Patrick Finley: Final thoughts on Bears’ 2016 season

SHARE Patrick Finley: Final thoughts on Bears’ 2016 season
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Alshon Jeffery missed four games due to a suspension this year. (AP)

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 …

The guy who drives the cart to the X-ray room? It’s Jordan Howard, and I shouldn’t have to explain why, so I won’t. The race for (a distant) second place is between defensive end Akiem Hicks, a sneaky-great signing, and rookie center Cody Whitehair.

The biggest disappointment was …

That their pass-catching situation is as muddy as ever. Alshon Jeffery had one 100-yard receiving game and was popped for PEDs. Kevin White played four whole games before getting hurt, and can’t be counted on to be a star. Zach Miller lasted only 10 games, and the Bears spent the rest of the season Dumpster-diving at tight end. Cam Meredith was the only bright spot.

My solution to the QB issue …

I would re-sign Brian Hoyer as the nominal starter and take comfort in the fact Connor Shaw will be practice squad-eligible. Then I’d have the freedom to use my second-round pick — not my first — to go get a young quarterback.

The Bears could deal the fourth pick of the second round (they rotate draft position by round with the 3-13 Jaguars) to move into the back end of the first — like the 2016 Broncos did for Paxton Lynch and the 2014 Vikings did for Teddy Bridgewater. Or they could use that pick to headline a package (along with a 2 or 3 in 2018?) for the Patriots’ Jimmy Garoppolo.

Would you sign Alshon Jeffery …

The Bears can’t afford to let someone that talented leave — but they can’t be held hostage, either. I’d tell him I plan to re-up his franchise tag at the 20 percent increase, and rationalize spending the (gulp) $17.52 million because I saved $3.4 million when he was suspended. And then I’d tell him that I was open to negotiating a long-term deal instead.

With the third overall selection, I would take …

The best available player — and that probably won’t be a quarterback. Texas A&M defensive end Myles Garrett or Alabama defensive end Jonathan Allen would provide great value at No. 3 — as would trading the pick to some poor sap who wants to overpay me so they can draft LSU running back Leonard Fournette or a not-worthy quarterback.

Are the Bears trending in the right direction?

Yes, but only because it’s almost impossible to be worse than their 3-13 record. The real question is whether they’ll show enough signs of progress in 2017 to save John Fox’s job and ensure the stands of Soldier Field don’t resemble a White Sox game in April. If they don’t, then the craziness begins.

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