Another November, another horrible year for the once-proud Chicago Bears. Charter frenchise of the NFL. I can’t even believe I am writing this column yet again. Lovie Smith, Marc Trestman, and John Fox. What do they all have in common?
Neither of them have lead the Bears to the playoffs. Fox hasn’t had a winning season, and is one loss from guaranteeing that again in his second year. Things have gone from bad to worse in 2016, and now they face the next 4 games without star wide reciever Alshon Jeffery because he simply couldn’t make 100% sure the supplements he was taking were not on the banned list. I’m sorry, I don’t buy that excuse. I didn’t buy it when Jim Miller got busted for PEDs back in 1999, and I don’t buy it now. Not in this day and age.
Earlier in the year I was equally down on Ryan Pace as I was John Fox. I have since softened a little on Pace due to Leonard Floyd’s strong performances over the last 3-4 weeks. Pace clearly has an eye for talent, even though he might put it ahead of durability. He’s a 2nd year GM and should probably get a full 5-6 years before you can evaluate him. That being said, there is plenty to be critical of. I have written about this before, so feel free to check that out. My biggest peeve is the QB situation. When he came in, he identified the QB as being an all important position. He also said he would draft one every year. So far, 2 drafts in, no QBs have been drafted. They did dip into free agency and brought in Brian Hoyer who was pretty solid until he broke his non-throwing arm.
People will further criticize Pace for not drafting Dak Prescott. I’m sure he was on their horizon until he got a DUI weeks before the draft. I do not blame them for passing on Prescott–nor should anyone.
There are rumors that head coach John Fox was not Pace’s #1 choice for head coach. I have some thoughts on this. It’s tough because, if you are a new GM you don’t have a lot of power to say no if you are being pressured. That said, you are accountable for the decisions, no matter who pressured you or not.
The Bears and Pace are in a tough spot. John Fox was clearly the best candidate at the time. He had taken 2 different teams to Super Bowls. He had a proven track record of hiring the best coaches available. He made one fatal miscue, sticking with Jay Cutler. I don’t know who’s decision was final, nor do I solely blame them. I put that mostly on former GM Phil Emery for issuing Cutler a 7 year contract when they could have franchised Cutler or let him walk. Even still, the decision to keep Jay is ultimately on the current head coach and GM tandem.
Clearly quarterback is the #1 need going forward. Conner Shaw broke his leg in the preseason. If the current regime stays in place, he could challenge for the starting spot. Brian Hoyer is still under contract and the Bears acquired Matt Barkley early in the season. If it was me, I’d be playing Barkley to see what he has. For some odd reason, that seems against most NFL coaches ideals. Perhaps they put too much value on winning. The bigger folly is going into 2017 and not knowing what you have at the position.
The defense has been rebuilt over the last 2 seasons. This is probably Pace’s best job. The front 7 is pretty stout and looked very capable, especially under Brian Hoyer’s leadership. Hoyer didn’t put up the most points, but he kept drives going, and got the ball to the open man. There’s something to be said about that.
It seems the Bears have capable running backs. Rookie Jordan Howard has had 4 100 yard games now, but seemed to injure his lower leg/ankle last Sunday. They also have Ka’Deem Carey, and 2nd year RB Jeremy Langford. Although the offensive line has recently been battered with injuries, they have looked solid for the most part. You can debate whether they need a legitimate left tackle.
Even if they sign Alshon Jeffery to a long-term deal, they probably need at least 1 more playmaker at wide receiver. 2nd year wideout Kevin White’s season ended when he got tackled in game 5.
The defensive backfield probably needs to be addressed again. Tracy Porter is very solid. I would say he is a poor-man’s shut down corner. He generally shuts down the other team’s #1 receiver. Kyle Fuller has not shown enough, nor has he been healthy the last 2 years. Bryce Callahan has looked good but he’s having a tough time with injuries.
So the task will begin immediately after season’s end. What happens to John Fox will probably dictate what the Bears ultimately do. Either way, I would draft at least 1, and probably 2 QBs. I would probably spend a 2nd or 3rd round pick on the offensive line. Add some speed in the defensive backfield, and probably a pass-catching tight end. They gotta get the QB right though. We have lived through not having the right QB, and the cost is, 3 head coach/GM combos in the last 4 years. That is a recipe for NFL futility. Ask the Cleveland Browns.