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Looking back at my 10 Most Important Chicago Bears of 2021

My annual 10 Most Important Bears’ series will get started in a few days, but before I do that I got to take a look back at how I ranked it in 2021.

NFL: AUG 03 Chicago Bears Training Camp Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Looking back at my previous 10 Most Important Chicago Bears list each offseason is cringeworthy when the team is coming off a poor record, as it’s just a reminder of so much failure. This will be my 14th year compiling this list, and only three times have I got to write about a Bears team coming off a winning season.

While I’m not expecting the Bears to be over .500 in 2022, I could see the team being “successful” if the young players come through and the offensive and defensive schemes both prove viable. This is a transition year for the franchise, and the big picture is to see what’s on the roster that can remain when they’re ready to win. General manager Ryan Poles has put his stamp on the team, but he was hampered by the previous regime.

I’m still not calling this a full-on rebuild, because I think they have their quarterback, but this season is for sure a re-set. If all goes as planned, then in one year we’ll be looking forward to what should be a competitive team heading into the 2023 season.

Here’s the criteria I came up with back in 2009 to help guide me through my initial 10 Most Important Bears’ series.

What potential impact they may have, how much the team will look to the individual for guidance or leadership, how badly the team would suffer if they lost the player to injury, and other intangible attributes.

Importance is subjective, so what you feel is important to Chicago’s success may not be the same that I come up with, and that’s fine. This is a thought exercise to think about the players, the position groups, the coaches, and the front office personnel and their place within the team.

Here’s my annual reminder not to skim through to the list below thinking that this is my 2022 version of my 10 Most Important Bears, but this time it should be obvious as 6 of those guys are elsewhere.

You can click on the number in front of each name to see the reasoning I had in my articles from last year.

10) Eddie Goldman - With their big nose tackle sitting out the 2020 season, the Bears’ defense took a step back, but Goldman had the worst season of his career as he returned in 2021. At just 28 years old he remains unsigned, and it’s possible he may have played his last game in the NFL.

9) Sam Mustipher - The Bears counted on Mustipher taking a step in play a season ago and locking down the center position, and that didn’t happen. He had his moments, but he wasn’t consistent from a physical standpoint.

8) Allen Robinson - He seemed frustrated all season long, and whether that was due to the coaches phasing him out, health concerns, or his contract status weighing on him, A-Rob wasn’t able to make an impact.

7) Roquan Smith - We finally come to a player that proved important in the 2021 season. Smith made a second consecutive 2nd-Team All-Pro team, and he again filled the stat sheet by flying all around the field.

6) Khalil Mack - Mack is a game wrecker when healthy, but after playing hurt for much of the 2020 season, last year the Bears were forced to put him on IR after just 7 games. He made an impact in those games with 6 sacks, but the new regime decided an expensive 31-year old was best used in a trade.

5) Jaylon Johnson - The second year pro established himself as the Bears best corner last year. He saw fewer targets against him per game (4.8 in 2021 compared to 6 as a rookie), and allowed less yards per target as well (7.8 to 8.9 in 2020).

4) Teven Jenkins - A healthy Jenkins is probably a day one starter allowed to work through his rookie issues while manning left tackle, but back surgery (and stubborn coaching) held him to just 161 total offensive snaps.

3) Sean Desai - As a first year defensive play caller a season ago Desai was solid and showed promise working with a defense that had holes all over it.

2) Andy Dalton and Justin Fields - The QB1 and QB2 (along with the QB3 for a game) combined to give the Bears the third worst passing yards in the NFL. Dalton wasn’t the veteran stopgap the Bears had hoped he’d be, and the coaching staff had no idea how to prepare the rookie for NFL action.

1) Matt Nagy - Nagy’s failure to embrace the talent he had in Fields, and his continued stubbornness doomed him in Chicago.

Of these ten most important spots from last offseason, I’d say only Smith and Johnson came through, with Desai getting an honorable mention. That’s a recipe for disaster, so here’s hoping at least half of my 2022 important Bears come through this season.

I’ll fire off number ten in my 10 Most Important Bears of 2022 list in a day or two, so stay tuned.