The Chicago Bears don’t think they are going to be good in 2022. Teams that think they’re going to be good don’t sell off Khalil Mack for (essentially) future cap space. Teams that think they’re going to be good don’t enter a season with 3/5 of their offensive line unsettled. Teams that think they’re going to be good don’t balk at just about every available free agent, including several at positions of extreme need. The Bears don’t think they’re going to be good in 2022 because being good in 2022 is not essential to this new leadership.
Rebuilds are a weird discussion in the NFL. In baseball, a rebuild requires selling off every viable commodity and losing for a decade while stockpiling draft picks and minor league assets. In the NBA, there are teams with multiple superstars and teams without them; everyone else is irrelevant. In hockey…I don’t know anything about hockey. There’s something with a forecheck I think?
In the NFL, rebuilds don’t exist. There are teams with top-level quarterbacks and teams without them. The teams with them are relevant each and every season and the Bears believe Justin Fields will get there. They do not believe, however, that he’s there right now. (And no one watching the 2021 tape would objectively disagree.)
When it comes to the roster around the quarterback, and when there is turnover at the head coach/GM positions, it takes no more than a single off-season to dump men and money and start the whole program over. Poles and Flus have followed a repeatable template, specifically one engaged by the regime running things in Buffalo currently.
But next season will be Fields’ third in the league and second in the system. No more excuses.
Next off-season the Bears will be loaded with cap space, chock full of draft picks and operating with endless roster flexibility. No more excuses.
The Bears are not going to be good in 2022 and that will be understandable. But the excuses end entirely in 2023. The new leadership will have had two drafts. They will have had two full off-seasons with the quarterback. They will have had the economic flexibility to craft the roster in their image. And while they took over a franchise that hadn’t won a playoff game in many-a-moon, the cupboard was not entirely bare when they arrived.
If the 2023 Bears aren’t competing for January football, questions can again be seriously asked about the men in charge of football operations in Chicago, including the quarterback. But in the meantime, we will all try and find minor joys in a season replete with minor expectations. This team needs to play hard. They need to play fast. They need to display, on Sundays and not Thursdays, they are a well-coached group. They need to show fight, even when they are undermanned talent-wise. And perhaps most importantly, they need to provide entertainment to a fan base tired of being bored to death when they turn on their televisions to watch Chicago Bears football.
After all the mediocrity, that’s not too much to ask from 2022. In 2023, we’ll all expect much, much more.