There once was a guy in Green Bay
Whose family had cast him astray
Though not enough rings,
ample drama he brings
‘til inevitably deciding to stay.
All that remains for the 2021 Chicago Bears are the decision on Ryan Pace and the firing of Matt Nagy. Dissecting these individual games just seems like a pointless enterprise. So, after a few days of watching the rest of the league, here are some thoughts on those games, and perhaps some lessons the Bears can learn (but not really).
If your instinct is to doubt Justin Fields after this game, keep in mind he went on the road with two rookie OTs, was pressured on 54.3% of his dropbacks, played through a ribs injury that caused him pain on every throw & needed X-rays on his non-throwing hand after the game.
— Adam Hoge (@AdamHoge) December 13, 2021
Late night. More to come later today.
I always like the Chicago Bears.
And the game has significantly more juice with Justin Fields in the starting lineup. The idea of Nick Foles starting at Lambeau Field, in primetime, had some Henry Burris vs. Tampa (2002) vibes.
This could be the last time the Bears see Aaron Rodgers in a Green Bay Packers uniform. And it is very difficult to contextualize his tenure with the team. So here are a bunch of thoughts.
Once again, I’ll be writing more extensively about Sondheim this off-season when content is harder to come by, but I am using these game previews to simply share his work. Sondheim was a cinephile to an intense extent (I know the feeling). He and Anthony Perkins co-wrote the excellent film The Last of Sheila, which you can rent on Amazon or anywhere else you do those things. Here are some other contribution to the world of movies.
Sondheim wrote the absolutely lovely score for this underrated Alain Resnais picture.
Sondheim provided the song “Goodbye for Now” for Warren Beatty’s score. It’s a gorgeous melody that stands out dramatically in the film.
Dick Tracy (1990)
Sondheim won the Academy Award for “Sooner or Later” but I actually think “Back in Business” is the better song. However, I don’t know a Sondheim junkie that doesn’t consider Mandy Patinkin and Madonna’s gorgeous duet of “What Can You Lose” their favorite musical passage in the film.
It wasn’t a particularly unique affair. The Bears have lost this game to Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers plenty of times. If you need additional details beyond which is provided below, search the archives and find all the recaps of those games.
I always like the Chicago Bears.
And this young 2021 campaign has been building to the Packers, and Justin Fields, at Soldier Field. If the Bears win, the fan march back into the city will look like this:
(I realize those who drive to Soldier Field have never experienced this walk but it is truly one of the most unique, remarkable things about the experience. Win or lose, it’s always amazing.)
So often, these Packers games can be approached with a sense of resignation. Everything feels like it has to go right for the Bears to beat Aaron Rodgers. Khalil Mack wrecks the game. Lose. Defense holds Rodgers to 10 points. Still lose. It is obvious the Bears will be out-gunned at quarterback when these teams play but too often they have felt outplayed at the 21 other positions, and out-maneuvered on the sideline. Honestly, it hasn’t been a fair fight.
This fight is fair. The Packers are not the Packers. They struggle to run the ball. They are a bit one-trick on the outside, with Davante Adams pulling away from the field when it comes to targets. And injuries to Za’Darius Smith and Jaire Alexander have rendered what was an ascending defense to the realm of gettable. (Kevin King may also be out this week.) They are still the best team in the NFC North, and overwhelming favorites to win this division, but they also could have easily lost to both the Niners and Bengals. What would we be saying about this team if they were 2-3 right now?
Why not now, Bears? Why not roll this two-game winning streak into Soldier Field and beat your oldest rival? Why not ride the crowd energy created by this young quarterback to a franchise-invigorating victory? Why not make the statement that, “Hey, we might not have the weapons or corners of the best teams in the league but we’re coming and coming soon”?
This is likely to be Rodgers’ last game in Soldier Field as the Packers quarterback. Why not make his swan song a dirge?
Years ago I wrote a longform piece about taking time off the drink, titled Diary of a Boozer (Off the Booze). You can visit the link for the post HERE or download the PDF right HERE. For someone who drinks a lot, taking an extended break from it can feel like an earth-shattering experience.
The Bears are trying to do something uncommon in the NFL. They are trying to win games while developing a rookie quarterback. That is not to say other franchises who have brought along a rookie QB didn’t want to win each Sunday. (The Jags and Jets are DESPERATE for victories.) But the Bears believe they have a playoff-caliber roster around Justin Fields – due mostly to this roster making the playoffs last season – and have now entrusted the kid to help them get to the tournament.
If the Bears beat the Packers at home on Sunday, their odds to play meaningful football in January will take a massive jump. (And selfishly, I want the Bears playing a playoff game when I celebrate my 40th birthday the weekend of the 15th in Atlantic City.)
What Must the Bears Do on Offense:
What Must the Bears Do on Defense:
Late Saturday night, the boys over at NFL Network broke the story that Miller, the talented and temperamental wide receiver, would be leaving Chicago for the worst franchise in professional sports. My initial response was being slightly ticked that I wasted an hour writing Friday’s column, wherein I deemed Miller the “player to watch” on offense this summer. But after a bit of time, a new reaction emerged: why?
Yes, I’m sure there are folks out there, those who worship at the altar of the almighty draft capital, arguing that swapping late-round picks is tremendous value the Bears simply could not pass up. But there is a camp of pragmatists who abide by another maxim: you don’t quit on talent.
What is the cost of bringing Miller to camp this week? If he’s a pain in the ass, or a detriment to the organization, surely the late-round swap is still available from Houston (or another organization). It’s not like the additional week of work is going to turn Tyrod Taylor-to-Miller into the new Peyton Manning-to-Marvin Harrison. The potential upside was not necessarily that Miller “figure it out” but that he simply learned to exist as role player and became a productive member of the offense.
This is the Chicago Bears we’re talking about. And while optimism is at an all-time high due to the arrival of Justin Fields, this is still a group that has been desperate for playmakers. That’s why Ryan Pace brought in Marquise Goodwin and Damiere Byrd. That’s why Damien Williams was added to the running backs room and Khalil Herbert was drafted late. The Bears need as many playmaking options as humanly possible. And they just shipped a potential one south.
“I never said I’m unhappy with my boss,” Aaron Rodgers replied to a jab made by Tom Brady in a video that was released last week. The video was mocking a game of Jeopardy between the two star quarterbacks, Rodgers the 2020 NFL MVP and Brady the Super Bowl winner. The answer was “He’s an NBA owner, a self-taught guitarist and has guest-starred on both The Office and Game of Thrones” to which Brady added “He’s unhappy with his boss and has no options. Who is Aaron Rodgers?”
But Rodgers had the response ready and it seems to be a safe bet that he’s going to use that line again.
Rodgers has said a lot since the end of the 2020 season that would lead one to believe he wanted some sort of commitment from the Green Bay Packers. He didn’t get it and the day of the NFL Draft there were reports that he wouldn’t play for the team again. But, as Rodgers was quick to say: he never said that.
As training camp nears, the question of “will he” or “won’t he” lingers over the entire league, especially the NFC North, where Rodgers playing could have a very direct impact on what kind of season the Bears have.
Should Rodgers play, we’re probably penciling the Bears in for two losses. If he doesn’t, two wins or a split at worst. That one game could be the difference between the Bears making the playoffs or missing out. With seven teams making the cut, it isn’t hard to see how the Bears could once again be in contention for that final spot.