The other shoe dropped and, for the Chicago Bears, 2019 was everything 2018 wasn’t. The elation of a surprise turnaround gave way to an almost “told ya so” crash back to reality. And that reality is they are somewhere in between their 2018 and 2017 records; something finishing 2019 with an 8-8 record would perfectly illustrate.
2019 Everything 2018 Wasn’t for Bears
The Other Shoe
Bears brass was roundly celebrated last year with general manager Ryan Pace and head coach Matt Nagy took home the top honors for their respective positions. But they received that notoriety after a season built off of a last-place schedule. Heck, it was enough to have Mitchell Trubisky as a betting favorite for MVP.
2019 has been so harsh that the job security of the triumvirate of Pace, Nagy, and (most often) Trubisky has been the subject of countless articles. Wild considering the team was 5-11 just two seasons ago which led to Nagy’s hiring in the first place and 3-13 the year before that. Of course, Pace and a then-rookie Trubisky were a part of 2017’s misery.
If the Bears were able to go from 2017 straight to 2019, it would be seen as progress but that isn’t how things work. And to be honest, a lot of the expectations put on the Bears were done so by Pace himself. The Khalil Mack trade is fine in a vacuum and would have been for the Bears if they were settled at quarterback. News flash: they aren’t.
That trade was the single worst move Pace made and it’s because of context. Again, it’d still be a boon if they were settled at quarterback, which they aren’t. But it also banked on contributions from Leonard Floyd that haven’t existed. The worst part of the trade is it hinders the ability to move on from Trubisky with Chicago missing its first-round pick.
They were in the same situation last year with their first-round pick, not selecting until the third round. Even seeing who was taken with the picks the Bears moved doesn’t tell the whole story because Pace’s draft record in the opening round is terrible. It is hard to argue he would have selected players more valuable than Mack, outside of salary.
We give praise to Pace when it’s due, but whiffs in the first round inevitably put your team in a bind. You are either anchored to that bad prospect or forced to overspend in free agency; usually both. Pace’s saving grace has been those unearthed gems (that are seeming fewer and farther between) and that his free-agent signings were shorter-term deals.
Nagy’s most popular motto, ‘Be You’, got quite the workout this season and typically not in flattering ways. His playcalling that ushered the Bears offense into the 21st century last year gave way to gameplans that seemed to be put together for a different offense entirely. The loss to the New Orleans Saints (when Chicago ran seven times) was a play-calling lowlight.
The biggest coaching miss isn’t Nagy despite growing popular opinion. It was the hiring of Harry Hiestand and the switch from the power run scheme of last year. The offensive line has been the single-worst position group this year for varying reasons (*cough* run game *cough*). Hiestand stands as a clear scapegoat in addition to rebuilding the offensive line.
Coaches not coaching to their team’s strengths is bad. But Trubisky’s postgame presser (where he called out the gameplan) was both correct and unwarranted. Nagy veered from what had been working the past month and went back into his shell. But Trubisky (whom Nagy even defended from this) calling out his biggest supporter was odd, to say the least.
Any thoughts of them tearing it down evaporated with that win streak. Decision-makers aren’t often eager to admit mistakes so Pace was likely looking for any reason not to can Trubisky ahead of year four or Nagy ahead of year three. He’s found that reason and part of that is the Bears beating bad teams, something they couldn’t claim a few years ago.
Unfortunately, improvement seems less likely, outside of another weak schedule in 2020, if they run it back as is. They have to address the offensive line. Getting Akiem Hicks for a full season and Roquan Smith back will help too. But the Bears brass is probably the only ones still convincing themselves there is more to Trubisky.
But what if there isn’t? Trubisky’s name has been tossed around in the same breath as Alex Smith, a player who made it through two full seasons and had a 32-34 record with the San Francisco 49ers, the team that drafted him. Trubisky won’t reach his peak in a Bears uniform if the comp holds. Waiting to find out could cost more than just wins and losses.
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The attention will turn back to the ‘retool‘ series. With the loss to the Green Bay Packers (and Minnesota Vikings victory) on Sunday, the Bears are officially eliminated from the postseason. Nagy has already said starters will play in the final two games. There are evaluations to be made but established vets with big deals gain nothing from the exposure.
At any rate, the 2019 NFL season has proven to be everything 2018 wasn’t. And that isn’t meant to be complimentary. But fret not Bears fans, your team is better than the 2017 version. They also aren’t as good as the 2018 version appeared to be either. 2019 has been a blend of the two. We’ll see if this group can reach higher.
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