During the 2018 NFL season, the Chicago Bears were a menacing team. They allowed the fewest points in the entire NFL and scored the fourth-most points in the NFC. A threatening squad on both sides of the ball, the Bears represented a strong no. 3 seed that the no. 2 seed Rams were not going to look forward to facing in the second round. Unfortunately, the Bears never made it that far. The Eagles surprisingly toppled them in the first round in a 16-15 heartbreaker, capped off by the infamous “double doink” field goal miss by Cody Parkey from 43 yards out. Many believed that Chicago would be back in the postseason race in 2019. But, after a mediocre 8-8 record this past season, there are some serious questions for the organization to manage. Where did it all go wrong?
Elite Defense, Laughable Special Teams
In 2019, the Bears’ defense was suffocating, ranking sixth in defensive EPA/play behind star defenders Khalil Mack and Eddie Jackson. Other solid pieces like Roquan Smith and Kyle Fuller were also integral to the defense’s success. This side of the ball was not the issue for the Bears last season, and it should remain a strong unit in 2020, as Chicago is retaining its key pieces. And, while special teams, namely kicking, has been sub-optimal for the Bears, it certainly was not the main culprit. Despite special teams leaving points on the board often for the Bears, the Chicago offense was really to blame for a lack of points.
Subpar QB Room
As many may know, Mitchell Trubisky was the main problem for the Bears in 2019. Trubisky was among the worst quarterbacks last season, with a -0.03 EPA/play, headlining a Bears offense that ranked fifth-to-last in EPA/play. The Bears offensive line was not the problem – they ranked at a respectable 13th in pass block win rate. However, Trubisky still had one of the fastest time-to-throws in the NFL, despite not having a high completion percentage. This means he isn’t very aware in the pocket and feels pressured even when he isn’t.
In an attempt to improve their quarterback situation, the Bears acquired Nick Foles in a trade with the Jaguars this offseason. Foles was the Jaguars quarterback in 2019, but he suffered a broken left clavicle in week one. This caused him to only play in four games the entire year. He had one exceptional season in 2013 where he led the NFL in Y/A and passer rating, leading to a Pro-Bowl selection. Foles also had a memorable playoff performance in 2017, piloting the Eagles to their first Super Bowl victory. But, outside of these two stints, Foles has been below average. In seasons when he has started more than one game, Foles’ Y/A has only been at or above 7.0 thrice and has never exceeded 7.2. Though the Bears cut down Foles’ massive contract to be much more reasonable, he still is not the quarterback they need to make a playoff push.
The Bears will probably be a similar team in 2020 as they were in 2019. They still boast a fearsome defense, but their offense is lacking even with the acquisition of a new quarterback. Aside from a decent offensive line, Allen Robinson is one of the sole bright spots. He has posted notable numbers each year despite having had Blake Bortles and Trubisky throwing to him his whole career. The signing of tight end Jimmy Graham could boost the offense, but it likely won’t be enough to lift Chicago into the postseason. With formidable foes in the Vikings and Packers in their division, the Bears will have fierce competition. With a team comparable to last year’s that got a minor boost, the Bears could potentially go 9-7 this season. But even that shouldn’t be good enough to land a wild card spot. It looks like another season of painful mediocrity ahead, just a good quarterback away from being a strong team.
“From Our Haus to Yours“