By Thomas Gibbons
If you do not make the playoffs, the season is a failure.
After going 12-4 last season in Matt Nagy’s first year as head coach, Bears fans had something to believe in. While it ended with a missed field goal in the NFC Wild Card game last season, the Bears would be bringing back their stout defense, weapons on offense, and the ability to add more in free agency and the draft.
It did not matter though because with the play of Mitch Trubisky and the ailing problems on offense, the Bears, who had Super Bowl aspirations, failed to get the job done on a consistent basis.
This stat is just one of many problems Nagy and the offense went through this season. Last season, the Bears jumped on the bad teams and competed with the best. Now, Trubisky and the offense took forever to get going, usually waiting until the second half to get points on the board.
It starts with the quarterback. Trubisky has not played like a franchise quarterback while his draft class counterparts in DeShaun Watson and Patrick Mahomes will be playing postseason football. It is a broken record, but the Bears chose the wrong quarterback in the 2017 NFL Draft and it has set them back. General Manager Ryan Pace has put together an elite defense in Chicago. However, you need an offense to take advantage of field position and finish the job. The Bears offense failed to do that this season with inconsistencies at the quarterback position and the offense overall.
Trubisky is the main problem but not the only one. Whether it is the Bears, Chiefs, or Eagles, tight end is a very pivotal position in this type of air raid offense. The Chiefs have Travis Kelce, Zach Ertz with the Eagles, and the Bears had Trey Burton and Adam Shaheen who both ended on season ending injured reserve. While healthy, both of those players failed to have an impact. While Trubisky’s play did not help their case, it is a big position of need heading into the offseason. Burton saw success in his first year with the Bears, six touchdowns on 54 receptions, but Shaheen has not impressed at all. Revamping the tight end room will be of high priority this offseason because the offense desperately needs it.
Another position in need of addressing is the offensive line. While they have dealt with injuries as well, positions need to be settled and depth must be established. After starting the year at center, James Daniel was moved to left guard and Cody Whitehair returned to the snapping duties. Was this to make Trubisky more comfortable? Possibly. Who knows if this will stick next season. As for the rest of the offensive line, left tackle Charles Leno Jr. is not going anywhere. His biggest problem is his amount of holding penalties. Other than that, he has been a strong point of the group. Over to the right side, Bobbie Massie signed a new deal in January and the Bears like him. Offensive tackle tough is a major need this offseason because depth has to be built. Massie will be 31 at the start of next season and if he goes down again, the Bears cannot afford to have a big hole at the position again.
The last offensive line position to talk about is right guard. Kyle Long’s days as a Bear are numbered. I do not think he will be on the roster next season given his injury history. Defensive lineman turned guard Rashaad Coward has started ten games this season and there has been plenty of ups and downs. Right guard will likely be an open competition next season between Coward, Alex Bars, and whoever else the Bears may bring in. So while the left side is solidified with Daniels and Leno Jr, right guard is the Bears biggest hole.
Over to the defensive side of the ball, the Bears have some expiring contracts. Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix, Danny Trevathan, Aaron Lynch, Nick Kwiatkoski, and Kevin Pierre-Louis will all hit free agency. There is going to be some tough decisions on who to bring back at the linebacker position. When Trevathan and Roquan Smith went down with injury, Kwiatkoski and Pierre-Louis stepped up and played pretty well. Both would be cheaper options than Trevathan and the Bears should strongly consider bringing them both back. Their play on defense and special teams impact was essential to the Bears this season.
The secondary will have to be addressed too. Prince Amukamara has one year left on his deal but the Bears may be wise to cut him loose. He saw a resurgence in his career in Chicago but injuries hindered his availability this season. As for Clinton-Dix, the thought when he signed a one-year deal was he would be a one year rental given the Bears cap space in 2020. But teams can always make space as the Bears did yesterday.
It will be interesting if Clinton-Dix and the Bears have mutual interest in signing a new deal this offseason. Otherwise, the Bears could draft one with one of their seven picks in the 2020 draft.
It is going to be a busy offseason at Halas Hall because this team is far from perfect. Quarterback is going to be the most interesting because Trubisky has failed to make positive growth consistently this season. Competition should be welcomed. Do the Bears sign someone like Marcus Mariota or Teddy Bridgewater? Do they draft one with one of their two second-round picks? It is going to be one of the biggest storylines of the offeason because the position has to get fixed. The Bears have locked up their core players on defense. They have weapons on offense in Allen Robinson and David Montgomery. The pieces are there but the quarterback position has to be solved or the Bears will miss the postseason again.