In this week’s edition of Take 2, Patrick Finley and Mark Potash discuss the Bears’ two-straight near-misses, what they mean and what can be done to change the outcome:
FINLEY: Potsie, one of my favorite quotes about rebuilding a team comes from Rich Rodriguez, who (depending on your feelings about Brady Hoke) has done it two or three times. Rich Rod said the arc of a rebuild is simple: First you lose by a lot, then by a little. Then you win a by a little and then by a lot. The Bears seem to be stuck in the middle. Their last four games have all featured decisive scores with 18 seconds left in regulation or later. After stealing wins against the Raiders and Chiefs, they had the same done to them the last two games. My question for you, Potsie: does that teach us anything about the Bears? Or is, the NFL, unlike college, built for mediocre teams to have close finishes?
POTASH: One of my favorite quotes about rebuilding a team comes from Fox analyst Ronde Barber, who has never built a football team but — after 16 years in the NFL and five Pro Bowls — knows good players from bad ones. “They’ve got a long way to go. John Fox is trying to build a team in his image, which he’s done in every stop along the way. He just doesn’t quite have the personnel that he wants.” The Bears aren’t stuck at all. They’re in transition that involves a simultaneous teardown/rebuild — not easy. In winnable games this season, the Bears are 2-2, which is about right for a team undergoing dramatic changes. When Fox gets better players, he’ll win more games. It’s as simple as that, Pat.
FINLEY: If getting better players were easy, Potsie, the Bears wouldn’t have had to fire half the people at Halas Hall this winter. I agree, though, that the team’s problem is their talent level, not attitude or strategy or ego. In a sense, that’s comforting — compared to last year, at least. But how many more times do they need to give away games in the final minute before it starts to compromise the culture Fox is building? If they have to learn how to win, trial and error has gotta leave some scars, right?
POTASH: Stop putting words in my mouth, Pat. I never said acquiring talent was easy. But it’s so obviously the key to the Bears’ rebuild, it can’t be ignored .You’re over-thinking the “culture” issue — the Bears’ belief in Fox is pretty unshakeable. This team isn’t losing close games because John Fox’s approach isn’t working. They’re losing close games because they’re not good enough — or healthy enough — to win every one. Any player scarred by close losses will be weeded out. As the great Vince Lombardi once said: “If you don’t think you’re a winner, you don’t belong here.”
FINLEY: Lighten up, Potsie! Their need for better players is beyond debate. What makes this season interesting is what they’re doing with the ones they have. So, about them: If the Bears are going to be embroiled in tight games the rest of the way — and that certainly seems like their game plan — what do they need to do differently to get a different result?
POTASH: How about getting healthy and staying healthy? Injuries have been the root of many of the Bears’ issues this season — from Kevin White to Alshon Jeffery to Jay Cutler to Jeremiah Ratliff to Hroniss Grasu. When you can’t afford to lose Bryce Callahan — Teddy Bridgewater’s passer rating was 40.6 before Callahan was concussed. a perfect 158.3 after— you know depth is an issue. Without continuity on one side of the ball or the other, not much will change through the remainder of the season.