In David Mamet’s State and Main, Alec Baldwin plays a movie star with a penchant for young women. In the middle of the movie, he flips a car, climbs out the window, looks at Phil Hoffman, and nonchalantly says, “So that happened.” It is quite literally one of my favorite moments (and lines) in movie history.
The inevitable car wreck to open the 2021 Chicago Bears season took place in Los Angeles Sunday night. And as I turned off the television I was left with the same sentiment as Baldwin, climbing out of a comfy living room chair in Greenwood Lake, NY to toss an empty bottle of Labatt’s in the recycling bin.
So that happened.
I felt nothing about it. No emotion whatsoever. And not feeling any emotion about a Bears game actually filled me with sadness. In my game preview I had written what I thought would transpire Sunday night, predicting an outcome of 30-13 Rams. The game played according to that script. The offense was a little bit better; the defense a little bit worse. 34-14 Rams. (The most surprising aspect to the whole evening was the performance of David Montgomery and the offensive line in the run game.)
Now the Bears are left to deal with the damage.
Their stopgap, 39 year-old answer at left tackle isn’t going to hold up. The fifth-round pick that replaced him might not either.
The secondary is one of the two or three worst in the sport and can’t survive unless Khalil Mack dominates opponents. (Mack hasn’t dominated many during his Chicago tenure.)
Eddie Goldman has mysteriously vanished into injury again.
Andy Dalton is Andy Dalton and the Bears have decided to use his backup – a far superior player – for a series of moronic gadget plays sprinkled into the sea of dinks and dunks.
The Bears are bad.
Okay, so you don’t want to go that far?
The Bears aren’t any good. And they’re not going to suddenly get good this season. This roster simply doesn’t have the players to compete with the better teams in the league and they don’t have coaches to maximize the potential of what they do have on the roster. They are fully capable of being in a majority of their games and even winning some. But to what end? Surely those in the organization who believed this team was a title contender have awoken from that pipe dream. Even the carnage experienced Sunday by the NFC North – the early contender for worst division in the NFL – shouldn’t give the Bears any delusions of playoff grandeur.
Instead the Bears should be concentrating on two dates. One is obvious: the first start of Justin Fields. When Fields takes the field, the season will take on a new life and energy. Every game, win or lose, will mean more, because every play, good or bad, will be a step on the journey to what the organization hopes will be franchise quarterback glory. That first start should be Sunday. It won’t be. But it should.
The second date is November 2nd. That’s the NFL’s trade deadline and it’s seven weeks away. No, the Bears won’t be trading David Montgomery, even though he’s their most valuable asset – a top player on his rookie deal that could actually fetch something of worth. But there are very few veterans on this roster that should be off the block. Mack. Hicks. Quinn. Eddie Jackson. Graham. Robinson. If teams show interest in any of them, the Bears should look to unload and bring back as much draft capital as possible. Don’t worry about cap ramifications. The Saints and Rams don’t, why should the Bears?
On offense, build around Fields, Montgomery, Mooney, Kmet…etc. On defense, build around Nichols, Goldman (at some point), Roquan, Jaylon Johnson…etc. But make sure all eyes are on building for when this team is ready to compete for a championship. History tells us that window will open in a young quarterback’s third year. Stop playing championship dress-up with Dalton. Stop flirting with extending Hicks. Stop thinking the 2021 Bears are something they’re not.
The Bears are not in a bad position right now. They may have their franchise quarterback on the roster. This is a huge deal and an intense reason for optimism. But the insanity has to stop. They have to play him. And they have to prioritize the players on this roster who will matter when the team does again.