by Peter Bobrinskoy
The Chicago Bears have finished the 2016 season with a 3-13 record and now look in to an offseason that faces many questions. Bears fans have plenty of reasons to be optimistic and pessimistic when they ask themselves if the Bears front office can finally get it together and show the improvement needed for a playoff run in 2017. This the complete guide of reasons why the Bears will either improve next year or continue to be the irrelevant franchise they find themselves in today. Are better days ahead?
Reasons to be optimistic
• The Bears had an NFL leading 19 players on the Injured Reserve list by the end of the season. No team that loses 19 players has a chance to compete at a high level in the NFL. It is not likely that the Bears will lose 19 players in the 2017 season. This is a big “if” but “if” the Bears can get Kyle Long, Kyle Fuller, Danny Trevathan, Kevin Miller, Eddie Goldman, and Lamar Houston to come back fully healthy and be as good as they were before they their injuries, then the Bears will be in much better shape.
• Jordan Howard. Jordan Howard was a tank this season who broke the Bears rookie rushing record that was held by Matt Forte. He finished second in the NFL in rushing this season with 1,313 yards behind only Ezekiel Elliott. If the Bears running game does not take a step back next season, which it shouldn’t with Kyle Long and Hronis Grasu coming back, then the Bears offense will be somewhat competent.
• The Bears have the 3rd overall draft pick in the NFL draft and have not had a draft pick this high since 1972 where they picked Lionel Antoine out of Southern Illinois. A chance of a high octane playmaker is something the Bears could use for many years to come with this pick.
Reasons to be pessimistic
• Ryan Pace is still the General Manager of this team. Ryan Pace has not shown enough in his first two seasons as the Bears GM to show fans that he is the right man for this job and that better days are ahead. His biggest problem is that he is making the same mistake that previous Bears General Managers’ Jerry Angelo and Phil Emery made. And that is his reliance on Free Agency and not putting all of the Bears chips in the NFL Draft basket. Unlike the Seahawks, the Patriots, the Packers, the Steelers, the Ravens, and the Chiefs who all stay out of free agency for the most part in order to gain compensation draft picks, Pace has shown us that his approach is to be more similar to the Jets, the Redskins, and the Eagles’ front offices where he thinks he can be consistent by trying to buy success with the signing of other teams’ players.
• The lack of stability at the quarterback position. Jay Cutler will most likely be traded or cut this offseason due to the guaranteed money on his contract expiring and the fact that if the Bears release him, it will only be a $2 million hit on the Bears salary cap. So the Bears are back to trying to find that franchise quarterback they have not had since Sid Luckman.
• This team looks a lot like the 2015 San Diego Chargers. The 2015 San Diego Chargers were in the exact same spot as the 2016 Chicago Bears. The 2015 Chargers were crushed by injuries, lost so many close games that they blew late in the 4th quarter, received the 3rd pick in the Draft, and it resulted in a 5-11 season this year which resulted in Head Coach Mike McCoy being fired. Their situation last year is way too similar to the Bears right now.
• Chairman George McCaskey said today on ESPN 1000 Waddle and Silvy that he has no intention of ever selling the team.
• With John Fox on the hot seat, it will be hard for him to find top level position coaches for the Bears due to the uncertainty that he could be fired at the end of next season. These position coaches have family’s and big commitments. So the possibility of them along with John Fox being fired after one season if the Bears do not make significant progress may not sound that great to them.
So here we are. Ryan Pace has an essential offseason on his hands with many questions. What will he do with Cutler? Will he trade back in the draft? Will he mistakenly give in to free agency again? Will he finally draft a quarterback? It is going to be very interesting to see the route Pace takes while trying to rebuild this team and get it back to relevancy.