National pundits be damned, the outlook for the Chicago Bears in 2020 and beyond isn’t nearly as bleak as some have made it out to be.
In a column published last week, supposed Bears fan-turned-national-football-writer Robert Mays essentially wrote that the Bears are stuck in mediocrity, with no way out. Most of his points ranged from “off the mark” to “WHAT?!”
Mays posits the absurd argument that even if Nick Foles plays at his Super Bowl MVP level the Bears have no shot at winning a Super Bowl. He determines the Bears would lose on the road to the Saints, a team that just lost a home playoff game to Kirk Cousins. But his general point is one with which most would agree. The Bears are more likely going to finish somewhere in the 7-11 wins range in the coming season. It’s what Mays extrapolates from that potential win total that seems out of touch, lacking historical backing. He believes it is “no man’s land”. It’s not.
The Kansas City Chiefs were in no-man’s-land not all that long ago, with a quarterback who could consistently get them 10 wins but never make noise in the playoffs. One could argue that the Bears are actually better off than Kansas City was then because they have a quarterback they know can win a Super Bowl. Realistically, Nick Foles isn’t the long-term answer. Mitch Trubisky probably isn’t either. But that doesn’t mean the Bears have to fold as a franchise.
The 2021 NFL draft is expected to have at least two and probably three high-level quarterbacks. Trevor Lawrence of Clemson and Ohio State’s Justin Fields are widely expected to be competing for the first overall pick, but NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah thinks Trey Lance of North Dakota State is better than both.
Let’s also consider that the last three first overall picks have been players coming from nowhere. Now at Georgia with offensive coordinator Todd Monken, it seems as if Jamie Newman would be a candidate for that kind of surge after playing for Wake Forest last season. If not him, you can bet a fourth quarterback will emerge.
There’s also a general expectation that players like left tackle Penei Sewell, wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase and edge Gregory Rousseau of Miami are all going to be top-five types. We might as well assume an Ohio St. cornerback goes in the top ten too.
The worst-case scenario for the Bears is probably a seven-win season, which would put them on the fringe of the top-10. Even a repeat of the 2019 season would put them at 20. That is certainly within range to move up and grab a quarterback. Would you move a future first to grab a quarterback? Of course you would.
How high up they’d have to go is another fascinating thought. Of the 12 teams with worse Super Bowl odds than the Bears, it’s hard to see more than three targeting a quarterback. It’s certainly possible that Atlanta or Detroit could move on from their veteran starters, but most of the teams that are expected to be bad have young quarterbacks who will likely get more time.
Then there’s the unknown. Prior to the 2016 season, everybody thought Deshaun Watson would be the first pick. By the time April rolled around, he was thoroughly picked apart and dropped to 12th. It isn’t crazy to think that could happen to Lawrence or Fields. It isn’t crazy to think that teams might not want to invest in Lance and he drops.
That’s a heck of a lot of projection, but the names and scenarios aren’t really the point. Baltimore looked to be in no-man’s-land before drafting Lamar Jackson 32nd in 2018, so did Kansas City before grabbing Mahomes 10th in 2017 and Houston before they picked Watson 12th that same year. The idea that just because a good team doesn’t have a great quarterback today means they won’t find one tomorrow is just silly. It happens just about every single season.
We have no idea if Ryan Pace is even capable of evaluating the game’s most crucial position, and if 2020 goes as badly as Mays expects we may never find out. If the Bears do make the playoffs, Pace will get another shot at getting the position right and only then could we determine if the Bears are truly in “no-man’s-land”.
For now, the Bears are entering the 2020 season with the most talented defense in the league and a quarterback who has proven he can win it all. Outside of the maybe ten teams with a bona fide franchise quarterback, that’s about as good as it gets.