While I would certainly never pretend to know what’s on the minds of every Bears fan, you have to admit I’m in a better spot than most to take the temperature of the neighborhood.
It feels like the great majority of its residents either prefer to pretend that general manager Ryan Pace and coach Matt Nagy clearly deserved to be fired after last season and all is lost until they are, or all will be well if they just acquire a “franchise quarterback” at any and all costs.
I choose neither and honestly don’t understand why anyone would choose either when both almost certainly lengthen the road to contention rather than paving it.
Yes, Pace and Nagy both have to do better jobs than they did last year, and fixing the quarterback position would cure a number of ills.
But since neither is happening this offseason, I will continue to prefer focusing on what could go right for this Bears team in 2021 and keep debunking the silliness that these Bears are among the dregs of the league.
For starters, the 2021 version of the Bears is every bit as talented as – if not more than – the 2018 version everywhere but possibly at quarterback and cornerback.
I will definitely take running backs David Montgomery and Damien Williams along with Tarik Cohen, who also was in the 2018 backfield, over Jordan Howard and Benny Cunningham.
At wide receiver, Allen Robinson is a better player now than he was then, Anthony Miller is the same, and Darnell Mooney is an obvious pick over Taylor Gabriel. As for tight ends, Jimmy Graham and Cole Kmet over Adam Shaheen and Trey Burton is about as easy as it gets.
The interior of the offensive line is better with Cody Whitehair at guard rather than center, a now veteran James Daniels instead of half a season from Kyle Long, and Sam Mustipher looks like a keeper at center with Alex Bars offering solid depth.
The tackles basically are the same but not worse.
On the defensive front, Eddie Goldman and Bilal Nichols are much-improved players, and Mario Edwards Jr. provides the same kind of juice as Roy Robertson-Harris did.
Linebacker Roquan Smith is a much better player than he was three years ago. If he gets back to only 85% or 90%, Robert Quinn is a big improvement over Leonard Floyd, and Jeremiah Attaochu is an upgrade over Aaron Lynch.
The loss of cornerback Kyle Fuller is huge, but there is a nice mix of youth and veterans to choose from to plug the hole, if not fill it, and Jaylon Johnson showed flashes of being better than Prince Amukamara.
The safety spot next to Eddie Jackson still is an unknown, but if Tashaun Gipson returns, he is an upgrade over Adrian Amos.
Kicker Cairo Santos over Cody Parkey. I rest my case.
Where the doubters find their issues is in the myth it’s an aging defense incapable of reclaiming its 2018 mojo.
In response, I offer you the defending world champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ defense. Love Tom Brady, I do, but their “D” is the main reason the Bucs now have rings.
It’s as close to a clone of the Bears’ group as you’ll find in the league – potentially dominant front sevens with better-than-average secondaries that benefit from the speed, athleticism and pressure of the guys up front.
Ndamukong Suh (34 years old), Jason Pierre-Paul (32) and Lavonte David (31) all are older than counterparts Akiem Hicks, Robert Quinn and Danny Trevathan. Shaq Barrett, who never will be mistaken for the complete player Khalil Mack is, exploded after being MIA for the first two-thirds of the season.
You know these guys, the ones the Bears outplayed and beat last year.
I am predicting nothing.
I’m just pointing out that the idea the Bears are a lost cause right now is kind of football stupid.
If Quinn and Jackson bounce back just as the Bucs’ vets did, and the Bears find three quality rookie starters in the draft – not easy, but they did it last year – nothing would be stunning about them winning the NFC North.