With the New York Giants facing the Chicago Bears this weekend, we check in with our friends at Windy City Gridiron to learn more about the struggling Bears. Jeff Berckes answers our ‘Five questions.’
Ed: What the heck are the Bears going to do at quarterback long-term? Hip pointer or not, it’s increasingly obvious that Mitchell Trubisky isn’t taking the Bears to the Promised Land. BTW, there might be a Manning on the market in the offseason.
Jeff: One thing that needs to be made clear is that the Raiders are benefiting from all these Bears losses as they own the 2020 Bears first-round draft pick from the Khalil Mack trade. The Bears will have two second rounders (their own and the Raiders) but that’s only enough ammunition to get back into the later half of the first round if you wanted to this year. You’re likely not going to find a ready-made starter at that point, which means Chicago will absolutely need to bring in a veteran.
There are a lot of names being bandied about but what makes the most sense to me would be a guy like Teddy Bridgewater at the high end or Case Keenum at the low end. If you’re able to get Bridgewater away from New Orleans (I have my doubts), it’ll probably cost something like the Kirk Cousins deal. Given where the Bears are with a championship-caliber defense when fully healthy, I think that’s worth it.
If the Bears are able to secure a veteran, using a draft pick on a developmental QB this year makes sense or possibly be the team that grabs Tua Tagovailoa and allows him to recover in your facility. If they try to go cheap in 2020 and wait until 2021’s first round to find their future signal caller, they’ll have likely wasted this defense as some of the players will have left in free agency or had their play inevitably decline. It’s a tough scene and general manager Ryan Pace will need to throw a lot of resources at this issue to fix it.
Oh, and from what I understand, the Manning kid is still in high school but if the Bears wanted to set themselves up for the 2025 draft for him, I’m all for it. ;)
Ed: The Bears are a team with Super Bowl aspirations, and maybe those were even expectations this season. How tough it is to be staring at season where the Bears are probably not even making the playoffs?
Jeff: We can remove the “probably” from your above sentence - it’s over for this team.
Well, this is sports fan psychology 101, right? The most fun years I’ve had as a Bears fan are where they were supposed to be bad and they turned out to be really good. The worst seasons are those where your favorite team is expected to be good and the team falls flat on its face. It’s been a tough season for Bears fans. Last season ended on a cruel note in a loss to the Eagles with the double doink kick. That missed kick led to an inordinate amount of press regarding the kicker position and Matt Nagy spent a lot of time and energy trying to solve that position. Unfortunately, it looks like the Bears were focused on the wrong things because the offense completely fell apart around them.
It’s particularly sad because Trubisky seems like a good dude. He’s had a weird football path. He was clearly over-drafted, which is not his fault, but he hasn’t been able to make the strides that we all hoped for coming into the season. In fact, he went in the opposite direction and that likely means he’ll have to try and reestablish his career as a backup somewhere else. On a human level, it’s hard to not feel for him as he does honestly seem like an earnest guy who works really hard.
I think like anyone going through stages of grief for an NFL season, I experienced my share of denial, some anger, a little bit of bargaining, but ultimately, I came to accept that this was a lost season after the Saints loss. There’s always next year.
Ed: Is there really disenchantment with Matt Nagy, who seemed like such a terrific hire as head coach just a year ago?
Jeff: When expectations are high and they’re not met, the mob wants heads on spikes. I think it’s hard for many fans to separate emotion from evaluating the team. One of the main jobs of an NFL head coach is to create culture. I really like what Matt Nagy has done in that regard and his players seem to really enjoy playing for him. Matt Nagy the head coach will have some tough lessons to digest in the offseason, including things like traveling to London early so as not to come out flat and some game management decisions. There’s a learning curve with coaches, too, and I have confidence that he’ll improve.
Matt Nagy the play-caller has a lot more issues to consider in the offseason as he has been stubborn at times. The truth is that many of the plays he’s calling should work, but they’re simply not executed well by the QB. The wide receivers lead the league in dropped passes and the offensive line has not been good. So, there are performance issues behind some of those play calls but the charmed rookie year Nagy had has turned back into a pumpkin for many fans.
The reality is that unless Nagy starts throwing players under the bus and loses the locker room, he’ll be back next year, likely with a veteran quarterback to run his offense. If he’s able to take that offense into the top half of the league with the talent that is on this squad, I have no doubt Bears fans will come back around to him. I think Nagy could benefit from two things this offseason as a play-caller. The first is to hire a running game coordinator because it simply hasn’t been there for him during his tenure. The second is to take a look at what the most successful offenses are doing and incorporate that into the playbook, namely play action. The Bears are near the bottom of the league in play action calls and that simply can’t happen going forward if this offense is going to be any good. He needs to eat a slice of humble pie, go back for seconds, and change his offense to reflect the trends.
Ed: You can take one player off the Giants’ roster and put him in the Bears’ lineup. Who is it going to be? Why?
Jeff: I assume everyone answers Saquon Barkley to this question and while he’s a phenomenal young player, my answer would be a healthy Evan Engram. The Bears invested a second-round pick in Adam Shaheen, a small school prospect that simply never matured. It was an ill-advised pick at the time and it has left a huge hole at a critical position in this offense (think Travis Kelce and Zach Ertz in similar schemes). Engram is really impressive when he can stay on the field and I’d love to see how a guy like that would open up this offense.
Ed: If the Giants are going to pull off an upset what are they going to have to do?
Jeff: At this point, it seems weird that the Bears are favored, but I suppose that speaks more to the state of the Giants and the fact that the game is at Soldier Field. I think the Giants would do well to play a bag of tricks like they did last year with OBJ’s TD pass and try to get out to an early lead. If you’re able to get out to an early lead, the Bears have had trouble in the run game after Akiem Hicks was lost to injury. Pound the rock with Saquon and try to tire out the Bears defense. The majority of the Bears losses come with an imbalance in time of possession and the defense just simply wears out and allows long, clock-chewing drives at the end of games.
If you let the Bears get the lead and force you into throwing the ball to get back into it, I think it could unravel quickly. My honest opinion is that the Bears defense is the only good unit between both squads coming into this one. They can be neutralized but don’t let them get on a roll.
Good luck to Giants fans going forward. The league is at its best when Chicago and New York are playing in the post season. To better days ahead!