So, it’s the NFL offseason and actual analysis is too hard, it seems. It would be possible, theoretically, to actually go through the rosters of teams and provide thoughtful breakdowns of the struggles ahead of some teams. It would even be possible to highlight health issues facing a major segment of the sport. Or, if you’re ESPN Insider, you can recycle the same talking points as always and create a ranking list of “who’s in the best shape for the next three seasons”.
It seems that the time has come for ESPN to once more rank which teams are in the best shape for the next three years, based on the roster, the quarterback situation, coaching, draft selections, and the front office. As a side note, I’m not exactly sure how a front office is evaluated if not by the roster it’s assembled, the draft selections it has made, and the coaching staff it has hired, but it’s July, so I think we need to let that point rest.
The full article is here (and behind a paywall), but it is necessary to provide some context.
In 2014, the then-Saint Louis Rams were 12th on this list (making the vaunted off-season playoffs) before actually going 17-31 in the three seasons under consideration, and also ahead of the Atlanta Falcons (who have clearly struggled much more than the Rams in that time). In fact, this same crew placed the NFC Champion Atlanta Falcons 18th heading into the 2016 season. I can only imagine how the Falcons might have done if they placed 12th. Admittedly, it’s hard to make predictions in the NFL. However, sometimes it seems like would-be analysts don’t even bother.
This year, the Bear are ranked 29th in the NFL, and while it’s tough to disagree with that position until the Bears prove something on the field, it’s really annoying to see the same shallow, lazy analysis.
How lazy? Well, Field Yates thinks that the problem is that Mitchell Trubisky is going to have a hard time transitioning to the NFL:
Why they're here: It's hard enough for a quarterback to transition to the NFL level as is, but Mitchell Trubisky will face an added challenge of having no established pass-catchers to target. The top wide receiver in Chicago is either Cameron Meredith or Kevin White. Meredith has 77 career catches, while White checked off every physical box coming out of West Virginia, but injuries have essentially rendered him a nonfactor his first two seasons.
Yates raises an excellent point. It would be careless of an organization to take a guy like Trubisky and then to expect him to be ready right away. What they should have done instead is gone out and gotten another quarterback (and maybe a veteran #3) to help ease the transition...wait, no...that can’t be right...they paid Glennon too much...
Not to be outdone, Louis Riddick also decided he’d forego any research and spit out the same, long-since debunked storyline about a rift between John Fox and Ryan Pace:
“Biggest worry: Like most of the teams at the bottom of this list, Chicago needs to figure out what it has at QB, but that's not what worries me most about this team. The relationship (or lack thereof) between GM Ryan Pace and head coach John Fox is concerning, and conflict between key decision-makers can become an insurmountable obstacle for a rebuilding team. Before anything can really be accomplished, this situation needs to be resolved one way or another.”
This non-story goes all the way back to La Canfora (no, I’m not linking him) and it amounts to the same speculation without support and shady practices many of us have gotten used to by now. Perhaps the team would get a better July ranking if Bill Polian were running the team after going all-in on Jimmy Garoppolo.
If you’re already an Insider, there are some real gems of rationalization in the piece. For example, Riddick claims:
I believe the Browns have some reasons to be optimistic given how their most recent draft played out.
This is the same draft that they rank 32nd in the NFL this year (and, last I checked, there were still only 32 teams in the NFL).
So, it seems like there is finally some good news for the Bears. ESPN Insider has projected them to struggle over the next three years, which probably means that we should start planning on them making the playoffs soon.