Bernstein: Bears Sound Like They're Over Howard

Bears running back Jordan Howard
Photo credit Jeff Hanisch/USA Today Sports
(670 The Score) Bears coach Matt Nagy spoke with reporters for about an hour at the NFL owners' meetings in Phoenix on Tuesday, answering a wide range of questions. In doing so, he made it pretty clear that running back Jordan Howard is as available as ever to any team with enough to send the Bears in exchange.

It means an ongoing story since Nagy's arrival remains just that, possibly now catalyzed by his status as the league's Coach of the Year, with such validation after a 12-4 season and a division title allowing him more say than before regarding who best fits his roster and his offense. The lumbering Howard has been a less-than-ideal contributor at a spot that prizes shiftiness and pass catching, and now there's another year's free agency and draft in which to search for potential upgrades.

It's part of why the Bears grabbed Mike Davis away from the Seahawks, prizing a 26-year-old running back on the rise.

"With Mike, we saw somebody who was in a position in Seattle where he didn’t have a lot of tread on his tires," Nagy said. "Not a lot of carries, shared some carries."

Then came the money quote.

"I liked his vision," Nagy said. "I thought he had really good vision. He was a guy who can make you miss between the tackles. He has that in him. We liked that."

Because the Bears need more of it than they were getting, if they want to gain more yards and score more points. Tarik Cohen became the target of opponents as his significance became apparent over the course of the season, to the point in which the Eagles ultimately loaded up against him in the fateful playoff game. Howard, Taquan Mizzell and Benny Cunningham didn't adequately pick up the slack, and the Bears know it. 

As Nagy said, "That's why the philosophy of having other guys on the team who can make plays comes in."

So whither Howard, then? We got the regular lip service, then enough through which we can read the message being sent. Nagy said Howard has a role, but that sounds like a mere acknowledgement that he's technically still on the team. What mattered more came next as he described what general manager Ryan Pace is ready to do.

"I know there’s stuff floating out there in regards to the trade rumors that are out there," Nagy said. "We’re always going to, with all of our guys, if there are rumors out there or there are people talking, Ryan’s always going to see where we’re at. And if it’s something that we think is going to make our team better, we’ll entertain it."

Think about that comment for a second. Instead of noting trade rumors and dismissing them as we expect, Nagy embraces the idea of them as real opportunity. It's incredibly rare to hear a professional coach or executive react positively to the idea of rumored trade possibilities, when they're almost entirely treated as fictional nuisances that have no bearing on their real business. Here, Nagy introduces the idea of trade rumors himself, only to carry him into a confirmation of a player's availability, which is remarkable.

That's coach-speak for "call us."

Dan Bernstein is a co-host of 670 The Score’s Bernstein & McKnight Show in middays. You can follow him on Twitter @dan_bernstein.​​​​