Bears long way from contending, but they have to start somewhere

After the Bears’ 3-13 season — the most losses for the franchise since the 16-game schedule started back when Jimmy Carter was president — everything has got to look up, right?

Unless you see a rain of frogs in those January clouds. (Frozen ones, perhaps.)

Or unless you’ve been drinking whatever receiver Alshon Jeffery drinks, the stuff that led him to state, ‘‘I guarantee you we’ll win a Super Bowl next year.’’ (Perhaps he meant on Lovetron, former NBA player Darryl ‘‘Chocolate Thunder’’ Dawkins’ favorite planet.)

Halas Hall was basically shut down to regular folks Tuesday as the Bears’ brass hunkered in doomsday formation within.

Bears coach John Fox had some bad luck with injuries this season, but he and his staff have to do a better job of making the most of what they have. | Nam Y. Huh/AP

It’s not hard to envision chairman George McCaskey walking in circles, furiously puffing a George Halas-brand pipe, while general manager Ryan Pace spoke of precious bodily fluids, president Ted Phillips juggled marbles and coach John Fox croaked over and over, ‘‘We’re closer than people think.’’

Anything the Bears do should be an improvement on this disastrous season. That might include firing Fox, Pace or Phillips or even the McCaskey family abdicating and turning the team over to the Ricketts family.

But none of that is likely to happen, so the tinkering must be precise, cogent and, above all, inspired.

This is a moment — at the bottom — when the top actually can be targeted, provided there is an excellent plan. The way the NFL works, the worst teams are rewarded the most, with high draft picks, guaranteed TV money and dreams of grand improvement. (Though not hallucinatory ones, like Jeffery’s.)

Of course, the Bears need a quarterback. So do more than half the NFL teams. But if you saw a young Peyton Manning, Tom Brady or even Russell Wilson in the college ranks this year, I wonder whom that is. Another sleeper, such as Dak Prescott? Bring him.

Pace is there to know the details and projections the rest of us only can guess at. It’s why he’s paid.

But if a franchise quarterback isn’t there with the Bears’ No. 3 overall pick, then Pace should trade down in an effort to obtain more help at receiver, linebacker and in the secondary or package picks and trade for a quarterback such as Jimmy Garoppolo.

If you look at the teams that are almost always in the hunt, you come around to — well, I hate to say it — the Packers. That’s a team that rides a great quarterback the way a monkey rides a sheepdog.

Aaron Rodgers makes no-name receivers look like All-Pros, just as Brady does with the Patriots. I feel certain Brady and evil-genius mentor Bill Belichick could take midgets and body-builders and make them star receivers. Rodgers, too.

The Bears seem to be so far away, but maybe they’re not. It’s true NFL teams can rise very quickly. Get good leadership, develop talent, stay healthy and who knows?

Yes, injuries are insanely disturbing in this sport. The Bears had almost an entire team, both offense and defense, on injured reserve this season. What good is Kyle Long or Kyle Fuller if neither can play? And receiver Kevin White might as well be a Honey Bear for all he has contributed in two seasons.

The NFL eats its own — ask the Raiders how much fun the postseason will be without broken-legged quarterback Derek Carr — but that’s the deal.

Is it possible some players have bodies or styles of play that all but guarantee injury? Yes, it is. Rookie linebacker Leonard Floyd suffered two concussions partly because of the valued recklessness he plays with. One of his injuries, when he rammed into a teammate while rushing the passer, reminded me of the horrid collision that left late Jets lineman Dennis Byrd paralyzed.

So what do you do about that? The violence and ironically sensitive concussion protocol of the NFL mean that even superstars such as Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly might be self-defeating.

Again, good luck, Mr. Pace.

And Fox and Co. had better use what they have to better ends. I have seen no genius in the Bears’ coaching so far. None.

Then consider this: Much-ridiculed former Bears linebacker Shea McClellin just helped the Patriots beat the Dolphins with a 69-yard fumble return Sunday.

Do the Patriots pull magic strings?

Are the Bears just stupid?

Please say no, Bears. Pronto.

Follow me on Twitter @ricktelander.

Email: rtelander@suntimes.com