Super Bowl title? Playoffs? 3-13 Bears fumble for optimism

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Alshon Jeffery predicted a Super Bowl next year. (Getty Images)

Alshon Jeffery doubled down on his Super Bowl promise from a day earlier — “Damn straight,” the Bears receiver said Monday — and then made an even more ridiculous claim.

He said the 3-13 Bears, who have won one playoff game in the last 10 seasons and three in 22 years, are nearly identical to the league’s apex of consistent greatness.

“New England? We’re the Chicago Bears,” he said. “We’re just like them. The only difference is just a few plays here and there.

“We went to New England and practiced (during an August joint training camp session) — they know. If you were there and watched the practices, they know.”

Jeffery meant no disrespect to the Patriots — “Coach Belichick’s is doing a great job and Tom Brady is a hell of a quarterback,” he said — but the four-time Super Bowl champions would be right to laugh at the comparison.

Locker cleanout day, though, breeds hyperbole, even for the only NFC North team to not clinch a playoff berth in the last 372 days.

Jeffery, who on Sunday promised a Super Bowl next season, said Monday that “I really believe it in my heart” 2017 will be special. Playing under a franchise tag this season, Jeffery said he wants to return to the Bears next year.

“I’m with him,” rookie outside linebacker Leonard Floyd said. “If you say, ‘Super Bowl,’ let’s go, let’s get it. That’s all I have to say about it.”

Guard Kyle Long, recovering from right ankle surgery and preparing for a right labrum operation, pointed to running back Jordan Howard as one reason for hope. Others looked, with optimism, to the likelihood of fewer injuries and the development of young players next year.

“A frickin’ playoff game in Chicago — can you imagine that?” Long said. “Right now I know it’s not something that’s realistic, being 3-13 and we’re in the offseason, but these are things than when I lay my head on the pillow and that I think about and it keeps me up pretty late and that’s what’s going to get me through this process. Because I know I’ll be able to run through that tunnel again.”

Long admitted that “talking is not gonna get us anything,” though he wants to give the city a postseason berth.

“I want to go to the playoffs,” he said. “I want to have 10 wins before we get to the playoffs and have an opportunity to have home-field advantage.”

They have a long way to go to get there.

“You got to bring in more guys, I guess, who understand how to win,” outside linebacker Pernell McPhee said. “And every play you’ve got to sell out, sell out your whole body, sell out your soul.”

That work ethic is hard to find.

“You can’t go buy it at a store, ya know?” inside linebacker Jerrell Freeman said.

Coach John Fox and defensive coordinator Vic Fangio’s attitudes were “infectious,” Freeman said. That’s one reason both he and McPhee stressed the importance of retaining Fangio, who had rumored discord with Fox.

“Even if we just picked the guys off the streets,” Freeman said, “we’re going to fight.”

Ryan Pace’s job is to do better than that, and the third overall pick in the draft is a good place for the GM to start.

He’ll undoubtedly jettison members of his 3-13 team, too, even those who preached optimism while cleaning out their lockers.

“It’s tough knowing you’ll see some of these guys for the last time,” said quarterback Matt Barkley, a free agent-to-be. “But at the same time, there is a lot of hope for this locker room. There’s still a lot of talent in here. If we just put the puzzle pieces together, we’ll have a pretty picture.”

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