As the Chicago Bears prepare for their Week 8 matchup with the San Francisco 49ers evaluations of their season mustn’t stop. It would be natural to want to grant them some sort of pass at the moment. They deal with a rash of COVID that has even kept head coach Matt Nagy away from the team.
On the injury front, the big story wasn’t that Larry Borom would return to practice or that Teven Jenkins is “right around the corner”, per offensive tackle Jason Peters.
It was Khalil Mack’s foot injury that threatens to keep him out of Sunday’s contest
Injuries, COVID Can’t Keep Chicago Bears Brass from Making Tough Evaluations
Bad News Bears
Nagy conducted his first presser of the week from his car while announcing that he would be away from the team after testing positive for COVID. The Bears have already had several players miss time due to testing positive for the virus. Running back Damien Williams just came off of the list.
Jimmy Graham, Elijah Wilkinson, and Robert Quinn remain on the list.
Still, that news was better received than the Mack news despite both being potentially catastrophic.
The former All-Pro has been dealing with the issue for a couple of weeks and has rarely practiced. He was their lone ‘DNP’ on Wednesday’s injury report. There is some concern that it could even be an extended absence should he miss this contest.
Chicago is currently tied for first in sacks. But Mack and Quinn account for over 54 percent of their sack total. Second-year man Trevis Gipson is having a nice sophomore campaign but only has two sacks and little in the way of a running mate should both of the Bears EDGE rushers miss the game.
San Francisco is currently 27th in total offense.
That is still three spots better than the Bears. But they’ve also allowed just 11 sacks on the season. It’s hard to see the Bears cracking that tough offensive line without either Mack or Quinn.
— Chicago Bears (@BearsPR) October 28, 2021
We won’t try to pretend that Nagy has been good. The fear is that what if he is the best of a bad situation, though? While we’ve never seen Special Teams Coordinator Chris Tabor at the helm during the regular season but he did the job when Nagy had to miss time during the summer. We have seen Bill Lazor as a head coach in the NFL.
Hoping he retains playcalling duties is probably as far as we should go.
It lends itself to envisioning what could happen in the (unlikely) event Nagy is fired before the season’s end.
In the meantime, the Bears operations on the sideline will be something to watch. Especially after they’ve had a few communications issues that have led directly to turnovers in recent weeks. Word is there was another staff member to test positive as of Thursday.
We can lament Nagy’s job on gamedays but this is uncharted territory.
The other part of the equation is that fans shouldn’t assume a good outing this weekend hurts the embattled head coach in any way. It wouldn’t be hard for this ownership group, in particular, to look at that and say he’s built such a strong foundation, thus, reinforcing their faith in him to lead the team.
How do we know? Because that is essentially what they told us at their end-of-season press conference when they announced Nagy and general manager Ryan Pace would return.
The next two weeks are pivotal for the Bears and the guys running the show. If they can’t get the win this weekend, they set themselves up to potentially not have a better chance at one until three weeks from now when they’ll face the Detroit Lions for the second time this season this time on the road.
Beyond that, the New York Giants in Week 17 are the only other team they’ll face with a losing record.
Next week it’s a trip to Pittsburgh to take on the 3-3 Steelers. That is another game against an offense that isn’t explosive but it’s still better than the Bears current plan of attack. The defenses are also comparable when healthy.
We knew this was a tough schedule months ago.
What cannot happen now is for there to be a caveat on this season for the current regime. Whatever decision would be made about their future in a healthy, normal season needs to be made after this one. It would seem as if the staff knows that as well. Otherwise their focus on winning turns from keeping guys motivated into delusion.
49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan has recently come under some fire, as has San Francisco general manager John Lynch, for their shortcomings in recent years. This despite dealing with a rash of injuries every year and not quite figuring out the quarterback position.
Bears Evaluations Should Continue
Except that is also a team that was in the Super Bowl just three short years ago. If they can have the heat turned up in a season in which they selected a quarterback early in the draft and dealt with a myriad of injuries, why can’t the Bears front office?
After four years, a timeline by which we were told the Matt Nagy offense would have taken hold, they are worst off now than when they hired him production-wise.
With the quarterback of the future in the building, they cannot let sentimentality for the person (who by all accounts is decent) cloud their judgment of the failures on the field. As the weeks go and we get more tidbits like Allen Robinson partially pinning him and Justin Fields’ struggles to get on the same page on their not getting many reps together in training camp.
They have said they are getting together more going forward.
But it is a process the Bears could and should have helped along. Especially with a coach who has proven to have a quick hook for his quarterback when he has “his guy” waiting behind him.
Facing a team that edges them in nearly every statistical category, they will have to steal one without their coach on the sideline. That shouldn’t stop him from being graded on the outcome.
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