As teams get mathematically eliminated from the NFL playoffs, we’ll give you a jump on their offseason by examining what went right, what went wrong and what needs to change before next season.
By giving up a late lead and losing at home to the San Francisco 49ers last week, the Chicago Bears were eliminated from the playoffs. At 3-9, the Bears are looking at double-digit losses for the fourth straight season. The only other time that has happened in Bears history was 1997-2000. They’re also likely to finish last in the NFC North for a fourth straight season.
What went right: Things started out pretty well for the Bears. They came very close to beating the Falcons in Week 1, and did beat the Steelers in Week 3. The Bears also notched wins against the Panthers and Ravens. Each of those teams is over .500. The Bears didn’t get many wins this season, but they did have some quality victories. The Bears also got good contributions from its draft class. One big plus was the continued emergence of defensive end Akiem Hicks as a standout player.
What went wrong: After beating the Panthers, the Bears were 3-4. Then they lost five in a row. The offense just doesn’t have enough playmakers in the passing game. Dontrelle Inman was buried on the Chargers’ bench, then became the Bears’ No. 1 receiver immediately after a midseason trade. That sums up the Bears’ woes at receiver. The defense doesn’t make enough big plays, but it’s solid. The offense is what’s holding Chicago back.
Will the coach be back?: Not many coaches survive three straight double-digit loss seasons. John Fox has been asked constantly about his future, and it would be a surprise if he’s back. In many ways he and his staff mishandled rookie quarterback Mitch Trubisky, and there are some Jeff Fisher-Jared Goff parallels. Trubisky needs his version of Sean McVay to help his development.
Do they have a quarterback?: I believe so. Reviews on Mitch Trubisky have been mixed, and he has his flaws. Among those, the desire to escape the pocket instead of standing in and letting the play develop is the most troublesome. However, the Bears have nobody for Trubisky to throw the ball to. Nobody gets open to help the young quarterback. You can see the physical tools on many of his throws. It reminds me a lot of Carson Wentz last season: If you watch, you see some good things that you won’t find by scanning the stat sheet. That doesn’t mean Trubisky will replicate Wentz’s second season, but the Bears should feel he can develop into a very good starter.
Quick free agent fix: It seems foolish now for the Bears to have let Alshon Jeffery walk. They need a No. 1 receiver. It’s hard to find one in free agency (which is why the Bears should have locked up Jeffery). But Chicago can at least boost its depth at receiver, and hope to get Cameron Meredith back 100 percent from injury too. Making a run at Marqise Lee or taking a flier on Sammy Watkins might be in order.
Quick draft fix: The good news is the Bears don’t need to worry about quarterback. They can use their first-round pick elsewhere. A big-time playmaker in the secondary has been a deficiency for a long time, and Alabama cornerback Minkah Fitzpatrick would help. Then, the Bears could use later picks to address receiver. If the Bears can find a team willing to move up and draft a quarterback, that would be the right move to make.
Give it to me straight, can my team make the playoffs in 2018?: For that to happen, Mitch Trubisky probably would need to have the Carson Wentz star turn in his second season. And don’t forget, Wentz improved but the Eagles also did a great job getting pieces to help him out. The Bears still have a long way to go. Being competitive and beating some quality teams gives them hope that they might not be far off. But a playoff berth in 2018 is asking a bit much.
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