DETROIT — Every week I’ve watched the Chicago Bears, there has been something about them that just left a nagging feeling in my stomach. I couldn’t pinpoint what it was, until I saw a post on X from a former Bears pro-bowler Monday.
Set aside their gut-wrenching loss Sunday and hear me out.
I have dedicated a lot of time toward trying to break down what is wrong with Chicago’s pro football team this year.
I’ve compared them to their much more successful NFC North counterparts this season – the Detroit Lions – and suggested them as a template for the Bears to take inspiration from.
I’ve accepted their losing ways as regularly scheduled programming, an inevitable product of general manager Ryan Poles and head coach Matt Eberflus having to deal with an insurmountable lack of talent to win with amid year two of a rebuild.
I’ve playfully — perhaps painfully — poked fun at the existence of what it is to be a fan of the franchise in this day and age, comparing Chicago football fandom to a State Farm commercial, reducing Bears fans’ experience to that of a poor soul trying to snatch a dollar bill from a sneaky fisherman.
But none of that really touched on what has handicapped this franchise from getting over the hump and cementing themselves as one of the National Football League’s elite, spare a few random seasons over the last 35 years.
“Bears ownership lacks futurism. The entire business model is built on selling the past. The 85 Bears,” Bennett wrote. “They’re always trying to recreate that old product instead of buying into and producing a new product.”
Bennett goes on to advocate for an entire rebrand, top to bottom, with ownership that is going to transition them into the future. That future, according to Bennett, should emphasize player trust, connection with a younger audience, and building the image of who the Bears of tomorrow are going to be.
The thread from Bennett is eight posts long, but he does not miss once.
I’m 27 years old writing this opinion piece. Chicago’s last Super Bowl win was ten years old the day I was born. If that Super Bowl victory was the average American woman, it would be 37 years old with a ten-year-old kid at the time of me writing this.
And despite all that, I could probably pay off my exorbitantly expensive master’s degree from Northwestern University if I had a dollar for every time I heard a Bears fan deflect their mediocrity with some variation of, “we just have to re-create the 1985 Bears!”
Mike Ditka isn’t delivering fiery speeches in the locker room to get the team fired up coming out of halftime.
A 21-year-old Walter Payton isn’t walking through the doors of Halas Hall. Even if he did, in today’s NFL, Chicago wouldn’t keep him past his rookie deal. The Bears would ship him off for a pizza from Pequod’s and a four-pack of Old Style tall boys.
Steve McMichael, Richard Dent, Mike Singletary and the rest of ’85 Bears defense aren’t coming out of the locker room onto the field at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minnesota next Monday night. This defense is dead last in the league in sacks and hasn’t been able to get a fourth quarter stop all season long against a starting quarterback who isn’t named Bryce Young.
Though I agree with Bennett, the foundation blocks of taking the Bears into the future are there.
Eberflus is no Ditka, but Poles has expressed his belief in him leading Chicago, and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.
By all accounts, Poles and Eberflus have been in lockstep ever since the latter was hired to take the reins as head coach, and according to Poles, Eberflus still has the belief of the locker room, even though they sit in the cellar of the NFC North at 3-8 and Eberflus is 6-22 as head coach of the Bears — the worst such winning percentage for any coach in Chicago history over the same stretch of games.
Chicago has their quarterback in Justin Fields — who epitomizes the size, arm talent and athleticism of the modern NFL dual-threat quarterback.
It appears he’s re-developing some of the pocket presence he emulated in college at Ohio State University too. SB Nation’s JP Acosta highlighted a pair of beautiful throws made by Fields Sunday, including the dime that resulted in a touchdown to DJ Moore.
They have pieces on defense — Montez Sweat, TJ Edwards and Jaylon Johnson are high-end talents at their respective positions, while guys like Jaquan Brisker, Jack Sanborn and Kyler Gordon have shown promise as key supplemental pieces this season.
What is left to do today and into the future is the remainder of the heavy lifting to make this franchise competitive — continue to build out and improve the offensive and defensive lines and add complimentary skill pieces for Justin Fields, whether it be in the draft or free agency.
The Bears need to add at least two more quality pass rushers — real 10-sack season types — on top of an interior defensive lineman who can be complimentary in plugging the middle of their already stout run defense.
Chicago needs three more quality offensive linemen to pair with Teven Jenkins and Darnell Wright, most importantly another tackle, and a center to make the snap process from lineman to quarterback much more smooth and consistent than what it has been this year.
Once those needs are addressed, they need more playmakers for Fields to throw to in this offense besides Moore and Cole Kmet — which, admittedly, may leapfrog the previous two priorities at the top of the 2024 NFL Draft (hello, Marvin Harrison Jr.).
With talent accumulated across those position groups, all that will be left to accomplish is to bring a savvy defensive coordinator into the fold, and for Getsy (or another offensive coordinator down the line) to formulate a competent game plan to execute week after week on the offensive side of the ball.
Easier said than done, but call me a ruthless optimist, revved up on revisionism.
It’s time to forget the past and move into the future with a new Chicago Bears identity. All Virginia Halas McCaskey has to do, is find someone in the family who has the vision, literally and metaphorically, to carry out the mission.
This piece is a part of a weekly column that will be published on Tuesdays following each Bears game for the rest of the NFL season. For more on the Bears and other Chicago sports from WGN News, you can follow Eli Ong on X.