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Making plans for a busy Bears offseason after 8-8 failure

Helping this team make the leap to Super Bowl contention starts with the quarterback, but that’s one of many decisions facing the Bears this offseason.

Philip Rivers is a free agent this spring. Could he be the Bears’ next starting quarterback?
Philip Rivers is a free agent this spring. Could he be the Bears’ next starting quarterback?
Stacy Revere/Getty Images

The Bears are already working on their future after a frustrating season in which they barely got to .500 — it took a late field goal in the final game to hit that mark — and signed safety Eddie Jackson to a four-year extension Friday.

That’s a good start to the offseason, but securing Jackson was pretty much a formality. They have many more difficult decisions to make. Sun-Times Bears beat writer Jason Lieser explores those here:

Who should be starting at quarterback in Week 1? Who will be?

Philip Rivers should be, but Mitch Trubisky will be. Despite the prevalent assumption that Rivers won’t play for any team but the Chargers, he said he’s open to it. The Bears could sell him on the chance to cap his career with a title. If they can get Rivers on a two-year deal, it’s worth it.

How must Matt Nagy’s offense change?

If Trubisky indeed remains the Bears’ starting quarterback, Nagy needs to follow his “Be You” mantra and let Trubisky be himself. Stop telling him, “You win from the pocket.” That’s true in the NFL, but only for quarterbacks who are skilled at reading coverages and being decisive amid the frenzy of a play. Trubisky needs to be on the move as a runner and passer. Turn him loose.

What are the Bears’ top three needs?

Quarterback, offensive line, tight end.

George McCaskey’s faith in GM Ryan Pace and Nagy was …

Tentative. Pace and Nagy only have that faith if they turn the Bears around next season. Another record of eight wins or fewer will almost certainly result in Pace getting fired and it could doom Nagy, too. When talking about Pace, McCaskey said the evaluation is based on “the entirety of the record.” That means 36-44 over five seasons and some painful first- and second-round misses in the draft.

Will Tarik Cohen be a 1,000-yard player again for the Bears?

Absolutely. Cohen is too talented to average 4.7 yards per touch. He was an 1,100-player for Nagy in 2018, and getting him back to that level is a chief priority this offseason. Cohen hasn’t gotten any slower or less agile, so it’s on Nagy and the offensive staff to find a way to maximize him.

How should the Bears use their two second-round picks?

The second-round isn’t usually where teams find their quarterback of the future, so these picks should be used somewhere else. The Bears should look for a pass-catching tight end with their first selection (No. 43 overall) and an offensive tackle with their second choice (No. 50 overall). They struggled at both spots this season, and those picks also make sense timing-wise with Trey Burton’s deal ending in 2021 and right tackle Bobby Massie up after the 2022 season. If the rookies are great, the Bears have manageable outs on Burton and Massie after next season.

With similar rosters, was the 12-4 season in 2018 or the 8-8 season in 2019 more reflective of what the Bears have?

This season was a truer picture of what the Bears are: An elite defense paired with a dreadful offense. That’s typically the recipe for a .500 team. The Bears caught a lot of breaks in 2018 that teams usually don’t get: an overflow of turnovers, a play caller who was relatively new to defensive coordinators and ridiculously good health. They also played a last-place schedule. If they don’t fix the offense, they’re going to be mediocre again.