Patrick Finley: Analyzing the Bears’ highs, lows and what it means for new coach

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Bears general manager Ryan Pace. (Tim Boyle/For the Sun-Times)

Sun-Times expert Patrick Finley dissects the 2017 season and how the Bears are positioned moving forward:

Coach John Fox was done when …

Mike Glennon was benched after going 1-3. Mitch Trubisky impressed the Bears during the preseason and during practice early in the regular season, but even the most optimistic projection for the rookie quarterback made it difficult for the Bears to finish with a winning record. Short of Trubisky going 8-4, the only way Fox would have survived was if Trubisky was overwhelmingly dynamic.That was a tough task for someone the team didn’t plan on playing right away.

General manager Ryan Pace deserves …

A jaundiced eye when he signs free agents this offseason. The signings of Glennon, wide receiver Markus Wheaton and cornerback Marcus Cooper were probably three of the worst five free-agent miscalculations in the league last year. Yes, Pace structured all three deals so the Bears could part with them after one season. But the misses were massive.

Mitch Trubisky proved that …

He’s on the right path. Is he special? Deshaun Watson and Jimmy Garoppolo were undeniable in their first chance at starting quarterback. Trubisky wasn’t, but didn’t fail, either. With young quarterbacks, the special ones and the stinkers are apparent quickly. Everyone else is a product of their surroundings — which is why the Bears are searching for a head coach who can develop Trubisky.

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My 2017 MVP is …

Defensive end Akiem Hicks was their best player, by far. Running back/receiver/returner/occasional touchdown-thrower Tarik Cohen gets an honorable mention, though— Chicken Salad’s flashes of brilliance temporarily elevated the Bears from a fate worse than their record: being boring.

My biggest disappointment was …

That the Bears didn’t move quicker to acquire receivers once Cam Meredith and Kevin White were hurt. Trading for Dontrelle Inman in late October showed that adding someone who was professional grade — not a star — was still a massive improvement.

I’m optimistic about 2018 because …

The next head coach will bring a new energy to Halas Hall. Credit Fox for chasing the locker room clowns out of Marc Trestman’s circus; simply being not dysfunctional, though, isn’t; good enough.

I’m pessimistic about 2018 because …

I know the history. Since their last playoff appearance, in 2011, the Bears have employed three general managers and are looking for their fourth coach. They’ve won 45 of 112 games—a 6-10 average, rounded off. Chairman George McCaskey and president Ted Phillips are the common denominators across those seven seasons; can a coach alone pull them out of the tailspin?

The next coach must …

Score points. Only the Colts, Giants and Browns averaged fewer than the Bears’ 16.5 points per game. The Bears have finished 23rd or worse in points per game the last four years.

Follow me on Twitter @patrickfinley.

Email: pfinley@suntimes.com

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