Before I even start writing about the Chicago Bears team this season, I have to say that I am always an optimist. When I worked for the Bears, my nickname in the office was Dr. Feelgood because I always looked at the glass as half full and never half empty. Negativity just doesn't enter my mind.
In 2021, the Bears finished with a record of 6-11 on a poorly coached team with an abysmal offense and a defense that seldom went all-out. Looking at this year's team, I see a far better-coached team with more talent, albeit inexperienced, and an attitude that they will physically outplay every opponent.
Yes, pre-season does not mean much, but what we saw in pre-season was a very disciplined team (only 13 penalties in three games) that played hard on every snap.
New Head Coach Matt Eberflus has installed an attitude in this team that keeps each player going all-out from snap to whistle. How they got this attitude was very simple: by grading players with "loafs" on plays, the coaches felt a player wasn't playing as hard as he should.
Most professional athletes are extremely competitive, and getting called out for a "loaf" doesn't sit well. There were plays where guys went too hard, and it cost them with a penalty, but I'll take that as they will learn from it.
The National narrative is that the Chicago Bears are the worst team in football. While they certainly are a long way from being the best, they sure as hell aren't close to being the worst. The analysts say that the Bears did nothing to help Justin Fields improve in his second year. I disagree. They didn't overspend on free agents, but they brought in hungry players who want to show their worth in the NFL and win. Even though the Bears didn't have a first-round pick in the Draft, they just may have had one of the better Drafts in the League. At least three rookies will start, and I can see several more as strong contributors.
There are two teams that I follow closely, the Bears and my hometown Buffalo Bills. I honestly feel that the Bears are on a similar journey as the Bills were five years ago when they drafted Josh Allen.
Allen was a bit of a controversial pick in 2018. Analysts were all over the board on him. His physical traits were outstanding, but his accuracy was poor coming out of Wyoming. We seldom see an inaccurate passer at the college level turn into an accurate thrower in the NFL, but that is what happened to Allen.
As part of the AFC East, the Bills were in the same Division as the New England Patriots with Tom Brady. As long as Brady was leading the Pats, it would be difficult for the Bills to win the East.
When Allen was a rookie, the Bill finished 6-10, so similar to the Bears' 6-11 record in 2021. Allen completed just 52.8% of his throws for just over 2000 yards, 10 TDs, and 12 interceptions. He was sacked 28 times. Justin Fields, like Allen, has tremendous physical tools, but there were people that weren't sold on him as being a top QB prospect. Fields' numbers as a rookie were similar to Allen's. Justin completed 59% of his throws for 1870 yards, seven TDs, and 10 interceptions. He was sacked 36 times.
In his second year, Allen improved but was still inconsistent. His completion percentage improved to 59%, and he threw for just over 3000 yards. His touchdown to interception ratio improved to 20 touchdowns and nine interceptions. The Bills as a team improved their won-lost record to 9-7 and made the Playoffs. It really wasn't until Allen's third season in the League that his career took off. In 2020 he improved his completion percentage to 69% and threw for over 4500 yards and 37 TDs. Now he is considered one of the top three quarterbacks in all of football.
As Allen improved, so did the Bills. In 2020 the Bills finished with a 13-3 record, and they got to the conference Championship game. This season, the Bills may be the best team in the NFL.
I can see the Bears following a similar path as the Bills. One difference is that Josh Allen was drafted by a new Bills regime of GM Brandon Beane and Head Coach Sean McDermott. The Bears' new regime of Matt Eberflus and Ryan Poles came in Fields' second year. Because of that, the breakdown of the old roster and the rebuild is starting in Fields' second season.
Also similar is the Bears play in a Division that has been dominated by Green Bay and their future Hall of Fame quarterback Aaron Rodgers. As the Bears improve under Fields, the gap will close.
While I don't expect the Bears to make the Playoffs this year, I do feel they are capable of winning eight and maybe nine games. Playing in a much better system that will utilize his strengths, Fields will show vast improvement. The Bears' run game is actually much stronger than Buffalo's ever was, and that will help Fields grow. I feel Chicago's defense is also better than the defense the Bills had early in Allen's career.
The fun part of this season will be watching this team grow and improve. Next year with more cap space than any team in the League, the Bears can begin bringing in more highly regarded free agents who will help the rebuild.
The Chicago Bears are going in the right direction, and it will be both fun and gratifying to see it happen. The good times are not that far in the future.