The worst possible destiny for Bears fans is their franchise becoming the Orlando Magic of the NFL. Not good enough to play for championships, and not bad enough to get top-five picks in the draft.
You play to win the games. Well, kind of. You play to win championships—a destiny that is awfully unrealistic for the Chicago Bears this season.
The top tier of NFL teams is bloated with legitimate contenders like the Chiefs, Steelers, Ravens, Buccaneers, Packers, and Seahawks. After the peak of the hierarchy comes a plethora of pretty good franchises that would need some serious luck in order to win the Super Bowl.
The Rams, Cardinals, Browns, Bills, Saints, Titans, Raiders, and Bears all have serious question marks that cannot be overlooked and will be exploited by their opponents until proven otherwise. Chicago is in the worst position of all those teams.
It starts with the obvious question mark, which has evolved into an exclamation point: the quarterback position. Mitchell Trubisky and Nick Foles have had pretty-damn-high highs throughout their careers, but this season has had far more concerning lows than any glimpses of above-average play. And, that’s really all the Bears need at that position right now—an above-average player. They don’t need Patrick Mahomes or Deshaun Watson back there to be competitive (although it would be really nice if they did).
Chicago’s defense is great enough to keep them in—and sometimes even win—marquee games. Their talent across every position on that side of the ball—from Akiem Hicks to Khalil Mack, to Roquan Smith to Kyle Fuller to Eddie Jackson—is a nightmare. Chuck Pagano, the team’s defensive coordinator, blends a healthy balance of attacking defense and safe coverage (although his incorporation of prevent defense against the Saints lost them the game).
In modern football, defense doesn’t win championships. Chicago ranks 29th in total offense and despite their 5-4 record, they’re being outscored 178-190 through nine games. This is a result of uninspired offensive line play, horrible quarterbacking, and devastating play calling from head coach Matt Nagy.
The few brights spots on their offense have been perennial pro-bowler Allen Robinson, who remains one of the five best receivers in football, rookie tight end Cole Kmet, and their budding star at wideout in Darnell Mooney.
All of these inconsistencies across the organization have resulted in the intolerable frustrations of Bears fans, and it’ll only get worse from here. There’s no real plan for the franchise moving forward—that’s been clear since Ryan Pace remained as the general manager this off-season. The message in the organization should’ve been as clear as day: there are three potential franchise quarterbacks in the 2021 draft.
The Bears didn’t even know who would be starting for them in Week 9 this summer, let alone who would be the face of their franchise next season. Their record is too good to go and get one of the elite quarterback prospects like Fields, Lawrence, or Lantz. The Bears have been just good enough to elevate into the most dangerous territory in sports: the mediocrity purgatory. The most humiliating part of this preordained destiny is that it could be fixed by one relatively simple solution: above-average quarterback play and less predictable play calling.