If 2016 proved anything, it’s that Bears have a talent deficit

SHARE If 2016 proved anything, it’s that Bears have a talent deficit

Bears quarterback Matt Barkley fumbles the ball as he is sacked by Vikings defensive tackle Linval Joseph during the second half Sunday. (AP Photo/Andy Clayton-King)

The Bears are a twist on those Chevy TV ads: Real People, Not NFL Football Players.

The 2016 season ended Sunday the way it should have, in a heap. This time, turnovers were the culprit, committed by ham-handed actors who probably should be thinking about Plan B, career-wise.

The Bears lost 38-10 to a reeling Minnesota team in a battle of bad. The pitifulness of this season now has a final shape: a 3-13 record, the worst by a Bears team since the NFL went to a 16-game schedule in 1978, and a 0-8 effort away from Soldier Field, their first winless road record since 1974.

The Vikings scored 24 points off five Bears’ turnovers. You can’t teach that kind of bad. You either have it, or you don’t.

After the Bears’ previous loss, coach John Fox had declared the team “closer than people think.’’ Sunday’s defeat made it clear he meant “closer to the End Times than people think.’’

Matt Barkley, feet firmly back on earth, threw two interceptions and lost a fumble that was returned for a touchdown. There’s no hiding in the NFL. Weaknesses eventually emerge, no matter how much coaches try to tamp them down with glowing public compliments. That’s not just an indictment of Barkley, who threw a combined 10 interceptions in his final three games of the season. That’s an indictment of a lot of Bears players, healthy or injured.

In good news, the loss means the Bears won the right to pick third overall in the 2017 draft.

In bad news, does it really matter if they pick third, 13th or 30th?

Public confidence in general manager Ryan Pace and Fox making the right first-round selection next year shouldn’t be high, given that very little has gone right during their tenure. There’s no good reason yet to believe they’ll find the one or two or 10 players who will help transform the franchise.

On the Bears’ WBBM-780 AM pregame show Sunday, Pace gushed about the culture inside the team’s locker room. Nobody cares, Ryan.

During the baseball playoffs, Cubs president Theo Epstein said he found it almost disrespectful that someone had asked him if he could see himself running an NFL team. He saw it as an insult that anybody would believe an outsider could come in and do what others had spend their lives doing. And of course he’s right. You can’t walk in and know what scouts and personnel people know – how football players should move, what the proper techniques are at each position, why some people are successful and some aren’t.

But having watched the Bears struggle for so long, I’m convinced that someone with Epstein’s smarts and ability to identify top-notch employees would succeed. This isn’t a Bears-should-hire-Epstein push, mostly because it would never happen – on both ends of the equation. But I do believe he could walk into the NFL and hire the right people to choose the right players to win.

This is something the McCaskeys have rarely gotten right, from the general manager to the head coach to the quarterback. It’s certainly possible that Pace could find his way out of this mess, though there hasn’t been a whole lot of evidence from his first two drafts.

The problem is that the Bears can’t seem to build anything lasting, or at least anything good that lasts. Please don’t chalk up the aridity to NFL parity and the salary cap. The Bears have been down a lot more than they have been up since their 1985 Super Bowl title.

That brings us back to Fox/Pace and why it might not matter where the Bears pick in the 2017 draft. They are eminently capable of choosing the wrong player wherever their draft position is. Public-service reminder: These are the Bears.

Jordan Howard set a rookie team record for most rushing yards in a season. That’s a win for the Bears. Howard is a fifth-round pick who moves objects in front of him the way a train’s cowcatcher would. With 135 bruising yards, he was about the only bright spot Sunday.

And that’s the problem. The Bears need players, lots of them. They need defensive backs. They need an offensive tackle or two. And most of all, they need a quarterback. They need to make that right before they fix all the other wrong things.

Barkley provided a spark this season when he took over for an injured Brian Hoyer, but then, like a hitter who can’t adjust to the pitcher’s adjustments, he became very, very human. Just like every other Bear.

The season is over. The misery? Not even close.

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