Saints blast Bears out of playoffs, into questions about core of franchise
The Bears held on for a while, but ultimately the Saints exposed everything that’s wrong with them and delivered a 21-9 thumping.
NEW ORLEANS — Never had it been more blatantly clear that everything the Bears are doing isn’t working than it was as they sulked out of the Superdome on Sunday night.
The 2020 Bears are the counterargument to adding a seventh playoff spot in each conference. What was the point of this? They hung around awhile, but ultimately the Saints did what everyone expected and finalized a conclusive 21-9 victory to knock the Bears out.
At the site of the greatest moment in franchise history, Super Bowl XX, the Bears were humbled yet again and sharply rebuked for thinking they were anywhere near being a contender. Coach Matt Nagy talked about how “making the playoffs is great,” but it’s not if you’re there merely as the red carpet to the next round for the good teams.
Nagy might be in campaign mode now that the Bears’ next order of business is deciding whether to fire him. But eventually he relented and said what everyone else has been saying about this mess of a season.
“We know this isn’t good enough,” he said. “What we need to do is do everything we can to be able to win a Super Bowl. That’s the goal. The goal’s not to make the playoffs. We’ve just got to sit down and evaluate all that stuff, and we obviously know there’s a lot of big decisions.”
It’s nice that Nagy has punched the Super Bowl into his GPS, but this car has milk in the gas tank, plastic wrap for a windshield and no steering wheel.
If Nagy wants to know what a Corvette looks like, one blew past him Sunday. The Super Bowl isn’t some wild fantasy for the Saints. They have both a top-five offense and defense. They’ve had an answer at quarterback for 15 years. There’s no doubt they know what they’re doing when it comes to personnel and coaching. Bears general manager Ryan Pace came from that organization but doesn’t know how to replicate it.
The actual miles and the metaphorical ones between Halas Hall and the Superdome are about the same.
“You look at a team like the Saints that has ‘Been there, done that’ on the coaching side, player-wise, [and] I think that that’s a start for us to realize . . . how we’ve got to be better,” Nagy said.
So here’s what the Bears must ask themselves: Do we look anything like them?
No, there’s no resemblance.
Making the playoffs is arbitrary. Being on track to contend for a championship is what matters.
This loss was no more decisive than the multiple beatings administered by the Packers, or various other humiliations, but it’s heavy enough to force the Bears into significant change. A 42-56 record over six seasons, including 0-2 in the playoffs, can’t possibly be good enough for Pace to keep his job. The Bears’ 8-8 record this season was the second-best the Bears have had under him. He handpicked everything that’s exasperating about this team.
Meanwhile, the staggering disarray and impotence on offense over the last two seasons — interrupted sporadically by blips of competence — leaves Nagy on shaky ground at best. He’ll argue that the Bears felt like they created an identity near the end of this season, but that identity seems to exist only against opponents the caliber of the Jaguars.
Nagy is a great leader with creative ideas and might be a good coach eventually, but he hasn’t done his job well enough to keep it. His offense doesn’t score, his team is sloppy and he hasn’t fixed quarterback Mitch Trubisky or Nick Foles.
He also has received no assurance of returning next season.
“We haven’t gotten into any of that yet, in regards to that stuff,” he said. “We’ve been so focused in on this game. . . . That’ll be down the road.”
Monday morning, maybe.
As for Trubisky, his ineptitude against any decent defense has more than answered the question of whether he should take another snap for the Bears. His only glimmer of hope for a return is that Foles somehow is even worse.
Asked why the Bears can pile up points on the Jaguars but not playoff teams, Trubisky said, “That’s a good question. A lot of things.”
But really, it’s just one overarching thing: This team, especially on offense, isn’t good. And Trubisky is at the center of the failure. He was 10-for-19 for 107 yards and a 69.4 passer rating before the final, worthless drive. He always looks like that against a good defense.
What this destruction by the Saints does is eliminate any justification for chairman George McCaskey to keep this team intact. He would be inviting future failure, and there would be no excuse for the delusion that the Bears are headed the right way.
No more clinging to the idea that Trubisky is simply developing at a different pace than the Chiefs’ Patrick Mahomes is. No more holding up a winning streak over the Texans, Vikings and Jaguars or an unconvincing 5-1 start as proof that everything will be OK. No more ignoring that the once-great Bears defense is unmistakably in decline.
It’s time to blow it up. Full rebuild.
Otherwise, seasons like this and flops like Sunday’s are the best the Bears can hope for in the near future. They’ll stay stuck in mediocrity, a seemingly comfortable climate for the Bears, with an occasional postseason thumping that makes a playoff berth feel like little more than a cruel prank.