While the most likely scenario is the 2022 Chicago Bears being out of contention before December, last Saturday’s preseason game was a reminder that the outcome of this campaign is far from certain.
There are plenty of question marks on the roster. Will Larry Borom, Teven Jenkins or Kindle Vildor end up being quality players? Flip a coin. Will Justin Jones and Nicholas Morrow stay healthy? Who knows? But there is a world in which a lot of these roster decisions go right, and fans caught a glimpse of that world on Saturday night. The talent on this roster may be better than it has been given credit for, especially considering some think it’s the worst in the league.
But there are two positions on every team that can drastically improve the outcome of any season: head coach and quarterback. That’s where fan focus should rest.
It has been said over and over that Flus had top-10 defenses with worse talent than he has now. Of course, Eberflus isn’t the defensive coordinator (still a question mark) but his scheme is relatively easy to learn and the principles that made him successful in Indianapolis are being taught in Chicago.
What we’ve seen from the preseason is a Bears team that plays fast, but in control. Control is everything. They’re disciplined and assignment sure. Gone are the days of overcomplicated systems. The Bears will be simple, and they will play harder than their opponent.
Enough has been written about his struggles as a rookie.
Fans are now seeing a quarterback come into his own, looks confident and in control. Remember control? Still everything. His touchdown pass Saturday night to Kmet was a perfect example. Instead of panicking and either forcing a pass or running, he kept his eyes down the field, directed traffic and threw a strike. It was an easy touchdown only because he made it so.
When is the last time the Bears had a quarterback who made anything look easy? When is the last time the Bears had a quarterback who looked poised, even in the preseason? We know Fields can make plays on his own, but we’re now seeing him do it within the structure of the offense.
There will be plenty of games in which the Bears will be overmatched from a pure talent perspective, but Fields has enough talent to carry the offense on days when the scheme isn’t working. Eberflus has the ability to make the team see his vision and play harder than the opponent. If the Bears have the right quarterback and the right coach, they’re going to win more games than people think.
The realistic view is injury bug will bite the Bears and their lack of depth will be their undoing. Maybe some of the youngsters won’t pan out. Maybe the speed of the regular season will rattle Fields more than the preseason.
But there’s another outcome, one in which the Bears are actually a solid football team. One that can compete for a Wild Card spot. One that nobody wants to play.
Maybe that outcome isn’t likely, but as Chris Berman says, that’s why they play the games.