So here we are, again, with the coach and general manager vowing to do better, with the veteran quarterback insisting the starting job is his and with everybody else thrumming their fingers impatiently on a table, waiting for the young quarterback, the one who will change everything, to get his shot.
Bears coach Matt Nagy and general manager Ryan Pace played themselves in their yearly eve-of-training-camp news conference, Andy Dalton did a mean Mike Glennon in his meeting with reporters and Chicagoans hoped against hope that rookie Justin Fields wouldn’t use Mitch Trubisky as his muse whenever it was his turn to sit down with the media.
Do you ever feel like you’re the subject of one very big, very ongoing tease?
If the Bears weren’t playing with your emotions enough this offseason, there was Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers putting everyone through whatever that was the last three months — a power struggle, a contract dispute, a size-XXL fit of pique, an early midlife crisis, take your pick. So, along with the annual rite of believing that this was the year their team would get its act together, Bears fans could dream that Rodgers would be traded out of their division and out of their hair.
The fantasy ended Tuesday, when Rodgers reported to Packers’ training camp wearing a T-shirt paying homage to “The Office.’’
And the Bears’ fortunes?
Nagy: “I think we’re in a really good place right now.’’
That’s what he said.
I know, I know: This time will be different. Dalton will be good but not good enough to hold off Fields, the Bears’ 2021 first-round pick who wowed Ohio State fans with his athleticism. The defense will bounce back after a down season by its standards. Nagy will discover a play-calling acumen that was absent the last two seasons. Do I have all of that right?
You have to think the Bears will figure it out one of these years. The law of averages says so, though I won’t mention the law of averages’ track record on the Cubs before they won the World Series in 2016.
I’d like to do something more constructive than chuckling at the annual Festival of Hype that accompanies Bears’ training camp. I’d like to offer some counsel: Be patient. Fields’ future success might be riding on it. Patience is hard, I know. The Bears haven’t won a Super Bowl since the 1985 season, and there hasn’t been this much curiosity surrounding the team since . . . oh, yeah, Trubisky’s arrival.
Justin isn’t Mitch. At least I don’t think so. He had a substantial record of success in college. Trubisky started one season at North Carolina. Whatever he was supposed to be as a Bear was a product of Pace’s vivid imagination. Fields should be better, has to be better, probably will be better.
So there’s that.
But for his own sake, let’s not turn him into a savior just yet. You say it’s too late? That people already are claiming he can change water bottles into wine bottles? You might be right, but nothing says we can’t give the kid some breathing room. Thirty-five seasons have passed since the Bears lifted a championship trophy, but don’t make the mistake of rushing Fields along because of it. Rookie bewilderment seems more likely than immediate excellence.
I’ve taken pains here to say that Fields is more prepared to play in the NFL than Trubisky was when the Bears took him second overall in the 2017 draft. And Dalton is better than Glennon was.
So why is the Pace-Glennon-Trubisky template scaring the bejabbers out of me right now?
Because these are the Bears. Because their history has sharp teeth. Because things happen to them, over and over again, some of it passively, much of it their own doing.
So why not approach this a bit differently? Let Dalton get the lion’s share of the starts this season. Let him fail if he must. Don’t push Fields in there too soon. Let him get comfortable in the NFL.
Don’t tempt the gods that keep laughing at the Bears year after year. Leave open the strong possibility that Fields has a lot to learn before he can be great. Be — what’s the word again? — patient.
We have indeed been here before. Different quarterbacks, but the same setup. Also the same Bears.
This time it will be different? I meant to end that last sentence with a period. Something stopped me.