As the NFL gears up for the most exciting part of the season, the Bears are trudging through one last week of irrelevance heading into the finale at Minnesota.
While coach Matt Nagy is doing his best to keep the attention on that game, regardless of it not meaning anything, it’s time to take a big-picture look.
With the offseason mere days away, Sun-Times beat writer Jason Lieser explores the pitfalls of this season and what can be done about them:
Leonard Floyd. This guy should have had unbelievable seasons since Khalil Mack arrived, but he put up four sacks in 2018 and three this season. Floyd continues to be good, but not great. The Bears already trigged his fifth-year option for next season at $13.2 million, which would make him the fourth-highest-paid player on the roster. It’s hard to imagine they feel good about that price for this production.
Most memorable moment:
The Week 2 win at Denver. There were more meaningful moments for the Bears, but that one was a thrill ride. Games rarely end the way that one did, starting with the bizarre sequence on the Broncos’ two-point conversion and carrying through Mitch Trubisky’s frantic final drive and Eddy Pineiro’s 53-yard game winner.
Most promising development:
Allen Robinson. Not that there was much doubt about Robinson’s ability, but he gave a thoroughly convincing confirmation of it. No longer working back from the torn ACL that lingered into last season, Robinson was an unquestioned No. 1 receiver. And he’s only 26. The Bears have seen enough to know they need to lock him up long term, and there’s a good chance they’ll offer an extension this offseason.
Thing Matt Nagy most needs to change:
He needs to embrace running the football. It can’t be an afterthought or something he does simply because he must. Nagy doesn’t need to blow up the playbook this offseason, but he should do a full renovation of the ground game.
Biggest mistake Bears made this year:
Nagy’s complete mismanagement of the end of the Chargers’ game. It should a total lack of awareness to assume a 41-yarder into the north end zone would be a gimme, and it was inexplicable that he willfully waived any chance of getting a few yards closer or lining up the ball exactly where Pineiro wanted it. Then he doubled down on it throughout the following week and basically pinned it on Pineiro for missing the kick. A win would’ve gotten them to 4-3, too. Brutal.
Key player unlikely to return:
Taylor Gabriel. The Bears didn’t get enough production out of him and need to free up cap space to address other needs. Rather than pay him $14 million over the next two seasons, they can let him go for a dead cap hit of $2 million.
Clearest sign the season was unsalvageable:
When they couldn’t score the first three weeks, aside from a brief outburst against the Redskins. They were nowhere near the expectations Nagy had and had clearly regressed across the board. The Bears spent all summer talking about how their offense was ready to jump to the next level after an OK season in 2018, but three weeks in, this did not look like a contender.