5 things the Bears got right in an otherwise exasperating 2020 season

It hasn’t been all bad for the 6-7 Bears. Here’s a look at several bright spots and what they might mean for the team’s future.

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Mitch Trubisky isn’t perfect, but the Bears were right to go back to him for the playoff push.

Mitch Trubisky isn’t perfect, but the Bears were right to go back to him for the playoff push.

Nam Y. Huh/AP

When a team sits below .500 shortly before Christmas, it’s obvious that more has gone wrong than right. That’s certainly the case for the Bears, who sit in this position not by happenstance, but as the result of their errors.

That said, it hasn’t all been bad.

For all of the Bears’ missteps, here are five things they’ve gotten right this season as they go into a pivotal game at Minnesota:

1. Their draft class

With a limited stock of picks because of his trades, general manager Ryan Pace nailed the draft. It’s already a clear success. The second-round picks, cornerback Jaylon Johnson and tight end Cole Kmet, are going to be impact players for a long time.

Johnson was ready immediately, as was fifth-round wide receiver Darnell Mooney. Consider that Johnson was the seventh corner drafted and Mooney went 25th among receivers. Johnson is arguably the top rookie in his draft class, and Mooney is seventh in catches (42) and yards (450).

Those three alone make it a strong draft class, especially when the Bears had just two picks in the top 150.

2. Going back to Trubisky

Coach Matt Nagy has been wildly indecisive about his quarterbacks this season. After the team traded for Nick Foles thinking he would be an upgrade over Mitch Trubisky, Nagy declared Trubisky the winner of their preseason competition. Then he changed his mind three weeks later. Then he turned back to Trubisky — seemingly permanently this time — in Week 12.

Every step of that meandering process is up for debate, but the one that matters now is both quarterbacks are healthy and Nagy is riding with Trubisky. That was the right call. Foles delivered an amazing comeback in his Bears debut against the Falcons, but nothing after that. Trubisky’s mobility, and the fact that at 26 he’s playing to save his -career, made him the best option for the playoff push. Credit Nagy for seeing it and making the move.

3. Right call at kicker

Turning to Cairo Santos as the emergency kicker was laughable at the time. Now he’s closing in on the best kicking season in franchise history.

Santos wandered through three injury-filled seasons in which he got cut several times and made just 69% of his field goals, then the Bears signed him when Eddy Pineiro got hurt. Santos has made 18 field goals in a row and is on track to be the first kicker in franchise history to hit 90% for a season.

Middle of the o-line

The Bears’ offensive line is one of their biggest problems, but Sam Mustipher gives them hope. If the Bears have him at center next season and can put Cody Whitehair and a healthy James Daniels alongside him as guards, that’s a good start toward building a solid offensive line.

Mustipher is one of the organization’s great developmental stories after he was signed out of Notre Dame as an undrafted free agent in 2019. He started this season on the practice squad before Daniels went on injured reserve with a torn pectoral muscle in mid-October.

The Bears still need to upgrade their left and right tackles, but the interior line is promising.

5. Coronavirus protocol

Bash Nagy for a million things, but not this. He has been an exceptional leader for the Bears in an unprecedented season and consistently has gone beyond the NFL’s rules to prevent the spread of the coronavirus on his team.

While other coaches were getting big fines for their own lapses, Nagy made masks and social distancing the norm for the Bears. He has repeatedly changed the team’s schedule as a precaution to make sure it doesn’t run into the same problems that have hit other teams.

Nagy has led by example, and he and Andre Tucker (head trainer and infection-control officer) deserve tremendous credit for the Bears encountering minimal issues with the virus.

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