MINNEAPOLIS — Happy new season, Bears fans. Year 2 of the Bears’ rebuild — a disastrous season marred by injuries, gaffes and growing pains — has mercifully concluded.
It ended with an ugly, pathetic thud — a 38-10 spanking Sunday at the hands of the Vikings at U.S. Bank Stadium.
To use chairman George McCaskey’s famous words from two years ago, the Bears put forth a performance that would leave any owner “pissed off.”
Major changes aren’t expected. Three national outlets reported what has been considered a given in Chicago for weeks: Coach John Fox will return for his third season.
Still, the Bears were so awful against the Vikings a week after getting blown out by the Redskins that it’s worth wondering if McCaskey will press the detonator button for the second time in two years.
The 2016 Bears weren’t expected to be a good team, but they also weren’t projected to be an awful 3-13, either. Their record is the franchise’s worst since the NFL expanded the schedule to 16 games. They failed to win on the road for the first time since 1974, when they went 0-7.
But McCaskey’s business sense and belief in general manager Ryan Pace should outweigh any “pissed off” emotions.
Rebuilding efforts require patience and some semblance of continuity. McCaskey has promised to be tolerant with Pace, realizing he inherited a complete mess.
What does that mean for Fox?
After the game, Fox was adamant that he wanted to return — “It’s definitely a job I want to finish,” he said — but he said he wasn’t given any assurances.
“One thing I’ve learned about this league is a lot of different things can happen,” said Fox, who received a four-year deal. “I’m not going to get into all that right now.”
But Pace did. He sounded as if he was firmly in Fox’s corner during his weekly interview on WBBM-AM (780).
“One thing I really want to stress is that in order for us to develop these younger players, you really need a coaching staff that’s on board with preparing them and with playing them,” Pace said. “John’s done a good job in leading our team and his staff in assisting that development. I also think he’s done a good job with just instilling the right culture that we want in the locker room. Those aren’t small things. To change a culture, that’s extremely difficult. But I think if you get it right with the foundation of your roster, you can really build on top of that.”
In the locker room, Bears players referenced their spate of injuries as much as they defended Fox and the coaching staff.
The Bears have 19 players on injured reserve, and the attrition has been devastating. The injuries muddle the evaluations of everyone and everything.
But as optimistic as the Bears are about their young players and their game experiences, plenty still is needed. A sizable talent gap exists between the Bears and the rest of the NFC North.
Pace knows that. He enters the offseason armed with the third overall pick in the 2017 draft but with concerns at quarterback, wide receiver, cornerback, safety and tight end.
“We need to add more firepower to this roster,” Pace said in his radio interview.
Those are important words to keep in mind when considering how the Bears were outscored 79-31 in their last two games. The Bears were relying on many players who might not be on the roster when Week 1 kicks off next season.
It’s all part of the rebuild.
“We are building a team to get to a point where there’s consistent and long-term winning,” Pace said. “Sometimes this takes a little bit of growing pains as your young core is kind of developing.
“I can completely understand that patience in the NFL is very difficult. I get that. But we’re on the right course.”