It seemed as if was only yesterday when the Bears were plowing through the NFC. A three-game win streak capped by a suffocation of the Vikings had Chicago riding high and expecting greatness. They were a contender. They were going places, maybe even South Florida. This was a tight-knit team to be feared. Unfortunately this is the NFL, and nothing lasts forever in the NFL (unless you have access to Tom Brady’s $19.99 Lazarus Pits, of course).
On offense, the Bears can’t do anything right. When they manage to create a successful play, or heaven forbid string together two consecutive moderate gains, pro football’s No. 25 offense by DVOA sputters with the agony of an engine on its last legs. If you exclude teams that aren’t trying to win, or never counted in the first place—sorry, Dolphins and Washington—the Bears have a bottom-six attack.
Matt Nagy’s bumbling, inept group hasn’t ranked higher than No. 23 overall in almost two months of action. The 40-year-old coach has something of a Sophie’s choice regarding a way out of his ongoing nightmare. He either sticks with Mitchell Trubisky, a quarterback who has routinely proven incapable of making the simplest of reads and throws, or he rides with perennial backup Chase Daniel and the obvious physical limitations of a journeyman. The former isn’t showing any signs of progress or hope. The latter caps a very finite ceiling on whatever potential the Bears believed they once possessed.
Barring clear divine intervention, it’s not likely this offense transcends past the NFL’s bottom feeders any time soon.
There is a silver lining for Nagy. It appears his off-season obsession with fixing the Bears’ incompetent special teams play from last year paid off. (The question of whether he can multi-task remains to be seen.) Chicago is No. 1 in special teams DVOA for the first time since Dave Toub was still coordinating the third phase back in 2011. Fresh off an “Augusta Silence” summer experience, Eddy Pineiro is perfect on extra points (11-of-11) and has missed but one out of 10 field goal attempts. He’s given the Bears legitimate stability at kicker; a once unthinkable prospect after last January, and after the horrors of Parkey’s, Barth’s, and Nugent’s Past. Factor in generally solid punting from Pat O’Donnell (occasional blocked punts aside) and more cohesive downfield coverage, and you see why the Bears rank so highly.
Special teams coordinator Chris Tabor’s breakthrough in the NFL happened when he was one of Toub’s assistants late last decade. For him to emulate one of his mentors has to be heartening, regardless of the Bears’ overall on-field failures. The sky might be falling at Halas Hall, but at least Tabor and company have a thin dome to protect themselves.
While Robert believes in the existence of Brady’s Lazarus Pits, he is not the child of Ra’s al Ghul.
Follow him on Twitter @RobertZeglinski. You can’t take a picture of this, it’s already gone.