The Chicago Bears are Trying to Navigate the Present and Future

Bears future

As the Chicago Bears prepare to host the Baltimore Ravens, they are focused as much on the future as they are on their present. A win would be nice, sure. But, as has been the case since Week 3, the most important part of the next eight weeks is the development of quarterback Justin Fields.

That was the gist of the message before they hit their bye week. It’s also why Matt Nagy’s future may not be as decided or cut-and-dry as many would think or like.

If Fields continues to progress as he has, those on the “fire Nagy” train might be hoping that ownership still thinks there is more meat on the bone. So far, they haven’t shown a propensity to function that way.

Perhaps their plans for a new stadium will affect that.

Justin Fields’ Development is Paramount to Wins for the Chicago Bears Future

Right Place, Wrong Time

Fortunately for the Bears, the Ravens haven’t been as good offensively on the road as they have at home. The 11th-ranked team in DVOA, Baltimore is 2-2 on the road compared to 4-1 at home. They’re scoring about 10 points fewer per contest away from their friendly confines. Their yards per pass drop by .3 their rushing yards per attempt fall by .5 when they are on the road.

Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson has 10 of his 14 passing touchdowns at home. He is completing his passes at a clip that is more than 10 percent worse when traveling.

It should be Roquan Smith’s responsibility to spy Jackson (the league’s seventh-leading rusher). He’ll try keeping him from getting out in space where few are as dangerous; none of whom are quarterbacks. 

Unfortunately, the Bears are largely the same team regardless of where they play.

Ranked 26th in DVOA, Chicago is 1-4 on the road but a more respectable 2-2 at home. They do, however, average 20 points per game at home as opposed to 14 points per game on the road. Neither is an acceptable mark in today’s NFL.

It’s the Ravens defense that could be at an advantage. Not only are the Bears dealing with myriad injuries, but the Baltimore defense is .5 yards per play stingier against the run and 1.8 yards per play stingier against the pass while suppressing opposing passers’ completions percentages by 6.1 percent when they are away from M&T Bank Stadium.

This is also a team that lost to the Miami Dolphins in primetime and has dropped two of its last three. The Bears, meanwhile, are mired in a four-game skid themselves.

A Macro Approach

The bye didn’t do the Bears any favors. The Green Bay Packers and Minnesota Vikings both got wins while the Detroit Lions had a moral victory simply by not losing to a Pittsburgh Steelers team (without Ben Roethlisberger) a week after the latter escaped with a win over the Bears. That was a game filled with questionable officiating.

To that end, the league has since doubled and even tripled down on the validity of the penalties against Chicago. At least one of them directly took points off of the board.

Even with that, this lopsided affair on paper is secondary to the mission for the remainder of this season. That is to get as many bumps and hiccups out of the way for Fields as possible ahead of next season.

That most likely includes his head coach.

There are already numerous short-lists of candidates for both Nagy’s and Ryan Pace’s jobs as they get set for this stretch run.

No one can say for sure, but it would seem logical to clean house around your promising young passer to get a group in place that can maximize what they have in him. So far, through three and a half seasons, Nagy and company have largely proven incapable of that. With how long it’s taken for the Bears to happen across one, they might not want to squander this opportunity.

The city of Chicago has its politicians vying for the spotlight in the name of keeping them from moving some 30 miles away to Arlington Heights. But, like that potential move, the divorce between this current regime and the organization needs to happen.

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Bears Future Paramount to Present

No other player may embody this conflict of interests better than running back David Montgomery. He’s turned himself into one of the league’s most productive rushers. But running back’s have short shelf lives and we saw rookie Khalil Herbert fill in admirably in his stead. With just one year left on his rookie deal, is it wise for the Bears to extend him?

It’s a situation that has played out with Allen Robinson over the last few years. Had they hit on Mitchell Trubisky, there is a good chance we’re talking about an A-Rob extension instead of planning for his departure this offseason.

That is the fine line Nagy will be walking as the season comes to a close. Faced with his undoing while being teased with the potential of Fields, he is coaching for this season, his future (any teams looking his way for an offensive coordinator role?), and that of his successor with regards to Fields’ development.

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