State of the Chicago Bears in 2016

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Just what is happening with the Chicago Bears? This is an organization that, at least historically, is one of the most successful in NFL history. They have more wins than any other franchise with 741 at time of writing, second in total NFL championships with nine behind the Green Bay Packers’ total of 13, and have more Hall of Fame enshrinees than anyone else, with 26.

Fast forward to recent times and we have seen a team, an organization, that has not found a way to win. We all know about the 1985 Bears but it took them until the 2006-07 season to reach a Super Bowl again. Since then, the Bears have had two winning seasons and only one playoff appearance (2010).

The Bears currently sit at 3-9 and are going through a rebuilding phase since the disastrous tenure of Marc Trestman and Phil Emery, which ended after the 2014 season. Yes, a rebuild is always going to take time and there were always going to be growing pains, pains we are seeing right at this moment.




But how did it get to this point? Well, for me it started with the face of the franchise since 2000, middle linebacker Brian Urlacher’s retirement along with fellow linebacker and Pro Bowler Lance Briggs also retiring, as well as letting cornerback Charles Tillman walk after the 2014 season. These guys were clearly past their primes but the Bears knew this was coming and yet seemed to do nothing to address it; they had no contingency plan.

Along with this the identity was lost. The Chicago Bears, also known as The Monsters of the Midway, a team that was known for putting fear into opponents not with high-powered offenses who could score at will, but with punishing defenses who whether they won or lost, wanted to put a beating on whoever they were facing.

Now of course we know the NFL has changed. New rules have been put in place to emphasize safety in large part to try to protect quarterbacks. Playing defense is perhaps more difficult now than it ever has been, and so the Bears brought in an offensive minded coach in Trestman in 2013 to try and keep up with the ever-changing nature of the NFL, which was becoming known as a passing league.

This clearly didn’t work and now the Bears face the aforementioned rebuild. The issue right now though is that the Bears are regressing, which is perhaps surprising given current head coach John Fox’s history with both the Carolina Panthers and Denver Broncos. Both those teams saw significant improvements in year two under Fox.

It’s difficult to blame any one person for what is happening right now on the field with this organization. A lot are, and will continue to, point the finger at oft-maligned quarterback Jay Cutler. Cutler has always had the talent to be a top tier quarterback but has never fulfilled his promise and likely never will. For those pointing the finger at Cutler, take solace that Cutler may not be with the team next year, and I covered this possibility earlier this season for Inside The Pylon.

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Heading into 2016 and injuries

After a 6-10 season in 2015, the expectation for the Bears in 2016 was that this team would be more competitive and an improvement would be seen – although making the playoffs would still be a tall order. The Bears made some nice moves in free agency, particularly on the defensive side of the ball and their draft haul was seen as a good one.

This expected improvement has not happened. Injuries have been a huge factor this season. The below chart highlights the effect injuries, and recent suspensions to Jerrell Freeman and Alshon Jeffery, have had on this team.

Chicago Bears 2016 Injuries

Player name Player position Injury Class
Kyle Long G Ankle IR
Will Sutton DL Ankle IR
Zach Miller TE Foot IR
Hroniss Grasu C Knee IR
Brian Hoyer QB Arm IR
Jay Cutler QB Shoulder IR
Kevin White WR Leg IR
Danny Trevathan LB Knee IR
Lamarr Houston LB Knee IR
Ego Ferguson DL Shoulder IR
Nick Becton OL Shoulder IR
Lamin Barrow LB Foot IR
Connor Shaw QB Leg IR
Brandon Boykin CB Undisclosed IR
Danny Mason LB Undisclosed IR
Jerrell Freeman LB N/A Suspension
Alshon Jeffery WR N/A Suspension
Player name Player position Injury Class

The Bears have also had key injuries to starters Eddie Goldman, Pernell McPhee, Eddie Royal, Bryce Callahan, and Josh Sitton at certain points in the season, which has also hurt this team.

While injuries are part and parcel of football, these injuries with this particular roster along with poor play, have all but ended this season already. The Bears simply do not have the talent and depth to mask these injuries. Although it’s fair to say that the Bears were not winning games even with the likes of Kyle Long, Jeffery, Cutler and Danny Trevathan suited up on game day.

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What might the near future hold?

The Bears are likely to be picking in the top five of the 2017 NFL Draft and questions are already being asked as to whether they will take a quarterback with their first pick. Is head coach John Fox on the hot seat? Will the likes of Cutler and Jeffery be back next season? There are still many questions at this point but not many answers. But this does lead to a very interesting offseason for the organization.




However if there is anyone from the front office who should be retained, it’s general manager Ryan Pace. He deserves more time and has drafted well in his time in Chicago. Which leads me onto a positive of this season, and that’s been the play of first-round pick Leonard Floyd, second-round pick Cody Whitehair and fifth-round pick Jordan Howard. All of them are players the Bears can build around and who can continue to contribute strongly over the duration of their rookie contracts.

It’s easy to be incredibly frustrated with this organization. It is starved of success but the success the fans crave was never going to happen overnight and patience is still needed. The 2017 draft is crucial for the Bears as are the offseason decisions that need to be made. If nothing else, it’s going to be one hell of a ride.

Follow Justin on Twitter @JustinTwell78. Check out his work here, including on how the Detroit Lions will fare without Megatron, the elite Minnesota Vikings’ linebacker corps, the potential for a breakout season from the Chicago Bears’ Eddie Goldman, and how the return of Jordy Nelson helps the Packers.

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