I think Coldplay said it pretty well, so I’ll let them speak for how the Bears season is looking so far: "Nobody said it was easy/ No one ever said it would be so hard/ I'm going back to the start."
(No Coldplay slander will be accepted on this piece, they have hits. And not HITS hits, regular hits).
Nobody said finding success this year would be easy, but they sure as hell didn’t say it would be THIS hard. And the more games we play, and the more breakdowns and analysis are released every week, the more it looks like we’re headed back to the start (See? I bet you sang that in your head in Chris Martin’s voice).
Now, I’m not saying it’s a certainty that the Bears season will end in a teardown. Who really knows? It’s week two, they might figure some things out. However, it’s looking likely that the rebuild is far from over and might not even have gotten off the ground yet. After a few years with what we thought was a franchise quarterback on the roster, that’s not really an acceptable place to be in.
So, let’s go with a hypothetical. Let’s say the Bears season ends and they’re somewhere between two and five wins. By all measures, this would be a disaster. The nuclear scenario. It would mean our offense never got off the ground and our defense couldn’t get off the mat.
If this is the case, what is the path forward for the Bears?
To me, it hinges on three areas, and in each area there are a few options.
What do the Bears do with Justin Fields?
Option 1: Extend him
Fields will be finishing year three this year. That gives the Bears until sometime in May to decide if they will or will not exercise his fifth year option.
To me, this looks like the least likely option at this point. He has looked awesome with his legs, and has looked limited as a well-rounded passer. Unless they are committed to limiting him in the passing game and using designed QB runs to open up the pass game as a long-term option, it just doesn’t seem likely that this is what happens.
And if this year is any indication, they are not keen on this option either.
Option 2: Ride out year 4 with no extension
This would effectively be punting on another year, especially with Daniel Jones putting up a very interesting case study on what could happen if you don’t pick up a player’s option and then let one year of success determine if they are worthy of an extension. Jones could definitely flip a switch before the season is over and look like a good quarterback, but that hasn’t been the case so far, and now the Giants are on the hook if he does not pan out.
This would also mean most likely looking ahead to 2025 free agency/the draft. The quarterbacks available would be shocking if they did not get re-signed (Prescott, Tua, Goff, Love, Lawrence). This would leave us with the likes of Mac Jones, Stidham, Trask, Ehlinger, Mullens, and Davis Mills. Not great, Bob! Pretty limited options in the draft as well, although that is much harder to project out. Cade Klubnik, Drew Allar, and Connor Weigman are some of the top names. At this point, none would inspire that much confidence as a fan.
Option 3: See what you can get and move on this year
The Bears cut or trade Fields and see what they can figure out at quarterback sooner rather than later. This move makes the most sense if the Bears draft picks in the first round are high enough to land Caleb Williams (1.01) or Drake Maye (probably 1.02-1.04 if we’re lucky). If we miss on those, we’re looking at Quinn Ewers, Michael Penix Jr., or maybe even a Sheduer Sanders depending on how the season plays out.
The problem there is the top 2 are seen as "can’t miss" guys (even though we’ve all seen how that can play out), and the rest are seen as guys who are probably going to need some good coaching to really maximize their talent. We’ve also seen how that plays out on the Bears.
2024 free agent options could look like Kirk Cousins, Jameis Winston, Tannehill, Darnold, and Baker Mayfield. Most of these options are pretty meh, but if we could turn the rest of the roster around, are these guys that could be at least good enough to take the next step for us?
And what do we get in return for Justin Fields? Can he at least garner a Trey Lance type of deal somewhere that feels like they can fix him? Otherwise, if they straight up release him, there is a small cap savings if I’m reading Spotrac correctly.
What do the Bears do with their management/coaching staff?
Option 1: Ride it out
To me, this would be the guys up top saying that this was the chess pieces, not the players. This would be putting a majority of the blame on the players, and not putting very much blame on the staff.
Again, I find this as a very unlikely option based on how the season has gone.
Option 2: Keep some, but fire others
To be frank, I don’t see much hope for the coaching staff. I don’t think the general consensus is that Eberflus has done enough to be safe, especially if the season turns out as badly as it does in this hypothetical. The HITS principal was awesome in the 2000s and is useless now, and the amount of times the "so what exactly do you DO here?" gif from the office has been appropriately used with this guy is not a great sign for him. Getsy and Williams have shown bad things for different reasons. Williams is clinging to the Tampa 2 and the base 4-3 and it’s working about as well as Wile E. Coyote grasping at the air after Roadrunner runs him off a cliff. Getsy is trying to re-invent the wheel with his offense and, to many peoples’ surprise, his "new and improved" rectangular wheel hasn’t been flying off the shelves. Any of them, in this scenario, could go.
Ryan Pace could also be thrown into that mix as well. In this scenario, either Pace would stick around and build a new coaching staff, or some of the staff would stick around with a new GM. This hasn’t really worked out super well for the Bears in the recent past.
Option 3: Blow it up
This seems like the extreme option here, but taking a look at it, this might be the year to do it if they end up doing as poorly as they could.
Two first-round picks that are looking more and more likely to end up in the top 5. $110,000,000 in cap space. Those two things would make this a very attractive job for a GM and a head coach. It might be tougher to work with getting coordinators, as I think they are more likely to want to work with an already established talented defense and offense (this is entirely conjecture and I have no idea if that’s actually true or not). This could work in our favor on defense where Ngauke and our new linebackers have proven to be true talents so far, but our roster on offense is not looking solid.
What do the Bears do with their roster?
Option 1: A slight re-tool
I would be a lot more confident in this option if the Bears had much on either side of the ball. But if this was the selection, that would mean adding a couple pieces here and there. Maybe an offensive lineman or two, a few players on the defensive side of the ball, and probably saving big money to throw at some guys like DJ Moore, Ngauke, Jaylon Johnson, Kyler Gordon, and Jaquan Brisker when it comes time to re-sign those guys.
Option 2: A standard re-build
This would mean tearing down certain position groups and building them back up. For example, sending most of the offensive line to the pasture, cutting bait on the current defensive line the way that they are currently set up, and probably re-working our defensive secondary as well. This one would cost more money, and would probably answer some questions about who we do/don’t plan on re-signing in the future.
Option 3: Launch this roster into the depths of the hell from whence they came
Again, this is the nuclear option. In this case, the Bears pick a couple guys on each side of the ball that they want to build around, and everything else is up for grabs. This means admitting a lot of possible mistakes and maybe giving up a couple of guys pretty early who we were banking on to make a difference.
I would foresee this as probably DJ Moore being one of the only guys who is safe on the offense. I think the case could be made for Mooney, and a stretch guy who you hope has only struggled due to the system in Kmet.
On defense, this is probably Edmunds, Edwards (I want Eddie Jackson to be good SO badly so I can call them Ed, Edd, and Eddie but he just isn’t), Ngauke if he continues to play like he has, and maybe Jaylon Johnson and Brisker. Stephenson could be an addition if he develops, but if he is still playing like a rookie at the end of the year, I think they part ways in this scenario.
This probably goes hand in hand with option 3 in the other 2 questions. If they end the Fields experiment, and blow up the coaching staff, I could see the incoming GM/coaching staff wanting a total teardown. But if they soften on Justin Fields at all, or they keep some coaches or Ryan Poles around, I think this becomes less likely.
Personally, I think the likely situation is 3, 2, and 2. Fields is gone next year, whether a cut or a trade. I think they have seen enough and want to move on and see what else they can do at the position. It looks like he’s being forced into a box this year, and the box just is not who he is as a player. I think it’s a fair assumption that whatever the box is they’re trying to fit him into is the type of player they want. I could see Flus and both coordinators being jettisoned (hopefully up a river, paddle not included), but could also see Kevin Warren and whoever else has their shadowed hand on the puppet strings of the Bears top brass wanting to give Poles another shot. Personally I’m not sure what this accomplishes, as we’ve already seen him try to build a staff and a roster that just hasn’t worked. I think it would lead to another lame duck year with a new QB and a GM just waiting to be fired. And if Pace sticks around, I think some of "his" guys on the roster stick around too, which wouldn’t be ideal, but could work in the right situation.
Which options do you see the Bears taking moving forward if this is how it all shakes out? Do you see them making progress? Maybe science and progress?