From 2005-2012, the Chicago Bears were one of the best teams in the National Football League. Over that stretch the Bears posted five winning seasons, along with three NFC North Championships, and a Super Bowl appearance. But the Bears might be kicking themselves when they fired head coach Lovie Smith at the conclusion of the 2012 season after he over saw this span of success in Chicago. Since then the Bears have not posted a winning season, and here in 2016, they are spiraling out of control.
The Bears began this season by losing their first three games and it has not gotten any better for them since. Chicago has a trio of three-game losing streaks to their credit this season, and with only three games remaining, they are on pace for their worst season since 2002 when they went 4-12. General manager Ryan Pace and head coach John Fox are both in their second year with the Bears, but neither man could have imagined the misfortune that they would be forced to deal with here in 2016.
Wide receiver Kevin White was the Bears first-round pick in 2015. And after White missed his entire rookie season with a leg injury, he has only appeared in four games here in 2016. The Bears traded up in the first round this year to select outside linebacker Leonard Floyd. But after Floyd had amassed 5 sacks in eight games, he would be placed in the National Football League’s concussion protocol after a scary head and neck injury that he suffered during the Bears Week 11 loss to the New York Giants. Floyd has since returned to the Bears and has gone on to tally 2 more sacks. Veteran wide receiver Alshon Jeffery has just finished serving a four-game suspension that was handed down by the NFL after he tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs. From 2011-2014, Fox was the head coach of the Denver Broncos, and during his timed there he drafted inside linebacker Danny Trevathan. After Trevathan helped the Broncos win the Super Bowl last season, he struck it big in free agency when he agreed to a four-year deal with the Bears that is worth $24.5 million. But after the Bears lost to the Tennessee Titans in Week 12, Trevathan was placed on injured reserve when he suffered a ruptured patellar tendon.
As of right now the Bears have 16 players who are on injured reserve with the biggest name being quarterback Jay Cutler. Cutler was placed on injured reserve last month by the Bears after it was revealed that he would need surgery to repair a torn labrum. Cutler’s time with the Bears has been inconsistent as his record as a starter is 51-51, while Chicago is no closer to being a Super Bowl contender with him now than when they acquired him from the Broncos in 2009. And as the Bears are going nowhere fast, this might be the perfect time to evaluate all 53 roster spots heading into 2017.
Cutler is still under contract with the Bears through 2020. But since Cutler is 33-years of age, and his only claim to fame is having a strong arm, this is great opportunity for the Bears to move on from him either by trading him, or releasing him. The Bears appear to be a lock as far as obtaining a top-five choice in the 2017 National Football League Draft and Clemson Tigers quarterback Deshaun Watson could be on Chicago’s roster; especially since there won’t be that many quarterbacks selected in the first round.
The Bears have not lucked out on White who was supposed to give their receiving corps some depth as he is flirting with being a draft bust. The Bears did allow running back Matt Forte to leave last off-season and sign with the New York Jets as running back Jeremy Langford was expected to his heir apparent. But is has been rookie running back Jordan Howard who has been the one to emerge as the Bears top runner. Howard is the Bears leading rusher with 969 yards and he appears to have a bright future with them.
Cutler’s injury has paved the way for Matt Barkley to get some reps as the Bears starting quarterback. Barkley has been the Bears starting quarterback in each of the team’s last three games. And although that the Bears record in Barkley’s three starts is 1-2, they’ve had an opportunity to win each contest. One thing that has helped Barkley is that he gets the football out of his hands much quicker than Cutler along with having better footwork as the offense appears to have more cohesion under him. Barkley appears to be the Bears starting quarterback for the final three games as Fox and Pace have to decide who is going to be their signal caller in 2017.
But overall, the Bears must get more athletic on both sides of the football; especially in the trenches. The Bears are currently lacking a game changer on their defensive line, while they need players on their offensive line that can take control of the unit and provide stability as Chicago currently has three offensive lineman that are on injured reserve.
However as grim as it currently is for the Bears, they can take solace in knowing that the National Football League is known for quick turnarounds. Eight teams that finished 2015 with a losing record currently find themselves in contention for the postseason with three weeks remaining in the regular season with one in the Dallas Cowboys having already clinched a playoff berth. And if the Bears are able take care of their business in the off-season which means upgrading the talent, a quick turnaround in 2017 might not be that far-fetched.