Wondering if and how your NFL team can make the playoffs in the coming season? Adam Rank and Marc Sessler have you covered in this ongoing series, as they provide five reasons why each of the league's 32 teams will make an appearance in the 2018 postseason. Today, Rank examines the Chicago Bears.
I know, you've heard me say (or write) this previously. But it's starting to pick up a lot of steam because tons of people are saying it. I don't want to be the guy who is all, "Hey, I saw Blink 182 back when they were opening up for Reel Big Fish." But I did, and I am.
I firmly believe this, though. People think I'm crazy. That maybe I'm a homer, being from Schaumburg, Illinois, and all. But there are legit football reasons for this. Five actually.
1) Hey, look, an actual football coach
No disrespect to John Fox, who has done a lot of great things during his NFL career. But the last three years were not part of that. It was a regrettable run. Like Ric Flair in TNA. We're better off pretending it didn't happen. Not to go with a cliche, but while the rest of the NFL was playing chess, Fox was peeling potatoes. Like, it's not even the same thing, man.
Now, all of that changes. The Bears went out and got the best offensive mind available this offseason -- former Chiefs offensive coordinator Matt Nagy. And some of you cynics might say, "Wasn't Marc Trestman an innovative offensive mind, too?" And I will tell you to shut your damn mouth. The Bears had some wild swings after the separation from Lovie Smith. This one feels like it connected. Nagy doesn't have to be the second coming of George S. Halas. Not being Fox is good enough. Seriously. It will be weird to see the Bears running an actual, modern NFL offense. It's like the first time you got rid of your tube TV and replaced it with an HD flat-screen. It could have been the worst flat-screen on the market, but it was still an improvement.
Even then, Nagy seems like the top of the line. I could sit here and rattle off statistics from his time in Kansas City or cite the success of coaches from the Andy Reid tree. But the most impressive part about Nagy is his presence as a football coach. It just feels different. John Fox was the ultimate players' coach, from what I gathered. You don't get that sense from Nagy. Not. At. All.
And I'm here for it.
2) And a real quarterback, too!
It's fun to be excited about a Bears quarterback. Been a while. Not since 2009, when Jay Cutler arrived. Yes, Bears fans were fired up about Cutler. Mike Martz ruined that. Even then, if the Bears had hired Bruce Arians instead of Trestman, Cutler might still be dominating in something other than reality TV. That's right. Anyone who watched the first episode of "Very Cavallari" this week now understands the national treasure we have in Cutler, but all you wanted to do during his playing career was make Smoking Jay memes. You blew it.
The Bears aren't going to blow it with Mitch Trubisky. We haven't seen a lot of him. He played only one season as a starter at North Carolina before the Bears drafted him. He played a little bit last year. Well, sort of. He started 12 games last season, but he threw just 15 passes in a close game against the 49ers in December. Fox even let the 49ers run out the clock as they drove for the win rather than giving Mitch a chance to rally his team. Fox treated Mitch the same way I treated my dad's company car when he allowed me to use it in high school. Actually, I'm just kidding. I crashed it.
And I feel like Nagy is going to have that same cavalier attitude I had. Plus, even in limited action, Trubisky showed a lot of promise. As Dan Orlovsky pointed out on "Good Morning Football" earlier this offseason, Mitch is deadly accurate and has the athleticism to make plays. The Bears got a good one.
3) Jordan Howard
Fantasy dorks need to stop talking (stuff) about Howard. You make yourselves look ridiculous. He's a good running back. And while he's not Matt Forte catching the football, he's still one of the bright young backs in the game, and he's carried this offense for the last two years.
Seriously, Howard has been the only consistent presence among their offensive skill players in the last two years. And when Fox was out there ignoring the passing game, what do you think opposing defenses did? That's right, load the box. Still, the Bears' offensive line was ranked 11th last season, according to Pro Football Focus. And then you see Howard with 15 runs of 15 or more yards last year. That's only going to improve with more offensive talent on that team.
4) Oh, yeah, a real receiving corps!
The Bears had Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery in the recent past, so it's not like the team has been starving for production from the position for many years. But this was a pretty good offseason. If you followed recent Bears trends, this would normally have been an offseason where they would have signed Taylor Gabriel and been all, "Here's your WR1, guys."
And I love Gabriel. But I like him better as part of a group. Zach Galifianakis is great. But I like him better as part of an ensemble, like in "The Hangover." (Although "Baskets" is the bomb, yo.) Similarly, I like Gabriel paired with Allen Robinson.
Oh, shoot, didn't even mention Trey Burton. Love this pickup. The Hype Train of Burton being the next Travis Kelce has already left the station. It's rolling along. It's one of those things where it's so widespread, it almost worries me, because everyone says it. Even those fantasy guys who don't watch the games and just look at the numbers are on board. Still, I won't let them deter me. I'll just grab a Goose Island from the drink cart and keep to myself.
Man, I could also go on about Tarik Cohen having an expanded role with a coach who knows what to do with such a player. And Mark Helfrich is the offensive coordinator. You almost forget, amid the embarrassment of riches of the offseason, that Helfrich was brought in. This is like when you throw on a sweatshirt you haven't worn since last December and you find a $20 bill in it. Even then, it's not the most exciting news coming from the coordinator spot.
5) Vic Fangio
Forgive me for spending so much time talking about the Bears' offense. Because perhaps the most underrated move the Bears made all year was keeping Fangio as the defensive coordinator. There were some nervous moments where Bears fans feared Fangio could land in Green Bay because, well, we've come to expect such things. Credit to Nagy and the Bears' front office for keeping Fangio aboard, because he's been a miracle-worker on the level of Xavier Woods, Kofi Kingston and Big E making "The New Day" into a marketable gimmick.
And now the pieces are starting to come together, as well. The Bears' defense was good last year, but it was asked to really extend itself. The Bears ranked ninth in scoring defense last season, allowing 20 points per game. And when you think about last year, the Bears ranked 29th in scoring and 27th in time of possession, which meant the defense was on the field a lot. You give Fangio and the defense some time on the bench, they are going to be much better. And you added the Butkus Award winner, Roquan Smith, via the draft. This defense is going to be nice.
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