If the Bears were to put out their Christmas stockings as a team this year, it'd be difficult to imagine them getting much of anything that they asked for. That's what happens amidst a 4-10 season coupled with the end of a coaching tenure. No rewards.
That doesn't mean I myself can't have wishes regarding how to fix this Chicago team moving forward. I'd like to think that I've generally been a good boy this year and that Santa will make my wishes come true because of it once he checks his list. I just have to remember to set out the milk and cookies when he comes down my chimney. (Easier said than done.)
It's the annual time of year for generosity, and here's what I'm hoping is waiting under my metaphorical Christmas tree in regards to the Bears. Keep in mind, these are wishes, not all necessarily meant to be realistic.
Jim Harbaugh as head coach
Boy, the hype on Harbaugh coming home to Chicago has simmered quite a bit, hasn't it? Not that it was much of a possibility to begin with, but the thought always was that if Harbaugh wanted to return to the NFL, it'd be for an opportunity with the Bears and the team that drafted him as a quarterback in 1987. Much like Michigan is his alma mater, the Bears were his original NFL experience. There's intrinsic value.
Still, most expect Harbaugh to return to the Wolverines next season and stay with the program for quite awhile. There's an ideal of him being a potential "lifer" at Ann Arbor, meaning he'll coach there until he wants to leave, or wears out his welcome. It would also take a lot, meaning money, to lure him away. Which is a shame because of any prospective head coach candidate, I've always believed him to be the one to best develop Mitch Trubisky properly and make the Bears a Super Bowl contender almost immediately. In my opinion, he's that good of a coach. He's that good of a leader of men.
And who knows? Harbaugh is as unpredictable as they come. One moment he may be in fit of rage on the sideline, another he'll be glowing about the progress the Wolverines have made. This is the man that stayed at a recruit's house once, after all. Right now, he's not available. By January, he could have a dramatic change of heart once he sees how the league's coaching landscape has shaken out. Here’s to wishing seeing him roam the sideline at Soldier Field next season.
Keeping Jarvis Landry away
A lot of people have this misconception about Landry being a star. Sure, he's done a lot of the fastest in NFL history (receptions, yards) things as a playmaker, but that's what happens when you feed on five to seven-yard gains underneath as a receiver in volume. Landry, a pending free agent, is unlikely to return to Miami in the off-season and given his misleading career statistics, someone is going to massively overpay him like a No. 1 wideout. I’d prefer the Bears to not be that suitor.
The main issue with Landry is that he's not a game changer. It's cool that he piles up all these receptions as a security blanket. That kind of player is replaceable, especially with a loaded 2018 draft class in mind. The receivers you want to pay top dollar to are those who take the top off the defense, run a full route tree, and who coordinators game plan for. No one does that for Landry because he doesn't break the game with his short routes. He piles up reception statistics and gets some first downs, which isn't that hard to do for the average competent receiver. Certainly not someone you justifiably pay $13-14 million, which is what he'll be seeking on the open market.
And no, it's not on the Dolphins for not using him downfield enough. Landry's been in the league for four years. If he could be used as more of a deep threat, it would've happened by now. This isn't a case of misuse. This is who he is as a player: limited.
This wouldn't be another case of pinching pennies by the Bears in free agency. Ryan Pace and company can do better as far as targets to help Trubisky succeed than Landry. With a better bang for their buck to boot.
Getting Leonard Floyd a young pass rush partner
Not including Floyd - who the Bears will assuredly look to build around even despite his second consecutive season-ending injury - let's take a look at the tale of the tape of Chicago's current outside linebackers, either injured or still active.
There's Pernell McPhee, who for the third straight season in Chicago will finish on injured reserve. His future with the Bears is up in the air since the team can cut him after this season and only incur $1 million in dead cap space. He hasn't been the same since a dominant first half of 2015 with the organization.
You have Willie Young, who is still a solid player and good value at $3.5 million on the last year of a contract extension signed last July. He, however, will be 33-years-old early next season and has waned in effectiveness the past few years when overstretched in use. How much does he realistically have left in the tank?
Then Lamarr Houston and Sam Acho come to mind, two journeymen at this juncture, two good soldiers (Houston in particular with four sacks since his return in early December), but not inherent difference makers. If these two are your starters or primary depth at any point of a season, you have tremendous issues on the defensive edge.
Aside from starting over at quarterback, the Bears' talent issues at outside linebacker made the position their second biggest need last April. The hopeful face of the franchise is now in tow, so edge is without a doubt the biggest place Chicago needs to focus on in this year's draft. It's not a coincidence that with the Bears barely addressing the need last off-season, the issue has become more exacerbated at the end of 2017.
Receiver is a huge hole no doubt, but you don't take wideouts with your first pick. You go quarterback, and then edge or offensive tackle. Positional value is crucial. Best player available is only a tenet to follow once you have your core pieces in place.
These are your foundational positions: players who throw the ball, players who protect those who throw the ball, and someone to get after that passer.
The Bears have absolutely no one reliably young behind an overworked Floyd. They’d be wise to focus on an overhaul and create a tag team duo for their 2016 first-rounder. Having Floyd play over 90-percent of the snaps again - especially while coming off a knee injury - by mid-season 2018 due to the age and ineffectiveness of guys behind him would be a grave mistake. Get him someone full time such as NC State's Bradley Chubb that can give him a spell. Reinvigorate the pass rush.
Every great defense has at least three franchise pass rushers. The Bears, right now, have two in Floyd and Akiem Hicks. Reach out for one more to complete this defensive unit and I'll be jubilant while unwrapping presents Christmas morning.
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.