Take me back to the days when the Chicago Bears were somehow riding high at (5-1) and seemed very much in control for a playoff spot. Despite most of the national media labeling them a pretender then, it seemed like things had to get better on offense right?
Two quarterback changes and losers of five straight later, this team is a complete dumpster fire and the worst part is, there’s still five games left this season.
So what can we take away from this game and the rest of the season? It all depends on what type of off-season you’re expecting.
1. Quarterback is clearly an issue, but as we’ve learned multiple times this year, their long-term answer is still not on the roster.
Now don’t get me wrong here. I was rooting for Mitchell Trubisky to come out and light the world on fire. While I wasn’t expecting it, there was absolutely a small part of me that wondered “what if”. Even so, reality came crashing down for most Bears fans after a Week 11 bye week with yet another blowout loss on national television.
Trubisky finished the game 26/46 for 242 passing yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions. While some may look at that line and think to themselves “that’s not too bad”, the context of those numbers told the story. While the fourth-year quarterback started off pretty nicely, he quickly threw an errant interception on the second drive and was back to his old ways of taking sacks, fumbling the ball, not getting rid of the ball and not being overly accurate. All in all, that was to be expected because at this point, he is who he is.
With that being said, we all know by now that if the Bears want any chance of consistently winning in 2021, they have to have a new and better quarterback behind center to start Week 1. How they’ll get to that point is what we need to find out but the objective is clear.
Speaking of Trubisky, I truly hope they give him the final five games of the season. While he may not be good, he’s at least more exciting to watch if we are going to have to ushers ourselves through these final five games of the season.
2. Is Virginia McCaskey “pissed off” yet?
We all know the famous quote from the elder McCaskey after an embarrassing (5-11) finish to the 2014 season that saw both general manager Phil Emery and head coach Marc Trestman fired. While that was a much bigger disaster on multiple levels, one has to wonder what getting blown out on national television does for ownership, especially after such a good start to the year in terms of record.
While I’ve never been a big proponent of making changes just to make changes—Especially with a franchise that has been through three general managers and four head coaches in the last decade— But this is clearly not working and something needs to change.
3. Don’t hold your breath for a mid-season firing, but if one goes at the end of the season, both should.
The Bears have never been an organization to fire anyone mid-season. Trestman’s Year 2 collapse was probably the closest and most justified things have ever come and they still held out until after Week 17 to make a move.
With that being said, this organization clearly needs to examine their current situation over the next few weeks.
I still believe Matt Nagy is a solid head coach, but this collapse and player’s body language on the sideline has me wonder how close he is to losing the locker room. The bigger issue I see right now is general manager Ryan Pace. He’s in Year 6 and has completely rebuilt this team from the ground up. The problem is, his “rebuild” only produced one playoff trip and now they are in no man’s land heading into 2021 with some serious holes and not a whole lot of cap space to work with.
I’m at the point where I believe is one goes, the other must go. At this point, I think Pace’s time has run its course and he doesn’t deserve a third head coach. He also doesn’t deserve another swing at the quarterback position. I could see them letting Pace walk and giving the new general manager his choice of head coaches with Nagy hanging in the balance, but in that scenario, a new general manager would need to have full control of that situation to choose his next head coach, unlike Emery after the 2012 season.
I also don’t want to see this regime take another swing at the quarterback situation in the upcoming draft, just to be sent walking a year later. That would limit their candidate pool on their general manager search and ultimately handcuff any new regime in fully making decisions in the future.
4. While the offense was mildly disappointing as it’s been all year, the defense really let them down.
I’m not sure many fans expected the Bears offense to come out and light the world in fire, but most expected their defense to be able to keep them in the game. The problem? They didn’t. They gave up three straight touchdown drives and ultimately found themselves down 27-10 at half time.
On top of that ugliness, the Bears made just one third down stop the entire first half. They consistently left the middle of the field open and couldn’t get a hand on Aaron Rodgers.
I’ve tried to stay away from criticizing Chuck Pagano too much, but his tendencies are starting to show up more. Between not getting to the quarterback, playing too many in coverage too often and not taking the ball away, this was just not a good performance and one that somewhat felt like a “checked out” type of performance.
This team spent far too money on the defensive side of the ball to not be getting to the quarterback and taking the ball away consistently.
5. Sunday night may have been the best I’ve seen David Montgomery look in a Bears uniform.
On the game, Montgomery finished the game with 103 rushing yards on 11 carries, while also adding on five catches for 40 yards. The majority of his rushing yards came on the second offensive play from scrimmage when he ripped off a 57 yard run, but his burst and overall decisiveness looked much more like the player I’d seen at Iowa State.
I have been hard on Montgomery this year at times, but this was the type of game where you can truly see what type of talent he has and what type of role he can play in the right offense. This team may not have much to build on offensively but he’s a piece that should help them get back on track eventually, even if it’s in a split-back field role in the future.
6. I’m not sure how they’ll replace him, but it’s time for the Bears to pull the plug on Charles Leno Jr.
On Sunday night, the team had two undrafted free agents starting and two other offensive linemen playing out of position. Yet, it was their starting left tackle that was the only one playing at his normal position and he was the one having the most issues. Whether it was penalties or giving up sacks, Leno continues to be a large issue for the Bears.
Again, I’m not sure how they plan on replacing him (whether in Free Agency or the draft), but the once “feel good” story of a seventh round pick turned high-paid left tackle has come and gone. It’s time to cut bait and figure out another solution.
7. Speaking of promising performances, they may have found something in Sam Mustipher at center.
Mustipher went from practice squad player, to active roster, to starting pretty quickly. A lot of that was helped out by injuries on the interior, but while all the focus was on Alex Bars as an undrafted free agent last year, Mustipher appears to have a brighter future in Chicago.
Sunday night was his first game back from injury, but once again, he showed that he belongs and at worst should provide the team with cheap depth on the interior over the next few seasons. On that 57-yard run from Montgomery, he played a huge role and for the majority of the night, he more than held his own.
These next five games will be a very interesting audition for Mustipher in hopes that maybe he can prove that he’s a viable starting option at center long-term, even when James Daniels come back next season at left guard.
8. If the season ended today...
The Bears would hold the 14th pick in the 2021 NFL draft. They are currently tied with the Minnesota Vikings, New England Patriots and San Francisco 49ers at (5-6), but only the Vikings have a lower strength of schedule and are currently in front of them.
With five teams currently sitting at (4-7), it’s possible that they could finish in the top 10 with a bad finish, which will be interesting to monitor. Despite being a game back of the Arizona Cardinals for the final Wild Card spot, it’s pretty clear the best thing for this team is higher draft positioning, especially when you look at quarterbacks and offensive line help.
9. After this past weekend, there are now four general manager spots open and expected to be more head coaching vacancies heading into the off-season.
Again, only time will tell how the Bears handle their own situation, but this is an off-season where many teams will see top-to-bottom restructures in their front offices and coaching staffs. That’ll make it very interesting for the many teams competing for general manager candidates because let’s be honest- This many vacancies at the general manager spot is not common. It’ll be interesting to see if that impacts the Bears decision making at all. While they are a charter franchise, I can’t imagine they’ll be overly attractive with their recent track record of turnover and overall lack of resources in the near future to make this team better. Either way, it’s going to be a very intriguing off-season around the NFL, including how the Bears decide to proceed.
10. One question many Bears fans are left with over these last fives game- What are you looking to get out of the rest of the season?
The pandemic has made the world an even crazier place than it was but for many, sports has been a needed escape away from that madness. Despite the Bears completely collapsing after a strong start, one could argue that football on television and in our lives is still better than none at all.
With that said, what will you be looking to get out of the final five games of the season?
For me, it’ll be focused on draft positioning, younger player development and simply trying to enjoy Bears football on television before yet another long nine month wait until Week 1 of the 2021 season. In some ways it feels like the season just started and in other ways, it feels like the season can’t end fast enough.