Well, that’s not entirely true.
Cordarrelle Patterson will add a versatile big play threat to the Bears’ offense, and Mike Davis will give it depth. Buster Skrine provides experience at the nickel spot, and HaHa Clinton-Dix is yet another playmaker for the secondary.
Don’t sleep on David Montgomery in your fantasy draft, either. He’ll be productive, a touchdown machine, and available in the relatively late rounds if your league isn’t populated by fellow Bears fans.
So what’s with the heavy dose of nihilism in the headline? And why am I reducing each of my first three video film breakdowns to arguably irresponsibly long periods of wasted time?
Because those acquisitions are merely luxuries. They will aid what Ryan Pace and Matt Nagy hope to accomplish, Montgomery especially, but none will be the difference between scoring 15 points in a first-round exit and a serious Super Bowl contender. That difference will come from the improvement of the quarterback, Mitchell Trubisky.
Trubisky was fine in 2018; not great, not awful, but fine. He showed a relatively linear progression path from Week One to Week 17. His teammates and Coach Nagy all completely buy into what he’s selling as the unquestioned leader of the team. And of course, he gave more than a glimpse of the potential that got him drafted second overall. That being said, there were and are serious concerns about his game – his struggles to progress past his first read, his occasional boneheadedness in the red zone, and inconsistent (sometimes excellent, sometimes erratic) accuracy.
This is one of three areas from which concerns about regression stem, whether they come from analytical writers who I respect (The Athletic’s Ben Baldwin), or brainless hacks who I emphatically don’t (CBS’s Jason La Canfora). The former called Chicago “poster boys” for regression, and the latter predicted them to miss the playoffs. That prediction should be cause for a parade before the season even starts, but aside from doubts about Trubisky, there are two talking points that Bears skeptics like to use that are very much warranted.
The first is injuries. The Bears were statistically one of the five healthiest teams in football last year, and it’s reasonable to expect that they will regress to the mean. Secondly, there is precedent for dominant defenses – especially ones who win multiple games with great help from timely turnovers – to come down to earth a season later. I am as huge a Kyle Fuller and Eddie Jackson fan as anybody, but does anyone really believe that they’ll combine for thirteen forced turnovers again? It’s simply an unrealistic expectation.
The example towards which everyone will point is last year’s Jaguars, who crumbled under the weight of Blake Bortles‘ monstrous ineptitude. Their defense was still quite good, but not excellent enough to carry him like they did in 2017, and eventually they just gave up and sunk to embarrassing depths. That will not happen to the Bears, because Trubisky is already better than Bortles will ever be and their defense won’t regress as much as Jacksonville did, given their star power and possession of ascending, young players like Roquan Smith.
They will not, however, be good enough or healthy enough to take an inconsistent quarterback to 12-4 again. That’s where those predictions of 10-6 or 9-7 records are born; these analysts see regression coming and don’t believe in Trubisky’s ability to make up for it.
That’s what this boils down to: either you believe in Trubisky or you don’t. Either your evaluation of the Bears’ signal caller tells you that he will lead an offense that lifts up a still-dominant defense rather than failing to put up points down the stretch, or it tells you that he’s no more than a game manager who can’t compete with the high-flying offenses of the NFC.
Personally? I believe in Trubisky. I think he showed enough last year – that final drive of a playoff game in which he played poorly helps my case a great deal – to be trusted as that guy. But it’s pointless to argue, because we just won’t know for sure until September.
One of two outcomes will be the lead story at every Bears outlet come January or February of 2020 – either Trubisky made the jump from somewhere in the realm of average to somewhere in the realm of great, or he did not. If he does, Chicago is the best team in the NFL and should be the favorite to win it all. I bolded that last sentence because it can’t be stressed enough. Even with predicted regression, this team is young, it is angry after what happened at the end of the wild card game, and it is exceptionally talented on all levels of offense and defense.
If he doesn’t, be on the lookout for another early exit.
When Mitchell Trubisky’s name was called at the top of the 2017 draft, he became destined to either lead Chicago to the promised land or take it down with him. This season will tell a great deal about which path he will take.