in free agency: Chicago contract guru Cliff Stein deserves some credit for the team’s healthy cap situation as the Bears -- depending on what the actual cap figure is for 2015 -- should have more than $25 million in cap space in March once free agency kicks off.

Asked whether the Bears would be aggressive in free agency, Pace said, “You know, we’re healthy with our cap right now. So if we want to be, we can. Again, it’s just measuring what positions are strong in free agency versus what positions are strong in the draft. And we’re going through that right now. But if there is a player we know can upgrade us right now, we’ll attack it. And there’s different levels of free agency, but we’ll look at every level of it and upgrade our roster that way.”

3. Fox high on Kyle Fuller: Fox didn’t hesitate to mention the 2014 first-round pick when asked which players the team could build around moving forward, as he also mentioned veteran Jeremiah Ratliff.

“I’d say Fuller is a guy [to build around],” Fox said. “My evaluation is more from what he did in college, where we had him in the draft process than it is completely on Bear tape. But I'd say a young guy like that, a core guy, he was a first-round pick. I think he has the right kind of tools to be a guy that can lean into that leader spot as he goes. I think Ratliff is still a good performer, while he's been in the league for a while at a high level. That's just to name a couple; still have a lot more work to look at and see where we put them."
INDIANAPOLIS -- To remain a Chicago Bear, it appears receiver Brandon Marshall needs to give up his budding broadcast career as an analyst on Showtime's "Inside the NFL," as new head coach John Fox and general manager Ryan Pace expressed Wednesday that football is where the players' focus should be.

"I just want to make sure that we understand the Chicago Bears and football are our No. 1 priority going forward," Pace said from the NFL combine.

[+] EnlargeRyan Pace
Courtesy Chicago Bears "I just want to make sure that we understand the Chicago Bears and football are our No. 1 priority going forward," Bears GM Ryan Pace said from the NFL combine.
Pace and Fox said they've met with Marshall and several other players as the staff works to put the plan in place for the 2015 Chicago Bears, and the brass is currently evaluating the receiver and the rest of the roster. Marshall's base salary of $7.5 million for next season becomes guaranteed on the third day of the new league year (March 12).

While Fox hasn't talked with Marshall about his commitment to "Inside the NFL," which last year involved the receiver flying out to New York on the team's weekly day off to tape the show, it's clear the coach and GM expect the focus to be solely on football, and not extracurricular activities.

A five-time Pro Bowler, Marshall hinted earlier this month he would like to return for another season of "Inside the NFL."

"I actually interviewed [Baltimore coach John Harbaugh during Super Bowl week]," Marshall said on the show. "I said, ‘If I played for you, would you let me do "Inside the NFL?"' He said, ‘Oh, absolutely. He knew I was taking a lot of heat for doing the show."

But Fox and Pace aren't Harbaugh, and the new braintrust of the Bears made it clear football is the top priority.

"I will say that regardless of who it is, I think their focus and energy needs to remain on what's going on to help us win a championship," said Fox, who like Pace, was noncommittal regarding the futures of both Marshall and quarterback Jay Cutler.

"I think [Marshall has] had great production. I think he's a guy that's a big target," Fox said. "That helps you a lot in the red area, and he's done it in this league. We're trying to evaluate where everybody fits, and how we best use them; trying to put the best football team on the field. He's part of that process. I don't know if it's fair to give a full evaluation when I only took part of the test. We've still got more questions on the test, so we'll continue down that path, and hopefully make the best decision for our football team."

Dealing with nagging leg injuries most of the season, Marshall finished on the injured reserve due to fractured ribs and a punctured lung, and produced just 721 yards receiving. Prior to the 2014 season, Marshall had produced seven consecutive 1,000-yard receiving seasons.

So in addition to the production tailing off, Marshall participated in a few incidents during the club's dismal 5-11 campaign that could be construed as potential distractions; most notably, a passionate postgame rant after the team's Oct. 19 loss to the Miami Dolphins, in addition to the receiver challenging a Detroit Lions fan to a boxing match on Twitter.

Marshall has said recently he plans to continue his busy life off-the-field, which also involves advocating for mental health awareness through his foundation.

"We met with him like a lot of individual players, and that's going to be a slow process, and we look forward to evaluating that," Pace said. "Sometimes, these reputations outside the building, you get inside, and it's not what you expected. I think we need to make our own decisions, and our own judgments, and that's the process we're going through right now."

Combine critical for new Bears' regime

February, 18, 2015
Feb 18
ESPN Bears reporter Michael C. Wright discusses new general manager Ryan Pace and coach John Fox forging their dynamic in Indianapolis.
ESPN Bears reporter Michael C. Wright discusses free-agent situations for veteran defenders.
ESPN Bears reporter Michael C. Wright discusses what defensive scheme the new coaches may institute.

ESPN Bears reporter Michael C. Wright discusses new head coach John Fox.

ESPN Bears reporter Michael C. Wright discusses the team’s new general manager.

ESPN Bears reporter Michael C. Wright discusses the team’s search for a GM and head coach.
No need for dialing up or texting go-to NFL sources, or sneaking around the facilities to find out whether the Chicago Bears would part ways with Marc Trestman.

Everyone saw this one coming weeks ago. The ouster of general manager Phil Emery might not have been as obvious, but there is no discounting the impact his questionable personnel decisions played in the demise of both men.

Here is a quick list of 15 contributors to Trestman’s firing (and yes, more reasons certainly exist):

1. The locker room: Looking to change up a locker-room culture that was already established by outgoing coach Lovie Smith, Trestman rearranged the lockers -- which in the past were grouped by position -- into a random pattern in an effort to coax players to get to know one another better. The move didn’t result in any pushback from the team, but the coaching staff’s frequent presence in the locker room did rub several players the wrong way.

2. Field goal attempt on second down in loss to Vikings on Dec. 1, 2013: It’s bad enough the Bears allowed a 20-10 fourth-quarter lead to slip away during a 23-20 loss in overtime, but Trestman made matters worse with a questionable decision that likely cost the Bears the game. During the overtime period, Trestman called five consecutive run plays for Matt Forte, who gained 24 yards to set up the Bears with second down at the Minnesota 32 with 4:12 left to play. Trestman then called for a timeout, and after the Vikings called a timeout, Trestman elected to send Robbie Gould on the field for a 47-yard field goal attempt, which sailed wide right. Trestman should have called at least one more play to try to move the Bears a little closer for Gould. The Bears finished 8-8, and a 9-7 record would have put them in the playoffs.

3. Bears crushed 54-11 by Eagles on Dec. 22, 2013: In the bowels of Lincoln Financial Field less than an hour prior to kickoff, cheers seeped out of Chicago’s locker room as Detroit fell to the New York Giants and the Pittsburgh Steelers defeated the Green Bay Packers. The Bears just needed to win this game to advance to the postseason, but instead let the Eagles pound them 54-11. Clearly inadequately prepared, the Bears were outrushed 289-61.

4. Passing up points: Chicago converted 13 of 28 fourth-down conversion attempts this season, ranking 17th in the league. They attempted eight more conversions than any other team and converted three more times than any other team. Although all the conversion tries didn’t involve the Bears passing up makeable field goal attempts, Trestman made that call enough times that it was noticeable. Part of the problem was the Bears were 24th in the league in third-down conversions.

5. Pre-snap penalties: The Bears committed a total of 17 pre-snap penalties on offense in 2013, and they committed 28 false starts in 2014, with 27 being accepted. The number committed and number accepted were both the second-highest in the league. Of those 28, five were special teams false starts, which were the most in the league. Such a nosedive speaks to a lack of discipline.

[+] EnlargeJay Cutler and Marc Trestman
Dennis Wierzbicki/USA TODAY SportsMarc Trestman's handling of quarterback Jay Cutler and inconsistent disciplinary decisions were factors in his departure from the team.
6. Timeouts and clock mismanagement: No need to dig into this one. But the Bears blew too many opportunities with bad clock management, including the aforementioned 2013 field goal attempt in Minnesota. Trestman also admitted after a Nov. 16 loss to the Vikings at Soldier Field that he could have done a better job managing the clock before halftime. The Bears, with one timeout, received the ball with 1:05 left at their 26. They called for a run and wasted 40 seconds and then called for another run before calling a timeout. With only 15 seconds left, they finally called for a pass that was intercepted.

7. Captains, or lack thereof: In the past, the Bears elected captains prior to the season. In Trestman’s second year, he decided to name captains on a rotating basis. None of the players complained publicly, but behind the scenes many were miffed by the coach’s decision.

8. Martellus Bennett's training camp suspension: On the surface, suspending Bennett for conduct detrimental to the team after he slammed rookie Kyle Fuller to the ground after a training camp fight was the right thing to do, and it established a level of expectation. But later, the feeling was Trestman administered discipline inconsistently. Had Trestman taken a hard-line stance such as this with all transgressions, perhaps the team would have been more successful, or at least cohesive. Instead, the coach’s inconsistent levying of discipline led to a lack of trust from players inside the locker room.

9. Double Nickel Smokehouse: Sure, it was Labor Day. But you don’t let one of your top defensive players miss the first day of preparation for the season opener to open up a restaurant. But that’s precisely what Trestman did in allowing linebacker Lance Briggs to skip a practice for the opening of his restaurant, the Double Nickel Smokehouse, in Elk Grove, California. None of the players complained publicly, but surely the move couldn’t have gone over well with everyone in the locker room. At the very least, Trestman’s decision to give Briggs the day off created an unnecessary distraction.

10. Offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer's criticism of Jay Cutler: Venting to an NFL Network reporter after a Dec. 4 loss to the Dallas Cowboys, Kromer became an anonymous source for a report in which the club was said to have "buyer’s remorse" regarding quarterback Jay Cutler. Four days after the loss, Kromer apologized to the team and Cutler during a team meeting, admitting he was the anonymous source in the story. Trestman said the matter would be handled "internally," but it appears the offensive coordinator received little more than a slap on the wrist. Again, inconsistent discipline.

11. Fifty points allowed in back-to-back games: Be honest: You had never heard of the Rochester Jeffersons until November, when the Bears brought them into relevance. Chicago became the first team in professional football since the 1923 Jeffersons to give up 50 points in back-to-back outings. Embarrassing.

12. Brandon Marshall: The mercurial receiver called out Cutler in the locker room, according to a source, after an Oct. 19 loss to the Miami Dolphins, and later challenged a Detroit Lions fan to a fight on Twitter. Don’t forget about Marshall’s strange, rambling 45-minute news conference to address allegations of domestic violence from the past, in addition to his admission he understood the organization feeling "buyer’s remorse" regarding Cutler's monstrous contract and lack of production. Trestman also allowed the receiver to do a weekly appearance on Showtime’s "Inside the NFL" in New York, not to mention Marshall signing his contract extension on "The View." It seemed Trestman allowed Marshall to do whatever he wanted, and not everyone in the locker room was on board with it.

13. Benching of Cutler: A week after the Kromer drama, Cutler tossed three interceptions and finished with a passer rating of 55.8 in a 31-15 loss to the New Orleans Saints at Soldier Field. So, just 14 games into Cutler’s $126.7 million contract, Trestman made the decision to bench the quarterback. Asked whether general manager Phil Emery was on board with the move, Trestman paused five seconds -- an indication that perhaps the two weren't on the same page. Remember, just a week earlier, Kromer admitted to breaching the trust of the organization and the players, and wasn’t disciplined harshly. Cutler produced a bad game and was benched. Multiple players in the locker room noted the unevenness in how Trestman dealt with Kromer and Cutler, with Gould later coming out on the record to voice complaints about the quarterback’s benching.

14. Players speaking out: This took place on multiple occasions throughout the season, with the most notable being cornerback Tim Jennings, Gould and Marshall on various radio shows. It’s a troubling sign when the players don’t believe in the head coach.

15. Cutler regains starting job: A day after backup Jimmy Clausen put together a fairly solid performance in a loss to Detroit, the team announced he suffered a concussion after experiencing "delayed symptoms," and named Cutler the starter for the season finale. Trestman mentioned that Cutler provided the best chance for winning, but with the Bears sitting at 5-10 at the time, there wasn’t much left to play for. So taking a look at rookie David Fales would have made sense. Besides that, Cutler’s future appears to be murky, and the team could be looking into trading him. So why risk getting Cutler injured in a meaningless game? If Cutler is still on the roster on the third day of the new league year, a $10 million guarantee kicks in for 2016. His 2015 salary of $15.5 million is already fully guaranteed.