25 years of being a Chicago sports fan means I’m well-versed in pessimism. I get pessimism, I really do. But when I hear people talking about a team as talented, driven and well-coached as the Chicago Bears, my seldom-used optimist side creeps into the fold.
For weeks I’ve seen various pundits sound off on Twitter and other blogs about how the Bears should expect a severe drop-off during the upcoming 2019 season. It was this question — posed to The Athletic’s Jay Glazer — that sort of set me off.
It isn’t a ridiculous question posed by Sawyer; I think it’s more the overarching doubt that has gotten to me, and he’s not the only one.
Two things are driving regression talk. First, you have the kicking situation. Of course it’s troubling, but how many NFL teams can you look at right this second and fully trust that their kicker will convert on 80% or so of their field goal attempts? Maybe five or six? The Bears will have a kicker next year, I’d guess Eddy Pineiro — and guess what? He’s going to miss a few kicks and we’ll just have a to pray that they aren’t the ones that matter most. Maybe I’m too resigned to the fact, but I can’t let an unstable kicking situation dictate how I feel about a football team.
The second argument that is/can be made is the Bears’ schedule. There’s no getting around how difficult it looks compared to last year when Chicago produced a 12-4 record. Aside from the usual divisional games, a few difficult matchups will be at the Broncos, home against the Saints, home against the Chargers, at the Eagles, at the Rams and home against the Chiefs. So, yeah, 12-4 will be difficult to replicate, but I don’t think many people will argue that we’re a better team at the moment than the Broncos, Chargers and Eagles. As far as the Saints, Rams and Chiefs — no comment.
Despite those two things, please shut up, because the Bears are going to be good again.
Scratch that, the Bears will be better:
Mitch Trubisky seems ready to take 100% control of this offense.
I’ve been reading a lot of The Athletic’s content (if you don’t, you really should — it’s worth it), and all that Kevin Fishbain, Adam Jahns, etc., have been reporting on is how great of a grasp Trubisky has of this offense.
Let’s not forget just how complicated everything is — and I won’t pretend to understand the extent of that myself — but it sounds like No. 10 is not only understanding the things that he needs to do, but what and where his teammates need to be. Think of it as a 200-level class last season, and this year he’s ready for 300, maybe even 400-level stuff. Except he’s not waking up hungover and skipping the class.
A sub-point to Trubisky’s improvement: everyone is raving about Allen Robinson. Let me remind you of a couple things: he’s another year removed from ACL surgery (will be able to participate during training camp unlike last year), he’s just 25 and he has a 1,400-yard season under his belt.
Zero part of me is concerned about the defense.
Vic Fangio is out, Chuck Pagano is in. I’m not going to try and spin that as an upgrade, but it’s a complete negative. There will be moments where we miss Fangio dearly, but let’s not forget the type of impact (Defensive Player of the Year) that a guy like Terrell Suggs had in Baltimore while playing for then-defensive coordinator, Pagano.
Someone responded to a tweet of mine yesterday pointing out that the Bears defense won’t have the turnover luck that they had last year; while that’s more-than-likely true, the aggressive style of Pagano leads me to believe that the Bears can still come up big in important spots. Eddie Jackson isn’t going anywhere, after-all.
Also, while talking about Khalil Mack makes me feel things that I don’t normally feel, I have a sneaking suspicion many fans will be thinking of Roquan Smith in the same vein of Mack very soon.
Smith had zero offseason work with the Bears last year and still led the team in tackles as a rookie. That shouldn’t be overlooked. The Georgia Bulldog is going to raise his game even further in 2019 — and I think you’re looking at a guy who will achieve All-Pro status in year two. I’m feeling things.
I’m a believer in the importance of culture, and the Bears’ culture seems second-to-none.
I wasn’t able to attend the Bears 100 celebration myself, but had the pleasure of listening to some of the panel discussions via podcast. One in particular that struck me was with Ryan Pace, Ted Phillips and Matt Nagy.
It basically equated to a compliment fest where all three took turns patting each other on the back. While I say that in a slightly joking manner, you can tell it’s plenty more genuine than it would be for some other front office-head coach relationships.
I’ve never loved the way that a coach talks more than I do Nagy. He doesn’t speak in clichés, he speaks from the heart and you can tell that the players are more than just players to him. That’s the important thing. Given that I can see that from afar, it’s obvious his players do too, and they’re going to play hard for him. Example A being last season.
Free agents wanted to come to the Bears this offseason for next-to-nothing. Good players like Ha-Ha Clinton Dix. That’s a sign of a culture that guys want to spend their precious prime years around. That leads to winning games. That leads to championships.
Will the Bears finish 12-4 again? Maybe, maybe not. Though, even if they don’t, I’m confident they’re a better team than they were last year and that people are sleeping.