LAKE FOREST — Obviously, you play to win the game, and not one member of the Bears, coach or player, would be in the NFL if they weren’t doing that every single Sunday.
But depending on the position they find themselves in, ancillary factors are going to have a big impact on how they go about it, consciously, subconsciously or both.
For example, when asked Wednesday how all the noise surrounding the Matt Nagy rumors last week affected their preparations and performance in Detroit, cornerback Jaylon Johnson snickered and said, “I mean, honestly, I think it’s funny. At the end of the day, noise is noise, and I feel like that’s your guys’ job more so than mine is to worry about what’s going on outside of the football field.
“It’s just being able to focus in when we’ve got bigger things to worry about than outside noises with a five-game losing streak.”
Eddie Jackson, asked about winning on Thanksgiving Day and again when the Bears face the Cardinals on Sunday said, “It’s huge.
“It’s huge, man, especially for them to come here, get this win at home,” Jackson said. “We know how the season’s been going. It’s no secret to that. We just want to keep going week in, week out, that 1-0 mindset, go out there and play our ball the way we’re able to play, make plays and just try to get this thing turned around.”
Of course, it’s unlikely the Bears will win five or six of their remaining games to make the playoffs. But as long as the math works, it’s all the focus players need.
Coaches, on the other hand, although they share the fixation on winning, have other things to consider.
Johnson and Jackson are going to have jobs here next year regardless of what happens the next six weeks.
For Matt Nagy and his staff, that’s an open question.
Is it as important or more important to get Justin Fields back out there and playing much better?
We don’t know, nor do we know how much it will inform their decisions.
Nagy said that with Andy Dalton taking the starter reps Wednesday, “it’ll allow us to really continue each day to see, Justin, where you at? What’s your pain today?
“Is this something that we feel that he’s gonna be the best he can be for us to help win us that game, or is it gonna hurt him more or hurt us?” Nagy said. “So I think that’s where there’s just us understanding Justin, our doctors, our trainers and then Andy’s side, too.”
Nagy confirmed Monday that Fields’ ribs were broken. And that being the case, there is no way he should be on an NFL field only two weeks later.
I am positive Nagy never would expose a player to undo risk, but if Fields does go Sunday. ...
Notice that Nagy put it in terms of “will he be the best he can be for us to help win us that game?” but will the decision actually be driven by that or the urge to keep running him out there just to get better, win lose or draw?
Does Fields at 100% even give the Bears a better chance to win right now than Dalton?
Could the Fields injury be used as a shield to see if Dalton can run off a few more wins?
Then there’s the question of rookie offensive tackle Teven Jenkins’ development.
Do you get him out there now to see what he can do or just write this off to a redshirt season?
Does Jenkins ability and future impact the evaluation of general manager Ryan Pace?
If Jenkins is going to play, do you sit down your best lineman right now in Jason Peters and possibly expose Fields’ blind side when he is ready to go?
“We would have to get into all that,” Nagy said. “We want to make sure that for both quarterbacks, that both guys are protected on both sides, and I think right now our tackles have done a pretty good job at doing that.
“We just want to keep that going, but there’s definitely some questions to be answered with Teven there.”
With the current state of play, none of these decisions can be made in a vacuum, but as we see them unfold, it should tell us a lot about what this organization is really playing for right now.
• Hub Arkush is a Shaw Media correspondent.