Bears Exit Early Again, What Now?
The Chicago Bears lived up to the rest of the country’s expectations for them Sunday evening as they were once again bounced early from the NFL playoffs, this time by Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints, 21-9. In the loss, it is extremely unlikely that QB Mitch Trubisky is brought back in for the 2021 season. Trubisky went 19/29 passing, 199 yds, 1 TD, 0 INT, and his one touchdown coming in “garbage time” with a 19-yard touchdown pass to TE Jimmy Graham with three seconds left in the game after New Orleans had held Chicago to a mere 3 points all game long. Head Coach, Matt Nagy told NBC Chicago after the game as writes Cam Ellis, “It’s been a long year and I love every one of these guys, these players, these coaches, and we’ve been through a lot. It’s not where we want to be… I think what we need to do as a staff is we’ve gotta say, ‘Why is that? Where is it?’ ‘And how do we get better? Every year is different, and you look at this right now, and I think identity-wise as an offense, you guys could see we felt like we created an identity. But how do we learn from that?”
If Nagy is talking about the identity most fans had believed to have run through RB David Montgomery, that identity was abandoned altogether Sunday night. Montgomery got the ball just 12 times, and rushed for only 31 yards. Montgomery has gotten 20+ touches every week since week 14. In a 7-3 game at the Half, there was no reason to abandon the run game as quickly as the Bears did, and they ultimately paid the price for it when the clock hit zero.
There’s a lot of questions fans are asking after this game now that Chicago’s offseason has officially begun, and I’d like to do my best to answer some common FAQs Bears Edition.
What does Trubisky’s future look like?
Despite another playoff atmosphere loss, Trubisky remains hopeful. Ellis writes that Trubisky said he could “definitely see [himself] back here next year… but that the Bears have ‘unfinished business.’” The Bears never made the switch to Nick Foles in this game, so there has to be some reasoning behind playing Mitch all 60 minutes. With Trubisky set to enter free agency after a very disappointing end to his original Bears contract, it is unlikely he will get the kind of attention and/or offer he would have had the season ended after their win over the Jaguars in week 16. The Bears could bring him back on a cheap contract, but as Ian Rapoport reported yesterday before the game, Trubisky was unlikely to return baring a deep playoff run. Ultimately, I believe Chicago will allow Trubisky to walk in free agency and pursue a new option at QB.
What does Nagy’s future look like?
As I reported last week based on another Ian Rapoport tweet, I do believe that Matt Nagy will return in 2021. Just because I think he returns doesn’t mean I think he should. The choices he made last night will haunt Bears fans and it should haunt him all offseason leading up to summer camp. Obviously Nagy can’t control whether Javon Wims drops a wide open TD in the endzone or whether or not NFL officials choose to make every call in the book against Chicago in order to ensure Drew Brees isn’t one-and-done in his last postseason, but he did make 0 adjustments last night. I cannot overstate enough just how winnable this game was for the Bears. Chicago trailed just 7-3 at halftime. That’s it. The offense had an opportunity to come out and take control of this game after the half, but instead it was nothing but disappointment with back-to-back run plays only resulting in 1-yard gained and another Trubisky incompletion. I believe Nagy will be given one more year, and that Chicago will part with Trubisky over Nagy.
What does GM, Ryan Pace’s future look like?
This is perhaps the most difficult choice to make. On one hand, Ryan Pace has put together a defense that is truly remarkable, and they showed that in their stellar play against a New Orleans Saints team that put up 52 points on their NFC North rival Vikings two weeks ago. On the other hand though, Pace’s career will always be overshadowed by the Trubisky pick and how much star power Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson have turned out to have. Pace’s future will be tied to whether or not team president, Ted Phillips retires, is fired, or is allowed to stay. With reports surfacing in early December that Phillips was considering retirement and an early exit strategy, a new team president may want his own GM in control of the team’s direction. I believe that Ryan Pace will also be given one more year with the team and given one more draft/free agency period to fix Chicago’s offense.
Does Allen Robinson Come Back?
If I were Allen Robinson, there’s no way on this planet I would return to Chicago willingly. The last two games combined, both of which were high stakes, Robinson was targeted a combined just 12 times, making 8 catches, for 92 yards. To make matters worse, rookie sensation Darnell Mooney was inactive due to injury in the Bears playoff loss at New Orleans, and fellow WR Anthony Miller was ejected due to more instigation from Saints DB CJ Gardner-Johnson in the second half of the same game. Robinson’s usage did not increase as a result. Robinson is a play maker despite having Blake Bortles and Mitch Trubisky as his quarterbacks his entire career. I believe that Robinson wants to walk, but Chicago will use the franchise tag option on Robinson to keep him around for one more season.
My heart goes out to Arizona Cardinals fans, because I genuinely believe that they would have beaten THIS Saints team by at least two scores, and the Bears should be looking to … ~gulp~ The Cleveland Browns as a model moving forward. The Browns finally have a pairing between HC Kevin Stefanski and QB Baker Mayfield that Bears fans should crave for the leaders of their offense. Two playoff appearances in three years is great, but fans can’t even be proud of it when one was ruined by Cody Parkey and the other it looked like the offense had no desire to be playing football. 2021 has to bring change, and I believe the Bears will seek to do so at the quarterback position before making the decision on whether or not to blow it all up and rebuild.