The Chicago Bears won their second-straight game with a 29-3 victory against the hapless New York Giants on Sunday afternoon. Week 17’s victory wrapped up the team’s regular-season home schedule and also brings them to (6-10) on the year. Despite it being such a disappointing year, the Bears have found a way to be interesting over the past two weeks. All of that without rookie quarterback Justin Fields starting at quarterback.
Even so, the reality remains the same. The Bears will have their first losing season in four years and big changes are coming next Monday. With all of that being said, it’s never a bad thing to enjoy a Bears win. It’s also best to enjoy these last few football games because after this, it’ll be a nine-month layoff until their next regular-season game.
1. The passing of ESPN Chicago’s Jeff Dickerson was one that will be felt for a while within the Bears community, and it was great to see the NFL community come together in support of his son, Parker Dickerson.
On December 28th, tragedy struck the NFL world in the forms of two different deaths. NFL Legend John Madden passed away at the age of 85. Earlier in the day, long-time ESPN Bears writer Jeff Dickerson passed away after a fight with colon cancer. For many, it was a shock. Just two years earlier, Jeff and his 11-year-old son Parker, had lost their wife and mother, Caitlin, to cancer.
For anybody that knew Jeff, he was a fantastic, positive and very welcoming person on the Bears beat. I won’t pretend to know Jeff as well as many others did, but what I will say is that he welcomed me onto the beat each summer. I would come to cover the team during training camp and was always very responsive anytime I reached out to him. While losing him is a tough pill to swallow for many, it was amazing to see the NFL community band together and raise over $1 million for his son in such a short amount of time. It was also great to see the Bears honor him in game on Sunday and in the press box.
The Soldier Field press box will never be the same.— Adam Hoge (@AdamHoge) January 2, 2022
Appreciate the #Bears doing this for @DickersonESPN. pic.twitter.com/aEVFLBsHJ0
The impact that Jeff had on so many lives will never be forgotten. Rest in peace, Jeff. You will be dearly missed. He can rest easy knowing that many people will spend the rest of their lives looking out for Parker.
2. Early on Sunday morning, the NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported that head coach Matt Nagy is expected to be fired following Week 18’s game. While the report is notable, who he did not mention maybe more notable.
For most of us, Rapoport reported the obvious. Contrary to what some may fear, these final few games mean nothing for the future of Nagy. It’s been known he’s gone after Week 18 and it has to do with a lot more than a pocket full of games over a four-year period.
What was even more interesting to me is that Rapoport has yet to really say anything too concrete on general manager Ryan Pace’s job status. He’s not the only one either. There’s been plenty of speculation whether or not the team would restructure their football operations side of the house, but no information of substance has come out yet. Much like Nagy, I find it hard to believe that these final few wins would have any real impact on the team’s decision on Pace.
If I had to guess, this decision will come down solely on the shoulders of team chairman George McCaskey. It’s known that the two have a strong relationship. Pace played a big part in the renovations at Halas Hall and that should not go unnoticed. With that being said, there’s also been plenty of speculation that the team has already brought in one, if not a few different “consultants” to assess the state of this team. There have been rumors of both Bill Polian and Tony Dungy, but there have been no confirmations on either name. Ultimately though, this comes down to George. If everyone in the building wants Pace gone, he still has the power to overrule him.
3. Tuesday opened up the new two-week window to interview potential head coaching candidates. The caveat? Teams wishing to do so must either fire their current head coach or officially inform them that they will not be back.
The Bears didn’t do either and frankly, I don’t think it’s that big of a deal. Yes, it would give them a two-week head start on their search, but there are still a few factors to consider here.
- Who is doing those interviews?
- How much can a team really gather from a two-hour virtual interview?
- How many teams will actually allow potential candidates to interview?
- How many potential candidates will want the distraction of an interview while they are fighting for a playoff spot?
The first of these questions are obviously the biggest. Will Pace be in the room for these interviews? Are we even sure he still has a job in seven days? I know I’m not sold. If you don’t have your general manager in place, how would it look to interview candidates when the guy making the final decision isn’t even with the organization yet?
The final two questions are worth wondering too. As of now, the Jacksonville Jaguars are the only team requesting and conducting interviews. So far, they’ve asked seven names and already had one (Dan Quinn) reject their request. At this point, I think the idea behind this concept makes sense, but I do believe it’s going to take a few years to iron itself out.
Long story short, I don’t believe the Bears are putting themselves at any sort of disadvantages. Especially when considering they don’t have their own situation figured out. There’s also zero correlation between the team who hires the first head coach of the cycle and the success they have. The Bears will have their coach and it’ll happen within the next month. In the meantime, we all get to enjoy forming our own lists of who we’d like to see them hire.
4. The Bears may be bad this year, but the Giants are playing like the worst team in the league. What’s shocking about this? One team is expected to keep their head coach heading into 2022 and it’s not Chicago.
In Rapoport’s article earlier on Sunday morning, both team’s head coaches were mentioned. The difference? Nagy is expected to be fired and somehow, Joe Judge is not only expected to keep his job, but have a hand in hiring a new general manager.
I’m all for patience, but Judge is (10-22) in his coaching career and his team is an absolute mess that appears to be getting worse. Even more confusing, it appears that the Giants will once again hitch their wagon to quarterback Daniel Jones. Maybe this is out of town stupid on my part, but I can’t fathom a team keeping their regime in that type of situation. I guess the good news for Bears fans is that, while their current situation isn’t ideal, their situation is nowhere near as bad as the Giants’.
5. Yes, it was against a bad team, but this was the best game the Bears have played since last year’s Week 16 blowout of the Jacksonville Jaguars. Suffice to say, it was a welcomed sight for sore eyes.
It would take you an entire calendar year to be able to go back to a game in which the Bears thoroughly dominated their opponent as much as they did in Week 17. Funny enough, it was against Mike Glennon both times.
Last year, they used their 41-17 victory against the Jacksonville Jaguars to springboard themselves into the playoffs. They won three games in a row before their Week 17 loss to the Green Bay Packers, but it was enough to get them into the playoffs and give fans enough hope to be excited for a playoff game.
This year, their 29-3 win was their biggest margin of victory on the year and just their third double-digit win of the season. Obviously things feel very different this year due to where they are in the standings, but one could argue that there’s more excitement (albeit, for changes) than there was with the Bears heading into the playoffs last season.
6. A big congratulations to outside linebacker Robert Quinn on breaking the Bears’ single-season sack record in 16 games.
Who would have thought that Quinn would go from being labeled one of Pace’s worst free agent signings, to coming into Monday as the NFL leader in sacks? Quinn followed up a disappointing two-sack campaign with his 18th sack of the year, which broke Richard Dent’s 30-plus year-long record of (17.5) sacks back in the mid-80’s (1984).
Regardless of what happens beyond this year, Quinn has been one of the team’s lone bright spots in what has become a long year of football in Chicago. Whether he agrees, his milestone on Sunday is worth celebrating.
7. Sean Desai’s defense continues to impress in bursts, despite their lack of talent in key areas.
There’s no debating that this defense has lacked consistency for the majority of the year. Part of that is lack of talent. Part of that is a first-year coordinator in Desai. Regardless, Desai has strung together some nice performances over the past few weeks but none better than Week 17’s outing.
Desai’s defense gave up just three points and just 151 total yards. Even more impressive? The Giants had -10 net passing yards and the Bears’ defense forced four total turnovers and totaled four sacks on Glennon.
This unit has clear holes. The secondary needs some work, they need another inside linebacker (alongside Roquan Smith) and they have many tough decisions to make on the defensive line this offseason. Accounting for that, Desai is giving himself a nice boost on his resume this offseason when he’ll likely be searching for a new job.
8. Young players shined in Week 16’s game, but more should have been playing.
Right tackle Larry Borom had another quality outing on the offensive line. Receiver Darnell Mooney led the team in both receptions and receiving yards, on top of having a touchdown. Outside linebacker Trevis Gipson had a career day with two sacks. Running back David Montgomery is still a stud too.
Despite all of that, the Bears once again missed a chance to get a look at younger guys. They started 39-year-old Jason Peters at left tackle over second-round pick Teven Jenkins. Failed first-round pick turned journeyman, Artie Burns got the start over Thomas Graham Jr. alongside Jaylon Johnson on the boundary at cornerback.
Normally, this is the time of year where teams turn to their young players for developmental and evaluation purposes. Unfortunately for the Bears, they have a coaching staff fighting for their own (future) jobs and doing things their way over the final few meaningless games.
While I won’t say that these few games will make a break a player’s career, I do think it’s extremely counterproductive to the future of this team for them not to be playing the young guys. Furthermore, one has to wonder if this is an indication that Pace’s job isn’t safe and he’s also fighting for his job?
9. Checking in on potential head coach openings after Black Monday, it appears we’re looking at five openings.
As noted a few points prior, the Jaguars and Las Vegas Raiders are the only two teams that currently have head coaching vacancies. The Jaguars have already started preliminary interviews, but the Raiders have put off those interviews while they are in the midst of a playoff race. I almost wonder if they’ll end up keeping interim head coach Rich Bissacia if they make the playoffs.
Assuming those two jobs stay open, you can add the Bears to that list and you’re up to three openings. It appears that Denver Broncos’ head coach Vic Fangio and his staff are on their way out after another bad loss and with the Minnesota Vikings being eliminated from playoff contention after Sunday night’s loss, many believe that Mike Zimmer’s run is over as well.
Outside of that, it appears that no other job is expected to come open in the coming weeks. That would leave a maximum of five open jobs, which would be considerably lower than it has been over the past few years.
Obviously, that’s good news for the Bears, but my guess is that their primary competition in common targets may come down to the Jaguars. The team’s decision on Pace could be the biggest difference in how teams view these two jobs.
10. There was a lot of fun football around the league this weekend, but I would be remiss if I didn't mention what happened with Antonio Brown and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
You’d have to rewind three seasons to remember the last time a player “rage quit” mid-game on his team. In 2019, veteran cornerback Vontae Davis “quit” at halftime. That’s exactly what Brown did in the middle of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ thrilling last minute win against the New York Jets on Sunday. When I say he did it in the middle of the game, I mean, he did it in the middle of the game. During a Buccaneers’ offensive drive in which he was reportedly benched.
It was one of the weirder scenes you’ll see, too.
Here is the video from #Bucs WR Antonio Brown... leaving the field and saying goodbye. pic.twitter.com/EaR0jRqcs3— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) January 2, 2022
You could see receiver Mike Evans trying to calm Brown down. Yet, he ripped off his jersey and pads, walked to the end zone, made a few gestures and jogged off to the locker room. Post-game, head coach Bruce Arians confirmed Brown would no longer be with the team. In the middle of what has been a trying year for the Buccaneers due to injuries, this was not something any fan of the team wanted to see.