We Are Seeing the Worst of Previous Chicago Bears Eras in 2020

The levels of bad we have seen from the Chicago Bears this season have combined aspects from many recent eras. None of them are good. With just five weeks, an apparently pride, left to play for, we will see how strong this culture really is. But if we’re being honest, we are far beyond evaluations of just about any of these players. That’s certainly true for anyone on the coaching staff or in the front office.

We are living through all the worst parts of Bears football over the last 30 years in one season. So much so that it isn’t even upsetting at this point, becoming more comical than anything; borderline fascinating even. We’ve excoriated Matt Nagy and Ryan Pace to death. But the evidence is overwhelming. This is a problem that is way above either of their pay grade, let alone capabilities.

Fans Re-Living Previous Bears Eras in 2020

No Magic Wanny

Dave Wannstedt had the unenviable task of trying to follow in the footsteps of the second-greatest coach in Chicago Bears history in Mike Ditka. Anytime you’re following someone who goes by a nickname it’s an uphill climb. Wanny came in riding high off his work as the defensive coordinator for the Super Champion Dallas Cowboys.

He went 40-56 during his tenure, making one playoff appearance and beating the Minnesota Vikings. But he only had two seasons above .500 (both 9-7) and ended with back-to-back 4-12 seasons. He was also brought down by poor draft selections (namely Rashaan Salaam and Curtis Enis), bad free agency moves (Bryan Cox deal, Rick Mirer trade), and injuries at key positions (Erik Kramer). Sound familiar? Wanny found some success in Miami. But his Bears tenure was bad, ending with a 1-11 record against the Green Bay Packers.


Surely, Dick Jauron would have a better start and subsequent tenure as Bears head coach. Right? Not when the team’s first-round pick that season was Cade McNown. Jauron added wins to the Bears total upon his arrival. Jumping from four to seven (and then back down to five) just isn’t a sustainable model. He was fired two years after reaching the playoffs with a 13-3 record (and losing after quarterback Jim Miller was knocked out against the Philadelphia Eagles).

Jauron made 23 quarterback changes during his time in Chicago, continuing a trend basically started under Wannstedt. McNown’s flame-out meant dealing with Miller, Shane Matthews, Chris Chandler, and Kordell Stewart until Rex Grossman was drafted in 2003. That ultimately led to more fiery debates but those would be another coach’s problem. For what it’s worth, many believe Jauron’s downfall was more due to loyalty to his coordinators than him personally.


Show Some Lovie

History was made when the Bears hired Lovie Smith, a defensive coordinator for the (at the time) St. Louis Rams, who became the first Black head coach in team history. Smith went 81-63 as Bears head coach. By far the best winning percentage outside of Nagy (which gets worse every week) and Da Coach. Smith could orchestrate just four winning campaigns in nine seasons but did reach the Super Bowl in 2006, making history in the process joining Tony Dungy as the first Black coaches to coach in a Super Bowl.

In his final season, the Bears started 7-1. They ended 10-6 and out of the playoffs for the fifth time in his last six seasons. His record against Green Bay, whom he made a key point of wanting to beat at his first presser as Bears coach, suffered a similar slide.While dealing with the Grossman-Kyle Orton debates and Jay Cutler, he couldn’t figure out his offensive coordinator and got axed. The players didn’t like the decision and the defense bottomed out too. The Bears have only made the playoffs once since Smith, and have beaten the Packers three times.

Make Your Marc

Marc Trestman was supposed to be to offense what Smith was to defense. He was the offensive coordinator for the Oakland Raiders back in 2002. That team reached the Super Bowl with the second-ranked scoring offense only to lose to an historically great defense. He also won two Grey Cups in the CFL before joining the Bears and one more since leaving. He would have been a great hire as Smith’s offensive coordinator but his reign as head coach was doomed from the start. Perhaps a decade away from the league is too much, huh?

Trestman was hired over Bruce Arians who coached the Indianapolis Colts to a 9-3 record while then-head coach (and current Bears defensive coordinator) Chuck Pagano battled cancer. Trestman, who could never command a room as an NFL head coach should, saw his Culter-led offenses go from ranking second in points and eighth in yards in 2013 to 23rd and 21st, respectively, in 2014. Allowing the second-most points per game in his last year with a 13-19 record didn’t help matters.


Sly Like a Fox

A collapse in the culture and infighting (offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer ripped Cutler to NFL Network) around the franchise under the Trestman regime led to John Fox’s hiring as much as anything. Fox was hired in no small part because ownership wanted to pair rookie general manager Pace with a veteran head coach. Fox arrived off of three straight years with 12-plus wins and a Super Bowl appearance with the (Peyton Manning-led) Denver Broncos and another Super Bowl appearance as head coach of the Carolina Panthers.

It became a running joke in Chicago that Fox had simply taken the Bears job as a golden parachute, one last meal-ticket before walking off into the sunset (which he ultimately did). He went 14-34 in three years at the helm and made no friends in the media with his short, often surly, press conferences. His final act was being forced to play a rookie quarterback in Mitchell Trubisky that he never wanted (Fox reportedly preferred Deshaun Watson or knew his team would even take.

That Nagy-ing Feeling

When Matt Nagy was announced as the next head coach of the Bears, it was met with mixed reactions. Some were thrilled the Bears were tapping into an offense in the Kansas City Chiefs that ranked fifth in yards and sixth in points for their next lead guy. Other wondered just how much of the play-calling was actually Nagy and not Andy Reid, a prolific play-caller in his own right. Often citing the success of Doug Pederson in Philadelphia, the positive sentiment won out, aided by a 12-4 record in Nagy’s inaugural season.

But, still plagued by inconsistency at quarterback and obvious holes on this roster created by poor drafting, development, and free agency moves, the Bears have watched their record regress every year since. From 12-4 in 2018 to 8-8 in 2019 to currently sitting at 5-6 and third in the NFC North after starting 5-1. He has failed to modernize the offense, reason 1-A on the list explaining why he was hired.


On Repeat

Sunday night’s 41-25 loss to the Packers (that wasn’t as close as the final score suggests) was embarrassing. But it wasn’t anything new. Fans of this franchise have watched as the hated Packers have not only overtaken the all-time lead in the “rivalry” but dominate it for the last two decades. They have watched teams across the league resuscitate their franchises with smart hires and smarter drafting.

Meanwhile they toil in anonymity, sometimes venturing into sports purgatory. Fighting to barely make the playoff and get bounced early. 2020 has amplified everything. We appreciate the good more than ever while seemingly being surrounded by the absolute worst of things. For the 2020-21 Chicago Bears, it’s the latter that has been all too prevalent. Five weeks left in the season and the Bears are headed for the same place they were in after 2017. And 2014, 2012, 2003, and so on and so forth. Searching for answers in perpetuity.


Bears Eras Colliding in 2020

Part of the problem is this organization has often had general managers overlap with coaches hired by the previous regime. It happened with Mark Hatley. It happened with Jerry Angelo and again with Phil Emery. That wouldn’t be bad if the general managers hadn’t picked the players for at least a season before making changes. It’s the same story for Pace. First it was Fox, who most view as being forced on him, and now it’s his hand-picked  guy in Nagy. It’s hard to see this playing out any different than previous Bears eras.


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