I’m sorry for my long absence from this space but they’ve been asking me to work for a living this summer and my life has been busy. You may, however, rest assured that I’ve been following Bears news very closely. To prove it, I’ll quote this article from this morning’s Chicago Tribune by Bernie Lincicome which asks the question from which this post takes its title:
“This Bears team is no better than the one that lost its last five games, and probably a worse one, a team that has permission to be as awful as it should be, a team marking time until it can rid itself of [quarterback Jay] Cutler, lose the well worn Matt Forte as well, and become relevant again.”
I recently represented the Bears on a podcast where the host asked me what I thought would be a good year for the Bears. He stated that though the Bears were down, he still thought they would place third in the division. It was everything I could do to keep from laughing at him.
Most fans around the NFL really don’t understand why the local fans are so down on the Bears. That’s because they didn’t have to watch them every week for the last 10 games of last season. Some of those fans from other cities might, maybe, have seen their teams blown out, giving up 50 points in a game. Less would have seen a game where almost all of those points were scored by halftime. I’d venture that none of them have ever had to see it two game weekends in a row in their entire lives.
As a Patriots fan, that host will never know what its like to have a quarterback and his girl friend flash up a “51” signal on Twitter after a defeat of his team. Very few others will have any idea what its like to see such a thing followed by having the quarterback for the team’s biggest rival complain about having a sore back from standing on the sidelines and watching for so long the very next game. The Chicago Bears weren’t just a bad football team. They were a laughing stock. A soft, squishy, weak, roll-over-and-play-dead laughing stock.
Fans from other places see the Cubs and the White Sox and the Bulls and the Blackhawks and they don’t understand. Once training camp starts, all anyone talks about around here is football. To endure a season like the one last year literally left people not wanting to get out of bed on Monday.
I say this to you in dead seriousness. As bad as they were last year, I’d have rather been a Tennessee Titans fan than a Bears fan. At least they were competitive and fought in every game. Indeed, even the much maligned Buccaneers managed to hang tough most of the time.
I don’t mind rooting for a loser. But I can’t stand rooting for a loser that consistently goes belly up and quits. That’s what the Bears did last year for most of the last 2/3 of the season. They disgraced the citizens of a tough-minded city that literally lives and dies with the sport.
Will they be the worst team in 2015? It depends. Virtually everyone agrees that you aren’t going to be able to depend on the defense. New coaches will help but the last I checked, coaches still need talent to win football games and proven talent outside of defensive lineman Jeremiah Ratliff is hard to come by on that side of the ball.
Fans like to point to the proven talent on offense and there’s a lot to like at the skill positions. Lincicome may not think much of Forte but I do. And there’s tight end Martellus Bennett, assuming he doesn’t let his contract situation affect his play. And I like Alshon Jeffery better than any wide receiver in the division outside of Calvin Johnson. People like to point to the Packers Jordy Nelson but fail to account for the fact that Nelson has Aaron Rodgers and that Jeffery has never had a quarterback throw him open in his entire career. That’s because Jeffery has Cutler. And as good as some of the players on that offense are, I can’t imagine Cutler finally learning to throw with anticipation to a receiver or becoming any more mentally tough at the age of 32. Add that to a renewed reliance on the running game without revamping the offensive line that couldn’t block for it last year and I can’t imagine this team will ever ride the back of the offense to win when it counts.
But these problems won’t be what will determine whether the Bears are the worst team in football in 2015. What will make the difference is what made them the worst team in my book in 2014. Given that they won’t be able to get out there and play linebacker for them, the real challenge that this coaching staff faces is to instill some guts in this group. If they do, I would call that progress.
On the other hand, if this team doesn’t find itself some heart, we’re in for another unwatchable nightmare.