As the Chicago Bears OTA’s begin this week steps are being taken to shape the future of Chicago’s favorite sports team. There were reports this week that Justin Fields will be competing for the starting quarterback job. In other news, the sky is indeed blue.
The bottom line is that Ryan Pace and Matt Nagy are safer than many Bears fans want to believe. The belief coming into this season is that Nagy and Pace were on the fire seat and anything short of a miraculous 12-5 playoff run would show them the door. The Bears showed Lovie Smith the door after he had a 10-6 season, two years removed from an NFC Championship game. The truth of the matter is that Ryan Pace deserves to be fired and due to guilt by association, Matt Nagy was going to be drowned along with Pace. But hope springs eternal.
No Pressure Mr. Fields
With the selection of Justin Fields and Teven Jenkins, the Bears addressed their two biggest needs heading into the off-season. An off-season plagued by disappointment after not one but two franchise QB’s told their teams they wish to be traded. The Bears fell short in their pursuit of both Deshaun Watson and Russell Wilson and when they were officially told no by Pete Carroll and the Seahawks, the Bears jumped at any new name they could find at the quarterback position. That name was of course Andy Dalton.
When it was reported that Andy Dalton was going to be signed for a whopping $10 million for one season that spelled the beginning of the end of the Pace/Nagy era. There is no way an Andy Dalton lead Chicago Bears team was entering the playoff conversation. Bears fans knew it, Bears players knew it, and deep down Pace and Nagy knew it. Enter Justin Fields.
The Best They Ever Had
Justin Fields is quite simply the greatest college QB prospect the Bears have had in their modern history. His athletic profile is greater than names like Cade McCown, Rex Grossman, and Kyle Orton. His production far outweighed what Mitch Trubisky did in North Carolina. If there is a total package for an NFL prototype, Fields would be it. Now, none of that means that the Bears will make the playoffs, they still have to play the games. But the fact is Matt Nagy is 28-20 with Mitch Trubisky, Chase Daniel, and Nick Foles. He is doing something right.
Andy Dalton was a better QB than folks give him credit for. He is a four-time pro-bowler, he lead the hapless Bengals to 4 straight years of playoff football, but even at his peak, Andy Dalton was not Justin Fields. Of course, what Justin Fields is, is all on paper. He hasn’t thrown a single NFL pass yet, but the profile fits. With the prototypical “dude’ now standing under center, the entire city of Chicago has been given hope and with hope, Matt Nagy and Ryan Pace have bought themselves time. How much time however will be up to the team.
The Bears are as it stands in NFL hell. They have a decent team but not a top 6-8 roster that can compete for Super Bowls. They are not the Chiefs, they are not the Bills, they are not the Bucs, and they are not the Packers. In 2018, they had a team that could compete in the NFC but as Mitch Trubisky’s flaws were quickly spotlighted, all hope of the Bears competing for Super Bowls faded. That hope has now returned.
The Bears will bring back talented players on defense, albeit older talented players. Names like Mack, Hicks, Trevathan, Smith, and Jackson still form a quality defensive core but they have quickly entered NFL’s sunken place. This may be the last hurrah as we know the quality Bears defense that has existed the last 3 seasons. The Bears will now pivot toward building a super bowl roster around Justin Fields. They will need to retool their defense and add players like Jaylon Johnson, Eddie Jackson, and Roquan Smith.
Khalil Mack is on the downside of his career and this is likely Akiem Hicks and Danny Trevathan’s last year with the Bears. They will need to find a cornerback to replace the above-average Kyle Fuller. Man, it sure would be nice to have Kyle Fuller on this Bears team, his presence and steadiness will be missed.
The Bears are at a crossroads with all roads of success pointing toward developing Justin Fields, acquiring offensive talent, and building a solid defense that can complement what everyone in Halas Hall believes will be an exciting decade of Justin Fields football at Soldier Field.
The Past is the Future
2021 reminds me a lot of 2017, although the 2021 are in better shape than the 2017 Bears. There was a head coach in John Fox on the hot seat after two terrible Bears seasons in 2015 and 2016. There was a rookie quarterback competing with a veteran for first-team reps. Plus, there was a defense being built to compete over the next five years. While I believe the 2021 Bears defense will be much better than the 2017 Bears defense, it is still a defense in transition. Today marks the beginning of the new league year and the Bears have done their part to start building a competitive team that should provide a lot of fun and excitement to their fans.
This is still a middling team, however. They will win some games they shouldn’t on paper (Bucs, Packers, Ravens?) and they will lose some games they shouldn’t on paper (Lions, Vikings, Falcons?). Until Justin Fields is ready to be a top 12 quarterback in this league, which most believe he can be, the Bears will be a work in progress.
Let’s Get Ready to Rumble
But hope doesn’t help the fans spend their hard-earned money on new Justin Fields jerseys (three Fields jerseys are in the top 5 most popular jerseys). Hope also radiates through the players. Having a franchise QB is so much more than just the play on the field. Having that dude makes everyone involved want to be great because they are now part of something great. Great QB’s elevate players from great to all world, from good to great, and from mediocre to good. Franchise QB’s make coaches better, defenses better and young ascending talents like David Montgomery, Cole Kmet, and Darnell Mooney better.
Today starts the beginning of the Bears getting ready for the 2021 season. This season also marks the beginning of a new era. An era of excitement, hope, and hopefully an era that is highlighted by a Lombardi trophy being raised. Bears fans are giddy, the city is on fire like no time since the Cubs won the 2016 World Series. They are ready for a winner and they are ready to see what a modern NFL star looks like. They may have to wait but starting today the excitement is palpable.