From 12-4 to 8-8 twice, Bears’ Super Bowl dream getting further away
Matt Nagy was named 2018 NFL Coach of the Year. General manager Ryan Pace won one of the industry’s Executive of the Year awards. The Bears were in business. And then they weren’t.
Two years ago Monday, Cody Parkey went on NBC’s ‘‘Today’’ show to tell the viewing public how sorry he was for double-doinking the field goal that kept the Bears from advancing past the first round of the playoffs.
Once Bears fans were done throwing their shoes at the TV, they had to feel pretty good about things. If the Bears could find a serviceable kicker — Parkey missed eight field goals and three extra points in 2018 — they seemingly were set up to be contenders for years to come.
The Bears just had finished the season 12-4. They had the best defense on the planet, having allowed the fewest points in the NFL and leading the league in interceptions and takeaways. Mitch Trubisky, in his second season, played well enough to become the first Bears quarterback to reach the Pro Bowl in 32 years, albeit with an asterisk. (He was an injury replacement.)
Allen Robinson had played his best football as a Bear, totaling 143 receiving yards in the playoff loss to the Eagles. Outside linebacker Khalil Mack was well worth the price the Bears paid four months earlier, when they made him the richest defender in NFL history.
Matt Nagy would be named NFL Coach of the Year. General manager Ryan Pace won one of the industry’s Executive of the Year awards.
The Bears were in business.
And then they weren’t.
They went 8-8 in 2019 and again in 2020. Their season ended Sunday with a 21-9 playoff loss to the Saints that wasn’t nearly as close as it sounds. Their championship window — heck, their playoff window — is closing.
Pace and Nagy, who faced questions about their jobs during the Bears’ six-game skid, are charged with trying to prop open that window for at least one more year.
Trubisky will be a free agent. Robinson will be, too — unless the Bears give him the franchise tag, which would harm his relationship with them more than help it. Stars don’t like franchise tags when the other option is a richer multiyear deal.
Mack, who had 12½ sacks in 2018, has totaled 17½ in the two seasons since. Robert Quinn, the Bears’ big-money free-agent acquisition last offseason, had two sacks.
Entering 2021, the Bears have neither a starting quarterback nor salary-cap space.
‘‘In hindsight, we haven’t had the success that we thought coming off the 12-4 year and trying to improve upon that,’’ Robinson said Monday. ‘‘But over the past couple of years, I think the biggest thing is that we played competitive football. We gave ourselves a chance, you know, especially late in the season.
‘‘Again, the year prior to this year, we didn’t get to the playoffs. At the same time, playing meaningful football over the last three years in December has been everything. We gave ourselves a shot. Obviously, we haven’t gotten the outcome that we wanted.’’
There’s no guarantee the outcome next season will be any better.
Robinson said it was ‘‘pretty obvious that we do have the players and we do have the talent,’’ listing running back David Montgomery, tight end Cole Kmet, returner Cordarrelle Patterson, receiver Darnell Mooney and an improved offensive line. ‘‘I think that the talent is put in place to be able to have success.’’
The Bears have said that before.
‘‘The record is what it is,’’ defensive lineman Akiem Hicks said. ‘‘You take it on the chin, and you get up and try to be better the next day. There’s no beautiful way to answer that question. It’s tough sometimes. Life is tough sometimes, and that’s what we’ve got.’’