For those hoping the Chicago Bears would prove their playoff worth with a quality game on Sunday... I’m sorry for your luck because it was just not meant to be. Despite limping into the playoffs at (8-8), there was little hope for any sort of playoff run and it came to an end after one ugly night in New Orleans.
After Javon Wims dropped a wide open touchdown pass, things went downhill and never truly recovered. On top of that, the Bears offense failed to register a third down conversion or a touchdown until the final two minutes in garbage time. The good news? The defense had a quality performance. But what now? Who stays and who goes? All of these questions will be answered in the coming days, but it’s hard to see a clear path forward with this Bears team moving into the off-season.
1. Mitchell Trubisky is who we thought he was and his time in Chicago appears to have come to an end.
This past off-season, we spent most of the time talking about the quarterback position. Coming out of the season? We’ll be doing the same because what is being a Bears fan without having turmoil at the most important position on the field, right?
A few weeks ago, there were multiple reports that the organization was warming back up to the idea of retaining Trubisky. That was with the caveat that he performed well against the Green Bay Packers and didn’t completely crap the bed in the playoffs. Well, here we are. Neither situation played out well and those 30 point performances are a thing of the past. My guess is, so will Trubisky’s tenure in Chicago. What they’ll do next is anyone’s best guess, but one thing has become clear, it can’t be Trubisky.
2. A primary reason I believe Trubisky is gone? He and Matt Nagy are not a good combination and these last two weeks have provided all the proof we needed.
Last weekend, I noted that Nagy doesn’t trust Trubisky in big games and/or situations. Sunday proved to be no different. Before the final garbage-time drive of the game, Trubisky had just over 100 yards passing and they had failed to convert a single third down try or score a touchdown.
Nagy’s issues as a play caller are well noted and something that absolutely cannot go unnoticed if he keeps his job. Nagy’s lack of trust in his quarterback is something that should also be noted and cannot be allowed to play out again for another painful season.
The Bears will likely be faced with a decision of who to keep. Who stays and who goes between Nagy and Trubisky? My money is heavily on Nagy staying, but even so, how safe should his job truly be? There are many questions to be answered very soon.
3. No one’s job should feel secure moving into this week.
Whether it’s general manager Ryan Pace, Nagy or even team president Ted Phillips, no one’s jobs should be guaranteed. While I’m assuming that’s not truly going to be the case, this is an organization that needs to be seriously examined from top to bottom, yet again. Should a (28-20) record and two playoff appearances in three years save this regime? Absolutely not, at least not with Pace.
Let’s be honest here. The Bears are in a tough position moving forward. They’ll have minimal cap space, no starting quarterback, an unhappy top receiver and an aging defense with growing holes. Let’s say they fire Pace. How attractive is this job with so many other spots available? In my objective opinion, it has to be toward the bottom. Do they already have some names in mind? The Chicago Tribune’s Brad Biggs believes that Kansas City Chiefs’ Director of Football Operations Mike Borgonzi could be a name to keep an eye on for a potential general manager candidate. Could Champ Kelly also become a candidate? He has two interviews lined up already, but has done very good work with the team since being brought in.
Only time will tell, but a scenario I would not rule out is this — Phillips retiring and/or stepping down, Pace being promoted and/or moved with a restructure of the organization, and them looking for a new general manager that would have the final say on Nagy and the coaching staff.
4. If you’re always one break away from staying competitive, how good of a team are you?
That’s a question this team (primarily leadership) must ask themselves when reflecting on this season. The past two weeks, there were a few key moments to look back on and wonder what if.
In the Packers game, it was the failed fourth down conversion and the dropped Kindle Vildor interception. On Sunday against the Saints? It was the dropped Javon Wims touchdown that would have tied the game in the first quarter.
Here’s the reality, though... The Bears had many of those moments throughout the season. Despite beating up on some bad teams at times during the season, they were (1-7) against 2020 playoff teams and that’s problematic. Their lone win was against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in a game most could argue they should have lost. Outside of that, it was always a game of what if’s, assuming they weren’t blown out.
Simply put, the Bears just weren’t very good this year. Another good question that ownership must ask themselves is this- Was this team any better than 2019? I’m not sure they were, despite making the playoffs.
5. Out of all of the Bears impending Free Agents, there’s three “must keeps” for me.
Receiver Allen Robinson, kicker Cairo Santos and defensive lineman Mario Edwards.
Robinson is a no-brainer at this point and despite their cap issues, the franchise tag appears to make the most sense for him in 2021, barring a change of heart or leadership. Santos is another guy that they absolutely have to find a way to keep. He set a new franchise record for consecutive field goals made. While I’m not advocating for a four or five year deal with a top-end money, I do think there’s some middle ground where a two or three year deal around $3.5-$4 million per year with a minimal guarantee could work for both sides.
Edwards is the one that is also important, at least for me. At this point, it’s a foregone conclusion that Roy Robertson-Harris is likely out the door and gets solid money to start full-time somewhere in 2021. That means they’ll have a big depth spot to fill and what better way to clog it than to keep one of your own? Edwards was a part time player, but made a big impact when he played. He’s someone who has been somewhat of a journeyman since failing to break through as a second round pick, but he brings quite a bit of value to this Bears defense.
The Bears won’t have a ton of money to work with, but these moves appear to be doable.
6. Speaking of the off-season, what do they do at the quarterback position?
The problem with finishing (3-1) over their final four games is that they’ve likely played themselves out of any of the top four draftable quarterback. We’ve known for a while that they had zero chance at Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence. We’ve also know the likelihood that they landed Ohio State’s Justin Fields was limited too, considering he’ll likely go in the Top 3. Now, we must seriously question whether or not BYU’s Zach Wilson or North Dakota State’s Trey Lance will be there or close enough to make a trade up viable.
When looking to Free Agency or possible trade targets, it appears there are two top names everyone will be keeping an eye on, Deshaun Watson and Dak Prescott. Both are very good quarterbacks and it’s possible that one or both could end up being available. With Watson, his future in Houston is very much in question due to his unhappiness. With Prescott, it’s completely dependent on if they plan on franchise tagging him again or can work out a long-term deal.
Matthew Stafford, Derek Carr, Matt Ryan and Carson Wentz are other possible veterans that could be available, but it’s worth keeping in mind, there will be plenty of teams looking for quarterbacks. So the Bears will face stiff competition to upgrade at the most important position on the roster.
7. Upon further review, the Bears appeared to find three long-term pieces in the 2020 draft.
Unfortunately for the Bears, two of those guys did not play on Sunday. cornerback Jaylon Johnson missed the final four games of the season with a shoulder injury, but he did have a quality rookie year. Their other second round pick in tight end Cole Kmet flashed as well and appears like he’ll be a valued member of a revamped offense. Then of course, there’s receiver Darnell Mooney who set multiple Bears rookie receiving records. Despite missing Sunday’s game, he’s going to be a large part of the offense moving forward.
How cornerback Kindle Vildor and edge rusher Trevis Gipson develop will be worth monitoring, but they will just be considered cherries on top, assuming all three of their top contributors continue to grow and show value.
8. My Offensive and Defensive Most Valuable Players of the Year...
Offensive MVP- Running back David Montgomery
Defensive MVP- Inside linebacker Roquan Smith
Smith was the easy choice and frankly, it’s still outrageous to me that he was snubbed for the Pro Bowl and as a first team All-Pro selection but either way, he was a massive bright spot and one that should continue to get better.
With Montgomery, it was not an easy choice between him and Robinson, but when the offense was scoring the most points, it was Montgomery’s contributions that were the main cause for the uptick.
Both had breakout years and should give fans some hope for the near future.
9. My Offensive and Defensive Most Disappointing Players of the Year...
Offensively, my choice ended up being the quarterback situation as a whole. It would have been easy to choose one or the other but somehow, that position was either as bad as 2019 or slightly worse. Part of it was due to the offensive scheme and play calling, but it also just goes to show Pace’s troubles with evaluating the position as a whole.
Defense, this was an easy call with Robert Quinn. Especially when you look at what Leonard Floyd has done in Los Angeles with the Rams. Quinn was brought in to be the missing piece to their pass rush. He ended up totaling two sacks and has far too much guaranteed money still left on the books to cut in 2021. Quinn was massively disappointing season in his first year in Chicago. Eddie Jackson was a close second, especially when considering the big contract extension he signed earlier in the off-season.
10. An off-season look-ahead
Despite the Bears finishing (8-8) and losing in the first round of the playoffs, they will be picking No. 20. They’ll have their top three round picks, no fourth, a fifth and multiple sixth and seventh rounders that are still pending from the Adam Shaheen trade and the compensatory formula. There’s the good-ish news. The bad news? According to Over The Cap’s projections heading into the off-season (and assuming a $176 million cap), the Bears will be sitting about around $3 million over the cap, assuming their $7.6 million or so rollover from this year’s remaining cap space. There’s speculation that a 17th game would bring the cap number closer to $190 million or so, so the Bears may find some relief from them. Even so, there’s going to have to be some serious maneuvering going this off-season just to retain the few players they need to keep and make a move at the quarterback position.