Bears facing big issues after disappointing season
By ANDREW SELIGMAN
LAKE FOREST, Ill. (AP) The Chicago Bears threw themselves a big 100th anniversary party last spring with a weekend event that drew all-time greats such as Dick Butkus, Mike Ditka and even the ailing Gale Sayers as well as thousands of fans. They helped kick off the NFL's century season with a prime-time match-up against the rival Green Bay Packers, too.
They thought there would be plenty more to celebrate.
The Bears came into the season with Super Bowl hopes after winning the NFC North in coach Matt Nagy's first year, only to miss the playoffs at 8-8. General manager Ryan Pace and coach Matt Nagy have some major personnel issues to address, starting with quarterback Mitchell Trubisky and a broken offense.
"There's a lot," Nagy said Sunday following a season-ending victory at Minnesota. "For me to sit here and talk about it right now is going to be hard. It's not going to happen in the next day. It's not going to happen in the next week. It's going to happen over time. But I think the biggest thing that we need to do is we need to create a plan for all of that. And that plan does take a little bit of time for us.
"But in the end, Ryan and I will do what's best for our organization and we're going to do it full steam ahead."
Chicago expected to keep rolling coming off a 12-4 season and build on a year that ended with former kicker Cody Parkey's double-doink miss in the playoffs against Philadelphia. But the Bears never performed like a contender, starting with a 10-3 loss to the Packers.
The six teams Chicago beat combined to go 35-60-1. Four finished with losing records, and only Minnesota finished above .500. The Bears swept the Vikings and beat their backups in the finale to avoid their fifth losing record in six years. But that was small consolation in a season that skidded off course.
Trubisky took a step back in his second year in Nagy's system. And an offense that at least showed some flair a year ago never performed the way the Bears envisioned. Even their vaunted defense led by Khalil Mack looked vulnerable despite finishing in the top 10.
Pace staked his reputation on Trubisky when he traded up a spot to grab the quarterback with the No. 2 overall pick in 2017 and left Patrick Mahomes and DeShaun Watson on the board. That decision is not looking good at the moment.
While Mahomes and Watson have flourished, Trubisky continues to tease the Bears. His yards (3,138), completion percentage (63.2), touchdowns (17) and rating (83) were all down from a year ago. And it's not hard to envision the Bears bringing in an experienced quarterback to push him for the starting job.
"You have to look at the season and be honest with yourself and your teammates," Trubisky said. "And as a leader make decisions that are best for you to get better. So, I'm just going to be super honest with how the film looks and what we need to work on this offseason and go from there."
The Bears ranked 29th on offense, 27th in rushing, 25th in passing, 27th in touchdowns and 29th in scoring. And it wasn't all on the quarterback.
The Bears ignored the run game at times, got little from their tight ends and lacked consistent playmakers besides receiver Allen Robinson. Their line took a beating, struggled through injuries and poor play, with left tackle Charles Leno having a rough season and right tackle Bobby Massie (ankle) and right guard Kyle Long (hip) suffering season-ending injuries. Long went on injured reserve for the fourth time in four years and might have played his final game with the Bears.
The Bears still had a playoff-caliber defense even if the Monsters of the Midway didn't dominate the way they did in 2018.
Chicago ranked eighth overall and ninth against both the run and pass. But the Bears had just over half as many takeaways this season, finishing with 19 after leading the league with 36. Khalil Mack also finished with 8 1/2 sacks after four straight years in double digits.
The Bears don't have to worry about the placekicker position after obsessing about it last offseason.
They ultimately settled on Eddy Pineiro after bringing in a parade of candidates to replace Cody Parkey, released after his miss against Philadelphia and a subsequent Today Show appearance that did not sit well with the team's hierarchy. Pineiro ended an up-and-down season by making his final 11 field goals.
HOW TO GET IT RIGHT
The Bears have plenty of work to do to fix their broken offense. Along with the roster changes, there might be some coaching moves. One big question is whether Nagy will continue to call plays. ---
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Updated December 30, 2019