Chicago Bears 2016 Hold 'em or Fold 'em: ILB Shea McClellin

The Bears coaching staff was happy with Shea McClellin's progress last year but will that be enough for the team to re-sign him this off-season?

Former Chicago Bears GM Phil Emery had one major flaw: he always thought he was the smartest guy in the room.

Sometimes he was, like when he drafted three-time Pro Bowl offensive lineman Kyle Long in the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft, a player most projected as a second- or third-round pick. 

Yet other times, Emery's ego got in the way in of the team's collective decision making.

Such was the case in Emery's first draft in 2011, when he passed over DE Chandler Jones - who is coming off a 12.5-sack season - for Boise State linebacker Shea McClellin and immediately appointing him at defensive end. 

McClellin tallied just 6.5 sacks his first two seasons with his hand in the dirt, prompting the club to move him to 4-3 outside linebacker. Yet he failed to produce at OLB as well, posting just 36 total tackes in 12 games in 2014. 

When the new regime took over this year, defensive coordinator Vic Fangio shifted McClellin again, this time to 3-4 inside linebacker. 

In almost every way, 2015 was his best season in the NFL. In 12 games, he finished with 81 tackles - second most on the team - with one pass breakup and one forced fumble, the first of his career. He also had decent success as a blitzer, picking up 2 QB hits and 12 QB hurries. 

Considering his overall improvement, which Fangio discussed on numerous ocassions, should the Bears give McClellin one more shot and re-sign him this off-season? 

The easy answer: no. 

Many of the problems that have dogged McClellin throughout his career were evident last year. He was hesitant in his run fits, making most of his tackles five yards beyond the line of scrimmage, and lacked sufficient power at the point of attack. In essenece, he did not play downhill football. 

He was even worse in coverage. McClellin gave up 41 receptions on 50 targets, for a whopping 82.0 catch percentage, with two of those catches going for touchdowns. Opposing quarterbacks had a 115.8 rating when throwing at him.

Additionally, McClellin struggles to stay healthy. He's never played 16 games in any single season and missed eight games the past two years combined. A knee injury hampered him during the second half of last season, which made him even more of a liability in coverage. 

The Bears have exhausted nearly every conceivable option to make McClellin worthy of his status as a former first rounder but none have worked. No matter where they play him, he underperforms. He's athletic but he lacks physicality and instincts, two things that are nearly impossible to teach.

He's not a lost cause and some team is going to take a chance on McClellin this off-season but it won't be the Bears. 

Fangio needs beastly, north-south linebackers - like he had in San Francisco with Patrick Willis and Navorro Bowman - for his defense to succeed. McClellin is not that player. 

It's not McClellin's fault that Emery stupidly drafted him in the first round, so the extreme criticism lobbied his way by fans hasn't been entirely warranted. But right or wrong, the McClellin experiment failed in Chicago and it's time for both sides to part ways. 


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