Written by: John Stocco
It felt like it was yesterday when I was writing this summer for Blitzalytics, and I was writing about expectations for the Chicago Bears. Expectations were through the roof. The Bears came off a 12-4 season where they were crowned the champs of the NFC North, another year of an elite defense, Mitch Trubisky entering his third season after making the biggest QBR jumps in the NFL, drafting running back David Montgomery, the future never looked brighter for the Bears. Well, it’s week 16, and the future looks gloomy. How quickly things can change in the NFL.
If I had to use a phrase to describe the 2019 season for the Bears, it's too much too soon. The too much, it was the Bears 100th season and the expectations set for this team was through the roof. Being at the Bears convention you saw an arrogance form on this team, and arrogance isn’t always a bad thing. Did the Bears earn to have some arrogance? Yes. A rookie head coach, a second year quarterback, and an elite defense finally beat Aaron Rodgers’ Green Bay Packers, and a Minnesota Vikings team that probably has a better team than most of the NFL on paper. With arrogance you still have to put in the work, and I’m not saying the Bears didn’t put in the work, but the Bears were crowned before they even won a playoff game. Throughout the entire 100th season convention this Bears team was compared to great Bears teams in the past like the 2006 Bears, and the historical 1985 team. Whether it was Khalil Mack being put on the same level as Dick Butkus, Mike Singletary, and Brian Urlacher, or it was Jim McMahon passing down the headband to the next quarterback that would bring a Super Bowl to Chicago. This team was put on a pedestal that just couldn’t be reached. The too soon, the Bears ended their 2018 season in one of the worst ways any team can have their season end. For Cubs fans who are reading, Cody Parkey is the Bears Steve Bartman. The 2018 Bears were rolling, and it had a defense that was good enough to win the Super Bowl that season. A missed kick ruined it all and the world will never know what the 2018 Chicago Bears could have accomplished. I don’t care what sport it is, a devastating loss like that will affect any team. It obviously affected the Bears. Every time Matt Nagy, Ryan Pace, and the players had a day with the media the question would get asked about the kicking situation. It was a dark cloud that would never go away, and because of Eddy Pineiro’s inconsistencies this season it’s a dark cloud that is still over the Chicago Bears franchise. All of the focus was going to the Bears kicking competition, while other holes began to be dug for this team.
From day one of training camp, there was a vibe around the city that didn’t feel right with this team. All winter and spring the hype was second to none, then training camp came and the feel was different. There were rumors spreading that the kicker situation wasn’t all that much better, Trey Burton and Adam Shaheen couldn’t stay healthy, and Mitch Trubisky wasn’t progressing enough to keep up with Matt Nagy’s playbook. There are some conflicting reports out there. One side of the story says Matt Nagy was trying to simplify the language to make it easier on Trubisky, and others say Trubisky didn’t look good at all when having full control of the offense. Either way it was worrisome, and the Bears couldn’t identify the problem sooner because Matt Nagy didn’t play any of the starters for preseason. It all came to a crashing halt on opening night against the Packers. The Packers found out how to stop Trubisky, and Nagy in one of the worst games I’ve ever seen in my life. The book was out on Trubisky and Nagy, and it was time to go back to the drawing board. Trubisky still couldn’t make the easy throws or the correct reads, and Matt Nagy couldn’t get anything going offensively because the Bears didn’t have a capable quarterback, the running game was nonexistent, and the offensive line was a disaster. For the first half of the season the Bears dealt with Matt Nagy trying to change his playbook in midseason, a horrible and injured Mitch Trubisky, an injured Kyle Long, an injured tight end group, an injured Akiem Hicks, and Roquan Smith who was dealing with personal problems. It was a disaster with no easy way out. When Trubisky started turning things around for himself, when David Montgomery and Anthony Miller started gaining momentum, and when the defense was finally healthy, it was too little too late. The damage was already done by how well the Packers and Vikings have played. Nothing went right for the Bears, but even in a season where nothing went right, the Bears never gave up. That speaks volumes to what type of guys the Bears have in that locker room, and it speaks to how respected Matt Nagy is in that locker room. They fought every game even if they were handicapped, and no matter what the Bears were giving you their best. In a year that completely sucked you can be proud of the way this team showed up, and I couldn’t be happier that these core group of players are coming back because the Bears are coming back.
Looking towards the future. Let’s start with the positives first. I believe the Bears still have one of the best defenses in the NFL. Khalil Mack, Akiem Hicks, Roquan Smith, Kyle Fuller, and Eddie Jackson, I refuse to give up on those guys. A second year under Pagano will help put this defense back in the spotlight. The other good news, the Bears have weapons. A top 10 receiver in the NFL, Allen Robinson, the should have been pro bowler, Anthony Miller, David Montgomery, Tarik Cohen, and Cordarrelle Patterson. The Bears should look to keep adding to the weapons by drafting another wide receiver in this loaded draft class for receivers. The bad news, the Bears are on a tight leash by being ranked 27th in salary cap. I expect the Bears to cut players like Taylor Gabriel, Prince Amukamara, and Trey Burton. The Bears are keeping Mitch Trubisky. Mitch Trubisky has the talent, but displaying his talent on a consistent basis is what’s his challenge, and with the tight cap I don’t expect Cam Newton as a realistic option. The offensive line is a complete mess, and if Ryan Pace doesn’t address this issue this offseason via free agency or the draft I have to call him out. The tight end group is a dumpster fire, and there isn’t that much depth in our secondary.
As a Bears fan, we’ve been through worse, and our fandom has never changed. We’ve continued to plow through and keep the faith alive. I’m keeping the faith alive this offseason.