It can be frustrating to be a fan of the Chicago Bears, and 2019 offered a perfect demonstration of how and why that is. Coming off of a 12-4 season, the Beloved faltered and proved to be exactly what skeptics feared--a one-year wonder, flash-in-the-pan anomaly. They were the NFC North version of the 2017 Jacksonville Jaguars.
As the Bears face an uncertain future, there are some hopes I have for how fans of this franchise will treat each other, and I want to begin with a simple observation.
The last time the Bears had back-to-back winning seasons, Muhsin Muhammad was their leading receiver and Mitchell Trubisky was 12 and Ryan Pace had yet to become the director of pro personnel for the New Orleans Saints. The Beloved are now at least two years away from that mark, having been guaranteed to go no better than 8-8 this season.
Worse, Chicago has no direction. Pace came in promising to build a culture of sustained success. Instead, the Bears have lost an average of more than nine games a season with him as the general manager. In five years, he has taken a team that was 23-25 under his predecessor and led them to go (hopefully) 34-46. There does not seem to be a quarterback on the roster who represents a future direction, and while there are star players, the cupboard has not been restocked in a meaningful way. This team is going to struggle for the foreseeable future.
There are already fans who claim that the “early” critics of Pace (or of Nagy, or of Trubisky) are “happy” to see the Bears fail, because that means that we get to be right. I cannot speak for all disappointed Pace skeptics, but I think I can speak for most of us when I say we were hoping to be proven wrong.
I admire the fans who still believe that this roster, as it is constituted, can turn things around. There are people who think Mitchell is one season away from turning things around. There are fans who look at the team and think that the team needs one or two more pieces to become competitive again. That level of optimism is refreshing, and I am hoping that this view turns out to be correct.
However, if the pattern of the last five years holds up, then Ryan Pace cannot deliver on the promises that he made when he claimed that he was going to build the Bears for consistent success.
That makes it all the more important that, as fans, we remember that we all want the organization to do well. It will be very easy over the next couple of years to turn any animosity against our fellow fans. I hope we can resist that impulse.
I was first drawn to Windy City Gridiron because of the intelligence and thoughtfulness of the posters, and I stayed because of the community that was built. I hope that even if the Bears struggle, this place stays true to that ideal.