By Ryan Bukowiecki (@ryanbski)
If no less a Holy authority than the Pope is riding with the New Orleans Saints this season, should there have been any hope for the Chicago Bears yesterday?
A bye week is nice, but it ain’t nothing compared to the goodwill of the Big Man’s No. 1 taskmaster below the clouds.
Now, yes, as it turns out Pope Francis didn’t actually tweet well wishes to the football team known as Saints, but to, you know, actual Saints of his religion. But the innocent and expected “elderly man on the internet” mistake could be a perfect representation of what’s been a charmed season for that team.
At one point it might have been a coincidence that the franchise’s 100th year in existence was coinciding with the most positive outlook the team had coming into a season in at least 30 years.
That was in the distracting haze of Summer. Now, as we reach the brink of bundle-up weather, it seems, like the proverbial Emperor of established literature, that the Bears don’t have a damn thing to wear, except for those 1936 jerseys maybe.
Stripped naked Sunday afternoon, the Bears and their fans were left through the course of a 36-25 loss to nothing less than their personal shame in believing that this season could have unfolded so far in any other manner. We should know better after all — nothing comes easy for this franchise and hardly anything comes with the least bit of expectations attached to it.
It can be argued that not even those expectations were really given to the Bears coming into this season. A fair amount of those who follow the NFL, and who don’t have the weight of any allegiance to the Bears, didn’t predict a return to 12-4 this season or even a return to the postseason.
Meanwhile, given that very little had actually turned over for the franchise and nothing in the way of controversy arose from the response to losing heartbreakingly to the Eagles in the Wild Card Game outside of an “all-hands-on-deck” response to the kicking situation, provided a kind of rare idyllic off-season that could only foretell unprecedented success. The kind of success that could come in a glorious season meant to celebrate the history of what should be a proud franchise.
But maybe that was the first sign that things were going in a wrong direction. Imagine if the Bears approached all their potential weaknesses like they approached replacing Cody Parkey — an effort in which every stone got flipped and every healthy leg in the vicinity of Halas Hall got tried out? That actually worked with the unearthing of Eddy Piniero. But in any season, especially a perceived championship season, should the most effective addition to a football team be at kicker? No, it shouldn’t.
How about at quarterback? Maybe a Colin Kaepernick could have gotten a look prior to the season, instead of his representing the Hail Mary option of a replacement for Mitch Trubisky that he is now. Maybe Kaep, who could actually have instilled some “run” in the supposed “run-pass options” the Bears like to say they utilize, would have been Chicago’s Teddy Bridgewater and kept the team winning without interruption after the starter suffered an injury.
But whereas Drew Brees deserves his job back in NO off GP, the now “Money Losing Mitch” is in no arguable way a deserving starting NFL quarterback right now. He’s just lucky to be on maybe the one NFL team with no earthly option to replace him, none that they truly want to acknowledge anyway.
And I got another column in me as to why Mitch isn’t ready to be a quarterback now, and maybe forever. Its clear as ever that he wasn’t the right choice in the 2017 Draft — it made no damn sense to pick him No. 3 overall and certainly not to trade up to No. 2 — but there are likely several offensive coaches in the NFL who could, in Trubisky’s third season of pro play, have made him into something that collects momentum when he leads an offense instead of sucking the tanks dry with each missed throw after each missed read.
With each week Matt Nagy is getting himself closer to a wave of “fire Matt Nagy” columns. While there is talent to be seen in his approach with players and he’s shown that with talent he can win — his overall record already washes all the other coaches the Bears have had since Lovie Smith — there’s just something off about the way he prepares teams. He actually does worse with more time to prepare, as in season openers or after bye weeks.
Nagy also is bringing little to none of the Andy Reid-family magic that he was expected to bring from Kansas City. Doug Pedersen didn’t take long to bring a title to Philadelphia, and Reid has done much to burnish his legacy post-Philly by his KC run, a run that could be defined by identifying a QB talent in the ’17 draft (Patrick Mahomes) that the Bears would have ignored 1000 times with 1000 tries.
Meanwhile we’re getting news conferences where our coach bewares of “Negative Nellys” and the ever-divisive and scarrrrry media (boo!), which only bases its opinions off what, you know, is actually seen on the field, as well as the opinions of past Bears, of whom there are no shortage on TV, radio and online to provide their frustrations about how things are going down.
And, indeed, Bearing Down is trending down at the moment. The team is still at .500 (3-3), but so are those world-beating (and world-traveling) Oakland Raiders that we’ve become so familiar with, as well as the Arizona Cardinals. Hey, they seem to like to give up on quarterbacks early, maybe they’ll take an offer on Kyler Murray this winter?
We might as well throw such imaginative scenarios out if we want to expect a quick turnaround from the Bears, cause those who are supposed to be leading this team are giving us nothing to work with.
In Nagy’s own words from the post-game conference yesterday, as quoted by the Sun-Times: “I would love to (explain). I would. I wish I… I would love to. You’re right. But I don’t know what to tell you.”
We know, Matt, we know.
Ryan Bukowiecki covers the Chicago Bears and professional football for WARR