The Chicago Bears Enjoy Purgatory
The term NFL purgatory gets thrown around a lot, but no team better fits the description than the Chicago Bears. The 2020 season is a perfect example. No one considered them contenders, even after a 5-0 start, and they eventually made the playoffs at 8-8. And with the recent signing of Andy Dalton, it looks like there is more of this to come. Outside of trading for Russell Wilson or Deshaun Watson, the Bears have no real shot at upgrading the quarterback position. Those players are also likely just a pipe dream now. It is a grim future for the Bears right now. There is one way to get the Bears on the right path again, though. But it would mean punting on 2021, as the die for this year already has been cast.
With the Miami Dolphins and Jacksonville Jaguars recently attempting the tank, and the Bears could be the next team to try it out. The Bears won too many games in 2020 to draft one of the top quarterbacks in the 2021 draft. Even if Mac Jones is available at the 20th overall pick, there’s no indication that he can be a franchise saving player. The Bears defense is also aging. Khalil Mack, Akiem Hicks, and Robert Quinn are all 30 or older. Kyle Fuller is 29. With the Bears not looking like they can compete soon, paying these players top dollar makes little sense. The Bears can get a ton of trade value from these players – specifically Mack and Fuller. With whatever draft capital they can accumulate, the Bears could quickly get the quarterback of the future, as well as surround him with a decent roster. During his rookie deal, they can fill out the remaining holes, using the extra cap space a rookie contract gives. There is a problem, though. Ryan Pace and Matt Nagy won’t be willing to tank. The quickest timeline for this would be for the Bears to have an awful start to the 2021 season. Then the Bears would fire Nagy and Pace, and the Bears would sell assets before the NFL trade deadline. Is this going to happen? Probably not. Meaning any tanking would have to take place in 2022, with whoever replaces the current Bears staff. Having to deal with multiple losing seasons before being able to contend is not ideal, and thus, is not the preferred solution.
Ryan Pace is on the hot seat, and he knows it. He butchered the Trubisky pick in 2017, and four years later, the Bears have made little progress. So the only chance Pace has to keep his job is to give up everything. There are plenty of things this could mean. They could give up everything for Russell Wilson, even if Adam Schefter has reported that the Seahawks are not interested. They could throw the kitchen sink for Deshaun Watson, despite the Texans being delusional and thinking he will play for them in the fall. With both these options shut down, for now, the only other option is to try and get up as high as possible in the draft. While it’s unlikely they will get a top 2 pick, they could do whatever it takes to get a top 5 pick and get whatever quarterback is still available of their choice. With limited draft capital to trade with, they’d have to find a team that would be okay with receiving a ton of players to move out of a top 5 pick. This scenario is also unlikely. So while Ryan Pace should try his best to go all-in for 2021, he probably will not succeed, leaving the Bears still stuck in the dreaded purgatory.
There is a common theme here. The Bears’ options are being hindered by one man. This leads us to the following conclusion. If the Bears want to compete, they cannot continue to employ Ryan Pace as their General Manager. That much is clear. From the Trubisky fiasco to tinier mistakes, such as signing Robert Quinn to a five-year 70 million deal, or trading for Nick Foles, many of the reasons why the Bears are in purgatory can be traced to a decision Pace has made. If the Bears want any chance of a successful rebuild, Pace cannot be the one masterminding it. While there is no guarantee a different GM could make better decisions, it’s worth the risk. We know what we would get out of Pace. He’s shown over the last four years that he would be incapable of planning a rebuild. However, the Bears seem to be locked into Pace for 2021, meaning any chance of replacing him would have to start next year. These are dark times for the Bears, but eventually, Pace will be gone. On that day, the city of Chicago can rejoice, as they can finally start to believe once more.