INDIANAPOLIS – While the NFL Scouting Combine is mostly about the evaluation process of the 300-plus athletes hoping to hear their names called in Nashville at the draft, general managers and head coaches from nearly all of the 32 teams are available for interviews on Wednesday and Thursday.
It's a good opportunity to get a progress report ahead of the beginning of the new league year March 13, and an inside look into what some of the teams are looking to accomplish at the Combine.
All four GMs from the NFC North spoke on Wednesday, so let's get an update on where the Bears, Vikings, Packers and Lions stand heading into an important week at the Combine.
Record: 12-4 (won division)
2019 strength of schedule: T-5th, .520 (based off last year's win-loss record by opponents)
Offseason progress report: With five draft picks – the first not being until the 87th selection – and not a lot of cap space compared to the rest of the league, GM Ryan Pace and his scouting department will have their work cut out for them in trying to find ways to boost the talent and depth on their roster.
The good news for Pace and the Bears is they still have a lot of young, talented players under contract. The only big names set to become free agents on the league's No. 1 defense last year are nickel corner Bryce Callahan and strong safety Adrian Amos. All 11 starters on offense are back.
The Bears have to make some prudent decisions in free agency, no doubt, and the middle rounds of the draft will be used to improve their depth, but overall, Chicago looks to be in pretty good shape with a young quarterback, elite pass rusher and multiple Pro Bowlers on defense on their roster.
Quotable: "It's refreshing to look at the depth chart and not feel overwhelmed by all the needs everywhere," Pace told chicagobears.com
2019 strength of schedule: 10th, .512
Offseason progress report: What does quarterback Kirk Cousins need to do to get Minnesota to the next step?
That was a question posed to Vikings GM Rick Spielman on Wednesday, to which Spielman kind of fired back, saying that because of the position he plays and the contract Cousins signed last offseason, he was going to get a lot of the blame for the Vikings missing the playoffs this past season.
But Spielman was very clear he thinks the blame has to be spread throughout the roster, and there needs to be a lot better play all around for the Vikings to get back to their winning ways.
Statistically, Cousins threw for more than 4,000 yards, completed a career-high 70 percent of his passes and hit 30 touchdown passes for the first time in his career.
This will be Kevin Stefanski's first full season as Vikings offensive coordinator, and Spielman is hoping it will lead to everyone else on offense playing better around Cousins, which it seemed very clear Spielman thought needed to happen.
Quotable: "We all have to do better at our jobs," Spielman said. "Do the things that (players) do well. You have your scheme, but adjust some of the things you do to put your players in the best position to have success."
View photos from general managers and head coaches speaking to the media on Day 1 of the 2019 NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis.
2019 strength of schedule: T-14th, .504
Offseason progress report: The Packers have a new young coach in Matt LaFleur, and they're hoping that makes a big difference for their offense.
LaFleur wants to be balanced on offense and give MVP quarterback Aaron Rodgers more help in that regard.
Packers GM Brian Gutekunst loved the success LaFleur had in Washington, Atlanta, Los Angeles and calling plays for the first time last season in Tennessee. Gutekunst did his homework on LaFleur, and was impressed with what everyone associated with LaFleur over the years had to say about him leading up to his first interview with the club.
It was important for Gutekunst that LaFleur has worked in the past with top-flight quarterbacks like Matt Ryan and Jared Goff. He can't wait to see how he'll work with one of the best in the business in Rodgers.
Quotable: "I was really impressed with the first sitdown and how he handled it and then his passion and his kind of vision for our team," Gutekunst said of LaFleur.
2019 strength of schedule: 19th, .496
Offseason progress report: Lions general manager Bob Quinn and head coach Matt Patricia seem in lockstep in terms of where their needs are and where this draft is strong and how they might align.
Quinn said that the addition of around 45-50 underclassmen in this draft has really bolstered the middle rounds of the draft and the core of the draft in Day 2 and early in Day 3.
The draft is really strong defensively, but if the Lions want to bolster their offense – an area in which they struggled with consistency last season – where might they be able to do it?
Quotable: "The offensive line has good depth," Quinn said. "I think receiver corps has good depth, tight ends obviously. A lot of those (TE's) are underclassmen. I think there's probably what, seven or eight underclassmen that are projected to go pretty high.
"Yeah, there's some positions that match up to need, but we're in February here. I think this is a big week to kind of see where everyone kind of ends up ranking. And then we get to the pro days and then our visits and stuff. So, we have a lot of work to do, but I think some of the stuff matches up."