Our Bears wing gets together to sift through the rubble of the now-over 2019 season.
So now that the season will officially end in two weeks, what are you feeling?
Brian Schmitz: To be honest, I actually feel better about this team than I did 4, 8, 12 weeks ago. I was never on this Super Bowl bandwagon, because it had, and has, some gaping holes. But it’s encouraging to know that Mitch Trubisky can play and excel at this level, with this team. Montgomery is in the same boat.
The coach needs a re-boot this off-season, and it starts by looking at himself, which leads to his in-game play calls. An improved O-Line and a real tight end will make a huge difference next season. Finally, the Bears will play a 3rd/4th place schedule next season, similar to 2018.
Tony Martin: This season just hurt a little bit more because while I was also doubting the Super Bowl hype, the regression was painful to watch and the Bears did not play fun football. It makes me wonder if it’s worse to lose like a Jameis Winston team or like a Mitch Trubisky team. I hope the tight end room grows stronger, the offensive line gets their shit together, and the playcalling improves. Since Week 1, Nagy has called plays that resemble the gameplan of a 14-year-old playing Madden online while using a new playbook. I’m hoping Mitch calling him out again in the post-game will reap benefits next year, because Mitch is sticking his neck out to win, not simply to start a pissing contest.
As for how this season makes me feel, like I said it felt like a nightmare. Even when they won it felt gross. Even when they lost games we expected them to lose they made it close enough to sting more than usual. This team has quite the offseason ahead of themselves, and it’s going to tell us exactly what Nagy and Pace can do and if they’ll be part of the future. Or fuck it, if next year starts off poorly the Bears have enough assets to get 10 picks in the first two rounds of the 2021 draft, which they will immediately use seven of on undersized small school skill position players.
Wes French: I’m feeling more like Tony than Brian. The regression was stark, and while we all knew it was inevitable on defense the offense was supposed to take a leap. Nagy went from Coach of the Year to potential first firing of the 2020 season if he can’t get the playcalling and offense as a whole sorted out. Mitch calling him out in the media lately is very telling; I think it speaks to more people in the room agreeing with him than Nagy. We’ll see what they do about it.
The Bears dealt with some key injuries as well, but Khalil Mack, Leonard Floyd and Roquan Smith have to go down as major disappointments. Mack and Floyd seemingly disappeared after Week 4 and Smith had that weird inactive stretch. He did come back and look good only to go down to injury, leaving him with questions to answer instead of being discussed as an anchor in 2020.
Tony: The last play of the Packers game is a perfect encapsulation of the Bears season: they backed themselves into a corner, Nagy drew something up that was unique/interesting, and it wasn’t a fit for the personnel they had on the field. Look at the guys who ran that last route: Allen Robinson, Tarik Cohen, Cordarrelle Patterson, Anthony Miller, and… Jesper Horsted. Naturally the ball fell into Horsted’s hands and his lack of awareness in that moment caused him to hold onto the ball too long, and just like the 2019 Bears he wasn’t prepared to make the play to win the game (or tie it, to be more accurate).
Riley Ridley, maybe? Javon Wims? David Montgomery? Players you expect to have the ball skills to advance a lateral like that, a la Kenyon Drake in last year’s Miami Miracle? The 2019 Chicago Bears: a real fuckin head-scratcher.
There will obviously be time for season autopsies in a couple weeks, but let’s turn to the defense. If there’s one criticism of them this year is that they didn’t take the ball away enough. The defensive scoring is not something you can count on, but are the turnovers just cyclical/market correction too? Or is that going to have to be a focus next year?
Wes: The Bears paced the league in 2018 at 36 takeaways, which currently leads the league in 2019 (Evil Empire NE). The 2018 top five was rounded out by CLE, LAR, HOU and DEN. All five teams have dropped to the middle of the pack in 2019, landing between 16-18 total takeaways so far. I think this speaks to the cyclical nature of the turnover game, and the Bears were even more of an outlier because we did see them score so many times off of them in 2018.
You can argue you’d expect them to do better than halving the number from the year before, but even that’s picking nits IMO. I do think you could say the lack of consistent pressure on the QB and getting hands on the ball at the line of scrimmage helps deflate those numbers. It’s also a new scheme, so even though the personnel is near identical they’re not doing the same things as last year that likely helped produce some of those takeaways. Playing a 3rd/4th place schedule in 2018 doesn’t hurt things, either.
Brian: The shocking thing about the lack of turnovers forced is the fact they haven’t exactly faced a murderers row of QB talent this season. They have also been trailing in a lot of games, which lends itself to a much more conservative playbook for teams playing with their 2nd or 3rd string QB. Above all however, I think turnovers caused is most often a matter of chance.
Tony: I tend to believe that numbers like that are always prone to regression to the mean, but let’s be real here: pressure creates turnovers, and the 2019 Bears defense hasn’t gotten consistent enough pressure to make those things happen. Interceptions and fumbles happen when QBs are swarmed, and the speed with which the defense got to the QB last year forced a lot of quick routes that the Bears jumped for turnovers and scores. When the pressure comes back, the defense looks more like 2018s.