If you’re feeling a bit disoriented these days, it’s probably due to the news of a recent escape from the maximum security prison that is Halas Hall. Truth brazenly sawed through a steel-barred window, fashioned a rope out of bed sheets and made its way into the sunlight.
Quarterback Justin Fields told reporters that the Bears’ offense isn’t nearly where it needs to be.
“I’m not ready for the season to start,’’ he said. “I’m the type of guy that would like to know I’m prepared. So, right now, I’m just being honest. We’re not ready to play a game right now. And when that time comes, we will be ready. So, right now, no — not ready to play a game.”
That phrase — “being honest.’’ I think I need to sit down for a moment.
The Bears haven’t told the truth about anything in what feels like 30 years. And before you accuse me of picking on them, which I’m about to, I’d like you to know that they’re not alone. Many pro and college teams consider dishonesty to be the best policy, always. Injuries are hidden, dustups between players are denied and on-field mistakes are covered up. Lying is as a part of life as blinking is.
It’s not just sports, either. You don’t need to be a cultural anthropologist to know that lies have become truths to millions of Americans. Mallets have replaced spin doctors. Dim people seem to enjoy being hit over the head with falsehoods.
But the Bears … man. After listening to former general manager Ryan Pace for seven years, former head coach Matt Nagy for four, and team chairman George McCaskey and president Ted Phillips for longer than any human being should have to, I know a thing or 1,000 about deception and distortion. Some people can slough it off. I get offended like it’s the first time I’ve been lied to.
When Fields tells us that the Bears’ offense has a long way to go, it sounds benign. Of course the offense has a long way to go. It’s June. The season starts in September. The Bears have a new head coach, Matt Eberflus, a new coaching staff and a new offense. There should be growing pains. But in the context of recent Bears history, Fields’ statement is stunning.
Day after day, Nagy would stand in front of the media and extol Mitch Trubisky’s quarterbacking skills, which were invisible to the naked eye of most humans. He’d gush about Trubisky’s leadership skills, his huddle “presence’’ and his work ethic. Nobody practiced better than Mitch, according to his coach. Early on in Nagy’s rah-rah tenure, you couldn’t help but think that the player he complimented so hard during the week was going to turn into Tom Brady on Sunday. When Trubisky didn’t, Nagy’s praise of his quarterback’s practice performances became a running joke in Chicago.
I’ll give Nagy this: He never wavered in his public support of Trubisky. I’m sure he asked himself what was in it for him if he were honest about the quarterback. Answer: The respect of just about everyone with an interest in the Bears. But he obviously saw the truth as a downside: If he were publicly honest about Trubisky’s weaknesses, the kid might not play well.
But he already wasn’t playing well! Do you see what these people do to me?
The saving grace with Pace was that he chose to talk with the media once or twice a year. He was a cheerleader who sat on his megaphone. But when he did talk, he was no different than Nagy in his public assessment of Trubisky and the Bears. The sky was always blue, even as the rain fell. The offense was great. The defense was great. And every one of his draft picks was great, even the ones the team had cut.
After that era of disinformation — and feel free to throw in Lovie Smith’s see-no-evil head coaching regime — you can understand why Fields’ minicamp comments were so jarring and so refreshing. We’re all human, even elite athletes. Everybody screws up in life. If a coach calls out a player for being less than perfect, it shouldn’t be a shocker. It’s an insult to the intelligence of everyone involved, especially the fan base, when the obvious is painted over.
There has been a lot of paint over a lot of years.
“They’re pretty much throwing the whole playbook at us — which is good right now, but, of course, there are going to be mistakes,’’ Fields said. “But we’d rather have the mistakes come right now than later in the fall or [training] camp.”
Mistakes? I’ve heard of them, but I’ve never heard the word uttered by a Bears employee.
I just had a bad thought. What if Fields is lying? What if the Bears’ offense is actually great and he wants the 49ers to be unprepared come the regular-season opener Sept. 11? What if he’s saying the opposite of what he believes? What if the truth is a lie?!
I’m going to lie down now.