USA Today Sports must have one mandate; Pick a big market team and poke their fan base.
The last couple of offseasons that big market has been Chicago, and the team has been the Chicago Bears. You certainly remember their Power Rankings last May when they had the Bears at #32, "Remember that movie 'Unstoppable'? John Fox may need to recruit Denzel Washington to parachute in and avert this train wreck." They must not have received the memo that Fox improves a franchise when he takes over.
You see putting a perennial bad team like the Cleveland Browns at #32 wouldn't really move the needle. But putting Chicago in that spot will rile up the number three media market in the United States.
USA Today doubled down on the Bears last August when they predicted the Bears would end up with an NFL worst 3-13 record.
Again, what does their publication have to gain if they had predicted the Tennessee Titans as having the worst record? Nashville is the 27th ranked media market, so no point in poking their fans. But Chicago, coming off a 5 win season, their fan base was ripe for the picking.
As we all know, the Bears lost their opening game last year, so the USA Today could have felt vindicated for predicting such gloom for the Bears, and came out with a big fat "I Told You So," but they didn't. They actually moved the 0-1 Bears up 6 spots, more than any other 0-1 team. It was kind of like they just put the Bears at #32 just to gather angry page clicks.
All this rehashing is just to get me to the most recent Troll job from the USA Today.
After an offseason (Free Agency and Draft) that has been lauded by just about every major media outlet out there as above average to good, the USA Today ranked Chicago's offseason as 11th worst.
A defense that made great strides in 2015 under its new 3-4 alignment should further benefit with rookies Leonard Floyd and Jonathan Bullard joining the front seven. However an offense that has a hole at left tackle and bid adieu to RB Matt Forte and coordinator Adam Gase could suffer a significant setback.
Losing Forte and Gase could be problematic, but the Bears have a plan in place to have a running back by committee approach and with Dowell Loggains taking over play calling duties, the offensive terminology will be relatively unchanged. The other big offseason loss for the Bears is tight end Martellus Bennett, but he missed five games last year and wasn't right in a few others.
That left tackle "hole" wasn't as bad as some believe. I had Charles Leno Jr. down for allowing 4.33 sacks last year. He needs to improve as a run blocker, but as a 1st year starter, I thought he showed promise. The Bears saw their sacks allowed decrease from 41 in 2014 to 33 last year, and this was with facing some very good pass rushers last year (Denver, Kansas City, Oakland, Green Bay x2, Detroit x2, Minnesota x2).
I think the additions the Bears have made this offseason far outweigh their losses.
On defense, Danny Travathan and Jerrell Freeman are arguably the best 1-2 ILB punch in the NFL. They replace what was arguably the worst 1-2 ILB duo in the NFL. Defensive end Akiem Hicks is better than the journeymen they had last year. The rookie class has another DE upgrade and a speed rushing element at OLB that the Bears don't have.
On offense, Bobbie Massie allows Kyle Long to kick back to right guard, thus strengthening their right side. Ted Larsen and Manny Ramirez are much better depth than Patrick Omameh and Vlad Ducasse, who started 20 games between between them. Rookie Cody Whitehair will have to prove that as the #1 guard prospect in the nation he can fill the shoes of Matt Slauson, but the potential is there.
Chicago's special teams were far from special last year, but the Bears made a point to address that in free agency and the draft.
And speaking of their draft class, Football Outsiders had their cumulative GPA as 2nd best in the NFL, so this USA Today offseason ranking is just pure nonsense.
I know we're talking about the Bears changes "on paper," but on paper, there's no way their offseason should rank that low.