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An epic internal battle over the destiny of the 2019 Bears

Good Rick thinks the defense is so good it can lead the team to the Super Bowl. Bad Rick thinks it would be so Bears-like for them to come up short of high expectations during their historic 100th season.

Chicago Bears v Indianapolis Colts
Bears head coach Matt Nagy is hoping to improve on last season, when his team won its division but lost a wild-card playoff game.
Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

It fits so well together: The Bears win a Super Bowl in a season in which they celebrate their 100th year. Kismet. Symmetry. Stars lined up obediently.

Perfect, right?

Too perfect?

I’m fighting myself here, and it’s not pretty. Good Rick vs. Bad Rick.

Good Rick: The Bears went 12-4 last season and won the NFC North. There’s every reason to expect they’ll build on that success in 2019, all the way to Miami, site of Super Bowl LIV.

Bad Rick: It would be so like the Bears to put all their energy into celebrating history instead of making it. This has 9-7 written all over it.

Good Rick: No one wanted to play against the Bears’ defense last season. It was fast, smart and mean. No one will want to play against it this season, either. It will power the Super Bowl locomotive.

Bad Rick: I have a very dark image. Chairman George McCaskey is introducing former Bears greats during a halftime ceremony at Soldier Field, his face red with fervor as the glorious past parades past him. Meanwhile, his current team is in the locker room, trying to understand why it’s down 21-10 to the Cowboys and why it’s in real danger of falling below .500.

Good Rick: There’s something fundamentally wrong with you.

Bad Rick: I know.

Good Rick: Matt Nagy is heading into his second season as head coach, and his comfort level figures to be higher. That’s saying something because if he had been any more comfortable as an offensive play-caller last season, he would have been wearing pajamas on the sideline. His bag of tricks only will get bigger.

Bad Rick: In good news (if you’re a Bears fan), what I’m talking about here are vague, ominous feelings. I’m not talking about epic regression after an excellent season. I’m not talking about a steep drop-off in production from their stars. I’m talking about a massive weight on the Bears’ shoulders. I’m sure numbers guru Nate Silver would find me guilty of being a newspaper columnist (the horror!). I’m going on a feeling — a bad one — that it would be so Bears-like for them to come up short of high expectations during a historic season.

Good Rick: C’mon. A season’s worth of organizational reminiscing won’t have a direct effect on the team. Professional athletes live in the moment. Most of the current Bears wouldn’t know Bill George from Sid Luckman from Fred Astaire. You’ve probably seen the lists of the top 100 Bears of all time that several outlets have produced. Those lists included lots of black-and-white photos of men with helmets that offered as much protection as lettuce leaves. If I know the self-confidence of today’s NFL player, most of the current Bears still are trying to understand why they weren’t included on those lists. That’s about it. So the weight of history oppressing them? Please.

Bad Rick: It’s the cosmic weight of it all that gives me pause. It’ll be too much for an organization that has struggled terribly since last winning a Super Bowl after the 1985 season. The 100-year retrospectives haven’t spent a whole lot of time on what has happened since Buddy Ryan’s defense led the team to that title. That’s because there has been a stunning amount of bad football around here since ’85. Let’s put it this way: You won’t see the Bears celebrating the Jay Cutler years at halftime of a game this season.

Good Rick: You’re obsessed with Cutler.

Bad Rick: I miss him so!

Good Rick: Why can’t you just get on board? This whole wonderful confluence of the past and the present is perfect. The glow of history and the promise of an excellent team. George Halas handing the ball off to Nagy. One hundred years, a nice round number, and a Super Bowl victory. One of the NFL’s charter teams winning the title in a year when the league also is celebrating its 100th season.

Bad Rick: Why can’t I get on board? Because I’ve seen things. I’ve seen bad things happen to the Bears over and over again. You say there’s something fundamentally wrong with me. Or could it be that my vision is so good I see something fundamentally wrong with this organization?

Good Rick: I believe you were saying the same things about the Cubs — until they won the World Series in 2016.

Bad Rick: Theo Epstein.

Good Rick: Ryan Pace.

Bad Rick: You did not just compare Epstein, winner of a combined three World Series titles for two franchises, with Pace, who has built a very good defense and won nothing. Let’s pretend that comparison never happened.

Good Rick: Pace has better hair than Epstein. Don’t even try arguing.

Bad Rick: The only thing separating the Ricketts family from the McCaskey family is Epstein. Without Theo, Tom Ricketts is hiring Marc Trestman as the Cubs’ manager. It’s one of the reasons why, when all the celebrating and reminiscing about 100 years of history is over, the Bears will be staring at a 9-7 record and no playoff berth this season. You’ll be so sick of seeing photos of Halas’ fedora and glasses that you’ll beg to see pictures of anything else — even Cody Parkey’s double-doink. OK, maybe not.

Good Rick: The Bears will go 12-4 again, run the table in the postseason and bring the Lombardi Trophy back to Chicago!

Bad Rick: A Super Bowl in their 100th season? I call that a pipe dream filled with soon-to-be-legal cannabis. I suppose you’d call a championship in a centennial year something different.

Good Rick: I’d call it perfect.

Bad Rick: Too perfect.