I understand that you guys are far more interested in the present than the past, but I find it impossible to fully move on to the new era of the Chicago Bears without briefly discussing the old one, the 2018 Chicago Bears era.
With Khalil Mack traded to the Chargers and Tarik Cohen and Eddie Goldman both cut, only four players remain, and of those four, only two have performed at or above the standard they set that season.
That team was so special to us fans, perhaps to nobody more so than myself.
At that time, I had grown apathetic to Bears football and hadn’t watched a game in nearly 5 years. That changed with the Khalil Mack trade. Immediately, there was a palpable buzz throughout the city, which — along with a lot of persuasion from my friends — pushed me to watch their week 1 matchup against the Green Bay Packers.
Soon after, my friends’ passion about the Khalil Mack trade was on display once again, only this time, it was directed towards a rookie linebacker from the University of Georgia. Who would have thought that that linebacker would grow to be one of the best in the league a few years later? Certainly not me.
But as I sat there experiencing similar waves of joy and agitation while the Bears built and blew a 20-0 lead to the Green Bay Packers, something felt different. Staring at my Kyle Fuller signature after the loss, I felt like this team might actually be good this year.
Weeks passed, and that confidence never wavered, even after they lost to the Dolphins and Patriots in back-to-back weeks to drop to .500.
I was rewarded for my faith with five straight wins, three of which were divisional matchups over a span of just 10 days. I found myself tuning in to all of the post-victory dance parties — a weekly occurrence at that point — and though “doinks” were starting to become problematic, there was just no way a kicker could possibly hold this team back from reaching its full potential, right?
Nonetheless, the winning continued. A Sunday night win over the Los Angeles Rams (the league’s most potent offense up to that point) put the entire league on notice. It was at this point that my friends and I would argue for hours over who could play as the Bears before we dived into our Madden binge sessions, exemplifying that it was an honor to be a Bears fan that year.
That honor manifested itself in a division championship, 12-4 record, and Wild Card matchup with the Super Bowl Champion Philadelphia Eagles. As a measure of my excitement, I literally dressed up as Matt Nagy. I had the sweatpants, jacket, visor, headset, and yes, the “Be You” playcard.
Out of respect to the moment itself, I won’t discuss that game. But even after the loss, it felt like the Bears were destined to take things one step further in 2019. With the reigning Executive of the Year, Coach of the Year, a second-year quarterback poised for a breakout third season, and the league’s best defense, what could go wrong?
To my dismay, they promptly fell apart just 8 months later, and it wasn’t until these past few cuts that I realized my lack of appreciation for the 2018 season as it was taking place.
With just 4 remaining members from that roster and upper management fired, I’ve learned that the NFL truly stands for “Not For Long.” That brings me to my main point: Bears fans, please don’t make the same mistake I did. When Ryan Poles, Matt Eberflus, and Justin Fields bring this team back to glory (note “when”, not “if”), don’t take it for granted. Enjoy each and every moment, because as these past few years have taught me, it could all dissolve a few short months later.