A Chicago Bears playoff run is a real possibility. Don’t laugh, just look at all the areas that they have improved.
Throughout the Chicago Bears 2022 season realignment there has been a constant stream of negativity in the media and professional pundit class. Sports Illustrated recently predicted the Bears would go 3-14 and finish last in the NFC North. While not surprising, this has gone beyond what makes sense.
Yes, the Bears replaced a failed regime that left the team in a bad place both in term of personnel and in draft capital and salary cap space. And yes, some of the initial moves by the incoming regime have included missteps such as the failed Larry Ogunjobi signing and a messy holdout/hold in by outside linebacker Roquan Smith. But the Bears were not at the bottom of the league in 2021 (6-11 record) despite massive dysfunction. The change in leadership can only be positive.
Playoff Run? Give Hope a Chance
I’m optimistic over the Bears outlook. Why? First of all, it has become abundantly clear of the massive failures of the previous regime. Matt Nagy stubbornly tried to install a system—not his own but his interpretation of the Kansas City offense without regard to the personnel he was working with and without an understanding of play calling and when to deploy each element of the system. He did not provide Justin Fields first team snaps in camp and then thrust him into a starting position after Andy Dalton got hurt. Nagy had no concept of game situations or the capabilities of his offensive line, so he consistently put his team and Fields in poor situations.
General Manager Ryan Pace fell in love with certain picks and overspent. The Mitch Trubisky pick may have been the worst ever. If he was so enamored with Trubisky, he could have traded down not up for him and added picks instead of subtracting them.
The sad and ironic part of this is that Pace did a good job finding talent in the mid and late rounds but would part with those picks like candy. As soon as he settled on a guy, he seemed to immediately assume everyone else was thinking the same thing, panicked and offered a fourth-round pick with a third rounder to move up a couple of slots in the third round. Think what he could have provided Trubisky with if he kept those three picks he parted with to move up one slot?
The bottom line is that although Pace had some wins in later rounds, the clear dysfunction hurt the overall product and his exit can only help.
WHY MUST BEARS TAKE STEP BACK?
While those panning the current Bears know all this, they seem intent on the Bears taking a step back, not a step forward despite the necessary purge. I understand that the new regime has a lot to deal with, but there is talent that has been underutilized and the new leadership team looks much more professional. Yes, they lost some important pieces in Allen Robinson, Khalil Mack and Akiem Hicks, but Robinson was largely ineffective, and Mack and Hicks were often injured so they really didn’t lose much production.
Folks in sports talk radio like to praise the professional way Matt Eberflus has conducted this Bears camp and then dismiss it as “a very low bar.” It’s not. The Bears weren’t the only dysfunctional team out there. And many of those dysfunctional teams had talent; some made the playoffs. So, running an efficient offense with few penalties, having plays designed to exploit the talent of your personnel and solid organization is not a small thing. It could be a difference of two to three wins. That takes a poor team up to a mediocre team and a mediocre team up to a wildcard contender. Bears were a mediocre team with bad coaching, not a terrible team in 2021.
Potential Stars of Bears Playoff Run
Justin Fields is a talented quarterback. Darnell Mooney is a talented receiver. David Montgomery is a strong and underrated running back and a potential team leader. Cole Kmet looks to be a solid tight end and potentially more. The misuse of Montgomery may be the biggest error of the previous regime. Any fan knows that when the Bears got stuffed on two running plays, Nagy would pretty much abandon the run. That made everything else more predictable and more difficult to execute. Eberflus won’t make the same mistake.
Those pundits down on the Bears are already contemplating getting rid of Montgomery at the end of this year.
This alone, should tell you why you should ignore those voices, they have no original thoughts. The prevailing wisdom today is that running backs are a dime a dozen and none deserve a second contract. David Montgomery has talent. David Montgomery is a leader. Let’s see what he does in 2022-23 before we decide he’s not worth a new contract. I think it will be a breakout year. While it is not ideal, given the lack of depth at receiver, Montgomery is likely to lead the team in rushing and receptions.
That is the frustrating part about the dour outlook, here Montgomery finally has an opportunity to thrive in a system that values the run game and most pundits in town are shipping him out at the end of the year.
The hand wringing over the offensive line has gotten quite out of hand as well. The simple fact is that they drafted some promising lineman last year that came with some questions marks, but added numerous picks and solid veterans into the mix to compete this year. The line will be much improved based solely on the obvious emphasis the new regime has placed on it.
And that is just the offense. The Bears appeared to add some interesting playmakers on defense that could tilt the field in the Bears favor by producing turnovers, ala 2018. Creating turnovers is a focus for Eberflus and turnovers, or the lack thereof, is the biggest difference between the Bears 12-4 2018 campaign and every year since.
With everyone looking two years out in an attempt to justify a hopeful outlook, they may be ignoring an entertaining and perhaps surprising 2022 campaign. Let’s give this team a chance.
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