Well, the Bears won that particular trophy in more ways than one: getting the actual “W” and securing excellent odds for a top-2 pick in the upcoming draft. The move to trade the No. 1 overall pick to Carolina last year looks like a masterstroke in hindsight as the 1-8 Panthers continue to look horrid and Bryce Young struggles mightily to start his NFL career.
Take a bow, Ryan Poles.
It hasn’t always gone to plan this season, but Poles’ vision for the future showed itself all over the field Thursday night.
His two young tackles, Braxton Jones (fifth-round pick in 2022) and Darnell Wright (10th overall pick in 2023) played like cornerstones on either side of the offensive line.
Poles’ very first draft pick with the Bears, nickel corner Kyler Gordon (second round in 2022), was a total menace against the Panthers with seven tackles.
Montez Sweat, the man Poles just traded for and made one of the highest-paid edge defenders in football, just put up the most disruptive game a Bears edge rusher has had since Robert Quinn in 2020.
Montez Sweat: 7 pressures in Week 10— PFF (@PFF) November 10, 2023
The last time a Bear recorded more in a single game was 2019 pic.twitter.com/1QUogTtjcL
And Tyson Bagent, the undrafted rookie Poles nabbed from D-II Shepherd University, outplayed Young, the top pick in this latest draft, to win his second game as an NFL quarterback in relief of Justin Fields.
Sure, it was all against the Panthers, but let’s give Poles his flowers for a day. Games like that are what make the idea of keeping him around much more palatable — perhaps even preferable.
As sad as the current outlook is for this season, the Bears are set up to be pretty solid once they figure out how to rush the passer and get their quarterback playing at a league-average level — whomever that happens to be.
Moreover, drafting a young quarterback and resetting the contract clock at the position would allow the Bears to build the roster up even further and create a possible contention window with a developing young star. (The Bears could pursue that with Fields, to an extent, but they’d have to pick up his fifth-year option this offseason at least.)
Of course, all of this good will likely evaporate if Poles doesn’t fire Matt Eberflus this offseason. Nothing screams “terrible for the future” like a defensive coach who runs an archaic defensive scheme (which is also bad).
But if the Bears play competitive football for the rest of the season with clear contributions from their young players, there might be some real reasons for optimism going into the 2024 season aside from simply praying Chicago lands a top-2 pick.
Goodness knows we could use some.