As Nick Foles hit the ground with under 40 seconds left in the game and laid there, it appeared to be the perfect symbolism for a Chicago Bears team that appears to be down and out in regards to the 2020 season.
As Foles left on the cart and Tyler Bray entered the game, we knew the game was over and quite possibly the season. Not because they lost their starting quarterback for an undetermined amount of time, but because they never really had a starting quarterback from the start. There’s plenty of issues with this team, but more than anything, there’s too many questions without answers.
1. Where do the Bears go from here because frankly, I’m not seeing a clear path moving forward
It has reached that point in the season where the reality of another lost season is setting in. In typical Bears fashion, they are going to waste yet another top-end defense on a season where they couldn’t field a competent NFL offense.
But didn’t the Bears hire an offensive minded head coach? Weren’t the days of Lovie Smith and John Fox long behind us?
With every regime, it seems like a similar cycle. The defense is good and the offense just can’t do enough to consistent win games and transform them into a contender. The only time we saw a break from that was the Phil Emery era where their defense aged too quickly but even then, there was never a time when both units were good enough to make them a complete team.
So what now? The easy answer for most is to hit the reset button, which includes firing both general manager Ryan Pace and head coach Matt Nagy. If they did that, they’d be going on their fifth head coach in 10 years and fourth general manager. Bad organizations stay bad because there’s no continuity. Even so, it’s hard to wonder why Pace should get another crack at fixing this roster. After all, he completely rebuilt them from the ground up and is fielding an offense that is worse than anything we saw in the John Fox era.
I’m not sure there’s an easy answer to fixing what is broken at this point.
Could Pace and Nagy go into 2021 in Lame Duck situations? Sure, but will ownership allow them to do what they need to do to fix the quarterback position? There’s just no easy answers right now and that’s extremely disheartening considering this is an organization coming out a of rebuild just three short seasons ago.
2. Speaking of a clear path moving forward, let’s look more short-term and forecast who the starting quarterback is in Week 12.
As most know by now, I was never a big proponent of Mitchell Trubisky starting the season as the team’s quarterback. Some will say he was technically (3-0) as the team’s starter, but I would argue that regardless of quarterback, their start was purely fools gold and one that was bound to implode at some point like we’ve seen happen.
Even so, Foles is getting killed out there and despite his billing as the “calm” and “collected” veteran presence behind center, he has been worse than Trubisky in terms of actual production since taking over.
If it’s me and Trubisky is healthy coming out of the bye week (regardless of Foles’ health situation), I make the switch back. At this point, you’ve got nothing to lose. You likely can’t salvage the season, but maybe you can salvage some interest from Bears fans.
3. It’s going to take a lot more than one week of Bill Lazor calling to plays to make a true impact on this offense
Going into the game, those were my thoughts and coming out of the game, my thoughts haven’t remotely changed.
Like I tweeted about on Monday morning, I wanted to be optimistic that things would drastically change, but there are core issues with this offense starting with a bad offensive line, two bad quarterbacks and most importantly, an ineffective offensive scheme that doesn’t closely resemble anything from the Andy Reid tree.
Lazor’s time in Cincinnati wasn’t great by any means, but he had less than a week to prepare for this opportunity. Things take time but ultimately, I believe things are far too broken to see any sort of real change or progress before the end of this season. The Bears have a lot of work to do this upcoming off-season, but none of their failures over the next six games are something that can be held against the team’s offensive coordinator.
4. It’s one thing for a team to be bad, it’s another for them to just be flat out boring to watch
That’s exactly where this team is at. Boring and frustrating to watch.
I can’t be the only one who dreads having to sit through three hours of this team play some of the worst modern-era offensive football I’ve seen in years. It’s not fun and frankly, it’s just not worth the time.
Fans deserve better and this defense deserves far better. More than anything, it just feels like the same cycle of issues over and over again. Same issues with different faces whether that’s players, coaches or even regimes as a whole.
I’m sure I’m not the only one that is thankful that there are only six games left in this season. 2020 as a whole has been challenging, but the Bears have done nothing to make it much better for their viewers. Especially as of late.
5. In the final six games, does winning or losing benefit this team more in the long-term?
It’s still wild to think that a month ago this was a (5-1) team. Yet here we are four games later wondering to ourselves if it would actually be better for the Bears to lose games, rather than challenge for a playoff spot and ultimately fall short.
Here’s my take- Middling is the last thing the Bears can afford to do right now. Maybe they make a switch at quarterback, get healthy and finish (10-6) to get into the playoffs. From there, the outlook would be more promising and maybe we are back in the camp of signing a veteran like Dak Prescott and fixing the offensive line as a short-term option for contention.
More than likely, this is a team that will be lucky to win more than eight games and at this point, it’s hard to see how they win much more than a game or two down the stretch. In my opinion, finish (8-8) is about the worst thing they can do. Either be bad enough to land a high draft pick or be good enough to give fans hope that with a few bold off-season moves, this team will be back in the playoff mix next year.
Either way, I’m just hoping this team leaves no doubt in which direction they should head in the coming months when looking toward the off-season.
6. If the season ended today...
The Bears would be picking 16th overall in the 2021 NFL draft. That’s not likely good enough to get into the mix for a top-end quarterback without having to trade up, but it’s much better than sitting in the low 20’s.
We’ll see how things play out over the next two weeks, but it’s very possible that heading into Week 13, the Bears could be sitting in a position where they’ll be in the Top 12.
Again, at this point, leave no doubt as to which direction this team should head during the off-season.
7. Has there been a more positive development than Roquan Smith this season on either side of the ball?
I said it last week and I’ll say it again — Smith is playing like an All-Pro. He added another 14 total tackles, three tackles for loss and a sack on Monday night to his season total. He’s currently tied for the most tackles in the league with 96 and is playing out of his mind on a weekly basis.
This was exactly what the Bears had in mind when they took him No. 8 overall. More importantly, this was exactly the type of play that the team needed when trying to justify the positional value of taking an off-the-ball linebacker within the top 10 of the 2018 draft.
8. For as much as the team invested within it’s pass rush, they aren’t getting nearly the amount of production anyone had hoped for.
$49.5 million-per-year. That’s how much the Bears are paying the combination of Khalil Mack, Akiem Hicks and Robert Quinn on a yearly average to get after the quarterback. Despite that, the Bears are averaging just 2.1 sacks-per-game and are not pressuring any quarterback consistently.
Mack has more than done his job, as has Hicks for the most part, but when the team cut ties with Leonard Floyd this off-season and signed the 30-year-old veteran in Quinn, they had much more in mind then him playing under 60% of the total defensive snaps and a single sack.
As the team gets tighter against the cap and the offense continues to trend in the wrong direction, the focus on poor investments like Quinn will loom large. Oh and by the way, Leonard Floyd has seven sacks on the season...
9. Once Jason Spriggs and/or Bobby Massie returns, the Bears need to get Rashaad Coward out of the lineup
Injuries happen and I get that. Quality depth along the offensive line is hard to come by, but that’s also what happens when you refuse to draft meaningful depth or sign veterans that can at least look like a starting caliber player if called upon.
That’s where the Bears are at, especially on their interior. My guess would be that once Sam Mustipher is ready to go, he’ll get a chance to see some time at center, which would mean swinging Cody Whitehair back out to guard. Either way, Coward’s run as a starter needs to end and this off-season, him being on this roster should come to an end as well. It was a fun story while it lasted with him coming in as an undrafted free agent and switching over to the other side of the ball, but it hasn’t worked out.
How the team will choose to form it’s starting five once players return from injuries will be interesting, but at this point it doesn’t look promising regardless.
10. I’ll leave you with one more positive...
While Smith may be the most pleasant surprise and needed development on this team, Cairo Santos’ emergence as a not only a reliable, but damn-good kicker has been something that could pay off for this team down the line.
It will be interesting to see how they handle his contract situation this off-season, but my guess is that if he finishes out the season strong, he’ll get a short-term deal to stay in Chicago. Considering what he’s been through since 2016, it’s pretty remarkable that the 29-year-old has hung around and will likely go into Week 1 of the 2021 season as the team’s unquestioned starting kicker.