I don’t know if anyone knew this, but the 2021 season was a rough one for the Chicago Bears. They finished with their worst record since 2017. Of course playoff hopes being extinguished before the fire ever got to really burn will anger any fanbase, but it’s not like a double-digit loss season is unfamiliar territory for Bears fans. And they don’t have a first-round pick. The problem with this season was that it was just a miserable experience.
From that Week 1 trouncing at the hands of the Los Angeles Rams (SoFi Stadium is pretty cool, but only in Los Angeles can parking cost more than the game ticket) to a season-ending loss in Minnesota on Sunday, the 2021 season was unpleasant. It got so unpleasant that as the Chicago Bulls were getting off to an unexpected, outstanding start to their regular season, the song “Fire Nagy,” could be heard sung in unison by fans at the United Center.
Coach Matt Nagy and general manager Ryan Pace were relieved of their duties on Monday, but the ensuing press conference did the polar opposite of presenting competence to the current players, fans, media, ex players, and anyone breathing that doesn’t have the surname, McCaskey. So NFL, please help the fanbase of one of your most storied franchises have a sweet dream or two this offseason. Give Roquan Smith some type of acknowledgement.
He didn’t make the Pro Bowl, which can be forgiven. The way the Pro Bowl selection process works is the fan votes, coach votes, and player votes are all weighted equally. There were only two inside linebacker positions available for each conference, and with Micah Parsons — listed as an inside linebacker even though his fame has come as a pass rusher — having a standout year for the Dallas Cowboys, he was going to dominate the fan vote for one of those NFC spots.
That’s fine, but Smith had better be an All-Pro this year, and a first-team selection might be in order. His counting stats are strong — sixth in the NFL in combined tackles and fourth in tackles for loss among the traditional linebackers.
Football Outsiders’ Aaron Schatz tweeted out some interesting numbers on Smith today. He has Smith as a top-five performer in two of his advanced statistical categories: defeats and pass tackle stops. Defeats is a stat that combines tackles for loss, forced turnovers, and 3/4th down stops. Smith was tied for fifth in that category— the only other traditional linebacker in that category is Matt Milano of the Buffalo Bills. Pass tackle stops are when a player tackles a pass catcher short of the first down marker on 3/4th down, at least 60 percent short of the marker on second down, and at least 45 percent short on first down. Smith leads the NFL in that stat.
What those advanced stats show is that Smith is one of the best defensive playmakers in the NFL. The job of the defense, outside of preventing the other offense from scoring, is to get their offense back on the field as fast as possible. These drive-ending types of plays that Smith is making are the kinds that an assistant coach would, in a meeting, stop the tape, run the play back several times, and commend a player. For young players, if you want to assure yourself playing time on defense, these are the types of plays that if you make them, your coach will keep you on the field.
Following the Georgia vs. Alabama national championship Game I for years ago, Smith was regarded as a can’t-miss defensive prospect. Now, after his Bulldogs took down Alabama without him, Smith isn’t enjoying the same winning that he did at Georgia, but he is making the same plays in the NFL that he did there. He is going to be rewarded financially either this offseason or the next and become the highest-paid inside linebackers in the league. However, for his sake, and for the sake of Bears fans, Associated Press, Pro Football Writers, make the man an All-Pro. Free Italian beefs for anyone that votes him first-team.