Coming off of a 5-11 season, "championship contender" is one phrase that hasn't been associated with the Bears, and with good reason. Last-to-first is a nice concept, and not impossible, but those teams either usually become a flash in the pan or an overglorified example, as if it's a common occurrence. When your division has a team like the Packers that you know is always going to be in that championship conversation, much less the division conversation, it makes that whole "last to first" thing a little unlikely.
So, what more does it take for the Bears to create a perennial championship contender? Aside of course from the Packers disappearing into an abyss.
Let's start with a core of franchise players. You don't need to look much further than the Blackhawks of recent times, the Bulls of the 90s, the Kobe/Shaq Lakers, the James/Wade/Bosh triumvirate with the Heat... a core of strong franchise players that are known productive quantities at a high level.
For the NFL, this has usually meant a solid at minimum long-term quarterback, at least one WR or RB, at least one defensive lineman/pass rusher, and at least one (other) playmaker in the back seven (or eight in a 3-4). Not to mention, a consistent level of coaching that gets the most out of his players.
The rest of the team is comprised of healthy drafting and being able to find productive players on value deals (a reminder that sometimes the NFL salary cap is a rough thing to navigate).
No, the question isn't "Are the Bears there." Clearly, they haven't been, and aren't - but what more do the Bears need to do to get to that consistent level of contention?
Quarterback, depending on who you talk to, is either settled for the near future by Jay Cutler or should be wiped out with two black holes and a particle cannon. However, short-term isn't the thing. Getting the long-term answer is important, and extremely difficult - and it's a question the Bears may not have a lot of time to find an answer for, lest they immediately find themselves in the Jonathan Quinn Quarterback Abyss.
Running back is pretty much the same thing, with Matt Forte running out of time on the last year of his deal and two as-of-yet unknown commodities lined up right behind him. But, if the Bears can figure something out with Jeremy Langford or Ka'Deem Carey, maybe this isn't as much of a thing. Coupled with Alshon Jeffery and immediately followed up with Kevin White, the Bears' chances in this particular realm are looking halfway decent.
On defense, everything is pretty much a question. Kyle Fuller is probably the Bears' best chance for a young core defensive stud, unless Jon Bostic and Shea McClellin figure something out and quick. That being said, young defensive linemen Eddie Goldman and Ego Ferguson have plenty of time to make their mark, though a transitioning defense makes it a hair difficult.
The current coaching staff may be the best unit suited to consistent contention, headed by a coach with Super Bowl experience in John Fox and coordinators with strong resumes in Adam Gase and Vic Fangio. But even that isn't without its questions
I'm not ruling out completely a run to the playoffs for this team - a lot can instantly change in one offseason, but for consistent contention, the Bears have a lot to do, a lot to rip out and rebuild in the way they've built the roster over the last couple years. A lot of young players need to step up and be valuable players when called on.
So, to reach consistent, year-in-year-out contention, what adjustments do you need to see from the Bears? Which current players do you think could be on a Bears' championship team within five years?