With Bears struggling, Cody Parkey mess seems like a lifetime ago
What’s going on now should be much more disconcerting to those of you who were sure the team was going to build on the success of 2018.
Remember a simpler time when Cody Parkey was the problem? We were so innocent back then!
Parkey’s obsession with goalposts and crossbars had caused a nuclear disaster, and the city spent last offseason in a lather about the Bears’ kicking situation. That produced coach Matt Nagy’s kicker jamboree over the summer, with nine guys you never heard of being put through pressure situations that eventually would leave one the victor and the rest eligible to join the Navy Seals. Boy, were we worried/steamed/distressed/apoplectic! The team’s Super Bowl dreams obviously hinged on a size-7 foot.
I was reminded of how things have changed for the Bears by the news Tuesday that Parkey had signed with the Titans. It’s only five games into the season, and he seems like a lifetime ago.
The Bears are a disappointing 3-2 with a bye week to think about it, and that has nothing to do with Eddy Pineiro, Parkey’s replacement. He has been more than good enough. No missed field goals that have cost the team a game. Not even a hint of a double-doink, which had cost the Bears a playoff game last season and Parkey his job.
What’s going on now should be much more disconcerting to those of you who were sure the Bears were going to build on the success of 2018. Mitch Trubisky was a question mark going into the season, and nothing the quarterback has done so far has changed the punctuation. You’d have a hard time finding someone who’d say that the Bears would have beaten the Raiders if Trubisky, out with a shoulder injury, had been healthy. That’s as damning a statement as any.
But the offense’s problems aren’t all because of backup Chase Daniel and Trubisky, who might return for the Bears’ next game, against the Saints on Oct. 20.
Think about all the different ways Nagy has described the offense’s problems so far in this young season. First it was a lack of “rhythm.’’ That’s always a good culprit to point to, because who can argue with something so vague? Rhythm says: “One day in the near future, the steps will stop feeling like they’re being done in wet cement and we will dance through the NFC North like marauding Lindy hoppers.” It doesn’t say, “Is Mitch ever going to look beyond the primary receiver?”
The Bears have moved on from rhythm issues. Now they say the problem is their running game, which used to be something the pass-first Nagy thought about from 9:12 a.m. to 9:17 a.m. on Tuesdays or whenever he was exploring the moon’s surface in a lunar rover.
It’s not a good sign when the coach thinks a rookie running back, a third-round draft pick, might jump-start the offense. And it wouldn’t be the Bears Experience if there weren’t mass nods of agreement from the faithful. The answer is always just around the corner. So David Montgomery is the current answer. He runs hard, possibly has some elusiveness and, uh-oh, is averaging just 3.3 yards per carry.
This brings us to Problem No. 3, the Bears’ offensive line. “Can’t block’’ appears to be the answer to the question, “What’s the problem?’’ The bye week has come at a perfect time, if you believe that two weeks can solve the mistakes, the physical limitations and the penalties.
It’s too early to say that the NFL is onto running back Tarik Cohen, but it’s fair to say that the league has made a lot of progress toward figuring him out.
Some of this is about adjustments, and Nagy hasn’t done a good job of making them so far this season. The trick plays that were his hallmark last year are icing on a cake. You need a cake first. The Bears rank 30th out of 32 teams in total offense.
It helps no one when the Bears’ defense, which was supposed to be immune to human-like frailties, looks very mortal, as it did in the loss to the Raiders. If it’s not going to be consistently great, forget the playoffs. No one is sure how long defensive tackle Akiem Hicks, who injured his elbow in London, will be out. Everybody is certain that, when he’s healthy, he stops traffic like a fallen tree.
But let’s assume that the defense will bounce back, an assumption based on the Bears’ having offense-killer Khalil Mack. There’s too much talent on that side of the ball for whatever you call Sunday to happen again.
This is still all about the offense.
What we’ve seen so far suggests that talent is a problem on that side of the ball. Even if the Bears had a quarterback and an offensive line, the question won’t go away: Whom do they have to make big plays?
Hint: Pineiro isn’t an eligible receiver.