With a 3-13 team, general manager Ryan Pace knew he didn’t have much to sell Bears fans. So with coach John Fox at his side, Pace made a promise:
“We’re going to get better. We will improve. I hear you. But I also understand this is just talk and we’ve got to show actions. We’ve got to show results. I fully get that.”
With Pace’s words in mind, here’s a look back and ahead:
This year’s MVP is …
Running back Jordan Howard. The 2016 fifth-round pick is an easy choice. He finished second in the NFL rushing, trailing only Cowboys rookie Ezekiel Elliott. But it can be argued that Howard actually had a better individual season. The Bears’ offensive line is solid, but it’s not nearly as decorated as the Cowboys’ bunch. The Cowboys also are playoff team. The Bears? Um, no. Elliott is a great back, but he’s also a product of his environment.
The biggest disappointment was …
Not being able to see more of second-year receiver Kevin White, who suffered a spiral fracture in his left fibula in Week 4, required surgery and missed the rest of the season. Everything was on the upswing for the 2015 first-round pick when he was hurt. Offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains had a role for White, whose route-running showed considerable improvement. His 19 catches led the team before he was injured.
My solution to the QB issue is …
Not as simple as saying goodbye to Jay Cutler and re-signing Brian Hoyer. Don’t rule out re-signing Connor Shaw or Matt Barkley, either.
The complaints about Barkley are understandable after he struggled in his final two starts. But it’s best that the Bears take a more-the-merrier approach to quarterback this offseason, especially after seeing all the injuries mount in 2016. Loggains likes Barkley, too.
So my solution would look like this: Head into the offseason with Cutler or Hoyer at starter. Barkley and Shaw (practice-squad eligible) compete to be the backup. And then add a high-round draft pick to learn behind them all.
Don’t underestimate the Bears’ preference for familiarity. It why’s Hoyer and Barkley should be considered strong options for at least one more season.
Would you sign Alshon Jeffery?
Absolutely. The Bears need him. But Jeffery and his agent need to enter negotiations this offseason knowing that his four-game suspension and fluctuating production didn’t help his cause.
There might a team on the open market that overpays for Jeffery. It happens every year in free agency.
But Jeffery has offered enough hints about his desire to remain the Bears. Pace surely sees that. Perhaps, it will help in his negotiations.
With the third overall selection, I would take …
A deep breath and pass on a quarterback. Yes, the Bears need one. And yes, they should take one high in the draft. But it’s best that the Bears not overdraft a quarterback out of desperation.
With the No. 3 pick, Pace will be looking at potential Day 1 difference-makers on both sides of the ball. But that won’t be at quarterback.
Picking the wrong QB can be devastating for franchises. It can ruin rebuilding efforts. With more underclassmen declaring for the draft, the Bears’ developmental QB can be found later.
Are the Bears trending in the right direction?
One more offseason will determine that with 2017 being a defining season for Pace and Fox. Pace has said it would take at least three classes to re-tool his roster. Another run at free-agency helps, too. So here we go.