Another savior coach. Another home-run draft.
Is it real this time with the Bears? Or are we just falling for the same tease again?
All the elements are in place for a football rebirth, the likes of which hasn’t been seen since the last time all the elements were in place for a football rebirth, which was three years and 34 losses ago.
It’s very difficult to separate fact from fervor at this time of year. The NFL Draft is over, every team has nabbed every player it has wanted and so many first-round picks have ‘‘superstar’’ written all over them that there’s no more ink left. This includes the Bears, who love their draft picks. Everyone in the greater Chicago metropolitan area reflexively loves those players, too. That’s how we roll around here, aboard a party bus fueled by gasoline and rapture.
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The turn signal is on, but does that mean success is right around the corner? I don’t know. I want to believe it is. I want to believe that first-round pick Roquan Smith will be perfect at inside linebacker and that his relative lack of size (6-1, 236 pounds) will mean nothing as he makes plays all over the field. I think Mitch Trubisky has a chance to be a very good quarterback, but there’s not enough evidence from his rookie season to be sure.
I don’t know what to think about new coach Matt Nagy, other than he seems like a very likable guy. It’s hard not to be enthusiastic about him because he’s so enthusiastic, unlike his predecessor, John Fox, who was as enthusiastic as a rock. Enthusiasm is not the hallmark of a great coach (see Bill Belichick), but when there has been so much darkness around a franchise, you can’t help but warm to someone with a light in his eyes.
So all I have to do is get on board. That’s it. One step is all it will take. Yet I hesitate. I suppose I should have learned my lesson with the Cubs. I was the ultimate Doubting Thomas when they began their rebuild in 2011. They tanked exuberantly to get higher draft picks and did so to much praise. I wanted to know how anyone knew for sure those draft picks would succeed. And then came Kris Bryant and a World Series.
Are the Bears where the Cubs were in 2014, in the last stages of incubation before greatness is hatched?
It’s hard to commit to that idea. I keep coming back to the slobbering that accompanied the Bears’ acquisition of Jay Cutler from the Broncos in 2009. Experts and amateurs alike said that he’d be the franchise quarterback to end all franchise quarterbacks. That didn’t work out so well.
It’s completely unfair to put the Bears’ lack of success with Cutler on Trubisky’s shoulders. It’s also completely unfair to saddle general manager Ryan Pace with the sins of former GM Jerry Angelo. But for anyone who has rooted for this franchise (you) or even soberly observed it (me), there’s a fair amount of scar tissue involved. Too many dark memories. Too much history.
I didn’t believe enough in Cubs president Theo Epstein at the beginning of his time in Chicago, and that was my mistake. It seems ridiculous now. It didn’t seem so ridiculous when the Cubs were losing all those games during the rebuild, and it didn’t seem ridiculous given their long, rotten history.
But there’s a difference as we ponder what’s going on with the Bears.
Epstein was hired by new family ownership that wasn’t tied to the past.
Pace was hired by family ownership with a long history of failure.
So you can see why this is still so hard.
Before you say it’s different with Pace, Nagy and Trubisky, ask yourself how many times you’ve said something similar in the past, only with different names.
But Pace has a plan in place! you say. And Phil Emery, his predecessor, didn’t? Or Angelo before Emery? To paraphrase Mike Tyson, everyone has a plan until they’re punched in the face and draft Shea McClellin. Or Kevin White.
But those guys didn’t know what they were doing! you argue. That’s not what you were saying when Angelo and Emery were hired. You believed in them because you wanted to believe, which is what most fans do who are true to their teams.
Bears fans are like those bop bags that bounce back up after being punched. And now they’re up again, believing again, with a new coach and new vibe in place.
One of these times, the Bears are going to be right and their fans’ maximum-strength allegiance is going to be rewarded. Is this that time, the way it was for the Cubs and their fans in 2016?
Let me get back to you on that.
Sun-Times sports columnists Rick Morrissey and Rick Telander are co-hosts of a new podcast called “The Two Ricks: Unfiltered.” Don’t miss their candid, amusing takes on everything from professional teams tanking to overzealous sports parents and more. Download and subscribe for free on Apple Podcastsand Google Playor via RSS feed.