The 2014 NFL season sure didn't turn out the way many of us Bears fans had planned on, right? Many of us (or at least I) figured the Bears would make a deep, deep playoff run. I predicted the Bears would go to the NFC Championship game to lose to the Seahawks. But in my heart-of-hearts I figured they would go to the Super Bowl, I just didn't want to expose myself as a Schaumburg-born homer.
But instead of toasting the Bears' second-ever Super Bowl title with a postgame Portillo's run out in Tempe, Ariz., we had a Dave Wandstedt-level bad season. Actually, it was like if a typical Dave Wandstedt-type season had a child with a Dick Jauron-like season and made the worst season imaginable.
And it wasn't supposed to be that way, either. I wasn't the only one who predicted big things from the Bears. Many experts called Marc Trestman the quarterback whisperer after he made Josh McCown a lot of money as a free agent signee in Tampa Bay. Plus, the Bears also had Matt Forte, Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery, Martellus Bennett, etc. Even if the defense wasn't going to be very good, we were going to play some exciting, air-it-out football.
There was a lot of air-it-out football. For the opponents. They had a blast. It sure looked like fun playing the Bears. Our offense barely made a whimper. It was awful. But you already knew that. You click into this piece looking to get cheered up, not to be brought back down. Well, crack an Old Style and relax because we have a lot to look forward to next year.
No, for real.
Fox in charge of the hen house
Trestman is gone and that's kind of a bummer. No, I'm serious. I personally liked him going back to his days with the Cardinals. I was just out of college when I was supposed to write a story on Jake Plummer for GameDay Magazine. I picked up the Cardinals directory and called Trestman in his office. Just out of the blue. He was super cool with it, and talked at great length while he made me feel like I was actually important. I would run into Trestman again later at Media Day prior to Super Bowl 37. Always liked him.
So I ignored the warning signs that surfaced during his rookie season with the Bears. Remember that game against the Eagles late in the season? The Bears needed a win and they were in the playoffs. The Eagles had nothing to play for. So what happened? We got smoked. It was awful. Chip Kelly coached circles around Trestman and that should have been the biggest tipoff. And then the Bears had to go through the indignity of having that insufferable Aaron Rodgers toss a home run ball to Randall Cobb to end the season the following week. AT HOME. I kind of had my doubts about Trestman as a head coach (great guy!) right then. But since all of the important football types who run around this building said he was good, why should I argue?
So, all of that is over with now. I wasn't excited about the arrival of John Fox at first (the team's first retread hire in my lifetime), but I'm kind of cool with it. It's kind of funny, though. Lovie Smith was fired because he did a good job at getting the team to the playoffs (sort of). He even got them to a Super Bowl, but couldn't get them over the hump. Which is pretty much the hallmark of John Fox's career. But since the Bears can't rehire Lovie, why not go for something similar?
The most important thing, I can't imagine a team led by John Fox giving up back-to-back 50-bergers next year. That's a start.
A lot of the problems last year were the coaching. The Bears never made adjustments. Watch the Thanksgiving game against the Lions. The Bears had a great game plan with short passes to neutralize the Lions' pass rush in the opening drive. It was really smart. The Lions then solved it. The Bears never recovered, so the game went out of control. At least Jay did rally to help out our fantasy teams at the end.
Jay (it helps to humanize him by going with his first name) will be better with Adam Gase this season. I would like the Bears to take the approach the Broncos had at the end of the season when they built around C.J. Anderson. Matt Forte was criminally underused last year. Fix that. Plus, the offensive line is just one nice asset away from having a rebirth similar to the Cowboys this year, which means Forte could be this year's DeMarco Murray. I'm just going to go ahead and call that right now.
And the defense
Yeah, niiiiice! Vic Fangio is the truth. Look at what he did with the 49ers last year, and that squad had a ton of injuries, too. But he still found a way to get it done. (Seriously, what exactly is going on with San Francisco right now? I guess they had to let Jim Harbaugh go. Fangio might be the biggest blow to them. Enjoy 4-12, Frisco. Serves you right since the "greatest receiver ever" just admitted to using Stickum.)
In any event, the Bears D will be legit. The team figures to get a pretty decent defensive prospect at No. 7 in the draft. All the mocks I see have anybody from safety Landon Collins to defensive end Shane Ray coming to Chicago; anybody should make an immediate impact. I know a lot of naysayers like to spout things like, "Don't expect him to work miracles," but I kind of do.
So, if you ask me, there is plenty to be positive about this year. Not only will the Bears be better, the Vikings will be a-ight. The Lions missed their window because most of their defensive line (and heart) is gonzo and Megatron can't stay healthy for an entire season. And the Packers will take a step back. Seriously, Cobb is leaving. Rodgers blew another chance to get a second ring. And now people have started to notice he won his first ring thanks in no small part to the fact Caleb Flutie, I mean Hanie, played quarterback for a large part of that game. So, for me, this is the Bears' division for the taking.