BOURBONNAIS – The feeling is something old yet something new for one of the top people in the Chicago Bears organization.
The good times and the bad are part of any NFL organization, sometimes shifting year-to-year, as George McCaskey has found out in his years with the team. It just so happens that 2019 is a season where the positives have tended to outweigh the negative.
This comes after a 12-4 season and the franchise’s first playoff appearance since 2010. A majority of the players from that squad are returning and they won’t have to adjust to a new coach as they did last year when Matt Nagy took over. Yes, Chuck Pagano takes over the defense, and a few players have departed, but it’s not enough to keep fans from uttering the phrase “Super Bowl” when it comes to this team.
The chairman knows that, yet years of experience in the NFL have taught him to keep high hopes in perspective.
“Every season starts with hope. We didn’t get to where we wanted to last year and the goal every year is to win the Super Bowl. Whether you were 5-11 or 12-4 the year before; but we’re excited about it,” said McCaskey of the vibe coming into the 2019 season. “We think it would be no more fitting culmination for the celebration of our centennial than to win the Super Bowl, but we’ve got 31 other teams to worry about – and they want the same thing.”
That’s the tenor of a number of Bears as they arrive Thursday to being training camp at Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais in their second season under Matt Nagy. It’s much different from a year ago when getting over the .500 mark would have been an achievement for a team that hadn’t done so since 2012.
Instead, the group used a ferocious defense led by newly acquired Khalil Mack and some flashes of Nagy’s creative offense to win the NFC North for the first time since the 2010 season. The ending to the season soured things a bit as they lost to the Eagles 16-15 on the now-infamous “double-doink” field goal miss by Cody Parkey at the end of the game.
Perhaps that memory has made the Bears more determined and less preoccupied with rising expectations from the fanbase and some pundits. At least how that is for Mitchell Trubisky, who has a fair amount of attention on himself as he enters his third year with the franchise.
“You have to look at it from both sides. Obviously, it’s exciting for the fans and we put a product out on the field last year that we were proud of and we want to pick back up where we left off,” said Trubisky. “At the same time, we didn’t accomplish last year because we were worried about expectations. Nobody expected us to do what we did last year and now it’s kinda flip-sided where there’s all these expectations.”
“So we have to do a good job of staying focused, blocking that out and just do exactly what we did last year to help us win those games and, on top of that, do even more so we can accomplish more than we did last year.”
Meanwhile, Nagy has to find a way to capitalize on his great success in his first season with the Bears. For the coach, it involves a fair amount of subtle changes to keep things fresh while also taking the breakout 2018 season for what it’s worth.
“You need to be able to have a good pulse on your team, on your players. Have a good pulse for what they’re really taking in. So don’t be monotonous in what you do, change things up, let them have more say,” said Nagy. “Make sure they understand that everything we did last year means nothing. What it did is it helped our culture, but it did zero for the 2019 season.”
Well it did bring plenty of hope for this campaign, which has been lacking in the recent past and is a welcome addition to training camp this season.