TELANDER: Bears perilously approaching Browns-like ineptitude
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The thing you have to remember about the NFL is that it’s hard to be really bad.
Yes, the Patriots are the current gold standard for success.
But more astounding are the endless failings of the “beat-the-system” Browns. There are only 32 teams in the league, and yet the Browns can be penciled in for the bottom year after year, before any season begins.
Such ineptitude is much harder to achieve than becoming the Patriots.
The Patriots have slick, connected owner Robert Kraft, Darth Vader-replicant coach Bill Belichick and indestructible, pretty-boy quarterback Tom Brady.
The Browns, who have been in the NFL since 1950, have never played in a Super Bowl, haven’t won a playoff game in more than two decades, haven’t had a winning season since 2007 and draft people such as “Johnny Football” Manziel over, say, Carson Wentz.
Plus, they play in Cleveland.
It is hard to have so many things wrong with your club. Nearly impossible.
Because the NFL rewards management failure and idiocy. It does so by sharing revenue, limiting player movement and pay, giving the highest draft picks to the worst teams and putting every game — no matter how dismal the product — on TV.
The Browns. Platinum standard.
Which bring us to the Bears.
At this moment of change — or lurching about and falling down unlit stairs — the Bears have a chance to improve mightily or become Browns-like.
The Bears have won 27 games in the last five seasons for a rounded-off average record of 5-11. That makes the gag-inducing 5-11 record of 2017 a normal year.
Counting from Lovie Smith’s last season in 2012, the Bears soon will have had four head coaches in seven seasons. They are to stability as Dwayne Johnson is to puny.
The only thing that continues unfettered and unstoppable is the McCaskey family train, with odd president Ted Phillips waving his engineer’s cap out of the engine window.
It’s not good for the NFL to have perennial losers and pie fights in the same cites year after year.
A league is a monopoly, and it needs parity within, or else winning becomes predictable and devalued and other entertainment entities start to steal the time and money fans invest. Think HBO series and Netflix binge-watching, for starters.
Commissioner Roger Goodell is aware of this. So are NFL advertisers.
Thus, the Bears as the new Browns is a dangerous concept on many levels.
We saw in hockey how the previously inept Blackhawks held the entire NHL down as the franchise struggled to get out of late owner Bill Wirtz’s “old-time hawkey” fantasy.
When son Rocky Wirtz ascended to the helm, John McDonough was hired as president, coach Joel Quenneville was snagged and young players Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane came to town, it raised the ice level not just in Chicago but across America. Chicago, remember, is not Cleveland, which doesn’t even have an NHL team. Chicago is — or should be — a beacon of greatness.
At any rate, the decisions survivalist general manager Ryan Pace will make soon will go a long way in determining if the Bears become a four-star movie or a neighborhood puppet-show.
It matters not a whit to me whom they hire or fire. Quarterback Mitch Trubisky is the only must-have, for now, since his development is a key to the offense. But if Pace drafts the next Drew Brees or Aaron Rodgers this spring and sends Trubisky packing, adios, kid! All that matters is the Bears’ record on the field.
The coach can be Queen Elizabeth, for all it matters. If she can win. And beat the Packers.
You will remember that after Marc Trestman was fired after the 2014 season, the buzz was all about how the Bears needed a veteran coach, one who had been to a Super Bowl, who had turned teams around. No more CFL guys or coordinators like Lovie Smith, Dick Jauron or Dave Wannstedt.
Bingo! In comes John Fox, who qualified on all counts.
With a 14-34 record in three years, out goes Fox, tail between legs.
It’s possible the Bears are hopelessly rotten within.
Meanwhile, the Browns have so many high draft picks coming up that it’s possible even they can’t stay the Browns forever.
Pray, fans. Pray the Bears don’t get sucked into Cleveland’s vacated black hole of dumb.
Follow me on Twitter @ricktelander.