Here at DBB, we’ve been high on optimism for the Bears’ 2018 season pretty much since Matt Nagy was hired back in January, and we’re not the only ones. Both local and national media are feeling the enthusiasm and energy emanating from Halas Hall, and with good reason!
We’ve laid out all those reasons why we should all be psyched about the direction the Bears are heading in previous, and I fully stand by those predictions. At the same time, I’m not the hardcore Pollyanna that I’ve likely come across as in my last few articles. There’s a limit to my enthusiasm, and there are some actual markers of change the Bears are going to have to hit this season for me to continue to do things like compare Trubisky to Roger Federer and Serena Williams.
This isn’t an exhaustive list, but I’ve laid out three things the Chicago Bears MUST do to justify continued optimism into the 2019 season. This isn’t a dream scenario list. This is a bare minimum list for me to not sink into a pit of deep, deep despair.
For the purposes of this list I’m not factoring in the possibility of serious injury to top players. Not because it couldn’t happen, but because a) it’s morbid b) it’s largely out of the team’s control and, c) it would cause me to have a very different perspective on the season moving forward.
They have to finish at least .500.
Football is a rare sport in that literally every game matters. You look at baseball, basketball, or hockey and it’s absurd to think that one game would change the way fans view an entire season. But football teams don’t play 162 games in a season, they play 16, and there’s a significant difference between a team going 7-9 and 8-8. Even if that’s only in perspective.
The last time the Bears had a a winning season was 2012. In 2013 they went 8-8 and, well, we all know how things have gone since then. The Bears don’t have the easiest of schedules – of course that’s not always the most straightforward metric to measure a month before a season actually begins. Still, I’m sick of rooting for a losing team. The Bears absolutely have enough talent to earn as many wins as losses.
To put it in perspective, John Fox finished his first season as Bears head coach with a record of 6-10. That was his best year here. If Matt Nagy and a boatload of new offensive weapons can’t manage to win two more games than that, fans might be in for a more prolonged heartache than we’d originally envisioned.
They CANNOT be the laughingstocks of the NFC North.
When I look at the NFC North this year I see extreme parity.
I know most national media outlets have the Vikings as the team to beat, followed closely by the Packers, but honestly there’s enough talent (and enough weakness) on each team that each division match-up is truly a tossup for me at this point. Outside the division, the Packers have the most difficult schedule (courtesy of CBS Sports), but again, projections aren’t reality.
The last time the Bears weren’t at the bottom of the barrel in their division was 2013. They couldn’t even manage 3rd place after the Lions started the first half of their 2015 season 1-7 (that one win coming courtesy of, surprise surprise, the Bears). Fans are sick of the team being an afterthought and the Bears can no longer be the team languishing in basement.
Trubisky has to (mostly) live up to expectations.
This is the most obvious and important aspect of the 2018 season.
Trubisky has to show everyone that the hype surrounding him is more than just dumb hope and white noise. Fans and media alike can are prone to getting a little over-hyped in the off-season. Anyone expecting Trubisky to get the Bears to the Super Bowl probably needs to take a few deep breaths. He just has to prove he was worth the number two pick last year. He has to prove he’s the guy to lead this team in the future.
Now what does that look like exactly? A common comparison is Jared Goff. In 2016 he had a passer rating of 63.6 and in 2017 he posted a rating of 100.5. In 2017 Trubisky had a passer rating of 77.5 so his rating in 2018 should be, well, better than that…..
I’m not Data (nobody but Data is), so I’m not going to try and put a number on it, but I will be watching for the following things:
- Is he clutch in big game situations?
- Can the team count on him to convert crucial third downs?
- Does he lead the way when they’re trailing in the fourth quarter?
- When he makes a mistake (and he’ll make plenty) does he bounce back the next time he has the ball? Is he improving with every week?
- Is he the reason the Bears win games?
If at the end of the 2018 season the answer is “yes” to all these questions, then the team is set for the future at the sport’s most important position. If not, well it’s not quite August and I don’t want to contemplate that possibility yet. I just know that as of right now, the kid still has a lot to prove.