Reset your Bears expectations back to the factory settings.
I’ve spent the last two days acting as both a therapist and surrogate punching bag on social media. Losses to the Packers tend to hurt a bit more than other games. While other NFL teams were mounting hellacious comebacks, the Bears were being mauled by Green Bay. So I get Bears fans needing a therapeutic outlet.
The late, great lyricist Notorious B.I.G. put it perfectly: ‘‘Never get high on your own supply.’’
That’s what happened between the Bears’ victory against the 49ers and kickoff at Lambeau Field. It’s completely understandable. In the last two seasons of the Matt Nagy regime, the fan base had to put up with questionable decisions, a lack of discipline and Aaron Rodgers screaming in your face that he ‘‘owns’’ you.
When Bears ownership finally moved to make changes, fans once again were asked to be patient while the team tries to rebuild. You wanted to believe in the three touchdowns generated by Justin Fields and the offense on a sloppy September afternoon against the 49ers. It gave you the fuel that you required to buy into Matt Eberflus and his H.I.T.S principle.
The game against the Packers was a stark reminder of how far this team has to go. It was a monument to how much work must be done for the Bears to be consistently competitive.
The biggest driver of short-term success lies in the development of Justin Fields. If, at the end of the season, the Bears had a terrible win-loss record but were sure Fields was ‘‘the guy,’’ then 2022 was a triumph. General manager Ryan Poles could cross quarterback off the shopping list and focus on other areas of need. Which, for this squad, is legion.
Figuring out what Fields is and isn’t will be complicated. Throughout the season, we will have to have nuanced conversations about his development. Last week, a lot of hearts swelled as Fields convinced his teammates to join him in a slip-and-slide celebration in the end zone. It was a happy moment with an iconic visual of Fields flexing in the pouring rain. For that one afternoon, all things were good in Beardom.
But things got ugly Sunday, and now the hard part is happening. You, the Bears fan, have to put your enthusiasm back in your pocket. The rest of this season will be filled with plenty of smart people trying to figure out whether Fields’ development is happening in real time. You will be shown still photos and videos of open receivers he missed. And just when you think you’ve figured out he’s a complete bust or the next Patrick Mahomes, there’s going to be another game that makes you doubt your opinion.
I hope you’re limber because you’ll be doing some mental gymnastics. The successes will be easy to digest. But with every failure, you’ll have to ask yourself whether Fields had enough protection up front and whether the receivers got open. Be warned: Progress isn’t always linear.
It’s pretty clear Poles didn’t do enough in the offseason to produce a winner. If you want to take it a step further, you can. Fields’ job as this team’s quarterback is made infinitely harder because of the lack of talent around him. That’s on Poles, and there are many fans and observers that pointed it out before the season began. Fields won’t complain, nor should he, but it’s fair to wonder how much damage losing and failure can do to an athlete. That’s before we start talking about the physical toll the NFL takes on every player, but especially quarterbacks.
Bears fans want answers fast. The truth is, you deserve them, but you’re not going to get them for at least another 15 games. Here’s hoping we all can look back at Fields flexing in the rain as a harbinger of what’s to come and not just another artifact of a doomed Bears existence.