Perhaps an injury reopens the door or his benching sends the necessary message.Short of those two hypotheticals, however, Bears former second-round tight end Adam Shaheen probably should expect his stay on the inactives list — where he was a healthy scratch for the first time under Matt Nagy Sunday — to be of the extended variety.
Frankly, the most surprising aspect of Shaheen being deactivated before the Bears’ 20-13 win Sunday vs. the Detroit Lions was that it took as long as it did.
Shaheen failed to build from a physical standpoint on what team brass called a strong third offseason, after GM Ryan Pace said this summer the big tight end was in “phenomenal” shape following two injury-shortened seasons that lengthened the learning curve for the former DII product of Ashland University.
That’s unfortunate but hardly unforgivable.
After all, Pace clearly misevaluated Shaheen’s athleticism and ability to make the sizable jump to the NFL, where generally the best athletes and most imposing physical specimens on the planet thrive. He drafted Shaheen prior to hiring Nagy, and it was at least partially wishful thinking on Pace’s part that the tight end would become a functional contributor in Nagy’s offense, never mind the Bears’ version of Travis Kelce, despite appearing to be a misfit.
But apparently physical and athletic shortcomings weren’t what ultimately led to Shaheen’s deactivation, marking perhaps final straw in his thus far short but wildly disappointing Bears tenure. Consider Nagy’s short but telling response Monday when asked about the decision not to award Shaheen a helmet on gameday for the first time.
“We want all of our players to be able to be completely detailed and play hard and do everything they can to be the best player they can be,” Nagy candidly explained.
That after Shaheen two weeks ago fumbled away the Bears’ final chance in Philadelphia as an up-man on the kick return team in an eight-point game in the final seconds. Nagy said afterward the tight end was supposed to kneel, not attempt to advance it.
“Certainly not an isolated incident,” Bears TE coach Kevin Gilbride said of Shaheen’s fumble and whether it was the lone catalyst in his benching.
Although Shaheen told Bears Insider two weeks ago that the slant route he ran in the embarrassing goal-to-go sequence before halftime in the loss to the Chargers was the one called, Nagy — without specifically throwing his player under the bus — seemed to suggest a fade might have been the Bears’ preference. It certainly would’ve made more sense given Shaheen’s size advantage over the defensive back. Predictably, the slant route led to an incompletion, not one of Shaheen’s 29 career catches — including four touchdowns —across 28 NFL games.
Mind you, receiving remains the stronger part of Shaheen’s game, now in the latter portion of Year 3.
“He’s better in the passing game than he is in the running game — and we need him to be better in the running game,” said Gilbride, who added that he still thinks Shaheen can become a helpful contributor at the NFL level.
“I think as a competitor it’s not going to be an easy thing, but it should light a little bit of a fire underneath you and have you want to come back out and work on the things that you need to work on to help our team win,” he said of Shaheen’s benching.
Nagy’s decision surely didn’t come easily, either.
Not only did his boss invest a ton in what increasingly looks like a wasted pick — before the Steelers drafted Pro Bowl WR JuJu Smith-Schuster and prior to the New Orleans Saints choosing fellow Pro Bowler Alvin Kamara — but Nagy’s offense is highly dependent on the TE position, where the Bears’ production is among the NFL’s worst but the combined pay is among its highest.
Giving Shaheen’s role on offense to former college free agent Ben Braunecker and journeyman converted OT Bradley Sowell, then, required a concession. The Bears made others last week, too, again flip-flopping Cody Whitehair and James Daniels and waiving Mike Davis only eight games into a two-year, $6 million deal to help recoup a fourth-round compensatory draft pick.
“We’re kind of working through all that,” Nagy said Monday after being pressed on whether Shaheen would return to the lineup Sunday night against the Los Angeles Rams.
Reading between the lines, it seems like the Bears could be through with Shaheen altogether.