2016 for the Bears: Choosing who to believe
LAKE FOREST – Just a couple of hours before, his boss gave the fans a “promise” that the future would be much better than what’s going on right now.
John Fox doubled down on that statement made by Bears General Manager Ryan Pace a few hours later on Christmas Eve.
“Better days are to come. We see improvement,” said the Bears coach. “It’s not in our record but I think we are closer than people think.”
Frankly, it takes some guts for Fox to say that at that particular time and in this era of the franchise. Those words came after his team lost by 20-points to the Redskins, one in which a third-string quarterback was intercepted five times.
It comes after the Bears fell to 3-12 on the season. On top of that, Fox has collected a record 9-22 in his first two seasons as the head coach of the Bears after taking over for Marc Trestman – who won just five games in 2014.
This is the first time in three stops that Fox hasn’t taken a team in his second season to the Super Bowl. The Bears are as far away from that as possible as their string of playoff-less seasons extends to six.
Yet Fox wasn’t afraid to say this team floating below the line of mediocrity can see light at the end of the tunnel where others would see the headlamp of a speeding train. Is his hope just “Coachspeak” after another loss that cements the Bears are one of the worst teams in the NFL or does he have a point?
Good question. Yet’s argue on the positive side.
Pace has had some major successes with some of his draft picks over the past two seasons. Jordan Howard, a fifth-round selection, is just 61 yards away from breaking the Bears’ rookie rushing record.
He’s churned up those yards behind rookie center Cody Whitehair – whose earned praise from teammates & coaches for his poise in his maiden NFL season. Leonard Floyd has shown steady progress over the season, accumulating seven sacks despite a few injuries.
Eddie Goldman (seven sacks in 21 games) has been a strong presence on the defensive line when healthy. Kevin White remains the big mystery, after missing the majority of the past two seasons with leg injuries after being taken seventh-overall in the 2015 draft.
Cameron Meredith, an undrafted free agent, leads the Bears in receptions (62), yards (827) and touchdowns (4). Other younger players have enjoyed contributions here and there as well.
Defensive free agent pickups Jerrell Freeman, Danny Trevathan and Akeim Hicks have all given an extra punch to the defense, too.
Enough of the sunshine, though. We’re discussing a three-win team after all.
The Bears don’t have their quarterback situation settled at all. Jay Cutler’s guaranteed money on his contract ends this year and both sides seem ready for a split. Brian Hoyer piled up yards but not points before he got injured.
Matt Barkley show flashes of consistency and stretches of futility – most notably his five interception performance against the Redskins. A capable backup, maybe, but not a solution for the starting position.
While the Bears defense has moved to the middle of the road in points (19th) and yardage (13th) under Vic Fangio, the takeaways are ridiculously low. With just seven interceptions and three recovered fumbles, the Bears are last in the league in that category.
On top of that, Fangio and Fox have reportedly had some strife this season. Dowell Loggains hasn’t exactly wowed people with his play calling this year, many questioning why he doesn’t run more. In his defense, the offense has been riddled with injuries which may give him a second year to get things running.
Again, go back to three wins.
Should the Bears lose their finale, it would be their worst 16-game season in team history. They are falling into a bit of irrelevancy in Chicago as their woeful ways have kept them out of the playoffs for over half a decade.
Should we believe Fox or Pace that better days are ahead? That this team is closer to winning than their record says?
In 2016, that’s in the eyes of the beholder. If it’s not reality in 2017, than expect promises to be coming from someone else in the future.