When training camp opened in late July, we had high hopes for the Chicago Bears, and before September ended, the season once again looked like a lost cause. Since I can't focus on things negatively, I'll say the Bears have won three of their last six games. That said, with seven games left on the 2023 schedule, many questions need to be answered.
And answering those questions starts this week against the Detroit Lions.
Who's Going to be the Quarterback
All indications are that Justin Fields has recovered from a dislocated right thumb and should be good this week. What we would like to see is the Justin Fields we saw against Denver and Washington and not the player we saw versus Green Bay and Tampa. If Justin performs for the rest of the season the way he performed in those two games, then there is no question that the Bears have their quarterback.
If he falters, the Bears' Brass may go back to Tyson Bagent, who looked pretty darn good in the four games he played in Fields' absence.
Look, I hope Fields plays the best ball of his career the next seven games, and it leaves no doubt who the quarterback is. I also believe Tyson Bagent had some strong intangibles and the proper competitive attitude to eventually become a Number One QB in the League.
So what's the problem? Well, the 2024 NFL Draft is a quarterback strong Draft, and odds are the first two picks will come from the duo of North Carolina's Drake Maye and USC's Caleb Williams. If the Bears hold either of those first two picks, they'd be almost foolish not to take one of them, especially if the quarterback play down the stretch is as inconsistent as it has been the last few years. The only way that changes is if the Bears Staff and Front Office see Fields or Bagent as the future of the Franchise.
What About the Other Positions
Quite frankly, the Bears team that takes the field Sunday in Detroit will be the strongest, healthiest offensive and defensive units we have seen all year.
On the offensive line, there is a good chance that Nate Davis will be back, and if that is the case, it will mark the first time this season that the group that was supposed to start the season together will be playing together. During the first half of the season, it was almost as if a different Oline combination was playing each week. Having that first group back healthy will go a long way in helping the quarterback play.
If Davis can't go, then Cody Whitehair will continue at left guard. Although Whitehair has proved to be a warrior throughout his career, I feel that he is the weak link on the Oline at this time.
UPDATE: Davis is back, and Whitehair moves to the bench.
On defense, except for Tremaine Edmunds, all are healthy. The addition of Montez Sweat did wonders for the DLine last week as they got more pressures than at any time this year. That should continue to improve as the players get to know each other better.
Speaking of Edmunds, Jack Sanborn did a terrific job filling in for Tremaine last week. There is no loss of talent when Sanborn is in the game. He is as instinctive a linebacker as there is in the League.
The Bears' secondary is as healthy as it's been all year. Jaylon Johnson has been superb the last few weeks and Kyler Gordon had what I felt was his best game as a Bear a week ago. All the secondary needs to do is cut down on the penalties (some of which are BS calls), and most of those penalties are on rookie corner Tyrique Stevenson. This week at Detroit, the secondary has to be at their best.
Having sat in Halas Hall for a good part of ten years, I am not fooled by the wishes of the fans and/or media. I just don't agree all the time. Coaches and front offices need time to see their plan through. When you fire a coach and/or a GM, you're basically starting all over again, which can mean a huge future roster turnover as players who were fits for one scheme might not be fits for another.
While many have called for Matt Eberflus' head in recent weeks, I personally feel that it has been too much too soon. If you recall, when Ryan Poles took over the GM job, he basically stripped the roster of bad contracts and older players who were on the downside of their career. Yes, it took away talent that may have helped the Bears win a few more games, but it was also in the best interest of the club going forward. The General Manager's job is to build and protect the product on the field.
Could, at the end of the season, Poles suggest to 'Flus that he feels there needs to be some changes made on his coaching staff? In most coach contracts, he has the power over who he hires while the GM determines the roster. Poles could suggest that 'Flus replace some coaches, but 'Flus, by contract, doesn't necessarily have to comply. It's when something like that happens that could cause a huge coaching turnover.
It's early November, and there is a lot of football to be played. Let's see how the product on the field finishes out the season before we jump to harsh conclusions.