Chicago Bears: Inactivity at Deadline No Barometer on Future

Bears future

The NFL’s trade deadline came and the inactivity of the Chicago Bears left some fans confused about the team’s future. What does it all mean? Are they still convinced they can make the postseason? Stranger things have happened but nothing they have done suggests they will. And even if they did, they’d just be quick fodder. Again.

Perhaps this means both Ryan Pace and Matt Nagy are on the outs, with ownership unwilling to let them make decisions that won’t affect them.

Of course, the opposite wouldn’t have necessarily been the case had they moved on from some. It wouldn’t mean that a return of the embattled duo was a foregone conclusion. In either scenario, the Bears would have had options. 

Now, that they did indeed stand pat, there are more questions than ever.

The Chicago Bears Not Making a Deadline Deal Helps Justin Fields This Year

Coming or Going

Pace and Nagy’s collective future might not be as “collective” as once believed. Despite injuries, some still feel as though Pace has done a good job of building out the roster. Injuries have just gotten in the way. That school of thought would seem to ignore his many (many) major misses in the draft and free agency.

Conversely, Nagy once had the upper hand as the roster’s injuries and quarterback situation (before last season) were viewed as out of his hands.

Beginning with Nick Foles last season, but cemented with his handling of Justin Fields and Andy Dalton this season, the situation is his to own. If that wasn’t the case after Mitchell Trubisky carved them up in the preseason, it certainly was in Week 3 versus Cleveland.

Regardless of what happens with Nagy, Fields still needs a solid structure around him to develop properly. If you, or more importantly Bears brass, feel as though the coaching staff isn’t the best to maximize his potential —  for which there needs to be some introspection — then the supporting cast becomes even more important.

It is a fine line though. Especially with guys that may have expected a ticket out of town. 

One such player is Allen Robinson. He is going through his worst season since his rookie year when he played in just 10 games.

Living for Now

However, trading away Robinson isn’t what’s best for Justin Fields, at least not right now. A mid-to-late round draft selection won’t help until next season at the earliest and, more likely, in 2023. 

Despite their chemistry issues, Robinson has been productive in this offense in the past with quarterbacks far less talented than Fields. It would only serve to benefit the young passer to figure out the disconnect. Especially with a receiver such as Robinson who is supposed to come down with the lion’s share of 50-50 balls.

His efficacy in that role has come into question but not his standing in the Bears pecking order. Removing him from Fields’ already-limited arsenal is a recipe for disaster.

That fact is compounded by the coaching staff’s inability to scheme open what is still a receiving corps that can struggle to get separation despite all of the speed they boasted of adding during the offseason.

Darnell Mooney is nice, but still far from a top option. 

The tight end situation is still, somehow, a mess despite all of the resources thrown at it. And the only reason talks of possibly moving David Montgomery — a discussion you can be sure will be had this offseason — only makes sense given the emergence of rookie Khalil Herbert behind a less-than-stellar offensive line.

Getting Defensive

One avenue that could have helped was trading away defensive pieces. But any potentially available Bears were either too expensive, too old, or both. Fans also operate under one fatal assumption that also bites the media in the lead-up to trade deadlines in every sport: that another team even wants that player.

As the Bears get set to take on the Pittsburgh Steelers on Monday Night Football, they see what they hope to be. That is an organization with a level of sustained success that is built largely on a defensive identity.

The Steelers are fifth in total yards allowed, an uncharacteristic 24th in blitz rate, but are still third in pressure rate. For the Bears, those numbers are 22nd, 29th, and 31st respectively. Chicago’s one saving grace is that it is fifth in sacks while Pittsburgh is 10th.

Khalil Mack’s availability looms large after he missed last week with a foot injury and the Bears couldn’t get close to Jimmy Garoppolo.

Ben Roethlisberger is just 23rd in passing yards with eight passing touchdowns to four picks. But he’s still as big as ever and has a group of skill position players that make things happen after the catch. Najee Harris is 11th in total YAC as a running back while Dionte Johnson is 22nd.

Cole Kmet leads the Bears but checks in at 134th in the league.

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Bears Future in Limbo

There is a good chance the future of the Bears current brain trust is still undecided. After all, moving up to draft a quarterback is a pretty big vote of confidence. And this is an ownership group about whom it is easy to imagine talking themselves into running it back.

Their end-of-season press conference last year told you just how delusional they can be.

At any rate, every game plan from here through the end of the season should be with the sole intent of maximizing Fields’ development. A win would be a bonus because most of the roster won’t be around in the next year or so. And this group certainly isn’t competitive enough to make a late-season push.

Nagy and Pace’s futures, collective or otherwise, are no longer tied to wins. They now have to show they are the best people to lead the Bears headstrong into the Fields era

And, much to the chagrin of fans, if the young quarterback indeed shows the kind of improvement we saw against San Francisco, there is a chance that ownership will convince themselves things are going just fine.

So, no, the Bears inactivity at the trade deadline didn’t give any hints as to what will happen with their general manager and head coach. But it did signal they are going to (try to) maximize Fields’ development this season. At who’s expense is to be determined.

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