When projecting future outcomes in sports, there's obviously a lot of guess work involved. But when looking three years into the future you can imagine the amount of subjective thought that goes into such an exercise. There are just so many variables that you can't account for.
With that being said, ESPN Insider has three NFL experts taking a stab at a future power ranking in the NFL. John Clayton, Louis Riddick and Mike Sando are ranking teams in 5 categories on a 0-100 scale. The categories are roster (excluding quarterback), quarterback, draft, front office and coaching. They averaged the scored then weighed it to get a final ranking.
After looking over the rankings, I can't help but wonder if NFL front offices have bulletin board material? Because if so, Chicago Bears' Chairman George McCaskey, team President Ted Phillips and general manager Ryan Pace will have the Insider article at the top of theirs.
The ESPN threesome don't see much success for Chicago's franchise in the next few years. They have the Bears ranked 25th overall with an average score of 63.1. That places them 4th among the NFC North teams.
Here's their average ranking for the Bears.
|Score||Previous Score (78.3)|
The big black mark on the rankings is obviously the paltry 47 for the quarterback position. Just one year ago, their NFL experts gave Jay Cutler and company a 78.3, but after what was arguably Cutler's worst season as a pro, that number dropped. Cutler has to prove that last year was a fluke and that he's capable of efficiently running the Adam Gase offense. The Bears aren't expecting Jay Cutler to become a top tier QB, they are just hoping he returns to his middle tier status.
If Cutler has another year like 2014, the Bears will be forced to look elsewhere and that will set the franchise back again. Maybe part of the low number on the QB spot is the assumption that the Bears will be going with a rookie signal caller in 2016 or 2017.
That is a very real possibility.
Here's the skinny on the rankings from the ESPN Insiders.
Mike Sando was responsible for writing the overview of their Bears' assessment.
The Bears' 14-spot fall in the overall rankings was the second-largest drop from one year ago. They moved up three spots to 13th in coaching with the hire of John Fox, but every other category suffered a double-digit dip as voters reassessed where Chicago stood after a disappointing 2014 season. Are the Bears really that much worse off, or was the previous assessment too rosy? It had to be the latter. Few would say Chicago is appreciably worse off in the front office or in its drafting with so little to go on at this point.
They may have moved up in the coaching score, but I find it unbelievable that the overall coaching score was actually lower with John Fox at the helm than in 2014 with Marc Trestman running the Bears.
Plus there's just no way to know if Ryan Pace will be a better GM than Phil Emery. So far, I'm optimistic he will be.
Louis Riddick tackled the dilemma the Insider's faced in ranking the Bears.
The McCaskey family hired Fox for a reason: to mold this team in the image of past great Bears teams, which thrived off physical play and defense. But is the personnel equipped to make that change overnight? A few key players to keep an eye on: rookie Eddie Goldman (nose tackle) and free-agents Pernell McPhee (outside linebacker) and Antrel Rolle (free safety). If these three can outperform expectations, the turnaround for this once-proud franchise could occur sooner than expected.
He mentioned Fox and a few key defenders, but he failed to mention the man responsible for coordinating Chicago's D, Vic Fangio. Last year Fangio dealt with a San Francisco defense missing key players due to injury and suspension, and he still had them finish 5th in total yards allowed. I'm not expecting a top 5 finish for the 2015 Bears, but this unit will make marked improvement over the Mel Tucker dumpster fire.
John Clayton gave his thoughts on the youth movement for the Bears.
Wondering why the Bears have had to hit the free-agent market to find starters the past two off-seasons? Easy: They have no starters left from the 2011 class and only one (Alshon Jeffery) from the 2012 class. This year's switch to the 3-4 could create more fallout. LB Shea McClellin (2012 first-rounder) and DT Will Sutton (2014 third-rounder) might have a hard time fitting into the new scheme. Jonathan Bostic needs to scramble to win the starting job at inside linebacker.
The drafting hasn't been very good, which is a big reason Pace was brought in. Chicago needs a few young players to take that next step in 2015 on both offense and defense. Pace hitting on this initial draft class is a must as well.
So know it's your turn, peer inside that crystal ball and tell us if you share the dread about the Bears for the next 3 years that's coming from the ESPN Insiders.