The Chicago Bears had a rough 2020 but we can’t let that prevent us from looking for silver linings. There weren’t many but they did exist. Even when you get into the organization standing pat at general manager and head coach with Ryan Pace and Matt Nagy, respectively. Chicago’s roster is probably the biggest cause for concern, but there are green shoots in that regard too.
Even After Rough 2020, Silver Linings Exist for Chicago Bears
Process Over Results
When the season ended, most on the outside would have bet something substantial neither Pace nor Nagy would return next season. Fans were gobsmacked by the news. In the subsequent press conference in which ownership and upper-management basically said forget fans and did what they wanted. Their prerogative, sure. It’s also a method that has yet to bear fruit, by the way.
But there are, in theory, some benefits of bringing the much-embattled duo back for one more spin at least (or hopefully, depending on your perspective). We’ve already laid out how greater importance should have been put on the ‘how’ behind the Bears three-game win streak than the wins themselves. Beating bottom-feeders is far from a rallying cry, but it appeared they had figured some things out.
The embarrassing loss to the Packers came as news surfaced of Nagy’s increasing his involvement yet again. Hopefully, the bitter defeat will cement that what they found was the result of Nagy donning that ‘CEO’ hat folks most good coaches wear and doing less of the installation. That sort of management style will be critical as the Bears break in a new defensive coordinator following the retirement of Chuck Pagano.
As for Pace, it’s hard to take ownership seriously when they say he’s grown into the role. Repeated misses in the first-round early in his tenure were off-set by the lack of such draft capital. That’s thanks to Pace himself. He’s always been one to overpay too and that hasn’t gone away, as evidenced by the Deshaun Watson rumors. Imagine giving up the farm for someone you could have drafted but didn’t meet with. Maybe that “collaboration” between Pace and Nagy they were so proud of will pay dividends after Pace largely operated with autonomy before.
One look at the Bears projected cap sheet for 2021 might cause some fans to freak out. Chicago is nearly $10 million over the cap next season as it stands. However, there are paths to free up some cash if they are willing to get creative and/or part with some well-respected veterans when the time comes. That hasn’t always been a strength of a front office that too often doesn’t function as a major market organization.
Chicago is already looking at Allen Robinson walking out the door, and who could blame him? The problem is the Bears will have to choose between him and having the valuable depth any team needs to make it through a typical NFL season. But even with the effusive praise heaped upon him by the Bears decision-makers, Darnell Mooney has a long way to go as a fifth-round player going into his second year before he can fully replace Robinson in this offense. Given finding depth is actually a strength of Pace, he might want to lock up his offense’s top weapon.
If the Bears want to retain Robinson’s services or that of any quality wideout on the open market, they’ll need to move some cash around. The first two names that pop up are Kyle Fuller and Akiem Hicks. No, this isn’t a knock on the level of their play but an acknowledgment that they are both the Bears best avenue to free up cap room but also bring something of value back via trade.
Mitchell Trubisky is a goner, no need to worry about that. The question becomes what’s easier to replace: what Robinson brings to the table or the bevy of reserves who, all things being equal, are still just reserves. Unless we see an out-of-the-blue trade of Khalil Mack, there aren’t many great ways for this team to be a player in the off-season and improve the team. Extensions are a possibility but then you run the risk of holding on too long and valuing sentimentality more than production. Cut bait now and add to the offense.
Well, We’re Waiting
To be honest, the roster should have been the most damning part of the review for Pace; his draft record is spotty at best and he overpays for lesser talent. The fact that the roster needs so much of an overhaul is a direct indictment of him. Getting it wrong at quarterback sets organizations back years and Pace’s gaffe might qualify as historic.
The concern for fans has to be that he has seemingly been empowered to choose another quarterback. It might not be so worrisome had he shown any growth in evaluating the position. That hasn’t been the case. He’s drafted just one and his forays into free agency and the trade market have proven just as successful.
We were specifically told to look at Pace’s last three years, the Nagy years, as opposed to the first. That’s when the “collaboration” supposedly made things better. One winning season followed by back-to-back .500 campaigns (literal mediocrity) doesn’t inspire a ton of faith. This will only be Pace’s second first-round pick since taking Trubisky. To be completely fair, Roquan Smith is coming off a Pro Bowl-caliber season.
Taking that bit of encouragement and adding Pace’s aggressiveness, we can conclude the Bears will vigorously address the situation. That will likely include both an early-round pick and cash resources being committed to the position. Will Nagy, who reportedly had the 2017 quarterback class ranked appropriately, be able to help Pace course-correct? Bears fans must hope so.
Chicago Bears Future Has Silver Linings
George McCaskey and Ted Phillips said they knew they wouldn’t make everyone happy. That isn’t the problem though. They didn’t even try to placate fans after making what they claim was a tough call. This was a messaging error as much as anything else. The Bears secretive ways have eroded trust over the years. And their obviously coordinated responses (see: collaborate) aren’t the olive branches a tired fan base needed.
That doesn’t mean the positives don’t exist. We’ve just been left to our own devices to figure out what they are. Smith’s big year, Nagy trying to be more of a CEO might not be flashy but they are positives. And if we ignore their overuse of the term, the collaboration between the general manager and head coach could pay the biggest dividends of all.
Embed from Getty Images