I grew up in a Polish household, so when I was a kid we never said grace or talked about what we were thankful for at Thanskgiving. That wasn't part of our tradition. We were already adopting an American holiday as best as we could and it was enough.
As I grew up and began to take in Chicago Bears football, I've learned to count my blessings following and covering this team year in and year out, because there are so few to rely upon. The Bears, especially of late, have been an exercise in futility. Finding bright spots with them isn't difficult if you expend the necessary energy, but that's what this holiday is about right?
So, as you peruse mock drafts for the seventh straight year in early November, and change your social media avatars to the Mozilla FireFox logo for the third consecutive season, consider what exactly you should be thankful for about the 2017 Bears. There are places to count your good fortune, take a moment.
What are you thankful in regards to the Bears?
Over two and a half seasons in, head coach John Fox has 30 losses as Bears head coach. He has the second-worst winning percentage as coach in team history. Ho-hum.
Fox says nothing of consequence at press conferences, avoiding questions and never committing to an answer 100 percent, for fear of being misconstrued as if he's earned the benefit of the doubt. "He's got a leg" comes to mind when the veteran coach describes injuries. Most recently, it's "more than likely" that Leonard Floyd goes on injured reserve. It's obvious his season is over, why not commit fully? A little thing in the grand scheme of all of this, but there's no competitive edge gained here.
I'd say it's insulting given the information we often know beforehand, but at this point emotions are at a stand still in terms of being shocked at Fox's antics.
Anyway, in those 30 Fox losses, 18 of which have come by eight points or less, where the Bears have come up with a variety of almost-tackles, almost-sacks, and almost-wins again and again. "Stabilization" of the franchise has occurred in his tenure. The Bears have been stabilized as a bottom-five NFL team.
With the all-important future of the franchise in tow, Mitchell Trubisky, Fox still prefers to play a conservative "Fox-ball" game plan relying on his good but not elite defense: expecting playing not to lose to be sustainable in an explosive 2017 NFL.
Then, you remember Fox's regular trademarked atrocious in-game management. Management that was no better exemplified with the Bears than his perplexing challenge of a play against the Packers that was going to be first and goal from the two-yard line anyway. No one manages timeouts or sits on the ball like Fox. Well some do such as the Chiefs' Andy Reid, but Reid makes up for it by being one of the best offensive minds in the game. One would be remiss to confuse Fox for a genius in any context.
The Bears under Fox have also mismanaged personnel in not allowing young players on both sides of the ball to grow with playing time in a rebuild, sticking to veteran guns in questionable areas.
Think about it: if Quintin Demps never suffers an injury, the Bears don't re-insert Adrian Amos into the lineup. If the now released Jeremy Langford doesn't get hurt last year, super stud tailback Jordan Howard never plays. If Mike Glennon isn't a turnover machine through four games, Trubisky getting necessary seasoning as a rookie never happens.
With all of this considered for Fox, I can't wait for the last six games of the Bears' season to fly by.
This year, I for one, am thankful that the Fox Bears era has almost reached it's merciful end.
I am thankful that general manager Ryan Pace is going to receive an opportunity at a second head coach, one that will hopefully maximize a lot of the promising young talent he's built up on the Bears roster in a way Fox and his staff never could. I am thankful that Fox will no longer waste the time of this organization after inexplicably being allowed to return for a 2017 season that should've never happened. Ultimately I am thankful, that theoretically, the Bears will no longer be constrained by a dinosaur coach and his philosophies that the game passed by long ago. And, that they'll be afforded the opportunity to make the leap in 2018 because of his absence.
When my family gathers around the Thanksgiving table, for the first time I'll make sure to mention how excited I am for the Bears' future because of the Fox era finally reaching it's conclusion. Or least mention it to someone who cares, meaning only my old man.
Some other Bears things I'm thankful for this year
- Leonard Floyd not tearing his ACL against the Lions: Since the Bears aren't going to make the playoffs, this was the best news regarding the team in 2017 (remember that Black Monday is officially in 2018). Words can't understate how fortunate the Bears and Floyd are that the second-year stud outside linebacker avoided catastrophe that would've cut into his preparations for the 2018 season. He's one of the team's most important players in terms of transforming into a championship contender moving forward. I'm thankful that the 25-year-old Floyd will make a full recovery and be ready to battle for a reinvigorated squad come spring time.
- Mitchell Trubisky being drafted No. 2 overall: Can you imagine if the Bears had selected a safety with their top pick in April's draft, and in turn rolled with Mike Glennon and Mark Sanchez at quarterback? Nihilism would've been at an all-time high, or rather, back to a regular clip concerning this team. Instead, even as the Bears flounder to another last place NFC North finish, Trubisky inspires optimism for the future. He may well be the Bears' answer and I'm thankful we've been able to watch the early stages of his special playmaking ability and transformation into the face of the franchise.
- Jordan Howard and Akiem Hicks continuing to plug away: To have any fun following along with one of the worst teams in the league, you need to see guys that are still giving full effort and relatively dominating. Bears like that are Howard and Hicks - the team's two best players by far. Howard, who reached 10 100-yard games in his career faster than all-timer Walter Payton, is an absolute joy to watch on his way to a second consecutive Pro Bowl to start his career. There isn't a better zone runner in football. Meanwhile, signing Hicks back in March 2016 and subsequently extending him on the eve of the 2017 season looks like one of the best free agent moves the Bears have ever made. Hicks has been a force to be reckoned with during his time in Chicago and is now one of the best defensive players in the NFL. He's more than earned an All-Pro berth. I'm thankful for two Bears core players continuing to set the example of how to play to win - which will pay off soon.
Robert Zeglinski is the Bears beat writer for the Rock River Times, an editor for Windy City Gridiron, and contributor to the Athletic Chicago. You can follow him on Twitter @RobertZeglinski.