A clown show. A dumpster fire. Possibly the worst-run franchise in the NFL. The Chicago Bears are bad. They are 13-28 since the start of the 2014 season. A few idealistic fans have been clinging to hope that something good might happen, but by the close of the day on Sunday, it was in the bag. The season was over. Then the hits kept coming. And coming. The good news is that there is no pretense anymore. There’s no “what if X, Y, and Z happen?” scenario. The truth is that there really wasn’t such a scenario anyway, but now it’s final.
So, what does that leave a Bears fan to do? Some will turn off the TV, drift on to other sports, or settle in to cheering against the Packers, or the Patriots, or the Broncos, or the like. Others will stare at the disaster, fixated, by the awesomeness of the bad. It is likely a very small handful who will look for signs of life. I am going to try to be one of them, and I invite those of you on WCG to do the same.
Here is one thing I am no longer watching and four things I will be watching quite intently.
First, except as it pertains to my obligations to this community, I’m no longer interested in the anti-Tebow aura surrounding Jay Cutler. I get it. He played what was one of the worst five games of his life last Sunday, and the fact that it was not the clear worst game is telling. Some fans will believe, no matter what, that everything Cutler has ever done is somehow just like his games against the Bucs. Some fans have Post Gunslinger Stress Disorder, and they will therefore tune out all of the shades of his play and compress it into a sort of white-noise of hatred. Fine. They are free to ignore and belittle what he does well, just as anonymous sources reporting through rumor-mongering are free to lend a weak narrative weight. I have joined Smokin’ Jay on this, if nothing else—I just don’t care anymore. I’m going to enjoy when he plays well and yell and scream as if he can hear me when he plays badly (he can’t hear me, right?). However, the circus is just tiring.
On the other hand, I am going to enjoy watching the linebackers. Everyone is free to value whatever part of football they like best. I know some folks enjoy the amazingly athletic catches of a Swann, a Carter, a Jeffery, or a Beckham. I know others love watching a Payton, Sayers, or Forte run. I enjoy watching the linebackers, and for too long Chicago hasn’t had them. That hurt to watch. Now, at least, Jerrell Freeman, Pernell McPhee, and Leonard Floyd are fun to watch. I don’t care if McPhee is being paid too much for as old as he is or if Freeman is a good value—it’s not my money and the Bears have cap room. Floyd doesn’t have an ounce of quit in him, and even if he’s raw, he’s also doing exactly what people said he should do in order to live up to his draft position. When the Bears are good again, players like Floyd are going to be why. When I see him streak across the field to cover someone else’s mistake or explode past a lineman to force a holding penalty, I have a sliver of hope for where this team might be headed. Come share that sliver with me.
I am also going to watch the secondary. I think Adrian Amos is a good role-player. He’s a Grabowski, in the best sense of the term. After that...you got me. I don’t know what we have in the secondary and I have seven more games to find out. I think Fuller might be something when he comes back, if he comes back, but I doubt he’s going to become a shutdown corner. I don’t know how I feel about LeBlanc and Jones-Quartey. It changes each week. Heck, it changes each quarter. I have another 28 quarters of football to find out, and I’d like others to chip in, too, and tell me. Is it too soon to say LeBlanc is okay? Is it unfair to claim he’s only ever going to be “okay”? I don’t know yet. I want to figure it out.
I want to see who is good among the receivers. Not great—I’m not expecting great. However, Wilson has shown some promising signs in the past and Meredith is fun sometimes. I have a theory that elite receivers are a luxury and that a decent stable of competent receivers can get the job done. Without Jeffery, I have a chance to see that theory play out. There are four games where I don’t have to be thinking “just get Jeffery” the ball and I can see who else is doing what else. Is that reaching for a silver lining? Maybe. I prefer to think of it as looking for the orange stripe.
Finally, I want to watch at least a couple of teams get knocked out of their comfort zone. The Bears have become an easy win. Fan bases and even teams have to be looking at the Bears and thinking “okay, that’s a win, and who’s after them?” I want to see the Bears play spoiler. I want them to remind the remaining teams on their schedule that there are no easy wins in the NFL. I don’t care if this messes with draft position. That’s for Ryan Pace to figure out. I want to see at least one more franchise get smacked around by the clown show. I want a careless team to get burned by the dumpster fire.
What are you watching for?